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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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High Priests of Science

Politicising, propagandising and polarising the climate issue

fine analysis by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the way that climate science has been distorted by environmentalism. They write:

"The result has been an ever-escalating set of demands on climate science, with greens and their allies often attempting to represent climate science as apocalyptic, imminent, and certain, in no small part so that they could characterize all resistance as corrupt, anti-scientific, short-sighted, or ignorant. Greens pushed climate scientists to become outspoken advocates of action to address global warming. Captivated by the notion that their voices and expertise were singularly necessary to save the world, some climate scientists attempted to oblige. The result is that the use, and misuse, of climate science by advocates began to wash back into the science itself.''

Those of us who love science - the habit of licensed curiosity, not the bureaucratic machine - have been increasingly dismayed by the way that its high priests have been behaving over the climate issue: trying to politicize, propagandise  and polarize where they should be questioning, debating and being awkward. The most shocking thing to me about 'Climategate' was not the emails, but the any-excuse-will-do reaction to them from the scientific establishment.

I have frequently been surprised by how authoritarian many scientists are when you scratch the surface of their politics. James Lovelock (the idolization of whom baffles me, though I am sure he is a perfectly nice bloke) exemplified this yesterday in the Guardian.

'One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while." '

Cripes.