Friday, September 23, 2011

Is Science Ever Political?

Of course not! Never!
U.S. District Court judges aren't known for using inflammatory language in deciding the weighty issues that come before them on the federal bench. So it was remarkable to read the scorching indictment of a federal environmental agency and two of its scientists last week by Judge Oliver W. Wanger. (See also Washington Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold's detailed look at the case on Page 30.) The case concerns how the government should manage California water supplies and at the same time seek to preserve the delta smelt, an allegedly endangered species of minnow-like fish...

Wanger was angered by testimony from the two scientists, Frederick V. Feyrer and Jennifer M. Norris, that he said was "false," "contradictory" and "misleading." He accused the Interior Department of "bad faith" in providing the two scientists as experts, and claimed their testimony was "an attempt to mislead and to deceive the court into accepting not only what is not the best science, it's not science." An Interior Department spokesman defended Norris and Feyrer, telling the New York Times that "we stand behind the consistent and thorough findings by our scientists on these matters and their dedicated use of the best available science."

Wanger and the Interior Department scientists cannot both be right. The judge's assessment of their testimony and his conclusion about the agency's conduct in the case raise profoundly serious questions about the integrity and honesty of all the federal officials involved in the delta smelt case. And if the judge is correct in that case, taxpayers should be wondering whether other government scientists have given impeachable testimony on behalf of questionable federal environmental policies.

Very interesting.

1 comment:

Steve USMA '85 said...

What I find interesting is that the author never cited one reason the judge feels this way. Is it because the judge did not justify his decision other than to say 'bad/no science.' Or, was the judge's reason so flimsy that to quote it in the article would be to expose the judge's bias and/or lack of science understanding.

OK, the judge says the scientists are wrong. Upon what did he base this decision. Something is missing here.