Tuesday, December 19, 2006

American scientists in revolt

American scientists are so angry with the Bush administration’s manipulation of and interference in their work that 10,000 of them have now signed a statement calling for integrity in policy making. The signatories include 52 Nobel laureates, 62 National Medal of Science winners, 194 members of the National Academies of Science, and science advisors to both Republican and Democratic presidents dating back to Eisenhower. The scientists’ statement says: "When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions. This has been done by placing people who are professionally unqualified or who have clear conflicts of interest in official posts and on scientific advisory committees; by disbanding existing advisory committees; by censoring and suppressing reports by the government’s own scientists; and by simply not seeking independent scientific advice. Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front. Furthermore, in advocating policies that are not scientifically sound, the administration has sometimes misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies."

Organised by the Union of Concerned Scientists, this unprecedented display of unity follows years of documented manipulation by political appointees. The UCS has compiled its own A to Z Guide which showcases dozens of examples of the misuse of science on issues like childhood lead poisoning, toxic mercury contamination, and endangered species. At the Federal Drugs Administration, now in its 100th year, hundreds of scientists reported significant interference with the FDA's work, compromising the agency's ability to fulfil its mission of protecting public health and safety. Verification has come from the National Academies Institute of Medicine, which in September released a report critical of the FDA and its ability to protect the public from unsafe drugs. A confidential internal FDA survey which was leaked, revealed that nearly one in five scientists (18%) said that they "have been pressured to approve or recommend approval" for a drug "despite reservations about the safety, efficacy or quality of the drug". The hand of Bush appointees is felt everywhere, even by Gunnison’s prairie dog, which lives in sagebrush grasslands in the four corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. Its current habitat has been reduced by more than 90% of its historical range by oil and gas drilling, urban sprawl, sylvatic plague, and continued shooting and poisoning. Documents show that as of January 19, 2006, the Gunnison's prairie dog was on track for a Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determination that the species deserved protection as endangered based on scientific evidence. Then came an explicit order from political appointee Julie MacDonald, FWS deputy assistant secretary. She forced the regional office to change their positive finding to a negative one. Whether it’s the situation in Iraq, before and after the invasion, or animal life on the prairies, the White House is good at one thing – lying through its teeth. In the end, however, truth will out as American scientists have demonstrated.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

1 comment:

ginger said...

This epidemic that has plagued our environment, our politic, our reputation etc. is directly my fault. I am, after all, an American citizen, a member of what we haughtily call a democracy (even if it is a broken one). Hopefully taking responsibility and thereby taking action is a step in the right direction, not just for me, but also for all Americans who are gradually waking up to the reality of our circumstance. Statements like this from Stephen Colbert (specifically about Iraq) indicate that we will have to deal with what we’ve allowed to take place:
"American people, you should be ashamed! The president went and bit off a big piece of the Middle East and, like an eagle, brought it back to the nest and he's regurgitating it back into your mouths! Why won’t you swallow?!!
When history looks back at the actions of this president and the decisions he made regarding this war, you will go down as the most incompetent American people of all time. Deal with it!" ---Stephen Colbert
My hope is that the integrity in the people (or what's left of that dwindling integrity) will allow us to "deal with it", to rise up, take responsibility (like the 10,000 scientists), holler loudly enough that we hear each other across the globe, and then nurse our hemorrhaging nation back to something healthy. All hope is not lost. People are good.