Saturday, November 23, 2013

Science and radical critique

It was good to watch the Gøtzsche video: someone with probably as much credibility as it’s possible to have in science-based medicine is unreservedly naming the actions of the pharmaceutical industry organized crime, attaching moral responsibility, and calling for radical change. He doesn’t hesitate to single out psychiatry as especially egregious, to call their lies what they are, and to lay out their death count. Whatever errors might exist in his book (which, again, I can’t afford to buy and so haven’t yet read), his passion and plain speaking are refreshing and necessary.

I had a similar response to Amy Goodman’s interview with climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin at the UN climate meetings in Poland.

Here’s the key segment:
KEVIN ANDERSON: I think we—I think the scientific community has for too long really let the policymakers, and indeed the wider public, down, that we haven’t been as vociferous as we should have been about what our science is telling us. So, our science is telling us, and has told us, to be honest, for 10 to 15 years at least, that—you know, explain the situation that we’re in and that we need these radical levels of change. But we have not—we have not translated that in a language that indicates how important that is. We have used language which is more acceptable to the policymakers. It’s more politically palatable. So we’ve converted, you know, "impossible within the current economic framework" to "a little bit challenging." Now, that’s not a fair reflection of what our analysis is showing us. So I think, to some extent, though there’s some excellent work that’s been done by the scientists just to show how severe this problem is, the actual language that we’ve used isn’t one that’s demonstrated that severity to the policymakers.

And that’s really evident here. If you sit in to the big plenary sessions, what you hear are these ministers with sort of platitudes and "We must do something about it"—all motherhood and apple pie, and, oh, we can have green—we can have everything; we have our cake, and we can eat it. The science is showing this is completely misguided. But I don’t think we, as scientists, are that vociferous, that vocal in saying, "Hang on, you’re not talking about the issue as we’re understanding it from our own analysis." So I think we need to be much more engaged. And it is—as James Hansen points out, this is now a moral question. It is not a question that can be resolved with technical solutions. It is now a question that—which is much more embedded in what we do as civil society, in our political structures, in our economic structures, in our attitude towards wealth and well-being of other people in the world, as well as within our own countries. This is now a moral question, not just a scientific question.
(As Goodman mentions, the two are also featured in a recent article by Naomi Klein, “How Science Is Telling Us All to Revolt.”)

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