There was an interesting interview over at Wired with the Yes Men, a corporate ethics activist group. They were spot-on when talking about the way dissent is manufactured using science out of context:
“Scientists depend on doubt, on not knowing for sure until a certain point. It’s part of the language of science to say that this may be true, almost surely is true, but there is always doubt, and you keep your mind open to the unlikely chance that maybe it’s not right.
Good science and good political activism aren’t necessarily the same thing. I think scientists do tend to have strong political opinions, but they can’t express them as scientists in the way that they’d be effective as politics.
There’s so many devious forces out there that take advantage of the way that scientists have to express themselves. In fact, all the articles published about climate change agree that it’s happening and is grave, but there are a couple of authentic scientists who doubt, so it’s presented as a debate — and the ones who believe strongly that it’s happening will never say there’s no doubt, because that’s not scientific, and the PR companies take advantage of that and cast it for their clients as real doubt, in the conventional nonscientific sense.”
It’s not hard to see the parallel here in the “DDT/Rachel Carson is the AntiChrist” controversy. All it takes is one entomologist–or one publication–to serve as the opposition, and the actual, real consensus of scientific opinion is completely lost.
There is a substantial wariness on the part of scientists who’ve been burned by journalists adding to the mix–Just look at those comments at Aetiology. It’s not surprising that many scientists choose not to engage with the media.
I have been seriously thinking about “outing” myself as a blogger, and taking on the Rachel Carson/DDT issue in a more public way via the Entomological Society. And then….
I think about the last time I became an activist for an issue. It had a (sort of) happy ending– 15 years later, I get big props for taking a stand–but no one wants to give me a job in their department. Because I’m a trouble-maker. (And a known feminist. Eeek!)
I am trying to decide whether to revel in my position as an outsider, and use it for all it’s worth, or to continue being a quiet, good little bug and try to get back in the big boy’s entomology game.