When a scientific question diverges from a treatment of evidence, facts or theories it is often based on beliefs (and a belief by definition comes into play only when facts are lacking). Hypotheses and theories necessarily must rely – to some extent – on belief.
As soon a question regarding facts becomes instead a question regarding beliefs it leads to a political label (right wing, left wing, capitalist, communist, liberal, fascist). A political label generally assumes an adherence to a particular set of beliefs on many diverse topics. A scientific discussion then becomes a political argument. Positions on any topic under the umbrella of the political label – whether or not relevant to the topic under discussion – are then used to “discredit” or “support” a particular belief.
But I note that the “tools” used in political argument are the same whichever side of the political divide one is. These “tools” are used to reinforce the views of those already in agreement or to “convert” those on the fence. They are only rarely used to “convert” those on the other side of the divide. These tools are for the manipulation of belief and have nothing whatever to do with science or the scientific method. The “tools” commonly used are
- Alarmism (or the pseudo-science precautionary principle which permits common-sense to be ignored)
- Claiming to be the “majority” view (and this is resorted to because a “majority” in a democracy is ascribed the “right” to summarily over-rule and oppress a minority)
- Guilt, wrongness, injustice or immorality - all by association
- Distortion, misrepresentation and even fraud
- Inquistions against heretics and witch hunts
The entire AGW argument – for it has degenerated into a political argument and is no longer a scientific discussion (if it ever was one) – is permeated by the use of such tools. The sound and fury mask the underlying question which remains:
What is the magnitude and significance of man-made effects on the global climate?
My position is that I don’t know.
I believe that it is not of any great significance – but not that it is absent. I believe that whatever effect man has pales into insignificance compared to what the sun does primarily through the oceans and – only then – through and to the atmosphere.
There are those who believe – note “believe” – that posing the question is itself a matter of belief and denies the obvious. For posing the question I have been given various political labels. But the simple fact is that the answer is not obvious and not a settled science for me.
It is entirely a political matter – and perfectly valid as a political matter but it is not a matter of science – when the belief in something so dreadful in the future – but which cannot be proven – is used as a vehicle for satisfying greed (carbon trading, so-called environmental subsidies or research funding) or a political agenda.
There is nothing wrong with having a political agenda. But it cannot be labelled science.