Science Friction

  by  |  February 24th, 2009  |  Published in All, Blog


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Like most scientists and journalists, I have an irrational belief in my own intellectual rigor, independence, and impartiality.

That belief is a load of horse patootie.

Like most animals, I have prejudices, passions, fears, and cultural practices that effect how I see things. When science works well, all the imperfect people who search out the truth beat each other up till they uncover the truth. Or the truth remains unfound for years, even hundreds of years, because scientific prejudice prevents us from looking for that truth with eyes wide open.

This article in the New York Times points out the dangers of conflating scientific truth about global warming with policy approaches to fixing global warming. Everyone agrees that the earth is warming suddenly. Few scientists disagree that humans are causing it by putting greenhouse gases into the air. Very reasonable minds could disagree about how much warming will occur, how it will effect people, and what are our best approaches to averting problems.

For example, T Boone Pickens thinks that reallocating energy sources to power our current lifestyle makes sense. Steven Chu thinks that carbon trading caps will work. There are a whole trove of scientists with technology fixes that could work sometime in the future, with enough research. Are any of them wrong? Could we, as a society, decide to do all of them?

Maybe, but if you believe that CO2 vacuum cleaners will never, ever work, then you will not invest in that research. If you believe that natural gas and wind power are faster ways to lower carbon emissions, then you will not bother with the trouble of carbon trading caps. Climate scientists could help by refining their climate models, developing better predictions, but they are no more likely to understand all the social, political, and economic ramifications of a particular solution than anyone else.

Full New York Times Article- "Politics in the Guise of Pure Science"

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Responses

  1. Luciano Gayton says:

    March 3rd, 2009 at 12:15 am (#)

    I am old. My background includes industrial power plants.

    We have all studied human flaws. The opportunity to evolve systems and character to save ourselves is small. As an example we only have to look at superstitions, governments, and multinational corporations. They will kill any system or character that advances humanity.

    Nuclear powered hydrogen generators can save the planet. Vending HHO bottle as propane bottles are exchanged is the no brainer model. No one mention cold fusion. It has already been killed by the above example. All hydro carbons, people, trees, cooking oil, etcetera will kill the planet.

    Maybe if one world constitutional republic, no still the above example.

    Good luck to us all. No a bunker will not help. Virgin Corporation is trying. But it looks like we will run out of time.

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