Global warming and divine will

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A religious believer has a simple explanation for everything. When things are going well, then it's just a matter of "divine will." When disaster strikes, then "God is simply testing our faith." It's common belief among all religions that they don't need to prove their claims. All manifestations of the real world around us, including bad or good weather, are proof of their deity's existence.

Today's god, at least as far as the climate shifts are concerned, is known as the greenhouse effect. Global warming was blamed for the recent snowfall. But it was also blamed for the heat wave last summer. The autumn rainfalls were, yes, attributed to greenhouse gases. Every cloud, every rise or drop in temperature, is proof of global warming. The question is: Are there any meteorological conditions that are not associated with the climate change theory? If so, then what are they? Steady temperatures throughout the year perhaps?

Karl Popper, the great Austrian philosopher of science, suggested a simple way for differentiating science from non-science or metaphysics. In "The Logic of Scientific Discovery," Popper introduces the notion of potential "falsifiability." A theory can be considered scientific if and only if it is falsifiable. Otherwise, it's metaphysics. For example, Darwin's theory of evolution is scientific because it contains the tools of its own refutation. When challenged to say how the theory of evolution could ever be falsified, the British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane famously replied "Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian." Creationism is not scientific because everything is "God's will." The fact that there are no dinosaurs around these days is "God's will." The fact that you can still see turtles which are basically unchanged since the age of the dinosaur is also "God's will." When everything is a question of divine will, the will cannot be disputed.

All the above would be a mere academic exercise had Popper not published his second classic work "The Open Society and Its Enemies." In this book, Popper's critical rationalism extends into the social realm. According to the German philosopher Hans Albert, "The Open Society" is connected with the "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" as the critical attitude toward science expands into society at large. An open society is one where not only scientific claims but also political proposals are open to criticism. Science itself represents a model of open society.

The biggest enemy of an open society is metaphysical claims; those claims that cannot be verified in real life. If these become majority claims then we end up with totalitarianism. There can be no argument strong enough to refute them. And the road to serfdom has taken many shapes, but there has always been one final destination.

KATHIMERINI English Edition, 26/02/2008