Yes, that sounds like clickbait but it is apparently a discussion at Twitter.
If it is admitted that “science is political,” Why Trust Science? is a very good question indeed. A bigger question looms: Will frank assertions that science is political, accompanied by a demand for trust, be any good for science? Isn’t this more likely to to be the beginning of a highly politically charged but largely barren period?
Don’t believe us. This is Scientific American talking: ” In the House of Representatives, just two endorsed challengers out of eight won, though one race remains too close to call because mailed ballots are still being counted.” Yuh. If you are a player, you can lose. That’s why we thought it would have been smarter for the Big Science types to stick to their traditional position as referees instead of jumping into the fray with all the others.
Time will tell but the effect may prove cumulative. People lose trust for different reasons and the numbers add up, not down … When the next “Trust the Science!” panic sweeps the internet, a third group will join them, asking, “So what’s in this latest crazy for the Voice of Science?”
Doubtless, the science journal editors believe that Trump will be defeated and they will claim some credit for that. Fair enough. But it’s possible that Trump will be reelected. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all served two terms each. And Trump won the last election despite all the polls that announced he would lose. Should that happen, the journal editors will be in the unhappy position of being widely seen to be ignored.
Nature was founded in 1869. Between then and now, many U.S. Prezzes have come and gone. The puzzling part is why Nature (and stablemate Scientific American) would throw themselves into the fray like this, as if they had no reputation or credibility, apart from politics, to defend. If it’s all really about politics, fine. Many suspected that but no one could prove it. Now, any statement made on behalf of “science” will be wisely read as on behalf of “politics.” That will harm genuinely urgent causes the most. When there’s no daylight between “Stop plastic in the oceans!” and “Vote for Schmeezer!”, most people will make up their own mind about plastic in the oceans/Schmeezer. The authority of science becomes indistinguishable from Schmeezer’s media outreach. Well, at least they brought it on themselves.
Sheldon: My best explanation is that the editors of Nature, SciAm, NEJM are themselves not research scientists, but political hacks—hired under the supposition that good relations with government funders required not science but PR.
Note: Berezow seems to think that Scientific American is losing readers. A very recent attempted rah rah at Poynter is ambiguously worded.
Why should we now believe that SciAm’s account of Brett Hennig’s “alternative democracy” ideas is presented to us for any reason other than to sell SciAm’s chosen political candidate for US prez? The thing about sudden partisanship is that you can buy it but you can’t sell it. It’s almost like the folk at Scientific American don’t really get that.
Okay, the editor said it: “there is no apolitical science.” We are not now dealing in the world of accusations but of admissions. He is admitting that opposition to “creationism,” however they define it is political. Fine. We all knew that but we did not have it in writing before. Getting things put in writing is a genuine help.