Friday, January 8, 2010

Humility and Integrity in Science Matters

Every once in a while, I read a good essay that distills a contentious topic to a few salient points.

"In the battle for public opinion, global warming advocates have until now had the singular advantage of claiming that the bulk of respectable scientific opinion was on their side. If at least some of that scientific opinion is discovered to be not so respectable as all that, then it is not only their specific case that is harmed: it is science itself."

"It is pleasing to lecture global warming advocates, as many have, that “science is never settled,” but it is not quite true. That the earth is round may once have been subject to dispute, but it would be ridiculous to suggest the same today. The issue is not whether scientific questions can ever be settled in principle, but whether the particular thesis of man-made global warming has reached that stage".

"How to distinguish, then, between genuine authority and mere received wisdom? Conversely, how do we tell crankish imperviousness to evidence from legitimate skepticism?"

"Reasonable people can differ, in other words, but so can unreasonable people. Between “the science is settled” and “global warming is a hoax,” the experts and the public must grope their way to a common understanding." Andrew Coyne, 2010

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