7 December 2007


Over the past 10 years, a strong majority of the world's most accomplished scientists have said that global warming is occurring, that man is most likely the cause, and that the changes are likely to be destructive. Make that "highly likely." The argument against has moved from "it's not happening" to "it is happening, but it's part of the natural cycle" to "it's not part of the natural cycle but it's not caused by humans" to "it's caused by humans but it may be beneficial." A small contingent just doesn't give a shit what happens.

Science has always had a strongly skeptical opinion on the value of prayer to heal (or do anything else for that matter). The argument in support of prayer has moved from "prayer works" to "prayer works only if you believe" to "prayer works only if you believe and are not 'testing' god" to "prayer works only if you believe and are not 'testing' god, but it is only meant to give peace of mind." In effect: we'll act like it's testable, but it's not.

See also the mushroom cloud from Iraq and subsequent repositionings of the intent.

These examples could be compared with the similar state-of-mind (to paint with a wiiide brush) of those who say that science is religion (i.e. people follow its many mistakes blindly and unquestioningly). Ignoring the oddity of a religious person slighting religion in order to attack science, this position ignores the fact that most of everyday life is deferring intimate understanding to the credentialed experts. I can't rebuild an engine, but I also don't declare as mindless sycophants those that believe it can be done because a mechanic told them it could. And what of the religion of grammar? Those who blindly believe that English verbs must have tense are simply kowtowing to a cabal of lit-fascists who Think They Know Everything.

My favorite example is when we listen to legal reporters (no, not talk show blowhards) dissect court decisions. Though these people are decidedly not credentialed, they take the time to read the briefs, understand their rarefied language, and interview legal scholars on historical relevance. My faith in their summation is not blind, but neither does it need to be.

We trust the process of science to self-correct. Self-correction includes accepting and refuting your previous statements, not redefining your previous statements to make them look like they were never wrong.

[ posted by sstrader on 7 December 2007 at 8:32:03 AM in Science & Technology ]