Monday, January 14, 2013

The Belief in Science...

For over two years I’ve been studying the pros and cons of global warming, cooling and in general the climate changes and specifically the anthropogenic effects on the earth.  Over the past two weeks I’ve committed to seek out evidence in support of those man made antecedents that will effect and change the global weather patterns to such an extent as to create serious problems to the ultimate existence of man.

The doctrinal papers are extensive, the opinions even more so.  Both sides have substantiated proof with scientific data to support their claims.  There is an obvious advantage to those who sustain the belief in anthropogenic causes.  The numbers of claims or scientific papers does not necessarily generate a level of sustainable proof; nor does the limited number of sources from the opposing side guarantee vulnerability.   Even with a preponderance of evidence generally accepted the evidence from both sides needs to be confirmed and scrutinized as to the veracity of the data and the methods used prior to the initializing of any substantial conclusion. 

When accepting this overwhelming task my first observation was not in the science but in the belief of those who follow either side.  Those in favor of promoting the cause of man’s serious involvement in altering our planet believe (I use the word believe because of the numbers of followers who espouse acceptance without sufficient understanding of the basic components required to move beyond a simple rudimentary hope)  that man’s misuse of fossil fuels, aerosols and the increased production of CO2 and its effects on establishing an overactive greenhouse scenario causes the earth to warm and also causing extreme weather conditions.   They do have science to back their claim.  They have extensive studies, renowned names of high repute to bolster that belief. 

The same is true on the other side as well with most falling for the belief scenario over substantive data.  They have their studies, reputable scientist (32,000 signed a pact of support that they do not necessarily agree with the current consensus) and very conclusive findings.  The issue is not primarily with those informed but with many who are not and who act as if informed, they espouse their beliefs and promote their dogmatic views without virtue of self-awareness.  These pseudo prophetic narrators run their mouths, repeating facts not understood and retorting with practiced verbiage without virtue of any self-discovery or personal inquiry, satisfied with the idea that they know enough to argue their belief never concerned with the reality of having to know.

The first issue of belief creates a serious dilemma.  When a person believes, truly believes, the nature of science is immaterial to the conscience outcome of that belief.  Both sides have fallen prey to this human frailty, espousing feelings through an emotional connection that defies the logic that is ultimately required in order to seek the truth, learn the truth and accept that truth.  It is very important for both sides to understand the difficulty of that truth, especially when it entails perhaps the most complex of human endeavors since the beginning of time.  The complexity of this issue can be illustrated simply by taking a pillow full of feathers to the top of a windswept mountain.  Open the pillow and let the feathers go.  Now with any means possible try to predict the outcome of each feather, where will it land, what will it come in contact with, what will the effects be and now try to predict these same questions into the future for 100, 200 or even 1000 years.  

The complexity of our weather system, our planetary gasses, and the effects of the sun and ocean warmth or cooling the changes in cloud cover and rain fall and how they interact with each other is one billion times more profound than the simple feathers lost in the wind.  Scientist have had some success in creating models that duplicate past events on the premise that hindsight is much easier than future predictions but the problems with conveying past modeling to future outcomes forces scientist to upload preset parameters, parameters that by virtue of their limited scope provide only a limited view of one possible scenario from a grand scheme of an almost unlimited scope of possibilities.  
Is seeking the truth through a belief wrong or ineffective?  Not necessarily but often a belief will alter the neurons of one’s mind to such an extent as to make rational thought very difficult.  Definition:  Rationality is belief based on reason or evidence. Faith is belief in inspiration, revelation, or authority.  The word faith generally refers to a belief that is held with lack of, in spite of or against reason and evidence. (Wikipedia)  Is one process more correct than the other?  Not necessarily, it depends on your level of faith in relation to your desire to believe in reason or evidence or through faith and inspiration.  Both have volumes of evidence to show veracity and reliability.

To the devoted Christian, neither facts nor rational reasoning can alter the mindset to dissuade from that fundamental belief.  The same is true in a variety of held beliefs, once a belief is established and cauterized that belief becomes a conscious reality, right or wrong that reality is established.
It’s these “realities “that must be understood in order to assemble the tidbits of true science associated with both sides of this contentious issue.  There is truth to be found but particular beliefs cannot be applied in forming cogent hypotheses or in drawing logical conclusions based on specific, non-altered scientific data.  

The second issue of belief is in the area of science and the acceptance of science facts not necessarily vetted in relation to the scientific process, accepting findings that would not be repeatable or drawing conclusions from previously accepted misrepresentations.  Both sides are guilty of these horrendous shortcuts in order to garner support and political favors.  There is a huge disparity of funding between the two camps with Pro funding dollars nearing the 50,000,000,000 mark while those against have raised an estimated 65, 000,000, that’s .13% of the total dollars in favor and in support of Man Made Global Warming.  

These two numbers, divergent as they are does not proclaim nor give credence to the legitimacy of one or the other, all it shows is the level of support for one over the other.  It does however give some credence to the idea of a consensus:  Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study. Consensus implies general agreement, though not necessarily unanimity. Scientific consensus is not by itself a scientific argument, and it is not part of the scientific method. Nevertheless, consensus may be based on both scientific arguments and the scientific method.(Wikipedia, Webster’s…) 

The Groupthink project was extensively studied by Yale psychologist Irving L. Janis and described in his 1982 book Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes.  It postulates over the ever increasing phenomenon of how the best and brightest screw up, creating monumental mistakes that when reviewed caused those not involved to scratch their heads in wonder at the sheer absurdity of those precious decisions.   There are three basic reasons why smart people continue to create or do stupid things:
1.    Overestimate of the group’s power and morality, including “an unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their actions.”
2.    Closed-mindedness, including a refusal to consider alternative explanations and stereotyped negative views of those who aren’t part of the group’s consensus. The group takes on a “win-lose fighting stance” toward alternative views.
   3.  Pressure toward uniformity, including “a shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view”; “direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes”; and “the emergence of self-appointed mind-guards … who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.”  Irvin L. Janis, Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982, 

Consensus in many cases does support the ideal in scientific cooperation.  In many instances however that level of cooperation has only promulgated a farce of scientific chicanery.
1.       Age of the Earth: The first example is the controversy surrounding the age of the earth. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the science of heat transfer was well established. One of the leading luminaries of physics, William Thompson (Lord Kelvin), concluded that the Earth could be no more than about 20-40 million years old
2.       belief that saccharin causes cancer,
3.       belief that dietary fiber prevents colon cancer, and
4.       Confidence that nuclear fusion is just around the corner.
5.       1970 consensus that the earth was entering a new Ice Age…

Consensus does not guarantee science fact.  I’m still working on the process of understanding the science and the raw data behind the claims….Stay tuned more to come….