By accident of birth, I am a science skeptic. I take the announcements "Science has now discovered that . . ." with a grain of salt. I was born in 1951, the lowest year on the charts for breastfeeding. My mother said the nurses fanned through the maternity ward handing out pills to dry up your colostrum. Many of my generation were fattened on evaporated milk and tap water laced with Karo Syrup and dispensed through a stiff plastic nipple.
I was also the generation that heard a lot about "thalidomide babies" and had some next door. Teratogen was sold from 1957 to 1961, a "wonder drug" for insomnia, colds, and morning sickness. It produced arm stumps and appendages in shocking places.
A little later still, in 1967, yet another awesome scientific discovery was published: The Cooling: Has the Next Ice Age Already Begun? Can We Survive It? by Lowell Ponte. Maybe, if we're lucky, the Ice Age ahead will cancel out the Global Warming Age ahead.
To add to my woes, I barely passed high school chemistry.
All of this moribund personal history thrown into the hopper has produced the unfortunate profile of a woman at once incapable and skeptical for discerning the current scientific controversy. How do I decide what to believe, much less how to vote and how to live?
When I find myself in areas beyond my ken, I realize I must resort to authority. The truth is that most things we know, we know on authority. None of us has ever seen the earth go around the sun, but most of us believe it does because "we have it on good authority." (Of course, the people many centuries ago who believed the sun circled the earth also had it "on good authority.") Heck, I don't even know first hand that Colorado exists because I have never seen it. I have seen a lot of photos purporting to be Colorado. And I have a friend who claims to have lived there. She wouldn't lie to me.
We have it on authority that there is a global warming coming that is man-made and is serious enough that we need to spend a lot of money and hurt a lot of businesses to fix it, and maybe even have a global government. At lease some of us thought we had that "on good authority"---until the little sticky patch last month at East Anglia University, in which we learned that science is not only inexact and prone to error but also full of mischief. Now it's looking like global warming is nowhere as certain as the existence of Colorado.
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