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John Tierney warns in today’s New York Times that some scientists are entering the political fray offering more political arguments and fewer well-reasoned, scientific ones. Dr. Roger Pielke Jr., a professor at the University of Colorado, argues this in a recent book, The Honest Broker . He sees many responses to global warming as a prime example:

A scientist can enter the fray by becoming an advocate for certain policies, like limits on carbon emissions or subsidies for wind power. That’s a perfectly legitimate role for scientists, as long as they acknowledge that they’re promoting their own agendas.

But too often, Dr. Pielke says, they pose as impartial experts pointing politicians to the only option that makes scientific sense. To bolster their case, they’re prone to exaggerate their expertise (like enumerating the catastrophes that would occur if their policies aren’t adopted), while denigrating their political opponents as “unqualified” or “unscientific.”

“Some scientists want to influence policy in a certain direction and still be able to claim to be above politics,” Dr. Pielke says. “So they engage in what I call ‘stealth issue advocacy’ by smuggling political arguments into putative scientific ones.”

Smuggling political arguments into putative scientific ones. I seem to remember something like this happening before. Come to think of it, I think I read an article on that somewhere . . . .



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