The Progressive Majority today reports that Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth has been banned by the The Federal Way School District in Washington State. What’s interesting about this ban is the reason behind it and the Progressive Majority’s reaction to it:
The board agreed, labeling the film as containing “bias.” They maintain that they’re not really banning the movie. They are simply not allowing the movie to be shown until the district confirms their policies on materials that contain “bias” are being followed. How can a movie based only on scientific evidence be labeled “bias?”
This is an interesting question. How could scientific evidence possibly be used to support a biased point of view?
What the author means to say is, “How could evidence that supports my cause possibly be labeled as ‘bias?'” I doubt the author would be as generous with evidence that was presented by an oil, gas, or coal company.
Unfortunately for the proponents of carbon quotas and higher fuel taxes, invoking science doesn’t make one unbiased or beyond reproach. Just the opposite is true. Science is still conducted by fallible human beings and the scientific method doesn’t create authorities, it destroys them.
To address the issue of bias, one need look no further than the current state of many modern sciences. Biologists, physicists, even climatologists find themselves gathering into camps and forming schools of thought, and (surprise, surprise) each school in each field finds that the evidence supports their pet theory. While letting the evidence be your guide is the scientific ideal, it is clearly not the reality.
Just as science creates no special insulation from the reality of human bias, neither does it create any special authorities–politically motivated scientists are not the new clerical class. No one has special access to the truth, nor is anyone above the skepticism that is part and parcel of science. In short, science is no king maker. Instead, it is an egalitarian approach to knowledge. As long as you can observe the natural world you can challenge claims made about the natural world.
The debate on climate change (or string theory, or Gould vs. Wilson in biology,) is not over, as some people claim, because in science the debate is never over. No matter if there is agreement of 10 or 1 million scientists, the underlying principles do not change. We don’t study a particular claim, make our conclusions, and write the final text books on the issue. (Anyone who’s been through a college science curriculum learns this after years of buying updated editions of textbooks for hundreds of dollars are year!) Similarly, Al Gore hasn’t produced the definitive movie on global warming.
So, students should be able to watch An Inconvenient Truth, but they should watch it with the skepticism and questioning mind of a scientist.