Politicization of Science: Getting the History Straight

May 24th, 2004

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Last week during debate in the House of Representatives over an amendment to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the politicization of science Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said:

“Under our watch, science is being subverted to promote political and ideological goals. Advisory goals are being stripped of scientific experts and seeded with industry representatives and ideologues. Reports are being censored and data is being manipulated to promote the administration’s political and ideological objectives. This is a dangerous, dangerous precedent. This did not happen with President Bush, Sr., it did not happen with President Clinton, it did not happen with President Reagan, it did not happen with Republican or Democratic Presidents the way that it is happening today under this very politicized, very partisan, very ideologically driven White House.”

There are indeed good reasons to take issue with the use of science in the administration of George W. Bush, such as in the case of the issues being tracked by Congressman Henry Waxman. However, the misuse of science by presidential administrations did not start in 2001.

To gain a sense of perspective of the history on this issue, and to investigate claims such as those made by Congressman Brown, students in my “Maymester” (between spring and summer sessions) course titled “The Use, Misuse, and Abuse of Science in Policy and Politics” are finalizing this week reports on the misuse of science in the administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. We will post the reports here as soon as they are ready. It is safe to say that the issues of the politicization of science go beyond the present administration and thus deserve a considered, bipartisan response. Such a bipartisan response, as I have written in Ogmius last fall, has yet to emerge . Consider that the amendment offered last week to establish a bipartisan commission on the politicization of science was defeated along partisan lines. Stay tuned for our report.

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