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Choosing Your Science because of Politics is Madness

January 25, 2011

Choosing Your Science because of Politics is Madness


Over a decade ago there was the controversy about the Ozone layer depletion and the massive hole in the Ozone layer. Somehow a hole had grown in the ozone layer at the Antarctic region and Chlorofluorocarbons were being blamed. The plan of removing this chemical from society was put into place and everything from aerosol sprays, to refrigerators and even fire extinguishers were targeted for elimination. Regardless of the science involved in this claim there was still a huge controversy about the damage this plan would do to the environment. Some people even suggested without foundation that the aerosol can industry would be eliminated and we would all be forced to use pump sprays from out deodorant. Today we sell more cans of underarm spray than ever despite the elimination of the offending product. Yet even today several scientific opinions disagree over the cause of the ozone hole. One suggestion was an active volcano spewing out toxic fumes was the real culprit. However the science of ozone holes was new and vague so controversy raged even as the Chlorofluorocarbons were slowly eliminated.


In the eighties there was a small drama about a possible ice age. The controversy started with the celebrated British scientist Fred Hoyle when he wrote a book about how an ice age could occur.
Ice, the Ultimate Human Catastrophe
,1981 As a scientist Hoyle is in the same league as Einstein and (the Wheel Chair guy) Steven Hawkins. Yet he was certainly a gifted communicator in the league of Carl Sagan. The press at the time had a field day running story after story about the coming of an ice age. As an unusually cold winter hit the subject changed from ‘if’ to ‘when’. B grade scientists added their opinions and the whole situation got out of hand. The problem was one of Chinese whispers running the debate. One person commenting upon what another person had been reported as saying and again another reporting upon that quote. What was missing from this debate was for anyone to see what Fred Hoyle had actually written. He had not predicted an impending ice age at all, but instead wrote a book to highlight what could happen if a comet hit the Earth. It was a scenario, not a dire prediction, so regardless of the media war at the time, there was no real scientific push to support the theory of an ice age.


Just by mentioning the word evolution creates strong feeling in some people. This is ultimately a bad thing as science in itself should be examined objectively without emotional attachments. There was a time when the theory of Darwinism was considered to be dangerous and was banned in some schools in the USA. This led to the famous case dubbed the ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’ to debate the validity of preventing it from being taught in schools. When picking and choosing what to support in politics no one’s theories have been misquoted and misused than Darwin’s. Criminals and ethnic groups were sometimes compared to apes. There was the study of the skulls of criminals to see what physical and ultimately evolutionary traits they had. Suddenly class divisions become necessary because they were a direct result of natural selection. The law of the jungle had shown who was fit to rule and to possess wealth. The opposite view that sees the theory of Darwinism as an evil plot to rid the world of God is equally flawed. It assumes that the theory was devised with malicious intent and has no supporting evidence. Questioning the theory for valid scientific reason is correct but for purely theological reason is not. Theology has many branches and biblical fundamentalism is a very small group. The problem is that now any criticism or support for Darwinism is being used to determine political allegiances. It is all too easy to label some one as part of the religious right or part for the atheist liberal left. Such a confrontational position stifles scientific debate.


Global Warming is the opposite extreme of an Ice Age and it is still buried in controversy at a political level. Al Gore may have produced a powerful documentary that won an award but the fact that Al Gore is associated with the claims is a problem for some people. He is not seen as an independent scientists but rather another wet liberal trying to push the world to neo paganism. The major report that the UN did to collate all the evidence about global warm has been reject by some people precisely because it came from the UN. A hated messenger can speak no truth for some people. The lay person who has scant knowledge of science sees this as an equal debate when one scientist disagrees with another. The problem with public perception and reality is one of overwhelming objective evidence. Whether Al Gore is right is another matter.


Overwhelming evidence does not stop the Flat Earth Society from claiming the world is flat to this day. Overwhelming evidence did not stop the Soviets from rejecting genetics as counter revolutionary. Nor did overwhelming evidence stop the Nazi’s from having their scientists against Einstein’s theories. Cold hard scientific evidence often conflicts with politics and few people have the skills to question what they are told. Instead there is a heavy reliance upon experts and leaders to tell us the truth. The nature of some politics is a power struggle where any tactic is deemed fair, even rejecting sound evidence. In the end that is where many debates end. There is total confusion over what should a simple case of understanding what the evidence tells us. There is a confusion that causes people to pass everything including science through the filter of the politics they have chosen. In essence it is the opposite of science.

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