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Every time a person intones the sacred phrase “scientists say,” I will not drop to my knees, bow my head and say “amen.” Scientists are human and prone to all the mistakes common to all humans. Theories change, and over time paradigms, methods and popular fads float past us like translucent ghosts. Each, for a period of time, becomes real and solid and even the “truth” before it fades off into history.

To keep science on track, methods have been advanced over several centuries to help weed out the temporary, the incorrect and the fads that would otherwise choke up the system. Part of that has to do with the logic of causality and the nature of proof.

The British philosopher David Hume and his modern avatar, Karl Popper, have insisted negative evidence is more powerful than positive evidence. A good hypothesis is disprovable. If it can’t be disproved, then it should be rejected as an hypothesis.

Which bring us to human-caused global warming.

There are basically three groups here. There are the “true believers,” the “deniers” and the “agnostics.” Some of the “true believers” are evangelical in their fervor. For them, “deniers” are either, 1) stupid, 2) uneducated, or 3) moral reprobates bought out by “big oil” or some other despicable villain. To them “agnostics” can’t exist. They are just hiding their true colors because they are either “true believers” or “deniers.” The world, you see, is not only warming, it is very black and white.

The scientific question for the “true believers” is this, “Is there any “negative” evidence you would accept to become a “denier” or even “agnostic?”

Would computer models that found no global warming change your stance? What if we had 10 consistent years of below-normal temperatures? The temperatures, to be fair, would be gathered and recorded only by “deniers.”

If the sea levels dropped, would that change your position on global warming? If there was no “climate change” for two decades, would that do it? Of course, that could never happen, but what if it did?

If “top scientists” were able to show CO2 had little effect on global warming or cooling, would that change your mind?

In other words, is there any negative evidence you would accept?

Related to that is another question: Why is this theory so divisive?

People on both sides have purposely chosen the evidence that supports their position and either ignored or damned all else.

The faithful march into the cathedrals and worship the true and living science. The “deniers” stand outside and heckle the parishioners.

Unfortunately, the entire issue has become a matter of political theater with foundational agendas having little to do with “saving” the earth. If the world really is in danger, or if the world is simply going the way it has always gone, then we have wasted far too much time, and the ticket to the play has been excessively expensive.

True empiricists will become cynically agnostic when science is turned into a religion.

Dennis Clayson is a marketing professor at the University of Northern Iowa.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.


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