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Rewriting Environmental Science 500

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the more-reasons-to-privatize dept.
Aqua OS X writes to tell us CBS News is reporting that government scientist James Hansen recently spoke out against the White House in an appearance on 60 Minutes. From the article: "Hansen is arguably the world's leading researcher on global warming. He's the head of NASA's top institute studying the climate. But this imminent scientist tells correspondent Scott Pelley that the Bush administration is restricting who he can talk to and editing what he can say. Politicians, he says, are rewriting the science."
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Rewriting Environmental Science

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  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:40AM (#14962371) Homepage Journal
    But this imminent scientist tells correspondent Scott Pelley that the Bush administration is restricting who he can talk to and editing what he can say. Politicians, he says, are rewriting the science.

    Is that better than eminent?

    • by sxtxixtxcxh (757736) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:43AM (#14962378) Homepage Journal
      i can't say if it's any better, BUT it IS a lot sooner
    • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:15AM (#14962595)
      I thought that this was down to the semi-literate submitter abetted by the carefree editors, but actually this malapropism was cribbed from the CBS article. Seems like no one gives a shit these days.
      • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @08:49AM (#14963254) Homepage Journal
        Seems like no one gives a shit these days.

        What do you expect from the network that brought us: "OK. I admit it was forged, but it's still true." and is courting that nasty little hatemonger Katie Couric to be an anchor.

        Most mainstream journalists have stopped even pretending they care. It's all about smearing your enemies and promoting your agenda. The simple ability to communicate in English is far less important than pledging allegiance to political agenda of the editors-in-chief or network news vice-presidents.

      • this malapropism was cribbed from the CBS article. Seems like no one gives a shit these days.
        Well send them a letter, then. You have to confront these people in the language they use.

        Deer See B.S.;

        Eye half red yore web sight on globe all warming and wood like too way inn on the topic. If you're imminent scientist is write, the precedent must be immanently in-preached.

        Than queue.

        (The preceding article passed a spell chequer test.)

    • Seriously, can't you guys hire a community college student or something to fix posts up?
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:42AM (#14962375)
    When the Polynesians found Easter Island, they found a paradise. Seas teeming with porpoises, huge edible palm trees, bountiful flightless birds and tillable soil from coast to coast.

    Unfortunately, they also brought rats with them on their canoes.

    The rats ate the birds and bird eggs. The trees were cut down for timber and kindling. The land was farmed to exhaustion. And the entire civilization that arose there quickly collapsed under its own weight.

    The whole time, people thought things would last forever, but they couldn't see the end coming.

    We have our rats too.
    • by hazem (472289) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:50AM (#14962401) Journal
      We have our rats too.

      Do you think the Polynesians elected theirs too?
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:50AM (#14962402) Homepage Journal
      The whole time, people thought things would last forever, but they couldn't see the end coming.

      A couple of years ago I read about a large permanent settlement which Archeologists discovered here in Australia. It was occupied by Aboriginal people for a period of time and then abandoned.

      The implication was that indiginous Australians tried to follow the natural progression from hunter gathering to large scale settlement, but it somehow failed.

      I too wonder if this will happen here again.

    • Timeless wisdom from the Native Americans [barefootsworld.net] states, " The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth ."

      ExxonMobile and its supporters in Washington state, " The earth belongs to man; he can wreck the earth in any way that he sees fit ".

      Before 2050, we will know which bit of wisdom is the right wisdom. By 2030, we will have burned up all easily retrieved oil. Significant portions of Artic and Antartic ice shelves will have melted away.

      Unless we do something now to create carbon-neutral ener

      • Why would we need to limit population growth, and how would you ever propose we do this?
        • He's a member of the Illuminati, that's why!

          http://educate-yourself.org/nwo/nwopopcontrol.shtm l [educate-yourself.org]
        • Why would we need to limit population growth, and how would you ever propose we do this?

          Environmentalists say that the best thing you can do for the earth, the best way to conserve resources, is to not have more than two children. In retrospect, this is obvious ... the earth can barely handle the 6 or so billion people here now; try 60 billion on for size. As for the how ... well people aren't gonna like it, but its gonna have to happen one way or another.
          • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @04:52AM (#14962546)
            As for the how ... well people aren't gonna like it, but its gonna have to happen

            Actually, if not for immigration, most of the first world would already be in population decline. When people get reasonably comfortable, and childhood mortality is negligible, children are deferred and one or two are sufficent for most to satisfy their need for procreation. We've got one and that was enough for us.

          • Not necessarily; Developed countries undergo population implosions.

            Schools in Japan are shutting down in a wave, starting with the first grades, and then pushing onward through the school. Sometimes, they just shut down entire floors in their schools.

            This is happening elsewhere, as well.

            People are seriously freaked out about this. [japanesestudies.org.uk]

            The thing I find amusing, is that many environmentalists have problems with this.

            In the 1990's, a bunch of environmentalists got together, and said, "What do we need to do? We need
            • There are more then 10 million people in tokyo alone. You really think Japan can support the population it has now? Of course not. Japan has eaten through it's tree population and is not having to import every square inch of wood.

              Unfortunately they have painted themselves into a corner. The future of mankind is exactly like japan today. This pyramid scheme where the young work to finance the old is going to collapse sooner or later. We can hold if off for a while by opening up the floddgates and letting the
              • Whoops. (Score:3, Informative)

                by rossifer (581396)
                Of course not. Japan has eaten through it's tree population and is not having to import every square inch of wood.

                Actually, Japan has the highest percentage of forestation of any first world country (almost 70%) [worldinfozone.com].

                As for other imports of Japan, you are more correct: they import much of their food, including staples like rice and seafood. This puts the population of the island at risk in the event of instability of their trading network. The modern economic environment, however, means that the population of
            • Why would environmentalism be against technology and developing? Progression is not one-dimensional, you see. Almost all environmentalists i know, are really into technology and innovation. They like high-tech renewable energy-systems. Some develop lightweigt vehicles. You know what's the main reason for farmers to switch to organic farming? Theye're curious, they want to try something new. It's the conservative farmers and technicians that stick to unsustainable methods.

              Environmentalists (even most from t
        • by Danger Stevens (869074) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:25AM (#14962613) Homepage
          At first thought it might seem like the only way to limit the birthrate would be draconian or orwellian methods - nothing palatable to be sure. However, the truth is much simpler than that.

          There is a long-observed direct corrolation between poverty and birth rate. Societies with greater poverty have higher birthrate. Even in China it's commom for city-dwellers to observe the 1-child rule, but poor farmers still have families of 6 or 7 simply because they need all the labor to help create an income. The same is true in the slums of Calcutta where children are needed to rifle through trash piles looking for recyclable goods. This happens across all the great poverty centers: Manilla, Bangkok, Mumbai, Calcutta, Nairobi, Cairo, etc.

          Japan is a perfect example of the opposite. They have a NEGATIVE birthrate because the affluence of their society has led many to chose not to have children.

          The solution to overpopulation will come hand-in-hand with our solution to many other injustices: great a fair distribution of resources and we'll be able to live sustainable on our planet.
          • Japan is a perfect example of the opposite. They have a NEGATIVE birthrate because the affluence of their society has led many to chose not to have children.

            I'm busy trying to work out how it is possible to have a negative birthrate. The best I can do is imagine some kind of reverse aging field affecting parts of Japan, where adults become children, children become babies, and babies crawl back into... No, better stop right there.

            Negative population growth, on the other hand, is easier to explain.

          • Tradition, Religion (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Animaether (411575)
            I think you're leaving out a few factors, though... tradition and religion, for example.

            If a society traditionally has large families, then it doesn't matter whether they live in poverty or health - they're likely keep that tradition.

            As for religion - there's highly catholic families here who have 7-9 children. Not because they're poor - in fact, most of them lived in wealth /until/ they had the 5th or 6th child and had to pay for their education, etc.

            Of course these probably don't even begin to offset all
          • great a fair distribution of resources and we'll be able to live sustainable on our planet.

            Oh, you came so close. "Fairness" has nothing to do with it. The key to reducing population growth, is, as you deduced, more wealth. Redistributing resources contrary to the efficient allocations determined by free markets, however, consumes wealth. To counter population growth, you need economic growth, and the absolute best grower of economic wealth is free markets.

      • by Vlad2.0 (956796)
        I don't think I've ever seen anyone try to write off a geoshities site as a credible source of information (or as any source of information, for that matter).

        I'm a hair over 20 years old and I've heard people bitch and moan about the end of the world, global warming, WW3, etc, since I was born. And frankly, I'm a lot more afraid of WW3 than global warming. While I'm all for alternative energy, recycling, minimizing fossil fuel consumption, and what not, all the bullshit from BOTH SIDES of the global warmi
        • ...And frankly, I'm a lot more afraid of WW3 than global warming. While I'm all for alternative energy, recycling, minimizing fossil fuel consumption, and what not, all the bullshit from BOTH SIDES of the global warming argument have made me extremely cynical of wether or not it should be taken seriously.

          Frankly (and I have absolutely no credentials to back up my opinion) I think the sea levels rising several meters of more in the next 20-30 years has about as much chance of occuring...

          ...except that no

      • I fully agree that Washington politics on the environment sucks. But why bring Native Americans into this? Like pretty much all other societies, they caused extinctions, destroyed the environment, and didn't keep their population in check (at least not by choice).

        Native American sayings are not a good guideline for modern policies. Tackling issues of sustainability will require science and technology.
  • by Rooked_One (591287) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:43AM (#14962379) Journal
    until this story doesn't exist
    • by strider44 (650833) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @04:05AM (#14962437)
      Oh no it will remain, just be edited somewhat. Observe:

      Editing Environmental Science
      Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Tuesday March 21, @02:36AM
      from the nothing-to-worry-about dept.
      Aqua OS X writes to tell us CBS News is reporting that government scientist James Hansen recently spoke out against the White House in an appearance on 60 Minutes. From the article: "Hansen is a disgraced researcher on global warming. He was the head of NASA's top institute studying the climate before resigning under controvercial circumstances. But this scientist tells correspondent Scott Pelley that the Bush administration may have been restricting who he may talk to and editing what he might have wanted to say. Politicians, he says, could be editing minor insignificant sections of science."

      There - that's better.
    • Until the title says "Nothing to see here, the planet is A OK!!"
    • by orthogonal (588627) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:32AM (#14962624) Journal
      Comrade Stalin believes in Lysenko and Lysenkoism makes Soviet Science the vanguard of Socialist Biology! [skepdic.com]

      Comrade Lysenko believes in Michurianism, and Michurin believes in Lamarckism! So don't try to fool us with Darwin, the People's Science teaches that acquired traits can be inherited. It is by this inheritance of acquired traits that the Proletariat will triumph over the Bourgeois Revanchist "science"!

      We will win with out half-human, half-ape battalions! [mosnews.com] (Seriously, the Soviets really did try to breed human-ape crosses for "super-soldiers".)

      From the first link: Lysenko called Mendelian genetics "reactionary and decadent" and Mendelians or Darwinists "enemies of the Soviet people". It wasn't until 1965 that soviets were allowed to even begin to catch up in biology.


      The Nazis proposed their own "German Science" in reaction to what they called the "Jewish Science" of, among others, Albert Einstein and (the ironically non-Jewish) Werner Heisenberg. The "Jewish Science" was nothing other than modern physics, of course. [reference.com]

      And when the Jewish scientists fled Nazi Germany, many came to America to work on the atomic bomb -- a bomb originally intended for use against Germany.


      So as the Bush Administration and the Kansas school board repress honest science in America in favor of ideology and religion, ask yourself where we'll be in five or ten or fifty years.

      Will any great biologists come out of Kansas if they need, at best, several semesters of remedial training to disabuse them of the lies of "Intelligent Design"? Will the breakthroughs in stem-cell research -- breakthroughs that could cure numerous diseases and extend human life for decades -- happen here, under the Christian eyes of Dr. Frist, or in freer and more open lands like India and Korea?

      Or will that not matter at all, as global warming and environmental collapse literally drown America for the profit of the oil companies?

      For a hundred years or more, America has been at the forefront of scientific research and development. Scientific leadership has been a pillar supporting our country's wealth and power. Will you let that pillar be chopped down so a few plutocrats can profit while science-hating fundamentalists cheer?

      In the next several elections, you'll be voting not just for Representatives or a President -- you'll be voting on the future, or the future decline, of your country. Will you emulate the courage of Dr. Hansen, or will you surrender to an American Lysenkoism of ignorance, ideologically-fettered science, and superstition?

  • Privitization? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Elrond, Duke of URL (2657) <JetpackJohn@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @03:56AM (#14962411) Homepage

    Why is this under a "more-reasons-to-privitize" department? I'm all for private ventures going into space, but you're quite delusional if you expect there to be any large scale investment in global warming research by the private sector. Yes, I know there might be some exceptions, but privitization is not going to give us better research.

    Better rockets, cheaper missions, maybe... but, in general, this sort of basic scientific research is *exactly* the sort of thing the government should be doing. Of course, in a perfect world, the government wouldn't be trying to stifle the scientists either...

    • > but, in general, this sort of basic scientific research is *exactly* the sort of
      > thing the government should be doing.

      The inherent nature of the State is that it screws up what it does. State run enterprise is bloated, inefficient, expensive and a political football.

      Medicare, Medicaid, spending bills, the FDA...

      Research would go exactly the same way if the Government took it over.
      • Re:Privitization? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NMerriam (15122)
        I hate to break it to you, but Medicare is the most cost-efficient health care system in the country.

        So while government may inherently screw things up, it seems to be the case that some matters are guaranteed to be screwed up even worse by any private enterprise.
      • Re:Privitization? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rmstar (114746)
        The inherent nature of the State is that it screws up what it does. State run enterprise is bloated, inefficient, expensive and a political football.

        The inherent nature of the state is that, whatever it does, there is always some smartass who thinks it is bloated, inefficient, expensive, and a politial football. Let me break it to you: the government does a lot of valuable things nobody else would do. That they always could be done better is trivially true, as pretty much everything anyone ever does could b

      • The private sector in the UK has proved far more effective at screwing up former government-run organisations than the inefficient state sector ever could.

        The shockingly poor public transport system, British Telecom actively working to slow ADSL adoption and competition to protect its ISDN investment, the 25% hikes in natural gas prices this year, the predicted water shortages in the south-east due in part to not enough investment in infrastructure improvements, ad nauseum. You could argue that they are all
      • State run enterprise is bloated, inefficient, expensive and a political football.

        So was the Manhattan Project.

        But that was literally a matter of life and death. Had the Nazis gotten the Atomic Bomb first, imagine the consequences.

        In the case of global warming, we're faced with a environmental collapse that reasonable scientists believe could threaten the very existence of all human civilization on the globe.

        An "expensive, inefficient" solution to that is infinitely preferable to no solution.
        • I personally, would be dead, but I imagine there would be a bit less population on the planet right now over all..

          (and it would suck)
    • Re:Privitization? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pHatidic (163975)
      I'm all for private ventures going into space, but you're quite delusional if you expect there to be any large scale investment in global warming research by the private sector.

      That's because if you invent a new spaceship you can make lots of money, but if you invent a new device to clean the air you can't make a dime, even though there is clear value in it. All you have to do is change this problem with the economy and suddenly the air will start getting a whole lot cleaner. That was the point of the Kyoto
  • by ortcutt (711694) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @04:16AM (#14962477)
    Windows Media [crooksandliars.com]

    Quicktime [crooksandliars.com]

  • Safe Havens (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sane? (179855) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @04:17AM (#14962479)
    This is part of a more general turning away from science in society. In the past Universities and government departments have been safe havens for scientists - willing to fund long term research with the only downside being the paperwork needed.

    However we now live in an age when even this is being eroded and where the forces of politics, never the most rational of disciplines, feel safe in attempting to pervert its path. Will anyone really care? Will anyone notice? Scientific learning is looked down on. You are more likely to be admired in society for your knowledge of baseball scores than buckyballs.

    I would suggest to our american colleagues that they look elsewhere for those that will value their work. The US isn't going to get better any time soon, whatever the shade of the next party in power. It's either that or organise your own political party and take control...

    • I would suggest to our american colleagues that they look elsewhere for those that will value their work.

      That is already happening. Just last week, University of Colorado (CU) lost a nobel laureate physics prof(Carl Wieman) who loves science. He went to Canada. Why? Funding and the hassles of fighting the state. But mostly funding.

      In Colorado, our gov. (owens) cut back state support of state schools, while at the same time allowing the christian colleges to be able to get funding from the state.

      In add

  • ...in TFA. He mentions in passing that the previous executive branch crew tried the same thing, but in an opposite manner, he was encouraged to overstate findings.

    • Why would you call that a counterpoint? It is no counterpoint, it supports his case. It tells us that the disease is not limited to the Bush administration and some fundamental changes will have to be made to root it out.

  • You can't spin this as a liberal versus conservative thing, this is science versus politics:
    Politically, Hansen calls himself an independent and he's had trouble with both parties. He says, from time to time, the Clinton administration wanted to hear warming was worse that it was. But Hansen refused to spin the science that way.
    The Clinton administration, however, didn't go so far as to muzzle the scientist:
    "In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public."
    One of the worst ways to interfere with communications is to put words in someone's mouth. The article says that before Hansen's reports were published the Council on Environmental Quality's chief of staff would rewrite them. What credentials did the chief of staff have for changing the work of a climatologist? He used to be a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute. He's at Exxon Mobil now.

    The other important, if not newsworthy, quote was

    "Even to raise issues internally is immediately career limiting," says Piltz. "That's why you will find not too many people in the federal agencies who will speak freely about all the things they know, unless they're retired or unless they're ready to resign."
    An organization with a culture like that might be right about something someday, but only by coincidence.
  • Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gowen (141411)
    The problem isn't because the politicians are rewriting the science.
    It's because the scientists are rewriting the theology.
    • Re:Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sumday (888112)
      Right... Killer logic there. I suppose you'd consider it a stretch to say religious leaders are rewriting the politics?
      • Re:Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

        by gowen (141411)

        Killer logic there. I suppose you'd consider it a stretch to say religious leaders are rewriting the politics?That was actually my point (sort of. It's hard to make a subtle point in one line). The present Powers-That-Be find it easy to run down science because science is at odds with religion. And that dismissal of evolutionary science on dogmatic grounds makes it easy to dismiss other science, without any consideration for facts or evidence.

        The argument goes :
        Axiom: Creation is true
        Axiom: Scientists d

        • Re:Meh (Score:3, Interesting)

          That's a very good point. I am encouraged becasue there is some recent movement in Evangelical circles to challenge this kind of policy on the climate. Driven by literal interpretation of Genesis, consumption of natural resources was once seen within conservative Chrstian theology as the birthright of humanity. That theology of dominion is starting to give way, now, to a theology of stewardship - still working from the idea that God has given the natural world to humanity, but changing the spin from domi
  • But this imminent scientist tells correspondent Scott Pelley

    Well, when the imminent scientist actually becomes a real scientist, maybe then people will start listening to him :-)
  • Socialist trees (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:13AM (#14962591) Homepage
    In Siberia, there is a forestry where the tress grows in pairs right next to each other.

    While the common wisdom is that each individual trees need space around it to grow, the theory was that this was only true for capitalist trees. Rather than compete with each other for resources, socialist trees would cooperate for the common good.

    Every official report from the forestry shows that the experiment was a great success.

    • Ya good, great, whatever even...

      Just one problem. We're not trees. Socialism/communism fail goes against human nature on the whole. As such, end results are corruption and tyranny due to the vacuum of power these two systems provide in a political environment.

      Capitalism, while not perfect, does harness human nature (greed, power...etc) for the benefit of all society. It's proven to work and continues to this day.
  • by w3woody (44457) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:17AM (#14962599) Homepage
    With all due respect to James Hansen, the problem here is simple: just how many microseconds after scientists attempted to influence politics did you think it would take before politicians attempted to influence science?

    We've seen it everywhere from the debate on Global Warming (where scientists have joined forces with ecologists to engage in massive social engineering in the form of the Kyoto accord) to the debate on evolutionary science (where fundamentalists attempted to redefine science with Intelligent Design) to the debate on gun control (where researchers have attempted to show a direct causal link between guns and crime) and pesticides (Alar, anyone?)

    Now, whenever I see a news report on a political topic start quoting "scientists" or "researchers", I generally don't think "oh, good; a concerned scientist trying to weigh in on an important topic", but "whose special interest money is paying for this guy?"

    It's hard to play in the mud and not get muddy yourself.
    • Science where relevant should influence politics. Science in essence is an attempt to study reality and of naturally politics should be based on reality. And this is especially true in sciences which have been found to be reliable such as physics and chemistry.


    • Your argument appears to be that scientists should not publish information that could effect public policy. This would mean that they should not talk about vaccination programmes being able to save millions of lives, of smoking causing cancer, of smog causing breathing problems, of the reduction of salt-marshes increasing the risks of flooding nor the other million or so things that have changed public policy based on science.

      Out of interest, what should be used as a basis for public policy if not science?
  • by jesterpilot (906386) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:22AM (#14962733) Homepage
    Here in Holland, many times i see the same problem. Close to where i live, the government wants to build a highway to relieve congestion on a parallel highway. So they hired scientists to study the effects of the new road. It turned out the road would make things worse: instead of relieving the congestion on the other road, it would increase congestion on every other main road in the surroundings.
    The scientists, knowing what would happen, leaked this result immediately to the press, but the final report got stowed away in a very deep drawer. Parliamant had a tough job to get the report out of this drawer again.

    But. Then came the obligatory environmental impact study. In this study, the former report is completely ignored. The vast increase of congestion is not taken into account in an evironmental impact assessment!

    If the politicians have it their way (and they must be quick, everyone knows they will get their asses kicked next elections) we'll have a road that increases the congestion, costs about a billion euro's of tax money and will terribly damage the environment and landscape. But the construction firms will be very happy.
  • Surely, the U.S. has laws against this sort of thing, does it not? If the administration is doing the sort of thing that Hansen is alleging, it would be grounds for criminal indictment, wouldn't it? (Sorry, this is coming from a non-US citizen here.)
  • by drfireman (101623) <<dan> <at> <kimberg.com>> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @09:46AM (#14963528) Homepage
    I saw a tongue-in-cheek poster at the Society for Neuroscience a few years ago, in which the authors compared portrayals of different professions in a large number of movies. Overall, the most negatively portrayed profession was murderer, and scientists were right in there at #2. The methods employed for this survey involved beer and pizza.

    The average person in this country couldn't even begin to tell you what science is, what it's useful for, or what scientists do. To be fair, it's not a question with a simple answer like 42. But it's not surprising that people who make policy decisions at all levels of government know nothing whatsoever about science. It's mis-portrayed almost completely in the media, and probably mis-taught at all levels of education. Scientists are not valued by society in any meaningful way.

    Any scientist whose work is in the popular press probably has a story about how their work was portrayed in a way to mislead, not inform people. Perhaps someone will repost the link to that recent insightful article about how few science reporters have any science background.

    The government has been rewriting science more blatantly in environmental sciences than in other areas. But it's the other kind of rewriting that's more insidious and harmful. Necessarily, most science funding comes from the government. They decide what to fund and what not to fund. Serious scientists get input into this decision, but not the last word. What's insidious about it is that no individual scientist is doing what they do because the government told them. But since there's such an oversupply of scientists, including a healthy supply interested for their own reasons in doing the specific things the government would like, the government can shape science to whatever extent they want without there ever being a single scientist who was specifically influenced.

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