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Junk Science
2003-12-24

I've recently read two articles, Aliens Cause Global Warming and Remarks to the Commonwealth Club, both of which, it turns out (I should have noticed), were by Michael Crichton, and I guess he's writing a new book on the subject. These also gelled with some posts I read by Eric Raymond on his blog, and I also looked up some of the information in the Commonwealth speech, which lead me to JunkScience.com.

The point of the two articles is that science is supposed to be a fact based and provable in the real world, and that instead we see instances, not only in environmental causes, where opinion and politics override the actual facts. Although I inherently believe what he is saying, and would have agreed with the premise without examples (who doesn't believe that politicians use science as part of their agenda?), I was shocked when many of the false science examples he slays were things I thought were true. DDT was before my time, but I had never heard any of the negative press about it before, but second hand smoke and global warming.... Its time to be more vigilant. And possibly time to read The Skeptical Environmentalist.

Note that in the case of second hand smoke and global warming, the "consensus" science might not actually be wrong: I think Crichton's point is more that on such highly politized topics, a lot of the "evidence" and "science" is questionable, and that further unbiased scientific investigation is going to be difficult in this environment. Both of these things make sense in an intuitive manner, and it might behoove us to actually study them scientifically, especially global warming, since the results of being wrong could be disasterous to the human race, but allowing the (possibly) fraudulent science stand, even if it is the right thing to do, drags science down to the level of belief, which could be equally disasterous.


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