Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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July 18, 2004

Schubert: 'Sound Science' Overrides Reality and Common Sense

Science in the service of politics? Yes, says the Union of Concerned Scientists, appalled over the hijacking of science by political expediency. According to an article in The Register, more than four thousand scientists signed the latest protest against the Bush administration's appalling bending of scientific fact to fit the political agenda.

David Schubert, head of the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, in a comment published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, takes the administration to task for its scientific dishonesty and its opportunistic use of what should be an impartial search for fact and understanding.

Bush's 'sound science', Turning a deaf ear to reality
San Diego Union-Tribune
By David Schubert

The foundation of our modern society and its continued existence is dependent upon our scientific understanding of the world around us.

During the last three years, we have witnessed an unprecedented assault by the executive branch of our government upon the ability of U.S. scientists to freely share their data and insights about our world with the public.

Much of the justification for this repression of scientific communication falls under the Orwellian concept of "sound science," which is clearly understood by the scientific community to mean the misrepresentation of scientific data to reflect the administration's political and social agendas.

This political manipulation of U.S. science began well below the level of public awareness within days after the current administration took office. Highly respected scientists on dozens of advisory committees were replaced with individuals who promote the sound science defined by industry and the religious right.

The concept of sound science, not to be confused with good science, was coined by Newt Gingrich and the incoming 1994 Republican Congress as part of an effort to bypass regulatory hurdles. Sound science required endless analysis and an extreme burden of proof of harm before anything could be regulated by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency. However, the legislation proposed by this group was never made into law.

Now that the Republicans are in total control of the government, the promises of sound science are coming to fruition. The egregious censorship and interference with independent scientific inquiry by the Bush administration were explicitly documented on a case-by-case basis in a recent report published by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The report was endorsed by over 60 Nobel prize winners and leading scientists.

During the last few weeks, the administration has added to this list an unprecedented series of declarations that have the potential to even more seriously affect public health and safety.

First, they have demanded the power to approve all U.S. scientists who sit on World Health Organization committees. The WHO is the public health arm of the United Nations responsible for coordinating responses to epidemics like SARS and eradicating diseases such as smallpox. It also makes recommendations on environmental and industrial threats. The WHO's expert panels have historically been made up of the very best scientists chosen on the basis of expertise and merit, not political ideology.

Second, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services blocked the travel of over 150 U.S. scientists to the International AIDS Conference to be held in Bangkok next week. Many believe that this is because the organizer of the conference refused a request by U.S. officials to invite the Rev. Franklin Graham, the evangelist Billy Graham's son, as the keynote speaker to promote faith-based approaches to the global AIDS epidemic.

Third, in the name of sound science, the U.S. Department of Agriculture denied the Creekstone Farms slaughterhouse in Kansas a request to test all of its cattle for mad cow disease. The testing was an effort by Creekstone to promote the sale of its beef to Japan, where all cattle are routinely tested.

The most likely reason for the denial of this increased safety precaution is that the government fears additional cases of the disease will be found, for only a tiny fraction of the 35 million cattle slaughtered each year are examined. Indeed, another case of the disease was recently identified, but the USDA rapidly proclaimed the test to be a false positive without giving any details.

This incident brings me to the most frightening administration policy of all, which is an attempt by the White House Office of Management and Budget to gain complete control over the release of all public declarations from federal agencies responsible for public safety, health and the environment.

OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs uses the excuse of sound science to justify stripping scientists of their traditional authority and adding an additional layer of political review for such life-threatening scenarios as epidemics, nuclear accidents and cases of mad cow disease?

Although this policy has been criticized by every scientific organization in the country, the OMB has already silenced EPA statements regarding public health threats due to arsenic, lead and mercury in our environment, rewritten the EPA science on global warming and prevented the EPA from declaring a public health emergency due to a case of asbestos contamination in Montana.

Just as the Bush administration manipulated the intelligence on Iraq, it is now trying to change the facts of nature to meet their political and ideological goals. This distortion of reality is going to have long-term consequences for our health, safety and the environment.

If you believe that Big Brother is taking care of you, you can rest assured that he is doing it in the name of sound science.


Schubert is a professor and laboratory head of the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla.

Via: GM WATCH daily


David Schubert has also raised concerns about GM crops:
A Different Perspective on GM Food
by Prof David Schubert, Nature, Vol 20, No10 p. 969


Update 14 December 2006:

US scientists reject interference
By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News, San Francisco
(See BBC original here)

Some 10,000 US researchers have signed a statement protesting about political interference in the scientific process.

The statement, which includes the backing of 52 Nobel Laureates, demands a restoration of scientific integrity in government policy.

According to the American Union of Concerned Scientists, data is being misrepresented for political reasons.

It claims scientists working for federal agencies have been asked to change data to fit policy initiatives.

The Union has released an "A to Z" guide that it says documents dozens of recent allegations involving censorship and political interference in federal science, covering issues ranging from global warming to sex education.

Campaigners say that in recent years the White House has been able to censor the work of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration because a Republican congress has been loath to stand up for scientific integrity.

"It's very difficult to make good public policy without good science, and it's even harder to make good public policy with bad science," said Dr Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security.

"In the last several years, we've seen an increase in both the misuse of science and I would say an increase of bad science in a number of very important issues; for example, in global climate change, international peace and security, and water resources."

The statement was released at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting. It is an annual gathering of Earth scientists.

Last year, it triggered a major row when a discussion here resulted in the renowned US space agency climate scientist Dr James Hansen later claiming he had come under pressure not to talk to the media on global warming issues.

Michael Halpern from the UCS said the statement of objection to political interference had been supported by researchers regardless of their political views.

"This science statement that has now been signed by the 10,000 scientists is signed by science advisers to both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Eisenhower, stating that this is not business as usual and calling for this practice to stop," he told BBC News.

The Union said is was hopeful that the new Congress taking office in January would show a greater commitment to protecting the integrity of the scientific process.


See also:

Appalachia Is Paying Price for White House Rule Change

Scientists horrified by Bush's Bad Science
By Ashlee Vance in Chicago
Published in The Register
Monday 12th July 2004

What started as a group of 62 scientists fighting what they saw as Bad Science being practiced by the Bush administration has now bloated to a body with more than 4,000 whitecoats calling for change...

Mad Cow in the US: We're going to D.C.

Aspartame Gate: When Donald Rumsfeld was CEO of Searle

Gene Mallove: Science Censorship is 'Invisible Evil'

Aids Test Unscientific: Test Kit Makers Sued in Kansas

Aspartame Neurotoxic: Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nutra Sweet Sued in California

Hired Education
A hidden culprit in the drug scandals: the increasingly corporatized university.

U.S. Scientists Say They Are Told to Alter Findings
By Julie Cart - The Los Angeles Times - Friday 10 February 2005
More than 200 Fish and Wildlife researchers cite cases where conclusions were reversed to weaken protections and favor business, a survey finds.

Political interference with science real, troubling

Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel Condemns "Censorship" Of Scientists; Calls Current Climate For Science As "Disastrous" As McCarthy Era
Noting that it's "a terrible time for science" in the U.S., Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel has compared the effects of government science policy to the Eisenhower-McCarthy era, when scientists were persecuted for their political beliefs. Kandel's remarks came during an interview with Science & the City, the webzine of the New York Academy of Sciences, about his new memoir,
In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (Norton, March 2006).


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Sunday July 18 2004
updated on Friday December 17 2010

URL of this article:


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Gene Mallove: Science Censorship is 'Invisible Evil'
When in February this year, the Union of Concerned Scientists came out with a warning that "the Bush administration had systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad", a long festering wound was touched, but unfortunately no cleansing process seems to be underway as yet. Examples for the distortion of science for purposes of either... [read more]
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