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Climate Crisis — 70 Comments

  1. I am closing this to further comments. Too much Ad hominem (I am probably guilty of that myself! Live and learn…). If you want to continue this discussion, start you own blog…

  2. Pat:

    What an utter and total distortion of what I said anywhere about science. Where once did I intimate that science should lie? What are your ideological driven motives that you would suggest the same?

    Let me ask you point blank about the following:

    Are observed CO2 levels rising in the atmosphere? Are the Keeling data accurate?

    Is there anything wrong with the data that shows we are now spewing 8 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere right?

    Are the data concerning the observed rise in global temperature accurate (you said that they were in your article)?

    So, as you point out correctly in your article, we have a correlation of known facts. And yes we shouldn’t assume causation from that. But at the very least, as reasoned thinkers, shouldn’t we entertain the fact that our actions might be one of the causal factors? Can you bold-faced argue that you know for sure that we aren’t contributing to global fever? If you say, “yes” to that one, you my friend are distorting the facts to suit your agenda. Because, as you rightly point out in your article, scientists are not sure at present.

    Given these facts, “naysayers” have the larger ethical issue to contend with. By distorting the data and the state of current knowledge and suggesting that, “Houston, we don’t have a problem and thereby leading public policy into a position of “do-nothing till you hear from me” you might be exacerbating what most researchers in the field agree is a serious problem threatening our survival.

    Aren’t you in the least curious to see how the experiment might turn out, if we attempted to find cleaner sources of energy, thereby halting the progress of CO2 emissions? And aren’t you curious to see whether, in time, we could lower the global fever? Or are you firmly wedded to your current position that there is nothing to worry about and that all the hype is nothing more than a hoax perpetrated by the greens (socialists?)? Despite your stance on the sanctity of your scientific motives, that would be most unscientific of you.

    Barry

  3. Barry, you wrote (August 3, 2008 at 6:26 am), “How is agreeing that we have a problem in our production and use of non-sustainable energy and that while we don’t have all the answers, a modification of our behaviour is likely in order a misuse of science?

    But that wasn’t what you were suggesting, Barry. When you wrote this …

    “I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that investing time and energy going down the wrong line of investigation is a waste of time and resources. I am unclear, however, what the difference would mean in behaviour change should we decide that the planet is warming and/or that the planet is being polluted (and you haven’t argued that we aren’t having an impact on the quality of air and water globally). The strategy for change would be the same…

    … you were suggesting that raising a false alarm about CO2 would be a good thing because it would induce changes we should be making anyway.

    That is wrong on two levels, ethical and programmatic. The ethical problem is twofold. First, your method seriously corrodes the integrity of science. You’re suggesting that scientists lie about a problem with CO2 in order to induce the population to sustainability. Once scientific integrity is gone, how do we get it back? After all, if scientists can lie about your agenda, why can’t they lie about another’s? We’ve all gotten wroth about George Bush’s government attempting to jigger the science about abortion. But they are presumably just as sincere about their ends as you are. So, how do you justify your lies and not yield the ethical ground to them as well? And how will you convince the population the second time around, if there is a real crisis, that this time, you’re not lying?

    We’ve seen time-after-time that large-scale disputes involve science — about silicone breast implants and disease, about vaccines and autism, about abortion and later fertility, yes, about smoking and cancer, evolution and creation, and on and on. If scientists are caught lying about CO2 and climate, and the integrity of science has been hijacked, how will such critically important disputes be adjudicated?

    Second, is you’re proposing that lies are acceptable in service of the greater good. But what is the greater good? Who decides? Your method is exactly that ends justify means. And if you argue that in your particular case this tactic is justifiable, that excuse rests entirely on your subjective judgment that the outcome of the lies will be as you predict they will be. But there are always unexpected consequences, and your powers of prediction are unlikely to be correct because the wrong answers greatly outnumber the right ones. Further, actions taken in the context of an untruth are hardly likely to be the correct actions for a real problem with decidedly different parametric solutions.

    The programmatic problem is that reducing CO2 emissions, apart from reducing coal burning, will have very little impact on pollution abatement. Burning oil, gasoline, and natural gas is not especially problematic because the sulfur and the NOx are already removed from the exhaust stream. Instead, large amounts of money will be spent on expensive alternative energies with their own environmental problems (conveniently overlooked presently), and on sequestering CO2. These will remove the surplus prosperity that could have been used to abate real pollution.

    And so as I see it, your ends justifying means approach is actively destructive, both to our civil society and to the global ecology.

    You wrote, “And where are you going with the conclusion that this reasoned position leads the horrors of Nazism? This seems to be the height of fear-mongering.

    I didn’t write that, Barry. I wrote that ends justifying means is the method of ideologies, including Nazism and Socialism. Here’s what I wrote, “The rights of the proletariat was the end that justified the peacetime murder of about 150 million people during the 20th century. Not to mention the torture of millions more in gulags. Nazism was horrid and Socialism, if anything, was worse. Both were ideologies, and in both ends justified means.

    So, it’s not that ends justifying means leads to Nazism, it’s that ideologies always use ends justifies means. Ideologies always provide all the justification for any means to self-aggrandizement.

    A second response to your sentence above is that your position is not reasoned. It’s merely justified.

    You wrote, “We can make good decisions in the absence of all the facts and we can be cognisant that we aren’t being swayed by destructive ideologies. You raise here a straw man argument at best.

    We can indeed make decisions absent all the facts. We cannot, however make good decisions absent any good reason. Even if a given decision turns out to be correct, it will have been so on the same grounds someone makes the correct decision to buy some particular lottery number. Fortunate happenstance.

    You’ve ignored the point about the relict Medieval forests, Barry. You’ve ignored that Roman-age artifacts are now found at the edges of some Alpine glaciers.

    U. E. Joerin, et al. (2006) “Multicentury glacier fluctuations in the Swiss Alps during the Holocene” The Holocene, 16, 697-704

    Partial Abstract: “Subfossil remains of wood and peat from six Swiss glaciers found in proglacial fluvial sediments indicate that glaciers were smaller than the 1985 reference level and climatic conditions allowed vegetation growth in now glaciated basins. An extended data set of Swiss glacier recessions consisting of 143 radiocarbon dates is presented to improve the chronology of glacier fluctuations. A comparison with other archives and dated glacier advances suggests 12 major recession periods occurring at 9850- 9600, 9300-8650, 8550-8050, 7700-7550, 7450-6550, 6150-5950, 5700-5500, 5200-4400, 4300-3400, 2800-2700, 2150-1850, 1400-1200 cal. yr BP.

    Those last two date ranges encompass Roman and the Medieval times.

    You’ve ignored that climate models have been tested and found unable to reproduce Earth climate. How is your position reasoned?

  4. Pat:

    I have looked at your rather long entry above, and while I am not going to respond to each and every item, I will provide some comments on points that I think you’ve got it wrong.

    My suspicion of your motives in presenting a thoroughly confusing article on climate change, in a popular general circulation magazine, was nothing more than my built in cheater-detection mechanism going off. Perhaps not scientific, but their it is. I wanted to know the answer to a basic question; when so many agree in the general trend within the science, why does someone disagree?

    Some possibilties:

    1. They are a paid informant – someone is paying for a favourable opinion. And it’s not like this doesn’t happen in this field on a regular basis.

    2. The person has really found something here. I didn’t reject this possibility in looking at the argument, seems reasonable that the model might be inaccurate. I’ve reserved judgement on this one (my son is in the earth science program at Waterloo so I’ll pass the article along to some of his profs who are studying climate change to get their opinions). I rejected, however the claims being made on the findings; that is that the whole of the body of findings needs to be discarded as junk science. How did we get here from there? More reasonable is the position that maybe the paradigm needs to be corrected and the models re-tested.

    3. The person is really committed to being right. This too is a problem for us humans. You’ve levelled this one my way a few times in this discussion – the old ideology argument.

    4. The person has some cognitive or psychological difficulties that make it difficult for them to test reality. This one is not likely at issue in this case.

    Pat, I asked you a fair question given the nature of your article, its complexity and the sweeping conclusions being made. I want to know if you were being funded to write the paper. Your refusal to answer, rather than provide a straight answer, got my suspicions raised even further. Had you said Exxon, I think it would have meant people would have to be more cautious about the conclusions being drawn in the article. I know that you’ve said that isn’t very scientific thinking, but there’s where you are mistaken. This type of evaluation of data is entirely within the reasonable approach for lay-people suggested by Carl Sagan in his Baloney Detection Kit – know the sources and is there corrobaration.

    Inductive versus deductive reasoning

    Inductive reasoning: we start with observations and build hypotheses. From specific instances we infer trends and general principles. Since Carl Popper this approach has gotten a bad rap, but it is still acceptable a one approach of many to many scientists.

    Deductive reasoning: we start with a hypothesis and look for a test that can falsify it. If the data falsify it, then the hypothesis is incorrect and, therefore, can be rejected.

    There is nothing wrong inherently in using inductive reasoning as one of the approaches. It only becomes a problem when you don’t do deduction as well. Your criticism of my approach as inductive, is just name calling. I know you’ll say you didn’t call me these things that you were just labelling the behaviour etc. But there is a tacit implication being made in the way you bandy these things around.

    Pat, you have suggested quite frequently here that by drawing the conclusion that increased CO2 production, observed climactic changes and observed ecological events (ice-caps melting etc.) are anthropogenic, people are being ideological. Can you explain why with the same set of observations, your conclusion that global warming is NOT due to our use of fossil fuels, is not also an ideological stance? I would argue that it is even more ideological than the conclusion of most climate researchers. It is a view that is being held DESPITE the evidence.

    You seem to hold the ideological belief that climate researchers who hold the view that global warming is man-made are chicken-littles, that they are misleading us or that they have ulterior “green” (socialist?) motives. I know you haven’t come right out and said that in so-many words, but the feeling tone of what you write is that you think there is some large scale deception going on.

    By the way, your off-hand characterization of Saul’s work as , “fatuous sociological cherry-picking” is contemptuous. I tried to convey some of the thesis of a 300 page book and I perhaps didn’t do it as well as I might in two paragraphs. He would agree with you that ideology keeps us from being clear-sighted, he further observed that corporatism is the new ideology and I can assure you he has a firm grip history through his study of the classics.

    Now, I really have to get back to cleaning the garage before my wife gets home. And let me head off a criticism that is likely to come my way sooner or later. My field of study is psychology and I almost reacted to the “sociological cherry-picking” personally. I know you folks in the so-called “hard-sciences” like to look down on us in the social scientists. But I’m hardened to it, my son the earth scientist daily likes to remind me that what I study is”pseudoscience”.

    Barry

  5. Pat:

    What’s this need about correcting people’s grammar in blog posts all about?

    You have written quite a bit of stuff here. I don’t have time to reply in detail to it. Your article has provided the impetus to do a lot more reading on the subject, so I thank you for that. In the scheme of things, though, I’ll be surprised if Pat Franks’ article in Skeptic magazine will make much of a dint in the climate science community – for the most part I suspect they are quite aware of the limits of their methods. That is not to say that the science is junk-science, only that there are methodological problems in any science.

    I think we have gotten off track here so let me review some of the observations in climate science that are causing people to be a tad concerned about that state of planet earth.

    Observed Climate Changes:

    1. Greater number of warm spells (heat waves) in N.A. since 1950.
    2. Fewer cold spells in last 10 years since records have been kept.
    3. Increased numbers of severe amounts of precipitation in recent decades.
    4. Regional droughts on the rise throughout N.A.
    5. Substantial increases in the number and intensity of tropical storm activity – increased sea temperature the likely cause
    6. Northward shift in the tracks of strong low-pressure areas over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. (This trend is covered well in Calvin’s book and indicates that global warming is shifting the patterns of ocean currents.)
    7. More extreme height of waves in Atlantic and Pacific oceans, likely due to increased severity of storms.

    Major Indicators of Global warming:

    1. The average observed surface temperature of the earth (measured on land and sea) has increased by 0.6 in 20th century.
    2. 20th century likely the warmest century in 1000 years.
    3. Temperatures have risen more rapidly in last 8 km of the atmosphere (where you’d expect to find greenhouse effect and not greater sun intensity as the likely causal factor).
    4. Global snow and ice cover has decreased substantially in past substantially (both alpine and polar ice decreases) since the 1960’s
    5. Increase in sea levels by .1 and .2 meters in 20th century.

    Increased of CO2 emissions

    1. Rise from 312 ppm in 1958 to 375 ppm in 2005. That is a 20% increase in 4 decades. The data comes from Dave Keeling’s research at Mona Loa. It’s referred to as the Keeling curve and is a well documented finding. To suggest that a) the CO2 rise is “natural” and that it has nothing to do with man’s activity and that it won’t likely result in global rises in temperature is to run counter to the established theory of greenhouse warming. Simply put, you increase the levels of CO2 (or any greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere and you will heat things up.

    2. Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels have increased exponentially between 1850 and the start of the 21st century (see Marland, G., T.A. Boden, and R. J. Andres. 2007. The increase is from near zero in 1800 to 8 billion metric ton in 2004, with the biggest rate of increase occurring since 1950. This just happens to coincide with some of the climate changes noted above. It’s frankly absolute nonsense to suggest that there isn’t a link here and that it doesn’t need to be taken very seriously.

    3. It is here where Pat’s observations about the model of temperature change have some relevance. One of the approaches that has been taken in the field is to effect a comparison between various data projections. What would the trend line look like with or without man’s contribution (after all us pumping 8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year may indeed be trivial). The findings of the modelling have shown that the best fit model is that the rising of the earth’s temperature is best predicted when man’s contribution is left in the equation. Pat I think that what you are saying is that the models confuse precision with accuracy and that we should therefore reject the findings out of hand. But I think that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    We still have the observed man-made production of 8 billion metric tons of CO2 per year to account for, and we still have various climactic and ecological changes happening that are changing the balances of which life on the planet depends. Imply that I’m an ancient if you like, but at a crime scene like this, I’m going to start my investigation with the guy with the carbon stained hands. Yes, your observations about the model are important and we need to correct the methodology, but we don’t abandon the investigation when we have a prime suspect in the room.

    Barry

  6. Re: Barry, August 2, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Barry, you wrote, “I’m sorry that you have taken offence with my remarks.

    I didn’t take offense, Barry. You have no personal knowledge of me and so your personal disparagements are groundless. I was dismayed that after so much conversation, you would end at your start position, namely with an unfair and prejudicial claim that my conscious intent is to obscure.

    My intent was to look as rationally as I could the issues being presented through the articles in Skeptic magazine.

    Was it? Then how did you end with an irrational view of my intentions? And on what rational grounds did you maintain it after our conversation here? In your first post, you wrote that you understood the “argument about accuracy and precision” in my Skeptic article. If you understood that, then you should have understood that the IPCC is misrepresenting precision as accuracy. And that didn’t give you rational pause?

    (By the way, I have corrected the name to “Center” from “Project”.)

    The grammatical errors are still there, though.

    You wrote, “To be honest, I think that both your article and Calvin’s article fail in that they are written by people who are not experts in the field being reported on…

    I can’t speak for Calvin, of course, but my article was on error analysis, not on climate science as your argument would require. I am quite qualified to write something on sources of error and their magnitude. Virtually all scientists would be so-qualified.

    …and neither of the articles were accepted for publication through peer review.

    Did you read the Acknowledgments? It lists all the people who volunteered to review the article prior to submission. At least five of them were highly qualified professionals; three of them were climate physicists. Not only that, but Skeptic sent the article to two further climate scientists who reviewed the article prior to a decision for acceptance. I was required to produce a detailed response to their comments, and did so. The Skeptic article was as well peer-reviewed as most articles published in science journals.

    …In Calvin’s article, however, there has been some attempt to review data presented by scientists who are experts in the field.

    It’s an involuntary irony you should write that, given the extensive references to the climate science literature in both my article and in the SI. Look again. Was that selective blindness an indication of your rational intent?

    You wrote, “I have maintained in this discussion from the outset that I have not been convinced that whether the models of global warming are accurate or not makes much of a difference on the ground.

    I know. You make complex conclusions based on inductive generalization. Just as the ancients decided that the sun rotated around Earth, because, after all, it ineluctably floated across the sky. The moon, too. And the planets, and the whole universe.

    But science doesn’t work like that. In science, evidence takes its meaning only from a falsifiable theory. I’ve pointed that out to you several times. It’s not a mistake, and it’s not a triviality. It’s the central part of the methodology. And you continually ignore it, presumably because it’s so easy to grasp the linear trend of CO2 and temperature (except, of course, that this so-compelling trend has been missing in action for 10 years now).

    The entire basis to suppose excess CO2 is dangerously warming the climate rests on climate models. But if climate models are unreliable then there is no reason to suppose they are right in making that connection. And if there is nothing in the observable behavior of Earth climate to suppose that anything untoward is presently happening, then your entire alarm is empty.

    Your position is indistinguishable from chicken-littlism, Barry. It has no rational merit.

    Direct observations of what is happening to things in the real world are much more relevant to what, in practice, needs to happen.

    And how do you interpret what is happening by “direct observations“? Is preferential assignment by Barry Cull sufficient? Because that’s all it is, Barry.

    You have called this an ideological view and quite frankly I think this is patently unfair.

    That’s a mischaracterization. I reacted to this, in your previous post: “I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that investing time and energy going down the wrong line of investigation is a waste of time and resources. I am unclear, however, what the difference would mean in behaviour change …The strategy for change would be the same,…

    I called that an ends justifies means view, and so it is. And then I pointed out that ends justifying means is typical of ideologies. I didn’t write your inductivism is ideological. I didn’t even write that your views were ideological. I wrote that your implicit ends justify means argument is one that is used by the ideological. Please be more careful.

    And by the way, the strategy of removing CO2 will not be the same as a clean-up of pollution. The former will involve sequestering CO2, which will be enormously expensive, it will involve forced emission reductions, which will be impoverishing, and it will involve cap-and-trade which will reward inefficient economies and enrich the financial class. None of these are calculated to do anything to abate pollution, and we already know that poverty exacerbates both pollution and population.

    There is little controversy that glacial ice is melting both in the alpine and polar regions of the world, weather patterns are becoming more erratic and the biosphere is losing species at an alarming rate.

    If that’s due to warming, and the warming isn’t due to human-produced CO2, then what should be done about it? And, of course, we have it on good grounds from your fiat judgment of the meaning of direct observations that the warming is due to human-produced CO2. Does it worry you at all that glaciers melted back during the Roman Warm Period, too? In the Alps, at least as far back as they are now; perhaps more. In the Andes as well. And we’ve already been over the relict Medieval forests in the Canadian Far North. Presumably, that knowledge doesn’t bear your rational consideration.

    This isn’t ideology, it is observable and it is really happening.

    Ideology shows up in the interpretation, not in the facts. How are you coming to a judgment that human-produced CO2 is causing these facts?

    In addition to these things, the amount of CO2 production has increased because of global levels of industrialization. We know that increased CO2 levels result in more heat energy being trapped within the atmosphere.

    Do we know that? How do we know that? How do you know that the energy produced by CO2 radiant absorption won’t show up in more energetic turbulence and convective heat loss to space? How do you know it won’t show up in a slightly more vigorous tropical precipitation? How do you know it won’t induce slightly greater cloud cover?

    Are we 100% certain that all of the rise in global warming is due to man’s activity? No. Are we reasonably certain that at least some of it is and that by reducing our dependence on Big Oil and Gas we can stabilize and perhaps reduce some of the delirious effects? Yes.

    That last is also “No,” Barry. Here’s an expert view for you: D. H. Douglass, et al. (2007) “A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions” International Journal of Climatology 10.1002/joc 1-9

    They tested the predictions of 22 state-of-the-art climate models, looking for the predicted signature of AGW in the tropical atmosphere. Here’s a bit of their conclusion: “We have tested the proposition that greenhouse model simulations and trend observations can be reconciled. Our conclusion is that the present evidence, with the application of a robust statistical test, supports rejection of this proposition. … [T]he models are seen to disagree with the observations. We suggest, therefore, that projections of future climate based on these models be viewed with much caution.

    Did you notice that sentence? “The models are seen to disagree with the observations.” So the models that predict human-caused global warming predict things that are not observed. You’re the “direct observations” guy. What now? Believe anyway?

    Here’s another one: D. Koutsoyiannis, et al. (2008) “On the credibility of climate predictions” Hydrological Sciences–Journal–des Sciences Hydrologiques, 53(4) 671-685. This, from their abstract: “Here we compare the output of various models to temperature and precipitation observations from eight stations with long (over 100 years) records from around the globe. The results show that models perform poorly, even at a climatic (30-year) scale. Thus local model projections cannot be credible, whereas a common argument that models can perform better at larger spatial scales is unsupported.

    That is, climate models are unreliable. They are unable to say that human-produced CO2 will do anything noticeable to climate. They are unable to predict the evolution of climate. Climate is not well understood and the relatively small energy inputs from increased CO2 could go somewhere else than in temperature. And in fact, there is nothing particularly anomalous going on with Earth climate. That means there is no objective basis whatever for your claims about human-caused climate warming, for Al Gore’s claims, or for the alarmist bugling from the IPCC and its allied scientists.

    You wrote, “Where we perhaps disagree Pat, is on the value of science as an endeavour.

    Science is your only hope to objectively establish your claim about CO2 and climate, Barry. If you disparage it, you’re left with nothing except personal subjective opinion. Is your personal opinion meritorious enough to change the course of civilization?

    I think the matter is taken up well by Ricard and Thuan in their book “The Quantum and the Lotus”. In discussing the relationship between the scientific and the Buddhist world views, the authors point out that our understanding of the world is enhanced through the application of the scientific method. Ricard, the Buddhist philosopher, brings the question of what we know back the central question of how it serves our ability to improve the quality of our lives. Using scientific data in a way that insists that we must be 100% certain before we act may ultimately make us more sure of what we know, but if we fail to act in a crisis of global proportions, how has it served us?

    Sorry to say, that argument is a red herring. The central issue is that science never claims 100% certainty in anything, including in factual truths. Hence reported uncertainty limits. And if there is a crisis of global proportions, what good does it do to close off debate about the cause through an insistent ignorance? That’s what’s going on with respect to AGW. No one knows but many, including you, have jumped to an insupportable conclusion. And willy-nilly, you’re so sure of your mongered conclusion that any polemical excess is enmoralized in pursuit of your end.

    In other news, in every venue including the opportunity for creative introspection and the production of humane values, science has improved the quality of our lives better than has any religion, including Buddhism, and the religions had a several thousand year head-start.

    You wrote, “And Pat I agree with you that unwavering adherence to ideology is dangerous.

    I’m glad to read that. So, explain to me again how it is that after our long conversation, and my attempts to clarify the analysis for you, you ended up concluding that my conscious intent is to obscure and confuse? Was it not-ideology that induced your not-change of mind?

    A number of years ago there was a wonderful book written by John Ralston Saul called “The Unconscious Civilization”. The central theme in the book is that as a society we no longer foster disinterested observers (perhaps one of the philosophical trends in the “enlightenment” that led to the creation of universities). In fact, Ralston Saul argues that the ideology of “corporatism” has made disinterest a hard philosophical position to take. Big corporations have big interests at the heart of all decisions that they make. I’m not suggesting a conspiracy here by the way, people within the corporations may indeed have the best of motives in mind – the fact is the survival of the corporate entity just takes over. Corporatism, it is pointed out, makes it nearly impossible for us to make decisions that are in the public good. We can choose between Pepsi and Coke, but are unconscious to the decisions that really matter in our lives.

    Corporations, in the sense you and John Ralson Saul apparently mean, are merely human organizations motivated by a common economic agenda. But corporations are much broader than economics. They are any group of people organized to a common agenda. Armies are incorporations. So are Temple-states. So is Greenpeace. So was the Roman Senate. So is the Roman Catholic Church. So is Iran’s Mullahcracy. Every single organized human group with a specific group-end is a corporation. Every single one of them works for self-preservation. Every one of them rewards group-think. All of them corporately put public good second to their own survival.

    Modern economic corporations are bringing nothing socially new to modern life, except the increased efficiency of advertising and mass communication. But every ancient stele boasting of the glory and conquests of King Ishblah carried the same intent, less efficiently done.

    Corporations don’t control people’s thinking, no matter that they try. Most people act in their own perceived best interest. They always have and always will — so long as Earth is populated by wild-type humans. Frankly, Saul’s thesis, presuming you have conveyed it accurately, is mostly fatuous sociological cherry-picking. It’s as though human organizational history didn’t exist.

    You wrote, “There is another ideology that is problematic, I think. Let’s call it the ideology of scientism.

    Here we go. I could see that coming.

    The basic ideology here is that somehow science can be applied to all areas of our understanding.

    Just for fun, apart from your own personal experience, relate to me some understanding you have and can communicate without benefit of science.

    This is, of course, just not so – there are things that are unknowable,…

    Are you telling me that you have an inventory of all that is knowable, and can pronounce about what is out of bounds? Because that’s what your assertion means. To suppose that some things are unknowable is to claim to know the intrinsic bounds of knowledge. But no one can know that. No one can know even if such a possibility exists.

    for example, how did the universe get here?

    Suppose I answered that I don’t know. Would that indicate such knowledge is forever unattainable? More generally, at what level can ignorance be said to be irremediable? As we are always speaking from ignorance concerning what we do not yet know, how is it possible to claim that further knowledge concerning those things is forever unattainable? It’s ignorance speaking to ignorance. Your proposition of the inherently unknowable is unsustainable on analysis. The entire proposition of the knowable is necessarily open-ended.

    And the universe? Quantum mechanics says that it began from a spontaneous fluctuation below the Planck limit, as allowed by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Limit theory. Try googling Andrei Linde and the Kandinsky Universe.

    I’m not suggesting that we fill the void with speculation or fanciful religious myths, we just have to realize we can’t know the answer.

    As noted above, that position is ignorance arguing for continued ignorance. It’s intellectually unsustainable.

    Scientism suggests that we will gain 100% certainty in our understanding of things through objective means.

    So far, I have seen no signs that view is not true, with the necessary caveat about 100%. Science is methodologically modest. And after reading complaints about scientism in many places and times, I’ve decided that its motivational force, largely among philosophers, is a resentment that philosophism has been overturned by objective knowledge, and among Humanists, its motivational force is largely a recrudescent hostility in evidence from the earliest days of science. I suspect Humanist resentment arises partly because the opportunity for egotistically felicitous opinion-spinning has been so thoroughly curtailed by the advent of fact-based thinking.

    I have a limited knowledge of quantum physics, but I understand we are increasingly learning that subjective realities play a large part in altering the nature of “reality”.

    That understanding is wrong. Apart from the physical imposition of political and personal action, subjective realities play zero part in the evolution physical (what you call natural) reality. Most such claims rest upon ignoring that quantum processes can go backwards in time.

    You wrote, “Science is a human endeavour ultimately. Let’s not reify it and try to make it something that exists outside of that context.

    Science is a human endeavor, it’s true. However, objective knowledge lies outside of subjective human meanings. Objective knowledge carries its own autogenic meanings. As a practical matter, if that were not true nothing would work. As a theoretical matter, theories written in mathematical language, or using strict terminologies, are invariantly monosemous. So far our examination of the universe, out to about 13 billion light years now, shows this to be true.

    It is little more than a method of knowing – the application of reason to a problem.

    It is much more than application of reason to a problem. You applied your reason to AGW and have come up with an entirely incorrect conclusion. The lesson is that your assumptions are wrong. You assume inductive generalizations produce reliable conclusions, and that correlation proves causation. Reasoning from that, you have made serious conclusory mistakes.

    Look at the reasoning applied by Thomas Aquinas. It’s a hugely rational corpus, nevertheless full of deductive nonsense. Reason alone is not enough. Reason needs analytical (not naive) falsification to make it into science. Analytical theory means a logically self-consistent rational construct, using necessary approximations, that makes falsifiable predictions. Not the ad hoc assertions of an invented claim (i.e., the moon is made of green cheese), but the deductions from a self-coherent and testable hypothesis. All the approximations are open to refinement or disproof. Likewise the ladder of logical steps in the hypothesis.

    Science is open to the cold winds of entirely unanticipated fact. Its potential propositions cannot be deduced from initial premises. It has no initial premises or axioms. It does not assume the universe is understandable or orderly. It merely proceeds methodologically. It is an open system and is not limited by Godel’s Theorem.

    But it is still a human activity and any findings need to be considered in light of questions about who is interested in the outcome of the findings.

    And what findings in light of a falsifiable theory are governed by someone’s desires and expectations? Can you provide a single example of such a case? Go ahead and ask anyone you like for an example of expectations governing a falsifiable result in science.

    This is especially important when the findings will influence public policy. Of course, all the other safe-guards within the scientific method need to be met as well such as replication of the results and peer review etc.

    You need to distinguish between fraud and science, Barry. Fraudulent science is subject to suspicion of the kind you mention — who benefits. There have been far too many examples of scientific fraud. But valid science is as indifferent to who benefits, as nature is indifferent to who lives and who dies.

    You wrote, “(By the way Pat, just one more issue I should raise here. It says in the Skeptic by-line that you are the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers. Don’t you think this is a tad misleading when your field of study is not directly that of climate change?

    How is that any more misleading than the biography you have on your web-site? Did you mention your professional expertise to misleadingly give your essays a spurious import? If not, why should you suspect me of such a motive for providing mine? Skeptic always asks for an author biography. That’s mine. If anything, it was comparatively brief.

    I suspect that if your field of study were, indeed, climate change, we’d have seen some of those articles referenced in the paper.)

    The Skeptic article is about error analysis not about climate. Your qualm is irrelevant. It would be irrelevant in any case. Science is not Humanities or hermeneutics in that it does not produce ratiocinations dependent for standing on the reputation of the author.

    Scientific arguments are judged on their own merits.The Skeptic article deserves no less than that, and I expect no more than that. So far, in the criticisms I’ve encountered, that standard has rarely been met and not yet at all here.

  7. Yes, and my students like the Baloney Detection Kit (BDK) as well, only I put my own degenerate slant on it – I call it the BSDK!!

    Barry

  8. Thanks, Barry, for your comment! You are much more patient in your responses than I have gotten… Thanks also for more details on what consensus means (corroborating evidence from various sources) and the distinction between relying on authority vs. experts. I’ll check out the Carl Sagan Baloney Detection Kit you recommended… (I love the name of that kit already!)

  9. Tom:

    It is a difficult position to be in to defend any ideology and I wouldn’t expect a rational person to even try. After all wouldn’t that make one an ideologue?

    To evaluate scientific evidence in even one field is a life’s work. We are now faced with the challenge of making sense of many lifetimes amount of knowledge. When it comes to applying knowledge to issues of public policy, such as our use of finite resources and large-scale disruptions in the biosphere, I am going to have to rely on experts. There is no way that I can get up to speed in climate physics to be an expert myself; it took me this long just to scratch the surface of one discipline – psychology.

    I must take some short-cuts, as distasteful as that may seem to the purely scientific in us all. To evaluate claims I must rely on some reasonable approaches. (By the way, I teach my students these techniques – and they come from a pretty good source, Carl Sagan). One of the things Sagan suggests is a reasonable strategy is to seek out independent confirmation of the facts. Right now in the climate debate their appears to be a high level of consensus of at least the basic facts. And I’ll say it again, those who are the naysayers, as William Calvin points out, do little to add any new data, rather they spin data researched by others in a politically (and economically) palatable way.

    The argument some will raise in this strategy is that scientists (and the rest of us) have been fooled before. Yes, we have. In my own discipline we have been swayed at least twice by claims that in the long run didn’t hold up. The Freudians (a pseudoscience if ever there was one – see Crews) and the behaviourists (good science, overreaching, however, in its claims – see my response to Schlinger in Skeptic). In time, however, science self corrects. If the majority of climate scientists are even partially correct doesn’t it make sense to test their theory further? What would be wrong with developing fuel sources that are more environmentally friendly? If the results are positive, we gain by lowering the CO2 emissions and thereby lower the earth’s temperature to safer levels. If the results are negative, we gain from having lowered our dependence on fuels that give off toxic, if not temperature raising by-products. That’s not pseudoscience, it’s just good applied science principles.

    One more point I need to quibble with you about, Tom. An argument to authority is not the same as relying on expert opinion to make a good decision. I liken it this way. When I go to my doctor and with her knowledge and training she tells me to quit eating fatty foods and exercise more because my health is suffering, I’m likely to take her advice – she is after all an expert in her field of study. If on the other hand, she tells me that as a doctor (by position of authority) that I must believe her when she gives advice, I’m likely to be quite skeptical of the claim. Experts are only experts as long as the data holds up; authority appeals to other qualities that go beyond the data.

    The 4 out of 5 dentists statement, by the way makes this point wonderfully. The “authority” here is that they are dentists, we must believe them, right? No, of course not – they are not referencing any real data. The only thing they have is the fact that they agree. Where’s the beef? Climate scientists don’t just have agreement in a TV poll, they have collected real data, real observations, and those data are leading them to an hypothesis. That’s very different than saying, “we’ve taken a survey and 4 out of 5 agree. ” “Agree on what and why”, you might ask.

    I remember another authority about 35 years ago getting on television with an argument that swayed a lot of minds. His name was William Shockley (inventor of the transistor – remember those?) And was he advising people on the importance of solid state circuitry? No! He was advising folks to keep the races separated sexually, because the result would mean a degeneration in the Caucasian intelligence from interbreeding. It took an expert in human genetics, Gerry Hirsch, to discredit Shockley and the data (mostly that of Art Jensen) upon which Shockley was basing his racist claims.

    Barry

  10. Please don’t make me defend capitalism, Barry! ? I am uncomfortable with that. I wasn’t making a comparison—my point was only that “scientific socialism” (Marx) wears the mantle of science, and thus public policy in that society does not differ in principle from science. Where the system fails is that the institution which upholds public policy is inherently conservative, while science is inherently liberal and progressive. One cannot run the other. We have seen that science flourishes in an open society. Capitalists aren’t the only ideologues who suppress free inquiry.

    You wrote:

    “I am aware of the argument to authority. I only would like to see the data
    analyzed by someone who has direct knowledge of the field. I want an “expert”
    to inform me, or at least reference to the bulk of the data being generated.”

    If one is going to examine conclusions with a critically rational eye, one should know what theory the results support, shouldn’t one? One may not understand all the research, and still comprehend the theory and its implications.

    I dismiss your suggestion that a bio line introducing a magazine article is an argument from authority. You and Rachel–you may correct me if I have misread or misinterpreted–have accepted the conclusions of a consensus of climate scientists simply because they are experts, i.e., authorities. When I was a kid, I read that 4 out of five doctors prefer Lucky Strike.

    Tom

  11. Tom:

    Just a point I failed to raise in your comments.

    Don’t you think the statement, “Patrick Frank is a Ph.D. chemist with more than 50 peer-reviewed articles.” (see: http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/featured_articles/v14n01_climate_of_belief.html), isn’t an appeal to authority? It’s the same as saying, “Wayne Gretsky, hockey’s Great One, now has something to say about just how great (your favourite brand of soft drink here) is for your general health and fitness.” You’re pointing the finger in the wrong direction when you suggest someone here is appealing to authority.

    Barry

  12. Tom:

    Don’t you think it is a little myopic to think that capitalism (or any other ism) is free from the human problem of deceit, delusion or misuse of data? Motives that create attachments to outcomes exist within all systems that one can live in. There is no doubt that the misinformation campaign waged by Big Coal and Big Oil has something to do with the large profits to be had. As you have rightly pointed out, this has little to do with science.

    I am aware of the argument to authority. I only would like to see the data analyzed by someone who has direct knowledge of the field. I want an “expert” to inform me, or at least reference to the bulk of the data being generated.

    Barry

  13. Barry Cull wrote

    “Science is a human endeavour ultimately. Let’s not reify it and try to make it something that exists outside of that context. It is little more than a method of knowing – the application of reason to a problem. But it is still a human activity and any findings need to be considered in light of questions about who is interested in the outcome of the findings. This is especially important when the findings will influence public policy. Of course, all the other safe-guards within the scientific method need to be met as well such as replication of the results and peer review etc.”

    That science is a human endeavor does not at all imply that scientific conclusions are not independent of a social agenda (“…questions about who is interested in the outcome…”). The only political system I know of in which public policy is not independent of scientific research is Marxist (“scientific socialism”). As we see, however, the embodiment of “scientific” principles in the Marxist-Leninist state are perversely controlled by ideology (with such results as Lysenkoism, e.g., a consensus at one time among Soviet scientists). Science that is not independent of a social agenda is not science, and should not pretend to be.

    And to this:

    “(By the way Pat, just one more issue I should raise here. It says in the Skeptic by-line that you are the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers. Don’t you think this is a tad misleading when your field of study is not directly that of climate change? I suspect that if your field of study were, indeed, climate change, we’d have seen some of those articles referenced in the paper.)”

    Barry, you do understand argument by authority, do you not?

    Tom

  14. Pat:

    I’m afraid you are losing me when you make thiskind of statement:

    “Here’s my objection to that. It’s a hidden ‘ends justify means‘ argument. If intentions justify means, who is to choose the ends? Today it’s ecology, tomorrow, what? The rights of the proletariat was the end that justified the peacetime murder of about 150 million people during the 20th century. Not to mention the torture of millions more in gulags. Nazism was horrid and Socialism, if anything, was worse. Both were ideologies, and in both ends justified means.”

    How is agreeing that we have a problem in our production and use of non-sustainable energy and that while we don’t have all the answers, a modification of our behaviour is likely in order a misuse of science? And where are you going with the conclusion that this reasoned position leads the horrors of Nazism? This seems to be the height of fear-mongering. We can make good decisions in the absence of all the facts and we can be cognisant that we aren’t being swayed by destructive ideologies. You raise here a straw man argument at best.

  15. Pat:

    I’m sorry that you have taken offence with my remarks. My intent was to look as rationally as I could the issues being presented through the articles in Skeptic magazine. (By the way, I have corrected the name to “Center” from “Project”.)

    To be honest, I think that both your article and Calvin’s article fail in that they are written by people who are not experts in the field being reported on and neither of the articles were accepted for publication through peer review. In Calvin’s article, however, there has been some attempt to review data presented by scientists who are experts in the field.

    I have maintained in this discussion from the outset that I have not been convinced that whether the models of global warming are accurate or not makes much of a difference on the ground. Direct observations of what is happening to things in the real world are much more relevant to what, in practice, needs to happen. You have called this an ideological view and quite frankly I think this is patently unfair. There is little controversy that glacial ice is melting both in the alpine and polar regions of the world, weather patterns are becoming more erratic and the biosphere is losing species at an alarming rate. This isn’t ideology, it is observable and it is really happening. In addition to these things, the amount of CO2 production has increased because of global levels of industrialization. We know that increased CO2 levels result in more heat energy being trapped within the atmosphere.

    Are we 100% certain that all of the rise in global warming is due to man’s activity? No. Are we reasonably certain that at least some of it is and that by reducing our dependence on Big Oil and Gas we can stabilize and perhaps reduce some of the delirious effects? Yes.

    Where we perhaps disagree Pat, is on the value of science as an endeavour. I think the matter is taken up well by Ricard and Thuan in their book “The Quantum and the Lotus”. In discussing the relationship between the scientific and the Buddhist world views, the authors point out that our understanding of the world is enhanced through the application of the scientific method. Ricard, the Buddhist philosopher, brings the question of what we know back the central question of how it serves our ability to improve the quality of our lives. Using scientific data in a way that insists that we must be 100% certain before we act may ultimately make us more sure of what we know, but if we fail to act in a crisis of global proportions, how has it served us?

    And Pat I agree with you that unwavering adherence to ideology is dangerous. A number of years ago there was a wonderful book written by John Ralston Saul called “The Unconscious Civilization”. The central theme in the book is that as a society we no longer foster disinterested observers (perhaps one of the philosophical trends in the “enlightenment” that led to the creation of universities). In fact, Ralston Saul argues that the ideology of “corporatism” has made disinterest a hard philosophical position to take. Big corporations have big interests at the heart of all decisions that they make. I’m not suggesting a conspiracy here by the way, people within the corporations may indeed have the best of motives in mind – the fact is the survival of the corporate entity just takes over. Corporatism, it is pointed out, makes it nearly impossible for us to make decisions that are in the public good. We can choose between Pepsi and Coke, but are unconscious to the decisions that really matter in our lives.

    There is another ideology that is problematic, I think. Let’s call it the ideology of scientism. The basic ideology here is that somehow science can be applied to all areas of our understanding. This is, of course, just not so – there are things that are unknowable, for example, how did the universe get here? I’m not suggesting that we fill the void with speculation or fanciful religious myths, we just have to realize we can’t know the answer. Scientism suggests that we will gain 100% certainty in our understanding of things through objective means. I have a limited knowledge of quantum physics, but I understand we are increasingly learning that subjective realities play a large part in altering the nature of “reality”.

    Science is a human endeavour ultimately. Let’s not reify it and try to make it something that exists outside of that context. It is little more than a method of knowing – the application of reason to a problem. But it is still a human activity and any findings need to be considered in light of questions about who is interested in the outcome of the findings. This is especially important when the findings will influence public policy. Of course, all the other safe-guards within the scientific method need to be met as well such as replication of the results and peer review etc.

    (By the way Pat, just one more issue I should raise here. It says in the Skeptic by-line that you are the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers. Don’t you think this is a tad misleading when your field of study is not directly that of climate change? I suspect that if your field of study were, indeed, climate change, we’d have seen some of those articles referenced in the paper.)

    Barry

  16. Given what followed, the sentence, “In my opinion, tribalism and population are the two great 21st century problems.” should have been, ‘In my opinion, population and tribalism are the two great 21st century problems.’

  17. I looked at your so-called summary comments, Barry. They show that you remain mired in your original and scientifically mistaken AGW inductivism unmoved by any relevant thing I’ve written here, and still unfairly accusing me of attempting to sow a falsely based confusion.* No more than that.

    *”… Frank has done his best to bog us down in a the minutiae of statistical modelling …

    You have mistakenly described the points made in my article, and I did no statistical modeling in the article or in the SI. You didn’t mention having had a conversation with me, much less outlining what we expressed. So, calling the paragraphs you’ve written there “summary comments” is hardly justifiable.

    Further, how about if you include that you’ve discussed the topic here with me along with a link to our conversation on Rachel’s blog so that your readers can evaluate my purported excesses for themselves. Do the professional ethics of “Education” demand that sort of transparency?

    It’s the ‘Stanford Linear Accelerator Center,’ by the way, and on line 1, it’s now the last but one issue of Skeptic so maybe you should just refer to volume 14 no. 1. On line 5, “conclude” should be ‘concludes,’ and on line 6, “trend” should be ‘trends.’

  18. Barry, thank-you for your gentlemanly post. The civil grace you showed there has been relatively rare in my experience defending the Skeptic analysis. Indeed, if you’re willing to believe me, I didn’t even have you in mind when I wrote that “small minds” sentence.

    The concerns expressed in your second paragraph are true worries. Apart from global warming, there are real concerns about the global environment, all stemming from over use. We use about 1/3 of all arable land for farming, and we’re over-fishing the seas. Too much run-off is still polluted and there are still large plumes of contaminants off river deltas. Much of the blame for that can be placed on population and poverty. We need less of both, but the way things work, poverty will have to be the first of the dyad to go. People don’t seem to limit their reproduction until they’re comfortable. Maybe all the TV that comes with middle class status is an effective, if unheralded, contraceptive. 🙂

    I agree with you about greed and tribal interests, too. Evolution has primed us for that, and it’s likely there isn’t another species that would behave differently were it to become conscious and culturally obligate. The magic of humans is that with consciously rational thought, we can actually rise above our evolutionary endowment. From tribal sociality, we can think our way to a general ethics. This is what happened during the Enlightenment. In my opinion, tribalism and population are the two great 21st century problems. I see religion exacerbating both of them; the first through enforced fertility, and the second through ideological tribalism. Between you, me, and our two readers, I think Islam is *the* ideological threat of our times. Western Europe especially is in big trouble. Most Christians have been raised in an Enlightenment culture. They have had their worst teeth pulled. Neither is true for most Muslims.

    You wrote, “But alas, my skepticism makes me suspicious of claims where companies stand to make substantial profits from the findings.

    As you should be. There is no doubt that economics drives viewpoints. But the threat of tendentious arguments is not enough to dismiss all arguments. Sometimes arguments made by corporations will be right. And viewpoints are driven by more than economics. By ideology, for example. It’s no surprise that the worst murderous outrages of the 20th century were ideology-driven, rather than economics-driven. And the greatest murders were sentimentalized in the name of the people. From that perspective, I no longer see corporations as particularly bad actors. By-and-large across the 20th century, with fits and starts they have accommodated themselves to lawful regulation without indulging the mass murder that political ideologies have done.

    So, please be skeptical of everyone’s arguments. Every group entity has an ax to grind, and that ax mostly has to do with the group’s self-preservation and self-aggrandizement. I think environmental groups are driven largely by ideology. Ideology-driven thinking is not rational. It is merely internally logical.

    This is where the real power of Enlightenment fact-based thinking comes to the fore. All arguments can be evaluated on their own objective merits, no matter the sentimental vestments organizationally displayed. In principle, if the audience is rationally attentive, no one can get away with anything. So, self-aggrandizement notwithstanding, a group will have to face objective judgment and stand or fall on its inherent merit. That’s a utopian vision, perhaps, but as it’s based on the application of objective knowledge rather than ideology, perhaps it’s achievable. I work for that.

    I agree with you that environmental groups do wonderful things. I support my local CalPirg group and in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live there is a very active open space movement. Redwood City, next door to me, is just now restoring old salt ponds to salt marsh on the bay, which will attract lots of birds and become part of the Pacific flyway. These are all good things. I just object to the diversion, by environmental groups, of the ‘original sin’ idea to the human race in general. The din of “unworthy” is incessant. This is an ideological disdain that I think is very corrosive, and estranges people from their own civilization. This is a tragedy considering that civilization is the world’s only carrier of Enlightenment values; the same values that arguably produced environmental consciousness.

    You wrote, “I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that investing time and energy going down the wrong line of investigation is a waste of time and resources.

    Let me give you an example of where the grip of ideology has brought us. Take a look at the “Dust to Dust” study here: http://cnwmr.com/nss-folder/automotiveenergy/ It’s at the bottom of the page, file #7 of the 11 files for download.

    Crediting that study, hybrid vehicles are far more polluting, overall, than any small or mid-range internal combustion car. The major reason is all the pollution and manufacturing costs represented by their nickel electrode batteries. The savings in gas and the lower CO2 per mile driven statistic is just a feel-good chimera, because the CO2 produced over the life of the hybrid vehicle, from manufacture through use and to eventual disposal, is greater than for conventional vehicles. My 32 mpg Ford Focus is more ecologically worthy than any hybrid. But everyone has been moved to think sentimentally instead of rationally about CO2 and in the name of ecology has bought into an idea that actually produces more waste. It’s like after having bought into an ideology of humility and gentle restraint, the Catholic Church went on to produce arrogation and horror.

    And here’s another thought that I never see discussed. People speak of wind and tidal power as though they are eco-friendly. But wind power removes wind. One gets downwind stasis where there once was heavy air flow. And tidal power removes energy from the tide, and so where once there was heavy flushing there will be still water. What will be the cost to land and marine ecosystems adapted to dynamic conditions when the dynamics is replaced by stasis?

    On a large scale globally, one might see most of these dynamic land and marine ecosystems disappear if wind farms and tidal power stations spread extensively. And as birds are killed at pretty steady rates by wind farm propellers, how many fish will be killed when caught in currents sluicing though tidal turbines? How many seals? Where will fixed mollusk beds get their nutrients if the tides no longer bring in renewed water? I’ve never seen this discussed in all the talk about sustainable power. Similar qualms could be raised about organic farming.

    The only really sustainable power we have is fusion, and that seems to be forever 20 years off. The only current source of power that will materially reduce CO2 and, far more importantly, reduce coal burning in the relatively short term is nuclear fission. We should all be working to make that as safe as possible. Apart from returning to the pre-industrial dark, and granting much less carbon burning, fission is our only immediate option failing a *huge* break-though in the efficiency of solar power.

    Finally, you wrote, “I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that investing time and energy going down the wrong line of investigation is a waste of time and resources. I am unclear, however, what the difference would mean in behaviour change should we decide that the planet is warming and/or that the planet is being polluted (and you haven’t argued that we aren’t having an impact on the quality of air and water globally). The strategy for change would be the same…

    Here’s my objection to that. It’s a hidden ‘ends justify means‘ argument. If intentions justify means, who is to choose the ends? Today it’s ecology, tomorrow, what? The rights of the proletariat was the end that justified the peacetime murder of about 150 million people during the 20th century. Not to mention the torture of millions more in gulags. Nazism was horrid and Socialism, if anything, was worse. Both were ideologies, and in both ends justified means.

    If reducing fossil fuel burning and saving ecosystems are a good in themselves (and I agree they are), then the argument can be made on its own merits. It is *not* justifiable to promote a mass-scale abuse of science to get one’s way, no matter how pure one’s motive. The reason is that ideological thinking accepts no bounds. Tendentious justification of ecological morals today permits tendentious justification of religious morals tomorrow. The political psychology is the same, and it’s nothing except extremely dangerous.

    And I do think there has been a mass-scale abuse of science in promoting human-caused global warming. Some scientists have freely chosen to show certainty and be publicly hyperbolic where they should have shown diffidence and been publicly modest. The deepest ethic of scientific integrity has been systematically violated. The whole thing is, in my opinion, scandalous; the worst scandal in science, ever. Worse than Lysenkoism because the scientists involved have not been coerced by Stalinist politics.

  19. Pat:

    I sincerely appreciate the clarification that you provided regarding your comments on “small minds” and accept that you weren’t directing them my way.

    The debate about man’s contribution to global warming will go on for some time, I suspect, as people like yourself and other scientists try to get a handle on environmental issues that face our times. I only hope we can develop the wisdom to do what we can to lessen our impact on the earth’s fragile ecosystems. One of the challenges that we will face in this, is our own species record for greed and tribal interests at the expense long-term global interests.

    I apologize for insinuating that you may have a vested interest in the report you have produced. I know that this is not very scientific behaviour. And in a world where everyone played by the “rules” of science being cognizant of vested interests would not be necessary. But alas, my skepticism makes me suspicious of claims where companies stand to make substantial profits from the findings.

    On the last point Pat, I agree that $6B is a lot of money. In relative terms, however, it is a pittance. Think of what you wrote, the greens grossed $6B, compared to one company’s profits of $40B. The comparison you made here is a little unfair. The more fair comparison would have been the Big Greens’ total take to that of the take of all Big Oil and all Big Coal. By comparison the “profits” of Big Green would be “laughable”. But as you and I both know, Big Green does not, for the most part, reap profits; the money is used to create sustainability projects like the World Land Trust’s (http://www.worldlandtrust-us.org/supporting/index.html) and Coolearth’s
    (http://www.wildernessproject.org/members_join_nativetrees.php?gclid=CNP24LzX7JQCFQ4hnAodjXNgqw)
    initiative of buying forest lands and putting them into the public domain where they are protected.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that investing time and energy going down the wrong line of investigation is a waste of time and resources. I am unclear, however, what the difference would mean in behaviour change should we decide that the planet is warming and/or that the planet is being polluted (and you haven’t argued that we aren’t having an impact on the quality of air and water globally). The strategy for change would be the same – search for means of getting around, producing and distributing our food and heating our shelters in more global friendly ways. This all adds up to reducing our dependence on oil, gas and coal to sustainable levels and in to developing alternative and less damaging energy sources. And if that experiment results in a lowering of the earth’s mean temperature (or not), then we will have learned something that amounts to a scientific fact. In the meantime we will have reduced the toxicity of the earth’s atmosphere. Would you be opposed to running that kind of experiment?

    Thanks for a great discussion of the issues Pat, despite a few flare-ups of ego along the way.

    Barry