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On Science and Knowledge

2017-03-13 23:06:26.89276+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

Scott Pruitt denies basic climate science. But most of the outrage is missing the point.

Such knowledge-producing institutions — not only science, but also academia and journalism — are not immune to criticism, of course. And they are never entirely free of biases or error. Their procedures and results are always open to democratic dispute.

But absent some compelling reason to believe that those institutions have been corrupted or systematically distorted, we accept their results. Otherwise, epistemological chaos ensues, persuasion becomes impossible, and politics devolves into a raw contest of power.

This addresses something I've been pondering lately: How do we know what we know? This two-pronged problem, one, that "science" has been pretty lax about what gets published as such (see the reproducibility problem, and sciencing by press release in order to get research dollars), and two, that there's a lot of medicine and similar that gets handwaved, or even deliberately placebo'd, and the skepticism that this engenders spills over into other disciplines.

Which means that we get the anti-vaccination push, we get a whole lot of "alternative medicine", and we lose the basis for any discussion. Even something as simple as CO2 and global warming, which really doesn't take much more than high school physics to talk about in an informed way.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Politics Health Journalism and Media Community Global Warming ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: On Science and Knowledge made: 2017-03-18 18:13:45.139494+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Yes, it does take much more than high school physics to talk about human-caused climate change in an informed way. That it's pushed as a basic idea is part of the problem.

I am an informed "global warming" skeptic. While I can't refute the hypothesis, I can tell you the matter is far from settled, and that there have been warning signs of "corruption and systematic distortion" from a decade ago.

That the discussion has been bifurcated into "pro-science" and "anti-science" is another huge warning sign.

#Comment Re: On Science and Knowledge made: 2017-03-19 13:15:57.36035+00 by: meuon

Global warning, climate change or not.. we need to be nicer to the planet we inhabit and our fellow humans. I don't really care about the planet, it's be fine 20,000 years after we have killed ourselves off. Save the humans.

Great quote from an old sci-fi story, by aliens: "we were impressed in your using fossil fuels to stave of the ice age you were about to experience"

#Comment Re: On Science and Knowledge made: 2017-03-19 22:25:55.907762+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Not to mention, staving off global famine. Wheat is especially happy about increased carbon dioxide, it's producing more than double what it would at pre-industrial levels.

#Comment Re: On Science and Knowledge made: 2017-03-20 22:45:29.632557+00 by: Dan Lyke

Except that the differing spectral absorptions of different gases is high school science, it's pretty easy to put numbers on those differences, and at that point the question is just about how the self-regulating processes of the climate will compensate for the different energy absorption profiles of the changing atmosphere.

ie: Will the resulting cloud cover from the increased temperatures reflect enough to offset the reduction in ice cap?

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