Science, Politics and the Trickle-Down Effect of Bad Science

What happens when political agendas are superimposed on questions of science, or risk vs. benefit analysis? At NASA , recall how political appointee and public relations manager George Deutsch threatened scientist James Hansen if he spoke out about climate change or the "unproven Big Bang theory." We also saw what happened within FDA with approval of the controversial "Plan B" contraceptive. Former surgeon general Richard Carmona's comments in his House testimony yesterday, and the CV of the man who would be his successor, suggest that the U.S. has not yet figured out how to keep politics and religion, or rather certain aspects of some religions, from influencing scientific decisions.  No one would question the fact that ethics should drive all scientific choices. Ethics may be at the core of all religions, but they're removed from much of the political and religious rhetoric now being advanced. Mark Senak makes excellent points today in his Eye on FDA blog about Dr. Carmona's testimony, nominee Dr. James Holsinger's background and interesting details on the background of Dr. W. David Hager, formerly on the FDA's Reproductive Health Advisory Committee, in  "The Importance of Credibility in Public Health." Click here to read, if you haven't already. Politicized science eventually trickles down, not only in the form of bad laws, but decreased science literacy.  In a world where most decisions are based on risk versus benefit, a less informed public votes (or more likely doesn't vote) on proposals advanced by less informed politicians, and a vicious cycle continues. For perspectives from SUNY professor David Triggle, published last year, read on. -AMS