Energy & Environment

U.S. House of Representatives v. Modern Science

Dan Farber

Nature, one of the two leading scientific journals in the world, has a strongly worded editorial about the recent House hearings on climate change:

At a subcommittee hearing on 14 March, anger and distrust were directed at scientists and respected scientific societies. Misinformation was presented as fact, truth was twisted and nobody showed any inclination to listen to scientists, let alone learn from them. It has been an embarrassing display, not just for the Republican Party but also for Congress and the US citizens it represents. . .

One lawmaker last week described scientists as “elitist” and “arrogant” creatures who hide behind “discredited” institutions.. . . Several scientists were on hand — at the behest of Democrats on the subcommittee — to answer questions and clear things up, but many lawmakers weren’t interested in answers, only in prejudice.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long. Global warming is a thorny problem, and disagreement about how to deal with it is understandable. It is not always clear how to interpret data or address legitimate questions. Nor is the scientific process, or any given scientist, perfect. But to deny that there is reason to be concerned, given the decades of work by countless scientists, is irresponsible.

Of course, no ideology has a monopoly on this kind of know-nothingism, although it seems to attack different groups at different times. Still, it’s  certainly odd to see the modern Right mimicking the Soviet approach to science, under which science is great — unless the scientists reach politically unpalatable conclusions, in which case there must be a scientific conspiracy afoot!

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet.

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Comments to "U.S. House of Representatives v. Modern Science":
    • Ken

      A plurality of supporters of the political party of which these representatives are members believe, in contradiction to clear objective evidence, that the President of the United States was not born in the United States. If such a self evident fact can be denied, why expect them to believe in science or even history?

      [Report abuse]

    • Michael brown

      Science is only 1 way to look at things. Put down your defenses and be reasonable. Modern medical science is fraudulent. It cannot cure cancer, stroke, heart disease, nor the common cold. It has failed miserably.
      Treating symptoms is an irresponsible business and you guys are up to your necks.

      [Report abuse]

    • Anthony St. John

      It is also hard to escape the conclusion that scientists, along with governments and industry have failed to produce safe nuclear power plants to save humanity from global warming.

      After WWII no country had a higher mandate than Japan to guarantee that the survival of humanity would never again be threatened again by nuclear holocaust, but their own system of government, science and industry just failed to achieve that goal with the most hellacious destruction of their own citizens and property since WWII.

      Fukushima proves that the greatest threat to humanity are governments, scientists and industry, with one common failure mode, the power of money and the absence of morals among all the world’s institutional leaders.

      The fact is that all IAEA countries share responsibility and accountability for this calamity, but humanity will suffer the most.

      Too bad, because nuclear power could have been the greatest fast track bulk power solution to ending the tyranny of carbon dioxide producing fuels over humanity before the window of opportunity closes.

      [Report abuse]

    • Anthony St. John

      “Nature” appears to be documenting the fact that the United States that overthrew British tyranny are returning to the way things were before the Declaration of Independence.

      Washington keeps proving not only that We The People have no leaders today, but those who claim to be leaders don’t know how to be leaders.

      It must be noted that the “Nature” editorial is also proving that America’s universities have failed to perpetuate the American Democracy that our Founding Fathers created. Indeed, our education cornerstone has crumbled.

      It’s time to rededicate our universities to producing leaders who will end our era of decline and fall, especially before the climate change window of opportunity closes.

      [Report abuse]

    • AMM

      Reminds me of the famous poem:

      First They came… – Pastor Martin Niemoller

      First they came for the communists,
      and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

      Then they came for the trade unionists,
      and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews,
      and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

      Then they came for me
      and there was no one left to speak out for me.

      The first step is always to demonize and dehumanize your political opponents :(

      [Report abuse]

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