Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann has a column in the Washington Post section this morning that begins: “As a scientist, I shouldn’t have a stake in the upcoming midterm elections, but unfortunately, it seems that I — and indeed all my fellow climate scientists — do.” And concludes: “My fellow scientists and I must be ready to stand up to blatant abuse from politicians who seek to mislead and distract the public.
‘Kill the messenger’ has been a strong arm political tactic probably since mankind invented politics.
Anyone who watched the vilification of researchers working on the health effects of cigarette smoking will easily see it as a testing ground for the same approaches being brought to bear against climatologists. The main point is not to gain a better understanding about the world around us so that we can take better actions. It is to intimidate and freeze out those who might wish to study science in this area:
The ultimate goal is to make the process sufficiently painful so that the researcher cannot complete further research and so that other scientists are discouraged from conducting similar studies.
Scientists are perfect subjects for harassment by litigation. They often have little knowledge of the law and little patience for the slow and subtle workings of the legal system. The distraction and anxiety caused by depositions, legal costs, and court appearances can easily put an abrupt end to a promising line of research or a research career.
As discussed four years ago, some of the same people involved in the Big Tobacco efforts are now involved in climate change harassment. If a scientist’s time is spent on subpoenas and depositions, they can not produce any science that these harassers find distasteful. Why would any normal person want to enter a field where much of their time will be spent up paying lawyers fees if the results do not fit what the politicians or corporations want to see?
This should be about policy differences, where people of good-will can discuss what to do. Instead, these politicians attack the science and the scientists themselves, permitting them to refrain from engaging in any meaningful discussions at all.
The goal is not a good-faith discussion of what the data are telling us but is all about making political points and taking prisoners. Smearing non-public citizens with the same techniques used for political rials. It is to stifle a more complete understanding of the world around us. It is anti-knowledge. It is anti-American.
Political intimidation of ordinary citizens has been a black mark against American ideals of republican democracy for a long, long time. History will not serve these politicians or their operatives well.
Science has served American interests well because we have allowed people to freely investigate almost any problem dealing with the world we see. Now these politicos want to limit that free investigation and demonstrate to scientists that if they wish to examine certain problems there will be real life-changing consequences if the results do not match what the politicians want to see.
This will only hurt our abilities to understand the world. Their efforts will ultimately fail.
Because as with the Vatican almost 400 years ago, E pur si muove! Mankind will eventually have a fuller understanding of the natural world, but these politicians hurt us all with their tactics – thousands of people died before they stopped their stalling approaches with cigarette smoking.