Why I Stand Up For Science

February 20, 2017

Me too. What he said.

The Macroscope:

Make no mistake: There is a War on Science in America.

The White House not only denies obvious, empirical facts on a regular basis, but they have invented the Orwellian concept of “alternative facts”. In the past, we simply called them lies, but now they are used in the world’s most powerful office. And that should scare all of us.
What’s worse is that the White House and many members of Congress aren’t just anti-fact, they are against the  pursuit of facts, and have tried to place draconian restrictions on what federal scientists can research, publish, and even discuss. And god knows what will happen to our nation’s long-standing investments in research and science education.
This attack on science, and on knowledge itself, goes beyond anything we have seen in America before. And it is not only dangerous to science, it is dangerous to our nation and the world.

But the War on Science has inspired a mighty backlash. Scientists are standing up against politicians. We’ve seen rogue Twitter accounts, hundreds of op-eds, and scientists announcing they are running for office. There will even be a March for Science on April 22. It’s a popular uprising, complete with heroes in white lab coats and park ranger uniforms.
But when I see these signs of protest, I feel worried. Is this the right approach? Are we truly connecting with the American people?
Sure, people are taking a stand  against “alternative fact”, cuts to research, and muzzling scientists. But what are we  for?

To truly connect with people, I think scientists and their supporters need to paint a positive vision of the future, where science re-affirms its moral authority, articulates how it will help us, and advances a noble cause.
In other words: What is the higher purpose of American science? And what will scientists work for, live for, and fight for?

I can’t answer for other scientists, but here’s what I will fight for.

1. Keeping America Great, as It’s Always Been. Until recently, science has enjoyed deep, bipartisan support from elected officials. Thoughtful leaders on both sides of the aisle from Teddy Roosevelt to Truman, Kennedy to Nixon, George H.W. Bush to Obama have used science to guide our country forward.
And those leaders knew what I know: America is at its best when science is accepted and helps us do great things. Science helped us defeat fascism, win the Cold War, end polio, feed the world, land on the moon, and crack the code of life. What could it do next?
The greatness of America is strengthened by science it helps us lift people up, improve the human condition, and build a better world.
Our future is dependent on science. Will we embrace science again, solve the challenges of our time, and thrive? Or will we turn our backs on science and fail being a great nation, dooming our future?

2. The Future of Our Planet. Science shows us the magnificence of our world. Our oceans hold beautiful coral reefs, bursting with life, gleaming through azure waters. Tropical rainforests teem with creatures, sights, and sounds. Here in California, we have giant redwoods, reaching skyward, drenched in mist. And off our shores, there are colossal whales, drifting in rich waters, raising their young and singing their ethereal songs.
Through the lens of science, these wonders stir the mind, inspiring awe and wonder. They awaken our hearts and souls. We instinctively want to share them with the people we love. And preserving them is the greatest gift we can give our children.

But science also tells us that these wonders are at risk from widespread habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Science shows us the planet is in trouble, even if many politicians ignore the evidence.
But all is not lost. Science shows us ways of building a sustainable future by reinventing our energy system, agriculture, and cities. Science can build a future where people and nature thrive together, for generations to come. Ignoring science will doom us to an impoverished, degraded world. Our children deserve better than that, and only science points the way forward.

3. The Human Family. Science also tells us that we are part of the same species, a single human family. While some try to divide us along national, gender, racial, and ethnic lines, science shows us that this is folly.
Science teaches us that national boundaries mean nothing. They are arbitrary lines etched into maps by people in power. But the Earth doesn’t care. The air, the oceans, and the species we share this planet with need no passports. Only humans worry about that. Frank Borman, an Apollo astronaut, said it well:When you’d looking back on earth your going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people

Science also tells us that our old ideas about gender, sexuality, and race are wrong. We should love who we want, the way we want. This is normal. What’s not is homophobia and racism. Science teaches us that these are small-minded prejudices, not worthy of our species.

4. The People I Love. If we live long enough, many of the people we love will fall ill, and some will die. Science may not always offer a cure, but it offers a chance. Or a way to manage pain. Or the hope that, someday, others won’t have to face such a fate.
This is personal for me. It probably is for you.
When I was a teenager, my mother died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a truly terrible disease. Science didn’t give her a cure, or even a treatment, but I am hopeful that, someday, science will help another family.
And we all know people who are battling cancer. For me, a dearest friend, a valued co-worker, and a young niece are facing the disease and an uncertain future. But science is giving them the tools to fight including the latest in laser surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Science is giving the people I love a fighting chance, and I will always be grateful to the scientists who gave them this gift.

Let’s be clear: those who conduct a War on Science are also declaring war on the people we love. If they get their way, people will die. And I’m going to fight to make sure that doesn”t happen. You should too.



17 Responses to “Why I Stand Up For Science”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    I’m afraid it’s time for revolution.

    • Dave Jewett Says:

      That would be playing right into their hands.

      Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    • andrewfez Says:

      Bernie Sanders is now the leader of the Democratic Party. If you follow him you will get your country back.

      If you want a revolution, and a Green New Deal, join the Justice Democrats and help them primary the corporate shills inhabiting spots in Congress. Most of the Dems in Congress are selected by the donor class to be weak in the face of Republican opposition, and to prevent actual progressive democrats from occupying their spots. Let’s try to put in a dozen new Sanders’ and Warrens next cycle:


      Also push for new independent media and investigative reporting:

      We’re going to spend another $10T on war in the short term – war with Iran – the couple handfuls of wars we’re already waging for ‘oil stability’, &c. If you would rather not spend that $10T on war that only creates more terrorism and hatred towards the US, but instead on a few hundred billion’s worth of Li+ battery storage to put 9-72h of storage on the US grids and encourage a rapid, market driven solar and wind build out, and a little more towards paying into the momentum of such, then stop voting for the Obama’s and Clinton’s because the corporate media and Bill Maher tells you to; vote for actual democrats – old school FDR and Nader-type dems, that are strong and will get stuff done.

  2. Lionel Smith Says:

    Overview Effect should counter any thoughts that the Earth is flat.

    Also makes a nonsense of claims that humans are too puny to have a large effect on Earth and its systems.

    I count myself, as a Brit, lucky enough, thanks to the Grey Funnel line and my involvement with the engineering side of the Phantom F4s on my aircraft carrier home, to have been able to visit the Cape when Apollo 15 was on the pad a few weeks before launch.

    I was so leased to be able to take this shot (logo added), and a number of others around the complex:

    Such a shame that Harrison Schmitt, as the first NASA mission professional scientist a geologist, should later be so prominent in AGW denial.

    Some may find:

    ‘Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth’ by Andrew Smith (no relation) of interest.

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    ” If they get their way, people will die. “

    They already are dying from climate change, according to DARA, at the rate of 400,000 a year: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/09/27/climate-change-kills-400-000-a-year-new-report-reveals.html

    Also, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 that climate change already causes 150,000 deaths a year from malnutrition, malaria, and diarrhea caused by contaminated water, a common result of floods.

    Make no mistake about it, the people who are paying to subvert AGW science for their own personal profit are killing people, millions of people so far. And at the rate we are going, that may well be billions of people who will be murdered by these scoundrels. And billions more whose lives will be foreshortened and brutalized.

    And we need to ask ourselves to what extent can we ethically allow these butchers to hide behind political and justice systems they have corrupted, without suffering the just consequences they rightfully deserve. Consequences which will mean the survival of billions of people who will otherwise perish.

    Consequences that nobody wants to talk about or see debated on the pages of their blogs.

  4. redskylite Says:

    I’ve noticed a movement to try and associate Science and sense with “Out of touch Eliteness”.

    Seems a highly political manufactured phrase to me. I’m pretty dumb, left school at 15 to work in transport, but even without academic qualifications have always respected science. I don’t believe this comes from the working classes, rather it is an implanted idea, by politicians and manipulators.

    Trump, who I heard and saw criticizing the very tame and pro-establishment BBC on my Kiwi news station the other day, has the news all wrong. The BBC is almost a Trump supporter and sympathetic to him, at least they try and put balanced reports through., they are certainly not the same as “The Guardian”.

    Read this from today’s BBC world news . . .it strongly gets in the Elite myth – associating science with an aloof political wing.

    Sounds like BRAINWASHING and THOUGHT CONTROL to me.

    President Trumps supporters, such as Myron Ebell, who is a director at a libertarian advocacy group, Competitive Enterprise Institute, accuses the academics of being an out-of-touch elite – and says they should listen to the electorate.

    “The people in the heartland of America who make stuff, dig up stuff and grow stuff for a living voted for Donald J Trump as president,” he told BBC News.

    “The people living in New York City and working in the university towns across America did not vote for him. They lost the election and they are going to have to get used to it.”


    • Thought control is easier than realised. The advertising industry stands in testament. Repetition is key. Reseach published in an obscure science journal will lose every time, to the repeated mass media pronouncements from the newly elected oligarchy in the US.
      Here in NZ,I remember a customer of ours, lovely lady, could be anybodies grandma, coming in to buy some flowers a couple of years ago. She seemed agitated. She asked, “do you believe in climate change?”. I gave my standard reply. The science is absolutely clear, that humans are changing the climate. That kind of shut the line of conversation down immediately, but she moved on to another topic she was feeling aggrieved about and in fact, down right scared of, euthanasia. I kind of forgot about it until a week or two ago, I was changing radio stations and strayed onto a station I had given up listening to years ago. News talk ZB. The morning jock, one Leighton Smith, was doing rants in his familiar style, about climate and yes, euthanasia, all within 15 minutes. Judith Curry, the heroine, had apparently given up her career, because she could no longer stand the “group think” attitude of the climate science community. Blah, blah, blah, the standard bollocks from the fake facts machine, then on to his other pet topics. This networked station has 11% of the national radio market, according to surveys. Regular listeners, tuned in every morning. I realised my elderly customer was one of those listeners, two years later mind. She was a fuming 70s something, whipped into a lather by a convincing right wing ideologue! Scared and angry. Every morning the same thing. His listeners never have an opportunity to develop an independent thought. Repetition, repetition. Mind control is easier than you think!

  5. ocalicreek Says:

    Most farmers, whether they admit it or not, are scientists by necessity. They read weather patterns, check soil moisture, keep logs of data over time (inputs, yields, etc.) and try to grow food in a complex and challenging (now changing) climate system. Our ag institutions used to be bastions of scientific research. The green revolution and our dependence on fossil fuel derived inputs such as synthetic fertilizer changed all that as science became co-opted by the chemical companies for profit.

    I’d wager that most farmers are also deeply skeptical by nature and tradition-bound. They are probably under tremendous pressure to feed their family at any cost, even if that means getting in bed with Monsanto. That makes them at the same time skeptical of innovation from outsiders, and wholly bought and sold by an industry. Yet they have to be aware of the changes in our climate as they see the weather become more erratic and less reliable.

    For those who are willing to change, Permaculture offers hope as an ethical design science for the creation and maintenance of sustainable, productive landscapes. Look for Mark Shepard and Regenerative Agriculture for a real, down-to-earth midwestern example of what is possible if we are willing to adapt.

  6. Lionel Smith Says:

    I’ve noticed a movement to try and associate Science and sense with “Out of touch Eliteness”.

    This is what we saw last year with the Brexiteers, especially Michael Gove, who tried to belittle those they described as ‘experts’. Gove it was who had a deleterious impact when he was Education Minister, I guess he wouldn’t take a flight if he thought a steelworker was flying it and a team of milkmen had serviced it.

  7. Tom Bates Says:

    You folks really sound self righteous, The Christians marching into the arena to die for Christ or the muslims preparing to defend the faith against the unbelievers. Why not do the sensible thing, step back a bit and see if the things being said and claim are actually a war on science? How is that tiny step going tro hurt you?

    If you google the government agencies all the data is still there, all the papers are still there, all the scientists are still there. The charge is a total lie. Rather than debate the issue which is pretty simply. Is man heating the world and is that heating significant, the believers simply belch out lies and distortions like this one. That somehow unbelievers are evil corrupt people paid by the oil interests simply because they point out the science is not settled and the world per the data is not actually going to hell.

    CO2 is increasing, and yes it is a green house gas so are a lot of other gases like say water vapor. Did the increase from 280 ppm to the current 400 ppm really cause the end of the little ice age? It is still colder than it was in 1000 AD unless trees that old and older under a glacier in Alaska grew under that ice. Something is warming the planet. NASA says it is changes in earths tilt and orbit which happen to be 210 times more than the actual measured increase in heat from increased CO2 (2/10ths of a watt per sq. meter). That increase is a very small number, a lot less than the decrease in temperature from 1000l AD to 1625 AD ,the depths of the little ice age. Perhaps the real major influence on the planet climate is the sun which at its current output is 4150 times the measured warming from CO2.

    • You’re always good for a laugh Tom. I often imagine you with a shaggy dog look. You obviously don’t own a mirror.

    • redskylite Says:

      This is a serious site. Peter usually showcases established and experienced Climate Scientists with excellent academic credentials, and years of experience. People who are experts and professionals, and know what they are talking about and are worth listening to.

      There have been quite a few recent studies that suggest that the increased CO2 levels, do not have long term benefits to food crops, also nature was in balance and there are mismatches of nitrogen and soil fertilizers, with increased CO2 so you over simplify the benefits of CO2 by far.

      It is annoying that you keep harping back to the LIA and the MWP, these were climatic periods totally different to the circumstances we find ourselves in today. Personally I am extremely tired of your rants and the distraction it causes to sensible dialogue.

      You should be more at home on Judith Curry’s “Climate etc” or WUWT. You should understand by the number of down-ticks your views are not appreciated in the slightest bit here.

      Now here is a piece to get your head around, and if you have children and care about the future of our planet, it should at least quieten you down. The argument is whether we are talking decades, centuries or millenniums, personally it makes little difference to me.

      The only practical conclusion to be drawn is that climate warming has already gone to far, and the objective must be to achieve a level of greenhouse gases, and of global temperature, well below that currently prevailing.


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