Science Journals: Purveyors or Gatekeepers?
Publish or Perish !
After after harnessing the laws of Nature, and applying Truth and Reason to triumph over dogmatic Religion, Science now seems to be capable of falling into the same traps of power and corruption that can undermine all great human pursuits and lofty achievements. Hopefully, the same basic principals that allowed Science to persevere and flourish, can also be brought to bear upon its own methods now, in order to redeem itself to the Media and clamoring Masses that have lost their blind faith.
Since we’ve all been raised to believe that Science is based in Truth, and that Justice and Liberty are inalienable rights, it should come as no surprise that the General Public risks becoming(at least temporarily) disenfranchised by the fact that there seems to be some degree of suppressed dissent in the Scientific Community revolving around Climate Science. From a Layman’s point of view, many people have grown weary of the arguments, and are ready to just “follow the money” when it comes to understanding the causes of the global warming debate. Most intelligent people are also becoming hyper-sensitized to anything that even remotely resembles propaganda, and have started to see past the all political posturing, economic interests, and ethical self-righteousness of the Climate Change movement to realize that we might actually have a more profound and underlying dilemma to consider here. One that is failing to address deeper ecological issues, while still trying to commoditize carbon dioxide through legislation. A dilemma which might eventually stem itself from our Society’s reliance on Science as the primary guiding force in human achievement and evolution. Therefore, in order to proceed into a clarified vision of the Future where environmental issues can be addressed at their root cause, let’s first consider the risks of losing our best guiding force in a world presently ruled by money and politics.
As we risk losing our faith in Science here in the Present, we need to regain a workable trust in what we had hoped were the infallible principals of the Scientific Method in order to move towards a more pre-verified Future outlook. Since many people believe that Science has indeed supplanted Religion (which arguably supplanted Nature long ago!) as our guiding force in Society and Life as we know it, let’s proceed according to any other scientific or “religious” study by considering the facts as basic articles of faith, and as they exist within the scientific community itself. The first step to redeeming our views of Science would surely be to turn to the ‘scripture’ of Science, as it has been methodically collected and presented throughout the ages by the indentured librarians and peer-reviewed science journals that this community of researchers and trusted professionals places its own trust into.
As a result of the East Anglia document leaks, and the resultingly over-hyped “Climategate Scandal”, alot of average people began to take a harder look at something that had up until then had perhaps just been a subconscious presumption. That is, that Science is indeed fallible. If the documents and data that Science bases its findings upon can be deemed unreliable by the Media (if not downright suspect), then the Scientific Community would apparently need to get its own house in order, before undertaking some sort of PR campaign to quickly regain widespread public credibility. Of course a rationale person, would say that PR is for politicians, and that Science can and should just let its results speak for themselves. Unfortunately for all (wo)men of the (white labcoat) cloth, the disastrously timed theft, or “leak” (pending on your POV), of the East Anglia files came at a time when the Public was already very uneasy about not only the unknowns of the Future, but even the almost incomprehensible goals and methods of the Copenhagen Climate Conference itself. Once the Media started running out of steam with their united front against Climate Change, it was inevitable that dissent and dissatisfaction would become the leading stories on (so called) Global Warming. The result of course is that the Public is now taking a more harsh and candid view of Science, based on what very little it can grasp about the underlying issues within that seemingly closed worldwide community. This is normally where the Media should have been able to step up, do its research, and then present a story that would sell “the truth”, as well as more ad space. So long as it didn’t disenfranchise any larger accounts in the Energy, Automotive, Advertising, or Agricultural sectors, of course.
Unfortunately the Media is in a professional tailspin of its own, where after years of corporate efficiency initiatives, and debt-driven consolidation, it is largely incapable of properly reporting on such a wide range of human resource intensive, and highly specialised subjects as Science. So unless there is a central Newswire or PR Agency that is providing in depth Science reporting, these tricky subjects are left to a homogenized editorial approach that does little to clarify underlying issues. More on this at 11…Or ss time allows.
So generally speaking, great swathes of Public Opinion began to doubt Science for the first time, or were forced to re-consider what they had long suspected, but hadn’t really wanted to accept. That although science is based in the hard facts of “truth”, it is also dependent on Corporate and/or Politically driven funding, and is susceptible to the same organizational ineptitude, communication breakdowns, and other human pitfalls that can beset any other institution. In short, Science can apparently be be swayed by other interests and factors. What’s more, even though all scientists aren’t supposed to be in agreement with each other, and in fact disagreement is a vital part of the ‘checks & balances” of the scientific method, the self-correcting principals of the peer-review process itself seemed to be flawed for some reason!
So if the Media was just going to tell the Public whatever they wanted to hear (according to the dictates of mass-consumption), rather than telling them what they needed to know, and the Science Community was apparently suffering its own (Media driven?) scandals, where are we all to turn for the truth that we need as a rudder on this rolling ocean of confusion?
This would seem to be an enormous and historical opportunity for the owners and editors of Scientific Journals to step in and save the day, both within their community, and by reaching out to the Public via PR and Press professionals – with a new level of lucid clarity, and communicative transparency. So what have we seen from these gatekeepers for Scientific Truth?
Here we’ve already seen how the Communications hacks or PR department at MIT can take an area of research and spin it into an incredulous claim, that instantly discredits any of the real work behind it. Though it’s been suggested that despite the hyperbole of the published article from MIT, that the underlying research papers could not be cited because of copyright infringement concerns, or other legal liability. Fair enough.
Here we see a fascinating anachronism suggesting that history is ‘missing’ about 200 years, and this otherwise well supported postulate causes Dendrochronologists bemoan the fact that most “dendro data” is never published. Instead what should be available for review, is kept as in-house secrets in dendro labs in order for these organizations to be able to sell their services to archaeologists. This is sure to become a prevailing trend as more facilities succumb to the corporate and consolidating effects of modernly managed Science. Unfortunately the treatment of tree-ring data is also now tightly pegged to climate science, and any shortcomings in the ‘dendro data’ will instantly impact credibility in the larger field off research, and public perceptions.
We’re also seeing more sites like this one, that are dedicated (with an almost religious zeal?) to exposing the suppression, censorship and dogmatism that is believed to have corrupted Science
Although the VAST majority of published research is beyond reproach, the work of Science relies on consistent, measurable and provable results that reject any anomalous findings that don’t fit the basic criteria of solid and dependable truth. In a system that relies on merciless peer-review, full disclosure, and absolute transparency in order to assure truth, it takes only one weak link to ruin the results for everyone. Repairing any signs of such weakness seems to be of the highest order of importance, if Science is to assure its place as a guiding and driving force in human achievement and evolution. Otherwise it will risk being usurped and become enslaved by other powers and well-entrenched interests, as appears to be the ongoing propensity in so many other aspects of the human condition.
Please feel free to add to this provisional subject in the comments below, because like Science, this review is a never-ending work in progress, that is always open to further debate and and iterative revision. Hopefully
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