(This article is being submitted for publication in the Joplin Globe.)
Mr. Riley T. Jay in Sunday’s (5/16/2010) Globe guest editorial takes issue with the reality of the whole “global-warming notion.” He states that modern society has a “. . . penchant for elevating science and scientists to the statues (sic) of deity; our lives are greatly affected by our belief of their pontifications.” He goes on to call scientists “merely human” and points to several instances of scientists misleading the public, such as the Piltdown Man and one Ernst Haeckel.
Of course scientists are human. Of course they make mistakes. But to focus on those aspects is to disregard all that science has brought to the humanexperience. The knowledge gained is too long to list of course, but it includes modern medicine, machines, electronics, astronomy, biology, and so on.
I think Mr. Jay misses the point of what science means, as would anyone who “deifies” any scientist. The essence of science is skepticism. It achieves understanding through experiment and consensus. Science approaches knowledge as a continuum, not as an absolute. Charles Darwin, whom I like to think of as an excellent scientist, studied, thought-out and discussed the elements of his theory for over 20 years before committing it to publication.
Mr. Jay left me wondering, if scientists are indeed so misleading, then whom or what are we to believe? I was wondering if he means that we should we trust only religion, to the exclusion of science? Suppose, just hypothetically, I were to challenge the reliability of religion by citing religious leaders like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Bakker, or Peter Popoff, a prominent 1980’s-era faith healer whose scams were exposed on television. Would that mean that we can’t believe preachers? Of course not. The same is true of scientists.
As to believing preachers, there is another difference of course. Acceptance of scientific theories can be demonstrated through experiment, but religion is not testable. You can pray that tornadoes avoid a town, but it doesn’t always work. Storm-tracking radar, on the other hand, does.