Letter: Muzzling scientists should worry all

Re: The case for scientific freedom, Editorial (May 27)

  • Jun. 2, 2015 1:00 p.m.

Re: The case for scientific freedom, Editorial (May 27)

The editorial stated, “The Stephen Harper Conservatives have done a disservice to Canadians by muzzling scientists and hacking scientific research to bits. The information researchers discover belongs to us and our public scientists need to feel safe to express their informed opinions.”  Bravo. This editorial deserves to be widely quoted.

The scientific method is a sequence of steps used to understand the world:  formulate a hypothesis, gather data to test the hypothesis, and publish the results.

Science advances because researchers want to prove that their hypothesis explains the facts better than the previous hypotheses.

Scientists argue vigorously with each other at meetings. They are usually careful about what they say and write, because they do not want to be ridiculed by their peers.

It is senseless for a government to restrict what scientists say, and to belittle what they find. The world and what we can observe about it (research evidence) is not affected by a government’s policy about the freedom of scientific expression.

Conversely, human and government actions do affect the world. In 1986, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) scientist George Winters presented a paper at a meeting indicating that the Atlantic cod stocks were declining steeply, and that the DFO had been overestimating cod stocks since 1977.

For political reasons his findings were ignored, and fishing quotas remained high for five years. Stocks collapsed, and in 1991 the Canadian Atlantic cod fishery closed forever.  (The War on Science, Chris Turner.)

We can make better decisions if we have good evidence to review.  We all benefit if governments and universities employ scientists and allow them to speak about their findings.

Robert Shepherd,Affiliate clinical instructor in the Department of Family Medicine,UBC and UVic


Just Posted

Mom who lost son to brain tumour in March joins the 24th annual Brain Tumour Walk

The Brain Tumour Walk takes place at the University of Victoria on Sunday, May 26

Comic Con announces winning artist in $500 ViGuy competition

Van Isle Comic Con announce judges’ award winner, People’s Choice voting now open

Sooke woman is ‘black and blue’ after being pushed off 40-foot cliff at Thetis Lake

West Shore RCMP looking for witnesses as investigation continues

Victorian makes gridlock fun with traffic bingo

How far into your drive before you yell BINGO?

Throwback Thursday: Shamrocks revisit the 1950s with new uniforms

Victoria team introduces its new white jersey for the 2019 70th anniversary season

VIDEO: Journey of SD62 Aboriginal graduates recognized at ceremony

‘Enriching and empowering’ ceremony encourages students to hold onto their identities

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

Brewpub offers ‘boat valet’ for paddlers during Surfrider celebration tonight

Free ‘Surf Formal’ evening features a local art auction, door prizes, live music

Thunderstorms to bring heavy rain, risk of flash floods in the southern Interior

Ten to 30 millimetres of rain to fall over the early weekend

Building a close-knit community in Sooke

Knit 2 Purl Together a community event

Unbe-leaf-able: Agassiz man finds more than 200 four-leaf clovers in a month

Walt Hardinge has found more than 219 four-or-more leaf clovers this spring alone

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Most Read