Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Trust science over denial

    When an extreme weather event hap-pens and charges over climate change be-gin to fly, it seems pretty clear that the anti-science crowd either thinks there is some secret gain for scientists or just doesn’t get science in the first place.
    Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade recently called scientists who accept the scientific consensus on climate change “the corrupt ones.” Climate skeptics have called the 2012 data released by the Na-tional Oceanic and Atmospheric Center “meaningless garbage.” Donald Trump tweeted on New Year’s Day, “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bull*** has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, rec-ord low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”
    According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which received a 2007 Nobel Prize, climate changes may also increase the danger of war and con-flict because those changes will place al-ready scarce natural resources, not least of which is drinking water, under greater pressure and put large population groups to flight from drought, flooding and other extreme weather conditions. It’s hard to see the benefit for scientists in supporting this conclusion.
    The underlying problem in the dispute between real science and pseudo-science believers seems to hinge on an under-standing of science itself. Science is a real-ity-based pursuit, the opposite of the blatherings of Rush Limbaugh, who said he feels prepared to not only speak on cli-matology but also upon theology. He de-clared, “If you believe in God, then intel-lectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming.”
    The scientific method through which scientists seek to describe the reality of the world around them requires asking the right questions as much as having all the right answers. When a researcher finds something to be false that he or she had assumed to be true, it is not a failing of science or the scientist, as so many on the far right believe. It is a success of sci-ence.
    America has been very good at real sci-ence. American universities attract many of the best students, professors and re-searchers from all over the world. Amer-ica’s scientists have been recognized with 67 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, 86 in Phys-ics and 98 in Physiology/Medicine since 1901.
    Polar temperatures and deep snow in a single week or month don’t prove or dis-prove anything about climate science. What they do prove, however, is that it is easier to be a skeptic than a scientist. We would do well, however, to put our trust in the latter.

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