Exploiting uncertainty

As scientists, we are comfortable with uncertainty. We live in a paradigm of very few laws, in which research is structured by hypotheses that can be tested, debated and even falsified. Consensus–scientific truth–emerges from questioning. However, a coalition of pro-business conservatives and religious conservatives are casting doubt on the very validity of science by exploiting the paradigm of science. This is never better explained than in the new book by Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science.

In an excellent but scary review of the book, the reviewer sketches out the plan revealed by Mooney.

Using methods and strategies pioneered under the Reagan administration by the tobacco industry and anti-environmental forces, an alliance of social conservatives and corporate advocates has paralyzed or obfuscated public discussion of science on a whole range of issues. Not just climate change but also stem cell research, evolutionary biology, endangered-species protection, diet and obesity, abortion and contraception, and the effects of environmental toxins have all become arenas of systematic and deliberate bewilderment.

And towards the end of the article, the result:

By turning science into an endlessly fudgeable tool of politics, and rejecting any notion of scientific consensus in favor of a landscape where all science is either liberal (“junk”) or conservative (“sound”), the American right has fulfilled the darkest prognoses of postmodern philosophy. In this view, science is indeed just an artifact of culture; it has no more objectivity than astrology or dowsing or medieval Catholic theology.

I encourage you to read the review and then buy the book. It’s the scary world we’re now in.

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