The Equal And Opposite Scientist

I’m the “equal and opposite scientist”
And my thinking is outside the box
I’m the one who knows climate is cooling
And I’m willing to say so on Fox

Metaphorical six-gun for hire
If your story is lacking “both sides”
I can give you an expert opinion
From somebody with real bona fides

An idea outside of the mainstream
Needs a face with a real Ph. D.
If there’s nobody else in your corner
For a price, there can always be me

I can give you my expert opinion
Make it sound like an absolute fact
What you need isn’t really an expert
But an expert-ish-type who can act

“Well, the jury’s still out on this issue”
“Yes, but not every expert agrees”
“We’re still waiting for adequate data”
I’ve got dozens of answers like these!

“We don’t know if it’s safe for our children”
“Might have side effects yet to be seen”
“We are messing with powerful forces”
You’re beginning to see what I mean

And when science has reached a consensus
That’s the time that it really gets fun
When it seems there is no opposition
On the news, hey, you only need one

All it takes is one expert opinion
All it takes is one chance to confuse
I’m the “equal and opposite scientist”
I’m the one that you see on the news

When you need to create some confusion
I’m the one you can count on to thank
I’m the “equal and opposite scientist”
And I’m smiling my way to the bank

thoughts, after the jump:

So I was watching some of the streaming coverage of the skeptic track from Dragon*Con, and Kylie “Podblack” Sturgess mentioned Eugenie Scott’s phrase “equal and opposite scientist”. Great turn of phrase, although upon searching a bit, it can’t be attributed to Scott, much as I might want to.

You’ve seen them. I remember the scientists who reminded us that no experimental studies had ever shown smoking causes cancer in humans (that the experiment required would be shockingly unethical did not enter the conversation). There are those who are concerned about vaccines, or who think alt-med is worth funding, or who can’t see all the fuss about global warming. Hell, there are probably some who are a little bit skeptical about evolution, or maybe gravity.

There ought to be an award for “best performance as an equal and opposite scientist”–perhaps a big brass dollar sign, something for the mantel. Who would be your nominee for such an award?


  1. TX_secular says

    This is great. I’m going to use this poem in my class about climate change. It is a fun way to illustrate the point and with non-science students it pays to present the info in an easy to digest format.


  2. otrame says

    This one is going into my “Cuttlefish saver” file.

    Which reminds me. A couple of years ago you did one about the Australian journalist who asked “what do atheists have to talk about” in response to a big atheist convention there. Your poem was brilliant, and I saved it, but somewhere in the shuffle of retiring and get personal stuff off my work computer, I lost it. Is there somewhere where you have your stuff that I could search through and find it? I looked for it on your old site once and couldn’t find it.

  3. Dr. Strabismus (WGP) of Utrecht says

    Next time you get in your time machine, see if you can hook up with a British gent, Sir Arthur Sullivan. I can see a great opera built around this!


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