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Trust only sparingly in government science

BRITISH journalist George Monbiot of the Guardian recently lamented the rise of government science advisers who seem to be co-opted by politicians.

"Among the official duties of the chief scientist is 'to ensure that the scientific method, risk and uncertainty are understood by the public'," Monbiot wrote.

"Less than a month into the job, Sir Mark Walport has misinformed the public about the scientific method, risk and uncertainty.

"He has made groundless, unscientific and emotionally manipulative claims.

"He has indulged in scaremongering and wild exaggeration in support of the government's position."

Why, if I did not know better, I would say that Monbiot was referring to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that received a Nobel Peace Prize but was so riddled with error that the report should be discarded.

For the last time, the Himalayan mountains will not — repeat not — be ice-free in 2035.

But Monbiot is a true believer in global cooling or global warming or climate change. Those government studies apparently are on the up-and-up to him.

His complaint is that Walport "indulged in scaremongering and wild exaggeration" to support the continued manufacture of pesticides.

Monbiot is fine with those who have "indulged in scaremongering and wild exaggeration" about the weather to push for broader government control of industry, and of course, higher taxes.

The doubt that Monbiot cast about government science was expressed more than a half-century ago by President Eisenhower in his farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961.

The speech is usually noted for popularizing the phrase "military-industrial complex," but Eisenhower also warned about government's control of science.

"Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields," Eisenhower said.

"In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research.

"Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

"The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.

"Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite."

In short, Eisenhower foresaw the creation of the global cooling-global warming-climate change industry.

The willingness of politicians and journalists to support trillion-dollar changes in the world economy based on the politicized science of global warming is dangerous.

Eisenhower was no more anti-science than he was anti-military. He launched the space race and pushed for greater emphasis on mathematics in schools.

But he knew how powerful both government and science are. He saw firsthand the results of the politicization of science by the Nazi regime.

The science of eugenics led to the creation and justification of hundreds of concentration camps across Germany in which the Germans slaughtered millions of people,

And Eisenhower knew enough to know that Americans are no more immune to such manipulations than the Germans were.

Liberals who think they have won the day by affixing "science" to each of their positions should heed Monbiot's words as well, because some day conservatives will take back the government.

Not all government science is bad. Most of it is excellent.

Federal employee David J. Wineland of the National Institute of Standards and Technology shared the Nobel Prize in Physics last year.

That's a real scientific award, unlike the IPCC's Peace Prize.

Government science can place a man on the moon, or 12 million men and women in ovens.

Surber's email is


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