It’s Time For Scientists To Become Politically Active

A nice feature of the natural sciences is that the work tends to be apolitical: if your assumptions are valid, your experiment is empirically rigourous and your calculations are correct, then you should arrive at the same conclusion whether you are a liberal, conservative, socialist or libertarian. This is why, for example, results in particle physics that were derived in the Soviet Union in the 1960s can still be used by researchers in the United States today. Now, of course, scientific research can become a political issue if its implications conflict with vested interests (e.g, global warming) or major ideologies (e.g, Darwinian evolution), but it’s important to remember that this politicization results from the particular circumstances present in the society at the time of discovery; it is not a feature of the science itself. Case in point, heliocentrism was a massive political football when it was proposed in 16th-17th century Europe, but it is certainly not one today. There are grey areas to this model (in general in areas such as medical research which deal directly with Human beings), but on the whole it is a good one: science, if done correctly, should be uninfluenced by political considerations.

On the face of it, this would seem to suggest that a natural scientist should be one-step removed from the political fray; ideally, scientists should be off to one side calmly discovering new facts about the natural world while policy makers take those facts and use them to craft effective laws. And perhaps, in a perfect world, that’s how it would work.

Unfortunately, however, this is not a perfect world. This a world in which 158 of the most criminally idiotic Tory parliamentarians ever to draw breath vote unanimously that science should not inform public policy and then cheer and slap each other on the back for their “victory.” This is a world in which thuggish, snake-eyed “leaders” respond to inconvenient facts by denying their existence and punishing the people who bring them up. This is a world in which there is a wall between science and the state which works in only one direction: and it is the wrong direction. This, in fact, is Harper’s Canada.

And that is why scientists must become politically active; not just in order to defend ourselves against unfair assaults from governmental buffoons, but because we can see just how badly they are fucking over the entire country by ignoring facts. Political engagement on the part of scientists is a civic and ethical neccessity.


About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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2 Responses to It’s Time For Scientists To Become Politically Active

  1. maaeli says:

    I would love to agree with you, but from personal experience I must say that scientists turned politicians do not seem to have problems with ignoring the facts (or at least pretending to do so)
    Of course that doesn’t mean that we should not be politically active!

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