If an asteroid were spotted hurtling toward Earth, we wouldn’t be arguing over whether asteroids exist. But that’s basically what the politicization of science has done to the public discussion about climate change, says former MIT president Susan Hockfield.
“I understand that people might debate the fine points of climate change, but the fact is that the best science indicates that we’re in trouble,” Hockfield said on the latest episode of Recode Decode with Kara Swisher, adding, “It’s simply folly to my mind not to step up and invent the technologies that are going to prevent us from the ravages of climate change that we’re inflicting on the planet, or frankly whether it’s us or anyone or some other natural operation.”
Hockfield said that even though politics and science are often intertwined, with government funding driving progress in research, the scientific community must “insist on an apolitical realm.” And that means accepting that some people are experts in their fields and we should trust their opinions more than others’.
“We test ideas, we contest ideas, and if we don’t believe that there are things that are more right than others, which is where we place our bets now, we have no way of making it into the future.
“We have to insist on an understanding that there are people who understand areas better than we do,” she added. “I don’t pretend to be an engineer. I don’t pretend to be a physicist. If the physicists at MIT tell me that they’ve figured out gravitational waves, I’m going to trust them more than I’m going to trust myself to imagine whether or not there are gravitational waves.”