This was the week that Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) began her testimony on Capitol Hill, challenged for the first time by House committees with GOP majorities. The GOP is somewhat skeptical about some of the EPA’s work and its scientific claims.
By all accounts, Jackson is a pleasant, cooperative and intelligent woman who is a true believer in her cause of protecting the environment. That’s fine. Clean air is better than polluted air. However, she said something before a House committee that symbolized the narrowness and arrogance of the global-warming brigades who have imposed themselves on this planet in recent decades, insisting that the end is near unless we adopt their policies and recommendations. While we still wait for the end to occur, or even to get close, the brigades assure us that blackness is just around the corner.
Jackson, in cautioning Congress against passing legislation that would clip her regulatory wings, said, “Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question — that would become part of this committee’s legacy.”
Well, forgive me, but I’m a sinner.
There seems to be a belief in some circles that we must not question scientists, that science is perfect and settled, and that mere mortals must not annoy those in white lab coats.
Sorry, but questioning scientists is as legitimate as questioning experts in any field. And, in fact, science is never “settled.” It is forever changing because scientific findings alter assumptions all the time. Albert Einstein challenged 300 years of Newtonian physics at the start of the last century, and was proved right. Elizabeth Kenny (Sister Kenny), an Australian nurse, challenged the accepted science of treating polio victims, and she too was proved right.
What irks me is the assurance given by Lisa Jackson and others that the “science” of global warming is not open to question. In fact, major figures in science are questioning it, challenging it, as well they should. There are sufficient doubts about the “science” of global warming to require a presidential commission to look into the matter, to determine 1) what we know, 2) what we don’t know, and 3) what we have to know.
In his farewell address to the nation, the famous “industrial-military complex” speech, President Eisenhower warned about the emergence of a scientific elite, new demigods, to be worshipped and never doubted. He also warned about the impact of federal grants on the outcome of scientific research. To get a grant, you sometimes have to go along with “accepted” wisdom, “settled” science.
Questioning scientific assumption, if done intelligently and in good faith, is not “anti-science.” It is pro-science. It demands more proof, greater detail. Richard Feynman, the great 20th century physicist, and the star of the panel that investigated the 1986 Challenger disaster, defined science this way:
“The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific ‘truth’. But what is the source of knowledge? Where do the laws that are to be tested come from? Experiment, itself, helps to produce these laws, in the sense that it gives us hints. But also needed is imagination to create from these hints the great generalizations — to guess at the wonderful, simple, but very strange patterns beneath them all, and then to experiment to check again whether we have made the right guess.”
“…to check again whether we have made the right guess.”
I wish Professor Feynman were alive today to whisper into the ears of the global-warming crowd, which assures us that they’ve guessed right every time.
In his absence, we must continue questioning, before we commit trillions of dollars to devices, gimmicks and theories that can damage the world’s economy, plunge millions into poverty, and produce very little in return.
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