Opinion

The uneasy relationship between Trump, scientific progress

Historically, a healthy dose of skepticism has been fundamental to sophisticated scientific thought. This skepticism demands that new hypotheses are rigorously tested before they can be accepted. Skeptics do not deny that obtaining scientific knowledge about the universe is possible; they simply require that new ideas meet certain criteria prior to being accepted. Unfortunately, a new wave of skepticism that questions the project of science as a whole has gained political influence.

The Trump administration’s attitude toward climate change shows how influential this repudiation of scientific reasoning can be. An example of this aggressive strain of skepticism can be seen anywhere from the Trump administration’s decision to ban the term “climate change” on government websites to Trump’s cabinet picks. For instance, doubts surrounding human influence on climate permeated much of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing.

A common argument climate change deniers use is that, prior to Copernicus, scientists believed in a geocentric model of the universe. Therefore, global warming could be wrong too and should not be accepted.

Although the statement is factually accurate, the possibility of a theory being proved wrong exists for all scientific theories. If we are going to reject corroborated theories because they could be disproved in the future, then it follows that all scientific theories should be disregarded. Science is an inductive pursuit, leaving no theory safe from future refutation based on its logic. Seemingly benign arguments like the geocentric analogy tacitly include sentiments that doubt the process of science itself.

The philosopher David Hume once wrote, “A wise man proportions his beliefs to the evidence.” This non-controversial conception of rationality is what eludes the Trump administration. The doctrine of the Trump administration is not one of theories failing to meet certain criteria, but one that questions whether scientific discoveries themselves are credible.

Sure, it is possible that climate change can become falsified in the future, but the current evidence overwhelmingly suggests that it is true. Consequently, it is rational to accept it in the present moment. Those who believed in a geocentric model of the universe before the Copernican Revolution weren’t irrational, but those who continued to hold the belief after Copernicus’ discovery became sufficiently corroborated were.

Matthew Brotz is a junior majoring in philosophy.

 

Featured image courtesy Flickr user Alex Antropov

March 16, 2017

Reporters

Matthew Brotz


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

It’s the play Miami Hurricanes fans will never forget — and Florida State fans are trying to forget. ...

Miami Hurricanes fans might recall their favorite college football players in past years dreaming of ...

The new quarterback is usually the ones fans gush over. For the University of Miami, last season it ...

Debate all you want, but University of Miami football coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Wed ...

Last year, when University of Miami tailback Mark Walton attended the Atlantic Coast Conference Foot ...

UM dining services team earns national recognition for special event catering. ...

From hammerheads to great whites, University of Miami researcher Neil Hammerschlag is a dedicated sp ...

An ACLU report authored by UM sociologists documents racial and ethnic disparities in Miami-Dade Cou ...

Following the summit between Trump and Putin, reaction from politicians, pundits and former intellig ...

A School of Communication associate professor played an important hand—an artistic one!—in World Cup ...

Miami senior Tyler Gauthier was named to the 2018 Fall Watch List for the Rimington Trophy presented ...

Miami junior wide receiver Ahmmon Richards was among those named to the watch list for the 2018 Bile ...

University of Miami junior running back Travis Homer was named a preseason candidate for the Doak Wa ...

Six former Canes competed on NBA Summer League teams, with three averaging at least 10 points per ga ...

Quick Hits gives University of Miami volleyball fans an opportunity to get to know the new student-a ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.