We live in a technological society. The average person understands very little of the science behind the technology they rely on every day. Clearly, politicians fall in with the average person in regards to science. Cabinet members are shuffled around and no science education is required of a member responsible for anything related to science.
For this reason, I thought the appointment of a scientist to provide non-partisan advice to the government was a great idea. But that was 2004 and this is now. As often happens in government, a position with no power or influence is ignored, and so it went with the national science adviser. Last year the Conservatives abolished the position.
Nature cites this as a failure of Canada’s government to realize the importance of science. They don’t stop there:
Concerns can only be enhanced by the government’s manifest disregard for science. Since prime minister Stephen Harper came to power, his government has been sceptical of the science on climate change and has backed away from Canada’s Kyoto commitment. In January, it muzzled Environment Canada’s scientists, ordering them to route all media enquires through Ottawa to control the agency’s media message. Last week, the prime minister and members of the cabinet failed to attend a ceremony to honour the Canadian scientists who contributed to the international climate-change report that won a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
The article highlights what I consider a critical failure on the government’s part. So they’re sceptical of climate change. I’m fine with this because a healthy dose of scepticism is a very good thing. What I’m not so fine with is uninformed scepticism. Believe in whatever you want, but when you represent and act on behalf of 30 million people, you’d better damned well listen to the experts and rely on their thoughts and expertise when you set policy.
And when I say experts, I don’t mean the government administrators who warm seats alongside the scientists on the Science, Technology, and Innovation Council that the Conservative government formed. No, I mean experts in their fields.
As Barbie might say, science is hard. Expert advisers are a requirement because politicians don’t know science. This government has to stop acting like it knows everything. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a person who can’t admit ignorance and simply ask for help. It’s bad in a person, and a magnitude worse in a government.
Canada’s done extraordinarily well on the scientific world stage. The kind of knowledge control and rationing the Conservative government practises is at odds to the way science works and threatens science and government policy at large.