Science/DGRs How Science argues 


Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling

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There is great confusion in the public over issues that are studied by science.  One example in the past that illustrates this is the  debate over fluorocarbons that took place in the 1970s.  In one sense it was a triumph in good science and government working with the results to save the ozone layer.  Due to this effort, the ozone layer is projected to recover fully by 2075.

The beginnings were modest when a couple of scientists went on a tour showing their results after theoretical projections and modest atmospheric studies in Antarctica showed a giant hole was being punched in the ozone  layer.  Deeper studies confirmed the extent and accuracy of the initial theory.

But, along the way the chemical industry reacted strongly and testified that the whole thing was a myth.  Political forces were marshaled to dull the effect of the science and help the industry. The lobbyists had a field day and were paid to confuse the issue.  That was not the problem, however.  The real problem was the way science works and argues and the lack of public appreciation for the process.

For every theory and for every empirical study there are some in the scientific community who will object and call for more data, more studies, more time, lack of clarity in the theory and all manner of objections.

 In the case of fluorocarbons, the number of objections were small in number, but some of them came from well known scientists who were used by the chemical industry and political forces.  They used quotes out of context and also jumped on the bandwagon of certain scientists who made comments before they had studied the data or done the work themselves.

This is not unusual.  For every  theory, be it Einstein's Relativity or the Ozone hole, there are for and against forces.  These battles last for a long time.  Scientists are human.  They have to be peer reviewed both on the for and against side.

Luckily for the great ozone debate, the arguments against the science lasted a very short time and nations like Canada and the United States moved swiftly to put regulations in place to turn the tide.  This is very unusual.

People finally understood that the Ozone was there for protection and the alarming surge in cancer from the radiation of the sun unchecked would result in disaster. 

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Laws regulating the disposal of old refrigerators and cooling systems came into practice and test results showed improvement.

This same type of argument is now in progress concerning global warming.  It is also part of the DGR process, where well meaning people jump on tidbits of information and junk science by unqualified individuals to impede and in fact curtail a project that is required and does not use revolutionary science or engineering. 

The DGR proposal is an engineering project that will make us safer, much safer.  It is an example of stewardship of the planet, not for us, but for our descendants.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013