Journalist Chris Turner’s new book, “The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper's Canada” details, exactly as promised in the title, the devastation of scientific research and evidence-based policy in this country under the leadership of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. The title borrows a phrase originating in the Chris Mooney’s 1996 book “The Republican War on Science”, which described a similarly ideological agenda in the United States under George W. Bush, and which has been adapted to contemporary Canada by David Suzuki as well as less prominent critics of the Canadian Conservatives.
Now, when the pro-Harper National Post publishes a book review (by Jessica Warner, a frequent reviewer and a scholar of history and philosophy of science and technology) that describes its subject as “a tremendously important book” that you owe it to your country to read, one almost wants to be suspicious (though its Financial Post carries an opinion piece by Philip Cross titled “What war on Science?”). But The War on Science is a precise account of four ways in which the Conservative government has abused their authority and our trust, as Warner puts it.
Environmental and scientific portfolios have been entrusted to anti-science, climate change-skeptic, and simply evidence-based policy-illiterate ministers. Funding has been cut to regulatory groups that are guided by evidence. Environmental groups are being shut out of debate and policy-making. And finally, scientists have been gagged and prevented from speaking out about their findings (to wit, our recent commentary about food policy committees and the muzzling of scientific expert members).
Here, from U.S.-based ScienceBlogs, is a useful timeline of what’s gone on in Canada, courtesy of science librarian John Dupuis.
Another useful link for those who want to follow scientist protest as well as ongoing challenges to evidence-based and knowledge-informed policy is the non-profit group Evidence for Democracy, whose Stand up for Science campaign brought scientists and supporters out across the country back in September in protest against the changes and policies outlined in Turner’s book. This should all make for some excellent—if outrageous—holiday reading for OM readers.
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