This appeared in The Baltimore Sun a couple of days ago: Science is to blame for doubts on global warming. It’s an unusual letter-to-the editor for us because it’s not totally insane. The letter-writer actually has a couple of decent points, but in the end we suspect we don’t agree on much.
We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and as we usually do we’ll omit the writer’s name and city. Here we go, with a bit of bold font added for emphasis. The letter-writer begins by mentioning an earlier letter about global warming. Then he says:
Climate change and environmental policy is not the only example. Evolution and the origins of the universe are other famous examples which have affected education policy, and we see the first glimmers of new issues arising regarding vaccination and health policy.
True. But what does the letter-writer have to say about these things? Quite a bit, and much of it is wrong:
However, people like [the earlier letter-writer] like to portray these issues as the irrational mob versus the oppressed scientist. There is some truth in this, but the reality is that most of the blame for the failure of science to penetrate the barriers erected by these special interest groups lies solidly at the feet of the scientific community. Science is not just a tool for discovering new and amazing facts about our universe. It is primarily a unique intellectual methodology for achieving knowledge which we can trust … if we stay within the bounds of the scientific method.
See where he’s going? Scientists should present their data and otherwise keep their opinions to themselves. Sorry, that ain’t gonna happen. Let’s read on:
The scientists within the areas of climate and evolutionary biology and often within the area of cosmology have betrayed people’s trust in science by their unrestrained urge to make sweeping, authoritative and monumental claims in their respective areas that go far beyond what can be clearly supported by the scientific method, and they often attempt to consolidate their positions by pouring scorn and contempt on anyone who has the gall to challenge what they are saying. With some scientists in academia, it has almost reached the point where it is unacceptable to question what they claim simply because they have claimed it.
There’s an enormous amount of exaggeration in that, but there may be those who get swept away by press attention and make excessively broad claims. So what? In most cases, the science critics deserve the scorn they receive. We continue:
What is more, with remarkable naivete, they seem to consistently fail to understand the true agendas of their opponents on these issues and end up trying to argue their cases based on a mixture of scientific data and pompous pronouncements, when in reality most of the motivations of their opponents have little to do with science and the battles should be waged on different grounds.
An example of this last point which is illustrative of this whole issue, are the fundamentalist evangelicals battling the teaching of evolution in schools. In reality evangelicals have no interest in the science of evolution.
Everyone knows that’s true of religious creationists, and no one fails to understand the real agenda. That’s why we prefer such debates to be exclusively among the denominations. Here’s more:
That is the battle they are fighting with science. If evolution is true, the Bible clearly cannot be literally true, and their goose is truly cooked! Yet for more than 200 years scientists have totally failed to understand the true cause of this dispute and consequently are still fighting the battle on completely irrelevant grounds.
Sorry, that’s just wrong. Everyone on the science side of the subject knows what the controversy is all about. Moving along:
Add to that the typical arrogance of the Richard Dawkins clan who adopt the archetypical eloquent schoolmaster approach which is essentially that you had better accept what they tell you since they are the experts and you are stupid.
That’s not at all how Dawkins plays it, although some creationists may come away from one of his speeches feeling that way. That’s their problem, not Dawkins’. Another excerpt:
The same thing is unfortunately becoming true of the science of climate change. Despite the protestations of scientists … I am left scratching my head wondering exactly how they are so certain of the chain of cause and effect in this most complex of complex systems. … Plausible speculation, yes. Asking people to give them the benefit of the doubt until they can sort through the difficult challenges in this area , yes! Solid evidence demonstrating that human behavior is the primary cause of the current climatological change. That will simply not fly and not just with hard core conservatives, but many scientists choke over this.
One more excerpt:
But the real point is that the argument is not really about science at all. In this case it is about people who distrust government and who are concerned about governments using, at best, half-baked science to justify implementing ideologically motivated environmental statutes which will have adverse economic and financial impacts on them and their businesses and their way of life.
Ignoring expressions like “half-baked science,” he’s right about political resistance to the sweeping proposals being demanded by some global warming people. But that has no bearing on climate science itself, and it’s irrelevant to disputes over evolution. On that topic, and on cosmology, the letter-writer doesn’t have much to say at all — except that the controversy is caused by the scientists.
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