Science for the Win

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Today we’re going to talk about science and how it’s real. That should be the end of the post, but apparently some people had an even worse education than I did, so we have to keep going.

Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page and start with the scientific method. To understand why we should trust scientists, we should understand how they come to their conclusions. The method is a series of steps used to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and it’s pretty tried and true. You probably use it when you’re trying to figure out who ate your last yogurt or why you can’t keep your houseplants alive.

First, you look around and think about what you already know. You make some observations about the world around you. Next, you figure out what you don’t know yet and come up with a few good questions to which you’d like answers. This is like the interrogation portion of a buddy-cop movie, but the suspect is keeping real quiet. Then, based on what you know already, you develop with a hypothesis. After that, you make some predictions. These are not Ms. Cleo style predictions; they’ve got to be legit. You think carefully about what you might see during your tests and how that information will help you determine the answers to your questions. Then you get to the testing. You do a whole bunch of studying and collect a lot of data. You might do this part—the predicting and data collecting—a bunch of times. Science can be a little complicated. Finally, you develop a theory. Hopefully. Maybe you never do and you just work and work and work for the scientists that come after you.

In the world of science, theory doesn’t mean conjecture the way it does in other circles. To scientists, a theory is a principle developed through extensive testing. It’s very nearly a fact, but scientists are super open to being proven wrong, so they leave room for change.

So, now that we’ve got those basics down, we can turn to one scientific finding that’s particularly relevant to our decision in the coming election—climate change.

Most of us agree our climate is changing. We know this both because it’s about to be 80 degrees in November here and because polar bears are now forced further and further south due to melting ice. Or like a million other things. Just ask the people who live in Kiribati, a small island being drowned by the Pacific Ocean. You’d be hard-pressed to find people who don’t think it’s getting warmer, but it’s not hard to find ones who say we have nothing to do with it. This is where science becomes super useful.

There are people who have made it their life’s work to study the shifts in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and the consequences of those levels. That’s what they do every day. Well, not Sunday. We all know Sunday is for loungewear and pancakes. But on all those other days, when we’re running to the bank to deposit the paycheck we get for running meetings, they’re running calculations on the destruction of our planet.

We may not be able to do these experiments ourselves, but we can all read. I read every single day. You’re doing it right now. And we can think critically about who we trust and who we don’t. I trust the intelligent professionals, experts in their field, who have determined that the choices we’re making are contributing drastically to the rise in our atmosphere’s carbon dioxide. Groups like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the Australian Academy of Science, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If those names sound fancy and important, it’s because they are. These are organizations comprised of leading scientists from around the world, and all of them say humans are changing our atmosphere in a negative way.

Any reasonable person would look to these experts, read these albeit complicated scientific papers, and fall on the side of the facts. Any reasonable person. Not Trump. He thinks it’s all a conspiracy invented by the Chinese government to gain a greater hold on manufacturing. He sent that lovely tidbit out into the internet world in 2012 and it’s been following him around ever since. But he’s not the only one. We hear Republican candidates say over and over again that they aren’t scientists, hinting at the fact that they just can’t understand scientific facts and therefore cannot create policies based on them. Sometimes we hear them declare that climate change isn’t influenced by human activity. Sometimes they deny its very existence.

Here’s why this is a problem. When people hear over and over again that something isn’t their fault—something they really want not to be their fault, because they like eating hamburgers and driving big cars and buying a lot of plastic toys—they believe it. When they believe it, they don’t ask their politicians to change it. And if politicians aren’t forced to act in unpopular ways, they won’t. So climate and energy scientists have to spend a lot of time trying to prove to the public that climate change exists and that we’re the cause. It’s a waste. It’s a waste of their mental capabilities and its a waste of our resources. We have the answer. We know the truth. We need to spend that time, energy, and money on solving the problem that exists, not on convincing people that it’s real.

When Hillary Clinton accepted the presidential nomination, she declared, “I believe in science.” What she meant was she believes what nearly all scientists have determined and she will root her policies in that truth. It was a tiny little phrase that she shouldn’t have had to utter. It should be like someone saying, “I believe in tables.” Ridiculous. But if we’ve got to choose a starting point for this effort, I’m standing on the side of reality, and I’m standing with her.

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