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Understanding Climate Science

Understanding Climate science first means understanding the basic nature of science. Scientists share basic beliefs and attitudes about what they do and how they view their work.

How do we know what we know?
Scientists share basic beliefs and attitudes about their work. As you gain understanding of scientific ideas, consider the nature of science, scientific research, and the process of scientific inquiry

  1. The world is understandable. Scientists believe that through the use of the intellect, and with the aid of instruments that extend the senses, people can discover patterns in all of nature.
  2. Scientific ideas are subject to change. In science, the testing and improving and occasional discarding of theories, whether new or old, go on all the time. Scientists assume that even if there is no way to secure complete and absolute truth, increasingly accurate approximations can be made to account for the world and how it works.
  3. Scientific knowledge is durable. Although scientists reject the notion of attaining absolute truth and accept some uncertainty as part of nature, most scientific knowledge is durable. The modification of ideas, rather than their outright rejection, is the norm in science.
  4. Science cannot provide complete answers to all questions. There are many matters that cannot usefully be examined in a scientific way, such as the existence of supernatural powers or beings, or the true purposes of life.
  5. Science demands evidence. Scientists concentrate on getting accurate data through measurements and observations. The findings of any one investigator or group are usually checked by others.
  6. Science is a blend of logic and imagination. The process of formulating and testing hypotheses is one of the core activities of scientists. Imagining how the world works and then putting it to the test of reality is a creative process that requires knowledge and insight.
  7. Science explains and predicts. Scientists explain things through theories that must be logically sound and incorporate a significant body of scientifically valid observations.
  8. Scientists try to identify and avoid bias. Gathering and interpreting data can vary depending on many factors. Scientists safeguard against bias by having many investigators working on a problem and checking each other’s work.
  9. Science is not authoritarian. No scientist is empowered to decide for other scientists what is true. Challenges to new ideas happen often in science and help build valid knowledge.

Source: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Project 2061

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