For this assignment, you will be learning about how NASA climate scientists arrive at their conclusions concerning sea level rise and you will have a chance to consider some consequences of sea level rise. You will also see how “climate change deniers” generate their claims and learn about the tactics they use in their attempts to popularize these claims.
These are the topics of the 2015 Vice News Documentary: Our Rising Oceans. Watch the documentary here:
Read more about climate change here:
You have already learned about the nature of inductive reasoning and that inductive reasoning is the backbone of the scientific method. Some very savvy thinkers have utilized facts about inductive reasoning to attempt to sow doubt about scientific claims as they relate to ethical issues. In the documentary, you hear about the Heritage Foundation and its role in generating climate change denial. You will also hear that the same organization helped tobacco companies develop arguments denying that their products cause cancer. Question 2, below, will address their tactics. The following two videos will help you to further understand the “problem of induction” and how it factors into these tactics:
For this assignment, answer the following questions fully:
- In “Our Rising Oceans”, you witnessed a conference of “climate change deniers” at which scientific claims about climate change are called into question. What are three things that stood out to you about this conference? Explain.
- At the conference of “climate change deniers”, you heard a speaker state that “observation claims are not knowledge: they are not universal, necessary, and certain.” What this speaker is referencing is called the “problem of induction,” and this problem is simply a fact of inductive reasoning. In short, if a conclusion depends on our observations rather than on necessary logical relationships, those conclusions cannot be guaranteed. Consider the following:
- “universal” means true in all cases
- “necessary” means could not be otherwise
- “certain” means cannot be doubted
With these things in mind, it should be clear that there is nothing that we know from experience or observation that is “universal, necessary, and certain.” But does this mean that nothing we “know” from observation or experience actually counts as “knowledge?” That would imply that you don’t “know” whether it is day or night, whether the screen you are reading this on actually exists, or whether you even have a body at all! I don’t think, for most of us, that our standard of knowledge is quite that strict.
Your supplementary materials above include two YouTube videos that offer short explanations of the problem of induction for your consideration. Consider what you have read here and what you saw in these videos. Here, then, is question 2:
Is the problem of induction sufficient to dismiss scientific claims about climate change? Why or why not?
- In the documentary, you saw some consequences of climate change that are already occurring in Bangladesh. What are three things that stood out to you from that section of the video? Explain what you found significant about these things.
*One thing I find interesting is that we are seeing the same sorts of rejections of scientific claims regarding COVID-19 as we see with climate change. Maybe you have heard these arguments addressing ethical issues related to the pandemic. We also see them in debates surrounding vaccinations.