Little Theories

The Duality of Science and Morals

Hand-painted multiple screenprint with collage on panel by Shepard Fairey, 2016. Please see the end of the post for more information

Science and morals have something in common.

Both cling to a common foundation.

That is, scientific and moral-ethical theories each wrap around core beliefs supported by experience, practice and everyday existence.

For example, Natives of the North-East American continent apply their experience living in snow and ice to forge shelters and make clothing, hunting and fishing supplies.

Like Western scientists, Indigenous folks place weight on suppositions supported by evidence.

Science supports a rationality that weaves experience and evidence that create our knowledges.

But science is not enough.

Moral and ethical foundations exist to steer us to behaviors that help—not harm—human and animal creatures and our environs.

Such thinking segues to how experience and evidence are harnessed to understand how our planet is warming with alarming effects.

In Portland, we learned our region earned first place for the worst air pollution on earth after two summers of wildlife fires.

The scale of Portland’s changing climate makes sense to those of us who have lived through the fires, the haze, the smoke and the falling ash.

The New York Times reports that our heat wave “would almost certainly not have occurred without global warming,” according to experts.

Qualified folks with the training, experience, brain-power and knowledge of the warming planet—those most skilled at addressing the problem and the solution—are often silenced by the cacophony of politics, ideologies, beliefs and rumors.

The rationalists face off with the brutes.

I learned this week that one voice of reason has been silenced by a squawk of greed.

In Portland, we learned our region earned first place for the worst air pollution on earth after two summers of wildlife fires.

A senator from West Virginia—one whose “family fortune is largely derived from coal” and who holds the record for taking “more money from fossil-fuel interests than any other senator”—said he would refuse to support President Joe Biden’s pick for the Federal Reserve Board, according to Jane Mayer, writing for The New Yorker magazine.

The democratic senator’s vote means a loss for Biden’s choice, due to the makeup of Congress: 50 republicans and 48 democrats, which means the democrat from West Virginia holds the ace.

That’s assuming Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Angus King of Maine, who are independents, would vote with democrats.

Hands down: Manchin votes with the republicans.

The ruckus raises the question:

How does an appointment of a qualified, seasoned expert to the Federal Reserve Board scare senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia?  

The connection, according to Mayer, is that Biden’s pick to serve in the top ranks of the Federal Reserve Board—Sarah Bloom Raskin—said publicly that climate change poses a threat to our economic stability.

And Manchin’s personal interests in drilling for oil, fracking for gas and mining for coal—combined with his well-known ties to the fossil fuel industry—put greed above ethics.

As the central bank of the country, the Federal Reserve System—or “Fed”—is responsible for careful planning and thoughtful policy-making on managing threats to the US economy.

In other words, managing our national banking system requires sobriety, rationality, experience and evidence.

Global warming impacts the financial system in myriad ways: from making decisions to replace fossil fuel use with sustainable options, to responding to extraordinary risks from extreme heat, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and more.

Manchin’s brutish move to block Raskin’s appointment to the Fed is a gut-punch to rationality borne of experience and evidence.

His actions can be explained by corruption: fraternal and moral.

Climate change poses a threat to our economic stability.

By fraternal I mean his responsibility as an elected official to his publics for their sound welfare.

He has corrupted this responsibility by putting his greed first.

By moral I mean his duty to uphold personal integrity and honesty.

He has corrupted this morality by abandoning integrity and honesty.

The loss of rationality laced with deceit undermines our democracy.###

18 March 2022

Image is from the Mutual Art website, which featured a 2016 work called “End Corruption” (2016) by noted artist Shepard Fairey

I acknowledge the Native peoples on whose land I live, write, and teach, including the Multnomah, the Clackamas, and other Indigenous communities in my region of the Pacific Northwest










About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in nativescience and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Little Theories

  1. Cynthia, I find myself feeling bludgeoned by the greed. It is truly unfashionable.


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