Scientifically Clueless?

For Earth Day 2017 thousands of people in the United States marched in support of science and the planet. They displayed signs, made speeches, and generally let it be known they backed science and scientist. Reportedly, they believe science is under attack, and if those attacking science are successful, the world will go to hell in a handbasket.

The unfortunate truth is many of those speaking in support of science do not have a clue about the topic. If science is under attack, the people attacking science are not the people against whom these marchers railed. The people named and despised, directly or by implication, are not against science. They are questioning the claims of some who call themselves scientists.

The sad part of this situation is the fact people generally do not understand science. For the record, science is not a bunch of people with PhD behind their name looking at a broad spectrum of data and deciding the data means a certain outcome is inevitable. That sort of science has as much validity as their critics going over the same data and dismissing any possibility they have a point. On the other hand, both sides have a right to their opinion and to debate the issue.

Apparently, that is something those marching for science do not understand. They seem to feel science and scientists, at least the ones they support, cannot be criticized. Criticism and debate have always been a part of science. That is how advances were made in the past.

A scientist or group of scientists would say this or that is true or untrue. Others would look at the data to see if they could prove or disprove the other side’s theory or conclusion. Sometimes, the data was confirmed, and sometimes it was not. For example, consider the sound barrier or sonic barrier for aircraft.

Some scientists and engineers believed it would be impossible for an aircraft to travel faster than the speed of sound. The naysayers of the time had good reason to believe this was the case. They knew it was possible for some objects to break the sound barrier, but aircraft approaching those speeds did not survive.

Others believed supersonic flight was possible. As it turned out, they were right. The first supersonic flight occurred on October 14, 1947. Since then, supersonic flight has become common places. Modern combat aircraft exceed the speed of sound regularly. The private sector even operated supersonic passenger planes for a time, and such planes may fly again soon.

There are other examples of scientists or other researchers having their work challenged by others. In some cases, the challengers were wrong, in others the challengers were right. The same dynamic goes on today within the world of science and research, and most people do not know or care. The exception is when political or other agendas are involved.

Climate change is undoubtedly real. Based on the evidence available to scientists today, the climate has changed significantly over the ages. What is in dispute today is the cause and time frame of the change. Archaeological data is understood to show that significant climate changes occurred over thousands of years, if not longer periods of time. Now, people are forecasting climate change leading to a catastrophe in just a few decades. To make that forecast believable, proponents had to identify a cause. They focused on industrialization and some forms of carbon emissions.

It is possible those making the prediction of catastrophic change in the foreseeable future are correct. It is also possible they are wrong. In times past challenging the catastrophic climate change proponents would have been expected. Today, due to the charged political atmosphere, challenging them is tantamount to blasphemy in the days of the inquisition.

The politically charged atmosphere means climate change proponents do not need to respond to criticisms of their data or admit data may exist which calls theirs into question. For instance, one of the largest and most rapid glacier melts in the last few centuries occurred in North America before massive industrialization and automobiles. One might think this could be evidence that climate change is not as closely tied to industrialization as some claim.

The location in question is Glacier Bay, Alaska. According to the National Park Service, “Glacier Bay is a dynamic place. Glaciers have ebbed and flowed here for thousands of years. In fact, Glacier Bay National Park was established for the purpose of studying these natural cycles.” Wow, natural cycles, thousands of years, one might think that would be some evidence that climate change just happens. Fat chance!

The facts indicate the latest massive melt started more than 300 years ago. At that time, there was no bay, just one massive glacier. Almost 100 years after the initial explorers mapped the area another group of explorers found the glacier had receded dramatically, creating a bay. This was almost 200 years ago, since that time, the glacier continued to recede.

The magnificent bay and tourist spot is the result of glacier melt occurring in a remote part of the continent long before Ford built his first carbon emitting car. While many might find these facts interesting, they are apparently considered unimportant and researching them is difficult. If the history of the bay is mentioned at all, it will be downplayed as it is on the web page from which the quotation above was taken. After that comment, the page immediately transitions into the climate change dialogue, ignoring the evidence presented by the bay itself.

Before closing, there is one other sad point to be made here. Within the group of people marching for science are many such as one quoted in CNN’s coverage of the Washington, D.C. event. A thirty-eight-year-old neurophysiology graduate student said she was marching because of the president. CNN quoted her as saying, “Science is really important, and the current administration is making decisions that are counter to climate change, genetically modified food and vaccinations.”

There you have it. The mind set of many who support marches such as the ones inspiring this piece. Science is important, as long as I agree with it. This highly educated graduate student supports the scientists who push the mainstream climate change hysteria. She does not however, support other scientists and their work.

Who does she think developed the genetically modified food and vaccinations she mentioned? Scientists developed genetically modified food, using scientific principles and research. Likewise, scientists and doctors developed the vaccines that save the lives of millions of people annually. Additionally, scientists and doctors almost unanimously agree these advances in food production and medicine are beneficial, but this marcher and many others do not believe that science.

The truth is science and scientists must be questioned and challenged. Scientists developing genetically modified plants should be challenged on their safety. Scientists developing vaccines should be challenged on their effectiveness and safety. Just as scientists who champion climate change should be challenged to prove there is anything more to their case than an agenda.

Science by consensus is the danger, not those who question the claims of such science.

 

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