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Politics of Impure Science

December 17, 2009

Today’s LA Times is running an op-ed by my advisor, Dan Sarewitz, and Sam Therstrom of the American Enterprise Institute (a conservative think tank). This piece addresses the problem of making science the “arbiter of the political debate.”

Many people believe that science dictates appropriate policy action. This article challenges that notion:

The real scandal illustrated by the e-mails is not that scientists tried to undermine peer review, fudge and conceal data, and torpedo competitors, but that scientists and advocates on both sides of the climate debate continue to claim political authority derived from a false ideal of pure science. This charade is a disservice to both science and democracy. To science, because the reality cannot live up to the myth; to democracy, because the difficult political choices created by the genuine but also uncertain threat of climate change are concealed by the scientific debate.

What is the solution? Let politics do its job; indeed, demand it.

There is already discussion of this piece elsewhere in the blogosphere (see here, and here), so I recommend reading the whole thing and chiming in.

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