17 May 2012

Why Don’t People Trust Scientists?

Jayni Foley Hein is flummoxed:

Scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is happening and is largely caused by human activities.  Yet, according to a recent poll, the American public is less likely to believe that climate change is caused by humans than they were even last year. When it comes to climate science, are we a misinformation nation?

The short answer is no.

The longer answer is this:  Scientists have a long and storied history of being wrong.  It used to be that scientists were extremely confident that the sun revolved around the earth.  Scientists used to believe in phlogistons.  Scientists used to believe a whole bunch of other since-disproven stupid crap.

Additionally, scientists keep changing what they believe.  Aside from the aforementioned geo-centric model of the universe, scientists also keep changing the age of the universe.  Of course, the reason for their ever-changing stance on a variety of laws, theories, and postulates is that their understanding is constantly changing.  They keep becoming more enlightened and correcting past ignorance, or so they claim.

Now, the question for global warming apologists is this:  Why will this time be any different?  Why should people believe that the scientists finally have it right this time around, especially in light of their history of bad theories?  And why should scientists be trusted on global climate change when they are now saying the exact opposite of what scientists were saying forty years ago?

Quite simply, scientists are not worthy of anyone’s trust because they are almost always wrong.  They are constantly reversing and/or correcting themselves.  No wonder people instinctively distrust them.


  1. Scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is happening and is largely caused by human activities.

    So say many whose livelihood depends upon the proposition that climate change is happening and is largely caused by human activities.

  2. Firstly, just because some mistakes were made in the past doesn't mean that a mistake is being made currently.

    Science says that it is possible to travel by plane. Should we say that scientists were wrong in the past, therefore we shouldn't have any faith that we can travel by plane.

    Also, the global cooling idea was not a scientific consensus. There were some popular press articles at the time, but in peer-reviewed journals it was not a big thing.


    "But Thomas Peterson of the National Climatic Data Center surveyed dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles from 1965 to 1979 and found that only seven supported global cooling, while 44 predicted warming. Peterson says 20 others were neutral in their assessments of climate trends."

  3. @Steve N. Exactly. As I've noted before, the greens aren't exactly hurting for money ( http://cygne-gris.blogspot.com/2012/02/more-bad-arguments-from.html ).

    @Greg- If someone comes up to you and tells you one thing, then later reverse himself, then does this, say, twenty more times, would you be inclined to trust what he says the 21st time he comes to you to tell you something? If your answer is yes, is this because you are gullible? Or because you are stupid?

    Second, "science" doesn't say anything. It is an abstract entity that refers to the sum of (supposed) human knowledge. Because human knowledge is not perfect or complete, it is thus in a constant state of flux and refinement.

    As for the matter of planes, it was not science that told us that it was possible to travel by plane but engineering. The basic principles of flight were discovered by two bicycle repair men who spent their time tinkering around, trying to understand aerodynamics. Most of the scientific principles of flight are based on ex post interpretations of reality. Therefore, we do not depend on the words of scientists to tell us that we can fly by plane but on the actions of engineers. Do not mistake science for engineering, or vice versa, and do not attribute to one which rightfully belongs to the other.

    Third, you seem to suffer from poor reading comprehension. My claim simply regarded "what scientists were saying forty years ago." Not all or even most scientists, mind you; just scientists. This claim was numerically unqualified, and the evidence you yourself provided bears it out. Make sure to read more carefully when you visit this blog, especially if you're going to comment.

    Fourth, your quoted excerpt only reinforces my claims. Not only do scientists reverse themselves, they often contradict themselves. Do you still wonder why people don't trust them?