What is Science?

Climate change and global warming is a contested topic that has divided the American political scene as sharply as abortion. From a scientific standpoint, it is a complex issue involving hundreds of variables from solar cycles to oceans, agriculture, industrial output, cattle breeding, and, of course, human activity. Over the past several decades climate scientists with backgrounds as diverse as physics and anthropology have been studying the rise in the average temperature of the Earth, and have come up with the conclusion that indeed

there is a rise in the temperature and that the cause of this rise is human activity.

As all scientific facts, this conclusion cannot be verified either by ordinary citizens or even by non-expert scientists. Because of the dramatic consequence of ignoring this fact, not just one or two groups of researchers, but close to two hundred scientific organizations adhere to the fact that human activity is the main cause of the global warming and the main source of this cause is fossil fuel. This, of course, goes against the interest of the coal and petroleum industries which comprise a large and powerful segment of the American economy. What is their reaction? Here is a piece from The Washington Post dated February 24, 2015 that may shed some light on the role of the fossil fuel industry in climate research.

If you are a member of the US Congress and your campaign contribution comes mostly from fossil fuel industry, in deciding how to vote on a legislation that intends to curb fossil fuel emission, which fact do you adhere to, the scientific fact endorsed by nearly two hundred scientific organizations attributing the global warming to human use of fossil fuel, or the “alternative fact” stated by a lone scientist like  Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, who has been funded exclusively by the industry to the tune of more than $1.2 million over a period of ten years? The obvious answer is tantamount to how politics can trump science and replace verifiable and proven scientific facts with baseless alternative facts. And this is not limited to climate change.

If a powerful interest group finds the Higgs boson a hurdle to its enterprise, it will fight it as vigorously as the climate change. It will lobby in Congress and will pay scientists to conduct “research” that proves the non-existence of Higgs bosons.

The success of the lobbyists stems not only from a corrupt political system in which money literally buys votes, but also from the scientific ignorance of our politicians. This ignorance echoes that of the whole society whose education is one of the worst in the world. Year after year, nearly two-thirds of our eighth graders and three-fourths of our twelfth graders fail the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science and mathematics, despite billions of dollars spent on “research” to improve the education of these subjects. One can be certain that only a handful of those students in the top quarter who pass the assessment end up in Congress and the White House. Our government is filled mostly with the bottom three quarters.

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Education drives the evolution of our species.