Adler v. Mooney -- One Last Time:

Continuing the discussion over the alleged GOP "War on Science," Chris Mooney offers a surreply to my reply here. As I think we've both said most of what we have to say, I will only make a three quick, final points.

First, if Mooney's ultimate claim about the Bush Administration and embryonic stem cells is nothing more than Administration officials spun the science in their talking poitns to support the decision, then I don't see the big deal. Indeed, it reduces the difference between Bush abuses and those of others on this issue (e.g. John Edwards) to be little more than who was in power at the time. And on this count, it's very difficult to argue the Clinton Adminsitration was not just as guilty (as were prior Administrations). Carol Browner, for instance, used to exaggerate scientific claims related to the asthma-air pollution connection (and other things) all the time as EPA Administrator. I (and others who have reviewed the book) took Mooney to be making a stronger claim about the nature of the Bush Administration's actions in his book. If I was mistaken, I think the example loses much of its force.

Second, on the DQA, I agree that it creates opportunities for industry groups and others to challenge the scientific basis for government regulations. My point is that More precautionary alternatives make it easier for activist groups (and industry, which often seeks regulation as an anti-competitive measure), to spur government regulation when a sound scientific predicate is lacking. The ESA is a good example here. I believe the Act's use of the "best available" science is the right standard, but it certainly allows for the listing of species based upon preliminary evidence that may be subsequently shown to be erroneous.

Third, on whether precautionary principle adovcates seek to don the mantle of science, the first blurb promoting the book I cited proclaims the principle is "a rational, practical, fair-minded, powerful, science-based approach for making the world a safer, more livable place." The quote is from ecologist Sandra Steingraber, who has her own book advocating the precuationary principle. Other examples in the literature are equally easy to come by.