Predictive Science, Like It Or Not


Here's a heads-up for my geeky (and necessarily young) friends. Mark your calendar and make travel arrangements to be Down Under the last few minutes of December 10 (Universal Time) and into December 11. The planet Venus will pass directly in front of the sun, as seen from the earth. That is, Dec. 10, 2117. The 100-year countdown to the 2117 transit of Venus has begun.

I have a definite fondness for the transit of Venus, for I was immensely involved in public outreach when the 2004 and 2012 apparitions occurred. In history the transit of Venus was a seminal event that allowed us to discern our place in the cosmos, as told in our short video the Transit of Venus.

Science is the business of predicting. As the transit indicates, with great accuracy we can predict planetary alignments 100 years from now and beyond.

Today we've got science issues that have a preponderance of evidence in favor of an explanation. Yet some people choose neither to accept the evidence nor offer a compelling argument otherwise. Some choose to obfuscate. For example, a global challenge is staring us in the face--humans are impacting the quality of the earth's health--yet the current political direction suppresses what is every bit as predictive as the 2117 transit of Venus.

If political ideology requires you to decry publicly the preponderance of scientific evidence, then perhaps in a quiet private moment you may be willing to acknowledge that earth is indeed warming and our climate is changing in response. For now, let's forget about attributing the effect to a cause, for that's where the political intransigence mires the dialogue. Rather, I ask you to seek a solution to what is staring us in the face and to lead us toward something better.

Eventually, though well before the 2117 transit of Venus, people will topple the self-aggrandizing monuments that memorialize those who drove earth into environmental bankruptcy. But for many global denizens it will be too late. The climate change genie is out of the bottle. How will your response to the scientific evidence be remembered?

I anticipate the 2117 transit of Venus with a salute and a glass of Cosmic Cocktail, which honors the celestial alignment: "Cheers, mates. To 100 years and to the predictive nature of science. May thee fare well, earth, and may we act meaningfully and responsibly in the interim."

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