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19 MIN READ TIME

Politicization of Scientific Issues

Fred Glienna South Pasadena, California

Although I was one of the good guys in getting my degrees, and I love science with all my heart, I couldn’t help but object to one of Dr. Goldberg’s conclusions in her September/October article on “Politicization of Scientific Issues.” I am alarmed that this is a fact, but I was also alarmed that she thinks that science is “democratic” because you can hypothesize and reason about your hypothesis. To be democratic you would have to abide by the vote of some kind of public. I know how scientists gather sometimes and argue vociferously also sometimes, but that isn’t voting. To say that publication invites criticism and some kind of concurrence of opinion and that this is some type of substitute for voting doesn’t make it democratic. Newspapers also individually publish the truth as they see it and engender opinion, and democracy allows this laudable behavior, but the opinions themselves can’t be said to be democratic.

I laughed at the characterization of scientists as arrogant and authoritarian. What post-doc hasn’t run into an authority figure, as I did when I was a member of the International Biological Program and had to listen to the ravings of a crazy Dutch authority regarding my analysis of a transect on Mauna Loa. Some authorities are gentle mentors and preceptors, true, but I’ll wager most of us would leave the office of The Director with our tail between our legs.

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Skeptical Inquirer
January February 2018
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