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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Weighing Evidence

It is very difficult to weigh evidence in many arguments unless you are a specialist. Unfortunately specialists and scientists are human, and each follows his heart before he considers facts. Therefore specialists and scientists are on both sides of most arguments, and arguments are tainted with belief systems. Why else would someone call themselves an Environmental Journalist, a Christian Educator, or an Evolutionary Biologist - for good or ill, their decisions have been made.

When you see documentaries like Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, or the BBC documentary on the other side of the issue The Great Global Warming Swindle, there are plenty of arguments and accusations made by both sides. In fact the only safe statement that can be made is scientists that view these documentaries have probably already made up their minds. Few will watch the opposing video except to search for a fault that will make a good sound bite. You also will perhaps watch one you are predisposed to believe, but avoid the other - reinforcement of current opinion is human nature.

I am more inclined to draw information from sources not involved in a debate. A journal entry from an archaeologist dig (link now dead) mentioned the higher temperatures that once reigned in Europe, inadvertently showing that temperature does indeed fluctuate, and that we are not now near an extreme. This type of data point has more value than the sum of many arguments provided by proponents of a particular view. Depending on opinion already formed, you, and those specialists and scientists, will tend to weigh the value of this data based on your beliefs.

In fact our knowledge runs in fads, some small, some long lasting. Some fads are created for political or commercial reasons, others happen spontaneously. For those captivated a fad controls their reactions, leads their responses, and permits little deviation.
While sometimes fads reflect real value, frequently they endure only until a more captivating idea emerges.

Just as fads of knowledge, news, science, and politics run in waves of varying dimensions, some would say history as fractals, so does our approach to and understanding of the universe vary. Several hundred years ago science was seemingly directed at understanding man's place in the universe. Today science is consumed with the math and detail of matter and why is seldom considered a valid scientific question.

Philosophy gave way to math, perhaps due to requirements and attitudes spawned by the industrial age. Governments and their schools now emphasize the value of math and science education - disciplines intractably united in most modern minds. As new technologies liberate thought, the powerful bureaucratic control of science and knowledge will have to face an uncomfortable and enduring reality.

This too shall pass.


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Blogger Dana said...

I must be weird, then, because I have always spent a good deal of time reading that which I disagreed with. Although completely opposite to my views of most things, Mother Jones was my favorite magazine in high school.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous college degree programs said...


Thanks for the comment.

Yeppers, I think we may both be weird, I quite often do the same.

1:38 AM  

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