Disgraced CBS anchorman and non-scientist, Dan Rather penned an overwrought defense of science in Scientific American.
When historians look back at the presidential election of 2016 they will certainly have many questions, but perhaps the biggest one isn’t getting enough attention today. “What the (insert the popular profanity of the future)?” they will likely ask. “Why was there hardly any mention of climate change?” Or will the future inhabitants of Earth be so distracted by survival that they won’t even care what happened in 2016 when the greatest country on the planet at that time denied this problem existed?
People of the future will be half naked on their knees in the sand and shouting in Charlton Heston fashion, “You maniacs! You voted Republican. Damn you! Damn you all to hell!” Rather doesn’t predict when his apocalyptic vision will come true, only that 2016 is the year when people not as smart as him made it a certainty by not addressing climate change with panicked urgency.
With just a few mentions in speeches—and, jaw-droppingly, no questions at the presidential debates—this omission marks a singular failure of the press and the political class. But it is indicative of a much broader systemic rot. Make no mistake; science was on the ballot this fall. And almost nobody took notice.
Sorry, Dan. Maybe all the bumpkins were too focused on their inability to find a job or afford the “affordable” insurance your side of the aisle shoved down their throats. There just wasn’t enough concern left for your fevered visions of our Mad Max future.
The political press treats science as a niche issue.
The political press is mostly people under 30 who don’t know anything. They are fascinated by shiny objects and celebrities.
But I would argue that it is central to America’s military and economic might, that it shapes the health and welfare of our citizenry, and that our governmental support of the pure pursuit of knowledge through basic research is one of the defining symbols of American excellence. Science bolsters our global stature by its institutionalized respect for the truth, its evidence-based decision-making, and its willingness to accept differing opinions when the facts dictate them.
The network anchorman who reported fake stories to push his political vendetta against a Republican president is concerned about “institutionalized respect for the truth” and is willing to “accept differing opinions when facts dictate them. Rather pushed phony documents as proof that George W. Bush was granted special treatment as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War era. After analysis of the documents proved that they could not be from that period, Rather was forced to resign, but to this day insists the documents and his story was “fake but accurate.” This is not a man concerned with truth. This is an activist trying to push forward an agenda.
But scientists need an ally in making their case, and that must come from an active and involved press. The press can build bridges between the scientific community, the public, and elected officials. It can raise awareness of important issues and put pressure on obfuscating politicians.
What if it’s the scientists who are obfuscating? Rather seems to be under the impression that anything under the heading of “science” is objectively true by definition. He really doesn’t want an “active” press. He wants an activist press who will attack anyone not conforming to climate change orthodoxy.
I firmly believe science to be of the utmost importance to the world that I want my children and grandchildren to inherit. I believe it is a way to connect different groups, nations, and generations. I believe that scientists have more power in the public marketplace of ideas than they may realize.
Science saves! Replace “science” and “scientists” with “Christianity” and “Christians.” Rather has no scientific background or training. He’s preaching a religious belief. He’s confessing his faith.
In the end, science is about hope; it’s about expanding our horizons, and endeavoring to understand more. It is an instinct so deeply human, and an instinct we need now more than ever. An enterprise this core to our national future must enlist all who can help from the world of journalism and science. The public and the policymakers need to hear this message. Science creates self-evident truths that everyone can own. I believe the world is ready to listen if we can only find a better way to speak.
Science is about hope? Since when?
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