|There is a quote attributed to Kierkegaard: "There are
two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true;
the other is to refuse to believe what is true." (It is a
wonderful quote, but I did not find where he might have actually said
this. If anyone finds the reference, please let me know.)
Climate science and politics
A recent news article: Earth Sends Climate Warning by Busting World Heat Records
An "unprecedented" March heat wave in much of the continental United States has set or tied more than 7,000 high temperature records, and signals a warming climate, health and weather experts said on Friday. http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/312-16/10620
Where I live in Michigan, we had two days of 85 degrees F (30 C) earlier this month; the normal high for this time is 40 degrees F. With the warm temperatures, the cherry trees started budding a month early. We since have seen normal temperatures and the trees were likely damaged by the low temperature of 15 degrees one night this week (-10 C).
The article that I had sent to Michael was this one:
Why Even Educated Conservatives Deny Science -- and Reality
That article shows how people are influenced by their beliefs to choose what facts they will pay attention to. However, the explanation might easily be seen in this famous quote from the American author, Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
The politicians continue to deny reality. Here is a recent discussion about one of the US presidential candidates:
Rick Santorum calls global warming a "hoax." If he were a scientist, he would be in a small minority.
"The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is," Santorum said at the Gulf Coast Energy Summit in Biloxi, Miss., on March 12. He made similar comments in early February in Colorado Springs, Colo., saying that global warming was a "hoax" and that "man-made global warming" and proposed remedies were "bogus."
Santorum isn’t the only climate change skeptic, but skeptics are rare among scientists who actually study the climate. A paper published in 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences found that 97 percent to 98 percent of climate researchers "most actively publishing in the field" agreed that climate change was occurring.
The above article is interesting in that it uses the word “skeptic” to mean “disbeliever.” That is NOT what the word means – which brings me to the UFO question.
In Leslie Kean’s response to Oberg, she notes that “he neglects to inform readers of something UFO researchers already know all too well: that he is a founding fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI, formerly CSICOP), a group whose aim is to debunk UFOs and any other unexplained phenomena that challenge our familiar ways of thinking.”
To understand the true meaning of “skeptic,” it is helpful to read about Marcello Truzzi, a founding member of CSICOP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcello_Truzzi
Marcello Truzzi founded the skeptical journal Explorations and was invited to be a founding member of the skeptic organization CSICOP as its co-chairman with Paul Kurtz… He left CSICOP about a year after its founding, after receiving a vote of no confidence from the group's Executive Council. Truzzi wanted to include pro-paranormal people in the organization and pro-paranormal research in the journal, but CSICOP felt that there were already enough organizations and journals dedicated to the paranormal.
Truzzi was skeptical of investigators and debunkers who determined the validity of a claim prior to investigation. He accused CSICOP of increasingly unscientific behavior, for which he coined the term pseudoskepticism. Truzzi stated:
They tend to block honest inquiry, in my opinion. Most of them are not agnostic toward claims of the paranormal; they are out to knock them. [...] When an experiment of the paranormal meets their requirements, then they move the goal posts. Then, if the experiment is reputable, they say it's a mere anomaly. (Read the quote in context here: http://blavatskyarchives.com/zeteticism.htm )
Truzzi gave a lecture in 1989 in which he shows what the term “skeptic” really means:
REFLECTIONS ON THE RECEPTION OF UNCONVENTIONAL CLAIMS IN SCIENCE
True skepticism which is a part of science consists of doubt preceding inquiry, and that essentially takes the position of non-belief rather than of disbelief. The main elements of the zetetic approach are: firstly, ignorance; secondly, some doubt; thirdly, an emphasis upon inquiry. Charles Sanders Peirce required that the first and primary obligation of any philosopher or scientist is to do nothing that would block inquiry. This approach involves a general acceptance of what Mario Bunge calls methodism, on science as method, not science as some established absolute body of knowledge.
The most important thing here is that maverick ideas, unconventional claims, and anomalies must be viewed not as crises but as opportunities. Some of these claims, probably a small minority, will in fact turn out to have some substance because after all that is what drives science forward. Without anomalies and their validation, later incorporation, and explanation, we would not have any progress in science.
[Truzzi ended the lecture by explaining his position with CSICOP]:
Originally I was invited to be a co-chairman of CSICOP by Paul Kurtz. I helped to write the bylaws and edited their journal. I found myself attacked by the Committee members and board, who considered me to be too soft on the paranormalists. My position was not to treat protoscientists as adversaries, but to look to the best of them and ask them for their best scientific evidence. I found that the Committee was much more interested in attacking the most publicly visible claimants such as the "National Enquirer". The major interest of the Committee was not inquiry but to serve as an advocacy body, a public relations group for scientific orthodoxy. The Committee has made many mistakes. My main objection to the Committee, and the reason I chose to leave it, was that it was taking the public position that it represented the scientific community, serving as gatekeepers on maverick claims, whereas I felt they were simply unqualified to act as judge and jury when they were simply lawyers.
Despite serious philosophical and sociological questions about how well the system works, I believe in the process of science and scientific progress. Science is a self-correcting system. Encouragement of fair play and due process in the scientific arena will allow that self-correction to work best. A diversity of opinions and dialogue is extremely important. We cannot close the door on maverick claims.
I end this comment by quoting Truzzi: "Science is a self-correcting system. Encouragement of fair play and due process in the scientific arena will allow that self-correction to work best."
Another Truzzi piece: Zetetic Ruminations on Skepticism and Anomalies in Science
I discovered a disturbing event in reading about Charles Peirce, a person quoted by Truzzi. (Science is imagined to be a pure "Quest for Truth" -- but it is conducted by human beings with all our failings. This kind of pettiness is more common than we realize (I have seen it myself).)
Brent documents something Peirce never suspected, namely that his efforts to obtain academic employment, grants, and scientific respectability were repeatedly frustrated by the covert opposition of a major American scientist of the day, Simon Newcomb.
Newcomb studied mathematics under Benjamin Peirce and the impecunious Newcomb was often a welcome guest at the Peirce home. However, he later became envious of Peirce's talented son, Charles Sanders Peirce and has been accused of a "successful destruction" of C. S. Peirce's career. In particular, Daniel Coit Gilman, president of Johns Hopkins University, is alleged to have been on the point of awarding tenure to C. S. Peirce, before Newcomb intervened behind the scenes to dissuade him.
About 20 years later, Newcomb allegedly influenced the Carnegie Institution Trustees, to prevent C. S. Peirce's last chance to publish his life's work, through a denial of a Carnegie grant to Peirce, even though Andrew Carnegie himself, Theodore Roosevelt, William James and others, wrote to support it.