Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Science of Ignoring Science

It is perhaps a sad truth that if left to those who find science inconvenient we would still be trying to figure out how to get to the moon. Science seems to have become inconvenient. We would still be looking at the canals on Mars, believing in Big Foot and alien crop circles...oh wait.

On the right, there is the group who believe that climate change is a myth announcing that climate has always been changing, and this is just another cycle. That is, of course, if they understand the difference between climate and weather. Naming it "global warming" was probably a mistake although the ocean's temperatures are on the rise which is why areas have more extreme weather and droughts.  Things will still freeze because it is cold. In fact, if the water is warmer, then more condensation is in the air.  Weather is what happens on a daily basis.  Climate is the impact of weather over extended time.  As the climate shifts, weather may change or even become more extreme, not just warmer or colder.  Areas that didn't used to get severe cold weather suddenly find stronger winters and winter areas suddenly find long periods of drought with extreme storms.  Storms become bigger.  This is not some cycle, it is climate change.

On the left are the anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) crowd who often point to one debunked French study and often do not understand the difference between correlation and causality. The study, for example, used rats which were actually prone to tumors.  Ever hear the joke about cancer being caused by white mice?   The problem is that a study which has not been duplicated is not a scientific fact, it is an anomaly until it can be replicated again and again. Variables become important and because two events occur at the same time does not mean the two events are linked.  If a correlation is made then there must be a cause or link between the two events; otherwise, they are simply two separate events that happened at the same time.  One did not cause the other. It is like believing that washing a car causes rain.  Nice myth.

 You should not pick one established studies in one field and then ignore another group of established studies because your politics do or don't align with it. Many a scientist is offended by the idea that a political group picks its science not based on research but on the basis of politics.

Science, in the mainstream, is science. That doesn't mean that there are not corporate shills and corrupted science out there, but during the course of things those corrupt scientists will inevitably be put into the minority of science. We know, for example, that for years, tobacco companies bought and paid for so-called scientific studies. We also know that those studies have long been dismissed along with the scientists who have basically become nameless. And that leads us to the problem. Politicians are frequently corporate shills and need to protect their donors. So if we ignore the left and right, we find some interesting science.

Not just a few scientists believe that climate change is a reality or GMO's are not that dangerous, but the scientific global community believes this to be true. They may argue over nuances or other stats, but studies have been replicated out the wazoo that show the above statements to be true. The evidence is not some anecdotal correlation to the event but has real demonstrable cause. Ninety-Seven percent of the scientific community and the disciplines that contribute to climate change agree that not only is climate change real but humans are a major contributing factor. That isn't a debatable consensus; it is fact.
Here is a list of scientific groups that support the idea of climate change:
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Astronomical Society
American Chemical Society
American Geophysical Union
American Institute of Physics
American Meteorological Society
American Physical Society
Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO
British Antarctic Survey
Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
Environmental Protection Agency
European Federation of Geologists
European Geo-sciences Union
European Physical Society
Federation of American Scientists
Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies
Geological Society of America
Geological Society of Australia
Geological Society of London
International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA)
International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
National Center for Atmospheric Research
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Royal Meteorological Society
Royal Society of the UK
Academia Brasiliera de Ciencias (Brazil)
Royal Society of Canada
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Academie des Sciences (France)
Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Germany)
Indian National Science Academy
Accademia dei Lincei (Italy)
Science Council of Japan
Academia Mexicana de Ciencias (Mexico)
Russian Academy of Sciences
Academy of Science of South Africa
Royal Society (United Kingdom)
National Academy of Sciences (USA)
African Academy of Sciences
Cameroon Academy of Sciences
Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences
Kenya National Academy of Sciences
Madagascar's National Academy of Arts, Letters and Sciences
Nigerian Academy of Sciences
l'Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
Uganda National Academy of Sciences
Academy of Science of South Africa
Tanzania Academy of Sciences
Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences
Zambia Academy of Sciences
Sudan Academy of Sciences
Australian Academy of Science
Royal Society of New Zealand
Polish Academy of Sciences
Just to mention a few.

On the GMO end:

Here is a list of 1787 studies which show the safety and lack of global impact of genetically modified.  The list was compiled by a group of Italian scientists.
Organizations which find no safety issues include 
The World Health Organization
American Medical Association
American Association for the Advancement of Science
The National Academy of Sciences
Royal Society of Medicine
The European Commission
The Union of German Academic of Sciences and Humanities
Food Standards Austrailia and New Zealand
The French Academy of Sciences
Science Academy of Brazil
Science Academy of China
Science Academy of India 
Science Academy of Mexico
Plus a number of university geneticists.  

(I know the list is longer for climate change, but I lucked out and found that list all in one place and genetic biology is a little more specific and besides you have nearly 2000 studies on GMOs to look up.)

The research on genetically modified foods stretch back some twenty years, by the way. Most in the scientific comunity also agree that as with all new ideas, the study of GMO's must be handled on a case by case basis.  They also agree that genetic manipulation of plants had been occurring long before gene splicing.  Most of you may remember the whole genetic thing done by Mendelson and the study of genetic traits. I even remember a day spent looking at the creation of hybrid wheat in Canada and its impact. The nations that have banned GMO's have done so for political reason not based on what the vast majority of scientists believe.

 Science has advanced us.  It has given us extended lives.  It has taken us to space and the depths of the ocean.  It has cured diseases that were once a death sentence.  It has shown us that it can alter lives.  Science has created great machines that find cancers and disease at the cellular level,  Science has also created destructive weapons and unspeakable horrors. It has given us the ability to control population and feed great populations.  It has created great convenience and great inconvenience.

Science can be both good and bad.  It can be used for great evil and great good.  To ignore it because some political agenda or talking head said so is plain stupid.  I suggest if you want to look at science your research should be verifiable and come from sites that have actual links to actual reference materials.  If your getting your science from places that are actually political, you might want to consider the agenda and not the unreferenced article written by a guy who was a philosophy major.  Consensus in science is not like arriving at a consensus among politicians.  In science, the research has been studied, the math checked, and the experiments checked, duplicated independently and published.  There isn't some secret cult of scientists playing politics to get some result.  The leaked report that may be published in a few onths and no one can actually quote from or name the specific group publishing the report is a scare tactic. Conspiracy theory much?  Those are politicians picking the science they like and disregarding the
science they don't.

Science, for good or ill, is still science.