THE NEW YORKER: In your article this week, you write about the Bush Administration’s hostility to science. Broadly speaking, what does that mean?
MICHAEL SPECTER: I’m not sure I would use the word “hostility.” The Administration simply doesn’t seem to rely on the advice of scientists on a wide range of issues: climate change, pollution, and biomedical research, for example. Previous Administrations have taken science as an area that is above the political fray—this one does not seem to operate that way.
NEW YORKER: The opposition to science seems to have a number of strains, many religious. You write about how the Administration is vehemently opposed to “any drug, vaccine, or initiative that could be interpreted as lessening the risks associated with premarital sex.” Do policymakers have some other rationale, or is this more of a straightforward agenda?
SPECTER: Well, the Bush Administration is squarely on the record in favor of abstinence as the main approach to issues such as H.I.V. and abortion. Few groups, by the way, oppose abstinence as an approach, and many see it as an excellent first line of defense. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t always work, and, when it does, it rarely works for long. Nonetheless, the Administration—and many of its allies among conservatives and the religious right—places far more emphasis on abstinence than on teaching children other methods of birth control and protection against sexually transmitted diseases.