Regarding climate change, are Charles Krauthammer (Free Press, Feb. 23), Bob Jentges (March 20) and Darryl Biehn (March 28) heroic, present-day Galileos battling against the scientific establishment's and mainstream media's suppression of new ideas? Or are they defenders of the past, inclined to deny accumulating facts in the contemporary world that would establish a need for broader government action and regulation?
Let's be clear, first, that primary dependence on fossil fuels for energy needs, minimal governmental regulation, and little concern about pollution have been the traditional attitude of the past. This attitude does not represent new scientific advances. It is the extensive accumulation of scientific evidence about pollution and climate change over the past 50 years that has brought these issues to the forefront.
In attacking scientific consensus on climate change, Krauthammer says, "There is nothing more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to change."
Here are two different interpretations of science:
Since science is never settled, I can reject any scientific claim I disagree with and accept whatever supports what I want to believe.
Since science almost always deals with probabilities rather than absolute certainties, a reasoning person should do research and act according to the most probable results of presently available scientific knowledge — while also recognizing, and being open to, the possibility that there can be additional, genuinely scientific evidence that will alter the probabilities.
The first is an invitation to quackery. The second is an accurate account of science that both encourages useful application of scientific knowledge and also acknowledges the relevance of scientific innovation. Note that the second includes the term "genuinely scientific evidence" as a counter to pseudoscience. Krauthammer's crime against science consists in his doing nothing to discourage the first interpretation and failing to promote the accuracy of the second.