Recently a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that the data from NOAA had been “cooked” in order to “prove” or reinforce claims of the severity of Global Warming, aka Man-Made Climate Change. Until he made the claim, for which he has documentation, the man was considered a respected scientist at NOAA and the scientific world in general. Once he blew the whistle he was, by those scientists who worked with him at NOAA, suddenly considered a nut, a disgruntled worker, a troublemaker. After all, according to the Global Warming crowd the science has been settled for years despite the fact that their predictions have come a cropper even with officially sanctioned exaggerations. The conservative press ran with the story while the mainstream media tried as best it could to ignore it. After all, the science is settled. Al Gore said so.
A few weeks ago Slate magazine (of all places) published an article concerning the latest findings about the effects of second hand smoke. As we all have been told for over the past thirty years, second hand tobacco smoke is a deadly poison that will cause cancer, emphysema, heart disease, dandruff and bad moods. The science was settled long ago. But was it? The latest studies show that second hand tobacco smoke is a health risk for very few people. In fact, it has no health risk for the vast majority of people. It may be a nuisance for some people, unaesthetic for others and just a fact of life for still others, not unlike a woman walking by wearing too much cheap perfume. The latest studies also show the cooking of data done by previous scientists done not in the name of truth, but for the “better good.” And the result of the bad studies (I will not call them “lies”) is that businesses such as bars have been forced to ban smoking despite the fact that smoking and drinking often go together. In California even in weld shops, the fumes produced by which are a cocktail of the nastiest and most hazardous chemicals imaginable, a worker has to go outside the shop to smoke a cigarette because he might endanger his co-workers with tobacco smoke while the co-workers are breathing in cadmium fumes. But the science is settled; cadmium fumes are more healthy than second hand tobacco smoke
Let us face the facts. here is no such thing as “settled science.” There are physical and biological facts that never change. But science is not physical and biological facts. It is the study and attempted understanding of those facts. And that understanding is always evolving. An honest scientist says, “This is our current understanding of subject X.” A prideful scientist says, “This is the dead certainty of topic X and it will never change.”
The first scientist is ever-learning. The second scientist will live with disappointment. He will be like the late 19th century head of the U.S. Patent Office who suggested that the office be closed down because he thought everything had been invented. The first scientist can be trusted. The second scientist can be trusted to a point.
But there is a third type of scientist. He is honest in his own mind, but he studies his discipline not to try to find out what is, but what he wants to prove. He has, perhaps without realizing it, has an agenda. And he wants to prove his agenda, to make it a scientific and stone-cold settled fact. And it is this scientist who is dangerous to the individual and society whether or not the scientist’s discipline is in the social or physical sciences. This is the person who comes up with abominations like eugenics, social engineering or medicine. This person sees himself as a scientific version of Plato’s philosopher king. And he will lie for the “betterment” of society” or the create the society he wants, which is other people’s Hell.
Deep within every one of us is a little Nazi/Communist/totalitarian. It’s the nature of sinful man. This little nugget makes us believe that if we only held the reins we could make the world a better place. But, fortunately most of us haven’t the power or influence to make the world “better” and we gas our ideas during hot arguments during lunch at work or half drunken slurs at the Dew Drop Inn. Our ideas can only be expressed at the ballot box or letters to the editor.
The crusading scientist, on the other hand, because he’s a scientist and, according to popular culture, is wiser than the average bear, is believed no matter how silly his pronouncement is. And the more doom saying it is, according to the popular press, the better. The world end tomorrow is a story. The sun will rise tomorrow isn’t. The first sells papers and gets eyes on the television. The second doesn’t. And the result is a societal angst and the passage of laws that solve no problems but create problems.
A scientist with an agenda is more dangerous to a society than a man with a gun. The second is seen as a threat, the first is seen as a savior. And we all too often look for a savior instead of look to the Savior.