Yesterday we picked up a copy of the just-published book, Undermining Science: Suppression and Distortion in the Bush Administration, by Seth Shulman. Shulman, an investigative journalist, authored the Union of Concerned Scientists report, “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making,” which served as the basis for a highly publicized scientists’ statement accusing the Bush administration of misuse of science. Check it out, as a companion to Chris Mooney’s outstanding The Republican War on Science.
Undermining Science: Suppression and Distortion in the Bush Administration
by Seth Shulman
University of California Press
Chapter 2 of this very readable book, “‘Icing’ the Data on Climate Change,” covers suppression and distortion of climate science communication and includes something of our story on pp. 18-21. The chapter begins with this quote (p. 16):
In my 14 years of government I have never seen a situation like the present one involving climate science in which politicization by the White House has fed back directly into the science program in such a way as to undermine the credibility and integrity of the program in its relationship to the research community, to program managers, to policymakers, and to the public interest.
—Rick S. Piltz, former senior associate at the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, in his letter of resignation, 2005
And concludes with this (p. 30):
In the end, Piltz’s resignation letter puts it best:
The ability of our society and our elected officials to make good decisions about climate change and numerous other important public issues depends on a free, accurate, honest, and unimpeded flow of communications about the findings of scientific research and scientifically based assessments of relevant issues. To block, distort, or manipulate this flow of communications in order to further political agendas can be seen as analogous to interference with freedom of the press. The White House should not be in the business of pre-clearing scientific communications based on political impact, any more than it should be in the business of pre-clearing the reporting of the news.
This vitally important expose shows how the Bush administration has systematically misled Americans on a wide range of scientific issues affecting public health, foreign policy, and the environment by ignoring, suppressing, manipulating, or even distorting scientific research. It is the first book to focus exclusively on how this explosive issue has played out during the Presidency of George W. Bush and the first to comprehensively document his administration’s abuses of science.
In 2001, a group of eminent American scientists affiliated with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) contacted Seth Shulman, an experienced investigative journalist, to look into charges of serious mishandling of scientific information in the current administration. Shulman’s investigation resulted in the groundbreaking report “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making,” which served as the basis for a highly publicized UCS scientists’ statement accusing the Bush administration of a misuse of science that was signed by dozens of Nobel laureates, National Medal of Science recipients, and members of the National Academy of Sciences. To date, more than 8,000 scientists across the country have signed the statement based upon Shulman’s reporting. This book, drawing upon scores of interviews and including never-released information, goes beyond the UCS report to document the Bush administration’s suppression and distortion of science, bringing this issue to a wider audience.
Undermining Science covers:
* The Bush administration’s abuse and misuse of science in areas including stem cell research, AIDS prevention, environmental protection, the Iraq war, the teaching of evolution, and global warming;
* The administration’s use of political litmus tests in selecting administrators for science-based agencies and in selecting scientists on federal advisory committees;
* The dangerous consequences of the Bush administration’s war on science for the caliber and integrity of the nation’s scientific research.
Shulman explains that, by knowingly misrepresenting and suppressing the truth, the Bush administration broke its covenant with its constituents in the most fundamental way possible, with consequences that reach far beyond the scientific community.