Commentary: Bush's Dark Age: The End of Science

Intervention Magazine 03/04/04

The Bush Administration's dangerous misuse and suppression of government supported science is threatening the security of the nation.
By Frederick Sweet

A group of leading American scientists, including over a dozen Nobel Prize laureates, have made public their 46-page report, "Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science." The highly detailed report gives alarming examples of the Bush Administration's misuse of science that have already cost American lives, and foretells of soon-to-arrive national disasters directly caused by the Administration's wholesale ideological distortion of science.

The scathing report opens with Part I: Suppression and Distortion of Research Findings at Federal Agencies. The section headings are: "Distorting and Suppressing Climate Change Research; Censoring Information on Air Quality; Distorting Scientific Knowledge on Reproductive Health Issues [Abstinence-only Education, HIV/AIDS, Breast Cancer]; Suppressing Analysis on Airborne Bacteria; Misrepresenting Evidence on Iraq’s Aluminum Tubes; Manipulation of Science Regarding the Endangered Species Act; Manipulating the Scientific Process on Forest Management; OMB Rulemaking on 'Peer Review'." This only takes the reader to page 16 of the report.

The report criticizes Bush's subversion of American science, continuing with, Part II: Undermining the Quality and Integrity of the Appointment Process. Here we are told the frightening details of "Dismissal of Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Panels; Underqualified Candidates in Health Advisory Roles; and Political Litmus Tests on Workplace Safety Panel" to cite just a few examples. This takes us only half way through the report.

Part II, begins with a quote: "The real issue here is that we are allowing scientific advisory committees to be contaminated by people who have clear bias, clear financial conflicts that will not allow them to make unbiased scientific decisions." This was written by Dr. Bruce Lanphear, Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The highly qualified Lanphear's nomination to an advisory committee had been scuttled by the Bush administration. His replacement was an unqualified industrial "scientist" who was not concerned about the dangers to children of high levels of lead and mercury.

In the report's conclusion, Part III: An Unprecedented Pattern of Behavior, it begins, "No administration has been above inserting politics into science from time to time. However, a considerable number of individuals who have served in positions directly involved in the federal government’s use of scientific knowledge and expertise have asserted that the Bush administration is, to an unprecedented degree [emphasis added], distorting and manipulating the science meant to assist the formation and implementation of policy.

In Part III, Dr. Marvin Goldberger -- and expert on nuclear technology -- is quoted, poignantly. Goldberger is former president of the California Institute of Technology who had advised both Republican and Democratic administrations on nuclear weapons. He compares the attitude of the Bush administration to those he has served by stating, "Politics plays no role in scientists’ search for understanding and applications of the laws of nature. To ignore or marginalize scientific input to policy decisions, where relevant, on the basis of politics is to endanger our national economic and military security."

The federal government increasingly relies on impartial researchers for the critical role they play in gathering and analyzing specialized data. But Bush has been working hard to make the opposite to occur. Growing numbers of scientists, policy makers, and technical specialists both inside and outside the government are reporting that the Bush administration has suppressed or distorted the scientific analyses of federal agencies to bring these results in line with administration policy. Moreover, the experts complain that irregularities in the appointment of scientific advisors and advisory panels are threatening to upset the legally mandated balance of these bodies. "Scientific Integrity in Policymaking. An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science," provides the scary details of the catastrophic results.

Our national security and public safety relies very heavily on superior science and technology. By Bush subverting the nation's science as a tool for his very small but powerful group's political agenda, he succeeded in fashioning himself into a greater threat to America's well being than the still active cohorts of the Middle Eastern terrorists who struck our nation on 9/11.

To read the report, Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science.

(Posted Friday, March 4, 2004)

Frederick Sweet is Professor of Reproductive Biology in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. You can email your comments to


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