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February 8, 2007

Politics and Science Don’t Mix

by Brad Warbiany

It seems there is a bit of a fight between the global warming intellegentsia (which includes the governor) in Oregon and a heretic who managed to get himself into the position of “State Climatologist”. So what does the governor want to do? Strip the heretic’s title and make his position appointable by the Governor, not as a position within the “state climate office” at Oregon State University, as is currently done.

Taylor has held the title of “state climatologist” since 1991 when the legislature created a state climate office at OSU The university created the job title, not the state.

His opinions conflict not only with many other scientists, but with the state of Oregon’s policies.

So the governor wants to take that title from Taylor and make it a position that he would appoint.

In an exclusive interview with KGW-TV, Governor Ted Kulongoski confirmed he wants to take that title from Taylor. The governor said Taylor’s contradictions interfere with the state’s stated goals to reduce greenhouse gases, the accepted cause of global warming in the eyes of a vast majority of scientists.

“He is Oregon State University’s climatologist. He is not the state of Oregon’s climatologist,” Kulongoski said.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Nor is this something confined to the environmentalists, if you’ve seen some of the idiocy over “intelligent design”, it’s just as bad. Bush hasn’t had a strong history of listening to people who believe differently from him on scientific matters, with stem cells being an obvious example.

This just illustrates the problem with government getting involved in science. Politicians usually have very little expertise in anything scientific. Whether it’s Ted Steven’s thoughts on internet technology (a series of tubes), or Bill Frist’s ability to diagnose PVS from a few seconds of video. While many of them are intimately familiar with the law (since so many are lawyers), the ability to argue your position effectively isn’t the basis for the scientific method.

Science, to really progress, needs to be given freedom. Unfortunately, politicians like to pick winners prematurely and silence losers before they’ve lost. In the process, they make scientists spout what the politicians want to hear as they chase government research grants. This is just one more example of what happens when a scientist tells a politician something he doesn’t want to hear.

UPDATE: Wired Magazine yesterday skewered Bush for interfering with federal climate change scientists. We’ll be waiting— with bated breath— for them to condemn Kulongoski for doing the same…

Hat Tip: The Pubcrawler for the original story, and Catallarchy for the Wired Piece

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4 Comments

  1. Welcome to the People’s Republic of Oregon.

    Where disagreeing with the “public consensus” not only makes you wrong, but idiotic and naive. So much so that Kulongoski arrogates himself the ability to appoint a new office for a new scientist just because the original one isn’t parroting the party line.

    Comment by trav.is — February 8, 2007 @ 3:23 pm
  2. Cafe Hayek has a good global warming post here.

    It is not the people that are driving global warming. It is politicians wanting more power and control over people who are trying to convince us that this needs to be done.

    Global warming is not nearly as much of a scientific issue as it is a political one.

    Comment by tkc — February 8, 2007 @ 6:19 pm
  3. Al Gore says that the Bush administration is paying global warming skeptics. Have you received your check yet? I’m still waiting for mine.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — February 8, 2007 @ 6:44 pm
  4. Stephen,

    Apparently it was lost on the pallet of checks in Iraq…

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — February 8, 2007 @ 9:53 pm

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