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On Science and the Tooth Fairy

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Two things happened today that set me to thinking about something that I find rather frustrating.  I started watching The Big Bang Theory, but more importantly I listened to part of an episode of This American Life in which Ira Glass interviews a girl he met at the Glenn Beck rally.  I probably don’t have to say anything beyond “Glenn Beck”  to reveal why this was annoying to me, but I shall explain nonetheless.  This girl declared that she did not “believe” in global warming.  She thought it was some sort of propaganda conspiracy or something.  Ira proceeded to find a science teacher to explain to her how global warming works and the clear evidence of its existence.  But no matter what the teacher said, this girl still refused to believe.  She kept saying she wanted to hear the other side of the argument.  But she would probably never believe in global warming.  Take a deep breath.  I’m about into plunge in a rant.

I am not a scientist.  I haven’t studied anything beyond the basic college level science requirements in biology and physical science.  I am most definitely not an expert.  But from what I understand of scientific principles, data does not argue.  It simply exists.  Granted, the interpretation of that data can vary, but the data is just the data.  And when scientists collect so much data that we are all practically drowning in it, it seems the time for argument is over.  Science is not like the tooth fairy.  You don’t “believe” in evolution or global warming.  The facts are right there in front of you.  It’s not a made up story.  It’s not some random hypothesis some guy in his basement has come up with.  And it’s certainly not some left wing conspiracy.  I’m not even sure who this supposed conspiracy is supposed to be benefiting.  Is there some secret recycling cabal waiting in the shadows to make billions of dollars off of aluminum cans and then take over the world?

Like evolution, global warming is being brought into question in America’s public schools.  Apparently parents don’t want their children to be taught this scientifically proven “myth.”    It is my opinion that the lack of a solid science education would do a horrendous disservice to American society.  We are already seen by other countries as excessively religious, superstitious, and ignorant.  I am shocked that people have so little understanding of the basic idea of science that they could even suggest that something like the theory of intelligent design had a place anywhere near a science class.  Come on, America.  You should know better.

I consider myself to be a spiritual person, but I don’t see how this in any way prohibits me from understanding the basis of well-founded scientific principles.  I value my freedom of speech, and I believe every student has a right to learn and choose for themselves what they think is right.  I think people should always ask questions.  But I think it is dangerous to confuse science with myth.  I think it is dangerous to take myth literally.  The tooth fairy and Santa Claus are children’s stories.  We believe in them as children because that is what we are taught.  We are ignorant, and we don’t know better.  But global warming is not something you can choose to not believe in.  You can certainly choose to not value the information.  You can choose to continue to live a selfish life and not think about future generations.  That is every person’s right to choose.  But don’t insult yourself and make yourself sound ignorant by saying you don’t believe in global warming.  It’s not going to go away when you finally grow up.