The recent March for
Politics Science cast aspersion on their political opponents as “anti-science.” So did opponents of President George W. Bush’s embryonic stem cell funding policy. So have many others for many years as a way of prevailing in ethical or political disputes, including against yours truly.
In actuality, the “anti-science” slur hurts science far more than most of the beliefs and/or activities of those branded with the epithet. And now the journal Nature has urged the anti-science slingers in an editorial to cool it. From, “Beware the Anti-Science Label:”
True anti-science policies — the early Soviet Union’s suppression of genetics research, for example, and its imprisonment of biologists while trying to revamp agriculture — can wreck lives and threaten progress. But it’s important not to cheapen the term by overusing it. And it’s wrong for researchers and others to smear all political decisions they disagree with as being anti-science. For instance, despite being labelled by many as anti-science, the US Republican Party — for all of its flaws — is not trying to hobble innovation or seeking to dismantle the research enterprise.
Those who claim persecution in their pursuit of science would do well to consider whether the pursuit is as pure as they might wish. Science is ripe with problems: irreproducible results, manipulation of statistics, widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and conflicts — or at least what seem to be conflicts — of financial interest, to name but a few. Stepping back to see how all this comes across to non-scientists could be educational.
It would be nice of the self-appointed defenders of “science” hearkened to this sage advice. But they won’t.
Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly reported that the editorial was in Science. In fact, it appeared in Nature.