Saturday, August 14, 2004

Scientists in a Snit

Some scientists are "hopping mad" because the Bush administration doesn't always do what they want it to do. As AP reports via Yahoo! News:
Science, Politics Collide in Election Year

By MATT CRENSON, AP National Writer

Last November, President Bush gave physicist Richard Garwin a medal for his "valuable scientific advice on important questions of national security." Just three months later, Garwin signed a statement condemning the Bush administration for misusing, suppressing and distorting scientific advice.

So far more than 4,000 scientists, including 48 Nobel prize winners, have put their names to the declaration....
Later in the story we get some perspective:
Scientists collect evidence and conduct experiments to arrive at an objective description of reality — to describe the world as it is rather than as we might want it to be.

Government, on the other hand, is about anything but objective truth. It deals with gray areas, competing values, the allocation of limited resources. It is conducted by debate and negotiation. Far from striving for ultimate truths, it seeks compromises that a majority can live with.

When these conflicting paradigms come together, disagreements are inevitable.
The catch is that scientists don't always "describe the world as it is." Take the pseudo-science of climatology, for instance, which seems to be populated mainly by luddites who think that the world is coming to an end because of SUVs. (I exaggerate, but not by much.) Working from inadequate data and arguably false premises, they would have us stop in our tracks and revert to a standard of living last "enjoyed" in the 1800s. And climatologists aren't the only "scientists" who inject their personal preferences into their recommendations.

Many people will be unduly impressed by an anti-Bush declaration signed by 4,000 scientists. They shouldn't be. Science is like sausage-making. When you see how it's done, you have qualms about swallowing the end product.