We at Defend Science feel that these thoughts about the role of the scientist from Michael Mann - a climate scientist who has courageously stood firm against the most vicious attacks and threats of right-wing, corporate-funded global warming deniers including the infamous so-called 'climategate' - are well worth thinking about and acting on.

The whole book is a great read too. To find the book click here...

The Role of the Scientist

(from The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars by Michael E. Mann Copyright ©2012 Michael E. Mann. Reprinted with permission of Columbia University Press.)

What is the proper role for scientists in the societal discourse surrounding climate change? Should they remain ensconced in their labs, with their heads buried in their laptops? Or should they engage in vigorous efforts to communicate their findings and speak out about the implications? I once subscribed to the former point of view. As a graduate student and then a beginning postdoctoral researcher in the mid-1990's, I wanted nothing more than to be left alone analyzing data, constructing and running theoretical climate models, and pursuing curiosity-driven science. When we first published our hockey stick work in the late 1990's, I was of the belief that the role of a scientist was, simply put, to do science. Others, I felt, should be left to assess and publicize any implications of the science. Taking anything even remotely resembling a position regarding climate change policy was, to me, anathema. Doing so, I felt, would compromise the authority of my science. I felt that scientists should take an entirely dispassionate view when discussing matters of science – that we should do our best to divorce ourselves from all of our typically human inclinations – emotion, empathy, concern. In the interviews I conducted with reporters, I was careful not to wade into the dangerous waters of expressing a personal opinion and to avoid entirely the subject of policy implications.

Everything I have experienced since then has gradually convinced me that my former viewpoint was misguided. I became a public figure involuntarily when our work was thrust into the public spotlight in the late 1990's. I have remained a public figure since, but I have come to embrace, rather than eschew, that role. Despite the battle scars I've suffered from having served on the front lines in the climate wars – and they are numerous – I remain convinced that there is nothing more noble than striving to communicate, in terms that are simultaneously accurate and accessible, the societal implications of our scientific knowledge. Indeed, much of my time and effort over the past decade has been dedicated to doing so.

I can continue to live with the cynical assaults against my integrity and character by the corporate-funded denial machine. What I could not live with is knowing that I stood by silently as my fellow human beings, confused and misled by industry-funded propaganda, were unwittingly led down a tragic path that would mortgage future generations. How could we explain to our grandchildren that we saw the threat coming, but did not do all we could to ensure that humankind took the necessary precautions? Scientists who study climate change and its potential impacts understand better than anyone the nature of the climate change threat. It would, in my view, be irresponsible for us to silently stand by while industry-funded climate change deniers succeed in confusing and distracting the public and dissuading our policy makers from taking appropriate actions. If climategate and the other related attacks against climate science have served no purpose other than to awaken the scientific community to the reality that we are in a war and to move some of my colleagues off the fence, then they will have served a purpose.


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2013 - The Need To Defend Science - Now More Than Ever

“Defend Science” was initiated in 2005 in response to a massive wave of attacks on science unleashed during President George W. Bush’s administration. These attacks occurred on many fronts and included at their core attacks on the very foundation of science - scientific method and thinking. As the original Defend Science statement put it:

The attacks (were) coming at an accelerating pace, and (included) frequent interventions by powerful forces, in and out of the Bush Administration, who (seemed) all too willing to deny scientific truths, disrupt scientific investigations, block scientific progress, undermine scientific education, and sacrifice the very integrity of the scientific process itself -- all in the pursuit of implementing their particular political agenda.

And ... this dominant political agenda (was) profoundly allied and intertwined with an extremist (and extremely anti-science) ideological agenda put forward by powerful fundamentalist religious forces commonly known as the Religious Right.

Today, on the surface, some things have changed. Bush and the Republican party are no longer in the Oval Office. And there have been some shifts and changes among the forces of the 'Religious Right'. But the overall strength and influence of these anti-science forces in society remains broad and dangerous. And there is the emergence of 'Tea Party' extremists. All these forces continue unabated to attack science to promote their agendas.

The current Obama administration has not reversed these attacks on science and has failed to act on a scientific understanding on issues such as climate change and the environment, evolution and reproductive rights.

Our goal is to mobilize scientists, science writers, science educators and the broad public to "Defend Science" and bring society-wide attention to the real issues and the real stakes for the future of humanity and the planet itself.

These closing words from the original Defend Science statement remain as true and vital today as when they were first written:

We must refuse to accept a situation where scientific inquiry is blocked or its findings ruled out of order unless they conform to the goals of the government, to corporate interests and to the ideology of religious fundamentalists; where dogma enforced by governmental and religious authority takes the place of science; where the scientific approach of seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena is suppressed. We must insist on an atmosphere where scientists are allowed to seek the truth, even when the truth conflicts with the views and policies of those in power, and where the scientific spirit is fostered, where science education and the popularization of the scientific method are valued, where people are encouraged to pursue an understanding of how and why things are the way they are; where all that has been learned by humanity so far, all that has repeatedly been tested and found to be true, serves as the starting point for further investigation of reality.


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Defend Science started with the Defend Science statement in 2005 - a statement from scientists sharply calling out the attacks on scientific thinking and method which unfolded under the Bush administration. Nearly 3000 scientists and members of the scientific community signed the statement, and we raised funds to run it as a paid ad in the New Republic, the Nation, and the New York Times.  

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read the original Defend Science Statement
view a selected list of signatories...

There are many ways that people can help which are outlined here on the website, and we encourage you to send your suggestions and thoughts on this by emailing us at mail@defendscience.org

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Significant Victories for Science in the Battle over Textbooks in Texas...But Creationists Cause Delay in the Approval of Key Biology Textbook
Many eyes have been on the battle going on in Texas over the approval of science textbooks – for good reason. The implications of these battles go far beyond Texas itself. As Texas is one of the largest markets for school science textbooks, these Texas standards could have a major effect on new textbooks used across the country.

As this is written, the State Board of Education has voted to give approval to adopt all of the proposed instructional materials that were up for adoption for high school biology and environmental science. The textbooks approved were submitted by 14 publishers for high school biology and environmental science.

This is a significant victory in the defense of science. To read the entire article click here...

Obama Administration Moves (Yet) Again to Undermine Young Women's Access to Plan B Emergency Contraception – Right Wing Politics Trumps Science And Women's Rights (Yet) Again
On April 4 U.S. District Judge Edward Korman issued a ruling that finally ordered that the emergency contraceptive pill known as Plan B be available to teenagers and women of all ages without a prescription. In his ruling the judge sharply criticized the decision by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to over-rule the FDA's prior approval of Plan B as “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” as well as “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent”.

Many celebrated and hoped the judge's decision would finally bring justice and help for young women needlessly suffering under these restrictions. All the Obama administration had to do was nothing. But it was not to be. To read the entire article click here...

SICB Presidents Oppose Keystone XL Pipeline
The current president, the president-elect and 16 past presidents of The Society of Integrative and Comparative Biologists (SICB) have issued an open letter to President Obama opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline To read the letter click here...

North Carolina Bans Scientific Prediction of Sea-Level Rise
When you first hear of the new law about global warming and sea-level rise that just went into effect in North Carolina, it's hard not to just laugh at the lunacy. But it is quite serious. To read the entire article click here...

Supression of Science and Destruction of the Environment
A series of articles about the Gulf Oil Spill. To read these articles click here...

F.D.A. Is Spying On It's Own Employees: Trying To Criminalize and Silence Critics and Whistleblowers
Last week it was reported by the N.Y. Times that the Food and Drug Administration is carrying out a massive surveillance program against its own scientists and outside critics of the agency's medical review process.
...This spy operation yielded at least 80,000 pages of surveillance reports on these scientists. To read the entire article click here...

From 1999 to Today: Federal Government Continues to Promote Unscientific Claims About Plan B Contraception
A recently published article in the NY Times reveals that the federal government has, since 1999 when Plan B was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.), been putting out unscientific views about this pill and its mechanisms. Without scientific foundation they stated that Plan B “may” block fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman's uterus
...this has done and continues to do great harm to women – has helped bolster the attacks by extremist right wing forces against women in general. To read the entire article click here...

Attacks paid for by big business are driving science into a dark era
Nina Fedoroff, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) spoke out forcefully against the attacks on science at the AAAS Conference. She confessed that she was now "scared to death" by the anti-science movement that was spreading, uncontrolled, across the US and the rest of the western world. To read the entire article from the Guardian/Observer click here...

Obama Administration Overrules FDA Approval Of Plan B – Right Wing Politics Trumps Science Again
For the first time ever, the Health and Human Services secretary – Kathleen Sebelius - has publicly overruled the Food and Drug Administration's approval of a medication. Her decision continues the policy of refusing to allow the emergency contraceptive Plan B to be sold over the counter to women under 17 without a prescription from a doctor. It overruled the FDA that was finally prepared to approve over-the-counter access to minors - a policy that is recommended by the entire scientific and medical community.
Kirsten Moore, president of the Reproductive Health Care Technologies Project voiced what many are feeling:
"For me personally this is an incredibly disappointing moment, because I was in the East Room of the White House in March 2009 when [President Obama] signed an executive order saying this administration was committed to restoring scientific integrity to the policymaking process. And that commitment just went up in smoke today." To read the entire article click here...

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Upheld in Federal Courts ... for now
In a most welcome development, the federal court which last year caused chaos and huge damage to embryonic stem cell research when it issued a preliminary injunction that halted all federal funding for such research (the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Chief Judge Royce Lamberth) has now reversed itself and ruled that stem cell research can proceed.
But several strong words of caution must be raised here:
First, this case will be appealed, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court. If this appeals process goes on for years it will still keep those who are planning and conducting their research in a state of limbo and insecurity for years.
Second, this legal victory is fragile. It is based on accepting the terms of and not challenging the legality (or the morality) of the infamous Dickey-Wicker amendment, the law passed by Congress every year since 1996 that prohibits federal funding for "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed."
To read the entire article click here...

The Climate Crisis and The Assault on Science
Any objective assessment of climate change and the development of the science of climate change can only conclude: climate change is continuing relentlessly; climate science has continued to develop a deeper understanding of why that is happening and its very dangerous implications; human society's greenhouse gas emissions is driving global warming.

But instead of the public understanding of this getting clearer and determined global action beginning in earnest, the last year has seen the opposite - significantly because of a relentless assault on climate science.  This assault is not based on reason or on evidence - it is driven by economic, political, and ideological currents and compulsions and not by the reality of what human society is doing neither to the planet, nor by flaws or weaknesses in climate science.  And unfortunately, in the face of this, many who have once taken better positions have been intimidated or retreated, and in particular the positions taken by the US government have continued to fall far short of taking responsibility for the future of the planet.  In this situation, the role of scientists speaking in defense of a scientific understanding of what is going on has great importance.
To read the entire article click here...

Open Letter From Scientists Calls For Repeal of Dickey-Wicker Amendment

An open letter calling for repeal of Dickey-Wicker has been signed by nearly 100 scientists To read the entire letter click here...

Join in the battle to defend science!
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You can sign the Statement on this website. Just click here to add your name to the growing list.

Scientists and Members of the Scientific Community:

• Sign and Circulate This Statement.
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• Get This Statement Adopted by Scientific, Educational and Other Associations and Institutions.

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Join the Defend Science supporters' mailing list.  Just click here to add your name to the mailing list.
Reprint and Circulate This Statement, Help Spread the Word, Contribute Your Ideas About How to Wage This Crucial Battle & Join With People in the Scientific Community and Others to Wage This Battle.
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One small sample from hundreds of the depth of concern to Defend Science and the broad & growing support for this initiative:
"I am a retired science teacher in Kansas. For several years we put stickers in the front of science textbooks and then took them out the next year. Teaching science we could only say," It happened a long time ago." Teaching the "Big Bang" theory one had to accept that "God created the earth" and as answer to test questions. I had several parents come talk to me about this issue. Basically the teachers still taught the same content and only the parents got upset not the kids. Kansas students were the ones to suffer as they graduated from high school with limited knowledge of science."
--Marion McElroy, retired public school science teacher, Kansas

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