Notes on Blasphemy and Heresy

Two universities are investigating the work of top climate scientists to determine whether they have violated academic standards and undermined faith in science. . . . And a vigorous debate is under way among climate scientists on how to make their work more transparent and regain public confidence.  [The New York Times]

Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious scientific body in the United States, said that there was a danger that the distrust of climate science could mushroom into doubts about scientific inquiry more broadly.   [The New York Times]

“We have to do a better job of explaining that there is always more to learn, always uncertainties to be addressed,” said John P. Holdren, an environmental scientist and the White House science adviser. “But we also need to remind people that the occasions where a large consensus is overturned by a scientific heretic are very, very rare.”   [The New York Times]

Public trust in science as a whole has suffered from recent attacks on climate research, the head of the senior US scientific body admitted at the weekend. . . . “There is evidence that the corrosion in the public attitude to climate science has spread over to other areas of science,” said Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, citing public opinion surveys in the US and elsewhere.   [Financial Times]

Science is not based on faith. Science is based on evidence. We have evidence it works, vast amounts of it, billions of individual pieces that fit together into a tapestry of reality. That is the critical difference. Faith, as it is interpreted by most religions, is not evidence-based, and is generally held tightly even despite evidence against it. In many cases, faith is even reinforced when evidence is found contrary to it.   [Discover Magazine]

A judge has just ruled that green beliefs should be safeguarded under employment law designed to protect religious and philosophical beliefs in the workplace . . .  ruling that “a belief in man-made climate change . . . is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations”.   [The New Statesman]

What should we do with the 1% who dissent about global warming? By logic, we should embrace them, but currently “deniers” of global warming have become demonized, which is a sign that global warming has become slightly religious.   [Cool Tools]

With the debate now settled, what are we to do with those scientific heretics (deniers is a much too mild a term for these dangerous individuals) who continue in their error and refuse to accept the teachings of the UN’s ecumenical council of scientists. David Roberts has already called for climate change heretics to be put on trial, but he goes too far as he appears to want to punish people for heretical statements they made prior to the issuance of the latest UN writ. After all, as the earlier pronouncements from the UN’s ecumenical council were not as definitive as the current one and the debate not yet closed, these unfortunate souls must be given a chance to repent from their errors before they are punished.  [Samizdata]

There is no monolithic “science” — it is a profession whose participants have distinct and various personalities, ethics, motivations, desires, etc. . . . But from the perspective of regular people (non-experts, non-professionals) it is difficult to know where to put one’s trust — especially with all this competition and non-aligning motivations that crowd the laboratory (and the newsroom) of science. Meanwhile the language and ideas of the professionals have become so specialized (and will only become more so) that even those who wish to untangle the “truth” can become hopelessly lost without the guide of a PhD. In other words, the folks who believe in “science” may know no more about a given topic than folks who have blind faith in their religion — adding to this quandary, sometimes science gets things wrong.  [Truth is a Woman]

If the weather doesn’t fit, you must acquit. That is, quit whining about the public “losing faith in science.”


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