USA Today has an extensive article on the intersection of science and public policy. While the article opens by framing the issue as one of scientists versus politicians (and the Bush Administration in particular), it also contains some worthwhile comments on the danger of politicizing science, as well as in pretending that science can resolve contentious policy debates.
"The science community now recognizes that this administration completely puts its political cart before the scientific horse," says Science magazine editor in chief Donald Kennedy, a former Food and Drug Administration chief. "We've seen it with one issue after another."
But White House science adviser John Marburger says one reason science has emerged as such a hot issue is that the research-is-right banner is an easy one to wave.
"Science has become very powerful as a symbol and everyone who has a case to make, or argument to win, tries to recruit science on their side," Marburger says. "Issues that might not have been labeled as 'science-related' controversies in the past are now called science-related."
Science policy professor Daniel Sarewitz of Arizona State University in Tempe says: "I think the opportunity to use science as a political tool against Bush has been irresistible — but it is very dangerous for science, and for politics. You can expect to see similar accusations of the political use of science in the next regime." . . .
Says Princeton's David Goldston, former chief of staff for the House Science Committee under now-retired Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y.: "As politics have gotten more and more polarized, everyone has to claim their views are objective, pure and factual, which means they are pulled into the scientific side. Most of these issues are largely values questions, but no one wants to discuss those, so we end up with baroque debates about science." . . .
"Don't think the problem is going to go away," Goldston says. "With politics more polarized than ever and a lot of these issues just continuing forward, efforts to frame science in debate are now inherent to our system."