Scientific activism

Can a scientist participate in activism and still remain true to the spirit of scientific method?

James Hansen, one of the leading scientists in climate change research, is also renown for his ongoing climate change activism, which has led to multiple arrests at protests around the world.

The problem is that scientific method demands that someone remain objective in the face of research and the evidence it produces. If someone has become so convinced by the evidence that he is participating in activism based on it, then he is no longer objective.

In fact, this rule applies whatever the subject at hand might be and whatever political, moral, or rational persuasion one might have. One cannot claim objectivity if one has already chosen a side.

Now, I am not saying that objectivity is the only way. There are many subjects where choosing a side and having a clear, activist view is the only way. Yet, science is a pursuit and methodology based on maintaining as much objectivity as any human can maintain for as long as one continues to be called a scientist. Failing the objectivity test means failing the scientific demand that one follows where the evidence leads, even if one doesn’t want the evidence to lead there.

And, there is enough evidence that activist scientists have been consistently ignoring evidence that contradicts or changes their claims about climate change for this kind of behavior to be a real and significant concern. Laws threatening personal liberty are being passed, new taxes are being levied, and people’s livelihood are begin threatened based on the claims being made by these activist scientists.

What if they are wrong? What if their own deeply held beliefs have blinded them to the objective truth? If we do all of these things they demand, and their conclusions prove to be false, then what?


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