Refuting the falsehoods

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

I’m writing my column on Sunday, April 22, Earth Day. By the time you read it, the day dedicated to savoring and saving our planet will be gone till next year. But the need to keep trying to preserve the earth, its air and water, all its flora and fauna will remain our daily task. Our scientists (that profession that has improved our world immensely since the 17t century) have been helping supply us with ways and means.

My computer guru, who is also a pharmacist, told me last week that climate change is a hoax. I thought he was pulling my leg, he being a scientist and all. But he insisted that I am wrong in accepting that there is an inordinate process of change going on in the world’s climate and he is correct in not believing it. “Look up ‘Real Science’ online,” he said.
I did. The website claims that climate warming has always been going on and that the dire warnings of scientists explaining to us what we’re doing to ourselves and our nest are hyperbole.

The Real Science website disagrees with centuries – from the 17th century to the present – of accumulated science findings. Real Science calls NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration, hustlers and frauds.

Both of these agencies employ thousands of scientists. NOAA collects data from satellites and telescopes about climate and weather across the globe; the U.S. Weather Service uses this info to forecast for our evening news. NASA explores space to learn how “out there” affects “down here,” and through the Earth Observing System arrives at a better understanding of the planet. Both agencies work with scientists all over the world.

I wrote to Ira Flatow, host of “Science Friday” on National Public Radio, asking him to please help me rebut my computer guru’s claim. Haven’t heard from him yet.

Then I went to Neil deGrasse Tyson, famous and popular as an astrophysicist (“star” quality unusual for his profession), author and radio show host himself – StarTalkRadio. I didn’t talk to him, either, nor has he responded, but I’ve now read dialogue from his shows and words out of his books. He likes to say, “Science is like an inoculation against charlatans who would have you believe whatever it is they tell you.”

Tyson also says that eye witness declarations (“the earth is flat” is one of these) are not scientific; only research done over and over by many scientists and proving the same thing is scientific; as in: scientists know not to claim something is a fact until many researchers, and ultimately the majority of them, get the same result with their research and experiments.

I happen to believe NASA and NOAA, Ira Flatow and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Apparently, my pharmacist friend is attuned to the charlatans. It is one more case of disrespecting truth, this time serious scientific work, calling it fake news. I understand fake news when I hear it; I’m still not sure how to refute it effectively because I’m talking facts and they’re talking beliefs – two very different standards of doing good or ill by the world we live in.

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