Political Uses of Science in Public Decision Making
When public health advocates brought their indictment against cigarettes to the steps of Capitol Hill in the 1960s, they faced a formidable opponent. Congressional action requiring a health warning on each package of cigarettes was only one victory in a continuing war between public health advocates and pro-smoking interests. When the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed regulations in early 1972 to reduce the amount of lead additives in gasoline, the Ethyl Corporation began a vigorous and persistent attack on the factual basis of EPA's decision. Scientific knowledge did not always play such a prominent role in public decision making. Prior to the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, scientific and technical analysis and argument were consulted explicitly by government decision makers only sporadically. The capacity of a broader range of groups to utilize scientific and technical argumentation has caused a dispersion of access to the authoritative power of science.