April 24, 2011 6 Comments
Steve Sailer links to an article about ‘why we don’t believe science’, complaining of their token example of putative left-centered science disbelief (vaccines causing autism) is a far less obvious one than (something racial, I guess).
All fair enough, but what about the other examples. Like global warming. Are they even valid in the first place?
It appears to be taken for granted that belief in global warming-requiring-social-policy-overhaul is ‘science’, and lack of said belief is not. My problem with this is that the vast, vast majority of people who ‘believe in global warming’ know none of the science to speak of (and no, I don’t count muttering something about ‘carbon’ and being able to draw arrows going in a circle from the sky to the ground to the sky as ‘knowing the science’). Most such people – and this seems especially true of the vocal ones – did not come to this belief by studying the science, knowing the science, critically evaluating the science, questioning the science, or anything of the sort. Instead, they (most of them) essentially adopted the belief because people they trust and ally with politically believe in it.
Which is okay by itself to an extent, but it ain’t science, and people who form views this way don’t get to claim the science mantle. I would even go so far as to say that ‘believing in science’ itself is anti-science. True scientists don’t ‘believe in science’, they practice science (which is a very different activity) and provisionally accept what appears to be its latest best explanations (while remaining always ready to critique and find flaws in them).
This suggests a weaker and more careful way to phrase what (I guess) it’s implied we’re all meant to do, which is just to say that we’re supposed to provisionally accept the current best scientific explanations of our world. Maybe that’s what ‘believing in science’ is supposed to mean. Fine. The problem there, though, is that it’s just assumed by our self-anointed Defenders Of Science that ‘our best explanations’ of the climate all point towards greenhouse-gas-driven AGW. I say assumed because, again, they don’t actually know that. How could they, when (again) they don’t know the science?
Ultimately, the problem I have with Defender-Of-Science thinking is that it seems to absolve its adherents of any responsibility to actually know the science. Instead all they have to do is point to some Scientist saying something they found politically convenient and say ‘I believe him’. In this way, it’s completely anti-scientific and hinders actual progress in peoples’ scientific thought. It’s all well and good (and correct) to say that we can’t all be experts on the chaotic chemistry- and physics-driven equations that govern the oceano-atmospheric system, but this doesn’t make it okay to just walk around saying ‘I believe in science’. If you know jack squat about the science then you have no basis whatever for even knowing, let alone going around declaring, what ‘the science’ even says in the first place. In that context, what exactly is it that you are even ‘believing’?
This is particularly so for a topic that becomes politicized, as ‘global warming/climate change’ indisputably has. That’s how we get to a point where instead of rolling up sleeves and doing the gritty work themselves, one is meant only to ‘believe’ something that Al Gore told them Scientists Said. People who raise questions, critiques, and doubts – i.e., people who do the very things that scientists are supposed to do – are then branded as ‘not believing in science’.
Which is perfectly consistent, however, because like I said ‘believing in science’ is anti-scientific, and if that’s what you do, then that’s what you are. Personally, I don’t ‘believe in science’.