Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking


A Book by the George C. Marshall Institute

edited by Michael Gough
ISBN: 0-8179-3932-6
$15.00 paperback
313 pages

Politics and science make strange bedfellows. In politics, perceptions are reality and facts are negotiable. The competing interests, conflicting objectives, and trade-offs of political negotiations often lend themselves to bending the truth and selectively interpreting facts to shape outcomes. In science, facts are reality. This collection examines the conflicts that arise when politics and science converge.

In Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking, eleven leading scientists describe the politicization-through misapplication or overemphasis of results that favor a political decision or through outright manipulation-of scientific findings and deliberations to advance policy agendas. They show how the consequences of politicization are inflicted on the public, including the diversion of money and research efforts from worthwhile scientific endeavors, the costs of unnecessary regulations, and the losses of useful products-while increased power and prestige flow to those who manipulate science.

The authors of three essays describe government diversions of scientific research and the interpretation of scientific findings away from where the evidence leads and toward directions deemed politically desirable. Three more contributions analyze the expensive and extensive efforts devoted to altering images of risk in order to establish linkages in the public’s mind between deleterious human health effects and various areas of scientific research. Two essays examine the workings and results of consensus advisory panels and conclude that their recommendations are often based on far-from-certain science and driven by social and political dynamics that substitute group cohesion in favor of independent, critical thinking. Authors of two essays describe the unfortunate results of application of the “precautionary principle,” which generally requires proof of no risk before a new product is introduced or an existing product can be continued in use. A concluding essay describes the personal costs of opposing the politicization of science.

Michael Gough, a biologist, has participated in science policy issues at the congressional Office of Technology Assessment, in Washington think tanks, and on various advisory panels.

Contributors: Bruce Ames, Roger Bate, Bernard L. Cohen, Lois Swirsky Gold, William Happer, Joseph P. Martino, Patrick J. Michaels, Henry I. Miller, Robert Nilsson, Stephen Safe, S. Fred Singer

Forward – John Raisian and William O’Keefe


Introduction:  Science, Risks, and PoliticsMichael Gough, ed., Adjunct Scholar at the CATO Institute and former official with the Office of Technology Assessment

Chapter 1:  Politicization of ScienceWilliam Happer, Professor of Physics at Princeton University

Chapter 2:  The Corrosive Effects of Politicized Regulation of Science and TechnologyHenry Miller, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution

Chapter 3:  Science and Public PolicyJoseph Martino, author of Science Funding: Politics and Porkbarrel

Chapter 4:  Endocrine DisruptorsStephen Safe, Director, Center for Environmental and Rural Health, and the Sid Kyle Professor of Toxicology at Texas A&M University

Chapter 5:  Cancer Prevention and the Environmental Chemical DistractionBruce Ames, Professor of the Graduate School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Senior Scientist at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and Lois Swirsky Gold, Director of the Carcinogenic Potency Project and a Senior Scientist, University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Chapter 6:  Nuclear PowerBernard Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Pittsburgh

Chapter 7:  Science or Political Science?  An Assessment of the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and ChangePatrick Michaels, Virginia State Climatologist and Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia

Chapter 8:  The Political Science of Agent Orange and DioxinMichael Gough

Chapter 9:  Science and Politics in the Regulation of Chemicals in SwedenRobert Nilsson, former senior toxicologist at Swedish National Chemicals Inspectorate (KEMI)

Chapter 10:  How Precaution Kills:  The Demise of DDT and the Resurgence of Malaria – Roger Bate, Director of the International Policy Network and an adjunct fellow at Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)

Chapter 11:  The Revelle-Gore Story:  Attempted Political Suppression of ScienceS. Fred Singer, President of The Science & Environmental Policy Project, and also Distinguished Research Professor at George Mason University and professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia.

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