There is an overwhelming amount of skepticism these days about science and scientific findings, especially on one side of the aisle. It’s a real shame, because while there are limitations to accumulated scientific knowledge in most fields, and while there are surely a few corrupt or misguided scientists out there, the scientific process is extremely rigorous, cautious, unassuming, and worth giving more respect.
The Scientific Process Is Strong
The scientific process involves a very careful examination of a topic, using very well-developed analysis methods and processes. It also involves an insane amount of critical review by peers and superiors. Bad work doesn’t slip through easily. Yet, most of society has very limited experience with this scientific process, and seems to have a hard time understanding the inherent caution, cross-checking, and critical oversight that goes into each scientific step forward.
As such, and due to what seems to be an increasing amount of conspiracy theorizing, scientific authorities seem to be experiencing a decreasing amount of influence on society (in particular, one large portion of society). One field in which this is painfully clear is the field of global warming and climate change. For some reason, many individuals think that they know more about the state of climate science (a science which has been developing for more than a century) than the most intelligent and accomplished career climate scientists on the planet.
Not only that, but they also think that they know more from reading a few blog posts on the topic, and know better how to evaluate it, than the overarching scientific bodies of the world. The US National Academy of Sciences, comparable overarching scientific bodies in nearly every other country in the world, and other overarching scientific bodies all over the world have independently evaluated the scientific consensus amongst climate scientists — that humans are warming the world to a considerable and catastrophic degree. Yet, large portions of the country are either completely unaware of this or ignore it.
What’s the Problem?
For one, I think most people just don’t have a grasp of the high qualities of the scientific process described above.
For two, there is a huge effort led by some corporations, industry associations, and ‘think tanks’ to sow doubt in the minds of the general public, to plant seeds of misconception in our heads, to water misunderstandings and myths that climate scientists overcame many years ago (or were never even plagued with).
On top of that, once normal people have been convinced of some of this propaganda, some of them take up the work of spreading it further. In such cases, it is done genuinely (as the people simply don’t know better). And selling something (i.e. an idea) is often much easier, or more effective, when you genuinely believe it.
I would say that the large majority of people spreading climate science myths and misconceptions these days are not doing it out of bad intentions — quite the opposite — but, unfortunately, that doesn’t make the result any less dangerous. As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And, in many ways, we are paving ourselves a road to hell on earth… as the scientists have been clearly warning us for decades now.
Let’s hope (and work) to turn around society’s misunderstanding and skepticism of a highly useful and needed scientific process, before we put our children on a road to “hell on earth” (increasing droughts, fires, floods, extreme storms, diseases, and conflict) that we don’t even want to think about.