[Vision2020] American Geophysical Union: The Plainspoken Scientist: "A message to science educators and students about global climate change"

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Tue Jul 6 16:30:35 PDT 2010

It appears Professor John Ayers is unaware that the EOS survey article he
references (EOS v. 90 Number 3, p.
can be read by anyone on the Internet without access to American Geophysical
Union publications via a log-in, at the following website:




*John Ayers
*Ph.D. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1991
*Geochemistry and Experimental Petrology*

office: 5705 Science & Engineering Bldg.
phone: 615-283-0775
email: john.c.ayers at vanderbilt.edu


19 April 2010

*Guest post by John C. Ayers, Professor at **Vanderbilt

A recent poll of earth scientists found that 97 percent of actively
publishing climate scientists agree that data clearly demonstrate the earth
is warming and that human activity is contributing to rising temperatures (EOS
v. 90 Number 3, p.
those who don’t have access to Eos, see this
CNN story<http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/01/19/eco.globalwarmingsurvey/index.html>).
In contrast, the same poll found that only 82 percent of earth scientists
agree that human activity is contributing to climate change. Many of the 18
percent who disagreed are undoubtedly science educators. This poll and my
own experience suggest that a significant percentage of university and high
school science educators who are not climatologists remain skeptical about
human-induced climate change because they haven’t taken an in-depth,
unbiased look at the data. Then they pass their skepticism on to their

What these science educators need to realize is that they are teaching their
students to be skeptical not about one scientific theory, but the entire
scientific process. If science educators don’t accept the overwhelming
consensus of scientific experts, why should their students or the public? My
concern isn’t so much whether students learn and accept the scientific
consensus on global warming; it is that students will conclude that science
isn’t a legitimate source of knowledge, and shouldn’t play a role in public
policy decisions. Science educators who express opinions rather than
demonstrate facts undermine the scientific process. The best approach is for
educators to present the facts and let students draw their own conclusions.

Now, climate contrarians are allying with creationists to keep teaching of
global climate change and evolution out of public schools (see “Darwin Foes
Add Warming to Targets<http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/science/earth/04climate.html>”,
Kaufman, March 3, 2010). For over a century, creationists and their
predecessors have fought earth scientists about the age of the earth,
biologists about evolution, and astronomers about the age of the universe.
Expert scientists in these fields need support from non-expert scientists.
All members of the scientific community must learn the scientific evidence
relevant to each of these battles and avoid undercutting science by voicing
uninformed opinions.

Students of science: Don’t believe anyone who states opinions about
scientific issues without presenting supporting facts. If your teacher or
political representative makes an unsubstantiated challenge to the consensus
scientific view on global climate change, evolution, or any other topic,
demand the evidence they base their opinions on. If the response rests on
politics, religion, or something else that is not science, call them on it.
 On climate change, ask why they think they know better than the 97 percent
of climatologists. If they claim that scientific experts in the field are
unreliable or have all committed fraud, ask them why you should trust any
scientific authority. All scientific claims need to be tested. Students can
contribute to scientific progress by testing claims of science educators, or
even better, by persuading educators to test their own claims.

[*A previous version of this blog post was published in Ayers' Sustainability

*– John C. Ayers, Vanderbilt University

*Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett*
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