As a counter to the GOP’s inquisition of climate scientists, let us remember that in the last year or so, UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller re-examined all the temperature data from the NOAA, East Anglia Hadley Climate Research Unit, and the Goddard Institute of Space Science sources. Even though Muller started out as a skeptic of the temperature data, and he was funded by the Koch brothers and other oil company sources, he carefully checked and re-checked the research himself. When the GOP leaders called him to testify before the House Science and Technology Committee last spring, they were expecting him to discredit the temperature data showed real change. Instead, Muller shocked his GOP sponsors by demonstrating his scientific integrity and telling truth to power: the temperature increase was real, and the scientists who had demonstrated climate was changing were right.9
This is the essence of the scientific method at its best. There may be biases in our perceptions, and we may want to find data that fits our preconceptions about the world, but if science is done properly, we get a real answer, often one we did not expect. That’s the true test of when science is giving us a reality check: when it tells us something we do not want to hear, but is inescapable if one follows the scientific method and analyzes the data honestly.
Thomas Henry Huxley said it best over 150 years ago: “Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.”–Donald Prothero, Professor of Geology, Occidental College and Cal-Tech
This month’s edition of E-Skeptic has a great article by Dr. Prothero about the interseces of faith, politics and science, and based on his discussion I’m kind of convinced that we have a fascinating problem — when the three collide, bet against whichever has the greatest value and truth. In the article, Denialist Demagogues and the Threat to Science, Prothero makes the point repeatedly, that there are whores amongst us who will sell out as well as dupes and those unwilling to accept science and the scientific method. Rick Perry has famously commented that four semesters of biochemistry made a pilot out of him; thing is, even that “misunderestimates” his level of ignorance. It’s not that the man is stupid — he is willfully ignorant.
This seems to be par for the course for the right this cycle, and probably should be on the minds of most of us. When confronted by facts, theories, hyposthesis, evidence that they do not disagree, they proclaim along with the choirs of angels and saints that it’s a mystery and the Lord will provide. Since I know more than a few conservative atheists, that seems a bit disingenuous, so they proclaim a conspiracy which then, on examination, turns out to be a combination of right wing PR combined with whoreish behavior by a few and eye on the prize hypocrisy by others combined with a degree of malign, self-serving calculation. [Read more →]