I tend to be a contrarian. It’s my nature and sometimes to my disadvantage. For a long time I was a global warming skeptic for two reasons: 1) my contrary nature and skeptical attitude towards the media 2) I fell for the disinformation campaign promulgated by the likes of ExxonMobil. It wasn’t until I saw the before and after pictures of glaciers (all retreating) from around the world that my contrarian position began to melt.
The problem I had was the way the media portrayed global warming, for the most part they do it badly. They used the consensus as a bludgeon to quell dissent. To me this scientific consensus smacked of argument from authority. Granted a thousand climate scientists agreeing on the evidence carries more weigh than a thousand preachers agreeing that the world is going to come to an end realsoonnow. To me it doesn’t matter if a thousand people agree one one thing. They could still be wrong. It is the evidence that matters.
I misunderstood argument from authority as being all bad. Mainly because it’s carryover from when I argued with Creationists who used the Bible (which translation?) as their ultimate authority. It’s based on trust. if a dozen climate scientists agree their research agrees and that the climate is warming I can trust their science. But if a dozen engineers agree that evolution wasn’t possible and that God must have created all living things, I can’t trust their reasoning because though they may be expert engineers they aren’t experts in biology nor have they done any paleontology.
No authority is absolute. Science is always changing. There are things we don’t know. Uncertainty is built into the very fabric of the way we observe the Universe. Is a photon a wave or is it a particle? When we get into the very messy realm of history where experiments are difficult to do, we must rely on the inductive capabilities of the scientists to gather data and to build a coherent but sometimes incomplete picture. Generals are always working with incomplete information during a battle, but they still must make decisions on the best knowledge available. Scientist too make conclusions on the best data and theories available and they are testable.