On The Human Condition and Science. A reflection in the wake of a storm that never came.

030713All week long the headlines shouted “Long Overdue Snow headed for Washington!” and “Nation’s Capital braces for Snow Onslaught!” Some dubbed it the “Snowquester” the blizzard of 2013!

It never came.

To be fair, just across the river in the Virginia hills and suburbs, six inches of slushy accumulation did occur.

And to be more fair, if you looked past the “Accuweather” and the “The Weather Channel” headlines to the true scientists at those channels and the National Weather Service, the real scientists behind the “hypsters” and “Ad-sellers,” they had said all along that the weather models had a hard time seeing the rain/snow line making it past the “I-95 Corridor.”

Yes, my favorite go-to weather guy Henry Margusity at Accu-Weather had said all week it didn’t look good for DC on the snow front. But never mind, his prediction didn’t sell ads, so his videos didn’t make the national news cut. You see, we need to get the folks to “tune in at 11” and go to the various blog sites to increase revenue.

Yes, marketing eclipses science.

Now I am not a scientist. But I live for the day when science will leave funding and marketing and be science again. Yes, I live for the day when the data will actually matter again, rather than the consequences of those data. Are you praying with me?

Sadly, the human condition is not lacking in the “objective” sciences either. Too many of those who see the sciences as purely objective and rooted in “objective” data are engaged in wishful and hopeful thinking. Science too, is all too subject to the human condition of seeing what we want to see, or even worse, seeing what is profitable.

For all the talk of the corruption of the Church (which is sad and all too real at times), those who think that science is some sort of refuge from the sinful and skewed human condition, should have tuned in at noon on Wednesday. For at that time it was obvious to any casual observer that the snowstorm in the nation’s Capital was a bust. Still the weather teams insisted that the snow would surely set in and that we should “make sure to tune in for the latest updates.”  We were being had.

And frankly, didn’t they actually know from the get-go, like my go-to guy, Henry Margusity that the storm was highly questionable from the start?  And if they did not, where they willing to admit that they, like the rest of us poor slobs, are prone to herd mentality?

Yes, even science is prone to “the human condition.” And perhaps the faster we “lay-folks” grab hold of this the faster we can set aside our latest idol of science.

Let me say, by way of disclaimer, that true meteorology has come a long way since I was a kid. Indeed, the real folks, the ones away from the cameras and the “tune in at eleven” crowd have done pretty well in setting forth the real and fairly accurate forecast. But the true meteorologist are also willing to show that prediction is within a range, and is not a certainty. My guy Henry, at Accuweather  was pretty clear, DC might get a lot of snow, but it wasn’t all that likely, and it looked like the Mountains were the real bulls-eye. He said this more than a day before the “tune in at eleven” storm.

But who lives in the Mountains? And so the marketers took an unlikely certainty and ran with it and sold ads in the city.

And here is the human condition that even pure science is hard to overcome. People like to criticize theology and philosophy for being too “subjective.” And I will admit that there are self-serving theologians and philosophers out there, who allow their need to sell books or secure access to power to drive their conclusions.

But just like my forecaster Henry demonstrates, there are still a few “say like it is scientists” out there. And there are also some good theologians who have not simply been co-opted by popular opinion or securing access to power. Yes,  in theology there are still some who have not simply caved to the popular and the profitable, who are willing to to stick to the data of revealed truth and report what is actually said, not just what is profitable.

And I suppose none of us are wholly pure. We all have some unexamined premises and some wishful thinking that drives our conclusions.

In the end there is simply this reminder: the human condition is to be imperfect, and to all of us there is the needful of correction from God, and from the reality He supplies. Tune it at 11 if you please, but don’t be too certain that the “latest update” is all that accurate after all.

I’m not cynic. I’m just one who is trying to be sober about the tendency of profit and popularity to obscure our observational skills and the capacity to speak the truth.

In this video, recorded a day before the storm, Accuweather forecaster Henry Margusity indicates significant doubt about the snow potential for eastern cities like Dc and Baltimore. His forecast never made the main news feeds. Move forward to about 3:45 minutes to get to the crux of his doubts. And, remember, his forecast was made more than a day before the “storm” hit.

9 Replies to “On The Human Condition and Science. A reflection in the wake of a storm that never came.”

  1. Meteortheology: The wind blows where it listeth and thou hear the sound thereof , yet know not from where it cometh or wither it goeth. Such is the nature of the Spirit.

  2. Another example. An opinion poll comes stating so and so is likely to be elected to that post. when some electors recieve such message they adjust thier voting choice to match the opinion poll. the result the poll is quite credible. in the last so many polling periods it has been accurate…..oh fallen humanity.

    1. Lol The fact that we even vote for anything is a result of fallen humanity and a condition of sin, so if we’re going to vote we might as well go all out 🙂

  3. Here in Massachusetts, we were told that we’d be getting 3 to 5 inches of snow…we got at least a FOOT of heavy, wet snow and lost our power for a little while. Not the end of the world, but still…

    “Science” – both a blessing and a curse. I often think “science” has made our lives so complicated. It has also persuaded many people that they don’t need God, and for those of us who have faith, our tendency is to depend on the data rather than the divine.

  4. I saw this documentary about global warming that claimed that for awhile if anyone wanted to get funding for anything all they had to do was tie it in somehow to global warming. So, if someone wanted to do a study on the mating habits of chipmunks, then they would just make up some clever tie to temperature change and collect their checks.

  5. There is nothing about scientists that make them more inherently trustworthy than other human beings. Some are more honest or trustworthy than others, just as in the rest of humanity. If anything, they may be more exposed to the temptation of pride because they are so highly esteemed or because their intellectual knowledge makes them appear larger than life to many people.

  6. Meteorology is not the best example to use as a basis to critique “objective” sciences. Most of us living in the Southeast have learned to take the predictions of hurricane tracks with a grain of salt. We also have learned that whether the predicted track is off by 100 miles doesn’t make much practical difference.
    Scientists understand that once they have stepped into a stream to measure the water velocity, they have changed the subject of their study. Any responsible scientist takes those unintended but unavoidable changes into account when analysing the data that is collected.
    Reducing the effects of the “human condition” is something good scientists strive for. If an experimentworks ONLY for the person who initially reported of the data, well, you have an overabundance of human error. When, in different labs, other scientists arrive at the same result, then science really can be trusted as objective.

  7. Some debates in the scientific community make the political scene look gentlemanly. Scientists want grant money and fame and often say or do anything to get it. Nothing pure at all about science…

Comments are closed.