Unsettling Science

“In science, theories are always hypothetical and provisional and are a convenient method of grouping and linking known facts, as well as a useful instrument for research, for the discovery and interpretation of new facts; but they are not the truth.”

“The scientist makes use of hypotheses to work on, that is to say he makes certain assumptions which serve him as a guide and as a spur in his research, but he is not a victim of his imagination, nor does he allow familiarity with his assumptions to be hardened into a demonstrated truth, raising to a law, with arbitrary induction, every individual fact which serves his thesis.”

These quotations, taken from two articles written by Errico Malatesta in the journals Umanità Nova and Pensiero e Volontà in 1922 and 1924, respectively, resonate strongly with me when I consider what passes for science today. Continue reading

Plants, animals, and climate change: Some ruminations on the environment

A number of years ago I wrote a couple of pamphlets about the politics of AIDS.  At the time there was a vast amount of mis- and disinformation about AIDS, its causes, its methods of transmission, and the risks it posed to individuals being peddled as science and fact.  I argued that many scientists, much of the AIDS activist movement, and most of the mainstream media either ignored data that was inconvenient to their analysis or circulated “facts” that were simply untrue in order to scare people into supporting one political agenda or another.  Now that global warming has replaced AIDS as the current threat to the existence of humanity, if not the world, I see similar politicking, suppression of debate, misunderstanding, and manipulation of the scientific data being used to deceive and frighten people.

Such fear-mongering, however, would not be effective unless there was a large group ready and willing to be convinced that, this time and at long last, the sky really is falling.  Despite the fact that neither a sudden ice age, genital herpes, acid rain, AIDS, SARS, nor any one of the other disasters we have been warned about in the last 20 years or so has lived up to the hype, lots of people are worrying that this time the experts and news media are right. Continue reading