Scientific Distortion: Bush’s credibility gap

by on February 19th, 2004

One of the most disturbing things about the Bush administration is its tendency to ignore or dismiss information when it does not conform to their preconceived notions of how things should be.

We have seen this most especially in the run-up to the Iraq war. We now know that the administration’s claims of massive stock piles of weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi ties to Al Queada were gross exaggerations at best if not outright deceptions. The intelligence community that is now being blamed for the mess was careful to include numerous caveats and warnings in their reports that Bush and his people chose to overlook. Instead, they were willing to accept documents of dubious credibility such as the ones detailing sales of Niger uranium to Iraq because they helped to make their overall case for war.

We see the same pattern in the Bush team’s economic policies which for years have ignored studies showing the administration’s huge tax cuts producing ballooning deficits in the near and distant future and instead touting reports of job growth and economic turnaround that have proven time and again to be inaccurate. Recently, the administration managed to bamboozle Congress into supporting its overhaul of Medicare by using wildly inaccurate cost figures. And yesterday they were forced to back away from equally inaccurate predictions of job growth in 2004.

But the administration’s pattern of selective reading of information has never been better illustrated than in this new report from a distinguished group of scientists concerned about the Bush team’s pattern of distorting science to support its policies.

The two documents accuse the administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing reports by its own scientists, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice and refusing to seek any independent scientific expertise in some cases, according to the NY Times.

“The public deserves rational decisionmaking based on the best scientific advice about what is likely to happen, not what political entities might wish to happen,” says Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland a Nobel laureate in chemistry.

“In case after case, scientific input to policymaking is being censored and distorted. This will have serious consequences for public health,” adds Dr. Neal Lane, a former director of the National Science Foundation and a former Presidential Science Advisor.

One of my biggest criticisms of the Bush administration is that it is filled with ideologues who are not interested in scientific accuracy unless it conforms to their predetermined beliefs. Time and again there have been cases where the administration has latched on to questionable and disputed studies while dismissing the more widely accepted studies because they do not conform to their ideology. They have even gone so far as to edit out data from a report by the E.P.A. on climate change because it went counter to Bush’s policy on global warming.

Mike Thomas