The public tends to trust “experts” when it comes to considering science-based policies.
Sadly, some of the experts have a specific agenda to promote that is counter to reality. A good example is Mark Lynas, a British environmentalist who was a leading force in the movement against genetically modified organism/foods (GMOs) during the mid-‘90s, arguing as recently at 2008 that big corporations’ selfish greed would threaten the health of both people and the Earth.
Addressing a farming conference recently, he rescinded his previous views most completely:
For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment…
So I guess you’ll be wondering—what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.
One of the few election night wins for California citizens this November was the failure of Proposition 37 with stringent labeling requirements for GMOs to pass. As I pointed out in my arguments against the measure – Agriculture has been nothing but a series of people genetically modifying plants and animals (look at the origins and development of fruit such as California’s naval oranges and Kobe beef.), Scaring people away from products that may be potentially more cost effective and have a health benefit (see golden rice) gets a big thumbs down.
More and more professional scientists are recognizing that research its far too politicized, which has potentially extremely harmful consequences to humanity (e.g., preventing access to Vitamin A enriched rice, spread of malaria). Lorraine Yapps Cohen recently reported on 125 scientists who wrote an open letter claiming that the United Nation Secretary General’s assertions on climate and weather are not substantiated by current scientific knowledge.
The scientists spoke as a non-political group, unified by the science of climate change rather than the powers of policy-making. The group cited specific remarks the Secretary General made in public statements, including Al Gore’s “Dirty Weather” Webcast , and said the remarks were simply unsubstantiated by science.
The letter reported scientific evidence that the globe has not warmed in the last 16 years. Whatever changes there may be are not caused by human activity.
Daniel Sarewitz, the co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University, is concerned about the troubling trends in the coupling of science with politics. Recognizing that, “scientists in the United States are often perceived as a Democratic interest group,” he writes:
To prevent science from continuing its worrying slide towards politicization, here’s a New Year’s resolution for scientists, especially in the United States: gain the confidence of people and politicians across the political spectrum by demonstrating that science is bipartisan.
With Team Obama in charge, this will be a challenging goal to meet. However, it is good to see some steps being taken in that direction.