Consensus has no place in science - Journal of Omnifarious
Oct. 20th, 2008
06:26 pm - Consensus has no place in science
This is a really excellent essay on the politicization of science by Michael Chrichton. It is about all attempts at politicization, but it specifically addresses the hypothesis that human activity is responsible for the rise in average global temperature.
I am not a fan of Michael Chrichton. I have not read a single one of his books. But I read this essay and it was really well done.
I think he's right. There is so much in the way of politics surrounding the debate on whether or not global warming (which is definitely happening) is caused by humans or not that it's nearly impossible to tell the good research from the bad.
Consensus is often sighted by people on the 'pro' side of this debate. But, as Mr. Chrichton pointed out, consensus is about politics, not science. A hypothesis requires evidence, not consensus for its truth or falsehood.
My personal thoughts on the global warming hypothesis.
I think the link between atmospheric CO2 levels and global temperature has support from both historical record and from much more tricksy predictive climate models. But I also think that evidence is far from conclusive, and you can only rely on the climate models (which are of extremely limited usefulness) to determine a cause and effect relationship.
But I also think the potential economic cost of not trying to do something about atmospheric CO2 levels is extremely high. So I think we should be doing something about them, even if we aren't sure it's actually a problem. It's debatable whether or not it will be economically costly anyway since moving to renewable energy sources just makes good economic sense.
So, on one hand, the amount of waste if we scramble to do something about atmospheric CO2 levels and it turns out not to be a problem is likely not large. And on the other hand, the potential risk of not doing something about atmospheric CO2 levels and they do turn out to be a problem is absolutely huge. So I think doing something is the wisest move long-term.
Edit: Further research reveals that Michael Chrichton engages in some pretty dubious politicking while claiming to be on the side of 'science' himself. *sigh* That's the problem with so many of the global warming skeptics.