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Did White House Censor Surgeons General?

Yesterday the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on "The Surgeon General's Vital Mission: Challenges for the Future." According to Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA):

Political interference is compromising the independence of the Office of the Surgeon General. On key public health issues, the Surgeon General has been muzzled. The Surgeon General's greatest resource — his or her ability to speak honestly and credibly to the nation about public health — is in grave jeopardy. . . . as we will hear this morning, political interference with the work of the Surgeon General appears to have reached a new level in this Administration. We will hear how reports were blocked, speeches were censored, and travel restricted.

Among those who appeared at the hearing was former Bush Administration Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who testified:

the nation's doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget, and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas. Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological, or political agenda is ignored, marginalized, or simply buried. . . .

Historically, the Surgeons General have occupied increasingly embattled positions where each has had to fight to scientifically address the contemporary health issues of the nation and the world within an increasingly partisan, ideologically, and / or theologically driven political agenda that is often devoid of open discussions of scientific evidence or data.

Carmona's written statement does not provide details of alleged political interference during his term as Surgeon General. This Washington Post story, however, does:
In one such case, Carmona . . . said he was told not to speak out during the national debate over whether the federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research, which President Bush opposes.

"Much of the discussion was being driven by theology, ideology, [and] preconceived beliefs that were scientifically incorrect," said Carmona, one of three former surgeons general who testified at yesterday's hearing. "I thought, 'This is a perfect example of the surgeon general being able to step forward, educate the American public.' . . . I was blocked at every turn. I was told the decision had already been made — 'Stand down. Don't talk about it.' That information was removed from my speeches."

The problem with this example is that the debate over whether the federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research is not a scientific debate, but a moral one. Opposition to such research is almost always based upon a belief that the use of embryos for such research is immoral — not that it is ineffective or that it cannot lead to medical advances. Some opponents of stem cell research spin scientific evidence to support their cause, exaggerating the potential of adult stem cells, but proponents of embyonic stem cell research engage in spin and hyperbole of their own. In the end, the decision whether or not to support funding of embryonic stem cell research is a normative policy decision, and it is not "political interference" with science for an administration to expect political appointees to support the administration's policy on this issue — whatever that policy is.

The Post also provides a second example:

Carmona said that when the administration touted funding for abstinence-only education, he was prevented from discussing research on the effectiveness of teaching about condoms as well as abstinence. "There was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to just preach abstinence, which I felt was scientifically incorrect," Carmona said.
This example is harder to evaluate because it is less clear what actually occurred. If, for instance, the federal government was presenting false or misleading information about the effectiveness of abstinence-only education, and preventing Carmona's office from presenting accurate information, then this would be a good example of political manipulation of science. If, on the other hand, Carmona was prevented from expressing a purely policy disagreement with the administration, then it would not be such a good example. From what I know of the Bush Administration's policies and activities in this area, I suspect the former is closer to what occurred, but the news account does not provide enough detail to be sure.

The point here is that it is important to distinguish between scientific conclusions and normative policy judgments, and to recognize that the former may inform, but rarely determine, the latter. In many instances when scientists charge political interference, their real complaint is that those with policy-making authority do not support the scientists' preferred policies, and many claims of "censorship" are nothing more than the efforts of one administration or another to ensure that federal agencies support administration policy. There are plenty of examples of real science politicization in the current and prior administrations, and these are the incidents that merit our attention.

There is no doubt that the Bush Administration has sought to politicize science in some areas. In this it is not alone, however. As the Post further reported:

[Former Surgeon General David] Satcher, Carmona's predecessor, who served from 1998 to 2002, said that under President Bill Clinton he could not release a report on sexuality and public health, in part because of sensitivities triggered by the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
As I have argued before (in this series of posts), science politicization is not the province of either party. There is plenty of blame to go around, and a need for greater attention to the institutional arrangements that place undue political pressure on science in the first place.

UPDATE: The New York Times story on the hearing provides more evidence of increased politicization of the Surgeon General's office during the Bush Administration, such as some of the accusations mentioned in the comments. (He had to mention President Bush three times per page in speeches!?! What were they thinking?!?) Like the Post story quoted above, however, I think this report also reflects some confusion about the role of science in public policy. For instance, the Times reports:

Dr. Carmona wanted to address the controversial topic of sexual education, he said. Scientific studies suggest that the most effective approach includes a discussion of contraceptives.

"However there was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to preach abstinence only, but I felt that was scientifically incorrect," he said.

Now I certainly would want my children to receive sex education that reduces their chances of contracting sexually-transmitted diseases, but I also recognize that this is based upon a value judgment, rather than a scientific determination. Others may prefer abstinence only education even if it is not the most effective way to reduce STDs. For instance, they may believe such instruction achieves other ends, such as delaying sexual activity by school children (if such education actually achieves this), or is simply more moral. I find this perspective to be misguided, but I do not believe it is "scientifically incorrect." In short, a policy decision to "preach abstinence only" might be wrong, but it would not necessarily be "scientifically incorrect." On the other hand, factually inaccurate or misleading claims about abstinence only education would be. Dr. Carmona would be correct to be concerned about the latter, and insofar as the Bush Administration blocked him it is deserving of criticism, but I think Carmona's statement implies a desire to speak to the wisdom of the policy itself.

frankcross (mail):
I'm not sure why you think the "censoring" was only on normative positions. The reporting suggests that Carmona was not allowed to speak on or issue reports on a variety of topics, including stem cell research. This implies to me a descriptive scientific assessment. Maybe he wanted to do something normative, but nothing about this story suggests to me that the Administration policy only prohibited normative analyses. The prison health example suggests that the Administration didn't want it scientifically studied.
7.11.2007 9:37pm
loki13 (mail):
Wow, I'm not sure where to start with this post...

You start by noting the problem is


Carmona's written statement does not provide details of alleged political interference


And then cherry pick two examples from his testimony before concluding that there may have been some politicization of the science but *ahem* Clinton did it too.

You overlook from the testimony:
1. Being prohibited from speaking at the Special Olympics (Ted Kennedy) while being required to speak at Republican functions.

2. The instruction to mention President Bush three times *per page* of his speeches.

3. Being asked to specifically support GOP candidates.

The science may (or may not) be bad enough. But it is the wholesale politicization (on a partisan basis) of every function of government- from the Surgeon General, to the Justice Dept., to the 'team building' meetings at the GSA that is the real story.
7.11.2007 9:43pm
PJens:
This is a prime example of extended circumstances people ought to consider when voting. George W Bush was known a conservative when intially runing for the office. This may or not be an abuse of power. It is hardly surprising.

Future presidents will make similar influencial decisions upon federal departments and people will cry foul then too.
7.11.2007 9:43pm
merevaudevillian:
I have a few issues with this claim: "science politicization is not the province of either party." I don't think it's as simplistic as that.

First, why make such a fuss over "science politicization," when there are plenty of other matters which have been easily, readily, and popularly politicized? We rarely hear complaints about the politicization of economics, defense, or a host of other issues that fall under political persuasion. Why isolate science as some sacrosanct matter that is beyond politicization? Or, alternatively, why not complain about these other areas that should not be politicized?

Second, when did "moral values" becomes "politicization"? For instance, suppose scientific consensus showed that incest with one's minor daughter left no discernible negative consequences for either party. It would seem to be a moral judgment not to use that information if one believed that, no matter what scientific evidence showed, it was irrelevant to the belief at hand. What necessarily makes that "political"? The mere fact that a politician holds that moral value and seeks to lead with those moral values informing her decisions?

Third, hasn't the scientific community contributed to this phenomenon by position itself as, essentially, just another lobbying group over the last couple of decades? Now, scientists are quick to take to the Hill to testify about a variety of things that scientists just need funded--embryonic stem cells, extraterrestrial research, moon landings, high school chemistry labs, alternative energy sources, pharmaceutical research for HPV vaccines. It seems like the scientific community has undercut its effectiveness by clamoring for a handout every time Congress is in session.
7.11.2007 9:58pm
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Frank --

I am fully willing to believe that there was censoring of scientific information -- I said I suspect this occurred in the abstinence-only example -- but the Post story I cited focused on the stem cell example, and presented normative disagreement (quoting scientists who disagree with the Bush policy) as scientific politicization or "ideology trumping science."

Loki13 --

The examples I took were those mentioned in the Post story. The details you provide were not in that story, nor in Carmona's written statement. If they are true, they are certainly unseemly and unfortunate, but would not qualify as the the politicization of science. As for encouraging political appointees to schedule appearances for political advantage, this is nothing new, and hardly shocking.

JHA
7.11.2007 9:59pm
Chuckle:
You really posted this just to use "surgeons general", didn't you?
7.11.2007 10:01pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Prof. Adler -

I think you're making unwarranted assumptions about what Carmona would have said re: stem cells. Carmona didn't say he wanted to advocate stem cell research, nor does he say that's what the White House forbade him to do. He says only that he wanted to address "beliefs that were scientifically incorrect" but which were shaping the debate. To me that suggests he was just going to explain the science, not that he was going to take a position.

Whether the available information justifies stem cell research may be a moral question, but what that research actually revealed is not. It's a purely scientific matter, and politics should should have no bearing on what the surgeon general says about it. The administration was trying to win a policy debate not by advocating a position by suppressing information it didn't like, which is something this particular president does all too often in many contexts.
7.11.2007 10:08pm
Oh c'mon:
The executive will always try to garner power. Like you say, "science politicization is not the [sole] province of either party."
On the other hand, there's no evidence that politics have played this kind of role in past administrations. As the Post article reported, Clinton pressured the SG to delay or not release a report related to his scandal. Bush has consistently denied almost all scientifice evidence relating to global warming and stem cell research. It is one thing to say, in the stem cells arena, that there may be some benefits to research but the administration, for moral reasons, will not fund further study. It is another thing to use pseudo-science and outright lies to denigrate scientific (or any) knowledge.
Presidents are political, but I don't think past administrations have allowed narrow politics to dictate all their actions.
7.11.2007 10:14pm
Shelby (mail):
Much of the discussion was being driven by theology, ideology, [and] preconceived beliefs that were scientifically incorrect

Carmona apparently believed scientifically incorrect ideas were playing a role in the discussion, and further believed that what he had to say would "educate the American public" -- presumably by correcting such incorrect ideas. He claims he was prevented from doing so. Mr. Adler comments,

the debate over whether the federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research is not a scientific debate, but a moral one

How does the existence of a moral debate justify reliance on incorrect science? The observation that
Some opponents of stem cell research spin scientific evidence to support their cause, exaggerating the potential of adult stem cells, but proponents of embyonic stem cell research engage in spin and hyperbole of their own
does not render moot the actual underlying science.

If Mr. Adler contends that Carmona was merely altering the "spin" that the Administration engaged in, there is insufficient information to support that argument. Carmona's own words indicate he was addressing incorrect ideas about the science, not its interpretation or significance.

Looks like censorship to me -- or at least, a clear accusation of it.
7.11.2007 10:17pm
BChurch (mail):
Again the quote was:

In one such case, Carmona, a former professor of surgery and public health at the University of Arizona, said he was told not to speak out during the national debate over whether the federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research, which President Bush opposes.

"Much of the discussion was being driven by theology, ideology, [and] preconceived beliefs that were scientifically incorrect",

It sounds to me as though, within the context of the normative debate, Carmona was prohibited from correcting the record as to scientific matters of fact. His direct quote is clear that this was not a matter of mere censorship, but the willful abetting of scientifically inaccurate information. It's one thing to "spin" selective truths to your benefit, it's another level of dishonesty alltogether to prevent the Surgeon General from correct the record as to matters of fact, allowing falsehoods to add to your "spin".
7.11.2007 10:19pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
merevaudevillian writes:
First, why make such a fuss over "science politicization," when there are plenty of other matters which have been easily, readily, and popularly politicized? We rarely hear complaints about the politicization of economics, defense, or a host of other issues that fall under political persuasion. Why isolate science as some sacrosanct matter that is beyond politicization?
The key difference is that science is objectively verifiable. Most questions of economics and defense have no objectively correct answer, but questions of science generally do. (I admit that scientists sometimes get those answers wrong, but that's beside the point here.)

When an engineer builds a bridge she doesn't base her design on the way she wants gravity to work; she bases it on the way gravity actually *does* work. If there was a widespread misunderstanding among engineers about gravity, there would be no good reason to prevent someone from correcting it. On stem cells, evolution, global warming and a host of other issues, though, this administration has repeatedly tried to help misunderstandings triumph over the truth because the truth, as Al Gore would say, was inconvenient.
7.11.2007 10:24pm
nunzio:
Why do we have a Surgeon General? It seems like a poet laureate type position to me. We can end the politicization of this position by eliminating it.
7.11.2007 10:29pm
byomtov (mail):
The kindest thing one can say of this post is that Adler is trying to demonstrate his advocacy skills in a largely hopeless cause.
7.11.2007 10:30pm
frankcross (mail):
I actually have heard quite a few complaints about the politicization of economics (currently on taxing hedge fund managers but also relating to taxes and many other topics) and the politicization of defense has been a very common topic (e.g., the degree to which political appointees overrode military recommendations).

I think the argument begins from a false premise.
7.11.2007 10:31pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Being prohibited from speaking at the Special Olympics (Ted Kennedy) while being required to speak at Republican functions.

That was especially nasty, and I find it hard these days to be shocked by these thugs.

But of course, that didn't actually happen chez Adler, because it was reported in the NYT, not the WaPo. I am also finding it harder these days to be surprised by Prof. Adler.
7.11.2007 10:36pm
merevaudevillian:
"The key difference is that science is objectively verifiable . . . [o]n stem cells, evolution, global warming and a host of other issues"

Is that entirely accurate? Embyronic stem cell research contains serious ethical issues, regardless of its objective verification; global warming implicates serious economic concerns; and both are far from "objectively verified." Evolution has stronger support, but legitimate dissenters do exist. These aren't subject that exist in a vacuum, and they implicate other matters external to a body of "objective" knowledge. For instance, science proves empirically that fast food is devastatingly harmful to the body, but considerations external to this "objective body" of science implicate the nation's policy about them. The same holds true after the eugenics movement of the 1920s. Calling something "objectively verifiable" doesn't mean that external bodies of knowledge and values can't inform them, and determine that, "objectively verifiable" or not, other values outweigh the scientific values.
7.11.2007 10:44pm
MarkW (mail):
As I have argued before (in this series of posts), science politicization is not the province of either party. There is plenty of blame to go around, and a need for greater attention to the institutional arrangements that place undue political pressure on science in the first place.

Well, I can name several issues on which the left takes a pretty consistent, if not always unanimous, pro-science stand, while much of the right is anti-science (creationism, global warming, ozone depletion, etc.). I can name issues where there is strong support for anti-scientific positions from both the right and left (vaccination, nutritional supplements). I'm hard pressed to name more than a single issue (GM food) where the right is, arguably, considerably more pro-science than the left.

So while it is true that neither party is perfect when it comes to supporting scientifically sound positions, the right has much, much more to answer for than the left by any reasonable estimate. The Republican War on Science exists, and needs to be addressed. Responsible conservatives would do so.
7.11.2007 10:47pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
This example is harder to evaluate because it is less clear what actually occurred. If, for instance, the federal government was presenting false or misleading information about the effectiveness of abstinence-only education, and preventing Carmona's office from presenting accurate information, then this would be a good example of political manipulation of science. If, on the other hand, Carmona was prevented from expressing a purely policy disagreement with the administration, then it would not be such a good example. From what I know of the Bush Administration's policies and activities in this area, I suspect the former is closer to what occurred, but the news account does not provide enough detail to be sure.


That was my take on it as well. His complaint seems to be that the administration didn't want him to engage in the debate on a controversial issue and he saw a lot of people expressing opinions that he disagreed with or thought their premises were wrong. Which opinions he "felt were scientifically incorrect" he doesn't say even though he had ample time to do so which suggests this is more of his personal opinion.

After the Jocelyn Elders debacle, it's not surprising that the Surgeon General has less independence than before because anything the Surgeon General says can and will boomerang back on the President. Much as Carmona might like to imagine he was the "nation's doctor," at the end of the day he was a political appointee and part of the executive branch and serves at the pleasure of the President.
7.11.2007 10:47pm
CaseyL (mail):
You have to work really hard not to see the Bush Administration's constraints on Carmona as nothing to get excited about.

Science isn't like economics: scientific studies are run by protocols specifically designed to avoid bias and weed out confounding variables. That "abstinence-only" increases rather than decreases unwanted pregnancies and STDs is a scientifically demonstrated fact; that the Bush Administration refused to let Carmona note that is clearly ideological censorship. That the cell lines Bush said could be used for ESC research were mostly useless due to age or contamination is also demonstrably factual.

That Carmona was forced to become a cheerleader for Bush, and for the GOP generally, is appalling. It's also part of a clearly demonstrated trend, from the politicization of the Justice Department to the use of federal agencies to help Republicans get elected; to insisting that all federal agencies have what amounts to a political officer who makes sure that whatever those agencies say toes the Administration line.

What's the point of cherry-picking what Carmona was told to do by ignoring what the rest of the Administration was doing? It's obvious to anyone who's been paying that the Bush Administration has Sovietized the FDA, NASA, NOAA, FEMA, the Justice Department - and the Surgeon Generalship.

If you approve of Bush policies, then you probably approve of the politicization. If so, then have the intellectual honesty to say as much.
7.11.2007 10:52pm
scote (mail):

I actually have heard quite a few complaints about the politicization of economics (currently on taxing hedge fund managers but also relating to taxes and many other topics) and the politicization of defense has been a very common topic (e.g., the degree to which political appointees overrode military recommendations).

I think the argument begins from a false premise.

What argument? it isn't clear what you are referring or what position you are taking.

There is a lot more art to economics and defense, or perhaps I should say "voodoo." Science deals with objective, testable facts. There can be some room for interpretation of those facts and what polices to make based on or in spite of those facts, but the Bush administration has been very dutiful in the Sovietization of our science with its attempt to bend reality to its ideological preconceptions. This didn't work well for the Soviets. The genetics of plants, for instance, stubbornly refused to adopt the principals of Lysenkoism just as global warming refused to acknowledge the Bush Administration's long-standing claim that it did not exist. The truly Orwellian extent the Administration will go to is staggering in its brazenness.

Alder's "the Clinton's did it too" innuendo not withstanding, no US administration in history has more disservice to reality and to science than the current one.

Carmona's testimony is a damming testament to the Administration's willful disregard for the truth and their Soviet-style demand for three mention's of Bush on every page of every speech--a demand so outrageous that it sounds like satire.
7.11.2007 10:53pm
merevaudevillian:
Impressive, scote, you invoked "Sovietization," "Lysenkoism," and "Orwellian" -- I was hoping for a "Nazi" or "fascist" reference, but alas, I'll wait for another day.
7.11.2007 10:56pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
merevaudevillian:

You're missing my point. I agree that policy decisions based upon science are not objective. The science itself, however, is. That's why it would have been OK for Bush forbid Carmona to contradict him on policy, but not to forbid him to do so on the underlying science.
7.11.2007 10:58pm
scote (mail):

Impressive, scote, you invoked "Sovietization," "Lysenkoism," and "Orwellian" -- I was hoping for a "Nazi" or "fascist" reference, but alas, I'll wait for another day.

Thank you.

I note, however, that you don't actually try to dispute what I say--only to make fun of it. I guess I must also be right, unless you have a better argument.
7.11.2007 11:00pm
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
I don't know about the "politicization of defense," but there is certainly a parallel between the politicization of science" and the politicization of intelligence. In his new book, The Honest Broker, Roger Pielke Jr. draws a parallel between the Bush Administration's over-selling of intelligence during the run up to the Iraq war and the over-selling of scientific studies in environmental policy. I have a review of the book coming out later this summer, and I will post a link when it is available.

JHA
7.11.2007 11:03pm
dc user (mail):
No, this doesn't sound like a case of political pressure at all:


Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings.


Or how about this?


And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization's longtime ties to a "prominent family" that he refused to name.
"I was specifically told by a senior person, 'Why would you want to help those people?' " Dr. Carmona said.
The Special Olympics is one of the nation's premier charitable organizations to benefit disabled people, and the Kennedys have long been deeply involved in it.
When asked after the hearing if that "prominent family" was the Kennedys, Dr. Carmona responded, "You said it. I didn't."


Shutting out the Special Olympics because it's connected to the Kennedys? This administration is such a class act !

7.11.2007 11:07pm
Francis:
Evolution has stronger support, but legitimate dissenters do exist.

No, they don't.

JHA, in reviewing Pielke's book, I sincerely hope you do your due diligence on the author. Tim Lambert, at Deltoid, and the RealClimate crew have some things worth reading, even if you disagree with them.
7.11.2007 11:12pm
Henri Le Compte (mail):
Jonathan:
Making President Bush and his "cronies" (because he doesn't have friends) look like ignorant brutes is the life's blood of the NY Times and the Wash Post. In these articles, they consistently "confuse" scientific arguments and moral arguments because they wish to. Doing so re-inforces one of their favorite motifs, which is that the Bush Administration is full of religious nuts who want to replace science with Taliban-esqe Bible studies.

Yes, its a ridiculous theory (I'm being generous here). But the Times, and many of their media brethern, very, very, very much want us to believe it.
7.11.2007 11:15pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Science isn't like economics: scientific studies are run by protocols specifically designed to avoid bias and weed out confounding variables. That "abstinence-only" increases rather than decreases unwanted pregnancies and STDs is a scientifically demonstrated fact;


Um no, actually the "scientifically demonstrated fact" about abstinence-based sex education programs is that kids who participate in them have about the same behaviors* in terms of how soon they have sex and their use of birth control as kids in non-abstinence-based sex education programs or kids who don't take any. Which is more a knock against the utility of sex education classes period.

* Although apparently they're more knowledgeable about STD's then other kids.
7.11.2007 11:17pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Why do we have a Surgeon General? It seems like a poet laureate type position to me. We can end the politicization of this position by eliminating it.


I'm down with that. I seem to recall during the 1990's there were one or two bills authored to abolish the position after Jocelyn Elders resigned in disgrace. If we're going to have the position and it's going to be filled, then don't be shocked if in the post-Elders world his/her public policy statements are going to be controlled just like the public policy statements of any other political appointee.

You want independence? Go into business for yourself.
7.11.2007 11:27pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Henri Le Compte wrote:
Making President Bush and his "cronies" (because he doesn't have friends) look like ignorant brutes is the life's blood of the NY Times and the Wash Post. In these articles, they consistently "confuse" scientific arguments and moral arguments because they wish to.
You're kidding, right? The White House offers bogus scientific arguments re: global warming, stem cells, evolution, natural resources, etc. to support Bush's agenda, but the people who point this out are the ones who are confused and up to no good? Please tell us you're not serious.
7.11.2007 11:38pm
Ella (www):
Professor Adler - You're missing the point. People can legitimately to choose a course that is not supported by science if they believe the other course is morally untenable - stem cells is a good example. However, it should be an informed choice and the fact that this president (or any other) attempts to suppress the science to control the political debate is reprehensible. As a partial defense of Bush, Carmona really should have gone ahead and published his reports and given the speeches he wanted to give - that's the Surgeon General's job, that's what Koop and others did.

And by the way, it would behoove you to do some basic research into the sex ed issue before treating it like a choice between two competing outcomes (less sex vs safer sex). The research clearly demonstrates that sex ed courses that include accurate information about contraception and STDs is more effective at every level than courses that don't. That includes postponing sex and using contraception. Abstinence only courses (distinct from abstinence based courses) or courses that include false information (transmissible levels of HIV in tears, anyone?) are no better at postponing sex and are worse at encouraging contraceptive/condom use. There are people who want to choose the less effective option for moral or other reasons, but their effort to impose their policy preferences on the rest of us shouldn't be facilitated by suppressing the science.
7.11.2007 11:54pm
plunge (mail):
Mr. Adler, you really are an amazing fellow. You quote says that information was removed from his speeches, and then you jump straight into saying that moral judgements aren't science. Where is YOUR evidence that he was saying that they are? You have none. In fact, this entire post gives zero quotes or evidence at all that he wanted to do anything more than state the facts to the matter on various subjects. You magically read in the rest so you can bobble about on a red herring response.

You toss out a handful of rather thin and scattered counter-examples in order to play up your "pox-on-all houses" theme, largely because you've already decided that it just wouldn't help your proposed solution if you came out and admitted that there really something distinctive and especially systematically horrendous in the way the Bush administration has treated science. If only you could apply your talents to the sitaution in Israel where you could say that there is plenty of blame to go around for suicide bombings.
7.12.2007 12:02am
scote (mail):

I'm down with that. I seem to recall during the 1990's there were one or two bills authored to abolish the position after Jocelyn Elders resigned in disgrace.

First off, the disgrace was that Elders was forced out by ignorant Puritans who want to pretend that sex doesn't exist and think that masturbation is evil.

If we're going to have the position and it's going to be filled, then don't be shocked if in the post-Elders world his/her public policy statements are going to be controlled just like the public policy statements of any other political appointee.

You want independence? Go into business for yourself.

The issue isn't just one of policy, it is one of science. Medical decisions should be based on scientific fact as should policy. If the Administration is going to make policy that is contrary to sound science, as in the case of their counter-productive Abstinence Only policy, then they should have the guts to admit the facts to the American public.

This is a representative democracy dependent on an informed electorate. The Administration is engaging in a misappropriation of the organs of government in furtherance of a deliberate and organized campaign to misinform the public on issues of fact to make their policies seem rational when, in fact, they are not. What they are doing is an untenable, inexcusable abuse of the public trust and an affront to our system of government.

The position of Surgeon General should not be a position in charge of lying to the American public about science, nor should it be one of Big Brother-enforced 3-Bushes-per-page Administration cheerleading.

The Executive branch does not exist to further the electoral aims of the Republican party and must be prohibited from countermanding the dissemination of sound science.
7.12.2007 12:18am
Adam J:
Thorley;

You said "Much as Carmona might like to imagine he was the "nation's doctor," at the end of the day he was a political appointee and part of the executive branch and serves at the pleasure of the President."

Are you serious about this quote? You make it sound like the cabinet's purpose is to provide political support for the president. Funny, I thought the executive branch primary purpose is "executing" the law, not politicizing it. That's like saying a CFO's job is just to spin the right numbers for the a corporate president.
7.12.2007 12:19am
whackjobbbb:

When an engineer builds a bridge she doesn't base her design on the way she wants gravity to work; she bases it on the way gravity actually *does* work. If there was a widespread misunderstanding among engineers about gravity, there would be no good reason to prevent someone from correcting it.


Obviously, you've never been around structural engineers involved in bridge engineering, particularly when we get around to value engineering their work. And as we do that value engineering, we get around to "moral" and "social" issues... and [gasp] POLITICAL issues... and these are every bit as important as any other part of that project, and must be equally accounted for... much to that poor structural engineer's consternation, oftentimes. What a shock, eh kids? Welcome to the REAL world of science, a topic I'm continually amazed at you lawyers' complete ignorance of. But that sure don't stop you from jabbering on about it, I notice, and I don't think I've ever been around a lawyer who didn't like playing engineer.

I'm guessing that 90% of you are technically illiterate, at least that's my experience with you lawyer types. And you demonstrate that in this discussion with your ignorance of any of the textures and fabric of scientific analysis, as you reduce it to "gravity goes down... DUH".

Tell me, can any of you change your own oil? Could you wire a 120V lighting receptacle in your house? Could you cut a recipe by 2/3 and still get it right? Could you pass 9th grade algebra today? Can you even balance a frickin' checkbook?

And this is basic walking-around stuff, I'm not talking about anything higher-order here. You may want to consider this, counselors, as you skillfully solve the world's problems oh-so-neatly... with your vast knowledge of "science" (and as you condemn others for having the temerity to ignore your vast knowledge).

Carmona has a boss. His boss is paid to consider ALL facets of a successful "project" completion, not just the hobby horse of one employee. That's sorta how it works in the real world of matters technical, counselors. If he don't like it, he can move on, as many of us technical folk do when our philosophies don't mesh with those we're working with.

And better yet, eliminate this 19th century relic... the "surgeon general"... as was mentioned above.
7.12.2007 1:11am
scote (mail):

Carmona has a boss. His boss is paid to consider ALL facets of a successful "project" completion, not just the hobby horse of one employee. That's sorta how it works in the real world of matters technical, counselors. If he don't like it, he can move on, as many of us technical folk do when our philosophies don't mesh with those we're working with.

However, the Surgeon General swears an oath to uphold the constitution, not an oath to lie and withhold politically inconvenient science for the president.

And better yet, eliminate this 19th century relic... the "surgeon general"... as was mentioned above.

The real relic from the 19th Century is the scientific ignorance of the current Administration.
7.12.2007 1:18am
whackjobbbb:
It may be "politically inconvenient" for YOU, but that don't make it "science", nor do I accept your qualifications to make that analysis.
7.12.2007 1:22am
whackjobbbb:
And if Cormona feels he can't uphold his "oath"... he can take a walk.
7.12.2007 1:24am
scote (mail):

It may be "politically inconvenient" for YOU, but that don't make it "science", nor do I accept your qualifications to make that analysis.

Non sequitur. You don't say what you claim isn't science. You are denying the the factual nature of, well, nothing. Not very scientific of you.

Are you saying that the scientific studies that show Abstinence Only programs do not work are wrong? Are you denying that the current Federally Approved stem cell lines are becoming un-usable? Are you denying that second-hand smoke is harmful? What science in particular do you say isn't science.

I don't have to question your credentials when what you say doesn't make sense. Your words say more (well, in this case, less) than any credential you may posses does.

BTW, your diatribe about changing your own oil was not a scientific one. Do you think Einstein and Niels Bohr got together on weekends and worked on their cars? If they didn't do you think they should return their Nobel Prizes?
7.12.2007 1:37am
scote (mail):

And if Cormona feels he can't uphold his "oath"... he can take a walk.

And if Bush feels he as a right to demand that people violate their oath to uphold the Constitution to further Bush's political agenda, then Bush needs to resign.

Note that their are no "ironic quotes" around "oath" because the oath to uphold the Constitution is real one, not some pretend, theoretical liberal invention as you would have us believe.
7.12.2007 1:40am
ifoughtthelaw (mail) (www):

And as we do that value engineering, we get around to "moral" and "social" issues... and [gasp] POLITICAL issues... and these are every bit as important as any other part of that project, and must be equally accounted for...


And thank goodness for that. Flood levees, anyone?
7.12.2007 1:41am
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
whackjobbbb wrote (in response to my earlier comment):
I'm guessing that 90% of you are technically illiterate, at least that's my experience with you lawyer types.
You're guessing wrong, at least in my case. I have a degree in computer science and worked in the field for three years before I went to law school. I consider myself quite literate, both scientifically and otherwise.

If you will take a look at what I wrote, you'll see that I never denied politics, etc. play a part in engineers' work. What I said was that such things don't affect their calculations. How much a bridge is going to weigh has nothing to do with politics, even if where to put it and other important decisions do. The problem with the current administration is that it doesn't see this distinction.
7.12.2007 1:44am
scote (mail):

And thank goodness for that. Flood levees, anyone?

Ahh...that explains the lack of federal response to Katrina. The official Bush/Lysenko science must still hold that the levees are still holding and Louisiana was never flooded.

Oh, and should add another "Bush." (Gotta have 3 Bush's per page, don'tcha know, for it to be official.)
7.12.2007 1:45am
Proud to be a liberal :
While abstinence-only education is based on moral values, the promoters of such programs often use pragmatic and instrumentalist arguments arguments to support their position and provide a secular (non-religous) basis for the position.

If abstinence is moral and that sex outside of marriage is immoral, then knowledge of contraception should be irrelevant to the decision to engage in pre-marital sex for those individuals who want to remain moral. However, the supporters of abstinence based education would rather that teen-agers fear getting pregnant (and getting STDs) and abstain due to the fear (rather than a moral belief in abstinence until marriage).

Thus, in order to support abstinence-based education, promoters rely on the instrumentalist argument that it is scientifically more effective rather than on the moral position. The problem is that the science does not support their position.

It is worth noting that Senator Vitter (now known for frequenting prostitutes) is a big supporter of abstinence based education and a big opponent of gay marriage as a threat to traditional marriage. But despite his intelligence (a Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar), he nonetheless apparently used prostitutes, creating health risks for his wife as well as himself. If a committed conservative like Vitter cannot remain faithful to his beautiful wife, then perhaps it is unreasonable to expect that all teen-agers and young adults will abstain from sex until their are married (in their late 20s or 30s, perhaps) and education about contraception could be beneficial -- just in case, like Vitter, they have the inclination to sin . . .
7.12.2007 1:54am
Proud to be a liberal :
While abstinence-only education is based on moral values, the promoters of such programs often use pragmatic and instrumentalist arguments arguments to support their position and provide a secular (non-religous) basis for the position.

If abstinence is moral and that sex outside of marriage is immoral, then knowledge of contraception should be irrelevant to the decision to engage in pre-marital sex for those individuals who want to remain moral. However, the supporters of abstinence based education would rather that teen-agers fear getting pregnant (and getting STDs) and abstain due to the fear (rather than a moral belief in abstinence until marriage).

Thus, in order to support abstinence-based education, promoters rely on the instrumentalist argument that it is scientifically more effective rather than on the moral position. The problem is that the science does not support their position.

It is worth noting that Senator Vitter (now known for frequenting prostitutes) is a big supporter of abstinence based education and a big opponent of gay marriage as a threat to traditional marriage. But despite his intelligence (a Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar), he nonetheless apparently used prostitutes, creating health risks for his wife as well as himself. If a committed conservative like Vitter cannot remain faithful to his beautiful wife, then perhaps it is unreasonable to expect that all teen-agers and young adults will abstain from sex until they are married (in their late 20s or 30s, perhaps) and education about contraception could be beneficial -- just in case, like Vitter, they have the inclination to sin . . .
7.12.2007 1:54am
Montie (mail):

Thus, in order to support abstinence-based education, promoters rely on the instrumentalist argument that it is scientifically more effective rather than on the moral position. The problem is that the science does not support their position.


But didn't the study indicate that abstinence-based education was no more (or less) effect than the standard education? So, wouldn't the choice be between alienating a substantial segment of the public and not alienating them?
7.12.2007 2:23am
TJIT (mail):
The politicization of science has a long, distinguished, bipartisan history.

Silicone breast implants, and the salting of lynx fur on lab samples are a couple examples of the bipartisan nature of this particular activity.

Properly applied cynicism can be a useful tool.
7.12.2007 2:25am
John Herbison (mail):
What is the biggest difference between George W. Bush and God? God doesn't think He's George W. Bush.

This administration panders to folks who regard contraception as sinful. A significant number of that subset of the Republican Party, like the White Queen, can believe six impossible things before breakfast, such as the doctrine of transubstantiation or the Earth being only 6,000 years old.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan said that each person is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts. To the gullible, however, facts matter less.
7.12.2007 3:03am
scote (mail):

The politicization of science has a long, distinguished, bipartisan history.

Silicone breast implants, and the salting of lynx fur on lab samples are a couple examples of the bipartisan nature of this particular activity.

Properly applied cynicism can be a useful tool.

I wasn't aware that happened at the direction of a Democratic Administration? Not really an apt comparison--cynical, maybe, but not "properly applied cynicism."
7.12.2007 3:29am
Just a Nut (mail):
I have actually worked as a scientist and still do. The distinction between policy and science is not very difficult to make in most situations. However, if a policy decision is burnished as a scientifically valid or desirable approach, or even as promoting a research or commercial goal- when it plainly is not, then it is a case of fraud. Hiding contrary evidence is an act showing evidence of intent to engage in the same.

This is what happens when in a lab someone discovers doctored data, specious unsupported inferences and the like. This is something you learn on the job, but apparently not as a law professor. In any event legal facts tend to be a different species than actual facts.

The surgeon general in question is a former armed forces member and a former professor of surgery and 'public health.' He is qualified to comment on and correct public health related measures that claim to achieve 'goal A,' but are unlikely or incapable of delivering the promise- as a purely scientific matter. Knowingly making false promises in hope of inducing detrimental reliance is not politics-- it is fraud.

And this is the issue raised by the WP and NYT reports on the manipulation of the surgeon general's position. How it should be fairly resolved depends on the explanations proffered and additional facts as they develop. As things stand presently, it is a prima facie case of fraud- in the absence of an explanation or other factual developments.

I laud Professor Adler's attempt at fashioning some kind of a defense, but he needs more favorable facts to be persuasive on the merits in this case. I wonder, why did the surgeon general not resign.

Also, the denigration of Jocelyn Elders is unwarranted. Frank and clear advice should not have been a reason for forcing her to resign. That was politics. The advice, however, appears to be correct and masturbation continues to be practiced regardless of the pretences to the contrary. Promoting it may actually make abstinence based policy a bit more realistic.
7.12.2007 6:22am
ATRGeek:
I'm always amazed by the postmodernism of the Administration and its defenders. It hasn't gotten as much play as some other things, but in my view it is probably their most significant departure from traditional conservatism, because it facilitates all their other departures.
7.12.2007 8:35am
Ella (www):
Montie - THe HHS study you're referring to doesn't say what you (or the previous poster) think it says. I suggest you read it and pay particular attention to what it was testing. Even if it did say what you think it says, there is a large body of research supporting the Surgeon General's position. And, of couse, there would still be no VALID reason not to let the Surgeon General put out a summary report based on the science.
7.12.2007 9:57am
Eli Rabett (www):
I suggest that folks here educate themselves about the Public Health Service (whose head is the Surgeon General). It is a uniformed service established by John Adams whose mission includes prevention of and responses to epidemics, disease control and providing medical care in communities including Native American Reservations. Because it is a uniformed service it is particularly well suited to responding to health emergencies and bioterrorism. Or are you going to gather up a collection of private docs, organize them, and put them out on the street in a couple of hours?
7.12.2007 10:41am
U.Va. 2L:
Just so I get this right: when Carmona says, "There was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to just preach abstinence, which I felt was scientifically incorrect," we don't know for sure what went on, but when "Satcher . . . could not release a report on sexuality and public health, in part because of sensitivities triggered by the Monica Lewinsky scandal," that's politicization of science?

Okay.
7.12.2007 11:23am
Rhode Island Lawyer:

Obviously, you've never been around structural engineers involved in bridge engineering, particularly when we get around to value engineering their work. And as we do that value engineering, we get around to "moral" and "social" issues... and [gasp] POLITICAL issues... and these are every bit as important as any other part of that project, and must be equally accounted for... much to that poor structural engineer's consternation, oftentimes.


Whackjobbbb, your point that policy decisions are constantly made in the value engineering process is of course correct. The question of the appropriate level of "overdesign" has real world consequences, usually on cost and time. Determing where the line should be drawn always entails tradeoffs between cost and margin of safety, and the decision that gets made incorporates elements of both science and policy. However, no competent and honest engineer would approach the discussion by using incorrect calculations to determine the load a particular structure can carry. That's my objection to the Bush administration's tactics: they prohibit employees from pointing out that false data is being used in reaching a policy decision.
7.12.2007 11:26am
plunge (mail):
whackjobbb:"I'm guessing that 90% of you are technically illiterate..."

I think I'd appreciate that guess some more from someone who had ever demonstrated any literacy of any subject in the first place.
7.12.2007 11:29am
Kevin!:
What's funny about this post is that, if you read it again, Adler isn't even defending the administration's actions. He's just making an empty point about the difference between morality/policy and science, then sort of suggesting that MAYBE this is what is going on with this administration in the here-and-now. He doesn't know. Maybe it isn't. Maybe it is. Life is a mystery.
7.12.2007 1:04pm
TJIT (mail):
Scote,

Kessler put a moratorium on silicone breast implants in 1992 before clinton came into office. However, most of the motivation for the silicone ban was based on politicized science provided by traditional "liberal" interest groups like trial lawyers and women's political groups.

After much research and litigation that bankrupted companies and placed medical device manufacturing in peril the conclusion was.
To date at least 20 studies show no evidence that implants — intact or broken — cause connective-tissue diseases. Many of these studies included women followed for an average of ten years after their implants, and some for up to three decades. No rigorously designed study showed any evidence of disease.
and

Several respected medical entities have concluded that there is no greater incidence of collagen vascular disease in women with ruptured implants than in those without implants. These include analyses from the Institute of Medicine Report, Safety of Silicone Breast Implants (1999), commissioned by the U.S. Congress; the U.K. Independent Review Panel on Silicone Gel Breast Implants (1998); the National Science Panel (1998); and the National Institutes of Health (2004).
However we still have
The Breastapo are at it again, trying to dictate what American women should and shouldn't do with their breasts. On August 9 they were at the National Press Club, speaking out against the recent FDA decision to approve marketing of silicone breast implants (under FDA negotiable conditions) for cosmetic augmentation. The National Council of Women's Organizations hosted the event and featured speakers from the National Organization of Women, the National Women's Health Network, and Public Citizen, among others.
Public citizen and NOW are not republicans but they are politicizing science.

Feminists take aim at breast implants.

Look around a little bit and it becomes clear that the politicization of science is not limited to "conservative" interest groups and republican administrations.
7.12.2007 1:23pm
scote (mail):

Public citizen and NOW are not republicans but they are politicizing science.

I'm against junk science. However, the active suppression of inconvenient scientific fact by the administration and its subservient branches is a far greater threat than mere policy advocates in an adversarial system.

Now, on the contrary, junk science "busters" can have an agenda, too. The libertarian "junk science" website has a habit of only "busting" things that go against its libertarian agenda. So, claims of debunking must also be carefully examined both for credibility and for selection bias.

In the case of breast implants, the epidemiology is clear. They do not cause auto-imune disease. But that is changing the subject from the issue of State-Sponsored-Ignorance, which is what the Bush Administration is engaged in.
7.12.2007 2:22pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Thus, in order to support abstinence-based education, promoters rely on the instrumentalist argument that it is scientifically more effective rather than on the moral position. The problem is that the science does not support their position."


Exactly -- this is the crux of it.

The former SG was not making statements about morality; he sought to make statements about science. The Administration squelched him because the science seriously undercuts its policy positions. This is because its policy positions aren't based solely on moral judgments; they are based in large part on bad science.

If the Administration based its positions on strictly moral convictions, it wouldn't need to squelch the science.
7.12.2007 2:42pm
TJIT (mail):
Scote,

It really is not news that lots of agendas are at play when science enters politically active areas.

Everybody is better off when the issue is continually watched. Bear in mind the risk of politicized science is not limited to government science.

Politicized science is often used by non governmental groups to drive government action.
7.12.2007 2:45pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
I am curious about the concept of a subordinate political appointee having a "right" or a "duty" to speak out against the policy of the duly elected president. Where does that arise in the Constitution?
7.12.2007 3:05pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

But didn't the study indicate that abstinence-based education was no more (or less) effect than the standard education? So, wouldn't the choice be between alienating a substantial segment of the public and not alienating them?




That's pretty much it in a nutshell (although apparently the kids who went through at least one of the abstinence-based sex programs were more knowledgeable about STD's than kids who didn't have any formal sex education or went through a non-abstinence based program). If there's an ideology that's being skewered by the science, it isn't the one that's trying to promote traditional values (e.g. abstinence until marriage) so much as it is the one that thinks throwing more money at programs for kids is almost invariably the answer no matter the question.
7.12.2007 3:43pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Bob from Ohio wrote:
I am curious about the concept of a subordinate political appointee having a "right" or a "duty" to speak out against the policy of the duly elected president. Where does that arise in the Constitution?
That was essentially my point. Carmona was not trying to talk about policy at all; he was just trying to better explain the facts upon which any policy decisions would have to be based. The president can legitimately forbid his cabinet to publicly disagree with his policy decisions, but he can't legitimately insist that they pretend black is white or night is day in order to obfuscate the truth.

The Carmona was the country's Surgeon General, not the Republican party's. His job is to help improve the state of public health in this country, not to help the president's party retain control of the White House.
7.12.2007 3:49pm
Smokey:
I am astonished that several posters here have claimed that ''global warming'' is science ['global warming,' of course, refers to the anthropogenic, CO2-induced, catastrophic global warming conjecture].

Incontrovertible peer-reviewed evidence from the Vostok glacier ice core record, going back many millions of years, proves beyond doubt that CO2 has no measurable effect on the Earth's temperature, even when CO2 concentrations were several hundred percent higher than current levels -- for millions of years at a time.

The fact that some posters list the discredited 'AGW/global warming' conjecture as evidence of the Administration's aversion to science, only indicates that those posters are using the bugaboo of global warming as a political bludgeon to hit those they disagree with over the head.

In fact, those who claim that measurable AGW global warming exists are themselves being political, or they are scientifically illiterate. By accusing the Administration of being 'unscientific' re global warming, they are simply suffering from the projection of their unfounded beliefs onto others.
7.12.2007 4:31pm
Garth:
like everything with the Bush administration it is a question of degree.

because clinton squelched a study that would remind the public of his sexual peccadillos does not mean that the surgeon general is just another mouthpiece of Herr Busch's ill conceived ignorance.

the man was prevented from correcting the Right Wing Spin machines deliberate lies about stem cell research.

he was viewed as just another tool to prop up the Busch regime science be damned.

if we had a librarian general, we would be defending busch's purges of critical books from federal libraries because Carter pulled playboy from the library of congress.
7.12.2007 5:13pm
Garth:
lies about abstinence only, condoms, STDs, the herpes vaccine, ru-486, genetic foods... the list goes on and on.

at what point do you believe a public official who says, yeah, it's a political job, but i've talked to my predecessors and Bush is the worst.

is bush also the most ignorant president we've ever had in addition to being the worst?
7.12.2007 5:15pm
scote (mail):

I am astonished that several posters here have claimed that ''global warming'' is science ['global warming,' of course, refers to the anthropogenic, CO2-induced, catastrophic global warming conjecture]

No, global warming does not entail human causation. While "global warming" is undoubtedly interrelated to manmade environmental impact, the phrase also applies to the mere fact that the earth is getting warmer--hence the clever term "global warming." You are starting your alleged refutation with a lie. Not a good start.
7.12.2007 5:44pm
scote (mail):

lies about abstinence only, condoms, STDs, the herpes vaccine, ru-486, genetic foods... the list goes on and on.

Especially egregious was the attempt to claim that abortions cause breast cancer.
7.12.2007 5:46pm
John Kunze:
No doubt there are many sincere Christians who (1) think it sinful to give anything but abstinence-only sex education to minors and (2) that abstinence-only is the best practical way to raise their kids -- that frank talk about condoms, etc. dilutes the message and leads to more sex by minors and thus more STD and and pregnancy.

While (1) is a moral issue, (2) is an empirical and scientific question.

But Rhodes-scholar Vitter and even dumb-as-dirt Bush are too worldly, experienced, and smart to believe that abstinence-only works. Yet they cynically try to confuse the science to hold a voting block together.

In BushWorld the policy debates are not about drawing lines between ethical and scientific issues, they are about manipulating science for political ends. In truth they don't care about what protects minors from the risks of sex, they care only about what public posture delivers the votes and will say anything to help.
7.12.2007 6:46pm
Smokey:
No, global warming does not entail human causation.

That's exactly what I'm saying. So who is 'lying' here? Engaging in a little 'projection,' aren't we?

Maybe some chameleon or other would prefer today's lib term, ''climate change.'' That's the current George Orwell-type fuzzy phrase designed to keep up with the latest additions to our scientific knowledge, which proves that global warming/cooling is a natural occurrence.

When the fact that humans don't cause global warming became evident to the scientific community, the bovine fecal purveyance spreaders of AGW globaloney had an unplanned cranial/rectal inversion. To try and counteract their factual error, they did their Goron wordplay and ended up with 'climate change,' analagous to 'weather change.' They both change. See? But human activity has nothing measurable to do with either weather or climate. They had to get away from natural, cyclic 'global warming' somehow, since any measurable connection between people and the Earth's temperature has been thoroughly discredited. Not by UN kleptocrats. By scientists.

So who's the flat-earther? Bush? Or the mouth-breathing, arm-waving Gorebot contingent?

The fact is, any minute effect on the Earth's temperature from human causes is so tiny that it is indistinguishable from the noise. Yet 'global warming' is thrown out by scientific illiterates as an example of the president being against science. Their premise is false; their argument fails.
7.12.2007 7:23pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Smokey dear, the CO2 concentrations in the VOSTOCK (420KY) core and the EPICA core (800KY) are all substantially lower than today's. You are mixing your denialist talking points.

You clearly need a refresher. Remember the boys want you to say that the ice core record shows that CO2 increase comes after the temperature rises, but you should never point out that the initial smaller increase is due to orbital changes causes some warming which in turn releases additional CO2 to the atmosphere, and this release amplifies (substantially) the orbital change.

The second point is that you can say that CO2 was 25% of the atmosphere 4 billion years ago, of course there was no life here and the planet was very different then, but remember you should not point that out.
7.12.2007 7:47pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Thorley Winston:
Montie:
But didn't the study indicate that abstinence-based education was no more (or less) effect than the standard education? So, wouldn't the choice be between alienating a substantial segment of the public and not alienating them?


That's pretty much it in a nutshell (although apparently the kids who went through at least one of the abstinence-based sex programs were more knowledgeable about STD's than kids who didn't have any formal sex education or went through a non-abstinence based program).


But that's no it--in or out of the nutshell, as just a casual perusal of the comments to the post you originally linked to makes clear, like this one:

I just read the study's methodology. The study does not compare the effects of abstinence based education with the effects of other types of sex education. It compares the effects of receiving abstinence based education with the effects of not receiving abstinence based education. Youth in both the experimental group and the control group may also have received other types of sex education or they may have received no other sex education at all.

You cannot draw any conclusions about any other type of sex-ed program from this study. You can only draw a conclusion about abstinence based programs. And that conclusion is that they are a waste of money.


Or as the Executive Summary report of the study puts it:
The rigor of the experimental design derives from the fact that, with random assignment, youth in both the program and control groups were similar in all respects except for their access to the abstinence education program services. As a result, differences in outcomes between the program and control groups could be attributed to the abstinence education program and not to any pre-existing unobserved differences between the program and control groups.


And even though it wasn't designed to measure this (and the result could be the result of other factors), if you look at the table on page 30 of the full report (PDF), the teens from school districts "in communities with a rich set of health, family life, and sex education services available through the public schools," continued to remain abstinent at a rate of 51.5%, while those "in schools with limited services as part of their existing school curricula" remained abstinent at a rate of only 46.5%.

The study wasn't designed to measure what you want to claim it does measure, Thorley, and to the extent that it provides any ambiguous clues about it, it suggests that a rich set of health, family life, and sex education services available through the public schools might possibly increase abstinence--while abstinence-education programs most certainly do not.

Further, the students in the systems with the more comprehensive sex-ed programs were also far less likely to have used drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Again, since the study didn't control for comprehensive program versus absence of a comprehensive program, we have no way of knowing if this difference is a result of the program or simply because of class, geography, ethnicity, religion or other external differences between the students at school districts with comprehensive programs and those without. All we know is that the abstinence programs had no effect. None.

Oh, and the abstinence program that was responsible for the increase in knowledge about STDs was one presented in a school district that had no comprehensive sex-ed program otherwise. There was no measurable change in STD knowledge between those who attended an abstinence program and those who didn't in school districts where the students already had comprehensive sex ed. Are we surprised that students who get some instruction know more than students who receive none?

If there's an ideology that's being skewered by the science, it isn't the one that's trying to promote traditional values (e.g. abstinence until marriage) so much as it is the one that thinks throwing more money at programs for kids is almost invariably the answer no matter the question.


The report doesn't skewer the ideology of parents who want their students to receive a rich set of health, family life, and sex education services available through the public schools. It can't say anything conclusive about more versus less comprehensive health, family life and sex education services. It wasn't designed to measure this by controlling for other factors. But to the extent it provides any hints, nearly all point the other way from what you claim.

How many more times are you going to willfully mischaracterize the findings of this report?
7.12.2007 8:42pm
whackjobbbb:

Whackjobbbb, your point that policy decisions are constantly made in the value engineering process is of course correct. The question of the appropriate level of "overdesign" has real world consequences, usually on cost and time. Determing where the line should be drawn always entails tradeoffs between cost and margin of safety, and the decision that gets made incorporates elements of both science and policy. However, no competent and honest engineer would approach the discussion by using incorrect calculations to determine the load a particular structure can carry. That's my objection to the Bush administration's tactics: they prohibit employees from pointing out that false data is being used in reaching a policy decision.


Rhode Island Lawyer,

That's the whole point. You lawyers, due to your 90%+ plus technical illiteracy rate, are incapable of discretely separating "false data" or even "true data" from the larger "project" in question, less still the ability to dissect it away from the social/moral/political issues interwoven with that data, as a part of the larger "project". In fact, oftentimes, the "system" is incapable of doing that, and thus we have the aforementioned levees in LA (and believe me, you lawyers and your politico friends caused that, with 3 centuries of your public policy handiwork, some of it to include your time-honored practice of playing engineer, going back to the French even, but most of it within the last 100 years, during which you've demonstrated a clear inability to properly mesh the scientific, the social, the political... and understand the implications and effects of each. Nice job, counselors. Well done. Oh but that's right, "The Corps did it... and Bush is an idiot." RIGHT, gang. Bush may be an idiot, but it was you that did it. ).

Science is always ambiguous. Try to separate yourselves from your stunted, pettifogging, linear-thinking, and understand this. Weaving your way through hydraulics/hydrology in the Mississippi Delta, and working it through the political process, involves a careful partnership of many functional groups, and interweaves the above-mentioned social/moral/political/technical processes. And none of these functional groups can come to the table with the thought that "I HAVE THE SCIENCE IN MY PORTFOLIO HERE AND THAT'S ALL THAT COUNTS".

Speaking of bridges, when the Mackinac Bridge was being designed back in the '50's here in Michigan, you had opposite schools of geotechnical engineers SCREAMING at each other over the basis of design, and the required foundation engineering required. EACH thought they were right. BOTH refused to give an inch. I guess this engineering thing ain't as easy as you thought, eh counselors? How'd you like to have a bunch of geotechs in front of you squabbling, my lawyer/politico friends? Do you think you're qualified to make that call? Have you even figured out how to balance that checkbook yet?

Take a look at the global warming posts above. Without getting into the merits of either side of this issue, clearly there is no "concensus" as to which data sets are false and which are true, I hope you'd agree (because if you don't, I'm wasting my time, because you are among the technically illiterate).

This isn't about anybody "burying" the right data... this is about bringing the conflicting and ambiguous data into the political arena for review, as always. That's how the process works. This global warming discussion is the perfect example to blunt your charges about somebody burying science... it should give you pause.

Your seem to be asserting that science is always something known, that the answers just pop right out of Newton's Laws... every time... and I find most lawyers think just that way. "Gravity goes down... DUH".
7.12.2007 8:55pm
Smokey:
Eli Rabbett:
''Smokey dear...''


Well, I'm sure not gonna drop my soap around you, bud!

However, to easily refute you:

Zero correlation between temp &CO2

Eli's mind is closed and will never accept the fact that Fat Albert's globaloney crusade is designed as a self-aggrandizing scam.

But for those who want the truth, check out the link above and decide for yourself if temperature and CO2 are, or are not, correlated.
7.12.2007 9:17pm
Smokey:
Remember the boys want you to say...

and:
...you can say that CO2 was 25% of the atmosphere 4 billion years ago, of course there was no life here...

Just wanted to point out those two strawmen in your post, Eli. Did you build them all by yourself? Great! Now you can go knock 'em right down, brave strawman killer that you are.

But as a metrologist in an adiabatic specialty for the past thirty+ years, I would appreciate a specific response to the peer-reviewed chart provided above. Do you claim it's wrong? And if it's accurate, where, exactly, do you see any correlation between temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide? [hint: there is none].

And hey, if that's any problem, you can always build another straw man.
7.12.2007 9:35pm
whackjobbbb:
And RI Lawyer and Mr. Hoffman, all my snark aside, I do want to compliment you on the flavor and character of your posts, which do attempt to address the issues I'm speaking of. I think you do get what I'm getting at, and I don't mean to besmearch your technical ability, ability which you've made apparent. But understand, if you 2 guys stand shoulder to shoulder, and look at the 9 guys standing to your left, and the 9 guys standing to your right... they're all technically illiterate, in my experience. I'm speaking to the profession in general, and its failure to address this glaringly obvious situation, here in the information age, and it's obvious impacts on the issues being addressed in this discussion.

Again, thanks for the thoughtful responses.
7.12.2007 10:57pm
The Consigliere (mail):
I don't see why it is so surprising to see science being distorted.

These people have chosen to base their entire moral code on a hypothesis that is not falsifiable. How can we expect them to show any respect for the scientific method?
7.13.2007 5:46am
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
What a kind post, whackjobbbb. Thank you.
7.13.2007 3:49pm