Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist -- or "Bill Frist, M.D.," as his Senate Web site proudly proclaims -- is on the defensive lately. In recent days, Frist has been skewered for delivering a Senate floor speech in which he challenged Florida doctors' careful diagnosis of Terri Schiavo's "persistent vegetative state," a reinterpretation that Frist apparently based on little more than "an hour or so" of video footage. "As a physician, I was astounded" by Frist's display, Howard Markel recently wrote in The New Republic. "Long-distance doctoring is problematic on many levels but especially for a doctor who has not practiced much medicine for more than a decade."
On matters of environmental protection and regulation, free-market conservatives have two chief principles to which they claim to adhere: "sound science" and "cost-benefit analysis." As John D. Graham, cost-benefit guru and director of the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has put it, "The Bush administration supports federal regulations that are based on sound science and economics."
In science or in economics, one occasionally comes upon a "natural experiment" -- a real-world event or confluence of events that fortuitously allows for the testing of one key variable. In a sense, "natural experiments" occur within the realm of politicized science as well.
It's so hard to teach New Yorkers," says
columnist John Tierney of The New York Times, lowering his binoculars
and shaking his head. "I try twice a week, and it never works." It's morning in
Manhattan's Riverside Park, and Tierney and I are standing near 89th Street,
spying on dog walkers on the promenade below us and counting how many leash their
pets upon leaving the enclosed dog run, as city law requires. We're in the
data-collection stage of a mock scientific experiment conducted for Tierney's
twice-weekly column "The Big City." Here is the protocol: