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Science and society: Here a tic, there a tic, everywhere a heretic ..

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A friend writes to draw my attention to “Mark Lynas: the green heretic persecuted for his nuclear conversion” (Sunday Times, September 28, 2008)

We are told that

The climate change expert Mark Lynas has been scorned by eco-colleagues for daring to speak up for atomic power.


Just a month ago I had a Damascene conversion: the Green case against nuclear power is based largely on myth and dogma. My tipping point came when I discovered just how much nuclear power has changed since I first set my mind against it. Prescription for the Planet, a new book by the American writer Tom Blees, opened my eyes to fourth-generation “fast-breeder” reactors, which use fuel much more efficiently than the old-style reactors, produce shorter-lived waste and can also be designed to be “walk-away safe”.

Best of all, these new reactors – prototypes of which have already been tested – can produce power by burning up existing stocks of nuclear waste. As Blees puts it: “Thus we have a prodigious supply of free fuel that is actually even better than free, for it is material that we are quite desperate to get rid of.” Who could object to that?

Who? Funny you should ask. That guy went from hero to zero in six seconds, just because he made the mistake of finding out about promising new developments in nuclear power. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, the stellar courage of big science toffs is well illustrated by his experience:

When I e-mailed a senior ecological scientist with my conclusions, he agreed, but only privately. “Do not cite me as promoting nuclear,” he begged. I am still shocked that people of his stature are too intimidated to speak out. The result of this fear is that the public is dangerously misinformed about nuclear power.

Years ago, a retired Canadian scientist told me that he, for one, felt that properly managed nuclear was far safer in the long run than dependence on oil, which is disproportionately associated with dangerous politics. He also pointed out that keeping nuclear energy out of the wrong hands is a problem we will have, whether we use nuclear or not.

I guess he’d be a heretic too these days.

Anyway, American Darwin fan Jerry Coyne prophesies

There is a crisis in scientific literacy in the United States: only 25% of Americans accept our evolution from ape-like ancestors, yet 74% believe in angels.

Let’s leave the apes and angels out of it for a moment. The United States is still the world science leader, so “Coyne’s crisis” needs some unpacking.

Maybe I can help.

In the United States, and to some extent in Canada, people feel comfortable dissenting respectfully from authorities. Especially authorities that have often been wrong.

People here have access to non-state controlled media. So they know that authorities are often wrong. Yesterday, I talked about the false convictions that have depended on bad forensic science. Yes, reform is possible, of course. But reformers must start by facing the fact that “the assured results of modern science” can be plain wrong. And that requires critical thinking.

I myself have written several health science stories about wrong ideas marketed to the public. For example, being somewhat overweight is not a serious health hazard. Trying to lose a slightly excess amount of weight may harm your health more. And – since we are here anyway – any believable model of human evolution would predict that slight overweight is a plus, not a minus.

But that is only one example. There are many others. I don’t want to get into the enormous global warming controversy because I do not have the background in it. But I must say that when foretold apocalypses do not occur, the dumb masses begin to question the wild-eyed prophets of climate science. They may not say anything, but they do know what to think.

If Prophet Coyne has so few followers in his native land, he may well wish to look to his Message.

Progress in science often depends on people who are willing to turn around and start running the other way, while the herd is stampeding off a cliff.

Just think how much better things will be once we break our dependence on foreign sources of energy. If anyone is interested. Here is Senator McCain's plan for energy independence. Which is supposed to kick into effect when he takes office. http://www.johnmccain.com//Informing/Issues/17671aa4-2fe8-4008-859f-0ef1468e96f4.htm PannenbergOmega
Thanks guys for the praise. Domoman, I agree with you, if you are convinced your position is correct and have trust in it, then you have nothing to fear from questions being asked of it. Seeking to shutup those who disagree with you is just an admission that your position is weak. Jason Rennie
Haha! I have to agree with Upright BiPed, Jason made an excellent post! So true. Darwinism sounds more and more like religious dogma. Funny thing is though, as a person who believes in God I don't mind when people question ideas about God, I think often times it will bolster their faith. I've questioned my faith before and I've come out with an even stronger belief in the end. Ironically though, I'm pretty sure the same promise doesn't hold true for those who doubt Darwin. Darwinian evolution is just broken. xD Domoman
Jason Rennie Post of the month. Upright BiPed
Well, Jason: Yeah--I'd say a another take is the fact that you never hear much about a massive ACLU lawsuit at a school over your average high-school not being able to give any input about Boyle's Law. Much faster on the trigger if the Materialist version of the development of life on Earth is not fully shoved down the gullet. The reason is simple, in that there is much--MUCH--philosophically at stake for a civilization that is at some point going to hone in on one world view or another. We are told that doubting Darwin will lead to incompetent surgeons covered with razor knicks. Teachers who can't teach, ignorant rednecks running the CDC, and astronomers who think the moon is cheese, the earth is flatter than memaw's pancakes, and a world roasted by global warming. The recent completion and startup of the CERN collider by a collective of European nations is now being used to stump for semi-socialistic funding of science, which we ignorant Yanks won't do. So the story is told we're now 20 years behind the Euros on theoretical physics research.. So it goes.... S Wakefield Tolbert
I'm always amused to see people equate "scientific illiteracy" with "doubting Darwin". It is funny how they never stop to question that assumption. After all, you never find people equating doubt in Newtonian physics or quantum mechanics with "scientific illiteracy". If there really was ScientificIlliteracy(TM) as has been claimed, it seems that it should be more evenly spread and not just confined to something that doubles as a materialist creation myth. Jason Rennie
Here it is more understandable that people would be less willing to accept a theory that has to do with potentially dangerous materials, even if the evidence supports it. But then, why would people not accept ID if the evidence supports it? They have nothing to gain in being right (if they're an atheist) yet everything to gain if they're wrong. Must be pride or something, at least in most cases, I'd assume. That's cool stuff though about being able to use nuclear materials in a safer manner. Especially because we can use old nuclear waste as fuel! Domoman
I've found it telling that Coyne's biggest cause for concern has little to do with understanding evolutionary theory in any way. He's after a statement of faith, and it honestly doesn't seem very connected to 'science education' at heart. One would have to wonder, if 90% of the American Public believed in evolution, yet 90% also believed in God, would Coyne be happy? I suspect he'd view that as a worse development than what we have now. If acceptance of evolution or natural history does not eradicate religious belief and beliefs related to it, it's of little use to Coyne and others. nullasalus

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