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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Civil Discourse Under the Sun

Global Warming should be an issue within the scientific field of climatology. Instead it's become more like a doctrine of scientology. Global Warming has become science as religion as politics. As the scientific tools improve in climatology scientists and pundits have rushed to use the new toys before they've quite understood how they work and even whether they work. To show how smart they all are, they then rush to draw conclusions that safely support what everybody else already believes. Thomas Kune's landmark book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" shows that science progresses from paradigm to paradigm through a series of often traumatic pardigm shifts. I think we just saw one in the field of climatology when climatologists went from predicting an Ice Age to predicting a global heat wave. I think I'll wait for the shift to complete before I believe that global warming is a "scientific fact".

A lot of scientific facts have fallen by the wayside over the centuries. It was once a scientific fact that the space between the stars was filled with ether. Then it wasn't. Now some folks are not so sure that nothing is really nothing. The clearest evidence that a scientific belief is fixing to go down in a big dusty pile of rubble is that "Everybody knows it" and there are some serious scientists starting to question what everyone knows. I feel a shift coming on - either that or I'm just full of shift.

In the case of global warming, it's a case of science being co-opted by a political agenda that has created a virtual religion that to meet its ends has stopped cold any healthy scientific inquiry into alternative theories. Thomas Kune discussed the role of scientific heresy in pushing paradigm shifts in science. It's always a messy process to drive a paradigm shift like the one I believe is coming in the field of global climatology.

In Harry Nillson's rock opera, "The Point", the Rock Man says, "Ya see what ya wanna see and ya hear what ya' wanna hear, ya' dig?" Unfortunately, that's true in science where it should particularly not be true. Science has become a tool of self-proclaimed prophets like Al Gore. The apparent warming of our planet as a reuslt has become a political concern as well as a scientific issue. Global warming is a doctrine of the new politico-religion and to disagree with so-called "established fact" risks career damaging charges of heresy for scientists and for others in a surprisingly wide range of fields.

I really don't want to start another political row over whether mankind is "killing the planet". I just want to point out that in any field of human endeavor, it's always foolish to try and squelch voices of dissent in any field whether it's the study of climate or banjo picking. When you stop civil discourse in any field, the field stultifies and progress drags to a halt.

The use of phrases like "everybody knows" or "everybody agrees" as a discussion-ender is a sure sign that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. There's nothing more uncertain in this world than a proven scientific fact. Newton's 3 laws were a proven fact till Einstein began turning Sir Isaac on his head. An atom was the smallest particle of matter - scientific fact - until someone showed it could be split and then, someone did it!! The world was flat till someone circled it. That Earth was the center of the universe was a fact that nearly got Galileo killed when, in his day, science became about politics and religion.

I think we all ought to keep our minds a little more open, that's all. The thing that influences Earth's climate more than anything else at all is the big flaming nuclear explosion going on at the center of our solar system. At any moment, sunspots and big radioactive clouds are blown into space. Someday, a particularly nasty explosion could lick out of the sun's coronosphere, brush the planet and burn everything on the day side of Earth to a crisp.

As I write, the sun could have exploded 5 minutes ago and we would never know until we woke up at the gates of heaven wondering who was taking flash pictures in the middle of the day. I'm not arguing one way or another about global warming here. Don't care who or what caused it. I'm saying let the scientists work on it without anybody shouting anybody's ideas down. Someone could be wrong you know. It's happened before. I'm just saying.

Just one man's opinion..

Tom King

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