Mixing Science and Politics – Should you care.
First I feel honored to have been asked to make contributions to such a fine blog. It was definitely easier to comment than to actually write a few coherent paragraphs. I hope I can make a contribution and be worthy of the invitation.
I thought I would provide a few thoughts on a subject that is dear to me, science, having been a research scientist for the first 20 years of my professional life. I have become very concerned about the politicization of science under this administration. It has reached a level that is frankly unprecedented. I think this subject provides another view into how this administration works. I think you will find the themes familiar.
In the past, scientists and scientific advisory panels have been reasonably free to do their research and make recommendations. How closely these recommendations were followed was determined by the policy process. However, this administration is trying to change the information flowing out of the research and the advisory panels. I think few here will be surprised that the motivation behind the changes in policy instituted by Bush is to curry favor with the religious right and corporations.
With regards to the religious right, information has been removed from the CDC web sites regarding the use of condoms to prevent the spread of aids. A scientifically weak study that greatly underestimates the efficacy of condoms in blocking AIDS transmission has been used to justify the switch in policy. Funding of AIDS prevention in Africa has also been affected by the religiously based policy. Government scientists contact with the WHO have been seriously curtailed and attendance at the International AIDS conference has been severely cut and those allowed to attend determined by administration representatives. Intimidation of scientists performing research on AIDS related topics has also been alleged.
The controversy over lead levels and their affect on the human development is an example of how the administration deals with issues that would have a negative impact on corporations friendly to them. On tactic is to appoint former corporation lobbyists or scientists to the advisory board.
Senator Waxman has done an excellent job of documenting many of the abuses by the administration. Waxman
An additional overview from Center for American progress American Progress
For a summary of the concerns expressed by over 4000 scientists see Concerned Scientissts
For a view of how policy on AIDS was affected by the Christian Right see AIDS and the Christian Right
A physicians opinion:
A physician’s view of Bush’s science policy
The real insidious problem here is that the administration is restricting the flow of information from scientists who, in some cases, are no longer able to communicate their findings. This means that we as citizens are no longer getting the information we need to judge whether we agree with the policies of the administration. These issues include AIDS prevention, lead poisoning, environmental safety, and global warming; issues that may have a tremendous impact on human life. I urge everyone to look through the links. I think you will conclude that this is another area in which the Bush administration has failed us.