Monday, January 05, 2009

Political Science.

Steve Running, a professor of forestry from the University of Montana, is profiled in a recent article. (Here.) He's a global-warming scientist in the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But, apparently, he's moving on.
"In the next year, Running hopes to slightly change the scope of his research again. He’s begun to take an interest in how socioeconomic issues such as population and economic growth affect climate change. That’s in part because of invitations he’s received to speak to groups such as Planned Parenthood.

"Running was puzzled by the invitation at first, but soon realized that population growth affects the quantity of emissions released into the atmosphere.

"He’s also gearing up to push the idea of a no-growth economy in terms of consumption. With the current recession the nation is facing, he said, maybe it’ll cause people to return to a lifestyle 'that maybe we never should have left.'"
Well, at least he said "maybe." Maybe he's waiting to find out whether the evidence from his scientific research supports his no-growth political agenda.

What is it about scientists today that they believe their role, as scientists, is to shape society rather than simply to describe the world as it is? It's a free society and scientists have as much right as anybody to express their political or moral opinions. Just don't call it science. When scientists use words like "should" or "ought," they're no longer talking science. They're talking politics or morality.


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