Science and “The Good Cause”

Expertise in one field does not carry over into other fields. But experts often think so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so.
Excerpt from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long in «Time Enough For Love» by Robert A. Heinlein

Recently I heard someone quote Hanns Joachim Friedrichs, a former journalist. He (likely going back to Charles Wheeler) is quoted by saying:

“Distanz halten, sich nicht gemein machen mit einer Sache, auch nicht mit einer guten, nicht in öffentliche Betroffenheit versinken, im Umgang mit Katastrophen cool bleiben, ohne kalt zu sein.”
Hanns Joachim Friedrichs

Roughly translated:

“Keep your distance, don’t become part of a cause, not even a good one, don’t sink into public dismay, keep cool when dealing with disasters, without being cold.”
Hanns Joachim Friedrichs

I think this attitude is something scientists should adopt.

Especially with the current climate change movement, many scientists have become activists. It’s one thing if climate scientists come to the conclusion (by evidence and argument) that the situation appears to be grim (p < whatever). Quite another when scientists of other disciplines join the chorus and lend public credence to this cause — and adopt is as creed. After all, expertise does not carry over. And even worse, by becoming activists, they sacrifice their credibility as scientists. And by extension, of science itself.

After all, which activists will even look for evidence and arguments to falsify their own cause?

So, yeah, science should keep its distance, and look at an issue from an emotional distance, without being cold. And most important of all — no matter how important, crucial, pressing or “good” a cause seems to appear, don’t join a movement. You sacrifice what makes science great. Its skepticism, the curiosity and openness for new possibilities … and the idea that individuals may be right, even if everyone else has a different view.