Twisting the Science of Mercury Pollution

If you'd like to see an impressive example of how politically relevant, non-"balanced" science reporting can be carried out, read this article in the Reno News and Review. It's a takedown of Congressman Jim Gibbons--now running for Nevada's governorship--for releasing (along with Rep. Richard Pombo) a report that distorts and twists the science of mercury pollution.

I believe that politicians should be held accountable for lying to or misleading the public, whether it's about science or about anything else. So I'm glad the Reno News and Review is bringing charges about the misuse of science into a political campaign in such a prominent way--and I certainly hope we will see more examples of this kind of thing as 2006 heats up.

Incidentally, the Reno News and Review article relies in part on my previous writings about mercury science distortions, including the Gibbons-Pombo report. But it's incorrect to say, as the article does, that I have accused Gibbons of being "a follower of Lysenkoism." That statement was apparently based on this blog post of mine, nearly two years old, which used the phrase "Conservative Lysenkoism" (which Kevin Drum had coined) in its title. But though we both used that phrase, I think it's safe to say that neither Drum nor I meant that conservatives were actual followers of Lysenko. We were just implying that their misuses of science could be compared to Lysenkoism.

At any rate, let me state for the record that I no longer think this is fair even as an analogy or metaphor. Gibbons definitely misuses and distorts science, and that's bad--but his abuses do not compare in any way to the appalling crimes of Lysenko and his followers.


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It was a good article, and I think I can see what you mean by not being "balanced" and doing a good job. Then I read the last paragraph with the quote from the Pombo/Gibbons article:
"With a more restrictive, unnecessary regulation, we could see a large portion of this country's coal supplies become useless."
If their thesis was that (even assuming that mercury is safe, when it isn't) the U.S. hardly emits any mercury, why would they go and admit that coal burning would be hampered by regulating mercury? Isn't that admitting that coal power plants are a part of the problem?
Someone ought to pull an Erin Brokovich on them, and get them on camera refusing to drink water from the Carson River superfund site!