Of Science and Opinion
I have a passion for science. I grew up within easy walking distance of the Johnson Space Center near, (now inside), Houston, Texas. Literally down the road, over the railroad tracks and across a cow pasture and I was at the back gate. I would have been an astronomer had I had better math grades. As it is, I went into medical research.
It has been with increasing horror therefore, that I have watched public officials and people with ideologically driven agendas, aided and abetted by the traditional media begin to treat science and the results derived from science as malleable and subjective as opinion. These same folks have elevated opinion to a level that was once reserved for cold, hard facts. They have become to a large extent, interchangeable. Hardly a month goes by that The New York Times or the Washington Post doesn’t print a science denying screed by one of it’s regular columnists, making claims entirely devoid of science or reaching conclusions about data based on nothing but ideological bent. This is especially true about Anthropogenic Climate Change. For the past decade or so, right wing talkers and writers have been granted increasing license to come along and out and out lie to a credulous readership so let’s set some things straight.
Science is the state of knowing as opposed to thye state of misunderstanding or believing. An opinion is an appraisal formed in one’s own mind. Science must be predictable, reproducible and methodical. Without the scientific method, it ceases to be science and becomes junk. The injection of money, the collision of egos, the disappointment of ambitions can all lead to science becoming corrupted and those results must be discarded. That isn’t to say that one researcher’s misbehavior will or should discredit the entire field but for some reason in our society, industry funded shills are granted more credibility than entire fields in which one or a few scientists have been found to have abused their data. In fact, all such tainted results must be treated exactly the same and discarded dispassionately and without prejudice. They aren’t science.
One of the more recent fields to have been thus conflated and confused with opinion is anthropogenic climate change. There are some facts that must be acknowledged. Carbon Dioxide and Methane trap the radiant heat of the sun in the atmosphere. That is a fact. Despite the Bush administration’s attempt at "re-defining" the gas as not a greenhouse gas, you cannot define away it’s properties. The levels of CO2 and CH4, (methane), in the atmosphere are increasing in direct ratio to the burning of fossil fuel and the increasing population of livestock. When it is charted, the correlation can’t be disputed, no matter how much one wants to be in denial of the problem. This is science, not opinion.
A popular weapon that the right wing and the deniers have employed is the old "theory vs fact" meme. Theory is an analysis of observable facts and their relationship with one another. This has been extremely popular with the so called Young Earth Creationists who believe that the Earth was created as is 6,000 years ago and all life upon it was created in it’s present form. They have pushed until too many people place this belief on a par with the accepted history of the planet and life on it. This is not a theory by definition, it is a dogma , which is defined as something that is held as an established opinion. Evolution is a theory, based on observable data. It is predictable, testable and reproducible. The science of biology is based and grounded in Darwinian evolution. Many of the pharmaceuticals you take wouldn’t work if evolution was on the same ground as creationism. gene therapy wouldn’t be possible and trepanning might still be a common practice.
Still not convinced? Then let’s take gravity. Gravity is a THEORY, just like evolution and anthropogenic climate change. And like the former, gravity cannot be entirely explained. There are gaps in our understanding of gravity. One huge one is that despite the phenomenon’s properties on the macro scale being extremely well defined through literally CENTURIES of careful observation, we still don’t know WHAT gravity is. Is it a particle? A wave? A combination of the two? It seems like most people lean toward the particle hypothesis because that would better explain the other problem with gravity: the fact that it breaks down at the quantum level. On an ultra micro scale, the rules of gravity don’t apply. Objects that we KNOW have mass behave strangely down in that universe. Yet gravity undeniably exists and despite the problems and gaps in the theory, we can manipulate gravity with a high degree of accuracy. This has been demonstrated over and over again with the Pioneer, Voyager, Galileo and Cassini missions, none of which would have arrived at their destinations without a really good understanding of gravity. There was a Mythbusters episode in which they tried to fire a bullet to light a match. It took them forever to light that match and it was only luck that managed to get the bullet close enough to light it. Now imagine that the gun was fired from New York State and the match was in Australia, that gives you an idea of what the New Horizons probe is attempting to do. But gravity is, by definition, a "theory" despite our ability to manipulate it and the undeniable evidence that it exists as described, in the same way that evolution is a "theory" and in the same way that anthropogenic climate change is a "theory". The next time you find yourself tempted to think that the Earth is too big and the atmosphere too vast for humans to affect it, keep in mind that the Challenger Deep could hold Mount Everest and it would still be covered by over a mile of water, yet, if you take a large globe of the Earth, the deepest part of the ocean is less than the thickness of the blue paint representing it!
Gravity is REAL! Evolution is FACT! Anthropogenic Climate Change is HAPPENING! All despite your OPINION of Al Gore.