Government Uses `Science' Fiction to Its Advantage. (Waste & Abuse)

Article excerpt

The words "science" and "scientist" seem to exercise a totemic hold over the minds of many Americans, who prostrate themselves before both with complete faith in their beneficence and infallibility. Science has served this society well, but Americans had better begin to recognize the frequency with which science falsely is invoked -- and sometimes even manipulated -- to advance political and bureaucratic agendas.

Government agencies often claim that their regulatory actions are backed by the "best available science." But the objectivity, quality and malleability of that science is at long last receiving the scrutiny it deserves in the wake of several recent developments.

In one, federal and Washington state biologists surveying public lands for evidence of the allegedly threatened Canadian lynx planted and submitted false samples of the cat's fur for laboratory analysis in what appears to be an effort to suggest the animal's presence where none actually exists. Had the scam gone undetected, access to hundreds of thousands of acres of public forests in the West could have been severely restricted.

The case reportedly is under investigation by the General Accounting Office and inspectors general at the departments of the Interior and Agriculture. It also has raised questions about whether other instances of "biofraud" connected to the Endangered Species Act might have occurred.

In another case, an independent panel of scientists recently found that a federal shark-stock assessment conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 1998 -- and used as the basis to impose deep cuts in catch quotas of fishermen, potentially driving some out of business -- was based on incomplete data and flawed modeling. …