Hiding From the Truth

Philip Kitcher in the Oxford University Press blog:

Philip_kitcher[Kitcher is the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. Living With Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith, Kitcher’s most recent book, is both a defense of Darwin and an exploration of the meaning behind the clash of religion and modern science. Kitcher is also the author of Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism, The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities, Vaulting Ambition: Sociobiology and the Quest for Human Knowledge, Science, Truth, and Democracy, and In Mendel’s Mirror. In the article below Kitcher explores how easy it is to hide from the truth.]

Finally, in his State of the Union message, President Bush acknowledged that climate change is a problem. Whether he understands the magnitude of the problem or is prepared for the kinds of measures that are needed to address it remains unclear. But, from many Americans, and especially from people in other countries who have been concerned about global warming for many years, there have been huge sighs of relief. At the same time, there’s an obvious question – why has it taken so long?

The broad outlines of the answer are fairly clear. During recent years, some writers whose conclusions appeal to the values of the President and his advisers, have muddied the waters about climate change. They have employed familiar tactics, casting doubt on any consensus among experts by ignoring the large agreements and concentrating on those places where scientists debate the details. Structurally, the case is much like the long-running battle about evolution: you make it seem as though there is no consensus by judiciously quoting from researchers who are actively involved in discussing unsettled questions, but who agree in a fundamental core framework that you don’t bother to mention.

Behind these two examples lies a deeper problem about the ways the achievements of the sciences are received in American society.

More here.