18 July 2009
I have found another good book that I can highly recommend for Summer consumption.
The book is a bit depressing actually, because it hits home so hard.
Unscientific America- by Chris Mooney
He discusses the horrible state of science education in America. (Ever seen Jay Leno’s jaywalking segment?)
Without doubt this ignorance of basic science is sowing the seeds of catastrophe. I can hardly believe some of the emails I get on a weekly basis. My personal feeling is that the situation is worse than Mooney thinks!
It’s important to distinguish between ignorance and stupidity here. I have great sympathy for the ignorant, but those who are proudly stubborn, and defend their stupidity, I have little patience for. There almost seems to be a group of people in this country who look down on anyone who has an education. That is truly scary.
Here is an example of what I mean. I received a twitter message implying that global warming was a hoax because it has been cool all summer in Wisconsin. Coldest day in over 100 years this weekend supposedly. It is certainly a gorgeous day here in North Alabama for July. It feels more like September! We may even approach a record low here tonight as well. (I hope so- I despise summer in these parts with a purple pink passion!)
Does this mean anything scientifically in regard to climate change?
No, of course not. Let me be clear here, this itself shows a basic ignorance of basic scientific knowledge. You might be interested to see what the month of June 2009 has been like on a global basis:
Yup, it’s been cool in Wisconsin and Boston. The month of June 2009 was actually the second warmest month on the instrumental record. If you exclude land, then June 2009 was THE WARMEST month on the instrumental record. Keep in mind though, that one month does not a climate make.
You might be surprised to know that when you run the global climate models to predict the the next 100 years, nearly every run has periods where the planet gets cooler for awhile. Sometimes for over a decade! This is because of the natural variability that exists in the climate system.
Asking how a cool month relates to climate forecasts, is a perfectly valid question. I actually get it frequently. Instead, many, who know nearly nothing of any science, post twitter messages, and blog comments, with statements like “this proves global warming is a hoax”. I’m tempted to reply, “Pardon me while I alert the media, and the world’s top scientists of your opinion!”
I mentioned above. I sometimes wonder if they would still do it, knowing how silly this makes them seem to those who do have a bit of science background.
We live in a world where a curious young student can access the best libraries and collections on Earth, via the Internet. Are we allowing our children to waste/ignore this resource? There seems to be a growing digital divide in the world between those who use the Internet to educate themselves, and those who could care less. To me entertainment is learning new things, and that is true for many of my friends. If we do not allow our students to discover this for themselves, we cannot hope to solve the problem of scientific illiteracy.
Somehow we have instilled in a large section of the population, a belief that anything a little difficult and/or time consuming is work. Telling a child not to worry about a bad grade in math or science is no big deal because you never “got it” either, is an egregious, and damaging error. Newton Minnow, past chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (Brits read OFCOM here), described television as a vast wasteland in the 1960’s. Is the Internet following in it’s footsteps?
Only if we let it.
If you are in the East of North America, enjoy the cool sunshine this weekend. Those of you in the UK….I’m so sorry, try and stay dry! Me, I am off to entertain myself by seeing Harry Potter- that’s entertainment too!