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July 1, 2011 / Mark Axelrod

Climate Science and Politics

Climate change arguments incite ‘weird religiosity’, says Greg Barker – Guardian UK

For all those who thought that the climate science debate was uniquely American, witness these comments from UK Climate Change Minister Greg Barker.  He notes extreme views of both skeptics and climate science devotees, while sending the message that he believes scientific findings are the only acceptable means for understanding the situation.

But can we truly have a science devoid of political (or religious, cultural, or personal) influence?  At the very least, individual scientist opinions influence the choice of research questions.  That is not to suggest the results are in question, but we should probably reassess the notion that science can be completely divorced from social and political processes when so much is riding on the findings.  In that sense, scientific endeavor would likely benefit from public self-awareness of our personal backgrounds and biases.  Many scientific journals have started to require disclosure of funding sources.  While that external influence is of course important, we all have many other influences on our research decisions.  How can we best identify and account for our own personal situations without raising concerns about research validity?

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One Comment

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  1. Tobin Craig / Jul 18 2011 3:37 pm

    But how would knowing more about the “personal backgrounds and biases” of scientists help? Wouldn’t it inevitably undermine the credibility (but surely not the validity) of the findings? Isn’t it best that, to borrow the phrase, science remain “we” while art remains “I” — that is, that science proceeds by pretending that the scientist is anonymous and his or her biography infinitely unimportant? Doesn’t the authority of science depend on this?

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