[NetBehaviour] Hunting Witches

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Sun Jul 24 20:51:53 CEST 2005

*Hunting Witches*

Saturday, July 23, 2005; A16

"THIS IS HIGHLY usual," declared a spokesman for the House Energy and 
Commerce Committee when asked this week whether the request by committee 
Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) for information from three climate 
scientists was out of the ordinary. He and his boss are alone in that 
view. Many scientists and some of Mr. Barton's Republican colleagues say 
they were stunned by the manner in which the committee, whose chairman 
rejects the existence of climate change, demanded personal and private 
information last month from researchers whose work supports a contrary 
conclusion. The scientists, co-authors of an influential 1999 study 
showing a dramatic increase in global warming over the past millennium, 
were told to hand over not only raw data but personal financial 
information, information on grants received and distributed, and 
computer codes.

Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Science 
Committee, has called the investigation "misguided and illegitimate." 
Raymond S. Bradley of the University of Massachusetts, one of the 
targets, calls it "intrusive, far-reaching and intimidating." Alan I. 
Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement 
of Science, said that although scientists "are used to answering really 
hard questions," in his 22 years as a government scientist he never 
heard of a similar inquiry, which he suspects could "have a chilling 
effect on the willingness of people to work in areas that are 
politically relevant."

Mr. Barton's attempt to dismiss all this as turf-battling on the part of 
Mr. Boehlert, like his spokesman's claim that such demands for data are 
normal, is disingenuous. While the Energy and Commerce Committee does 
sometimes ask for raw data when it looks at regulatory decisions or 
particular government technology purchases, there is no precedent for 
congressional intervention in a scientific debate. As Mr. Bradley 
pointed out in his response to Mr. Barton, scientific progress is 
incremental: "We publish a paper, and others may point out why its 
conclusions or methods might be wrong. We publish the results of 
additional studies . . . as time goes on robust results generally become 
accepted." Science moves forward following these "well-established 
procedures," and not through the intervention of a congressional 
committee that is partial to one side of the argument.


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