Is there absolute truth about anything?

Ross Andrews
The Tillsonburg News
February 17, 2010

In the 1950s Leighton Ford, brother-in-law to Billy Grayham, brought a religious crusade to Tillsonburg. Choirs from area churches united voices for the services, some in St. Paul’s United Church, some in the old Capitol Theatre on Broadway. I sang bass in that choir and watched dozens of people answer the invitation to come to the front and accept salvation.

One evening I raised my hand and was added to the ranks of the saved.

We were urged to feed on the milk of the word and grow in the faith. Bible study groups met to search the scriptures for guidance.

One weekend five of us from the Straffordville United Church went to the Christian retreat centre at Five Oaks near Brantford. The main event was led by John Castile who introduced us to his book, Rediscovering Prayer.

Four of us had a chance to speak with the author in the little library of Five Oaks. We pressed him with questions about passages of scripture and he answered as well as he could. In the course of this exchange Castile told us frankly and respectfully that anyone who told us he was certain of the truth was probably wrong.

This greatly upset us at the time. In our newly professed faith we were not ready for such a wobbly crutch.

A few years later in 1963, Richard P. Feynman, the youngest physicist to work on the creation of the atomic bomb and the man who pinpointed the cause of the destruction of space shuttle Challenger in 1986, gave three lectures at the University of Washington. Those lectures were published in a slim volume entitled The Meaning of it All.

Feynman discussed science, religion, and a host of topics that puzzled his enquiring mind. The first lecture was called, The Uncertainty of Science.

Science means different things to different people, he said. It is a special way of finding things out. It is used to name the body of knowledge arising from things found out. Lastly it means new things you can do when you have found something out. These may be good or bad. You can grow crops with fertilizer, or you can make roadside bombs.

Feynman said the scientific method is based on the principle that observation is the judge of whether something is or is not.

All scientific knowledge is uncertain, he said. If you have made up your mind already, you might not solve the problem that has never been solved before.

You can see that John Castile and Richard Feynman had the same distrust of anyone who claimed to know the truth.

For some years now we have been told by certain scientists and a lot of people who don’t have a clue what they are talking about, putting their blind faith in the scientists, that our planet is growing dangerously warm. Oceans are going to drown whole nations as the glaciers melt. We must sacrifice to save the planet. We are urged to reduce our carbon footprint, meaning carbon dioxide, no matter what it costs.

Beneath the hysteria are voices urging careful examination of the arguments behind the rush to so-called green energy. Laurie Goldstein is one of these voices. Lawrence Solomon is another. Their columns are attacked by writers of letters to the editor who ignore their messages and spout the original alarms, even after the scientists have been caught cooking the books.

In January Solomon reported on a study done in Waterloo by professor Qin-Bin Lu and published in the peer-reviewed journal Physics Reports.

The gist of the study is that global warming was caused by us humans, but it is not carbon dioxide that trapped the heat. It was CFCs, chlorofluorocarbons that we used in refrigerators and spray bombs. When the ozone layer was destroyed over the polar regions and cancer-causing rays were let through, the nations drew up the Montreal Protocol in 1978 to stop production of CFCs.

Molecule for molecule, Solomon says CFCs are 10,000 times more potent as greenhouse gas than CO2.

Dr. Lu’s observations show that climate began by 2002 to return to normal conditions. He estimates it may take 50 to 70 years to complete the process.

Richard P.Feynman would remind us that science is never certain. We must see how his peers respond to Dr. Lu’s study before throwing our hats in the air.

Meanwhile we might stop badgering Steven Harper about embarrassing us before the world, and urge Premier McGuinty to slow the pouring of money into priming the pump of wind and solar generation in Ontario.

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