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Wednesday, July 7, 2004

slanting Science

Submitted: Boston Globe, but not published

This administration besmirches everything it touches.
The general problem is that it is beset by group-think. We have seen the damage done by group-think in a number of domain: in the way in which intelligence about Iraq was used; in the failure to consider the appropriate number of troops needed to pacify Iraq, and in the decision to ignore the sensibilities of America's oldest allies.
We see a new instance of group-think in the administration's April ruling on American scientific representation to the World Health Organization (Globe Editorial, July 2). Only scientists who have been vetted for political correctness by the administration can serve on WHO committees and panels. Instead of allowing the WHO to choose the best scientists, the administration will put forward scientists who adhere to its political agendas on issues like AIDS prevention (mainly abstinence), women's reproductive health (no abortion under any circumstances), and pollution (nothing that will constrain the production of greenhouse gases).
Here we see the administration trying to knobble the expert panels that decide on scientific policy by appointing members with an administration perspective to those panels. I see no problem in the administration pushing strongly for its values in its evidence to these panels (as long as the science is not distorted in the process). I see great benefit from the confrontation of conflicting value positions. I see major problems in appointing scientists with preconceived positions to the panels. World Health will suffer from the administration's passionate embrace of group-think.

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