This reminded me yet another aspect I loved in Calculating God: Sawyer’s critique on scientists “certainties”, and how these can make you really blind to other plausible alternatives. Scientists are supposed to be our truth tellers, the materialization of logic over mysticism, rationality over silly instinct. The problem is, things are always more complicated than they seem. And our fellow scientists seem to have a bit of a problem admitting that.
It is fun to mock all the insanities believed by the church (world is flat, earth is the center of universe) but it is not so fun to remember how wrong our own masters of knowledge were at some point in time. Newton believed in alchemy, Stephen Hawking has admitted that he was completely wrong about black holes, and even Einstein had repeatedly failed to provide a valid proof for his most famous equation: E = mc2.
All of this is of course a natural part of the search for knowledge. The problem is that these errors are only evident after the fact. Our current certainties always seem to be solid, the exceptions to the rule. Of course, this kind of “blind by science” effect is not unique to scientists. Individuals from all walks of life form their own certainties and anything that falls in between is considered crazy.
It seems to me that Global Warming is a classical example of that. Anyone who argues anything but the common accepted theory or doesn’t believe in the total opposite is a crazy. Even when scientists provide contradicting evidence like this one about winds dying down (instead of picking up as it has been widely announced) no one connect the dots. As long as the final outcome is negative, anything goes.
There will be a day when we look back into all these global warming theories and “facts” and see that much of it was insanity.
One more interesting nugget from Sawyer’s books: in Flash Forward (which he wrote in 1999), the world in 2009 would be still very concerned with the ozone hole, and by 2030 everybody would have to apply sunscreen before leaving the house even during the winter.
This shows me that even the best among us are not immune to the bias of the moment and false certainties.