I’ve been quite alarmed by some of the articles that I’ve read this week. The first was this piece by George Monbiot, condemning the UK’s Chief Scientist for playing politics rather than representing honest science. The second was a post on Bad Astronomy, about the interference of the sphere of politics into that of science in the United States.
What happens when scientists becomes spineless? What happens when the political agenda defines the scientific agenda and removes peer review along the way?
The world is at a critical point in so many ways. Climate change and our energy future, deforestation, rising rates of species extinctions are all current and concerning. They are also all issues that are politically fraught and, rightly or wrongly, highly debated. Now, more than ever, the independence and non-partisan nature of science needs to be ensured. All evidence needs to be considered and presented scientifically and without bias. As Phil Plait notes, ‘when a society’s government starts dictating what can and cannot be investigated, scientific and creative progress stalls.’
Not only does it stall, it also throws us to the mercy of Economics, Growth and Big Business that determine so much of the political agenda, and at the moment, that’s the last thing we need.