LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Challenging religion of ‘settled science'


I respectfully take issue with the recent letter submitted by Ms. Bolgiano characterizing persons who enter the debate opposite her certainty regarding the cause of global warming.

She states with confidence that global warming is occurring and is principally due to man's production of greenhouse gases. She characterizes people who are skeptical of her position "pathological deniers" or "apathetic." She goes on to posit her own theory as to why these people exist.

I would propose an alternate theory: These skeptics just simply don't believe that anthropogenic global warming is "settled science." Rather than getting down into the weeds regarding hockey stick temperature graphs, the measurement of glaciers and tree rings, or polar bear counts, we should probably take a deep breath and try to remember there is no such thing as "settled science." "Settled Science" is a political bumper sticker.

Philosopher Karl Popper wrote that dissent and disagreement are crucial to the advancement of knowledge, that scientific theories can never be completely, finally verified - they can only be falsified.

Thomas Kuhn, a physicist and historian argued that science is an open-ended process composed of a never-ending series of cycles. Physicist Stephen Hawking said: "Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory." President Eisenhower when talking about the dangers of the military-industrial complex created by "the technological revolution ..." said that this revolution thrust scientists and technicians into positions of unprecedented influence. He warned: "Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy should itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite."

"Who would dare assert that we know all there is to be known?"

- Galileo Galilei, Letter to Father Benedetto Castelli, Dec. 21,1613.

The people who disagree with Ms. Bolgiano's certitude are neither "apathetic" nor "deniers;" they occupy principled positions and exercise the essential right to challenge the religion of "settled science," which will only make the debate more robust.

Ralph R. Rampton

Walla Walla


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