Science vs Belief
The great debates of our time are not between scientists, but between individual beliefs and scientific knowledge. The preponderance and convergence of evidence regarding anthropogenic climate change is convincing. The scientific consensus on climate change is clear. And it appears from surveys that the majority of the American public understand and agree with the science. A recent Wall Street Journal article found 2/3’s of Americans have concerns about climate change. The minority, the people who I call deniers, cling to their beliefs disregarding the evidence. These defensive voices engage in the same rhetorical process, attacking the credibility of scientists, disregarding their consensus and reducing their findings to personal beliefs.
“The effect: Science becomes belief. Belief becomes science. Everything becomes nothing. Nothing becomes everything. All can believe and disbelieve all. We all can know everything and know nothing. Everyone lives as an expert on every subject. No experts live on any subject. Years of intense and specialized training and research and reflection are abandoned. Individuals dismiss scientific consensus as casually as they form a consensus of disbelief.” Ibram X. Kendi
The past Sunday, December 30th, 2018, Meet the Press on NBC did a special segment on climate change. Chuck Todd, the host of the program, made it clear he was not going to give time to climate change deniers. He said, “We're not going to debate climate change, the existence of it. The Earth is getting hotter. And human activity is a major cause, period. We're not going to give time to climate deniers. The science is settled, even if political opinion is not. And we're not going to confuse weather with climate. A heat wave is no more evidence that climate change exists than a blizzard means that it doesn't….” He did not give time to a debate about the reality of climate change, his panel discussed what climate change will look like and how we can deal reasonably with the effects.
Todd focused on the science, the economics of climate disasters and national security issues and political instability associated with climate change. He took a very pragmatic approach, an argument that would seem to have appeal to people who hold conservative values. Todd also noted that climate change deniers are conservative politically and as long as they continue the debate about the reality of climate change, no solution-oriented, reasoned policies can come out of congress. Energy production, the fossil fuel industry, coal and petrochemical companies are entrenched systems. Too many of our politicians are wrapped up in maintaining the system and no longer represent the majority on many matters, but climate change specifically. Because reduction of greenhouse gases is an essential solution to climate change, our systems need to be transformed. Hopefully, this issue will rise to the forefront in the next election for president.
POTUS has clearly stated his disbelief in the science, or any facts and evidence for that matter. I understand the appeal of making a gut decision, but not in matters that have a body of evidence and nearly full scientific consensus. Ignorance over scientific certainty is suicidal. Human beings seem to have a tendency to maintain a narrow range of vision which aids in the denier’s disbelief. Too often deniers confuse their disbelief with disputing the evidence by debating a narrow range of inconsistences with accepted science. There is little holistic intellectual exchange in these debates. Trusting beliefs over the present observable realities is the end of knowing and the end of knowing is the end of human advancement.