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Science Becomes Politics

I mentioned the other day that the news from ENCODE has seemed to highlight a distinction between those science writers and analysts who are more concerned about the science and thus acknowledge openly that ENCODE means the end of "junk DNA" -- and those who are more concerned about the political ramifications and have thus focused on the importance of not giving aid and comfort to intelligent-design advocates and other Darwin doubters.

Once science becomes politics, why not address scientists as politicians? Writing for Scientific American, Marc Kuchner goes there...exactly there and in startlingly candid language.

Kuchner observes in the context of Mitt Romney's "47 percent" gaffe that sometimes folks in the science world similarly get caught saying something intended only for private consumption that instead is broadcast publicly on the Internet to the widest audience and gets them into unexpected or unwanted controversy. He gives the example of Bill Nye's recent anti-"creationist" video.

In line with this observation, Kuchner has some advice for scientists that is straight out of political playbooks. He discusses the merits of positive messaging, negative messaging, and "depth spikes," the calculated use of jargon to speak over the heads of non-experts to the illuminated minority. He concludes:

When scientists enter the public arena, we must remember the Romney gaffe, the Climategate scandal and the reaction to Bill Nye's video. We are all politicians now.