We have all been barraged on the 24/7 news cycle for years over fearful claims about climate change and global warming. Now for months, our lives are completely altered with a more realistic fear of the most contagious virus any of us have ever experienced. Both, however, suffer from questionable statistics and predictions that make us wonder what is real and what is someone’s best guess. Too few of us have an adequate understanding of what science is to make the most reasonable judgments for our own lives. Hence my attempt here is to better ground the reader in a more fundamental understanding of how science should help you rather than more commonly confuse you.
First, let’s define SCIENCE as the pursuit of the ability to explain the elements of the physical universe around us. The DATA required to do this are facts, figures, and relationships obtained by measurements, mathematics, and experiments used to support a theory to then be proven or disproven. The THEORY is a structured idea of a possible explanation of a natural process that is not as yet substantiated by data. Once substantiated, it can become a LAW, which is an explanation of a natural process or object, for example, Newton’s law of gravity, which explains why and how an apple falls from a tree to the ground.
All laws have a SHELF LIFE, which is the period during which the law remains valid. This could be a thousand years, such as the Pythagorean Theorem in mathematics or until somebody comes up with a better description or explanation of why an apple falls to the ground, proving it with further experiments and mathematics. Einstein’s law of relativity is always though unsuccessfully being challenged.
Now for the best part, a SKEPTIC is any person or group who challenges a scientific Law or Theory or idea or Consensus with additional data. The Skeptic is the real scientist but uses verifiable data rather than conjecture. Most importantly, we must continually remind ourselves that the output of computer models are not data. They are simply a person’s idea conveniently and quickly run through a computer instead of a calculator or abacus.
Understanding these basic concepts leads us to the six steps disciplined procedure called the SCIENTIFIC PROCESS.
1- Ask a question.
2- Do background research.
3- Construct a hypothesis ( fancy word for a guess)
4- Test the hypothesis by gathering data and experimenting and calculating.
5- Analyze the data and conclude a theory.
6- Share all results, data, calculations, etc. for a skeptical review process.
Now let’s look at what is not science.
BELIEF – Is an acceptance of an idea or concept that we firmly hold on to in the absence of supportive data.
OPINIONS – are how we show preferences like when we vote, choose a movie, or a church to attend. They can play a role in science when choosing a path to create a theory to test.
CONSENSUS – is a group of people who share the same beliefs or opinions, like the dress code at a country club. It has zero scientific value or authenticity, wherein in science, one person can prove a million educated people wrong. Such has been the case for dozens of contrary discoveries. The cause of ulcers and the germ theory are good examples.
DENIER – Any person or group who fails to adhere to the Consensus.
DOGMA – A belief so strong it replaces religion.
ACTIVIST – Any person whose aggressive behavior is shaped by their beliefs and adherence to Dogma.
You have been witnessing a great deal of non – science on the issues of both climate change and the coronavirus. As for the latter, the political system has spoken deciding to err on the side of caution by ignoring the economic impacts of the decision to shut down the nation for fear of the virus largely. Wouldn’t it be interesting if every day we learned of the daily mortality from automobile accidents, flu, heart disease and strokes? What about old age, and the other leading causes of the daily death rate in our nation? Would we see it blown out of proportion? Some claims of a 3 percent mortality rate assume we know the numbers of folks contracting Covid-19 when common sense says unreported illnesses due to their lack of severity surely outnumber those that are counted.
As to climate change, we ignore how little we know of all the variables that must affect the earth’s temperature, too often embracing the Dogma of the activists that desire to end the use of fossil fuels.
We can not be blamed for often being lead around like sheep when our media, TVs, news papers and magazines regularly trade in the worst cases of all productions because human nature seems always to be conned by the bad news. It truly sells much better than good news or real science news.
No one is to blame for current worst-case scenarios based on fear when they are sold to us daily. If you would apply the simple principles of science, at the very least, your blood pressure may improve.
Portions of this essay were excerpted from the forthcoming book A HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO CLIMATE CHANGE with permission of the author Terigi Ciccone.