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>From: Peter Montague <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: Rachel #522: Political Science
>Reply-To: Peter Montague <email@example.com>
>. RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #522 .
>. ---November 28, 1996--- .
>. HEADLINES: .
>. POLITICAL SCIENCE .
>. ========== .
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>Science is a process that allows people to reach agreement about
>the nature of reality, no matter what culture they come from. If
>I describe how to make a thermometer and you follow the recipe,
>you and I will end up agreeing that, at sea level, water boils at
>212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). Not all of reality
>is accessible to the scientific method but for those parts that
>are, science allows us to reach agreement. Thus the scientific
>method has enormous power for getting people together.
>We read about 30 scientific and medical journals on a regular
>basis. In recent years, a remarkable quantity of bad news for
>humans and the environment has appeared in these and other
>peer-reviewed journals. Because these results were gathered by
>the scientific method, they are pretty convincing. On the basis
>of this work, it seems safe to say that our civilization is
>pulling the rug out from under itself. Business as usual is
>relentlessly destroying the community of creatures and ecosystems
>upon which our survival depends. On the other hand, business as
>usual is enormously profitable for a small group of people, who
>fiercely defend what they are doing and who now sponsor an entire
>industry dedicated to denying that trouble lies ahead.
>According to the NEW YORK TIMES, the business community has
>developed a specific wish list for the new Congress: they want
>less environmental regulation, and they want to curb the rights
>of citizens to bring lawsuits against corporations for harms.
>It seems apparent that the long-term strategy for achieving both
>goals is to diminish the power of science. The aim seems to be
>to bring science out of the laboratory and turn it into more of a
>street fight where the most powerful and ruthless adversary has
>the best chance of winning. By this means, it seems apparent,
>corporations intend to undercut the credibility (and therefore
>the power) of scientific findings.
>In these two arenas --the courts, and government regulations
>--contradictory tactics are being pursued.
>In the courts, corporations (and the representatives they paid to
>install in Congress) are trying to limit scientific evidence by
>excluding views they claim are outside the mainstream. For
>example, the Republican Party's 1996 Platform contains a section
>called "Restoring Justice to the Courts," which proposes to
>"eliminate the use of 'junk science'... by requiring courts to
>verify that the science of those called as expert witnesses is
>reasonably acceptable within the scientific community..." In
>other words, testimony by expert witnesses would be disallowed
>unless it represented the views of the scientific mainstream.
>Scientists with new research findings and new information about
>cause-and-effect would be effectively excluded from the courts
>until their work had been absorbed into the mainstream of science
>--a process that might take years or even decades.
>On the other hand, in the arena of environmental regulation, the
>same corporations (and their same representatives in Congress)
>are working hard to undermine the credibility of mainstream
>scientific views. In this arena, their goal is to boost the
>standing and credibility of the scientific fringe --the handful
>of dissidents who say that global warming is not harmful and may
>even be beneficial; that the ozone hole is natural or has perhaps
>been faked; and that dioxin is not nearly as poisonous as most
>scientists say it is --and it may even be good for you.
>The thread that ties these contradictory views together is the
>goal of making science into something that confuses people and
>thus drives people apart, instead of something that helps people
>reach agreement about the nature of reality.
>The effort to make science more political has been gathering
>momentum since the election of 1994 when self-styled
>"conservatives" gained control of Congress. During 1995, the
>House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held three public
>hearings, one devoted to depletion of the ozone layer, one to
>global warming, and one to the powerfully poisonous industrial
>byproduct, dioxin. According to a recent analysis of the hearing
>transcripts, a common theme emerged from the three hearings:
>(1) Research funded by the federal government is not sound
>science because scientists have an economic incentive to
>exaggerate the importance of their work ("to shill for the
>apocalypse," as one witness, Patrick Michaels, phrased it);
>(2) Consensus science derived from peer review is not sound
>science because it represents a conspiracy by the scientific
>establishment to suppress dissenting views;
>(3) Science which contains uncertainties in its conclusions is
>not sound science;
>(4) Science that is not strictly empirical (meaning based on
>observations and not based on theories or models derived from
>observations) is not sound science.
>Clearly, if these definitions of "sound science" were accepted,
>most environmental science could not be considered sound, and
>nearly all studies linking human health to environmental
>degradation would be declared unsound. There is --and always
>will be --uncertainty in our understanding of complex domains,
>such as the environment and human health. Models are used in all
>complex scientific studies--purely "empirical" studies, without
>reference to theoretical constructs, are rare. Peer review is
>how scientists find errors; without it, science could not
>proceed. And much environmental science must be funded by public
>agencies because the private sector has no interest in funding it
>(and, indeed, often has a strong interest in seeing that it is
>The effort to politicize science is proceeding outside the halls
>of Congress as well. Individual scientists, science writers, and
>scientific societies, are being intimidated by lawsuits and the
>threat of lawsuits. Examples:
>Last August, Bette Hileman, a veteran science writer for CHEMICAL
>& ENGINEERING NEWS (C&EN), which is published by the American
>Chemical Society, wrote an opinion piece titled, "Global warming
>is target of disinformation campaign." In it, Hileman
>described "a systematic campaign of disinformation" being
>conducted by a small group of scientists calling themselves the
>Global Climate Coalition (GCC) whose work is funded by coal, oil,
>utility, automobile, and chemical companies --the corporations
>whose profits might decline if Congress took global warming
>A prominent member of GCC is Patrick Michaels, a faculty member
>at the University of Virginia and a fellow of the libertarian
>Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. Michaels often publishes
>commentaries covering everything from global warming to the free
>market and tax policy in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's newspaper,
>the WASHINGTON TIMES. In recent months, Michaels has been
>attacking the work of Benjamin D. Santer of Lawrence Livermore
>National Laboratory in California. Santer wrote the final draft
>of Chapter 8 of the latest report from the IPCC (United Nations
>Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Chapter 8 concluded
>that "the balance of scientific evidence suggests a discernible
>human influence on global climate" --a conclusion fully supported
>by the IPCC but one that the coal and oil industries cannot leave
>unchallenged. Hileman evaluates Michaels's attack on Santer's
>work, concluding, "...[E]ither Michaels does not understand
>Santer's work or he is deliberately distorting it." In the
>normal course of scientific debate, such criticisms are routine.
>But no longer. Now S. Fred Singer --a former colleague of
>Michaels and a frequent author in the Reverend Moon's WASHINGTON
>TIMES --has threatened a lawsuit against the American Chemical
>Society: "The American Chemical Society may well be courting one
>or more libel suits," Singer writes in the Moonie TIMES November
>13, 1996, referring to Hileman's opinion piece.
>Singer is himself one of the fringe scientists who appeared as a
>witness (as did Michaels) at the 1995 Congressional ozone hearing
>described above. During the hearing, Singer tried to establish
>his ozone credentials by claiming to have published several
>peer-reviewed papers in which he presented his current theories
>about why the continent-sized ozone hole over the South Pole
>isn't a problem. However, when Congressional staff checked his
>references, they found that Singer's only published work on ozone
>depletion during the past 20 years had been one letter to the
>editor of SCIENCE magazine, and two articles in magazines that
>are not peer reviewed. And of course his many articles in the
>Moonie WASHINGTON TIMES, where Singer is a regular blowhard
>columnist--the scientific equivalent of Rush Limbaugh. In fact,
>Limbaugh says he gets his information about the ozone depletion
>nonproblem from sources that have been traced back to Singer.
>The assault on science doesn't stop with threats aimed at
>intimidating journalists. The LOS ANGELES TIMES reported (Nov.
>22, pg. A3) that U.S. Ecology --a corporation trying to build a
>huge nuclear waste dump at Ward Valley in the California desert
>--has threatened to sue two scientists who were commissioned by
>the U.S. Department of the Interior to study the safety of the
>proposed dump. In a letter to the two scientists, U.S. Ecology
>wrote, "Should you continue your participation in Interior's
>ill-advised project, please do so based on the knowledge that
>U.S. Ecology intends to seek compensation from any persons or
>entities whose conduct wrongfully injures its interests in this
>The two scientists --hydrogeologists Martin Mifflin and Scott W.
>Tyler --are employees of the Lawrence Livermore National
>Laboratory and are both members of the National Academy of
>Science's panel on Ward Valley.
>The U.S. Ecology tactic is working. The two scientists have said
>they must stop work on Ward Valley until the federal government
>agrees to pay their legal costs, if they are sued. A Department
>of Interior official called U.S. Ecology's tactic "disgusting"
>but said under law the government cannot indemnify contractors,
>so the Ward Valley safety analysis has been put on hold.
>The message is unmistakable: if science is standing in the way of
>corporate goals, then the methods of science will be discredited,
>modified or discarded, and individual science writers and
>scientists, and even scientific societies like the American
>Chemical Society, will be threatened and intimidated.
>It seems clear that the root cause of these problems is a
>corporate form run amuck. This legal form, which limits
>corporate owners' liability yet provides full Constitutional
>protections for corporate actions, is providing legal cover and
>nearly unbounded resources for continuing unprincipled attacks on
>our most important social institutions, including courts,
>elections, and the scientific method itself. Now would be an
>appropriate time to examine the corporate form, and modify it as
>necessary, to make corporations once again subordinate to the
>will, and the general welfare, of the American people.
> --Peter Montague
> (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)
> Robert D. Hershey, Jr., "The Election Changes Little;
>Business Can Live With That," NEW YORK TIMES November 15, 1996,
> Republican platform quoted in Representative George E. Brown,
>Jr., ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE UNDER SIEGE: FRINGE SCIENCE AND THE
>104TH CONGRESS (Washington, D.C.: Office of Representative George
>E. Brown, Jr., October 23, 1996), pg. 7, note 16. Brown is the
>ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Science.
> George E. Brown, Jr., report cited above in note 2, pg. 15;
>see also the rest of Brown's report, including the appendices.
> Bette Hileman, "Global warming is target of disinformation
>campaign," C&EN August 19, 1996, pg. 33.
> Michaels writes regularly in the Reverend Moon's WASHINGTON
>TIMES; see, for example, March 30, 1994, pg. A14; October 18,
>1993, pg. A16; March 17, 1993, pg. G3; February 5, 1993, pg. F1;
>and December 15, 1992, pg. F1. The WASHINGTON TIMES was founded,
>and has been subsidized to the tune of a billion dollars since
>its founding, by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. See Daniel Junas,
>"The Washington Times: Who Pays the Bills for the Right's Daily
>Paper?" EXTRA! (March/April, 1995), pgs. 15-16. EXTRA! is
>published by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 130 West 25th
>Street, NY, NY 10001; phone: (212) 633-6700.
> S. Fred Singer, "Disinformation about global warming?"
>WASHINGTON TIMES November 13, 1996, pg. A15.
> George E. Brown, Jr., report cited above in note 2, pg. 11,
>note 26, evaluates Singer's recent publications.
> See Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich, BETRAYAL OF SCIENCE
>AND REASON (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1996), pg. 41.
>Descriptor terms: science; courts; corporations; junk science;
>regulation; dioxin; global warming; ozone deplation; congress;
>lawsuits; slapp suits; bette hileman; patrick michaels; cato
>institute; sun myoung moon; banjamin santer; ipcc; fred singer;
>washington times; american chemical society; u.s. ecology; ward
>valley; radioactive waste; george e. brown, jr.;
>Environmental Research Foundation provides this electronic
>version of RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY free of charge
>even though it costs our organization considerable time and
>money to produce it. We would like to continue to provide this
>service free. You could help by making a tax-deductible
>contribution (anything you can afford, whether $5.00 or
>$500.00). Please send your contribution to: Environmental
>Research Foundation, P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403-7036.
> --Peter Montague, Editor
Tel & FAX: 529/678-7215