Axiomatic

By Stanley J Dorst

There are some observable truths that can be taken as axioms in our thinking and drawing conclusions about mathematics, science or life.

 

In geometry, we learned that accepting ‘the shortest distance between two points is a straight line’, along with other ‘obvious’ truths enabling us to build a system to solve complex geometrical structures.

 

Somewhat less ‘obvious’, yet still compellingly obvious are axioms popular in fiction: ‘people will believe what they want to believe’ and another is that ‘people don’t change’.

 

These are not quite as observably true as the straight line or – well choose your own, but they often seem to explain human actions.

 

Today, if you read an article about global warming, the many proposals and solutions that are being studied come from two simple axioms: 1. “There is global warming” and this is observably true in the receding glaciers and other observable facts presented to us; and 2. “Humans are the primary cause of global warming”.  The articles then go on to argue the various merits of different solutions.

 

Now, actually, there is scientific evidence of global warming to back up the axiom of observable truth, e.g. ice cores from the last hundreds of thousands of years.  But the axiom that humans are causing the problem is neither observably true nor scientifically proven.

 

There is no way we can assume it is necessarily true that we are the primary cause of global warming, like we can assume the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Therefore it must be proved that humans are the main source.

 

Proponents of measures to reduce human production of CO2 avoid this problem by stating that all scientists agree that human activity is the source of global warming and proceed to solutions.

Since it is not observably obvious, and therefore not axiomatic, that we are the cause, the theory has to be proven.  So where is the proof?  There is no proof.

 

It is not my place to prove that people are not a significant cause of global warming but several books have recently been written that do purport to prove it. Which suggests that not all scientists agree on the matter.  In fact a cursory review of the ice core data shows that the reverse is true  –  global warming is the cause of increasing CO2 and sea levels.

 

So the question is: how can every news and magazine article take it as axiomatic that we are causing global warming?  Is it because people will believe what they want to believe?

 

What do you believe?

 

Stanley J. Dorst is a retired officer of Chevron Land Development Co. and CEO of Grosvenor Development Co.  He’s been advisor to European governments and private companies as Vice-President of The International Urban Development Association and advisor for The International Executive Service Corps on behalf of the United States State Department Agency for International Development.





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