tv Book Discussion on The War on Science CSPAN July 31, 2016 4:15pm-6:16pm EDT
but when the pope created this ghetto, he wrote it up in his papal bull x that was distributed -- and that was distributed around the world. and i see that as a very crucial moment in those years because now the ghetto becomes a cognitive framework that becomes an example of how jews should be and can be segregated around the world. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. [inaudible conversations]
>> okay. let's get started. i'm al teich, research professor here at the center for international be science and -- international science and technology policy at george washington university's elliott school which is where you are now, and i want to welcome you on behalf of our center and the center for science and democracy of the union of concerned scientists. they are co-sponsoring this event together with george washington university. shawn otto, our speaker here, is an award-winning science advocate. he's a writer, he's a man of many talents. really get to know him, he's quite an impressive guy. a writer, a teacher and a
speaker, and he's a co-founder of science debates.org for which he received the ieee usa national distinguished public service award. he's advised science debate efforts in other countries as well. he's a novelist and a filmmaker. his novel "sins of our fathers," which is a lit tear thriller, was -- literary thriller, was a finalist in the l.a. times book prize, and his film, "the house of sand and fog," which is something i saw actually several years ago before i met shawn, it's a terrific film, and i would suggest it's available on amazon and on youtube. and i would suggest that if you have a chance, you view it, rent it and view it. it was nominated for three academy awards.
it stars jennifer connolly and ben kingsley, and he was the, co-wrote the screenplay for it. his latest book is the one that you see displayed up here and outside on the table called "the war on science," and that's what he's talking about today. shawn lives in minnesota and has an environmental house, solar and wind-powered too? solar and wind-powered. and as i said, he's a very interesting guy. he's going to -- the way we're going to do this, shawn is going to do a powerpoint presentation, and then he and i are going to have a conversation, and we'll then open it up to q&a. and after that we'll have some time to mingle and enjoy the refreshments that are left. so without further taking away
from his time, let me give you shawn otto. [applause] >> thanks, al. thanks, everyone, for coming. representative mccullom let me know she's not sure if she can make it due to to the voting schedule in congress, they have several bills. but we'll see if she'll be able to join us later for the conversation as well. so as al mentioned, i was involved in an organization called sciencedebate.org which is still around, and i would encourage you to sign on if you have not as a supporter of science debate. it's basically a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) effort to get the candidates for president primarily but also other public office in the united states to talk about the big science and technology, health and environmental issues that face all of us. and as you'll see from my presentation, this is an issue that is only going to grow in
importance as we move forward in time. what i have tried to focus on throughout the course of this is bridging a gap that exists in large part between what we're able to do with science and our ability to think and talk about it in our public policy process. and so that's, essentially, kind of what "the war on science" started out, grew out of that effort. the book is really an observation on the core relationship between science and democracy. science is a great force for equality, and if you care about justice, you have to care about scnce in a democracy. and it's an effort to defend democracy from a rise in authoritarianism. so a number of people wonder if there really is a war on science, if the american association for the advanced
science -- spoiler alert, yes, there's a war on science right now. and i'd like to giveou some examples from our politics. politicians, by the way, are not causing the war on science, and for reasons i'll explain in a little bit, science is not partisan here. but they are certainly participating in it. >> two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic. >> so anti-science politics like this somehow over the course of the last 20 years have become completely acceptable in american public dialogue. that's something that when i was a kid, for instance, would not have been tolerated. somebody made a statement that was blatantly, that blatantly flew in the face of what we know from science, that would pretty
much be the end of their political career. that doesn't happen anymore. and the reason that it doesn't leads us to a curious examination of really what is going on in american politics and why that could be. what has changed in the public, in the public's view of science to make that possible? now, it's not just happening on the right, although many in the science community seem to think that it is, but it's also happening sometimes on the left. and i'll show some examples of that. bernie sanders, for instance, has the most aggressive climate plan of all the candidates for president and has broadly been embraced and supported by climate scientists. at the same time, though, he's against nuclear power, he supports alternative medicine, and he's for gmo labeling. all of which have nuances and elements of them that are not anti-science, but that are informed often by a lot of anti-science beliefs like the idea not supported by science that genetically-modified crops
are not healthy to eat. this isn't just happening in presidential races, it's also happening in congress. consider congressman shimkus who's chairman of the house subcommittee on environment and the economy. in, as he's participating in this hearing on climate change. >> the earth will end only when god declares its time to be over. man will not destroy this earth. this earth will not be destroyed by a flood. and i appreciate having panelists here who are men of faith, and we can get into the theological discourse of that position. but i do believe god's word is infallible, unchanging, perfect. two other issues, mr. chairman. today we have about 388 parts per million in the atmosphere. i think in the age of dinosaurs we had most flora and fauna, we were probably at 4,000 parts per million. there is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved
planet. >> now, i don't know how many of you noticed the gilded scientific report that he was waving in his hand there, but the question is why in a committee hearing where we are discussing matters of national import, presumably talking about evidence, is he waving a bible to begin with. why go to ideology inthe stead of evidence? and -- instead of evidence and why is that an authority in this particular case? my father read the bible to our family when i was a kid over the dinner table for about a year, and i don't recall the part about carbon in the bible. [laughter] maybe i just missed it that day. this is all happening, also happening in state legislatures across the country. here's a rather famous example from a couple of years ago where the north carolina legislature banned sea level rise. [laughter] this is, essentially, a move -- again, in the climate war -- but it's a problem because it was
more reminiscent of, say, mao's china than the united states where local officials had to go to the state legislature and the central state government in order to get approval and use the numbers that they provided, not actual numbers from science, when making zoning decisions, road bed height decisions and things like that in development close to the ocean. this is also happening in city governments. for instance, snow mass last summer banned fluoride, the use of fluoride over concerns that it might be bad for your health. cdc considers it one of the greatest public health advances of the 20th century. it's not just in the united states though. anti-science like this beliefs or public policies that are completely contradicted by the
evidence is really spreading worldwide. canada, during the harper administration who patterned a lot of their policies on some of the bush administration policies by limiting what scientists could say and their sewer actions -- interactions with the press can and placing ideological appointees over them and closing libraries and scientific enterprises, engendered a demonstration on their capitol hill in ottawa talking about no science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy. it was a mock funeral for democracy and science. but this is all, this also is happening in australia where cities are representing about half a million people have recently banned fluoride, in france where there are new outbreaks of measles because of the lessening of vaccinations.
the united kingdom also has problems with the anti-vaccine movement. the united kingdom is, of course, the birthplace of the anti-vaccine movement. poland and germany where there's a rear is generals of teaching of creationism in science classes. ireland where dublin also banned fluoride. israel where the health minister, who does not have a background in science, recently banned fluoride for the entire country. nigeria where, of course, groups like boko haram whose very name means western knowledge is forbidden, are reacting in a, in their version of a right-wing reaction against science. and china where there's a burgeoning environmental movement, and at the same time a burgeoning movement against genetically-modified crops which are or seen as some kind of stocking horse from the west. so why is this spreading, particularly why is it spreading
throughout many times western democracies which have traditionally been associated with science, with freedom, with free thought, with critical thinking, with individual rights? all of those things that seem to have been associated with science. there's something happening that's quite odd here, and that's what this exploration tries to get at. and the best place to start is really understanding why it matters. so science, as i said a moment ago, is really the great equalizer. it is the one thing that stands between, say, two brothers with as much power as these two brothers have, charles and david koch, and two brothers that have as much as these two have, my nephews in chicago. now, in theory, these two sets of brothers in the united states should have the same access to justice. the same access to, potentially,
to education or to employment. at least to voting. and science is the one equalizer that neutralizes the vast size of the megaphone of the brothers on the left side of the screen and provides an opportunity to the brothers on the right. this is based in some core ideas that really date back to the very, very founding of the united states. thomas jefferson said wherever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government. and there is really the crux of some of the problem that we're running into. if you have ever been down to the library of congress, you will have seen probably thomas jefferson's library that's recreated there. nice round space, round bookcases which contained virtually the entirety of human knowledge at the time. and he had read all of those books and contained that in his mind. he was a scientist and an attorney, sort of like francis
bacon was. and that was a possible idea back then, the well informed voter. but what happens now? nearly a quarter century -- nearly a quarter millennia later when science has continued to advance and it's not at all possible for one person to know even a fraction of all that there is to know. how do we have well-informed voters that are able to govern themselves successfully in a democracy in the age dominated by complex science and technology? that's the rub that we're bumping up against. well, in order to come up with in this idea for democracy, to convince other enlightenment nations to not intercede in the revolutionary war, jefferson reached for the greatest thinking of what he called his trinity of three greatest men to come up with an argument that would convince them to stay out. he went to the thinking of isaac newton, inventer at the time of
physics, who said a man may imagine things that are false, but he can only understand things that are true. and this is part of where we're getting into trouble today, because if you take out your cell phone and turn it over and unscrew the phillips screws -- wait a minute, there are no phillips screws on the back. it's hard to have know how, it's hard to understand things that are true when science and technology have become so complex that it's difficult for the average person to break them down. a generation ago you could sit down at your kitchen table, and you could buy a kit, and you could make a radio. that's no longer true with cell phones. so at the moment that cell phones which like flying brooms are made by people cloistered away wearing long robes and uttering strange incantations, right? [laughter] at the moment that science becomes indistinguishable from magic, we become vulnerable to disinformation campaigns because
science by its very nature must become, in a way, a function of belief. and it's what do you believe in. scientists choose to believe in journals and the peer-review process. but even those are vulnerable as we've seen lately from certain for-profit journals and journals-for-hire. jefferson next turned to francis bacon. like him, both a scientist and an attorney, the attorney general of england who sought to circumscribe the power of king, of the monarch, and he worked very hard to build a lot of the core ideas that jefferson relied on in creating democracy. and and he said that what a man had rather were true, he more readily believes which is one of the reasons that he worked hard to create inductive reasoning and the method that we came to call western science, drawing, of course, on other muslim
scholars that had worked on developing observational-based science before that. but he saw that as a way to guard against confirmation bias, our tendency to see what we want in the environment. and instead of starting like day cart did from the top could be our -- december cart did, i think, therefore, i am, start with nature and see what nature has to say about it and confirm your observations this and build up from that. and then jefferson turned to a man that conservatives really appreciate these days, john locke. and john locke, aside from his conservative by today's standards credentials, also was seeking to solve a problem. he looked at all the factions of protestantism that were happening that had broken down and were arguing with one another over who had the true path to god, who had the real knowledge, and he decided that there must be a way to really know what is real, what is
knowledge versus, as he called it, but faith or opinion. so he came up with three tests; intuitive knowledge, things like two plus two is four, you know, or that, here we go. we've got two and two, put 'em together, that's four. we can see it intuitively. there's no arguing with it. the next firmest form of knowledge is demonstrative. for instance, a feather and a penny fall at different rates. put them in a vacuum tube, i suck out all the air, and then they fall at the same rate. therefore, i can conclude that air has an effect on the way that gravity acts on these different objects. so that's -- i built that up from intuitive knowledge, made a deduction or an induction, did an experiment and combined them all to create demonstrative knowledge. and finally his third was sensitive knowledge. i smell a rose. i look around for a rose, but i
might be deceived. because i might just be smelling perfume. so sensitive knowledge, our common sense, was the least reliable form of knowledge, the kind that most often deceived us. the weakest. and anything that fell short of one of these was but faith or opinion. in other words, anybody could argue about it. much like we have varying factions in political, in the political sphere arguing endlessly with one another now that science has begun to break down in society. so finally to guard against that he said that every argument should be argued in a way that was similar to a mathematical theorum, grounding the mind or bringing the mind to the source in which it bottoms. and that's what jefferson really sought to do in writing the declaration of independence because his life really hung on it. and it was really these essential ideas combined that led to the core functioning idea that informed the united states
which was that if anyone can discover the truth for him or herself using the tools of reason can and science, then no pope, no monarch, no wealthy lord has any more authority to govern us than we do ourselves. and that was an argument for a crowd-sourced enlightenment reason to support this new form of government called democracy. without science, the united states would not have been here. so our whole system is dependent on this kind of thinking. now, jefferson himself fell into common traps in thought that we all fall into. habit. this kind of thinking is not intuitive, it's difficult. here's an early draft of the declaration of independence. and you'll notice that in the top of the second paragraph he wrote: we hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable, that all men are created equal.
that doesn't sound quite right, does it? what he was doing there was he fell into a mistake, a mistake of thinking in appeal to the divine. we hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable. the moment he did that, he opened the argument up to anyone who had a different faith to argue that, no, theirs was the more sacred and undeniable truth. they had a greater authority. he violated john locke's idea of knowledge. benjamin franklin, who was our leading scientist at the time, took a look at the draft. he gave it to him, and franklin made those backslashes, that edit, and that's franklin's handwriting in the words "self-evident," which he was quoting from his friend, david hume. so in this edit it's arguably the most important edit in the history of the united states, because it narrowly circumscribed democracy as a
secular form of government that was independent of and nonjudgmental towards religion. it did not make a religious appeal, and neither did it judge religion. so in jefferson's thinking then democracy really had a virtuous to circle. it began with some governance issue. then we would turn to the educated and informed mass of the people from whom we would draw the congress, and that educated and informed mass of people would commission sign terrific research as jefferson did with the lewis and clark expedition to build knowledge about that governance issue. and then based on that knowledge, congress would debate the best policy response. that's the way it was supposed to work. but what's been happening over the last 40-50 years, and i'll show you how exactly and why, we've had some corruption of that process.
instead of the educating and informed mass of the people, vested interests seek to provide alternative theories to children and propaganda to adults. for instance, seeking to teach that not evolution, but creationism is really the way that human beings came to be. then based on that, instead of turning to scientific research to build knowledge, we turn to authority and ideology for knowledge. as much as representative shimkus was when he was waving that gilded scientific report. then instead of debating the best policy based on that knowledge, we debate it based on dogma. and that's a formula for transforming democracy into authoritarianism. because at that point then, who writes the dogma? the person with the biggest megaphone. instead of turning to knowledge
that any one of us citizens can generate, we turn to received wisdom from those already in authority. but this is not a conservative or progressive problem in specific. science is not partisan. but science is also political. and that's a really important distinction to keep in mind. the reason is that science creates knowledge. and as francis bacon said, knowledge is power because it gives you the ability to act in the real world, to change the world. and when you do that, you are going to either confirm be or disrupt -- confirm or disrupt somebody's vested interests. and that is always a political process. also new knowledge about an issue, for instance, when and how life begins, causes us to refine our moral, ethical and legal and policy codes in order
to respond to that new knowledge. and that is inherently a political process as well. so there is an economic disruption and an ideological disruption that science often poses. and we'll see that that is driving much of what we're experiencing right now. so instead of a left-right continuum of politics, i would invite you to think about politics more as a plane with, certainly, a left-right continue women between left wing -- continuum between left wing and right wing and also a top-down continuum between anti-authoritarian and authoritarian. science is never partisan because it is both conservative and progressive. a scientist is always going to research what has been established before, that tradition if you will before they publish on something or they could embarrass themselves. but they are also always going to be open to the frontier where i new knowledge is happening.
the progressive end of things. because that's how you make your career. so it's about protecting yourself and making your career. you have to be both. but science is decidedly an anti-authoritarian occupation. it takes nothing on faith. by its nature, it says show me the evidence, and i will judge for myself. so science does take a position politically, though not in a partisan way. now, if you think about american politics in terms of this plane, it becomes possible to imagine that there could be such a thing as a liberal conservative. and, in fact, there once were and there probably still are. it's just hard to talk right now if you're a liberal conservative. because we are so used to hearing about these things as opposite ends of a spectrum. but liberal really means open to evidence, open the exploration. and conservative is not exclusive of that.
what i would argue is going on in american politics right now particularly in the republican party is more of this argument over authoritarianism and the rise of authoritarianism and those who view policy as being dictated by authoritarian sources and those who don't. but this isn't just happening on, for instance, climate change or vaccines or evolution. it's happening on a wide range of topics that are emerging because of emerging science. this globe with all these blue lines represent facebook connections. you'll notice, for instance, that china is dark. we call that the great firewall of china. they block facebook. but they might as well represent connections between scientists working over the internet who are no longer geographically constrained to work in the same lab, in the same location at the
same time. at the same time, we have vastly increased the number of scientists working through our university education system in the last 30-40 years. so now we have a vast number, an increase in the number of scientists and a vast increase in the quality of their working together to the point that over the next 40 years we'll be creating as much new knowledge as we have since the beginning of the scientific revolution. now, if you think about that and if you think about some of the issues listed on this slide and how many of our past scientific discoveries have engendered large political discussions and conflict and gridlock because of the moral and ethical implications they've posed or because of the economic disruptions they've posed, we could be in for a very rocky next half century. and we certainly need to find a new system, a better system of incorporating complex scientific
information into our policy dialogue in a democracy. the system is starting to break down, and we need to find a new strategy. so the question emerges, are the people still well enough informed to be trusted with their own government? [laughter] this picture works particularly well with both signs, i think. you need them both. this guy is going to be voting on all of these issues. and it becomes easy to see that we have an issue with outreach, with education, with that well-informed voter. judging from congress -- there they are, all working hard on their laptops -- the answer is probably not. of the 535 members of congress, there are only 11 of them that have a professional background in science according to the congressional research survey. one microbiologist, one physicist, one chemist and eight engineers. i know some of the pure
scientists in the world might take issue with the eight engineers. randy, i'm sorry -- [laughter] but i'm not going there. except for a cheap joke. [laughter] by comparison, how many do you suppose are lawyers who mostly duck science classes in college? huh? >> [inaudible] >> 400? [laughter] wow. we've got some cynics in this audience here. but you're not far off, sadly. it's 211 or 40%. 40% of congress are attorneys. now, this is important because attorneys approach problems of fact in a distinctly different way. they use science, of course, but they don't start from the ground up and see where the evidence leads. they start with a predetermined conclusion that they seek to convince you of, and then they selectively use the science that supports that conclusion. and they'll certainly research all the other science so they're aware of it so that they can argue against it. but that becomes a problem when
more and more issues have vast inputs of knowledge from science itself. these people are not necessarily well equipped to make the best decisions in that case. especially since congress has abolished its science advisory body, the office of technology assessment, not abolished, defunded. i guess i should be fair. but it hasn't come back in about 20 years. and that's an issue only to the extent that, or you know, members now rely on lobbyists and the internet. fortunately, those two sources always tell the truth, so i think we'll probably be okay. but to the extent that they don't, we're in trouble. so where with's this, where's this battle coming from? in order to understand that, we first really need to understand what's driving it in society, because those are the action points where anti-science campaigns can move people. so let's take a quick look at the broader narrative line of u.s. science politics.
i'm really talking about the emotional movements here. the public's attitude about science. and the lines are red and blue for a reason, as you'll see in a moment. a little over a hundred years ago, science was really quickly commercialized. new technology was developed, a lot of engineering was done based on science and vast fortunes were made. so it was a source of great economic growth, of pride, of new jobs, of an american can-do attitude, and it had -- it enjoyed, aside from certain democrats like william jennings bryan who campaigned against evolution for its destroying the moral be underpinnings of society, otherwise most people had favorable attitudes towards science because of this. but then something happened around 1945 with the explosion of the atomic bomb. and that led the united states into a great moral reflexion in the immediate postwar years with
a lot of even military generals talking about how they felt we'd become intellectual giants, but moral and ethical infants. there was a lot of discussion about whether or not we had overstepped our ability to self-govern with our ability to tech knoll eyes and whether we had made a big mistake. additionally, there was a lot of fear that began to happen particularly in 1949 after the soviet union ignited their atom bomb. and the possibility that this could come back, boomerang back and haunt, you know, and kill our population began to haunt a lot of americans, and there was a generation -- many of you in this room, i'm sure, will recall those duck and cover movies and growing up with the idea that you could be annihilated at any moment. that fear really crystallized in 1957 with the launch of sputnik, and for the first time the idea
that we should have a peacetime investment in science was finally funded. and the national science foundation received money and began to fund government science in peacetime. this also led to a big race, not just a space race, but a science race in order to beat the soviets to the moon and to establish american dominance. now, this was not just a science objective. this was a political objective that kennedy set using the tools of science to defend democracy as he apprehended that they really stood to do. but something very interesting happened at that point in time. nsf and other government granting agencies had to develop methods of judging grant applications. and otherwise, you know, you can't just grant taxpayer money
willy-nilly, and if you send it to somebody that has a goofball grant application, it could open up the whole program to a lot of criticism and political problems. it was fraught with danger in a lot of ways. so they developed reasonably and rationally a system of judging these grant applications that were judged by other scientists. but what they didn't do in this school of unintended consequences is provide for the same level of public engagement that scientists had had to make before then. in the years prior to that, for instance, people like ed win hubbel, the cosmologies, would travel -- coz moll gist would travel around, and this kind of public engagement with science had happened for about 50 years. suddenly, that began to transform because scientists really did not need to engage with the public in the same way in order to get much of their funding.
much of it started funneling through universities, tenure system developed that also did not value public outreach, in fact, had some strong incentives against public outreach. so science became much more silent starting in this period. unintentionally and for good reason, but with some consequences that we are now living with. around the same time, this postwar period saw a lot of other changes too, particularly in the application of other technologies that were developed during the war. for instance, the use of ddt which protected soldiers in the pacific islands from malaria was broadly used throughout the united states then. and this broad use of chemicals in the environment led to rachel carson's silent spring in 1962. really the birth of environmental science and the environmental movement in a lot of ways. also she became a massive target of a public relations campaign
by chemical companies and agrichemical companies that parallelled in many ways some of the attacks we see on climate scientists we see today. we saw a splitting off of petrol/chemical companies whose business models had developed prior to and during the the war and were seeking to maintain during peacetime with these domestic applications suddenly potentially being undermined by the new science that was coming out that rachel carson's book was the tip of the iceberg for. so we saw the beginning of modern wars on science. about ten years later, fundamentalists really started seeking -- seeing objection, raising objection to our growing control over the human reproductive process. the pill was, had been out since 1960 roughly, and this cover of
"time" magazine here from 1978 talked about a test tube baby. religious conservatives were debating whether or not test tube, invitro babies would have souls. to the extent that we know so far, they do seem to have souls just like the rest of us. but this fundamentalist objection to origins science, be it origins of the cosmos or origins of us as human beings, was treading on god's turf. ironic since protestantism is really much of where western science originally grew out of that things have come somewhat full circle. but this discomfort between these two groups may start sounding familiar to you. in fact, the division between old industry and old religion on one side and science and environmentalists on the other side came to define some of the basis of our modern political party structure as democrats and
republicans realigned themselves around these issues. today anti-science is, on the right is themed around the theme of creeping socialism. and it's generally directed at climate change, evolution, reproduction and, recently, vaccines under two arguments. one is the hpv concern that eliminating the risk of cervical cancer is going to encourage young women to have sex, and the other is that the libertarian concern that the government doesn't have any business intruding in our bodies. on the left it's more about hidden dangers. and some of this is quite justified, but when it gets into anti-science, it's extending these concerns in ways that are not supported by the evidence. suspicion of mainstream medicine or the idea that cell phones may cause brain cancer. i can tell you based on physics,
chemistry and biology, it's physically impossible. you don't have to worry about your cell phone. or vaccines may cause autism, that waste energy plants are driving climate change or that fluoride in water is poisoning you or, again, genetically-modified crops are unsafe to eat. now, there are other political issues around gmo, about whether companies should control a genome or about the broad use of pesticides. but that has nothing to do with the science. there is no ingredient if we're talking about gmo labeling, gmo is not an added-to ingredient in food, it's just another way of breeding. in fact, interesting side note for those of you who don't know, you know, you can bombard seeds with cancer-causing chemicals and radiation, a process called mute genesis in order to get them to change genetically, and then you can plant those resulting changed plants, and
you can call that organic. so food for thought. the motivation on the right is largely anti-regulation, anti-reproductive control and pro-corporate. on the left the motivation is pro-environment, pro-choice and anti-corporate. is this all starting to sound familiar? the theme on the right is liberal scientists with a social u.s. agenda want to control your life and limit your freedom. so it's really about ultimate individualism. and on the left, it's impersonal doctors, greedy corporations and mechanistic scientists hide the real dangers to health, the environment and the spirit. the interesting thing that since nsf scientists have really largely not participated in the be public dialogue in this discussion. it's mostly happened among people who are not working scientists. so this is occurring across three major ballotfields. there's an identity -- battlefields. there's an identity politics, an
ideological war on science being fought by fundamentalists and an industrial war on science being fought by corporations who don't like what science suggests about their profit structure. let's take just really quick, brief looks at the three of them, and then we'll get to a couple of solutions, and then al and i will have a conversation and participate with you in that. the first is the identity politics war on science which really grew out, again postwar, about this idea that all truth is subjective, and we should have suspicion of metanarratives. and metanarratives are essentially stories that groups in power spin in order to retain power. and science is just one of those meta-narratives. science is, therefore, just another way of knowing, equivalent with indigenous knowledge or alternative medicine or any other way of knowing that we have.
now, the problem with this thinking is that science itself really is a method that is designed to strip what is true out of all of those individual sources of bias that post-modernism really emphasizes. what is true away from our gender identity, away from our racial identity, away from our cultural or sexual or political or religious identity so that we arrive at the kernel that is reliable no matter who does the measuring. that's what science was designed to do by going not to us, but to nature. and that's where the humanities departments who are being depoised by the science departments in terms of funding and prestige got it wrong when they started arguing that science was subjective. ..
we hocked up to her afterwards and said -- this is -- are you just trying to draw them out and get them to engage and be provocative. said, no, we can't really know that. haven't you read thomas coons? structure of scientific revolution. all politics. he went to the tenure committee and said -- there's three of them -- i can't vote for this person she is disseminating nonsense. how can i support her? and they considered it and they booked her up because we can't know, according to them, whether the earth goes around the sun. so, this is not a fantasy. this is happening in many universities across the country
right now. but it's decidedly wrong and that's where these professors have become confused and laid down a is in sol cal cam maintain we shouldn't believe anything unless it's sported by evidence. one area comping to fruition is in journalism, where schools have taught there's no such thing as objectivity. now, that may be good -- may be a good idea to embrace your own bias to acknowledge that, to not say i'm writing with a voice of objectivity when i do an article. and it's important to empower disempowered voices because the more perspective on a problem for science, the more -- >> in the voice of san diego,
not to pick on them. one of many publications who do the same thing, but there is i it. no such thing as objectivity. on the speaking circuit. no such thing as objectivity. even an objective publication saying that's no such thing as objectivity. how can journalists drill down good and get to the objective facts and truth? are we devolving into a prejohn lock era where all did parties are warring with one another with equal claims on what is true and one is not true, and where it's only one's point. it's just your opinion, we hear on the news. journalists say i'm a generalist. i'm not an expert on everything. seek truth and i seek balance and in order to present a
balanced story i will get two different points of view. i'll talk to a scientist and talk to somebody in the corner, and it's a more dynamic story if they don't agree. the idea is that somehow you'll flush out the truth in that process. but it doesn't work that way if you're equating somebody speaking with college some hey yahoo with an opinion on the other, or a very informed person speaking to convince you of the rightness of their point that is corrected by the evidence. so, there's always two side's every story. bosh she is two plus two is four, jowlly says two plus two is circumstance, the controversy rages. right? you sell newspapers. scientist will say one side is objectively wrong. even though the reporter says julie might heal legitimate reasons. scientist will say i can show you with these four apples that bob is clearly right.
doesn't matter how julie feels bit it. then you have politics. how bat compromise? we gate new law saying that two plus two equals five. and that's american politics in a nutshell these days. the problem is that it is reliant on the journalistic false balance. speaking with scientists conducting experiments, working sometimes with billions of data points, representing all that knowledge to the public so that they can make an informed public policy decision. then the other half of the screen you have somebody that is highly motivated to convince the public of the rightness of their position and there are probably much more articulate at it because the bar for them, they feel, is higher so they'll work as hard that's can to be convincing. what that does in public policy, it skews the dialogue toward
more extreme positions by driving us away from what is supported by evidence and providing a voice to opinion that is not supported by knowledge. all right. we've got the ideological war on science, which gorgeousist fail to take on abuse of this concern about balance or about selling newspapers. in this -- in its modern form began after -- began in the post war period. although the ideological conflicts with science date back to galileo and the priests that refused to even look through this telescope to see the evidence he was pointing to and talking about. but here, after the russians detonated their bomb in 1949, billy graham took to the road and talked about how society was going through a moral nosedive, we're elevating man and we're taking god off of his stool, and
society was beginning to crumble because of it. and it was all due to science. at the same time we, as science advanced, a decade later, we had television and a lot of evangelicals saw this as a great opportunity to exercise the commission of matthew, to good, therefore, and make disciples of all nations and take advantage of the new medium of television to convert people to unevangelicallism and to run for office and instill evangelical ideas into democracy. james dobson claimed the 1990s the beginning of a civil war on value, and franklin graham was prepareness st. paul, where i was from, on the capitol, encouraging people to run for public office if they were pro
life and against gay marriage. he said that society is in a moral nosedive. virtually echoing his father's words from 1949. so, some things have not changed and the relationship between fundamentalists and science. then there's an industrial war on science which journalists fail to take on. and the industrial war on science tends to be about regulation. regulation where science has provided us with some information that has been commercialized in some way or another, and then about ten years down the road says, wait a minute, unintended consequences to look at. we got regulate this. the business is built on the older science don't like that and seek to protect their profit model and we wind up with science fighting science. so different aspects of regulation where we see attacks by industry on scientists and on the known science in these
particular areas and in a few others. for example in 1968, stanford research institute, now a private research institute, was largely serving economic development for corporations, they actually did a study for the american petroleum institute, a final report, talking about how significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000. they could bring about climatic changes. this is 1968. i'd sky they nailed it pretty well. and the petroleum companies or members of the petroleum institute knew about this at that point in time in 1990s, as the kyoto protocol was being discussed, number of oil companies and other activists in that same vein, public relations firms and others, got together and created the global science
communications action plan, and they laid out what in 1998 has now become a series of very familiar talking points we hear over and over, emphasizing the uncertainties. uncertainties. following the question of validity of viewpoints or -- supporting the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current conventional wisdom. more uncertainties. and making mainstream science appear to be out of touch with reality. to the extent that we can cause a controversy, we can take advantage of the belief that debate is healthy, bit goes back to the false balance argument. if one side is informed by college the other is informed by opinion or some other motivation, it's not a fair fight. it's not an even-handed debate. journalists, of course, feed into this because of their focus on balance, and that why it was developed that way.
in 2008 we noticed the paucity of discussion of big science issues -- i'm towards the end here -- by these top five tv news anchors. matthew chapman, mike, at science debate, and four other people, and i, noticed this, and in fact at that point in time these five had conducted 171 different interviews with the then-candidates for presidents. asked them nearly 3,000 questions. how many of those mentioned the words pueblo warming "or" climate changement" big questions. any guesses? ten? i heard somebody else. two? another cynic, you're stealing all my material. six. there was six. put that in perspective, three questions about ufos.
so, that is the relative seriousness that the national press corps placed on this issue. now, you think, you know, okay, that's 2008. we have come a long way, right? we just had the paris climate accords in december of last year, november 30th to december 12th last. >> 195 different countries came together for the first time, have an international accord to begin rebuilding the international economy and moving us slowly off of carbon. in the week following, the democrats and the republicans both had presidential debates. one on cnn, one on abc. how many questions do you suppose the journalists asked them in the republican debate about climate change? zero. right. how many do you suppose asked in the democratic debate? one? two? five? zero. zero.
so we really haven't made much progress in the intervening years, particularly when it comes to journalists and their ideas about contentious issues that have political ramifications but that are never informed by the evidence. science. the foundation of democracy. yet we can't talk about it. i don't care what party you're with. if we don't base our decisions on evidence, we're shooting ourselves in the foot. nature doesn't care what party we are. this is a worldwide hoax and it's primary target is you, the people of the united states of america, rush limbaugh says, james inhofe, senator, the greatest hoax perpetrate on the american people. it's a money-making industry, says donald trump. a hoax, a lot of it. 1920, germany, similar comments were made. right-wing relativity denears, attacking albert einstein's
theory as a big hoax and jewish science. terms that are commonly used by authoritarians when they seek to convince people that the wool is being pulled over their eyes and everybody believes the with a i do and this is a big hoax. this world is a strange madhouse. currently every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. belief in the matter depends on political party affiliation. sound familiar? winning the war. the book has several battle plans, and i'm not going to go into them in detail. just going to skip over the surface of a couple of them. the first and most important thing is to realize that no matter, again, science is not partisan no matter one's party affiliation, the great equalizer and uniter in democracy and science, evidence from science. assertions against science are made usually by people whose position is not supported bid
the evidence. therefore, they're authoritarian. one thing to look at is the national center for science and self-goneend to develop legal theory and model bills that protect democracy and that encourage a mow roar bust democracy in an age when science is having huge inputs into our policies. retraining the media and pro-evidence journalism and holding them to account as, for instance, media matters for america does by developing important metrics on skewed public policy reporting in the media. to provide that important back pressure on the media, to consider evidence as part of balanced reporting. as a friend of mine, don shelby says, he is a pea body and emmy winning news anchor, really balanced reporting what he tells reporter when i talks to them, imagine it not as a and b but as a set of scales and ow you report on the side of the story
with the weight of the evidence on that side. granting bodies, there's a lot to do with reforming granting bodies but requiring and funding five percent on lab outreach would be a good start so that we build in more science communication for the health of democracy, for the robustness of democracy, into the process, because it's fine to extend science way out on narrow him limbs of chains of evidence but if we're not bringing the rest of society with us we're creating a gap that creates a weakened science enterprise. make knowledge more accessible and integrated. get it out of some of the journals, into a vast online journal that it searchable. create model bills to tackle science denial and myth of shareholder value being the sole termantsants of corporate performance, there's no require that requires corporations to strictly maximize shareholder value.
as supreme court recently stated in an opinion. focus on process versus outcomes in education. this is so important because it teaches people how to think and how to make that leap from, sure, it's fine to question everything, but then what do you replace it with? you have to good with evidence, not the opinion of your best friend or political cohort. faith leaders. whenever i talk to faith leaders i say they join the aaaf and live in the modern age of science. immense, complex case and engineering issues facing us. they all have finally tuned moral and ethical components that recent pastors could have fascinating discussions pending people navigate the complex new world. coordinating science and the scientific enterprise with
disempowered groups because science equates to civil right is. the foundation of the idea of civil rights and there's not enough of an mobile and political connection there. and refuting the myths of the noninterdependent self. the idea is my own actions are the only thing i need to take into account. one last step you can do, sign on, support science debate.org doering, a project created by six people that went viral, had 40 some thousand scientists and engineers sign on and some ways transformed the science enterprise's relationship with politics and the way certain people think about it. a couple hundred universities, members of congresses, crowe's companies, join them. in good company, calling for candidates to talk about these things blahs if we get them in the public discussion, then we can trust in this beautiful process of democracy that we have developed. to vet these ideas, this
thinking, and move them forward. science debate.org in 2008 and 2012 held online exchanges between president obama and his opponent, senator mccain and governor romney. we made nearly two billion media impressions in newspapers and online publications and news reports ron the world, mostly in the united states, creating coverage of these issues that hadn't and probably wouldn't have been discussed were it not for this issue. so, it really is true that old adage that a small group of determined individuals can change the world. in fact, president obama quoted our mission statement in his inauguration speech and appoint several of our earliest and more are depth supporters to -- ardent supporters to his cabinet. so, again, science debate.org. in 1948, albert ion citizen sent
a desperate telegram out to friends, supporters and other people that he thought were of influence. arguing essentially that they needed to support a new change in our dialogue between america's relationship and science, and i'm paraphrasing here but essentially argued everything has changed. different wives thinking. i suggest we're still dealing with that same question. so, thank you for listen, and we'll have a discussion now. [applause] >> i should say that the tv crew will -- when it comes to request & a they will be bringing around a microphone that is not tied to
the pa system in the road but so they can pick up your question so work with them on that and speak loudly. >> we should explain the presence of the tv cameras. this is being videotaped for booktv, which is c-span production. so, the microphones are going to feed into the audio feed for that program. okay. you've raised a lot of question. i've been doing science policy my whole career. i was held of science policy at aaas before coming here to gw and a lot of these questions are familiar. you're not a scientist. how did you get into this business? i started out as a scientist and then i got interested in policy, and pursued that. but look at your resume and say,
where is his interest in science? >> i am a bit of an odd duck that way. i actually started kind of a combination of things, fies six, neuroscience and psychology in college i wrote my own degree at a school called mcallister college. and maintaining interest in it. a lot of my heroes were writers, and i just wanted to be a writer. i pursued that, but i became known in hollywood as somebody who would write about science, and matthew chapman, cofounder of science debate.org and happens to be charles darwin's great-great grandson, is a writer, wrote "runaway injury" and directed a movie, and we were up for adapting a biography and albert einstein and then the hollywood writer strike came along and we were all without work and had a little time on our hands and very frustrated by
the low quality of the political discussion at that point in time, and how the candidates really weren't talking about any of the science, tech, halve, environmental challenges we were facing, and from our point of view those have as large an impacting a economic challenges foreign policy challenges on everyone's daily lives. so we tried to do something about it which led us down a very twisty rabbit hole. >> so, you have written this book, which you title "the war on science." and you have describe it a bit but it sounds to me like there is -- i mean, the term "war on science" suggests an organized opposition. is this -- are we science advocates facing an organized opposition to science or is this just coming from different quarters as you described and industry and right-wing politics?
>> it's both. it's both. it is organized, particularly the industrial war on science. there's a large network of grassroots groups being funded by the energy industry that follow a fairly prescribed strategy, a strategy i lay out in the book, and for instance, americans for prosperity, one of them floated by essentially the koch brothers is four times the size of the republican party. so, they carry enormous weight in the american political conversation these days, and have a specific objective they're pushing. >> why do you suppose they're doing this? what is their stake in this business? how do you -- >> well, if you're an oil company, climate change is an existential issue, particularly these days with 17 attorneys
general going after energy companies, investigating them and whether or not they did in fact know that carbon products, fossil fuels, were causing climate change in the '60s and '70s and set about disinformation campaigns. it's an existential issue with multibillion dollar or trillion dollar questions in the balance. >> i was intrigued by your raising the issue of false balance. i see this myself. how do you get around this -- how do you teach journalists that this is not the way to serve the public interest? >> it's a big problem. a journalist really is a jennies.
they're not an expert in anything. they would be irresponsible by portraying their reporting as objective when it's not. they have to acknowledge they're biases but at the same time they're falling down, which i point out to them, is fail to consider the weight of the work of evidence and they need to balance their reporting by telling the story that is most supported by the evidence. there's some people i point to that do this very well in the book. for instance, i talked with stephanie kurtis, the producer of a program called "climate cast" which is distributed in several markets in the country because it's the only weekly radio show that actually gets -- goes in depth in climate change and doesn't get caught in details whether it's happening or not.
and turns another that once you get past that base level political question the whole world opens up as far as fascinating questions about how el niño affects lakes in the midwest, or weather patterns, things like that, and how we should be preparing for coming changes. so, it's actually an approach that could make meteorologists, for instance, into almost anchor level positions. it could vastly increase their importance to their viewership, because they're providing real solid information that people need to know. >> this is a more speculative kind of question. how do you think future scientific developments are likely to affect the war on science and the opposition to the war on science and to expand
on that, there is a way to promote science in a direction that will help in fighting this war on science? >> yeah. well, one thing that occurs along two lines. one is that line one that has to do with short-circuiting democracy in order to forestall or curtail regulations or bills that will affect your business or bottom line. so, it usually involves public relations campaigns in order to paralyze the process or get people to vote one way or another and to provide them with quote-unquote science that is cherry picked that can throw up uncertainties to challenge the traditional mainstream science. the other is the issue when science presents us with a moral quandary or an area that we need to, as knowledge advances, we
need to refine our moral and ethical understanding that always carries the debate and engenders concern from religious conservatives who often are biblical literalists and don't like science telling white house to do, it's intruding on god's territory. that's going to continue to happen, particularly the most fascinating area is the emergence of knowledge in neuroscience and what that says about free will, and the interrelationship between neuroscience and computer science, because if people have only limited agency and we can define when they do and don't have agency and what the limits, what does that say about our legal system and holding people accountable for their actions? there's ban lot of very interesting moral and ethical and legal and policy questions we'll bet getting into. that's one example. >> that's a good point at which to open this up to questions
from the audience, and i see one immediately, and i see a gentleman over here with a microphone on a wand. >> this is very good lecture, and i think -- i think basically we chose the worse science to practice -- fairness. we substitute this war, your political system will be -- whether you are republican or democrat. so it does mention about public comment and the problem is that for-profit corporations, whether it's individual or whether it's a koch brothers, the importance
is they use the profit, in their debate. so everything is really in terms of who give the most money to the consumer or the government. so if we can substitute this, and if you see that -- they want to label him mental ill instead of a great scientist. if we just -- wording about justice and the fairness and the -- we want to debate. so, the importance of people -- >> a really good observation. >> -- people a lot of them -- a lot of people speak. >> yes, thank you. >> it is about justice. absolutely. and science is -- by creating evidence that it impartial is the foundation of not only our justice system but our political system as well.
and so i think that the emphasis on justice is actually a very good suggestion. thank you. >> here, let me remind you that these are questions and -- question your voice rise at the expend ends with a question mark. and so it should be no more than a short paragraph. >> i'm sorry that whole his stick medicine and genetically modified organisms were swept into some of what i would agree is really antiscience, where evidence is denied. ...
>> the examination of vitamin c under pressure, but then they said we're not going to look any further back than 1982. social science tries to be as exhaustive as possible so you don't miss anything. so what research did you use to lump holistic medicine as an anti-science? >> thank you. >> okay. so i think if i understand it right, the question is what research did i use to lump holistic medicine in as an anti-science. i don't think i said holistic, i said alternative.
although if by holistic you're meaning things like homeopathy, for instance, there is no scientific evidence to show that homeopathy works. if you, when you're talking about genetically-modified food, a lot of people are thinking that yes netically-mod -- genetically modifies means some additional ingredient that we're adding to it or something like that, and all it is is a more precise food of plant breeding. and in some ways, it is safer than prior breeding methods. but where it gets into trouble, i think, and where there is a politically important issue is how it's genetically modified and for what purposes. if it's to save the papaya or to prevent blindness, then those are good purposes that, like any
tool -- science is a tool, remember -- that serve human today. if it's yes netically modified to make plants withstand herbicides or, not herbicides -- well, some herbicides and insecticides that are essentially borrowing from the environment by creating other problems, then generally there's probably going to be some unintended consequences from that. and we're seeing that, and i talk about that in the book with the emergence of super weeds. so it's a danger to broadly say that all gmo bad to eat, which is what is often argued by those in the organic food movement, for instance. that's not true. there is a political, legitimate political controversy about how it's applied. >> over here.
and then the gentleman next to you. >> my question, and it is a question, has to do with education. where do we start? how do we start? i'm concerned about not only on college campuses about trigger warnings and things that students yet, they don't want to be upset, yet if you're going to truly learn, i think learning is fundamentally dangerous, in my opinion. where do we start so that children and young people's minds are prepared, are opened to receive information that might be controversial? because i think that's the key to ending the war on science. >> right. yeah. good question. one of the things that i, when i talk to teachers, i talk about process a lot. and about different techniques that you can use. obviously, when you're teaching young students, you want to create cognitive dissonance, you want to elevate their level of concern so that they're engaged,
and then science shows they're actually receptive to new information because it's a solution to a problem or the answer to a question that they've raised themselves in their own mind. well, what better way to raise concern than to talk about politically contentious science issues? now, administrations often are uncomfortable around that. but student science debates are a fantastic tool, one that i often talk about. taking politically-contentious topics that are surrounding science, for instance, making an assertion, vaccines do cause autism or that that climate change is human-caused or is not human-caused, something like that. and then assigning the students to research both sides of the question but not telling them which side they're going to debate until the day of. in which case you flip a coin. the students actually learn for themselves some of the more interesting differences between
rhetorical arguments or public relations arguments and actual science. and they're equipped on both sides. and they kind of learn the difference. so that's one interesting tool that's actually a lot of fun. that doesn't have the teacher responsible for taking a position if the administration is uncomfortable about it. another one that i like to do working with students on the fundamental questions like is something alive or not alive. my wife used to be a science teacher, and she would use a unit to explore this with air ferns which, if you know -- i'm not going to tell you whether air ferns are alive or not, you can research it for yourselves. but they're sort of like viruses in that it's a fascinating area to given to explore some of the fundamental questions about life and the universe. and if you can engage students in that and where the answer is
not readily apparent and there are some twists and turns, you can capture their imagination in a way that i think is very important. because it's not about regurgitating the right answer, which is not what science is. it's about an exploration of these big ideas that we're still grappling with. so those are two examples anyway. >> hi, my name is roger. i'm an engineer, so my background is science and physics -- >> could you speak a little louder or, please? >> okay. so i had a comment and a couple questions. the comment was the people who need to read your book, aren't going to read your book -- [laughter] so that kind of leads me to my first question which is what can we do about it? and i think you answered the education piece perfectly are. i mean, i think if you get students engaged, that's a great way forward. but beyond student engagement, what does your book recommend that we do about it? and the second question is just -- i'll ask the second question in a minute, but --
>> okay. well, first, let me apologize for the wisecrack about engineers at the top of the talk. [laughter] i was just having fun. but, all right. yes, those who are authoritarian by nature or who are predisposed in one perspective about, say, climate change and they're going to assume this is a book about climate change which it's not, although it has a chapter about industrial science. those people aren't going to probably pick it up. but their family members might, their friends might, members of the media i certainly hope will. and by equipping people with some tools to think about this and to think about -- and to be reminded of what they may have
known and forgotten about the fundamental role of evidence and science in democracy i think will give those people tools to begin to change the conversation to at least feel equipped to challenge some of the pithy talking points that are being provided on a daily basis to the other side. >> i guess my other question was just what's the next book going to be? [laughter] >> well, i'm actually -- i'm to exploring a topic right now that is pretty fascinating to me about bear bile, actually, and about a type of acid which was discovered by a guy named cliff steer at university of minnesota. and it slows or stops slip ptosis. and it's an amazing chemical
compound that's manufactured by microorganisms in our gut. and it appears in very, very high levels in bear bile. >> [inaudible] >> no, bear bile. [laughter] but for a variety of reasons, even though it's kind of a wonder drug that can treat parkinsons and als and all kinds of degenerative health issues, it's not being produced because of the structure of our pharmaceutical system. >> sounds like alternative medicine -- [laughter] >> well, yeah, that's the other fascinating part about it, that it involves the chinese behalf california i mean, the bears -- mafia. bears, their bile and their gallbladders have been eaten for 3,000 years in china. >> yes. over here and then in the back. >> how would you evaluate the work of journalists in places
like the science sectionof "the new york times"? and if -- and i have found -- my name is stephanie, and i try to be a quasi-informed layperson. and i have found many of their articles to be very informative, but what would your evaluation be about, a, how well do they do to combat disinformation and how well do they interact with other journalists who may be so addicted to balance that they avoid evidence? >> i'd say that "the new york times" science section generally does a pretty good job. the problem is that there are so few science sections left. only 7%, i think, or 7% of the members of national association of science writers actually have positions in their field. many of them have to work in other fields or work as science bloggers because newspapers have cut those sections, by and large. because they're more expensive. same with investigative journalism sections.
those are the two sections that really have been axed z the model of kind of free news on the internet has taken hold. so it's a big problem. because here we are, ironically, living in an age when science impacts almost every big policy issue, and science is, first of all, ghettoized so it never appeared on the political pages because editors don't put it there. and second of all, most newspapers don't have science sections anymore. so people are noteven being given the -- not even being given the information they need to equip themselves. >> hi. my question's really simple: what is the role of scientists in this war on science? >> yes, it's a really great question. yeah. it's simple and deceptively simple because it's very important. but, you know, the most important thing i think is to get out and be involved in the community and be out as a scientist. because we need to reconnect
that severed link between science and society, and the best way to do that is by personal, emotional relationships. that is how people make many of their decisions, and that's what influences many people in their thinking. and right now polls show that the majority of americans can't name a single living scientist, even though there are about two million working among us like zombies. yeah. >> woman in the back. >> you just touched on topic i was going to ask you, am going to ask you about. you said touching people emotionally and personally. now, with your association in hollywood, why not have sexy tv shows that are all connecting the dots scientifically and getting the people to be associated with it, connect them in their homes, do it emotionally because look what's
been happening politically recently. >> yeah. no, that's a great idea. there's, the national academy's, national academy of sciences, engineering and medicine actually have a program called the science and entertainment exchange where they work to do just that. they provide scientists as science advisers to films and tv shows so that they get the science right, and they also have somewhat of an ulterior motive, i think, by informing those kinds of relationships between producers, writers and scientists so that they see that scientists are actually genre pretty cool -- generally pretty cool people that are multitalented and not kind of the dry, boring asexual people talking in monotone on a filmstrip. so i think it is having a positive effect, although hollywood has a hard time with science. we have to face it. it's hard for them to do comedies without making fun of
scientists, you know, making them into either idiotic nerds or evil, you know, machinators. and i think that's something that comes out of that two culture divides that snowe talked about and that we're still struggling with now. it's certainly something that i would like to find a way to continue to make progress on. >> okay. we have a hand here and one back there. so start here. >> sure. so i'm studying engineering right now, but i have a strong interest in a future career in science policy. and as i've begun to interact with people who advise congressmen on science issues, they're typically with a public policy or a political science background as well. so i'm wondering if you have a perspective of if that should change, and more largely, what the great impediment is internal to this process. you talked a lot about the
external forces that are dieding people apart, but certainly how can we mend this relationship and what's standing in the way? >> absolutely. call your member of congress and ask if they have a science adviser. a lot of times they'll say, no. in which case volunteer. [laughter] and help them and say i'll put together a team even. and the thing about it is that it doesn't matter what their political party is. if you're providing them with the latest objective knowledge impartially, you're doing a great service. and that's good no matter who the member is. the other thing that i try to encourage is taking a nonpartisan approach. i talk in the book about kind of the structural issue right now, the problem with the way that we do science advice in the united states, particularly the presidential science adviser which is appointed by the president and therefore is
inherently looked upon as biased by the opposing political party. sir peter good luckman provides a really good example of how to do it differently. i have an interview and profile with him in the book, he's the science adviser for new zealand, and he made a great decision early on when he was asked to advise a prime minister, he said i'll only do it if i can equally advise the other side. because i'm there for the government, and i'm speaking objectively. and the prime minister agreed, and they had a lot of problems with morbidity in their teen population with drug abuse, a lot of teen pregnancy, suicide, high suicide rates, and they commissioned gluckman to form a team to get to the bottom of this and come up with policy solutions. and instead of putting together a team of stakeholders, a team of vested interests each with their own bias coming together to see what the best compromise they can make is, he went to
academics and scientists that researched the question impartially. it was peer-reviewed both nationally and internationally, and they came up with a number of different recommendations. the fascinating thing was that through that process which was very transparent, at the end of it the prime minister stood up and said we don't know which of these recommendations are going to work because, you know, this is a new problem. so there's not a lot of history on it. but based on what we do know, these are the best recommendations, and we're going to go forward with them. and he had gluckman on stage with him, and they had tremendous support because of that. the public, i think, found that really refreshing, that approach. so as far as kind of a conceptual approach to science advice, that's what i would encourage. but in the u.s. system as it is now, reach out no matter the political party or the person and offer to serve.
>> actually there's a, i know a former republican congressman from michigan who tells that pretty much that story as a personal story. he volunteered as a science adviser, ended up as a member of congress. >> is that -- >> vern elers. >> yeah. vern is a terrific guy and one of our earliest supporters of science debate. yep. >> in the back. all the way in the back. >> okay. sir, i just wanted to know if you felt that it would be inevitable that science would actually win this war in the long run concerning that, considering that the earth is finite, its resources are finite, population is exploding and the needs of the population are going to become thorny, and
it's going to demand scientific answers to resolve them to make life on earth that much better for humanity and society. >> yeah. okay, yeah, i'll repeat it more broadly. his question was baud of the -- because of the finite limits of the planet whether ultimately science is going to win the war anyway because we're butching up against the limits -- bumping up against the limits with our increasing population and the limited pasture or limited field. and i think to a certain extent that's true, although there are a lot of people who question that. a couple of people i talked to in the book, simon levin questioned that, pointing to how science has repeatedly kind of broken that zero sum game thinking by innovating ways to increase the productivity of the pasture, of the bountied field. but i do think there's a very strong argument to be made that,
for that we're facing a limiting factor. whether science gets us to a sustainable solution ahead of nature is the open question, i think, and i think we'd all like to manage our own sustainability instead of nature managing it for us, because i don't think that outcome is going to be a very pretty one. >> the lady here with her hand up. >> as a layperson, i guess my question is that i think it's hard -- there are things that we make, scientists make mistakes or they learn different things. and i think, and maybe this has to do just with reporting. but especially in the area of health or nutrition there are claims that people make rather arrogantly. i don't know whether it's based
on science or one of these other factors, but then people buy into that, and it becomes kind of a fad. and then pretty soon you're off to another thing. and what it does is it undermines people's confidence in what they read about science, and maybe this just gets back to how science is reported. >> i think you're absolutely right. a lot of it is how science is reported. what you're talking about there, particularly in the health and the nutrition area, a lot of that -- but i'd say about 95% of the science that you hear is absolute crap. it's not really science. a lot of it is industry-funded, phony science that takes advantage of journalism, and journalists, of course, love to get the sexy nut graph and a nice lead and a great headline. and i outline a couple of cases where scientists have worked to
expose this by, for instance, doing a phony study about whether or not chocolate would help you lose weight. and using a technique called pea hacking where you sample for all kinds of different variables, and then you -- with the advantage of complete hindsight -- you look through all those variables, and you pick the one blip that is statistically significant that gives you a funny argument. so you have not actually done a double blind study at all, you're statistically manipulating it. and then you can say, oh, well, it looked like people who ate chocolate actually lost weight 10% faster. and, of course, you're going to sell a lot of chocolate bars, and that's going to be on the cover of "people" magazine or wherever within a week. so it is a big, it is a big problem particularly in the health and nutrition fields and popular press. >> so the woman in the purple here.
>> okay. her question addresses what i was leading up to here. who gets to decide what is the final word on what is scientifically established? on the cutting edge of things, things are fuzzy. things go back and forth. i've pent a career working -- i've spent a career in working in regulation of toxic substances, and you have, as you say, things that are bogus or you might suspect are bogus and things that aren't. but in dealing with epidemiology studies, their nature is experiments. they're uncontrolled, and they go up and they go down. and it's a mess. and going to the national academies of science, engineering and medicine, they can do a damn good job of going
to experts and getting a balance of biases and all the rest. but at the same time, the science has gotten so complicated and so specialized that for a scientist in one area to make judgments about results than another is not easy. and i think, for instance, this business about the gmo crops and the feelings about that within -- it is really, really, really hard to explain to an educated layperson who is convinced that business you were saying about fear -- >> absolutely. >> -- hidden dangers. and i must say that i have not as yet been successful in doing so. >> yeah. well, your comment and question
touch on a lot of important things. one is that in the absence of knowledge we often default to fear. that, for instance, happened speaking of i guess our engineer left, speaking of engineering, one who was arrested by the fbi last year for giving pocket heater design to the chinese which was classified. except that it turns out that it wasn't a pocket heater design at all. and the fbi failed to do the science necessary, educate themselves necessary to determine that. , and in instead, fell back on, essentially, what is kind of a racist bias. would the same thing happen to ahmed mohamed in irving texas, the kid who, you know, brought a clock he designed to school, and the police thought it was a movie bomb.
they arrested him largely because he was a muslim kid with electronics. so when we don't understand, that's when fear and bias and racism sometimes in the form of bias often take over our thinking. and then the other point that you made is that science is often, you know, when you're on the frontier, things are not well defined. it's not clear or obvious. this is hard. and a lot of times it is fuzzy, and things that may seem certain or well established now are shown that there are not so certain down the road. this highlights actually a very important problem in my mind which is our reward structure in publishing. and the answer the getting -- the answer is getting a variety of points of view on this, having a bunch of people seek to confirm current knowledge. and it's particularly been highlights in the social sciences, but i think it's a problem in the physical sciences
as well, that there's not a lot ofincentive for me if i'm running a lab to go out and do an experiment that reconfirms something that betsy published on three years ago. i'm not going to get any citations from that, so i'm not going to get any new funding from that, and we have a problem. because a lot of times studies are out there that are only based on, you know, published only based on one study or one set of experiments. and we don't know as solidly as we should. so we've, you know, science is an imperfect, imperfect mechanism, but it's still the best one we've got. be and the fact that we can have these conversations about it, its imperfections and how to make it better, is part of what makes it so robust. >> so, okay. i was going to say one last question, but i see two hands, so if they're short, you can
ask, each of you can ask a question, be then we are adjourned after that. >> okay. >> so i was intrigued by what you said about the humanities and being be underfunded. oh, and those folks are perfect for showing the wonder and the beauty of science and really getting to the gut response of people. so what do you say to the humanities folks to bring them in on the fight on our side of the war of science? what can we do to help them along? >> yeah, absolutely. thank you for that. one of the things i try to do is to point out the ways when taken to an extreme, the ideas of postmodernism are wrong and actually work to favor authoritarianism instead of the opposite. instead of disempowering -- or instead of empowering disempowered groups, they wind up creating the opposite effect. the other thing that i try to do is talk about, for instance, the great opportunity for team
teaching, things like science-civics and talking about the way that we evolve knowledge and going back through some of the history that i talked about today that's just fascinating stuff that touches on so many big, big questions about what is the basis of law, you know? how do we arrive at common law? and how does that relate to religion, and how did the word "scientist" come out by comparison with "artist" in 1835, and why did that discussion happen? it was suggested by a poet, actually. so there are all these fascinating inter-relationships between science and the humanities and the arts. and in a way, science is an art. in fact, it was considered an art until it was defined as science at that meeting of the london academy of sciences. so i think that by going back, asking those big questions and
>> i am a finance communicator and i see some reason for optimism in the citizens alliance, and i think the genuine sense it meant not cool so i wonder if it sounds very pessimistic. is there a reason for optimism or changes you see happening we can look to for joy in the future? >> yes, thank you. there is absolutely a reason for optimism. the human spirit is absolutely resilient and innovative, but we have to identify the problem.
we have to make it aware and its complexity before it can strategize solutions and that's what i'm attempting to do with a striking new title and i do get into many solutions at the end of the book. there's there is a view on manye topics. it's driven by a certain. it is in part much more community oriented than some of us in the older generation. they are focused on issues of justice frankly than they are of issues with self opportunity and that gives me reason for hope.
so all my life i've been a reader and still want that book in my hand as though i'm old-fashioned in wanting the hard copy. reading at the moment i read biographies, history, things you might expect somebody that's interested in government politics but the one at the moment is douglas macarthur a biographer who predates my time. i didn't know a lot about him other than he's been controversial and this is a new book written by arthur herman, and i am learning about douglas macarthur the general and military leader. i'm hoping to have a times we don't have to carry another book i will be done with. >> just this week i was in a meeting in which historian,
author of speaking describing a book and this is probably the next one on my list a story about world war ii leaders in the united states and their relationship. i think jon meacham is a great author and i love to read what he writes. it's a brand-new book but it's one i haven't read it s so thats probably next on my list. i keep track of what books i read. again, not a lot of fiction. that'particularly things about e in the history of the world that are inspiring and give you insight into how they conducted their lives and did things that perhaps make a difference. per into politics i just finished reading alter egos, the relationship between secretary clinton and president obama particularly as it relates to
national security and the state department issues, to rivals in a primary that come together in the same administration and an opportunity to get a feel for what was going on in washington, d.c. a place i work but certainly don't have the insight behind the curtains for what goes on at the white house and state department in this administration. another national security book i just read. national security director talking about what we face with terrorism and its threats. this one is called playing to the edge, about his time at the cia. same venue mostly history. as i say sometimes pertinent things. i read it this summer. it's the story of john nicollet the two individuals president lincoln before he was president met in the illinois. they came with him and it's a
story about their lives as two young men working in the administration during the civil war and then what happened in their lives afterwards. so again, as i say i like to read history, less interested in the battlefield more interested in the people that serve that capacity. probably my favorite book of the summer has been hamilton. i decided that he is a great author and i'm going to look for his books to continue to read. i have several of them i haven't read it but i'm now interested in doing. this caught my attention because of the musical and it's sitting in a bookstore. interesting to see what caught today's culture and audience with the musical based upon the lives of alexander hamilton, the first treasury secretary.
so this is probably the one that i enjoyed it the most. i'm always complaining the thickest books seem to be the best. >> send us your answer facebook.com/booktv. >> all of this which i will not go into too much detail, he got the idea if turns out in the 1930s was desperately needed like lining of the insights of guns and armor plating. in fact if you intended to invade poland and france, you needed to go into the canadian nickel was the only one
available. however, they were keenly aware of the number of soldiers who died in the trenches of world war i from guns fired by germans lined with canadian nickel. so it was almost impossible to export. so freeman and his partner since the word out in new york that they have 200 tons of canadian nickel and understandably the bidding war. the germans represented by his first cousin. i am the only person who did a book on the library in the academic volume. it's in the bibliography. all of them working together created a war but they kept
whispering we can't label this or they will stop us, so it will have to be canadian scrap metal. whenever a question was raised, of course they have to be inspected. all that fantasy had to be bribed. and freeman in the entire deal was done with 20 pounds of nickel, 20 pounds he bought in lower manhattan. this was the constant case that was injected at the top of barrels when they were inspect inspected. ultimately, he had the good fortune if you are exporting something from halifax and the temperature outside is minus 7 degrees, you can have pretty
good hope the cargo will not be closely inspected. he knew when to get off stage. so as soon as he was paid $150,000, about 2 million today upfront, he took off. when the boat landed, instead of the hard to get canadian nickel comedy opened up with hard to get rusted auto bodies and discarded crumbs. in fact, the dealer in toronto called it his number two bundles. he was indicted to the middleman in new york and we have him locked up where he spent two months in jail. he was backed by the community