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The Republican War on Science

This is an article about a book which describes how Republicans deliberately muddy the waters on science issues to promote their own agenda. Science can be bought now, and Republicans are encouraging crap science which helps cement their own agendas. This goes beyond just how they handle climate change, but how the government handles many matters of scientific inquiry. If they had their way, we'd be ignorant, drooling dolts eating up bs on intelligent design and never taking any action on anything, because science is too "uncertain." This article explains how a law was set up in the Gingrich era which demands extensive peer review on scientific matters. This law is being used as a tool for stalling taking action on issues unfavorable to the Republicans and their campaign contributers.
The War On Science
< http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/war_on_science.shtml>
By Rusty Rockets
18 November 2005

"Science" is frequently perceived as truth incarnate, so does it
follow that a politician who controls science controls the truth? In
a very disturbing sense the answer seems to be yes. In his best
selling book The Republican War on Science, Chris Mooney makes a
convincing case that the current Republican government has been using
tailor made science to support its policies on a wide range of
issues. Mooney writes that an aggressive shake-up of government
science organizations during the 1990s now means that science policy
is subject to the ideologies of the GOP and the whims of industry.
Mooney paints an even more disturbing picture when he points out that
the Republican Party is not merely ignoring scientific advice, but is
actively engaged in using industry funded research to distort and
misrepresent scientific consensus. Under previous administrations,
you may have been correct if you assumed that science policy was
informed by scientific research. Make that same assumption today,
however, and you'd probably be wrong.

George W. Bush's intentions were made clear early on. During the
President's election Campaign of 2000, Mooney writes that, "Bush told
the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that taxpayer money `should
not underwrite research that involves the destruction of live human
embryos.'" The situation became difficult, however, as some high
profile Republicans thought that stem-cell research might be worth
exploring. To extricate himself from this thorny situation, Bush
compromised and publicly announced that research could be conducted
on stem-cell lines derived from human embryos already in
existence. "As a result of private research, more than sixty
genetically diverse stem-cell lines already exist," Bush told his
fellow Americans. The rationale was that since the fate of these
lines had already been determined, and because the central moral
dilemma had been addressed, it was ok for the federal government to
fund future stem-cell research under these conditions. Scientists
were skeptical.

Bush's ad hoc policy on stem-cell lines was not based on any
scientific, peer-reviewed research, and according to Paul Berg,
Stanford professor emeritus of medicine and Nobel Laureate, many of
the stem-cell lines were either dead, or it was too difficult to
distinguish cell lines at all. During this period, writes Mooney,
Bush had no science advisor of his own and had failed to confer with
Bill Clinton's advisor, Rosina Bierbaum, who had stayed on as a stand-
in. Without such advice, or even the inclination to seek it out,
Bush's promise could only be considered an exercise in public
relations at the expense of science.

With this trenchant introductory chapter, Mooney introduces us to the
world of Republican science policy, which is steered not by Bush's
personal moral concerns - despite claims to the contrary - but by
political opportunism. This does not discount the fact that some
Senators and interest groups are indeed morally motivated, rather it
shows that President Bush will distort and misrepresent scientific
research on the grounds of satisfying fringe interests. As Peter
Singer pointed out in The President of Good and Evil, Bush's morals
are either confused or non-existent considering that he will not
sacrifice one human embryo on research that may save many lives,
while not finding any issue or fault in sacrificing lives to meet
military ends.

As Mooney explains, the politicization of science does not stop with
Republicans pandering to the whims of pro-lifers and religious
groups. It's certainly no secret that the Republican Party advocates
a free-market ideology. But while this political bent in itself may
not be distressing to everyone, the way that it is protected should
be. "Industry science" is the most alarming aspect of the Republican
War on Science, as Mooney details how industry funds much of the
research used by the Republicans to counter and distort mainstream
science on issues such as passive smoking, mercury poisoning,
evolution, abortion, conservation of wildlife and global
warming. "Some industries and interest groups have even plotted
strategies for upsetting a consensus scientific view or shaping the
development of scientific understanding in a way favorable to their
interests," writes Mooney. This is a trend, he explains, that
sprouted from the 1970s, when industry began to feel the heat on a
raft of issues, which led them to "rethink the way they would spend
their money in sponsoring research and intellectual enquiry." This
has resulted in a large number of Right wing think tanks popping into
existence designed solely to advance their own agendas irrespective
of scientific truths. "Often, the goal has been to manufacture
scientific uncertainty to create a semblance of controversy where it
doesn't actually exist," writes Mooney.

These days, there are few scientists worth their NaCl that would deny
the claims contained in the most recent Arctic Climate Impact
Assessment (ACIA) that human activities are causing the climate to
change in adverse ways. Arctic climate research may seem a universe
away from the comfort of your armchair, but as the ACIA report
states, the Arctic plays a unique role in a global context with
environmental consequences that extend well beyond its indistinct
borders. "The Arctic plays a critical part in driving the global
thermohaline (Thermo (heat) haline (salt) determines the density of
sea water) circulation," says the ACIA report. "It is possible that
increased precipitation and runoff of fresh water and the melting of
glaciers and ice sheets, and thawing of the extensive permafrost
underlying northern Siberia, could freshen arctic waters, causing a
reduction in the overturning circulation of the global ocean and thus
affecting the global climate system and marine ecosystems," the
report adds. It is an understatement to say that the task of modeling
such complex climate patterns in the Arctic is difficult, and there
are often unexpected results and unpredictable outcomes resulting
from climate studies. In fact, one predicted possibility might see
regional Arctic temperatures cool rather than warm. Despite these
possible anomalies, scientists are now trying to predict what will
happen when warming reaches a critical level, not if. That's the
thing about natural phenomenon; unlike politics it doesn't hang
around waiting for politicians to act, it just steamrolls over any
species not able to, or unwilling, to adapt.

As it is such an important issue, global warming and the Republican
response to extensive scientific studies on the problem are covered
in the book in more detail than can be covered in this article,
suffice to say it makes for an unnerving read. He relates how
President Bush, while publicly acknowledging global warming as an
issue of note, fails to take any initiative to limit its possible
damaging effects. As we read through a litany of government and
industry engineered "scientific" sleights of hand, it soon becomes
obvious that the Republicans will go out of their way to avoid
scientific responsibility while simultaneously taking the time to
present themselves as a friend of science. Mooney explains that this
Janus faced approach has partly been made possible due to the
introduction of a number of key acts and legislation amendments, such
as the Shelby amendment and the Data Quality Act (DQA), left over
from the Gingrich era.

These acts and amendments mean that a great deal of time can be
spent peer-reviewing such things as environmental impact studies over
and over again, ostensibly stalling action on, say, preventing the
extinction of a particular species of wildlife. The deception in this
is that most people would query why anyone would want to argue
against extensive peer reviewing, and normally they'd be right.
However, very often there is simply little or no time available to
have every interested party peer review a crucial piece of
environmental or medical science. In these immediate instances,
scientific tools such as population modeling and ecosystem data are
relied upon to make predictions about the fate of a species. Nature
waits for nobody. Subsequently, we get President Bush's response to a
question posed by the journal Science in regard to human activity and
global warming: "The nation's most respected scientific body found
that key uncertainties remain concerning the underlying causes and
nature of climate change." As has already been pointed out, there are
anomalies and uncertainties in any climate report, but there is no
uncertainty among mainstream scientists in regard to global warming
being caused by human activity. The combination of government
legislation amendments and Right wing think tanks opposing mainstream
science, means that initiatives to curtail global warming, save
wildlife or sign treaties such as the Kyoto agreement can be put off
indefinitely.

The Republican war on science is exacerbated even further by news
media accounts that give equal weight to both sides of what is in
actuality a very disproportionate debate on hot-button issues such as
climate change, abortion, stem cells and evolution. Such depictions
of science debate, while good for news sales, play right into the
hands of the Republican Party stratagem. Women's health and the over-
the-counter "morning after" pill (Plan B) is a case in point. As a
result of having their own scientific research bodies, the Republican
government conducted their own studies to see if Plan B had any
adverse side-effects in teenagers, "even though such data had rarely,
if ever, been demanded for other drug approvals and no evidence
suggested that young teens would use the drug any differently than
would older teens and adults," writes Mooney. By researching the
effects of such a drug, the government draws media attention to any
unsubstantiated claims made by their own research scientists, which
are in effect little more than scare campaigns. It also seems that
this Republican stratagem is spreading among other conservative
governments. When the conservative Australian Liberal party was
elected into office in 1996, the abortion pill (RU-486) was banned on
the basis that it was detrimental to women's health, despite both the
Australian Medical Association (AMA) and College of Obstetricians
supporting the use of the drug. While a conscience vote on the matter
is trying to be forced in the Australian parliament, it should not
have to come to such extreme political measures if the appropriate
scientific studies are already at hand. As Mooney suggests, why cite
questionable medical evidence when your gripe is actually grounded in
moral issues? It's no less than a blatant abuse and politicization of
science.

So far the various symptoms of the government's de-emphasis of
science have produced mixed results, but recent challenges to
evolution demonstrate that it is still early days. Yes, the evolution
versus creationism debate also features in The Republican War on
Science, with creationism, and its more recent incarnation,
Intelligent Design (ID). The campaign to introduce ID into schools as
science is probably the most vivid and colorful example of how
pseudoscience attempts to cloud and fog the mind. Mooney again goes
into some detail about Intelligent Design proponents and the moral
and political agendas behind their attempts to sneak creationism into
schools. Well, let's face it, many of them would love to see the back
of evolution altogether. Mooney lines up the usual suspects, like
ID's poster boy Michael Behe, who claim that life is far too complex
to have evolved. Behe's theory is an argument called Irreducible
Complexity (IC), and it is the foundational argument to ID. Mooney
also discusses the Discovery Institute that is, says Mooney, heavily
supported by the religious right tycoon Howard F. Ahmanson, jr., who
also happens to sit on Discovery's board of directors. He also raises
the issue of the famous "Wedge Document" that is really a modus
operandi for the Institute and ID proponents, who must "win a popular
base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians."

Unfortunately, as a result of incessant campaigning, their voice has
been picked up and given equal weight in some news media, under the
mantra that all theories must be considered. It's just one more
example of how pseudoscience muddies the waters and drags down
science. Without giving too much away, it is this that is the crux of
Mooney's argument against ID, that there is a concerted effort to
shift the goal posts in regard to what constitutes a scientific
theory. The best way to illustrate this is by relating a recent case
where parents took their children's school board to trial because the
board tried to introduce ID into the classroom. This showdown
occurred in a Pennsylvania town called Dover, where Behe himself was
called as a witness. The trial had a number of amusing highlights,
but one exchange between Behe and the plaintiff's (consisting of 11
parents) lawyer, Eric Rothschild, demonstrates how pseudoscience does
attempt to redefine the rules of science. During cross-examination it
was established that Behe was happy to redefine the criteria of a
scientific theory, in order to incorporate IC, to such a degree that
it also allowed astrology to be classed as a scientific theory.

While the arguments for ID often verge on slapstick and the ultimate
goals of its proponents may seem at this point a laughable endeavor,
it should be remembered that it is not an isolated case of the use of
pseudoscience and abuse of science. Mooney's book highlights a much
larger and more widespread initiative that is accomplishing these
ends in a frightening and destructive manner. If left unchecked, the
Republican war on science has the potential to engender ignorance and
indecision to such a level that there may be no way to counter the
effects of some of the most pressing global phenomena faced by
humanity. For this reason alone it is hard to find fault with
Mooney's book. It is well researched, provides ample examples to
support his arguments, balanced and is written with an easy and
unaffected style. The only problem that it may encounter is becoming
a victim of its own thorough methodology, since, according to Mooney,
a thorough scientific approach is apparently becoming less of a
priority in democratic society. Despite the doom and gloom, in
addition to other equally fascinating topics of discussion not
mentioned here, you'll be glad to know that The Republican War on
Science's closing chapter does offer a glimmer, maybe a flicker, of
hope.

I did a lot of comparative research on this Issue a will Back , 20.Nov.2005 04:55

MemyselfandI

I scanned contents of many Scientific news updates and finding posted buy top science oreinted web sites, And in the Past Five Years I have not been surprized to see The Lack of & complite dissatifacation of The Bush Empire, It is No secrect that a wide Majority of Science communities are at arms with this administration. for example just a few sites to see How Totally unfavorable there Opinions are , Look at a fews storys Headlining In the News from == http://www.fas.org/main/home.jsp that Is the Federation of American scientist, and anouther good site is  http://www.fas.org/main/home.jsp that Is the Federation of American scientist, and anouther good site is  link to www.nature.com , read Bush Administration Documents
on Secrecy Policy also note the thouralness of There coverage in compiling storys al throughtout the site as to make a Log of the decietfull Bush Empires Past record OK that about all i can help you with , I can't hold everyone's Hand...LOL

My spelling sucks yes I know 20.Nov.2005 05:45

memyselfandI

I am self taught give me a break , I did not have the misfotune of Public education, Hehehe, also the Links are a little out of line in the Post too . I had nothing too do with that ?? dunno what up with my format.. read Bush Administration Documents
 http://www.fas.org/sgp/bush/index.html