Friday, February 26, 2010

Another AGW/Creationism Analogy

Mark Lynas, writing for the New Statesman, argues that the recent "climate gate" scandal may cause a permanent rift between scientists and the general public. He likens this to creationism:
The danger here is that a permanent gap may open up between the general public and the scientific community, distorting policy and damaging people's understanding of the world around them at a basic level. An analogy might be the debate around creationism in the US, where (according to a Pew Centre poll conducted in June 2009) just 32 per cent of adults believe in Darwinian evolution, compared to 87 per cent of scientists.

This may be a politically incorrect thing to say, but it is true nonetheless: climate-change denial, like belief in creationism, is largely (though not entirely) attributable to ignorance. Surveys show that the more a person knows about the subject of climate change, the more likely they are to agree that "human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures".
It is true that poll after poll reveals that as a rule, the percentage of less-educated people that believe in creationism is higher than among those who have more education, certainly here in the United States.

He makes another point, though, that is often glossed over in the debate between those supporting creationism and ID and mainstream biological scientists:
One study, published in January 2009 in the American Geophysical Union's journal Eos, noted that while less than half the general public agreed with the above point, an overwhelming majority of scientists did. Specifically, 82 per cent of climatologists agreed that climate change was real, while 97 per cent of actively publishing climatologists (those involved in generating the latest data) supported this conclusion.

I accept that a sceptic might cite this as evidence of group-think. But surely the chance of statistically trained experts (whose work involves constantly examining real-world climatological data, and each other's work) getting their entire discipline wrong is vanishingly unlikely.
Evolution is accepted by a similar percentage of biologists the world over. The other question, at least to those who espouse ID is this: how is that scientists the world over got physics, chemistry, geology, medicine and engineering absolutely right and managed to get biology crashingly wrong? If you are a creationist, on the other hand, all of the above disciplines got it wrong. All of those scientists, working for hundreds of years, still got it wrong? Not likely.

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