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.

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

  1. Ol piss & moans given quite a hard time in that last presser. Only a couple of journos present but kept at him to answer questions about the NDIS and it’s funding, which of course he never did. He looked increasingly angry and the lip lick was going into overdrive.

  2. Acquire

    I get. This from some liberals. I know
    People are sick of politics

    My reply was, well politics is the country

    If u take no notice

    U get all u deserve.

    The other one

    In Melbourne is

    Footballs my life

    Wel
    So i. I said. The footy club does not pay u your pension

    There is so much disconnect

    In ,people s world to the real world

  3. halloweenjack1

    Encouraging to hear. After reading Elder’s piece today on how hopeless political journos, it is about time some stood up and started doing their frickin job

  4. Tweet by Paul Bongiorno

    [Tony Abbott says he would fund the NDIS over the long run by building a strong economy. We already have that. How much stronger is needed?
    3:02pm – 30 Apr 13]

  5. Shady – You must have got good weather at Mollymook?

    My nephew and tribe did 4 nights out camping at Wee Jasper and said it was very good.

    The end of it for now but I guess.

  6. I am posting on my son in laws iPad

    I notices he had been reading
    The. NBC will be built. By who ever wins,

    It in the. Tech area,
    I love to find that

    Amazing piece,

    We need to read what it about, I tried FTP copy it

    It has to days date on it.

    Help

  7. No. He. Wouldn’t
    See everything will be

    Put in to the context

    Of it too expensive

    He is so bloody clever

    So. He thinks

  8. Tones doing nodding and standing close stuff in Millicent SA on 24.

    Usual uncomfortable look to it.

    Not listening.

  9. I saw. The. Top of the page. Had technical on it

    He is really on to it. Stuff

    So he would of said

    B. s to himself I amsure

  10. denese,

    There is so much disconnect

    In ,people s world to the real world

    Too right! People live in their own little hermetically-sealed worlds now.

  11. @leighsales: My guest tonight is the former federal Treasurer Peter Costello #abc730”

    Another footrub I guess

  12. I love. Those type of posts

    Wish I was game. Enough

    I know I shouldn’t. Say this

    But those soort of tweet

    Licking Lips
    would.
    Bring them down to earth on Pb
    and then a. Link to. Rofll

    It’s so straight laced

    I like to bring them down a peg some times

  13. Whoever wins election, the NBN will be built – Canberra Times
    http://www.canberratimes.com.au › IT Pro › Government IT
    4 hours ago – If the Coalition win Government, we will not get an NBN. At best …. I also don’t trust Abbott to deliver no matter what the media keep telling me.

  14. TLBD,

    The journos didn’t read from Peta’s script?

    Maybe she was too busy getting the massage oil ready for Tone to have headed them off at the pass? 🙂

  15. leonetwo,

    Just saw a few seconds of Abbott’s presser. He really loves that thick pancake makeup.

    Imagine the sun damage that that man’s skin has sustained? Wouldn’t want the punters seeing the Real Tony then I suppose. It might scare unsuspecting little kiddies at this time of day. 😀

  16. [Too right! People live in their own little hermetically-sealed worlds now.]

    The individualist not giving a fcuk about others outside their family is the bane of the Labor Party here.

  17. gigilene,
    That photo of Gai Waterhouse you linked to in the Smelly was a shocker! Baby poo brown clothes, ill-fitting and shot at an angle to make her look like a Thunder Thighs! 😀

    I think we know whose side they are on.

  18. I’m not that sure how well it will be built under the LNP, so I won’t be spreading this article around. Otherwise interesting, shows how the ALP can promote it.

    http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/government-it/whoever-wins-election-the-nbn-will-be-built-20130429-2iovv.html

    Whoever wins election, the NBN will be built
    April 30, 2013
    Sylvia Pennington
    What will your business do with it?

    While politicians argue over the cost and the mix of technologies used to deliver a national broadband network, one aspect of the infrastructure-building project has become clear since the opposition released its NBN alternative plan: both sides of politics now agree to build it.

  19. Shit!

    I seem to have started a ‘war’ on negative gearing over there.

    Read again in 12 hours.

  20. I was told last night that it’s only the Fair Work Act that has stopped Coalition State Governments from taking away Penalty Rates from their own employees.

  21. CTar1

    [[Too right! People live in their own little hermetically-sealed worlds now.]

    The individualist not giving a fcuk about others outside their family is the bane of the Labor Party here.]

    I have been told that in part, that is reason why Labor cant win in September. Individualism is running rampant in our society.

  22. c@tmomma

    The two MPs joining Clive was made public last night. Clive says there will be more to come in next few days and/or Monday. I wont hold my breath though!

  23. C@Tmomma – And the Indian computer scammers are ringing me … again.

    A few more hours and I have to work … I was planning a nap.

  24. victoria

    [ Individualism is running rampant in our society.]

    We seem to be losing the ‘social justice’ bit.

    I’ve forever had disregard for UK Politics but it now looks attractive as they get things sorted.

    I hope we can pull out of this US inspired crap.

  25. CTar1

    Well the fibs have gone with the US rethug playbook. Still waiting to figure out the govt strategy. The clock is ticking.

  26. There is so much disconnect

    In ,people s world to the real world

    Too right! People live in their own little hermetically-sealed worlds now.

    Of course the same could be said of us here. 😉

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