On Radio 4 last night, Ehsan Masood, the editor of Research Fortnight, looked at the politicisation of science in a show entitled Science, Left or Right.
The first twenty minutes or so was fairly bog-standard BBC fare, with Chris Mooney telling us that Republicans are waging a war on science and various talking heads agreeing with him. After that it picked up somewhat, with Tamsin Edwards interviewed and sounding very polished and very reasonable, while neatly avoiding naming the scientists who are "doing a PR job" on science. There was also Peter Lilley pointing out the scientific establishment's cutting off of funding for those with dissenting views. This point was put to Paul Nurse, whose answer was, in essence, that "if their arguments are good, their views will prevail". This didn't seem to address the point in my view, and Lilley's case therefore stands unchallenged. It was a pity that Masood didn't press Nurse.
It was good to see Mooney admitting that university scientists are overwhelmingly left wing, something that is always going to be problematic for climate science, which asks for dramatic policy measures based on claims that are at best only falsifiable at some point in the future. And not only are they very left wing, but in many cases they are actively hostile to those who hold right-wing views - witness the Climategate emails, in which de Freitas's political views were seen as a justification for seeking his removal, or any of the cases recorded here. I think this kind of thing happens because, as many people have pointed out, right wingers tend to view left wingers as fools, while left wingers view right wingers as evil. You don't try to sack a fool, you try to teach him wisdom. But with evil, anything goes.
Regardless of the reasons, we are left with an overwhelmingly politicised and overwhelming left-wing scientific establishment that is actively hostile to dissenting scientific and political views. The chances of anything resembling the truth emerging are slim indeed.
Are the universities reformable? In my opinion probably not - the aggressive political culture is so entrenched it is surely impossible to dislodge. What is needed are new ways of working: independent scientists like the McIntyres and the Lewises; independent sources of funding to support them, and a "red team" culture that throws rocks at scientific totems whereever they emerge.