Fair warning: this post will be a tad political. I don’t want to use this space often for such things, but after careful consideration this topic is relevant to my content and frankly has no business being political in the first place. I am talking about the acceptance of facts and science. Our current administration is hardly the first to have an adversarial relationship with the scientific method, nor is it exclusive to conservatives in general. It is nonetheless much more on the surface now, and so I chose to celebrate Earth Day by attending the March for Science and writing about it.
I will focus on climate change here, as it’s one of the most relevant, most publicized, and most important manifestations of the rejection of science. It is hardly the only case in which science is willfully rejected; it happens with evolution, gun control, abortion, human sexuality, fracking, and really any topic about which people have strongly held opinions and/or financial interests. I understand it and am not immune. We all tend to reject things that don’t support our existing belief structure. It’s not exactly science, but just this week there was an argument in my office about which direction a backslash goes. We looked it up, and I was one of those on the wrong side. Despite the unanimous agreement of the sources we consulted, it was hard for me to accept my wrongness. Isn’t that stupid? I did accept it, though, and I guess the point I’m making is that we should try to be aware of our biases toward what we already think. It’s this one, by the way: \.
I mentioned in the mission statement of this blog that I have no patience for climate denial, and I don’t. Climate change is real. It’s objectively proven, consensus has been established, and the models for its impacts have proven essentially accurate. I didn’t arrive at this conclusion without doubts. During college I was exposed to the opposing views and few dissenting publications, via news and Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, among other things. At that time I did have a strongly held belief that climate change was real and anthropogenic, but I forced myself to review and study the science that seemed to support the other side. As I did so, I came to find that those works were systematically refuted by better science. I say all of this not to take some sort of moral high ground but to establish that on this particular topic I have done my due diligence and I do not speak from ignorance.
If I had doubts of my own, why am I so aggressively opposed to climate denial now? Because doubt is an important part of the scientific method, and the evidence is more than strong enough to withstand that doubt. Because the “science” of dissension has become more fringe and earned those quotation marks. Because rejecting this particular science is not just wrongheaded and short-sighted, it is dangerous. If you don’t believe in evolution I will disagree with you, and I will argue, but ultimately your belief does no direct harm to others and so I can accept it. Deniers of human-caused climate change are doing tangible harm to me and to the world in which I live by way of their beliefs, and so this is a disagreement I cannot ignore.
I can’t quite wrap my brain around the arrogance of politicians and pundits that tells them their opinion on a scientific matter is more valid than that of the actual scientists who have dedicated their careers to studying it. Of course my opinion isn’t more valid than those scientists either, but the difference here is that I find myself in agreement with the climate scientists. There are surely subjects on which I hold opinions or beliefs in opposition to the scientists in that field. I am almost certainly wrong about virtually all of those things. I hope I am wise enough to accept that wrongness and adjust my worldview when and if I learn about the science that contradicts me.
I suppose I’ve spewed forth on this long enough now, so I’ll just end by saying Happy Earth Day!