Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Scientific Integrity And The Obama Administration

This isn't going to be what you think it is. There's plenty of junk science being thrown around by the Al Gore wing of the Democratic Party. This is about the "science" of regulation, which does include, but is not limited to the administration policies on science. The President issued a memo on March 9, 2009 to all executive department heads which said "The Director of the Office of Science and Technology is assigned the responsibility for ensuring the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch's involvement with scientific and technological processes."

The memo goes on to say "and in consultation with other agencies, to develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch within 120 days." The gist of the matter is that the administration has decided that only strictly scientific tests should be used for determining the efficacy of regulations, and the qualifications of regulators.

On April 30, 2009 the House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing on the "the Role of Science in Regulatory Reform." Chairman Brad Miller did not follow the President's agenda. He expressed "serious reservations" about the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs ("OIRA") having any role in rulemaking. The testimony did a rather good job of verifying what he was saying. Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, expected to be a supporter of the administration policy said that applying scientific criteria to a non-scientific matter was unreasonable. She, like most of the witnesses, did not object to scientific methods in applying regulations, but the President was demanding that those methods be used to write the regulations to be enforced. That's a major policy decision, which fits into the President's love for Czars and bureaucrats making the rules, not implementing them.

Cary Oglianese, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania explained that "Science is about understanding or predicting what is, not about concluding or justifying what a standard should be . . .When regulators purport to rely on science as the sole basis for their policy choices, the real reasons justifying their choices remain hidden from public view." Rick Melberthof of OMB Watch testified that "agencies have the technical, scientific, economic, and social expertise to address the highly complex issues before them. OIRA does not have this range of expertise and should not be approving or rejecting individual rules." DeWaal was even more precise: "As OIRA is staffed by economists, it should avoid a scientific and technical review of regulations."

But Chairman Miller's words were the strongest of all. "The order had the effect of placing in the hands of the President, OIRA, and faceless political operatives in every agency, power over regulatory efforts that was consistent neither with statute nor with the Constitution." Take note, Senator McCain. The Democrats have a few mavericks too.

This is one of the very early indications that Obama's intention of grabbing power from the other branches of government, politicizing civil service, and bringing in the rule of unelected bureaucrats subservient to the administration's agenda is finally beginning to smell bad, even to his fellow Democrats. Whether this is an early rebellion by those who seek power of their own or a matter of genuine philosophical and constitutional objections to Obama's power grab remains to be seen. But it's a darned good start.

The movie Jurassic Park addressed one side of the issue in that science is concerned with what can be done, not what ought to be done. The other side of that issue is that science has no moral component of its own, and therefore is one of the worst possible ways of writing immense regulations which will determine the course of how the American people's lives will be lived for years to come. And it does so without any consideration for how they might choose to live their lives. With this administration's clear love for junk science, do we really want these people writing policy while hidden from the public? If they can muck up global warming, imagine what they can do with the rest of the rules. The last "scientific method" dominated administration to determine public policy and write the regulations ended when Germany surrendered in 1945.

8 comments:

Writer X said...

One way to get a politician's attention is to take away his power. Nice to see that Miller woke up. As President Obama's approval ratings fall, I'm sure they will become more vocal.

And can they do something about the names of all their committee and department names--can't they keep them under 3 words or less? "House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight"? Are you kidding me? I wish they had spent as much time analyzing global warming "science" as they did in coming up with that name.

LoneWolfArcher said...

What most liberals, Obama included, don't get is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Another way to put it is the law of unintended consequences.

That seems to sum up this administration (and is the point of my latest blog entry).

StlDan said...

I agree with you Lonewolf, when you push the pendulum hard and fast in one direction, (left) it will break and swing back the other direction twice as fast, hard and further the other direction. (right)

StanH said...

Good read Lawhawk! Science is simply a means to an ends for the greater good. We are being led by apparatchiks that only love the state and believe that the greatness of America is because of government, and science will not be allowed to get in the way of the peoples paradise. When I was a kid and I heard this tripe I thought it was cool -- greater good, share the wealth, environmentalism/Mother Earth, Love not War/Peace, Stick it to the man, etc. -- egalitarian pap, that in a vacuum sounds cool but in functionality is disastrous to the continuation of the USA.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: It was surprising and gratifying to see a committee chairman take such a strong stand against a President who claims intellectual superiority. "Scientific method" sounded good, but it didn't fool Miller. Poor Miller will probably soon be lumped in with Holocaust Deniers.

LoneWolfArcher: What is heartening about this first negative reaction is that it occurred in an important but rather obscure committee where one would normally expect the President's agenda simply to slide through with little opposition.

LawHawkSF said...

StlDan: Apparently Obama's education in science didn't include basic laws of physics. Having encountered the opposite reaction described by Newton, he will probably now appoint a Czar to look into repealing the laws of physics.

StanH: You're so right. That's why I chose the cartoon that accompanied the article. If you decide that you want a certain result, then search only for proof of that result, it's not science, it's junk science--like anthropomorphic global warming.

LoneWolfArcher: I'm hoping to get a few minutes breathing time later this afternoon so I can get over to your blog. Always interesting.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, the cartoon is classic. Unfortunately, it also describes so much of modern liberal "science".

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: The cartoon is the companion to "just when I figured out all the answers, they changed all the questions."

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