Sunday, December 2, 2012

The moral implications of science.

Again the question for me is no longer what do people believe. It is what is it that people actually do that is objectionable? For one thing they vote, act, and speak as if climate change was a left wing conspiracy and not the most important human issue of the next 100 years. There are people who vote for liars and buy gas guzzling cars and complain about the EPA without a glimmer of a thought for the welfare of their grandchildren or yours. And all of this because they feel like it is their duty and privilege to say “I don’t know anything about climate science Except that it is all a lie”.

This is behavior with profound moral and ethical consequences. And the scientifically literate public seems to have no way to point an accusing finger at this behavior. Those of us who believe in science have allowed ourselves to be bullied into believing that we have no right to moral outrage. This needs to end.

We need to call climate denial what it is. It is criminal negligence on a global scale. Americans do not tolerate lead in our children’s toys, fungus in our injections or e. coli in our food. And yet the fate of our entire culture is allowed to be talked about as a matter of opinion. And here we sit in the ivory tower telling ourselves that science doesn’t have a moral component. It does.

Science can occasionally tell us, to a moral certainty, what is going to happen in the future. And when face with potential disaster it is immoral to allow other people to choose disaster for all of us. We must have the courage of our empirical evidence to argue the point.

But what should we do? The misinformed are not amenable to evidence or reason. And let me be clear on a point here. The misinformed are not bad people. They are fellow Americans who are busy, they are tired and they are overwhelmed by their day to day lives. They rely on the news organizations to inform them and instead they are entertained. The authorities that they trust have told them that climate change is a lie and it is those authorities that should be demonized.

The critical link in the chain that has proven responsive to pressure from the public is the media. The religious right has altered programming on network television since its inception through pressure to maintain the “standards of decency” of the country. And I think it is time that we start pressuring them to uphold the standards of the most successful empirical program in human history, science.

Here are three assertions: climate change is real and impacted by human action, vaccines protect other people’s children and do not cause autism, and evolution is real and there is no competitive theory in existence. If you see reporting that says otherwise, if you see a baseless, ass covering false equivalency or a groundless back and forth: Write a letter. We need to take action to change how this country is governed and I think the first step is to exert pressure on the 4th estate to do its bloody job.

People who do not have the ability, time, or inclination to see past this irresponsible reporting are being so badly informed that they are insisting on endangering our future and the future of our children. Take action to establish the moral standing of scientific research. We all need you to. 

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