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Prospects for science policy [Pharyngula]

We’re learning more about what Obama is actually going to do in office, and while there are some negatives, right now the positives outweigh them.

Let’s get the bad decisions out of the way first.

Rick Warren, professional homophobe, bigot, and smirking airhead, will be prominently promoted in the invocation at the inauguration. This is a symbolic slap to the face of rationalists and GLBT citizens of our country, and is not a good sign.

The man who will be the Interior Secretary, a position which should be concerned about conservation of the country’s natural resources and which has been typically filled with vultures and exploiters from industry by Republican presidents, is going to be more of the same: Ken Salazar, who will almost certainly promote mining and ranching interests.

Both of those are real disgraces, and it’s not as if Obama was boxed in or lacking alternatives. They’re also incomprehensible. Warren is a sneaky little creep who already got more respect than he deserves by hosting one of the presidential debates, and he’s also a guy who is anti-Democratic policies — you know he did not vote for Obama. So why throw him another bone? Salazar just sounds like a lazy choice, somebody who was picked to appease industry…but he’s not a steward of the environment.

The bads are awful, but I’ve got to say that his good decisions are very, very good.

The director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will be John Holdren of Harvard University, a professor of environmental policy who takes a hard line on global climate change — he was an advisor to Al Gore on the movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

Jane Lubchenko is a professor of marine biology at Oregon State University. She’ll be in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, another key appointment in climate change policy.

Co-chairs of the Council of Advisers on Science and Technology will be Harold Varmus, who won a Nobel for his work on viral oncogenes, and Eric Lander, a very big name in genomics research.

Another Nobel laureate, Steven Chu, will be the Secretary of Energy. Chu has also been outspoken about climate change and is a strong promoter of alternative energy sources.

If these good people are actually listened to by the president, expect to see major improvements in energy policy and biology research, and some serious attention paid to carbon. This is, overall, a net plus for science and a real strike against anti-science in the White House, a huge change from the last 8 years. Salazar is troubling, some people are concerned that NASA will suffer, and sucking up to the odious Rick Warren still makes me wonder what atavistic social policies might be nestled in Obama’s mind, but there is some hope on the horizon, at least. Now if only he could do even better.

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