Underming the objectivity of science policy

An important quest in post-Kuhnian philosophy and sociology
has been to cast doubt on standards of "objectivity" in scientific
knowledge. Scholars have been eager to show how a variety of social,
cultural and political elements influence what science claims
to know. As valuable as these insights certainly are, there has long
been a shadow lurking in the wings. What would happen if faith in
objectivity were replaced by a cynical sense of "socially constructed"
knowledge used to advance political agendas?

A recent study by the minority staff of the Government Reform
Committee charges that manipulating data to advance
preconceived, ideological ends has been a central project of the
Bush administration, not only in claims about weapons of mass
destruction and other whoppers used to justify war in Iraq, but
in a host of public policy issues as well.

Bush Misuses Science Data, Report Says
By CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS

New York Times

ASHINGTON, Aug. 7 ā€” The Bush administration persistently manipulates scientific data to serve its ideology and protect the interests of its political supporters, a report by the minority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform says.

The 40-page report, which was prepared for Representative Henry A. Waxman, the committee's ranking Democrat, accused the administration of compromising the scientific integrity of federal institutions that monitor food and medicine, conduct health research, control disease and protect the environment.

On many topics, including global warming and sex education, the administration "has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings," the report said.

"The administration's political interference with science has led to misleading statements by the president, inaccurate responses to Congress, altered Web sites, suppressed agency reports, erroneous international communications and the gagging of scientists," the report added.

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The full report on scientific flim-flam by Bush and his associates
can be found on Congressman Waxman's web page.

What can scholars in science and technology studies say about
this? "So what else is new? It was always thus." Many academics
have believed that vanquishing the ghost of objectivity would be
a welcome contribution to progressive causes. Is such confidence
still warranted?