Pure science has no place in politics because it has no spin. Only that which is convenient will be presented.
When Yanche and I were discussing the next good topic for the forum. He suggested a thread on what is environmentally right about us burning coal in our own homes. Maybe some effort on that one would be worth while?
Just my $.02 on this topic.
It's interesting; in my business (trial practice), the theory is that the ONLY witnesses who are permitted to express their opinions to the jury are qualified experts, who may testify on complex issues on which the jury (or the court itself) needs their help in analyzing the facts. And the only reason the experts are permitted to state their opinion is that they theoretically would be testifying to the "single" answer which the science dictates on an issue in dispute.
Well, over the years, the field became lucrative and the "experts" got so biased that they fell into "camps" on a whole array of issues. It got so bad that the term "junk science" was coined to portray the crap that some of these whores were peddling. Ultimately, the Supreme Court intervened in 1995 and established a standard, under the Federal Rules, that an expert must demonstrate that the science supporting his opinion has been vetted in the scientific community and not found wanting. But, to the surprise of only few, that only moved the debate to where the funds to support the "mainstream science" have come from. Perhaps the most notorious example was the tobacco-funded "research" on cancer causation (like the guys cashing these grant checks didn't know where the $ was coming from).
I had the fairly rare opportunity in the late '90's to act as a "Special Master" (a Fed Judge for a single case) in a case in my engineering discipline before law school. One of the experts who testified before me was an elder statesman in his field, one of these guys on a pedestal; another was a former classmate of mine. Sadly, neither had gotten the memo. Words are hardly adequate to express how disappointing it was to see the system going so wrong. I was able to recognize and compensate for it, but the whole concept of expert credibility is supposed to hinge on the professional integrity of the expert, and on definitive science. Both are problematic.
And, as we see in this debate, credibility is still a problem, on both sides. As Matt suggests, we expect that in our politics, we don't expect it in our science. But, since courts are forums for advocacy, the parallel, to me, couldn't be more apparent. In both situations, advocates pick and choose -- and sometimes fund the "research" of -- scientists. Then they hail their opinions as dispositive on a complex issue. And, precisely because the issues are difficult for us mere mortals to sort through ourselves, there's great danger of demagoging (which is the non-Nazi-tainted term for "propaganda") as a substitute for critical thought.
No side is pure, or immune from this problem.
Meanwhile, back at the coal mine, I'm still glad I'm burning a US-sourced, non-petroleum-based fuel to heat my home. It's not only cheaper but, for the moment, it strikes a blow for our national energy independence. But ultimately, for one reason or another, or for a whole group of reasons, fossils aren't going to be the answer, so some long-term planning, both in terms of conservation and alternative energy sources, is pretty clearly in order.