Year 2, Month 4, Day 7: Down Under De Nile

The Sydney Morning Herald has an excellent piece on the problems faced by scientists when they try and talk to politicians:

But scepticism, and outright denialism, is in the ascendancy since last November’s mid-term elections. So it was perhaps unsurprising that the expert pleas fell on deaf ears. A Louisiana Republican accused scientists presenting evidence of human influence on climate of holding ”elitist, arrogant views”. Another insisted that ”we should not put the US economy into a straitjacket because of a theory that hasn’t been proven”.

The scientific champions were equally vehement. One Democrat equated the bill to an attempt to repeal gravity, while another hauled a tower of published climate investigations to the meeting and argued that if Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Einstein were testifying, Republicans would still not accept the science until Antarctica had melted.

Californian heavyweight Henry Waxman called Republicans a ”party of science deniers” and declared that they ”can’t cure cancer by passing a bill that declares smoking safe. And they can’t stop climate change by declaring it a hoax.

Yup. Got that right.

This letter gave me the chance to use the word “apothegm,” which always makes me feel rather grand.

Sent March 29:

The relationship between science and politics has always been confused and problematic, for the quest for truth and the quest for power are two very different things. Scientific integrity is built upon the willingness of each practitioner to change his or her mind when carefully examined evidence demands it. Political integrity, contrariwise, is summed up by Simon Cameron’s apothegm: “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.” And nowhere in modern life is the science/politics equation more fraught with consequences than in the non-debate over climate change, currently happening both in the United States and Australia. The scientific evidence for anthropogenic global warming is overwhelming and universally accepted; a few contrarian voices are amplified by disproportionate media attention to create the impression that the “science isn’t settled.” And our petroleum-owned politicians can stay bought, maintaining their “integrity” by ignoring genuine evidence if it’s ideologically inconvenient.

Warren Senders

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *