Early on in the article, NatGeo poses a question: “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?” I may be able to enlighten the author, Joel Achenbach, on the subject.
The article as written by Mr Achenbach is not written very well. One subject with which I am well acquainted is the issue of “global warming” or “climate change”- but global warming and climate change is not and never has been an issue. For somewhere around 3 or 4 Billion years (+/-) the climate has been changing. It gets warmer, and cooler and warmer and cooler, over and over again with absolutely no involvement or causation coming from human beings.
So to tidy up his sloppy terminology, I will say that the issue in question that is causing all of the fuss is neither of these terms. The issue is “ANTHROPOGENIC GLOBAL WARMING” (AGW) – which is much more specific and controversial. What AGW means is that the climate is changing because things that humans are or are not doing is changing it. That is the part that is in question.
On this specific issue, I will now state that whether the climate is or is not changing is not resolved.
Neither are the issues of how it may be changing and what may be causing it to change. So to put it crudely, anyone who maintains that AGW is happening is talking out of his/her ass. There is absolutely no evidence that AGW is occurring. There may be evidence that weather may be trending towards warming or cooling. And here we should point out that in the ’70s the climate hissy-fit crowd was screaming about the impending ice age – also apparently caused by humans.
Climate can be simply defined as “weather over a long period of time.” Climate change is when an area that has been cool and wet and green for a few hundred or a thousand years, changes and becomes dry and barren over a few hundred or thousand years, or similar long term radical changes. The AGW proponents are claiming “AGW” is happening after a period of only 25 years of observation. (Since there has been zero meaningful change in recorded temperatures for about 20 years they apparently based their conclusions on a sample period of only 5 years.) In real climate change terms, this is the time it takes for a person to blink their eyes. *blink* oops! Ya missed it!
The article accuses many of not being “scientific.” In keeping with being scientific, may I ask you Mr Achenbach, by what metric you determined this? I await your numbers and the specifics of your procedures.
When AGW first hit the news, I waited until IPCC Report #2 was released, then read both #1 and #2. There were things that I did not understand in them, but as a person who has a firm grounding in the practical sciences (including steam engineering, basic nuclear theory, hydraulics, & etc.) and especially in the scientific method, I noticed a few glaring problems in these documents.
First we’ll look at how the IPCC determined “Solar Forcing.” (The amount of heat rise in the Earth’s system caused by the Sun). Now, I can’t quibble with the IPCC’s numbers… but I can certainly quibble with their methodology. They started out “estimating” (not measuring) solar forcing at around 50%. After they’d run some numbers they changed their minds and decided that 50% was too high, and so arbitrarily lowered the amount of solar forcing to 25%. It should be noted that neither of these numbers were obtained by measurement or via application of the scientific method!!!! So…. the IPCC’s solar forcing number is pure unadulterated BS.
Then I looked at how they proposed observers around the world should gather data – you know – the numbers that they tell us prove AGW? (Things like temperatures, levels of atmospheric gasses, etc.) As I recall, there were three levels of collectors and thus collection of data procedures. One level was for urban and advanced areas, like the USA where there were no significant impediments to data collection. Another was for areas where there were some levels of difficulty expected in collecting data… things like mountainous terrain, etc. And the third level of difficulty was where it was nearly impossible to collect data without endangering life and limb, or areas that were virtually impassible like dense jungle filled with hungry wildlife.
I interpreted these differing levels thusly: Area type 1, go read the data. Area type two, go read data that is convenient to get and guess at the rest. Area type three, make up what the data might be and pretend it’s real. All such data was then reported as factual.
After reading these first two “reports” I decided that whatever the IPCC was, it certainly had no intention of being in any way “scientific” or that it was even vaguely familiar with that thing many of us refer to as “the scientific method.”
I think that the above goes a long way in answering the question of Why Many Reasonable People Doubt Science. When “science” ceases to be scientific, it becomes an agenda driven political movement, or a cult. The IPCC is a political cult. Nothing more.
Also Mr Achenbach doesn’t seem to understand that there is a vast difference between “science” and “belief.” He displays an obvious bias against scientists who do not “believe” in the areas he indicates as being validated truth – thus “scientific.” I consider some things as being as yet “undetermined” – such as “evolution” – in my mind that’s unproven one way or the other. (Many of the “fossil proofs” have later been found to be fabrications, and as to the Biblical creation story, it seems to me as plausible as evolution.) Not being considered is the possibility that we were evolved. But at any rate, it’s not my area. Do I believe that it’s possible? Eh. Not that important to me. ;-D
Are vaccines bad? Well… as Mr Achenbach indicates like so many others I sometimes base my “beliefs” on personal experience, and based on my personal experience I’d say many of them are good. Others are clearly in the “questionable” class. So to me, it depends on the vaccine. When our kids were quite young, there was some problem with the whooping cough vaccines – our Pediatrician was a vaccine expert – and he advised us to not get that one for the kids at that time, which advice we heeded. The rest of their shots, they got.
Fluoride? There has been some recent evidence that the stuff actually decays some ethnic people’s teeth instead of protecting them. True? Dunno. If that is true, then the people so affected should be provided with non-fluoride water, or the stuff should not be put in the public water supply. As the Hippocratic Oath put it, Primum non nocere, “First do no harm.”
Moon landing? I’ll buy it.
GMO food? If for no other reason I’d ban it because it is causing the establishment of a food monoculture – which is BAD!!! And I have a visceral objection to being forced to consume known poisons in any form or concentrations, especially when the chemical/herbicide/pesticide companies are sneaking around like weasels and refusing to allow scientific testing of their products (except by them… and can we trust their results? If they won’t let it be tested by independent labs, whether true or not it appears that they have something to hide so I’m doubting they are trustworthy.) All I know is that the stuff they put on crops these days is killing bees… evidence enough for me that it’s not good for us.
Yet despite the weaknesses of the piece, I find that accidently or deliberately, the truth is contained near the end of his article.
Towards the end he puts a quote from geophysicist Marcia McNutt. In regard to asking questions about science issues, she said, “Everybody should be questioning. That’s a hallmark of a scientist. But then they should be using the scientific method, or trust people (who are) using the scientific method, to decide which way they fall on those questions.”
Thank you Ms McNutt. Now all we have to do is figure out how to teach the nation’s politicians, schools and teachers what the scientific method is and how to teach it and use it, and that’s not going to be easy.