Thursday, March 24, 2011

An Intellectual Wilderness

No Good Reason?

Recycle Congress logo
~ There is a growing trend to not just abandon reason as a tool of inquiry, debate and decision, but to actively attack and kill it. The exaltation of willful wishfulness, even stupidity, is astonishing, and has now overtaken our supposed leaders in Congress. It's bad enough that most Americans don't understand climate science (or any science) but it is shameful and harmful beyond words that members of Congress abet, validate and perpetuate the ignorance. A recent piece in Nature about the current attempts to neuter the EPA is a must-read on the subject. Excerpts (emphasis added):
...Republicans on the House of Representatives' energy and commerce committee have made clear their disdain for climate science. At a subcommittee hearing on 14 March, anger and distrust were directed at scientists and respected scientific societies. Misinformation was presented as fact, truth was twisted and nobody showed any inclination to listen to scientists, let alone learn from them. It has been an embarrassing display, not just for the Republican Party but also for Congress and the US citizens it represents.

...the legislation is fundamentally anti-science, just as the rhetoric that supports it is grounded in wilful ignorance. One lawmaker last week described scientists as “elitist” and “arrogant” creatures who hide behind “discredited” institutions. Another propagated the myth that in the 1970s the scientific community warned of an imminent ice age. Melting ice caps on Mars served to counter evidence of anthropogenic warming on Earth, and Antarctica was falsely said to be gaining ice. Several scientists were on hand — at the behest of Democrats on the subcommittee — to answer questions and clear things up, but many lawmakers weren't interested in answers, only in prejudice.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long. Global warming is a thorny problem, and disagreement about how to deal with it is understandable. It is not always clear how to interpret data or address legitimate questions. Nor is the scientific process, or any given scientist, perfect. But to deny that there is reason to be concerned, given the decades of work by countless scientists, is irresponsible.
"Elitist" and "arrogant" creatures who cloak their shabby natures behind "discredited" institutions? That describes scientists only to the extent that one believes those hurling such accusations; evidence (there's that nettlesome reason thing again!) is non-existent. Indeed, I'm hard-pressed to think of any group of individuals and their cocooning entity that fits those terms better than Members and the Congress itself.

The Nature article is not terribly long, and is worth reading in its entirety.

No comments:

Post a Comment