Op-ed pick: Can we trust science?

Today, The Economist asks whether we’ve put too much blind faith in scientific research – at grave risk to ourselves and advances in medicine and technology:

A simple idea underpins science: “trust, but verify”. Results should always be subject to challenge from experiment. That simple but powerful idea has generated a vast body of knowledge. Since its birth in the 17th century, modern science has changed the world beyond recognition, and overwhelmingly for the better.

But success can breed complacency. Modern scientists are doing too much trusting and not enough verifying—to the detriment of the whole of science, and of humanity.

You can read the full piece here.

  • Pearly

    What difference does it make?

  • Steve the Cynic

    Below-zero temperatures keep the riff-raff out. ;-) On the bright side, I suppose fewer people would feel such a compulsion to “winter” in southern climes, so more of my friends would be around all year long. It would be bad for the snowmobile industry, which means I’ll have less of that noise to put up with. And it’ll allow me to gloat and say “Toldja!” to the climate change deniers.

    • Wally

      Wouldn’t hurt my feelings if it killed snowmobiling. I hate the *#*@&@**! things. Probably about 10% of snowmobilers around here misbehave on them, and 67% of the owners in my neighborhood. So if they had to trailer theirs to Moosejaw to ride them, wouldn’t bother me a bit.

      • Steve the Cynic

        I vehemently agree.

  • James

    Unless it gets a lot warmer, it makes things worse. 9 months of autumn is pretty dull. 3 months of autumn, 3 months of skiing, skating and cocooning, and 3 months of spring is much more interesting.

  • Jim G

    My wife, born and raised in California, immediately said, “Improve it.” I’m not so sure. I certainly won’t miss my frozen car not starting, black ice, nor the needle-like pain of 50 below wind-chill.

    I will miss the sounds of a Minnesota winter; lake-ice cracking, snapping, popping, booming, airplanes sounding like they’re flying at tree-top level when they’re really at 30,000 feet, the rifle-shot crack of frozen trees, and the crunch of snow-boots on newly fallen snow. All of these heard at temperatures of -25 degrees or colder are the sounds of Minnesota winters now threatened with extinction. I’ll miss coming indoors, with spectacles instantly frosting over and saying, “Damn, it’s cold out there!”

  • GregX

    well , I suppose I could use the snow blower to hurl golf balls back up on the deck so I could chip them back out into the yard.

  • JasonB

    It might actually increase my wintertime activities. There will still be snow and ice, and weather cold enough to maintain those. I would ski, skate, etc. every day if the temps never got below 20. But those negative temp days are real deal breakers.

  • Ann M

    I walked to an office yesterday to do an errand. I was screaming in pain after 25 minutes of walking. I almost fell on a patch of ice. It takes many days to heal after a bad fall. I hate Minnesota weather. I hope it changes a lot.

    • GregX

      enjoy the bloom of termites, possums, cockroaches and yard couches.

      • Pearly

        Pssst. They are all here already.

  • Wally

    I guess I’ll have to go experience it at Grand Rapids, MANITOBA, or Irkutsk, Russia, or Rovaniemi, Finland.

  • Dick

    I’m not sure I can put myself there to figure it out, but this much I do know, I would keep our cold Winter, if I could. Four well-defined seasons are a miracle of nature, and the cold a welcome change that is for the most part only a matter of inconvenience for me because I choose to take an attitude that I choose to live here, and make the most of it. I have found that the best way to enjoy any season is to be out in it as much as possible, Winter being no exception. Any being out in the cold requires forethought, tools and respect for the cold. Then, you can even sleep in it and wake up refreshed, comfortable. I’ll never forget my first Winter camping trip as a kid. There wasn’t much preparation for bed after cooking a hot meal next to a blazing fire, cinders floating up into darkness. Our experienced leader shuffled around in the deep snow for a bit marking a space, asked for a tarp from someone who had been tasked with carrying it, and we rolled out our sleeping bags like sardines, the lucky ones getting the center. Then he took the other side of the tarp and folded it over us as we hunkered down. Never slept so well before in my life!

    I’ll just have to take it one day at a time when the warm weather and pests get arrive. Then maybe it’ll be just like living in Kentucky or something.

  • Jeff

    Just another advantage of global warming…warmer winter temperatures in Minnesota. Why would we want to fight such a beneficial thing?

  • John

    I hope it continues to warm, it would be nice to have milder winters. We should be burning more coal, otherwise its going to get colder.

    Humanity has always flourished when the climate has warmed, just a fact.

  • Gary F

    It means a few more trips out to the game farm to shoot some pheasants and more time at the outdoor pistol range.

    • GregX

      man – the pheasant maps looked gruesome last fall. game farm is about the only place to find them.

      • Gary F

        It’s easier to buy them and then try to shoot them then making a big trip somewhere and not seeing a bunch or having bad weather. Buying them at a game farm still doesn’t mean you are able to hit them. I have never shot all that the group has bought, some still either get away or the dogs can’t find them.

  • lawrence

    As with anything, there are pluses and minuses. No more winter is very bad news for in-state company Polaris and several independent snow plow drivers, so jobs would be lost. On the other hand, if MN isn’t as snowy and cold as it used to be, the Gophers and Twins would be justified in bringing outdoor baseball and college football back to Minnesota, and they may be able to attract more athletes from southern climes up this way. For all of our hunting enthusiasts who just can’t wait to shoot something, a word of caution: climate change HAS ALWAYS AFFECTED ANIMALS FAR MORE QUICKLY AND DECISIVELY THAN MAN. That’s why the dinosaurs, the saber toothed cat, and the whooly mammoth no longer live with us. Wolves certainly would have to migrate further north as their success hunting depends largely on what happens during the winter. Moose would need to migrate further north, and the quality of our lakes and streams, all of which to some degree depend on snow cover and frigid temperatures stand to dry up or lose nutrients that help some of our state’s birds and fish. The old adage, be careful what you wish for, applies to this scenario.

  • david

    Between the warmer weather and a lot of poor farming practices the trout streams are taking a beating. But if it warms up I might actually go try out the winter fly fishing season sometime.

    I too agree that snowmobiles won’t be missed, but without snow I guess I won’t care that some #@&! snowmobiler destroyed yet another cross country ski track.

  • Kirk

    We would be a cold Omaha without winter. What would all the Nordic and Alpine skiers do? It already is miserable with as little snow as have had both this and last year.

    • kevins

      Huh?

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    Warmer winters will wreck our traditional, Minnesota culture. Inconsistent nordic and alpine skiing, dangerous ice conditions, changes in flora and fauna. Some people may not like winter (why would you live here when you could move to Alabama, etc.?), but it is the cold that keeps insect pests from destroying our forests and allows many plant species to reproduce. Native Minnesotans often take pride in the hardiness it takes to get through long, cold winters, year after year. It’s in the DNA–no surprise when considering that most long-term residents can trace their ancestry to northern Europe.

    Rapid climate change–the type currently occurring due to changes in atmospheric chemistry–will be a very big challenge for future generations to cope with, as agricultural output may not keep pace with the ever increasing demands of an ever-expanding human population, and lake, stream, and groundwater resources respond to wide variations of rainfall and decreased ice cover. Minnesotans will be in the same boat as the rest of humanity, because we cannot separate ourselves from what happens in the natural world.

  • Pshaw

    It’s not so much that we’ve placed too much trust in science or scientific method, it’s that our scientists have failed to police their own, failed to police their corporate pay masters and have allowed their method to be co-opted and corrupted by profiteering interests. Corporate America has become Criminal America, and America has not yet caught on to this.