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Why Scientists Should Have a Greater Voice On Global Security

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the because-they-might-control-the-volcanoes dept.

Government 167

Lasrick writes "Physicist Lawrence Krauss has a great piece in the NY Times today about the lack of influence scientists wield on global security issues, to the world's detriment. He writes, 'To our great peril, the scientific community has had little success in recent years influencing policy on global security. Perhaps this is because the best scientists today are not directly responsible for the very weapons that threaten our safety, and are therefore no longer the high priests of destruction, to be consulted as oracles as they were after World War II. The problems scientists confront today are actually much harder than they were at the dawn of the nuclear age, and their successes more heartily earned. This is why it is so distressing that even Stephen Hawking, perhaps the world’s most famous living scientist, gets more attention for his views on space aliens than his views on nuclear weapons. Scientists' voices are crucial in the debates over the global challenges of climate change, nuclear proliferation and the potential creation of new and deadly pathogens. But unlike in the past, their voices aren't being heard.'"

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What do scientists know about politics?` (0)

tjstork (137384) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607593)

They don't build large political or commercial organizations, their tests for success and advancement are radically different than those in the political space, so they are just hopelessly unqualified for that role.

As much as we all hate politicians, he's right (5, Insightful)

PPalmgren (1009823) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607831)

Scientists are specialized brains who devote a significant majority of their life and time to one discipline or sub-discipline. A specialist is good for explaining how something works in layman's terms, a generalist is better at integrating this information into other specalist's explanations to mesh out something that works. A scientific council with general recommendations and upper/lower bounds to possible solutions? Great. A scientist deciding the solution outright? No sir.

Three scientists in a Mexican standoff... (1)

poity (465672) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608527)

...will they behave differently from anyone else in such a situation? I doubt it. Scientists are human, too. Thrown into the political arena, and they too will act politically.

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608037)

What do scientists know about politics?

Politics? They don't even know how old the Earth is!

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (5, Insightful)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608051)

Perhaps that indicates a problem with politics rather than scientists.

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608191)

their tests for success and advancement are radically different than those in the political space

This is exactly why they are supremely qualified to work on policy. Scientists and politicans have different tests for success because only scientists are concerned about truth and effectiveness. Politicians are concerned about getting reelected and doing favors for their cronies. It is actually politicians who are hoplessly unqualified to work on policy.

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608341)

> This is exactly why they are supremely qualified to work on policy.

Work on, not make.

> Scientists and politicans have different tests for success because only scientists are concerned about truth and effectiveness

Effectiveness being a weasel word. Effective based on what criteria? Effective under what conditions? Even the word "truth" is relative in layman's terms. Good enough for me to not get hit by a car? Truth. Good enough to be able to walk through traffic with statistical safety. Truth. Statements consisting of question and answer that are unequivocal? Nontrivial problem.

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608715)

Effectiveness being a weasel word. Effective based on what criteria?

Obviously those criteria should be set out in the law itself. Every law should have a goal, and specify a way for evaluating progress towards that goal.

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608999)

Effectiveness being a weasel word. Effective based on what criteria?

Obviously those criteria should be set out in the law itself. Every law should have a goal, and specify a way for evaluating progress towards that goal.

A large part of policy involves deciding what goals to aim at, and how to balance the needs of competing goals when they conflict (which they will). You've swept that under the carpet and assumed that everyone agrees what the goals are, which simply isn't true. For example, nobody enjoys paying taxes, but nobody wants to see sick people die without effective treatment because they can't afford it. These goals have to be balanced by making choices about values, not simply by asking a bunch of experts to come up with the 'correct' formula for healthcare spending.

Also, your focus on measurability sounds nice, but has led to disasters in the past - think of bloated defense projects where a common goal 'to keep the nation safe within a reasonable cost' is too vague to measure, so what happens is that individual weapons programs become their own goal and spending on them becomes de-coupled from the changing world defense environment. Alternatively, consider local city budgets where pay disputes with staff were often resolved by promising generous pension increases to be paid in the future, because the cost of those increases did not fully hit the budgets which were measured on an annual basis. Finally, some goals such as 'freedom' and 'democratic legitimacy' are not less important just because they are unmeasurable.

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (1)

poity (465672) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608623)

Oh the other hand, scientists aren't big on compromise -- which is good if you're running an authoritarian state, not so good if you have diverse constituents.

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609137)

Why is compromising with people who are demonstrably wrong a desirable feature?

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609483)

Why is compromising with people who are demonstrably wrong a desirable feature?

Because it enables you to actually accomplish something.

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608747)

In other words, to hell with Representative Democracy, lets just have a Meritocracy.

Re:What do scientists know about politics?` (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608647)

They don't build large political or commercial organizations, their tests for success and advancement are radically different than those in the political space, so they are just hopelessly unqualified for that role.

Indeed. Look at how scientists have handled the politics of climate change. Their involvement has been a disaster. They have alienated large segments of the public, and support for action on AGW has gone down even as the evidence has mounted. In politics, perceptions matter much more than facts, and scientists have a hard time dealing with that. I cringe every time I hear a scientist refer to the IPCC, which has been utterly discredited politically (deservedly or not). Nobody in politics cares about your credentials, or what journal you were published in, and nothing is worse than having a haughty attitude. It is much more important to be able to go on TV, crack some jokes, and have a good rapport with the host even if he or she doesn't agree with your viewpoint.

I use HOSTS file for my global security (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42607601)

APK is a troller

Because government no longer listens ... (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607609)

An increasing number of politicans will only listen to the scienticians if what they're saying supports the conclusions they've already arrived at.

They're not interested in facts, just their own ideology.

Re:Because government no longer listens ... (4, Interesting)

SerpentMage (13390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607763)

The problem with science and scientists is that they are money losing ventures. Scientists are not rich, they talk in very complicated manners, and do not come to conclusions! Scientists know the world is complex and all problems are complex and solved in a piecemeal manner.

Its much easier to say, "And I am here to tell you 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/video/2013/jan/08/alex-jones-pro-gun-tirade-piers-morgan-video [guardian.co.uk]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtyKofFih8Y [youtube.com]

There is nothing factual about this. Nothing of value, but gee it sure sounds good and makes a good impression. This is what American society and many other societies have degraded to. So yeah no politician wants to listen to a scientist because this is what a scientist sounds like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anfbjiShjP8 [youtube.com]

Compare the Youtube count, 6 million vs 100K. Yeah people are interested in facts!!!

Re:Because government no longer listens ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608027)

What makes you limit this statement to politicians?

Re:Because government no longer listens ... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608057)

They're not interested in facts, just their own ideology.

Criticizing politicians for having an ideology is absurd. Political questions are not like engineering questions - 'how much should we spend on bridges' is not at all the same category of question as 'estimate the ultimate load-bearing capacity of this bridge'. Political issues require consideration of things like the underlying values of society, legitimacy of decision-making and economic priorities, none of which have a single 'right' or even an 'approximately right' answer. Stephen Hawking is not a nuclear weapons specialist (although I dare say he knows more than 99% of the population) so why should his views on nuclear weapons be particularly important given that many of the questions involved are about fairness, desire for security and economic constraints? When deciding whether Truman's decision to drop the A bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was appropriate, how useful is it to understand the technical difference between the two types of bombs used?

Of course, many politicians ignore the facts on subjects like Global Climate Change, and that can't be approved of. But I also groan when I read scientific experts move from explaining the facts about a subject to advocacy of their preferred course of action without differentiating the statements.

Re:Because government no longer listens ... (2, Informative)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608763)

Criticizing politicians for having an ideology is absurd.

The criticism is when they ignore evidence against their particular ideology.

Political questions are not like engineering questions - 'how much should we spend on bridges' is not at all the same category of question as 'estimate the ultimate load-bearing capacity of this bridge'.

Although there certainly are decisions that cannot be made objectively, your example is not one of them. We can certainly do cost-benefit analyses to decide whether building a bridge somewhere is worth the amount of money that will be spent building it.

Sometimes it is subjective. For example, most of us are not anarchists and believe that the government should establish certain laws, even though every law is a restriction on your freedom. We do, however, disagree on where that line is between order and safety and freedom. This is purely ideological. However, even if you lean towards sacrificing more freedom for increased safety, we can empirically determine whether a piece of legislation would actually make people safer or not, whereas right now we don't bother with that.

Re:Because government no longer listens ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609385)

Political questions are not like engineering questions - 'how much should we spend on bridges' is not at all the same category of question as 'estimate the ultimate load-bearing capacity of this bridge'.

Although there certainly are decisions that cannot be made objectively, your example is not one of them. We can certainly do cost-benefit analyses to decide whether building a bridge somewhere is worth the amount of money that will be spent building it.

These cost-benefit analysis still contain implicit values that you are overlooking. The people who provide the money for the bridges are not necessarily the same as the people who benefit. For example, why should money from a taxpayer in one part of Oregon be available to be used to repair a bridge in another part of Oregon, or even an interstate in Virginia, but not a bridge in Germany? There are all sorts of embedded values about which parties have rights and duties to other parties which factor into infrastructure decisions and which go beyond technical econometric analysis.

Scientists on slashdot (2)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608171)

An increasing number of politicans will only listen to the scienticians if what they're saying supports the conclusions they've already arrived at.

They're not interested in facts, just their own ideology.

It's not just politicians, it's everywhere - even on Slashdot.

If you look at the gun control debate and only consider the evidence, the answer is obvious. It's been obvious for a long time - there was an article in Scientific American decades ago which explained the evidence and statistics. The conclusion hasn't changed since then.

And yet, people go back and forth on this very website arguing storylines instead of facts. Both sides continuously cite heartfelt stories in an attempt to sway others that what they believe is correct. The statistics are there, there's some attempt to mislead the debate by framing the numbers in specific ways, but overall it's clear-cut.

Being a scientist means you make evidence-based decisions. I may not like the decisions, and it may feel wrong to me, but at the end of the day I know that basing decisions on evidence is the most likely path to success.

If you don't form your beliefs based on evidence in the gun debate, why bother using evidence at all? If you can believe stories over evidence, then vaccinations cause autism, cell phones cause cancer, a little inflation is good, and a talking snake convinced a rib-woman to eat an apple from a magic tree.

There are cases where we don't have enough information, and "best guess" and "expert opinion" can probably serve; however, many times the evidence is overwhelming and the path is clear.

We would all do well to stop talking "pathos" [wikipedia.org] in our posts and concentrate on facts.

That's what we should be doing, really: keep the debate focused on evidence. When there's a clear indication from evidence, don't let the other side wander off into storyland.

(I chose gun control as an emotionally-charged topic that's fresh in people's minds. I claim the point is valid for many issues discussed on Slashdot.)

Re:Scientists on slashdot (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608711)

there was an article in Scientific American decades ago which explained the evidence and statistics

Citation please? And I don't ask that because I doubt you, I ask that because I'd be curious to read it, and any followups that have been done since.

I'd like to, but... (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609341)

While writing the post I googled the article, but can't find it. The current debate on gun control is flooding the search results right now, even for something as specific as Scientific American.

On further reflection, I decided to say nothing as to which side was the "right" side of this issue. I'm trying to make a larger point, and the actual debate is secondary. Also, I'm hoping that this will encourage people to post evidence that I'm unaware of. (I clam that the evidence is clear on this issue, but I might be wrong.)

I can remember reading the article in my youth, it had clear conclusions. It's less relevant today than more modern statistics.

Sorry for the omission, it was somewhat on purpose.

I applaud the attitude. Verifying assumptions and otherwise scientific thinking are what we need most.

Re:Scientists on slashdot (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608983)

there was an article in Scientific American decades ago which explained the evidence and statistics. The conclusion hasn't changed since then.

Scientific American isn't known as a reputable criminal justice journal.

Since the U.S. homicide rate has fallen 50% over the past two decades while the number of guns in private hands and the number of "shall issue" CCW states has increased, anyone who hasn't changed their conclusions over that time either started off understanding that strong gun control laws aren't useful, or hasn't examined the evidence.

doublethink away precise definitions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608311)

Scientists have a voice; they can speak out plenty using the numerous tools we all can use to share our thoughts all over the world(as I am doing now). There is nothing stopping anyone(in an even remotely free and peaceful society) from putting up a youtube vid or tweet or whatever for all of us to see. What is really meant by this conflated phrase 'should have a voice' is exactly the opposite of the real definition. The real proposition is not that they should be able to have the means to speak to any willing to listen(they already do), instead it is that they should be able to tell us what to do(via various statist means). This is exactly the opposite of wanting people to have a voice, to permit discourse. It is domination, not dialogue. It is using terms of voluntarism to mask terms of violence. Krauss in this NY times article is advocating more control of the guns of the state by scientists while using the language of peace.

Re:Because government no longer listens ... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608661)

Indeed. This is the road to hell though.

3 problems (4, Insightful)

banbeans (122547) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607625)

To much politics in science today to trust them with decisions.
There is a lot of junk out there being passed off as science.
Many scientists are available for sale to the highest bidder.

This has caused a loss of trust in the scientific community by the general public and the leadership.

Re:3 problems (1)

emilper (826945) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607701)

there was always too much politics in science; remeber eugenics ?

Re:3 problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42607821)

To much politics in government today to trust them with decisions.
There is a lot of junk out there being passed off as policy.
Many politicians are available for sale to the highest bidder.

This has caused a loss of trust in the political community by the general public and the leadership.

FTFY

Re:3 problems (5, Insightful)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608105)

- Science is too political to be trusted with decisions, leave it to those who are entirely political
- The signal-to-noise ratio, while significantly higher than current political rhetoric, is less than one.
- Not every scientist can be bought.

FTFY.

Okay, snark aside, at a time when Congress ranks below cockroaches [publicpolicypolling.com] are you truly suggesting this wouldn't improve the situation? Your points are, in a sense, all valid, but we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. An improvement is just that, and need not be perfection.

Re:3 problems (1)

OFnow (1098151) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609413)

Those seeing politics in science have been fooled by the merchants of doubt. It is not the scientists that introduced politics it is a small group of physicists from the cold war with strong ties to government claiming (without any proof) that the real scientists are playing politics (douby weird given that the merchants of doubt are strongly tied to government). I have no connection with the book "Merchants of Doubt" but I strongly recommend it for explaining how science is being crushed by the anti-science folks.

If Scientists Ran Global Security... (3, Interesting)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607651)

- "hackers" would be called "tireless researchers"
- finding security flaws would be called "peer-review"
- there would be a lot more 14-year-olds leading new scientific advances

and...

- people who put their own self-interests aside to disseminate paywalled scientific research for the betterment of humankind would be labeled "heros," and be awarded posthumous honors

Re:If Scientists Ran Global Security... (2, Funny)

DickBreath (207180) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607721)

Look, seriously. If scientists ran the world and occupied political positions of power, if we got rid of marketing departments and corporate communications, then what jobs would be left for stupid people?

--
Necessity is the mother of invention. Greed is the mother of patents.

Re:If Scientists Ran Global Security... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608111)

then what jobs would be left for stupid people?

The editors and posters on /. could finaly make a few bucks.

Re:If Scientists Ran Global Security... (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608347)

Look, seriously. If scientists ran the world and occupied political positions of power, if we got rid of marketing departments and corporate communications, then what jobs would be left for stupid people?

fry cook? scientist need to eat, construction worker? some one has to build the building around the partial collider, janator, bogon^^^^^ office workers, and most important of all farm hand on coffee plantations. that is of course until they are all replaced by robots or in the case of office workers macros and scripts.

Re:If Scientists Ran Global Security... (1, Insightful)

DickBreath (207180) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607783)

If Scientists ran the world, then there wouldn't be paywalled scientific papers, and a bright young guy wouldn't need to be prosecuted for the horrific crime of excessive downloading of information freely available to him on a network that was also freely available to him.

--
Necessity is the mother of invention. Greed is the mother of patents.

Re:If Scientists Ran Global Security... (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608013)

That seems terribly optimistic. Most likely every kindergarden teacher in the world would write their own "see spot run" textbook and charge the little runts $90 per copy (which is OK, because Kindergarten tuition even at the dumpiest schools would rise to $50K/yr) and release a new book edition every semester just to crater the resale market.

I will say I enjoyed one prof who seemed to delight in running right along the razor edge of "fair use" by basically copying a page or two out of hundreds of different books to give us what amounted to a looseleaf textbook, for a class where in his opinion there existed no good textbook and he was too busy to write/edit one. It was an upper level EE type class in a rather obscure subject (well, at that time anyway)

Re:If Scientists Ran Global Security... (2)

desdinova 216 (2000908) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608949)

I thought it was the publishers who do did thing like 90/copy and killing resale markets.

Re:If Scientists Ran Global Security... (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607857)

LOL if science was in charge of global security:

If you want to join .mil, basic training in .mil would be about four to six years long, you'd have to pay $50K and all expenses to .mil for your first 4 years, afterward for a couple years they might (or might not) provide you room and board while you're basically a drill instructor to the new recruits, then if they like your work, and most importantly if you're lucky, about 1/4 to 1/2 of you would get hired to become Generals, of which maybe 1/2 would get tenure and $1M/yr jobs and everyone else who didn't make it would have to quit the whole subject and become freelance computer programmers or bums or whatever. And no one would get more than $20K/yr except a couple elite tenured Generals at the top none of whom would make less than $100K/yr (actually kind of sounds like the corporate view of the ideal future)

Re:If Scientists Ran Global Security... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608811)

You seem to be confusing "Science" with "Universities"

Re:If Scientists Ran Global Security... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608091)

- "hackers" would be called "tireless researchers"
- finding security flaws would be called "peer-review"
- there would be a lot more 14-year-olds leading new scientific advances

and...

- people who put their own self-interests aside to disseminate paywalled scientific research for the betterment of humankind would be labeled "heros," and be awarded posthumous honors

And we'd all be living on a planet that doesn't have a blue sky.

What color would the sky be on this fantasy planet of yours?

Scientists are humans, too. No better nor worse than the rest of us.

Piltdown man [wikipedia.org] , anybody?

Falsified "vaccination causes autism" study [washingtonpost.com] ? Yep - A SCIENTIST did that.

that's because... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42607653)

I suspect I'm going to get moddd into oblivion for this, but:

That's because scientists are smart within their respective field, but people too often assume that Intelligence is the same thing as Wisdom. It is not. But more importantly my own opinion is that most scientists are divorced from geopolitical reality. Case in point, the recent article discussing the doomsday clock still being set at 5 minutes to midnight. While a piece of that involves global warming, a significant piece of that is due to the existing large nuclear weapons stocks. Really? Today, in 2013, we're closer to doomsday than 1962 during the Cuban Missile crisis, the closest the Cold War ever came to a hot war, when Russia was building nuclear weapon silos within a few hundred miles of America's hearltand (it was at 7 minutes to midnight then)? Those guys are clearly running their calculations missing a few data points.

just because there are a lot of nuclear weapons out there doesn't mean anyone is remotely close to actually firing one off.

Re:that's because... (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607873)

Mod to undo inaccurate "redundant" mod. Parent is insightful. Hey, editors, when can I get a fucking "undo" button? It only has to be valid for fifteen seconds.

Scientists promote Godless ideas (3, Insightful)

DickBreath (207180) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607675)

Scientists promote Godless evil ideas such as global warming, evolution and birth control. They also seem to think you should believe something based on the evidence for it, sound methodology, and peer review. If every idea had to be scrutinized thusly, do you realize how difficult it would be to get every new idea about aliens and conspiracies onto talk radio? Then how would we are to be learning about these important topics?

--
Necessity is the mother of invention. Greed is the mother of patents.

Didn't listen then either (1, Insightful)

jimmifett (2434568) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607689)

As I recall, the only time anyone listened is when a bunch of awesome-sauce physicists warned that the nazis were working on atomic weapons research. Obviously, we couldn't let a mineshaft gap of that size exist, so we had to beat them to it.

Much more instances of ignoring, like agent orange for example.

Unless you're telling about a really neat new way to stick it to the enemy, or an asteroid will kill us allin 6 months unless we send Bruce Willis and Ben Afleck to nuke it (because blowing shit up is effing awesome), you're just not that interesting.

More like a nagging wife:

Blah blah good of humanity blah blah anti-matter reactor blah blah free energy blah blah big bada boom blah blah... wait, did you say big effing explosions? Annihilation of matter, particularly ENEMY matter? You have my attention sirs, please proceed...

A quote (4, Informative)

RenHoek (101570) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607713)

Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge".

    -- Isaac Asimov

Re:A quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608233)

Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge".

    -- Isaac Asimov

Yeah, just look at the gun control debate, where people who know nothing about firearms can demand that everyone else give up their civil liberties!

Re:A quote (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609255)

Asimov was a smart guy, but also an arrogant ass. There is a huge difference between using science to inform policy (which I admit we ought to do), and putting scientists in charge of policy (which sounds like elitism to me). TFA conflates the two. Knowledge of physics qualifies Krauss (the author) to tell us the best and safest ways to test nuclear weapons, but not to tell us whether a test ban treaty is good foreign policy.

A Question of Fields (4, Insightful)

Millennium (2451) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607743)

It has been a long time since anyone existed who could only call himself (or herself) a "scientist." The term is now a generic way to refer to people whose actual work is in any of a staggering number of highly specialized fields. There is some acknowledgment of this in TFA, which states (correctly) that many of today's greatest scientific minds don't work directly in the fields related to the things that affect our security. To use the article's own example, Stephen Hawking is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist: he doesn't work on nuclear weapons.

But for a given question, what grounds are there to privilege the viewpoints of those whose expertise is not in a field of direct relevance to that question? On questions concerning nuclear weapons, for example, why should Stephen Hawking's viewpoint be held as equivalent to a nuclear physicist's viewpoint? For that matter, why should his viewpoint be held as superior to the viewpoint of anyone else who is not a nuclear physicist?

Re:A Question of Fields (0)

Zordak (123132) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608043)

For that matter, why should his viewpoint be held as superior to the viewpoint of anyone else who is not a nuclear physicist?

Shhhh! You're not supposed to say things like that while we're worshipping at the altar of the ill-defined gods of "science." "Scientists" just know. Because they're "scientists."

Re:A Question of Fields (0)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608085)

TLDR is something like if we pretend there is no such thing as IQ and we all have identical processor, bandwidth, and memory specs (LOL) then the inevitable necessary comparison judgments based on something that we must pretend doesn't, exist sets up all manner of cognitive dissonance. Add in the (intentional?) cultural blindspot about the difference between training, education, and wisdom, add a dash of good ole fashioned anti-intellectualism, a bit of authoritarianism and credentialism, eventual result is FUBAR.

Re:A Question of Fields (1)

Millennium (2451) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609167)

I don't understand. Are you agreeing with me or arguing against me?

Re:A Question of Fields (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609313)

poorly paraphrasing almost the same idea

Re:A Question of Fields (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608237)

Stephen Hawking has shown himself to be capable of weighing evidence and making good conclusions in at least one field. A politician on the other hand has only shown himself to be good at shmoozing.

Re:A Question of Fields (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608739)

But for a given question, what grounds are there to privilege the viewpoints of those whose expertise is not in a field of direct relevance to that question? On questions concerning nuclear weapons, for example, why should Stephen Hawking's viewpoint be held as equivalent to a nuclear physicist's viewpoint? For that matter, why should his viewpoint be held as superior to the viewpoint of anyone else who is not a nuclear physicist?

Certainly on nuclear physics topics, I'd probably tend to listen to the nuclear physicist over Stephen Hawking...

But why should I listen to either Stephen Hawking or Dr Krauss or any other nuclear physicist on questions regarding nuclear weapons? How does being knowledgeable about the physics make him an expert on non-physics topics?

There's no time for reason... (2)

ADanFromCanada (2809499) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607751)

there's money to be made!

Re:There's no time for reason... (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607825)

And there you have it.

Scientists do not pay politicians. (Above or under the table)
Crooked people do.

So why should a politician listen to a scientist for free?

Re:There's no time for reason... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607855)

The ultimate reason for even caring about security for politicians/lobbyists/etc is money, specially short term one. For most problems the approach is either deny them or try to make profit enforcing measures for the non-lobbyist ones.

I wonder when the politicians campaigns will be honest and put as catchphrase "after us, the deluge"

Well, not these scientists (1, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607785)

I am co-chairman of the board of sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which has supported the call for a world free of nuclear weapons — a vision backed by major foreign policy figures in both parties. But ideological biases have become so ingrained in Washington that scientific realities are subordinated to political intransigence.

The BAS is the perfect example that scientific knowledge doesn't translate to political insight. They've been crying wolf for 60 years, and are now surprised why nobody is listening to them anymore? If science really has lost influence, it's because of people like these guys who hide behind science and call everyone 'anti-science' who disagrees with them.

Re:Well, not these scientists (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607921)

The danger does not decrease simply because it hasn't happened yet, just as the odds of rolling a '1' next round are not affected by the four '20's you just rolled.

Re:Well, not these scientists (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608031)

But nuclear warfare isn't random, it's not like Putin and the President throws a dice every day to decide whether or not to launch. The chance in this case came from lack of knowledge, which over time has disappeared. By your analogy, after rolling 20s for decades, it's safe to say that the dice is loaded.

Re:Well, not these scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608049)

But when someone says they have a sure-fire, 99% accurate lottery prediction scheme, after they fail the first four times you're entitled to quite a bit of skepticism.

Re:Well, not these scientists (1)

Millennium (2451) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608083)

That assumes that international politics is a series of independent events, which simply is not the case (though in some ways it might be better if it were). History matters, for good and for ill, and a history of non-hostile relations does indeed decrease the danger.

Re:Well, not these scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608125)

The danger does not decrease simply because it hasn't happened yet, just as the odds of rolling a '1' next round are not affected by the four '20's you just rolled.

ONLY if you start with the assumption that the "danger" is real.

Prediction failures reduce credibility - PERIOD.

More likely... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607815)

"Perhaps this is because the best scientists today are not directly responsible for the very weapons that threaten our safety, and are therefore no longer the high priests of destruction, to be consulted as oracles as they were after World War II."

More likely it's because people finally figured out that being a scientist doesn't make you an authority on non-scientific topics. (Not to mention that the golden era he laments, like all such golden eras, never really existed.)

Re:More likely... (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608211)

Not to mention that the golden era he laments, like all such golden eras, never really existed

Sure about that? I'd think mass marketing advertising along the lines of "actor wears white lab coat, makes ridiculous claim in support of product" might poison the well a little bit.

Also some chicken and egg question about the ultra cheesey, terribly popular hollywood movie trope of "evil mad scientist".

Re:More likely... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608501)

That's material aimed at a mass audience (and is usually doctors, not scientists), which isn't the decision makers that Dr Krauss thinks should be ringing him up for advice on a regular basis.

Also, one would note that the stereotype of the "mad scientist" far predates the post WWII era he laments as being a golden age (even though it wasn't).

In their fields (2, Insightful)

CarsonChittom (2025388) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607819)

In all honesty, why should we care about Stephen Hawking's views on nuclear weapons? I mean, sure, if there were a weapon that harnessed the destructive power of black holes, definitely Hawking would be on the list of people to consult. But on stuff that isn't his—or more generally, any individual scientist's field? Why is that desirable?

In any case, Krauss is barking up the wrong tree. The solution to nuclear proliferation is not for scientists to have some greater voice. It's for scientists to convince the populace that nuclear proliferation is an issue worth bothering about. So far, they have failed.

Re:In their fields (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608061)

The solution to nuclear proliferation is not for scientists to have some greater voice. It's for scientists to convince the populace that nuclear proliferation is an issue worth bothering about. So far, they have failed.

Isn't it ironic that most people are more worried about having a nuclear reactor within a few dozen miles from their backyard, than they are worried about getting vaporised or poisoned by thermonuclear war?

Re:In their fields (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608281)

no, its highly intelligent.

The reactor in my "backyard" is owned by a company based 1000 miles away in an economic system with a proven track record of not caring about what happens beyond ned quarters numbers. They would kill me and my family in an instant if they thought it would improve their numbers. Currently, it would not, lucky me... so far.

The folks with fingers on the button truly have their bacon in the game, and so far none of them have been crazy enough to want to vaporize their entire family and country just because they're mad at us.

I'd trust a russian general a hell of a lot more than I'd trust an american CEO, any day. Trust does not equal blind obedience or worship... just means... trust.

Re:In their fields (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608829)

It's for scientists to convince the populace that nuclear proliferation is an issue worth bothering about.

Politicians who care about it are also making a lousy case. I distinctly remember one of the Bush-Kerry debates back in 2004, when as the final question the moderator asked each candidate what they thought the most important issue of the day was. Kerry responded with nuclear proliferation, and everyone looked at him like he had 3 heads or something.

That said, the way the world has been responding (or more exactly, not responding) to issues of global warming, I'm not sure how much longer nuclear proliferation will matter.

The actual message: (2)

Hartree (191324) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607887)

The writer wants greater influence from scientists who agree with him.

I suspect that given the chance to have given Edward Teller or William Shockley greater influence on global security, he might decline.

On the other hand, he might have wanted more influence by someone like Linus Pauling.

All three mentioned were good scientists in their fields. So, the criterion becomes what their positions are rather than just that they are good scientists.

Front page? (1)

trevc (1471197) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607899)

How on earth did this drivel make the front page?

They are fucking PROBLEMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42607927)

Scientists' voices are crucial in the debates over the global challenges of climate change, nuclear proliferation and the potential creation of new and deadly pathogens.

Stop calling problems challenge, we don't need any more of this stupid businessspeak.

Depends on degrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42607949)

People who studied underwater basket weaving at the university of life tend to seek questions to their answers, and fear anyone who disrupts the process by injecting facts and equations.

Scientists (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42607977)

Scientists don't have a good track record on setting policy. They tend to get too focused on their own little area and end up making bad decisions. And that doesn't even take into consideration what can happen when the wrong scientist gets in control, if you remember the Russian horrors of Lysenkoism.

Any time you create a process whereby people can acquire power, that process will be abused. Remember the fighting between Oppenheimer and Teller? It can get much, much worse than that.

If scientists have more power than average people, then everyone will rush to redefine themselves as scientists, like this guy [slashdot.org] . Instead of marketers, we'll have "social researchers." Instead of accountants we'll have "capital flow researchers." And I'm not going to stay out of the game, I'll definitely be a computer scientist, not a programmer. Soon the term "scientist" will lose its meaning.

If scientists want to affect policy in a democratic society, they need to get better at explaining. Albert Einstein reportedly said, "You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother." It may sound excessive, but remember that's what Feynman did with advanced theoretical physics. You can do it. Of course, in a democratic society, if everyone collectively wants to shoot themselves in the foot, there's not always much you can do about it.

Re:Scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608189)

I don't think they're saying only scientists should get the vote or anything like that. What he's saying is that we have a cultural problem where domain experts are ignored (and non-experts in the domain get disproportionate attention), and one domain he's looking at in particular is the natural sciences. You absolutely should pay attention to accountants on issues of "capital flow".

As for explaining it to your grandmother, grandmothers usually try to listen to their grandchildren. People who don't want to listen are a far greater challenge than grandmothers.

Re:Scientists (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608271)

What he's saying is that we have a cultural problem where domain experts are ignored (and non-experts in the domain get disproportionate attention), and one domain he's looking at in particular is the natural sciences

What he's saying is that scientists, in particular physicists, aren't being listened to about how to achieve peace in the world (ie, avoid nuclear proliferation). Physicists as a group are definitely not 'domain experts' in foreign policy.

Would we want scientists? (1)

dorpus (636554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608009)

Given their hostility to religion, they would be the first to advocate blowing up Mecca and starting WW3.

Re:Would we want scientists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608289)

Given their hostility to religion, they would be the first to advocate blowing up Mecca and starting WW3.

You dont see scientists flying planes into building, commiting suicide bombings, mutilating women, bashing gay people, going on crusades to kill hundreds of thousands, cock blocking helpful advances like stem cell, and using science as a way to be judgemental, hateful and closed minded to facts do you?

Religion has caused more pain, death, cruelty, hatred, closed minded minds, judgemental mentalities and so on that anything ever in the history of mankind including science.

So yeah, give me science over religion any day of the week.

Re:Would we want scientists? (1)

kenh (9056) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608757)

You dont see scientists flying planes into building, commiting suicide bombings, mutilating women, bashing gay people

You may want to investigate what the 9/11 terrorists studied in school before they hijacked those planes.

"We examined the educational backgrounds of 75 terrorists behind some of the most significant recent terrorist attacks against Westerners. We found that a majority of them are college-educated, often in technical subjects like engineering."

Source: New York Times, The Madrassa Myth [harvard.edu]

cock blocking helpful advances like stem cell

You are, I assume, referring to the infamous Bush position that federal money would not be used for stem cell research? Bush simply witheld federal dollars for stem cell recearch on new stem cells, he did not limit study on pre-exisiting stem cells, nor did he prevent any private funding of stem cell research.

In fact, George W. Bush was the first President to provide ANY federal funding for stem cell research. [archives.gov]

Re:Would we want scientists? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608723)

Theist persecution complex ENGAGE!

I'm sure the anthropologists would be first to reach for the button.

Blind Faith vs Science (3, Interesting)

RichMan (8097) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608039)

The major power structures, church and state, are formed around blind faith.
They know what is best and will do it for you. You just have to believe.

Science is based around inquiry and questioning what is going on.

To accept science you must be open to doubt.
The major power structures are based on doubt and questioning being a very very bad thing.

If we want science to go up we must become free of the current power structures.

Re:Blind Faith vs Science (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608133)

Tough to do. You have the alpha sociopath running the show. They hold vast segments of the population in their thrall due to low information voters or the "free shit" legions. I've seen scientifically brilliant people be utterly undone by political ideology, both left and right. It's more than memes- it's a mind cancer. I don't see a way out of it all.

What's to say on nukes? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608093)

Scientist: Nuclear weapons are bad, mmmkay?
World: Gosh. Thanks.

And a good reason why they shouldnt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608161)

Lets face it, "Scientists" lie and manipulate just as much as anyone. Especially when they lie and manipulate in order to get funding for their "scientific research".

Just because youre a scientist or label yourself as one does not mean you are credible, a person with everyones best interest at heart, honest or worthy or any authority. Just like politicians dont always mean a good politician.

And the thing about most science is you dont actually need proveable facts, all you need to do is guess a lot and throw in some fancy wording and you can sound credible and correct even if youre 100% wrong. Hmmm that sounds just like your standard politician doesnt it?

Re:And a good reason why they shouldnt. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608743)

This is your average idiot's opinion of scientists and understanding of science, and why we can't have nice things.

Science and politics (2)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608167)

Science should have a greater voice on policy at all levels. Laws are intended to accomplish goals. They should be tested regularly to see if they accomplish those goals, and repealed if they do not. Evidence based legislation is a good idea for the same reasons evidence based medicine is.

Re:Science and politics (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608305)

Unfortunately, that is not what this scientist is arguing for. Your idea is a good one.

The people with the guns make the dicision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608203)

Global security isn't a democracy, its an anarchy decided by the people with the guns.

That's Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608265)

Unlike the hysterical, afraid-of-their-own-shadows populace who have their "gut instinct" and "common sense" to go by,
or the clergy who get their information directly from the god(s)/goddess(es)/supreme being(s),
those silly scientists only have theories (that suck so bad they need to be modified all the time to fit new data).

You mean like PEEZEE? (1)

AndyKron (937105) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608357)

We should listen to people like PEEZEE? No thank you, I don't believe the government is the perfect parent for us.

Restore science to it's rightful place (4, Insightful)

kenh (9056) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608469)

"Scientists' voices are crucial in the debates over the global challenges of climate change, nuclear proliferation and the potential creation of new and deadly pathogens. But unlike in the past, their voices aren't being heard.'"

Four years ago a candidate for President promised to "restore science to it's rightful place" [american.com] - why hasn't it happened? He got elected (and re-elected) to office on that pormise (among others)?

politics and scientific riggor are antithetical. (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608541)

The politicians, political leaders especially, all seek power to enforce their wills upon the world around them. Some may feel this is for the greater good, (religious theocratic leaders), others merely for self-fullfillment (ordinary dictators, and many elected officials.) A good many are somewhere between.

The scientist looks at the stark reality of the world around them, and work studiously to distance themselves from their own wants and desires for outcomes of experiments (eg, BIAS.) A real, proper, and riggorous scientist accepts hard data with a stoic air, and breathes easier as his bias gets swept away by review, leaving only objective truths behind.

The politician has "a vision" of how the world "should be".

The scientist tries to build a model of how the world actually is.

This is why the scientist is ignored studiously by the politician; the scientist harps on and on, and on about what is, while the politician seeks to change all that, and philosphically rejects harsh limits on what can be done. The politician often feels the current or natural state of things is something to OVERCOME, not something to respect and build into policy.

As such, the politician is only interested in what the scientist has to say in regards to methods of envoking change, looking for tools and weapons to use to produce the changes the politician feels are needed, to make the world match his own internal view of "ideal."

Chemistry and metalurgy give rise to internal combustion engines and industry, and chemical fertilizers. It isn't about the knowledge or truth, but about what you can extort out of nature by bending and breaking rules. That's all the politician cares about.

As such, the politician simply *does NOT* want to hear about how a policy he deems essential will cause all hell to come to breakfast. Like global warming and pollution; the scientists have predicted that heavy industrialism would result in a damaged and possibly unlivable climate since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The politicians simply would hear none of it. Industry was essential to their wish fullfillment, and the consequences were unwelcome distractions, treated as evil distractions and detractions from their glorious dreams of the ideal societies they would build through "progress." (With themselves, naturally, enshrined as heros and architects of that grand future they were the visionaries for.)

Short of a hostile takeover from the madmen of politics, awash in their selfish fantasies, I don't see science making a dent in the RDF those bastards create for themselves.

start with government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42608577)

Maybe our government would listen more of our politicians held degrees in science. Take China for example.

Science and Politics (1)

Clivetalks (2814217) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608607)

Scientists are in desperate need of a politically active association in all the worlds major economies. Only then by the shear numbers of voters that are scientists and a focus on the issues that involve scientists i.e. global warming but not raising the debt ceiling will politicians sit up and listen. For fun it could be called APPLES (rekindling Issac Newton's memory) standing for the Association to effect Political Pressure through Lobbying and Education by Scientists. How do you like them Apples?

Careful what you ask for (1)

sugarmotor (621907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42608745)

Careful what you ask for: next thing you know, scientists will be (even more) selected on their policies.

Agreed. Over. (1)

udippel (562132) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609035)

I totally agree, and I am one of them.
We have given up and have passed the baton to the bean-counters of all sorts and all worlds. In a nutshell, we have allowed ourselves to be prostituted in scales of rankings and economies. We have given up all ethic authority for breadcrumbs at funding, evaluation and throughput.

The Problem is us (1)

PineHall (206441) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609357)

We are the problem. Global security or security in general will always be a concern. There will always be someone who comes to power who will want more and will create weapons of mass destruction. It is the selfish part of human nature, and we are technologically advanced enough that we can destroy ourselves. There is no solution. No philosopher king or scientist can save the day. The problem is us.
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