2012-10-30 Science vs. Politics.docx

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Western University
Political Science
Political Science 2137
Cameron Harrington

Science vs. Politics October 30, 2012 -media portrayed/framed Hurricane Sandy as “once in a generation” -the storm has been framed as “freak of nature”, happens once in many, many generations -the general public did not blame climate change -climate change came up, but only in the periphery (aside) -media keeps us ignorant -attaching something like this to climate change: -makes it difficult to absorb, difficult to discuss -for climate scientists: idea is that frequency at which these freak storms are occurring is increasingpoints to change in climate -the decades of climateevidence to corroborate the changing scenarios -*how science is brought into politics and how politics reflects science* -on the right: the cover of Spectator, a British magazine -it says “Relax: Global Warming is all a Myth” -why global warming has become an issue when science is portrayed as disputing -science criticized for being complicated “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? - T.S. Eliot -when did we lose sight? Bigger picture is lost -we are disregarding fact and concrete information -we are seeing it, we understand it, we are processing it, but not retaining that information -”Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”we are exposed to so much information, at a scale we’ve never seen before -we are accumulating information at the same time -we are distracted all the time -we have accumulated information and knowledge on any subjectwe have at our fingertips, all the knowledge in the world -the problem: whether or not we are gaining knowledge from that information -science is generally seen to be a politically neutral discipline -gradual increase in genuine knowledge of the world: how it operates, the changes in the world, how we are affected by it -science is anything but neutral discipline because it’s a human discipline -the way we use science is inherently political and social; can be used in different ways (good, bad, somewhere in between) Science vs. Uncertainty  Environmental politics is a scientific matter  Yet, never has science been so controversial, so political  Does science confirm inequalities of power? Does it justify infringements on individual liberty? -science is pivotal in environmental matters -effort and funding put into environmental research, communicating those results, acting on those results -scientists are the ones who study changes in the environment and research on the environment -determining whether something is toxic or pollutant: based on scientific matter -in 2012: never been more apparent that the relationship between politics and science is problematic -science is troubled because it can’t bring a resolution to the issue -research is rarely, if ever, conclusive on one side -scientists able to show different sides of the issue -hard to find 100% consensus on any scientific issue -governments can find any side to corroborate with the issue -science often criticized for siding with the corporations, government, industry -science sometimes used as a mask to cover hidden interests -science is inherently wrapped up in the fabric of the world -right-wing critique: science used by government and politicians to infringe on our individual liberties -government criticized for using science to expand power as justification in meddling in people’s civil liberties -how closely implicated is science in these controversies? -science identifies, puts forth a roadmap on how to deal with the problem, and helps us analyze progress/lack of progress towards an environmental issue -illustration: -3 pillars of Science Denial that many people point to -techniques critics use to challenge scientific consensus -1. Undermine the Science -you have to undermine the science, you have to discredit scientists themselves, you discredit the findings -by finding other scientists, you can find competing views -2. Claim the result is evil -results will have huge impacts on your day-to-day lives (impacts are so monumental); infringement on human rights -will reflect growing government; impossible to implement, will require whole set of changes in our society, our economics, etc. -findings impossible to implement in our world -3. Demand equal time -demand to provide our own studies on this particular issue -even if there’s 99.9% consensus: critics will say that not enough time or attention is being paid on the other side -automatically assumes 50/50 split -all in the basis of fairness in media coverage Understanding the Problem  When science, policy, and politics interact, the potential for miscommunication is enormous  Different roles for different actors:  Policy makers - Frame problems so that it makes sense in the policy arena. Motivated by short term interests  Elected officials – Look at problems through electoral lens. Interested in re- election  Media – Cannot adequately report complexities. Reduce consensus to controversy -most scientists spend days in laboratories working on their experiment -they don’t want to have anything to do with politics; it’s not their background or interest -they are taught to be politically neutral; shouldn’t be beholden to politics of the day -good science = valued -nothing to do with decision making or policy implementation -more comfortable speaking with other scientists -other actors: -policy makerspeople focused on putting forth an issue in a very specific way -framing it in a way that makes sense in political arena -motivated from self-interested rather than broader, long-term viewpoint -people who want to act on issue today and make it effective on combating the problem -science shows that in certain areas: e.g. sport fishing = produces amount of fish in specific waterway -policy makers meet with lobbyists to discuss issue -for lobbyists to make claims such that is ignorant (e.g. waste of time to worry about overfishing, according to x,y,z people in the scientific community) when policy makers have no background whatsoever relating to science – how are they going to evaluate objectively based on the evidence? Hard to do that -this makes them susceptible to the group that has short term interests in mind – environment now in the wasteside -elected officials: interact much the same way -people who are actual arbiters of public policy: they make the decisions -look at scientific problems through electoral lenses; they are interested in re- election: what is the most popular decision to make (not necessarily the best in terms of solving the problem) -which is the most popular way? Not interested in the problem itself -media: complex relationship with science -find it time-consuming to talk about; difficult to talk about -for news media: controversy sells -can present settled argument in scientific realm and present it as controversy to generate attention, viewership -good journalism is to portray balance -they present 1% of the issue, even if there’s 99% consensus -distort our perception of the issue -end result: science becomes poorly understood; science behind policy decisions: not fully and rarely understood, does not receive adequate attention -we have a level of apathy creep in every single level and to the public -e.g. “you can find scientists who say anything” -one study contracts one another -that apathy has effects: actions are rarely taken; and if actions are taken, they are taken at the lowest denominator -what was once a scientific consensus becomes watered-down, controversial, short-term decision -environmental issues proliferating now: difficult to go from science to policy and communications Speaking Truth to Power Why have science and policy been at odds? 1. Science is not wisdom (true) 2. Science is politically tainted and suspect 3. Power does not care about truth Why is science so controversial today? 1. Scientists part of broader cultural discourse 2. It has become politicized 3. It is not sufficiently simple for policymakers 4. May provide advice that is at odds with policy agendas -a lot of science speak truth to power -science supposed to be value-free, neutral discipline that will challenge prevailing conceptions of our world -scientists supposed to be developing truth and get us progress to the way we interact with our universe -uneasy relationship between science and policy -why is science politicized? -1. science is not wisdom (or true) -science is not neutral -science is not value-free -politics are embedded in it -political dimensions in science are ever-present -2. science is politically tainted and suspect -science reflects hidden values -hidden values of scientists are those who fund the science findings behind it -consequences of scientific findings are political -some people benefit, some don’t and feel the consequences -many people see science as illegitimate, exploitative, just like every other aspect of policies -3. power does not care about truth -political p
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