The use of science as fodder for political rhetoric is a subject on my mind again. The blogosphere is rippling with discussion of John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime. Statisticians, criminologists, and interested observers are arguing that Lott fabricated, or at best greatly exaggerated, an important statistic in the book: That simply wielding a gun scares away attackers 98% of the time. The apparent problem? Lott does not appear to have actually conducted the survey he claims to have done. And while the figure is a small part of a large project, it is the single most talked about point of the entire book -- it has been cited and repeated dozens of times as evidence in opposition to gun control.
Also on the subject of science is Weird Science, a document prepared by the House Democratic Staff Committee on Resources. Weird Science is a catalogue of Bush dept. of Interior invocations of the value of "good scientific decsion-making" in the development of environmental policy. In numerous cases, the rhetoric of using science is not backed up in practice; instead, the authors argue that scientific evidence is ignored, suppressed, or never even gathered as EPA develops policies on water, pollution, endangered species, and forests.
Update: See my entry on Weirder Science for a link to the newly-relocated document.