Monday, March 8, 2010

Too much mea culpa

Robyn Williams is the presenter of the ABC National Radio's science show - a radio broadcast that has been run since pussy was a pup (ie for just about ever).

This is an abridged version of the 2010 Commonwealth Day address he gave today to a lunch organised by the Commonwealth Day Council, as reported in The Drum on the ABC website.

His strong words are warranted in my view, and scientists who say things that appear to support the skeptics bluff and bluster - like 'they should be more open', when climate science is the most open and transparent of any science, should take note.

As a taster, here is an extract:
At times such as these, we expect goodwill, a sense of national urgency, and a respect for evidence. Bipartisanship, if we're lucky.

Instead, we have a shambles. Science itself is under attack. It is being relegated to a relativistic sideline, where any opinion must have equal merit, where you can bury Darwin, trash the value of vaccination, take herbal unguents instead of science-based medications and avoid GM everything in case it makes you grow horns or give birth to an alien.

Or do we have a complete shambles? Actually, not quite. As with so called fundamentalist views among Muslims or Christians, it is a loud minority attracting all this attention, a persistent few in the blogosphere, overwhelming those of you with commonsense and erudition. A recent survey conducted by the Federal Government (in Oz) and presented at ICONN (the nanoscience conference two weeks ago) reveals that 84 per cent of us feel that science and technology are improving society. This survey is one of several that show a majority of us do not wish to occupy the extremes of political opinion or invective.

So why does the opposite seem to prevail? Three reasons, I suggest.

One is that the scientists themselves have been naive, even lazy. When I asked Tim Flannery and Philip Campbell, editor of the journal Nature, their opinion of so called deniers like Ian Plimer, or the incongruous toff Lord Monkton, they just shrugged and said "the climate debate has moved on." Well, it hasn't. It's gone backwards. Not least because the scientists, in the main, have been passive, restrained and much too polite. And after Climategate - too much mea culpa. It's time for them to get their skates on. To be aggressive in the cause of truth.

(My bold for emphasis - because it's also what I firmly believe and have stated on several occasions.)

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