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Doubting Science Why?

pile of books, feather and ink

Historical Context

In the classical book by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M.Conway, “Merchants of Doubt” they meticulously document how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming and how the same tactics and narrative continues today.

Over a period of 2 decades industry funded scientists all physicists by training namely Frederick Seitz, Siegfried Fred Singer, Robert Jastrow, Edward Teller and William Nierenberg associated with think tanks and private corporations challenged scientific evidence on a host of contemporary issues. They used their scientific credentials to present themselves as authorities to try and discredit any scientific findings they did not like.

They claimed the link between smoking and cancer remained unproven. They charged that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had rigged the science surrounding secondhand smoke. They argued that Acid Rain and the Ozone Hole was caused by volcanoes. Most recently against mounting evidence they dismiss the reality of global warming.

The press quoted these men as experts and politicians listened to them, using their claims for inaction.

The fact is that these men were never really experts on the diverse issues confronting our current reality. They were physicists, not epidemiologists, ecologists, atmospheric chemists or climate modelers. Modern science is far too specialized for anyone individual having an expertise in all these areas. 

Given this history the responsibility falls on us the citizens of America to stop these repetitive attacks on our scientific community by confronting the perpetrators and insisting that evidence based data provided by scientists be used for our public polices.

Top Front Group - Discrediting Science

Top Front Group –  Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), opposes science-based climate policies. It is one of the most powerful corporate lobbying organizations in California, whose members include global oil giants, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and Occidental.

Top 5 Think Tanks - Discrediting Science

Logos of anti-science front groups
  1. Top 5 Think Tanks:The Heritage Foundation has labelled the environmental movement as “the greatest single threat to the American economy”.  The Foundations’s members and funding groups include, defense contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, finance and insurance companies such as Allstate Insurance, Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, and American International Group (AIG), auto company Honda, tobacco company Altria Group (Philip Morris), drug and medical companies Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, oil companies ChevronTexaco and Exxon Mobil, software giant Microsoft, and Alticor (Amway), Pfizer, PhRMA, and United Parcel Service (UPS).
  2. The Heartland Institute became a leading promoter of climate change denial. Our American market, far from being free or operating efficiently to allocate resources in the interests of society, is dominated by a small group of large multinational corporations which aim to maximize their private profit by exploiting nature and human resources.
  3. Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), financed by private contributions based in Arlington, Virginia in the United States. It was founded in 1990 by atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer. SEPP disputes the prevailing scientific views of climate change and ozone depletion.
  4. Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) , emphasizes reliance on market mechanisms and private property rights, rather than on environmental regulation, for protection of the environment.
  5. Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), is a Washington, D.C.-based 501 nonprofit organization founded in 1985 that advocates for free-market solutions to environmental issues.

Global Rankings of U.S Education and R&D

2020 National Science Board Science & Engineering Indicators Report provides information on the state of the U.S. science and engineering (S&E) enterprise over time and within a global context. Indicators is a factual and policy-neutral source of high-quality U.S. and international data

U.S. eighth graders rank in the middle of advanced economies in international mathematics and science assessments, and U.S. national assessments of mathematics show little to no growth in scores over the past decade (Figure 1).

The United States awarded about 40,000 S&E doctorates in 2016 (Figure 4). The combined EU countries awarded about 77,000. Starting from a low base, China has seen a rapid increase over time and in 2015 awarded about 34,000 S&E doctoral degrees, predominantly in the natural sciences and engineering. China surpassed the United States in 2007 as the world’s largest producer of doctoral degrees in natural sciences and engineering (excluding social and behavioral sciences) and has remained in the lead ever since. In 2015, China awarded 32,000 doctorates in these fields and the United States awarded 30,000.

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Mathematics and Science Scores Rankings

Doctoral Degrees in S&E Rankings

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GDP Expenditures in R&D Rankings

Average Annual Growth Rate of R&D Rankings

Global Rankings of U.S Science, Engineering and Innovation

The 28 nations that make up the EU collectively have the highest output of S&E publications globally. China’s S&E publication output ranks next, followed by the United States. The citation impact of China’s publications is rising rapidly, although it is currently lower than that of the United States and the EU. With respect to industrial output between 2003 and 2018, the U.S. share of worldwide value-added output declined for R&D-intensive industries even though the U.S. level of output rose.

R&D produces new knowledge. The EU, China, United States, India, Japan, and South Korea together produce more than 70% of the worldwide refereed S&E publications. As with the worldwide trends for degrees awarded and R&D spending, the output of peer-reviewed S&E publications in recent years has grown more rapidly in middle-income countries, especially China, than in high-income countries, including the United States.

 

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Published S & E Articles Rankings

Value Added Output of R & D Rankings

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Shares of Patents Worldwide Rankings

Engineering Patents Rankings

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Mathematics and Science Scores

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Top 500 Super Computers in the World

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Benchmarking and Best Practices

 

  1. Education Benchmarks
    Students in the U.S. fall behind those in China, Europe, and Canada in math and science. A global comparison of Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores from 2015 shows the average score for the U.S. was lower than that of many other countries for both math and science.The overall U.S. scores were well below those of top performers like Singapore, Japan, and China.
  2. High-Tech Sectors Benchmarks
    U.S. has surrendered its commanding lead in the world’s top supercomputers. On the Top 500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers, the U.S. in 2005 controlled almost half the world’s top supercomputers; it now controls less than a quarter, with China now controlling the largest number of the fastest supercomputers.
Illustration of puzzle pieces forming a light bulb, which connects people

Engage to Change “Our Status Quo”

  1. Trust the academic scientific experts on matters of science especially the specialists in their designated fields of study and demand that they be used as the sources of information for forming our public polices and not the think tank pundits appointed by corporations.
  2. Pay attention to who the experts actually are by asking questions about their credentials, their past and current research, are they peer reviewed and what are their sources of financial support. A climate scientist is no more qualified to comment on health care reform than a physicist is to judge the cause of bee colony collapse.
  3. Challenge the political appointees leading our agencies such as EPA , who have limited or no scientific credentials and significant conflicts of interest, including direct ties to the industries that agencies are supposed to regulate.