Politically Incorrect, but Scientifically Appropriate

In a Daily Camera story talking about how persecuted conservatives are on the CU campus, the following caught GG’s eye:

In CU’s political science department, professors are uniquely focused on political diversity in their classes, said department chair David Brown….Conservative students say that’s less true in some other fields that study inherently polarizing topics, such as climate change.

OK, now it is possible that the conservative students are talking about classes asking how to deal with climate change, but in terms of classes taught by climate scientists, this is NOT a conservative/liberal thing.  This is a science/anti-science thing.  It is greatly unfortunate that in the U.S. this presently maps into a Democratic/Republican framework (it didn’t always!), but you don’t go around looking for science faculty solely because they have a “conservative” view on climate change so you can “balance” the faculty any more than you’d want a dishonest accountant to be teaching accounting to “balance” double-entry bookkeeping. And to be clear, we don’t hire young-earth “scientists” to balance out the old-earth teachings in geology because their “science” is a grab bag of misrepresentations, tortured interpretations, and cherry-picking of results, not because they (typically) have conservative political leanings.

Look, dear lovable conservative students (and their equally adorable conservative adult advocates), climate scientists didn’t infer climate change because they are liberals eager to  bend the power of the state to control all our lives; they inferred climate change because that is where the science led them.  Some were (and a few might even remain) Republicans! That one political party has chosen to walk away from the science and demonize the scientists doing that work does not mean that we adjust science instruction to match the party line.  (Arguably all it has done is push those GOP scientists away from the Republican Party; after all, if your political representatives said you were professionally dishonest and cheating and misleading after you’ve spent years learning how to practice your craft and they didn’t even bother understanding an executive summary, would you want to keep supporting them?). The same would be true on the other side, should anti-vaxxers and GMO opponents come to dominate the Democratic Party; we would not hire the charlatans opposing vaccinations to teach in biology or at the medical school just to make things politically balanced.

There are arguably conservative and liberal approaches to trying to address climate change, and these might be equally effective scientifically but be profoundly unacceptable to one side or the other politically. As scientists, we’d need to study both approaches and evaluate them on their scientific merits, and if that is not done fairly, then claims of bias have some merit. But this is not typically what the discussion is about.

We equate scientific skill with political diversity at our great peril. This was done in the old Soviet Union and it hurt them. Maybe we need to make sure that students understand the difference between science and politics.

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