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So how does it work?

February 14, 2011

Steven Novella over at NeuroLogica has a great post up about neural networks. But what really grabbed me was this:

I am often asked if we understand how the brain works, often phrased to imply a false dichotomy, a yes-or-no answer. Rather, we understand quite a bit about how the brain is organized, what functions it has and how they work and connect together, and we know quite a bit about brain physiology, biochemistry, and electrical function. But there is also a great deal we do not know – layers of complexity we have not yet sorted out. I would not say that the brain is a “mystery” – but rather that we understand a lot, but we also have much to discover.

This is precisely the problem with climate change. There is no “yes-or-no” answer. Climatology is a big, cross-disciplinary field. Just understanding the bits we can observe takes a whole bunch of different specialists. And understanding the effects? That takes it out into environmental science, agricultural science, ecology and evolution, geology, epidemiology, economics and politics…

The problem is that it’s easy to attack an idea when different pieces of the puzzle are held by different people.

(Incidentally, there is a great resource for all things climate at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic)

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