Political abuse of science, such as the recent attempts to stop NASA sceintists from public statements about the possiblity that global warming may be pushing Earth to a “tipping point,” have a long history.
Today’s political abusers of science are pikers compared to the Nazis, and no one claims that their motives and ideology are as vile as those who viewed themselves as members of the “Master Race.” Still, it’s useful to look back at Nazi tactics to see how easy it is to abuse science to achieve political objectives.
A book review in today’s Seattle Times discusses how far afield abuse of science can go. According to reviewer Adam Woog, The Master Plan: Himmler’s Scholars and the Holocaust by Vancouver, B.C., science writer Heather Pringle, “describes a massive effort to retool history to fit pet theories — and it shows just how easily that retooling can happen.”
In this case, there was a hypothesis to prove: that “Aryans” were inherently superior to other people. Heinrich Himmler’s scholars knew the answer. Their task was to find evidence, however flimsy, and to weave a persuasive story around it.
I have not yet read Ms. Pringle’s book, but Mr. Woog’s review is enough to make me want to recommend it. I’ll try to contact Mr. Woog to see if I can add his review to my Science Shelf book review archive. It will be a valuable companion piece to my reviews of Hitler’s Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil’s Pact by John Cornwell and Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare by Daniel Charles.