A response to the Peter Phillips clip from tonight’s 5th Estate interview regarding the muzzling of government scientists.
Video for this commentary found here: http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/blog/are-scientists-really-being-muzzled
I’m sure Peter Phillips is very smart, well educated and good at what he does. I’m also pretty sure he’s a man of conscience because I swear I could see him start to sweat by the end of even this short segment. He seemed to know what he was saying was a very sanitized version of the truth. Mr. Phillips outlined several things that were problems with what the government was doing, then in a bizarre attempt to make it all sound even, seemed to be saying that the government had A reason… so who could say, who was right?
Just because it’s not black and white doesn’t mean you can say that no-one is to blame and call it a day. The point is that this conversation about the way it should be, is OURS as Canadians to make. Peter said it himself, government research is more geared to government interests (ie. protecting all of ours health and well-being) and that while the private and education sectors can do that, its not as efficient. Doesn’t that mean more expensive for the same result, or less result for the same money? Cause I didn’t get the bizzaro world notice.
The second most upsetting part was when Mr. Phillips said he thinks that [end-use] research is more important than basic investigative science, which is how you can tell he is a public policy expert and not a science history expert. While great many advances have come from things you might think of as the type of research done by companies, this is actually not usually the case. For instance all the neat home technology that makes our lives comfortable that came as a side benefit from our horrific world wars. This is not entirely accurate in the sense that the most major advances and fundamental changes that allow for that type of advancement always has its base and is precipitated by advances in basic science, not to mention the real and tangible side benefits like biomimicry. Did you know that part of the shielding of spacecraft was copied from the design of the shells of clams? Even if you disregard all of that, that type of research will generally focus on advancing and refining existing technologies, instead of understanding the fundamental nature of the place we exist – non-directed discovery. This is important so that we can better understand what type of research and technology is of most benefit to society and should be pursued. We should want to make progress in areas of actual benefit not just advancement in arbitrary categories based on predicted market value.
This is not to say that we should only do basic research, but that we disregard it at our peril. But, wait you say… didn’t he mention moving research to schools for free discovery? Corpora-tization of our education system and the co-opting of university resources for private profit is another article for another day friends… Suffice it to say for now that money sure is a good argument, who cares if you die of cancer at 35, as long as you do it with a big screen TV and a new SUV, eh?
Career politician and Canada’s Justice Minister – Peter Mackay, said today that “Anything that promotes sabotage […] is in many cases dangerous [and] illegal”, but Peter who gets to decide what “promotes sabotage” means? The war on science now combines with the war on environmental not-for-profits and charities to create a massive culture of intimidation to anyone who dares tell Canadians that multinational corporations and foreign governments own the product that we are increasingly singularly dependent on. In-case you haven’t read between the lines yet, this means that private corporations (who we give subsidies to for the privilege of being the most profitable companies on the planet) own our government. What’s even better is that they then have the testicular fortitude to make a stink about environmental charities being run by overseas interests, even true or not (it’s not). They were right however, as no-one has apparently noticed.
We are experiencing a systematic blackout of information about the damage large corporations are doing by ripping up the tar sands.
End this federal one-industry nightmare, we need to plan for the future.
Did you know the sun is free? [for now]