the state of public discourse

I generally try to filter out the noise and lambast of political discourse from my everyday life, as much of it tends to resemble a shouting match between two people that are hard of hearing. A topic that usually tends to exemplify this for me is the politicization of science. Science is a subject that is so dissimilar to politics that it always makes me cringe when scientific facts begin to be thrown around the congressional chamber. My latest cringe came from an opinion piece from George Will, where he liken’s the “belief” in climate change to a newly found religion promoted by progressives and then goes on to explain that in actuality the scientific “facts” show that Science doesn’t know what is going on at all, and that if anything the world’s climate has actually been cooling since the 1970’s.  Considering the weather that has been plaguing much of the country of late (sorry for taking all your snow vancouver!), I have the sneaking suspicion that this piece was borne out of the “Hey, look at how cold the weather is! That Global Warming is full of Crap!” line of thought. It really is amazing how difficult it is for people to differentiate between the concepts of weather and climate… but that’s not what I really want to get into right now. Back to Mr. Will’s article…

First, his discourse has at least one valid point, and that is that both sides of the political climate change debate can be guilty of blindly following what the rest of their party believes, and can therefore be found to have more faith than knowledge about the scientific aspects of the argument. This point is the sole reason that I don’t look to politicians for answers to scientific questions (or much else for that matter). As pertains to his other point of corrupt scientists, it is true that in science like any other field there are good scientists and there are bad scientists. It is the latter of course that Mr. Will hangs his hat on as incontrovertible proof that most scientific knowledge of climate change is obviously confused or politically motivated. However, one of my favorite aspects of science is that it is in fact a method and not a dogma, industry, or religion. It is a method that requires you to rigorously prove your assertions through observation. This allows the scientific community to weed out bias through methods such as peer review and a transparent scientific debate of methods, results, and conclusions. The arguments in his piece, that you can find here with a rebuttal here, remind me of the chasm that lies between having facts and having knowledge. I suppose that you can’t really blame him for his method of debate though, since almost all political debates seem to rely on the cherry picking of facts to support your point without any regard as to whether or their’s any logic to go with them. No, the problem of spewing out facts without any sort of context and the lack of any type of command of the subject that you’re debating is all too common in politics in general. At first Op Ed pieces like Mr. Will’s make me angry for their seemingly intentional misinformation, but in the end they just tend to make me sad…