Archive | February 2012

I’m also skeptical of denialism

Creationists are given to rejecting much of science, specially targeting evolution, ironically misrepresenting it as a religion rivaling their own, while many of the political-minded on the right are prone to rejecting climate science as “political science” having goals and policy implications contrary to their ideology or party affiliation.

This rejection (for climate change)tends to take the form of one of three general positions:

  1. That climate change simply isn’t happening, and we don’t have to worry…after all, according to the religious, for example, God wouldn’t let the Earth go to crap until he decides to end it all…
  2. …that climate change is happening, but it’s a natural cycle and not us who are causing it…after all, it would be arrogant to think we humans could ever affect the world’s climate – the Sarah Palin argument…
  3. …or that it is happening, we do have something to do with it, but it’s far too late to do anything about it, so why waste time and effort dealing with it.

The tenacity with which any of these positions are held varies from a healthy skepticism open to evidence, to outright denialist certitude regardless of any evidence offered.

There are a number of arguments, far too many to describe in any detail in the scope of this post, used to support the above positions, and many of these arguments rely on the notion of a conspiracy by 90% of the world’s scientists, liberal environmental activists, the mainstream media, and a secret government that wants you to believe in the religion of global warming, to carry out a massive hoax and crash the economy for its evil leftist ends.


Aside from the tendency of some to point at the so-called Climategate and Climategate II scandals, as proofs positive of this conspiracy (with the accused researchers having been exonerated of all academic misconduct, Here, Here, Here & Here), the whole notion of a conspiracy of this magnitude and scope, still sustained by right-wing news outlets and blogs, is just absurd on the face of it to those of us who do not share their political views, and even a few who do but aren’t given to conspiratorial thinking.

There is a tendency to project religious or political motives and interests onto science that disagrees with creationists or climate change outright deniers (I’ve no problem with genuine skeptics)alike.

Neither adequately understands the process and thinking of science, or why would their primary critiques of it involve their own idiosyncracies of thinking?

What is the real difference, though between science denial and science? I mean besides the seemingly obvious ones, like denialism being the rejection of a position, supported by flimsy evidence and unsound arguments…

I’d say honesty, if not in individual scientists then in the process and ethical values that make the scientific enterprise work, since unlike religion, and seldom in partisan politics, science depends on honesty — if not that of individual researchers, then their colleagues who expose them when research fraud is afoot.

This is because science is about finding facts, about how things are, and why they are, not what we ought to do — though science doesn’t involve political thinking in its process, once the facts are found, good science often has political implications, as Copernicus and Galileo discovered in their times, and is often a source of discomfort to those in authority at a given time, especially when the scientist relaying it is outspoken.

One of my homies, Kriss, has written a great piece on his blog about honesty in science, and how it is a virtue and a strength, not a sign of weakness, to not know it all.

I’m well-aware of the hubbub with Peter Gleick, and though he has been both ardently supported and roundly criticized (by other scientists I must add…)for his tactics in uncovering the Heartland Institute documents he leaked, I have little to add to the discussion, save that he has both the strength and courage to come forth and admit his misdeeds, a thing I don’t see happening with the still-unidentified hacker who stole and posted the CRU emails of Climategates I and II.

Steve Novella recently said that science is “a self-skeptical, self-correcting, but messy process.” Science may revise its findings, but it can admit when it’s wrong, correct itself, get a little closer to the truth, and move on.

Never admitting when you’re wrong does not equate to never being wrong.

But I don’t see that kind of intellectual honesty and ethical fortitude in ideologues whose objective is to discredit science — evolution, climate science, or science in general — using any underhanded, dirty, dishonest tactics at their disposal — for they are themselves subject to motives and vested interest, theological, political and financial, not a concern for truth nor a search for it.

Caturday’s Astronomy Pix: February 19-25, 2012

Caturday’s Astronomy Pix is a weekly installment, published each weekend between 7:31 and 8:30 AM, with links to each daily entry on NASA’s website Astronomy Picture of the Day. I hope you enjoy looking at these often breathtaking images as much as I do.