Chapter 9: Science And Our Planet

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 159

A: We got into a big debate about global warming today.  Some people really don’t like science!  But then, I’ve got to say, how can science be so wrong all the time?

M: Where is science wrong?

A: Well, vaccines are a lot more dangerous than people say, and so on.

M: Let’s slow down a bit.  What’s wrong with vaccines?

A: They cause autism and all of those things!

M: So, first of all, there have been many studies that that is not the case.  There was one study that showed a relationship but it was retracted because of fraud.  So that means it was done in such an unethical way, that even the original paper no longer counts as published!

A: But how do you know what’s true?

M: In science, something is only published if it passes a reviewing process.  In that process, people who are also experts in the field will check it.  If somebody intentionally commits fraud then they may not be able to find that.  So if that turns up later, the paper will get retracted.

A: I don’t think you believe that science is never wrong!

M: Science often goes wrong at first.  Sometimes it’s just incomplete.  What Newton published wasn’t wrong.  It’s just not completely correct when objects move at very high speeds.  When speeds are close to the speed of light, we have to use the theory of relativity.  So Einstein didn’t find that Newton was wrong.  He just showed that Newton’s theory is an approximation for a more general theory.  For normal speed’s Newton’s theory is just fine.

A: How do we know whether something will turn out to be wrong many years later?

M: For important things, many people check them.  Many people have checked those autism claims.

A: But then the same thing could happen with evolution or with global warming!

M: Evolution has been established for well over a hundred years.  Almost nothing in modern biology would make sense without it.  In fact, talking about vaccines, the reason why flu vaccines won’t work the next year is evolution!

A: Global warming isn’t that old.  How do you know that won’t turn out to be wrong?

M: Again, there are so many independent studies that almost all scientists believe that it’s happening.

A: Emma says that she doesn’t believe in science anymore.  Her mom used to go to the doctor each year to get a mammogram every year and then they changed it.  How can you believe science when things change so much.

M: The question about the mammograms is more difficult.  They did find people who had cancer that way.  It just turned out that the ones they normally found might not have killed women anyway, and the ones that do kill women, may still do that.  Statistics can be very misleading.

A: So then it could be that the statistics of global warming is misleading too!

M: We are seeing a lot of effects from global warming already.  Let me ask you a different question:  Even if we found that global warming isn’t as big a problem as we think, why would it be wrong to be careful now and reduce our emissions?

A: People say it’s bad for industry.

M: Is it better for industry if we keep using up oil that will run out in a few decades?

A: It’s not really a problem is it?

M: We’ve kept finding more oil in the past, but eventually nobody questions that the amount of oil is finite.  You know where it comes from right?

A: Trees?

M: That’s rather coal.  For oil it was probably bacteria, but it’s still things that lived a long time ago, and the reserves won’t just get refilled.

A: Maybe science will find a replacement.

M: It’s not exactly fair if you distrust science when it warns you about global warming, and then you trust science to find a solution when you run out of oil!

A: Well, I’m just saying that people don’t trust climate science.

M: But they do trust science to miraculously fix anything that goes wrong!

A: I didn’t say that!

M: I’m just teasing you.  I hear this all the time in my work.  When science predicts something people don’t like to hear they say they don’t trust science.  But then they want science to solve all problems for them.

A: But how can we do anything about global warming if science doesn’t have solutions?

M: What do you mean?  We should use fewer resources, period.  Science can help with developing technologies that require fewer resources but we still have to decide that we want to reduce the amount that we consume.

A: How should we do that?

M: The natural way would be to charge for the full cost of everything.  If producing something creates a lot of environmental damage, companies should pay for fixing that damage.  That would make things more expensive and would mean that people use less.  

A: If things become more expensive, a lot of people can’t afford them.

M: Eventually, we all have to get used to living with less stuff.  

A: Don’t you think that science will find a solution to those things?

M: You don’t say, “I’ll just eat three dinners every day and hope that science will find a solution for the weight I gain because of it”, right?  You figure out how much you can eat so that you are healthy.  We should figure out how many resources we can use so that our planet is healthy.

A: Why don’t people do that then?

M: One reason is that they’d find out that people can only really use a tiny fraction of what they are currently using.  Also, there are still many countries in which the population is growing a lot.  As long as the number of people keeps growing, more resources get used.

A: Why don’t we tell people they shouldn’t have so many kids?

M: It’s really poor countries in which people have many kids.  When living conditions improve, people tend to generally have fewer kids.  

A: So then that solves the problem, right?

M: There are still a lot of people who say that having many children is great, and that is a concern.  

A: There’s one kid in our class who has 8 brothers and sisters.

M: Just don’t let it make you feel bad when people say how important it is to have many children.  A lot of that goes back to religious beliefs.  There’s no point arguing about beliefs people have.  I only argue with people when they tell others what to do.

A: There aren’t many kids in our class who have that many brothers and sisters.

M: It isn’t much of an issue in the developed world.  It still is an issue in some countries. Also, when living conditions improve, and people have fewer kids, they want to drive cars and buy stuff like we do.  

A: That’s fair enough though, right?  If they have been so poor?

M: Yes, of course.  We can’t just say, “You can’t have the things that we have”.  Eventually, all of us just have to reduce the resources that we use.  That’s why it has to start with us!


Submitted: March 28, 2015

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