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September 15, 1999

Environmentalist "Science"

Getting it Upside Down

The way science has always worked is by forming hypotheses that attempt to explain observations, then devising experiments to test the hypotheses. The observations come first, which is another way of saying that the belief system follows from the facts. It's a good idea to be sure that there's something to be explained before running around expending a lot of time, energy, and inventiveness trying to explain it. Unless, of course, the object isn't to explain, as best one can, a set of facts, but to promote an ideology. When the facts--or what is accepted as fact--follow from the belief system, then what's going on isn't science.

Following a posting of mine a while ago about the Ozone Scare, several people sent me various calculations and chemical equations of reactions that may or may not be going on in the upper atmosphere as proof that the depletion is real. But a purely theoretical construction inspired by little more than a fervently held belief of what ought to be happening doesn't make it so´┐Żeven if sanctified by being incorporated into a computer model (Garbage In, Gospel Out). No increase of ultraviolet intensity at the surface of the Earth has been measured. Hence, at the end of it all, there is nothing observed that requires explaining. It follows that all the things like blind sheep, dying frogs, peculiarities with amoebas, that the media have been getting hysterical about in the past few years and attributing to such an increase are irrelevant.

The same goes for Global Warming. Nobody has shown that any anomalous increase in world temperature is actually occurring. It all happened in computers. Selecting data from places that happens to have had above-average summers, below-average rainfall, larger-than-average icebergs, and the like, means nothing if there's nothing that requires explaining.

In a world as complex and variable as ours, facts can always be found that will fit virtually any belief system. Maybe, ironically, the cure for the apparent tendency of today's science rigidifying into competing religions might turn out to be what real religion has been advocating all along: the ability to master one's passions and be able, honestly, not to care what the answers will be.

 
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