Editorial : Gutting science from public policy

Make America Lobotomized Again

“Fact-based,” “research-based,” “evidence-based” –– all terms that used to be the gold standard for evaluating the world and formulating public policy.

No longer, at least not in Washington, D.C. Now these terms are banned by the Trump administration.
We now live in an era of ideology-based, partisan-based, entitlement-based public policy.

Here are a few examples:

  • Eminent scientists using EPA research grants are being kicked off advisory panels because their grant funding allegedly compromises their independence, however, that leaves their positions to be filled by people doing industry-funded research.
  • EPA is proposing to exclude from its risk assessment epidemiology research, the foundation for understanding the dangers of cigarette smoking, pollution and pesticide exposure among a host of other health and environmental issues, is being excluded from risk assessments unless confidential information traditionally protected by privacy restrictions is revealed. That can’t be done. With epidemiological research, scientists often sign ethical confidentiality agreements so they can track private medical and occupational information on individuals. Mandating the release of that private data will halt the research.
  • Legislators in Texas contend they are passing laws to make abortion clinics safer by imposing standards that are virtually impossible for clinics to meet. Statistics show these new standards are forcing clinics to close. However, rather than protecting the lives of women, research shows increasing rates of maternal mortality in Texas, now the highest in the developed world.
  • Supporters of the National Rifle Association contend only a good guy with a gun can counter a bad guy with a gun. But research shows the United States, with the least restrictive gun regulation of any developed country in the world, has the most gun violence. The NRA went so far as to successfully pressure Congress to eliminate funding from the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for researching gun violence.
  • Global climate change is recognized by virtually every credible scientist as a serious threat to life on Earth and results from irresponsible reliance on fossil fuels and agricultural practices. Yet funding for researching alternative energy sources is being cut, virtually handing China carte blanche permission to dominate solar energy. References to science-based information on climate change have been scrubbed from government web sites. EPA scientists are barred from speaking, writing and presenting information on climate change.

More than 200 scientists have already left the EPA under Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt. When Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, French President Emmanuel Macron proclaimed that unlike the U.S. government, France values science, and Macron issued a challenge to “make the planet great again.” He invited scientists from other countries to compete for grants to fund research in France. Most of those relocating to France had been conducting research in America.

This disdain for science is painfully clear to those of us living in Peoria as we watch this administration make repeated attempts to eliminate funding for the federal agriculture research center that opened here in 1940.

Apparently, what Trump intends to do by “draining the swamp” is to trigger a “brain drain.” Gut science from public policy, suppress inconvenient truth and rule by partisan fatwa.

This might be the time to reexamine the Constitution regarding age requirements for the U.S. Presidency. As one of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said following the gun massacre, “The children will become the leaders as the leaders have become the children.” (Clare Howard)

Clare Howard

Clare Howard is the editor of the Community Word. She can be reached at communityword@yahoo.com



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