When asked about global warming, one of the U.S. presidential candidates in the Republican field was quoted last month as saying:
"I don't think from my perspective that I want to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven and from my perspective is more and more being put into question." (Texas Governor Rick Perry, August 17, New Hampshire, Politics and Eggs breakfast).
No matter what your own view is on this candidate, and no matter what your understanding is of global warming , is it appropriate to state, as Perry says here, that the theory of human-made global warming "has not been proven"?
According to the material in Chapter 1, a scientific theory can never be proven; it can only be strengthened by data or weakened by the data. Bloggers Nancy Abrams and Joel Premack address the idea very clearly in their article here. For example, Abrams and Premack state,
"[a theory] can never be proved true because that would mean it couldn't be refuted; and if it can't be refuted, by definition it's not a scientific theory -- it's faith, not science."
Political debates on global warming would benefit from research methods lessons from Chapter 1. Appropriate questions to ask about any theory include, "What is the strength of the evidence in support of this theory?" and "Is the theory falsifiable?" We should not be asking, "Is this theory proven?" because in science, no theory ever is.