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A Life in Public Service

A Life in Public Service

This video was recorded at MIT World Series: Karl Taylor Compton Lecture Series. Senator Ted Kennedy delivers a scathing denunciation of the Bush Administration's science and research agenda, accusing the government of "fighting a war on truth on many fronts." He lashes out at people in power "who believe that political advantage and not scientific truth should inform public policy," and who have developed a pattern and practice of "ignoring or manipulating facts to achieve a desired political result." Kennedy points in particular to the battle over stem cell research, where the administration "would have us believe their policy stems from moral concern." Kennedy says this policy, which permits federal funding for stem cell lines created before August 9, 2001, merely "pays lip service to religious and moral opposition," since the government has not sought to close down fertility clinics or prevent the disposal of eggs in laboratories. This is a "nonsensical" policy that panders to right-wing supporters, suggests Kennedy, while crippling medical research that offers hope to Americans, and leaving this nation at a competitive disadvantage. He ridicules the FDA's foot-dragging approval of the emergency contraceptive pill, Plan B, which the agency's scientific advisors had recommended as safe and effective. The White house allowed a conservative base "to drown out the scientific consensus," says Kennedy. The same kind of political slant led to the ban on federal funding of international family planning groups that offered contraception information, "despite its enormous potential to help lives in the developing world." Kennedy has only scorn for the Bush Administration's response to global warming: "With the backing of cronies in the oil and gas industry, the Administration decided to create their own reality on global warming," says Kennedy, and rewrote or ignored scientific conclusions that didn't match their agenda. This comprehensive manipulation of government institutions for political gain, we now know, says Kennedy, also involved "officials busy collecting and twisting information" to support the decision to go to war in Iraq. Promoting politics at the expense of all else "breeds cynicism and erodes trust, but also threatens the foundations of democracy," believes Kennedy. Yet he sees an antidote to the last six, bleak years. Kennedy turns to institutions like MIT, which harbor "a questioning spirit that seeks to find and follow truth." He has hope that in the near future, science and public policy will once again become partners.

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