CPR Archive for John Applegate

If Not Science, Then What?

by John Applegate | August 25, 2008

Wendy asks a fair question: if I may rephrase, “If not science, then what?” Of course, this rephrasing is a little hyperbolic. No one suggests that there is no place for science. Indeed, as I mentioned before, it is the foundation of our concerns and provides essential (if limited and often uncertain) information about the causes, effects, and cures of environmental harm. Instead, we need to instill a culture of less science, or more precisely, less reliance on science as determining regulatory decisions. Science should inform decisions as one element of a multi-dimensional problem. The National Academies of Science have repeatedly and eloquently described this role for science, and its advice ought to be better heeded.


The culture of scientific determinism, as Wendy, Don Hornstein, and others have demonstrated, has been generated by a combination of legislative policy, political gridlock, administrative convenience, economic self-interest, technocratic enthusiasm, and judicial hostility. As a result, it cannot easily be changed. We have to address the culture in detail, as military strategists put it, in the context of a larger strategy. And academic truth-telling is a good place to begin. Wendy’s “science charade” work introduced the problem across a range of environmental decisions. Gary Marchant and Cary Coglianese’s “shifting sands” article exposed the inadequacy of science-alone as an explanation of EPA’s PM-10 and ozone decisions, though with a different agenda from Wendy’s.


On the legislative front, the culture of scientific determinism can ...

The Value of Information

by John Applegate | August 21, 2008
Reading Wendy’s rather gloomy assessment of the abuse of science in regulatory decisionmaking – which is to say, in political decisions – and Rena’s more upbeat reply, I find myself asking why we are so tied to science in the first place. If the science is so subject to bias and abuse, why are we relying on it as the basis for policy? Shouldn’t we find alternative, rational grounds for action?   The short answer, of course, is that science discovered ...

Also from John Applegate

John Applegate is Walter W. Foskett Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.  He currently serves as Indiana University Vice President for University Regional Affairs, Planning, and Policy.  He is a member of the board of directors of the Center for Progressive Reform.

If Not Science, Then What?

Applegate | Aug 25, 2008 | Good Government

The Value of Information

Applegate | Aug 21, 2008 | Good Government

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