The recent coverage of former Surgeon General Carmona’s experiences working within the Bush Administration may be seen as another example of the Administration running roughshod over and ignoringÂ experts. But at a more general level it raisesÂ an issue that may neverÂ go away inÂ politics:Â whereÂ do science and policy intersect, ifÂ ever? One could claim that science isÂ objectiveÂ and should always be followed. But it seems thatÂ anyone can dig up an expert toÂ assert a view that fits one’s policy objectives. That possibility, however, causes mayhem in courts where in theory the jousting allows the truth to come out.
In contrast, the government’s apparent suppression of the chief medical officer’s views on AIDS, smoking, stem cells, global warming, needle exchange, and so on (as the article notes such behaviorÂ has occurred under republican and democratic Presidents)Â seemsÂ different. Although different parties control political appointments depending on the public’s vote inÂ a previous election, not allowing the Surgeon General or any other official (for example, the head ofÂ Health and Human Services or the director of the National Institutes of Health)Â tasked with representing the interests of the people by presentingÂ what they believe to be the bestÂ information and guidance regarding issues undermines the faith oneÂ wants to have in the government.Â Again the positions are of course political and as such one should have aÂ certain amount of skepticismÂ regarding the information, but when the information is beingÂ censored, suppressed, or manipulated by the executive theÂ amount of skepticism required reaches sad levels that suggest no faith in information from the government. Maybe that has alwaysÂ been the case, but I’d like to believe that those with theÂ best access to vital informationÂ often share a decent amountÂ ofÂ it so the publicÂ can be well informed. Put differently, shouldn’t we demand such behaviorÂ regardless of which party is in power?Â Â Â Â