How politics manipulates science

In a fascinating and controversial paper, Richard Lindzen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sets out to show how changes in the structure of scientific activity over the past half century have left the scientific endeavor vulnerable to political manipulation.

In particular, he focuses on how political bodies try to control scientific institutions, how scientists adjust both data and even theory to accommodate politically correct positions, and how opposition to these positions is disposed of.

Much of Lindzen’s discussion is aimed at the climate change debate where he says these vulnerabilities have been exploited to a remarkable extent.

As a result, he says: “progress in climate science and the actual solution of scientific problems in this field have moved at a much slower rate than would normally be possible.”

That may lead to trouble ahead.  He says that society is undoubtedly aware of the imperfections of science but it has rarely encountered a situation such as the current global warming hysteria where institutional science has so thoroughly committed itself to policies which call for massive sacrifices in well being world wide.

And he hints that this may not be best way forward. Lindzen says that massive crash programs such as the Manhattan Project are not appropriate to all scientific problems. In particular, such programs are unlikely to be effective in fields where the basic science is not yet in place. Rather, they are best suited to problems where the needs are primarily in the realm of engineering.

For the record, Lindzen was once a member of the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change and is widely regarded as a climate change skeptic.

Be that as it may, this is a recommended read.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0809.3762: Climate Science: Is it Currently Designed to Answer Questions?

4 Responses to “How politics manipulates science”

  1. Jack says:

    This paper is reminiscent of an interesting talk by Michael Crichton, entitled “Aliens Cause Global Warming”:

    http://www.crichton-official.com/speech-alienscauseglobalwarming.html

    His point is not whether global warming is an important phenomenon, but rather what happens to science when it becomes politicized and consensus-driven.

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