5 Science, Environmentalism, and Environmental Science

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

—Albert Einstein (1954)

The prairie and rolling hills in south-central Alberta along the U.S. border are very hot in summer, very cold in winter, and dry all of the time. Each year only a foot or so of water falls from the skies as rain, hail, snow, and sleet. The land teeters between grassland and desert. The grass springs happily up from the ground as the snows of winter melt, and then loses all of its enthusiasm for life by mid-June, when it starts to get very hot and very dry. If the wind starts blowing, you feel like you are inside an industrial clothes dryer. The wind seems to blow all of the time here, whatever the season. In wintertime, when the temperature drops into the minus 30s (Celsius and Fahrenheit are about the same in that range), the wind can kill you. All things considered, this is a harsh place. It tolerates your being around, but it is seldom welcoming.

Yet I find it beautiful. One reason is that there is hardly anyone around. There are farms, but they are few and far between. Farmers get only 100 frost-free days “and then only if you’re lucky,” as they say. Frost or no frost, a hailstorm can still wipe you out. Or a rattlesnake can bite you or kill your dog. But agriculture’s loss is the wanderer’s gain—not that this place will ever be featured in travel brochures. But that is just the point: Its unfriendliness keeps people away, and I like that. In the half-hearted light of a gray winter day you can hear a deep silence that sounds like eternity. Or so I fancy.

Every once in a while you will see some pronghorn antelope (so-called; Antilocapra americana is not a true antelope). They are wary and will not let you get close enough to be within rifle range, so you need binoculars to get a good look. It is always a thrill to see them. They look exotic, as if they were transplanted from Africa. Hunted nearly to extinction early in the twentieth century, they have since bounced back. Now farms, fences, and highways are just parts of nature, as far as they are concerned, parts which they handle with expertise and grace. They never give a thought to the state of the economy, the price of oil, or globalization, yet they know everything that matters—to them. I have to admit that I like some animals better than others. Snakes I can do without, particularly rattlesnakes, which I have successfully avoided all my life and hope never to come across. As for mosquitoes and ticks, I blush to admit (particularly if I might be overheard by anyone with environmentalist convictions) that if the little bloodsuckers could all disappear and everything remain otherwise the same, I would be all for it. The pronghorn, on the other hand, I would fight to keep. I am happy for them in wet years, when summer rains revive the grasses and shrubs on which they live, and worry about them in dry years.

This is, of course, sheer favoritism from a scientific point of view. To see what I mean, consider another denizen of these plains, the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha), which the pronghorn sometimes eat in dry years if prairie fires burn off their spines. The prickly pear flourishes in a climate that is drier than is ideal for grasses and forbs, with which they cannot compete. So for the prickly pear cactus, the environment is best when it is dry—exactly when it is worst for the pronghorn. My sympathies are with the pronghorn, but that is purely subjective. The environment itself is not healthier one way or the other. It is healthier for the pronghorn when it is wetter, and healthier for the prickly pear when it is drier. Environmentalists lament the health of the environment in south-central Alberta, which has been dry recently, but the environment does not care one way or the other, although its inhabitants do. They say that the recent dry years are signs of global warming and the collapsing global environment, but this is nothing compared with the 1920s. I know it sounds crazy, but the old-timers used to tell me that it did not rain at all for 10 years back in the 1920s. Climate historians tell us that before the 1920s there was a wet period from roughly the 1880s onward, when Europeans moved into the area. Before that, in the mid-nineteenth century, there were bigger droughts than in the 1920s. Going back thousands of years, century-long droughts occurred. Before that were the ice ages. In about 80% of the last few million years, this land has been under a mile of ice. Not that any of this matters one iota to the pronghorn or to the prickly pear.

As for which way the land ought to be, which way is healthy, I think no human alive has anything to offer other than his or her personal feelings about it—and that includes environmentalists.


When environmentalists view science, they are torn between suspicion and trust: suspicion because so many environmental crises (as they see them) have been made possible by science, trust because the proof (as they see it) that these crises are real is provided by science. If DDT and chlorofluorocarbons1 took a toll on the environment, it is difficult to overlook the fact that they were developed by scientists explicitly for the purposes for which they were used, and then promoted by them for this use as well. When environmentalists reject genetically modified foods, calling for further testing before they are inserted into the human food chain, it is with this sort of example in mind. Admittedly, the distinction between science, the pursuit of knowledge, and technology, the development of methods, devices, and materials with which to achieve specific goals, is pretty clear. Technology appeared with the first stone chopper, long before there was any science at all. But distinctions are not the same thing as actual separations in reality. Science is distinct from technology, and they can be kept separate—but in fact are not.

We can easily conceive of science being kept separate from technology. Imagine, for example, that (perhaps due to fierce religious opposition) science had developed within secret societies which took great pains to ensure that scientific discoveries were protected as secret knowledge and never leaked to the society at large. In fact, the contrast between this scenario and what actually happened could hardly be more stark. From the beginning, scientists have been very generous, very democratic, with their knowledge and their technology. Galileo designed his “geometrical compass” for sale to the military; Pasteur developed pasteurization to combat disease; many physicists joined the Manhattan Project to apply the science of nuclear physics to developing an atomic weapon for the United States near the end of World War II. From the early days, a huge part of the appeal of modern science was its promise of practical help in fighting disease, eliminating poverty, and generally benefiting humankind. Although many people became scientists solely to discover the secrets of nature, just as many joined the scientific enterprise wholly or in part to improve the human condition through such knowledge. It is most remarkable that science has lived up to its promise as a means to improve the human condition.2

The idea that science serves human welfare is so obvious that it now goes entirely unnoticed. The de facto social commitment of the scientific community to human welfare,3 and a matching commitment of society to support science in return, is seldom expressed, much less formalized in an explicit contract. So, let us refer to this tacit understanding of mutual benefit and support between science and society as the social subtext of science.


Given the absence of any actual separation of science and technology, or even any serious effort at separation, the mere distinction between the two does not provide scientists with any defense against any blame that might accrue to science-based technology. Most scientists accept the praise accorded science for improving human welfare, and some maintain consistency by also accepting guilt for whatever harms science may have engendered as well. Alfred Nobel (1833–1896), dismayed that his scientific investigations into nitrogen-based explosives, which he had undertaken to improve mining safety, also made warfare more deadly than ever before, is a prime example of this sort of scientific guilt. On the whole, society owes an inestimable debt of gratitude to science. The practical sciences of sanitation and immunization have freed us from the scourge of plagues and disease; scientific agriculture has freed us from famine; and even purely theoretical sciences have enlarged the vistas open to the mind. You might say that paleontology, for instance, frees us from the tyranny of the present by permitting us to view the distant past—surely our lives are enriched by our knowledge of dinosaurs. But if it is right to accept praise for the good that science has done, surely it is only fair to accept blame for the harm it has brought about as well: nuclear weapons, superbugs,5 industrial pollution, and the alienation of people from nature. When it comes to distributing the guilt for today’s environmental ills, scientists must accept their share.

The best way to expiate guilt is to reverse the harm done. This poses a profoundly intractable problem for contemporary scientists, because we live in a world that has been transformed by science. Science has given us television, automobiles, jet planes, chemical fertilizers, time zones, x-rays, mercury poisoning, birth control pills, test tube babies, clones, computers, plastics, lasers, the green revolution, the Internet, nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, and 6.6 billion people drawing breath and looking for fulfillment on this crowded planet. In this context, it is very nice to remember something called “pure” science, the science of Galileo and Newton, which set out with one, and only one, goal in mind: to reveal the mysteries of nature. But having revealed those mysteries, science went on to transform everything that it touched. This is one reason that the environmentalist is enchanted with the idea of what nature was like before it was transmogrified by science. The so-called pristine environment is one untouched by scientific man.

From the point of view of the environmentalist, scientific progress has always brought with it the seeds of its own undoing. Sure, the development of engines (first the steam engine, then gasoline and diesel engines, then the gas turbine, etc.) freed the masses of humanity from the endless drudgery of manual labor. But this progress had unintended side effects, such as pollution, long-distance bombing, and the release of greenhouse gases that will (so it is believed) warm the planet catastrophically. Yes, the development of sanitation, immunization, and modern drugs has freed us from a lot of diseases. Yet this progress had the unintended side effects of overpopulation and environmental destruction. Despite these side effects, it was possible, even in the mid-nineteenth century, to see science as our victorious ally in the struggle against natural evils such as manual labor, pain, and disease. Science had been our ally against nature, and had tipped the balance in our favor. In the 1950s we created visions of a swiftly approaching scientific utopia, where people lived long happy lives free of disease and work (intelligent machines would do everything for us).

But now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, environmentalists reject this vision as an illusion, on the grounds that nearly all of the environmental crises that they believe we face are the unintended side effects of those very same scientific victories. Pollution, the death of the oceans, environmentally caused cancers and other diseases, nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction in the hands of immature politicians, a soaring population that threatens to overwhelm the planetary ecosystem: these crises are the products of science, too. No wonder that the pessimist can say, “the law of the unseen side effect still dominates the development of civilization.”6 No wonder that environmentalists automatically reject the “techno-fix” whereby the problems engendered by science are supposedly solved or going to be solved by yet another application of science. In a standard text on environmental ethics, we find the following standard message:

  • Medical science found cures for tuberculosis and syphilis and has aided in greatly lowering infant mortality, but in the process we have allowed an exponential growth of the population to produce crowded cities and put a strain on our resources. The more people, the more energy produced, the more pollution; the more our lives are threatened by disease. . . . And so the story goes. For each blessing of modern technology, a corresponding risk comes into being, as the tail of the same coin.7 (Pojman 1998, p. 1)

Thus, environmentalists view science with suspicion: Even when they see its friendly, supportive face, they know that the other face is still there.

There is an ongoing revolutionary split within science that mirrors the two faces that environmentalists see. Some scientists reject environmental guilt, some accept it, and others are torn somewhere in between. Currently, those who accept responsibility for repairing the environment have the upper hand and represent the historically recent emergence of the enviro-friendly face of science as the face of science. Little wonder, in this historical context, that some scientists explicitly reject the social subtext of science itself. Clear examples can be found in the publications of the IPCC, where we are warned that the continuous technological progress that we have come to take for granted must stop. In particular, “higher speeds in transportation are (efficiency gains notwithstanding) unlikely to be environmentally sustainable in the long run” (IPCC 2001c, Secs.– Instead of giving us better technology, science gives us philosophical advice: We should not want faster transportation, since “it is doubtful that this really enhances the quality of life” (ibid.). To improve the quality of life, we should instead have slower cars, slower trains, slower (sailing) ships with sails, and do such things as ride bikes. In fact, we should stop traveling so much, and stop shipping food and goods long distances. Our economy, and our lives, according to the IPCC, should be “regionalized” (compare Lomborg 2001, p. 428).

This is but one sign of a historically profound change in scientific orientation, a movement of science away from its traditional, natural alliance with technology toward a sociopolitical alliance instead. The IPCC scientists do not propose a search for a technological solution to the environmental problems they perceive, but instead, urge a sociopolitical solution, the Kyoto accords, as the only possibility of avoiding calamity.8

Ironically, it seems undeniable that the enlightenment goals of freedom and equality have been achieved (to the extent that they have been achieved) not by sociopolitical innovation on its own, but mainly by the scientific improvement of technology. Slaves, tenant farmers, armies of laborers, and laboring armies vanished as scientists invented the machines to replace them, and along with them the form of social organization that went with them. Science has been a welcome intellectual partner in the enlightenment, but it was on technological grounds that the battle for enlightenment was won. Tragically, since the rise of environmentalism this triumph has become an embarrassment and a liability. In response, science has begun to transform itself and its social role. Environmental science has new prestige and power within science and is re-conceiving the social subtext of science.



Environmentalism has been aided and shaped by the scientists who dedicated their intelligence, energy, and scientific skills to solving the pollution crisis of the mid-twentieth century. In the process, they created environmental science: science applied to the analysis and solution of environmental problems. Since averting the pollution crisis did not solve all environmental problems once and for all, the need for environmental science did not dissolve along with the crisis. The need for environmental scientists in government, administration, and industry has continued to grow, and the environmental science establishment continues to gain momentum as environmental awareness grows. An Internet search will reveal thousands of university, college, and research institution programs worldwide devoted to environmental science10 at both the undergraduate11 and the graduate12 levels.

This very interesting phenomenon deserves careful study. One elementary question arises right at the start: Is environmental science pure science or applied science? Pure science is dedicated to discovery of the truth alone and takes whatever direction this quest requires. Pure science is often described as “curiosity driven.” Astronomy and paleontology are good examples of pure science, for the knowledge they seek has little or no practical application. Applied science, by contrast, aims to solve practical problems for reasons other than their pure scientific interest. Paradigms of applied science include the work done by scientists to invent cures or palliatives for various diseases, research done by scientists to make better weapons or defenses, and the crime scene analyses done by forensic scientists to help the police and judiciary identify and convict criminals.

An overwhelming majority of scientists work in applied science. In the nineteenth century science moved away from the protection of rich patrons and the academy into industry, the military, and medicine. This massive growth of applied science resulted in pure science being reduced to a minority of practicing scientists working with a minority of the resources available. As a general rule, only scientists working those of scientists outside universities, kept pure science alive.13 The demand in the later twentieth century that even the funding for scientists working in universities be reserved for projects that are relevant to social goals14 has further eroded pure science, to the extent that it is now endangered.

Applied science is a search for knowledge and understanding of natural phenomena, only with the added bonus, as it were, that the knowledge sought will serve a goal other than knowledge and understanding as such. Applied science, then, is science in the service of a specific nonscientific goal. From the outside, the work of applied scientists looks indistinguishable from the work of pure scientists. Measurements are taken, the extant literature on the subject under investigation is researched, theories or models are devised, experiments are run, highly precise equipment is employed, papers are published, and so on. The difference between them lies in their differing intentions: Whereas the pure scientist works to advance science itself, the applied scientist is motivated mainly by other goals. Since values and goals are logically linked, another way to put the distinction between applied and pure science is in terms of values: Knowledge (understanding, explanation) is the sole value of pure science, while knowledge is of value to applied science only insofar as it enables the attainment of some other value, such as human health.

Where does environmental science fit into this picture?

Pure: Some environmental science texts emphasize scientific understanding instead of the environmental objectives. For instance, Essential Environmental Science (Watts and Halliwell 1995) clearly states its “environmental perspective” in their introduction: “As global concern for the environment grows, so too does the demand for accurate and precise information about it.” Information is clearly the aim of environ- mental science as they conceive of the subject. They return to the theme “the pursuit of knowledge” at the start of the first chapter. The book then goes on to introduce a number of scientific subjects and does not spend time in rehearsing environmental values, nor in defining such things as sustainability, green science, or green technology. Although this may only reflect the fact that environmental values are so deeply ingrained that they may now simply be assumed, rather than stated, it still indicates the authors’ desire to keep environmental science in a separate compartment from environmental values and programs. Some environmental science programs, like that of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, try to compartmentalize earth science studies separately from environmental science studies. The former are (mostly) pure science courses, while the latter teach how to apply the science to environmental problems.15

Applied: The sort of separation just mentioned is not typical, and in any case may not be sufficient to maintain the purity of science, for in the end it has to be applied to environmental objectives. Placing this atypical case aside, environmental activism permeates the mission statements of most environmental science institutions, the pro- grams of studies they offer, the research they house and support, the accomplishments they advertise, and the news stories they post. Professional conferences,16 journals, and funding bodies17 also evidence the activist posture of environmental science. Environmental science, as it defines itself in these venues, is not just about knowledge and understanding, the traditional objectives of academic science, but about solving environmental problems.

The courses and texts for environmental studies also proudly proclaim this activism. In Environmental Science: Earth as a Living Planet, we find a declaration that is representative of the texts in the field. Under the heading “What is different about environmental science compared to other sciences?” the authors, Botkin et al. (2005, p. vi), say that environmental science is “. . . ‘mission-oriented,’ . . . aimed at solving real environmental problems, rather than just understanding how they arise.” In Environmental Science: A Study of Interrelationships, Enger and Smith (1995, p. 3) state: “Environmental science has evolved as an interdisciplinary study that seeks to describe problems caused by our use of the natural world. In addition, it seeks some of the remedies for these problems.” In Environmental Science and Technology: A Sustainable Approach to Green Science and Technology, Stanley Manahan (2007, p. v) states that “humankind is on a collision course with the carrying capacity of planet Earth. . . . The need is urgent, and time is short.” He then goes on to tout the evolution of “green science” and “green technology” as having an “essential role” in avoiding this collision. In Daniel D. Chiras’s early text (Chiras 1988; first published in 1985), Environmental Science: A Framework for Decision Making, we find an entire section, over 60 pages in length, devoted to an analysis of the ethics, economics, and government that has led us into the current environmentally “unsustainable” situation, along with the promotion of values that will lead us to a sustainable society. This is an extremely odd thing to include in a science text—unless, of course, environmental science is not only applied science, but science subservient to its application to environmental objectives.

Merely recognizing that environmental science is applied science really does not go far enough to capture the degree to which the environmental aspect rules the scientific aspect. Environmental scientists are dedicated to reversing environmental degradation and returning the environment to good health. They intend to do this not only by their own direct activity, but by educating a new generation of scientists to carry on with the mission of securing environmental health.18 Most accept the chief article of faith of environmentalism: that environmental crisis is either real or threatens to become real. Science, despite its unintended creation of the possibility (or actuality) of environmental crisis, is now ready to help fend off this possibility (or actuality). In order that this mission may be carried out, holism is a stated aim of the education offered. The most modest form of holism requires students to study a wide variety of disciplines within the physical sciences. The more ambitious forms of holism offer studies in law, history, communications, management, ethics, leadership, policy, and even religious studies.

Why this extension of science studies into areas that have never before been part of science? The answer is that science applied to realizing environmental values has a complex task that goes well beyond the quest for knowledge as such. The environmental scientist has to solve a value problem and a practical problem. The value problem involves conceiving in detail what form the world should take in order to realize environmental health. This is a problem that would normally be called philosophical or social rather than scientific, and it explains the excursion of environmental science into these topics. The practical problem is more scientific in the traditional sense of the term, but even so, involves understanding how to bring about and guide social change.19


Science has traditionally assumed a position of value neutrality. The value neutrality of science, moreover, is not a mere add-on for science, not an optional feature. Value neutrality has been essential to science from the start, and still is. It has enabled science both to make astounding progress in the pursuit of knowledge about nature and to gain high respect as an authority about the natural world. In the contemporary shift towards environmental consciousness and responsibility, science finds itself in a position of authority that it has gained in the last few centuries largely because of its tradition of value neutrality. Environmental science, which has abandoned value neutrality in its employment of the authority of science in service to environmental values, thus threatens that authority in the process.

To understand science’s value neutrality, it is helpful to distinguish between science as an activity or enterprise on the one hand, and science as a body of knowledge or knowledge claims, on the other. All forms of intentional human activity have goals, and hence involve values. Since the goal of scientific activity is knowledge of the natural world, that activity presupposes the value of that knowledge. However, the body of knowledge or knowledge claims that this activity produces does not include any value claims. Thus, the value neutrality of science may be seen as having two mutually supporting aspects. One concerns what is produced by scientific activity: the theories, models, and hypotheses that comprise the body of scientific knowledge: the second concerns that activity itself, that is, scientific method.

  1. Topical value neutrality. The topic of natural science comprises the facts of the natural world. Scientific knowledge therefore consists of a body of fact claims. Science does not make value claims.
  2. Methodological value neutrality. The only value that motivates scientific activity as such is that of the knowledge of nature. No matter how worthy or noble in themselves, all other values are a hazard to scientific objectivity. Religious, political, aesthetic, or environmental ideals may distort scientific judgment, leading to scientific claims being made because they seem worthy of acceptance given these ideals, even where unjustified by the evidence. So care must be taken, insofar as is practically possible, to safeguard scientific objectivity from values.

As presently conceived and practiced, environmental science involves a remarkable twofold departure from pure science: Both aspects of value neutrality have been abandoned in environmental science. Topical value neutrality is abandoned since environmental science has taken upon itself to define what state of the environment should be and what humanity’s relationship to the environment should be. Obviously, questions about how things should be are not matters of fact, but matters of value. Environmental science abandons methodological value neutrality since it does not pursue knowledge for its own sake, but to realize its ultimate value: the health of the environment, including whatever that may imply for human economics, politics, government, and value orientation.

The peculiarities of environmental science do not stop there, however. Other applied sciences do not engage in the attempt to convert society to their own goals and values. Military scientists do not try to convert people at large to developing better weapons, and computer scientists do not try to convert society to the quest for better computers. However, environmental science aims to achieve environmental health by converting society in general to its values. In addition, environmental science shares environmentalism’s antihuman bias: Human beings are identified as the source of environmental harm. So environmental scientists, as we have seen, are engaged in conversion of people in the same sense that religious and political bodies are. This explains why environmental scientists analyze actual human values, have an image of what those values should be in order that environmental health be achieved, and then promote those values by teaching them in schools, colleges, and universities as well as to the general public.20 The environmental scientists’ campaign to convert society in general to their vision also explains why they educate their students to take positions of influence: The conversion of society is a massive undertaking that requires great numbers of people working in cooperation and in the highest possible positions of authority.

  1. Chlorofluorocarbons, formerly the most common refrigerants, have been named as the cause of an increase in the extent of ozone thinning that occurs during the polar winters; their eventual banning has been credited with a reversal of this increase.
  2. David Stove (1927–1994), a clear-sighted, clearheaded, and honest observer of the human condition, argued persuasively that the crucial Enlightenment ideals of liberty and equality were achieved (to the extent that they have been achieved) only because of the success of science as an engine for the improvement of human welfare. See especially his book On Enlightenment (2003).
  3. The exceptions, such as the notorious Nazi medical researcher Josef Mengele, are so few as to prove the general rule.
  4. One place where we can find the informal contract between science and society emerge above the level of subtext is in the mission statements of science funding agencies, which distribute public moneys for scientific research. For example, the European Science Foundation, the umbrella group of the many funding agencies of the nations of the European Union, says the following in its Strategic Plan 2006–2010: “European citizens are generally aware of the potential contributions of new knowledge to innovation and economic growth, as well as for its contributions to societal needs, not the least in the health sector.” This reference to the social subtext of science is immediately followed by a reference to the environmentalist belief that science is also a source of harm: “This positive attitude is, at the same time, counterbalanced by perceptions that research creates rather than solves problems.” It is wisely suggested at this point that this perceived violation of the social subtext of science be resolved through dialogue in order that social support for science can be maintained: “In this context, the dialogue between science and society on genuine ethical concerns must be intensified. The success of such a dialogue will ultimately be a crucial factor in the political willingness to support and fund research” (European Science Foundation 2006, sec. 2.1, p. 10). Here we see science promising economic, practical, and health benefits in return for continued material support—which, not incidentally, follows comments on Europe’s need to catch up to the USA and stay ahead of Asia in the context of globalization. Similar expressions of the social subtext of science are found in the self-descriptions of other science funding agencies. Very noteworthy in the present context is the recognition of “perceptions that research creates rather than solves problems,” which is a key characteristic of the environmentalist’s conflicted view of science that is the topic of this section.
  5. Superbugs are strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and viruses that have evolved in hospitals, farmyards, and other places where antibiotics are overused.
  6. Ulrich Beck (1992, p. 170). Beck usefully distinguishes primary scientization, in which “science is applied to a ‘given’ world of nature, people, and society,” from secondary scientization (or critical scientization), in which “the sciences are confronted with their own products, defects, and secondary problems” (p. 155).
  7. Pojman’s argument requires the assumption that crowded cities and pressure on resources are worse than syphilis, tuberculosis, and high infant mortality, which is not supported by further argument, perhaps because it may pass without argument of any kind among a student population that has been imbued thoroughly and systematically with the environmentalist view of the world in their primary schooling. The argument, however, is not that easy to make. Certainly, Pojman’s claim that the more we turn to technology for protection from disease, “the more our lives are threatened by disease,” would be very hard to support with actual data about rates of disease and death from disease before and after the development of modern medicine. And, to put it bluntly, it is probably false.
  8. In his public statement upon resigning from the IPCC, Landsea exclaimed, “It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming” (Landsea 2005). The explanation is ready to hand, given the emergence of the enviro-friendly face of science—environmental science—as the authoritative face of science. Landsea speaks of an “unsupported agenda” because he thinks in terms of the traditional values of the pure scientist: truth and evidence. As we shall see, environmental science is an applied science and so serves a goal over and above these traditional values: namely, the health of the environment. Assuming that Landsea’s former colleagues in the IPCC are (mainly) environmental scientists in this sense, they are being perfectly rational: Given that truth and evidence are only instrumental values in environmental science, they must give precedence to their ultimate value, environmental health, which they view as being better served by the general acceptance of the hypothesis that global warming will bring dire results, such as more violent hurricanes—whether or not this is true.
  9. Russell was actually speaking about philosophic contemplation, not scientific contemplation. However, since science as such, pure science, is nothing other than a branch of the philosophy of nature, I am fairly certain he would agree that the same impartiality of gaze and judgment must obtain in science just as it must in philosophy in general. More importantly, pure scientists will, I am confident, find his words an apt description of their scientific philosophy.
  10. EnviroEducation (http://www.enviroeducation.com) lists 1560 programs in the United States alone.
  11. For example, the University of Maine offers a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Environmental Sciences degree, described clearly in terms of achieving environmental values: “a science-based, interdisciplinary program for students interested in all aspects of ecology, conservation, and environmental protection . . . The program is designed for students who wish to pursue professional careers in environmental protection, natural resource conservation, management, ecology, planning, research, or environmental advocacy” (http://www.umaine.edu/nrc/Default.htm, July 13, 2007).
  12. The web service, GradSchools.com, lists graduate programs in environmental science for universities in every state of the United States, as well as for countries around the world (http://www.gradschools .com/programs/environmental science.html). At the graduate level, as at the undergraduate level, program descriptions marry the science involved to environmental goals. Columbia University’s Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is typical; the goal of “conserving biodiversity” is to be achieved by “formulating and implementing environmental policy” and taking positions of authority. “The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) program is designed to provide the broad education needed to describe, understand and conserve the Earth’s biological diversity in all its forms.” This program, therefore, does not provide mere understanding of biodiversity, but the ability to conserve it as well. How? Through the formulation and implementation of environmental policy: “Matriculating students will have the skills to conduct ecological, behavioral, systematic, molecular, and other evolutionary biological research, as well as to formulate and implement environmental policy.” Implementing environmentalist policy can, of course, best be done from positions of power and influence: “Graduates may pursue academic careers as researchers and teachers, or professional positions in national or international conservation, environmental, and multilateral aid organizations” (http://www.columbia.edu/cu/e3b/phd.html, July 13, 2007).
  13. The National Science Foundation reports that in 2006, $342.9 billion was spent on “research and development” in the United States, of which $49.1 billion was spent by universities and colleges (14.3%), most of the rest going to industry and government (NSF 2007). As for what proportion of research and development is devoted to pure science, no statistic is offered. Clearly, development refers to the transformation of scientific discoveries such as new drugs or technologies into marketable products, and is therefore applied, not pure, science. Even the research leading up to such applications is apt to be applied rather than pure science. For what it is worth, it is typically estimated that R&D is 4% research and 96% development. If pure science occurs in academia in nondevelopmental contexts, its share of research funding is some minor proportion of the 14.3% figure.
  14. At its website, the National Science Foundation (NSF) reports that it “is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 ‘to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense . . .’ ” (http://www.nsf.gov/about/ June 22, 2007). Clearly, this is an authoritative expression of the social subtext of science: science is to serve the good of society, in exchange for socially supplied funding. The same sort of social contract is sketched in the mission statements of virtually all science funding agencies. It is also an indication that pure science, scientific knowledge as such, is not the goal of the funding proffered.
  15. The MIT environmental science course 12.103 is entitled “Strange Bedfellows: Science and Environmental Policy,” which gives a sense of the intellectual separation that seems to be maintained: environmental science is science, but must be married to environmental policy at some point, so the course tries to show that Science can do this without losing its virtue (http://student.mit.edu/catalog/search.cgi? search=%2B12.103&style=verbatim&whole=on, 28 August, 2007).
  16. The 10th International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology (Kos Island, Greece, September 5–7, 2007), has the following statement of purpose (http:/www.gnest.org/cest/Default.htm, 13 July, 2007): “Like the previous conferences this tenth conference maintains and upgrades the synthetic and integrated approach towards protection and restoration of the environment, by bringing together engineers, scientists, students, managers and other professionals from different countries, involved in various aspects of environmental science and technology.” Engineers are applied scientists by definition, while managers and other professionals are not scientists at all. Though the conference is said to be for “environmental science and technology,” its stated goal is neither science nor technology, but “protection and restoration of the environment,” which is supposed to be reached by a “synthetic and integrated approach” that is not only sufficient, but necessary, for obtaining environmentalist goals, as the statement goes on to explain. “This synthetic approach, in combination with the integration of environmental issues with economic and social aspects, is a prerequisite for adopting sustainable solutions to the numerous contemporary problems.” The similarly named Third International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology sponsored by the American Academy of Sciences (6–9 August, 2007, Houston, Texas) states the same goals (http://www.aasci.org/conference/env/2007/index.html, 13 July, 2007): “to provide a major interdisciplinary forum for presenting new approaches from relevant areas of environmental science, to foster integration of the latest developments in scientific research into engineering applications, and to facilitate technology transfer from well-tested ideas into practical products, waste management, remedial processes, and ecosystem restoration.” Again the role of science is to serve environmental goals such as ecosystem restoration, hence environmental science is clearly not pure, but applied. Indeed, the scope of environmental science and technology is expanded to include topics not included in science or technology as normally defined: “Environmental humanity and sociality such as environmental ethics, environmental law, environmental economy and environmental management are also included in the scope of the conference.” In fact, this “science and technology” conference really amounts to an international strategy session of professionals of all sorts devoted to environmental goals and tactics: “Researchers, engineers, site managers, regulatory agents, decision-making officials, consultants, and vendors will all benefit from the opportunity to exchange information on recent research trends, to examine ongoing research programs, and to investigate worldwide public and regulatory acceptance of environmental protection and remediation technologies.” Vendors and decision-makers are neither scientists nor technologists. The explanation offered for including them in a science and technology conference is that their participation gets the results environmentalists want: “Environmental disturbance and pollution are complex problems worldwide. The current development of modern science and technology combined with management on social and economic activities are contributing more and more to solution of the problems.” There is no need even to state what “the” problems are, since the environmental crisis is an assumed article of faith. This statement of purpose goes on to say the conference will be a “multidisciplinary platform,” in other words, not a science or technology conference at all: “Although considerable environmental protection work has been and is presently being conducted, a multidisciplinary platform for environmental scientists, engineers, management professionals and governmental officials to discuss the latest developments in environmental research and applications will be very helpful to protecting our global village.” In short, this event is not a science and technology conference as ordinarily understood, but an international political rally of environmentalists of all sorts.
  17. The National Council for Science and the Environment, a funding body, begins by describing itself as concerned mainly with the relevant knowledge (http://ncseonline.org/): “a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the scientific basis for environmental decisionmaking. We envision a society where environmental decisions by everyone are based on an accurate understanding of the underlying science, its meaning and limitations, and the potential consequences of their action or inaction.” It goes on to add: “While an advocate for science and its use, the Council does not take positions on environmental outcomes. This enables the Council to provide a neutral forum for all.” Nevertheless, it emphasizes getting practical results, citing “many programs that we carry out to achieve our mission.” Under the heading “Featured Project” is listed “The Wildlife Habitat Policy Research Program (WHPRP),” which is described as “a results oriented program with a mission to develop and disseminate objective information and practical tools to accelerate the conservation of wildlife habitat in the United States. . . . The WHPRP uses competitively awarded grants to sponsor innovative projects. . . . Current projects include the development of a habitat banking system.” A habitat banking system is a form of environmental action, not scientific research. Clearly, then, funding support is provided for environmental goals and values, not just scientific research. Scientific objectivity and value neutrality are clearly endangered, if not unsustainable, in this context. A scientific research program which, for instance, came to the conclusion there was no need to “accelerate the conservation of wildlife habitat in the United States” would probably not be funded by this agency.
  18. Johns Hopkins University, for instance, has an Environmental Science and Policy program with the explicit mission of the marriage of science and environmental activism in the creation of a new generation of leaders. Its website describing the program gives a fairly detailed explanation. “To manage Earth’s environment effectively, we must understand the processes that shape our planet’s surface, control the chemistry of our air and water, and produce the resources on which we depend.” Thus, right from the beginning, the stated goal of the program is not knowledge as such, but managing Earth’s environment, with scientific understanding serving only an instrumental role. In the next sentence, it is assumed that science also plays the supporting role of providing solutions to environmental problems, but needs further support in turn: “At the same time, in order to implement scientific solutions to environmental problems, we must establish and execute policies that are politically, socially, and economically feasible.” Thus, managing the environment ultimately requires the training of a new generation of political leaders: “Graduates of the program emerge with a combination of expertise in science and policy that enables them to assume key positions in public and private entities responsible for safeguarding our environmental future” (http://advanced.jhu.edu/academic/environmental/, 11 July, 2007).
  19. In Environmental Science, Enger and Smith (1995, p. 3), after stating that environmental science aims not only to describe but to solve environmental problems, go on to list “three major areas” of study: first “natural processes,” which is the only domain of a natural science; second “the role that technology plays in our society and its capacity to alter natural processes as well as solve problems caused by human impact,” which is both a recognition of the past sins of technology and a proposal that it can behave better in the future; and finally, “the complex social processes that are characteristic of human populations.” This last topic, which is not part of natural science as normally conceived, is important in order that the environmental scientist can intervene in these processes for the good of the environment. To this end, an entire chapter “discusses the differences that can exist between individuals in a society and the different behaviors exhibited, depending on whether the person is acting as an individual, as part of a corporation, or as part of government.” In Environmental Science and Technology, Manahan (2007, p. vi) adds to “the four traditionally recognized environmental spheres—the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere (water, air, earth, and life)” a sphere just for us humans, the “anthrosphere. . . . In so doing, the book recognizes that humans simply will modify and manage Earth to their own perceived self-benefit.” He goes on to say that environmental scientists must even use “anthrospheric activities to enhance the environment as a whole.” Again, environmental science goes beyond the domain of natural science as such.
  20. See, for example, any of the following books written by prestigious scientists for a popular audience in support of environmental values: Ehrlich (1968, 2005), Suzuki (1994, 1998), Rees and Wackernagel (1996), Ehrlich and Ehrlich (1998), Eldredge (1998), Wilson and Perlman (2000), Wilson (2001, 2002, 2007), Suzuki and Dressel (2004).