Global Warming And A Sustainable Society

How you live in a community, and the direction you wish it to take, needs to be based on ethical, not scientific  principles.  If you attempt to base your society or personal decisions (or the solution of  ills) on science alone, then I can see it going nowhere other than to falsify the attempt as an immoral enterprise and ultimately to  result in the corruption of both science and society.

Science only hypothesizes on how things work, not why they should be one way or another.  That “why” is a question outside the realm of science. True science is for the most part value free , its results are independent of your opinions of them, but no human community can be so maintained without values. When you allow your social agenda to be hitched to a scientific theory, then you endanger both the community and the science when the scientific theory is falsified.

A good example of what I mean can be seen in global warming, or what I prefer to call climate change. Those that advocate scientific models touting to show global warming also happen to be socially progressive.  Indeed, it is a guiding principle of progressives that we need to model our society on a more sustainable framework. It would be truly unfortunate for progressives in this noble goal to be dismissed because they push sustainable solutions based on a false scientific model.

The values we hold in science must be separated from those we hold in community.  The former only tells us how we know something, the latter tells us what we should do with that knowledge. A sustainable lifestyle is an appropriate goal independent of any result of climate change.  That the science of climate change has gotten muddied by political, economic or other social concerns threatens to invalidate all in the mix.

Many know what constitutes scientific knowledge, fewer can give an adequate account (without dogma) of what is moral.

4 responses to this post.

  1. I can certainly agree that there is a need to separate certain values and science, but some values are required for science to be itself and not some politically or ideologically molested monster. An example of the former: keeping religious values from tainting your scientific discoveries, often in thinking religious why’s must dictate scientific how’s and being unwilling to let the two commingle. An example of the latter: knowing that plagiarism is intellectual fraud, but allowing someone else’s work to be published under your name and reputation using something such as the ends justifying the means.

    When one digs down into the issue they will find common ground with your conclusion whether taking the scientific or philosophical route: it’s about personal responsibility and accountability, even when working in large groups.

    Even with a solid philosophical and ethical foundation there still remains one problem that eludes a great many: paradigm paralysis. Too often even the most honest and diligent can refuse to believe their interpretation of the data could be inaccurate, and they may even site their ethics and diligence as to why. They don’t see the data raw, or let the data drive the conclusion, instead they have a filter to which they aren’t even aware. Too often dissension is met with hostility, even when such criticism is constructively framed, and the side engage in trench warfare and the loser is science and all of us for the loss of its progress. It’s essential that we always remain willing to consider critical (as in oppositional) thought and refrain, as much as possible, from making it a personal or gangland war.

    On a separate note, what’s a progressive, conservative, or liberal? During the last administration I was a liberal or progressive, during this administration I’m more often called a conservative, yet I argue mostly the same perspectives. I see those terms used so inconsistently they hold no real meaning and tend to be used as either a generalization, personal attack, or bandwagon (all fallacies). I respectfully request the use of such gang signs desist and only the specifics of the issues at hand be used for it is those specific issues that need addressed, not the use of inconsistent labels for the sake of appeal or spite.


    • You make many excellent points which which i skirted in this short post in an effort to emphasis my main idea which is that a society needs to be driven by values, not scientific models. My argument is flawed by both the idea that societal and personal values are themselves constructive models and that science itself may not be as value free as I suggested. Yes, science needs and has it own values. Those values often apply to the ideas of open communication of data and results, independent peer reviewed replication of results, etc. All having to do with notions that the attempt is to keep scientific results valid, accurate, unbiased and value free. The validity and value free ideas are perhaps not as true and possible as I had suggested given that participant observers may always bias the questions asked and answers satisficed. This strikes at the notion of paradigms questioning the initial assumptions of any science or philosophy. Such thoughts have filled libraries and brought scientists and societies to blows.

      The issue of keeping societal aims and values separate from the knowledge and technology to achieve those aims does indeed bear on the idea that the ends do not justify the means, no matter how noble. The idea that very human scientists would act very humanly to criticism and abandon critical thought is all the more reason to keep a cool head by removing political, religious and social concerns out of the data analysis. Unfortunately we live in a real world and all we can do be conscious of the these possibilities.

      There is also danger in letting the data drive the conclusions because we have created a whole knew arena of science where the theories are driven by complex networks of data sets and models rather than the other way around as it is in tradition science. This cutting edge is very dangerous because so few really understand that the same data can suggest very different theories and models based on the measure (metric) used and the methods of sampling of the data. (BTW this is the exact problem with the global warming models.)

      Your being viewed in a certain political light might itself be a data sampling issue. That you are thought on the left when the right is in power and on the right when the left is power could be just related to the data sampling of others when your opinions are placed in a different context.

      Yes, we, meaning no one, is simply just right or left. First, it s relative to what you are observing and what the observed is doing in relation to those around it. Second, it’s multidimensional. It is not just a horizontal left-right axis. There is a vertical axis of intensity (or speed of change desired) and a depth (of change) suggesting a view of progress moving forward or back. It is also a tensor, having a sense or spin. How people present and are perceived in their “leftness” or their “rightness.” 🙂 Well, maybe.


  2. Ahhh, so much better than twitter line-by-line ! True, paradigms are by no means entirely negative as they can give us understand when not paralyzed. As for the incomplete data set so often insufficiently sampled against me, it seems based on a bandwagon type of groupthink where people are often used to otherwise meritless attacks and no longer pay attention to the data being presented in the argument against their position, only the fact that it is against their position.

    Indeed, we are all just human. So long as we strive for improvement and venture the path of truth the future will brighten. This is generally considered a step forward, but if we’re heading in the wrong direction an about face is actually a move in the corrected direction.

    It’s all relative, and my favorite position in the circle is in the center where the revolutions are maximized but the force minimized.


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