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Canada Censorship Government Science Politics

Scientists Fight Back In Canada 277

Posted by Soulskill
from the five-minute-major-but-no-instigator-penalty dept.
Trufagus writes "The current Canadian government is widely regarded as 'anti-science,' and this year they have stepped up their efforts to undermine scientists and control their contact with the media. But now the federal scientists are fighting back and have just launched their own website. Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said, 'If science isn't supported then you're going to find that decisions are going to be made more at the political level,' on Monday as the union launched their website."
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Scientists Fight Back In Canada

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  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @08:15AM (#33944744) Homepage

    "The union said in a release the recent decision to end the mandatory long-form census is the latest step in a worrying trend away from evidence-based policy making."

    Well, see, there's your problem. You silly scientists, insisting that demonstrable facts are used to guide public policy. Don't you know that the truth is whatever the Party says it is?

    • by Adambomb (118938) *

      How many fingers, Winston?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Outside of a few backwards hellholes, I'm pretty sure that communism as a threat to empiricism is dead and buried. I'm sure that North Korea thinks that crops evolve because Dear Leader wishes them to; but that isn't exactly a problem for canadian scientists.

      Depending on your region, businesses that absolutely hate any environmental, product safety, or occupational health regulations; Jesus freaks/ Allah enthusiasts/ Torah bashers with major hang-ups on biology, cosmology, and sex; or the occasional ultr
      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        If you've been following this issue, you know that The Party that I'm referring to is not a communist party or something, it's the Conservative Party of Canada, precisely because they're muzzling government scientists who they disagree with. Thankfully, these scientists aren't risking their lives, only their jobs.

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @08:33AM (#33944844)
    If you can prove that a business is ruining the environment and economy through sound scientific methods, OF COURSE big businesses will try to stifle research, innovation and facts in order to continue their relentless pursuit of money. Unabashed greed and facts do not mix well.

    The worst-case scenario is never knowing the truth about anything because businesses have completely obscured reality in order to continue their pursuit of massive profits.
    • by Smallpond (221300)

      If you can prove that a business is ruining the environment and economy through sound scientific methods, OF COURSE big businesses will try to stifle research, innovation and facts in order to continue their relentless pursuit of money. Unabashed greed and facts do not mix well.

      The worst-case scenario is never knowing the truth about anything because businesses have completely obscured reality in order to continue their pursuit of massive profits.

      I've never heard of a business ruining the environment and economy through sound scientific methods.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by couchslug (175151)

      "The worst-case scenario is never knowing the truth about anything because businesses have completely obscured reality in order to continue their pursuit of massive profits."

      No coincidence that the Religious Right in the US, who compose the vast majority of the Tea Party, are funded by oil billionaires among others.

      It's the perfect storm of anti-science superstition and corporate greed.

    • by grumpyman (849537)
      "The worst-case scenario is never knowing the truth about anything because businesses have completely obscured reality in order to continue their pursuit of massive profits." - this is what we get for adopting capitalism.
  • Go figure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nimey (114278) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @08:36AM (#33944862) Homepage Journal

    that a conservative government is anti-science.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by couchslug (175151)

      Why is that a Troll? There are almost zero secular Conservatives, and not enough to make policy.

      Religion and science are opposing views, and religionists have a history of stifling science and killing scientists they thought threatened belief in their imaginary celestial friend.

      • Because religion, in the West, has never suppressed science.

        Galileo is the most famous "example" of scientific persecution. The inconvenient little fact is that the man was persecuted for publicly insulting the Pope who, at the time, had the same powers as any other Italian feudal leader. In fact, he was lucky that he did it to the Pope and not one of the other Italian leaders or a major monarch because they'd have been perfectly justified by the standards of feudalism to torture and kill him. The Pope, bei

        • by Creedo (548980) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @11:33AM (#33947040) Journal
          Bullshit.
          First, you are introducing a false division between the prevailing philosophical beliefs of those times with the religious beliefs. What, are you going to argue that Thomas Aquinas' arguments were not religious because they were philosophical? Rubbish.
          Second, you are ignoring the fact that the geocentrists used biblical passages to back up their beliefs and attack heliocentrism.
          Third, you seem to imply that Luther and his reformation weren't as mired in anti-scientific attitudes as the Catholics he broke from. Some choice quotes from this odious man:

          Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding.

          Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has.

          Such ignorance plagued both sides of the reformation.

          Ironically, this is why the New Testament frequently bashes philosophers and religious individuals who "value tradition over revelation." The New Testament has several scathing attacks on Greek philosophy and Talmudic legalism.

          Ignoring for the moment that the NT supported tradition(and, in fact, is part of a larger tradition), I would point out that both tradition and revelation are incredibly stupid ways of attempting to understand the universe.

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @11:47AM (#33947344) Homepage

          Because religion, in the West, has never suppressed science.

          Bullshit.

          Religion in the West tries to do this all the time. For example, Tennessee vs Scopes [wikipedia.org], and anybody who tries to get creationism taught in schools. Or preventing experiments no fetal stem cells. Or outlawing abortion because God told them so. Or gay marriage because some obscure passage in the bible says so. Any number of ways in which religion tries to control both science and society.

          There's loads of examples, and it's getting worse -- the fundamentalists try very hard to push back anything which goes against their "view" of how the world works, and force the rest of us to toe the line.

          I'm sorry, but those of us who don't believe in God are often appalled to listen to some of the shit that gets said. And for you to try to say that the West has never allowed religion to suppress science is utter crap.

      • Why is that a Troll?

        Conservatives don't want the truth to be heard, they'll gag scientists, mod down slashdotters, whatever; the important thing is to keep people in the dark so their scams can keep going unchallenged.

      • by grumpyman (849537)
        You think religion and science is mutually exclusive and they are opposite - I think a big bunch even here on /. would disagree with you.
        • by Nimey (114278)

          Depends on your particular religion. American evangelicals and hardcore Islamists, sure, there's not much common ground.

          You'll probably find that people who are more relaxed about their religious beliefs don't have a lot of problem with what science has to say.

    • by grumpyman (849537)
      Remember though Canadian "conservative" government is very 'left' compare to the folks in south.
  • by memnock (466995) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @08:39AM (#33944884)

    conservatives hate: scientists and unions. i imagine there will be some kind of counter-campaign to smear the Public Science members at some point. another CRU incident maybe?

    of course what i just wrote is based on politics too. it's hard to see how rationality can trump ignorance when the ignorant have the bully pulpit to shout down the rationalists.

    • by khallow (566160)

      of course what i just wrote is based on politics too. it's hard to see how rationality can trump ignorance when the ignorant have the bully pulpit to shout down the rationalists.

      At least you realize something is wrong, if you can't understand what is wrong. I'll spell it out for you. If you want to be scientific, you have to walk the walk. That means among other things avoiding unfounded stereotypes like "conservatives hate science and unions".

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @08:39AM (#33944886) Homepage Journal
    Conservatives in Canada rise to power, and start squelching science funding. Anyone who didn't see this coming hasn't been paying attention ... anywhere. Many scientists in Canada saw this coming a while ago and have been working on diversifying their funding to insulate themselves from the inevitable cuts.

    Fortunately, the conservatives in Canada are at least smart enough to know better than to screw with the health care system (at least too much).
    • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @09:01AM (#33945052)

      Scientists ought to seek out other countries for funding. The brain drain can work in reverse.

      If China were smart, it would buy up the scientific talent chased out of the West by religious oppression. China was once the most advanced country in the world. There is no reason that shouldn't happen again. The Communists knew what to do about religion, and did it in a manner no harsher than that which spread religion in the first place.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nimey (114278)

        Except that in China, unlike Canada, you can and probably will go to prison for saying something the government doesn't like.

        Also, there's far less oversight of food and drug safety over there.

      • by royallthefourth (1564389) <royallthefourth@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @09:52AM (#33945576)

        Why would they need to buy our surplus? They're capable of making plenty of good scientists on their own. They're even willing to give them jobs!

      • Scientists ought to seek out other countries for funding. The brain drain can work in reverse.

        Scientists, unlike some businesses, can't just change their roots as often as the political winds change. And scientists, like pretty much everyone, SHOULD stay and fight for what they believe rather than fleeing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @09:03AM (#33945076)

    I was a public servant and research scientist in Canada for several years. I moved on to other things eventually, but I understand why there is friction between scientists and the government of the day. It's normal, and at some level it isn't peculiar to the current government.

    Here's why: on one hand, the government wishes to set and completely control the agenda, and the public service is supposed to be setting its goals at the direction of the political level. That's the job of a public servant: to do the job you are directed to do by the government.

    But on the other hand, public servants have a broader commitment to the public-at-large, and scientists especially have an ethical responsibility to pursue the science regardless of whether the specific results of a study will support what the government wishes or not. If a measurement has inconvenient implications for political policy, well, too bad. Deal with the data or admit you don't care about reality. An ethical scientist is not going to cover it up or alter the data to fit political policy. Policy can and should dictate to some degree what should be studied in the first place (i.e. policy determines what is important enough to study -- in which field or topic to invest limited money), but it should have no influence on the actual results or the need to communicate them to other scientists and the broader public. Putting a barrier between scientists and the public is counterproductive to scientists doing their job. It's also a waste of money, because what's the point of doing science on behalf of the public and for the sake of important public concerns like health, safety, resources, etc. if you can't in the end communicate with the public, or if doing so is dependent on whether the results align with the politics of the day? Scientists have to be able to talk about the "bad news" as well as "good news".

    A government that fails to recognize this balance between political loyalty and the broader loyalty of federal government scientists to the public and to science is a government that is no friend to anyone -- the scientists or the public. Like I said, the friction has always been there and always will be, but it's true that the current government has gone significantly further than previous ones to try to control communication. In my opinion, they're a bunch of control freaks more interested in determining the message than having an informed political debate. I'm glad that scientists fed up with the situation are doing something about it, because what the government is doing is wrong.

    In my experience federal government scientists are some of the most highly-dedicated public servants I've ever met, and they're usually working at about two-thirds to half the pay they could get if they moved to equivalent industry jobs. Where I worked, it was the scientists who were often there until 6pm or later, doing their job because they enjoyed it. The administrators and bureaucrats would be out of there 4pm sharp.

  • by WebSorcerer (889656) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @09:06AM (#33945104)
    There is a comparable web site by US scientists started during the Bush Jr. administration. http://www.ucsusa.org/ [ucsusa.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mendenhall (32321)

      You do know that the Union of Concerned Scientists has been around since 1969, not since Bush Jr., don't you? Did you read their history on their web site?

      They (we, in this case) certainly have been more vocal during the most egregiously anti-scientific administrations, but Bush Jr. wasn't the first.

  • by southfarthing (1897322) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @09:09AM (#33945132)
    So the union doesn't think its positions aren't political? Nonsense. Policy - what we do about the facts - is supposed to be political. Many European countries are effectively bankrupt today. That's the fact. The policies that flow from that fact are political, and there's not a scientifically "right" choice to be made. Do they cut spending? Increase the retirement age? They need to choose based on their values and culture. Scientists are great at finding facts, but return to being regular citizens - no more or less important than anyone else - when it comes to deciding what to do about the facts. The website amounts to a lobby effort to increase funding and power for a bunch of civil servants, the vast majority of whom are engaged in necessary but mundane research that is nowhere near as important as they would like you to think.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @09:16AM (#33945222)
    A few years back in Queensland, Australia we had a government that wanted to get ahead instead of listening to those gloomy scientists. We ended up with a lot of taxpayers money going to things like Dr Horvath's Hydrogen car scam and the Cape York spaceport where the entire massive operation was going to be run by a two person company (which mysteriously soaked up money for years while still being nothing but two people and glossy brochures). The former USSR and Lysenkoism of course has many worse examples - but my point is purely political choices in science end up in snake oil scams.
    • by Spectre (1685)

      But, the brochures were glossy! And loaded with full-color pictures!

      It's like our climate-controlled server room here ... management thought that having a whole room, UPS, air-con unit, was a WASTE ... after all, it only kept those silly beige boxes coddled (the server farm that crunched their marketing and accounting data).

      Then, we installed a new batch of routers and switches as part of a network upgrade. These were equipped with DAS BLINKENLIGHTS! Suddenly, the server room was terribly important, it h

  • by nickull (943338) on Tuesday October 19, 2010 @09:17AM (#33945232) Homepage Journal
    I guess people are worried that our state of the art igloo geometric designs, dogsled aerodymanics and maple syrup chemistry are in danger if poltical decisions are made without the benefit of science. Luckily there are only 78 of us in the whole country. We can probably sort it out in about a fortnight over a few Molson's beers while watching ice hockey. duane "Who won the damn gold medals at the last Olympics anyways?"
  • Let me guess... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by freeman-sr (1842222)
    The site is being hosted on a server within Canada? There is a few probable sceneries about what the government might do about it, and none of them is going to be liked by the scientists.
  • It all sounds good at first glance.
    And then one notices the source:
    Scientists? No.
    A public employees labour Union.
    And where do they spend their political funds?
    Opposing the incumbent party.
    It all boils down to the people with the political agenda having the loudest voices.

    Let's just say it would all be much better to them if the government in power was the NDP.
    At least they think so!

    • It all sounds good at first glance.
      And then one notices the source:
      Scientists? No.
      A public employees labour Union.
      And where do they spend their political funds?
      Opposing the incumbent party.
      It all boils down to the people with the political agenda having the loudest voices.

      So you're willing to ignore the Conservative anti-science movement because you're rabidly anti-union? Wow, you sure have a lot to teach us about politics!

      • by mauriceh (3721)

        No, I state this as I deal with many Canadian scientists at several institutions, both government and private sector.

        This is the concensus of what I hear from them.

        And you have a great skill at insulting people!

  • They are trying to hold back to march of progress in Canada. Hopefully Stephen Harper will crush these gnats quickly, so that he may RELEASE THE POWER OF THE TIMECUBE!!!

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