Dan Farber: Politicizing Science

The Trump Administration is doubling down on its efforts to silence politically inconvenient science.

Oct. 6, 2017 – We knew about the Administration’s disdain for scientific evidence from the beginning but the situation has only continued to deteriorate.  The campaign against objective science is now becoming embedded within the government.  Far more than its predecessors, the Administration has embarked on a campaign to impose political control on science within the government and in government funding, wherever the scientific evidence is at odds with Administration policy.

Here’s a list of recent actions, gleaned from news reports:

  1. Canceling an on-going study by the National Academies of the health risks of mountain-removal coal mining. There seemed to be no other reason than protecting the coal industry from potentially damaging scientific findings.
  2. Dismissal of scientists from advisory boards at EPA for the avowed purpose of replacing them with people more sympathetic to industry. Meanwhile, climate change deniers are under consideration as possible replacements.
  3. Discontinuing a climate advisory board at NOAA.
  4. Censorship of the term “climate change” from reports by the Agriculture Department.
  5. Appointment of a former talk radio host to head the Agriculture Department’s science programs.
  6. Nomination of a politician rather than a scientist or engineer to head NASA (for the first time).
  7. Removal of EPA’s climate science website.
  8. Requiring that a political appointee sign off on all EPA research grants.  He’s looking for any mention of the “double-C word” (climate change).
  9. Scrubbing of mentions of greenhouse gases, carbon, and climate change from EPA websites.

You can find more details about these developments here , herehere, and here.

These are not individually striking events.  For that very reason, they are all the more disturbing.  They show that the effort to politicize science is being institutionalized, percolating down to the myriad of low-level decisions that never get the attention of the President but constitute the day-to-day operation of the government.

Science isn’t perfect. Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. The same is true of science: it’s the best way we know to learn how the physical world works. It’s very hard to explain a deliberate decision to avoid using the best science available — or rather, the obvious explanations reflect very poorly on our current government. It seems especially apropos to recall the Biblical admonition that those who sow the wind shall inherit the whirlwind. Indeed, it seems literally true — by spewing carbon into the atmosphere, the Trump Administration is inviting more serious hurricanes and tropical storms in the future.

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation.  Currently at Berkeley Law, he is also a pioneer in the emerging field of Disaster Law, which examines legal issues related to society’s ability to deal effectively with the aftermath of catastrophes and the risk of future disasters.

Republished with permission.  Link to original article: http://legal-planet.org/2017/10/02/the-war-on-science-continues-2/