Wednesday, 2 March 2011

'Settled Science' Is An Oxymoron

"I don’t want to be misunderstood on this. IF we are destroying the planet with our fossil fuel burning, then something SHOULD be done about it. But the climate science community has allowed itself to be used on this issue, and as a result, politicians, activists, and the media have successfully portrayed the biased science as settled. They apparently do not realize that ‘settled science’ is an oxymoron."
I'm not a 'science person', I'm a 'humanities person', just in case you couldn't tell from the blog(!). But when I did compulsorily study science in secondary school, I had the benefit of a teacher who had been well-educated in one of the better English universities. The fact that he quite often used to write "Rubbish!" in red pen in the margins of my assignments didn't stop me from learning a thing or two about proper scientific methodology from him. One of those things is pretty much what is said above, that science is never 'settled', it is always in transition, and oftimes scientific paradigms that one day seem impregnable are the next day discarded as the weight of evidence against them finally reaches an irreversible "tipping point" [cf. Thomas Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions].

And so it is that the more vociferously the advocates of anthropogenic climate change have claimed that "the science is settled", the more doubtful I have become about their claims, because that is one of the few things I know for sure about science - there are very few things in it that are actually "settled". Anyway, even if you're a convinced anthropogenic climate change believer, check out the interesting piece from which the above quote is taken by clicking on the post title; it's by a bona fide climate scientist, by the way. As for me, I'll continue being sceptical, not because I take a perverse delight in being a contrarian, but because that's another thing my science teacher taught me - scientific knowledge advances through methodological scepticism. Unlike religion, in which true knowledge comes through revelation, in science everything is open to question...or ought to be.


John said...

Hi, I am from Melbourne. I was once a nominal Lutheran - 45 years ago in Adelaide at Trinity Lutheran church Daw Park.

Plus the author of these references was once a Lutheran too. Both as an ecstatic acolyte at his local parish church, and as an ecstatic prize-winning student at the Philadelphia Seminary - he got distinctions in all subjects. His dreadfully sane buttoned down professors were horrified when he told them about the intense continuous Mystical process that he was involved in at the time.

Altogether the author points out (in this essay, book and elsewhere) that human activity is THE principal cause of both global climate change, and global warming too.

Plus related references.

On the non-humans altogether

On the limitations of conventional religiosity. Chapter 1 titled The Purification of Doubt.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Hi John,

Please see my response to your comment on 'On Remaining Where God Has Placed You', the blog post below this one.