crypto and public policy

The Scientific Process Bastardized For Political Purposes

Filed under: General February 19, 2004 @ 5:39 pm

Aaron has a great piece on anti-truths and blatant lies. Today, the news gets even more worrisome: 60 top scientists including 20 Nobel Laureates report that the Bush Administration is heavily distorting scientific fact for political benefit. Instapundit complains every other day about how universities stifle free speech, but doesn’t say a word about how our administration is distorting scientific fact.

This is incredibly troubling to me. There are many intellectual topics that merit discussion, that warrant violent disagreements from scientists and non-scientists on all sides of the issue. Debate and public discourse are a fantastic tool for democracy. However, when that tool is abused, when politicians refuse to allow the discussion to come to a conclusion, people start to lose respect for science and for proven fact.

With this manufactured confusion, people start to believe that global warming is still some wacky theory under debate, that condoms don’t prevent most sexually transmitted diseases, that chopping down 3/4 of a forest can make it healthy again, and that we have some kind of desperate national security need to drill the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. This is all fabrication.

Whenever someone fights proven fact, it’s because they have an emotional or financial investment in the lie. They’re not arguing because they think their position is actually correct, they’re arguing because whatever the facts are, they need to win the argument.

I don’t agree with everything Aaron says: I believe many arguments will forever remain unresolved arguments with no single truth. There are interpretations, there are nuances, there are grays. Only in a few cases is there a clear, definite, truthful answer. However, just because those cases are rare doesn’t mean we should ignore them. Not everything is interpretation. Sometimes, there is such a thing as truth.

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