I’ve been thinking about how people use the terms “science” as in ” policies are better if they’re based on science”; and law as in “environmental laws are great because Congress made them, but if Congress messes with any of the case-law derived interpretations, that would be bad.”
It’s almost like there’s an idealized institution that people appeal to in some arguments, while sometimes ignoring or downplaying the realities of the institution. I think it will be helpful to talk about in future discussions how that plays out..for example, are Franklin and Johnson’s involvement with prescriptions on O&C lands making it “science.” What if it were two other scientists who developed a different prescription, would that still be “science”? It’s not hard to imagine other ecologist/economist pairs that could come up with other prescriptions.
Now, Congress’s messiness is laid out for the whole world to see through the press. But in my experience dealing with Forest Service projects wending their way through the system, I saw the “real” side of “science” (which I already knew about); the courts, and the press. Now I am not saying that any of them are any worse than any other; but they are all human and not perfect institutions. Human behavior in groups tends to be fairly similar and is not always perfect. When we talk about institutions, then, it seems to me, we should generally be talking about the institution as real and not as idealized.
Now people who are in the trenches on projects and see this firsthand, do not really have a voice. As agency folks, you are not allowed to question (in public) some of the issues or problems you see. For one thing, that might make powerful folks angry at the FS. For example, on one case, one of our attorneys said “we think the judge has the law wrong on this, but we won’t tell him because he is a young judge and we don’t want to have him biased against the FS for his career.” The fact that others critique the FS, but the FS can’t (usually) engage in meaningful public back and forth means that only one side is represented to the public, as we’ve discussed before.
Which also brings up that none of the feedback loops in the table allow for public discussion of claims and counterclaims, as we have on this blog. It’s too time-consuming, perhaps, but not having a place for that to occur seems to me to also be a problem. And we have to look at who is involved in the discussion and how members of the public get involved or not.
I am interested in your thoughts on this table. One thing I thought we might be able to do on this blog, that might be helpful, would be to keep tabs on some of the journals and post relevant information on this blog so that these critiques are more available in the public sphere.
What do you think about the table? What would you change or add? What ideas does the table generate in your mind?