Science Under Siege, Part 2

Are we living through an Anti-Scientific Revolution? Scientists around the world are increasingly restricted in what they can research, publish and say -- constrained by belief and ideology from all sides. Historically, science has always had a thorny relationship with institutions of power. But what happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research? And how can science lift the siege? CBC Radio producer Mary Lynk looks for some answers in this three-part series.
(Robert Short/CBC)

Are we living through an Anti-Scientific Revolution? Scientists around the world are increasingly restricted in what they can research, publish and say -- constrained by belief and ideology from all sides.  Historically, science has always had a thorny relationship with institutions of power. But what happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research? And how can science lift the siege?  CBC Radio producer Mary Lynk looks for some answers in this three-part series. **This episode originally aired June 4.

Science Under Siege, Part 1:  Dangers of Ignorance 
Explores the historical tension between science and political power and the sometimes fraught relationship between the two over the centuries. But what happens when science gets sidelined? What happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research? 

Science Under Siege, Part 2: The Great Divide
Explores the state of science in the modern world, and the expanding -- and dangerous -- gulf between scientists and the rest of society.  Many policy makers, politicians and members of the public are giving belief and ideology the same standing as scientific evidence. Are we now seeing an Anti-Scientific revolution?  A look at how evidence-based decision making has been sidelined. 

Science Under Siege, Part 3: Fighting Back 
Focuses on the culture war being waged on science, and possible solutions for reintegrating science and society. The attack on science is coming from all sides, both the left and right of the political spectrum. How can the principle of direct observation of the world, free of any influence from corporate or any other influence, reassert itself? The final episode of this series looks at how science can withstand the attack against it and overcome ideology and belief.

Ed Holder, The Minister of State ( Science and Technology) was unavailable for an interview for this documentary series. A statement from the ministry was given instead - "highlighting some of the federal government's programs and policies on communicating federal science and our support for scientific research."

"Our Government has made record investments in science, technology and innovation.
In fact, Canada is ranked number one in the G-7 in terms of our support for research and development at our colleges, universities and other research institutes. Last year, our government made a significant commitment to world leading Canadian discovery and applied research through the creation of the legacy $1.5 billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund- the primary request of Canada's universities last year. This year's budget continues our strong commitment to Canadian universities, colleges and research institutes by making the single largest investment in research infrastructure, laboratories and equipment in Canadian history through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. At the same time, our government is looking to continue to build bridges between Canadian universities, colleges and businesses, as demonstrated by our increased support for MITACs, an organization creating new career paths for highly talented Canadian students through R&D focused internships and fellowships at Canadian businesses. 

In terms of communicating the results of federal science, Ministers are the primary spokespersons for government departments; scientists have, and are readily available to share their research with Canadians. For instance, Canadian federal departments and agencies produce over 4,000 science publications per year in areas important to the health, safety, and economic prosperity of Canadians. Additionally, in order to share the results of federally funded research more widely with Canadians, the new Open Access Policy will ensure that the results of research funded by the federal granting councils are freely available online within 12 months of publication in a peer reviewed journal. The policy will make the results of federally funded research more freely available to Canadians, providing greater opportunity for researchers, entrepreneurs and the wider Canadian public to develop new ideas and innovations that benefit Canadians."

Scott French, spokesperson for the Minister of State (Science and Technology)


Participants in the programs: 

Jeff Hutchings is Faculty of Science Killam Professor in the Biology Department at Dalhousie University, where he has been since 1995. Author of more than 200 scientific papers, his research focuses on the evolutionary ecology of fish, sustainability of fisheries, and species biodiversity. He has served in several science advisory capacities, including: Member and Chair of COSEWIC; Member or Chair of two Royal Society of Canada Expert Panels (Genetically Modified Foods, Canadian Marine Biodiversity); External Audit Reviewer for the Office of the Auditor General of Canada; and Scientific Advisor to Loblaw – Canada's largest food retailer – on its sustainable seafood policy. 

Ian Stewart is Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of King's College. He holds a BSc (Hons) in Physics (Trent University), an MA in History and Philosophy of Science (Toronto) and a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science, (Cambridge). In the History of Science and Technology Programme at King's he teaches courses in the history of science and of medicine from the ancient to the early modern period, including a course on the history of the interaction of science and religion. He also helps coordinate and teaches in the King's Foundation Year Programme, and is Adjunct faculty at the Department of Classics, Dalhousie University. His research includes topics in Renaissance and early modern philosophy, history of universities, and the place of science in intellectual culture, as well the political and socio-cultural aspects of contemporary environmental sciences.​ 

Shawn Lawrence Otto is a science advocate, science writer, screenwriter, and novelist. He is the cofounder of and the producer of the US Presidential Science Debates, for which he received the IEEE-USA's National Distinguished Public Service Award. Based on these experiences, he is author of Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science, which has been called "One of the most important books of the last decade." His upcoming book, The Anti-Scientific Revolution, revisits and updates the continuing crisis. His article for Scientific American, Antiscience Beliefs Jeopardize US Democracy, was rated one of the top articles of 2012. In film, he wrote and co-produced the movie House of Sand and Fog which was nominated for three Oscars. His literary crime novel Sins of Our Fathers was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. 

Laura J. Snyder is a historian, philosopher, and science writer. Oliver Sacks has called her "both a masterly scholar and a powerful storyteller." Snyder is the author of Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek and the Reinvention of Seeing, as well as The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World, which was an official selection of the TED Book Club, a Scientific American Notable Book, and winner of the Royal Institution of Australia's 2011 poll for "Best Science Book." She is also the author of Reforming Philosophy: A Victorian Debate on Science and Society. She writes for The Wall Street Journal and other publications and is a professor at St. John's University. Snyder's TED Talk on the Philosophical Breakfast Club has been viewed over one million times. 

Dr. Bruce Parsons has an undergrad degree in physics and a M.Eng in naval architecture and a Ph. D. in Ocean Engineering.  For much of his career at NRC he worked on ice material properties as related to ice-breakers and structures, spending many springs in the Canadian High Arctic doing field work.  Ten years ago he was appointed Director of Research at the NRC St. John's lab, which has changed its name four times over that period.  Research was done in St John's on all manner of marine technology problems from submarines to ice-breakers.  The lab was founded in 1984 and since then has become a world class naval architecture research lab, and was recognized as the best in the world in a number of areas.

Katie Gibbs is a scientist, organizer and advocate for science and evidence-based policies. While completing her PhD at the University of Ottawa researching threats to endangered species, she was one of the lead organizers of the 'Death of Evidence' rally which was one of the largest science rallies in Canadian history. Katie is a co-founder and Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy, a national, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that promotes science integrity and the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making. 


Professor Sir Peter Gluckman is the Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, a position which he has held since 2009 when it was established.  He is also Science Envoy within the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Sir Peter is Chair of the International Network for Government Science Advice ( and standing Co-Chair of the APEC Network of Chief Science Advisors and Equivalents. In these roles, he is internationally respected for his work promoting the use of evidence in public policy formation. Sir Peter also coordinates the international Small Advanced Economies Initiative, for which New Zealand provides the secretariat.  This initiative is a platform for policy research and dialogue on the unique issues in small economy science and innovation systems globally. 

As one of New Zealand's best known biomedical scientists, Sir Peter's contributions to developmental, endocrine and evolutionary sciences have won him numerous awards and international recognition including Fellowship of the Commonwealth's most prestigious scientific organisation, the Royal Society (London). Sir Peter is a member of the Order of New Zealand, which is the country's highest civic honour and limited to only 20 living New Zealanders, and is the only New Zealander elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science (USA) and the Academy of Medical Sciences of Great Britain. He is the author of over 650 scientific papers and reviews and author of both technical and popular science books. He holds a University Distinguished Professorship at the Liggins Institute of the University of Auckland.


The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (2013) The Big Chill: Silencing Public Interest Science, A Survey. June 5 - 19, 2013. 

Snyder, Laura J. Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2015. 

Otto, Shawn Lawrence. Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America. Rodale Books, 2011. 

National Research Council Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada 

Minister of State Science and Technology 

C. P. Snow's Seminal 1959 Lecture: The Two Cultures and The Scientific Revolution