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Science Wars By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, February 27, 2004


AMERICA IS TODAY FIGHTING TWO WARS, NOT ONE.  In addition to the war on terrorism, we are locked in a civil war over the nature and future of our society.

As the Chinese military philosopher Sun-tzu spelled out 23 centuries ago in his classic The Art of War, such warfare is not confined to a distant battlefield. It is all-encompassing and pervades every aspect of our lives. It is fought in the classroom, with teachers subtly taking sides in what they teach. It is fought through the bias of reporters, actors, singers, preachers, activists for seemingly-unconnected causes, merchants, scholars and, of course, politicians.

And as David Horowitz so rightly makes clear in his 2000 classic The Art of Political War, the Left in America is attacking on all these fronts in what is “Culture War” and more. If the Right fails to confront and defeat our enemies on all these battlefields, the America of Jefferson, Washington and Franklin could be destroyed.

Politics, in other words, is not limited to the debates of lawmakers nor to elections in which the public votes every two years. Politics is now all-pervasive, injecting itself and playing an often-destructive role in areas of life we used to believe were a-political, clean and objective.

Science, for example, once appeared to be the pure pursuit of truth and knowledge by priest-like men and women dressed in white garments.

But last week two small groups of these priests – one from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the other from the less strident National Research Council (NRC) – launched transparently-political attacks on President George W. Bush. 

Sigmund Freud first coined the psychoanalytic term “projection” to describe those who accuse others of what they themselves do. A thief, for example, will tend to see others around him as thieves. And so it was that these two politicized groups accused President Bush of injecting “politics” into American science.

Science, you need to understand, is in America today a mostly-socialist institution – and one of the most “politicized” realms in our society. Most science is now done with government grants or at government institutions such as state universities. 

The overriding agenda of nearly all science is to make government bigger and its spending on science more lavish. Any President who aims to cut taxes and reduce the size of government is, therefore, by definition the enemy of our scientific establishment.

To understand science and scientists in America today, you need to think of them as existing in the now-extinct Soviet Union.  This was first brought home to me many years ago, when I was a climate specialist about to deliver a paper at the First International Conference on Iceberg Utilization.

After listening for several minutes to an obviously-illogical discourse by another speaker, I turned to my seatmate and asked how many of our colleagues would correct the last point the speaker made.  “Nobody will correct him,” the scientist replied grimly, “because that’s the man who controls who gets all the National Science Foundation grants in this field.”

Every field of science in America today has its Commissars, the politically-chosen bosses who control the government grants. Each field has its own top journals in which scientists building a career in that specialty are expected to publish their work, and each journal has a top editor. These power-brokers almost always have their own biases. If a young scientist wants promotions and salary-increases, he or she will conform to those well-known Commissar biases. To do contrary research is to risk being dismissed as a heretic or as Politically Incorrect.

In the field of climatology, for example, the official orthodoxy since the 1920s has been that, all else being equal, the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuel should be causing global warming. Woe onto the young scientist who, e.g., dared point out that such burning also releases smoke and smog, which reduce sunlight reaching Earth’s surface, which might explain periods like 1940-1978 during which fossil fuel burning increased while much of our world was measurably cooling.

The path to individual career success, and to more government funding for institutions such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), has been to do studies that supported this Greenhouse Theory of global warming.

“We ought to ‘ride’ the global warming issue,” said unctuous Senator Tim Wirth (D.-Colorado) nearly 30 years ago, “because even if the theory eventually proves wrong, it will lead us to make changes we should make anyway.” The changes sought by Wirth, of course, included vastly higher taxes, more controls on private industry, and a denigration of capitalism.

But because Democrats like Wirth for many decades controlled the government budgets of institutions like NCAR – and those who fattened on these government budgets were the Commissars who decided the fate of young scientists – this pro-Greenhouse Effect bias has become deeply entrenched. Most scientists who dared voice contrary evidence or theories were driven out of climatology or into the wilderness of academic backwaters.

This restriction of free thought and expression is not limited to climate scientists. As I witnessed during 15 years as Roving Science Editor at Reader’s Digest, such political Commissars and their biases largely control most fields of science in America today. Our scientists are only slightly freer than were Soviet scientists during the reign of intellectual terror imposed by Stalin’s eccentric science czar Trofim Lysenko.

The prominent scientists who last week hypocritically accused President Bush of “politicizing” American science were, for the most part, these very Commissars.

The dirty little secret the Leftist press did not tell you is that our science was already politicized decades ago. The current war is merely over whose politics will prevail. Will it be the present ruling Establishment whose Big Government agenda parallels that of the Democratic Party? Or will it be the more decentralized, open science advocated by President Bush that in many areas dispels dogma and permits a wider diversity of scientific views to be recognized and heard?

The list of scientists rounded up by the Union of Concerned Scientists to sign its “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking” letter attacking President Bush looks impressive to most people. What you need to remember is that scientists are human beings, too. They have political and ideological views. They have selfish interests that influence their opinions, just like everybody else.

And outside their narrow field of expertise, scientists are often no wiser than the drunk at the end of the bar in your local saloon. In fact they are often more foolish than this drunk, because those with the power of science Commissars often become intoxicated with the notion that knowledge and intellect in one field empowers them to speak with the authority of gods in all fields.

Because President Bush has been cutting and redirecting scientific budgets, he is viewed as a mortal threat by many scientists. For some, signing this attack may have been a matter of idealism – “My field of research is vitally important to humankind, and President Bush should get a ‘brush back’ pitch to make him more aware of its importance.”

For others, signing this attack might have been outright selfishness – “Mr. Bush is favoring policies that will lead to big cuts in my personal research, or that will reduce the importance and power of the field where I am Commissar.  I’ll make him pay a political price for this.” (This was the tenor of the National Research Council report, an almost direct demand for more taxpayer money and preference for certain research.)

And for some, signing the anti-Bush attack was probably outright partisanship – “I’m going to use my position to smear this stupid cowboy and cost him votes in November. How dare he take away my budget and give it to other scientists, or tell me to include the views of scientists I disagree with in the journals and grants I control! I want him replaced with a Democrat like me!”

One familiar name among the signers of this political attack is Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University. In his field of expertise Ehrlich is a giant. His expertise, like that of the late Harvard neo-Marxist Stephen Jay Gould, is as the world’s leading biological authority on certain species of bugs.

Trouble is, Ehrlich has the delusion that being a bug scientist makes him an expert in many other fields. He authored the sky-is-falling doomsday book The Population Bomb nearly 40 years ago that predicted overpopulation would by now have destroyed our planet through famine and global war. Like Karl Marx, his predictions have proven false again and again. And yet hubris and lust for the limelight prompts Ehrlich to keep thrusting himself into political issues.

In 1984 Ehrlich joined anti-nuclear activist Carl Sagan and other politicized scientists in authoring The Cold and the Dark: The World After Nuclear War, which claimed that nuclear war would plunge our planet into the ice age of “nuclear winter.” Ehrlich, a bug scientist, was putting himself forward as an expert on global climate, nuclear weapons and nuclear war.

Carl Sagan, an astrophysicist and expert on other planets, created a computer model of Earth to demonstrate “nuclear winter,” and the world media dutifully reported his claims as fact.

Dr. Stephen Schneider, then at NCAR as Deputy Head of the Climate Project and now at Stanford University, wondered why Sagan bothered to create his own computer model. “We would have been glad to let Sagan simulate nuclear war on NCAR’s Supercomputer model,” Dr. Schneider told me.

But when Schneider tried to duplicate Sagan’s results on the NCAR computers, he discovered that “the most we could replicate was a little bit of ‘nuclear autumn,’ a bit more frost in a few places.” 

Upon examining the model Sagan had shown to the world press to “prove” the danger of “nuclear winter,” Schneider found it was of a barren ball of rock with no mountains and no oceans. Oceans, as both Schneider and Sagan knew, act as gigantic energy flywheels that moderate temperature, helping cool adjacent continents in summer and warm them in winter.

Sagan, in other words, knowingly committed deliberate scientific fraud. He cooked up a phony computer model to concoct the phony “nuclear winter” results he wanted for political reasons.  He avoided the already-available NCAR computer climate model precisely because he knew it would not produce the “nuclear winter” he wanted to sell to gullible journalists and an ignorant public. And were he still alive, Sagan would doubtless be among the signers, like Ehrlich, of this letter accusing President Bush of politicizing science.

The Union of Concerned Scientists letter rests on a larger February 2004 document entitled Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration’s Misuse of Science.

As you can guess from the word “Misuse” in its title, this pseudo-scientific report is an entirely one-sided attack. As you would expect from the rulers of today’s socialist science establishment, it allows not one word, not one “devil’s advocate” sentence to give the Bush Administration’s view from the other side. It is an unrelieved screed of attack and political vituperation with no pretense of balance or fairness.

The document is simply, therefore, a lie. You can look at its first sentence – “The U.S. government runs on information….” – and find yourself saying “No, the government runs on money, and your real objection to President Bush is that he is beginning to disperse the government science budget in ways that remove money from the monopoly of  longtime establishment Commissars.”

The authors are furious that in an Environmental Protection Agency memo on climate change, “White House officials demanded so many qualifying words such as ‘potentially’ and ‘may’ that the result would have been to insert ‘uncertainty…where there is essentially none.’” (page six)

But this has been the problem all along with Greenhouse theory. Almost all climatologists bend their knee to the theory, but few have agreed that indisputable evidence in the form of measured global warming (at the predicted rates and in the predicted places) have yet given a clear “signal” that confirms the theory.

Those like former Senator Wirth, eager to “ride” the Greenhouse theory to higher taxes and socialist policies, have been furious with genuine scientists who insist on putting in those qualifiers. Those qualifiers mean that global warming is not a sure thing, and that therefore radical policies to deal with it are premature.

What this attack on President Bush reveals is that he is the genuine scientist who wants extreme claims to be carefully qualified and circumscribed.  And it reveals that those attacking Bush are irresponsible, unscientific, and motivated by politics instead of a sincere search for facts.

“The Bush administration went further by distorting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) science-based performance measures to test whether abstinence-only programs were proving effective,” says the report (page 10).  Translation: Clinton Administration left-overs at CDC were prevented from cooking the books to discredit “abstinence-only” research.

Oddly enough, I do not remember the Union of Concerned Scientists objecting when President Bill Clinton ordered creation of a whole research section at CDC to study injuries to “children” caused by firearms – even though guns by no stretch of imagination can be called a disease.

Nor did UCS object when this Clinton political project, obviously intended to concoct a medical basis for further firearms control and confiscation, put out a study of how many “children” had been killed by guns – and defined “children” as those up to 22 years of age. This was done, of course, because almost no small children die from gunfire – and so the logical parameters of the study were gimmicked up by including more young adults killed in inner city drug turf war shootouts.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a Leftist advocacy group, does not like sexual abstinence. To do a CDC study that might give it legitimacy as a way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (which new research suggests will infect 50 percent or more of young Americans) is politically incorrect. But UCS Leftists hate guns in citizen hands. A rigged, gimmicked CDC study wholly unrelated to disease that could create a pretext to outlaw guns is politically correct – and that is ordered by a Democratic president – hence is not a political “misuse” of science.

The Bush Administration applied pressure to “make it harder to list threatened species” under the Endangered Species Act (page fourteen).  Honest researchers will remind you that the Clinton-Gore Administration tried to add 3,000 new species, mostly bugs, to this act – and to make it impossible to remove any species that was listed, even if it proved no longer to be “endangered.” Had this become law, it would put every inch of private property in the United States under the developmental control of Federal bureaucrats.

Less than three years ago, two Federal wildlife inspectors were caught planting tufts of hair from "endangered" species in Northwestern forests scheduled for logging. Their obvious intent was to have these illegitimate specimens “found” and used as a pretext to block the logging. Such Federal jobs have been filled by environmental enthusiasts and political activists, an unknown number of whom could use fraudulent science to achieve their political objectives.

Most of the “endangered species” listed under the Endangered Species Act are not even species – they are subspecies. The “Northern Spotted Owl” that blocked logging in much of the Pacific Northwest is a virtually identical subspecies of the “Mexican Spotted Owl,” of which a very unendangered eight million live in the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

How different does a subspecies have to be to gain protected status? In theory no two individuals are identical, not even genetic twins, so every living thing on the planet could be deemed the patriarch or matriarch of a future new species.

Every claim in this anti-Bush study could be dissected and disputed in similar fashion. But the study gives only one side, depending on the Leftist bias and general ignorance of the media to echo the claim that Bush is politicizing science. In truth, Bush is exorcising the monolithic control of socialist scientists who politicized science long ago.

One good step forward for freedom of thought and scientific integrity: remove every dollar of Federal money from those who have traded their scientific objectivity for political partisanship by signing this anti-Bush document. They, as Carl Sagan did, have ceased to be scientists and become mere politicians.

Another recent story of science and politics has echoed through the American and British media. “Now the Pentagon tells Bush: Climate Change Will Destroy Us,” screamed the headline of last Sunday’s Observer, sister publication of England’s Laborite Guardian newspaper.

This news story told of a “secret” Pentagon report that forecast rioting and nuclear war caused by rapid climate change. This report in fact had never been “secret,” nor was this story news – just a rehash of a similarly breathless piece by David Stipp in the January 26 issue of Fortune Magazine.

The actual report, entitled An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, was done for the Department of Defense last October as a contingency study. To prepare for the unexpected, our government commissions a wide and wild range of studies into hypothetical risks. I used to be a think tank researcher working on the potential risks of high tech terrorism, weather-climate manipulation, and other contingencies.

“The purpose of this report is to imagine the unthinkable – to push the boundaries of current research on climate change,” write futurologists Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall of the Global Business Network, neither of whom are climatologists. “We have created a climate change scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible, and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately.”

What they produced in exchange for tax dollars, in other words, was a low-probability, high-risk scenario that ought to be considered.  No, Chicken Little, the sky is not yet falling as Leftist journalists would have you believe.

In fact, very little is new in this report. Most of its ideas and analyses can be found in my 1976 book The Cooling, published by Prentice-Hall (with forward by U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell and preface by University of Wisconsin climatologist Dr. Reid A. Bryson.) The Cooling, I’m told, has been used as a textbook at the National Defense College to expand the thinking of some of America’s highest level military planners.

Come to think of it, I gave Peter Schwartz a copy of my book sometime around 1979 or 1980, when we spent a delightful afternoon chatting in his office then at Stanford Research Institute. He is a brilliant fellow whose scenarios enriched such Hollywood movies as “War Games,” “Sneakers,” “Deep Impact,” and “Minority Report.” I’m delighted that he and a few safely-tenured maverick scientists have carried forward and expanded the analysis I first laid out of how global warming could plunge the world into rapid global cooling, even a sudden ice age.

Such cutting-edge and innovative thinking should also be done by America’s brightest young scientists, not just those of us Ph.D.s who worked as futurists in the think tank community. We can no longer afford to lock our best minds into the prison of Leftist conformity that American science has become.

By breaking the stranglehold of today’s socialist conformity Commissars, President Bush may be able to restore a healthy diversity of ideas and freedom of thought to American science.  This is a war for freedom of thought and ideas, and those fighting for liberation are in and on the Right.

Thinkers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains! You have a world to win!


Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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