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21 February 2004 10:48 pm

Science and the Bush Administration

As reported by Wired News, the Union of Concerned Scientists recently issued a statement and a report criticizing the Bush administration's consistent disregard for science and the scientific process when making policy decisions. What was the Bush administration's response? Read on....

Reportedly, John Marburger, President Bush's science adviser, said the report was biased and that he was troubled. Not troubled due to nature of the allegations, but troubled because prestigious scientists signed the statement. As if these scientists have done something wrong and should be ashamed of themselves. When providing examples of the Bush administration being supportive of science, he cited increasing the budget of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. If I was confronted with this report and was trying to save face, I'd find a couple of examples of policy decisions based on hard science before I fell back to, "Uhh, we gave science more money." Which examples could he have cited?

Well, he certainly couldn't have cited how science influenced the Bush administration's decision not to strengthen lead poisoning regulations since Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson replaced two members of the panel that was about to do so and replaced them with others tied to the lead industry. Nor could he have pointed to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 2002 annual air report since the Bush administration demanded so many political changes that the EPA felt compelled to remove the entire section on climate change rather than risk destroying their scientific credibility. How about the science behind the assertion that Iraq's infamous aluminum tubes were being used to produce nuclear weapons? This was one of Secretary of State Colin Powell's more important pieces of evidence presented to the United Nations (UN) to justify invading Iraq. Nope, bad example. Technical experts from the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Laboratories as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) all disagreed with the Central Intelligence Agency's assesment. Who would you believe, scientists from the DOE and IAEA or a bunch of spooks? Maybe the science behind the Bush administration's forest-management policies would be a good example. Sorry, the Bush administration took the forest management plan defined by the Clinton administration that was based on nine years of research by 100 scientists and proposed changes that appear to lack any scientific basis.

What kind of example is being set for our children when they learn about the importance of science and the rigors of the scientific process in school only to come home and see the leaders of this country give science as much credit as the horoscopes in the paper?

Perhaps this is all just a big misunderstanding. Maybe the various secretaries and agency heads in the Bush Administration are under the impression that it is their job to do the opposite of what their title describes. Or maybe, they are confused about what their title actually is. If Tommy Thompson was the Secretary of Big Business, jeopardizing the health of children to support the lead industry would make sense. If Donald Rumsfeld was the Offensive Secretary, preemptive invasions, alienation of the UN, and derision of half of Europe would fit his job description. If George Tenet was the head of the Central Ignoramus Agency, mistaking aluminum rods used for rockets for those used for enriching uranium would be understandable. If Michael Leavitt was the head of the Environmental Profiteering Agency, rolling back thirty years of environmental progress would be reasonable. And if George Bush was the president of the .... Nope; I can't think of a title that would explain his behavior.

Posted by geoff at 22:48 in /politics