Alan Boyle at MSNBC:
As 2005 winds down to a close, scientists and editors are putting together their lists of the year’s top science stories, and it’s clear that one major theme is the intersection — or downright car crash — between science and sociopolitical stands.
After all, this was the year when a top scientist was celebrated for cloning a dog and creating tailor-made embryonic stem cells — and then wound up hospitalized for exhaustion, amid a raging debate over bioethics. This was the year in which there was not just one, but two sets of hearings that merited comparison to the “monkey trial” of 1925. This was the year in which members of Congress took positions on brain death and when every month seemed to bring some new worry over severe weather or a global pandemic.
The developments of the past year show that the “accepted wisdom” on science isn’t as quickly or as widely accepted as perhaps it once was — partly because of a skeptical political climate, and partly because the Internet provides wider access for dissenting views. Those societal challenges are sparking the rise of a new breed of scientists: media-savvy folk who aren’t afraid to join the fray themselves.