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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1,769 thoughts on “Blissful Ignorance & the Bastardisation of Science for Fun & Profit

  1. So has Amgen Tony done his ‘I’m on offical business so I can claim $353* a day expenses’ presser today or is he hiding out to avoid any awkward questions?

    He has tried to buy time by saying he is ‘considering’ agreeing to the levy, but he hasn’t actually given a definite yes. He’s playing for time, he has to string it all out until he can get back to Canberra and get his orders. By then his minders will have come up with another eleventy-five ‘conditions’ the government has to be ‘forced to agree to’ before Tones will say yes. And they will also have had time to work on 101 excuses for saying no.

    See, Tony is in a bit of a pickle. Does he agree to the levy and ruin his entire campaign strategy or does he do the usual and just say no? If he says no then Julia Gillard will ruin his entire campaign strategy for him.

    I wish someone would explain to me how all this is a win for Abbott. No matter what he does next it’s a Great Big New Disaster. I bet he wishes he could just get on that bike and keep riding, and riding…… perhaps Peta can book him in for another week of stunts. A bike ride through Nepal must be looking really good to Stuntman today.

    *Note – despite what you might see on Twitter or elsewhere the maximum travel expenses allowance Tony can claim is $353 a night in country SA and Victoria and $374 a night in Adelaide and Melbourne. Allowances are reviewed every year, they always go up. Some poor deluded people are still banging on about $349 a night (last year’s allowance) or even $345 – the 2011 amount. If, like me, you want to carp about politicians’ expenses then at least keep up to date.

  2. Leone,

    I can’t wait to see The Bold and the Racehorse / Randwick Legal.

    Once it’s out, could you possibly consider the following title which is in search of a script – For Whom the Pell Polls ?

  3. FORMER Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has sought to clarify, once and for all, his role in the death of rock legend Jimi Hendrix in London in September 1970.

    His role in the death of??

  4. le ROY

    whats embarrassing about meguire

    and for whom
    you should be complaining to William about the snipping and
    and the negative, talk that lurkers see
    it really worries me that the same old people pretending to be labor

    come out with such outrageous
    remarks and so much negative talk, some don’t even approve of the NDIS
    and the levy and they say they are labor,

    really I say.
    now that’s what is embarrassing not meguire

    who knows about the polls.
    we could say a lot but we want,
    \
    we need uplifting people,
    we know in our hearts the worst could happen

    but when lurker see such things from people that are labor
    that is negative and not supportive,

    what would you suggest is better

    maquire or them

  5. Fiona
    So much to write, so little time. Both epic series are going have to be ‘aspirational’ for a while.

    I’m also thinking of a tell-all book about Tony Abbott’s penchant for riding bikes, tentatively titled ‘The Malvern Star Diaries’.

  6. Victoria
    ” The reality is Labor is far behind.”

    This is rubbish. The polls have been at 55 – 45 within the margin of error for a year or so with little change. A few rogue polls either way have made little difference despite overblown frothing from the media.

    It was clearly pointed out about this time last year that between Murdoch, Fairfax, Mining, Tobacco and various other vested interests PMJG was going to get a hammering and so it has proven. After at least a year of this nonsense the polls basically have not changed. They’ve done their worst and achieved little, with the Election Campaign yet to come.

    The ‘Instant Gratification” brigade have frothed and foamed, complained that Labor has been unable to get the message out, and how various Ministers have been found wanting, and so on, and so on. In the meantime Labor has been governing, achieving, and quietly and steadily working their way through the issues, and very successfully too. PMJG and colleagues are highly regarded overseas (with one obvious exception no longer in the Ministry) and their record of achievement is impressive by any standards, in stark contrast with the Rabbott Mob who have done their worst, and shot their bolt. They have nothing left and we’re getting to the end game.

    You would do well to have a look at what happened in the US when Obama was reelected. All the pundits confidently predicted that Mitt for Brains would get in, the polls were his way, Fox News pontificated and preached, and they all looked stupid when Obama got in for the same reasons that JG will be reelected here.

    Nate Silver was about the only one to get it right. Have a look at why.

    Do us a favour, please save your negativity for over the road. There are enough there who will agree with you.

    At $8.20 Labor is money for nothing. When you see a sailboat called ‘JEG’ on Moreton Bay this summer, that’ll be me. 🙂

  7. Julia Gillard will be on Insiders on Sunday, the panel will be Jacqueline Maley, Fran Kelly and Malcolm Farr.

    PMJG is going to be busy, Insiders on Sunday, Q&A on Monday, and still no sign of the gutless LOTO accepting long-standing invitations from both shows. He can’t hide behind his womenfolk for ever.

  8. Abbott wanted the NDIS off the election table because:

    (a) It distracts from Boats, Batts and the Carbon Tax.

    (b) He thought it might be a winner for Labor.

    (c) Whatever Labor wants, he objects to.

    Several things seem fairly obvious.

    (a) His election agenda is tightly controlled and can’t brook any diversions, hence NDIS had to go. This is dangerous for him as events tend to go awry anyway, once the campaign starts.

    (b) If he thought a Levy was a loser for Labor, he’d have allowed them to take it to an election. It would have been another nail in their own coffin &etc.

    (c) He can’t help himself. He is Dr. No.

    Add these all together an you come to the conclusion that Abbott’s actions throughout this week were not professional. They were a gut reaction that shows how far off the mark he is.

    His best reason was (a) but now he has a week or two of very tight parliamentary time tied up so he can vote in favour of everything he and his party have ever stood against.

    Abbott was like a bunny in the headlights on this. He panicked and ran towards the car, not away from it.

    Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssplat…

    He will be very unpopular with his colleagues for a while, and probably had to guarantee Joe that he would never do things like this again. He owes Joe a BIG favour.

    So, expect more constricted policy sounds from abbott’s already tortured mouth. Expect less off-the-cuff commentary on important matters. Expect him to get into more trouble nevertheless.

    His own party room is dirty on him.

    The pundits are so wrong on this, it’s not funny.

  9. Peta probably thought it would be safe to let Tony have a week away in teh country with the boys. What could possibly go wrong if he just stayed on his bike and posed with schoolkids every day?

  10. cuppa
    May 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    FORMER Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has sought to clarify, once and for all, his role in the death of rock legend Jimi Hendrix in London in September 1970.

    His role in the death of??

    Well, how ELSE could he have died? (old Yes, What gag)

  11. Anyone going to open the Bar?

    I’m enjoying a blast from the past listening to this before Super15 starts:

  12. The Friday thread will start soon – just polishing the brass etc.

    So please hold your number requests for the moment.

    Backson.

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