Sunday, July 29, 2007

Science and Foreign Policy

The Washington Post breathlessly reports that "a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health" stopped publication of a 2006 surgeon general's report.

The statement sounds shocking: a non-doctor stopped a medical report. A non-scientist suppressed science.

Does anybody reporting the story actually read the documents? The problem is that this surgeon general's report is not fundamentally a scientific document. It makes a bunch of foreign policy recommendations. Now, of course the administration may wish to allow the surgeon general of the United States to have input on what is important in terms of foreign policy. That is a judgement call regarding foreign policy priorities. However, this is not about science. And medical or public health expertise was not required for a decision on dissemination of the document.

There is plenty about this administration that deserves legitimate criticism. It is hard to understand why its opponents have to resort to these types of attacks that can only be described as nonsense.

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