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This Issue: Science and its enemies
Our society and its institutions, public and private, regularly tell us
that science, and education in the sciences, are crucial to our future.
These public declarations are strangely reminiscent of the equally
sincere lip service they pay to the ideals of democracy. And, in the
same way that governments and private corporations devote considerable
efforts to undermining the reality of democracy, so too they are
frequently found trying to block and subvert science when the evidence
it produces runs counter to their interests. Real live scientists doing
real live science, it seems, are not nearly as loveable as Science in
The trouble with science, when carried out conscientiously in
accordance with the principles of rational inquiry, is that it may
produce evidence and conclusions that run counter to the interests of
the powerful and the rich. The science of global warming is a huge
threat to the immensely profitable fossil fuel industry. Exxon knew,
decades ago, that carbon emissions are linked to climate change – and
acted to suppress and lie about the science, using the same techniques
that had been used for many years by the tobacco industry to deny that
smoking is linked to lung cancer.
In the same way, scientists who have shown that fracking produces
earthquakes and poisons water are now under constant attack by the
industry. Universities, ever more dependent on corporate funding, are
told that they won’t receive money if they employ scientists who engage
is such unwelcome research. So too, evidence of the dangers of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) threatens immensely profitable
agribusiness corporations, and scientists who produce that evidence are
attacked and threatened with losing their jobs.
Corporate money is also used to subvert science in other ways. There
are always scientists and researchers who are prepared to produce
conclusions that are welcome to their funders. As Upton Sinclair once
said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his
salary depends on his not understanding it.” Unfortunately, there are
more than a few trained scientists who now earn their salaries by
failing to investigate what they should investigate, and failing to see
what they should see.
Where scientists persist in producing unwelcome evidence, another
tactic in common use is suppression. Scientists whose research is funded
by a corporations are frequently made to sign non-disclosure agreements
as a condition of receiving funding. They are forbidden to release
their findings unless the company, for example a pharmaceutical company
testing a new drug, agrees to release them. In this way unwelcome
results never see the light of day. Scientists employed by a government
are commonly gagged in similar ways. This was notoriously the case in
Canada under the late and unlamented Harper regime, which, in addition
to gagging scientists, actually went so far as to destroy entire
libraries of scientific records.
At the same time that corporations and the state seek to control or
suppress science, social currents have emerged that attack science from
other directions. Creationists loudly reject the science of evolution,
anti-vaccine activists spread fear, and, in some parts of academia,
schools of thought have emerged that see the whole idea of science as an
example of western imperialism.
This issue of Other Voices dips its toes into a few areas of current
scientific controversy. The Connexions website features a wealth of
articles and books on many other issues in the world of science.
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Topics of the Week
Science, Anti-Science, and Pseudoscience
The Connexions Subject Index features a large number of science-related topics. In this issue of Other Voices, we are featuring three of them: Science, Anti-Science, and Pseudoscience.
Explore them to find articles, books, films, websites and other
resources on many aspects of science and the scientific method.
The Seeds of Spin: Decoding Pro-GMO Lies and Falsehoods
If you are in some way critical of genetically modified food and
agriculture or have some concerns that remain unaddressed, here is a
brief interpretive (satirical) guide for navigating the seedy world of
pro-GMO spin. Read more
Keywords: Bullshit - Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Good journalism examines its sources critically, takes nothing at
face value, places its topics in a historical context, and values the
public interest. Such journalism is, most people agree, essential to any
equitable and open system of government. The science media has somehow
escaped serious attention. This is unfortunate because no country in the
world has a healthy science media. Read more
Keywords: Science Journalism - Spin
Fossil Fuel Industry's Global Climate Science Communications Plan in Action: Polluting the Classroom
The fossil fuel industry promotes a plan in U.S. schools to address
global climate change. Their plan includes denial, doubt and promoting
the merits of fossil fuel. Read more
Keywords: Climate Change Denial - Oil & Gas Industry
Rationality and Science
Noam Chomsky writes: "It strikes me as remarkable that the left
today should seek to deprive oppressed people not only of the joys of
understanding and insight, but also of tools of emancipation, informing
us that the "project of the Enlightenment" is dead, that we must abandon
the "illusions" of science and rationality -- a message that will
gladden the hearts of the powerful, delighted to monopolize these
instruments for their own use." Read more
Keywords: Anti-Intellectualism - Rational Inquiry
Annotated Bibliography of Nonsense
Uranium Mine and Mill Workers are Dying, and Nobody Will Take Responsibility
To talk to former uranium miners and their families is to talk
about the dead and the dying. Brothers and sisters, coworkers and
friends: a litany of names and diseases. Many were, as one worker put
it, “ate up with cancer,” while others died from various lung and kidney
diseases. Uranium mining has long been known to be dangerous work. As
early as 1546, in Schneeberg, Germany, it was noted that large numbers
of uranium miners were dying from lung disease. The first scientific
report linking uranium mining and lung disease was published in Germany
in 1879. Yet the mining continues, the unsafe practices continue, and
the deaths continue. Read more
Keywords: Uranium Mining - Workers’ Health and Safety
Website of the Week
Evidence for Democracy
Evidence for Democracy (E4D)
promotes the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making
in Canada. Through research, education and issue campaigns, they work to
engage and empower the science community while cultivating public and
political demand for evidence-based decision-making.
Their vision stresses:
* Strong public policies, built on the best available evidence, for the health and prosperity of all Canadians.
* A thriving democracy where
citizens are informed and engaged, and all levels of government are both
transparent and accountable.
* A national culture that values science and evidence and the important role they play in our society.
Keywords: Evidence – Science Policy
Book of the Week
Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to
Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted
Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public
By Drucker, Steven M.
Steven M. Drucker elucidates the
scientific facts about genetically engineered foods that the PR myths
have been obscuring. He tells the fascinating and frequently astounding
story of how the massive enterprise to restructure the genetic core of
the world's food supply came into being, how it advanced by consistently
violating the protocols of science, and how for more than three
decades, hundreds of eminent biologists and esteemed institutions have
systematically contorted the truth in order to conceal the unique risks
of its products -- and get them onto our dinner plates. Read more
Keywords: Genetically Engineered Foods - Science and Society
Film of the Week
The theory of evolution and a re-write of US history are caught in
the crosshairs when a creationist seeks re-election as chairman of
America's most influential board of education. See more
Keywords: Anti-science - Evolution
Labor in the Age of Climate Change
Climate change must be stopped. But who will do the stopping? What
group in society has the power to bring about an anticapitalist climate
revolution? Stefania Barca argues that this social agent could be, and
indeed must be, the global working class. Yet to play this role, the
working class must develop an emancipatory ecological class
consciousness. Read more
Keywords: Just Transition – Working Class & Climate Change
The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization
By Jonathan Lyons
In the golden years of Arab
science, Arab scholars were exploring and extending the great works of
the Persian, Hindu, and Greek civilizations, and making striking
advances in the sciences and mathematics. Arab scholars taught and
practised the importance of inquiry based on experimentation and
rational thought. For more than 700 years, the international language of
science was Arabic. Eventually their work and ideas were transmitted to
Europe and helped to give birth to European science. Read more
Keywords: Arab Science -
History and Philosophy of Science
Meet the Robin Hood of Science
The story of how one researcher has been working to make all
scientific paper available for free to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Alexandra Elbakyan, a researcher from Kazakhstan, created Sci-Hub, a
website that bypasses journal paywalls, providing access to nearly every
scientific paper ever published immediately to anyone who wants it. Read more
Keywords: Publications/Science - Scientific Information
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April 27, 2016 - Toronto
Chernobyl: Conversations and Children - 30 Years Later
A screening of the 2014 Japanese
documentary “Children Of Chernobyl 28 Years Later” followed by speakers
sharing their stories and talking about continuing and substantial
decontamination and health care costs.
April 29, 2016 - International
Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical WarfareA
memorial day of remembrance in commemoration of the victims of chemical
warfare, as well as an occasion to reaffirm the commitment of the
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the
elimination of the threat of chemical weapons.
April 29 – May 1, 2016 – Tobermory, ON
Peoples of the Great Arc – Two Ways of Knowing
topic for Forum 2016 is part of a series of explorations on the human
history of the Bruce Peninsula and the Niagara Escarpment (the Great Arc
as it extends through Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin). Field trips,
workshops, presentations and speakers will focus on the human
development of the area following the last ice ages until European
settlement. Evidence will come from archaeological findings and First
Nations traditional knowledge.
May 1, 2016 - International
International Workers’ Day
Day, International Workers’ Day, has been celebrated internationally
since 1890. Events to mark it are held in many cities around the world.
May 3, 2015 - International
International Press Freedom Day
day which celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to
evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from
attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have
lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
May 7 – 15, 2016 - International
Global Wave Of Resistance To Keep Coal, Oil, Gas In The Ground
mobilization to keep fossil fuels in the ground and accelerate a just
transition to 100% renewable energy and a sustainable future for all.
The Connexions Calendar is an
online calendar that exists to advertise events that support social
justice, democracy, human rights, ecology, and other causes. We invite
you to use it to promote your events. Adding events to the Connexions
Calendar is FREE. We'll give you a username and password which you use
to log on. Use the contact form to arrange for a username and password. Read more →
April 24, 1916
The Easter Rising
Irish rebels launch a rebellion against British colonial rule.
They seize key buildings in Dublin and declare an Irish Republic,
independent of Britain. The rising is suppressed after six days of
fighting, and the key leaders of the rebellion are executed.
Nevertheless the rising is a turning point. Support for independence
continues to grow in Ireland, leading to another declaration of
independence in 1919, and an Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 recognizing the
Irish Free State.
April 24, 1932
Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout
Hundreds of ramblers set out on an organized mass walk on the
Kinder Scout highland plateau in the Peak District of northern England.
They are defying the private property rights claimed by the Duke of
Devonshire, who forbids anyone from walking on ‘his’ vast estate, which
includes all the hills and plateaux in the area. The trespassers, many
of them members of the Communist-initiated British Workers’ Sport
Federation, insist that working people should have the right to walk
freely in the countryside near where they live. They are confronted by
the Duke’s gamekeepers, but after a brief scuffle, continue on their
walk. The trespass campaign continues: a few weeks later, 10,000
ramblers assemble in Winnats Pass to demand free access to the
countryside. The campaign succeeds in leading the government to change
the law and create national parks in some areas and setting up access
agreements for other areas of open country, including the Peak District
where Kinder Scout is located.
April 25, 1974
Revolution in Portugal
Military officers in the Movimento das Forcas Armadas (Armed Forces
Movement) launch an attempt to oust the fascist dictatorship which has
ruled Portugal for decades. Hearing of the move, people immediately
flood into the streets and begin a campaign of popular resistance and
civil disobedience which results in the overthrow of the dictatorship.
April 30, 1977
Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo
A group of 14 mothers in Buenos Aires holds the first of a series of
continuing demonstrations demanding to know the fate of their
‘disappeared’ children. The ‘disappeared’ were victims of state terror
in the period of the ‘Dirty War’ of the 1970s and 1980s when the
Argentine dictatorship abducted and killed thousands of people suspected
of left-wing affiliations. The Argentine government publicly dismisses
Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo as “las locas” (the crazy women), and
simultaneously resorts to repression. Some of the mothers, including
their first president, Azucena de Vallaflor, are themselves
‘disappeared’, while others are arrested. Nevertheless the movement
grows and gains international attention.
May 3, 1968
Mass demonstrations in Paris
Students at Sorbonne University in Paris gather in a mass meeting to
protest the closure of the university the day before by the university
administration. The administration’s action is an attempt to put a stop
to the student protests that have been going on for months.
It has the opposite effect: by the next week, a million people are in
the streets; the week after, workers across the country go on strike and
occupy factories, and France stands on the brink of revolution.
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This issue was edited by Ulli Diemer.
812A Bloor Street West, Suite 201
Toronto ON M6G 1L9 Canada
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