Alarm or deny

How can it be that the same data on tem­per­a­ture trends and sea-lev­els sup­ports such rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent agen­das? Because the data, from time to time, does not strong­ly deter­mine any way of look­ing at the world.

This obser­va­tion is as cogent today as it was when it first appeared; per­haps more so.

The total­i­ty of our so-called knowl­edge or beliefs, from the most casu­al mat­ters of geog­ra­phy and his­to­ry to the pro­found­est laws of atom­ic physics or even of pure math­e­mat­ics and log­ic, is a man-made fab­ric which impinges on expe­ri­ence only along the edges.

Or, to change the fig­ure, total sci­ence is like a field of force whose bound­ary con­di­tions are expe­ri­ence. A con­flict with expe­ri­ence at the periph­ery occa­sions read­just­ments in the inte­ri­or of the field. Truth val­ues have to be redis­trib­uted over some of our state­ments. Re-eval­u­a­tion of some state­ments entails re-eval­u­a­tion of oth­ers, because of their log­i­cal inter­con­nec­tions -the log­i­cal laws being in turn sim­ply cer­tain fur­ther state­ments of the sys­tem, cer­tain fur­ther ele­ments of the field. Hav­ing re-eval­u­at­ed one state­ment we must re-eval­u­ate some oth­ers, whether they be state­ments log­i­cal­ly con­nect­ed with the first or whether they be the state­ments of log­i­cal con­nec­tions them­selves.

But the total field is so unde­ter­mined by its bound­ary con­di­tions, expe­ri­ence, that there is much lat­i­tude of choice as to what state­ments to reeval­u­ate in the light of any sin­gle con­trary expe­ri­ence. No par­tic­u­lar expe­ri­ences are linked with any par­tic­u­lar state­ments in the inte­ri­or of the field, except indi­rect­ly through con­sid­er­a­tions of equi­lib­ri­um affect­ing the field as a whole.

Excerpt from the final sec­tion of Two Dog­mas of Empiri­cism by W.V.O.Quine in The Philo­soph­i­cal Review, Jan­u­ary 1951

Can that be how sci­ence is done? Absolute­ly! Con­sid­er Niels Bohr’s dic­tum

It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics con­cerns what we say about Nature”.

Or read what Hawk­ing and Mlodi­now have to say about mod­el-dep­dent real­ism.

The car­bon tax that the Labor/Green alliance wants to foist on us is an expres­sion of their view of the world—a desire to redis­trib­ute wealth and incen­tive and even to reduce eco­nom­ic growth for some mud­dled eth­i­cal, or aes­thet­ic, purpose—rather than a response to the harm evi­dent in CO2 emis­sions. Bob Brown is less cau­tious about reveal­ing this than Julia Gillard.

But my view of the world is quite dif­fer­ent.

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