Guest opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
Science historians say the Scientific Revolution began with Copernicus when he proposed the heliocentric system that the Earth orbits the Sun. I used to think it was not worth discussing because one in four Americans and one in three Russians think the opposite, namely the Ptolemaic view that it is an earth-centered, geocentric system. You can argue, as I have in the past, that it doesn’t matter for them as long as the Sun rises and sets every day. However, understanding this basic scientific information becomes critical in the global warming debate because the sun/earth relationship and changes are central to the Milankovitch Effect and its impact on climate change. Sadly, the problem of lack of understanding and knowledge is much wider and deeper, as those in the struggle to expose the false or limited science of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) know. Skeptics of the AGW claims made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are painfully aware of the unnecessary energy and environmental policies imposed at the cost of trillions and counting.
Copernicus bounced his ideas off trusted friends in a handwritten book of 1514 but did not authorize publication until two months before he died in 1543. As a canon of the Catholic church, he knew their law and the dangers in even questioning it. The only major difference between then and now was the punishment for speaking out. How far have we come in the intervening 475 years? In general terms, a long way scientifically, but a very short distance in societal terms.
Science advanced because, despite almost constant harassment from many groups in society, it was practiced by a few with skills and a determination to uncover the truth through facts and logic. For the most part, they deliberately tried to be apolitical. However, even within the science community prejudice and ignorance made the practice of science difficult and unrewarding. Michael Faraday, in my opinion, one of the great scientist’s in history, suffered persecution and shaming because; he was the son of a blacksmith; he did not go to university; and he belonged to the Sandemanians, a strict fundamental religious group. Regrettably, today two of these are still considered impediments by too many people.
Society did not advance as much because it considered the 15% of the population a fringe group. They were very slow to adapt and adopt ideas from those mad and dangerous scientists; an image promoted by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein among others. Those opposed to scientific advances exploit these fears and slow things even more; consider the term “Frankenfoods” used to block the benefits of longer storage by irradiation.
A major part of the problem is in the two areas that arguably have the greatest impact on society, politics, and the law. They are also the areas where the percentage of people with scientific skills and interest are the lowest. It is, perhaps, double jeopardy that lawyers are the largest professional group in politics.
My personal experiences, although not definitive, underscore the problems. I appeared before the Canadian Parliamentary Committee investigating the ozone issue. There was only one committee member with any science training, and he had a bachelor’s degree in biology. Two significant events occurred. The first involved another scientist presenting with me. He showed graphs of ozone levels and spoke about them showing the lowest levels recorded over Toronto. When it was my turn, I did what I hope I never have to do again. I threw out my presentation and began by asking the politicians if they realized that there were no readings over Toronto at the time claimed. I discovered that none of them knew that what they were shown was not real data, but computer model generations. I also realized that none of them knew or understood the scientific method and the claim that CFCs causing a hole-in-the ozone was an untested hypothesis. I explained that science advances by hypothesizing and then testing it and the assumption on which it is based.
To underscore the ignorance, one Liberal parliamentarian said, “Dr. Ball, Galileo would be ashamed of you.” I replied that it was beyond my wildest expectations to be mentioned in the same sentence as Galileo and clearly you do not understand the role of Galileo in the history of science. To my knowledge, there were no politicians with science degrees in my two appearances before the US Congress.
It is easy to say the politicians were easily fooled by the deliberate misuse of science, but that is not acceptable. It is their job to do their research, and they have the staff and resources. It was Marc Morano’s job for Senator Inhofe as he challenged the prevailing wisdom. The problem is most are too busy being politicians about issues that should not be political. Those who chose AGW science as a political issue knew they could mislead politicians ignorant of science and far too eager to be ‘green.’
Maurice Strong knew and also exploited another weakness of politicians, their almost total dependence on bureaucrats. He assured bureaucratic control of every national weather office across the world by making them members of the IPCC through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It is the original fake news story perpetuated by the ‘deep state.’
Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change is a good lead into the next problem facing science because she promotes the IPCC deception fed to her by the bureaucrat scientists at Environment Canada (EC). As a lawyer, she is in a group that openly admits they won’t arbitrate science disputes because they don’t know anything about science. Then displays this ignorance by publicly ridiculing those scientists practicing their role as skeptics. As a lawyer, Ms. McKenna should at least know there are two sides to every dispute. Scott Pruitt, a lawyer and head of EPA knows it because he wants a ‘red’ and ‘blue’ team to bring climate science out of politics and back to reality. McKenna would have more credibility if, like her predecessor Canadian Environment Minister Christine Stewart, she admitted it wasn’t about science. Stewart said,
“No matter if the science is all phony, there are collateral benefits…Climate change (provides) the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”
Stewart talks about justice and equality, but how do you achieve that when the science is wrong and the people most hurt by the policies it engendered are the poor?
The second experience involved my lawsuits. I knew through research that virtually everyone who goes to law school is an Arts student. My challenge was to find a lawyer who could understand the science and the scientific method. The law says it is not qualified to resolve science disputes, but why not after almost 500 years? The law adjusted to societal changes as bureaucracies grew in size and complexity. For example, the US passed the Administrative Procedure Act 72 years ago in 1946 as bureaucracies need guidelines and controls. Why, after 475 years doesn’t society pass a “Science Procedure Act? Such an act would prevent the filing of racketeering charges (RICO) against climatologists who perform their scientific role as skeptics. Instead, it would file them against those failing to follow the dictums of science who withhold data, misuse methods such as proving a hypothesis or use science for a political agenda.
The law claims it is not qualified to distinguish between, “your paper” and “my paper.” Despite that, there are countless examples of them making judgments on scientific issues. Some occurred because those exploiting science also exploited the law. For example, the EPA under Obama engineered and lost a lawsuit against it for failure to protect the people of the State of Massachusetts from CO2 as a harmful substance. It ended up before the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) as intended. Justice Scalia questioned why they were being asked to make a decision on science when they weren’t qualified. He then pointed out that the court made its judgment on Administrative Law which gave the power of eliminating harmful substances to the EPA. What SCOTUS overlooked was it was EPA who designated CO2 a harmful substance. Even minimal scientific knowledge would have told them it is not harmful and about the important role in creating and sustaining life on the planet.
Another important and immediately relevant legal ruling likely would not have occurred if the judge knew and understood science. Virginia Attorney General (AG) Ken Cuccinelli lost the suit against the University of Virginia and Michael Mann demanding the release of data and information for his ‘hockey stick’ creation. The AG argued that taxpayers paid for the research and the results were used to implement global, draconian, and unnecessary policies on energy and environment. People had a right to know the scientific validity of Mann’s claims. To my knowledge, Cuccinelli did not argue that a fundamental test in the practice of science is ‘reproducible results,” which can only occur if data and methods are disclosed. The judge, knowing this, would not have ruled that the data and methods were Mann’s intellectual property. It is a measure of how little people understand science and its methods that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s call for full disclosure is met with vigorous resistance, even allowing for the political situation.
For 25 years I taught a Science credit course for Arts students. It was part of a traditional liberal arts idea but with the normal bias because Science students had to take two Arts courses. What was even more annoying was that the university created courses that were not even marginally science to make it ‘easier’ for the Arts students.
I taught the course as a basic instruction in how the Earth works. The course was basic science and understanding for people who were all going to become citizens of the planet. They were all going to be confronted with issues and decisions involving science and the environment. The more informed they were, the higher the chances of sensible fact-based decisions, but also, the lower the chances of them being exploited by people who use lack of knowledge to manipulate and control. Although I did not teach a course in the history of science, I gave many guest lectures in the history department course on that subject and incorporated several lectures into the ‘Earth works’ course.
There are many things we can do as a society to change and improve the knowledge and understanding of the people. One is to take back control of the education system, which is now more than ever a place of indoctrination. This will be difficult because politicians face a dilemma of needing an educated workforce but knowing when you educate people they start asking questions. We then introduce compulsory courses in all schools, whether public or private, on the history of science. You begin by acknowledging the simplistic division in any society between the minority (15%?) of people who are ‘comfortable’ with science and the majority who are not (85%). You then create courses relevant to the needs of all as future citizens of Earth. These courses are not career paths, but simple preparation for the complexities and challenges of life. There should be a compulsory course at Elementary, Middle, and High School and another at all post graduate institutions. As philosopher and mathematician A.N. Whitehead said,
“A science which hesitates to forget its founders is lost.”
We must create a section of law for science that applies basic scientific rules to disputes and conflicts. It will include a code of scientific conduct, such as applying the rule on math tests, ‘show your work.’ It should also include rules on morality and ethics for research. Variations are already in place at most universities. This area will become a separate option, like Corporate or Constitutional law. It will require lawyers who have science degrees with courses specifically in scientific disputes before practicing.
The strength of societies and the effectiveness of progress is in the ability to learn from mistakes. The AGW deception is the biggest in history and occurred because a majority of people, especially in the critical areas of politics and the law, were uneducated in science and the scientific methods. Scott Pruitt is a good example of the type of lawyer we need. He learned much about climate science from association with fellow Oklahoman, Senator James Inhofe, the only true champion of climate truths in US politics who fought for balance against great odds. We can produce more like Pruitt and reduce exploitation and become better citizens and stewards of the earth.