A Philosophy of Science Part III
Despite significant evidence that the last decade has seen almost no rise (New York Times 6/11) in global temperatures, the United States president passionately endorsed the G-8 position that global warming is an issue more pressing as ever. Despite recent evidence that global cooling is taking place while green house gasses are emitted in volumes much greater than used in climate change computer models, former Vice President Al Gore has complained that the Obama administration’s new rules effectively raising the cost of carbon energy, are insufficient.
Climatologists all know what these numbers represent. The science behind global warming has been falling apart for a decade; however, instead of admitting the failure of their computer projections, they realign the models according to the new baselines (see IAEA projections). Most recently, faced with the reality that no one believed the science, world leaders, despite a lack of evidence, persuaded the premier non-scientist in the world, the Roman Catholic Pope, to use his “Divine Authority” to command Roman Catholics accept economic ruin in the name of climate change science.
This problem doesn’t arise from epistemological or methodological problems in the historical sciences. Instead, the circumstantial nature of the evidence in the historical sciences allows for the psychological or philosophical power of the ideas embodied in some of these “historical sciences” to distort reality.
For instance, the study of global warming theory is, itself, not observable, and since its evidence is non-experimental, or of a nature that can be repeated in many different laboratories at will, it is tempting for some adherents to view the circumstantial evidence establishing the theory one way while those who don’t believe in the theory see the evidence differently. Recently, life-long environmentalist Tony Heller set the absolutely contradictory sets of evidence in opposition in the following chart:
Are these conflicting evidentiary patterns the result of fraud or of bias? Either way, the influence of powerful philosophic ideas will blur the interpretation of evidence and even the recognition of certain types of evidence. Laboratory results are far less susceptible to these kinds of human weakness than are the historical sciences, for the first requires only an eyewitness while the historical sciences must rely so heavily on circumstantial evidence, inference, and good judgment.
Hence, sciences that study past events and embody ideals that encompass philosophic questions about humanity’s identity and mankind’s relationship to the world should be called philosophical sciences.
Of course, political and economic factors play into the illogical stubbornness with which scientists refuse to be directed by the evidence, but these factors, in turn, are representative of the ideological power of the ideas embodied in global warming theory.
The ideas global warming science embodies work on human pride. People want to believe that they have the power to both predict and prevent climate events on a global scale. The idea that we don’t have this kind of power has an emotional impact. Additionally, the idea of man made climate change introduces the idea that mankind, without a powerfully restraining government, is dangerously evil and that only a powerfully restraining government can offer hope for humanity. Both of these ideologies are elements of a progressive philosophy. The former Vice President continues to make incendiary claims about global warming and only laments that he doesn’t have the scientific evidence to show what he knows is really important politically: that global warming will destroy us all with floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. No one doubts the former Vice President’s progressive, socialist ideology.
While scientists properly recognize the problems of scientific methodology and ultimate certainty (see Part II) when they distinguish between “historical sciences” and “experimental sciences,” the term “historical science” fails to recognize the psychological power of the ideas represented in these fields of study. Global warming should, based on its methods, aims, and knowledge claims, be associated with the historical sciences (see Part I), but it rarely is. On the other hand, evolutionary science is often placed in this category. Like global warming, evolutionary science embodies powerful philosophic ideas, the acceptance or rejection of which has a powerful impact on the psyche.
Evolution as a Philosophical Science
If Global Warming’s philosophic nature finds expression politically, she is but a young second cousin of the Marxist science that has dominated the political world for over 150 years. Marxism, a historic fiction based on humanity evolving into a workers’ paradise, piggybacks on the kraken of Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. Darwinian philosophy is in direct conflict with the Blessings of Liberty that is the foundation of the American Idea.
No matter with which view of the modern evolutionary debate one sides, it’s been plain that the posturing and defaming evident in the “scientific” exchanges on these topics have gone far beyond the usual squabbles of scientists passionate about their experimental theories. Even worse, because the evidence of purely historical sciences is only ever circumstantial at best, there would seem to be far less reason for the vicious recriminations that take place when an evolutionary theorist steps out of line and rejects Darwinism. What causes the intense emotional exchanges on these subjects? Philosophical ideas. Philosophy is strong drink. Discussions of the origin of humanity and mankind’s relationship to the natural world have tremendous philosophical implications in every category of life and government. This is not an excuse for “scientists” firing, lying about, and attempting to disgrace others who don’t agree with them (like Richard Sternberg of the Smithsonian Institute), but it is, instead, a kind of evidence that evolution, like global warming, is far different than many branches of scientific study.
Recent breakthroughs in genetics have pointed out complexities, even at the cellular level, that basically run out the clock on the claims of evolutionary science. Even by the geological clock of immense eons passing since the beginning, there is no mathematical way random coincidence can explain the complexity and diversity of the biological life that surrounds us (see my earlier article: “A Scientific Consensus: Darwinism is Dead”). But like global warming alarmists, instead of placidly dismissing Darwinism, evolutionary scientists protect the theory with a passion that transcends the grave. For instance, Jay Gould, noted paleontologist and evolutionary thinker, proposed an update to Darwin’s theory based on the fossil record. Gould’s theory still makes for lively debate (see “The Nature and Mechanisms of Evolution”) among evolutionary scientists, and is illustrative of the psychological power the philosophic ideas contained in evolutionary claims.
First, Gould’s example is illustrative because as is often the case in the study of the philosophical sciences, rather than simply proclaiming that Darwin’s theory does not measure up to the fossil record, Gould evolved Darwin’s theory into a slightly different one. In the philosophical science the the tendency to cling to a theory is greater than in other areas of study. Faced with irreconcilable new evidence, revise, but never surrender! The power of the idea of a distant, unfeeling, Creator; or of only a vague “force” propelling creation, was an idea as important to Gould as the science itself.
Secondly, the spooky, ironic response of Gould’s evolutionary colleagues also shows the power of the philosophic ideas in these areas of study. In response to the mathematical problems of classical evolution in explaining the fossil record, Gould changed the neo-Darwinian explanation by focusing on group or species dynamics rather than on variations on individual life forms. Gould and Eldrege’s theory of “punctuated equilibrium” actually explains the fossil record better than neo-Darwinism, and it works well in explaining micro-evolutionary diversity among species all over the world. However, because Gould and Eldrege changed neo-Darwinism, their statistical explanation received such a beating from their evolutionary colleagues that Gould eventually retreated to more classical explanations of the fossil record. Why is this ironic? It’s ironic because Gould and Edredge’s colleagues could do the statistical math on the new theories of punctuated equilibrium that threatened the old hierarchy, but when it came to evaluating the statistical failures of neo-Darwinism, the very same math they’d just been so proficient at….crickets.
The congressional investigation Richard Sternberg’s workplace harassment revealed that the hubbub was because Steven Meyer’s article was the first pro-intelligent design article to be published in a refereed, peer reviewed publication. This raised concern, consternation, and furor among some scientists because having a peer reviewed article might be used to enhance the academic argument for intelligent design. They didn’t want to talk about it! Nothing could be allowed to challenge the shrine of the goddess.
In conclusion, it would be wise to separate the historical sciences into those that are philosophical and into those that do not involve ideas so toxic to human logic.