The Canadian War on Science: Ottawa’s dangerous unscientific revolution

C. Scott Findlay, associate professor of biology at the University of Ottawa and a visiting research scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, had a sobering article in the Toronto Star a few days ago.

It's titled Governing in the dark: Ottawa’s dangerous unscientific revolution and it fits right in with my recent seemingly endless catalogue of how the current Canadian Conservative government is systematically undermining the free inquiry in Canada, scientific and otherwise. In the article Findlay first lays out some of the recent abuses and then gives four reasons why Canadians should resist the government's efforts to ignore science.

There are at least four reasons why all Canadians should repudiate Prime Minister Harper’s systematic erosion of science capacity in some areas, and more generally, his repudiation of scientific evidence.

First, true democracy is possible only with a well-informed and skeptical populace. And it is scientific evidence that informs, and the spirit of scientific inquiry that motivates, this essential constructive skepticism.

Second, the repudiation of scientific evidence is a de facto rejection of one of humanity’s greatest intellectual pursuits. It is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of science students in high schools, colleges and universities — and the spirit of intellectual curiosity and imagination that motivates them. In short, it undermines the intellectual capacity on which the future progress of Canadian society depends.

Third, there are areas of basic and applied research which are enormously important for the welfare of Canadians yet for which there is little potential for industrialization or commercialization — for example, the science that informs how best to protect both ourselves and our environment from the unsalutary consequences of the industrialization and commercialization of scientific knowledge.

Fourth, our tax dollars go to support programs and policies that are designed, we are told, to achieve certain goals. The more scientific evidence that is considered in taking decisions, the more likely we are to achieve desired goals and avoid undesired consequences.

Evidence-free decisions are merely uneducated guesswork. Scientific evidence is a form of insurance, a comparatively inexpensive yet effective way to ensure that much larger investments in government programs are not wasted, that opportunities are not squandered, and that others will not have to shoulder the burden of (whoops!) undesired and unanticipated consequences. In other words, scientific evidence forms the basis for true public accountability. And isn’t accountability the horse on which Harper rode into Parliament?

And here are some of my recent posts about the Harper government's war on information in general and science in particular:

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What is it about conservative governments virtually around the globe that make them anti-science and anti-modernity?

By DuaneBidoux (not verified) on 15 Oct 2012 #permalink

Well, while I am a supporter of most conservative practices (higher military spending, less social programs and less tax....usually) I very much agree that they seem to act like superstitious cave men who plug their ears to the bad juju that is the scientific method. I definitely believe that a government should make it's decisions using scientific inquiry as a guide. I only support conservatives for their fiscal and social morality, but I have to agree that they don't seem to get it when it comes to education and scientific funding. If you are going to spend tax dollars anywhere, these two areas are the surest bet for building a better country.

And "progressives" have a perpetual war on math/economics and history. So, it's just a matter of perspective, I suppose: what's worse?