Thursday, March 11, 2010

Too Much Good Science is Bad for Science-Based Policy, says Professor of Science Policy

This is not from an Onion story.

A professor of 'science policy' at Arizona State University, Daniel Sarewitz, argues that too much science is a very bad thing for science policy, in this case, global warming. He writes in Slate:

"When people hold strongly conflicting values, interests, and beliefs, there is not much that science can do to compel action. Indeed, more research and more facts often make a conflict worse ..."

And ...

"Yes, there is a robust scientific consensus that human activity is causing the atmosphere to warm up. But so what?"

And ...

"Contrary to all our modern instincts, then, political progress on climate change requires not more scientific input into politics, but less."

Sarewitz' opinion is supported by "scienceblogger" Matthew Nisbet, a professor in communications at American University, who writes:

"The more that scientists become distracted by the climate skeptic movement, responding to every new attack with a combo of war rhetoric and technical defenses of the science, the deeper the divide on climate change is likely to grow."

It's too bad we didn't apply the 'less science is better' and 'too much good science just makes things worse' approach to public policy on tobacco, lead poisoning, mercury poisoning, vaccinations, safe drinking water, spoiled meat, black lung disease, child car seats, seat belts, fetal alcohol syndrome, methamphetamine addiction, sterilized surgical equipment, teenage glue sniffing and AIDs.

Things would be much so better now.

I await Prof. Sarewitz' next column on why it's very very bad to use too much science when deciding whether evolution should be taught in science class.

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