The 40-page document, “Politics and Science in the Bush Administration,” was released by Democrat Congressman Henry Waxman.
It exposes simmering resentment among the scientific community that Bush has been mixing science with politics to an unprecedented degree, to justify his conservative policies in areas ranging from condom use to missile defence.
“The administration’s political interference with science has led to misleading statements by the president, inaccurate responses to congress, altered web sites, suppressed agency reports, erroneous international communications, and the gagging of scientists,” according to the report, which has been published online at www.politicsandscience.org.
“The subjects involved span a broad range, but they share a common attribute: the beneficiaries of the scientific distortions are important supporters of the president, including social conservatives and powerful industry groups.”
White House spokesman Adam Levine said it would take time for the administration to address the specifics of the report, but highlighted its partisan origin. “I’m hard-pressed to believe anyone would consider Congressman Waxman an objective arbiter of scientific fact,” he said.
Several respected journals have protested about the Bush administration’s scientific manipulations, including Science, Nature and the New England Journal of Medicine.
An editor at Science recently wrote that the administration was injecting politics into arenas of science “once immune to this kind of manipulation.”
“The beneficiaries of the scientific distortions are important supporters of the president.”
Politics and Science in the Bush Administration
Bush is also accused of appointing to scientific advisory committees people with aligned politics, rather than scientific credentials. His appointee to a presidential AIDS advisory committee, marketing consultant Jerry Thacker, has described homosexuality as a “deathstyle” and referred to AIDS as the “gay plague.”
The editors of the Lancet noted “growing evidence of explicit vetting of appointees to influential [scientific] panels on the basis of their political or religious opinions” and warned against “any further right-wing incursions” on those panels.
Some of the other issues highlighted by the report are:
The government’s Center for Disease Control revised a comprehensive online fact sheet about condoms to remove instruction on condom use and specific information on the effectiveness of different types of condoms. It now begins by emphasising condom failure rates and the effectiveness of abstinence, President Bush’s favoured method of contraception. It also drops the discussion of the evidence that sex education does not lead to increased sexual activity.
The administration has exaggerated the efficacy of their proposed missile defence system, saying that by the end of 2004, the system would be 90 perfect effective in intercepting missiles from the Korean peninsula. Philip Coyle, former director of the Office of Operational Test and Evaluation at the Pentagon, has reported that a missile defence system was “at least a decade” from completion.
The editors of Scientific American have said, “Regarding missile defense, researchers’ best guess is that a reliable system is infeasible.”
Dr Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claimed that “there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”
His re-election to the post was opposed by the State department, after lobbying from oil company ExxonMobil, which opposes the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.
One leading researcher, Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University, told Science magazine: “It is scandalous . . . . This is an invasion of narrow political considerations into a scientific process.”