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This issue: Following the Science?
“Following the science” has been the mantra of public officials from
the very beginning of the pandemic. Their acknowledgement of the
importance of science has been a refreshing change from the usual
attitude of so many political leaders, who all too often regard science,
and scientists, as an annoyance or a threat. Stephen Harper in
particular carried on a vendetta against scientists who were guilty of
the crime of doing research that revealed how his government’s policies
were harming the environment. Under Harper, government scientists were
muzzled, funding for inconvenient research was drastically curtailed,
and research libraries were physically destroyed. Compared to what went
on under the Harper regime, present-day politicians who proclaim respect
for science and declare their commitment to following it, look good.
But what does “following the science” actually mean? When we as a
society are faced with difficult policy choices, can science tell us
what choices we should make? We should be sceptical of anyone who says
that it can, because that isn’t actually what science does. It can
certainly provide information we need to take into account when making
choices and trade-offs, but choices don’t automatically follow from
Nor is it accurate to refer to “the science.” Science is a method for
understanding the world. It involves asking fruitful questions,
gathering information, and coming up with tentative answers and
conclusions which are then subject to further examination and
re-evaluation by other scientists. Often enough, it turns out that the
initial question wasn’t even the right question. Even so, that can be a
useful realization if it leads to formulating different questions. There
are always more questions than answers; indeed, each answer inevitably
raises a series of new questions. As Einstein said, “As our circle of
knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding
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This Week on Connexions.org
We demand real zero, not net zero!
Net zero emissions and other false solutions allow polluters to
continue polluting, and lock in destructive extractive industries, says
this statement adopted in October by the Oilwatch International Global
Gathering in Nigeria.
Keywords: Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Fossil Fuels
Ecosocialism Not Extinction!
Ecosocialist Alliance statement on the opening of UN climate talks in Glasgow
As ecosocialists we say another world is possible, but a massive social
and political transformation is needed, requiring the mobilization of
the mass of working people across the globe. Only the end of
capitalism’s relentless pursuit of private profit, endless waste, and
rapacious drive for growth, can provide the solution not only to climate
change, environmental degradation, and mass extinction, but to global
poverty, hunger, and hyper exploitation. Capitalism can at best mitigate
climate change, not stop it. Genuine climate solutions cannot be based
on the very market system that created the problem.
Keywords: Ecosocialism - Marxism and Ecology
| || |
Public health or private wealth? How digital vaccine passports pave way for unprecedented surveillance capitalism
Mega-corporations, international finance institutions, and
billionaire-backed private foundations have played a vital role in
lobbying for and implementing digital immunity passports. The burgeoning
global health passport system has been coordinated under the umbrella
of the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO). However, this institution
is so intertwined with wealthy private interests it can hardly be
characterized as a “public” health body.
Keywords: Privacy Rights - Surveillance Systems
| || |
5 Errors Made by Public Health/ Science During The Pandemic
Vinay Prasad outlines what he believes are five errors made by public
health authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prasad believes that we
need more funding for public health, but he also believes that public
health bodies need to do a better job, for starters, by admitting
uncertainty when there is uncertainty. If you don’t admit uncertainty,
he says, you won’t embark on research that could reduce uncertainty.
Keywords: Public Health - Science
| || |
The intelligence of ravens and the foolishness of (some) humans
What are researchers really doing when they think they are testing the
intelligence of ravens – or of humans? How credible is it to think that
animals can be ranked in intelligence according to how they perform on
tests designed by humans? For that matter, how believable is it that
intelligence is a single quantity, a thing that can be measured and
Keywords: Intelligence - Pseudoscience
| || |
Topic of the Week
Science helps us to understand – and change – the world. The questions
that science asks, and the knowledge it provides, cannot tell us how to
apply that knowledge, nor indeed whether we should. Those decisions
require ethical judgments and policy decisions. The Connexions subject
index is a gateway to a range of resources on Science and Ethics.
The Connexions subject index is a gateway to a range of resources on Science and Ethics.
In prisons around the world...
In prisons around the world, there are prisoners whose ‘crimes’
consisted of criticizing those in power, or of exposing the crimes of
those in power. Britain, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Israel, Russia,
Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United States ... the list of countries is
For those of us who live in Canada, we have a special responsibility to
condemn the human rights abuses of our partners-in-crime: the United
States and its Anglosphere client states: Britain, Australia, and
Canada. Here are a few instances:
Steven Donziger, lawyer who fought Chevron,
Find out more
Craig Murray's jailing is the latest move in a battle to snuff out independent journalism
Find out more
Papers Instead of Human Lives: The Sentencing of Daniel Hale
Daniel Hale has been sentenced to 45 months in jail for telling the truth about the U.S. program of drone assassinations.
Find out more
Leonard Peltier – in prison since 1976
Leonard Peltier was extradited from Canada to the U.S. in December 1976
according to ‘the rule of law’ and on the basis of what Canada’s
Solicitor General later admitted was false evidence submitted by the
He was found guilty in the deaths of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge
reservation. Several key witnesses in the trail subsequently recanted
their testimony, saying they had been coerced into lying at the trail.
Nevertheless, Peltier has remained in prison for the past 45 years.
Find out more
A Day in the Death of British Justice
John Pilger writes: “The pursuit of Julian Assange for revealing
secrets and lies of governments, especially the crimes of America, has
entered its final stage as the British judiciary - upholders of 'British
justice' - merge their deliberations with the undeterred power of
For those who may have forgotten, WikiLeaks, of which Assange is
founder and publisher, exposed the secrets and lies that led to the
invasion of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the murderous role of the Pentagon in
dozens of countries, the blueprint for the 20-year catastrophe in
Afghanistan, the attempts by Washington to overthrow elected
governments, such as Venezuela's, the collusion between nominal
political opponents (Bush and Obama) to stifle a torture investigation
and the CIA's Vault 7 campaign that turned your mobile phone, even your
TV set, into a spy in your midst.
WikiLeaks released almost a million documents from Russia which allowed
Russian citizens to stand up for their rights. It revealed the
Australian government had colluded with the US against its own citizen,
Keywords: Legal Systems as Instruments of Oppression - Political Prisoners
| || |
Website of the Week
Oilwatch is a network of resistance to the impacts of fossil fuels
(oil, gas and coal) industries on people’s and their environments.
Oilwatch aims to stop the expansion of fossil fuel activities that are
degrading to the environment. Oilwatch was created in 1996 in Quito,
Ecuador with the presence of 15 organizations from the following
countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Gabon, Thailand, Sri Lanka,
East Timor, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia and Brazil. Now, the
network has members in over fifty countries around the world.
Find them here
Keywords: Fossil Fuels - Fossil Fuel Alternatives
| || |
Book of the Week
Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science
In this book, written four years before the COVID-19 pandemic, Rob
Wallace describes how industrial agriculture, controlled by industrial
corporations, packs poultry and other animals together in megabarns
which are perfect environments for producing and spreading deadly
pathogens. There are alternatives, Wallace says, but corporate
agriculture, heavily subsidized by governments, stands in the way of
their widespread adoption.
Keywords: Factory Farming
- Industrial Agriculture
| || |
Film of the Week
The Coming War on China
When the United States, the world’s biggest military power, decided
that China, the second largest economic power, was a threat to its
imperial dominance, two-thirds of US naval forces were transferred to
Asia and the Pacific. This was the ‘pivot to Asia', first announced by
President Barack Obama in 2011, and continued under Presidents Trump and
Biden. In this documentary, John Pilger investigates the manufacture of
a ‘threat’ and the increasingly real danger of a catastrophic nuclear
Keywords: China - Militarism
| || |Organizing
Should we blow up pipelines?
In this review essay on Andreas Malm’s book “How to Blow Up a
Pipleline” Lars Henriksson argues that the choice between well-behaved
protests and sabotage is incorrectly posed. It is crucial to remember,
says Henriksson, that “If we are to have any prospect of winning and not
just fighting heroically, the climate movement needs to be a popular
movement of a kind rarely seen.”
Keywords: Activism/Organizing - Environmental Advocacy
| || |
The Names You'll Never Know
Americans have been killing civilians since before there was a United
States. At home and abroad, civilians -- Pequots, African Americans,
Cheyenne and Arapaho, Filipinos, Haitians, Japanese, Germans, Koreans,
Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, and
Somalis, among others -- have been shot, burned, and bombed to death.
Just in the last 20 years, the U.S. has killed an estimated 387,000
civilians. The U.S. builds memorials to its own soldiers, but those it
kills remain unknown. The celebrated Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in
Washington is 400 feet long. If there were to be a similar memorial for
the Vietnamese killed by the Americans in that war, that wall would have
to be 9 miles long.
Keywords: U.S. Imperialism - War
| || |
From the Archives
Library and Archives Canada service cuts hindering research, historians say
Library and Archives Canada sees itself – and is – central to Canada’s
history and to the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums sector.
But hours of service have been drastically reduced. It is now almost
impossible for researchers outside of Ottawa to book time in the
archival reading rooms. “Surely,” says the Canadian Historical
Association, “if galleries, museums and libraries across the country can
open their doors, so too can Library and Archives Canada.”
Keywords: Canadian History - Libraries/Archives
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This issue was edited by Ulli Diemer.
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