The #COP21 Deal, December 12, 2015: The Day Science Died

By William M Briggs Published on December 12, 2015

President Hollande of France slid to the microphone, and, with great Gallic aplomb, announced December 12th, 2015 will be a day that lives in “infamy.” Or maybe it was “history.” It’s hard to tell since that gentleman was rather excited when he spoke, seeing that the world had just entered into a momentous agreement to spend as much of your money as humanly possible to prevent the unpreventable.

So take your pick: infamy or history. Either way, this fateful date will be remembered as the Day Science Died.

Did you ever know her? Science used to work hand in hand with Government, discovering new things, telling us how stuff worked and easing our lives, saying what was true about the world and what was false. She was uncompromising and did not suffer fools. But now she’s gone.

Close watchers of that once robust being had seen it coming for years. Oh, sure, Science maintained a brave public face, making appearances here and there in an effort to reassure us that things were not as bad as feared. It turned up at odd venues chatting amiably about the mating habit of Mongolian muskrats and of how the leaves of a rare Peruvian plant might be made into a terrific balm. But it was clear to those who knew her best that the disease had made its way to the bone, that it was only a matter of time.

The end wasn’t pretty, either. Instead of letting her pass away quietly in private, Science was wheeled into COP21’s hall and was humiliated and made to suffer to the last. Scores of our planet’s leaders gathered round her and chanted, “We can stop climate change!”, “We must hold the earth’s temperature to a 2 degree increase!”, “The globe is warming out of control!”, “People are being inconvenienced by climate change!”

On and on it went, with each nonsensical pseudo-scientific taunt piercing the flesh of Science. The wounds were mortal, but still she struggled for life, that last spark of Truth giving what strength it could. It was a pitiful thing to see! In the end she had shrunk to a fraction of her former size, her breath all but extinguished; when at last, during a lull, a lone delegate made his way to Science’s broken body and said, “Have no fear! I have here an enormous grant to study the effects of devastating climate change. Take it, and you will live.”

And so, in that quiet moment, when she had one last chance at dignity, Science hesitated for a moment, but then reached out her feeble hand toward the very drug that caused her sickness and was to be her demise.

As soon as she touched the cash, she croaked.

Money! The only blind spot Science had, its only true weakness. Money is like many another drug. Taken in small, controlled doses, its effects are beneficial and enlivening. But accept too much and a dreadful, enervating dependence sets in. Like alcohol, it takes ever increasing amounts to produce the same effects. The addict is never sated. She will say and do anything to keep the money flowing.

President Eisenhower, our once Pharmacist in Chief, knew of money’s toxic potency. He said,

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

Alas, this warning went unheeded. Science thought she could handle it. But she always asked for more, more, more. She never admitted she had a problem.

The outlook is grim now that she’s gone. The Paris Climate Conference has sworn it will spend $100 billion — or more! — a year to solve a problem that can’t be solved. The climate on earth has always changed, always will change, and can not stop changing. It is therefore impossible to “fight” against the impossible.

Science isn’t around to tell us that the earth’s climate stopped warming some twenty years ago. And she can no longer verify that since our climate models made such lousy forecasts for decades that the theory of carbon-dioxide-driven global warming is surely false. She won’t be there to reassure us that all the other predictions of climate doom failed to materialize.

No, Science is dead and what’s left is raw power. We should hope that real science may emerge from the ashes, stiff-spined and dedicated to discovering the truth about the natural world. But that hope should not prevent us from pausing to note the death of Science.

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