Neil DeGrasse Tyson, author of the book “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry“, appeared on Fared Zakaria’s GPS. He explained the scientific method to climate science that politicians are willfully disregarding. Every climate change denier should read. Those who are already on board should read it to learn how to persuade better.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson made it clear that Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma are shots across the bow that we better heed sooner than later.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson explains the scientific process
Fareed Zakaria: So what role did climate change play in the ferocious strength of Hurricane Irma and the intense flooding caused by Irma and Harvey? Well, on Monday, U.S. Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert refused to say whether climate change had been a factor in Harvey or Irma’s strength at all. The head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has told CNN in advance of Irma’s landfall that it was “insensitive” to talk about climate change right now. So how should we think about an event like this and the broader issue of science and public policy? To help me understand the impact of all of this, Neil deGrasse Tyson joins me. … So, Neil, you’re not a climate scientist, but you’re a very distinguished scientist and astrophysicist. What do you think about when people say, “Look, this is not settled science. There are still questions”? I sometimes think to myself, “Look, there are a lot of questions still about Einstein’s theories that led to nuclear fission, but we still know that nuclear power plants do, operate and they do provide electricity.”
Neil Degrasse Tyson: Yeah, so, what’s happening here is there are people who have cultural, political, religious, economic philosophies that they then invoke when they want to cherry-pick one scientific result or another. You can find a scientific paper that says practically anything, and the press, which I count you as part of, the press will sometimes find a single paper and say, “Oh, here’s a new truth if this study holds up.” But an emergent scientific truth, for it to become an objective truth, a truth that is true whether or not you believe in it — it requires more than one scientific paper. It requires a whole system of people’s research, all leaning in the same direction, all pointing to the same consequences. That’s what we have with climate change as induced by human conduct. This is a known correspondence. If you want to find the 3 percent of the papers or the 1 percent of the papers that conflicted with this and build policy on that, that is simply irresponsible. How else do you establish a scientific truth if not by looking at the consensus of scientific experiments and scientific observations? …
Fareed Zakaria: We build our cities on the basis of science. When we fall ill, we don’t go to the local witch doctor, we go to a doctor, even though all of that science is still — you know, there are advances going to be made, none of it is “settled” in the sense that —
Neil Degrasse Tyson: So you know what is settled? You know what is settled? Settled science is the science that has come out of large bodies of research that all agree. When you see scientists arguing, and I tweeted, I said, “If you think scientists want to always agree with one another, you’ve never been to a scientific conference.” Because people are duking it out. But what are they fighting over? Not the settled science that’s been in the books. We’re fighting over the bleeding edge of what is not yet known. And that is the natural course of science. Now, if you as a journalist want to eavesdrop on that meeting, you’ll think scientists don’t know anything about anything. But it’s the body of knowledge that has accumulated over the decades that precedes this, that becomes the canon of what, if you’re going to base policy and legislation on, that’s what you should be thinking about.
Fareed Zakaria: So you would say this is a moment to listen to climate scientists?
Neil Degrasse Tyson: I think this 50 inches of [rain] — I can’t even picture 50 [inches], how many raindrops is that? 50 inches of rain in Houston. This is a shot across our bow, a hurricane the width of Florida going up the center of Florida. These are shots across our bow. What will it take for people to recognize that a community of scientists is learning objective truths about the natural world and that you can benefit from knowing about it? Even news reports on this channel talked about the fact that we have fewer deaths per hurricane. Why? Because you now know weeks in advance. We have models that have trajectories of hurricanes. In decades gone by, it was like, “There’s a hurricane there, we don’t know, should I stay, should I go,” and then you stay and you die. OK? So, to cherry-pick science, it’s an odd thing for a scientist to observe. And I didn’t grow up in a country where that was a common phenomenon. We went to the moon, and people knew science and technology fed those discoveries. And the day two politicians are arguing about whether science is true — it means nothing gets done. Nothing. It’s the beginning of the end of an informed democracy, as I have said many times.