Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Don't muzzle scientists

Draconian restrictions on scientists' freedom to speak about their science is antithetical to a free democracy.
Muzzling scientists only makes sense as a government if they wish to champion policies that are at odds with the science.
Let's connect some dots:
1. Governments rise and fall on the strength of the economy.
2. Cleaning up our environmental messes, like dealing with climate change, is a drag on the short term economy and established interests.
3. If scientists tell Canadians about how bad it really is, Canadians will insist that we fix the problems. 
4. Which could chill the economy and bring down the government.
5. Therefore muzzling scientists is good for the economy and the government.
Maybe there's another way:
Unmuzzle the scientists, admit there's a problem, and rally the country to solve it. With a little creativity and a willingness to change things that matter the economy would find a way to thrive that doesn't involve ecocide.
The universe doesn't flinch, cheat, or negotiate. Science is what lets us understand the world we live in.
The publicly funded science we've paid for should not be kept hidden. Responsible policies in a liberal democracy have nothing to fear from science.
The science that the government wants to hide would, obviously, make their policies look bad. If  science backed their play they'd shout it from the mountaintops.
Watch out, the hidden science might even make the case for (gasp) taking care of the environment. Politically, of course, the safer ground is the status quo, with a side of economic growth and another four years.
Unfortunately, if the science makes you uncomfortable, the solution doesn't involve shutting up the scientists. Shooting the messenger might prolong the hallucination that everything's alright. It won't fix anything real though.
Let the facts out. Anyone who's not willing to accept the best science available doesn't deserve a cell phone, electricity, or any of the other fruits science has brought our way.
Rick Mercer sided with the scientists in a recent rant: Silence Science, Feb 26, pointing out that Canadian scientists took the deal because they want to eat.
Just this week the second of four carbon capture and storage projects was shelved. CCS is little more than a way of convincing ourselves that a carbon economy is still ok. It's not. Moreover, if you're using CCS to enhance fossil fuel recovery you're not really solving the problem.
An economy based on truth will, in the long run, outperform an economy based on lies. In the short run, muzzling the truth might keep you in power.
Don't muzzle the messenger. Embrace reality all the way, then craft your strategies based on that. Anything else is indefensible.
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