Intimidate, obfuscate, deny, litigate
September 14, 2016 7:59 PM   Subscribe

Science silenced by subpoena "If scientific results conflict with right-wing ideas, the scientists must be lying."
posted by bitmage (45 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
If only Lamar Smith could subpoena CO2 out of the atmosphere.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:07 PM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Why are any of these people allowed to keep governing?! I read articles like this and I despair. We are doomed by the crooks and thieves elected to office when we all too busy to get out and vote. Ugh.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:10 PM on September 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Somebody get this man stoned and into a balloon.
posted by clavdivs at 8:12 PM on September 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Why are any of these people allowed to keep governing?!

This is what they were elected to do.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:15 PM on September 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


Well, they're elected to cut taxes, protect gun rights and infuriate those damned liberals who are always laughing down their noses at Real Americans. Fighting science is their way of sparing polluting corporations from having to clean up their acts, which trickles down to lower taxes for Real Americans. It makes perfect sense in an idiotic, short-sighted way. Besides, Real Americans will be Raptured any day now anyway.
posted by ejs at 8:27 PM on September 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


Appropriately enough, on the sidebar of that webpage you can read:
Scientists: Earth Endangered By New Strain Of Fact-Resistant Humans.
posted by storybored at 8:36 PM on September 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


I assume congress has immunized themselves from whatever harassment claims and subpoenas which could otherwise be brought against them?
posted by srboisvert at 9:09 PM on September 14, 2016


Lamar Smith is the worst kind of person but let's be clear that this is not just right wing politicians who freely ignore science when it doesn't suit them. Most people do. Therefore institutions shouldn't be able to. They should have management plans that rely on science with regular monitoring and feedback, a technique that works quite well in industry, agriculture and resource management and has for many years. The days of letting someone ruminate internally about their feelings then issue decrees should be over.

I said to a colleague today that scientists should just be done with it and take over society so it's run properly. He replied "who'd fund that?" He was joking but it's true, as long as the advancement of knowledge and the proper application of technology is held hostage to the feelings and whims of old religious men we are all screwed.
posted by fshgrl at 9:22 PM on September 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


It all boils down to "the feelings of some old white men are more important than the future of society after they are dead," in a very real sense.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:12 PM on September 14, 2016 [40 favorites]


Après nous le déluge, as they say in Congress.
posted by monotreme at 11:10 PM on September 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


It all boils down to money. Where does the paycheck come from? Where do the campaign donations come from? What lobby group will hire them once they retire from congress?
posted by dazed_one at 12:34 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


There are good reasons for not just turning the reigns of power over to "scientists" (and no-one else) permanently, but I for one am fully prepared to accept a Science Dictator for a decade or two to pull the world back from the brink.
posted by No-sword at 12:36 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Please, no science dictators. We need governance with an understanding of both science and humanity (and probably other areas I can't think of).

Besides, if there were a "science" dictator, it would probably lead to some kind of eventual strong reaction against science.

The science dictator would also discredit and inhibit research that conflicted with his (or her?) particular corner of science.... and the time involved in becoming and maintaining power might seriously delay other sciencey duties.
posted by amtho at 1:05 AM on September 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


scientists should just be done with it and take over society so it's run properly

Welcome to Technocracy! I remember these guys had an office in one of the science buildings at the University of Alberta 30 years ago, and they would set up a table for various public events. It seems to me they were old white men already.
posted by sneebler at 1:40 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


To paraphrase Galileo, eppur si scalda…
posted by misteraitch at 1:45 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


The UK tried a Science Dictator for the years 1979 - 1990. It didn't work out too well for us I have to say.
posted by electricinca at 1:47 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


The leader of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the United States is a Christian Scientist. He's too 'religious' to believe in science but he's not too religious to take 600,000 from the oil industry.
I just feel sorry for us these days. I feel sorry for all the next generations after us.
posted by gt2 at 1:48 AM on September 15, 2016 [18 favorites]


We are doomed by the crooks and thieves elected to office when we all too busy to get out and vote.

People are skeptical about voting because when they actually do, their choice comes down to voting for either a crook or a thief.
posted by fairmettle at 2:00 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Math is hard. Science is hard. Power is easy by comparison. To get power you have to convince people that you:
a) have power, and,
b) can and will use it.

The first part is really easy. Money, status, being white, male, tall, etc...all help (some more than others) but fundamentally you just need to connect emotionally with other people to convince them that you are leading in service of their interests. Acquiring power can be done through fear as is the usual way for all sorts of reactionaries (as distinct from conservatives). Dictators, authoritarian populist uprisings, a lot of religious movements all come from this method. Fear of the dictator's oppressive grip on the lives of individuals, fear of people doing things found offensive in authoritarian uprisings and some religions, or of going to an afterlife of torment in some religions. Power can be acquired through inspiration. Provide a vision of proactive improvement that motivates people to join in collective action. Labor unions, Lenin during the October Revolution, FDR during WWII, and some religious movements fit this idea.

Power just requires that enough people willing to exercise enough force coalesce behind a leader or leaders. That force may be through the ballot or the bullet. It may be through passive resistance, monkey-wrenching, public demonstrations, or private meetings. In the USA this happens through a relatively stable legal framework. As Congressional Districts have become more reliable for conservatives who can inspire the majorities in their districts, thanks to the aid of organizations like ALEC and massive contributions from individuals, businesses, and PACs, having a touchstone with reality has become unnecessary. Everything in the corridors of power is, in some way, about power. Power is the hammer. Power is the nail. In such a situation science is seen as a tool of scientists to acquire power. The ends of scientists who talk of anthropogenic climate change stand in opposition to the interests of Lamar Smith's allies and Lamar Smith's worldview. There are a lot of people like Lamar Smith.

If you want to defeat them you need to acquire power. This is a painful paradox. Because once you have power you need to maintain it and grow it until you have enough to effect change. This requires a united and focused mass movement. It requires a playbook
of political procedures and strategies that would take time to draw up and implement. I started outlining some and it was just too unwieldy a post.

The rigors of good scientific research make it difficult to convey the weight of a situation. Models keep changing as understanding develops. Power wants nails, science has feedback models. Power wants simple verities. Science keeps remaking the way things might be working. Conservatives want the neat, clean Scientific Method of 1950's through the 1980's public schools to be the way scientists do things. Science gets messy the moment observations happen. Politicians understand (or think they understand) the legal process. It is rhetorical in nature and can be very complex. Climate interactions make any legal system look like playing with Legos. It can truthfully be said that no one person truly knows what is going on in the climate system. It is monstrously vast in complexity. That we have affected it in any noticeable way is a testament to both our ingenuity and our stupidity. Convincing people like Smith, who feel that they are intelligent and know that anthropogenic climate change is a scam, that we are in fact at risk of triggering the greatest challenge to human survival we may ever know is impossible until it can be shown that their very power depends on changing. Otherwise it is time to start acquiring and exercising power ourselves.

Frankly I would rather be reading or hiking.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 2:19 AM on September 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


So I wonder, when are we going to say openly that religion and faith-based acquisition of knowledge are bad for society? Not extremism, not islam, but any form of religion and faith? The founding fathers apparently understood that, but many deny it now.
posted by Laotic at 2:29 AM on September 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


science dictator? how about the science of marxism-leninism-maoism and a dictatorship of the proletariat?
posted by thug unicorn at 3:31 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if a science dictatorship is a good idea, but I like the idea of a scientific equivalent of the Supreme Court, which would impose limits on government policy. It's kind of a difficult concept though because rule by authoritative decree isn't how science is supposed to work. Perhaps they could just define a bare minimum of scientific facts, or have the power to declare government policy scientifically invalid without the postive power to enact laws?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 4:15 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


So I wonder, when are we going to say openly that religion and faith-based acquisition of knowledge are bad for society?

I need to see some scientific proof that it is first
posted by thelonius at 4:16 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


It is difficult to convince someone that religion is a negative when he believes that his immortal soul depends on the opposite.
posted by delfin at 4:51 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I like the idea of a scientific equivalent of the Supreme Court

I expect President Trump would be happy to appoint all his favourite scientists and they'd come up with some great limits on what the government could do.
posted by Segundus at 4:53 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


It requires a playbook of political procedures and strategies that would take time to draw up and implement. I started outlining some and it was just too unwieldy a post.

The True Believer, by Eric Hoffer.


Perhaps they could just define a bare minimum of scientific facts, or have the power to declare government policy scientifically invalid without the postive power to enact laws?

Kinda like the OTA.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:24 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Segundus,

There's no reason scientists would have to be nominated in a way exactly mirroring SC nominations.

ZenMasterThis,

So, we can expect them to override this climate change denialism soon?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:39 AM on September 15, 2016


Nope. The OTA was shut-down by Newt and the 104th Congress in 1995. :P
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:42 AM on September 15, 2016


I like the idea of a scientific equivalent of the Supreme Court


They had this in years past. It was called located in the Vatican.
posted by vorpal bunny at 6:08 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


(Lucky for me there is no grammar Supreme Court called/located anywhere!)
posted by vorpal bunny at 6:24 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


There actually still is a group that functions much like a Supreme Court of Science for the US Government. It's called JASON. They were funded by DoD until 2002 when they split over refusing to admit some members DARPA requested be added to their ranks. Here is a selection of JASON reports over the years.
posted by scalefree at 6:48 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if a science dictatorship is a good idea, but I like the idea of a scientific equivalent of the Supreme Court, which would impose limits on government policy. It's kind of a difficult concept though because rule by authoritative decree isn't how science is supposed to work. Perhaps they could just define a bare minimum of scientific facts, or have the power to declare government policy scientifically invalid without the postive power to enact laws?

It sounds cool until you realize that economics considers itself a science and you envision a future constrained by the University of Chicago's economics department.
posted by srboisvert at 6:55 AM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't think it's correct to draw the line as "science" vs. "feelings." As great as science is, it hasn't invented a way for humans to do anything that isn't motivated by feelings. Even scientific discovery and understanding also depends on intuition, even if the results of the process might be unintuitive...
posted by saulgoodman at 7:16 AM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


science dictator? how about the science of marxism-leninism-maoism and a dictatorship of the proletariat?


Or, going further back, Plato's Philosopher King, wisely wielding his absolute dictatorial power for the greater good.
posted by acb at 7:30 AM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just like yesterday's story on climate change, once again this one touches on a part of climatology that does NOT involve climate modeling, and does NOT require heavy duty computing hardware.

IOW, once again, the story touches on where climate science meets Moore's law.

Dr. Krauss is referring to the recent Karl et al study (which TLDRs to "there is no 18 year hiatus"), and the major point of the Karl study is that systemic bias in shipborne sea surface temperature readings in the early to mid-20th century are a major contributor to the appearance of a hiatus. Those temperature readings were done from the intakes of ship ballast tanks, and were biased by the temperature of the ships and their machinery. Correct for that bias, and it turns out the mid-20th century was warming at about the same pace as the 21st. Ergo, no hiatus.

How much space do you think it takes to store the raw temperature readings of the shipping community in the 20th century? Yeah, not a lot.

How much time do you think it would take your laptop to crunch through those readings to adjust for systemic bias? Yeah, not a lot.

How much time do you think it takes a programmer to go from the equations in the Karl study to a quick script to run the same algorithms? Yeah, not a lot.

So if there were an actual problem with the Karl study, how much effort would it take to show it?

That's right: not a lot.

And yet, the denialist machine says nothing about any of this, and just demands his emails (and his coworkers.) Proof positive that they have nothing on him.
posted by ocschwar at 7:58 AM on September 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


Sadly, the American Technocrat party became communist way back in the early 20th century when it was fashionable to do so, and never recovered. The last time I heard from them, they were running an underaged, foreign born pair for president/vp as a protest vote, back in I believe the Bush II era. After reading "Doc" E.E. Smith's Lensmen series, where the Technocrat party was all about being scientific and efficient in politics, it was quite a letdown.
posted by Blackanvil at 8:06 AM on September 15, 2016


Besides, Real Americans will be Raptured any day now anyway.

Can they hurry the fuck up and get Raptured, already? I'm weary of them.
posted by MissySedai at 8:19 AM on September 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think the Technocrats were engineers. Good Lord, don't let engineers run anything!

Having science based government is not a "science dictatorship". That's a weird way to interpret it. It means that you set up plans based on measurable goals, you use the best consensus research to guide your actions and you monitor objectively and change your actions as needed to meet the goals of your plan. Be that zero carbon or less than 1% homelessness or no murders in a city in one year. It means objectively monitoring outcomes and adjusting need and actions based on those without allowing governors to override your actions because someone at dinner told them their second cousin said it wasn't a good idea and they thought she was cute.
posted by fshgrl at 9:02 AM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


This seems like another strain of the "conservatism cannot fail, it can only *be* failed" rigidity of thought that's taken hold of the Republican party over the past few decades to it's current rejection-of-the-fact-based-community ascendancy. Climate data doesn't agree? MUST BE LIES!
posted by rmd1023 at 9:20 AM on September 15, 2016


I think the Technocrats were engineers. Good Lord, don't let engineers run anything!


Am an engineer, and so I have to agree, but...

We don't let politicians write the building codes. We don't let politicians write the national electric code. We don't let politicians write FIPS. Or edit MSDS sheets.

We don't need a full fledged "technocracy," whatever that might mean. But we do need more of a technocracy than we have now (for example, some pushback against giving "alternative medicine" a standing compared to conventional medicine.) We need politicians who know when to back off and let the propellerheads make the decisions. And right now we have a political party whose war on science has metastasized to a war on engineering. It;s a war and it's vitally important that they lose.
posted by ocschwar at 10:54 AM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Can they hurry the fuck up and get Raptured, already? I'm weary of them.

The world will definitely be cooler without them.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:56 AM on September 15, 2016


I said to a colleague today that scientists should just be done with it and take over society so it's run properly.

Where do we find these intelligent, rational, empirical minds that are willing and able to sacrifice their beloved career to throw themselves into the caldron ... to fashion electable personas ... to negotiate the waters of political fashions ... to avoid temptations that even professional politicians fall for ... and to deliver what the mildly educated public really needs, while keeping them happy?

Maybe Asimov spelt it out in one of his 600 books that I missed.
posted by Twang at 1:05 PM on September 15, 2016


It means that you set up plans based on measurable goals, you use the best consensus research to guide your actions and you monitor objectively and change your actions as needed to meet the goals of your plan. Be that zero carbon or less than 1% homelessness or no murders in a city in one year. It means objectively monitoring outcomes and adjusting need and actions based on those without allowing governors to override your actions because someone at dinner told them their second cousin said it wasn't a good idea and they thought she was cute.

It's very strange how bureaucracies are often made to run this way (as are private companies when they interact with those bureaucracies, such as through building permits or environmental legislation) but elected politicians are entirely free to make decisions on the basis of thinking the cousin was cute or the voices told them to do it. There's the theoretical accountability of elections, but gerrymandering has shown itself to be a highly effective method of removing that threat.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:15 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's the theoretical accountability of elections, but gerrymandering has shown itself to be a highly effective method of removing that threat.

Ya. That plus our 100% corrupt campaign finance system.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:48 PM on September 15, 2016


>So I wonder, when are we going to say openly that religion and faith-based acquisition of knowledge are bad for society?

>I need to see some scientific proof that it is first posted by thelonius

I think the fact that the House Committee on Science is so misguided, that US conservatives have a tendency towards Christian fundamentalism, and that various Christian organizations in the US have a lot of influence over government ought to be pretty good indicators of the problem. Whether there's "scientific proof" is another story. Also I'm still pondering this (admittedly shallow) Guardian article:

Religion in US 'worth more than Google and Apple combined'
posted by sneebler at 7:43 AM on September 16, 2016


« Older Phoenix rises from the ashes   |   #DreamJournal Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments