An editorial response

Our response to Hermann Harde’s paper has finally appeared. What’s maybe more interesting is that there is also an editorial response by Martin Grosjean, Joel Guiot, and Zicheng Yu.

It’s already been discussed at Realclimate and Rabett Run, but there are some interesting things in the editorial that are worth highlighting. For example,

During the initial manuscript submission, H. Harde suggested five potential reviewers. Most if not all of them are prominent individuals advocating that currently raising CO2 concentrations would be natural and not related to human influence.

and

All five suggested potential reviewers were invited by the Editor to provide formal reviews on the submitted manuscript. Two of them accepted the invitation and suggested ‘major revisions’ and ‘minor revisions’, respectively. Both reviewers asked the author for more clarity and better presentation, style and language; none of them raised any concern about the scientific content of the manuscript.

So, the editor didn’t bother to select reviewers outside of the list provided by the author. I actually think it can be useful for an editor to see a list of potential reviewers. However, they really should have their own sense of who would be a suitable reviewer, and not simply select from the list provided by the author. I also don’t think I’ve ever submitted a paper and provided potential reviewers; I tend to think it’s the job of the journal to work out who should review a submission.

The editorial then goes on to say

The journal editor offered Harde the opportunity for a formal Reply to respond to Koehler et al.’s Comment article. However, after external expert reviews, the Reply by Harde to the Comment by Köhler et al. (2018) was rejected because it did not add any significant information to the argument put forward in the original paper.

I must admit that I feel slightly uncomfortable about this, as I do tend to think an author should be allowed to reply. On the other hand, the original paper was clearly nonsense, so a response is unlikely to be any better.

Ultimately, the editorial decision was that the original Harde paper should not be retracted, as no unethical action was found. I mostly agree with this. I think that papers should really only be retracted if there is evidence of plagiarism, or fraud. Unless requested by the author, I don’t think that a paper being wrong is a reason for retraction. The editors have also decided that authors can no longer submit suggestions for potential reviewers. Although a list of potential reviewers can be useful, this seems sensible to me. A journal should have a database of potential reviewers and if they can’t find a suitable reviewer for a paper, that might suggest that the paper is not really suitable for that journal.

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220 Responses to An editorial response

  1. JCH says:

    i don’t have time to do google searches. Can you please provide a link to the online “audit” of this paper? Surely Nic Lewis jumped all over it. Also, did Professor Curry ever describe the paper as a potential “game changer”?

  2. JCH,
    The link is there, but I think it is paywalled.

  3. Congratulations to the authors of the comment paper (and everybody else who complained to the editors). For once writing a comment paper has actually had an effect (from the journal response bit):

    In order to lessen the possibility of introducing bias into the peer review process, authors are no longer able to suggest the names of possible reviewers for their manuscript. To give more credit to the Editors for their work and increase a sense of accountability, published manuscripts will additionally provide the name of the editor who made the final decision.

    This is real progress. Journals really should never ask authors to suggest reviewers, it is a recipe for pal-review. If the editor is unable to identify suitable reviewers for themselves, then they are likely to be too inexperienced (not sufficiently aware of the broader research field, rather than their own specialism, which takes time), or the paper is outside the scope of the journal. If nothing else, an editor that wasn’t able to select reviewers ought to pass the paper on to another editor where the paper is closer to their expertise (I’m not sure that journals should allow authors to select the editor either – that also has resulted in problems in the past).

    I was rather less impressed by:

    “After much consideration by the editors at the time of publication, it was felt that the paper should not be retracted, but rather let it remain to stimulate further discussion about such a highly charged and contentious topic.”

    This is just ridiculous. The cause of the rise in atmospheric CO2 is not remotely a highly charged or contentious topic, and stimulating further debate on this issue (unless some startling new evidence comes along) is just an egregious waste of everybody’s time.

    I should add, I fully agree with

    It was also felt that although the implementation of the peer review of this paper had failed, no unethical action has been found in its publication.

    as a reason not to withdraw the paper. Much better than the reason that immediately preceded it! ;o)

    Also:

    All five suggested potential reviewers were invited by the Editor to provide formal reviews on the submitted manuscript. Two of them accepted the invitation and suggested ‘major revisions’ and ‘minor revisions’, respectively. Both reviewers asked the author for more clarity and better presentation, style and language; none of them raised any concern about the scientific content of the manuscript. We believe that this may have been because the reviewers lacked the impartiality and scientific expertise to provide an adequate science-based review.

    This implies, but doesn’t explicitly state, that the only reviewers invited to review were those suggested by the author, which is, shall we say, “sub-optimal”.

    Finally:

    During the initial manuscript submission, H. Harde suggested five potential reviewers. Most if not all of them are prominent individuals advocating that currently raising CO2 concentrations would be natural and not related to human influence.

    I think they have just identified the reviewers. It isn’t that easy to think of more than five scientists that would advocate rising CO2 concentrations being natural.

    Ironically, I made a brief visit to ClimateEtc today and found:

    curryja | March 31, 2018 at 4:45 pm | Reply

    Why would anyone other than an academic employed by a university or govt lab bother to publish in the pal-reviewed scientific journals?

    [comment copied from the previous thread, now that there is a new one]

  4. Magma says:

    @ dikranmarsupial

    curryja | March 31, 2018 at 4:45 pm | Reply
    Why would anyone other than an academic employed by a university or govt lab bother to publish in the pal-reviewed scientific journals?

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems there’s a tiny hint of bitterness there.

  5. dikranmarsupial says:

    The answer of course is that scientists outside academia should value self-skepticism just as much as those within academia, and should use the quality control provided by peer review. If you want real pal-review, then there is always blog-review on openly partisan blogs! ;o)

    In my view the reviewers who are your real friends are those willing to put in the effort to give a detailed criticism of your work, in such a way that you can address the criticisms. Fortunately scientists in practice have more real friends than pals in peer review, even if they (we) whinge about it when we receive the reviews! ;o)

  6. Magma says:

    I expect there’s a similar story behind the ludicrous paper by Rex J. Fleming that just appeared in Environmental Earth Sciences, a weak to middling Elsevier journal that publishes little climate-related research.

  7. JCH says:

    Look guys and gals, only the ‘team’ does pal review. Skeptics do online reviews by wickedly smart denizens who do notoriously detailed audits of each and every bit of the bad data and the bad statistics climate scientists always use. On skeptic stuff, vicious online reviewing includes serious amounts of accolades, back slapping, high fives, and really tough hugs and kisses.

    Ristvan’s scientific output is spectacular. Just ask him.

  8. Magma,

    I expect there’s a similar story behind the ludicrous paper by Rex J. Fleming that just appeared in Environmental Earth Sciences, a weak to middling Elsevier journal that publishes little climate-related research.

    Yes, I suspect so. It’s a truly bizarre paper that is actually quite hard to rebut because it’s just nonsense.

  9. angech says:

    December 17, 2016 ATTP
    “The Revelle factor is about 10, which means that the fractional change in atmospheric CO2 will be about 10 times bigger than the fractional change in DIC. What this tells you straight away is that you can’t change the amount of CO2 in the oceans without also change the amount in the atmosphere; stabilising emissions will not stabilise concentrations.
    Now, maybe if the fractional change in DIC is small enough, the fractional change in pCO_2 might also be small enough to essentially stabilise concentrations. However, we know the quantities in the various reservoirs, and we’ve already emitted enough CO2 to change the DIC by 1 – 2%, and – hence – the atmospheric CO2 concentration by 10 – 20%. If we stabilise emissions, we could easily change the DIC by a further 1 – 2%. In fact, we have sufficient fossil fuels to change it by more than 10% and, therefore, enough to change the atmospheric concentration by more than 100% (i.e., to, at least, double atmospheric CO2).”

    If there is a problem with CO2 the answer may lie in this comment and that of the paper
    ” We have critically scrutinized this cycle and present an alternative concept, for which the uptake of CO2 by natural sinks scales proportional with the CO2 concentration.”

  10. angech,
    I’ve no idea what you’re suggesting.

  11. angech wrote “If there is a problem with CO2 the answer may lie in this comment”

    I doubt it. The Revelle factor has been well understood by scientists working on the carbon cycle for decades and it is built into their models.

    ” We have critically scrutinized this cycle and present an alternative concept, for which the uptake of CO2 by natural sinks scales proportional with the CO2 concentration.”

    Isn’t that just the half of Henry’s Law that climate skeptics are not interested in? ;o) This is in no way an “alternative concept”, for example the simple model in my paper on this topic includes the same assumption (towards the bottom of page 16).

  12. Calling it Pal Review is clever but in publishing and marketing circles it has long been known as Logrolling.

    “I expect there’s a similar story behind the ludicrous paper by Rex J. Fleming that just appeared in Environmental Earth Sciences, a weak to middling Elsevier journal that publishes little climate-related research.”

    Yet Dr. Fleming is a fellow of the AAAS and a PhD in Atmospheric Sciences, so there must be more to the story there. He does have the credentials. Maybe so much for credentials? Perhaps the submitted research analysis should stand on its own, independent of the expertise of the author in a specific field.

  13. Paul, the Flemming paper contains paragraphs that should not have made it though peer review, even I can see that.

    Cosmic rays are star dust—mostly hydrogen protons from exploding stars. These enter the Earth’s atmosphere when the Sun is “quiet”—the solar wind and its magnetic field are weak.

    An isotope is produced from the normal light element of beryllium (normally with 4 protons and 5 neutrons) into beryllium-10—it is produced by cosmic rays as follows. A cosmic ray entering the atmosphere creates a shower of secondary cosmic rays, e.g., an energetic neutron. This collides with an oxygen atom, removing a neutron for beryllium to make beryllium-10 (4 protons and 6 neutrons). Be-10 has a half-life of 1.4 million years.

    and

    The CO2 concentrations have relatively little change over the interglacial period (see Fig. 2).

    If you look at figure 2, it shows CO2 concentrations and the Scotese temperature schematic over the last 600 million years. The current interglacial period wouldn’t even be a pixel of that graph, so how can we tell there is “relatively little change”?

    From the conclusions:

    “There is no correlation of CO2 with temperature in any historical data set that was reviewed.”

    Anybody who has looked at climate change will know that is at best indication that the choice of which historical dataset to review was somewhat nuanced, as the obvious choices (e.g. BEST, Mauna Loa/Law dome) clearly do show a correlation. As do the Vostok core data.

    The credentials don’t matter at all. What matters is whether the argument holds up.

  14. rats, messed up that tags again! 😦

    [Corrected. You forgot the closing “/” – W]

  15. Magma says:

    @ WHUT

    Fleming is a meteorologist with publications going back to the late 1960s in reputable journals. However my very rapid read through the paper two days ago was an exercise in bafflement as to how such a muddle could possibly be published anywhere.

    I don’t know what the issue is. Virulent emerititus (dementia academicus gravis)? With his background in the military, I wonder if Fleming might not be yet another example of a politically conservative elderly male scientist/engineer adopting contrarian stances in fields outside his past or present area(s) of expertise.

  16. Reading Fleming’s paper, he does have a specialty in fluid dynamics and discovering potentially chaotic behavior in climate. It’s possible that his skepticism arises from his experience in looking at variations in the climate that could be attributed to chaotic behavior. But then again in the paper he says:
    ” However, there will never be runaway chaos as EBI is limited by the dynamics of the system (Fleming 2014)”
    and then goes on to support a solar+cosmic ray connection.

    Fleming is much like Lindzen, someone who did lots of arcane math in the late 1960’s in trying to understand atmospheric dynamics, but never made any real headway.

  17. “It’s possible that his skepticism arises from his experience in looking at variations in the climate that could be attributed to chaotic behavior.”

    Skepticism is no excuse for writing obvious nonsense.

  18. Magma says:

    @ dikranmarsupial

    You’re having a hard time with that second italic bracket, aren’t you?

  19. dikranmarsupial says:

    If only it were limited to HTML tags! ;-(

  20. Willard says:

    Your last “i” was an “a,” Dikran.

    The “i” is not deprecated anymore in HTML5, but should be used to mark an alternate voice or mood, but usually not a quote.

  21. dikranmarsupial says:

    Thanks for the fixes Willard, much appreciated.

  22. Eli Rabett says:

    Eli has links to the perspicacious comment and the original nonsense.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2018/04/pal-review.html

    Yes, this is click bait. Wait a few hours and the web will wash the editorial comment up upon these shores.

  23. “I don’t know what the issue is. Virulent emerititus (dementia academicus gravis)?”

    When I see this diagnosed, I’m always reminded of David Goodstein’s introduction to his classic condensed matter text titled “States of Matter”

    “Ludwig Boltzmann, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics. Perhaps it will be wise to approach the subject cautiously.”

    Likewise, trying to solve Navier-Stokes might have driven Fleming mad.

  24. Dave_Geologist says:

    a reason not to withdraw the paper. Much better than the reason that immediately preceded it! ;o)

    dikran, as you’re probably aware, the general rule in science is that bad papers get ignored, not withdrawn. The unwritten assumption is that publication is for the benefit of a scientifically literate audience who know rubbish when they see it. Really bad ones (so bad it’s Not Even Wrong) usually don’t even get a Comment because it’s assumed to be obvious. Which of course raises the question of why it was accepted, but that’s another matter.

    In a few areas (climatology, evolution) there is a temptation to ask for retraction of the bad paper, because unlike most areas of science the public is interested as well as scientists. And bad actors can tout the rubbish paper to people who’re not competent to see that it’s rubbish.

    However, I think it would be counterproductive to make those areas of science a special case

    1) The bad actors have no difficulty misrepresenting good papers, so there will still be a problem.

    2) It makes those areas of science looks like they’re weak and need special protection (or rather, that’s how it would be portrayed). The same bad actors would use that as grounds for saying it’s not real science, it’s religion/politics/ideology, and that if it’s real science it would follow the same rules as everyone else.

  25. Dave_Geologist says:

    ” We have critically scrutinized this cycle and present an alternative concept, for which the uptake of CO2 by natural sinks scales proportional with the CO2 concentration.”

    I present an alternative concept, in which the orbits of the planets are not controlled by gravity, or even curved space-time, but by invisible pink unicorns pushing them.

    Sorry ATTP, that’s half a millennium of your subject down the tubes 😉

  26. DG agreed. I think writing comments paper should be an integral element of scientific publishing. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect all scientists to be able to detect incorrect papers when they see them (especially PhD students or early career scientists). It is not hard to think of well cited papers written by leading scientists that contain ideas that just don’t work, and in some cases I only found that out by implementing the ideas and evaluating them, but there are no comments papers that point this out, and I expect I am not the only one who wasted time and effort finding out. Unfortunately there is little incentive for scientists to write comments papers, and with the increasing “publish or perish” culture in academia, it isn’t that surprising that they are not written as much as they should be.

    BTW not all skeptics are “bad actors”, there are some that genuinely believe in what they write, and not being able to admit you are wrong is more human nature than “bad actor”.

  27. Dave_Geologist says:

    BTW not all skeptics are “bad actors”

    I know dikran. But I don’t think anyone doubts that they are out there. I should have added something along the lines of

    and it may mislead those less knowledgeable (my main point), and provide succour to those suffering from confirmation bias.

    Also, the Comment (which I agree is a vital part of the literature, preferably with a Reply) doesn’t help with the bad actors. The news cycle has moved on by then. Same goes for a retraction. The ones who bigged up the original paper won’t publish their own retraction.

  28. Dave_Geologist says:

    Hmmm… just logged in to my library subscription to access the Comment and clicked through to the original paper.

    I have an existing copy created Wed 01 Mar 2017 03:46:57 GMT, modified Wed 01 Mar 2017 04:39:30 GMT. It is headed “Invited research article”, which presumably means it wasn’t just submitted to an out-of-scope journal. Someone asked for it, although I suppose it could be a case of a distinguished invitee getting to choose his own subject matter and going off the beaten track*.

    The version currently online was created Wed 17 May 2017 21:52:41 BST, modified Thu 18 May 2017 05:52:57 BST. It is headed “Original research article”. The rest of the metadata is the same.

    Curious. It changed before the formal rebuttals but after the Internet brouhaha (the RC article was 25 February 2017). Does that mean the penny dropped quite quickly and someone higher up the food-chain got embarrassed? Or that it wasn’t really an invited paper and someone called it that to big it up?**

    * I recently read Oreskes book on plate tectonics (not the paradigm shift one, the one where they collated short pieces from the surviving luminaries of the early decades). One of the authors shared a rueful anecdote where he’d missed one of the key presentations, because the speaker changed his topic at the last minute from something boring to something epochal, and was presumably prominent enough that the meeting organisers said OK.

    **With the public at least. In my experience invited speakers and articles are very hit or miss. Sometimes the distinguished guest has nothing new to say but puts in an appearance anyway.

  29. FWIW I contacted the editors (IIRC all of them ;o) of the journal explaining the problems with the paper as I saw it towards the end of March (I had already contacted Prof. Harde earlier in the month). I was by no means the first to have done so!

  30. Dave_Geologist says:

    So the penny didn’t drop, it was pushed!

  31. Dave_Geologist says:

    Looking more closely at that issue, there are quite a few “Invited research articles” as well as “Original research articles”, which seem indistinguishable in the sense that they’re all reporting specific pieces of new research and are not state-of-the-art-review or hot-topic type articles. There is one of those in the same issue, but it’s labelled an “Invited review article” and is indeed a review or summary (of the Baikal Drilling Project). So “Invited research article” sounds like a normal paper, except that the author and/or topic has been proposed by an Editor.

    According to their home page, “Invited review article” can include articles which have been suggested by the author and not initiated by an Editor. They require prospective authors of review articles to consult with the Editors before submission, which presumably gives the Editors a chance to shape the review in a direction which suits the Journal’s subject matter and readership. If I was an Editor I’d only give it that label if the editorial intervention had significantly changed the prospective content, i.e. the Editors “invited” the Review in its final form.

  32. “In a few areas (climatology, evolution) there is a temptation to ask for retraction of the bad paper, because unlike most areas of science the public is interested as well as scientists. And bad actors can tout the rubbish paper to people who’re not competent to see that it’s rubbish.”

    One of the things that makes that hard is is that so many climate research papers are based solely on interpretation, since controlled experiments are not possible. In other words, just about everything published can be viewed as an interpretation of what would happen if a controlled experiment was possible. So often when a bad paper comes along, all one can do is say that the author has the wrong interpretation, and please see this other set of papers for a better interpretation.

    Contrast that situation to the world of controlled experiments. A benchmark for retraction is the case of Jan Hendrik Schon of Bell Labs. This guy had a string of 9 papers in Science, 7 in Nature, and several in the APS Physical Review journals. When the hammer came down on him, other scientists had discovered repeated fudged patterns in his data and experiments that couldn’t be duplicated. His was a cut and dried case of retraction.

    That’s the environment that I got my start in. Climate science is a world apart from this, dealing more in shades of gray with regard to interpretation. The Harde and Fleming papers should have ostensibly been rejected outright because their interpretations were so off from the norm. Schon’s results were revolutionary and way off from the norm (optical lasing in organic semiconductors!!) but were initially accepted because his controlled experiments supported his findings. No reason to doubt them because they weren’t easily checked without investments of millions of dollars. Might as well give the guy a pass and let things sort themselves out later.

  33. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Magma says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems there’s a tiny hint of bitterness there.

    You clearly do not appreciate the full scope of Dr Curry’s expertise in knowledge synthesis and assessment., Magma – and mistake helpful criticism for bitterness.

    Why, if you read Curry’s follow-on comment, you will see that she has recently expanded her advisory role to include medical science.


    There is too much careerism and politics that is motivating many individual scientists and the institutions that support them (including editors and publishers of scientific journals). This is why many of the best medical doctors eschew ‘evidence based medicine’ that is driven by consensus meetings of physicians that decide what treatments and medications are insurable for specific symptoms/illnesses (largely pressured by the pharmaceutical industry). There are too many unknowns, and these other physicians are pushing the knowledge frontier and treating the whole patient.

    https://judithcurry.com/2018/03/29/emergent-constraints-on-climate-sensitivity-in-global-models-part-iii/#comment-869506

    See?
    We need to focus our holistic attentions on anti-evidence-based medicine, where there are fewer unknowns, and no double-blind studies, standing in the way of pushing the knowledge frontier.

  34. izen says:

    @-“There is too much careerism and politics that is motivating many individual scientists and the institutions that support them ”

    There were many further contributions in that thread that referenced the misdeeds in medical research as a proxy for fraud in climate science. Ignoring the fact that those cases are mainly driven by the commercial interests of Big Pharma who fund the research, and expect to get positive results. Even if it means data mining to find SOME statistically significant outcome.

    The culpability of commercial interests was ignored in favour of transferring that behaviour onto scientists that are funded by government and institutions that do not have a strong financial interest in the results. No one mentioned W Soon and the delivery of ‘product’.

    I suspect there may also be a reluctance to recognise the benefits of making knowledge freely available. Medical research again provides the template. Knowledge has value if it can be comodified and moniterized. Intellectual property is a big concept for commerce, the idea that you can ‘own’ knowledge and have the exclusive right to derive commercial benefit is promoted as a way to enhance and encourage R&D. While making discoveries available in the public domain, rather than retaining it as proprietary, commercially sensitive and financially exploitable, is viewed as dangerous radicalism.

  35. Willard says:

    > I think it would be counterproductive to make those areas of science a special case

    I think so too, but see this as a reason to expand this kind of comment to all scientific fields.

    Too much inside baseball knowledge ain’t a good thing, and academics (should) have the standings they have because they set records straight.

    IMO, this applies to producing textbooks and code too, but that’s another subject.

  36. Marco says:

    “Ignoring the fact that those cases are mainly driven by the commercial interests of Big Pharma who fund the research..”

    Citation needed. And I’m very serious with that request. From my experience, the cases of fraud with “Big Pharma” funding the research are extremely rare. What *does* happen quite a bit with studies directly involving “Big Pharma” is that clinical studies with positive results go into well-read journals, while those with poor results tend to end up in lower-tier journals. This is at least in part due to the unfortunately still-common positive bias in many journals. You can get highly positive results about drug A in the NEJM or JAMA, but not rather equivocal or even only-slightly positive results in those same journals.

  37. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    You say climatology. I say pharmacology. Let’s call the whole thing off.

    Damn fraudulent scientists. If only they could approach their research with the objectivity of solicitors, politicians, and economists.

    >> Too much inside baseball knowledge ain’t a good thing…

    Unless you’re taking bets.
    Or you have Very Serious Concerns about the Integrity of the Sport.

  38. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    …making discoveries available in the public domain, rather than retaining it as proprietary, commercially sensitive and financially exploitable, is viewed as dangerous radicalism.

    We must be absolutely vigilant against any attempt by The Guvmint to limit our precious freedoms, including freedom of information.

    We must also endorse the explosive growth of under-regulated, un-auditable, profit-driven, data-aggregating corporate behemoths because, well, they have wrapped themselves in the platitudes of the libertarian free market utopia.

    That’s the problem with public domain – Impossible business model. There’s no competitive edge for anyone. If we all win, that’s a loss.

  39. JCH says:

    Reading the websites that keep track of retractions is fun:

    7 When John McCool received an email from the Urology & Nephrology Open Access Journal seeking submissions, given that he is neither a researcher nor a urologist, he did what any self-respecting Seinfeld fan would do: He submitted a bogus article dripping with Seinfeldian references.

    The paper, “authored” by three characters from the TV show, was a case report about a made-up urinary condition called “uromycitisis,” also familiar to watchers of the hit sitcom. Amazingly, less than an hour after submitting the manuscript, McCool received word that his article had been accepted. The journal then demanded $799 (plus tax) to publish the paper. McCool ignored the request; the paper has since been pulled. Instead, he wrote about the sting for The Scientist.

  40. “That’s the problem with public domain – Impossible business model. There’s no competitive edge for anyone. If we all win, that’s a loss.”

    Curry’s IP business model for CFAN abides.

    Curry never worked in the research division at IBM apparently.

  41. Steven Mosher says:

    I’m surprised Judith let my comment through. Did she let my rebuttle to her nonsense through?

  42. Steven Mosher says:

    Oh, I see that she did not let my second comment through

    Judith:”I will let this one through, just once, with my comment. Data analysis is one aspect of science; anyone presenting a new analysis of data should of course make their data (and preferably code) available. A higher level aspect of science is building a model that explains data, and makes predictions. Yet a higher level is synthesis and assessment of data and models in the evaluation of theories and hypotheses and even posing new hypotheses (no, this is not cut and paste science, unless you think the IPCC is doing cut and paste science).”

    ###################################

    Moshpit: Merely Asserting that “synthesis” is a ‘higher’ level of science does not make it so. But it is interesting that you assert that what the IPCC does is higher science. It’s not. It’s a COLLECTIVE experts assessment of the state of the science. It belongs to the genre you well know of doing periodic assessments of the literature and the state of the science. Not science, but a review of science. Summaries of the science are not testable, make no predictions, and the only reason you call them Higher science is rhetorical.

    #################
    Judith : “This latter is what Javier does, what Rud does, what I (mostly) do, what the IPCC does. This is the difference between Climate Audit and Climate Etc. At Climate Audit, the focus is on the data and analysis methods. At Climate Etc, there is more of a focus on synthesis and assessment.”
    ###############
    Moshpit: In the past you have been critical of the IPCC process for lacking accountabilty and transparency. As have I. Now, that you compare yourself to the IPCC in function ( we do the same thing ) it only seems fair to APPLY THE SAME CRITICAL CRITERIA to your work, Ruds work and Javiers work.In reviewing the science, in summarizing the science, the IPCC was as least smart enough to assemble experts in the fields they reviewed. In my area that would be Peter Thorne, leading the pack. Unfortunately, in the case of rud and Javier they have no expertise in the fields they cover. Expertise, is of course debatable and never an assurance of correctness; but lack of expertise, lack of ANY publication in the feild you are reviewing or summarizing is a flaw not a feature. In the IPCC review not only is there a lead author, but there are contributing authors. And further there is an expectation and requirement that they cover all the relevant science, not just pick the science they like. Neither Javier nor Rud, (and in some cases you) fail to show command of the entire feild you write about. In fact on several occasssions you have to ask for readers help. Now, asking for help is always meritoriuous, but you were the one who compared your outpout to being like the output of the IPCC.
    The differences between the process here and the IPCC processs continues. While you both may sumarize the science, the IPCC allows for a review process. An Open UNCENSORED review process. Javier doesnt, Rud doesnt, you dont. All comments are public and all comments must be addressed in the IPCC review process. Javiers process? ruds? yours?
    What is not censored is responded to willy nilly, if at all. Finally, in the IPCC process there are AUTHORITIES above the author. In your process, in Ruds process, in javiers process there is no authority above the author.
    This becomes clear when you look at the issue of corrections and retractions. In Ar4 Phil Jones made a comment about Mckittrick’s work. It was wrong. in Ar5 Thorne specifically corrected the record.
    That brings us to the infamous Bates affair here. At this blog you promoted accusation against Tom Karl. And in the comments several tests were suggested that could assertain the valdity of his work. Those suggestions were taken. It was shown that his work stood up to scrunity. Further Bates recanted. Now, in a publishing world where the author is king, corrections are rarely made. You left that record of smear against karl stand. That’s the worst kind of pal review. With the IPCC and with any journal at least there is a formal appeal process for correction. But with blog ‘science’, or blog reviews of science ( king synthesis), there is no process of appeal. Smears get laid out, you never correct the record. on your blog it is fine to Smear someone in a HEAD POST, but not allowed to slam the head poster in a comment. I find that quite odd. Consider that for a moment. You all your Authors to smear others in head posts, you allow commenters to smear others in their comments, but the one thing you wont allow is outsiders to play by the same rules. You can slam an outsider and have zero fear of having to face the same kind of insults you dish out. Such a cozy little snowflake place. Here you are allowed to call tom karl a cheat, you never have to face retraction or correction, and you never have to face the exact same kind of attacks. This kind of immunity of course breeds more bad behavior.

    #########

    Judith: “Science is a process, and in highly politicized fields such as climate science, the official peer review process can get in the way of scientific progress with ‘gate keeping’. There is too much careerism and politics that is motivating many individual scientists and the institutions that support them (including editors and publishers of scientific journals). This is why many of the best medical doctors eschew ‘evidence based medicine’ that is driven by consensus meetings of physicians that decide what treatments and medications are insurable for specific symptoms/illnesses (largely pressured by the pharmaceutical industry). There are too many unknowns, and these other physicians are pushing the knowledge frontier and treating the whole patient.”
    ##############
    Moshpit: I keep hearing about gatekeeping but I see ZERO EVIDENCE of it being a significant matter. We’ve seen isolated examples, HOW? well some people go ahead and publish their articles that have been rejected. Nothing stops people from putting their rejected articles on open archives. yet they rarely do. Gatekeeping is an excuse for NOT doing the work, for not creating REVIEWABLE work. Even in blog posts authors rarely post their data or their code

    #####################33

    Judith: Peer review is rather a joke, it is the rare reviewer that spends more than 2 hours reading and reviewing a journal article. And too many scientists are too wrapped up in defending their own papers and pet ideas, and are hardly objective reviewers. How many papers have you seen published in Nature Climate Change that did not survive the first week of their press release owing to post-pal review from the larger community of scientists (including blogs)?

    ###################

    Moshpit: As I note in another comment I question the accuracy of your time estimate. Since you have criticized an entire profession and called it a joke (kinda like calling work masterbation) I find it funny that you arrogate to yourself the right to abuse others on your blog, while simultaneously guarding your denizens from the kind of slams you yourself dish out.
    Is peer review perfect? Nope. Is is better than a process where one person and one person alone decides what is in bounds and out of bounds? Yup.

    ############
    Judith: Science is an ongoing process. Social media has opened up scientific dialogue so that a scientist is not just getting feedback from their immediate collaborators and the casual reviews mandated by the journal editor, but from a very wide range of perspectives. Social media is breaking down silos in the evaluation of scientific research.
    ###############

    Moshpit: Of course science is an on going process, but what makes it different is that the process is somewhat self correcting. Social media? have a look at WUWT.. what do you see? The same old comments, same old themes, same old faces, dancing the same old tired dance. Look here. Same commenters, same charts, same arguments. Yes, science may have silos, but social media is a cess pool at worse and preaching to the choir at best.
    With the exception of climate audit I know of no social media site that has contributed to science.

    ################
    Judith: Criticizing people for not joining in data ‘masterbation’ when they are synthesizing and assessing a body of research is just pointless. So please avoid making such comments about people who post here.

    ###########

    Moshpit: Nice double standard Judith. I posted here. And you had no second thoughts about letting your denizens say whatever the fuck they please.

  43. verytallguy says:

    I do like a good rant. especially when it’s deserved.

  44. Dave_Geologist says:

    One of the things that makes that hard is is that so many climate research papers are based solely on interpretation, since controlled experiments are not possible.

    Paul, all science is based on interpretation. Of observations.

    Did Schon see the lasing (or non-lasing photons with his own eyes? Did Galileo reach out and touch the moons of Jupiter? Did the CERN physicists pick up the Higgs boson and weigh it in their hands? Even if they had, their brains wouldn’t have directly perceived those effects. Their eyes or hands or arms would have turned the observation into nerve signals which their brains interpreted.

  45. Prof. Curry (apparently) writes:

    … Yet a higher level is synthesis and assessment of data and models in the evaluation of theories and hypotheses and even posing new hypotheses (no, this is not cut and paste science, unless you think the IPCC is doing cut and paste science).”

    This latter is what Javier does, what Rud does, what I (mostly) do, what the IPCC does. This is the difference between Climate Audit and Climate Etc. At Climate Audit, the focus is on the data and analysis methods. At Climate Etc, there is more of a focus on synthesis and assessment.

    I have to say that if someone can’t see the obvious flaws in Prof. Salby’s work and repeatedly posts articles suggesting that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is natural, I don’t think they have what is required for synthetic and assessment. It isn’t even a matter of expertise, as the counter arguments are straightforward and have been presented on multiple occasions.

  46. izen says:

    @-Marco
    “Citation needed. And I’m very serious with that request. From my experience, the cases of fraud with “Big Pharma” funding the research are extremely rare. …”

    Fair challenge, I accept I am throwing ‘Pharma research fraud’ around a little too glibly.
    Although not quite as freely as it is employed against scientists in other fields.
    But I acknowledge that the way ‘Big Pharma’ is part of a bigger system that shapes clinical research is a lot more subtle, and complex, than my staement inferred.

    The way new opiods were tested and marketed in the US as a pain-killer without any definitive measure of the long term benefits/harms was not just a consequence of the producers.

    But there are examples of how industry has had some influence on the way our knowledge of costs/benefits is formed.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK458654/

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5099084/

  47. Dave_Geologist says:

    Don’t forget consumers izen.

    Question Do any of 4 oral combination analgesics (3 with different opioids and 1 opioid-free) provide more effective reduction of moderate to severe acute extremity pain in the emergency department (ED)?

    Findings In this randomized clinical trial of 411 ED patients with acute extremity pain (mean score, 8.7 on the 11-point numerical rating scale), there was no significant difference in pain reduction at 2 hours. Mean pain scores decreased by 4.3 with ibuprofen and acetaminophen (paracetamol); 4.4 with oxycodone and acetaminophen; 3.5 with hydrocodone and acetaminophen; and 3.9 with codeine and acetaminophen.

    Meaning For adult ED patients with acute extremity pain, there were no clinically important differences in pain reduction at 2 hours with ibuprofen and acetaminophen or 3 different opioid and acetaminophen combination analgesics.

    Why do people prefer opioids if they offer no better pain relief? The answer is obvious I think. We like lots of stuff that’s not good for us – sugar, chocolate, alcohol, tobacco – because it makes us feel good. At least we’re told they’re bad for us and feel guilty. With opioids the experience is (or was) guilt-free.

  48. “Paul, all science is based on interpretation. Of observations.

    Did Schon see the lasing (or non-lasing photons with his own eyes? Did Galileo reach out and touch the moons of Jupiter? Did the CERN physicists pick up the Higgs boson and weigh it in their hands? Even if they had, their brains wouldn’t have directly perceived those effects. Their eyes or hands or arms would have turned the observation into nerve signals which their brains interpreted.”

    The invention of the laser was based on a controlled experiment performed at Hughes Research Labs and reported in Nature circa 1960. Judith Curry claims that’s impossible because Hughes isn’t a government or academic lab.

    Strelnitski may have discovered the first natural lasing phenomenon in 1995 based on observations from spectral lines emanating from a constellation. But the explanation for that is open to interpretation.

  49. Eli Rabett says:

    Just a note about research in Pharma.

    Big Pharma does not develop lead compounds (or biologicals) today. This is done in vitro mostly in university/research labs. Testing in animals will then be done. A good lead compound will then be spun off into a small company which will raise money to do a larger animal panel bring the pharmaceutical through phase 1 (doesn’t kill), go through another round of money raising and phase 2 (small test panel of people). At that point the exploratory company will get bought out by bit pharma and get rich. Big pharma is the only source of enough money and expertise to get through phase 3 which is testing in large numbers of people for efficacy and side effects.

    The issue here is that the cost of phase 3 is so high that effectively only drugs with billion dollar a year potential markets are worth developing.

    A lot of the research done by/for big Pharma is compare and contrast their drug against a competitors which a lot of people are talking about, or stuff on non-label use. An interesting example is the use of a cancer drug by othamologists to slow macular degeneration.

    If a bunny thinks about this there the motivations for exaggeration exist at all these stages, but just in different ways.

  50. FWIW, from personal experience, I would say that the research culture is significantly different in areas where you are usually keen to patent your ideas (e.g. biotech) and those where it is more often only an occasional consideration (e.g. climate science).

  51. izen says:

    @-Dave_G
    “Why do people prefer opioids if they offer no better pain relief?”

    They actually give LESS pain relief than NSAIDs after about 3 weeks of use as recent research has revealed. (Can’t find link…)
    Nobody bothered to do that research or considered that aspect before approval because the guidelines were for short, ❤ week courses.

    But by the time opioids stop giving pain relief (because brain chemistry has adapted) subjects at least get a short(tening) period of not minding the pain. Stopping the drug cause them to be more aware of the pain that increases in subjective severity on the reduction in opioid levels. And potential customers for alternative supply when their 3 weeks were up. As the (TL,DR?) FDA review I linked above, belatedly admits, when you provide an alternative to an illegal euphoric you radically change the whole market of consumers and sources. In this case, hooking people with a short cheap course.

    However the Pharma claim was that patients would not get a 'hit' of pleasure that was addictive because their drug was slow release and avoided a short peak in blood levels.

    The experience many have had here with understanding graphical information might find this an easy challenge.
    But can you see how this graph used in promotion to claim there was no addictive peak, 'blood plasma levels stayed nearly level', could be misleading.?

    (clue, v scale)

  52. Dave_Geologist says:

    Thanks izen. Clue duly logged 😉

    Re them only being recommended short term.

    The same applied to the banned substance which Sharapova and others were using. It and other drugs in that class are intended for use during recovery after a heart attack, or during subsequent physiotherapy designed to get the muscles and heart working again (a virtuous cycle which also strengthens the heart). They suppress the body’s fat-burning metabolism, forcing it to major on sugar burning which gives more energy per unit of oxygen. So the heart can work harder on less blood flow, or the other muscles can work harder with less heart activity. But because they’re intended for short-term, recuperative use, when experts were asked about the long-term effects on athletes who took them for months or years, the answer was “don’t know, no long-term trials”. Because they were only ever intended for short-term use, there was no need to trial long-term exposure, and you probably couldn’t get ethical approval anyway to put volunteers at risk for a much longer exposure time than would ever be prescribed for patients.

  53. izen says:

    In an apologetic and blatant attempt to return to the thread topic…

    I would agree that papers like the Harde one are probably best left up as reminders of mistakes, and a deterrent to making them again.
    But from a skewed perspective it looks like there is an asymmetry in the sort of ‘Bad’ papers that appear in the climate related field.
    I am glad to see retraction watch is still going. But I could find little evidence of any papers that had been stomped with a comment, or retracted because they have OVER-stated the problems/impacts of AGW.

    There is a quibble about the Polar Bear paper, the wondrous Nikolov/Volokin saga, and the bell*.

    Where are the balancing papers that have sneaked through ‘pal review’ with outrageously egregious assertions about the imminent catastrophe of AGW? Or even a mild exaggeration.

    There is a a pattern to the arguments advanced in papers that are subsequently depreciated. In other fields of science the source of most errors can be revealing. The climate papers that get retracted or Mocked, all seek to reduce the effect of AGW, or the need for a response. That approach seems to be the sole source of most errors in the literature.

    Groupthink ?!
    (* some things must not be told)

  54. Dave_Geologist says:

    That approach seems to be the sole source of most errors in the literature.

    Well, flying in the face of reality does tend to lead to errors, at least when you’re engaged in a reality-based topic like science 😉

  55. An Essex and Tsonis paper somehow made it though peer-review of the well-regarded Physica A journal.

    Model falsifiability and climate slow modes, Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, 2018.

    “Decadal variability is understandable in terms of a specific class of nonlinear dynamical systems.”

    That’s an interpretation with only weak hand-waving to support Tsonis’s long-standing claim of synchronized topological networks.

  56. Mal Adapted says:

    Magma:

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems there’s a tiny hint of bitterness there.

    She sounds like someone who’s lost all her peer-reviewed pals.

  57. It’s definitely part of the CFAN business plan. Her company is being quoted by news organizations for their hurricane and ENSO predictions.

    I also heard Klotzbach from CSU on a broadcast news segment pushing his hurricane forecasts. He inherited Gray’s mantle as a hurricane authority.

    I think this forecasting business is cutthroat but is based more on intuition than anything else. I recall hearing that William Gray preferred observational data to computer modeling. At one time Gray had a hurricane forecast based on the QBO pattern in the 1970’s but that didn’t work out so well.

    This is much more interesting research by Marston
    http://online.kitp.ucsb.edu/online/colloq/marston3/

  58. Mal Adapted says:

    Paul Pukite:

    One of the things that makes that hard is is that so many climate research papers are based solely on interpretation, since controlled experiments are not possible. In other words, just about everything published can be viewed as an interpretation of what would happen if a controlled experiment was possible.

    This is the falsification problem faced by all historical sciences, e.g. Geology, Biology, Anthropology, that attempt to explain the genesis of complex phenomena through time. According to Popper, those systems couldn’t be investigated scientifically because theories couldn’t be falsified by controlled experiment. Kuhn pointed out that progress was being made on many scientific questions through consilience of multiple lines of evidence, without strict adherence to Popper’s guidelines.

    Check out this 2001 paper in Geology by an astrobiologist, Historical science, experimental science, and the scientific method, explaining why Popper was full of ordure:

    This paper explains why historical science is not inferior to experimental science when it comes to testing hypotheses.

  59. Steven Mosher says:

    Forensic science.

    nuff said

  60. Dave_Geologist says:

    why Popper was full of ordure

    While he had some good things to say (and I have read that in later life he backed down from his extreme version of falsifiability), I’ve always had a couple of problems with him.

    1) The same one as for all philosophers of science: what makes him an authority? and related

    2) His own philosophy doesn’t appear to pass or even to have been subjected to his falsifiability test. At least by him. As Mal has pointed out, the observational and historical sciences falsify it every day.

  61. Steven Mosher says:

    nice paper.
    A while back it occurred to me that the phrase forensic science was
    enough to explain to popperians what they are missing

  62. Dave_Geologist says:

    Climate models do not and cannot employ known physics fully. Thus, they are falsified, a priori.

    So presumably that’s how they snuck it in, as it seems to have nothing to do with the journal’s territory except “Specific subfields covered by the journal are: … Models”

    And even if the claim were true, they’ve obviously never heard of George Box.

    Hmmm. Does “statistical thermodynamics or equilibrium statistical mechanics” take account of quantum effects? All the time or only when it matters? The Wiki page seems to treat classical and quantum statistical mechanics as entirely separate although governed by the same principles. So is what I think of as classical statistical mechanics unable to employ known physics fully and thus falsified, a priori?

    Then presumably the journal now has dozens of paper to retract -;)

  63. Mal Adapted says:

    Steven Mosher:

    nice paper. A while back it occurred to me that the phrase forensic science was enough to explain to popperians what they are missing

    Why, that’s another odd cognitive concordance between us, Steven 8^). When confronting “AGW|Evolution isn’t falsifiable” nonsense, I’ve occasionally asked how an accused murderer who pleaded innocence could be sentenced to death when there are no eyewitnesses.

  64. Mal Adapted says:

    Dave_Geologist:

    why Popper was full of ordure

    While he had some good things to say (and I have read that in later life he backed down from his extreme version of falsifiability), I’ve always had a couple of problems with him.

    While he had some good things to say (and I have read that in later life he backed down from his extreme version of falsifiability), I’ve always had a couple of problems with him.

    Of course, ‘full of ordure’ was intended figuratively. All due respect to Prof. Popper, you know. Mine appears to be greater than that astrobiologist’s 8^}.

    But seriously, folks, IMIMO Kuhn’s contradiction of Popper is what launched ‘Science Studies’, thus laying the philosophical foundation for ‘I’m not only entitled to fool myself, I’m heroic to do it in public fora’ science-denying arguments.

  65. Mal Adapted says:

    Corrigendum: I in now way blame Kuhn, or his sound arguments for the scientific legitimacy of “Natural History”, for the obfuscating tactics of deniers.

  66. Mal Adapted says:

    Any fule kno but me, I guess.

  67. Dave,

    1) The same one as for all philosophers of science: what makes him an authority? and related

    2) His own philosophy doesn’t appear to pass or even to have been subjected to his falsifiability test. At least by him. As Mal has pointed out, the observational and historical sciences falsify it every day.

    You’re highlighting the same kind of problems I’ve had with those who seem to regard themselves as in a position to comment on science, scientists, and the scientific method. They never quite seem to acknowledge that the potential problems they highlight about research applies equally to them; they’re not a special group who are without bias. And, as you say, they often seem to make claims about how research should work without themselves satisfying these conditions.

  68. “2) His own philosophy doesn’t appear to pass or even to have been subjected to his falsifiability test.”

    I don’t think it has to, as it is not itself a scientific theory (meta-scientific theory?). I think rather than saying it is falsified, it would be better to say that it was an incomplete theory. For application to their own research, I suspect we can work Gödel in there somewhere! ;o)

  69. izen says:

    @-Dave_G
    “His own philosophy doesn’t appear to pass or even to have been subjected to his falsifiability test. At least by him.”

    Actually, IIRC (several decades since last read!) about 1/3 of the book; ‘Logic of Scientific Discovery’ specifically addresses the self-application of the theory. Quite well.
    YMMV.

    That contrasts with Kuhn who never dealt with the critique that his idea was just a passing paradigm.

  70. Mal Adapted says:

    izen:

    That contrasts with Kuhn who never dealt with the critique that his idea was just a passing paradigm.

    Perhaps not in print. Or at all, since his idea is more of a meta-paradigm. Could it be superseded by a contradictory meta-paradigm? Maybe: I’m meta-skeptical. Doesn’t there have to be an ultimate meta-paradigm at the largest imaginable scope, a “cosmic meta-paradigm” if you will? I nominate the mediocrity principle ;^).

  71. izen says:

    @-dikran
    ” I suspect we can work Gödel in there somewhere! ;o)”

    In some ways Godel’s work was a vindication of Popper.
    He wanted to show (for catholic reasons?) that ‘Truth’ could be logically verified.
    In the field of mathematics, where logical consistency is just about the ONLY criteria of judgement, (the underlying basis for Poppers work) Godel showed that ‘Truth’ is never verifiable, Only falsifiable.

  72. Mal Adapted says:

    Alas, I see dikranmarsupial. was first to publish my meta-critique of Kuhn critiques. Well, publish and publish, but perish just the same ;^D! Godel probably has priority anyway. Whatever, it’s scales, or else scopes, all the way down.

  73. Godel showed that ‘Truth’ is never verifiable, Only falsifiable. I think that is a bit of an overstatement, as I understand it he only showed that a system cannot prove itself to be consistent and complete, but that doesn’t mean that the system cannot be shown to be consistent and complete by some other system that is incomplete but provably consistent. If mathematics is consistent but incomplete then truth is verifiable in some cases, but not others. AFAICS that would be vastly preferable to mathematics being complete but inconsistent! Perhaps I am missing something?

    Personally I think Popper is a bit like Occam’s razor, a good guideline, but there is more to it than that.

  74. There are probably many exceptions where historical science inferences are just as valid as experimental science (i.e. controlled experiment) results. Consider the case of a long detailed historical record of data. If one can take a short interval of this record and model it using physics, then by ultimately extrapolating the rest of the known record accurately, that should be just as valid as performing a controlled experiment. In mathematical physics this is known as Takens embedding theorem.

    In certain cases the historical record is more critical than fresh data as the historical data has much stronger accumulated statistical weight than a couple of new data points will provide. Several examples of this phenomena exist that are not well appreciated.

  75. Mal Adapted says:

    @WHUT:

    Consider the case of a long detailed historical record of data.

    Well said. I gave up trying to say something similar at bedtime last night 8^}.

  76. Mal Adapted says:

    @WHUT:

    Consider the case of a long detailed historical record of data. If one can take a short interval of this record and model it using physics, then by ultimately extrapolating the rest of the known record accurately, that should be just as valid as performing a controlled experiment.

    I’d emphasize short time intervals. Some historical records, e.g. fossil evidence for the evolution of ‘behavioral modernity’ in Homo sapiens, are sporadically ‘punctuated’ (term of art) by processes that are stochastic within the record, for example supervolcano eruptions (Toba at ~75kya, source Wikipedia).

    Another other well-known cogent case is sequence- but not explicitly time-bound, namely Haldane’s proposed falsification of the fact of evolution, i.e. descent with modification over time: “Fossil rabbits in the Precambrium“. Good luck finding any.

  77. Dave_Geologist says:

    Actually, IIRC (several decades since last read!) about 1/3 of the book; ‘Logic of Scientific Discovery’ specifically addresses the self-application of the theory. Quite well.

    Oh no, now I’ll have to read it 😦

    Philosophy makes my head hurt. If I was a physicist, I’d be the “shut-up-and-calculate” sort

  78. Mal said: “I’d emphasize short time intervals.”

    Conventional daily ocean tidal data is a set of historical records that works over both short and long time intervals. It is also an example of a model that could be statistically proven to be valid without ever having to go through a blind prediction cycle. In other words, the model could likely be validated based ONLY on historical data. That approach obviously didn’t happen as our understanding evolved organically, but it could have. The precision we have in lunar and solar timing is such that we could have accuracy in tidal timing (low and high) to the second over the span of 100 years.

    Yet the repeat cycle of the overall tidal pattern for the four major cycles involved is several hundred years (up to 1800 years according to Keeling & Whorf, or even more with the really long-term presessional terms) so I believe we actually lack an official validation that the repeat cycle is followed. But that does not prevent us from believing the conventional gravitational tidal model is correct as it stands

    Same goes for eclipse data. In retrospect, validation of these models is not dependent on blind or clean-room predictions, which most believe is the closest thing there is to a controlled experiment in the geosciences.

    This also has huge implications for AGW models — how many times have you seen the response from a skeptic in terms of “We will just have to wait and see” while quoting the scientific method?

  79. Mal Adapted says:

    Victor Venema:

    Kuhn is unfortunately often presented as successor of Popper. I would argue that they are perfectly compatible. Popper worked on the philosophical question what science is (demarcation question). Kuhn worked on the sociological/historical question how scientific progress actually worked.

    I don’t know about Kuhn being Popper’s successor, whatever that may be. Kuhn’s key role was to point out that Popper’s demarcation criterion for ‘science/not science’, falsifiability, was being fruitfully ignored or worked around by geologists, evolutionary biologists, etc, and thus could be relaxed or dispensed with. As you say, Popper worked on the philosophical demarcation problem in Science (capitalized), the cultural institution; Kuhn showed that Popper’s philosophical labors weren’t preventing a lot of historical Science (capitalized) from working as a cultural adaptation to problems of human survival and reproduction. IMIMO, what makes Science, the cultural adaptation, more successful than divination with a sheep’s liver is the individual commitment not to allow oneself to be fooled (empiricism), and the scientific cultural norm of peers not letting peers get away with fooling themselves (intersubjective verification).

  80. Curry and her company’s senior scientist have published an ENSO forecast
    https://judithcurry.com/2018/04/05/enso-forecast-for-2018/
    Interesting that she can make a forecast considering that in the past she has considered the phenomena chaotic (see her frequent co-author Tsonis) and hence a main factor in her climate uncertainty monster testimonials.

    I guess it’s predictable enough for her to make some money on?

  81. Mal Adapted: “This is the falsification problem faced by all historical sciences, e.g. Geology, Biology, Anthropology, that attempt to explain the genesis of complex phenomena through time. According to Popper, those systems couldn’t be investigated scientifically because theories couldn’t be falsified by controlled experiment.”

    The examples Popper mentions in his book were mostly from experimental physics and chemistry. They were the kings of science at the time. Like nowadays people would use examples from the life sciences.

    There is nothing in the criterion that a scientific hypothesis should be falsifiable that excludes experimental science.

    Evolution is mostly a historical science, it is still clearly science and strong that many experimental sciences. I could imagine to see Quantum Mechanics toppled in my life time, but if evolution is toppled (not just refined a bit) I would need a few years to mentally recover. 🙂

    Dave_Geologist: “1) The same one as for all philosophers of science: what makes him an authority? and related

    2) His own philosophy doesn’t appear to pass or even to have been subjected to his falsifiability test. At least by him. As Mal has pointed out, the observational and historical sciences falsify it every day.”

    dikranmarsupial says: “I don’t think it has to, as it is not itself a scientific theory (meta-scientific theory?).”

    meta-scientific theory = Philosophy of science. Which is not science, but can be useful, just like mathematics.

    There are a lot of interesting thoughts in the world that are not science.

    Dave_Geologist quotes: “Climate models do not and cannot employ known physics fully. Thus, they are falsified, a priori.”

    A model is not a hypothesis. It is a tool to understand the implications of assumptions.

    Dikranmarsupial says: “Personally I think Popper is a bit like Occam’s razor, a good guideline, but there is more to it than that.”

    My most read blog post is about falsification and in the interesting — it happens! 😉 — discussion below it this was the main thing that became clear. The falsification criterion is for scientific hypotheses. However what a hypothesis is needs a better definition.

    There is a red 1m cube on Pluto is a falsifiable claim. At lot of work for nothing, but falsifiable. I would still not call it a scientific hypothesis. I guess mostly because the claim comes completely out of thin air and is not helpful in understanding the world. But how to formulate that clearly?

    Kuhn is unfortunately often presented as successor of Popper. I would argue that they are perfectly compatible. Popper worked on the philosophical question what science is (demarcation question). Kuhn worked on the sociological/historical question how scientific progress actually worked.

    Maybe STS scholars who are against science like this “successor”-framing as they would like to get rid of the demarcation criterion so that they can claim that science is not really different and should be taken down a peg.

    Finally, one should not confuse the cartoonish views of internet Popperians with the ideas of the master himself. As Karl Marx wrote: I am not a Marxist.

  82. Eli Rabett says:

    It is well know that statistical mechanics drives people to suicide. Quantum statistical mechanics is an invitation to mass murder and cannibalism. Don’t do it.

  83. Dave_Geologist says:

    Mal

    what makes Science, the cultural adaptation, more successful than divination with a sheep’s liver is the individual commitment not to allow oneself to be fooled (empiricism), and the scientific cultural norm of peers not letting peers get away with fooling themselves (intersubjective verification).

    It also relies on Nature being well-behaved, and not subject to the whims of Olympian Gods (or, for that matter, alien space lizards with technology indistinguishable from magic).

    E.g. Callisto.
    She was one of the followers of Artemis, or Diana for the Romans, who attracted Zeus (Jupiter). He transformed himself into the figure of Artemis and seduced her in this disguise. She fell pregnant and this was eventually discovered and expelled from Artemis’s group

    Wow! I’d forgotten that bit. The original immaculate conception, what with Diana being a woman and all.

    Shape-shifting gods breeding with humans would play merry hell with genomics. As, for that matter, would a Larry Niven universe where humans are actually neotenous alien Ptaavs, not earth natives at all. Not to mention selective breeding for Luck.

  84. Dave_Geologist says:

    Eli

    It is well know that statistical mechanics drives people to suicide. /blockquote>
    Ah, like the Schleswig-Holstein Question drove people mad!

    And perhaps it’s not settled. I had a German work colleague who looked like the archetypical Viking, was trilingual (German, Danish and English) and married a Dane. And yes, he was from S-H.

  85. Dave_Geologist says:

    Victor
    “Climate models do not and cannot employ known physics fully. Thus, they are falsified, a priori.”

    That was, of course a quote from nick at the top of the thread. No surprise that he doesn’t know the difference. However I would argue that models can be falsified, in the sense of not adequately representing or predicting reality. Although a philosopher might go down the path of calling that not-useful in George Box terms, rather than false.

    Re the red cube on Pluto, I’d always considered it a requirement for a scientific hypothesis to be an explanatory hypothesis. Although, as with the Higgs boson and some of the wilder reaches of astrophysics, it might be explaining the absence or non-observation of something. IoW a gap in existing, established theory.

  86. All models are wrong (but some are useful.” They are all falsified/wrong and thus falsifiable. Like classical mechanics is falsified and thus falsifiable. The code of numerical models clearly describes what is done (which is the main point of be falsifiable).

    Still I would not call a model a scientific hypothesis. It is thus not interesting to show a model is wrong, that is the case by definition. One will need to show that a model is not adequate to study a certain problem.

  87. Mal Adapted says:

    D_G:

    Wow! I’d forgotten that bit. The original immaculate conception, what with Diana being a woman and all.

    Heh. Larry Gonick, in his Cartoon History of the Universe, visualizes an unwed yet mysteriously expectant young woman of classical times offering the ‘immaculate conception’ defense to her startled father. Though the picture is worth many more words than I wish to deposit here, you can imagine Dad’s sarcastic response:

    “Oh, an angel, was it? Well, I’d like to have a word with that ‘angel’!”

  88. Victor,

    Still I would not call a model a scientific hypothesis.

    Yes, I agree. Models are typically based on theories that have been, or could be, falsified. However, it often doesn’t make sense to think in terms of falsifying a model. Some end up being so wrong that you have to go back and see which component of that model needs to be changed. Other models, however, are wrong, but still useful.

  89. Victor

    “Climate models do not and cannot employ known physics fully. Thus, they are falsified, a priori.”

    That was, of course a quote from nick at the top of the thread.

    That quote was actually from the recent Christopher Essex and Anastasios Tsonis paper in Physica A. They made five assertions, including that one, which had questionable supporting evidence. This is a good example of way too much interpretation getting attached to a research article.

  90. zebra says:

    “models are based on theories that could be falsified”

    What do you mean by “theories” here?

    Scientific theories, as I understand them, consist of models– physical models or narratives that have some predictive capacity, and mathematical models that may provide more resolution or precision. (Along, of course, with the supporting empirical practices.)

    It doesn’t make sense to say that a scientific theory can be “falsified”, since, by Ockham, we are required to replace it before we abandon it. And as you suggest, ATTP, some theories are useful even though they have been replaced.

    IIRC, we got to the moon without relativity– is it then appropriate to call classical mechanics “wrong”? A practitioner of some theory that has been replaced still internalizes and “believes” in the language and techniques while using it, as long as it produces correct-enough results.

  91. Mal Adapted says:

    VV:

    “All models are wrong (but some are useful.” They are all falsified/wrong and thus falsifiable. Like classical mechanics is falsified and thus falsifiable. The code of numerical models clearly describes what is done (which is the main point of be falsifiable).

    Still I would not call a model a scientific hypothesis. It is thus not interesting to show a model is wrong, that is the case by definition. One will need to show that a model is not adequate to study a certain problem.

    Succinctly stated, thank you. For trained practitioners of science, the purpose of a model is to help them not fool themselves about how well they understand their system. Contra VV, IMIMO a numerical model is a scientific hypothesis refined to a computable algorithm. The CMIP ensemble, for example, tests hypotheses about the role of various climate forcings by both hind- and forecasting.

    What I think is really remarkable is that modern estimates of ECS, whether by highly detailed simulation or by statistical analysis of paleoclimate data, are only about a factor of 2 less than what Arrhenius obtained by laboriously hand-calculating his very simple model in 1896.

  92. zebra,

    What do you mean by “theories” here?

    I may not be being careful enough in my terminology. Take a climate model, for example. It relies on the Navier Stoker equations, radiative physics, models for convection, etc. If a particular climate model turned out to poorly represent our climate, we wouldn’t conclude that, for example, our understanding of radiative physics was wrong. We’d probably conclude that some aspect of the model was wrong. Maybe the way in which we implemented convection. Maybe we’ve left something out such as clouds. etc. So, my point is really that when it comes to complex models, we wouldn’t normally conclude that a complex model being wrong implies somnething about the fundamentals on which it is based.

    IIRC, we got to the moon without relativity– is it then appropriate to call classical mechanics “wrong”?

    Yes, this is a good example. Technically Einstein’s theory of General Relativity superceded Newtonian gravity, and yet we continue to successfully use the latter because we know when it works well and we know when we need to include General Relativistic effects (precession of Mercury, for example).

  93. Dave_Geologist says:

    One will need to show that a model is not adequate to study a certain problem.

    Agreed Victor. Hence the George Box sense. Although there are some models which are wrong as well as not-useful. Think energy-balance with a 700m deep mixed ocean layer.

    I knew that just from my undergraduate geology introduction to storm-wave-base, generally on a c. 100 year timescale. typically regarded as 100-200m, and important to geologists as it’s a rule-of-thumb threshold for the type of rocks and fossils you get shallower and deeper.

  94. Bob Loblaw says:

    “Take a climate model, for example. It relies on the Navier Stoker equations…”

    Uh, no. A 1-D radiative convective model does not. A 1-D zonally-averaged energy balance model does not. A 0-D EBM does not. A purely statistical mode does not. A descriptive “I live in a temperature continental climate” model does not. Models don’t even need mathematics.

    Models, in terms of “an abstract representation of reality”, are far more encompassing. We can’t interact with the world without some sort of mental model of how to interpret our senses and predict the consequences of our actions.

  95. Dave_Geologist says:

    What I think is really remarkable is that modern estimates of ECS, whether by highly detailed simulation or by statistical analysis of paleoclimate data, are only about a factor of 2 less than what Arrhenius obtained by laboriously hand-calculating his very simple model in 1896.

    I’m not very surprised, Any more than I’m surprised Newton got it pretty much right for most purposes. In line with my third assumption/requirement for science to work. Rules, not arbitrariness.

  96. Bob,

    Uh, no. A 1-D radiative convective model does not. A 1-D zonally-averaged energy balance model does not.

    Okay, yes, of course. I should have said “Consider a 3D Global Circulation Model….”. I was mainly just trying to highlight that we wouldn’t typically question the fundamentals just because a complex model appears to perform poorly.

  97. Mal Adapted says:

    D_G:

    …important to geologists as it’s a rule-of-thumb threshold for the type of rocks and fossils you get shallower and deeper.

    This is the best argument for specialist expertise, IMIMO. Inferences, i.e. hypotheses, ‘should’ (in the normative sense) be drawn from specific, detailed knowledge of the system under study and the systems higher in the hierarchical framework (scope and/or scale are highly salient, IOW). It takes focused attention for long periods of one’s life to become a genuine expert in any ‘natural’ (i.e. phenomenal) system.

    Yet by the Dunning-Kruger effect, we know that on average, the more expert the individual, the less expert they perceive themselves to be. That suggests that although demonstrably grandiose actual experts may exist, most who proclaim themselves experts aren’t. Genuine experts at least implicitly acknowledge the mediocrity principle, relying on their specialist peers not to let them fool themselves. Thus the scientific requirement for progress by consensus.

  98. Mal Adapted says:

    D_G:

    I’m not very surprised, Any more than I’m surprised Newton got it pretty much right for most purposes.

    Yep, it’s really only ‘remarkable’ in the scope of even the educated lay public’s understanding of climate science. How can it be, I plaintively ask, that truculent AGW-deniers, happy to be wrong as long as they’re sure, dominate the US Congress 122 years after Arrhenius published? O my people 8^(!

  99. zebra says:

    “How can it be, I plaintively ask, that truculent AGW-deniers, happy to be wrong as long as they’re sure, dominate the US Congress”

    Asked and answered, Mal, and scientifically at that:

    But you and others keep ignoring the science— much like the so-called skeptics do on climate.

  100. Mal Adapted says:

    zebra:

    But you and others keep ignoring the science

    Nah, you’re just ignoring us.

  101. Just like models, quotes evolve over time. It’s interesting to trace Box’s original quote. Apparently the “some” qualifier was not there initially. Box flatly stated that all models are wrong, which he later modified to be more inclusive.

  102. Mal Adapted says:

    @WHUT:

    Just like models, quotes evolve over time.

    That reminds me, where did Greg Robie go?

    George Box:

    Since all models are wrong the scientist cannot obtain a “correct” one by excessive elaboration. On the contrary following William of Occam he should seek an economical description of natural phenomena.

    There is wisdom here, as long as it’s conscious of scale and scope. When I was writing Fortran77 code for forest ecology modeling, there were arguments between ‘big leaf’ and ‘parameterized at every conceivable level of detail’ proponents. The big-leaf guys are more explicitly goal oriented, while the parameterization partisans want to understand what’s going on inside the boxes. IOW, Your Mileage May Vary. Good thing authority is distributed (not to say centrifugal) in Science (capitalized), the cultural institution.

  103. Willard says:

    My basic understanding is that a model is an interpretation of a theory. Mileage varies:

    The syntactic view of theories, which is an integral part of the logical positivist picture of science, construes a theory as a set of sentences in an axiomatized system of first order logic. Within this approach, the term model is used in a wider and in a narrower sense. In the wider sense, a model is just a system of semantic rules that interpret the abstract calculus and the study of a model amounts to scrutinizing the semantics of a scientific language. In the narrower sense, a model is an alternative interpretation of a certain calculus (Braithwaite 1953, Campbell 1920, Nagel 1961, Spector 1965). If, for instance, we take the mathematics used in the kinetic theory of gases and reinterpret the terms of this calculus in a way that makes them refer to billiard balls, the billiard balls are a model of the kinetic theory of gases. Proponents of the syntactic view believe such models to be irrelevant to science. Models, they hold, are superfluous additions that are at best of pedagogical, aesthetical or psychological value (Carnap 1938, Hempel 1965; see also Bailer-Jones 1999).

    The semantic view of theories (see e.g. van Fraassen 1980, Giere 1988, Suppe 1989, and Suppes 2002) reverses this standpoint and declares that we should dispense with a formal calculus altogether and view a theory as a family of models. Although different versions of the semantic view assume a different notion of model (see above) they all agree that models are the central unit of scientific theorizing.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/models-science/

  104. If we continue to evolve Box’s quote, an improvement would be “All models are wrong, but some work better than others”.

    If someone asks to provide a prediction for one of my models, lately I’ve been answering with the bold prediction that my model will work better than your model.

  105. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    a model is an interpretation of a theory. Mileage varies:

    Yes, if a pseudo-code implementation is an ‘interpretation’.

    From Willard’s link:

    In the wider sense, a model is just a system of semantic rules that interpret the abstract calculus and the study of a model amounts to scrutinizing the semantics of a scientific language.

    True, that. What else can it be? “what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.” (Wittgenstein).

    There are some perennial human concerns that can’t be said clearly (i.e. algorithmically) enough to be science. IMIMO that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not interesting, but it does mean that if we say anything about them at all, we shouldn’t call it science.

  106. Mal Adapted says:

    Heh. My previous comment ends with a tautology, without something like “but rather art, myth, love, or what have you” tacked on. Heh, heh heh 8^}.

  107. Willard says:

    > if a pseudo-code implementation is an ‘interpretation’.

    Not exactly. An interpretation is what provides a semantics to a formal structure. Your realization (another word for interpretation), to be implemented, need to “compute.” So the implementation itself rests on a semantics.

    Most “code” are interpretations, BTW.

    You should not quote Wittgenstein without reading him, Mal. It usually ends up putting words in his mouth.

    ***

    > It doesn’t make sense to say that a scientific theory can be “falsified”, since, by Ockham, we are required to replace it before we abandon it.

    This makes little sense. Falsifiability is not incompatible with inference to the best explanation. Think of how the law of non-contradiction works: when you falsify that A is false, A must be true. That A must be true is the “best explanation,” so to speak.

  108. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    You should not quote Wittgenstein without reading him, Mal. It usually ends up putting words in his mouth.

    Well, the words I quoted were an English translation (i.e. interpretation) of words from Wittenstein’s hand, if not his mouth:

    Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen; und wovon man nicht reden kann, darüber muss man schweigen.

    What words should wikiquote have put in Herr Wittgenstein’s mouth? I’m afraid my German isn’t up to translating that myself. Perhaps Victor will oblige us? My interpretation of the semantic content of the quote, in the current context, is that speaking clearly means algorithmically, so that we arrive at what we say by mathematical or predicate calculus; and that we can’t justify knowledge about anything we can’t speak of thus clearly.

    Whatever: do you seriously expect me to believe you’ve actually read Tractatus Logico-Philosphicus? In the original 8^D?

  109. zebra says:

    “Falsifiability is not incompatible with inference to the best explanation. Think of how the law of non-contradiction works: when you falsify that A is false, A must be true. That A must be true is the “best explanation,” so to speak.”

    My comment to ATTP related to the multiplicity of interpretations of “theory”, in particular, as well as “model”. (He seems to have gotten the point; I’m not sure which version of the terms you are thinking about.)

    We replace Scientific Theories, along with their associated models, when an alternative Scientific Theory provides, primarily, more accurate predictions. But, in the example I gave, it would be improper to say that classical mechanics has been “falsified”. Remember, relative motion, absolute time, and action-at-a-distance were always problematic— the practitioners “shutted up and calculated”, and… it worked; it was fit for purpose.

    Whether something is the “best explanation” depends on the application; Relativity is more universal, but, in many applications, it is not “better”.

  110. Eli Rabett says:

    Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen; und wovon man nicht reden kann, darüber muss man schweigen.

    Whatever you want to say, say it clearly and what you cannot say anything about you must not

  111. Eli Rabett says:

    With respect to models and theories, they all have regions of parameter space in which they work (well). For most of them (Newtonian physics) there are conditions where they fail. For some of them they appear to be universal, or at least we have not yet found their limits, but applying them is so complicated to impossible that they have to be replaced by simplified rules of thumb (Navier-Stokes)

    Eli would remind everybunny again of Rabett’s Rules of Science

    Coherent
    Consilient
    Concise
    Consensus

  112. Mal Adapted says:

    …and Cognizant of scope and scale.

  113. Mal Adapted says:

    IMIMO the deepest truth, within the scope of cultural adaptation, to be inferred from TL-P is that little if anything of what we think we know is actually justified.

  114. The simplified rules of thumb for Navier-Stokes are the various linearizations.
    For climate science, these models go by various names: primitive equations, shallow-water equations, Laplace’s tidal equations, and probably others.

    Yet even these are tough to deal with and that’s why groups such as Marston’s is looking at this from conventional condensed-matter perspectives. I watched a Marston video a few days ago and he ended the discussion with a description of Feynman’s last chalk-talk lecture. In the lecture, Feynman hinted that his next interest was in solving non-linear classical hydrodynamics problems, along with the 2D Hall effect — both wave equations that are related topologically with the introduction of the Coriolis effect (curl) according to Marston. This is a pic of Feynman’s last blackboard

  115. Willard says:

    > [I]t would be improper to say that classical mechanics has been “falsified”.

    Classical mechanics has indeed been falsified:

    The simple comparison made above between STR [Special Relativity] and Newtonian physics in Galilean spacetime is somewhat deceptive. For one thing, Galilean spacetime is a mathematical innovation posterior to Einstein’s 1905 theory; before then, Galilean spacetime had not been conceived, and full acceptance of Newtonian mechanics implied accepting absolute velocities and, arguably, absolute positions, just as laid down in the Scholium. […] Regardless of this equation of the aether with absolute space, it was assumed by all 19th century physicists that the equations of electrodynamic theory would have to look different in a reference frame moving with respect to the aether than they did in the aether’s rest frame (where they presumably take their canonical form, i.e., Maxwell’s equations and the Lorentz force law.) So while theoreticians labored to find plausible transformation rules for the electrodynamics of moving bodies, experimentalists tried to detect the Earth’s motion in the aether. Experiment and theory played collaborative roles, with experimental results ruling out certain theoretical moves and suggesting new ones, while theoretical advances called for new experimental tests for their confirmation or — as it happened — disconfirmation.

    As is well known, attempts to detect the Earth’s velocity in the aether were unsuccessful. On the theory side, attempts to formulate the transformation laws for electrodynamics in moving frames — in such a way as to be compatible with experimental results — were complicated and inelegant.[5] A simplified way of seeing how Einstein swept away a host of problems at a stroke is this: he proposed that the Galilean principle of relativity holds for Maxwell’s theory, not just for mechanics. The canonical (‘rest-frame’) form of Maxwell’s equations should be their form in any inertial reference frame. Since the Maxwell equations dictate the velocity c of electromagnetic radiation (light), this entails that any inertial observer, no matter how fast she is moving, will measure the velocity of a light ray as c — no matter what the relative velocity of its emitter. Einstein worked out logically the consequences of this application of the special relativity principle, and discovered that space and time must be rather different from how Newton described them. STR undermined Newton’s absolute time just as decisively as it undermined his absolute space.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/spacetime-theories/

    Acknowledging falsification doesn’t imply falsifiability, i.e. the possibility to falsify every statement from a theory. It doesn’t imply we reject a Kuhn-like conception of scientific evolution. Even if we assume the incommensurability of theories, there’s still room for falsification. Paradigm-speak only requires we reject that scientific theories converge toward the truth.

    Without falsification, it’d be impossible to distinguish the true from the false. I hope we are able to operate that distinction. Otherwise so much the worse for empiricism.

  116. Willard says:

    > Whatever you want to say, say it clearly and what you cannot say anything about you must not

    (The just-so story goes that) Wittgenstein revised his position when he realized that saying something cannot be done using some private language. Furthermore, for our own sake, clarity has never been that clear. The project of clarifying scientific communication so as to make it free of metaphysics (i.e. by reducing it to a logical apparatus bridged to a set of observational sentences) can be called logical positivism:

    The progress of modern mathematical logic from Bolzano through Russell and beyond was truly impressive. Arguably, it could now express all parts of classical mathematics. Besides the first order predicate calculus one would need either set theory or higher order logic, but these were recent developments as well. Logic, like the empirical sciences, was progressive and could be approached cooperatively by more than one investigator. In Our Knowledge of the External World (1914) Russell had even positioned logic as the locus of scientific method in philosophy. It is small wonder then that those who were looking for something scientific in what was left of philosophy turned to logic. Wittgenstein’s no-content theory of logic in the Tractatus (1921/1922) was tantalizingly suggestive about how mathematics could be integrated into an overall empirical theory of the world. Wittgenstein also expressed a radical verificationism in the early 1930s in his conversations with Schlick, Waismann, and other members of the Vienna Circle. Many of the logical empiricists in turn could see in some version of that verificationism the ideal tool with which to carry out their anti-metaphysical program. There was, naturally, much left to accomplish, but even with Gödel’s results one could expect that further impressive strides in logic could be made. Indeed, much was accomplished even if the perfect account of scientific reasoning proved elusive. Perfection is elusive in all the sciences, but that is no reason for despair.

    Since my avatar more or less killed the whole project, I might be biased.

  117. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    Without falsification, it’d be impossible to distinguish the true from the false.

    Good point. It was Popper’s point. He wanted to be able to demark the boundaries of science and not-science, especially pseudo-science. The trouble is that the boundaries are fuzzy.

    Willard:

    I hope we are able to operate that distinction. Otherwise so much the worse for empiricism.

    Me too, but no guarantees. Fortunately, as you say,

    Falsifiability is not incompatible with inference to the best explanation.

    We’ve seen that the best explanation may be obtained by consilience of multiple lines of evidence.

  118. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    Since my avatar more or less killed the whole project, I might be biased.

    Sure, logical perfection is elusive, even delusive, but we’re getting along without it. It reminds me of what Daniel Dennett said in a talk at my workplace, about exercising free will: “In theory you can’t, but in practice you can.“

  119. Willard says:

    Quote fests usually lead to non-contructive exchanges, Mal.

    Popper’s point was about falsifiability, not falsification. The former did not turn out to work very well, because the statements of a theory never stand alone. They take part in some kind of field of force. Theories can be revised when facing adverse experimental results. That revision is not predicated by falsification alone.

    In the end, holism wins.

  120. Mal Adapted says:

    WillardQuote fests usually lead to non-contructive exchanges, Mal.
    Maybe, but nobody really has anything new to say anyway, everything’s been said before. Vanity of vanities… The ideas themselves float around in the public domain, waiting for someone to say them!

    Willard:

    Popper’s point was about falsifiability, not falsification

    Now you’re splitting hairs.

  121. izen says:

    @-W
    “Without falsification, it’d be impossible to distinguish the true from the false. I hope we are able to operate that distinction. Otherwise so much the worse for empiricism.”

    There are other means of falsification (or something just as useful) than those that require controlled experiments with a reproducible method.
    Haldane’s ‘rabbit in the Cambrian’ has already been mentioned. That is short-hand for a key aspect of the historical and observational sciences. Perhaps it comes under Eli’s ‘Coherent
    Consilient…’ but it is the structure, or syntax of the data.

    There is no direct observation of the main-sequence stellar evolution. But the observations of all the different forms and stages of that main-sequence evolution are structured by a consistent physical theory. There are obvious gradations and step-changes in all the forms observed. If we reject that such variation is arbitary and try and find a coherent explanation, then the Russel-Herzspring diagram becomes the basis for theory. Potential falsification is provided by the option of so many alternative stellar forms, that if observed WOULD refute, or undermine the theory.

    Genetics provides sequence data that embodies unambiguous examples of syntactic development. The Human-Chimp genes are obviously derived from a common source, and the specific way in which two chromosomes fused in humans (hominids) is explicit in the order and sequencing of the genes. A sequence in the middle of chromosome 2 in humans is similar, but with about 6myrs of mutation, to the ends of two chimp chromosomes.

    While there are traps for the unwary,
    http://palaeos.com/vertebrates/insectivora/critique.html
    The vast genetic database provides unequivocal evidence on the way in which it evolved in the levels of order and syntax that it contains. The order in which repetitions, variations and fusions occur is implicit, just as literary analysis can tell which text was written first, which is derived and how it was edited.

    The structural complexity, inherent regularities and inter-relationships define the resultant explanations. Deviation from that structural integrity would falsify the explanitory theory.
    The consistency of the data precludes alternative hypothesis unless they can both explain the data as effectively AND remain consilient with the rest of the inter-related aspects of physics, chemsitry and biology.

  122. Wittenstein:„Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen; und wovon man nicht reden kann, darüber muss man schweigen.

    Just considering the sentence and not the context I would say Mal’s translation is most accurate and would be hard to improve: “what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.

  123. Willard: “Popper’s point was about falsifiability, not falsification.

    Exactly, an important point and definitely not splitting hairs. It is the difference between what Popper actually wrote and how WUWT & Co. abuse his work.

    Willard: “Popper’s point was about falsifiability, not falsification. The former did not turn out to work very well, because the statements of a theory never stand alone.

    Did you mean “The latter”? It is quite hard to determine whether a theory has been falsified because so many other theories/assumptions are simultaneously tested. For example, the assumption that the coaxial cable is attached properly and whether neutrinos can fly faster than light were tested together.

    Whether it is possible theoretically to falsify a theory (falsifiability) is easier to determine. Does anyone have a case where this assessment is hard beyond string theory?

  124. Willard says:

    > Did you mean “The latter”? It is quite hard to determine whether a theory has been falsified because so many other theories/assumptions are simultaneously tested.

    No, I really mean the former. Empirical theories, taken as a whole, can indeed be falsified. I’ve just given the example of Newtonian mechanics.

    Falsifiability is another thing altogether – it’s the logical possibility to find falsifiers to the predictions made by a theory. That criterium cuts very little ice.

    To return to the reason why we’re discussing this: teh stoopid climate modulz need not, strictly speaking, be subject to falsifications. They’re not used for their predictive power, but as prospective devices to check how they fare as implementations of the relevant theories of the climates. When they fail, and they always do, modulz get modified, not the theories themselves.

    The day we’ll be able to overturn physics based on climate simulations, our mobile phones will be able to crunch Bitcoins.

  125. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    Falsifiability is another thing altogether – it’s the logical possibility to find falsifiers to the predictions made by a theory. That criterium cuts very little ice.

    Concur. One thing we (well, I) learned from Kuhn is that some adventurous scientists aren’t paying attention to Popper’s formal criterion because they’re busy learning stuff about natural phenomena.

    Willard:

    To return to the reason why we’re discussing this: teh stoopid climate modulz need not, strictly speaking, be subject to falsifications. They’re not used for their predictive power, but as prospective devices to check how they fare as implementations of the relevant theories of the climates. When they fail, and they always do, modulz get modified, not the theories themselves.

    Yes. The models are written to tell the modelers when they’re fooling themselves. The WTFUWT crowd, OTOH, don’t want to hear it, because they’re determined to keep fooling themselves.

  126. Eli Rabett says:

    Willard, if you want to take that attitude then the second law of thermodynamics has been falsified by Loschmidt’s paradox and experiment and the law of conservation of anything is on shaky quantum fluctuation grounds.

  127. Victor Venema (@VariabilityBlog) says:
    April 8, 2018 at 11:44 pm
    Wittenstein:„Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen; und wovon man nicht reden kann, darüber muss man schweigen.“

    Just considering the sentence and not the context I would say Mal’s translation is most accurate and would be hard to improve: “what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.”

    The nice thing about the Wittgenstein quote is that it can be caroled to the tune of ‘Good King Wenceslaus’ .

    When last it was , on Van Quine’s Beacon Hill doorstep, he smiled philosophically , and invited the carolers in for Wassail.

  128. I agree with Willard that a model is an interpretation of a theory (I would probably have said “approximate implementation” rather than interpretation). A model can assist in the falsification of a theory as it is difficult to make falsifiable predictions from the theory alone (e.g. verification of general relativity via gravitational lensing – one may see that it might happen from the basic concepts, but to work out the magnitude of the effect you need to build a model of how it applies to a particular star used as a test). However falsifying the theory isn’t a simple as showing the model is wrong as the model is usually only an approximation of the theory or an approximation of how it applies to the real world, or both. It is indeed meaningless to say that a model is falsified as they are all wrong a-priori.

    PP wrote: If we continue to evolve Box’s quote, an improvement would be “All models are wrong, but some work better than others”. I think that would be missing the point Box was making, model A can work better than model B withhout either of them being useful.

    If someone asks to provide a prediction for one of my models, lately I’ve been answering with the bold prediction that my model will work better than your model.

    Some might say that was bold, others might say that it displayed of a worrying lack of self-skepticism. Ironic given that you criticize other peoples models without being able to show that your approach works better, and indeed refuse the challenge to do so.

  129. Dave_Geologist says:

    Willard

    Most “code” are interpretations, BTW.

    I suspect a computer scientist would say that all code is mathematics. In fact, isn’t there a theorem to that effect?

    That the code represents the thing it’s meant to represent is interpretation, as is the assessment and interpretation of the output.

  130. Dave_Geologist says:

    Mal

    Yet by the Dunning-Kruger effect, we know that on average, the more expert the individual, the less expert they perceive themselves to be.

    Actually that has been challenged subsequently (although D-K defended their turf and AFAIK the jury is till out). I did follow up on it a few years ago, when I read a comment that D-K doesn’t apply because it’s been challenged. A quick glance at Wiki suggests that has since been removed or downplayed.

    The challenges are not to the below-average-too-confident (which proves that the commenter hadn’t followed through, because that’s the bit he was objecting too), but to the expert-underestimation.

    In other studies, and in D-K’s original (and isn’t it sad, that Kruger the graduate student got first author on the paper but Dunning leads in the meme?), you can split the data into those below and those above the median. If you do that, the above-median slope of actual vs. claimed knowledge is indistinguishable from 1, and the below-median slope is indistinguishable from 0. IOW, the experts judge correctly, and the non-experts all think they’re average. The challenge is not to D-K’s observation, but to its novelty. Below-average-people-think-they’re-about-average is as old as the hills. There’s then a split between those who think the subjects genuinely believe they’re average, and those who think the subjects know they’re below average but won’t admit it.

    Of course it’s entirely possible that D-K and the others are both right, depending on the tests, the testees and maybe the day of the week. Human behaviour is just more unpredictable than physics.

  131. zebra says:

    I’ve lost track of all the different ways “theory” and “model” and “falsification” have been used– multiple ways in a single comment in some cases.

    One would hope that there is at least agreement about how one would falsify a (formally stated) hypothesis: “There are no one-meter red metal cubes in my back yard”.

    So what can we say about a Scientific Theory, as I have described above?

    Scientific theories, as I understand them, consist of models– physical models or narratives that have some predictive capacity, and mathematical models that may provide more resolution or precision. (Along, of course, with the supporting empirical practices.)

    Well, we could say something like: (A) “Relativity does not yield more accurate results in all cases than Newtonian mechanics.”

    That hypothesis has indeed been falsified, and so we apply the more universal construct where needed.

    But, particularly if we are trying to educate and communicate with the public, why is it useful to co-opt this crystal-clear usage and apply it where it has no meaning?

    Oh wait… that’s exactly what the Creationists and the climate pseudo-skeptics do, in the interests of obfuscation and denial. Why do some insist on letting them control the discussion?

  132. I’m slightly confused as to what the issue is. I tend to think of theories as things like Einstein’s theory of special relativity, while a model would be an attempt to describe, or understand, some physical system and would be based on known theories of physics. If have evidence to suggest that the underlying physics is well tested, then if a model performs badly we’d tend to think that we’ve either implemented the physics badly, or have left something out.

  133. English (as I suspect most human languages) is ambiguous, model could be used to describe part of a theory (e.g. the “standard model” of particle physics), but that is not a model in the sense a climate model is a model. I think the former usage is rather rare though. There comes a point where common sense and asking questions and answering them in a straightforward manner is going to be more productive that insisting on the removal of ambiguity – it just isn’t how our brains work. In general, I would say Scientific theories, as I understand them, consist of models is incorrect, models are implementations/interpretations of theories (or applications of theories to particular systems), but not the theories themselves.

  134. Mal Adapted says:

    D_G:

    Actually that has been challenged subsequently (although D-K defended their turf and AFAIK the jury is till out)…

    Heh. I should always add a smiley when citing D-K, to indicate some degree of ‘kidding’. Let’s not forget that Dunning and Kruger* were awarded the 2001 Ig Nobel prize for Psychology, basically for getting their names attached to something every mature adult comes to grasp ‘intuitively’ (not going there). Once one recognizes it in oneself, it’s clearly ubiquitous in the public sphere 8^(. In my abject opinion (IMAO), it’s a proximate cause of humanity’s collective inability, at this critical historical juncture, to compose an ending short of global tragedy to the Drama of the Climate Commons.

    No, I wouldn’t try to make predictions from a numeric model of the D-K effect, as my intuitive understanding has yet to be arrived at by a formal calculus (don’t wait for me, though). OTOH shared cumulative cultural knowledge, i.e. ‘wisdom’, IMAO leads us to infer that genuine experts address nature with humility. One proximate reason may be that they’re inculcated with the scientific cultural norm that peers don’t let peers get away with fooling themselves; and are also well acquainted with specific hyper-skeptical competitors who know at least as much as they do about their subject, and who gleefully call them out when they fool themselves.

    * I’ve wondered about the authorship thing too, but if asked I’d probably advise Kruger not to invest much ire in it.

  135. zebra says:

    ATTP,

    “what’s the issue?”

    As long as it is clear what we are talking about, there is no issue. But, if you and I use “model” in different contexts in different ways, it gets confusing and leads to a less useful discussion. In particular, as I said, when trying to educate “the public” about how science works.

    I try remember to qualify “theory” with Scientific as in my definition in the previous comment, to distinguish it from “theory” as in hypothesis, or “theory” as in “theoretical”.

    I try to use qualifiers: I say “physical model or narrative”, and that has a specific meaning. There’s a physical model inherent in The Theory of Newtonian Mechanics, and a different physical model in The Theory of Relativity. That, along with the associated mathematical models, distinguishes them.

    Climate models don’t distinguish The Theory of Climate from some different Scientific theory, because there isn’t any. Maybe it shouldn’t even be called a Scientific theory in the first place, because, as you say, it is simply a synthesis of accepted disciplines and principles.

    I gave examples of “falsification” as it is applied in the practice of science. (Experimental design through stating a (null) hypothesis.)

    This is how I answer critics of climate science and evolution on this question. To allow the application of the term “falsification” in a metaphysical context (ToR, ToNM) is both wrong and unhelpful in the public discourse.

  136. zebra says:

    dikranmarsupial,

    “I would say “Scientific theories, as I understand them, consist of models is incorrect, models are implementations/interpretations of theories (or applications of theories to particular systems), but not the theories themselves.”

    So, what are “the theories themselves”?

  137. A theory is an explanation for something, in a Popperian sense a scientific theory is explanation that can be tested by experiment or observation (which requires it to be an explanation that can be used to make predictions). E.g. the theory of evolution by natural selection is an explanation of how we have species diversity in the natural environment.

  138. zebra says:

    “evolution by natural selection”

    Requires the model “natural selection”.

    No forest without the trees, I think.

  139. so what? It is still an explanation, not a model.

  140. “natural selection” is the explanation of how evolution is driven (i.e. it isn’t just random). It isn’t a model, it is part of the explanation.

  141. zebra says:

    dikran,

    Note what I said above: “physical model or narrative”.

    That’s what I’m talking about. If you want to use “model” in some other way, that’s fine, just tell me what you are talking about.

    Or, do you want to quibble about “explanation” isn’t the same as “narrative”?

    No trees, no forest.

  142. Mal Adapted says:

    dikran:

    “natural selection” is the explanation of how evolution is driven (i.e. it isn’t just random). It isn’t a model, it is part of the explanation.

    That’s the correct response to cdesign proponentsists who insist that the Theory of Evolution is tautological. If you call it a ‘theory’, it is: it proposes that evolution occurs by genetic descent with modification, with fitter gene combinations persisting while less-fit ones are selected out. Survivors survive, IOW.

    Yep, pretty much, ya shoor yoo betcha. Is there a problem ;^)? If you’re looking for one, how about this: it turns out that most if not all diversity among species is contingent on stochastic processes and events outside the genome. For example, every extant species exists today because its ancestors survived the K-Pg stratigraphic boundary. Extant vertebrates may all descend from those that were deep under ground or water on the day the Chixculub bolide struck, and thus escaped being broiled by re-entering molten ejecta and subsequent continental-scale wildfires like the giant dinosaurs may have been. Was that ‘natural’ selection? Who cares: survivors survive.

  143. zebra you wrote Requires the model “natural selection”., it seems to be you that is using “model” in a non-standard way. “natural selection” is the principle by which evolution is directed, I don’t see any sense in which it is a “model”.

    Note what I said above: “physical model or narrative”.

    I did. I was questioning the “physical model” part, not the “narrative” part.

  144. BBD says:

    Vintage zebra. Reminds me of the time when he claimed my argument was flawed because I hadn’t clearly distinguished between ‘plan’ and ‘goal’.

  145. Survivors survive

    except there is a bit more to it than that. The reason they survive is that their ancestors evolved to suit their environment, which makes their survival more likely. It is more than a mere tautology.

    it turns out that most if not all diversity among species is contingent on stochastic processes and events outside the genome.

    I suspect Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has little to say about the genome. ;o)

  146. Box used his quote in may of his articles and books. At one point he applied it in the context of numerical accuracy, where his implication was that all models are wrong because of the inherent imprecision of floating point numbers or in approximating say a transcendental function with a polynomial. Can’t argue with that, but it also doesn’t help a lot because we may not care given the imprecision of the data

    This from a Box book called Response Surfaces, Mixtures, and Ridge Analyses

  147. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Willard:

    The day we’ll be able to overturn physics based on climate simulations, our mobile phones will be able to crunch Bitcoins.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  148. zebra says:

    dikran,

    “non-standard”

    I asked how you were using the term– you didn’t reply. What is the “standard” way to use “model”?

    A “physical model” and a “narrative” are equivalent. Natural selection is in fact a narrative, or physical model– it describes a process of cause and effect. Along with other narratives– sexual selection, for example– and mathematical models, and terminology and empirical practices– it is part of the whole ToE, just like the trees that make up the forest.

    You know, you are illustrating my point pretty well here. You’ve now said:

    “natural selection” is the principle by which evolution is directed,”

    and

    ““natural selection” is the explanation of how evolution is driven

    And we wonder why non-scientists are confused and easily manipulated?

  149. Eli Rabett says:

    Somewhat like Justice Holmes description of pornography, Eli will know what is a theory and what a model when he sees them. Beyond that theories are discrete describing unique issues, models constructive with many components some of which can be theories describing the behavior of systems.

  150. A “physical model” and a “narrative” are equivalent.

    Err, no. A model (in the sense usually used in science) is “a simplified description, especially a mathematical one, of a system or process, to assist calculations and predictions.” A “narrative is”:

    narrative
    ˈnarətɪv/
    noun
    noun: narrative; plural noun: narratives

    1.
    a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.
    “a gripping narrative”
    synonyms: account, story, tale, chronicle, history, description, record, portrayal, sketch, portrait, statement, report, rehearsal, recital, rendering
    “a chronological narrative of Stark’s life”
    the narrated part of a literary work, as distinct from dialogue.
    “the dialogue and the narrative suffer from awkward syntax”
    the practice or art of telling stories.
    “traditions of oral narrative”
    a representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values.

    I don’t see how any of that matches the meaning of “model”.

    “And we wonder why non-scientists are confused and easily manipulated?”

  151. Magma says:

    Oh, joy. Add a new paper by GWPF “Academic Advisory Council Chairman” Christopher how could you even calculate a global temperature anyway? Essex to the pile. What’s happened with quality control at Elsevier journals these days?

    Model falsifiability and climate slow modes
    Christopher Essex a, Anastasios A. Tsonis
    Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications

    Highlights
    • Climate models do not and cannot employ known physics fully. Thus, they are falsified, a priori
    • Incomplete physics and the finite representation of computers can induce false instabilities
    • Eliminating instability can lead to computational overstabilization or false stability
    • Models on ultra-long timescales are dubiously stable. This is referred to as the “climate state.” Is it real?
    • Decadal variability is understandable in terms of a specific class of nonlinear dynamical systems

    link not bothered with

  152. Dave_Geologist says:

    Lots of model discussions I see. I’d be pretty much with ATTP’s or dikran’s definition “a simplified description, especially a mathematical one, of a system or process, to assist calculations and predictions.” Although recognising that in everyday speak model is used more widely, with a meaning more like narrative (I has a model of the world/of other peoples behaviour/whatever that goes like this…) or theory of how it works or an analogue to a physical law. but that’s not a useful definition to use in science, where model is better regarded as a Term of Art with a definition which is a subset of the normal-speak definition. In the same way stress and strain are used interchangeably outside science, but have strict definitions inside science. Ditto entropy, chaos, disorder, heat vs. temperature, free energy, etc.

    In evolution, I would regard a Game Theory calculation used to explain the coexistence of two phenotypes, or the rate of fixation of a mutation, or divergence time calculations between two species, as models. Natural selection is both an observation and a theory, but not a model in the scientific sense. A model can be physical, e.g. a heliocentric orrery or a bacterial population evolving in a lab to eat acetate rather than sugar. In the sense that the aim of the experiment is not to understand the metabolic biochemistry, but to gain insights into evolutionary processes in a controlled experiment. It is a model organism in the same was the various inbred strains of mouse are in medical research.

  153. zebra says:

    dikran,

    dikran: “a simplified description…of a…process”

    zebra: “…it describes a process of cause and effect”

    dictionary: “…an account of connected events”

    Sound pretty much the same to me.

    (Note I said above that I try to use qualifiers to be more precise– hence “mathematical model” and “physical model”.)

    So, instead of claiming that we disagree about definitions when we don’t, go back to the main point– if ToE isn’t the collection of “trees” as I described, what is it?

    It can’t be one of the trees, right?

  154. Dave_Geologist says:

    the scientific cultural norm that peers don’t let peers get away with fooling themselves

    Not to mention a research and early career apprenticeship where you barely qualify as a peer, unless you’re Einstein.

    At the risk of generalising, I’ve long been of the view that that is one reason why the loopy-but-arrogant end of the scientifically educated science-denial or misunderstood-Galileo spectrum often seems to comprise engineers and medical doctors. They (like many practising scientists) grew up being the smartest person in their family, the smartest person on their high-school class and the smartest person in the room. And the person that gets asked for their opinion on science. However they go vocational once they finish undergraduate, and when they qualify usually end up working with less scientifically educated people (patients, administrators, construction workers, electricians etc.). So the feeling of superiority gets reinforced. Few research scientists get further than their first year into a PhD. without realising (a) that they’re now the dumbest person in the room and (b) they wasted at least half of that first year because of their dumbness. They go from top dog to bottom dog in a flash, and it takes decades to get back to being top dog. That should engender a degree of realism and humility about your talent. Of course once you get to be top dog, you then have to be especially careful not to let it go to your head 😉

  155. dikranmarsupial says:

    Zebra, you seem to have picked only the part of the definition of a model that suited you argument and ignored the part that didn’t. Was that deliberate? ;o)

  156. zebra says:

    Dave G,

    “natural selection is a theory”

    ???

    Are you invoking the same “everyday-speak” which uses “theory” interchangeably with “hypothesis” or “conjecture”? If not, what do you mean?

  157. Again, I’m getting slightly confused by the discussion and (maybe embarassingly) even though I regard myself as theorist, I haven’t really spent much time thinking about the difference between a theory and a model. However, as an example, I do research on star and planet formation. There are various theories as to how planets form and some of what I do is to develop models that test these theories. So, in some sense, the model can produce a result that suggests that the theory has merit, or it could end up suggesting that it does not. A reasonably bit part of my research career has been doing the latter.

  158. zebra says:

    dikran,

    Except for the “mathematical” part, which I explained, there is no difference that I can see between your definition and mine. Was suggesting otherwise a deliberate way to avoid answering the question about what ToE is? 🙂

  159. zebra writes “Except for the “mathematical” part, which I explained, there is no difference that I can see between your definition and mine”

    What I said was “A model (in the sense usually used in science) is “a simplified description, especially a mathematical one, of a system or process, to assist calculations and predictions.

    you said a simplified description…of a…process

    I’ve put in bold the bits you left out. You clearly left out a lot more than just the mathematical part. Sorry, you are just trolling now, and I have better things to do than indulge it any further.

  160. zebra says:

    ATTP,

    “various theories about how planets form”

    I would call those “physical models or narratives”, and I would call your attempts to see how accurately they predict things quantitatively “mathematical models.” If you ever get it all sorted out, with a consensus, why then we would have a “Theory of Planetary Formation”, wouldn’t we? And it would perhaps contain some various models (both physical and mathematical) that describe the process under different conditions?

    But, does it matter? Only in the context I have mentioned of allowing confusion to develop about how science works, where terminology is misused to manipulate the public.

  161. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Magma says:

    >>>> Oh, joy. Add a new paper by GWPF “Academic Advisory Council Chairman” Christopher how could you even calculate a global temperature anyway? Essex to the pile.

    >>>> Highlights…

    You missed the best parts…

    This is not to suggest that we can expect complex behaviors to be replaced by limit cycles or fixed points per se, but that modes can change due to external causes very differently than by simple discussions of energetics, or even some well-defined physical mechanism. After all, if intermittent bursts can seem like causeless change, one ultimately has to accept that the real causality is in terms of the underlying dynamical structures set by the physics. Dynamical sensitivity opens the prospect of change through mechanisms that are not so obvious such as arguments about heat: crypto-sensitivity.

    I’m not sure how best to parse that word-salad – but the authors may be on to something with that “crypto-sensitivity”. Climate models, to be sure, are really all about using prime element factorization algorithms to find a decryption key for “the real causality” that’s in “dynamical structures set by the physics”.

    And:

    Alternatively, what true dynamics could there actually be other than none at all, and why might it not appear in models? This paper provided answers: computational over-stabilization and ultra-slow modes.

    I can suggest an alternate explanation for why the true dynamics of none at all does not appear in models.

  162. Willard says:

    > One would hope that there is at least agreement about how one would falsify a (formally stated) hypothesis […]

    There isn’t, but that’s unimportant. One would hope there’s at least agreement that, sometimes, hypotheses follow from a theory, in which case when we reject a hypothesis, we also reject the theory that entails it by modus tollens. Something needs to change in that theory.

    Classical mechanics compelled us to make predictions regarding blackbodies, photoelectric effects, Compton scattering, and other things. Various conceptual problems limited its explanatory power, but experiments forced physicists to modify it along the lines of De Broglie, Einstein, and others. The case of classical mechanics is the archetype that Popper studied when coming up with his logic of scientific discovery – see the Modus Tollens above.

    The reasons why Popper was wrong lie elsewhere. We’d need to look at other cases of theory formation to see that falsificationism fails to capture the scientific practice. For instance, hypothesis testing was developed afterwards, independently. Not every hypothesis follows from a theory. Etc.

  163. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    …in which case when we reject a hypothesis, we also reject the theory that entails it by modus tollens. Something needs to change in that theory.

    I spy a non-black non-raven.

    In the end, confirmation holism wins.

  164. I am with Zebra on this:

    “But, does it matter? Only in the context I have mentioned of allowing confusion to develop about how science works, where terminology is misused to manipulate the public.”

    How many times have you seen the Box quote “All models are wrong. Some are useful” used by AGW skeptics to create FUD?

    There is another quote that has a similar lineage: “If you torture the data long enough nature will confess”. This started out as encouraging persistence in analysis but eventually it morphed to “If you torture the data long enough it will confess”, which turns it into a criticism of over-fitting. I think you will find many more people quoting the latter than the former.

  165. There is very little that can be said that can’t be twisted by climate “skeptics”. I’m all for people trying to be clear about what they mean while discussing something. It’s also important to try to avoid saying things in a way that could be misrepresented by those who have a tendency to do so. However, there is a limit – in my view – to how much time we can spend worrying about the latter.

  166. jacksmith4tx says:

    Willard (and anyone interested in mind games),
    Wanted to return the favor for pointing me to the guys over at Partially Examined Life and thought you might enjoy “You Are Not So Smart”.
    Some of the recent topics include:
    Belief Change Blindness
    Tribal Psychology
    The Unpersuadables
    Active Information Avoidance
    https://youarenotsosmart.com/

  167. Willard says:

    > I spy a non-black non-raven.

    This would falsify the claim that all non-raven things are black, and that’s about it. But suppose you want to refute the claim that a raven is either black or non-black. How do you proceed?

  168. Mal Adapted says:

    dikran:

    “it turns out that most if not all diversity among species is contingent on stochastic processes and events outside the genome.”

    I suspect Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has little to say about the genome. ;o)

    Yeah, that needs work. I’m trying to say that ordered selection on slight differences in fitness probably has little to do with the way species arise, and genome bifurcation due to ‘random’ (WRT fitness) events, like glacial advances or shifting riverbeds, is more important. Watch this space.

  169. Willard says:

    Seems I missed a bit of comments. In no particular order, I notice Eli’s quip:

    the second law of thermodynamics has been falsified by Loschmidt’s paradox and experiment

    I’m not sure how. My intuition (I haven’t checked) is that Popper wanted to distinguish logical refutation from empirical falsification. Loschmidt’s paradox (IANAP) underlines a conceptual problem between time reversal symmetry and the entropy of closed systems. Our perception of time is at odds with physics, but may not falsify it unless we presume that physics predicts how we should perceive time.

    Nevertheless, the idea that most scientific theories encounter conceptual problems like that argues in favor of a more Kuhnian-like scientific historiography. Contrary to what a strict or naive falsificationnist may suggest, scientific theories are more than mere conjectures and refutations.

    ***

    Then there’s DaveG’s question:

    I suspect a computer scientist would say that all code is mathematics. In fact, isn’t there a theorem to that effect?

    I suppose one could argue that mathematics includes computability theory, which more or less encompasses what we usually conceive as the limits of what algorithms can do, i.e. effective calculation. By the Turing-Church thesis, we adequate algorithms to computable functions. It’d be hard to have something stronger than a thesis, since one of the terms isn’t really formal.

    A distinction that looks more interesting is between “pure” mathematics and its computation implementation. Take randomness. There are straightforward mathematical formulations of a random process, yet computer can only approximate it. Most generators are pseudo-random: they look random, and can be considered sufficient for most stochastic games, yet they’re not truly random. (It’d be possible to predict them and make a fortune on Poker sites.) At best (IANACS), you can get quasi-random processes using unpredictable inputs (poetically called slightly random) such as mouse clicks, internal clocks, or whatnot.

    Suppose we got a random generator. Two questions come to mind. An internal one: does it really do what it’s designed to do, and an external one: will it meet the users’ expectations? In some kind of strange twist (at least to how logicians’ ears), the first is called verification, while the second is called validation.

    That picture, with your question, gives us at least three kinds of interpretations: from the maths to algorithms, from algorithm to code, and from code to the program as it’s being used. We could also look into the connection between the computer language and the compiler, the compiler and the language machine, right up to the logic gates.

    So you’re very clever, young man, very clever. But it’s interpretations all the way down!

    ***

    And Izen wins the thread again.

  170. Regarding the Essex and Tsonis paper, the problem I have always had with Tsonis’ network teleconnection theory of climate dipoles is that it doesn’t fundamentally address the possibility of common-mode mechanisms. Where they presume that the various climate dipoles teleconnect and therefore influence each other, it’s just as possible that there is an external forcing that keeps them all in sync, give or take a phase lag.

  171. Willard says:

    Perhaps Eli might appreciate the author of this Stack Exchange response:

    [T]he relevant answer is that the competent part of the scientific community (especially most of the people who are statistical physics experts) agrees that the Loschmidt “paradox” was already addressed and resolved more than 100 years ago while a broader “community” is split about this issue.

    https://physics.stackexchange.com/a/19979

    I rather liked the following response: I think Motl may be the only person I know who thinks that the H-theorem resolves this issue directly.

  172. Mal Adapted says:

    dikran:

    “Survivors survive”

    except there is a bit more to it than that. The reason they survive is that their ancestors evolved to suit their environment, which makes their survival more likely. It is more than a mere tautology.

    When we look at a species, the phenotype we see is a sort of vector sum of all selection forces acting on its ancestors since the LUCA, with large measures of arbitrary fate mixed in. It has occasionally been possible to show with confidence that adaptation by natural selection has occurred/is occurring. Far more adaptationist claims are merely plausibility arguments, Just-So Stories offering no way to nail down the roles of specific selective mechanisms. And before proposing a story to explain how some observed characteristic of a species is adaptive, one is wise to be sure it needs explaining, and isn’t merely the necessary result of constraints imposed by actual adaptations.

    The late Stephen Jay Gould was a well-known skeptic of the universality of natural selection. For example, in 1979 he and population geneticist Richard Lewontin published a famous paper titled The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme (both authors were avowed Marxists). Gould’s books lay out his arguments for the role of historical contingency, developmental constraints and sheer random catastrophe in shaping the diversity of life. Gould’s proposals were hot topics during the two years I was enrolled in a PhD program in Ecology and Evolution. For the most part I’m inclined to favor them. I’d rather let Gould do the persuading, however.

  173. “Yeah, that needs work. I’m trying to say that ordered selection on slight differences in fitness probably has little to do with the way species arise, and genome bifurcation due to ‘random’ (WRT fitness) events, like glacial advances or shifting riverbeds, is more important.”

    isn’t surviving things like glacial advances and shifting riverbeds just another case of fitness for the environment?

    Gould’s book on the Burgess shales is very good (and I largely agree with what it says). Simon Conway-Morris’ book on the Burgess shales is on my reading list, will be interesting to compare the two. However, in general, whenever there are competing positions in science, the truth turns out to be in the middle somewhere or a bit of both.

  174. Dave_Geologist says:

    zebra “natural selection is a theory”
    I posted too hastily. The theory of evolution (or descent with modification) by natural selection.

    A scientific theory is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested, in accordance with the scientific method, using a predefined protocol of observation and experiment.[1][2] Established scientific theories have withstood rigorous scrutiny and embody scientific knowledge.[3]

    You might argue that in Darwin’s day it was a hypothesis, but I would say that only applied during and immediately after his Beagle voyage. By the time he wrote the book he’d spent decades accumulating other evidence by induction and deduction. Now that his letter are published, this can probably be tested. But I strongly suspect that he didn’t just casually observe agricultural breeds and fancy pigeons, but had done the thought experiment: for this to work, traits (phenotypes) have to be heritable and fixable (because he didn’t know about Mendel’s peas). How can I test this? let’s look at artificial breeding. Do fast racehorses sire fast racehorses or randomly fast and slow? Do Gloucesterhire pigs left to their own devices with no active selection revert to their ancestral form over time or do they stay Gloucestershires? It only works if there are unift offspring to throw away. Do most animals and plants breed at population replacement rates or do they vastly over-produce offspring? Do animals breed randomly in the absence of the farmer’s intervention or do they select among mates, based on some phenotypical trait? By the time he wrote the book, those (or his equivalent) question were asked and answered.

    And since Darwin the theory has been extended and improved, withstood scrutiny as rigorous (and similarly partisan) as AGW, and successfully embodied new scientific knowledge (gees, DNA and protein family trees that closely match zoological and palaeontological family trees)

    A case could be made that Wallace was at the observation and hypothesis stage, but that could just be because he had a day job and didn’t have the leisure time to spend decades thinking and writing. Maybe he’d got to the theory stage too. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

  175. Dave_Geologist says:

    Mal

    The late Stephen Jay Gould was a well-known skeptic of the universality of natural selection

    I’m a great admirer of Gould (not just for his writing skills), but some of those arguments fall into angels-on-pinheads territory. Even Darwin acknowledged the role of contingent external, e.g. geological events – such as vicariance to prevent back-crossing of the select population. I see Gould as more of a refutation of the Great Chain of Being idea of an orderly progression to more advanced forms. maybe it comes from being a geologist, but it always seemed to me that Gould was stating the obvious. If organisms changed phenotype only slowly and smoothly, Pre-Darwin geologists could never have set up the fossil-base geological timescale. Implicit in it is the idea that stuff stays the same for a long time, then changes. And you use that to define Periods etc.

    I vaguely remember from my undergraduate days a sea urchin, I think Micraster used as a teaching example. In brief, its mouth migrated towards its anus over a long period of time and then, for some unaccountable reason, stayed there 🙂

  176. Dave_Geologist says:

    Magma: “Oh, joy. Add a new paper by GWPF “Academic Advisory Council Chairman”

    Would that be the guy who advised Lord Lawson to claim on the BBC Today programme that “according again to the official figures, during this past ten years, if anything, mean global temperature, average world temperature, has slightly declined”. In 2017! If that’s the kind of advice he’s giving, anything he produces is not worth reading. You’d have thought a mathematician could read a graph, but hey, ho….. I can understand Lawson’s inability, he’s a PPE graduate and his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was presumably the basis for inviting him, is not a strong recommendation of his economic credentials. The eponymous phrase “Lawson Boom” was coined by his political opponents and is not a compliment. His was a boom of the South Sea Bubble or Dutch Tulip Bulb variety. Spiralling inflation followed by a currency and asset price crash and a recession.

    The chickens have come home to roost. BBC Radio 4 broke accuracy rules in Nigel Lawson climate change interview, Ofcom ruling (go to p.12).

    In summary, the BBC brought him on to challenge Al Gore’s views on the economics of renewable energy, and say they were blindsided when he talked about global temperatures, so the interviewer wasn’t well enough prepared to challenge the obvious falsehood about no warming for ten years. The regulator pointed out that Lawson had form, and had done the same thing three years earlier, on the same show. Basically, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

    They got a grudging pass on broadcasting the rebuttal at 6:50am, not Lawson’s 8:30am prime-time. No surprise there, given that newspapers are allowed to bury apologies or retractions for false front-page news halfway down page 23.

  177. zebra says:

    Dave-G,

    “you might argue that in Darwin’s day it was a hypothesis”
    “by the time he wrote the book”
    “and since Darwin the theory has been expanded and improved”

    And this trajectory makes my point pretty well. Dikran and Willard seem attached to the concept (as are Creationists) that a Scientific theory is equivalent to a hypothesis, and so can be “falsified”. But obviously, ToE (or Newtonian mechanics) cannot be reduced to a single statement or proposition; neither D nor W have met that challenge.

    I don’t see how one can argue that ToE is not as I described– consisting of elements, including narratives (physical models). What is “natural selection” other than a narrative? What is sexual selection other than a narrative? As well, we have the other elements that make up the Theory– DNA, quantitative population dynamics, and so on– mathematical models, empirical methods.

    Even going by the Wiki article you cited, the requirement is that a Scientific theory enables the formulation of falsifiable predictions, not that the enterprise itself must be “falsifiable”.

    If Newtonian mechanics is “false”, why do we teach it?

  178. BBD said:

    “Reminds me of the time when he claimed my argument was flawed because I hadn’t clearly distinguished between ‘plan’ and ‘goal’.”

    Most corporate project plan boilerplates have separate headings for objectives and goals. The default response is to fill these out with “The objectives are to meet the goals” and “The goals are to meet the objectives”. That should satisfy the bureaucrats.

  179. Dave_Geologist says:

    zebra
    I guess you’re a lumper and I’m a splitter. If you define narrative to mean anything that involves using language to communicate an observation, an idea, a hypothesis or a theory, then all is narrative. I find it useful to split different parts of the narrative into different categories. YMMV.

  180. mmm the quotes seem to have dissapeared from my previous post, is the tag not supported?

  181. Mal Adapted says:

    dikran:

    isn’t surviving things like glacial advances and shifting riverbeds just another case of fitness for the environment?

    Yep! Survivors survive. Tautology, or conclusion from rigorous logical calculus? You decide 8^)!

  182. Zebra wrote Dikran and Willard seem attached to the concept (as are Creationists) that a Scientific theory is equivalent to a hypothesis, and so can be “falsified”.

    I’m sorry, but that really is blatant trolling. I said no such thing (and I suspect neither did Willard), I don’t think I even mentioned the word “hypothesis”. Likening us to Creationists is a cheap rhetorical jibe, and reflects badly on you, not me.

    ToE (or Newtonian mechanics) cannot be reduced to a single statement or proposition; neither D nor W have met that challenge.

    what challenge? You asked me what was meant by a “theory”. Pretty dumb challenge because I rather doubt anyone would claim that theories can neccessarily be reduced to a single statement or proposition (for instance I don’t think Copernican theory can).

    Even going by the Wiki article you cited, the requirement is that a Scientific theory *enables* the formulation of falsifiable predictions, not that the enterprise itself must be “falsifiable”. [the *enables* was emphasised].

    I don’t see where it says that (hint try searching for “enables”). I can find a quote that says the opposite:

    “He [Popper] also discusses the “unprovable but falsifiable” nature of theories, which is a necessary consequence of inductive logic, and that “you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory”.

    Note falsifiability is a property of theories, not just their predictions.

  183. “Yep! Survivors survive. Tautology, or conclusion from rigorous logical calculus? You decide 8^)!”

    You are missing the point. There is a good reason why there are both specialists (tightly dependent on their environmental niche and good at exploiting it) and generalists (can survive in a wide range of conditions, but is sub-optimal in all of them). Whether something survives is partly dependent on its evolutionary history, so it isn’t just a tautology.

  184. zebra says:

    Dave_G,

    “mean anything”

    No, not at all. Just a description of a sequence of events (causally related in this context).

    Natural selection is a narrative: Birds with beaks that fit the flowers survive. They reproduce. More birds with beaks that fit the flowers. And so on.

    A hypothesis isn’t a narrative, an idea isn’t a narrative, an observation may or may not involve a narrative, obviously.

    I really don’t see why people have trouble with this construction– I mean, Dave, you’ve entertained us with your Geological narratives many times. And in mechanics, how are what I call physical models not narratives– the billiard ball has momentum, which it transfers to the other billiard ball, which bounces off the cushion losing some energy, and so on.

    So, the billiard ball is a specific manifestation of the more generalized narrative involving energy, momentum, velocity, and how these interact. Statements like “energy is conserved” are elements of the theory, but I would not call them narratives.

    And the point I’ve made earlier certainly supports this language– when we are working on problems, we adopt the narrative- the story- that has the most utility. Is it the story of a “force” acting at a distance, or is it the one where stuff conforms to the curvature of space-time?

    Depends….

  185. IMO, models of yearly to decadal climate variability are at the narrative or even the Rudyard Kipling just-so-story (link above courtesy of Mal Adapted) stage. Every time I read a paper concerning some aspect of variability it consists of paragraph after paragraph of narrative prose describing perceived coupled interactions. Yes, the claims are typically all cited but the overall effect leaves me kind of dizzy.

    Agree with zebra that for this case, narrative is a good description, arguably better than theory or model. This is fitting for scientists groping for an explanation. The conundrum is that if climate variability is at its root a chaotic phenomenon (see Lorenz), then why even try to explain it?

  186. dikranmarsupial says:

    Zebra, that is an example of natural selection, it is not the theory of evolution by natural selection.

  187. Mal Adapted says:

    D_G:

    I’m a great admirer of Gould (not just for his writing skills), but some of those arguments fall into angels-on-pinheads territory.

    The couple of times I saw Steve Gould in person, I found him charismatic. His speech and writing were as lucid and persuasive as any I’ve encountered. The intellect driving the fluent exposition was clearly exceptional, especially in the scope of communicating Science (the cultural adaptation) to lay audiences. Anecdotally, an E&E faculty member told me Gould routinely published his first drafts. He’s my idea of a true celebrity 8^). And in the scope of puzzling out evolution’s tempo and mode (you know, science), I tend to agree he was stating the obvious.

    Yet I think your “angels-on-pinheads” remark is also apt. Drilling down into the arguments, it’s quickly apparent molehills are being amplified to mountains [block that metaphor! MA]. From my brief glimpse inside the cultural institution of Evolutionary Biology, I’d say Gould’s claims of ‘paradigm shift’ were transparently self-enhancing. Numerous other professional geniuses weighed in: Dawkins, Ed Wilson, anyone else who found an angle. I learned that the public brouhaha over ‘punctuated equilibria’ was a macrocosm of life in the Ecology and Evolution Department I was in. Without launching into a shaggy-dog story, I’d characterize the department at that time as a snakepit of unseemly academic opportunism. I wasn’t personally targeted for exploitation, but it’s one reason I dropped out after two years and got a real job. Suffice it to say my vision of academic life had lost luster by then 8^(.

    But enough about me ;^D! Despite the irredeemable mediocrity (h/t Hank Roberts) of the synthesists, IMIMO the Modern (i.e. neo-Darwinian) Synthesis is shown to be self-correcting, and more fully integrated as it progresses. Gradualism and punctuationism are simple matters of scale. All life on Earth is a product of 3.5 Gy of fine discrimination among marginal fitness distinctions, sporadically smote by arbitrary fate. In the largest scope, IOW, evolution is just one damn thing after another! Academic evolutionists will quibble regardless, or else they’ll have to get real jobs ;^).

  188. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    > I spy a non-black non-raven.

    This would falsify the claim that all non-raven things are black, and that’s about it.

    That depends on your interpretation of the relation between the claim that ‘All ravens are black’ and its logical equivalents.
    While my spying a non-black non-raven indeed falsifies the claim ‘All non-raven things are black’, it also falsifies the equivalent contraposition ‘All non-black things are ravens’.

    Admittedly, one can accept the logical equivalence of the two claims, but deny their empirical equivalence.
    A red herring may be irrelevant in practice, even if it is relevant in theory.

    Anyway – ‘I spy a non-black non-raven.’ could also falsify the claim ‘There are no non-ravens.’


    But suppose you want to refute the claim that a raven is either black or non-black. How do you proceed?

    I proceed by pointing to the tautological nature of the claim, and submit that wanting entails very little.

  189. Willard says:

    > Willard seem attached to the concept (as are Creationists) that a Scientific theory is equivalent to a hypothesis, and so can be “falsified”.

    Here’s what I said:

    One would hope there’s at least agreement that, sometimes, hypotheses follow from a theory, in which case when we reject a hypothesis, we also reject the theory that entails it by modus tollens. Something needs to change in that theory.

    Implication is not equivalence. I also said:

    Not every hypothesis follows from a theory.

    Again, no equivalence.

    ***

    > If Newtonian mechanics is “false”, why do we teach it?

    Interestingly, the concept of lie to children is related to the concept of Jacob’s ladder, and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus ends with one:

    My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)

    He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wittgenstein%27s_ladder

    The famous quote that ends the Tractatus may need to be read along these lines, not as the celebration of a dead philosophical programme.

  190. Willard says:

    > While my spying a non-black non-raven indeed falsifies the claim ‘All non-raven things are black’, it also falsifies the equivalent contraposition ‘All non-black things are ravens’.

    Indeed, but then you need to say why for you a raven thing is the same kind of thing as a black thing. To paraphrase what a famous saxophonist once said, this might depend upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. It might also depend on how we understand logical connectives, what logical framework we’re using, how we carve up the world into things, and how we access to those things.

    Putting an equivalence between “all non-raven things are black” and “all non-black things are ravens” has the advantage of showing why neither make much sense as zoological claims. One disadvantage is that one makes a little more sense as the other, if only because zoologists study ravens, not blackness. Perhaps they should, however.

    The same argument could be made of philosophers using zoological caricatures instead of taking scientific ontologies seriously, e.g.:

    Biologists and philosophers have long recognized the importance of species, yet species concepts serve two masters, evolutionary theory on the one hand and taxonomy on the other. Much of present-day evolutionary and systematic biology has confounded these two roles primarily through use of the biological species concept. Theories require entities that are real, discrete, irreducible, and comparable. Within the neo-Darwinian synthesis, however, biological species have been treated as real or subjectively delimited entities, discrete or nondiscrete, and they are often capable of being decomposed into other, smaller units. Because of this, biological species are generally not comparable across different groups of organisms, which implies that the ontological structure of evolutionary theory requires modification. Some biologists, including proponents of the biological species concept, have argued that no species concept is universally applicable across all organisms. Such a view means, however, that the history of life cannot be embraced by a common theory of ancestry and descent if that theory uses species as its entities.

    These ontological and biological difficulties can be alleviated if species are defined in terms of evolutionary units. The latter are irreducible clusters of reproductively cohesive organisms that are diagnosably distinct from other such clusters. Unlike biological species, which can include two or more evolutionary units, these phylogenetic species are discrete entities in space and time and capable of being compared from one group to the next.

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00128837

  191. Dave_Geologist says:

    zebra

    Natural selection is a narrative: Birds with beaks that fit the flowers survive. They reproduce. More birds with beaks that fit the flowers. And so on.

    That’s an observational narrative,. Neither a theory nor a hypothesis. For example, a creationist would take that same narrative and say “God did it”. Hence my

    Natural selection is both an observation and a theory, but not a model in the scientific sense.

    Same two rwords, different usages

  192. zebra says:

    Dave G,

    I don’t know how many times I have said that hypothesis /= theory /= narrative or physical model.

    So your comment and the one from Dikran just don’t compute for me– you sound like you think you are disagreeing with me, when you are just repeating my position.

    Whether this is an observational narrative or not is probably best dealt with exactly in terms of the trajectory you described earlier. The ToE evolved (heh) in Darwin’s mind and in the efforts of practitioners over time; we can’t say that Darwin observed the changes in populations directly, but the entirety of the enterprise has given us much confidence in the robustness of that particular physical model (narrative), along with a few apparent examples that we have observed over time.

    I’m always reluctant to use the term, but I think scientific theories may be a kind of “emergent” phenomenon. Hence the difficulty everyone has when I ask: Ok, if ToE isn’t this collection of things that I have listed, what is it?

  193. izen says:

    The shape of the narrative matters.

    Goulds collaborator on Punctuated Equilibrium, Nils Eldridge made some interesting observations on the development of musical instruments. The pattern of innovation and adoption is quite distinct from that seen in biological evolution. Each can show a sequential structure in the way variations, innovations and improvements appeared and became ‘fixed’ in form.
    But the network of interconnections of the narrative differs. The link below discusses this and shows the two different ways Trilobites and early trumpets evolved.
    One denotes evolution by natural selection.
    The other rather mediocre intelligent design.

    http://three.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-017-material-cultural-evolution-an-interview-with-niles-eldredge/

    The inherent structure of a description can suggest or require a specific narrative explanation. To some extent Maxwell’s equations with c as the only obligatory invarient, as a description of electromagnetism, generated Relativity as a necessary explanation.

    Given how closely our narrative of paleoclimate conforms to thermodynamic constraints and causal consitency, it seems unwise to speculate on meta-processes that could negate the strong implications of past behavior. The lack of any climate version of a rabbet in the Cambrian ‘falsifies’ any alternative narrative that fails to conform to the structure of what we already know about global climate.

    It may not be falsification, or falsifiability in some strict Popperian logic sense, but that way lies not-black ravens and writing desks.
    To which I plead, nevermore.

  194. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Biologists and philosophers have long recognized the importance of species, yet species concepts serve two masters, evolutionary theory on the one hand and taxonomy on the other.

    Some biologists, including proponents of the biological species concept, have argued that no species concept is universally applicable across all organisms. Such a view means, however, that the history of life cannot be embraced by a common theory of ancestry and descent if that theory uses species as its entities.

    Since our common ancestry grew out of billions of years of asexual reproduction with mutation, and symbiotic fusions of prokaryotes, ‘species’ did not even come into being until late in the history of life on Earth.
    One can even argue that ‘species’ are multiploid somatic engines that temporarily house and propagate alleles.
    Biologically, we ‘species’ are vectors for haploid ova and sperm.

    The referent of ‘species’ is not, and cannot be, fixed within the theory of evolution.
    In that sense, the ToE eats its own premises.

    Reminds me of the argument for gravitation in the ‘Principia’.
    Newton uses the Keplerian (elliptical) orbits of the planets as evidence for the universal inverse-square law that itself entails that planets cannot move exactly in elliptical, or even closed, orbits.

    Throw away the ladder after climbing it, indeed.

  195. Mal Adapted says:

    Ima say again, you guys are smart! I’m finding it highly self-enhancing to trade deep thoughts about evolution with all y’all. 35 years ago, this subject was in the front of my mind all the time. I haven’t thought about it this hard since leaving the doctoral program. In all sincerity, my virtual frenemies, great stuff.

    I have more to say on the subject of evolution, but first I want to revisit Willard’s

    quote fests usually lead to non-contructive exchanges, Mal.

    Again: it’s not like everything hasn’t been said before. For example, the following ancient cultural knowledge, having been transmitted orally for countless generations, was recorded centuries before the putative birth of Son’o’God by parthenogenesis approximately 2.0 kya:

    For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

    Compare that with Aldo Leopold’s rueful 1946 observation:

    One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.

    All good ideas are in the public domain, needing at most to be instantiated in the current context. I’ll rely on quotes to make my points, whether or not they’re the same points the author was trying to make. I challenge you, Willard, to say something new if you can!

  196. Willard says:

    > I’ll rely on quotes to make my points, whether or not they’re the same points the author was trying to make. I challenge you, Willard, to say something new if you can!

    Challenge already met, Mal. I could also add that the Tractatus‘ semantics is quite thin. Tautologies and contradictions are empty – they say nothing, they only show something logically true or false. The concept of saying is a technical one (opposed to showing) and might very well be too strict for a discussion of the semantics of scientific models.

    Here could be why. One implication of the Tractatus’ semantics is that every tautologies expresses the very same thing. This has some importance in Rev’s thoughts on ravens above: if we accept that all derivations about non-raven and non-black things express the very same thing, then we can put them all into an equivalence class. Which means that, as far as their logical structure is concerned, the infinite series of claims one can derive from scientific theories say all the same thing. They all strictly say nothing.

    There’s a reason why the Wiki entry on Wittgenstein ladder exists.

    ***

    As for the quote fest, perhaps I’m unclear. I’m not referring to the habit of providing quotes. I’m the last person on Earth to be displeased by quotes and sources. I’m referring to this kind of comment:

    Quote from a commenter. One liner. Another quote from a commenter. Another pity remark. Another quote from a commenter. A few more remarks. Another quote. Another series of comments. And so on and so forth.

    This can easily become exponential – the commenter takes one claim from that comment and adds a few remarks. That remark itself becomes the subject of a few other comments. These comments get all quoted and commented again. Anyone should have some email experience along those lines.

    Developing one’s comments around a few interconnected points (and letting go of everything else) just works better.

  197. Willard says:
    April 11, 2018 at 2:31 am

    “Tautologies and contradictions are empty – they say nothing, they only show something logically true or false.”

    I think it depends on how one defines the terms “say”, “tautology”, and “contradiction”.

    I like the definitions of “tautology” and “contradiction” such that they simply are truth-functional statements that are true in all their truth-functional substitution instances or false in all their truth-functional substitution instances, respectively, where the domains of these statements’ variables determine the sets of these truth-functional substitution instances. By these definitions, all mathematical theorems (including as implication statements) are tautologies in that they are such statements proved to be true in all their said substitution instances, and all mathematical axioms and postulates are also such statements simply taken to be true in all their said substitution instances. (This latter has to be the case or else the proofs – especially including proofs by contradiction – would not be proofs at all. One would not be able to use the axioms or postulates to prove such statements to be true in all their said substitution instances, keeping in mind that these proved statements either are or can be put into the form of implication statements and that their antecedents or consequents are not what are proved. Also, none of this precludes using different axioms or postulates in different contexts while treating them as tautologies, true in all their truth-functional substitution instances.)

    And I’d say that there’s at least one definition of “say” – for me, anyway – such that tautologies and contradictions can say an awful lot, have lots of very meaningful content – these axioms and theorems in mathematics, and the proofs that use them (including proofs by contradiction) say an awful lot, have lots of very meaningful content.

  198. Zebra wrote “So your comment and the one from Dikran just don’t compute for me– you sound like you think you are disagreeing with me, when you are just repeating my position.”

    No, you demonstrated quite clearly that you don’t understand what I am saying when you wrote Dikran and Willard seem attached to the concept (as are Creationists) that a Scientific theory is equivalent to a hypothesis, and so can be “falsified”. . I never said any such thing, and I know perfectly well the difference between a hypothesis and a theory and both can be falsified.

    You think we are just repeating your position, but I suspect that is confirmation bias on your part, you simply are not looking for the distinction that explains your error (e.g. ignoring the Popper quote that directly contradicted you).

    Whether this is an observational narrative or not is probably best dealt with exactly in terms of the trajectory you described earlier. The ToE evolved (heh) in Darwin’s mind and in the efforts of practitioners over time; we can’t say that Darwin observed the changes in populations directly, but the entirety of the enterprise has given us much confidence in the robustness of that particular physical model (narrative), along with a few apparent examples that we have observed over time.

    There you appear to be describing how the ToE came about, which is indeed a narrative, but that is not the ToE itself, just a story about the ToE.

  199. zebra wrote I’m always reluctant to use the term, but I think scientific theories may be a kind of “emergent” phenomenon.

    again, by focussing on how a theory comes into being, rather than what a theory is you are failing to understand why “narrative” is not a good description of what a “theory” is.

    Hence the difficulty everyone has when I ask: Ok, if ToE isn’t this collection of things that I have listed, what is it?

    Err, no. Nobody has difficulty explaining what the ToEbNS is (don’t forget the “bNS” it is important). Here is how Zebra asked the question:

    zebra says:
    April 9, 2018 at 5:38 pm
    So, instead of claiming that we disagree about definitions when we don’t, go back to the main point– if ToE isn’t the collection of “trees” as I described, what is it?

    So what is this about the ToE being a collection of “trees”? Well this is the first mention:

    zebra says:
    April 9, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    “evolution by natural selection”

    Requires the model “natural selection”.

    No forest without the trees, I think.

    Cryptic nonsense.

    zebra says:
    April 9, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    dikran,

    Note what I said above: “physical model or narrative”.

    That’s what I’m talking about. If you want to use “model” in some other way, that’s fine, just tell me what you are talking about.

    Or, do you want to quibble about “explanation” isn’t the same as “narrative”?

    No trees, no forest.

    Again cryptic nonsense (at least the bit about the trees)

    zebra says:
    April 9, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Along with other narratives– sexual selection, for example– and mathematical models, and terminology and empirical practices– it is part of the whole ToE, just like the trees that make up the forest.

    Again cyptic nonsense. If you want questions answered, don’t wrap them up in cryptic nonsense, as that tends to mean the question can’t be answered unambiguously.

  200. I should point out that I had already stated what the ToE is before Zebra asked:

    dikranmarsupial says:
    April 9, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    A theory is an explanation for something, in a Popperian sense a scientific theory is explanation that can be tested by experiment or observation (which requires it to be an explanation that can be used to make predictions). E.g. the theory of evolution by natural selection is an explanation of how we have species diversity in the natural environment.

    The key word there is “explanation” (c.f. Wikipedia “Scientific Theory”).

  201. zebra says:

    At 6:37 pm, zebra says:

    “I don’t know how many times I have said that hypothesis /= theory /= narrative or physical model.”

    Dikran, at 9:38:

    “you are failing to understand why “narrative” is not a good description of what a “theory” is.”

    Are you perhaps phasing in and out from some parallel universe where there is a different zebra?

    Instead of mining quotes from me (or Popper), why don’t you just answer the actual question in your own words: If my description of what the Theory of Evolution is is incorrect, what is the Theory of Evolution?

  202. “Are you perhaps phasing in and out from some parallel universe where there is a different zebra?”

    given that you misrepresented me when you wrote

    ” Dikran and Willard seem attached to the concept (as are Creationists) that a Scientific theory is equivalent to a hypothesis, and so can be “falsified”. “.

    and refused to acknowledge or apologize for the misrepresentation, I don’t think you are in a good position for that sort of smart-arse remark. Your have made it very clear you are just playing games.

    “Instead of mining quotes from me (or Popper),”

    O.K. so we know that you read the Popper quote, but that you are unwilling to acknowledge it directly contradicted you.

    I didn’t mine quotes from you, I just repeated what you had said to show that it was mostly cryptic nonsense, to which there was no sensible reply.

    ” why don’t you just answer the actual question in your own words: If my description of what the Theory of Evolution is is incorrect, what is the Theory of Evolution?”

    I already did, BEFORE you even asked the question, and reminded you that I had done so a couple of posts back. This suggests you are paying next to no attention to what I have written.

  203. zebra says:

    Dikran,

    What distinguishes ToE from all other “explanations” in the universe?

    I’ll answer, because I don’t think you will. It is the particular physical models (narratives) like natural selection and sexual selection, and the mathematical models, like DNA analysis, and the terminology/definitions, and the empirical practices, that make it up. Exactly as I said right at the beginning.

    So, you are just going in circles. The narrative of natural selection is a part of ToE, just like a tree is part of a forest. If this is too difficult a concept for you to grasp, I don’t know how to make it any more clear. It’s hardly “cryptic”.

  204. zebra fails to acknowledge the misrepresentation AGAIN. Zebra fails to acknowledge that the Popper quote directly contradicted him AGAIN. Zebra fails to acknowledge that I had explained what the ToE is AGAIN.

    “physical models (narratives)”

    physical models are not “narratives”.

  205. BBD says:

    More vintage zebra.

  206. zebra says:

    Dikran,

    I like this blog because, as Mal says, there are some smart people here– who can make good coherent arguments. But more so, because I thought it was an escape from ranting, shouting, and personal ill will. If anyone who has demonstrated the ability to maintain some decorum wishes to continue the discussion, I will continue– although I believe most of those don’t think there’s any meaningful debate here. It only really matters, as I said to ATTP, in the context of dealing with the misrepresentations of Creationists and Denialists.

  207. “If anyone who has demonstrated the ability to maintain some decorum wishes to continue the discussion, ”

    refusing to acknowledge that the Popper quote contradicted the point you had made is hardly “decorum”. Likening Willard and I to Creationists is not decorum. “Are you perhaps phasing in and out from some parallel universe where there is a different zebra?” is not my idea of decorum. If there is any ill-will here, it started with you, not me.

    I see nothing indecorous in not allowing you to get away with not acknowledging things that contradict your position.

  208. I’ll make a general comment. In my experience, active researchers (in astrophysics, at least) are often not too bothered about precise terminology. What’s more important is to explain things in a way that is clear to the audience. That’s not to say that they would happily use the wrong terminology, but it’s unlikely that you’ll find people arguing about precisely what some term means.

  209. ATTP good point. Ironic given I started out with

  210. [oops, accidentally hit the wrong key or something] …

    English (as I suspect most human languages) is ambiguous, model could be used to describe part of a theory (e.g. the “standard model” of particle physics), but that is not a model in the sense a climate model is a model. I think the former usage is rather rare though. There comes a point where common sense and asking questions and answering them in a straightforward manner is going to be more productive that insisting on the removal of ambiguity – it just isn’t how our brains work. In general, I would say “Scientific theories, as I understand them, consist of models is incorrect, models are implementations/interpretations of theories (or applications of theories to particular systems), but not the theories themselves.”

  211. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    Challenge already met, Mal.

    Well, I can’t see how you’d done that at your link. If you’re stating that Wittgenstein said something new, I’m skeptical he was the first to express the ideas in the Tractatus, i.e. they are not a paraphrase or restatement of adaptive knowledge long since entered in the global cultural repository. It would be hard to prove otherwise, no? Hold that thought for now, please.

    I could also add that the Tractatus‘ semantics is quite thin.

    I’ll buy that, and now it’s time for me to confess I have not, in fact, read it even in English. I’ve been exposed to it second and third hand, in print and conversation, beginning in the doctoral program. I had understood

    what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.

    to ‘mean’:

    “no statement of knowledge about the phenomenal world is epistemically justified unless it can be expressed as a formal calculus; otherwise we can’t speak with confidence, so why speak at all?”

    The necessary inference is that there’s really very little we can justify knowing, and therefore speaking of (“so STFU”, in modern vernacular). Am I getting that all wrong?

  212. Willard says:

    Mal,

    The Tractatus’ fall is stronger than you may presume. It presumes that anything that can’t be said by way of propositions about the world (states of affairs) or shown by syntax alone is meaningless. This implies at least two very tough things to accept.

    First, we must reject judgments that are not assertoric as meaningless. This excludes suggestions like “STFU” or rhetorical questions such as “why speak at all” – they are neither propositions, nor logical relations between propositions. While this may be good enough to give us truth tables (my main takeway from that book), this model sucks to no end to represent how language works.

    Second, we must reject any field of enquiry that contains aesthetic, ethical or even methodological statements as bordering on meaninglessness. This includes the Tractatus’ fall itself, all of our exchanges, and most of what scientists so far produced. If your model of science is a set of empirical statements interconnected with some propositional logic, you’re missing out all the good stuff, starting with the elements within these propositions like ravens and blackness.

    All states of affairs and no play makes Ludwig a dull boy.

    The demarcation between sense and nonsense is as silly as the demarcation between falsifiability and infalsifiability. As stoopid modulz of science, they had their uses. Perhaps they still have. But they’re Very Wrong.

  213. Willard says:

  214. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    Second, we must reject any field of enquiry that contains aesthetic, ethical or even methodological statements as bordering on meaninglessness. This includes the Tractatus’ fall itself, all of our exchanges, and most of what scientists so far produced. If your model of science is a set of empirical statements interconnected with some propositional logic, you’re missing out all the good stuff, starting with the elements within these propositions like ravens and blackness.

    The demarcation between sense and nonsense is as silly as the demarcation between falsifiability and infalsifiability. As stoopid modulz of science, they had their uses. Perhaps they still have. But they’re Very Wrong.

    OK, it sounds like you support the meaning I assigned to “what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.“. Your assessment above expresses my ‘reflexive’ or ‘intuitive’ reaction quite well, I think. Paraphrasing D. Dennett again, “in theory you can’t know anything, but in practice you can.” It’s confirmed by the accumulation of petabytes of ‘objective’ knowledge that’s both useful, and sufficiently justified, to enable today’s global human population.

    Can’t resist another quote ;^):

    There really isn’t anything to philosophy. Did you ever eat that cotton candy they sell at fairs? Well, philosophy is like that — it looks as if were really something, and it’s awfully pretty, and it tastes sweet, but when you go to bite it you can’t get your teeth into it, and when you try to swallow, there isn’t anything there.

    -RA Heinlein.

  215. izen says:

    Wittgenstein sails dangerously close to defining the sound of one hand clapping.

    There are apocryphal and probably inaccurate stories that Wittgenstein and Turing were aware of each others work.
    It is certainly possible that Turing could have attended some Wittgenstein lectures. But no good evidence that he did.

    There are rumours that Turing claimed not to understand Wittgenstein.

    Wittgenstein had a low opinion of pure math and the theoretical aspects of the Hilbert program.
    He is said to have expressed the opinion that applied mathematics was useful in building bridges that would not fall down. But trying to find a logical foundation for number theory, or developing methods to determine whether complex functions were computable, was unlikely to provide any meaningful philosophical insight.
    And was certainly never going to be of any empirical or practical application.

  216. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Tractatus Fuselagico-Umbilicus

    1. The world is full of stuff.

    2. Stuff comes in different shapes and sizes.

    3. Whacking great chunks of stuff are made from itty bits of stuff. Itty bits come in different shapes and sizes.

    4. Possibility consists in the fact that a rhinoceros can be stuffed under the table. Russell can stuff it.
    4.1 Nobody ever saw an itty bit.
    4.2 Stuff is all over. Everything comes in different shapes and sizes.
    4.3 The present King of France isn’t stuffy.
    4.31 (Psychology is really just a lot of crap.)

    5. 2 B V 0 2 B: that is the question.
    5.1 Logic is whacking great.

    6. A wet bird does not fly at night. (This is the meaning of life.)

    7.

  217. Willard says:

    > OK, it sounds like you support the meaning I assigned to “what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.“

    Not really, but I am about to wash my hands over this exchange.

    It’s quite possible to accept that a model amounts to scrutinizing the semantics of a scientific language without endorsing logical atomism.

  218. Michael 2 says:

    Mal Adapted asks: “How can it be, I plaintively ask, that truculent AGW-deniers, happy to be wrong as long as they’re sure, dominate the US Congress 122 years after Arrhenius published?”

    The answers are many. I suspect most have not considered Arrhenius; more likely they have considered Patrick Henry; minus the death part.

  219. Mal Adapted says:

    M2:

    I suspect most have not considered Arrhenius; more likely they have considered Patrick Henry; minus the death part.

    Minus the liberty part too. “Give me Librium®, or give me meth!” (To which Arrhenius might reply, “Better living through Chemistry!”)

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