THE WAR ON SCIENCE
"The War on Science will change how you see the world"
"Shawn Otto’s new book is a must-read"
"Every so often a book comes along that changes the way you view the world. The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It by Shawn Otto is one of those rare books. If you care about attacks on climate science and the rise of authoritarianism, if you care about biased media coverage or shake-your-head political tomfoolery, this book is for you. "
“Wherever the people are well-informed," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "they can be trusted with their own government.” Jefferson was a lawyer and a scientist, and like the other founders, he risked his life to defend the ability of people to govern themselves, informed by science, against the authoritarian rule of kings.
But what happens today, two centuries later, when science and technology have become so advanced and so powerful that they influence every aspect of life, yet have become so complex that relatively few people understand them—including those we elect to powerful office?
Are the people still well-enough informed?
Recently, we’ve seen politicians at the state and national level ignore and deny science that doesn’t fit their political ends on topics as crucial as climate change, GMO foods, economics, environmental regulations, vaccinations, sex education, birth control, and a number of critical issues related to the global COVID-19 pandemic. As the most scientifically-advanced nation, had US political leaders followed what scientists were telling them America could have enjoyed the best outcome in the world. Instead, it is suffering among the worst. At first hoping to minimize the official numbers of infected Americans, political leaders failed to heed warnings about the virus's danger and the need for full transparency and a rapid response. They did not implement timely testing, and let the virus explode beyond America's ability to contain it. They failed to increase purchasing and production of needed medical and public health resources, and failed to mobilize an early coordinated, evidence-driven response. Combined, the lack of evidence-driven leadership cost America trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives. Ignoring scientists, several governors and mayors repeated the president’s mistakes and parroted his early view that the pandemic response was alarmism and a political hoax, and they refused to implement scientifically-recommended actions promptly. These political decisions to denigrate science and evidence in favor of political solidarity helped to worsen the problem, bringing unnecessary misery and death down on their own citizens.
But there was a major problem even before the pandemic. Since 2016, the federal government had lost more than 1,600 scientists. Half of its appointed scientific leadership positions have been left vacant by the Trump administration, and scientific reports that don't support the political views of the president have been frequently altered or quashed. Almost all science related to climate change has been cut or eliminated, as has science and policy related to global cross-border challenges that require a cooperative response, including emerging infectious diseases. This has happened with the knowledge and support of other elected leaders in Congress.
At the very time we need it most, science is increasingly denied by elected leaders in favor of "alternative facts" that better fit their ideology, and adherence to those alternative facts is strictly enforced — which is part of why those mayors and governors parroted the president's views over the evidence of science.
And it’s not just the Trump administration, it’s a worldwide problem, at all levels of government. It is occurring on the political right and on the political left, as well as in society among celebrities pushing pseudoscience and journalists arguing that there is no such thing as objectivity, so they should therefore cover “both sides” equally when only one side is supported by evidence, further skewing the public sentiment away from factual reality.
But without objective facts from science, how do we settle disputes in government? Traditionally, it has been by the person with the loudest megaphone, the slickest sales job or the biggest stick. So it is no surprise that we are seeing a worldwide erosion of democracy and a new rise of authoritarianism.
The War on Science exposes where this movement is coming from, what people and social and economic factors are driving it, and what we can do to turn things around before it’s too late.
Policymakers and voters everywhere would do well to read The War on Science.
Walter Mondale, United States Vice President
Otto makes a case that can't be refuted. Here's hoping all voters everywhere take him seriously.
Bill Nye, the Science Guy
We're seeing right now a titanic battle between the power of science and the power of money—and money is winning. The War on Science explains why, and might get us back on the right track.
Bill McKibben, author and cofounder of 350.org