While the Republican War on Science isn’t doing as well as it once was, there still is too much politicization of scienctific results. Commenting on a BBC article about the UCS statement about scientific integrity, Jim at TeachtheFacts.org gives an excellent description of science (italics mine):
I am fascinated by the process, the turbulent social evolution of knowledge as researchers around the world compete and cooperate and learn from one another and teach one another, all at once. The heart of the matter is peer review, where scientists judge one another’s research to determine whether it meets a standard for publication.
The intent of science, if we can say there is such a thing, is the development of knowledge. It is not just the accumulation of facts, of data-points, but the increase in understanding that comes when a good theory well explains the interrelationships among those data points. And the point of a theory is not just to produce a formula that satisfies a lot of constraints, but to contribute to human knowledge.
And we don’t think about this very often, but knowledge is nothing without a knower. Knowledge does not exist outside of our heads or outside the society that maintains it. You and I are where knowledge lives. And scientific knowledge is nothing more than the knowledge maintained by groups of individuals who have trained themselves to understand minute details of their field, all the facts and all the perspectives and how they all fit together…
Knowledge is a subtle thing, even scientific knowledge. Scientists rigorously and jealously guard their process, there are endless debates about possible contamination of science by popular culture, for instance. If you ever had to take the seminars and read all those books and papers about validity in its many forms, you know what I’m talking about.
And how much does the Bush administration respect all that? They have made it clear, they don’t understand how it works and they don’t care how it works. All they want is answers that support their position. All the nuance is lost on them.
And that can be OK, I guess, you shouldn’t have to be a scientist to govern a country, in fact the idea brings up some pretty funny images. But there should at least be respect. And that’s what this is about, there is no respect for the difficult commitment these people make to increase our knowledge of the world. This is ten thousand researchers signing this petition. Fifty-two Nobel-Prize winners.
I like science. I don’t think science is opposed to religion — I doubt that God would have created a world so terrible that learning the facts about it would disprove His existence.
Yeah, think about that one for a while, Grasshopper.
We’re here to promote a good sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County schools. That’s it. It’s a little fight, a minor battle in one little corner of the country, but you have to fight every day. And this story tells you why. The war on science is a war on knowledge. There are people who want to replace thinking with believing — not just their own, but yours and mine, too, and our kids’. They want to replace facts with wishes. We’ve got to stand up to them, just like these scientists are doing.
It’s always nice to get some kind words and support from people who aren’t scientists.