Sunday, April 28, 2013

Science, Belief, and Hockey Sticks.

I connect to this post on simplistic arguments against climate change to highlight the fun that Phil Plait's BAD ASTRONOMY blog on Slate provides.  The specifics of the post use the tried and true pick-and-choose-clips-to-make-the-victim-look-silly... popularized by John Stewart.

But it raises a big question:  Science vs. Belief.  It's a philosophical point:  Science, whether Newton, or Climatologists use science.  There is an inherent belief that they CAN be wrong, so they use the scientific method.  (All right, linking to mean ole mr. wizard pranking people is cheeky, but not illustrative).  This is funny, but accurate.

morrison luke smithThe crop of scientists who adhere to the view that "man made CO2 emissions" are adding to an increase in mean temps" use the scientific method.  But, to be fair, there are some scientists who believe either CO2 is not going up, or that it doesn't matter, or that it's not our fault.  Some of these are real scientists.  But the fact remains, the overwhelming majority of peer reviewed studies support man made climate change.

It's possible scientists can be wrong:  It's possible for there to be pseudo science.  But this pseudo science expresses the role that 'belief' has in shaping views about science.  Interestingly, while the vast majority of scientists believe in global warming, a disturbingly large percentage of Americans are less sure.  Rather, only 13% of Americans know of the overwhelming support scientists have for this theory.

It is absolutely possible for the 99% of scientists to be wrong:  Unlikely, but possible.  Science admits this.  But BELIEF does not -- whether minority held scientific view, an incentive driven economic view, or just concern,  the naysayers for the most part, base their view on belief, not science. And, frankly, it's the media's fault.

But, belief requires no such doubt.  And thanks to the internet, the conflict between belief and science can only be reflected in page views and links, not science and study.

morrison luke smith
morrison luke smith
All the robots are GRAY?
Traditional journalism requires both sides be presented equally:  In this case, the question is, is presenting alternate views on global warming the equivalent of giving equal weight to people debating the artistic merit of Picasso and Michael Bay's Transformers 2? (Transformers 1 is awesome and will not be mocked in this forum).

Most interestingly, googling "is global warming man made" returns results that have little or nothing to do with science.  Rush Limbaugh, Forbes, a couple looney sites, "occupycorporatism?" No wonder american's don't even know what the scientists think, if the search engines return gibberish.

I'll leave here, as Search Engine Optimization as it relates to this is a whole other can of worms.  But the question is, how can we make good decisions, if we can't find expert information? Most people genuinely want to explore, discover and learn:  But ironically, as more information  becomes available to us on the internet, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between expertise, and passion.

Morrison Luke Smith

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