It is in the nature of mankind to search for certainty.
We need to feel secure about our relationships, health, safety and more. Absent certainty, there is the unknown. We fear the unknown. For some, it drives them to find certainty in a religion.
And it drives others into an equally passionate search for scientific assurances that not only can we know the future, but we can also control it. As in: "Human-caused global warming is an irrefutable disaster awaiting us, and we know how to fix it."
Their zeal can be measured in the quantity, intensity and, in some cases, vitriol of the negative responses to my July 10 column in which I challenged the supposed certainty that human pollutants are causing the globe to heat up to irreversible, catastrophic levels. While some responses in the Voice of the People, on my blog and in direct emails were informed and intelligent, citing actual scientific research, others had a level of infallibility unsuited for such a complex subject.
For those left puzzled or outraged by my apostasy, I'm back.
Drawing the most criticism was my assertion that you can't reach a conclusion about the long-term direction of climate by regional events, such as our dreadfully hot summer (or the coincident wet and chilly European summer). That's not just my assertion; it's also the assertion of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a chief purveyor of the man-is-guilty hypothesis. Its website states: "… temperature anomaly in one place in one season has limited relevance to global trends. Unfortunately it is common for the public to take the most recent local seasonal temperature anomaly as indicative of long-term climate trends." (Read the entire link; NASA explains why regional anomalies can matter.)
Next, I (a non-scientist) was hammered for defying the "consensus" opinion, even though credentialed scientists populate both sides. Unfortunately, this has devolved into a debate overly focused on the legitimacy, integrity and competence of the contesting political, academic, ideological or scientific worlds. That's not how science is done. (For a critique of "Consensus Science and the Peer Review,"by Jorge R. Barrio go to this piece reprinted in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.)
Further, proponents have created the novel idea of "consensus science," which presumes that the rest of us are supposed to sit on the sidelines as coalitions of experts are summoned into existence to run our lives. (For a thoughtful discussion and commentary about "scientific consensus," read this Forbes piece.) Running through the global warming rhetoric is the premise that we cannot challenge "consensus science." As if scientists are supposed to hand down the tablets from Mount Wisdom.
This shoots a rather large hole in our idea of self-governance. It presumes that we are unable to comprehend and judge what we're being told. Yes, scientists convey valuable knowledge to the masses, but it is up to us to evaluate that knowledge, decide what it means for public policy, and yes, even debate its accuracy.