Figuring Out Where the Good Science Is

Those of you who follow the science policy wars – the question of how you determine where the science is on controversial policy questions – might be interested in a story by Annette Cary in the Tri-City Herald (reg. req.) Friday about litigation over whether the Hanford nuclear plant made people sick.

Cary does a good job of laying out the dilemmas in what could be a classic case study. You’ve got a Big Science consensus, in this case represented by a CDC study saying, essentially, “no harm.”

“The best science that money can buy suggests no link between emissions and thyroid disease,” said defense attorney Randy Squires in a earlier motion hearing.

You’ve got plaintiff’s lawyers arguing that the data used for the CDC study is based on such uncertainty and imperfect knowledge that one has to fall back on first principles understanding.

“The one well-established risk factor for thyroid cancer is radiation,” downwinder attorney Brian Depew told the judge as about 20 downwinders and their family members listened in a Spokane courtroom.

And you’ve got a judge who has to decide.