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What I believe but cannot prove.

August 14, 2012

So even though I rant on about climate science I suppose it must be pretty obvious that I’m not a climatologist. I also like to talk and write about evolution, but I have not personally seen the fossils I might talk about, nor have I been to the planet pluto. Nope instead, I must have faith in the science being done to accept the conclusions being made. Yes, you heard me, faith.

I believe but cannot prove that space is a vacuum, nor can I prove to you that matter is made of atoms which are themselves composed of smaller bits and pieces. However, I strongly believe that these things are true because even though I cannot prove something, it certainly doesn’t mean someone else can’t do that for me. However I am still left with the assumption that scientists not only know what they are talking about, but that what they are saying is trustworthy. Since I am not an expert in the field, I have no choice but to defer expertise to the large number of  scientists working on whatever I’m talking about. Just as a climatologist would have to trust his doctor when told that he has high cholesterol levels and he should lay off the big macs (lol americans).

So why do I have faith in climatologists, or any scientist for that matter? Well I don’t have faith in any single scientist, rather I have faith in the Scientific Process as a means of testing and refining our knowledge about the world. Badly done studies are weeded out and good data accepted as professionals around the world analyse each others work and try to replicate experiments done. It takes ages but eventually knowledge piles up, predictions are resolved and like a gigantic proverbial compost heap a comprehensive theory is built. The theory of evolution is a great example of this. Of course if you don’t believe me I’d advise you to stop reading this right now and wonder at the marvel that is your working (or not working) computer. Think about it, no one human made this, it was the cumulative knowledge of hundreds of engineers and scientists stretching back into the past that make the wonders of everyday technology a reality. Everything we see around us is the result of many, many people. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we want to make a car because knowledge gained through science is cumulative. Sure some old ideas turn out to be false or misguided, but by and large the good theories filter through. By working together in this way, by continually testing the knowledge we have so far gained and building upon that, we can create a future that has greener houses, faster computers and TVs that allow you to smell what you are seeing. I have faith in the scientific process not because I read it in a book, or was told to by some guy, but rather because I both understand how it works and see how it delivers the goods. I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for modern medicine, it’s a faith that has been well-earned.

In fact, having faith in the scientific process makes me very happy indeed.It means that I’m going to be able to fly to France this summer where if I wasn’t a believer I would…still be able to fly to France. Funny that.

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