View Full Version : We Don't Need a "UN of Science"

01-22-2010, 11:14 AM
In the aftermath of the Copenhagen climate change debacle, some would like the IAP to be the United Nations of Science such as Lorna Casselton. By James Heiser

We Don't Need a "UN of Science" (http://www.jbs.org/jbs-news-feed/5877-we-dont-need-a-qun-of-scienceq)

James Heiser | John Birch Society (http://www.jbs.org/)
22 January 2010

The United Nations will celebrate its 65th ‘birthday’ in October of 2010 — which would seem as good of a time as any to retire the wretched institution. After all, the UN has contributed essentially nothing to making the world more peaceful or free. In fact, the frequency of wars has only increased, if anything, since the blue helmets began roaming the Earth. With vicious communist thugs holding the power of unilateral veto on the UN Security Council since the very beginning, free nations have often found their mortal enemies checking or controlling their course of action as they sought to defend their liberties. In point of fact, the primary concern of the United Nations has often appeared to have nothing to do with peace, prosperity, and freedom. Rather, the concern of the Internationalists has been: “How do we centralize more power in the hands of the UN?” This, we were told, was all for our good — that, and that it was ‘unfair’ to judge the future actions of an even more powerful UN on the basis of past failures.

The most recent UN debacle — the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen — was a mind-numbing disaster. Fortunately, it did not accomplish its goal of regulating and taxing the prosperity of the industrialized nations right out of existence, but it managed to waste an obscene amount of money in pursuit of a collectivist agenda based on a flawed scientific theory which critics allege was being propped up with an effort to suppress studies which questioned the theory of anthropogenic climate change.

The UN must now own the failure of Copenhagen, a conference so fundamentally flawed that its success could only be found in failing to accomplishing its purpose.

And now, straight from the Department of Redundancy, we have the proposed solution to the Copenhagen debacle. According to Lorna Casselton, the foreign secretary of the Royal Society, an institution which is proud of its status as “the world’s oldest scientific academy (http://www.newsahead.com/preview/2010/01/01/london-1-jan-2010-britains-royal-society-begins-350th-anniversary-year/index.php),” the solution is quite straightforward: We need a United Nations of Science. As Prof. Casselton wrote for NewScientist.com (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527436.000-the-united-nations-of-science-why-we-need-it.html):

AS THE disappointment of the Copenhagen climate summit sinks in, you could be forgiven for despairing of science ever being put at the centre of international policy-making. But scientists are not giving up the fight.

This week, an important meeting is taking place at the Royal Society in London. The outcome will determine how the world's finest scientific minds engage collectively with governments worldwide to make sure they have the benefit of the best possible scientific advice.

The meeting is of a body you may never have heard of: the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP), a global coalition of national science academies from Albania to Zimbabwe. Its task this week is to agree a way forward for scientific advice to government - how the world of science, speaking as one, can reach out to policy-makers to help solve the critical global challenges we now face.

The IAP was founded in New Delhi, India, in 1993 in response to growing concerns about world population. It has since grown in size and reputation as more and more academies have joined its ranks and new ones have been founded. From the Royal Society, the oldest academy in continuous existence, to the academies of Mozambique and Nicaragua, both founded a year ago, the IAP now has 103 members. The most recent member is the Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan. It is the United Nations of science.

One can admire a measure of honesty in Prof. Casselton’s overtly political agenda. One would not normally expect an “emeritus professor of fungal genetics” to be appear to be pushing for such raw power as to give to one institution the power to say “thus sayeth Science” to the political powers of the world. And the nations which Casselton alludes to — Albania, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe — as valued members of the IAP are either presently despotisms, or have endured such regimes until quite recently. Certainly highlighting such nations reminds a reader of much of what is wrong with the ‘real’ United Nations.

But the notion of a “United Nations of science” is absurd because real science doesn’t work that way. Political institutions function on the basis of compromise; from the UN to the local school board, decisions are rarely made on the basis of ‘fact’; rather, they are based on competing interests: “You want a new ball field? Fine, but we need more computers in the classrooms, too.” Such competing interests are certainly present within the scientific fields, as well, but the role of science is perceived as fundamentally being about a search for fact.

Political institutions do not make their decisions merely on the basis of ‘facts’; we have not utterly collapsed into petty technocracy as of yet. When a majority in a political body adopts certain legislation or regulations, it does not purport to have established the truth.

But the danger posed by a “United Nations of science” is found precisely at this point: It would claim to establish the ‘truth’ which would be foisted on the political institutions. Casselton’s own article provides examples of the danger such an institution poses:

IAP has worked on issues as diverse as population growth, ocean acidification and the teaching of evolution. The organisation's ambition is to become the most influential voice for the world's scientists amid the clamour of politicians and lobby groups.

Each one of the cited “issues” is a minefield of wildly divergent scientific theories; scientists have their work more than cut out for them simply trying to come to a better understanding of the facts, let alone getting into the realm of policy. In point of fact, an “issue” such as population growth readily demonstrates the absurdity of a “United Nations of science” because it is an “issue” which is fundamentally not about the quantifiable: It is about human choices, and the values which govern human behavior.

Reducing the search for truth to simply another squeaky political lobby dominated by "scientists" whose views are subject not to facts, but ideological agendas, serves neither science nor politics.

If the "United Nations of science" does for science what the UN has done for peace, prosperity and freedom, then heaven help us: We’re headed back to the Stone Age.