Trust Your Inner Scientist

Is science incomprehensible to you? Some sort of voodoo or black magic perhaps? Then you need to connect with your inner scientist. Otherwise known as common sense.

Imagine this. It has happened to you many times. An electrical storm is doing its thing. You see the flash of lightning, and wait to hear the thunder, counting the seconds. One, two, three, four … Then you hear the crash and rumble. And, if you hadn’t figured out before now why there is a delay, as humans over the ages would certainly have done, perhaps you might be wondering now.

So. You know that light to all intents and purposes travels instantaneously. You only need turn on a light switch to know that. But the clap of thunder is more tardy. It takes its time. You can count it down. One, two, three, four …

Perhaps you have figured out that the reason for the delay is light travels faster than sound. You have figured this out on the strength of the evidence of your eyes and ears, i.e. on observations you made with your senses.

Congratulations. This is your inner scientist at work. Common sense.

Even when science seems more complex than this simple example would have it, science is still just basic common sense. The common sense you were born with. Your survival strategy. Professional scientists may use mathematical analysis, complex instruments, and collaborative checking techniques (known as peer review) to aid them in their investigations. But these are just trappings. Scientists are not trying to pull wool over your eyes. Science is not a conspiracy or an exclusive club. Behind these trappings, science is just common sense.

Conclusions in science are reached and predictions made through evidence gleaned from the five senses. This is what makes it science. If conclusions are reached or predictions made without such evidence, it is not science.

In science, evidence is king. But some people – almost never professional scientists – deny the importance of evidence, and want us to put our common sense on hold. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the field of climate science. The culprits here are mostly people with a vested interest – one way or the other – in maintaining the activities of the fossil fuel industry. Or their lackeys.

Since 1988, the evidence has been impossible to deny, unless you want to deny common sense itself. On the basis of this evidence, we – the global community – were warned loud and clear that we must phase out fossil fuels as a large-scale source of energy for our everyday activities and, simultaneously, phase in renewables. Not doing this, we were told, will lead to environmental and economic catastrophe for our way of life.

Now, more than 30 years later, having done precious little to heed the scientists’ warnings, we are seeing their predictions coming to pass: global heating, inundation by the sea, drought, bushfires, increased frequency of ‘once-in-a-hundred-year’ weather events, etc. It is too late now for phasing in or phasing out. The consequence of our tardiness is that the necessary changes in our behaviour must be much more immediate. Like now.

Why delay? Do we really want to experience the slow collapse of civilization as we know it? Or are we happy perhaps for this to happen to our progeny?

Common sense. We were born with it. It must prevail. Or we shall not. It has always been thus.