We’ve all heard the question, and perhaps even asked it ourselves, “Just how do scientists know that?” The question is innocent enough, but all too often it’s asked with a sense of distrust and even with a touch of condescension. Honestly, with or without the skepticism, it’s a question worth asking and answering.
It’s perfectly fine to ask how science knows what it knows and to have a desire to understand how the evidence supports the conclusions scientists come to. Those kind of questions are actually a large part of what peer-review does. The type of skepticism that I take issue with (the kind this article is addressing) is different, it doesn’t allow people to follow the facts, but to distort the them to fit their previously held beliefs. This way of thinking turns the question “how can they know that?” into a declaration of “they can’t know that!” That version of skepticism is not true skepticism, but instead it’s just a fancy way of saying, “I don’t like it, so it’s not true.”
In March 2015, a freshman high school student from Vermont named Robin wanted me to answer questions for her school science class climate change project. She asked to interview me because of my experience as a park ranger seeing climate change while working at Crater Lake National Park over the past 23 years. Even more, I spent the past four years at Crater Lake communicating about climate change during my evening campfire program and creating a park handout on the impact of climate change on Crater Lake.
Her final interview question for me was the most profound question anyone has asked me about climate change. Robin wanted to know:
Continue reading Answering A Vermont High School Student Worried About Climate Change
Back in January, my wife engaged a climate science doubter on Facebook. Should you consider a similar engagement, consider this: nobody doubts scientists when it comes to gravity or that the Earth revolves around the sun. These theories/laws do not pose a threat so they are widely accepted. Climate change, on the other hand, is perceived as a threat to some because they fear the solutions might result in loss of individual rights or hurt the economy. It is because of these perceived threats that they subconsciously resist the settled science.
Continue reading Communicating Climate Change: Sometimes It’s Not about the Science
What distinguishes proper skepticism from fatuous doubt? In some part comes down to who is expressing the sentiment. That is, who the person is determines if they are a legitimate skeptic or someone borrowing the title to disguise dismissive rhetoric. I don’t have sufficient training in the necessary physics and math to be a legitimate skeptic about the Higgs boson, the theory behind it or the experimental proof of its existence. I’m never going to have that level of understanding either. So I don’t opine about it. I’m entertained by it, but that’s as far as my engagement with the matter can go.
Too much of what we see called skepticism about climate science is expressed by people who are as unqualified to discuss the matter as I am to discuss the Higgs Boson.