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Lecture 2

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Geography 2153A/B
Jamie Baxter

Geography 2153A Chapter 2- Science in Environmental Decision Making Science What is science? • Identify key aspects of science that differentiate it from other forms of enquiry – e.g., every day or journalistic enquiry • Observations, both quantitative and qualitative • Experimentations • Variables • Analyse data • Repeatable • Conclusion and implications • Scale matters, complexity can increase errors Scientific Terminology Hypothesis An explanation that is based on testable observations and experiments and that can be accepted until such experiments prove otherwise Experiment An orderly procedure for verifying, refuting, or establishing the validity of an hypothesis and cause-effect relationships - Falsification – know this - When scientists come up with a theory, other scientists will try to disprove the theory and improve it along the way - Draw correlations between two subjects - Must have a control variable for it to be an experiment - Have to control something Types of Experiments Manipulative • researcher has control over the variables in the experiment • most environmental research is not manipulative Natural • observations of naturally occurring phenomena and looking for correlations Is one preferred over the other as the basis for environmental decision-making? What about for studying human populations? Science What is social science? • Identify key aspects of social science that differentiate it from other forms of enquiry – e.g., every day or journalistic enquiry or science • Population changes and society changes • Lots confounding factors • Humans have biases • We manipulate what we study Logic in Science - Empirical generalizations -> theory -> hypotheses -> oberservations - From induction to deduction Observe swans, every one is white, hypothesize that all swans are white, observe more swans Social Science Quantitative/Statistical • Research on the social world that tries to mimic the natural sciences • Uses numbers and statistics in the collection and analysis of data. Qualitative/Interpretive • Uses mainly words and other non-numeric symbols in the collection and analysis of data. Studying Humans using Observational Designs for studying impacts on human health • Observational studies account for the fact that it is often unethical or impractical to manipulate humans and their environment • Epidemiologists and others use these designs to get the best estimates of environmental impacts on human health • Each design has inherent design weaknesses • Cohort is a stronger design compared to observational • From left to right (strongest to weakest designs) Science and Uncertainty Assumptions • Science must simplify to make the world comprehensible • Scientists may disagree on the appropriate assumptions - Avian mortality is the lowest for wind energy - Result in competition and death of birds - These 2 things are seemed as an impact, there is a disagreement as what counts as mortality Measurement • All scientific measurements are approximations of the “real” world - Known as The hockey stick diagram - Climate record with years and temperature - The error bars are in gray - They seem to be worse as they move back in time Misunderstandings/misuses of science Language of Certainty • Scientists shy away from saying they have proof Theory • is a good thing • Lay language: “…it’s just a theory…” • Scientists aspire to develop (unfalsifiable) theory - “The climate science group say there’s 95% certainty now that the undeniable global warning is undeniably caused by human beings” – in the picture - Does it stand up to the scientific tests repeatedly? To see if its reliable - It can almost be a law like newton’s law Science is not value-free • Scientists have biases (human values) Choice of topic Choice of method Choice of research design and data collection methods Actual data collection Analysis of data Interpretation of data Conclusions • But objectivity is a goal Pseudoscience – Research that is presented as science but lacks clear adherence to the scientific principles or otherwise lacks rigour and – may be guided too much by human values Science is not value free - Scientists aspire to develop theories - All human decisions - Take out of all their biases to make it objective is scientists’ goals - Science is becoming more politically aware - Discuss with others the need to change - Living in a major time where scientists and society work together Pseudoscience - Media has used this as terms for junk science Science has to use the scientific method • This may not account for accidental discoveries (e.g., radiation) • Ecologists and geographers may not use this strict logic, but focus more on e.g. inductive/interpretive understanding - Can often use non-experimental science - Ex. Observing tree rings, just measuring what you see All problems can be resolved with science • Environmental problems are too complex to be solved by science alone • Most problems require invoking worldviews/values because there can never be enough science Environmental Decision Making • There is tends to be a tension in terms of policy change Precautionary principle and paralysis by analysis influence eachother Precautionary principle - For climate change, even if there is a high uncertainty, we should still take action - Even if there is not a lot of science, we need to prevent the bad stuff from happening - Ex. Create regulations and laws Expansionist Worldview • Wise management • Product of the enlightenment Faith in science/technology to prevent/solve problems • Nature is a resource to be used • Nature is resilient • Conservation consonant with society values • Conservation is congruent with simultaneous use of the resource for human consumption Environmental movements - advocates for wise management - cant disconnect the ones that have high faith in science and people who are religious - Better understanding of fundamental science principles - Nature is resilient, ex. They will grow back -
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