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Blinding Me With Science

Posted by Chad on December 1, 2005

(Right Off The Bat Disclaimer: This issue has been floating around for a couple years, and I’ve heard bits and pieces about it here and there, but I haven’t seen or heard anything about it in the media and I feel it’s some pretty serious stuff and definitely worth noting, even if it is old school.)

Growing up, you’re taught that science is a black and white. You want to find something out, you form a hypothesis, test and re-test it, come up with a theory, etc…. It’s a field based on proof. Something either is or isn’t and stays that way until proven otherwise.

That black and white certainty that science provided in the past has increasingly become various shades of grey. Policy makers, scientists, industries, and organizations can now team up to put out messages that suit their own interests. Research that is funded by a particular group will reflect what that group deems appropriate, and policy makers will in turn make rules according to whatever consensus is prevalent. More often than not, the research being carried out uses hypotheticals and unknowns, leaving the validity of the work in question. Media campaigns and scare tactics are then used to convince to public that a certain “crisis” is imminent.

Michael Crichton has been on this for awhile. His latest book, State Of Fear, centers around the idea of organizations hell-bent on proving global warming is a catastrophe able to unleash Hell on Earth. It’s also what got me started looking into this a little bit. He has given a couple speeches that go into detail about the issues this kind of half-assed science has brought up in the past as well as how it’s effecting us today (most notably with global warming).

This one was given at the California Institute of Technology back in January of ’03. This one, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works this past September. Both are fairly substantial reads, but well worth it. I cannot recommend them enough.

The problem we face does not lie in determining who’s right and who’s wrong on concepts like global warming. It’s in attaining concrete proof of what’s true and what’s false so that policy makers won’t potentially waste millions of dollars on something that has yet to be proven.

When you can do a simple Google search and find “facts” that are in direct opposition to each other, you gotta ask yourself how “factual” they really are.

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