If the weather is too hot, we can blame it on global warming.
If it is too cold, we can do the same.
If there are too many hurricanes, global warming is at fault.
If there are fewer than normal, global warming.
What (and how) are we supposed to think?
Anthony Watts, a meteoroligist, said, “There is significant evidence that would tend to falsify global warming.”
Watts’ post is in response to a letter signed by several geologists, who said “We concur with the vast consensus of the science community that recent global warming is very real.”
So what are we supposed to do in the face of such vehemently opposed viewpoints on potentially earth-changing topics? We have several choices.
First, one can always play the role of ostrich with one’s head in the sand.
“I don’t really concern myself with issues that I can’t do anything about.”
It’s a nice easy solution but a total cop-out that doesn’t help anybody.
Another strategy is simply to grab on to the consensus and hang on.
“If an overwhelming majority of scientists believes global warming to be occurring and that it is anthropogenic in nature, then it must be true. After all, they are the experts!”
Maybe so, but being an expert does not guarantee that you are right.
You could, of course, take the time to read the original research articles, books, blogs, etc. to gain a thorough knowledge of the subject and then form your opinion, which is probably the best way to come close to the truth on the subject.
Well, how much time do you have? Sounds like a good idea, but it sure does eat up the time. And you may not have enough background knowledge to understand what you are reading in the first place.
I once had the opportunity to speak with Alan Guth, an MIT physicist who is a major proponent of inflation (a concept in physics that suggests why the universe is the way it is).
I understand inflationary theory in its basic iteration but asked Guth, “How am I as a biologist supposed to determine the credibility of inflation theory when I don’t understand the mathematical and theoretical underpinnings of the argument?”
His answer? “I have no idea.” Hmmm . . . Yeah, that helps.
What is the best way to assess theories and ideas like global warming? Maybe we should humble ourselves and admit that we may never know the answer while we dwell on this planet.
For those topics that we take the time to be well informed about we can then form a reasoned opinion of what we think is true. But be careful. You could be wrong. But at least you have a reasoned argument.
A little humility and respect for others’ opinions can go a long way.
Bruce Evans, Ph.D., is professor of biology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column reflects the views of the writer only.