Op-ed piece on the Alignment of Science and Other Truth-Tellers

Out yesterday in The Scientist is an op-ed piece by yours truly. The basic thrust is that, in an era when facts and expertise and the very nature of reality are under attack, scientists need to recognize that they are part of a larger community of truth-seekers and truth-tellers that includes social scientists, artists, journalists, and others.

You can find the full piece by following the link above, but here’s the core of the argument:

As scientists, our role in society is to act as guardians of truth. Our mission is to discover things that are true, to share that truth with society, and to protect it from corruption and preserve it for future generations. But here’s the thing: we are not alone in that. Discovering and defending truth is also the mission of our colleagues in the arts, social sciences, and humanities, as well as journalists. Many of these fields have long been targets of scorn and derision from the most regressive elements in society, and the culture wars of the past few decades have engendered distrust of the media and resentment toward those who embrace social justice. It may be tempting to think that these groups represent softer targets, and that if we distance and differentiate ourselves from them, we can maintain the status quo in science. But if we are to defend science, we must stand together with the other truth-tellers, including our non-scientist colleagues.

[snip]

It seems that every week we are presented with a new attack on facts. If we focus on preserving our own funding, on defending some narrow definition of science, we will lose.

We must fight the impulse that says that we can preserve science if we stay in our lane, that we’ll be safe if we leave our non-scientist colleagues to their own devices. Those who silence artists and journalists don’t embrace a well-funded system of free scientific inquiry. If we focus our defense narrowly on science, the best we can hope for is a politically compromised field no longer worth defending.

2 thoughts on “Op-ed piece on the Alignment of Science and Other Truth-Tellers

  1. I really enjoyed this article, very much believe that there are many ways of seeing the truth. And scientists need to draw together with non-scientists, to work together in discovery and hopefully, in making the world a better, more explicable, and kinder place.

    But in the timing for this discussion ( the proposed FY 2018 discretionary budget), I want to hear more of where we take that truth. My beloved action item is preventing war. We can all draw together against war- not just the many wars the US wants to fund and fight today, but the idea of war altogether. Along with freedom from poverty, from infectious diseases, from racism and sexism, war destroys lives, and it is NOT an insolvable problem.

    Thanks for your essay! It joins, rather than divides.

    • Definitely a worthy goal. With respect to the truth issue, it is certainly the case that many wars are undertaken under false premises. The Iraq war, for instance, might never have happened in the absence of the misinformation campaign regarding WMDs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *