Misconceptions--day 5

The current public debate about Global Warming exposes a particularly important misconception, not just about Earth Science, but about Science in general:

Science provides absolute truth. 

Scientists know there are always observations and evidence that conflict with any serious claim, and scientists know that absolute truth is never provided by a scientific theory, including those that are widely accepted. Yet many in the public think that scientific theories are inviolable facts.

Smoking causes cancer.  This claim was strongly supported by the science community several decades before it was believed by the public.  The delay in public acceptance was engineered by a few people who exploited the misconception that any evidence that conflicts with this claim means that “the science is flawed”.  This is a cruel and deadly manipulation of public misunderstanding of science. Its advocacy by “responsible scientists” was a misunderstanding of the scientific method and undoubtedly resulted in many deaths and discomforts.  It has been observed that some of the same people that promoted this smoking doubt are leading the effort to cast doubt on global warming (“the science is incomplete”).  Science is always incomplete.

If public debate on science can be isolated from the scientific one (which is settled) and then derailed by the vigorous exploitation of a big misconception, so that man’s carbon footprint is ignored-- our world is in danger.

More Misconceptions:

Science is a collection of facts

There is a single scientific method that all scientists follow.

Science ideas are absolute and unchanging.

Investigations that do not reach firm conclusions are useless.

Science is pure and scientists work with no consideration of applications.

Science is done by old white men.

Science is too complex for a layperson to understand.

Science is like a debate--it is a game of clever arguements.

Scientists are all atheists and liberals.