Re: Objectivity

Mon, 01 Jul 1996 15:51:16 -0400 (EDT)

Russ Maatman wrote:

> ...
> In view of all this, it seemed to me that the dispassionate look at
> the evidence suggested by Loren Haarsma would be impossible.

I think that a dispassionate look at certain "bare facts" is possible ---
facts such as the amount of topsoil erosion per year as a function of
tilling techniques, or the rise of atmospheric CO2 concentrations over
the last few decades, or the size of the ozone hole, or the level of
hormone-mimicing chemicals in the environment.

It is the interpretation of those bare facts --- complicated and uncertain
predictions about their long-term effects on temperature, weather, animal
health and survival, etc. --- which causes all sorts of dissention.
Political biases affect interpretation. That is why I recommend that we,
as a scientific community, try to "integrate over" those variables by
presenting the spectrum of (reasonable) opinions. This has the added
benefit of honestly informing the public about the actual level of
scientific uncertainty over these issues.

Sometimes the "bare facts" alone, apart from uncertain predictions, may be
enough to galvanize the public to corrective action. Some non-scientists,
depending on their political persuasions, will tend to believe the
"milder" predictions, and others the more dire predictions; but at least
everyone will have the most information available, rather than selected

"I made no attempt to be innacurate, |
but I want to make it clear that I | Loren Haarsma
was not attempting to be precise." |
--Josh Steiner, Treasure Dept. Chief of Staff |