Like most members of the MIT community, I am aghast by the large fraction of the U.S. population that does not believe in climate change, the theory of evolution, or the age of the universe.
I wish to meet these people to ask politely: What of science do you believe in: Gravity? Electromagnetism? Quantum Mechanics? Then I would address the paradox that their using modern technology, such as GPS, would mean also their endorsing of the scientific theories. Rather the thoroughness of pseudo-science that these “deniers” believe in are to that of actual science as night is to day.
All of science — whether gravity, or genetics, or climate change — is built from applying the scientific method, a thorough procedure for investigating, acquiring, and correcting scientific knowledge. This method has allowed humanity to make so much progress understanding the universe around us. The credibility of the science field is built on by calculated researchers following this method. The seminal experiments proving relativity is no less scientific than those experiments proving climate change. Therefore, those rejecting the science of evolution but embracing technologies that employ other canonical concepts such as the relativity in global positioning system are not only picking and choosing what they want to believe, but also contradicting themselves.
One of the most important aspects of the scientific method to highlight is the process for when a theory becomes a law of nature. By developing a hypothesis, trying to falsify it, and then slowly gathering evidence either refutes or supports it, scientists have a model that welcomes skepticism. But as scientists accumulate evidence in favor of a given theory critics become less and less skeptic. Eventually, the proposed model reach a point where so much evidence support a theory, that it wins over peer and public skepticism. We have reached this point for climate change and evolution.
Even if you disagree, there is one mode of thought that you cannot disagree with: the scientific method itself. When you look at today’s society, you will see everywhere the derivatives of the method: the electricity running through our sockets following the behavior illustrated by the Maxwell’s equations; the silicon in our computer chips abiding by the laws of quantum mechanics; and the plethora of medicines we use to combat disease synthesized from our knowledge of molecular biology. Users of these technologies and products unknowingly accept the science. For those denying actual sciences but practicing them daily, they are irrevocably invoking the scientific method. These “deniers” must see through the lenses of the scientific method. Only then can they understand that climate change and evolution are not theoretical conceptions but axioms of our universe.
As one of the top scientific research universities in the world, MIT must be more aggressive in overturning the ignorance of the public on issues of climate change and evolution. We need to point out the wrongs in people believe to be true. After all, while the theory of general relativity is as abstract and difficult to understand as climate change, there are no “deniers” of relativity laws. Is that because those denying climate change and evolution simply just resisting behavior change? Perhaps they do not want to be told how to act in the interest of others on the grounds of science, and thus are denouncing those certain sciences in protest.
But we cannot sit idly by while such people are tarnishing the credibility of scientists. Questioning climate change is equivalent to questioning whether there really is electricity. We as scientists need to do our most in making that connection clear. The public minds are depending on us to expose those denying fundamental laws of science to be frauds. We need to reestablish ourselves to be true authorities.