Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hard Science

Things here in the Nation's Capital continue in their endless quest to make this country better.  Like, say, the current Republican effort to derail improved nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches.    According to the hard-nosed logic of the GOP, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat offerings are just more expensive than processed food.  And times are tough.  We just can't afford budget-busting good food for our children in these difficult economic times.   Better to just have our first graders Do the Dew and Snap into a Slim Jim.  And Funyuns, well, they're almost a vegetable.   If our kids get used to eating right, that could really impact the well-being of our growing health care industry.   And that means lost jobs that Americans need.   See?  The GOP has your best interests at heart!

Oh, wait!  There's more!

Take, for instance, a provision offered up by Rep. Danny Rehberg, (R,Montana).  That provision requires that all FDA decisions be based on "hard science." 

Rehberg's efforts seem to have two primary targets.  First, there's a growing effort to regulate menthol in cigarettes.  Menthol cigarettes always struck me as a bit nasty, even back in the days when I'd smoke my way through a pack a year.   The impact of menthol, of course, is that it makes it easier to inhale without coughing out the little cloud of carcinogens you've just inhaled.   That's why it's included in cough drops, eh?  So, technically, menthol doesn't do any harm itself.  It just makes it easier to smoke.  So...hard science says...menthol is just fine!

 Second, Rehberg's provision would block regulation of antibiotics used in farm animals.  The overuse of those antibiotics is, according to the American Medical Association, one of the likely causes of the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  But agribusiness opposes those regulations, because, well, they bite into the bottom line and make it harder to factory-farm.  And the scientists who work for Monsanto and ADM, well, they question the validity of the AMA's concerns.  Based on science, of course.

As Rehberg puts it, there's a difference "...between a sociologist and a geologist."  Decisions need to be hard-nosed, clear, and rooted in indisputable facts, not the squishy malleable findings of social science.  Why go with the findings of a state university epidemiologist, when you could instead be looking at data from a tobacco industry biochemist?   Hard science is clearly better.

To which I feel compelled to ask a simple question of Rep. Rehberg, whose decisions are all based on the latest and best science.

That question would be: "How old is the earth?"

Not exactly, but roughly.   Here, I'll make it easier.  Here's a ScanTron form with two bubbles, which can be filled out with a number 2 pencil.  Bubble 1 says: "Less than 50,000 years old."  Bubble 2 says: "More than 50,000 years old."  One is true.  One is not.  What does hard science tell us?

As a Representative from a district that is as Red as Stalin himself, I'm sure his Bible-believing constituents would appreciate his clear, straightforward, non-vacillating answer based on hard science.