It seems I spend a lot of time trying to explain to my relatives how the scientific method works: observation/idea which creates a hypothesis, which is either confirmed or disproven by observation/experimentation and if proven, becomes a theory (a great explanation in more detail here). A theory, in this case, in the scientific sense, isn’t just an idea you’ve pulled out of your ass, like purple polka-dotted furry sentient fruit orbit Alpha Centauri, but something confirmed by facts. Theories can be adjusted to account for new facts. Damn few things are called “laws”, like the “law of gravitation”; they seem to only get that moniker when it’s pretty damn obvious that gravity isn’t going to up and change or say the laws of thermodynamics aren’t going to change. No sane individual will willingly pick up a white-hot bar of steel in their bare hand on the assumption that heat exchange will magically not work that time. It’s very hard to get religious people to understand that this is what they essentially try to make believe in, to pretend that the things that they depend on everyday will magically stop if they want it to, by contacting their god.
Unfortunately, it’s not only theists who can take their time coming around to facts. It can be done though, with enough work on both the part of the skeptic and those around them. It’s often very long, very hard work even with scientists. No wonder it’s taken so long to get this far.
Dr. Richard A. Muller, often touted climate change skeptic, has changed his mind thanks to research and looking at the facts. He now thinks that climate change does exist and it is largely due to mankind’s activities. But not after doing as much damage as one man could by doing his part to further delay any action against such climate change. He did this by having a opinion, based on a dispute about the use of mathematical techniques and letting everyone know it. If he had a question, I would have thought he could have said “I don’t know enough about the data, so I’ll get back do you when I do.” and that would have been that. Unfortunately, he didn’t and ended up in bed with climate change deniers, like the Koch brothers who are notorious for sticking their heads in the sand when its convenient and supporting things like PBS’s NOVA series when its not. Their picking and choosing of what science to support is quite like creationists when they want to enjoy the benefits of science but then attack it when it dares to show their dearly held myths to be utterly wrong. Continue reading