Thursday, December 24, 2009

Climategate and the Politization of Science

A very well balanced take on climategate can be found in a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times:

Climate change e-mail scandal underscores myth of pure science

"The idea that pure, disinterested science should decide political disputes was a staple of Democratic politics during the George W. Bush administration. Now it's payback time, as Republicans gloat over an alleged "smoking gun" of scientific misconduct provided by recently released e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. After decrying the "Republican war on science," Democrats are hard-pressed to explain the discovery of their own partisans in the scientific trenches."

"Science, in other words, is replete with the same human failings that mark all other social activities."

"Thus, we write neither to attack nor to defend the East Anglia scientists, but to make clear that the ideal of pure science as a source of truth that can cut through politics is false. "

"The real scandal illustrated by the e-mails is not that scientists tried to undermine peer review, fudge and conceal data, and torpedo competitors, but that scientists and advocates on both sides of the climate debate continue to claim political authority derived from a false ideal of pure science. This charade is a disservice to both science and democracy. To science, because the reality cannot live up to the myth; to democracy, because the difficult political choices created by the genuine but also uncertain threat of climate change are concealed by the scientific debate."

I have recently commented on Climategate (link), but my comments related to how it may or may not impact the actual consensus, and the direction policymakers should take from here.

The LA Times article takes another approach and gives yet another reason, as I mentioned in 'Politics and Science' that "It is naive to think that democracy, or an election that replaces one set of politicians and bureaucrats with another will usher in a new age of enlightenment."

Reference:

Climate change e-mail scandal underscores myth of pure science
LA Times
By Daniel Sarewitz and Samuel Thernstrom
December 16, 2009

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