Science and Politics: An Abusive Relationship

Science should inform politics, not the reverse.


Guest opinion by Edward Ferrara

Decades before Luis Pasteur fostered scientific consensus on germ theory, Ignaz Semmelweis was imploring obstetricians to wash their hands after handling corpses. His work did little to inspire his fellow medical practitioners. On the contrary, he was met with indignation and disbelief at almost every turn. Though aided by his increasingly erratic behavior and political inelegance, there is no doubt that his alienation from the medical community was due in part to his then-heretical proposals.

We’ve come a long way since the Roman Inquisition locked Galileo under house arrest for advancing the theory of heliocentricity. Yet still, skepticism is a trait that can inspire zealous culture warriors to brand others “deniers” or deride them as being “anti-science.”

Of course, there’s nothing more scientific than scrutinizing an accepted norm. The scientific process is dependent on constant refinement by people attempting to prove each other wrong. Indeed, science needs skepticism to sharpen its ham-fisted hypotheses into acute theories.

Our devotion to explaining the universe through rational observation and rigorous testing has catapulted us from a species-wide state of destitution to one of unimaginable wealth. That’s largely due to thousands of years of continued knowledge expansion and the pursuit of logical explanation. If science is the vehicle that brought us this far, then the fuel is undoubtedly…well, doubt.

This unique feature stands in sharp contrast to another primary way humans have explained the world: religion, which asks us to accept without questioning. Doubt may have been bad for Thomas, but Copernicus did wonderful things with it. There are few things as amusing as the rabid atheist who has not so much embraced doubt as become a cynic. Remember that uncertainty, regardless of its target, is the very heart of science.

A cursory glance at the past is all one needs to find examples of misplaced faith in science of the day. As the story of Dr. Semmelweis illustrates, there was a time when nearly all doctors were pretty damn sure that they didn’t need to wash their hands after handling dead bodies. In fact, they were offended by the notion.

More recently, Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia tried to replicate 100 studies appearing in top psychological journals; he and his team were unable to replicate about two thirds of them.

Treating scientific consensus axiomatically is a step in the wrong direction. We need to keep gathering information, and that information has to include research by iconoclasts in order to be well rounded. Remember that many widely held beliefs started out as heresies. Behind each of them was someone willing to come out against conventional wisdom, sometimes at great personal or professional risk.

The greatest minds of humanity used to believe in a static universe, phrenology, and many more things that we might find ridiculous today. So if skepticism is so demonstrably useful and deserved, why do people demonize each other for failure to follow the herd?

It’s politics, stupid.

Like basically anything today, science often finds itself mired in the ostentatious game of political signaling. Opinions and interpretations of scientific research are as much a part of political identity as a bumper sticker or a lawn sign. This is hugely unfortunate because it leads people to adopt dogmatic approaches to a process that should be objective.

Politics ruin science (and pretty much everything else) because everything is reduced to a zero-sum game: an us versus them scenario where concession is likened to defeat. They also reduce diversity of opinion and promote groupthink.

If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this: as people’s scientific literacy increases, their opinions on climate change polarize depending on their political affiliation. But that’s not all. According to the same study, conservatives who are more scientifically literate are also more likely to believe that there is a scientific consensus on global warming. Dan Kahan writes:

Accordingly, as relatively “right-leaning” individuals become progressively more proficient in making sense of scientific information (a facility reflected in their scores on the Ordinary Science Intelligence assessment, which puts a heavy emphasis on critical reasoning skills), they become simultaneously more likely to believe there is “scientific consensus” on human-caused climate change but less likely to “believe” in it themselves!

While skepticism of climate change science is a markedly right-wing prejudice, those on the left are more likely to display similarly rock-ribbed opinions on fracking, GMO safety, and other areas that conflict with scientific consensus.

Politics are an inevitable part of living in a republic, but scientific debate loses integrity when we let our politics decide how we feel about science instead of the other way around. It’s divisive, but worse: it’s lazy and positively unscientific.

In an increasingly polarized country, we would do well to remember the humanity of our detractors. We also might make a conscious effort to both admit and overcome our biases, even as we argue with conviction.

Perhaps most importantly, we should stop acting like morality and argumentative position are inextricably linked. Doing so makes it that much easier to demonize people with differing opinions (If my opinion is moral and yours is different, it is less moral. Therefore, since you are putting forth an immoral opinion, you are evil) and makes us far less capable of changing our own.

Leave the crusades in the 15th century.

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Frederick Michael
July 24, 2016 11:58 am

Doubt wasn’t a bad thing for Thomas either. His questioning led to knowledge, which led to significant accomplishments.

Bruce Cobb
July 24, 2016 12:09 pm

Politics informs Warmunism. Actual science, and the quest for truth informs Climate Realism.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
July 25, 2016 8:09 am

Reminds me of a quote a colleague uses quite often “Science takes part, it doesn’t take sides”.

Reply to  MJB
July 25, 2016 9:27 pm

That “science” is dead. What we have now is government funded propaganda.

Olaf Koenders
July 24, 2016 12:09 pm

We haven’t come far since the Dark Ages, still requiring control by religion to advance a cause or belief by a few.

July 24, 2016 12:11 pm

“we should stop acting like morality and argumentative position are inextricably linked” …but the issues do involve morality, which is precisely the problem. The reason the debates are acrimonious is that reasons of morality are invoked on both sides of the arguement.
It is a moral issue when funding is moved from health to address pre-empt problems that may or may not emerge. But if they do emerge, the survival of everone’s grandchildren is at stake. It is a moral issue when energy that could not only improve lives, but directly save lives is denied by artificially raising the price (taxes) – in order to fund “research” that is at best a collection of model-based correlations. It is a moral issue when the unrestricted use of energy by unrestricted growth of population destroys the ecosystems that support our planets diversity. It is a moral issue when the poor of the world are denied access to the very thing(energy) that allows a person with intelligence and hard ‘work’ to better his condition: the work being directly proportional to the amount of energy applied.
Issues of morality exists on both sides of the argument, to pretend that they are mere opinions is an insult to otherwise intelligent people. What is needed is humility and a willingness to learn form each other – especially as we all struggle to find wisdom to balance the competing moral claims on our actions.

July 24, 2016 12:16 pm

“conservatives who are more scientifically literate are also more likely to believe that there is a scientific consensus on global warming. Dan Kahan writes:” ?? (next paradraph he changes it to “more likely to believe there is “scientific consensus” on human-caused climate change ”
I find that hard to believe !! Natural Global Warming, yes….AGW…no.

Reply to  Marcus
July 24, 2016 1:23 pm

I believe there is a consensus. I believe the consensus is wrong.

Reply to  commieBob
July 24, 2016 1:59 pm

Try this consensus

Pat Frank
Reply to  commieBob
July 24, 2016 4:51 pm

Exactly correct, cB.
As a scientifically literate person, the more I investigated the AGW phenomenon, the more clear it became that while there is wide-spread agreement in the scientific community, that agreement is misplaced.
Notice also the bolded misdirect in the central point: “as relatively “right-leaning” individuals become progressively more proficient in making sense of scientific information … they become simultaneously more likely to believe there is “scientific consensus” on human-caused climate change but less likely to “believe” in it [i.e., in human-caused climate change] themselves!
The final exclamation point implies exposure of a contradictory position. However, Mr. Ferarra’s logic requires that the scientific consensus is identical with a scientific demonstration. It isn’t.
It doesn’t take long before one discovers that there is no valid scientific support for AGW. The consensus is founded on a poor understanding of the structure of evidence in science. The surprising aspect is that so few working scientists understand what constitutes evidence: experiment or observation within the context of a falsifiable physical theory. The latter is entirely missing from the AGW claim.
All of that is a long way around to the observation that the take of “right-leaning” (a biased description in itself) individuals is entirely defensible — recognizing the existence of a consensus all the while realizing that it’s grounded on nothing.

Michael 2
Reply to  Marcus
July 24, 2016 10:13 pm

IMO: The survey in question revealed that right wingers tended to accept the existence of consensus among the warmists in question (how can you not see that it is so?) but remain largely or somewhat unmoved by it. That seems to be because global warming is uncoupled from policy in the minds of libertarians and right wingers; but to the left, everything is coupled.

Reply to  Marcus
July 25, 2016 8:17 am

The consensus is more of a reason to believe there isn’t global warming.
The most prolific authors, who have the most to gain from global warming funding, are most likely to believe in global warming.
The 90% of scientists that don’t publish much, are at the 50% level.
This either means you have to be greedy to believe in global warming or that you have to promote global warming to get articles published.

July 24, 2016 12:18 pm

While this post has much to commend it, it also has limits. Mann’s Nature trick and hide the decline were knowingly immoral because they were fundamentally dishonest. Dessler’s 2010 paper claiming positive cloud feedback with an r^2 of 0.02 was likewise deliberately deceptive; he is not statistically illiterate. Most recently, we have the treatment of Jim Steele concerning coral bleaching and symbiont exchange. Its ok to hold a contrary scientific opinion. It not ok to pretend that contrary credible science does not exist, or to belittle those who politely and credibly (sources, footnotes, illustrations) highlight the alternative science.
When moral lines get crossed, limits have been reached. People should be called out and delt with accordingly. As McIntyre has just done to Gergis about her ‘new’ Australian hockey stick paper. She knowingly misrepresented the truth. First about the 2012 version, then about the process by which this untruth was discovered, and finally the way it got ‘fixed’ by data torture. That’s immoral. She is, like Mann, a bad person. Not merely a different take. A knowingly dishonest take. And there are your sentiment’s limits in my opinion.

Tim Ball
July 24, 2016 12:21 pm

Part of the problem with the Semmelweiss example is that he first concluded that when comparing two wards with different rates of Puerperal Fever the one with a lower level rang a bell at times through the day. He initially concluded it was the bell ringing that caused the difference. I understand it was only later he realized that the bell was rung as a signal for hand washing.

H. D. Hoese
July 24, 2016 12:27 pm

What is now going on between the Department of Agriculture and the EPA, and other outsiders, reminded me of a decades old concern within some Academic Schools of Agriculture about the less applied sciences. I was educated in both and recall many discussions about the relationships of “pure” and “applied” science. Many basic discoveries came from applied work and the distinction has become less important, possibly since both seem now infected by value judgements. Applications of course require value judgements while the “pure” might technically avoid them, not so much nowadays.
There is a lot about this that could be discussed and somebody probably has covered this well. I was also reminded of the aftermath of Earth Day, when it seemed well understood, perhaps not properly transmitted, that without hydrocarbons, or at least with some thermodynamic equivalent, we would starve. Perhaps an exaggeration, but where did that disappear to. Surely not in Agriculture?
I used to teach about Semmelweis and related cases more current, partially important since there were a lot of Pre-Meds. My major mentor emphasized that the job of science is not to make value judgements, but when they are made, properly apply the rules of science to the evaluations of them and their suggested solutions. I see lots of solutions looking for problems.

John F. Hultquist
July 24, 2016 12:32 pm
Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (July 1, 1818 – August 13, 1865): contemporaries, including his wife, believed he was losing his mind and he was in 1865 committed to an asylum (mental institution). Semmelweis died there only 14 days later, possibly after being severely beaten by guards.

July 24, 2016 12:51 pm

Thanks for the repost and thank you to all the readers! Is there any way to back link this to the original at my blog? Here is the link:

July 24, 2016 1:05 pm

we would do well to remember the humanity of our detractors
Leave the crusades in the 15th century.

A call for reason and moderation.
Forget It.
I learned a long time ago the foolishness of attempting to negotiate a compromise when the person on the other side of the table has no intention of negotiating in good faith. All the while that person has allies who constantly encourage all to “be reasonable”, “be flexible”, “act in good faith”.
With climate alarmism, I see motives of fame, power, and money. After all, where else in science could you get “Rock Star” status and be able to pull down 100 Million dollar grants. Even in the trenches, or especially in the trenches, we see cheap selfish careerism, and “go along to get along”.
I say a good Crusade is just what is needed to clean out the corrupt alarmists from our scientific institutions.

Reply to  TonyL
July 24, 2016 2:59 pm

Yup. Lets compromise 50-50. Then next year be reasonable, lets compromise again 50-50. Now they got 75%.
Solution is to be ‘unreasonable’ and ‘uncompromising’. Frame and anchor (those are negotiating tactics) on hard facts like the world hasn’t warmed this century except for the now rapidly cooling El Nino blip in 2015. Draw logical conclusions like renewables have unreliable intermittency. Point out weaknesses in the other sides’s ‘facts’. Stuff like models don’t work, SLR isn’t accelerating, extremes not more extreme, planet is greening, polar bears thriving, India and China won’t play.
Name and shame the false prophets of warmunism. Good enough for COP21, then good enough for skeptics: Viner, UK kids won’t know snow. Hansen, West Side Parkway will be under water. Gore, Arctic ice free by 2014. Kerry this week, climate change as serious as ISIS.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  ristvan
July 24, 2016 8:53 pm

Hard to argue with that when we see the utterly amoral actions of the political class playing out daily on the news. I believe most skeptics who dispute the “consensus science” are rational, logical people who strive constantly to question their own emotional investment in the issues of the day. The political class on the other hand, only control their emotions for affect, not to improve their ability to see truth. Truth to them is relative and therefore irrelevant. They are the enemies of truth and we must understand that .

Reply to  ristvan
July 24, 2016 9:19 pm

Thanks for revealing the consequence of compromising with the progressives and for the long summary including the failures of renewable s. There is no end to the lack of integrity of the left.

July 24, 2016 1:13 pm

they become simultaneously more likely to believe there is “scientific consensus” on human-caused climate change but less likely to “believe” in it themselves…
No…..I don’t know how the question was worded
…. they believe more scientists are paid to think that way
while that is consensus..that is not the same meaning of consensus

Reply to  Latitude
July 24, 2016 1:38 pm

Their belief is sincere.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair

Consensus just means that people generally believe a thing. It has nothing to do with whether that thing is correct or not.

Reply to  commieBob
July 24, 2016 2:55 pm

no…I don’t agree with that either
Consensus means a group of people agreed to agree that way… doesn’t mean they believe it

John Harmsworth
Reply to  commieBob
July 24, 2016 9:03 pm

Hard to know what it means when people are subscribed by organizations to which they belong without being consulted. It’s plainly unethical.

July 24, 2016 1:22 pm

There’s always actually a boundary between faith and science. It’s one that is continually evolving as it becomes possible to answer new questions which couldn’t be answered in the past.
Most pioneers in science have to have a healthy dose of faith to believe that they will succeed, particularly in the face of repeated set backs. It’s not religion, but it is an ingrained article of faith that gets them out of bed every day, keeps on trying, staying in the game. The people who first developed DNA sequencing, the people who created the first cell fusion to produce monoclonal antibodies, the people who first produced a baby using IVF, real pioneers who may have taken 10 – 15 years to bring their faith to scientific fruition.
Funnily enough, one of the key skills for successful scientists is to identify in a timely fashion questions which can be solved scientifically within a fundable timeframe. It’s not something that was ever taught at college, probably because you are not supposed to get your own funding for 10 years after graduation. Nowadays, of course, even that skill is often taken by funding committees rather than individual scientists.
Right now, you would have to have faith that the human species will survive the end of our sun by having found the means to relocate to a new solar system in another galaxy. There’s no evidence to back it up and no missions imminent to go to a target candidate. You have to have faith that humanity will use stem cell technologies humanely rather than for warfare, because there is no way to know how they may be used in the future.
Where climate science is concerned, there is a faith currently that we will enter another ice age sooner rather than later, based on scientific measurements rendering it likely in the absence of game changing situations. There is a faith that the ocean circulation patterns will not alter radically, as measurements have not been made for long enough to make reliable predictions as to future behaviour.
Both those faiths may at some stage turn into scientific predictions, although I’m not sure how long mankind will have to wait before that is possible……

July 24, 2016 2:02 pm

The crusades started as a defensive action to counter Islamic incursion. What we may infer from their progress is that there is a human predisposition to follow a pendulum motion from one extreme to another.

July 24, 2016 2:34 pm

Re: Religon ==> Ferrara shows his ignorance of real religion when he says “This unique feature stands in sharp contrast to another primary way humans have explained the world: religion, which asks us to accept without questioning.” His silly, cartoon strawman-version of religion is a tired old dog kicked by nearly all who have no idea whatever as to what religion is or what it is about. It is ideas like this that should be left back in the 15th Century.
The American Heart Association, the IPCC, the Natural Resources Council, The President’s Science Advisor all have recently asked the American people to “accept without questioning”.
In contrast, religious leaders have called on their congregants to examine their views and the basis of their religions and try to change their individual outlooks and behavior so that they might better reflect the true value of their religious beliefs.
A very strong majority of scientists, even is secular America, do not believe that Science and Religion are in conflict, as shown in the recent study performed by Rice University.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 24, 2016 3:34 pm

Kip, I am not a particularly religious person. My common law wife is. But I was married to the daughter of a Lutheran minister for 30 years, and can attest that what you say is by and large true, at least in Protestant congregations. Maybe less in Catholic based on my observations (she is Catholic) , and surely less in Islam.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
July 24, 2016 7:22 pm

Mr. Ferrara writes;
“This unique feature stands in sharp contrast to another primary way humans have explained the world: religion, which asks us to accept without questioning.”
And I question; Where did that “definition” come from?
Could it perhaps have come from some soon mentioned by Mr. Ferrara?
” There are few things as amusing as the rabid atheist who has not so much embraced doubt as become a cynic. Remember that uncertainty, regardless of its target, is the very heart of science.”
I suggest Mr. Ferrara practice what he preaches ; )

Reply to  JohnKnight
July 24, 2016 7:44 pm

PS~ Science was predominantly an undertaking of Christian intellectuals until about a century ago, as far as I can determine . . so, who’s zoomin’ who? ; )

Reply to  JohnKnight
July 25, 2016 12:05 pm

John K
There were many Chinese scientist-inventors; their astronomers, certainly, were world leaders.
And there were many Arab/Moorish mathematicians – ‘algebra’ is a word rooted firmly in Arabic. Let us not forget hero of Alexandria [too early to be Christian or Muslim], but a successor to the pyramid builders – not just builders, but possessing some science [levels, planes, levers, and probably ergonomics].
Auto – believing that our ‘ancestors’, perhaps more generally our ‘forebears’, were considerably more capable than very many [probably including me] give them full credit for.

Reply to  JohnKnight
July 25, 2016 1:21 pm

I said what I think is true, and science is the subject.

July 24, 2016 2:52 pm

When science “settles”, sinking to the bottom of the tank as inert sediment, no longer a living process of reactions, we are in trouble.
When identity politics demands citizen to pledge belief in an approved view, (“By Faith We Understand – Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” we are not of this world.

Tom Halla
July 24, 2016 3:12 pm

This looks to be one of those inteminable discussions where people talk past each other. Sometimes, it is that definitions are never settled on, and used deceptively.
There was, and is, a tendency for some Christians to rate all studies of anything strictly on how they advance their version of Christianity. Equally, some Marxists mirrored the thought process of those Christians. i am rather culture-bound, but that sort of thought process seems to be common to many people with strong belief systems. Some people use that sort of narrow orthodoxy to mean “religion”.
In the US, there are few things less productive than trying to have a discussion with a Vegan Organic Food advocate. It tends to turn evidence-free very rapidly, with the entire argument based on certain assumptions that are not affectable by evidence.
Obviously, as someone who has burned out on several orthodoxies, I tend to both identify with and pity people who are into some grand cause.

Leo Smith
July 24, 2016 4:00 pm

science is amoral.
do not confuse science (a search for accurate models) with morality (a value judgement n human behaviour).

Reply to  Leo Smith
July 25, 2016 7:06 am

I agree, yet science* would have to admit the study of organisms for which morality is a fundamental concern; ourselves! And further, a moral creature can choose immorality but amorality is the traditional preserve of gods,** psychopaths and machines.
Morality is a three edged ‘thing’ for human beings. The choice is between good, bad or demonic.***

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Shakespeare: Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2)

* The word ‘science’ comes from the Old French, meaning knowledge. It is an ancient derivation of “discrimination”, to divide or cut – as a sword. In Sanskrit, it is the very act of thought itself and therefore it presupposes sentience or consciousness.
**The “gods” of legend and mythology are the projected wish fulfilment of our own desire for dissociation!
***Daemonic In the Socratic sense, a disembodied principle. Action devoid of consequence is the cheapest (Not necessarily the easiest!) mode of existence; a lifeless realm that can only be inhabited by “ghosts”. 😉

Pop Piasa
July 24, 2016 4:15 pm

Politics uses science to induce fear and offers an expensive solution. That is the crux of the biscuit with an apostrophe.

Todd F
July 24, 2016 4:42 pm

And what about the intimidation by authority, certainly a fixture in American consciousness? I don’t know it’s origins, but it’s bedrock. It could begin in an intimidating childhood, certainly usual, or the authority worship of Christian training or something else.
But faced with the proud phD degree holder, with the word Doctor leading the introduction, or the Nobel prize winner, we are conditioned to react with awe. Example: Who is (was) the smartest man In the world? It is (was) Albert Einstein. Why? Because only geniuses have any idea what his theories mean. And he was right — I mean, the A bomb worked.
So with no understanding he (and other pinnacle authority figures such as known scientists) are deferred to in a timid manner.
Is this not in itself a profound failure of education in general? I say it is.

July 24, 2016 7:02 pm

Folk lore or not?
I find it hard to believe that surgeons/ doctors did not wash their hands after engaging in gory work. They may not have had sanitising solutions but I am sure they had water and towels and would have felt much better eating their meals with clean hands and clothes.
Infections still happen, routinely, post op, in a significant number of cases and most people carry their own infectious bugs on and in them.

July 24, 2016 7:26 pm

We may be a long distance in time from the Roman Inquisition and Galileo, but we are mere seconds away from Ignaz Semmelweis. Public health programs, hospitals, and more, are STILL trying to get doctors and nurses to wash their hands between patients.

Science or Fiction
July 24, 2016 9:37 pm

Regarding political differences – here is one clear difference regarding trust in media:

Science or Fiction
Reply to  Science or Fiction
July 25, 2016 1:37 am

And this little quote by Karl Popper may help to understand such differences:
«In The Logic of Scientific Discovery I tried to show that our knowledge grows through trial and error-elimination, and that the main difference between its prescientific and its scientific growth is that on the scientific level we consciously search for our errors: the conscious adoption of the critical method becomes the main instrument of growth. It seems that already at that time I was well aware that the critical method— or the critical approach— consists, generally, in the search for difficulties or contradictions and their tentative resolution, and that this approach could be carried far beyond science, for which critical tests are characteristic…
The Poverty and The Open Society were my war effort. I thought that freedom might become a central problem again, especially under the renewed influence of Marxism and the idea of large-scale “planning” (or “dirigism”); and so these books were meant as a defence of freedom against totalitarian and authoritarian ideas … both grew out of the theory of knowledge of Logic of Scientific Discovery and out of my conviction that our often unconscious views on the theory of knowledge and its central problems (“ What can we know?”, “How certain is our knowledge?”) are decisive for our attitude towards ourselves and towards politics.»
Karl Popper – The unneeded quest

Science or Fiction
Reply to  Science or Fiction
July 25, 2016 1:39 am

Argh – “unneeded quest” should have been “Unended quest” 🙂

Reply to  Science or Fiction
July 25, 2016 12:11 pm

Popper is not objecting to politics in general. He is objecting to a particular class of ideologies and proposing class as more beneficial. Politics still operates but the specific form of politics proffered by Popper operates in a much better way.

Science or Fiction
Reply to  TAG
July 25, 2016 3:25 pm

I think Popper realized that we cannot know for sure how things will play out. I think the key is that “we learn by trial and error-elimination”. This implies to me that it is stupid if we all try the same, or if all countries do the same without knowing for sure. And worst off all is totalitarian authorities which impose the same course of action on all – because then we will learn really really slow – and peoples will be deprived from their freedom to live out their own course of actions.
I think those who are born free take freedom for granted, but there will always be megalomaniacal inductivists who think they know best.
“And people who sincerely believe that they know how to make heaven on earth are most likely to adopt the conspiracy theory, and to get involved in a counter-conspiracy against non-existing conspirators. For the only explanation of their failure to produce their heaven is the evil intention of the Devil, who has a vested interest in hell.”
I think we see this now – from Whitehouse et. co.
“This irrational attitude which springs from intoxication with dreams of a beautiful world is what I call Romanticism. It may seek its heavenly city in the past or in the future; it may preach ‘back to nature’ or ‘forward to a world of love and beauty’; but its appeal is always to our emotions rather than to reason. Even with the best intentions of making heaven on earth it only succeeds in making it a hell – that hell which man alone prepares for his fellow-men.”
― Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies
I guess even those of us who are born in freedom may get our fight to avoid totalitarian authorities – and that will surprise us – as we tend to believe that our forefathers has won that fight – once and for all. But there are many varieties of totalitarian ideas – many varieties which will have to be fought as they appear.

Michael 2
July 24, 2016 10:08 pm

“If science is the vehicle that brought us this far, then the fuel is undoubtedly…well, doubt.”
Curiosity is the fuel; doubt is the rudder or sea anchor to help maintain direction and keep the ship of science off shoals and reefs.

Science or Fiction
July 24, 2016 11:12 pm

United Nations writing and review process for IPCC is an extraordinary good example of how science has become politicized:comment image
And anyone thinking that IPCC is unbiased should have a look at how heavily biased IPCC was from the very begining:
Report of the second session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 28 June 1989
Ironically, by promoting and using unsound scientific principles, United Nation has become a kind international problem of cultural character that it was put up to achieve international co-operation in solving:
Article 1
The Purposes of the United Nations are:
3) To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural , or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all …
Things United Nations could have done within their charter could have been to:
– Discourage strong politic influence on science
– Promote openness and scrutiny within science
– Discourage attempts to silence opponents and free exchange of thoughts

Science or Fiction
July 24, 2016 11:22 pm

The principles governing IPCC work are more or less free from sound scientific principles, no mentioning of scrutiny or application of a sound scientific method.
Contrary to impose scientific principles on IPCC, United Nations allowed IPCC to be governed by:
– the unscientific principle of a mission to support an established view(§1)
– the unscientific principle of consensus (§10)
– an approval process and organization principle which must, by it´s nature, diminish dissenting views. (§11)

Science or Fiction
July 24, 2016 11:41 pm

And – while I am at it – Guidance Note for Lead Authors of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on Consistent Treatment of Uncertainty shows how how subjectivism has been introduced and endorsed by IPCC.
This is the document behind the laughable subjective terminology used by IPCC.
I suggest that all interested in United Nations and IPCC should have a look at the documents I linked to above. And if anyone wonder if the principles, processes and guidance notes governing IPCC complies with sound scientific principles, I suggest to have a look at the first 26 pages of the following work: The logic of scientific discovery.
(I have quite a few articles at my site about various issues with IPCC, my alias link to that site.)

Reply to  Science or Fiction
July 25, 2016 3:57 pm

Science or Fiction,
I feel you are correct/logical for approaching the matter not from the perspective of vague amorphous conflicts among rubbery ideas/terms like politics, science, religion, etc, but from the perspective of examining actual histories of actual prominent/influential political organizations that actually produced writings we can actually read, etc. Thank you.

July 25, 2016 12:35 am

Of course, there’s nothing more scientific than scrutinizing an accepted norm.

It depends a little bit on how it’s scrutinized.
Here are some decidedly unscientific scrutinizations of an accepted norm:
The Shape of the Earth.
Climate science.
Moon landings.
<a href = ""Alien usurpers.
So I think that some instances of scrutenizing an accepted norm are somewhat short of scientific.

Reply to  Seth
July 25, 2016 2:43 pm

Is it your belief that if the term ‘vaccine’ is written on a vial, it becomes anti-scientific to doubt that it’s a good idea to inject the contents into vast numbers of people?

Johann Wundersamer
July 25, 2016 3:36 am

Guest opinion by Edward Ferrara:
So if skepticism is so demonstrably useful and deserved, why do people demonize each other for failure to follow the herd?
It’s politics, stupid.
: Or maybe ‘the herd’ is right, stopping at a red traffic light?
Edward, and you know
“While skepticism of climate change science is a markedly right-wing prejudice, those on the left are more likely to display similarly rock-ribbed opinions on fracking, GMO safety, and other areas that conflict with scientific consensus.”
: so your best offer is appeasement.
Same as it ever was.

Johann Wundersamer
July 25, 2016 3:55 am

Those arrogant Edward Ferrara’s;
selecting others to ‘the herd’.
Goetz von Berlichingen knew:
arrogant know nothings appeasement herolds.

Johann Wundersamer
July 25, 2016 3:58 am….0…

David L. Hagen
July 25, 2016 9:58 am

You assert: “. . .religion, which asks us to accept without questioning.”
Christianity is based on the opposite – observed reality. Jesus disciple John reported (1 John 1:1):

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

Jesus disciple Peter similarly states (2 Pete 1:16:

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

I recommend you actually study the evidence behind Christianity and the resurrection of Jesus. e.g. books by Lee Strobel such as The Case for Christ; or books by Josh McDowell. William Lane Craig has most exhaustively examined the objective evidence for the resurrection. Happy hunting.

Reply to  David L. Hagen
July 25, 2016 12:05 pm

The Gospel of John 20:29

July 25, 2016 12:01 pm

The posting asserts that politics is inappropriate in science. This is not the case. Politics is about making choices and one of the choices that a society has to make is what scientific research that it will support. As one example, why should people be taxed to support research into Oort cloud objects. Even for an economy as big as the US, the amount of money supplied for planetary research and Oort cloud research in particular is not an insignificant amount.
The decision to fund proposed projects is made politically and that is the correct way to make them. There are other worthy priorities which request public money. The Superconducting Supercollider requested finding in the billions in the 1990s to verify the existence of the top quark. The US congress decided that this priority did not deserve funding This was decided politically. How else should it have been decided.
Consider this, a left wing US congress would likely ban fracking, and restrict GMOs. It would be unlikely to support research in these and other areas. A right wing congress would do otherwise. The Congress is elected by the US people to, in part, fund and create the science that they want. A right wing Congress would create the science of advanced nuclear reactors. A left wing Congress would not. Science is not some Platonian ideal. it is a human construct and as such it is created politically and that is the way that is should be.

Bill Parsons
July 25, 2016 4:56 pm

Some rather curious and ironic misquoting of history: “Leave the Crusades in the 15th Century”.
The Crusades to the Holy Land were entirely over by the 13th Century. Crusading had ended long before the 15th Century. But since you brought it up, persecutions of an entirely different sort did continue into the 1300’s at the instigation the Catholic Church. These were the Crusades of Western Europeans against fellow Europeans who were skeptics, and in some cases, outright deniers of Catholic orthodoxy. Thus, the crushing of the Knights Templar warrior class in the early 14th century, the 1321 Crusade against Italian Anti-Papists, the xenophobic Crusades in Hungary and Poland against outsiders (Lithuanians and Mongols), and finally, the Crusades against Bohemia and Sweden targeting heretics and pagans, whose minor challenge to the status quo the Church would not tolerate.
Which camp do today’s skeptics seem to fit more accurately? They are the small minority challenging an alleged “97%”, although in my opinion, the vast majority of scientist who oppose the prevailing faith (-based, hysterical hypothesis that is CAGW) have yet to step out of the shadows for fear of losing their livelihoods. In the face of lost jobs, they have held heir own, and it would seem, gradually forced the high priests of fraught global warming belief to moderate their positions and admit that they were – and still are – torturing data and perverting records to find support for their biases. Laziness indeed!
The second ironic misstatement about history has to do with Pasteur, and ultimately, your thesis that science and politics must exist on separate footings, else the “purity” of scientific research is compromised. “Politics ruin science (and pretty much everything else)…” you say.
The truth is not born out by your example. Pasteur embraced a political persona nonpareil, seeking out audiences and press, and engaging in robust rhetorical and scientific argument wherever he could drum up a(n often angry) crowd. His goal was to reawaken the interest in the “little beasties”, as Van Leeuwenhoek (a brilliant showman himself) had dubbed them a century earlier. Only in rough-and-tumble debates, over the course of his career, did Pasteur persuade the public of the fundamental role of microbes in the fermentation of French wines, in the spread of diseases like hydrophobia, and in the near-decimation of silk-worm moths in France. He carried out rigorous, disciplined experiments in isolation, but he shouted his proofs and results from the rooftops, and he relished public acclaim when he was right.

He read papers about this and gave speeches and threw his proofs insolently at the great Liebig’s head —and in a little while a storm was up in the little Republic of Science on the left bank of the Seine in Paris. (Microbe Hunters, Pasteur, Chapter 3.)
Politicians do not corrupt science. Corrupted scientists corrupt science. And you are right that they do not need to be demonized. They merely need to be shown for what they are. In the case of CAGW… again, and again.

July 25, 2016 9:48 pm

“Science should inform politics, not the reverse.”

“Guest opinion by Edward Ferrara”

One reads the title and introduction to articles prior to reading articles themselves.
As one reads through the article, the mind keeps watch for when the article actually touches on, defines or debates the introduction.
This article left me puzzled. I read through several times and still was unable to determine where the article delved into boundaries, conflicts, overlaps, contradictions, etc… of science/politics.
The author did write an opinion, sort of. Admittedly, I was left confused about exactly what was his opinion. The history references are admirable, though not equated to against modern politics or science.
What is/are politics?
Full Definition of politics
1 a : the art or science of government
1 b : the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy
1 c : the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
2 : political actions, practices, or policies
3 a : political affairs or business; especially : competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government)
3 b : political life especially as a principal activity or profession
3 c : political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices
4 : the political opinions or sympathies of a person
5 a : the total complex of relations between people living in society
5 b : relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view ”
What is/are science?
Full Definition of science
1 : the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding
2 a : a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study
2 b : something (as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge
3 a : knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method
3 b : such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena : natural science
4 : a system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws ”

“5 b : relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view ”

Meaning that as soon as science involves more than one person, politics comes into play.
Sadly, what I think is getting danced around by discussions initiated by articles like this is that people/persons intend to drain science of any credibility science has developed over the last few hundred years.
A quick way for less than scrupulous people to benefit from someone else’s hard work.
When despots or tyrannical fanatics gain a position that allows them to prey upon the weaker, it is not surprising that they rely upon bully boy tactics to keep out truth honesty and good science.
Tyrannical groups are no less aggressive and are perhaps crueler at keeping their food and money sources dependent.

Brian H
July 25, 2016 10:56 pm

So more informed conservatives acknowledge there is AGW consensus. The just think it’s wrong! Liberals are incapable of such a conclusion.

Brian H
Reply to  Brian H
July 25, 2016 10:56 pm

They just …

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