Science blogger worries about RFK heading to EPA: “he’s a booster of pseudoscience”

A panicked plea from surgeon blogger “Respectful Insolence” over rumors that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. might be picked by President-elect Obama to run the Environmental Protection Agency:

he’s a booster of pseudoscience, a hothead prone to comparing political enemies to Hitler and Mussolini, and a lawyer whose science background appears to be primarily torturing science to fit his agenda more than anything else. I started to rest easy for a while, convinced that the report was nothing more than idle speculation or a trial balloon. I really hoped that Obama would not jeopardize his promise to take science seriously and depoliticize it by appointing someone who would trample on science just as much as the worst ideologues in the Bush Administration, the only difference being that he’d stomp on it with his left foot instead of his right foot, if you know what I mean.

Now I’m not resting so easy anymore. There are now several reports that RFK, Jr is being considered for an even worse position, a position where he could do incalculable mischief and at the same time provide credible ammunition to Republicans that the complaints of Democratics that science was politicized under the Bush Administration were hypocritical, given that Kennedy has been politicizing science with gusto and pushing pseudoscience ever since I can remember. I’m talking about numerous reports that RFK, Jr. is being considered to be tapped to as the run the Environmental Protection Agency. He has even been quoted on that repository of all things antivaccine, The Huffington Post, as saying “if asked, I will serve.” Meanwhile, antivaccinationists like Generation Rescue founder J. B. Handley are salivating at the prospect, and, betraying liberal claims to be part of the “reality-based” community, the denizens of Democratic Underground are (mostly) orgasmic at the prospect of an RFK, Jr.-led EPA.

Say it ain’t so, Barack! Please don’t do it. It would be a huge mistake so early in your administration. By appointing such a strident and die-hard advocate of pseudoscience, in one fell swoop, you would seriously damage your credibility as a pro-science President and leave yourself open to charges that you’re just as willing to politicize science as the Bush Administration was.

One Response to Science blogger worries about RFK heading to EPA: “he’s a booster of pseudoscience”

  1. Anthony Henry Smith says:

    Keep RFK out of EPA

    The job at the EPA calls for someone with a keen sense of both ethics and science. Kennedy is not that person.

    The following letter was written in support of Robert H. Boyle (founder of Riverkeeper and author of “The Hudson River, A natural and unnatural history”) and others who resigned from Riverkeeper rather than support R. F. Kennedy, Jr.’s compromise of the principle that ethics must never be separate from science.

    This letter was first published in the Putnam County News and Recorder, Cold Spring, New York, on August 30, 2000 and they have carried it on their website ever since for which they have my thanks. (AHS, 2008)


    Supports Former Riverkeeper Board Members’ Action

    The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers, Inc. supports Robert H. Boyle, former president of the Riverkeeper, Inc. and former Riverkeeper, Inc. board members John Fry, treasurer, Nancy Abraham, Kathryn Belous Boyle, Pat Crow, Theresa Hanczor, Robert Hodes, Ann Tonetti and Alexander Zagoreas in the action they have taken in resigning from Riverkeeper in opposition to the hiring of a convicted environmental felon to serve in the position of staff scientist on the staff of Riverkeeper.

    In issuing this statement of support, The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers wishes to emphasize that ethics cannot be separated from science and that the environmental movement will prosper best in an atmosphere of demonstrated personal responsibility and earned mutual respect.

    We encourage individuals as well as environmental organizations to join us in similar expressions of support for the principled stand taken by Boyle and fellow board members in their defense of the ethical integrity of the environmental movement here in the Hudson River Valley.

    Boyle and 8 of the 22 Riverkeeper board members resigned from Riverkeeper, Inc. in protest of the hiring of William Wegner. For eight years Wegner operated a ring of smugglers who stole bird eggs directly from the nests of protected cockatoo species in Australia. Wegner and his ring then smuggled the eggs by air to the United States. Birds that hatched and survived were then sold for as much as $12,500.00 each. A federal judge accepted Wegner’s plea of guilty to charges of conspiracy and tax fraud and sentenced him to five years in prison. The judge also found that Wegner had attempted to obstruct justice by committing perjury at the trial of a co-defendant Wegner paid a $10,000.00 fine.

    Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has stated that everyone deserves a second chance and notes that he himself had been given a second chance in that he had once been convicted of a drug offense.

    We note, however, that Kennedy’s offense was essentially a victimless crime while Wegner’s offense was a crime against the environment, the people of Australia, the people of the United States and against the birds. In order to avoid detection during the flight, smugglers flushed newly hatched chicks down the plane’s toilet

    Although Wegner has been convicted and served his sentence, nothing he or anyone else can do will correct the damage he has done or make his victims whole again.

    Wegner’s prison sentence seems to have done little to improve his ethical sense. The resume Wegner submitted to Riverkeeper accounts for his period of incarceration without referring to the fact of the incarceration itself Wegner describes work he performed and omits the significant information that he performed this work while he was serving time as a prison inmate.

    Kennedy overstepped his position as attorney for Riverkeeper when, in November of 1999, he hired Wegner. Boyle terminated Wegner after learning of the hiring and upon review of Wegner’s resume, court records and media accounts. The matter came to a climax at a board meeting on June 20th when Kennedy insisted that Wegner be rehired over Boyle’s objection.

    While we hope Riverkeeper continues to work to produce changed human beings who think and act differently in regard to the Hudson River and all that pertains to it, we also recognize the primary mission of Riverkeeper is not the rehabilitation of Wegner or of those like him.


    Anthony Henry Smith

    (for The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers)
    (Fishkill Ridge Community Heritage, a separate organization, has also supported this letter from their beginning.)

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