>> Sunday, December 13, 2009
*Steps on Soapbox*
Despite my engineering background and job description, I often think of myself as a scientist. I take science very seriously and I have a great deal of physics backgroun - I like to understand why something works rather than being happy that it does.
I take science very seriously. I give a great deal of credence to the scientific process and fully support the requirements for peer review and consensus building that go forward with science. I understand the language used by scientists that allow for uncertainty and theories, that acknowledge limitations and the knowledge we don't have, the processes we don't fully understand, the unknowns for situations we have no way of predicting reliably. I understand what all this means when its applied to science.
This understanding means that I can understand that some children can still catch a disease they've been vaccinated against or that someone can react poorly to penicillin no matter how effective it is. And I can understand all this without being a doctor or assuming all doctors are quacks only out to suit themselves.
I understand that there are some animals today who's evolutional story is hard to fathom or seems counterintuitive (like pandas or platypi) without assuming the natural adaptation that we've seen in action does not exist or that the vast preponderance of data that demonstrates evolution has been working to form our living world for eons is false. I don't discount dinosaur bones or make up ridiculous theories to allow for a world only a few thousand years old. I'm not a biologist, and I am a scientist, but I'm not so conceited that I feel I have to doublecheck the wealth of data or the professional scientists who have been fact-checked and peer-reviewed by similar experts.
So, why is it that the same folks who think the creationists, moon hoaxers, and anti-vaccers are stupid and/or whack-jobs who should not be sullying the gene pool have no problem sitting on the side as the peer-reviewed, consensus-built scientific positions, built on a wealth of data and years of hard work by the climate scientists of this world and second-guessing their science, honesty and position?
I'm not a climate scientist, but I've taken the trouble to read the actual peer-reviewed articles and find out the wealth of information that's available to support concerns and growing alarm on the way we may be changing our climate. I've seen the real changes already there (long before even the most pessimistic predictions a few decades back). Why is that? What makes a doctor or a biologist or a physicist or even a meteorologist or an engineer or, heaven help me, lawyers think they are qualified to understand and judge the science without the same background?
Look in peer-reviewed journals and the story is all the same. We're not sure what will happen or how fast. Here are some possibilities. But, the basis for the article is always the same. We have changed the world with our emissions and we're going to keep changing it unless we do something, and soon. You know how many peer-reviewed articles have been published the last ten years with evidence that says the opposite? If you guessed "not many if not none," you'd be about right.
Yet, for some reason, the same scientists who bemoan the fact that the general public gives as much credence to the general media as they do scientific venues seem to have no problems accepting the unsubstantiated (and frequently debunked) notions on blogs and mainstream media when the story is the climate change.
I've got to say, I just don't get that. Either the scientific process works or it doesn't. Either we can trust the mainstream media gets stuff right for science (and should give it the same credence as peer-reviewed articles) or we shouldn't, no matter what the science described is. Bad enough laymen don't get it; it seems unforgivable when scientists (who should know better).
And, if you're a scientist frustrated by the way the public has misstated and misused your science, give that some thought before you jump on the "there's equal science on both sides of the global climate change question" may I suggest you do some research. (In other words, if you're quoting Al Gore as a scientist, you have not done your homework).
That's all I'm saying.
*Steps off soapbox*