Castles of Truth Part 2
Let’s say you wake up one morning and you just don’t feel right. You’re not sure why but feel it would be prudent to check with a doctor. So you go see a real doctor at a real hospital who runs a series of tests on you and they tell you that you have cancer. Bummer. You want a second opinion, though. Actually, you want 25 more opinions, so you go see 25 more doctors at real hospitals who run real tests (MRI’s, blood tests, x-rays, etc.) and they all confirm the cancer diagnosis. While they may disagree on how severe it is or what the best treatment would be, they all agree on the overall prognosis.
You’re still not satisfied, however, so decide to find some ‘doctors’ on the internet. Guys who work out of their garage and have fake diplomas on the wall. They have no real equipment, or knowledge to use it even if they did, so all they can do is listen to you and decide that you look alright so must be fine. After going to 26 of these fake doctors they all tell you that nothing is wrong.
Who do you trust?
We trust doctors, in general, because they spend many years getting an education and in training and then working in environments that are designed to ensure they meet a set of professional and ethical standards (accredited schools, review boards, membership in professional associations, etc.).
The human body is very complex and can’t be understood by the average person. That’s why we have and need doctors. We don’t really have much choice but to trust them. That is why the system that holds them accountable and ensures their professionalism is so important
The world too is a complex body. And the scientists tasked with studying it go through education and training that is often comparable to doctors. They too have a system in place to ensure their competence, professionalism and ethical behavior. This system includes accredited institutions of learning, membership in professional associations and perhaps most importantly the peer review process for publishing articles.
So let’s look at some of the voices in the global warming debate. On the left side of the chart below are the authors of the Copenhagen Diagnosis, a report of the IPCC (the international scientific organization studying climate change), which very strongly believes that the climate is warming and is a result of human activity. On the right are some of the leading proponents who deny this is the case. Notice anything?
The average person (even an above average person) can no more know the truth about global warming than they can diagnose and treat their own cancer. All we can do is decide who to trust. Do we trust the real doctors in real hospitals? Or do we trust Dr. Nick from the Simpsons?
There ARE legitimate scientists out there who are skeptical about global warming. Being a skeptic is very different from being a flat out denier. Skeptical voices are an important part of the scientific process. But they are a part of the process, not a dismissal of the process or of the overall consensus. Those people out there who flat out deny global warming – who say that all of the science supporting global warming is wrong – ARE NOT SCIENTISTS. They are politicians and pundits and industry lobbyists. They aren’t trained as climate scientists, they do not work in scientific institutes, and they do not publish peer-reviewed scientific articles.
Who are you going to trust?
I’m not asking anyone to believe or disbelieve in global warming. I’m just asking that you take care in whom you put your trust. Just because someone is wearing scrubs and a stethoscope doesn’t mean they are a doctor. Just like someone who sounds like they know what they are talking about doesn’t mean they are a climate scientist. It is important to know the difference.
1. The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009: Updating the world on the Latest Climate Science. Ian Allison, et al. The University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC), Sydney, Australia, 60pp.
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