For anyone even vaguely involved in the world of blogs and climate change, logical fallacies are a familiar thing. The straw man, the appeal to authority, ad hominem attacks, the biased sample/cherrypicking, and many more are all used by both sides of the argument, to a greater or lesser degree.

On the side of climate scientists/environmentalists (Yes, I know that some won’t agree with my lumping those two groups together – it’s a crass generalisation, and it makes my case looks stronger (I am an environmental activist studying science), however it is true in the majority of cases) one of the arguments that comes up quite often is this:

Denier: “why should I trust the science – it’s biased/has vested interests/goes against my religion/philosophy.”

Greenie/scientist: “Why should you trust science? Look around you. You enjoy watching television, don’t you? And you’re using a computer right now, and I bet you drive a car. Science brought you those things.”

No. It didn’t.

Science is not technology, and technology is not science. The two are separate, although closely linked.

Science relies on certain technologies, such as microscopes, rulers and protractors, test tubes, and for more complex calculations, computers, etc. It does NOT rely on technologies like television, or the internal combustion engine, although these can make it easier.

Likewise, technology relies on science, but it also relies on the values of the individuals and societies building it, the resources that are available, and of course, the technology required to build it.

How about this:

Denier: “why should I trust the science – it’s biased/has vested interests/goes against my religion/philosophy.”

Greenie/scientist: “Why should you trust science? Think about this: The atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, engineered viruses, toxic toys, and television advertising. Science brought you those things.”

The point is that Technology isn’t brought to you by science. technology is brought to you by humans. True, the scientific understanding is a limiting factor on the technology available, but this does not mean that the technology will become available as the science advances.

Science, in it’s purest form, is just the pursuit of knowledge. More knowledge is, as far as I can work out, never a bad thing. Technology can go either way, and depends on the values of those designing it. Conflating the two is potentially a very dangerous thing to do, and even in cases where it’s safe,  to do so is still a logical fallacy.

There’s a long list of logical fallacies here: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/, but I don’t think this one features there. Perhaps it’s some kind of cause/effect fallacy. Perhaps it should be called the “Science for the Good/Bad life”.