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Scientists Accuse White House of Distorting Facts
February 18, 2004 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Scientists Accuse White House of Distorting Facts The Bush administration has deliberately and systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad, a group of about 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, said in a statement issued today.--would you believe the scientists or the people's (almost) choice? May need free reg for NY Times.
posted by Postroad (28 comments total)

 
Screw that! All Nobel laureates are democrats, so I will force myself to not acknowledge this. It's like my mom says, "I like George Bush. He does great things for this country." "Like what?" "Go wash the dishes, Keyser Soze!"
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2004


Link to article that doesnt require registration. Courtesy of the NY times link generator.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:56 PM on February 18, 2004


The article for me reads: politicalization makes things crappy. Then it reminds me, science is not perfect. As, time after time science has told us, "it's bad for you", only to refute it years later.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2004


A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said today he had not seen the text of the scientists' accusations. "But I can assure you that this is an administration that makes decisions based on the best available science," he said.

"Best" meaning "most likely to support policy we've already decided on," presumably. Kinda like they make military decisions based on the best available intelligence data.
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:03 PM on February 18, 2004


BTW, Thanks for the NYT link thing, Keyser, good find.
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2004


A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said today he had not seen the text of the scientists' accusations. "But I can assure you that this is an administration that makes decisions based on the best available science," he said.

In other words, "I haven't seen it, but I can tell you it's wrong." Way to reinforce the whole point of the report, Scott.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2004


Add, time after time = usually intial studies, so not knocking science. Know chemical engineers when their degree was obtained, their chemistry education was equal to today's jr high chemistry level.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:07 PM on February 18, 2004


I hope the scientists gave better concrete and specific examples of what the heck they are referring to than this shallow one pager from the times. Anyone got any links to the report or a more in depth article. (PS-Postroad, not knocking you, thanks for the article, just knocking the author's lack of depth in reporting)
posted by Pollomacho at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2004


I'm reminded of the alleged comment, from one of the members of the National Academy of Science panel asked, in the first few months of the Bush Administration, to reasess Global Warming and prepare a report for the White House.

"Where the hell have these guys been for the past decade?", quipped the panelist - in reference to the apparent ignorance of the Bush Administration of the previous ten year's research on Climate Change.

Faith Based Politics.
posted by troutfishing at 2:12 PM on February 18, 2004


The scientists denied that they had political motives in releasing the documents

I call bullshit. This action has a political motive: the group aims to get rid of Bush. Any action that has an effect that is known in advance becomes a motive of sorts, even if it is blithely ignored.

"Political motives" can be good or evil or neither. I think theirs is a very, very good motive--imposition of the scientific method onto public policy formulation is one of my favorite ideological goals--but it is still political.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:19 PM on February 18, 2004


Union of Concerned Scientists currently choking under server load.

UCS Action Site
posted by srboisvert at 2:20 PM on February 18, 2004


I hope the scientists gave better concrete and specific examples of what the heck they are referring to than this shallow one pager from the times.

Try this, Pollomacho (site seems kind of slow at present):

However, actions by the Bush administration threaten to undermine this legacy, and as a result, policy decisions are being made that have serious consequences for our health, safety, and environment.

Across a broad range of issues—from childhood lead poisoning and mercury emissions to climate change, reproductive health, and nuclear weapons—the administration is distorting and censoring scientific findings that contradict its policies; manipulating the underlying science to align results with predetermined political decisions; and undermining the independence of science advisory panels by subjecting panel nominees to political litmus tests that have little or no bearing on their expertise; nominating non-experts or underqualified individuals from outside the scientific mainstream or with industry ties; as well as disbanding science advisory committees altogether.

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:20 PM on February 18, 2004


Faith Based Science
posted by jmgorman at 2:28 PM on February 18, 2004


Why do you hate America so much?
posted by Slothrup at 2:49 PM on February 18, 2004


Well I had a long post and then, mysteriously, cyberspace ate it and I got a very strange error message. Damn you Ashcroft! Here's another long post! Sorry!

I am a ~pause~ scientist. I do primary research in some of the areas that the EPA covers. I can tell you first hand that the pressure over the last few years has been tremendous and many, many people have resigned. This is an example. There are large sections that were present in earlier drafts that are missing from the final version (for those who point out that it's still a "draft", all these documents are. They are re-written every few years and there is no "Final" version). Christine Todd Whitman even resigned, and she ain't exactly a tree-hugger.

The media are generally not a scientists friend. Most reporting on scientific issues is shoddy at best. I have been in situations firsthand that are later reported in the national media and it's generally an Alice-through-the-looking-glass experience. I can't tell you the number of time a journalist has approached me in a bar or other social setting looking for info. And I am very small fish indeed. Consequently most researchers hate talking to the media.

Getting some Big Names together with what looks like a professional PR team was a good move IMHO. Already it has generated more controversy than 25 top level gov't scientists resigning in protest. $10 this will be in Newsweek within a month.
posted by maggie at 2:56 PM on February 18, 2004


this from a friend who watches a little too much fox television when i called his attention this report:

"Ask the citizens of Germany if they trusted Doctor Mengele......"

hahaha... jeezus.
posted by specialk420 at 2:57 PM on February 18, 2004


Here is the UCS Press Release and a direct link to the full report but site is very slow, and I am trying to download it and mirror the .pdf.

Here is a mirror [be kind - 650k .pdf] I don't have a torrent open at work, so this is the best I can do.
posted by plemeljr at 3:02 PM on February 18, 2004


"Know chemical engineers when their degree was obtained their chemistry education was equal to today's jr high chemistry level"

Bullshit. Straight up. There is no accredited engineering school that would give you a chem eng degree without putting you through enough chemistry to bring your average valedictorian to their knees.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:13 PM on February 18, 2004


Hmmm....the New York Times prints an article about some scientists critical of President Bush. What liberal media?
posted by Durwood at 4:35 PM on February 18, 2004


Ask the citizens of Germany if they trusted Doctor Mengele

See, because unlike the US, Nazi Germany had political leadership it could trust.
posted by Slothrup at 4:50 PM on February 18, 2004


Politics and Science has a good, in-depth review of the relationship between science and the current administration.
posted by JDC8 at 5:12 PM on February 18, 2004


What is good science may not be good policy. For example, cigarettes and alcohol are bad for you; therefore they must be prohibited. Coffee, too. Maybe.

But even within that statement there are provisos. For example, 1 in 4 smokers will develop some smoking related disease, such as cancer and heart disease. However, 3 in 4 will not. But scientifically, it should be banned anyway--there is no logical reason to smoke.

Take this a step further: though it is suspected by some that the MMR vaccination may cause autism in a small number of children, health authorities are universal in their support for a *single* vaccination, instead of possibly safer multiple vaccinations. And, some tacitly admit, even *if* MMR causes a few cases of autism.

Why? A numbers game.

If they stop using MMR, or try three different shots, the number of children who evade inoculation skyrockets, and the horrible diseases strike them down in the thousands.

So what is the good science, here? Banning MMR or just pretending that there is no problem that *may* be caused by MMR? Once again, science folds before good public policy--that even scientists agree on.

Other things that pop into mind where public policy trumps good science:

55 MPH speed limits.

Legal medicinal herbs.

Gun control. (Both sides.)

Abortion.

Marijuana.

etc. I'm sure you all can think of a bunch.
posted by kablam at 6:58 PM on February 18, 2004


This action has a political motive: the group aims to get rid of Bush

I wouldn't agree with this statement at all. Yes I think there is a political message to this which is: "Keep politics out of science". There are several Republicans (Having worked directly for previous Republican Administrations) on this list. I don't think this is an outright call to get rid of Bush.

Hmmm....the New York Times prints an article about some scientists critical of President Bush. What liberal media?

Um, Yeah. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Is the article factually incorrect? Does it appear to prejudge any party involved in the story? Just cause you don't like what people are saying doesn't make it legitimate news. Don't worry though you can keep waving the Liberal Media flag cause lord knows repetition makes something true
posted by aaronscool at 8:34 PM on February 18, 2004


Durwood: so just because the NYT prints it you automatically disregard it? How about USA Today, or Washington Post? They're not exactly known for their liberal bent.
posted by humbe at 7:05 PM on February 19, 2004


Take this a step further: though it is suspected by some that the MMR vaccination may cause autism in a small number of children, health authorities are universal in their support for a *single* vaccination, instead of possibly safer multiple vaccinations. And, some tacitly admit, even *if* MMR causes a few cases of autism.

MMR vaccination may cause autism... No, autism was linked to not to the vaccines but the mercury containing presevative thimerosal, which is no longer found in MMR vaccines.. The CDC recently published a study saying there was no link between thimerosal and autism but....

Critics say the CDC itself may have undermined confidence in vaccine safety with a study published last November that found no consistent link between mercury in vaccines and autism. The study, based on a review of records from three health maintenance organizations, found only scattered evidence of an increased risk of tics and speech delays -- but not autism -- for children exposed to thimerosal. The study called for further investigation.

But SafeMinds, an advocacy group, obtained the transcript of a meeting in July 2000 in which study authors and advisers discussed preliminary findings that indicated the risk of autism was 2 1/2 times greater among children who received the highest levels of thimerosal compared with those who received none. "I do not want [my] grandson to get a thimerosal-containing vaccine until we know better what is going on," said Richard Johnston, a pediatrics professor at the University of Colorado, according to the transcript.


So, behind the so-called MMR controversy is apparently yet another case of political science after all.

Rising mercury levels in fish are another possible contributor to the explosion in reported cases of autism.

(As the link above notes, by the way, One study of British general practitioners' records by James Kaye, an epidemiologist from Boston University, found that the number of autism diagnoses rose seven-fold between 1988 and 1999. That is a bit more than a few cases of autism. )

Mercury is working its way up the food chain and the highest concentrations are found in the top predators. In the Arctic, for example, that would be humans and polar bears.

It seems likely we're going to be hearing a lot more about enviromental mercury very soon--

...or not, depending upon the politics of science.
posted by y2karl at 9:17 PM on February 19, 2004


White House quietly shelves MTBE ban
posted by homunculus at 9:29 PM on February 19, 2004


What is good science may not be good policy. For example, cigarettes and alcohol are bad for you; therefore they must be prohibited. Coffee, too. Maybe.
Actually, most scientists aren't really into banning shit.

That would be the politicans.

That is a common misconception, but still frustrating.
posted by maggie at 11:14 AM on February 20, 2004




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