Conservative Party of Canada is against science

There is a surefire way to ensure tyranny – undermine the education of the populace. When the people don’t have the tools required to determine truth from lies or to obtain their information from a variety of sources, they become dependent on the state to tell them “the Truth™”. We can see this currently happening in the Arab world, where state television in Libya is still being used to broadcast misinformation that is (perhaps fatally) undermining the cause of the pro-democracy rebellion.

One way to ensure a religious tyranny is to ensure that the populace doesn’t have access to adequate scientific information. Science is inherently hostile to religion, since the two are very different methods at arriving at answers. The scientific method involves testing repeated observations and inferring rules and laws from trends within those observations. The religious method involves arriving at a conclusion and then finding observations that support the a priori position. The problem with the latter method is that it is trivially easy to arrive at false conclusions and then justify them afterward. By ensuring that the public doesn’t have access to scientific knowledge, you can erode the cause of science and replace it with whatever system you like.

Enter the Conservative Party of Canada:

The public has lost free online access to more than a dozen Canadian science journals as a result of the privatization of the National Research Council’s government-owned publishing arm. Scientists, businesses, consultants, political aides and other people who want to read about new scientific discoveries in the 17 journals published by National Research Council Research Press now either have to pay $10 per article or get access through an institution that has an annual subscription.

Now this on its own is an incredibly minor development. The vast majority of people who access the scientific literature are scientists working at institutions that can afford to buy subscriptions. Furthermore, the lay public get most of their scientific information from people who interpret the studies that are now behind a paywall, so most people won’t notice the difference. This is not the straw that breaks the camel’s back by any stretch of the imagination.

However, erosion doesn’t work in giant leaps – it occurs gradually over time. One of the strengths of science is the ability of anyone who is curious to go back and investigate the source material. Someone tells you that a drug works to treat diabetes, you can go to the paper and check it for yourself. Someone tells you that homeopathy cures warts, you can go check it out for yourself. Someone tells you that the universe was created in the Big Bang, you can go read the papers. This process encourages skepticism and critical thinking, while increasing the trust that the public has in the scientific community (by increasing transparency).

By placing additional barriers between lay Canadians and the products of Canadian scientific researchers, the privatization of the National Research Council is inherently anti-transparent and anti-science. It discourages scientific scrutiny and question-asking, which are two things that the CPC really doesn’t like in the first place. If Harper can’t get a majority right now, at least he can do as much damage as possible with the limited powers he wields.

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  1. says

    To play devil’s advocate, I could point out that (at least in physics and the harder sciences) most of the more groundbreaking work performed in Canada isn’t being published in these journals, so there’s not much of a real loss. I could also say that this is more likely due to their aggressive libertarian philosophy of privatizing everything, and then business-people making business decisions that cost society greatly.

    However, the key here is that rather than moving forward to open-access science, this moves us toward an elitist form of science where only the rich get to reap the rewards of a publicly funded research community.

    It’s also worth pointing out that Canadian institutions have finite library procurement budgets (thanks again to government cuts to education), so to keep subscriptions to these journals, something else is going to have to be lost, although perhaps some alt med journals will drop out of circulation and this will be a net positive (I’m not holding my breathe).

  2. rumor says

    The census changes seem particularly relevant to your point here, but there really are a multitude of examples from the current government that you could cite on this point.

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