Suzuki's science inquisition
John Gormley, The StarPhoenix
Published: Friday, February 08, 2008
If the last few centuries have taught us anything, there are instructive lessons to be learned on mob rule, intolerance in the name of religious belief and muzzling those who dare speak against the orthodoxy of the day.
David Suzuki is turning into the modern poster boy for some centuries-old practices we should avoid.
After earning a PhD in zoology in 1961, Suzuki has done little "hands-on" work in the lab since his TV show The Nature of Things took off in the late 1970s.
And he's used his celebrity to crusade on all things environmental. A committed and often alarmist campaigner, Suzuki aptly describes himself as "cantankerous, opinionated and narrow minded."
And evidently he is not an economist or even a trained environmental scientist either.
Lately, Suzuki's zeal may have bubbled up past the crazy line with his suggestion of jailing people who ignore science.
In the midst of regaling an obsequious student audience at McGill, Suzuki turned his bluster to economic growth, saying using gross domestic product to measure growth is "nutty."
And he turned his trademark hyperbole on biotechnology, claiming any scientist who says it's safe is either "ignorant or lying."
Then Suzuki unleashed his bombast on politics, urging students to look for a legal way to throw our political leaders in jail for "ignoring science" and saying "politicians, who never see beyond the next election, are committing a criminal act by ignoring science."
Look as hard as you might, kids: There is no legal way to throw people in jail for disagreeing with and ignoring the opinions of others.
Oddly, it seems lost on Suzuki that the marketplace of ideas, where people are free to agree and disagree, is one of those quaint and useful notions that make democracies work.
Presumably, Suzuki wouldn't spare jail for those who follow the science of climate change skeptics. So the issue is not "ignoring science." It's ignoring his science that will land you in the slammer.
And, what about those scientists -- real, peer-reviewed people with tenure -- who don't embrace Suzuki-science and the quasi-religious fervor of eco-faith? What should be done with them?
Surely, in Suzuki's world, they also must be "ignoring science." Jail them too, Dave -- political prisoners can never have enough company.
If anyone else in Canada advocated jailing people for the crime of disagreeing with them they'd rightly be called bigots, fascists or dismissed as kooks.
It's time that the high priests of the Church of the Environment, like Suzuki, started reading their history.
And for the rest of us, it's time that we started calling this stuff what it is.
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Eight months after being sent for an independent review by Alberta prosecutors, the recommendation is not to charge anyone in an alleged fraud case inside the NDP caucus of the Romanow government back in 1992.
All those years ago, an admitted con woman and thief inveigled her way into the NDP caucus, doctored cheques worth nearly $6,000 and then skipped town -- but not before leaving a detailed confession letter.
At the time -- coincidentally as the just-ousted Grant Devine government was unraveling in a fraud scandal -- there were only the vaguest media references to the NDP theft.
But the full story of the NDP problems did not surface for 15 years until it became a political scandal last spring.
The issue turned on questions surrounding why the confession letter was not given to the police when they first investigated the case and only showed up in police files later.
Last spring, a senior NDP minister assured the public that all documents had originally been turned over the police, which precipitated a rare news conference by the Regina police chief who contradicted this.
Unable to meet the prosecutorial standard of whether charges would be in the public interest and there would be a likelihood of conviction, no action will be taken in this case -- even against the original thief whose confession letter would make a conviction a virtual slam dunk.
As this political story ends, some ex-government NDP MLAs and their staffers are demanding apologies because no charges are being laid.
There is a significant difference in life between behaviour that is questionable and behaviour that is criminal.
No one will ever know why the NDP caucus office did not initially turn over the confession letter to the police. And it's not up to the public or media to explain.
It is up to the NDP and they have never offered an explanation. And that's why history will judge this case the way it will.
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Gormley can be heard Monday to Friday at 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on NewsTalk 650
© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2008