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December 05, 2007
We don't know enough to know what we don't know
KINGFIELD, Maine (STPNS) -- "Environmental scholar and naturopathic physician Dr. Joyce Young recently told me: ?We do not know how much we don't know; and what we don't know is huge!? So, this will require courage, a real commitment to ethical stewardship, a willingness to re-evaluate what we think we know, and a deep desire to change the direction in which we are now going without any breaks." (From the Irregular, Oct. 10, 2007, Commentary ?Global Warming: a reality check,? by Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri, Page 3.)
What a terrific summary of the column! We don't know enough to know what we don't know, but "here is the plan." So, let's take each rallying cry and look at it. "So, this will require courage"
It does take courage to look at data, generate information and ideally furnish knowledge, particularly when the fashion is to take an endpoint and mold the data to fit it. The "hockey stick" statistical data interpretation supports this contention, and in face, produced a similar curve using random numbers as input. Shouldn't we be strong and let the data speak objectively?
"a real commitment to ethical stewardship"
This really says, "do the right thing." Very high-minded and laudable, but the reality is that if you don't know what the right thing is, how can you make the right decisions? Perhaps, if the various causes for the effects are unequivocally determined, then an informed decision can be made, but not before that.
"re-evaluate what we think we know"
Data is the base of science -- a collection of measurements and observations that can be verified. It's the "knowing" part that can be an issue, so that two people might look at the same data and come to two opposite conclusions. Perhaps, let us sit down and reason together, or is researching the same data with new tools and understanding a problem? One thing we "think we know" is that the Earth's temperature is controlled by a thermostat. Maybe not. "a deep desire to change the direction in which we are now going without any breaks"
The fact that you are lost doesn't suggest that taking a different turn than before will make you found. In summary, I think you have said: "Be strong, do the right thing, take stock, and don't be afraid to say you were on the wrong path."
Dr. Perlingieri, Ph.D., you might take your own medicine. I do not believe you know enough to know that you don't know. Therefore please do not honor, nor validate bad science by repeating it.
Most telling is your list of citations: 80 percent are newspapers, not scientific journals. To the casual observer, this seems like armchair, not authoritative, science.
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