Monday, December 10, 2007
Science and politics at the Nobels
No-one is certain why Alfred Nobel decided to have Norwegians preside over his peace prize. Nobel was a Swede -– and Stockholm would have been the logical place for him to establish the foundation that would select the winner and dole out the money. And in fact, Stockholm is the place where that happens for every other Nobel Prize (medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and economics) except this one.
Among the theories: That the Norwegians are among the most peace loving people in the world, their country is small and relatively isolated and they are fiercely independent -– thus making the decisions of the peace prize committee less likely to be tainted by politics -– or so Nobel may have hoped.
Of course, these days there is very little that isn't seen as a manifestation of political ideology. And so it was no surprise that many people in the U.S. assumed politics was in play when the six Norwegians on the committee (all political activists) here chose Gore –- along with the U.N. organization that synthesizes the work of the world’s leading scientists who study climate change and its impacts.
While it would be naive to say there isn't a clear message to George Bush embedded in the selection of this year's Laureates, it is worth remembering this is a fundamental difference between science and politics.
Scientists are, by nature, conservative –- not in a Red State way –- but rather they are extremely circumspect in making statements they cannot support with data. That is an important point to remember as you try to assess those "interim" reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Science is not a belief system –- but in the past seven years in America, that is precisely what many people have come to think. Somehow the Red Staters have come to the conclusion that it is an affront on business –- and thus their ideology -– to embrace any regulation that would protect our environment.
The notion is complete nonsense –- and in fact -– there are a lot of good sound business reasons to be in the vanguard of the effort to deal with global warming -– and the inevitable day when the fossils stop flowing.
Remember, the man considered to be the first environmentalist in the White House was Teddy Roosevelt, and the man who created the Environmental Protection Agency was Richard Nixon. In those days scientists were not treated as if they were simply another political party -– their statements carried the weight they deserved. They are, after all, not creating hot air – as they warn of its coming.
-- From CNN Anchor/Producer Miles O'Brien
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