My father-in-law, Melvin is a retired professor of Agriculture at Oregon State University. He literally “wrote the book” on Pears as well as being the “go-to guy” for encyclopedia editors regarding that subject. Highly published, his research work involved collaborating with entomologists, biochemists, plant physiologists and climatologists, to name a few.
Back in the mid 1970’s Melvin attended a lecture about global climate change; so impressed was he with the speaker that Mel bought his book which Mel then ensconced in his library with his other reference materials. The author was not a scientist but a science writer (unfortunately I cannot recall the title).
This book on world climate explained that data taken from ice core samples in the Polar Regions showed distinct cycles of global heating and cooling over the millennia. The graphs and charts showed the cycle up to the current time (mid 1970’s) and projected the trend into the future. It showed that the earth would enter a period of increasing warming followed by another ice age. Based on this book, Melvin, the acclaimed scientist, is convinced that we are perched on the brink of global COOLING! The coming ice age is overdue.
Mel has talked to me about this coming trend for the last 25 years. I never really formulated an opinion until the global climate change (global warming) issue came to the forefront of public attention in recent years. Always up for discussing things of a scientific nature with him, I found myself, in my support of the indication of Anthropomorphic Climate change, placed in total opposition to his views. I set about to try and bring Mel “up to speed” on the latest science.
Mel had been retired from the university years prior to my meeting him, but he has continued to do his own research. Several times a year he walks through the neighborhood near his home and inspects specific species of plants, recording their “bloom date”. His data shows that bloom dates are occurring later every year – an indication of a progressively cooling climate.
When Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth", was released, I took Mel to the theater. After seeing the film demonstrating that we were entering a period of increasing global mean temperature rise due to the influence of greenhouse emissions, I thought it might convince Mel to alter his hypothesis. However Mel’s only comment after the film was that a quotation incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain should have been attributed to Will Rogers.
I dearly love my father-in-law but on this issue we have had some heated discussions. With the wealth of information available on the Internet, I researched dozens of opinions regarding Global Climate Change and printed selected papers for Mel to read.
Mel has read (or maybe just looked at) them all; yet he then returns to the position of his 1970’s book asserting that the earth is instead overdue in entering its next ice age.
He points to his bloom date data to substantiate his view. I point out that Corvallis Oregon is smaller than a pin point on the scale of the entire globe. He points to the 11-year sun spot cycle; I point to contrary data I researched from current climate sources. He remains unconvinced.
I find this situation extremely frustrating. Melvin is (was) a highly regarded scientist, yet it seems as though the science he practiced and learned in 1974 is “stuck” in his brain. That the overwhelming consensus of scientists supports the hypothesis of Anthropogenic Climate Change, cuts no influence with him – Mel is having none of it. At one point in a moment of exasperation I asked him "if he thought that science stopped advancing after 1974"?
Recently on the car radio I heard a biographer talking about Charles Darwin and how much grief his publication of “On the Origin of Species” caused him; not merely from the predictable religious sources but also from his professional contemporaries. Many scientists at the time were completely unconvinced and adamantly opposed to Darwin’s now well proven theory. So then how did Evolution become finally universally accepted among scientists: what caused the opposition to die out? The opposition died when his opponents died!
My son-in-law recently shared with me this quotation by Max Planck:
"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." - Or in short: "Truth never triumphs – its opponents just die out."That new ideas are challenged and held up to scrutiny is one of the core strengths of the scientific method. But we should recognize also that it's practitioners are human and therefore prone to the same bias and prejudices as are we all. Science is a way of thinking - but thinking almost always involves an emotional component as well... it's impossible to separate the two whether we recognize it or not.
Mel and I still talk about a myriad of subjects. But one thing we no longer discuss is the weather.