Tag Archives: Scientific community

Science, values and ethics

There is an unfortunate common perception that scientists are cold, hard people. That they are only interested in objective facts and are emotionless. And especially that science as a process is not creative and does not encourage the development of an ethical outlook. Consequently there is an attitude that while we can learn about the nature of reality from science and scientists we can learn nothing about ethics or the appreciation of reality.

Some people even claim that for this we must turn to religion. Although they never seem to be able to explain how on earth religious leaders can offer any better knowledge of ethics than scientists, boot makers, mechanics. or cooks.

I think most scientists would object to this common perception. So I was pleased to see this recent article from Agnosticism / AtheismValues of Godless Science: Modern Science Does Not Need Religion or Gods for Values. It’s worth a read so I reproduce it below:

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Getting to the truth – gradually

I guess reaction to the UK Parliamentary report on “climategate” (see Climate scientist Phil Jones exonerated) is predictable. The more extreme climate change denier blogs are shouting “whitewash.” Scientific blogs are generally accepting the conclusions.

No scientific dishonesty

Anybody who had objectively read through the emails and explanations could not have been surprised.  The report rejects the charges of scientific dishonesty. It says of the much publicised use of the word “trick”: Continue reading

Lynch mob mentality

We have seen a wave of anti-climate change hysteria in the last few months – coinciding with the stealing of emails from the East Anglia Climate Centre  and the UN Copenhagen Conference. Posts and comments on internet blogs and forums have been particularly extreme. And for many scientists, who usually don’t have to involve themselves in such irrational debates, the hostility, even hatred, towards scientists and scientific finding has been somewhat of a shock.

We are so used to debating, even emotionally debating, evidence – not personalities. But in this global debate personalities have been demonised and defamed. Mud is being thrown – and of course mud has the problem that it sometimes sticks. While most of this hysteria has been coming from the usual conspiracy theorists and conservative political activists many of the non-aligned public may be left with the feeling that there is something wrong in the scientific community. Or that scientific findings should not be easily accepted, perhaps they should even be rejected because they are scientific. Science itself is being demonised.

It’s an ongoing battle, I guess. These sorts of conflicts are inevitable and just have to be fought out.

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Beware the retired scientist?

The Lippard Blog has an interesting analysis of Who are the climate change skeptics? In this he identifies links of many of the sceptics with several right wing think tanks like The Heartland Institute and George C. Marshal Institute. One could do a similar analysis of our local climate sceptics and deniers. Some of them seem to be linked with the right wing NZ Centre for Politcal Research, the ACT Party and Conservative Christian organisations and blogs. Have a look at the discussion New Zealand’s “CLIMATEGATE”! on the Centre for Political Research forum. Obviously conspiracy theorists tend to congregate in these areas.

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The global warming conspiracy?

The hacked emails from the East Anglia Climate Centre in the UK have not been a big issue in New Zealand. At least for most people and for most news media. There are, of course, ideological motivated people who wish to promote the issue as a scandal. Who wish to attack our current understanding of climate science and climate change. Or who just have an anti-science attitude in general and attack the integrity of scientists as part of their nature.

A few bloggers have tried to mobilise on this issue (see for example  NIWA, Climategate and Evasive Fallacious Answers, The scientific community and self-criticism, Climate scientists caught lying, Climategate – How the scientific community is responding, WarmingGate, New Zealand not warming? and I confess I now believe in manmade Global Warming). And, as Peter Griffin pointed out recently, “The comment sections of some blogs have become particularly grubby places to congregate” (see Climategate brought out the worst in us).

Even the ACT party is trying to get in on the act (Auckland Public Meeting: Climategate, NIWA and the ETS).

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Scientific controversies?

Kevin_Cannon_web-blogThe main stream media (MSM) often promote the idea of scientific controversies where none really exist. That is, the controversy may be within the media itself. Or within religion or politics. But it’s not within the scientific community. The creationism/evolution and global warming/climate change denial are two examples of such controversies.

On he other hand there are scientific controversies/debates raging within the scientific community which the public may be oblivious to. Evolutionary science is a lively dynamic area so of course their are scientific debates going on – there just not about creationism. Similarly, climate scientists will vigorously debate the meaning and significance of new evidence and the reliability of computer models – but those debates are not what the climate change deniers are talking about.

So how can the public check out these “controversies?” How can they assess if they are real debates within the scientific community or fictions of the main stream media? Or perhaps that the real debate is political or religious rather than scientific?

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