Science is Supposed to Welcome Dissension, Not Discourage It

posted by Richard, Jul 24, 2018

 

I’ve loved science ever since I was a little kid.

And not just science fiction, though I’m sure, like many budding scientists, it provided the initial shove. No, for me, it was Mr. Wizard’s World. It was Bill Nye the Science Guy. It was Carl Sagan.

When Cosmos released on VHS sometime in the mid-90s, I bought the set, lost them in a move, and subsequently bought them again. I still remember sitting in class fascinated the day we learned about different classifications of clouds, which might as well have been characters from Roman mythology as far as I was concerned. Ah, lovely Cirrus, stealthy Stratus, mighty Cumulonimbus

Yep, clouds. That’s one nerdy kid, right there.

Even my tenth-grade biology teacher, with his droning, insectile voice and interminable blackboard notes, could not dissuade my love of science. In college, the day I found out I could do so, I promptly changed my major from Philosophy to History and Philosophy of Science. Suddenly I was writing papers about Einstein, time travel paradoxes, and wormholes, pretty convinced I had discovered just about the coolest subject ever. When I turned in my final paper on the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics, I was pretty certain I was setting the scientific world on its ear. (I wasn’t. But that’s a sad story for another day).

So, I find it a little more than disturbing lately, in medias both traditional and social, the concept of “science” being used as a bludgeon.

Science, we are told, is now the end of an argument, as in: “I’m right, because Science.”

This bothers me. A lot. Continue reading Science is Supposed to Welcome Dissension, Not Discourage It

The End of ISMs (Part 4): The Disastrous Effects of ISMs Upon Society

 

In the last installment, we talked about ways in which ideology, or camp-thinking, has disastrous effects on your ability to understand (and be understood by) others, and hence leads to breakdowns in communication and the perpetuation of divisions between people. We talked about how isms:

  • encourage you to surrender your thinking and perception of truth to leaders, experts, authority figures and gurus
  • arbitrarily divide like things (such as humans) into un-like things, by imposing our limited perspectives on them and fixing those differences in place with identity labels
  • invariably mean different things to different people, hence increase the likelihood of being misunderstood
  • invariably result in a breakdown of communication and the dead-end of name-calling
  • are enormous wastes of time, since most of it is spent defining and untangling our classifications for one another, and very little on actually communicating the content of our thoughts

 

I want to reiterate that what I mean by “ideologies” or “isms” is camp-thinking, i.e., Continue reading The End of ISMs (Part 4): The Disastrous Effects of ISMs Upon Society

2012: Is it the End of the World?

"Castle Romeo" atmospheric nuclear test - March 1954

Ah, hysteria. Omnipresent in any age. Doubly so in ours. Think of it: a couple of millennia ago, hysteria had to plod along from mouth to mouth. A traveling merchant, say, would have a conversation with a shepherd about trouble brewing in Rome. The shepherd, after thinking on the problem for a few days, mentioned it to his wife. She mulled it over for a few days, then mentioned it to another wife at the village marketplace. Someone overheard it at the market… and so on.

Now, hysteria reaches us over morning coffee.

But you and I are thoughtful people, so rather than just giving in blindly to hysteria let’s stop and think about things, shall we? After all, as we well know, December 21st, 2012 is not the first time the world has “ended”…

Continue reading 2012: Is it the End of the World?

What Do You Think of the Environmental Movement?

Well, in short, it’s a mess. There is no such thing as a cohesive “movement”. What we have is a grab-bag of politicians, entertainers, corporations, and bought-science combined with a public that refuses to think for itself and seems willing to spout the platitudes of anyone who uses pleasing (or inflammatory) rhetoric.

The crucial question is the science. Are humans contributing to warming? That seems undeniable. Is it catastrophic? Well, that remains an open question.

We do know there have been great epochs of warming and cooling associated with thermal activity on the sun, geothermal activity here on Earth, and oscillations in the oceans. We also know that a cooling period is far more threatening, since, historically, life has tended to flourish in warming periods.

It does no good to deny these facts any more than it does to deny human involvement in warming. Would runaway warming would be catastrophic? Of course. Try settling on the surface of Venus if you don’t believe me. But are we in runaway, catastrophic warming right now, or are we in normal oscillation (to be followed by a devastating cooling)?

I say the answer is still open. I’m open to reason. Convince me.

But when you’re doing it, look at all the facts, not just the ones that support your ideological ends. Ideology is a decision to be blind to that which does not agree with your world view. Partial blindness is no path to the truth.

Having said that, I believe there are some closed questions regarding environment. Every sane person, regardless of ideology, should be in favor eliminating waste and pollution. Not because of any supposed connection with a global catastrophe, but because these measures make good, logical sense. Anything we can do to cut down on the toxins we are ingesting or breathing,  reducing landfills, conserving green space, cleaning the oceans, or exploring less wasteful forms of energy only serves to make us a healthier, happier species and increases the quality of life for all the flora and fauna that we live with and depend upon.

Environmentalism is good when it focuses on these kinds of measurables, not when it cherry-picks its science to support ideological ends.

What do you think? What are your thoughts on the current state of environmentalism?