My response to Neil deGrasse Tyson about denial of science.
Guest essay by Donna Hedley
I love Neil deGrasse Tyson. He has done so much to make science interesting and understandable. He is wise and humble. His love for science is infectious. However, I think he is wrong when he talks about the denial of science, especially when it is about climate change.
I agree with him when he says we need to become scientifically literate and that is something I have endeavoured to do over the last few years. I have come to be better understanding of what science is, and how it works. I am not a scientist, but I do have a brain and believe I have come to some intelligent conclusions. Not only that, I am open minded enough to listen to alternative ideas. I want to know the truth, even if it means that someday, someone can prove the CO2 is a problem. But as of today, I am not convinced.
I started this journey because I wanted to prove to someone that Global Warming was real. Yes, there was a time that I believed in it.
After all, the scientists were saying so, and who was I to disagree? What I found out was there are many knowledgeable people who questioned the hypotheses. I also found out that in the science world, this is what is supposed to happen. People are not supposed to be put down because they had different ideas. If their ideas were unsound, science will figure it out in the end, if given the chance to do so.
I don’t claim to know or understand everything, but what I learned was enough to make me question the status quo on the subject Anthropological Catastrophic Climate Change (ACCC). I also learned that questioning is good. If you don’t ask questions, you will not learn anything thing.
Neil talks about people denying science. I would like him to explain to me, just who is denying science and what they are denying about science. From my studies, they don’t deny that the climate is changing, that it is a bit warmer then is was 100 years ago, or that mankind has had something to do with it. They just question by how much and if it is a real problem, and what percent of it is our fault. This is a question that even Bill Nye could not answer.
What about real denial, like the denial of medieval warm period, which happened approximately between 1000 to 1250 when temperatures were higher then today, and people prospered because of longer growing seasons, and Vikings lived on Greenland (which they can’t today because it just too cold)? What about the denial of the little ice age that lasted from about 1300 to 1870, when plagues and famine were rampant, and people died by the millions? Could it be that the warming we have been experiencing over the last 100 years might have been the planet still coming out of the ice age? Science is all about considering all angles of a topic, all the possibilities.
Neil talks about how someone makes a premise or hypothesis and then others look at it, and do experiments to confirm validity. Scientists are supposed to do their utmost to disprove a theory. If it can’t be disproven, then it should be considered as possibility true. But even when that happens, new evidence can materialize that could change the picture yet again. That is why science is never settled.
How can one do real world experiments when it needs to be done on the real world — that is, the entire planet. Consider how big the planet is. How will it ever to fit in a lab? And while CO2 has been proven to cause some warming, what experiment can prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when you factor in all of the variables involved in influencing the climate, such as clouds, the sun, wind, and the ocean — to name only a few — that CO2 is the main reason for the warming? How can we be sure that we even know of all the variables that affect the climate? Can we be sure that there are no other variables involved that we are not even aware of yet? You know, the stuff that we don’t know that we don’t know. All I suggest is that there are too many variables, to many unanswered questions to say that we know enough about why the world is warming and what it really means, and therefore cannot be pinned totally on CO2 as the starting point. If it cannot be proven, then any of the additional arguments are irrelevant.
So how can we trust the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who’s sole purpose is to prove that CO2 is the only cause of ACCC and does not even consider looking at other possible causes? Why does the IPCC not even consider the 100s of papers – peer reviewed and published in excellent journals — which do not support ACCC? Is it because these papers might contradict their premise and purpose which is to prove that CO2 is the cause?
Since whole world experiments are somewhat impossible, scientists rely on models that give projections. But if they cannot fully understand all of the possible factors that effect climate, how can we rely on models. They give some ideas of what might happen, but they can’t really tell what will happen for sure. They are only guesses, possibilities, not guarantees. For example, over the past 30 years, many of the climate models predicted that snow would be a thing of the past by now. Well, here in Ottawa, we had snow this winter, and lots of it. It has been a long cold winter. This neither proves or disproves ACCC, but points to the fact that the models are not reliable.
There are many scientists that do not support the status quo on ACCC. They do research which presents alternative views. They get their papers reviewed and published. The problem is, their voices and views are just not heard, or, if we do hear about them, they are presented as villains and funded by big oil, which is usually not the case. They are accused of denying science. Yet, they are doing exactly what Neil says scientists should do. Why are their efforts any less relevant just because they don’t go along with the status quo?
Doesn’t that sound a little Orwellian, the idea that people with a different point of view are presented as somehow – evil? Take for instance the story of Dr. Judith Curry. While Neil is an intelligent and established scientist in his own right, he is not an actual climate scientist, like Dr. Curry. She has impeccable credentials, including 186 published journal articles and two books. She went along with the status quo on ACCC, believing it to be real and trusting in what she was being told about it. Until she started to really look at the details which made her change her mind.
Bam, she is now an oil funded climate denier. Funny how one minute she has no connections with big oil, and the next minute she is in their pay. I wonder how that happens? How ridiculous, and scary – and easy it is to be trashed for not going with the status quo. Here is what she had to say about why she changed her mind when she spoke at a recent senate hearing.
“Prior to 2010, I felt that supporting the IPCC consensus on human-caused climate change was the responsible thing to do. That all changed for me in November 2009, following the leaked Climategate emails, that illustrated the sausage making and even bullying that went into building the consensus.I came to the growing realization that I had fallen into the trap of groupthink in supporting the IPCC consensus. I began making an independent assessment of topics in climate science that had the most relevance to policy. I concluded that the high confidence of the IPCC’s conclusions was not justified, and that there were substantial uncertainties in our understanding of how the climate system works. I realized that the premature consensus on human-caused climate change was harming scientific progress because of the questions that don’t get asked and the investigations that aren’t made. We therefore lack the kinds of information to more broadly understand climate variability and societal vulnerabilities.As a result of my analyses that challenge the IPCC consensus, I have been publicly called a serial climate disinformer, anti-science, and a denier by a prominent climate scientist. I’ve been publicly called a denier by a U.S. Senator. My motives have been questioned by a U.S. Congressman in a letter sent to the President of Georgia Tech.”
She is a scientist with distinction and integrity. But when she looked at the evidence and decided that things were not what they seemed, she instantly became a villain. How can this behaviour be justified in the name of science?
When the models of the past 30 years don’t work, when the best they can come up with to prove CO2 causes catastrophic global warming is using terms like “likely”, when top scientist, who exemplifies distinction and integrity, is accused of being funded by big oil when they are not, when there are many scientists have peer reviewed papers that have alternative findings, you kind of have to pause and consider, maybe the “deniers” have a point.
You don’t have to agree with me – I won’t vilify you if you don’t. My purpose is not necessarily to change your mind, but to present some reasons why you might at least be willing to consider that if someone like Judith Curry could change her mind because she realized that she was not being told the whole truth, maybe you might consider it as well. And maybe, Neil deGrasse Tyson, as awesome as he is, is mistaken.