Saturday, July 23, 2005

WaPo, NYT on Barton-Boehlert Fracas

Both the Washington Post and New York Times have lead editorials today on the report I discussed on Monday: the brewing kerfluffle between House Energy Committee Chairman Joe Barton and the Science Committee's Sherwood Boehlert over Barton's attempt to pressure scientists who have published findings on global climate change.

Each editorial is worth reading. The Post's, titled "Hunting Witches," says that 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. ...

If Mr. Barton wants to discuss the science of climate change, there are many accepted ways to do so. He could ask for a report from the Congressional Research Service or the National Academy of Sciences. He could hold a hearing. He could even read all of the literature himself: There are hundreds of studies in addition to the single one that he has fixated on. But to pretend that he is going to learn something useful by requesting extensive data on 15th-century tree rings is ludicrous; to pretend that it is "normal" to demand decades worth of unrelated financial information from scientists who are not suspected of fraud is outrageous. The only conceivable purpose of these letters is harassment. This bizarre episode deserves much wider condemnation from congressional leaders."

The Times piece, "Houses Divided on Warming," echoes most of the same sentiments, and offers credit to Boehlert and other Republicans (including Senate Energy Committee chairman Pete Domenici) for their willingness to actively engage on this issue.

As I said on Monday, "Honest scientific inquiry is vital to our lawmakers as they seek to develop policies do deal with issues where politics and science intersect. If scientists are made to fear inquisitions from hostile congressional committees even (especially!) outside their range of jurisdiction, it will stifle discussions and may in the end lead to a trend of groupthink from the scientific community that would be incredibly unhealthy."

I agree with both editorials from this morning, and hope that the House leadership will intervene with Barton and end his ideological witch-hunt before it goes further. We should all be able to join together and oppose Barton's inappropriate intervention into scientific inquiry.


At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Stygius said...

Is Barton actually requesting personal financial info on scientists? Geez. I might have to get all fired up about this.

I figured this would die its own death ... but that may not be enough.


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