Let's talk about the word "believe."
I was watching "Frontline" last night on PBS and getting the scoop on the failed attempts of the past three administrations to make the necessary significant changes in environmental policy we need to slow down global climate change. Obviously some administrations have been less effective than others in this arena. Ahem.
But I was struck by the frequently-shown video footage of Senator James Inhofe standing on the Senate floor and calling global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." While I'd seen that particular footage before, I hadn't ever been quite so disgusted by it. Not only is it a lie, but it raises the question why? Why would scientists convene to pull one over on the American people? Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone believe that?
Well, obviously, politics has a lot to do with the "why," but it also raises the same issues of "belief" that I see consistently with evolution. People claim to either "believe" or "not believe" in evolution or global warming, the same way people people "believe" or "not believe" in creationism or...whatever not believing in global warming would be.
If you look up the word "belief" on dictionary.com, you'll find it means, 1) something believed; an opinion or conviction; 2) confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof; 3) confidence; faith; trust; and 4) a religious tenet or tenets; religious creed or faith.
NONE of these definitions is applicable to science. You can "accept" or "not accept" what is regarded as fact by people who are experts in the area, but by saying you "believe," you are indicating that the issue is one that is not settled, one that requires faith of some sort, one that has no more factual significance than the opposing view. Evolution is fact. It is observable in nature and has been proven with an extensive amount of fossil and DNA analysis. So, you can say to me, "I don't accept what the scientific community overwhelmingly considers to be fact regarding the process of evolution," but don't tell me, "I don't believe in evolution," because I will be left with no choice but to kick your ass.
Likewise, Senator Inhofe can claim he doesn't believe that global warming is real, but he would be wrong. Not just in his assessment, but also his word choice, although he was quite clever when it came to what he actually said.
I don't think the Senator probably spent all that much time speaking to scientists about the facts regarding climate change or else he likely wouldn't have made such an embarrassingly inaccurate statement. But by attaching to word "hoax" to global warming, he made the issue one of "belief." You can "believe" or "not believe" a hoax and that takes away some of the pressure to "accept" or "not accept" global warming.
By the way, "accept" it.
And all that was just to say that you should be careful about what you "believe" or "not believe" coming out of a politician's mouth, especially regarding science. Unless that politician is Al Gore, because that dude's got his shit together.