Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

The illusion of debate

Adams makes the case that the climate change debate is way off track:

Rex is talking about climate models that predict the future. Chelsea is talking about the scientific method. Those two things are not the same topic. Scientists would not claim that their models are “science.” They are simply tools that scientists built. Rex is talking about tools. Chelsea is talking about the scientific method. You can’t reach agreement if you aren’t even on the same topic.
Chelsea’s tweet exchange is representative of the debate illusion around the country. It goes like this:

Believer: Climate scientists are correct because the scientific method is reliable over time, thanks to peer review. The experts are overwhelmingly on the same side.

Skeptic: The prediction models are not credible because prediction models with that much complexity are rarely correct.

Believer: You troglodyte! You know nothing of science! The scientific method is credible!

See what happened? The believer was discussing science and the skeptic was NOT discussing science. These are different conversations. The prediction models are designed by scientists, but they are not “science” per se, any more than a microscope is “science.” Both are just tools that scientists use.

If you are a climate skeptic, and you want to make your case in the strongest possible way, start by agreeing with all of the “science” of climate science. Make sure you specify that your skepticism is outside the scientific realm, and limited to the prediction models that are not science.

That will explode some heads. (I’ve tested this.)

I should pause here to tell any new readers of this blog that I don’t know the truth about climate science, and I don’t have any way of knowing whether the models are accurate or not. My interest in this debate is to get both sides out of their illusions. The science is not the models, and the models are not science. You can trust the science and still question the prediction models without being a troglodyte.

For the sake of completeness, some skeptics also point to alternative hypotheses for warming, including orbital variations and solar flares. That is a genuine case of science versus science. And at the moment, the scientific community has a strong preference for the Co2 explanation.

Now that I’ve outlined the illusion, watch how often you see it play out. It’s the sort of thing you don’t notice until you are first alerted to it. Now you’ll start to notice how often the Chelseas of the world conflate the science of climate change with the prediction models as if they have similar credibility.

The models are bunk; they’re based on necessarily incomplete knowledge about an ecosphere which we only have the merest rudiments of grasping, the entirety of which is currently far beyond our reach. We don’t have anything like complete knowledge of how it functions, how each part influences the whole, and we maybe never will; ergo, the models will always leave data out that will turn out to have impact in ways we simply cannot understand.

Worse, the Climate Change (formerly Global Warming, formerly Global Cooling, formerly “the weather”) community of “scientists” has betrayed the principles of true science in two ways, both important but one of which fundamentally undermines their credibility almost completely. For one, they’re heavily politicized, and dependent on government funding for their research and salaries. Since the evident aims of the Global Warmening crowd are at base political—their solution to both global warming AND global cooling has always been the exact same thing: more redistribution of wealth and government control of the economy—rather than simply establishing observable and verifiable facts about the level of human influence, if any, on our planetary ecology…well, I shouldn’t have to draw anybody a picture of the reliability of their conclusions and the “research” supporting it.

The description of them as “watermelons” (Green on the outside, Red on the inside) remains as apt as ever.

Worse, though, is the fact that skepticism and open debate is the very foundation of the scientific method; when anybody tells you “the science is settled”—a means not of furthering debate, but of suppressing it—you can be sure right away that they’re not talking about or even interested in science at all. True science is hardly ever entirely settled; skepticism before all the facts are in is not only healthy, it’s vital. Plenty of “settled” science has been tossed out by further experimentation encompassing more recent and complete knowledge, previously nonexistent methods and equipment, and such-like.

It amuses the hell out of me when these people sniffily talk about our sure knowledge that the earth is not in fact flat as some sort of support for their argument; back when that debate was being conducted, they would have been firmly on the side of those who claimed it was flat. The science to that point was indeed “settled”; those who argued against it were derided as crackpots and lunatics. It was only after direct observation and confirmation by experimentation that our knowledge about the nature of the globe was confirmed. Unexpectedly, for most people, including the overwhelming majority of that era’s scientific community—not that THAT has an at-all-familiar ring to it.

And we have no such confirmation of man-made global warming, cooling, what the hell ever, now. All we really have are computer simulations that are based on incomplete data; a hatful of past predictions about future weather patterns that have turned out to be wrong every single time; and current predictions that are conveniently centuries—even millennia—off, and therefore by nature nothing more than wild-ass speculation, at best only half-educated guesses presenting no real risk of humiliating debunking to those making them, since they’ll all have long since become worm food.

In the shoolkid legend of Christopher Columbus (which isn’t exactly accurate, by the way; Eratosthenes, Ptolemy, and the longstanding use of celestial navigation all argue against it), he risked not just his belief in a spherical planet and the possible loss of prestige and position should he be wrong; he put his very life on the line proving it. That would make him not just a far more honorable man than our present-day Flat Earthers; it makes him way more of a scientist than they’ll ever be, too.

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2 thoughts on “The illusion of debate

  1. The “global warming / climate change” kerfuffle is also an illuminating example of how the Left has turned “science” — politically only, I hasten to add — into a kind of cargo cult. Leftists have promoted white coats, glassware, computers, and (above all) research grants as “science,” completely omitting (and often deliberately obscuring) the principles of the scientific method. They demand that we not question the pronouncements of those it has venerated as its scientific authorities, even by citing legitimate, highly accomplished scientists who hold other opinions. Helmut Schoeck coined a term for this: scientism, a quasi-religious belief system founded upon the dead trappings of a discipline in no way connected to those beliefs.

    Too many ordinary Americans accept Leftist scientism as true science. It has cost us heavily and will continue to do so.

  2. ANY scientific discussion that involves accurately deriving the average current temperature of an entire planet to a fraction of a degree, never mind decades or centuries ago, is going to have some problems right at the beginning.

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