Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gore Blimey with Science

Some people seem to criticise the Gore film and Peace Prize (and global warming arguments) because
of inaccuracy (sometimes deliberate, sometimes accidental) - I think it is clear that if
someone makes up a completely false argument to reach a completely false conclusion,
then that would be pretty bad but I think theres a misunderstanding of the role both of
of science, and of the public understanding of science here.

No science is 100% accurate - anyone who claims so is a religious fanatic:)
Science (and its apparent progress) is a series of successive approximations
to more useful predictive rules about how the world will operate based on the past,
with a set of public instructions on how you can verify the rules yourself,
or see other people do so.

Occasionally, rules are even overthrown, although usually, they are "improved"m giving rise
to the unfortunate idea that they are converging on some sort of accurate model of the true
(or "platonic ideal") universe, although most scientists would make no such claim.

The errors in the Gore movie are well known and do not detract from the overall argument -
a recent court case in the UK about showing the movie in schools as part of education
was wo in favour of the movie, provided the discussion of the errors is part of the

THis is entirely a Good Thing, since the general argument, but also the fallability of scientists
is an important lesson. But more so: the fact that Nothing is ever 100% proven, but that a
statistical argument has to be made "on balance" is an even more important lesson. Systematic
as well as random errors are part of any science - indeed, in biology (as well as in Computer Science)
both systematic (mistaken assumptions, methodological errors) as well as random errors
(noise, stochastic variation in the environment - e.g. users:), are a fact of life,
so deal with it:)

No comments: