by Lil Tuttle
Earth Day messaging has evolved over the years. Earth Day 1970 – the first – had placards reading “CAUTION: The use of Standard Oil products is hazardous to your health,” and “Love your ozone.” In 1990, the chant of Washington marchers was “We hear the cry of the Earth and we have come to heal her.” No hubris there.
This year’s celebration was billed as a March for Science, and it included the chant, “What do we want? Evidence-based policy. When do we want it? After peer-review.”
Who could oppose that?
Yet ‘evidence’ suggests that while environmental activists’ messaging has improved over time, their manipulation of science data has not.
In a recent interview by the Wall Street Journal, former Obama administration Energy Department Undersecretary Steven Koonin said that the science-based climate data from NASA’s Goddard Institute and the National Oceanic and Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are often “misleading.” He cites an example from the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which was published, not coincidentally, just before the 2014 Paris Climate talks.
One of the key findings is that hurricane activity increased from 1980. What they forgot to tell you – and you don’t know until you read all the way into the fine print – is that it actually decreased in the decades before that. And all of the papers at that time and currently show no detectable long-term trend in hurricanes.
[Video: How Government Twists Climate Statistics, Wall Street Journal]
Most people read the headlines, however, not the fine print. Public opinion and congressional public policy are often shaped by the headlines and press releases put together by press officers working in tandem with senior government scientists – the same ‘peers’ who ‘review’ other scientists’ work. Not surprisingly, a few climate science activists in key positions can substantially tilt public opinion in their favor.
In an April 21st editorial, theoretical physicist Dr. Michael Guillen, the former Science Editor for ABC News who taught physics at Harvard, wrote that he was “disappointed” to discover the March for Science “is but a brazen attempt by political activists to hijack science.”
I believe the scientific method is by far our best hope for elucidating the physical universe. It’s why I feel so protective of it. I can’t bear seeing the organizers and partners of the so-called March for Science trying to politicize it.
Guillen rejects the “settled science” pronouncement that political activists use to silence criticism.
Like wizards uttering a magical incantation, lobbyists routinely invoke the existence of a “scientific consensus” to lend an aura of infallibility to their political stands. …
Science is never settled. As Albert Einstein once observed, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.”
Einstein knew whereof he spoke. As a young physicist in Switzerland, he confronted a stubborn scientific consensus – supported by a mountain of peer-reviewed evidence – that decreed Newtonian physics was settled science. In 1905, when Einstein dared to challenge it – to publish the special theory of relativity – the scientific establishment promptly reared up against him. Prominent Nazi physicists even accused him of promulgating disreputable “Jewish science.”
There is enormous room for improving science education in our nation’s public schools, colleges, grad schools, media, and – yes – political institutions. But the March for Science – lobbyists claiming that supporting the scientific method is equivalent to supporting their political agendas – is a very big, very public step in the wrong direction.
Progressive activists have already corrupted much of our national dialogue, from the definition of free speech to biological sex. If unchallenged, they will destroy science, too.