Critical Thinking

I started to use Facebook, just to see what it is all about.   The good part is that you can get in contact with long lost collegues.  The bad part is that you can get in touch with long lost collegues.  I friended a former co-worker with whom I used to spar on policial issues on occasion.  He posted a link to a website that reprinted an open letter to Congress that “You Are Being Deceived About Global Warming.”   It claims that the earth has been cooling for ten years.

Like most people, I am not a climate scientist – and the letter was signed by people whose titles suggest they are scientists – so perhaps I should believe what they have to say.  Before that, a little critical thinking is warranted.

First, I know quite a few scientists and their personality tends to be a lot like the people in my chosen field of computer science.   They tend to be in the endeavor out of a genuine interest.  They have a tendency to be open about the strengths and weaknesses in their field.  The scientists that remain in academia are motivated by something other than money, since private enterprise typically pays considerably more.  In short, as a collective, they are honest.   That doesn’t mean that all are honest or that they can’t be co-opted.  There were plenty of scientists who claimed that there was no link between cancer and cigarette smoking.

From a purely critical thinking point-of-view, it seems that scientists in fields of climate science, oceanography, geosciences, biology would not all see evidence of climate change if it were not true.  Furthermore, it seems that scientists in those fields in several different countries would be hard-pressed to find a common political ground on which to conspire to manipulate the data.  Since money is typically the lever used to co-opt someone’s opinion, what is the monetary gain to be had by creating a global, cross-disciplinary hoax of global warming?  It’s not like we are close to running out of “science” and we need to invent something on which to base research grants.

Now back to some of those scientists who signed the open letter.   I randomly picked William Happer from the list.   He is a professor of physics – not exactly an earth science – but more scientist than me.   He worked for the Department of Energy under George H.W. Bush.    He is the chair of the board of directors for the George C. Marshall Institute.  They are a conservative think tank that gets funding from ExxonMobil.[1]  That doesn’t mean that Happer is wrong, but it does mean that we should have some healthy skepticism.

I randomly picked another, S. Fred Singer.  It seems that he was a consultant for oil companies, too.    Newsweek did an article entitled “The Truth about Denial” [3] that called out Singer’s motivations.  (But you know those mainstream media people can’t be trusted.  Geez.)  I think you get the idea.

Of course, this does not prove global climate change is happening, nor does it prove that climate change is accelerated by human activity, but it seems to make more sense to believe the mainstream scientists than it does these politically and monetarily motivated scientists.

I’ll go out on a limb here and state publicly that I also think the earth is more than 6,000 years old and smoking increases the risk of cancer.

[1] http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2009/01/12/22506

[2] http://home.att.net/~espi/S-F-Singer_Deposition.pdf

[3] http://www.newsweek.com/id/32482/page/3

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One Response to “Critical Thinking”

  1. Thor Says:

    Interesting post. I tend to agree for the most part but regardless of position, one does not do without funding. It’s time to follow the money. Whether supplied by a corporation or through grants. The latter rarely questioned because the product is assumed without bias.

    I am not a “scientist” but a simple engineer that looks at what is being published and responses challenging those papers. I tend to avoid general MSM reports as they are basically free advertising for what every organization with a fancy name publishes, void of any critical analysis. I find it somewhat disconcerting that any challenge is greeted with a dismissive sneer and a label.

    Any “science” that is the bulwark massive policy decisions should be scrutinized thoroughly. Simply focusing on the “deniers” and their motives in support of policy change without any substantive analysis of the “science” itself is getting old.

    Question authority!

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