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The Science Credibility Bubble

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the save-me-jebus dept.

Science 1747

eldavojohn writes "The real fallout of climategate may have nothing to do with the credibility of climate change. Daniel Henninger thinks it's a bigger problem for the scientific community as a whole and he calls out the real problem as seen through the eyes of a lay person in an opinion piece for the WSJ. Henninger muses, 'I don't think most scientists appreciate what has hit them,' and carries on in that vein, saying, 'This has harsh implications for the credibility of science generally. Hard science, alongside medicine, was one of the few things left accorded automatic stature and respect by most untrained lay persons. But the average person reading accounts of the East Anglia emails will conclude that hard science has become just another faction, as politicized and "messy" as, say, gender studies.' While nothing interesting was found by most scientific journals, he explains that the attacks against scientists in these leaked e-mails for proposing opposite views will recall the reader to the persecution of Galileo. In doing so, it will make the lay person unsure of the credibility of all sciences without fully seeing proof of it, but assuming that infighting exists in them all. Is this a serious risk? Will people even begin to doubt the most rigorous sciences like Mathematics and Physics?"

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Otzi (2, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388600)

Otzi the Iceman says that a little global warming is welcome after 5000 years. It's almost as warm now, as when he was battling for his life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%96tzi_the_Iceman [wikipedia.org]

Re:Otzi (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388784)

Otzi was placed there by Future Gore to test our beliefs in the impending apocalypse from global warming!

It's all a test!

Yes, Here's Why (5, Insightful)

Lieutenant Buddha (1660501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388636)

The argument from incredulity is often applied to science by the layperson. You don't need an opponent or a debate to use a logical fallacy. The fact that the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case had to happen proves that people question science regardless of it's validity.

And that's bad how? (1, Troll)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388690)

Einstein questioned "valid" laws of science and look what it got him.

Re:And that's bad how? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388742)

Einstein was qualified.

Re:And that's bad how? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388824)

As are other people who are questioning things like global warming, etc.

Re:And that's bad how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388846)

You're right, nobody uses Newton's "laws" anymore because they were so wrong.

Re:And that's bad how? (5, Insightful)

Lieutenant Buddha (1660501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388852)

Newtonian Mechanics are valid, just not as accurate as Relativity. Relativity is, in essence, a more accurate version of Newtonian Mechanics. It refines it, but the basic conclusions are very similar, save for extreme circumstances. Though relativity is more accurate, it's much more complicated, so most people will calculate things with N.M. It works fine at human-experienced scales, speeds and distances. Creationism is entirely different from evolution. It in no way refines the idea for more accuracy, it just throws the whole damn concept out the window and says "We know, and we're right because we said so." And it should be noted that Einstein, unlike the evolution-deniers, backed up his claims with math, logic and science, rather than just anecdotal evidence. Fact checking when you are an informed person or scientist is one thing, saying something is wrong because you don't get it and some old book told you it's wrong is entirely another, invalid, way of thinking.

Re:And that's bad how? (5, Insightful)

DangerFace (1315417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389112)

Einstein questioned "valid" laws of science and look what it got him.

Indeed I shall - it got him a series of logical arguments with which to dispute the wisdom of the time. Gradually, through debate and observation and experimentation, more and more people realised he had made a series of logical points that disproved the old ways of doing things.

Let us compare this to the argument from incredulity - the equivalent would have been Einstein saying, "But I don't understand it! How does it work? No, look, see, the feather and the hammer land at different times! Ha! Scientists are dumb!" in which case I doubt he would have quite the same status in the history books.

Re:Yes, Here's Why (5, Insightful)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389060)

The argument from incredulity is often applied to science by the layperson. You don't need an opponent or a debate to use a logical fallacy. The fact that the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case had to happen proves that people question science regardless of it's validity.

It wouldn't be real science without real skepticism. A theory should remain a theory until it can stand up the to the scrutiny of skepticism.

Re:Yes, Here's Why (4, Interesting)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389146)

The argument from incredulity is often applied to science by the layperson. You don't need an opponent or a debate to use a logical fallacy. The fact that the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case had to happen proves that people question science regardless of it's validity.

Exactly. There has never been, nor ought their be, an automatic trust of anything, including science. By definition of "layperson", we do not know and are not read-up on, the exact arguments for an against any particular theory. It has long been the case that unscrupulous individuals will try to sell a product or an idea "because science says so". This is behind every diet fad, every exercise machine, every crackpot "business methodology", that we've been exposed to for centuries (see: snake oil salesman).

The reason that climate change has been resisted and argued by so many, for so long, is exactly this. We do not trust the people interpreting this for us at the national level. We see a group of people who have financial motivation to resist, a group of people who have financial motivation to sell green-wash products, and a group of people who advocate shucking technology and returning to some insane, idealized view of nature, where man and animal and nature all get along, and don't eat or kill each other. All "climategate" has done, is confuse us further. We still lack faith in science, we still do not trust any of the people arguing, and we have good reason for this lack of trust.

Calling Pons and Fleischmann... (5, Insightful)

Captain Damnit (105224) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388660)

Didn't we see the same bloviation from the mainstream media when cold fusion went from the energy source of the future to a byword for scientific fraud? It seems to me if the reputation of hard science could survive out and out fraud like that, it will probably survive the climate change "fraud".

Much more to that story (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388842)

You might want to read up on Pons and Fleischmann some more. It certainly was not "out and out fraud".

Re:Calling Pons and Fleischmann... (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388866)

Indeed. And I don't see how science has had or is having a credibility bubble. If anything, science was undervalued before, and maybe even moreso now. Where there is a bubble, is with the credibility of scientists. But who cares about that, it's the results that matter in the end, not what individuals or organizations cook up in the meantime.

The only problem is that the results are time-sensitive, i.e. we'd like to have knowledge now and not later. Science will easily provide "later", but by pushing it, all kinds of politics and nasty business naturally starts to occur more than usual.

Re:Calling Pons and Fleischmann... (4, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389098)

Excellent comparison. The difference I see is that in the case of cold fusion, the scientific critique and exposure as fraud was done within the science community. If anything, this proved that rigorous science was robust and the community could correct itself, much like an unjust verdict overturned on appeal proves the legal system works. In the AGW debate, the publicized emails create the appearance that powerful people in the scientific community stifled the dissent, open debate, and peer review that might cast doubt on their views.

So, the main difference is not that scientists might be proved wrong or fraudulent, since that happens from time to time and is proof that the system works. The problem here is that the system itself is alleged to be rigged.

Math is now a science? (2, Informative)

etymxris (121288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388664)

Science is empirical, math is not. Scientific hypotheses are inductively tested, mathematical hypotheses are deductively proven. (And mathematical "induction" is still deductive in that the premises subsume the conclusion.)

Re:Math is now a science? (1, Interesting)

AshtangiMan (684031) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388886)

Yes. Math is a construct, or a tool that assists in scientific pursuits. I reacted to that last sentence and came in to find out if anyone else did. So where do you draw the line? If we look at some well understood mathematical principle (let's say Pathagoreum's theorum), is it any less valid as a theory because it is confined to a human abstraction of the universe (geometry)? Ok, perhaps less valid is the wrong wording, but is that not still a science? It is testable, repeatable, and started with an empirical understanding. I still fall on the not a science side, but have trouble justifying that even to myself.

Re:Math is now a science? (4, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388916)

It would be nice if it was that simple.

But, at least one scientist who was going to study the validity of the ice core methodology was told that it would be immoral to undercut this important foundation for global warming and he was fired so his institute could continue to get funding.

Science is often badly distorted for decades at a time. Long term, you can't stop the truth. But short term, money wins out.

The journal, Science? (Nature?-- it's one of them) declared several years ago, after global warming was only a few years old and before many of the initial predictions failed, that the global warming debate was over and it was time for political action. Does that sound like the scientific method to you?

Nature just came out and said that the emails show nothing wrong and the ends justify the means. Does that sound like the scientific method to you?

Global warming is probably real- anthrocentric global warming is a little more in doubt.

Climate Science isn't a Science! (2, Insightful)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388944)

Climate Science is a STUDY, much like Social Studies, Political "Science", and most (but not all) fields of Psychology. You cannot experiment on Climate on the timeframes or scales these "scientists" are suggesting. You cannot produce a hypothesis, alter variables, and confirm or deny your ideas.

Climate Studies, as it should be called, consists entirely of observation and computer modelling - a form of mathematics which is also not a science, but an art or "language".

In 1975, American Scientist, Nature, and New York Times were publishing story after story about the imminent New Ice Age that would plunge the world into subfreezing temperatures for the next 100 years. Suddenly, 20 years later and Global Warming is all we can talk about? I don't understand. No, I do understand ... both points of view have been apparent for nearly a hundred years. Politicians and marketers just grab hold of whichever evidence they want to promote their own agenda. Sure it's possible, which is exactly why it's such a powerful weapon in the social manipulator's arsenal ... just like 9/11 denier's evidence is just plausible enough to make people believe it ... or how creationists can bend scientific discoveries just enough to gain a following.

Sure we might be warming, just as much as we might have been cooling in the 70s. But what does it matter? We need renewable energy regardless of what the environment is doing.

Re:Climate Science isn't a Science! (2, Interesting)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389130)

Climate Science is a STUDY, much like Social Studies, Political "Science", and most (but not all) fields of Psychology. You cannot experiment on Climate on the timeframes or scales these "scientists" are suggesting. You cannot produce a hypothesis, alter variables, and confirm or deny your ideas.

Would you also call astronomy "star studies"?

Re:Math is now a science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30389050)

If the Bible says pi is 3, that's good enough for me. Who are you to question the word of God? Besides, the Good Book don't say nothin about global warning or nukular fishing or zip code layer. We wuz created 6000 years ago and computing was created by Microsoft. Thou shalt have no computer before Windows. Gates 3:16.

Re:Math is now a science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30389170)

Math is inductive in choice of axioms, deductive in their application.

Ummm. No. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388666)

Will people even begin to doubt the most rigorous sciences like Mathematics and Physics

I know I won't doubt them. Why? Math is so pure, and once you study it, you know its truths - and that the only falacies that exist in mathematics are human error.

And to steal from XKCD,

And Physics is just applied Mathematics. And Chemistry is just applied Physics. And Bio is just applied chemistry.

Sit someone down through a high school education and teach them the proper way to run experiments and the proper way to understand statistics, and you won't have any of that mess.

What (5, Insightful)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388684)

Science shouldn't be "accorded automatic stature and respect" any more than politics should. There's no reason to trust a scientist any more than you'd trust your barber.

The problem isn't that people aren't automatically believing science, it's almost the exact opposite: people are automatically doubting science. And that's quite another thing entirely.

Re:What (4, Interesting)

h2oliu (38090) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388800)

I would argue that people don't know when to doubt, and when to believe.

Which scientists do they believe when it comes to Autism and vaccines? Which scientist to believe when it comes to global warming? It is just they have more insight into the infighting that is present into the community now.

The infighting has ALWAYS been there. When I was in graduate school I never saw a larger bunch of petty people whining over who was the bigger fish in there tiny ponds.

Re:What (1)

Schickeneder (1454639) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389056)

I know, so true!

I once saw a fist-fight break out at a dissertation defense. It turned out just like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive confronting that clinician about falsifying medical records. Or maybe I'm getting the two confused. If it can happen in a movie I'm sure it can happen in real life, right?

Re:What (3, Insightful)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389126)

I would argue that people don't know when to doubt, and when to believe.

Which scientists do they believe when it comes to Autism and vaccines? Which scientist to believe when it comes to global warming? It is just they have more insight into the infighting that is present into the community now.

The infighting has ALWAYS been there. When I was in graduate school I never saw a larger bunch of petty people whining over who was the bigger fish in there tiny ponds.

You believe the theory that has observations to prove it works. Not the scientist. Pretty simple if you ask me.

Re:What (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389156)

Which scientists do they believe when it comes to Autism and vaccines?

Which scientists say vaccines and Autism are related? The people I hear expounding that link are anecdotes from "concerned" parents and especially Jenny McCarthy.

Re:What (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388844)

I'm certain that people believe it when a spacecraft launches, or their new TV is even thinner.

Thing is, do they even realise that is science?

In their mind science is a term for the fuzzy stuff that they read about in the papers - like is a glass of wine good or bad for you? Are potatoes/fish/eggs/etc good or bad for you? And all the U-turns since. Science is the word they associate with anything that goes wrong or seems to be a stupid waste of money to research.

The media has propagated this view of science, because journalists could never hack the subjects themselves, and they just want to get their own back on those people who could do it.

Re:What (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388988)

I don't know about "automatically doubting," but people will, in certain specific subjects, assume they are smarter than the scientists, even though sometimes the full extent of their science education is the minimum high school requirement. Evolution is a prime example of this. Climate science has moved strongly that direction.

Re:What (1)

interploy (1387145) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389026)

With all the various scissors, clippers and shaving blades a barber has - especially since he'll be using them on your face - I would hope you would go to one you could trust.

Re:What (3, Funny)

Tobor the Eighth Man (13061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389132)

Haven't seen Sweeney Todd, have you? There's plenty the tonsorial-industrial complex doesn't want you finding out.

Re:What (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30389052)

Politics have always been about money, power, and exploitation. Since Roman times and earlier, it's been known that politicians are not ever to be trusted.

Before the early 1980s, however, science used to be about legitimate research in search of the truth, whatever that truth may be. Medicine used to be about helping the individual seeking medical help. Scientists and doctors weren't as interested in making huge sums of money as they were with just furthering their knowledge of their field, or just plain helping people. Their goals made it natural for people to trust them.

Around 1980, things started to change. I suspect it's due to the rise of global corporatism, which really took hold after Reagan took office. America's advantage in the world started to erode, with third-world countries taking manufacturing jobs and thus reducing prosperity for many Americans. Greed skyrocketed, and in America, science became all about providing the results the funding sources (usually corporations) wanted to hear. Likewise, medicine became solely about distributing expensive pharmaceuticals as widely as possible.

So the participants within the science and medicine have shown that they're now about money, rather than knowledge and helping others. They now have the same goals as politicians, and that's why people are beginning to automatically distrust them.

Re:What (3, Insightful)

5KVGhost (208137) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389138)

The problem isn't that people aren't automatically believing science, it's almost the exact opposite: people are automatically doubting science.

People aren't doubting science, necessarily. They're just not as ready to accept everything a scientist claim is "science". Some scientists don't like this, preferring to think themselves above such elementary barriers of trust. That's too bad for them.

Doubt is good. Healthy skepticism is a sign of maturity and intellectual involvement.

Dumber dumbed-down discourse (5, Interesting)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388686)

When I was a kid, I used to genuinely believe that humans were on a path to greater wisdom, more profound discourse, and perfect knowledge.

Lately, I just see a bunch of power-hungry assholes doing their utmost to discredit intelligent thought and dumb-down the world around them, so they can continue on an unimpeded path toward greater assholism.

Re:Dumber dumbed-down discourse (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388828)

a bunch of power-hungry assholes doing their utmost to discredit intelligent thought and dumb-down the world around them, so they can continue on an unimpeded path toward greater assholism.

Most of us just abbreviate that as "Republicans". Saves quite a bit of typing. :)

Re:Dumber dumbed-down discourse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388954)

"humans" is shorter still, and doesn't miss the rest of the power-hungry assholes.

Re:Dumber dumbed-down discourse (-1, Flamebait)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389076)

Try again. The label to use is "Liberals". They exist in both major parties (middle of the road is just as bad as extreme left). If you fail to understand facts as facts and [by modern usage of the word] theories as guesses, then you don't understand what is going on here. It is the liberals and socialists that are causing all of these problems. The people that fail to understand how things really are but only want thing to be theoretically perfect.

Re:Dumber dumbed-down discourse (2, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389068)

Lately, I just see a bunch of power-hungry assholes doing their utmost to discredit intelligent thought and dumb-down the world around them, so they can continue on an unimpeded path toward greater assholism.

You're right. That's why technology has stood still since 1968. Obvious, really.

Open source (4, Insightful)

javilon (99157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388718)

Will people even begin to doubt the most rigorous sciences like Mathematics and Physics

The answer is no. The good thing about science is that it is open source. For mathematics, you can go through all of the proofs from your text books. For physics you would need a bit of gear to reproduce some of the experiments, but again, that is just a question of money and interest.

The basic point is that the scientific method don't expect you to accept anything without proof. If you can falsify any of the theories by experiment, people will pay attention to you, regardless of politics.

Re:Open source (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388868)

The climategate scientists didn't seem to be very open with their sources. Deleting their original source data sounds pretty suspicious to me - not the sort of thing that gets done accidentally.

Re:Open source (2, Insightful)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388940)

I disagree, people already doubt Math and Physics. Honest to goodness people who reject math, saying it's just a theory, there's no such thing as 1 or 2 so 1+1=2 is meaningless babble and doesn't prove anything. They're the kind of people you see on TV, claiming to be actual scientists, saying that since either the LHC will destroy the world, or it won't, it's a 50% chance, only two options, so 50/50. There are a lot, A LOT of people who think that there's no such thing as probability, either. They say that since God designed our fates, everything meant to happen has a 100% chance, and everything else has a 0% chance. If I roll a die, and cover it up and look, maybe it says 3. So if I ask you, who doesn't see the number, what the chances are it's 3, it's 100%, because it is a 3. The fact that you can't see it can't change reality, they say!

Re:Open source (4, Insightful)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388942)

"If you can falsify any of the theories by experiment, people will pay attention to you, regardless of politics."

The upside to this is that science appears to hold itself to a higher standard of truth than religion and politics. The downside to this is also that science appears to hold itself to a higher standard of truth than religion and politics. Science always says first to its student: "Doubt me." It's a tough marketing job from there on out. As science has skepticism as a built-in requirement, people will always doubt its findings more than the claims of religion or the promises of politicians. Of course, science has the added benefit of being difficult to understand, much unlike the prescriptions of religion. This all creates a situation where knowledge and rational skepticism actually have no political force, and their antitheses, ignorance and hysteria, drive our political discussion.

  If people reserved nearly as much skepticism for religion as they did for science, we would live in a much more sensible world.

Re:Open source (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Codger (96717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388958)

Sure, you can go through the proofs and run some experiments - if you're a mathematician or a scientist. For the average Joe, these activities are as foreign as eating boiled locusts for dinner. Average Joe will doubt (and already does doubt) because he lacks the training to understand how math and science work. And average Joes outnumber and outvote mathematicians and scientists by a large margin, and end up electing the scientific ignoramuses who dominate one of the US national political parties.

Yeah, about that... (2, Insightful)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388734)

For whatever reason, a lot of people act as if scientists don't have their own preconceived notions on how things should be, or are predisposed to a certain political agenda. The tag line is that scientists are only interested in the truth, as if scientists as a class are immune to any sort of corruption, and that consensus on an issue is the same thing as fact. Forget the fact that there's an incentive to support certain findings because that will lead to greater funding...

Didn't start it, just makes it worse (5, Insightful)

confusednoise (596236) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388736)

The lay public has been mistrusting science for quite a while now. Witness the disbelief in findings regarding the lack of connection between autism and vaccines, brain cancer and cellphones and climate change.

We're already well into the era when people doubt the motives and findings of scientists. You can see it here on /. all the time - cue all the rants about how nobody gets funding unless they parrot the party line about global warming and how doctors who support vaccinations are just puppets of Big Pharma.

Problem is, people really believe that they can become experts on extremely complicated topics and weigh the evidence for themselves. I'm not saying we need to have blind trust in authority, but sometimes you've got to recognize that someone who studied climatology for X years might actually know a thing or two that you can't pick up from reading a blog.

Re:Didn't start it, just makes it worse (4, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388918)

sometimes you've got to recognize that someone who studied climatology for X years might actually know a thing or two that you can't pick up from reading a blog

This.

Happens in every field; I get it all the time supporting computers. I ask them to do something, and suddenly I'm questioned, berated, argued with, told it won't work, they've done it, yadda yadda, and when I finally get them to do it and humor me...it fixes their problem and they hang up. No apology, no thank you, and likely no realization that they don't know my field as well as I know my field.

Re:Didn't start it, just makes it worse (2, Funny)

ProteusQ (665382) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388990)

Oh, you're the one my father-in-law talked to.

Thanks, BTW! His PC is working now.

Just tell me, how do I know which one to trust? (1, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389090)

That is the crux of this problem. There are thousands of "Climatologist" yet we cannot agree which one is right.

you used some of the same wording that many used to justify their connectedness. Its too complex for the average Joe to understand, let alone those loons on the .

What this event did was expose the truth that yes, some of those involved do operate from an agenda. Worse are those acting as if there is no issue at all which only furthers increases public distrust.

So again, who do we trust? I certainly know a few names I won't trust anymore.

Funding (4, Insightful)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388744)

Who could have possibly predicted that accepting hundreds of billions of dollars from governments over the last couple of decades could have somehow politicized Science?

-Peter

Re:Funding (5, Insightful)

confusednoise (596236) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388880)

Government has been funding science for much much longer than a couple of decades.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_society [wikipedia.org]

Just out of curiosity, if pure science is not funded by government, how should it be paid for? By private industry? Do you somehow think that we can place greater trust results of science paid for by corporations?

Re:Funding (1)

Attack DAWWG (997171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388892)

hundreds of billions of dollars from governments

. . . Which is a tiny amount compared to what corporations have spent promoting their own "scientific" agenda.

Re:Funding (5, Informative)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388920)

Who could have possibly predicted that accepting hundreds of billions of dollars from governments over the last couple of decades could have somehow politicized Science?

-Peter

Dwight D. Eisenhower - 1961.

"The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite."

Re:Funding (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388950)

Dammit, I knew NASA was just a political ploy . . .

They're made to do whatever evils their funding overlords tell them to do. Which is to . . . uh . . . let me get back to you on that one.

Re:Funding (1)

javilon (99157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388968)

Who could have possibly predicted that accepting hundreds of billions of dollars from governments over the last couple of decades could have somehow politicized Science?

Well, science by definition can't finance itself. So what do you propose, corporations? bean counters would not allow any basic science, only applied and only in situations where ROI is clear enough.

Re:Funding (1)

nodrogluap (165820) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389000)

Couple of decades? Science has always been funded by government (academic) and industry. If anything, it's more industry driven now than at any point in the past. I would fear the state of the world if all science was to become controlled by companies...

Hundreds of billions??? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30389008)

Hundreds of billions??? You have the wrong side. 20 Billion dollars over 30 years for the entire world. Compared with 37Bn dollars given as subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear power industry *EACH* *YEAR* by the *US* ALONE* and I think you find the finger points a different direction.

How many people would want a piece of THAT action?

Much more.

Re:Funding (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389014)

Really? You think the government suggested added a rider to funding that it should be used to predict global cataclysm? Why is anthropogenic climate change a good thing for government? Given the choice between a government funded scientist and an industry funded scientist, which one do you think is more likely to produce results that upset the fundee? And, in that case, which scientist's findings are more likely to be spiked?

Good God man! the American Petroleum Institute have accepted the truth of anthropogenic global warming: the only informed dissenters are are right-wing media talking heads, political bloggers, a few member rogue Republicans and about half-a-dozen scientists (each of whom is now making a good living as a professional sceptic). Polls merely reflect these dissenters high media profile.

Science Should Always be Questioned (5, Insightful)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388772)

If people are afraid to question what we now consider laws in physics, mathematics, etc, then there will never be breakthroughs in learning.

I mean, there are extremes, and people shouldn't be disbelieving scientists just because they're scientists, but at the same time, we shouldn't always take things at face value just because Bill Nye the Science Guy says so. There is a happy medium...

Re:Science Should Always be Questioned (5, Insightful)

zz5555 (998945) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389016)

But the questioning needs to be done intelligently. Most of the questioning that came about from climategate has seemed to come from people that either don't understand science or (and I think this is more likely) don't want to understand it.

capitalism is to blame, kinda. (1)

notgm (1069012) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388776)

i've said it before, i'll keep saying it.

specialization is what kills trust. the more we specialize, the fewer true peers we have, and the truly brilliant breakthroughs are harder to understand, translate, and verify. this equals a system with inherently less trust.

Sounds great. Let's blame capitalism. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388874)

So now we know the problem. What's the solution? Not much we can do about it. There's too much out there for a single person to know even of most fields taken singly. A specialist is much more likely to be able to dig deep enough to discover or invent.

Re:capitalism is to blame, kinda. (2, Insightful)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388974)

Couldn't be that there's just so much to know and study that we can't help but specialize?

Nothing to do with lay persons, no more deceit!!!! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388794)

Climategate has absolutely nothing to do with being a lay person and has everything to do with data being FALSIFIED as well as peer reviews being FALSIFIED in the name of climate change theory.

Also, during the melee of all the fraud going on, good scientists had their names and careers sabotaged by the perpetrators in the scientific community.

To detract from these facts is to contribute to the ongoing fraud that is climate change.

Change Science (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388802)

The problem with science is the same as the problem with congress: there is too much money involved.

Copyrighted journals, and patented research, squabbling and infighting for research grants... All of these thing have become the norm for too many scientists.

If you want mass perception of science to change, we are going to have to reorganize scientific institutions to reflect the ideals of truth and openness, that all science is supposed to espouse.

Scientists are human. (4, Interesting)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388806)

I work in a field closely associated with climatology (satellite remote sensing), and I work with climatologists. And I agree with the article on one point: We really do not understand how big a deal this 'climategate' is.

The worst bits in that email dump are petty squabbles between researchers and critics. That's standard -- often critics are dishonest people who are attacking the science in order to advance a political agenda, and that is very frustrating to someone who wants to do honest science. Yes, tempers flare in private emails. Scientists are human. If people are going to lose faith in science because scientists are human...then we as a race are doomed, in my opinion.

As for the results of the CSU climate research, they're not in any doubt. Every criticism of them has been answered, and there are other studies that agree with the CSU results. So attack the scientists for being human if you must, but the science is sound and must be heeded.

I really do not understand why this has blown up into such a conflagration. Anyone who gives up on science because of this trifling matter is welcome to go back to the dark ages and live their short, wholesome, science-free life.

Re:Scientists are human. (1)

Attack DAWWG (997171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389066)

I really do not understand why this has blown up into such a conflagration.

Because, as you said yourself, it helps advance a certain political agenda. These people will grasp at any straws to do that. It doesn't matter that the "criticisms have been answered": they won't listen.

These "scientists" weren't (2, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388814)

The scientific method says you follow the data wherever it leads you, not start out with a preconceived notion of what the results should be then throw out data that doesn't fit your preconceived notions and try to squelch any opposing opinions. I see this more as an object lesson in how NOT to do science. They obviously had an agenda, and they threw out raw data, keeping only their "massaged" data. All of which makes their conclusions suspect, even if they are correct. If you want to do good science that makes a difference, DON'T do shit that way! By doing so, they have hurt the very agenda they were trying to advance.

Re:These "scientists" weren't (5, Informative)

_Swank (118097) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389040)

please, please, please get your facts straight on what these scientists did with their data when they 'threw out raw data'

they threw out siberian tree-ring data for certain years (i believe it was 1960 to present) that they were using to infer local temperatures and, instead, used the actual local air temperatures. this turned a graph that showed temperatures over a period of time longer than thermometers have existed in from one relying on only tree-ring data, to one relying solely on tree-ring temperature data to one using mostly tree-ring data with some tree-ring data replaced by more accurate actual temperature readings.

yes, the tree-ring data in this location diverges unexpectedly from the actual temps recorded. that is a problem to explain. but it has nothing to do with the fact that the temperatures really did continue to increase.

Re:These "scientists" weren't (5, Insightful)

gowen (141411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389118)

They obviously had an agenda, and they threw out raw data, keeping only their "massaged" data.

They threw out the data 25 years ago -- long before the majority of these scientists had any agenda at all, besides getting laid, because it was on magnetic tape and punch cards, and they were moving buildings. But hey, don't let a few facts interfere with your conspiracy theory.

Sympathy troll (1, Insightful)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388830)

This is just a sympathy troll seeking to get more publicity for the stolen emails. There is no damage to climate science or science here, just hooligan tactics in a coordinated propaganda effort that includes break-ins around the globe. Science can't be hurt by such racketeering since it does not seek to deceive, it is another game altogether.

Doubt is justified (-1, Troll)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388834)

A measure of doubt in science is justified because much of science has devolved into religion (theories elevated to dogma). As these things come out in the open, people will be utterly amazed at just how much science is bunk. I can say this with confidence because I know of many clear and unambiguous experimental and observational falsifications of sacred theories and models. The Big Bang cosmology, for example.

Physics? Rigorous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388850)

hahahahahahaha

One citation explains it all. (4, Interesting)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388870)

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."
- Bertrand Russel

As evidence of the validity of Russel's insight, consider the people who are cocksure enough to assume it is they who are the doubters. They will even quarrel amongst each other about which of them is the intelligent, when in reality they are all idiots.

Skeptical of science? (4, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388894)

Oh, I'm sorry. I guess that we can't really thank science for medicine, computers, airplanes, the food on our table. I guess that one murderous programmer working on an open source file system means all of Linux is shit, too. And you know what? I got taken for a ride buying speculative real estate in Florida. I guess this means that you can't make money in real estate, that the whole thing's a rotten idea. Incidentally, I threw out the bath water. Where'd the baby go?

I'll buy that argument once religious whackadoodles promise to renounce their faith because of televangelists and pedo-priests.

Nobody deserves a free pass (1)

ChronoFish (948067) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388896)

The more science is viewed with skepticism the better the science will be in my opinion.

*Science* doesn't care how much political capitol you have, doesn't care what your personal beliefs are, and doesn't care if a new discovery shakes you to your core. It also doesn't care what the general public believes and it doesn't care if it's not popular.

Ultimately the truth will prevail - even it means turning over 100's of years of *scientific* research. At some point the clue hammer strikes and at that point there is not turning back.

The dangers of mixing money, power, and politics with science is that message is perverted, skewed, slanted, and sometimes a flat-out lie. The lies do nothing to further science - only to further funding for research in what may or may not be "the right road".

Remember what they said in "Men in Black" - "1500 years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the centre of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know... tomorrow."

Are scientists complaining about skepticism? (2, Interesting)

AlphaBit (1244464) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388900)

"And in doing so will make the lay person unsure of the credibility of ALL sciences without fully seeing proof of it but assuming that infighting exists in them all. Is this a serious risk?"

No, having doubt and skepticism is called being scientific. I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've seen complaints that "lay" people aren't scientifically critical enough. Maybe if people actually questioned what "scientists" tell them, fewer would fall victim to the bottomless sea of unproven alternative medical treatments.

And infighting does exists in all sciences, at least if it's an active field.

Science has always been this way (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388904)

Revolutionary idea is first rejected and ridiculed by the establishment for years or decades until there is finally enough evidence for it. then that idea becomes the establishment and the cycle repeats itself until the next revolutionary idea.

dinosaurs to birds, evolution and natural selection and a long list of others all started out fighting the establishment. a lot of our current views on dino's didn't get accepted until after Jurassic Park came out.

Is Mathematics a science? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30388938)

Doesn't science involve experimentation? I don't remember running any experiments in my University Mathematics courses.

Theories proven through political influence (1)

realsilly (186931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388948)

As a Computer Scientist, I have experienced the ability to know something without being able to prove something it's called gut instinct. Sadly, gut instinct is not scientific or political, it's conjecture. If some of these scientist have a gut instinct then they should find a way to scientificly prove their theories. It's their duty as a scientist to accept that their theory could be incorrect.

I know I certainly and outraged and disgusted with scientists who let politics sway or intimidate them to toss out data that doesn't fit the conclusion to fit the theory. I'm horrified at the way those who disputed the norm have been treated, ignored and shunned. It's aweful. Sadly, those scientists who follow pure science will have to fight so much harder for credibility with the laymen, and this in my opinion is a sad time in history.

My next fear is how student in colleges will use this situation to manipulate the college system in the future, which will further degrade the comman person's trust in the scientific community. Sigh.

Science costs money, ergo... (4, Insightful)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388966)

To do any useful science that hasn't already been done requires money. Money carries an agenda. Scientists who work for sponsors, including foundations, oil companies or even governments AND who disagree with the predispositions of the above are soon out of money, out of work, out of science.

"You've never worked in the real world... they expect RESULTS!" -- Dr. Peter Venkman

Therefore, the "tolerance stackup", a polite word for 'fudging data' will lean in the direction of the benefactor.

If this statement is not the truth, it is certainly the perception. Convince the masses that the scientists are not supporting the suppositions of the sponsors and maybe they will trust the science again. Start by convincing me.

We need to eat our own dog food (1)

fooslacker (961470) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388978)

Part of the problem is what we call science. We regularly equate well known laws of the physical universe with theories at various stages of testing. We regularly seek to prove positive ideas we believe are true but don't have facts for yet sometimes even disregarding negative results. We regularly act as though because we can make a correlation we have shown causation. And all of this we insist on calling science. Just like Christians who choose to throw out the peace and judge not portions of scripture in favor of the "shall nots" or vice-versa and just like democracies that decide when basic freedoms should be valid based on circumstance we do ourselves irreparable harm when we violate scientific protocols and principles because we "know something should be true" or we justify our conclusions with "the consequences are just too high not to go this way". We can't have it both ways and we need to be true to our fundamental principles if we're going to hold science up as a framework for understanding.

I think some of this is applicable to climategate but to be absolutely clear I'm not qualified to make a truly informed opinion on that subject as I haven't studied any global warming data unless you count watching the Al Gore movie. I think this is a much deeper problem that affects various areas of scientific inquiry and how we teach what science is to our next generations of scientists.

Hard sciences... (1)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388984)

...generally involve the opinions of scientists. Scientists see some evidence, form an opinion about it (hypothesis), wait for more numbers, and then reform their opinion. Or the more corrupt ones tweak the numbers. Physics also works this way. The hard sciences are a sequence of increasingly accurate opinions.

Math is entirely different. When mathematicians form an opinion, they back it up with pure, unfiltered logic. They prove it with the axioms of that field or consequences of those axioms. The only place the opinion still matters are for things that are unproven.

Either which way, lay people shouldn't automatically believe or disbelieve anything. I should hope they weigh and ponder science and math the same way they (hopefully) weigh and ponder politics and religion.

What does he mean, begin to doubt? (4, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388994)

Will people even begin to doubt the most rigorous sciences like Mathematics and Physics?

Some people already doubt science in general, to limit it to just math and physics belies the current trend of refusing to accept what science, in all its forms, tells us.

Men on the moon? Nope, can't be done because of . WTC towers collapsed because of structural damage compounded by extreme temperatures? Nope, it was a government plot because . Vaccines help prevent acquisition of serious diseases? Nope, doesn't work because . Evolution? It's impossible because .

There will always be those who will find any excuse to deny the scientific evidence. That doesn't mean one shouldn't question the evidence or how it's gathered. Rather, instead of saying, "See! They used the word 'hide' so they must be falsifying the data!", one should look at the entire context of quotes and information to see what is meant.

Science, in all its forms, is one of those areas where there will always be discussion about something, but once someone, or some group, comes up with an explanation, their data and processes can be checked by others to see if those people get the same results. If not, go back and see what the differences were. If still failure, back to square one.

I am reminded of the one CSI episode* where after doing all the evidence gathering, interviewing suspects and finally finding the body, the only conclusion was that the girl, upon trying to retrieve her waste can from a garbage bin, had been partially crushed between the bin and the wall when a vehicle came by and accidentally clipped the bin.

The parents were sure their daughter was murdered and planned on hiring their own investigator to find out who killed her. Grissom remarks, "Mrs. Rycoff there is no one guilty of this."

"Because you say so?"

"Because the evidence says so."

*The episode is called Chaos Theory and is one of my all-time favorite CSI shows. Right up there with Fur and Loathing (the plushy and furry convention episode).

Nothing really new here on credibility cycles... (1)

Super Dave Osbourne (688888) | more than 4 years ago | (#30388998)

Cycles, like biology, society, greed and humanity constantly oscillate over time. Right now we just see a lot of little/big ripples since time compression is happening. Eventually all living systems fail since nothing can sustain living in its own waste. Life itself has always been the answer. Science is just a group of lords, or witches claiming to be more than lazy self proclaimed discoverers of the obvious.

fallout of climategate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30389002)

"The real fallout of climategate may have nothing to do with the credibility of climate change"

Any idea of who did the leaking and what their motivation was ?

scientists are more often incorrect that correct. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30389010)

The process of science is: take a guess, show it right or wrong, and repeat.

In other words, if scientist are always correct, why don't we have a cure for cancer? Are they holding back?

Regards.

Dr. Richard Lindzen (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389018)

I would highly suggest watching this lecture by Dr. Richard Lindzen. He describes precisely how the field has become so politicized and corrupt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sHg3ZztDAw [youtube.com]

a good thing (1)

Peter La Casse (3992) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389022)

Hard science, alongside medicine, was one of the few things left accorded automatic stature and respect by most untrained lay persons. But the average person reading accounts of the East Anglia emails will conclude that hard science has become just another faction, as politicized and "messy" as, say, gender studies.'

That would be a good thing, because "hard science" is not a single anthropomorphic entity but a collection of disparate opinions, equations, experiments and hypotheses. Ideal scientists are skeptics, willing to change their minds to follow the evidence, but actual scientists are flawed human beings subject to the same cognitive failures as you and I. The Feynman quote from this Megan McArdle column [theatlantic.com] illustrates it well:

We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off, because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of the electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

Why didn't they discover that the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of--this history--because it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong--and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number closer to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that.

Since the goal of the scientific method is greater understanding, how is it a bad thing for the general public to have a greater understanding of it? Scientists are not high priests. When ordinary people set aside their blind "faith in science" in favor of a more realistic understanding of what it takes for a hypothesis to survive in the shark tank long enough to be called a theory, it's not a bad thing, it's a good thing.

When politics/religion meddle with science (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389024)

This has always been a problem and there has probably never been a time when politics and/or religion did not have inappropriate influence over scientific research.

Some (lay) people see science as a religion in and of itself having its own agenda. This is a failure in the sense that since attempts to deal with understanding the most absolute reality possible and tries to be impartial to any particular point of view. (Let's not get into the politics within science itself, I know it exists, but let's stick with idealism for a moment while I make my point.) In politics and religion, there is a propensity to believe "if you're not with us, you are against us" sort of ideas and so when data that is unfavorable to their position emerges, they tend to respond to it as if it were an enemy rather than a new facet of reality. (Fighting an enemy is one thing. Fighting reality is another!)

All science is to be doubted and disputed. This is part of how things work. However, lay people see a doubting of science as a problem of trust or faith because they know of no other context in which to process falsified or incorrect scientific data. While it was a tremendous disservice to the whole scientific community to have "climategate" surface, it is not as big of a problem within the community as it is outside of the community.

It would be really nice if people were able to acquire the simple understanding of what science is and is not and how it should be treated. The public knows that the weatherman is not always accurate but must always be depended upon nevertheless. The public knows that the weatherman does not control the weather and only reports his observations and renders predictions based on those observations. The public, in general understands and appreciates this correctly and fully. What the public needs to do, then, is expand this understanding to ALL of science and not just meteorology.

Rupert Murdoch Strikes Again (0, Troll)

Strangely Familiar (1071648) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389034)

What hit scientists is Rupert Murdoch's media machine, spewing out more anti-science garbage. Again, he has created the "news" by making such a big deal about this on Fox, then he has the WSJ comment about how important this "news" is. What hit scientists is willful ignorance, taken at face value by a public who forgets that the owner of these "news" organizations started out in the US running a supermarket tabloid, the "Star". He learned a lot about the public running that rag. It shows in his influence on the WSJ.

That much different? (3, Insightful)

ndogg (158021) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389038)

When there are people that espouse creationism, and that vaccines cause autism, it's obvious a lot of lay people didn't respect science before. How different can it be now?

Somewhere in hell, Jenny McCarthy, and William Dembski are going at it like rabbits. Their offspring will be the ultimate creature of evil.

Lack of transparency leads to doubt (1)

gorfie (700458) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389044)

I think it's the end of being able to promote scientific conclusions without allowing others to review/criticize the methods/data used to produce those conclusions. This is not a bad thing as society should never blindly trust someone just because they have attained a certain status. This is the way most good development teams work with peer reviews and such, why shouldn't the world work in the same way.

Only if Politicians Can't Use It! (1)

wdhowellsr (530924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389078)

As long as the research and resulting published papers have no political value to politicians, the scientific community is very good at policing themselves. One only has to look at Cold Fusion, Physics and pretty much anything having to do with Mathematics.

Case in point is Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. Almost immediately after the presentation of his proof, it was found that it had a major error that doomed the proof. But he immediately went back to work and finally presented a solid proof of the theorem.

Why didn't the UN and World Politicians push one side or the other? Because they have no fr$@#ng idea what it means and it was of no political value.

"The ability to tell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it did not happen." Sir Winston Churchill on the traits of a good politician.

Science will do just fine... (2, Insightful)

openfrog (897716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389084)

The Wall Street Journal is part of Rupert Murdoch media empire. That's a first point to note.

Secondly, with a title like 'Climategate: Science Is Dying", one can surmise that the object of this article is not an objective reflection over the topic, but just to lay a bit more confusion at the opening of the Copenhagen summit.

And if there is any analogy with Watergate, it is that both stories are about spies breaking in places.

It is true that science is under attack, like it has been in the past when scientists discoveries unsettled vested interests. We are more awed by science for the way it won over organized ignorance, not less.

buzz, buzz, buzzwords (1)

jbarr (2233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389088)

The thing that really bugs me about all this is that I think we can all pretty much agree that humans have, do, and will affect the climate at least in some way. The problem is that politicians, media, researchers, and just about everyone else, for any of a number of reasons, have to come up with buzzwords to somehow differentiate themselves from the pack. In doing so, they sometimes choose the wrong words.

Take, for example, "global warming". It's kind hard for the lay person to accept "global warming" when we are having record cold spells. Sure, there may be scientific links between warming and regional cooling cycles, but to the lay person, it's about perception. Consider that back in the 70's, the buzz was "global cooling", yet we have experienced record regional heat waves.

This whole issue would probably not even be an issue if it had been simply called "global climate change" or "global climate change management".

The problem is journalists, not scientists (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389136)

The amazing thing is that journalists, few of whom have any technical or scientific qualifications, really do work the way they think scientists work. Based on very shallow knowledge, they make wild conjectures from little bits of information, and will prefer an exciting lie over a boring truth. My belief is that in reporting on science, they are assuming that scientists are just like them, so a climatologist is someone who takes a polar bear out to lunch and then writes a story about global warming.

The East Anglia case should sound warning bells for what Murdoch and co have done to journalism - because it is not only science they lie about and misrepresent but politics, law, and religion. In their effort to get exciting stories, journalists are devaluing almost everything.

The trend is not new. I can't remember the author, but this is a well known verse:

You cannot hope to bribe or twist
Thank God, the British Journalist
But seeing what the chap will do
Unbribed, there's not much reason to.

The scientific risk model (1)

rwv (1636355) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389142)

The EPA admitted "varying degrees of uncertainty across many of these scientific issues."

Scientific Community: There is a difficult-to-calculate chance that the Earth is undergoing warming caused by the actions of humans and that this will do irreparable damage to the planet.

The mathematical reaction is to (a) assess the "cost" of the potential damage (i.e. the risk) and (b) the likelihood of the occurrence actually happening. This is basic stuff. Wikipedia does a better job explaining it [wikipedia.org] than I could. But suffice it to say, when the risk is "the planet" there is a very good reason to follow what TFA is calling "a precautionary approach" even when the likelihood of science being correct is quite low.

Acknowledge fuzziness (1)

AkiraRoberts (1097025) | more than 4 years ago | (#30389158)

The thing that's happening here is that what's becoming more obvious to the general public is the sort of fuzziness of scientific truth. From the scientific perspective, this isn't exactly a huge revelation. You're always sort of struggling towards this "Truth" which is always going to be unreachable and the process of struggling is messy and politicized. Big deal. Happens in physics just as much as in climatology, just that the latter involves way more money and touches directly on areas of public policy.

But the problem is that the public still has this illusion, on some level or another, of what science is, reifying it as this pure pursuit of a knowledge that is, in the end, both perfectly attainable and absolute. When you acknowledge the fuzziness, they see that as an acknowledgement that the whole lot is fallible and sort of useless. It's the whole multiple definition of "theory" thing all over again. The public is a lot less comfortable with doubt, messy processes and fuzzy goals than are scientists.
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