Science and ideology

Science knows no ideology, so it upsets me greatly when people attempt to use scientific findings or conclusions to support their ideologies, whatever they may be. I hold a few ideologies, but those views are not compelled by science or scientific evidence or findings, but they are not contradicted by them either.

For example I am an atheist. I wasn’t converted by science or evolution. In fact I didn’t start studying evolution in any kind of detail until years after I declared myself to be an atheist. I am a strict constitutional originalist. There is certainly no science of any kind compelling that point of view.

Yet with science it seems that those who openly discuss against science try their damnedest to link any particular conclusion of the scientific evidence to an ideology, especially if the conclusions contradict a particular ideology already held. Look at the plight of Galileo for an historical example, as well as the still-ongoing controversy in the United States regarding evolution and the age of the Earth.

But my focus here is actually with a different area of science: climate change.

Now let me first say this: if you believe that our global climate doesn’t change and is not changing, then you can just stop reading now and go to a different web page, as you are someone who will not listen to reason and your presence here is a waste of my time. For the rest of us, I shall continue, but I will also add that I am not hugely versed in the climate change science, so I will be working more with summarizations than specifics.

What prompted my speech output is this video:

Science knows no ideology. Science knows only evidence and facts for which there is demonstrable evidence.

If you turn to science to look for evidence supporting an ideology with which you agree, or to denigrate an ideology with which you do not agree, then you are bastardizing the science. Science is reasoned explanations supported by evidence. Many ideologies tend to be far from reasoned with evidence being little more than a pipe dream.

And to deny that which is demonstrably true is to live in a dream.

The climate is changing. The climate has certainly not remained the same over the last 4.x billion years the Earth has existed. This planet has gone through many periods of warming and cooling. The climate has supported lush, tropical habitats that allowed for giant dinosaurs to roam the Earth, and it has been cold enough that mammoths survived only due to fur far thicker than your typical winter coat.

Right now the global temperature is on an upward trend. The data show this, even when accounting for anomalies and errors. Much of the trend has been linked to multiple facets of our existence and civilization. What is still unclear and difficult to predict is what the future impact this global warming will have upon the weather and climate.

The global human population did not reach 1 billion until around the year 1800 according to most approximations. The first Homo sapiens evolved approximately 100,000 years ago – I’m being conservative in that number, I realize, but to borrow the words of the late Christopher Hitchens, "I’ll take 100,000" as I don’t need a larger number to demonstrate my point. This means that for 99,800 years, the global human population lingered on slowly growing while still being checked by diseases and other naturally-occurring dangers until it breached the 1 billion mark about 200 years ago.

Over the last 200 years, the global human population exploded from 1 billion to the current estimate of just north of 7 billion individuals. The human population will expand by another 1 billion individuals every approximately 12 years at the current trend.

The global temperature is on an upward trend and the human population is on a upward trend, both of which have seen accelerations over the last 100 years. That is certainly a correlation that cannot go unnoticed, but is one causative of the other? Currently there is reason to believe the latter is influencing the former.

That is the science. That is what the evidence show and support. But where is the ideology? There is none, as again, science knows no ideology.

Yet many tie science to ideology and there is no reason for this. Science works only with that which is demonstrably factual. Anything else it discards. The evidence is completely blind to ideology and speculation.

One observation I find very troubling is that most ideologies to which ideologues attempt to link science are various perceived evils of one kind or another, but ones typically calling for mass killings, depopulations, and the like. Anti-vaxers say things along the lines of, to quote Viera Scheibner, PhD, "Vaccines are killing babies." Kent Hovind, along a similar line, said  "Satan is seeing to it that well-meaning parents are destroying their childrens” immune system by putting over 22 viruses into their system before the age of two." Again attempting to link science to an ideology or perceived evil.

The above-provided video asks the question of whether environmentalists are trying to rid the Earth of a surplus human population, and in asking the question the interviewer even brings up Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol" in which Ebenezer Scrooge makes note of the "surplus population". Why is there this need to link science conclusions with which a person disagrees to an overly-negative ideology?

Creationists of various flavors have long tried to tie Hitler or eugenics to evolution. Yet even if the ties were genuine (they aren’t, by the way), how is that evidence against the theory of evolution, arguably the best-supported scientific theory?

That is the part which drives me up a wall. It seems people and organizations would rather use the association fallacy ("guilt by association") to denigrate findings and conclusions rather than address those findings and conclusions . And the "guilty by association" fallacy seems to be the common fallback of those who either cannot address that which they are attempting to attack or failed in such an attempt.

But while scientific findings and conclusions do not necessarily support or contradict any particular ideology, they certainly should not be used to argue compulsion. What do I mean?

Recently an article was published that showed that individuals who sit for longer than 8 hours a day have a higher chance of dying younger than those who sit for less than 8 hours a day. That is the conclusion of the medical study. Does this conclusion mean that we must now require that no person can be seated for longer than 8 hours total during the waking hours of their day?

Yet scientific findings have become the basis for laws in this country, sacrificing personal liberty and the freedom to make personal decisions. Salt and trans-fats are banned in many jurisdictions in the United States with others considering similar bans. While science can and should be a basis for guiding lifestyle decisions, with the assistance of a physician, it makes a poor justification for "one size, fits all" public policy decisions.