August 6, 2009

Simple and Complex

Upon rereading it, my post from yesterday is a bit of a muddle. If you're looking for a clearer discussion of the use and abuse of science in the climate debate, check out Cheryl Rofer:
The climate deniers, like Will, feel that if they find one incorrect measurement, one incorrect calculation, the entirety of global warming is disproved. A public who have learned that oversimplified vision of science is inclined to take such things seriously. But it’s not that simple.
Quite so. Anyone familiar with research methods, either in the social or the physical sciences, knows how popular discussions of matters with lots of technical details can devolve rapidly:

At the same time, we shouldn't let the complexities of scientific discussion get in the way of our responsibilities as citizens to act on threats to the environment using the best knowledge we have available. In other words, the weak version of the precautionary principle applies. In truth, the evidence for global warming is convincing enough that arguing against doing something, even if we don't know precisely what the policy should be, is grossly irresponsible. And arguing that convincing evidence for global warming isn't there at all is downright insane.

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