Tuesday, February 20, 2007

lawnscience question #5

At what point in any science policy debate (that is, a debate where either the science or the policy--or both--has been described, fairly or not, as "uncertain") should "neutral" scientific organizations step in to present their views? Is there any way to delineate an appropriate stepping in point? I ask this because the Washington Post has an article about how the American Association for the Advancement of Science has taken a stand for the first time on climate change, calling it a "threat to society."

Also, my apologies about being so slow to get this blog rolling. I'm still getting immersed in teaching.

1 comment:

Daryl Herbert said...

It's possible to issue a consensus statement without demonizing those outside of the consensus as mercenary liars owned by big business or warped by religious fundamentalism. It's even possible to issue a consensus statement without foreclosing any possibility that the consensus might not be entirely correct.

Further, the consensus statement should not be a partisan attack on one side of the debate. If the consensus is that the doubters are wrong, then the consensus should say so. But it should also call out alarmists like Gore who, in overhyping the threat, also put themselves outside of the consensus.

Scientists only deserve special respect insofar as they act like scientists. No science organization should feel afraid to speak out in a proper, fair, rational manner not inconsistent with scientific inquiry. But if they speak out unfairly, they should expect deserved criticism. I expect more from the AAAS than I do from the 700 Club. If they want to act like Pat Robertson in this, they will be ridiculed and marginalized the same way he is ridiculed and marginalized by serious, thoughtful people.