The "Science" Mantra

Thomas Sowell

12/22/2009 12:01:00 AM - Thomas Sowell

Science is one of the great achievements of the human mind and the biggest reason why we live not only longer but more vigorously in our old age, in addition to all the ways in which it provides us with things that make life easier and more enjoyable.

Like anything valuable, science has been seized upon by politicians and ideologues, and used to forward their own agendas. This started long ago, as far back as the 18th century, when the Marquis de Condorcet coined the term "social science" to describe various theories he favored. In the 19th century, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels distinguished their own brand of socialism as "scientific socialism." By the 20th century, all sorts of notions wrapped themselves in the mantle of "science."

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"Global warming" hysteria is only the latest in this long line of notions, whose main argument is that there is no argument, because it is "science." The recently revealed destruction of raw data at the bottom of the global warming hysteria, as well as revelations of attempts to prevent critics of this hysteria from being published in leading journals, suggests that the disinterested search for truth-- the hallmark of real science-- has taken a back seat to a political crusade.

An intercepted e-mail from a professor at the Climate Research Unit in England to a professor at the University of Pennsylvania warned the latter: "Don't any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act" and urged the American professor to delete any e-mails he may have sent a colleague regarding the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

When a business accused of fraud begins shredding its memos and deleting its e-mails, the media are quick to proclaim these actions as signs of guilt. But, after the global warming advocates began a systematic destruction of evidence, the big television networks went for days without even reporting these facts, much less commenting on them.

As for politicians, Senator Barbara Boxer has urged prosecution of the hackers who uncovered and revealed the e-mails! People who have in the past applauded whistleblowers in business, in the military, or in Republican administrations, and who lionized the New York Times for publishing the classified Pentagon papers, are now shocked and outraged that someone dared to expose massive evidence of manipulations, concealment and destruction of data-- and deliberate cover-ups of all this-- in the global warming establishment.

Factual data are crucial in real science. Einstein himself urged that his own theory of relativity not be accepted until it could be empirically verified. This verification came when scientists around the world observed an eclipse of the sun and discovered that light behaved as Einstein's theory said it would behave, however implausible that might have seemed beforehand.

Today, politicized "science" has too big a stake in the global warming hysteria to let the facts speak for themselves and let the chips fall where they may. Too many people-- in politics and in the media, as well as among those climate scientists who are promoting global warming hysteria-- let the raw data on which their calculations have been based fall into the "wrong hands."

People who talk about the corrupting influence of money seem to automatically assume that it is only private money that is corrupting. But, when governments have billions of dollars invested in the global warming crusade, massive programs underway and whole political careers at risk if that crusade gets undermined, do not expect the disinterested search for truth.

Among the intelligentsia, there have always been many who are ready to jump on virtually any bandwagon that will take them to the promised land, where the wise and noble few-- like themselves-- can take the rest of us poor dummies in hand and tell us how we had better change the way we live our lives.

No doubt some climate scientists honestly believe that global warming poses a threat. But other climate scientists honestly believe the opposite. That is why the raw data have had to be destroyed before the latter get their hands on it.

This is tragically the case as regards many other issues, besides global warming, where data are made available only to the true believers and kept out of the hands of those who think otherwise.