The New Zealand Association of Scientists have lost the plot

Science is, sometimes, political – NZAS

The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) is deeply concerned by the impact of the new US administration.

“We’ve just gone two weeks with the new US administration and we are witnessing a geopolitical shakeup that is without precedent”, said NZAS President Craig Stevens. “The rise of social media has reduced the time for a community to respond to an event down to mere minutes. At the same time, communities are both many – and global. The radical changes being made by the Trump administration ripple across the globe in the blink of a smart-phone.”

As an independent body seeking to promote science, the NZAS has six main aims (www.scientists.org.nz) – each one is and will be impacted by the radical changes being wrought by one of the planet’s dominant nations. This dominance feeds through into economic influence, migration, regional stability and science.

We seek to promote science in New Zealand. Science is now global, scientists come from all-over and go all-over. We collaborate, we consolidate, we share knowledge, we discover – globally.

The world would not be sure that the climate is changing rapidly due to greenhouse gas emissions without the efforts of scientists of all nationalities. Science and the scientific community cannot tolerate discrimination against people on the basis of their place of birth or religion. In fact, the Trump Administration’s travel ban has horrified the global scientific community. This ban is completely immoral in the context of the current international refugee crisis. It will also retard scientific progress in the United States and the rest of the world at just the time when our civilisation needs science the most.

We seek to increase public awareness of science and expose pseudo-science. The US Administration is using new, and seriously partisan, media to deconstruct science. It’s happened before with abhorrent consequences.

There is no doubt that the Trump administration will be a threat to some.  But it does not propose to cut funding to science and research.  It is more likely to redirect it into different areas.  

We promote free exchange of knowledge and international co-operation. A couple of weeks ago this seemed a given. Today, that this is so much less certain is remarkable in itself.

And finally we encourage excellence in science. Excellence comes in many forms – academic excellence is just one, and usually insufficient on its own to be good for much. We put forward the idea that in this age, everyone is a scientist – or part of the science ecosystem. This doesn’t mean everyone has to read up on Rutherford and Salk, but rather they everyone should be able to value – and be able to participate in – the search for truth and understanding.

Stevens comments: “There are so many, many challenges facing our species. Population, climate, equality, health, environment and more besides. It’s one thing to make science struggle to support and justify its activities – that is only appropriate. It is quite another to actively hunt it down and tear down truths.”

The real problem I have is with scientists taking science into political realm.  NZAS ends their press release with:

If you think science is apolitical, then ask yourself whether you also believe science can work under all political regimes.

Does water freeze at different temperatures in China?  Is gravity absent in North Korea?   And does hydrogen have different properties in the United States?

Of course science is apolitical.  The problem is people using science for political goals.

 

 


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