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Hoang Nam Nguyen

Global warming: scientific consensus or social desirability?

In light of the recent summit at the United Nations conference on climate change, many have discussed the consensus in the scientific community about anthropogenic global warming. This theory postulates that the current worldwide climate change is the direct result of human activity. However, it really takes a scientist to know there’s no such thing as scientific consensus. The very nature of science is based on continuously questioning our knowledge of reality. Thus, there can always be more studies and they will never have the same conclusion. That is the nature of science. In my experience, there are only two ways in which scientists approach consensus: when a theory becomes a law (i.e. when it is proven), and when a position is socially desirable. The former almost never happens in most scientific fields besides physics. In the scientific language, we use words like “theories,” “hypotheses,” “possibilities,” and “probabilities,” but never “certainty” or “proof”. The latter refers to a bias sadly present in the scientific community, which is social desirability. For the same reason that working on finding a cure for cancer sounds “sexier” than working on neuronal correlates of attention, backing a socially desirable theory is much more appealing than trying to disprove it. This is especially so if the scientist risks being pummelled by activists for his work. Of course, not all scientists are socially biased. But once a message is taken away from scientists by governments and activist groups, re-baptized as facts and revered as a religion, it is not a science anymore. It is also of note that researchers are usually financed by government agencies which favour certain projects over others. When the project outcome is so publicly pressured, it discourages the submission of analyses trying to disprove it, as it will not get past the one-sided… Read More