Archive for the ‘Ask Prometheus’ Category

State of Fear Part II

December 14th, 2004

Posted by: admin

Continuing our discussion below Dan Sarewitz writes:

Scientists get hysterical whenever anyone questions their authority, pokes fun at them, doesn’t take them seriously. They also tend to be incredibly ignorant about the processes by which political debates get played out, public opinion gets formed, etc. And they are apparently oblivious about the connections between their own work as scientists, and their value commitments as citizens and human beings. When the problem of climate change gets overblown or distorted in movies or by environmental groups, are the same scientists who are freaking out about Crichton’s goofy book decrying distortions in the other direction? There seems to be no awareness (or at least no acknowledgement) that the reason Crichton’s book is galling is not because he distorts the science (if this were the case, almost every science fiction book would create collective apoplexy), but because the scientist-critics don’t like his politics. From this perspective, Crichton and his scientist-critics both labor under the same fallacy: that science dictates action in the world. It doesn’t.

State of Fear

December 14th, 2004

Posted by: admin

Tom Yulsman writes:

Michael Crichton’s new book, “State of Fear,” is a lampoon of environmentalists and a crusade against climate change science. According to Andy Revkin in today’s New York Times, one environmental group in the book “sends agents in Prius hybrid cars to kill foes with bites from blue-ringed octopuses carried in sandwich bags.” (Maybe I should try this during my next faculty meeting!)

Climate scientists concerned about the impact of the book are probably damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they ignore Crichton, his evidently anti-science message wins — through the sheer power of his celebrity. If they publiclly rebut him on the merits of the case, they further publicize the book (already second on Amazon’s best seller list). And he wins again because of his celebrity.

So, any opinions about “State of Fear” and how scientists should respond to it?

— Tom Yulsman, Center for Environmental Journalism

Roger Pielke responds:


Ask Prometheus: OTA

July 30th, 2004

Posted by: admin

We have something a bit different today, the first in hopefully a long series of Ask Prometheus posts. Ask Prometheus allows us to answer inquiries from our readers directly, or by pulling in other experts as we do today.

Kerry McEvilly writes to us, “Do you think that maybe it’s time to re-establish the OTA [Office of Technology Assessment] to add some semblance of continuity in what our elected leaders are getting in the way of science policy advice?”

To answer we’ve asked Paul Komor, former OTA policy analyst and Project Director, and Rad Byerly, former chief of staff of the House Science Committee, for their responses.

The full responses follow, but first a couple excerpts.

Dr. Komor states, “OTA’s demise was not the result of careful deliberation, a thoughtful comparison of costs and benefits, or defeat by its political enemies. Rather, it was largely being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

And Dr. Byerly says, “In the main Congress is a reactive institution; it does not take up a subject until it is an issue needing attention, which often means that Members and interest group are already choosing sides.”

The full-text follows and feel free to leave comments: