How science really works!

I thought I might just post this TED talk by Naomi Oreskes (H/T Andy Skuce, Critical Angle). It’s a good talk about consensus, the appeal to authority, and how we counter manufactured doubt, but what I liked was how it addressed the realities of doing science. There’s the rather naive view that science is about developing a hypothesis, testing this hypothesis, and either rejecting or accepting the hypothesis depending on whether it passes – or not – the tests. One problem is that even this isn’t quite right, in the sense that a hypothesis can pass tests and still be false, and a hypothesis can fail tests and still turn out to be correct.

Additionally, most science today doesn’t really work like this. Most scientists are not expecting to falsify a fundamental law or do research that leads to a new fundamental law. Most science today is about observing and collecting data and then trying to understand what this data tells us about what is being observed. It often involves modelling, but most of this is based on well-established laws and so even if a model doesn’t correctly represent what’s being observed, one wouldn’t immediately conclude that something had been falsified. It probably just means that the model is missing something.

Anyway, that’s all I’ll say. You can watch the video to learn more.

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200 Responses to How science really works!

  1. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Thanks for posting another “non-controversial” OP.

    Climate denier drone cadetss spend quite a bit of class time learning how science is supposed to work. I am certain that a few drones (cadets and/or graduates) will be descending on this thread to tell us why Oreskes is wrong and set the record straight for those of us who share her views on how science really works.

    Pass the popcorn.

  2. John H.,
    As far as I can tell, there is an inverse correlation between someone’s scientific credentials and how certain they are as to how science should actually work 🙂

  3. jsam says:

    Ouch! I’ve bookmarked that for the next self-confident “climate sceptic”.

  4. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Citations please.

  5. John H.,
    Yes, I should have added that that is just what I’ve observed. I haven’t done any kind of full statistical analysis, so may well be wrong 🙂

  6. BBD says:

    I agree with ATTP. The Popper Correlation and ATTP’s Second Law of blog bluster are supported by the empirical evidence 😉

  7. Mike Pollard says:

    Very good, particularly the last third. As someone who actually does experiments I have to say that I do a lot of hypothesis testing, and end up being wrong a whole lot more than I am right. In fact most experiments lead to more questions than answers, hopefully because we are asking difficult (and important) questions. And, of course, the data collected leads to more hypothesis formulation and testing. But as my oldest mentor taught me, we never discard the unusual or unexpected.

    I think the most misunderstood thing in science, and something that Oreskes touches upon, is that one experiment is not the be all and end all of that experiment (or hypothesis). Because we are always engaged in gathering observations and data and continually subjecting that information to scrutiny, science never has a final answer.

  8. Mike,
    Yes, what you say in your second paragraph is very true. I think I was also a little lax in my use of the term hypothesis. I was thinking more of some kind of fundamental law of nature. However, as you say, scientists will regularly be testing hypotheses of one kind or another. They may not be a fundamental law of nature, but they will be something that applies to whatever system is being studied.

  9. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: As I stated recently on another thread, as the proprietor of this blog site and the instigator of comments by virttue of posting articles, you are obliged to summarize the saleient points made by commenters on a particular thread once that thread has petered-out so to speak.

    In the spirit of helping you out along the way, I submit the following bullet point to summarize Mike Pollard’s excellent observation.

    Science, like the Never-Ending Story, is a continuous process.

  10. Magma says:

    Most scientists are not expecting to falsify a fundamental law or do research that leads to a new fundamental law. Most science today is about observing and collecting data and then trying to understand what this data tells us about what is being observed.

    Oh, please. If I wanted to find out how scientists work, do you really believe I’m going to think about what I do, observe my colleagues, consider the technical history of the fields I’m interested in, and/or read up on the philosophy of scientific research… its metaphysics, so to speak?

    Hell no. I’m going to ask hostile contrarians with an agenda what they think I should be doing. Because that’s just common sense.

  11. Tom Curtis says:

    Unfortunately Naomi Oreske’s reliance on Feyerabend leads her astray. What constitutes good science is not determined by agreement with a consensus, a position she is forced to by accepting Feyerabend’s “anything goes” dictum. If it were, faced with a counterfactual world in which there was a 97% consensus that net anthropogenic forcings over the last century were negative, that would indeed be the “correct” scientific conclusion from the currently available evidence. That position is, however, absurd. The strongly positive net anthropogenic forcings are agreed on by a consensus of scientists because that is what the evidence indicates, but we cannot coherently say “the evidence indicates x” unless there is an objective rational basis connecting the two.(ie, the evidence, and that x). But that being the case, Feyerabend’s relativism is false. We rely on the consensus of scientific opinion not because that consensus defines scientific truth, but because we have a reasonable expectation that that consensus closely maps to the truth on the assumption that scientists have in fact pursued rational methods of inquiry.

  12. Tom,
    That’s an interesting point. As I think you’re saying, the problem with the “anything goes” idea is that it implies do anything at all, rather simply suggesting that there are many valid ways in which to carry out scientific research. In a suitably qualified way, I broadly like it in the sense that often people do things that others think won’t work, but that do. However, that’s actually more about doing things that others regard as risky and likely to be unsuccessful, rather than doing things that others regards as scientifically unsound. I thought that Oreskes did qualify how she was interpreting what Feyerabend was suggesting, but I can see why you seem uncomfortable with that.

    We rely on the consensus of scientific opinion not because that consensus defines scientific truth, but because we have a reasonable expectation that that consensus closely maps to the truth on the assumption that scientists have in fact pursued rational methods of inquiry.

    Yes, that is a good way of putting it. If it was discovered that an area of science was based on research that was not sound and was not based on good practice, then the existence of a consensus would not be particularly relevant.

  13. Andy Skuce says:

    By “anything goes” Feyerabend was saying that no single scientific methodology fits the actual historical record. He was being provocative and mischievous in saying that, I think. As the Wiki article puts it: ‘Feyerabend summarises his reductios with the phrase “anything goes”. This is his sarcastic imitation of “the terrified reaction of a rationalist who takes a closer look at history”.’
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Against_Method

  14. KR says:

    I’ve always considered a regard for the scientific consensus to be based on _inductive logic_; most scientists are (based on multiple observations) reasonable people who have looked at the evidence in their field, and if a majority of them hold the same opinion that has some inductive support based on expert examination.

    Being inductive logic, there can always be exceptions, but (again, based on observations) if the consensus opinion is counterfactual sufficient solid evidence will shift that consensus – inductive evidence that again the consensus is generally a reasonable and well supported point of view.

    One of my favorite examples is the mid-20th century shift towards AGW, based on evidence and hypotheses from Callendar, Revelle, Keeling, and others. Over that period the scientific consensus, the majority opinion, changed from all natural causes –> AGW, based on the data.

  15. John Mashey says:

    I suggest reading the comments thread at TED (sort by chronology), as they represent a more mixed crowd than usually sen on climate blogs.

  16. Andy Skuce says:

    Oreskes’ talk was useful also for the needed emphasis (from the perspective of someone trained as a geologist as she was) on the methods of non-physics sciences. Too much scientific method talk centres around Galileo, Einstein et al and ignores the observation-and-synthesis approach of people like Darwin, whose contribution to science stands with the best of them.

    Her talk was also good for de-emphasizing the importance of overthrowing the consensus in science, the paradigm shift of Kuhn. Some “skeptics” of climate science cling to the idea that the consensus in climate science may someday be overturned and replaced with a new theory. That’s about as likely as replacing natural selection or plate tectonics. To be sure, there will be new discoveries in any subject that will alter the focus of research programs, but the fundamental models are very unlikely to be overthrown, just modified.

  17. John Mashey says:

    Also, try out my suggested comparison for science over there: Google Earth:
    1) Search for some city, I’d suggested Washington, DC.
    2) Zoom in and watch the screen. More details appear … but big buildings don’t suddenly disappear or move somewhere else. (I.e., once something is pretty solid, it gets refined, but rarely totally refuted, Einstein as refinement of Newton, etc.)
    3) Even zoomed all the way, some areas are still not well-resolved, and of course, if you used a single-time image, some areas would be covered with clouds, and no matter how you zoomed in, there would be no visibility.

    Oddly-related tidbits: resolution matters.
    1) Google Earth is a descendant (via the company Keyhole) of a an SGI demo, ~1984, called “From Outer Space to In Your Face” to illustrate smooth motion between differing resolutions of images.
    2) The newer Google autonomous cars use maps with ~10cm resolution. A few weeks ago, I got a half-hour ride in one of the older freeway cars that we’ve seen around here for years. Nothing surprising happened. The newer ones (town cars) have more sensors and software, since they have to recognize stop signs, traffic lights, construction cones, bicycles, pedestrians, not just cars and trucks on freeway. I think they can see large dogs, but small cats and dogs may be out of luck.

  18. BBD says:

    What irritates the most is that we are having this conversation at all. Non-experts challenging the expert consensus without any supported hypotheses should be a side-show worth almost no attention. It is another measure of how effectively contrarians have distorted public discourse.

  19. tallbloke says:

    Non-experts such as Lindzen, Spencer and Christy eh BBD? They all believe the hypothesis, but disagree with the model output because they say incorrect interpretation of the data means the parameterisation is wrong. e.g. ECS too high, cloud feedback has the wrong sign, homogenisation of rural stations to airports is a bad idea, etc.

    Part of the current impasse is due to one side saying they have been successfully rebutted, while the other says they haven’t.

    Then there’s that other awkward contrarian; Mama Nature, who is defying the models too…

  20. I notice that Oreske’s interpretation of Feuerabend’s “anything goes” is essentially what I have often being arguing for at Climate Etc, when climate change skeptics try to argue that climate science does not follow the Scientific Method as they wish to defend it.

    In my view anything goes as long as it’s used to genuinely learn and as long as the usefulness of the method can be defended against specific criticism of other scientists. As science aims at creating new knowledge that may deviate in any way from the preexisting, it must be allowed that the methods may also be new, or such that they have not been appropriate before. The risk of errors grows, when methods are not well known and scrutinized, and that must be declared, but with such reservations – anything goes.

    I do also see consensus as essentially the only measure of trustworthiness of scientific knowledge and understanding. As Oreskes noted, science is judged only by the scientific community. At all steps we meet concepts that are not formally defined:

    – What’s science?
    – Who is a scientist?
    – What’s the scientific community?
    – What’s consensus?

    The definitions are circular and non-formal, but we know well enough the boundaries of the concepts. The boundaries are diffuse, but known well enough when no attempt is made to apply them to individual cases near the boundary. (We have presently many amateur climate scientists, some of them are clearly moving towards being “real” scientists or have already done that, but who can tell the moment that occurs or occurred.)

  21. tallbloke,
    I don’t think that BBD was referring to people like Lindzen, Christy, …. I think he was referring to those who have no scientific credentials (or very few) who seem to think that they know better than a group of experts who actually have scientific credentials.

  22. tallbloke says:

    Anders, there are plenty of those on both sides of the aisle. Look how roundly ignored the findings of the SREX grouping are by many of the perennial climate-worriers. What Feyerabend pointed out in ‘against method’ was that forces beyond science are the arbiters of what becomes paradigmatic within science. Now that observation is blurred by the fact that the ‘forces beyond science’ often include the personal pronouncements of scientists which go beyond the data. Expert judgement and the judgement of experts are subtly different things.

    Feyerabend noted that the tactics used to prevail in scientific disputes are often anything but scientific. Appeal to authority is one of those tactics. It’s also a logical fallacy.

  23. jsam says:

    Or non-experts starting pal-reviewed publications? http://www.pattern-recognition-in-physics.net/

  24. tallbloke,
    I’m really not quite following what you’re getting at. That appeal to authority can – quite rightly – be a logical fallacy, does not mean that those without authority have some extra credibility. Also, if you think that what Naomi Oreskes is arguing for is a form of appeal to authority, then you’ve missed the point. It’s entirely correct that simply because someone has credentials does not mean they – individually – have any credibility. The argument is almost the reverse. What’s being suggested is that it is highly unlikely that those without any authority/credentials are going to be correct if they choose to argue against the views of a large group of experts. Simply because you can find examples of individuals who opposed a consensus view who turned out to be right, does not mean that arguing against a consensus means that you’re likely to be right. That would be a logical fallacy.

  25. tallbloke says:

    Well, if Lindzen, Spencer and Christy are right, then the IPCC scenarios are wrong. The ‘consensus’ that humans have some effect on climates is uncontroversial. It’s a question of how much, not whether.

    Regarding the work of the research grouping I’m involved with (which contains eminently well qualified experts as well as rookies like me). Our model successfully hindcasts 1000 years of the variability in Carbon 14 and Beryllium10 proxies for solar activity. Most experts agree that for most of that thousand years, the sun and volcanos have been the major drivers of climate. Nearly all the major eruptions happened when solar activity was low.

    Jsam: The original reasons given by Copernicus for axing the journal were that the general conclusions paper gainsaid the conclusions of the IPCC, and that our special issue was beyond the remit of the journal. Only after it was realised that this didn’t look good was the peer review complaint cooked up. 35 scientists including 4 Nobel laureates wrote a letter to the Telegraph recently complaining about the misuse of ‘peer review’ arguments to suppress innovative or ‘unfashionable’ research.

    SIR – Under current policies, academic researchers must submit their proposals to a small group of their closest competitors – their peers – for consideration before they might be funded. Peers selected by funding agencies are usually allowed to deliver their verdicts anonymously. They assess the proposal’s suitability for funding, whether it would be the best possible use of the resources requested, and determine, if it were successful, the probability that it might contribute to the national economy in some way. If the answers are satisfactory the proposal has roughly a 25 per cent chance of being funded.

    Peer preview is now virtually unavoidable and its bureaucratic, protracted procedures are repeated for every change in direction or new phase of experimentation or for whatever an applicant might subsequently propose. Consequently, support for research that might lead to major new scientific discoveries is virtually forbidden nowadays, and science is in serious danger of stagnating. Many scientists privately deplore these policies but their professional standing often depends on their acquiescence – a catch-22 that effectively diminishes public opposition to the policies. We call upon funding agencies to support sustained, open-ended research in unfashionable fields.

    So given the success of our model compared with that of the prevailing paradigm, it seems to me to be against the spirit of open scientific enquiry to be suppressing work simply because it suggests that once natural forcings are subtracted out from the temperature record, the residual which may be due to human activity will be lower than previously though.

    Especially considering the observational data backs what we’re saying, and contradicts the model of the prevailing paradigm.

  26. tallbloke,
    Maybe I can put you on the spot here. As I understand it, you dispute that the greenhouse effect is a consequence of radiatively active gases in the atmosphere and you seem to think that Einstein’s theory of Special (and maybe General) relativity is wrong. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. If my understanding is not wrong, however, try putting yourself in my place. Either you’re a remarkable polymath who will change science forever, or you’re not. If you are a remarkable polymath, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to convince me (and others) on a blog. Publish some seminal papers. If you’re not, then we’re all wasting our time. Either way, I can’t see much point in lengthy discussions. I hope you at least appreciate this.

  27. Catmando says:

    Tallbloke, I love the strange superposition of the argument from authority is a logical fallacy yet the argument from lots of authorities is OK. When a bunch of people sign a letter to a newspaper, we don’t know who and how many didn’t sign it, sent back a reply saying go away OWTTE. The signatories to the letter you quote might have a point, but, as Einstein might have said, just one signature would have done. I think these letters are more about grandstanding than anything else but that’s my opinion. And, as we know, these letters are not always right.

    On the innovation side, it is amusing to see the argument that peer review stifles innovation matched the the argument that peer review lets through obviously bad science. They might have four Nobel laureates signing but I suspect they are barking up the wrong tree.

  28. Marco says:

    Catmando, the point of the letter Tallbloke cites is about funding of research, where peer reviewers are asked to also rate the direct societal/economical impact/benefit of the proposed research. This is quite different from peer review related to publication of research findings.

    A not-so-subtle difference if you ask me.

  29. The letter published in The Telegraph does not appear as particularly controversial.I’m sure, most scientists agree that peer review of funding applications has problems along the line discussed in the letter. The letter asks for an improvement, but proposes nothing more than

    We call upon funding agencies to support sustained, open-ended research in unfashionable fields.

    The letter does not say, how that should be balanced with other requirements of judging the virtues of the proposals.

    The balance between openness towards new ideas and preventing misuse of resources and spreading of almost certainly false information is difficult. Those, who get rejected, complain often equally loudly when the rejection has been well justified as they do when that’s not the case.

    The specific case of Patter Recognition in Physics must be one, where a very large majority of those who have looked at it agree that the action was justified.

  30. jsam says:

    The Tallbloke law of conservation of conspiracy theories states that inside every conspiracy theory there exists a yet larger one.

  31. tallbloke says:

    Anders: As I understand it, you dispute that the greenhouse effect is a consequence of radiatively active gases in the atmosphere

    Well you’d read what I wrote in my last comment on this subject at this blog before you deleted it you’d have seen that what I was pointing out was that in addition to any atmospheric greenhouse effect of additional co2 (which all the experts agree is small unless it causes a water vapour feedback (which hasn’t been observed), there are half a dozen other effects which enhance the Earth’s surface temperature relative to that of the Moon. Here’s the comment:

    And since these additional effects are already recognised by experts in fields largely ignored by climate science (e.g. astrophysics), I don’t need to be “a remarkable polymath” to flag them up, just a historian/philosopher of science doing due diligence on climate theory.

    Pekka: The specific case of Patter Recognition in Physics must be one, where a very large majority of those who have looked at it agree that the action was justified.

    No rebuttal to our work has been published so far as I’m aware. I look forward to the presentation of detailed arguments.

  32. tallbloke,
    That doesn’t really answer my question. Plus what you wrote in that comment that I deleted was a bunch of words. That’s not really physics, it’s just words. To be fair, much of what you said would indeed be effects that would influence our climate but would have little effect on the, globally averaged, greenhouse effect. You also haven’t confirmed or denied that I’m, correct about your views on Relativity.

    No rebuttal to our work has been published so far as I’m aware. I look forward to the presentation of detailed arguments.

    The lack of any substantive comment on your work is probably also a reflection on it’s quality. A piece of research does not need a rebuttal in order to make it meaningless.

  33. catweazle666 says:

    Meanwhile, the ‘pause” approaches 18 years in length and the learned climate McScientists produce increasingly improbable explanations for it, mostly trying to convince us that the “missing heat” is hiding in places where we can’t measure it, generally below the limit of sensitivity of the instrumentation. But we’ve got computer models, so who needs empirical instrumental data, this is the 21st century, right?.

    By my reckoning, the Earth is about half way through the negative phase of a ~60 year cycle, so it will continue to cool for about 1nother decade and a half yet, just long enough for another catastrophist scare to get going, telling us that we’re on the way into another ice age (where have I heard that one before?) and that only by increasing taxes can the noble politicians prevent The End Of Civilisation As We Know It. And then the whole cycle starts all over again.

    So keep on cherry-picking sections of what are clearly harmonic functions and extrapolating them via linear trends to infinity thus proving we’re all doomed, and indulging in your False Precision Syndrome, ascribing huge importance to quantities far below the capability of your equipment to determine, I’ll just keep getting the popcorn and beer in, and laughing at you.

    But hey, I’m only an old engineer, subject to real world constraints entirely different to the How Many Angels Can Dance On The Head Of A Pin theology that seems to have infectred “Climate Science”.

    Just as a matter of interest, how many of you lot would let your offspring travel on an aeroplane designed by Hokey Schtick Mann, Jailbird Jim Hansen et al?

    But hey, what would I know? If I got stuff wrong, the effects were very clearly evident, bad things happened like big smoking holes in the ground and other bad stuff. And then I would have been called to account in a court of law.

    So keep it up gentlemen, you’re funny!

  34. tallbloke says:

    From Marcus Chown’s obituary for Nigel Calder in todays independent:

    During the 1990s much of his work was for the European Space Agency. It was during this decade that Calder became embroiled in climate debate. In The Manic Sun: Weather Theories Confounded, he reported the controversial work of the Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark, who claims that climate responds principally to cloud cover, which he contends is governed by fluctuations in high-energy particles from space known as cosmic rays.

    Calder was predisposed to tell such a story because he had seen how, in the case of Wegener and continental drift, one man, despite being right, had been frozen out by the scientific community. He wrote: “When Nazi scientists showed their solidarity against the Jewish doctrine of relativity, in a book called A Hundred Against Einstein, the hairy fellow growled that one would be enough. He meant that adverse evidence from Nature produced by a solitary researcher could destroy theories that no amount of ranting could touch.”

  35. catweazle,

    By my reckoning,

    Or, you really don’t have a clue. I’ll let others decide.

    tallbloke,
    So?

  36. I do believe tallbloke’s additional important factors have successfully proven why Earth is warmer than Venus!

  37. tallbloke says:

    Anders: what you wrote in that comment that I deleted was a bunch of words. That’s not really physics, it’s just words.

    If I took the trouble to put together a select bibliography referencing the ‘actual physics’, would you take the trouble to read the papers?

    much of what you said would indeed be effects that would influence our climate but would have little effect on the, globally averaged, greenhouse effect.

    Assumption is the mother of all cock-ups. You didn’t even know these other effects have been discussed in the literature, let alone have any idea of how big they might be. But you’re not alone in this. 97% of all climate scientists don’t know either.

    Re Einstein and his point that a single piece of research can put paid to an entire corpus of theory. Here’s what he wrote to Edwin Schlossen in 1926:

    “My opinion about Miller’s experiments is the following. … Should the positive result be confirmed, then the special theory of relativity and with it the general theory of relativity, in its current form, would be invalid. Experimentum summus judex. Only the equivalence of inertia and gravitation would remain, however, they would have to lead to a significantly different theory.”

    Who am I to gainsay the great man?

  38. tallbloke,

    If I took the trouble to put together a select bibliography referencing the ‘actual physics’, would you take the trouble to read the papers?

    Sure. Would you be willing to accept the criticisms?

    What’s the context of your Einstein quote. You still haven’t directly answered my question as to whether or not you dispute Einstein’s theories of Relativity.

  39. tallbloke says:

    Okay, we’ll take them one at a time in new threads over at my place. Whether or not I’ll accept the criticisms depends on the quality of your arguments.

    Disputing Einstein’s theory was never my intent. I was merely reporting on scientific history in an entertaining and journalistic style in order to engender interesting debate. Nothing in science is ever final, and potentially important experimental results need occasional exposure so they are not lost.

  40. toby52 says:

    It is surely telling that when Einstein found himself on the wrong side of the consensus, he showed precisely the behaviour of The One that you would expect. He wrote papers, continued his research and believed that as time went on, the weight of evidence would turn in his favour. As it happened, it didn’t.
    He did NOT publish anything entitled One Hundred Physicists Against Quantum Mechanics, give interviews impugning the integity of Niels Bohr or Max Planck, or (when some of his papers were turned down) go to the media to release his results that way.
    If anything, he was a gradualist, and so were Marshall and Warren who spent years battling a justified scientific scepticism to show the connection between bacteria and stomache ulcers. But they did it the hard (and right) way, eschewing short cuts in blogs, Fox News and the Daily Mail.

  41. tallbloke,

    If I took the trouble to put together a select bibliography referencing the ‘actual physics’, would you take the trouble to read the papers?

    Will we? I’m not sure I ever agreed to delve into the comment stream on your blog. I started my own precisely to avoid such things.

  42. tallbloke says:

    No problem, you can reblog the posts here and control the comment stream as you wish.

  43. John Hartz says:

    Jeesh! All of the pseudo-science poppycock spread on this comment thread by Tallbloke was nothing more than an elaborate gambit to draw people to his blog site.

  44. John H.,
    It does appear that way. I’m willing to at least look at one of his papers. Whether I reblog his post or not is up to me.

  45. BBD says:

    Well, if Lindzen, Spencer and Christy are right,

    They aren’t. And this has been very clearly established over the years. Here is a likely incomplete list of published responses to Lindzen starting with his ‘infra-red iris’ hypothesis (Lindzen et al. 2001):

    Hartmann & Michelsen (2002)
    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/1520-0477%282002%29083%3C0249%3ANEFI%3E2.3.CO%3B2

    Lin et al. (2002)
    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/1520-0442%282002%29015%3C0003%3ATIHANO%3E2.0.CO%3B2

    Harrison (2002)
    http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1175%2F1520-0477(2002)083%3C0597%3ACODTEH%3E2.3.CO%3B2

    Fu et al (2002)
    http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/2/31/2002/acp-2-31-2002.html

  46. BBD says:

    Replies to Lindzen & Choi (2011)/Spencer & Braswell (2011):

    Dessler (2011)
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/pip/2011GL049236.shtml

    Trenberth, Fasullo & Abraham (2011)
    http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/3/9/2051/pdf

  47. BBD says:

    To be frank, Tallbloke, I find your line of argument nothing short of risible. You have nothing whatsoever. A touch more humility would be appropriate.

  48. BBD says:

    (which all the experts agree is small unless it causes a water vapour feedback (which hasn’t been observed)

    Yes, it has.

  49. jsam says:

    Nothing in science is final. Otherwise it would just stop.

    Meanwhile, in another galaxy far far away http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/doug-proctor-dowsing-and-divining-the-direction-of-debate/

  50. > Feyerabend noted that the tactics used to prevail in scientific disputes are often anything but scientific. Appeal to authority is one of those tactics. It’s also a logical fallacy.

    Not all appeals to authority are fallacious. This idea is refuted by the existence of citations. For instance, when the Tall One appeals to Feyerabend, he appeals to an authority, but I don’t think he wishes to imply that he commits a fallacy.

    A fallacy obtains when an arguer goes a bridge too far and claims that something is true because someone says so. The same fallacy does not obtain when an arguer uses a citation to corroborate some hypothesis. A random link on this:

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/3751849

    Feyerabend’s anarchism has more to do with relaxing Popper’s falsificationism and making it accountable for actual scientific practice than to bash scientists because they commit fallacies. I’m not even sure the concept of fallacy makes sense in an anarchist setting. If anything goes, anything goes, including ClimateBall ™ stuff.

  51. BBD says:

    ECS too high, cloud feedback has the wrong sign, homogenisation of rural stations to airports is a bad idea, etc.

    Low ECS is incompatible with paleoclimate behaviour Rohling et al. (2014)

    If cloud feedbacks net negative and dominate the climate system, it would be relatively insensitive to radiative perturbation but this is incompatible with both paleoclimate variability and modern observed variability.

    Unfounded and misleading claims about problems with the surface temperature reconstructions only leach credibility from those making them. And these days, they do not merit a serious response.

  52. > A Hundred Against Einstein

    Those who bought this book also bought:

    http://www.petitionproject.org/

  53. John Hartz says:

    Whenever a well-known climate denier like Tallbloke gets clobbered on one of ATTP’s comment threads, Willard shows up to piously pontificate. Why is that?

  54. John Mashey says:

    In the real world, a record of past comments/actions can be useful in calibrating credibility. Open the PDF attached to Pseudoskeptics Exposed in the SalbyStorm.
    Advanced Search: {tallbloke} yields 9 comments, starting with:
    “03{tallbloke} says:
    July 9, 2013 at 12:56 am
    This is a watershed moment in the climate debate. Salby has clearly been thwarted by the bad faith (and probably actionable) behaviour of Macquerie university.
    I think we should give Murray Salby some practical financial support to assist him in fighting Macquerie University and helping him relocate to a more suitable academic environment. Perhaps Dick Lindzen still wields some influence in MIT?
    Or will we find all academic institutions will abandon principles of scientific enquiry and run scared before the interests of those who control funding streams?
    Scientia weeps.”

    and ending with:
    “20{tallbloke} says:
    July 10, 2013 at 8:27 am
    Basically, the university has acted in bad faith from the start. Maybe it’s purpose in offering Salby his position was to thwart his research and make sure his findings were delayed, suppressed and blocked from publication for as long as possible.”

    OF course, this blogstorm did not end well for Salby.

    The second comment above happened to be an example of the 16 comments by 15 commenters that expressed the idea that:
    a) In 2008, Macquarie U lured Murry Salby from Colorado-Boulder (CU) to Australia for the express purpose of stifling his ideas … although of course, Salby never published papers or CO2/ice-cores (atmospheric circulation being a rather different subfield) and Salby’s (good) 1996 book didn’t have the junk sprinkled on the 2012 edition.

    b) Salby himself had written:
    “During the protracted delay of resources, I eventually undertook the production of a new book – all I could do without the committed resources to rebuild my research program. The endeavor compelled me to gain a better understanding of greenhouse gases and how they evolve.”

    c) Finally, in my experience, I have never heard of a university hiring a troublemaker from halfway around the world in order to suppress their research. But I’ve only visited hundreds of schools, maybe someone else can cite an example?

    Oddly, I never found any apology to Macquarie by tallbloke (or anyone else) who had made comments on Macquarie bordering on defamation. Pseudoskeptics rarely admit to error or even a change of mind: they either fight on in the face of overpowering evidence, or silently drop out of the conversation, as often seen in this case.

    Back to science.

  55. Michael 2 says:

    “most science today doesn’t really work like this.”

    Obvious statement of the day;-)

    “It probably just means that the model is missing something.”

    In an environment where doubt and skepticism isn’t permitted it doesn’t matter.

  56. Michael 2,

    In an environment where doubt and skepticism isn’t permitted it doesn’t matter.

    Hmmm, how do I respond to this without being uncivil? Struggling, to be honest.

  57. tallbloke says:

    John Hartz: a well-known climate denier like Tallbloke

    Hey! I’m with the 97% who believe humans have some effect on climate.

  58. Hmmm, every time I comment Badger badgers. Why is that?

  59. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP: “Hmmm, how do I respond to this without being uncivil? Struggling, to be honest.”

    I sympathize. My desire is to be snarky and the message I *didn’t* send was considerably longer.

    But you get my point — most here have firmly fixed views that render “science” sort of irrelevant anyway — who cares how it is done? *I* care. The problem is that I think scientists are not really free to report what they find in the case that what they find is not what they expected to find.

  60. Michael 2 writes: “In an environment where doubt and skepticism isn’t permitted it doesn’t matter.

    You are so right – all scientists believe current models are perfect, that every variable is known to the exact precision necessary, that no theory or hypothesis can be improved. This is why every day new papers are published in journals around the world that merely restate what is already know because nothing new can be learned.

    Meh.

  61. BBD says:

    Hmmm, every time I comment Badger badgers. Why is that?

    Because he has somehow interpreted your comments as “pious pontification” which aside from being somewhat tautological is also a highly personal interpretation.

  62. Michael 2,

    But you get my point — most here have firmly fixed views that render “science” sort of irrelevant anyway

    No, they don’t. Claiming that they do is insulting, and doing so without evidence would seem rather unskeptical for someone who claims to care about science. Maybe get off your high horse and look in the mirror.

  63. jsam says:

    M2. You are right. In Canada the government censors scientists, “I think scientists are not really free to report”.

  64. BBD says:

    M2

    But you get my point — most here have firmly fixed views that render “science” sort of irrelevant anyway

    I used to be a ‘lukewarmer’ but I changed my position in accordance with a better understanding of the scientific evidence.

    Just FYI.

  65. John Hartz says:

    Willard: It’s in my genetic make-up. Peace..

  66. JCH says:

    Doubt and skepticism are doing just fine here. When somebody comes with a false argument, it is not allowed to exist. Okay. What exactly is wrong with that? You want false arguments to get a seat at the table? Seriously? You think you have persuasive arguments. You don’t. You simply don’t. So you retreat to the trench where they try to sulk their way to victory.

  67. John Hartz says:

    M2: By your own admission, you examine the scientific evidence wearing ideological glasses. Therefore, your examinations are biased. You are not a credible witness.

  68. Steve Bloom says:

    TB: “Whether or not I’ll accept the criticisms depends on the quality of your arguments.”

    Based on past performance, that’s quite wrong.

    TB quoting the Calder obit: “in the case of Wegener and continental drift, one man, despite being right, had been frozen out by the scientific community.”

    “Right” and “frozen out”? Don’t think so. His mechanism was quite wrong (although interestingly he knew about seafloor spreading in 1913 but failed to recognize its significance), which largely explains the pushback. Plowing continents really is unphysical, to the point of being a bit silly. He also seems to have had some prominent defenders. In any case he had a rather sterling scientific reputation based on work in other fields, which probably explains why he kept getting a hearing despite the plowing business.

    M2: “But you get my point — most here have firmly fixed views that render “science” sort of irrelevant anyway — who cares how it is done? *I* care.”

    You don’t have a sufficient grasp of the science to support that claim, although I would agree that there’s something else you care about..

  69. Steve Bloom says:

    Krugman has another climate post today, this one focusing on the errors of those trying to provide a veneer of economic respectability to crazy Republican climate conspiracy theorists.

  70. John Hartz says:

    BBD: You assert that I made a “highly personal interpretation” of Willard’s post. Pray tell, what is the distinction between a “highly personal interpretation” and a “run-of-the-mill personal interpreatation”? Also, if one can have a “highly personal intrepretation”, can one also have a “lowly personal intrepretation”

  71. BBD says:

    Highly personal interpretations are sometimes at variance with a more generally accepted interpretation.

  72. BBD says:

    “lowly personal intrepretation” is good. I might have to borrow it one day.

  73. Steve Bloom says:

    All about TB, M2 et al. I missed this article on conspiracy theorists when it came out a month ago, and while it’s not exactly news to most of us here it’s a nice summary.

    My own thought about why the U.S. in particular is so prone to this sort of paranoia is the relative physical isolation of large swathes of the country. (As it happens, I was raised in one of those little towns way out in the sticks.) Maybe for the same reason, Russians appear to have a similar tendency.

  74. John Mashey says:

    Sigh. Again, somebody starts talking about Wegener while being obviously ill-informed of the complex, real history. American geologists mostly rejected Wegener, but many in UK, Europe and Australia though they had merit, including the eminent UK geoscientist, Arthur Holmes.

  75. John Hartz says:

    Steve Bloom: Re public opinion in the USA, home schooling should also be taken into account — especially becasue much of it is done for religious reasons..

  76. Eli Rabett says:

    Pekka wins the Internet

    The specific case of Patter Recognition in Physics must be one, where a very large majority of those who have looked at it agree that the action was justified.

    Yep, it was just senseless blather.

  77. Eli Rabett says:

    On anything goes, Eli’s experience is that anything goes as you build up an experiment and try and get a signal. OTOH, as the S/N grows bunnies have to fight their way through insanity checks, and then, when things are doing well enough to take the data, the shovel, broom and mop come out and stuff gets cleaned up. Well, as cleaned up as possible. Given that everyone works at the limits of the possible, there are lumps under the rug.

    Theory and models are the same. IEHO of course, which is why nothing can ever fit the procrustean Propper bed of junior high science teachers and blog experts.

  78. Steve Bloom says:

    Agreed, John H., although note that in many areas we also see fundamentalist private schools. Re “religious reasons,” well, while that may be true in individual cases, most of this stuff is a reaction to public school desegregation.

  79. Eli Rabett says:

    The problem with Tallbloke’s pursuit of the Miller experiment, is that many more stringent tests of relativistic invariance have been done in the intervening years, and they all show that Einsteins assumption is correct (there is a new kid on the block wrt neutrino and photon timing from a supernova, but don’t bet the farm). Basically lasers do wonders for interferometry. Tallbloke never seems to mention them, and if he tells you that he only raises the point for historical interest, why John Boehner ain’t a climate scientist either.

  80. Steve Bloom says:

    Right, John M., that Wegener suffered greatly from unreasoning persecution by the scientific establishment of the time has become one of the Things All Good Deniers Know.

    Interestingly, the focus of opposition appears to have been the AAPG. History does so like to repeat itself.

  81. Eli,

    (there is a new kid on the block wrt neutrino and photon timing from a supernova, but don’t bet the farm).

    But isn’t that story a suggestion that photons – in a vacuum – are actually travelling slower than the speed of light because of something that seems to be being called vacuum polarization?

  82. The proposal seems to be that the virtual pair of electron and positron are influenced by gravitational fields, because electron and positron have a mass. But do the virtual electron and positron that are formed from a photon by vacuum polarization have a mass?

    I would guess that this question can be answered only by a quantum field theory that includes gravity. It’s too long since my years as elementary particle physicists to know, how far science is in that area, not at the ultimate goal, but perhaps far enough to answer the question of the first paragraph.

    Another question is: Can the photon be massless, if it has such interaction with gravitational fields?

  83. Presumably you’re referring to Franson 2014, which is an interesting paper. Supernova neutrinos are expected to be observed ~3 hours before the photons because neutrinos pass right through the dense collapsing star while photons require ~3 hours to escape. Franson notes that an initial neutrino burst, long dismissed as coincidental noise, actually arrived 7.7 hours before the photons.

    Franson attributes this ~4.7 hour discrepency to the fact that photons are mediators of the electromagnetic force, and hence interact with virtual electron-positron pairs. I can’t answer Pekka’s question about the mass of virtual particles because I’ve never taken quantum field theory, but Franson said: “When applied to the Hamiltonian of quantum electrodynamics, this results in virtual electrons and positrons having a gravitational potential energy that is the same as that of a real particle.” (See Appendix B.)

    One explanation for light slowing down in glass is that it’s interacting with the electrons in the glass. This cloud of interacting electrons + photon is sometimes referred to as a quasiparticle with non-zero effective mass.

    Essentially, Franson is claiming that gravity refracts light even in vacuum, which means even photons in vacuum could be viewed as a quasiparticle with non-zero effective mass. That’s a bold claim, but it doesn’t invalidate relativity any more than the Cerenkov radiation from a nuclear reactor. Personally, I wonder why the photons couldn’t have just been delayed by an extra ~4.7 hours on their way out of the superdense collapsing star.

    By the way, even if these results are true, they still rule out that CERN neutrino debacle by a factor of ~10,000.

  84. One issue I had in mind is, whether the gravitational mass of the photon can really be different from the inertial mass. Franson seems to think that it can, but this is exactly the question I had in mind, when I asked, whether it’s presently known, how gravitational field should be included in QFT.

  85. While searching for a way to outlive the stars, I noted that active gravitational mass must equal passive gravitational mass to conserve momentum. The equivalence principle says that passive gravitational mass equals inertial mass.

    So I don’t think they can be different, but Franson seems to be talking about the effective mass of the quasiparticle formed by the photon and its cloud of virtual electron-positron. He doesn’t seem to be claiming an exception to the equivalence principle or conservation of momentum.

    Here’s an explanation which would violate the equivalence principle. If neutrinos violate the equivalence principle by being unaffected by gravity, they’d travel between SN1987a and Earth via a straight line, but photons would be curved along a longer path by the Milky Way’s gravity (even using conventional physics confirmed by the 1919 eclipse). Since our neutrino detectors can’t tell which direction the neutrinos came from, we can’t rule out this possibility which might account for the time delay without suggesting neutrinos travel faster than photons in vacuum. But it violates the equivalence principle, so I find it very unlikely.

  86. guthrie says:

    Oh look, I have accidentally ended up with 2 different editions of Arthur Holmes book “Principles of Physical Geology”. I can give you chapter and verse on WEgener at al in a day or two when I have time, but the short version is that Steve Bloom is correct and Tallbloke wrong. The idea of the conteintns being joined wasn’t just his, and although he was correct on that his mechanism was total mince and easily recognised as such, so the totally of his theory was rejected. But since science is stingy scientists took the bits that made sense and kept them in mind, so that once the evidence came in for sea floor spreading and people thought a bit there was a pretty damn quick flopover in the world of geology to acceptance of plate tectonics. (Note they didn’t call it Wegerianism or similar)

  87. John Mashey says:

    guthrie: the other thing to read is Naomi Oreskes’ The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science. Read the Preface, which is available in “look inside”, quite relevant as Naomi was an American, but was doing undergrad degree @ Imperial College, London, and then worked as geologist in Australia … She mentioned Holmes, where I learned of him.
    Again, the ideas were mostly rejected in US, but others were more open to them, and the story of the split and the dynamics is quite interesting. It shows schools of thought can persists for decades when there just isn’t enough data. Then, the data appears, like looking in the box for Schrodinger’s poor feline, and a strong consensus finally emerges. Anyway, take a look at the Preface and see what you think.

  88. David Young says:

    While there are no doubt problems with the textbook version of science, there is a great deal of truth to it too. False hypotheses can predict lots of correct things that are later verified, but the course of science is that more and more tests are done to distinguish between hypotheses that all predicted the previous test result. So, this objection is not very meaningful.

    Induction is sometimes a method used in science. But pure induction by itself can not suggest an explanation. This comes from the scientists and his cultural prejudices or previous experience. Evolution was in fact beginning to be talked about in Darwin’s time, even though there were a lot of wrong explanations such as inheritance of acquired characteristics. Bacon was a primary exponent of the inductive theory of science and himself made almost no real contributions to science, but did die of a cold contracted while he was out in a blizzard stuffing a chicken with snow to see if cold would preserve it.

    One common prejudice of our age is the sufficiency of science for all questions. By far more meaningful are the results showing the limitations of logic and science, such as Gordel and Lorentz. Russell tells how working on Principia Mathematica caused severe depression because for a decade he and Whitehead were unable to solve the problem of the barber who shaves everyone except himself. Of course Gordel showed why this was a fundamental problem with axiomatic logic. But Russell after his early sophomoric work, where he was an exponent of the prejudice that science and mathematics could solve all problems, apparently learned something from the near death experience of Principia and in his History of Western Philosophy was quite forthright about modern prejudices, especially those arising from Romanticism. Rousseau was a strong secular advocate of the doctrine that what is natural must be good and that any works of man must be unnatural and evil and bound to result in disaster. Russell sarcastically destroys this idea by pointing out that the advocates of the natural are really just applying prejudice. If something is sufficiently old, it somehow is transformed from an unnatural thing to a seemingly natural thing. The Church was an advocate of this same idea. But Russell says that he prefers the latter because they at least recognized the supremacy of reason, while utilitarianism and romanticism did not seem to him to do so. This prejudice about the “natural” has not died but is alive and well today. It informs a lot of the pseudo-science in nutrition and medicine and also some of the science. Nutrition has a very checkered track record particularly surrounding the effect of fat on heart disease. Intelligent people are skeptical about these dictums and nostrums, because they are often wrong. The body is a very complex system and results are often stated in terms of rather small statistical differences between groups, or as the Economist points out are often irreproducible. Science cannot be divorced from cultural norms and beliefs.

    Science has done wonderful things but is having a lot of serious problems at the moment as discussed by the Economist last fall in an editorial. Ignoring these issues cannot result in real progress, nor is an attempt to justify too much confidence in science making a real contribution in my view.

  89. DY,

    Science has done wonderful things but is having a lot of serious problems at the moment as discussed by the Economist last fall in an editorial. Ignoring these issues cannot result in real progress, nor is an attempt to justify too much confidence in science making a real contribution in my view.

    Even though there are indeed issues with science, how it’s funded, and even how it is valued (impact agenda, for example), I doubt that scientists are going to be too concerned about the views expressed in the economist. It’s associated with a field that should really sort out it’s own problem before trying to tell others how to behave.

  90. Joshua says:

    DY –

    ==> “One common prejudice of our age is the sufficiency of science for all questions.”

    What are some examples that you can provide of how this is a “common prejudice.” Personally, I don’t think I know anyone who thinks that science is sufficient for all questions.

  91. Joshua,
    Yes, I was going to ask a similar question. There seem to be some who claim this and yet I don’t know of any scientists who actually think this.

  92. chris says:

    “One common prejudice of our age is the sufficiency of science for all questions.”

    I’m with Joshua, David Young, that you really need to give examples since that apparent point of view doesn’t accord with my experience. It’s rather more of an early 20th century point of view! I would have thought that from around the mid 20th century (Silent Spring; atom bombs dropped on Japanese cities etc.) the common philosophy is that there are broader influences that impact on the progression of human wellbeing.

    Perhaps a descriptor that is a better match for how policy is effected in the real world is something like:

    “Relevant scientific evidence should make a significant contribution to the set of considerations taken into account in formulating any particular policy. It would be helpful therefore if the scientific evidence were conveyed faithfully to policymakers”.

    Lots of examples I think. The scientific knowledge/evidence on various specific aspects of genetically modified food crops may be very strong and supportive of implementing in the food chain. However there are good arguments (that might be social, societal, health-related, political and so on) for minimizing the contribution of scientific evidence in some of these cases.

    Likewise there is strong scientific evidence that widespread use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animals for human consumption contributes to dangerous levels of antibiotic resistance. For this reason this practice is banned in the EU (strong scientific evidence dominates policy in this case). On the other hand other considerations (economic, corporate) dominate policy in the US where this practice is much less strongly regulated (although this may change). and so on…

  93. > Personally, I don’t think I know anyone who thinks that science is sufficient for all questions […]

    That was the case for me until yesterday. I’ve just been acquainted with a guy who claims that philosophy can hurt science because its validity claims are only aesthetic judgments, or something like that. He was reacting to this article:

    http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/06/23/physicists-should-stop-saying-silly-things-about-philosophy/

    ***

    Oh, and Gödel showed a problem with the Hilbert program, David, not axiomatic logic. Axiomatic logic, whatever you wish to imply by this, is perfectly fine even if incomplete. There are of course logics that are complete, v. his completeness theorem.

    Also note that Russell’s type theory (what he invented to solve the barber problem) was published in an appendix to his Principles of Mathematics (1903), so a decade before his Principia. It results from his correspondence with Frege.

  94. Willard,
    Who was it that objected?

  95. John Hartz says:

    David Young goes at great lengths to rationalize his ideologically-driven position on what the scientific community is telling us about climate change. I doubt that engaging him in conversation about his skewed-views is worth the time and effort it takes to do so. Right now, he is a member of the “I’ve made-up my mind so don’t confuse me with the facts” school of thought.

  96. Michael 2 says:

    Apologies to all for being snarky yesterday. Sometimes I am not permitted the time to think carefully about a meaningful response and just blurt out what comes to mind.

    Kevin O’Neill says: “all scientists believe current models are perfect,”

    That seems unlikely. The evidence for it seeming unlikely is that many exist, old ones refined and new ones developed. I doubt that any claim exists that all scientists believe. (Yes, you were being sarcastic but your comment taken straight still is worth responding to)

    BBD says: “I used to be a ‘lukewarmer’ but I changed my position in accordance with a better understanding of the scientific evidence.”

    I was an uninvolved warmist. Now I am not sure of anything. It is sort of like the tide as this side has evidence (its all human), then that side has evidence (its all the sun), after a while I drop my anchor and wait a bit to see what settles out.

    JCH says:”Doubt and skepticism are doing just fine here. When somebody comes with a false argument, it is not allowed to exist.”

    All you need to do is declare doubt and skepticism to be “false argument” and poof, dissent goes away. Google “Reddit censors climate debate”. On the surface the policy seems reasonable but it contains the seeds of its own echo chamber.

    John Hartz says:”By your own admission, you examine the scientific evidence wearing ideological glasses. Therefore, your examinations are biased. You are not a credible witness.”

    Nor have I claimed to be a credible witness. I am not even a scientist although I understand science fairly well. It makes no difference my ideology — water boils for me at 100 C same as for you (actually because of my altitude it boils at a somewhat lower temperature). Ideology steps in when science has stepped out.

  97. Michael 2,

    I am not even a scientist although I understand science fairly well.

    Hmmm, are you sure?

  98. John Hartz says:

    A “must-read” article for everyone…
    Did climate deniers just admit they don’t know what they’re talking about? by Dawn by Dawn Stover, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 26, 2014

  99. Rachel M says:

    He was reacting to this article:
    http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/06/23/physicists-should-stop-saying-silly-things-about-philosophy/

    That’s a great article. The comments are interesting because he’s got some sort of plugin that hides comments with low ratings. That would be very handy here.

    Regarding philosophy and its usefulness. I think it should be a part of the school curriculum personally. Especially ethics. Everyone should have a basic understanding of this stuff.

  100. John H.,

    Did climate deniers just admit they don’t know what they’re talking about?

    If does appear so, but I suspect they’d deny it if anyone were to suggest that they had.

  101. Michael 2 says:

    Dumb Scientist “Since our neutrino detectors can’t tell which direction the neutrinos came from,”

    FYI: The Minos neutrino detector appears able to obtain a direction. I watched it in operation. Very impressive.

  102. Michael 2 says:

    And Then There’s Physics says: “Hmmm, are you sure?”

    No. It is my nature (INTP) to be uncertain and to seek greater certainty. Fixing computer problems is an example — my peers are thinking digital, 1 and 0 only, the reality is that it’s all analog, and not only that, at nanometer scale significant quantum effects exist and of course cosmic rays can change a 1 to 0 or v/v.

    It was not always so. I was once young and certain. I am amazed that I survived it. I was certain of my driving skills. I was certain of my computer skills. Now I am cautious about many things and certain only of my own existence and I have Descartes to thank for that.

  103. Michael 2 says:

    Steve Bloom says: “You don’t have a sufficient grasp of the science to support that claim”

    My point exactly. You have no idea my grasp of the science, you don’t care to know and you don’t need it to arrive at your conclusion. Your conclusion isn’t scientific.

    (Context: I had written “most here have firmly fixed views that render science sort of irrelevant anyway”)

  104. Michael 2,
    I rather think that Steve Bloom’s point was that your conclusion wasn’t scientific. You’ve acknowledged that you’re not a scientist, that you aren’t sure if you have a good grasp of the science and yet you’re happy to state that most here have such fixed views that it makes science rather irrelevant. Given that a reasonable number of people who comment here actually have scientific credentials, that is a rather insulting claim to make without any kind of evidence.

  105. Michael 2 says:

    I was interrupted again so my response to Steve Bloom is inadequate.

    Seriously consider for a moment why you are here at this blog. Was it a random choice? Out of hundreds of thousands you just happened here, and out of dozens of commenters and hundreds of comments you just happened to pass judgement on me and mine?

    Unlikely.

    Whatever your reason, it very likely has nothing to do with *science*.

    This is why Lewandowsky consulted with Cook to shape the report. The public also is not moved by science.

  106. Interesting, M2. I was thinking of earlier neutrino detectors and didn’t know that newer designs like AMANDA can sense direction to within about 2 degrees. Thanks. I wonder if this resolution is accurate enough to rule out my intentionally silly suggestion, but I don’t wonder too much because I never bet against the equivalence principle.

  107. M2 – My previous comment was entirely sarcastic – you read it otherwise?

    yeegads

  108. Kevin,
    M2 seemed to realise that it was sarcastic but still responded as if it were serious. I’m slightly confused by that too.

  109. Did climate deniers just admit they don’t know what they’re talking about?

    Interesting article. The Bulletin is talking about politicians, I have not heard Watts claim yet that he did not know what he was talking about, somehow.

    At least to me as a scientist, claiming you do not know sounds better as confidently claiming the Earth is cooling and the warming is just a NOAA conspiracy. Or confidently claiming that CO2 cools the Earth’s surface and that science is similar to organized crime. And it could be a stepping stone to a sensible opinion.

  110. John Hartz says:

    M2: When you find yourslef in a hole and want to get out, it’s best to stop digging.

  111. David Young says:

    ATTP, A nice try at deflection, but the Economist cites many many credible scientific sources. There is another one in Nature and one in the NY Times about the same thing. And that’s my personal observation that is documented in the literature now. There is a strong tendency in the literature to select positive findings and ignore negative ones and the result is overconfidence in modeling and in some cases in science. See the quote below from Nature.

    http://www.nature.com/news/beware-the-creeping-cracks-of-bias-1.10600

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/17/science/rise-in-scientific-journal-retractions-prompts-calls-for-reform.html?pagewanted=1&_r=4&

    Josh, I more had in mind what Sarewitz says:

    “Like a magnetic field that pulls iron filings into alignment, a powerful cultural belief is aligning multiple sources of scientific bias in the same direction. The belief is that progress in science means the continual production of positive findings. All involved benefit from positive results, and from the appearance of progress. Scientists are rewarded both intellectually and professionally, science administrators are empowered and the public desire for a better world is answered. The lack of incentives to report negative results, replicate experiments or recognize inconsistencies, ambiguities and uncertainties is widely appreciated — but the necessary cultural change is incredibly difficult to achieve.”

    Or Feng’s observation that “you can’t afford to have your hypothesis shown to be wrong.”

    Willard, I knew you would find something incomplete. Of course the theory of types was the “fix” for the problem, but I don’t think its very satisfying. It’s basic idea is “there are some inconvenient things that I strongly dislike and I’m just going to make it illegal in my system to say them.” Gordel showed that there were fundamental limitations to any axiomatic system. Subsequent model theory results show that there are infinitely many true statements in any such system that cannot be proven. You can call it what you want. I do thank you for your error checking.

  112. David Young says:

    Willard, See Don Monk’s rather old but very good book on Model Theory.

  113. Kevin O'Neill says:

    DY – the limitations of the Incompleteness Theorem is not applicable to most of science as we know it today. While the mathematical equivalent of “This statement is false” is unproveable, this self-referential mathematical device is typically not a concern.

    Even in areas where it has been thought the Incompleteness Theorem was applicable, there are ways to work around it. You might wish to read Are the Gödel incompleteness theorems limitative results for the neurosciences?

  114. David Young says:

    Kevin, I doubt that Gordel’s theorem has direct implications for the rest of science except that there are likely many true things that will never be proven by science and a lot of false things that will never be shown to be false. It rather shoots a hole in Russell’s fond hopes however about the foundations of mathematics and science.


  115. David Young goes at great lengths to rationalize his ideologically-driven position on what the scientific community is telling us about climate change. I doubt that engaging him in conversation about his skewed-views is worth the time and effort it takes to do so. Right now, he is a member of the “I’ve made-up my mind so don’t confuse me with the facts” school of thought.

    DY relies on his experience with computational fluid dynamics (intimidation) and the fact that he can assert that uncertainty exists with the numerical algorithms, and thus to foster doubt. That is classic “FUD” :- fear, uncertainty, doubt.

    Of course the way around this is to come up with models that do not rely on brute force computational techniques, and instead trade on scientific understanding and clever mathematical modeling techniques. This completely subverts the impact of DY’s concern tolling.

    cf. my handle

  116. David Young says:

    Web, I see you are here with the usual name calling. Of course simpler models may give insight that complex models cannot deliver, perhaps even your model. We don’t disagree on that. The issues that we raise in our recent papers are NOT simply about numerical methods, they are about fundamental issues with the Navier-Stokes equations. We had previously hoped that better numerics would offer a breakthrough. But, everyone is wrong in some cases and the evidence is that better numerics can help develop uncertainty quantification methods but cannot resolve the fundamental issues with the equations themselves.

  117. Thanks, David. I only have Doets’ Basic Model Theory. There’s a nice comics on this, though:

    http://www.amazon.com/Logicomix-An-Epic-Search-Truth/dp/1596914521

  118. Kevin O'Neill says:

    DY – can you actually name a scientific hypothesis that would be affected by the Incompleteness Theorem? Remember, the theorem applies to certain propositions in mathematics. You are quite confident there are “many” – I’m only asking for one.

    And please, not your opinion, but an actual paper that says we can’t solve this because Gödel.


  119. David Young says:
    June 30, 2014 at 1:43 am

    Web, I see you are here with the usual name calling. Of course simpler models may give insight that complex models cannot deliver, perhaps even your model. We don’t disagree on that. The issues that we raise in our recent papers are NOT simply about numerical methods, they are about fundamental issues with the Navier-Stokes equations. We had previously hoped that better numerics would offer a breakthrough. But, everyone is wrong in some cases and the evidence is that better numerics can help develop uncertainty quantification methods but cannot resolve the fundamental issues with the equations themselves.

    Must be knee-jerk with you. Where did I call you a name?

    You bring up Navier-Stokes. You still can not quantify a shortcoming of current findings by anything other than innuendo.

    Again I bring up ENSO as a fluid dynamics exemplar. The fact of the matter is that ENSO is a major factor in the global temperature signal. From year to year, a significant fraction of the temperature anomaly is directly attributable to changes in SST that propagate away from the source.
    And the source of these temperature changes is due to an erratic sloshing of Pacific waters that is most likely stimulated by periodic forcings in the atmosphere. That is ENSO in a nutshell.

    Now, when we analyze the fluid dynamics of sloshing we find that the details of Navier-Stokes that you are concerned about do not play a factor. So there are no “fundamental issues with the Navier-Stokes equation”.

    Just like there are no fundamental issues with relativistic heat conduction or with the quasi-static approximation of electromagnetic field theory, or any other fundamental “issue” that some know-it-all is trying to impress the rest of us via their brilliance. Let me remind you that worry-warting scientists to death by some imagined shortcoming never works. And your ploy is transparently obvious to anyone that has worked the hard sciences.

    You challenge a scientist with a problem that you say can’t be modeled, and they do it. That’s how science works.

  120. David Young says:

    Kevin, I skimmed the paper you referenced and its highly technical, too technical to understand at a glance. I was able to understand however that the paper was a rebuttal to a large literature that claimed the opposite. It appears to me that the matter is controversial. The conclusion of the paper seemed to be that if we allow lower standards than “mathematically certain” then there might not be an issue. Perhaps, but I would appreciate a more balanced discussion of the controversy, not just a reference to one side of it.

    However, I do understand the foundations of axiomatic mathematics and its just plain wrong to claim that the issue only applies to “arithmetic” and not other mathematics. Real, complex, and functional analysis are all based on “arithmetic” and the postulates of the real number system and of course numerical simulation of most differential equations, is based on this analysis. Statistical methods can give us probabilities, but not the kind of rigorous foundation Russell and Whitehead were trying to produce.

  121. Steve Bloom says:

    M2, your prior comments on this blog have made clear that your knowledge of climate science has some pretty sharp limits. Now, IANAS either, but I have been studying climate science pretty intensively for over 10 years, so while I’m quite aware of the limits of my own knowledge, I have learned quite a bit, to the point where it’s as obvious to me as it is to climate scientists (and at least one physicist) that you’ve barely gotten your feet wet.

    So have a little humility, and whatever you do don’t make large assumptions about the motives of people who are far more familiar with the science than you are. Doing so will get you pushback, deservedly so.

  122. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Shorter DY – no, I can’t give you an example.

    Thanks. That’s what I thought.

  123. David Young says:

    Kevin, I’m sorry, I thought you were interested in science. I see its just Climateball. Best wishes on your S(k)S uniform accoutrements.

  124. DY,
    A bit of self-reflection may be in order.

  125. jsam says:

    Perhaps DY could ask Brandon where #FreeTheTol300 are?

  126. Why do the comments that attack people rather than issues form such a significant fraction of comments here?

    If some people make fools out of themselves, that’s observable to all. If some don’t see that they don’t accept the claims of others for that, but judge those others as single-minded and intolerant.

  127. Pekka,

    Why do the comments that attack people rather than issues form such a significant fraction of comments here?

    Is that really true? I’m actually struggling to find many comments on this thread that actually attack people. Some frustration is clearly showing and some of the comments are are not quite as civil as maybe one would hope. Maybe you could point out a comment that you think is actually attacking someone else (or maybe even point out a significant number of such comments).

    I agree with your latter paragraph, but it’s also hard not to get frustrated when discussing this topic. Sometimes showing your frustration may help others involved to recognise that they may be saying things in a way that leads to others getting frustrated. Then again, maybe – often – not.

  128. Kevin O'Neill says:

    DY – you cannot pontificate on a subject (Gödel’s IncompletenessTheorem as applied to practical science) and not expect to be called on it. Have you ever considered that perhaps others have more knowledge than you on the subject?

    I actually gave you a reference that shows how it was *thought* to apply to the neurosciences, but a ‘fix’ has been found.

    I only asked for one of the ‘many’ problem areas you foresee – out of general interest, but I also have a built in detector that weighted the probability that I would receive an example as very low.

  129. BBD says:

    M2

    I was an uninvolved warmist. Now I am not sure of anything. It is sort of like the tide as this side has evidence (its all human), then that side has evidence (its all the sun), after a while I drop my anchor and wait a bit to see what settles out.

    It’s not the sun.

  130. Here is another example of “grave” concerns over approximation as applied to scientific research. This one hits close to home as it was part of my doctoral research.

    The idea is that one can use kinematic diffraction (i.e Fraunhofer) when looking at electron scattering from lattice surfaces to gain insight into the superstructure. The worry-wart concern was that by not looking at dynamical or multiple scattering, and in essence not solving a complete Q-M Schrodinger’s equation to the problem, that we were missing substantial parts of the physics. The naysayers would suggest that any results that we obtained were thus clouded by this uncertainty — an application of FUD at a fine scale so-to-speak. For every paper I presented, the devil’s advocates were ready with the multiple-scattering “issue”. All I and my advisor knew was that we weren’t going to do a full Q-M solution because we figured that it was overkill.

    Well, the answer was in the results. We were able to deduce all sorts of results from kinematic electron diffraction, figuring out various subtle atomic-scale surface morphologies before the scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) results later confirmed our results.

    So what DY is doing is very similar to the nay-sayers I have experienced in the past. As an analogy, substitute Q-M with N-S, and kinematic with conservation. He is asserting that climatologists are missing some important physics related to misapplication of the Navier-Stokes approximation. He will keep on harping over it because he can, but those who are willing to gamble and make the correct approximation will see their persistence pay off.

    That’s how I learned to do science. First-order approximations can work if done right. Illegitimi non carborundum.

  131. Pekka has a point, AT. For instance, you just accepted a comment that contains “single-minded and intolerant”

    A good way to prevent this would be to send such comment in a ClimateBall ™ penalty box.

  132. Willard,
    You’re right, Pekka does have a point : I should read the comments I approve and respond to more carefully.

  133. Kevin O'Neill says:

    James Hansen makes a relevant comment in his interview with Spencer Weart: “Manabe made a comment that, “Arakawa is working on the perfect model. It’s not quite ready yet.” Well, it will always be that way….You know, if you want to do real applications, then you really have to just be willing to go ahead and do something.”

  134. What Eli, WHT, and Kevin said are all essentially correct. Science is about understanding something and actually getting things done. Ideally, you’re also at the edge of knowledge so there isn’t some kind of rule book that tells you whether or not what you’re going to do is going to work or not (you do have to understand your methods and their strengths and weaknesses, but that’s not quite the same thing). One of the trickiest things to learn is when to publish. I’ve encountered some extremely bright people who fade away because they just want to be so careful that they never get anything published (or not enough). I’ve encountered others who – in my opinion – are not careful enough. Sadly – maybe – the latter people suffer less than they probably should. At the end of the day, though, you do need to publish your work, otherwise what’s the point. You need to get some balance between not checking your work carefully enough and publishing things that are wrong, and spending so much time and effort checking that you never really get anything done. To be clear, I’m not arguing against being careful, I’m suggesting that there is a point when you’ve been careful enough that you can now tell others what you’ve done.

  135. Kevin nailed it. I would just add that one has to weight doing predictions based on the model with a different sense of gravitas than doing the fundamental research. Many scientists prefer to let others do the interpretation.

  136. Kevin,

    You might be interested in the Lucas-Penrose argument:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/lp-argue/

    I have not read your article, so it might already be covered.

    I think what you’re looking for is indirectly present in the technology you use to type your comments, since complexity theory is related to incompleteness and that software engineers should mind the O of their algorithms. There’s also Chaitin theorem that I think has physical application, but I’d have to search.

    ***

    If you want to say that physicists don’t care much about undecidability, you’re quite right:

    Screw set theory. I live in the physical universe where when you run a Turing machine, and keep watching forever in the physical universe, you never experience a time where that Turing machine outputs a proof of the inconsistency of Peano Arithmetic. Furthermore, I live in a universe where space is actually composed of a real field and space is actually infinitely divisible and contains all the points between A and B, rather than space only containing a denumerable number of points whose existence can be proven from the first-order axiomatization of the real numbers. So to talk about physics – forget about mathematics – I’ve got to use second-order logic.

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/g7n/secondorder_logic_the_controversy/

    ***

    In other news, here’s a letter from Kurt to John V-N where he states that P = NP:

    http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/the-gdel-letter/

  137. I think I may have put this in a post at some time, but – in my field – you can go back 20 years and find papers that use methods/techniques that we would never consider using today. What we have available today is much better. However, that early work still contributed and as we’ve improved methods/techniques we haven’t really seen radical changes in understanding. It’s improved and we understand things in more detail, but there’s no sense that it would have been better had that early work not taken place.

  138. Generalizations cannot tell, when less than perfect is good enough, valid arguments are case specific. When simplifications or approximations are made, their use must be justified. One justification may be that doing those is the only way of obtaining any results, but then the trust in the results should certainly be reduced.

  139. Pekka,
    Sure, what you say is true. Sometimes it’s all you can do. Sometimes it’s all you need to do.

    the trust in the results should certainly be reduced.

    Indeed, and good scientists will make sure that this is clear.

  140. jsam says:

    For what it’s worth, the real world is full of non-linearity. There are lots of S curves. Engineers usually try to constrain themselves to work with the approximately linear portion of those curves. It makes the equations much simpler – staying well away from the nasty curves of the heel and shoulder. It is accurate? No. Does it work? Bridges, speakers, ICs…

  141. In building bridges reliable error estimates (or upper limits) are absolutely required.

  142. In building bridges reliable error estimates (or upper limits) are absolutely required.

    Ahhh, but that’s engineering 😉

  143. In building bridges the size of the Earth something is absolutely required too.

  144. jsam says:

    Quite true, Pekka. Constraining the design constrains the errors by avoiding limits. The real world is not designed and has fewer, but more severe, constraints. If we don’t constrain the space we will find the limits the hard way. It’s far from accurate. It works.

  145. Different issues get mixed in the net discussion. The important questions of climate science considered as pure science are not the same as questions asked for support of decision making. The role of uncertainties is different in these two situations.

    In decision making the best available knowledge should be used, whatever it’s certainty. Furthermore the worst alternatives should be given extra weight. In pure science more certainty may be required before much weight is given for the result. Less certain results are noted, but only noted.

    The weaknesses of GCMs in describing ocean circulation and long term variability may mean that they cannot really tell much of the latter, but that doesn’t mean that they would be of as little value as sources of information for climate policy.

  146. Michael 2 says:

    Re: Tom Curtis at June 27, 2014 at 5:00 pm.

    Brilliant observation. Good science must lead to consensus, consensus doesn’t necessarily indicate good science since politics and force also lead to consensus.

  147. Michael 2 says:

    Pekka Pirilä says: “Furthermore the worst alternatives should be given extra weight.”

    Indeed — but worst of what? Risk management takes into account not only the worseness of the alternative, but the frequency or probability. The worst thing that can happen to Earth is our sun exploding. Not much anyone can do about it. So, next on the list of baddies is asteroid collision. It is remotely possible that early detection and using missiles might avert total extinction. Next on the list is World War 3. Plenty of chain rattling over yonder.

    I’m not sure where exactly I would put the relatively unconvincing disaster of climate change in all this. It merits some attention but seems to be a bit of a hobby for some people.

  148. Michael 2 says:

    I will probably buy Naomi Oreske’s book on why it took so long for American scientists to accept a theory on continental drift as an illumination on how science is conducted in the United States but I’m a bit concerned about her conspiratorial ideation in her book “Manufactured Doubt”, a thing Lewandowsky’s paper says belongs to deniers.

    Still, you’ve piqued my curiosity so I’m going to have to actually listen to this item and see what she has to say.

  149. Michael,

    That there are possible catastrophes that we cannot do anything to prevent, has no bearing on what we should do to mitigate, where that’s possible.

  150. jsam says:

    The trouble, Michael 2, is there are real conspiracies. Oreskes has evidence for hers. Denialists have no evidence for theirs. It’s not all that fine a distinction.

  151. David Young says:

    Kevin, What surprises me about your response is that your own reference contains the references to the view that Gordel is relevant. Did you read it? A detailed consideration of the issues requires more than just citing a reference that in fact makes my point.

  152. DY,
    From my reading of Kevin’s link, his assessment here. Care to actually explain in what way you disagree and in what way the reference Kevin provides, makes your point?

  153. BBD says:

    M2

    It’s not the sun, and there really is a denial industry.

    See also Brulle (2013) Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations

  154. Why do you keep saying “Gordel”, David?

  155. Maybe David thinks it’s also Erscher and Barch? 🙂

  156. Kevin O'Neill says:

    DY – The paper is written addressing specific branches of science of interest to the author and within his field of expertise. I ran across nothing in the article that would indicate the author believes his reasoning is *only* valid in the neurosciences.

    I believe the section A fundamental logical problem for all arguments that claim the Gödel incompleteness theorems are limitative results in the sciences would negate the claim that the paper only applies to the neurosciences. If the author is aware of intractable practical problems due to the Incompleteness Theorem, they are not shared within the paper – or I missed them.

    The reason I asked for a specific example is to explore how scientists in the affected field are dealing with the issue. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I don’t know of them. You claim there are ‘many’ of these issues. If true, I’m not sure why it’s so hard to produce one.

  157. David Young says:

    Willard, spelling is not my strong suit. “or” is my stupid version of the umlaut on the o. As always your error checking is appreciated.

  158. John Mashey says:

    JSAM, BBD: yes.
    Naomi & Erik just scratched the surface, appropriately since their focus was on the history of George Marshall Institute + Fred Singer. GMI was kind enough to fill their website with records of the meetings that shed light on the conspiracy to attack the hockey stick, as detailed in Strange Scholarship.

    Of course, “follow the money” tends to show a lot, and I cannot tell you how delighted I was to discover DONORS back in January 2012. I’d been trying to find more of Heartland Institute’s funding, ran across a brief mention of Donors Trust/Capital donation, and then looked at Form 990s … and I recognized many recipients, obscured by Boy Scouts and churches. Anybody who thinks there’s no organization should read Fake 2, Appendix I, slightly updated from the original February 2012 version. I also recommend PBS/Frontline’s Climate of Doubt(2012). I Was delighted they showed video of drive-by of DONORS offices, an entity that deserves to be far better known.

    Then, of course, there is the Koch/tobacco partnership behind the Tea Party. The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is incredibly useful, especially since most climate-dismissive think tanks have helped the tobacco companies for decades, and still do. Newer ones like GWPF missed the boat.

  159. David Young says:

    Kevin, This really is a small point in the main thrust of my comments about cultural bias in science.

    However, the author of your reference states many times and references disagreeing papers he is rebutting. Also, the conclusion is arrived at by using a different standard of “correct” than previous work. It’s a controversial subject and it’s wrong to draw conclusions without a detailed search.

  160. DY,

    This really is a small point in the main thrust of my comments about cultural bias in science.

    You appear to be saying “okay, I was wrong, but it doesn’t really matter”. Have I interpreted your somewhat evasive comment correctly?

  161. Try “Goedel” or even “Godel,” David. You’re welcome.

    Speaking of Godelian arguments, here’s an interesting story:

    In 1959 I read a paper to the Oxford Philosophical Society entitled “Minds, Machines and Godel”. It represented the culmination of a long search. While I was at school, I had heard an essay by a contemporary of mine which had put forward a position of extreme materialism. I felt sure it was wrong and I argued against him that the very fact that he put forward his position as having been reached rationally, and commended it to us as a rational one to adopt, belied his claim that he and we were mere collocations of atoms whose behavior was entirely determined by physical laws. He was not impressed. Nor was I too sure of my ground. It was a slippery topic, in which it was very difficult to say exactly what was being talked about; and every counter-example to his thesis that I could think up he could account for as the effect of some disturbance on counter suggestible human subjects. But the- argument I put forward then did not leave me and, and in my gradual evolution from a schoolboy chemist, through an undergraduate reading, first mathematics, and subsequently Literae Humaniores, at Oxford, to a Junior Research Fellow in Philosophy, I kept on trying to reformulate it in a satisfactory fashion.A number of comparable arguments occurred to me, for example that the Verification Principle, being itself neither a tautology nor verified by empirical observation, would be, if true, meaningless, and must therefore be rejected. My tutors were not impressed, and talked darkly about the impropriety of self-reference, and insisted on distinguishing the meta-from the object-language. I countered by asking in which language this distinction was formulated, and they went up to the meta-meta-language, and however far I chased them they were always one meta than I. They got bored sooner than I, and laid down a general rule that all statements about languages had to be in a higher level language. I thereupon asked in what level of language that rule was formulated. I got a very bad report.

    http://www.leaderu.com/truth/2truth08.html

  162. David Young says:

    No attp, even Kevin’s reference shows clearly that it’s controversial and that you can only claim that it’s not an issue by watering down the definition of “correct” at least to some extent. Model theory is a rigorous theory and shows I think that it is an issue in all branches of mathematics.

    In any case, it is a minor point. I’m still waiting for substantive responses to the main points. Cultural bias in science seems a big deal to sarawetz and feng. What say you?

  163. Tom Curtis says:

    David Young, Godel sentences are provably true using metatheory, but not provable syntactically using the axioms of a mathematical system. Because computers are syntactic engines, any sentence found in their results are not godel sentences. That is necessarily true of any computational result (including climate models) unless the computer is programmed to switch levels, ie, to derive some results though metatheory. Therefore, in general, the possible existence of Godel sentences is irrelevant to the results of computer modelling, including computer modelling of the climate.

    The dispute in neuroscience is as to whether the latter is even possible. If it is, then human minds may be purely syntactic engines (turing machines) of unusual subtlety. If not, the existence of Godel’s theorem and the fact that humans can prove the truth of godel sentences (three non-contrived examples to date) proves that human minds are not purely syntactic engines, and may not even be purely physical. That is Godel’s theorem has particular relevance to neuroscience that cannot be generalized to the results of models in general.

    The upshot is, if your comments on Godel sentences are to be taken seriously, you need to prove that simple syntactic operations using Navier-Stokes equations can potentially generate the negation of a Godel sentence. Absent that proof, your issue with Godel sentences and Navier Stokes equations is just a subtle version of “look squirrel”, and not a serious objection at all.

  164. Tom Curtis says:

    Michael 2:

    “Good science must lead to consensus, consensus doesn’t necessarily indicate good science since politics and force also lead to consensus.”

    Yes, but prima facie, scientists do good science. In fact, from direct examination I can say that climate scientists do very good science. However, the crucial point here is that given a wide spread consensus among people who are expert in a topic, the presumption must be that non-experts disagreeing with them are wrong. That is a falsifiable presumption – but a very solid inductive conclusion never the less.

    Or put another way, when you have an approximately 97% consensus of relevant scientists on a particular topic, when scientists agreeing with the consensus come from all sides of the political spectrum, and from all major belief systems or are atheists or agnostics; and a 3% dissensus rate when the dissenting scientists are all known to either adhere to a specific (and minority) political ideology, or a specific, minority religious view with known pseudo-science connections (creationism), or both, why do you presume it is the consensus view that is not based on the evidence?

  165. Steve Bloom says:

    Thanks, Willard. Now I know what’s the opposite of turtles.

  166. Steve Bloom says:

    “However, the crucial point here is that given a wide spread consensus among people who are expert in a topic, the presumption must be that non-experts disagreeing with them are wrong.”

    IIRC Bertrand Russell made that exact point.

  167. John Mashey says:

    Since we’re on consensus, I offer a current question:
    Which consensus is stronger {better-evidenced, mechanisms understood, better predictions}?
    a) Climate science on AGW
    b) Medical science on cigarette smoking:disease link

    Put another, for contemporary assessments, compare Surgeon General 50th anniversary report on smoking with AR5.

  168. Michael 2 says:

    BBD says: “It’s not the sun.” (huge embedded link).

    Impressive. Among my younger friends I’d say “Way cool!”

    Among those I work with fixing computer and network problems, I sometimes solve problems that elude others because I do not have an “exclusionary principle” that only one thing can be causing a problem. Occasionally it happens that more than one problem exist, any one of which sufficient to kill it, at other times multiple problems work in concert to kill it.

    So what happens is a technician will tweak a thing, and when it doesn’t fix the problem, HE PUTS IT BACK. Then he goes to the next possibility, tweaks it, observes no change, and puts it back — when, had he just tweaked both settings and left them tweaked, it would have fixed the problem.

    This relates to a discussion of global warming.

    You believe the sun is not involved because total solar irradiance is trending down at a time when global temperature is trending up. But that is a very simple binary way of thinking — how much FASTER would global warming be going up *except* for the reduction of TSI? The chart does not, nor can it, answer that question.

    Furthermore, no global warming in 18 years — yet there ought to be. Even I see it. But what do we have? TSI is going down.

    Saying “It’s not the sun” is simplistic. It is the sun. It is also China. It is also my little Toyota and your Mercedes Benz.

  169. Windchaser says:

    John,
    I’d say that the the underlying mechanisms are better understood for climate science, but the statistical evidence for the smoking-cancer link is stronger, and so makes for better-verified simple predictions (e.g., X% of people who smoke Y packs per day will get lung cancer, +/- Z%).

    It’s two very different approaches to a problem, though. Smoking-cancer link is top-down, coming from just a helluva lot of epidemiological studies and the resulting statistics. AGW climate science is closer to a bottom-up approach, where we make predictions based on the underlying physics.

  170. Steve Bloom says:

    Don’t forget paleo, Windchaser. The timing may be uncertain, but we have quite firm information as to where we’re headed.

  171. The number of planets in our population of planets would make rather thin epidemiological studies.

  172. David Young says:

    Tom, I wish I had never mentioned Godel. Lorentz’s discovery is directly applicable to most modeling of nonlinear systems. The Navier-Stokes equations and their discontents were the subject on another thread where I provided references as prompted by Willard who seems to be the only one who even recognized that they indicated I might have a point. I’ve gotten used to that here however.

    BTW, model theory is a rigorous theory that allows for true statements that cannot be proven in axiomatic systems. I need to ponder your reference however.

    However, this thread seemed to be about how science really works and the main issue raised here by me complete with ample references and an informed dialogue about the foundations of science describing why Oreskes is off the target, is cultural bias in science. I think the focus here on a tangential point that is admittedly controversial is the real “see squirrel” thing going on, but maybe I’m wrong.

    Pekka is right however that the hostile tenor of a lot of the comments on this thread has made it hard to see what the main issue is. Pekka is always worthy of respect despite the fact that we disagree on many things.

    Web, It’s about what works is true enough. But one needs to be aware that even false hypotheses and oversimplified models can make many true predictions. I think someone named Oreskes pointed that out. Just to be clear, simple models can often be better if properly constrained than more complex models. This thing we seem to agree on seems to me to have implications for GCM’s and their advocates.

  173. > I wish I had never mentioned Godel.

    Me too, David. Let me remind you the context:

    One common prejudice of our age is the sufficiency of science for all questions. By far more meaningful are the results showing the limitations of logic and science, such as Gordel and Lorentz.

    I think you were something about hostile remarks.

    Oh, and of course I think you may have a point with your NS equations. Since I had no idea what you were talking about, Prudence compels me to presume that you may. I also think that Web’s doctoral story has a point too. You know, there’s a psychologist who worked on the idea of a good enough mother:

    The good-enough mother…starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant’s needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant’s growing ability to deal with her failure” (Winnicott, 1953)

    http://changingminds.org/disciplines/psychoanalysis/concepts/good-enough_mother.htm

    I think this is how science really works.

    ***

    My guess would be that your father was strict. But then, probabilities are on my side, considering your background and your approximate age. On the other hand, I’m not sure what your dad dealt with hostility. None of this is my business anyway. I don’t really need to try to explain why you’re playing the role of the strict scientific father.

    What’s my business is to point to this stash of ClimateBall ™ moves:

    http://changingminds.org/principles/principles.htm

    Consider this comment as a mix of Harmony and Interruption.

  174. David Young says:

    Tom, I did look at your reference and it was just a link to Goodstein’s bio and something about second order arithmetic that was left out of my education on mathematical logic. These issues have been superseded by a much more general theory that is pretty conclusive. Don Monk’s book on Model Theory is rigorous albeit a bit old, but also extremely technical. This was one of the things that turned me off on mathematical logic and my belief in Russell’s theory of mathematics.

  175. David Young says:

    Willard, As always the master of the ambiguous (and possibly deep) and hard for me to understand fully. I have never understood why Web is as hostile as he is in general. At Judith’s he is very hostile. He also has a personal bone to pick with me even though I have been trying to overwhelm him with kindness recently. Maybe that has something to do with the criticisms of his thesis that have probably haunted him ever since. That happened to me too, but only lasted for about a decade. Oreskes is actually right about this however, even very wrong theories and models can match data very well.

  176. David Young says:

    BTW, Willard what is this second order arithmetic stuff Goodstein dealt with?

  177. DY said:

    ” Maybe that has something to do with the criticisms of his thesis that have probably haunted him ever since. “

    What thesis is that? I don’t recall making a significant mistake, but there are plenty of mistakes in the criticisms that I have seen. Often it is by some economist who doesn’t understand that physics provides the foundation for earth science models.

  178. Michael,

    Saying “It’s not the sun” is simplistic. It is the sun. It is also China. It is also my little Toyota and your Mercedes Benz.

    When we discuss pure science it’s simplistic. It’s also simplistic to say that internal long term variability has contributed little to the temperature change since 1850. There isn’t enough evidence to support such statements as far as I know using criteria of pure science.

    When we discuss policy implications of AGW all those simplifications are trivial and should be of no consequence. It’s likely enough that the estimates of main stream climate science are right. That something else may have contributed significantly does not affect much the basis of rational decision making.

  179. Tom Curtis says:

    Peka, there is not enough evidence to say that there even exists an internal long term variability in climate. The best evidence for the best established such mode of variation (AMO) shows the amplitude and frequency of the variation changing from century to century, with it effectively disappearing for centuries at a time. There is a very real possibility that it is just the consequence of regional forcing. The second best established mode (PDO) appears to have no climate signal distinct from ENSO. So yes, maybe internal long term variability is a major factor in recent warming, just as maybe it was caused by force X from outer space.

  180. verytallguy says:

    Michael 2,

    Saying “It’s not the sun” is simplistic. It is the sun. It is also China. It is also my little Toyota and your Mercedes Benz.

    It might be more helpful to ask the question “what is the relative contribution of the various potential causes of observed warming”

    Here’s an authoritative source, IPCC AR5 Summary for Policymakers:

    Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750 (see Figure SPM.5).

    Have a look at SPM.5 It shows our current understanding of all the forcings. CO2 is 1.68W/m2, Solar is 0.05W/m2 (best estimates).

    CO2 forcing is, since 1750, approximately 30x that of solar.

    It really isn’t the sun!

    Some more general thoughts – I’ll leave you to source the quote, but ht/ James Annan:

    He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense

    The summary for policymakers in AR5 is a very good and readable state of the literature report. It very helpfully quantifies important things like the relativity of all the potential forcings. Could I suggest that having a read, and importantly, quantifying your musings against the numbers therein, would be a very good way to help you understand what is, and isn’t important.

    I’m not saying it’s the final word, merely a very good place to understand to start to do some arithmetic, and check for yourself if your thoughts are represent sense.

  181. BBD says:

    M2

    VTG has pipped me to the post, but let’s continue:

    You believe the sun is not involved because total solar irradiance is trending down at a time when global temperature is trending up. But that is a very simple binary way of thinking — how much FASTER would global warming be going up *except* for the reduction of TSI? The chart does not, nor can it, answer that question.

    Here’s another graph that addresses your concerns:

    GAT vs GISS forcings: solar; WM- GHGs; total net forcing

    GAT (surface) annual means are shown at the top (green). The three lower curves are coherently-scaled forcings. Well-mixed GHGs (blue) and solar (yellow; bottom) bracket the total net forcing (red).

    Look at the relative size of the forcing changes. Compare solar (trivial, wrong way) and GHGs. It really is that simple.

    Furthermore, no global warming in 18 years — yet there ought to be. Even I see it. But what do we have? TSI is going down.

    I am disappointed to the edge of real irritation by this. You have been around here long enough to know better, IMO. Let’s get some things straight:

    – “Global warming” has not stopped or even slowed down

    The troposphere ≠ the climate system

    – The rate of ocean heat uptake has slightly increased over the last decade or so hence the slowdown in the rate of tropospheric warming

    – “Global warming” has continued exactly as expected – in the bulk of the climate system which is made up of ocean: OHC 0 – 2000m layer

    So in summary:

    – It’s not the sun

    – It is GHGs

    – Global warming has neither stopped nor slowed down

  182. verytallguy says:

    BBD

    “Global warming” has not stopped or even slowed down

    I think I’d disagree with this, although I understand the thinking behind it.

    AR5 Box 9.2 (a dreadful piece of word salad in general):

    trend over 1998–2012 is estimated to be around one-third to one-half of the trend over 1951–2012… … attributable in roughly equal measure to a cooling contribution from internal variability and a reduced trend in external forcing… …from both volcanic eruptions and the downward phase of the solar cycle

    I think I’d summarise it as global warming has slowed and the most likely causes for this are heat stored in the oceans, more volcanic eruptions and less insolation.

    It’s a matter of semantics really, but for me personally, insisting continued unchecked global warming in the face of a reduced trend in surface temperatures comes across as a refusal to face the facts. I agree with you in that it does not appear to have any real significance vs future trends.

  183. VTG,
    But isn’t this simply a problem of definition. Global warming is typically taken to mean surface temperatures, so – as you say – the rate of increase in surface temperature has slowed.

    On the other hand, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is the process of GHGs reducing the outgoing flux, producing an energy imbalance and increasing the amount of energy in the system. In this case, it hasn’t slowed. However, it may be true that it hasn’t accelerated as expected.

    So, as I understand it, global warming – as defined by surface temperatures only – may have slowed, but overall warming – as defined by the total energy in the system – has not.

  184. BBD says:

    VTG

    Okay, I’ll correct the detail:

    “Solar variability, volcanism and ENSO have contributed to a minor and transient reduction in the rate of surface warming over the last decade or so (Schmidt et al. 2014). A transient increase in the rate of ocean heat uptake has also contributed to the reduction in the rate of surface warming over this period (England et al. 2014).

  185. verytallguy says:

    BBD, ATTP,

    I think we all agree with each other, I’ll not labour the points.

    ATTP

    it may be true that it [overall energy imbalance] hasn’t accelerated as expected.

    I thought we’d expect the overall energy accumulation to be approximately linear (Co2 forcing is logarithmic, but emissions are rising exponentially)

    Do we expect an acceleration?

  186. VTG,
    That’s a good question. I think I saw Michael Tobis make this point, but I never actually went as far as checking into any further. So, yes, maybe we aren’t really expecting any noticeable acceleration and what we observed in terms of the increase in total energy is in line with expectations – almost, at least.

  187. VTG,
    It’s not possible to just combine logarithmic and exponential to linear as exponential applies to emissions (if even to them), not to overall CO2 concentration, while logarithmic applies to this overall concentration,

    Various factors may happen to result in roughly linear overall effect, but that must be more a coincidence than anything else – if that’s, indeed, the outcome. Simple numerical models can be used to get better projections.

  188. verytallguy says:

    Pekka,

    sounds reasonable. What is your understanding – are we expecting acceleration or approx linear increase?:

  189. VTG,

    I cannot answer that. I have a partial simple model in an Excel sheet. That model calculates the future CO2 concentration from projected emissions using a somewhat outdated persistence model, but I haven’t included the simple next step to calculate forcing.

    I don’t believe in exponential growth of emissions. There may be a period during which China and other growing economies maintain such a growth, but that cannot last long. A linear growth in emissions might be a better bet over a period of more than 20-30 years, but even that may be two high and even in absence of climate change mitigation policies.

  190. the best way to think about this is that if the recent leveling off was not there, we would be seeing a trend of ECS nearing 4C per doubling of CO2. However with the leveling in place, the long-term ECS is 3C, which is in line with the historic trends. This number has not changed since the Charney report.

    I use my own multivariate analysis called CSALT to substantiate this number, using the somewhat obscure long-term factor of LOD to estimate multidecadal temperature variation. Dickey [1] of JPL first discovered the LOD scaling.
    [1]J. O. Dickey, S. L. Marcus, and O. de Viron, “Air Temperature and Anthropogenic Forcing: Insights from the Solid Earth,” Journal of Climate, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 569–574, 2011.

    I picked the LOD idea up from some “own goal” scorers at Climate Etc and specifically Curry includes it as an indicator of the stadium wave. This is why David Young thinks that “At Judith’s he is very hostile.”, referring to me. I just use what they tell me and hand it back in their face. Young thinks is hostility, whereas I think it is just good manners to point out how they have been very helpful.

  191. JWhite says:

    ATTP says: As far as I can tell, there is an inverse correlation between someone’s scientific credentials and how certain they are as to how science should actually work

    I think Kruger and Dunning confirmed this.

  192. John Mashey says:

    But if a Dunning-Kruger afflictee wishes to be cured, they can work at it.
    Sadly, in the blogosphere, many seem to hang out “DK corral” echo-chambers that encourage the effect.
    I don’t know offhand if any serious studies have been done, but anecdotally, I have seen many comments indicating abysmal competence, which got lots of Likes and praise. Perhaps people of low competence gravitate to such places. where they can get positive feedback they may not get elsewhere.

  193. Eli Rabett says:

    Pekka, somewhat wrong when you say

    “It’s not possible to just combine logarithmic and exponential to linear as exponential applies to emissions (if even to them), not to overall CO2 concentration, while logarithmic applies to this overall concentration,”

    Exponential refers to the growth of emissions, logarithmic to the growth of forcing with atmospheric concentration. Emissions and concentration are related through carbon cycle models.

  194. Eli,
    Maybe my formulation was not clear enough, but what I had in mind agrees with your concept. I refer to the possibility of using simple models, and those models would:
    – assume a emission scenario with the exponential growth as one possible assumption
    – calculate concentrations using a persistence model of CO2 in the atmosphere
    – calculate warming from that.

    A linear growth for forcing would be obtained from exponential growth in concentration, but the connection between emissions and concentration is more complex. More specifically an exponential growth in emissions does not naturally lead to an exponential growth in concentration.

  195. Tom Curtis says:

    Pekka, with an exponential growth in emissions of 3% per annum starting from an initial growth of 1 ppmv equivalent, an initial CO2 concentration of 280 ppmv, and a 55% airborne fraction, CO2 concentration grows initially at 0.2% per annum rising to approx 3% per annum within 230 years. The increase in the rate of increase in concentration ceases after 980 years, at which time the rate of increase in concentration is still 3% per annum, ie, still exponential.

    That in fact represents a flaw in my model, in that by 290 years, the CO2 in the atmosphere (by volume) has risen to equal all other components, so that in a fully accurate model the the CO2 concentration would be 50% (and 98% in 500 years). However,.for the duration over which there are in fact enough fossil fuels on earth to sustain exponential growth in emissions, there will be a greater than exponential growth in concentration.

    Calculated using molar ratios, concentration increases faster than exponentially for the first 172 years, after which time the CO2 concentration is over 2.8% of the atmosphere. After that it increases slower than exponentially, but only because it cannot increase to more than 100% of concentration. That last fact is irrelevant in that it is the total quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere, not the actual concentration that determines the strength of the greenhouse effect.

    This model is also flawed in that each molecule of CO2 will substitute for a molecule of O2, leading to a slight decrease in the total number of molecule in the atmosphere (as CO2 is more easily dissolved in water than is oxygen). Both models, however, are accurate enough to illustrate the basic point. Given faster the than exponential growth in concentration with exponential growth in emissions in these simple models, I am not sure on what you are basing your claims.

  196. I’ve noted that “virtual particles actually slow down light in the standard vacuum, because photons spend some of their time as electron-positron pairs that travel slower than “true” lightspeed. Because the Casimir effect suppresses some of these virtual particles, light actually travels faster between the plates (perpendicular to the plates) than in the standard vacuum. This is called the Scharnhorst effect.”

    Franson doesn’t mention Scharnhorst but if I understand correctly he’s saying neutrinos aren’t subject to the Scharnhorst effect.

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