Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Extreme Bias of Scientists at Global Warming Conference Not Flattering

"Dr. David Baltimore is the president of Caltech and one of the world’s most influential biologists. Awarded the Nobel Prize at the age of 37 for research in virology, Baltimore has profoundly influenced national science policy on such issues as recombinant DNA research and the AIDS epidemic. He is an accomplished researcher, educator, administrator and public advocate for science and engineering."

So states the information on the leadoff speaker at the Global Warming Conference recently produced by the Skeptics Society.He was the first, but not the last, of the speakers to engage in a rant against President Bush and gratuitously slam those who don't buy into Darwinism. His comments on these two subjects were so biased, dismissive, and hard edged, that it caused this observer to wonder how unbiased, evenhanded, and contemplative his analysis of scientific subjects would be.

The primary fixations of the Caltech President and others who followed with regard to the presidents policies were around the hot button issues of embryonic stem cell research, creation science, the morning after pill (plan B), and, of course, global warming. Other panel members and audience members added abstinence as a tool in the aids epidemic to the list.

I will, in a later post, point out the abject unfairness of the criticism in each case. However, the point of this article is to wonder aloud at whether the "academy" has become too biased to do its job? Michael Crichton would later ask this question in the context of financial interest. Others would point to the non-democratic nature of major universities and its impact on junior members' willingness to "swim against the tide" of the opinion of the "academy." One or more also wondered aloud whether those in the establishment were too insular to even be aware to the foundational issues of the "other sides" position.

At the core of our assumptions about scientists would be that they approach their subject with an open mind. While it would take great discipline, the ideal scientist would reopen his mind even as he continues inquiries into his major field. To the extent that previous research creates a bias in either the direction or the method of future analysis, we will get poor science. To the extent that political points of view and cultural lack of empathy colors ones thinking, we can have dangerous use of science (e.g. We are so much better than you, we will impose our solutions on you.)

I have been attending fundamentalist churches for the last 20 years, and have gone to countless conferences during that time. I can't remember a single time when positions were taken in those meetings that were so pompous, so biased, or so lacking in humility. Those in the leadership of the Christian "right" never say that the debate is over. In this conference, that was the refrain. I think there is a problem in our scientific community. The consequence of this problem may only result in horrible science, but it could result in tyranny.

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