SCIENCE AND TRUTH:
On Not Severing our HUMBILICAL Chord
I love science and I’ve never met a scientist whose company I did not enjoy.
I love literature, but I can’t make quite the same generalization about every member of the literati I’ve met. Ego and a sniff of defensive condescension have corrupted the fieldworkers.
Scientists, as persons, are intellectually humble – in my personal experience – because they have learned through trial and error as fieldworkers that the scientific process is an imperfect tool, especially as a single measure of human progress.
We all need to remain connected to our humbilical chords (our heuristic umbilicus harmonious, if you will). My invented term describes the sense that – other than our deep ultimate moral compass – we just might be wrong, arrogant, unwilling to listen, and therefore at risk of becoming self-disabled beings, crippled in our capacity to learn and live outside our separate thought-bubbles.
The 20th and 21st centuries have elevated the role of science-as-myth, from Robert Oppenheimer’s “destroyer of worlds” (the Hindu deity, Shiva) to the Maker of Worlds. In the most recent trend, science has been conflated with ideology, for example in the ideology of amoral atheism. It is as if empirical science is capable of proving or disproving such deep truths of existence. There is a new word in the lexicon of those who watch the human condition being formed and deformed under the stresses of rampant “modernity’ and “postmodernity”: scientism. This term describes the misappropriation of science as a moral compass, a guide to the human policy maker, the elevation of the white coat of the laboratory to the garments of the priest, seer and rabbi all in one.
The most recent scientific scandal has been dismissed by our modern oracle, the New York Times, in the piece, “In Face of Skeptics, Experts Affirm Climate Peril” by Andrew Revkin and John Broder.
The scandal, in case you haven’t heard, is that a major scientific player in the global temperature collection and analysis game, the highly respected scientific team at the University of East Anglia, in England, has been compromised.
The distraction story was that “hackers” got into a body of confidential scientist-to-scientist emails. The real story, however, is what these private communications now reveal: These “global warming” scientists were so freaked about evidence suggesting that the earth’s recent (i.e., last 100 years) warming wasn’t quite as severe as the “scientific consensus” held (the term should be putative consensus) AND were even more seriously freaked by recent evidence of a cooling trend, that they manipulated data, skewed its presentation and even erased embarrassing anomalous information.
This is the scientific equivalent of priestly child molestation.
I am not a global warming “denier” (a term borrowed from religious discourse) because data are data, period. During the geologically brief period when humans have been able to capture reasonably accurate world temperature information (about 80 years at best), there has been a detectable, but not uniformly consistent, warming trend. There is a more recent cooling period, much briefer; it might be a brief pause (think of a marathon runner stopping to take a drink, bind a knee and relieve herself, then resumes the race) or it might portend something more.
Data is data.
And there surely is SOME human contribution to the warming trend, although in my amateur study (think of a lawyer sifting forensic evidence here), most of the human climate pressure was exerted over 8,000 years of deforestation and other large scale land use transformations, the warming effects of which were driven more by methane than CO2 and were masked by an overall cooling trend. But that is a debatable position, of course.
All this discussion is so very, very important because public policy issues hang in the balance. For example, a full-on attempt to drive down CO2 emissions via economic disincentives will impose a dramatic negative drag on the world economy, truly dangerous in our current precarious situation. A false sense of urgency and a faux consensus? Bad economic timing, to say the least. But a cooling period, even a pause, would give everyone some breathing space.
This is why some of us propose an aggressive supply-side strategy, one focused on the deployment of new generation nuclear-electric generators (the safety of which far exceeds that of the coal and oil industries). But that policy discussion is for another piece.
The New York Times Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/science/earth/07climate.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper ).
Consider this: The overall evidence for the existence of a divine, intelligent creator is of the same general character as the evidence relied on to assert human climate forcing as the principal cause for the recent 80 year warming period.
But the case for a real God is actually stronger.