Weird Science

by L. Neil Smith

From the Sunday, May 23, 1993 opinion page of the Orange County (California) Register. Copyright 1993 by L. Neil Smith. All rights reserved.

         Everyone knows how to tell when a politician is lying: His lips move. What may not be equally obvious is that there are politicians and then there are politicians -- and that the phrase "political science" is subject to more than one interpretation. Years ago we heard how "scientists" were worried that a new Ice Age might be coming, and later on that "nuclear winter" -- smoke and dust thrown into the atmosphere by a full-scale international unpleasantness -- was a possibility. Something like that may even have killed the dinosaurs.
          What we didn't hear was that no actual data supported any of this; that real-world events (like the burning of Kuwaiti oil fields) tended to discredit it, that mostly it was propaganda meant to weaken values that had made America the most successful culture in history, and that the dinosaurs probably died of something like the plague when continents drifted together, exposing them to new germs.
         We miss a lot like this, unless we listen closely. Prince William Sound, site of the famous oil spill, and Mount St. Helen's, weren't supposed to recover from their respective disasters for at least 100 years. That turned out not to be true, although you'd never know it from watching the network nightly news or CNN. It doesn't fit their agenda to inform us that the Earth is vast and resilient and that nature is rougher on herself than we could ever be.
         But for once, the media aren't entirely to blame. As ignorant of science as they are of everything else, they trust scientists to "unscrew the inscrutable" for them. The trouble is that today's "scientists" have agendas of their own.
         Nobody in government, that wellspring of scientific wherewithal, is going to offer grants to an investigator who states truthfully that there is no respectable evidence for "global warming." These days, the money and power for bureaucrats and politicians lie in mass transit. They hate the automobile -- blamed as a major cause of the mythical crisis -- as a source of privacy and freedom they find intolerable.
         The same appears to be true of "acid rain," a deliberate hoax cooked up by the Environmental Protection Agency (which hates private industrial capitalism almost as much as it does your car) and foisted on real scientists through trickery that has depended on specialists in different fields not talking to each other much.
         The list goes on and on, always with a common, disreputable thread. "Ozone depletion," for which evidence is even more suspect and contradictory than for acid rain or global warming, is no more than a last, desperate attempt to indict private capitalism in an era when state central planning and the command economy have failed and can only find this final, withered leg to teeter on.
         Decades of anti-nuclear alarmism, resting on foundations of myth and panic-mongering, have failed to erase the fact that nuclear power is the safest, cleanest, most efficient source energy known to mankind -- and, more to the point, that the greater amount of energy there is available to any given individual in society, the freer that individual -- and his society -- become.
         Honest studies on the effect of individual gun ownership and self-defense on crime -- conducted by investigators who began as ideological opponents to those concepts, but which show massive reductions in the latter to be the result of the former -- have been suppressed, most recently by the California state government.
         And what the media didn't say about recent EPA "discoveries" on the effect of "secondhand smoking" is that, although some harm to non-smokers may have been detected, it was less (by an order or two of magnitude) than that associated with frying bacon a couple times a week or keeping a pet bird. It's enough to make you wonder whether there was ever anything to the claim that smoking causes cancer.
         And that, of course, is the worst threat represented by politically correct science. The world can be a dangerous place. It would be nice to know the real hazards. I've never believed smoking to be a healthy practice, but given a lack of credibility on the part of today's science, how am I to decide what to do about it? Nicotine is highly addictive, to that much I can attest from personal experience. Yet the stress of quitting may be riskier than to continue. There's no way to tell, thanks to the corrupting influence of government money on the scientific establishment.
         More than two centuries ago, our founding fathers spared us certain violent agonies to which nearly every other nation in the world has been subjected at one time or another, by creating a formal, legal barrier between politics and religion. Every time some short-sighted individual or group has attempted to break that barrier down (most recently over the issue of abortion), blood -- real human blood, not and smoking in the street -- has wound up being shed.
         Real human blood is being shed over scientific issues, as people's lives are ruined through the loss to runaway agencies like the EPA, of livelihood, or of property it may have taken a lifetime to accumulate, to diseases caused by toxic wastes associated with fossil fuels for electrical power, or thanks to bans on things like cyclamates, when they die from the effects of obesity.
         What we need now, if we hope to survive as a civilization for two more centuries, is another formal, legal barrier, a constitutional separation of state and science -- including medicine. Knowledge is valuable; real science won't languish long for any lack of funding. The money will simply come from voluntary contributors who are unwilling to pay for lies, and everyone will benefit.


L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn and Lever Action. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.

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