What do I know? Well, not much science…
Sometimes in climate change debates I am confronted by detailed science. This happened the other day, when someone posited a whole range of theories, and concluded by asking me “What would be your best fit theory?” It was at this point I realised I didn’t have one, and the reasons for this were worth exploring.
I do not have a climate change theory of my own. Mine are all second hand, and there is a good reason for this.
I am, quite simply, a scientific layman. There are those who have a far greater understanding of the scientific detail than I do. Early on in my writing life, I pontificated a few times on the science and got severely burned. I learned my lesson and now stick to what little I know something (anything?) about.
My professional background is business analysis and later serving as a board officer. I write about what I learned about the way humans do things – a self styled (if pretentious) cultural commentator. My first book was on this subject (it’s a free PDF if you’re at all interested). Consequently, I cannot respond, agree or disagree with any of the specific points, data or theories people make because I just don’t know enough about it.
But what I can do is offer my take on the cultural problem that undermines this subject. Because I am a punter I am being asked, as most of us are, to take this issue on trust. As an avid reader of history, I can posit that since the aristocracy sent millions of young men to die fighting out their armchair great game strategies, we have become more and more aware of the way our trust has been relentlessly abused over time, culminating in Iraq, neocons, dodgy dossiers, fraudulent expenses and the like. Nothing has changed except the skill with which, in a purported democracy and a vast network of information/propaganda outlets, our trust continues to be abused, pretty much on a daily basis, while each incursion is cunningly disguised as beneficial, necessary, expedient or simply within the letter of the law (with no mention of its spirit). In fact, and at the risk of invoking Godwin’s law, I believe the most terrible thing of all that the Nazi’s did – the most lasting evil if you like – was to create a template for the total indoctrination of a population through propaganda (i.e. spin), where millions of people come to support the most horrendous political agenda. In the circumstances, is it surprising that so many people are distrustful of moral authorities?
Here we are being asked to trust once more a government that has relentless abused that trust, scientists allied to them and tarred with the same brush, and of course the media that colludes with them more often than not and distorts every message that will increase their revenue without the slightest acknowledgement of the cultural implications of doing so in such a venal and misleading way.
And we, the punters, cannot understand enough of this science to make our own decisions. So it becomes a stark choice: accept and trust, condemn and distrust, or sit in some uncomfortable no-man’s land of equivocation and confusion.
I have made my choice, because I believe in the scientific method – theory, experimental design, test, document, analyse, peer review, publish and be damned, or lauded – and that this methodology will sort out, eventually, the wheat from chaff. The Cold Fusion fiasco is a case in point I often think about, for despite Fleischmann and Pons’ reputations, they got short shrift once they published. I hope climate science will be subject to the same rigour that eliminates bias, opinion or fabrication, but acknowledge that this takes time. There will always be vested interest, corruption and fraud, but in time the scientific method seems to root out all deception. I place my trust in this, carefully and with a certain apprehension, but I still choose to trust because at heart I believe there is more good in people than bad, but if we lose the ability to trust, the bad will profit from our loss while the good gain nothing at all except a brutal cynicism that discolours everything we ever do.