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. Aguirre
    I understood what you were saying, I was just trying to pin a medal on you in a funny way.

    Leone
    You are not alone with your thoughts on AS.

  2. What on earth is Leigh Sales going to discuss with Petey tonight? Has he bought a new hammock lately? His favourite BBQ sauce?

  3. Leonie, That contribution of yours was excellent both in the description of what pissed you off and in the step-by-step setting-out of what the situation really is.

    Thank you

  4. gigilene

    Great point. The ALP should use that footage in ads. Abbott taking away Kids bonus etc…..

  5. So, while the tears are being shed over conditions at Manus Island, I reckon we should spare a thought or two on the betrayal of our country’s reputation for humaneness by the Greens who supported Abbot’s mob in preventing the Government for moving forward to work with Malaysia on a Regional Solution.

  6. victoria

    [ Still waiting to figure out the govt strategy.}

    I’m not sure it’s Govt strategy.

    They seem to have a self righting thing we seem to be losing.

  7. victoria

    [They seem to have a self righting thing we seem to be losing.]

    Sorry. That’s a depressing idea.

  8. “C@tmomma

    [Is their liquor Fair Trade? ]

    I’ve been and seen.

    No plan to swap for a Chardy.”
    CTar1….you seem to be pretty saavy at these things…..How does a French woman hold her liquor…?

  9. jaycee

    [How does a French woman hold her liquor…?]

    My policy on this is easy – I seem never to have been in a position to find out.

    Without getting seriously smacked – so I observe here and there.

    😀

  10. Jacqueline Maley has her knickers in a knot on twitter over Andrew Elder’s piece, though she can’t be bothered reading it apparently.

  11. brianmcisme,
    The Greens have yet to shed a tear over the little kiddies who now reside in Davy Jones’ Locker. Collateral damage to their aim of getting all asylum seekers in the world, all 40 million of them apparently, because they never put an upper limit on how many should be allowed to come here and apply for asylum, flown in by Qantas.

  12. jackhawks,
    I have been following that AE/JM contretemps. Ms Maley hasn’t got a chance! Maybe because she hasn’t got a clue either. 😉

    I Tweeted her that we only read her articles to pick them apart! 😀

  13. So John Murphy, “humble” ALP back-bencher not only thinks he knows more about what Australia’s foreign policy should be tan the PM and the FM but thinks he is important enough to instruct the media and the populace what should be done about Sri Lanka. It seems that this somewhat nondescript MP fancies himself as the conscience of the Party

  14. brianmcisme
    I decided many years ago that the Greens were a bunch of poseurs and wankers. Their trashing of the Malayasian Solution reinforced that opinion. It was an appalling thing to do, even worse than Bob Brown voting down Labor’s ETS and then gloating about it.

    And thank you for your very kind words.

  15. This might blow the smug Waterhouses out of the water:

  16. shady – My plan in the next couple of weeks is to go off to Kiama for a few days when OH gets home and eat a lot of seafood and count the cows across the inlet at south Kiama.

    We’ll drink cheap white wine and talk about things not related to work.

    The sure things in life.

  17. Thomson bashing seems to be all the go today, Craig isn’t taking any crap.

    Kate McClymont ‏@Kate_McClymont 15m
    With only $60 in his own bank, Craig Thomson has an account for donations to help him fight his legal battles. Hope no creditcard attached.

    Craig Thomson Craig Thomson ‏@DobellThommo 14m
    @Kate_McClymont not my account but a supporter. Got your facts wrong again. What a surprise.

  18. Tweet by Sandra Sully

    Emattled MP Craig Thomson has set up a private account …to accepts donations for his legal defence. #TenNews

  19. Ctar1

    Sounds like a great plan. Hope the weather holds for you. During the day is usually good but the evenings can become a bit damp once winter hits. Still there are worse places to be!!

  20. CTar1…on the first…She got a third in the first event and then the wind came up something wicked and the mare bulked halfway through the second event and she was eliminated.!… got one white ribbon though!

    On the second…(about the liquor and the french woman)…as long as she doesn’t hold you in contempt!……but I personally have always preffered ; by the ears!

  21. The two men handling the Craig Tomson Defence Fund are Mark Worthington and Rodney Allan. They have set up the account, they are the signatories, Craig Thomson himself has no access or invovlement. As Sandra Sully, Whatsherface McClymont, David Speers and a host of other Tory shills would have discovered if they had spent a few seconds doing some research. Lazy sods. Why check the facts when you can make up sensationalised lies?

    This has been posted before, but it will save you going back a page –
    https://sites.google.com/site/craigthomsonlegaldefencefund/

  22. shady – The back deck there looking at the water is ‘safe’ unless the wind comes from the south hard.

    Watching people fishing and (hopefully) scrambling is almost as good as watching people on boats on Saturday mornings in the marina at Cammeray.

    I go up and down enough these days that the cops in Robertson pull me up to say ‘hello’.

    But you’re right very soon it will turn to ‘miserable’.

    Crossing my fingers that the weather will hold some what.

    R.

  23. jaycee

    on the first…She got a third in the first event and then the wind came up something wicked and the mare bulked halfway through the second event and she was eliminated.!… got one white ribbon though!

    On the second…(about the liquor and the french woman)…as long as she doesn’t hold you in contempt!……but I personally have always preffered ; by the ears!

    I presume on the first your major contribution was to drive there – so well done her and horse.

    The wind factor can be a bugger. Napoleon’s horses got a long way on not being taken care of – couldn’t smell other than themselves.

    But in the end the much healthier Pom horses won the day – that’s the story of Waterloo.

    One the ‘ears’ bit I say ‘psypftt’ – naughty boy (but you’d get away with it in France easily).

    😀

  24. Glad to see that someone has set up a fund to help Craig Thomson. I have thought about him often and wondered how he was coping with legal costs. It was good to see the letter coming from him too with names of the two trustees and their a/c details. Very simple, no razzamatazz. I wonder where we can see how it’s going and how much he is needing. I was happy to donate and don’t need any public acknowledgement of that, but it would be good to know more, e.g. how funds are being used. I had understood that his lawyer was working pro bono, but I can imagine there are lots of other costs e.g. filing of actions etc.

    I repeat that site address from C@tmomma. Have I missed something?.

    https://sites.google.com/site/craigthomsonlegaldefencefund/

  25. jaycee – A cleaner/functionary?

    (She’s done well if Horse is skittish on a windy day so my compliments).

  26. Jacqeline Maley takes the cake, accusing Andrew Elder of possible defamation while saying she can’t be bothered reading his blog piece. It’s too long apparently.

    They mould journos’ jaws with the finest of glass.

  27. Jackhawks,

    If they were moulded with the finest of glass, they would be a little more resilient.

    It’s the el cheapo stuff that cracks when you look at it.

  28. I have never taken much notice of Ms Maley’s work, now I won’t bother at all. If she can’t be bothered reading other people’s work ( especially before she sues them for defamation) then I can’t be bothered with hers. I don’t think I’ll be missing much.

  29. Fiona

    [Mellors?]

    I betcha a hundred that jaycee is not sharing these posts at home!

    😆

    Bolting for the local pub I’d guess 😀 .

  30. just a call from a charity,, lovely young lady,

    I explained to her that we are not giving to charities till after the election,

    as abbott plans to cut pensions, and explained the tax thresh hold.

    told her that older people will have to watch every cent,
    and told her about the liberals,

    then she said is there an election this year,

    she was very nice, and I ask her to pass this on to head office, as charities will lose big time

    I ask her if it was older people who give, she said yes,
    so I presume its out age group that don’t say not as mucm.

    I then told her about past liberals gov,

    she said wow I had no idea

    I then said ,, I wish young people would take more interest in whats happening around us.,

    so there, did not know there was an election this year
    this is the second young person this fortnight

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