Metropolitik: Read a book — no, another book

Climate change is all in your mind.

Rick Santorum should spend less time with his bible and more time at a biblioteca.

Santorum believes that climate change science is a hoax, and this week he offered some of his reasoning. He explained that “man has dominion over the Earth” and “unlike the Earth, we’re intelligent and we can actually manage things.” But environmentalists, Santorum says, view man “just like any other species out there.” They spend too much time “worshiping the Earth” and not enough time worrying about “man and his light.” 

So, Rick Santorum rides in cars, flies in airplanes, protects his family’s health with modern medicine, receives his campaign funding through a worldwide electronic banking system and communicates with voters via TV and the Internet — while simultaneously believing that his incoherent extrapolations from the book of Genesis are an admissible argument against science?

These wonders of modernity would be impossible if millions of scientists, each devoting their lives to the discovery of counterintuitive truths, had not persevered in convincing a skeptical world that its traditional understandings of how things worked — reeking of superstition and religious dogma — were bitterly mistaken.

What Santorum fails to understand is that climate science is no different than the rest of science — it is produced by the very same research methods and rigorous evaluative standards as all other science. In fact, this is precisely what makes something “science,” and not speculation, religion or, dare I say, politics — it’s called the scientific method.

When a scientist claims to have used the scientific method, the other scientists make no leaps of faith. Instead, they scrutinize every aspect of the research and hunt relentlessly for the smallest mistake, for any remotely questionable data. Only after the vast majority of a researcher’s peers, each poring over not only the research itself but every criticism of it, can find no flaw in the researcher’s adherence to the scientific method — only then — can the findings be cautiously said to have produced a scientific fact.

C­limate change research has undergone the same rigorous review process as research that has led to the space program, the prevention of polio, the Internet and even the carbon fuel extraction and consumption techniques that scientists now identify as a primary cause of climate change.

The fact that “97.5 percent of climatologists who actively publish research on climate change” have reviewed such research without objection should motivate even someone as ignorant as Rick Santorum to pause, if only momentarily, to consider whether he is truly willing to gamble the fate of the world and all of God’s creatures on his unsubstantiated gut feeling that either (1) all of these scientists are, on just this one topic, somehow mistaken, or (2) Jesus will arrive in the nick of time and, sailing across the bubbling oceans atop the last dwindling slab of glacial ice, whisk the righteous away to a better place where there aren’t any consequences for one’s actions — or for one’s beliefs.

Follow Michael J. Frosch on Twitter @michaeljfrosch & @metropolitik.


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