Sunday, July 07, 2013

Social Truth Vs Objective Truth

The local oldies/easy listening station gets its news feed from CNN.  It is remarkable to me how easily a news slant can be put into a 10-30 second report on a topic.  Rapid-fire, you'd never know what hit you if you weren't paying attention.

A report on an Obama speech mentioning climate change last week has stuck in my mind.  "The debate is over," he said.

Scientists generally dislike saying out loud that any debate is over, even if they are deeply supportive of one side of it.  They retain the value that debate and questioning are generally good things, and know of instances where improvements came from unlikely places. So when someone like Obama, with little science training, formal or informal, beyond high school, and an SATM of about 500 makes that claim, it's a red flag.  The fact that we now are talking about climate change instead of global warming is testament to the fact that the debate is not over.

As for data, you can stress either side with some legitimacy.  Global temperatures rose until 1998 and remain very high.  We now think there may have been some years in the 1930's that were just as high, but the last 15 years are certainly among the highest for many years.  OTOH, the increase stopped, and there has even been a slight decrease since then, even with rising CO2 and Asians buying lots of internal combustion engines. That was absolutely not what we were assured would happen.  Given all that, I can understand people who know more than I do believing quite strongly that something worrisome is going on and it might be wise to modify our behavior.  I can't understand the statement "the debate is over," however.

Well, actually I can.  It is a social truth, not an objective truth.  Obama is declaring "People in my tribe have to believe this.  It's one of our requirements for membership. And furthermore, insofar as we have power, we will enforce this tribal value on others."  In that sense, his statement is entirely true.  It is a social truth.  There is no debate about this, he has divined accurately what his people believe, and what they require.

This comes up because of some other social truths that are not quite the same as objective truths that came up over the last few days.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

"The debate is over," he said.

He ain't gonna debate it, and will do all he can to prevent us from trying to. (Fascist [TM].)