Blissful Ignorance & the Bastardisation of Science for Fun & Profit

I’m a Scientist. So I frankly find it offensive when industrialists such as the Koch brothers in America, our own mining billionaires such as Gina Rinehart, public relations specialists such as ‘Lord’ Chris Monckton from the UK, and other Right Wing types, try and convince me they know more about a scientific subject than I do.

I’m speaking about the attack on science by the Right, which is spreading like a virus through the corridors of power in our parliaments to the point of a capitulation to, if not an outright endorsement of, conspiracy theories and anti-science propaganda.

It is being done so as to serve the interests of the vested interests and not the interests of the people. It is leading to a degradation of open democracy.

Not only that, but their almost limitless supply of funds has seen them buy a variety of spruikers for their cause. Some even formerly respectable individuals and scientists, willing to sell their integrity to the highest bidder.

A major part of the problem is the fact that the media is failing to give an accurate reflection of what is overwhelming scientific consensus on subjects, most especially climate change, because it has been bought and paid for by a single powerful industry focused on its bottom line at the expense of rational debate, forcing a media increasingly dependent on that industry for its survival to give as much weight to its self-interested agenda as it does to non-partisan scientists and their evidence-based conclusions.

They are also targeting our schools. For example, the Right Wing, Koch brothers-funded think tank, The Heartland Institute, actually developed a curriculum teaching children that climate science is a controversial matter. On the other hand, facts demonstrate only 24 peer-reviewed articles reject global warming, compared to an overwhelming 13,926 scientific articles that reinforce the science behind it.

However, this is where the Right insinuate themselves in order to launch their attacks on the science from, by zeroing in on the contents of the 24 articles that reject global warming, giving them the same, or more, weight in their arguments attacking the AGW science; at the same time as ignoring the 13,926 that support the theory of climate change.

In fact, it has become a gravy train for formerly moderately-remunerated Questacon roadshow presenters, such as Jo Nova (real name Jo Codling, but it doesn’t quite have that pizzazz that Right Wing warriors need in a name, so ‘Jo Nova’ she became), to jump aboard as the best vehicle they could identify that would take them to a better life. So she sold her scientific soul to the highest bidder so that she could provide the surface sheen of scientific credibility to the credulous that populate the anti carbon tax rallies she speaks at and who frequent the blog she writes on behalf of the vested interests in the fossil fuel & mining industries, whose agenda she furthers and who are the ones who sign her pay cheques.

And so invested has Jo Nova, molecular biologist, become in their cause that she sounds as if she even believes it herself. Ditto Bob Carter, geologist.

It must be admitted, however, that there are anti-science views perpetuated on the Left too. Such as those about nuclear power production via the latest, infinitely-safer technology than that of decades ago, when the major accidents happened (except when it comes to building nuclear power plants in areas prone to earthquakes, which is just silly and has nothing to do with science). Or the anti vaccine movement, that originated on the counter-cultural lunar Left, but the Left nonetheless.

However, the difference between Left & Right anti science can best be expressed this way:

On the Left you fail to see a mainstreaming of anti-science views. Indeed, the Gillard government has overruled the anti nuclear power forces in the Labor Party, by agreeing to expand the mining of uranium and the sale of it to power nuclear reactors in other countries. Plus, kept an open mind on the subject of nuclear power for Australia, but mainly as fuelled by thorium, even in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown disaster.

And that’s typical.

What you get on the Left is a large amount of dissension and discussion and pushback against those who make scientifically-questionable claims, and, as has ultimately occurred in the anti vaccine situation, the ultimate banishment of these ideas from serious consideration.

And what that means is that Anti Science doesn’t shape policy in the same way on the Left, as it increasingly is doing on the Right.

Yes, you will find extremes, as I said-islands of ideology where, basically, Monsanto and its GM crops is the Great Satan, and vaccines are causing autism. But there is no currently pressing issue that I can think of, to equal anthropogenic global warming denial/scepticism on the Right, where the Left is monolithically in denial of basic science, or where this drives mainstream political policy, for example, drives the stance of many elected Liberal, National, DLP & Family First politicians.

Which points to the fact, observed increasingly, that unlike small ‘l’ Liberal moderates, many big ‘C’ Conservatives, who now populate the Liberal and other parties, openly wear their distrust of science as a badge of honour, and devote their energies to bringing to governments around the world, policies which sideline science. Also to denigrating the serious scientific endeavours the majority of selfless members of the scientific community engage in on behalf of society, and replace it with pseudo science, which serves the agendas of the vested interests who back them.

Fronting it to the community will be the pseuds like Jo Nova and Bob Carter, scientists by name but not by nature.

By nature they are more like this:

and should be treated as such.

They can use all the fine-sounding scientific words they like, as this blog shows by deconstructing a Jo Nova speech to an anti carbon tax rally:

http://itsnotnova.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/joanne-nova-speaks-well-what-about-her-science/

Which shows they can have their own scientific opinions, but they can’t have their own scientific facts.

However, it doesn’t make them right simply because they sound reasonable to the casual, unscientifically-trained observer.

So, Don’t Believe the Hype!

Real scientists, doing real work in their field of expertise, climate science, show that the effects of CO2 on climate are real.

To sum up, debate and dissension around science is a good thing. Attacking the scientific method & the results it provides, is not.

Very simply, while most people continue to hold science and scientists in high regard, an increasingly large share of the Conservative political elite, office holders, candidates, and mouth pieces are taking seriously anti-science positions.

While the scientific community see the theory of global warming to be as strongly based as the theory of gravity, those dominating large sections of our own Liberal & National parties, attack climate scientists, and accuse them of being engaged in a global cabal to falsify scientific facts-the IPCC.

Or they create pseudo-scientific & medical data to support faux maladies such as ‘wind turbine syndrome’, to justify their attacks on the nascent renewable energy industry:

http://www.independentaustralia.net/2013/life/health/anti-wind-farm-lobby-claims-break-all-laws-of-physics/

Many senior people in the Liberal Party, such as Tony Abbott & Cory Bernardi, denigrate the theory of evolution, with their support for introducing creationism into science classrooms.

When it comes to environmental regulatory actions, they adopt the catch-cry of ‘Too much regulation and red tape gets in the way of business just trying to survive & prosper’, in order to sanction practices which scientists have warned against. For example, the health risks and impacts on the environment of mining by-products.

Also, hiding under the guise of ‘sound science’, or ‘common sense science’, Conservative politicians promote polluter-driven, or vested interests-benefiting, pseudo-science to skew policy away from honest, science-based discussion. For example, Nick Minchin’s continued intransigence with respect to the effects of second-hand smoke on health.

Next to a chilling quote by one of the foremost polemicists of the Right’s ‘anti science brigade’, Rush Limbaugh:

“The four corners of deceit: government, academia, science, and media. That’s how they promulgate themselves, it is how they prosper.”

It is this position that is increasingly taken up by too many ‘small government’ Libertarian politicians. Expertise and knowledge and institutions that value these are the enemy.

Sadly, people of this ilk are making understanding and support of science an ideological litmus test.

While climate change denial/scepticism is central to that litmus test, it is far from the only element, as I have already outlined. Though ‘denialism’ over global warming has become a cause célèbre within the Conservative movement.

Limbaugh again:

“Science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists”

Plus, he has called climate change science “the biggest scam in the history of the world”.

Why should we care?

Because his words and the following they have, are bullets to the heart of the scientific community. They are influential and his arguments percolate through Conservative politics and into legislative action, or inaction, on the part of governments as electorates adopt those principles he espouses and vote accordingly to elect representatives who espouse them.

The movement is also averse to science-based regulation, which it sees as an excuse for intrusive government.

It is not hard to understand the damage that anti-science syndrome suffering ideologues create.

The achievements of science are core to our existence, from medicine that saves our lives, to analytical tools that enable speed-of-light communications (NBN!), to …..

Demonisation of science fosters, in the near and long-term, a weakened economic competitiveness for the nation, for all nations. And, it will lead to a much weaker nation in the decades to come, due to loss of competitive advantage that a belief in science at its core and a fostering of love and respect for science in the community and the classroom can lead to. Not to mention a much-weakened nation and globe due to the catastrophic effects of climate chaos, which will make the droughts longer, the floods bigger, and the cyclones more intense and frequent.

And the self-interest of a few should never be allowed to get in the way of doing what true ‘common sense science’ dictates is the right path to follow. We just can’t afford to be led up the garden path by these people any longer.

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Thank Goodness It’s……Friday Raffles!

Lazy Gilly was a flower child
All the summer
Calmly running wild
She’d be silly and her friends just smiled
Pass the bottle
Wash the pills down – what went wrong
What went wrong

She don’t care no more
She don’t need to fight it
She don’t care no more
She gets paid on Friday

Cooler weather it’s not cool to smile |
Pretty colours
Going out of style
It ain’t so bad when you get used to it
Once you clock in
You’ll take any shit – all right
Ain’t that right

She don’t care no more
She don’t need to fight it
She don’t care no more
She gets paid on Friday

Monday morning
Friday’s far away
Pray you’ll make it
It’s a magic day
Bells will ring and you’ll go out to play
Spend your money
Pass the bottle
Friday rules
Friday rules OK

Ain’t talking ’bout Monday
Ain’t talking ’bout Tuesday
Ain’t talking ’bout Wednesday
Ain’t talking ’bout Thursday
I ‘m talking ’bout . . .

She don’t care no more
She don’t need to fight it
She don’t care no more
She gets paid on Friday

She gets paid on Friday, Friday, Friday . . .

Now, while I do not advocate anyone washing down some pills with some alcohol tonight, what I do approve of is the focus on the energy that can be unleashed at the end of a long, hard week of working nose to the grindstone. So what I do advocate is a little trip to The PUB, a few bevvies, and a Raffle!

My name is Victoria. I’m the barmaid. I’m here to help! Along with CK Watt, who will be bringing around the raffle tickets.

Kick back. Reflect on the week that was. Play a little music. Watch some footy. Unwind!

Reflection: ANZAC Day 2013

Some people may remember Malcolm B Duncan, a regular contributor to Margo Kingston’s first venture into the 5th estate, Webdiary. A barrister, a curmudgeon, a good friend, Malcolm died, far too young, in January 2011. He was also, on the right day, a good poet.

He wrote this poem in honour of his grandfather Alan Lord, a veteran of World War II.

I hope that some of you find it as moving – and as honest about the futility of war – as I do.

Sparrow’s Fart

Lest they forget
They huddle numb
In tiny pools of light
As those whom now they
Commemorate
Did once around
Fag end’s glow
Gather for warmth
(at least of spirit)
Brashly boisterous
In a diff’rent pre-dawn hush,
Wave-slapped, kit-jingled,
Gravid with fear.

Then,

Guns roared and lit them on
To landing.

What cruel star fates their nation
Ever to light upon the wrong cove?

Why remember disaster?

Death is not glory
Nor error truth

But now in the circles’ glow
Annual lit from town to town
Last posts quaver
For the ordinary heroes
We don’t forget
Still for whom
We keep the fag-ends burning.