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Political Science

A new political action committee enters the fray.

12:00 AM, Oct 5, 2006 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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Thus, the SEA seeks "increased federal and state-level public investment"--read, public spending--"in a balanced portfolio of research and development activities." It further demands that the government "remove inappropriate limits on stem cell research," meaning dramatic increases in NIH grants for ESCR and public funding of human cloning research. It urges that public policy "promote new partnerships between government-funded researchers and industry, including the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors"--in other words, time to ratchet up the corporate welfare! And it seeks "an aggressive program of research and innovation incentives," to promote more efficient energy use, which would, not coincidentally, provide substantial financial benefits to an increasingly powerful science-industrial complex.

SEA plans to present itself to the media and public as a "grass roots" organization. Front group for vested interests is more like it. When I first learned about the organization, I went to its website and asked to "sign up for e-mail alerts." The next day I received an e-mail response thanking me "for joining Scientists and Engineers for America"--which I had not done--and asking that I help the group achieve its goal of signing up more than 10,000 members. "We can reach this goal if you help spread the word about SEA to your friends, family and colleagues," Mike Brown, SEA's executive director wrote. "As you know, membership in SEA is free and anyone can join," meaning, of course, that so-called membership is essentially meaningless.

SEA claims to be advocating for science. But by crossing the crucial line that separates science from special interest advocacy--and by co-opting the coinage of accumulated community trust in science to achieve its own distinctly financial and ideological ends--SEA risks lowering the public's opinion of the scientific community. If that happens, these scientists will only have themselves to blame.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His website is wesleyjsmith.com.