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.