Two French journalists awarded for their fight against AGW deniers

Stéphane Foucart (I couldn’t find a blog for him but here’s a search for his articles in Le Monde) and Sylvestre Huet (his blog, in French, is here) have been awarded a price for their exposure of Anthropogenic Global Warming deniers’ lies on the 30th of May. I don’t have much to comment on this award: it is well deserved in my opinion. However, the comments of the president of the jury, the physicist Étienne Klein are worth noting for their hindsights on how science is at risk from the type of behaviour displayed by AGW deniers. Here’s a rough translation:

Moreover, I would have liked to make a live [this is a written comment as Étienne Klein had to give a lecture] comment on the fact that this year, the Diderot-Curien Award was given to a pair of scientific journalists. You probably have read, like I did, a book entitled ‘1984’ in which the author –George Orwell– shows that the truth is always questioned in totalitarian regimes. It’s not only that politicians from these regimes lie more often than anywhere else: it’s more that the difference between truth and lies becomes fuzzy in the face of pragmatism and convenience. Orwell adds that in this regimes, even science isn’t immune to ideological attacks and the idea of an objective information loses its meaning: recent history is rewritten with the current needs in mind, and discoveries in biology or physics can be negated if they are judged inconvenient. When this happens, this state of things constitutes what one may call the “cognitive triumph of totalitarianism”: one cannot even accuse the regime of lying: it succeeded in abrogating the idea of truth in the first place…

Some time ago, I was thinking that this danger was only threatening totalitarian regimes. But recent developments, in the United States and in Europe, made me doubt –for instance the fallacy of the debate on climate change– because they just illustrated the fragility of the scientific discourse in democracies. This was due to two phenomenons: first, scientific truth can fall victim to what the philosopher Alexandre Koyré called the “broad daylight conspirations” (Alexandre Koyré, Réflexions sur le mensonge, (1943), Éditions Allia, 2004, p. 31), or lies pronounced in public; second, it seems that we are ready to use a host of strategies to be able to refuse to believe what we know, especially if the intellectual implications of this knowledge bothers us… Fortunately –and this reassures me– there are some courageous and competent scientific journalists who, tirelessly, track and expose the lies. I am happy that two of them, whose work is remarkable, are honoured this evening.

The original article is here.

I like this text because it sums up the challenges faced by science and scientific thinking nowadays. A worrying trend…


About ravingscientist01

Trained as a molecular geneticist, I did a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. I am interested in science, its communication, the impact it can have on policies as well as the impact of various policies related to science may have on the latter.
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