Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Friday, February 10, 2006

Political interference

Pharyngula makes the point that legislation to ensure that evolution is taught, offered up in Wisconsin as a counter to the antievolution bills spate seen recently, is a Bad Thing. The point is not a political solution, other than getting politics out of science, and science education.

A similar thing has just been dealt with here in Australia, although it's about getting politicians out of medical care not science. The abortifacient RU486 was until now available only at the (federal) minister's discretion, although abortion is a state issue, not a federal one. But the conservative government of John Howard, which has shown an increasingly religious bent lately and includes several high-profile religious ministers (Tony Abbott being the minister in question), wanted to control abortions.

A private member's bill in the Senate was passed 48-21 in favour of stripping the minister of that discretionary power and handing it back to where it ought to go, the Therapuetic Goods Administration, which employs experts to decide on the availability of drugs apolitically. All but three conservative women Senators voted for it.

Naturally Abbott is spinning this, and expect to see a sustained campaign for the vote in the House of Representatives, but surely it is a fundamental principle of Westminster democracy that politicians make policy, not administer it. In any case, we don't want to see the Australian equivalent of recent Republican wars on science they don't like here.