In 2006 the budget for the National Institutes of Health was cut for the first time in 30 years. The rhetorical justification for cuts to areas such as cancer research is Orwellian: "Targeted" shifts in funding must be made to protect the people from imminent threats. So, after four years in the doldrums, smaller NIH coffers will be redistributed. Those who do not work on bioterrorism will be debited to pay those who do.

What does a fractional decrease in federal research money really mean for Joe Scientist? Plenty. Success rates for grants, says the American Association for the Advancement of Science, could dip more than 10% from 31% in 2001.

The shifts in funding are driven not only by economics but also by the most intense antiscience politics in decades. The same activists who would later expend more energy on an attempt to "save" a woman in persistent vegetative...

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