In today’s Globe and Mail, Rex Murphy longs for “the dawn of the Enlightenment”, when scientists were hauled before the Inquisition for their ideas, lamenting the emergence of the “scientist-activist” of today.
Rex, you have it backwards again. The whole point of the Enlightenment was artists and scientists getting involved in society, destabilizing the old powers of Church and Monarchy, insisting that things change for the common good. The scientist and artist as activist, and later as revolutionary.
As for NASA’s James Hansen pushing for prosecution of oil executives who invest heavily in deceiving public opinion about the lethality of their product, the model is not Nuremberg. They are the great trials against Big Tobacco, asbestos companies, chemical companies that hid information critical to public health. In all those trials, scientists presented damning evidence.
With massive PR machines, industries can (and do) hold the scientists-activists at bay in the court of public opinion. But in the courts of law, with spin stripped away and the fact laid bare, they lose some of their advantage.