This morning the host kept talking about how we knew nothing about Hurricane Harvey early this week, which is about to beat the hell out of the Texas gulf coast, so why should we believe “climate science.” He made reference to claims that were made on Monday that if we can predict eclipse, certainly we can forecast climate change. As I listened to him I assumed he had run into some silly tweet, but on a lark decided to research it. This was no wild claim from some random tweeter, this was an article in the New York Times. I kid you not:
When the moon throws Corvallis, Ore., into near-darkness at 10:16 a.m. local time, or eclipses the sun over Kansas City, Mo., at 1:08 p.m., or Nashville at 1:27 p.m., think about the long scientific journey that allowed us to know precisely when it would happen.
Think about Galileo standing in the dock of the Inquisition, forced to recant his belief that the Earth moves around the sun. Legend has it that he whispered under his breath: “And yet it moves.” Think about the centuries of patient effort that followed to work out the precise motions of the solar system, now understood so thoroughly that we can use them to predict eclipses centuries in advance.
If you respect and honor the scientists who did this work, then spare another moment to think about the scientists whose work is under attack today, and why.
Oh my goodness! Paging Mark Twain, paging Mark Twain. This article reveals so little understanding of science and the history thereof as to make me aghast that it was actually published. It fails to understand the differences between the clockwork mechanisms of the solar system and the statistical modeling involved in climate science. Sure, he talks about cancer treatment and statistics, failing entirely to recognize the difference between statistics and statistical modeling.
And then there is the fact that history is littered with “science” that ended up as a dead end after long periods of hot debate. My own discipline, chemistry, has its roots in the arcane practice of alchemy wherein practitioners, laughably, tried to turn lead into gold. There was a time when the best scientific evidence said leeches, or other forms of blood letting, were good medical treatment for most things that ail you. I could go on like this for quite a while.
There are really three things at play here. One is an association fallacy. The second is simple ignorance of science and its processes. The third is a “faith” in science as if it were a religion of some sort. All I can say to this final issue is that if you want to put your faith in something that seems to eventually figure things out, I’d go with Judeo-Christianity – its 6000 years are pretty impressive compared to the few hundred years we have of “science.”
Political coverage these days is awful, but the fact that the NYT let this see the light of day is shameful.