On the dangerous(?) naivete of uncritical acceptance of scientific consensus

by Judith Curry

When unanimity of opinion is forged among the most learned men across various bodies of knowledge, such agreement must be protected against the threat of violent upheaval by one careless agent with only the most meager qualifications. A broad base of common agreement is necessary for the progress of scientific knowledge which alone carries the hope of civilization, thus it is no exaggeration to say that our very survival is at stake. It is imperative that we voice our united opposition to this threat to the common good posed by the irresponsible propagation of that one man’s abominable theories.

Pop Quiz time! Don’t worry, it will be a multiple choice. What is the source of the above?

Kevin Rice has an interesting post at the blog Catholibertarian entitled “On the dangerous naivety of uncritical acceptance of the scientific consensus.”  Rice provides the following choices for the source of the above quote:

A.   It is from the transcript of a speech before the faculty of CERN by Director Rolf-Dieter Heuer urging their support for a gag order to silence the fully science-based public dissent of Henrik Svensmark, Professor of Physics at the Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen, from the “scientific consensus” on global warming, resulting from his discovery of the correlation between solar activity and climate change.

B.   A June 2004 letter to the Council of the Biological Society of Washington protesting the editorial decision of Richard Sternberg to allow peer-review publication of Stephen C. Meyer’s article “Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories”.

C.   From an internal memo of the American Psychological Association regarding the inexplicable and unwelcome success of the unorthodox acupressure-based therapeutic methods of Dr. Roger Callahan, founder of Thought Field Therapy®.

D.   H.J. Fulbright arguing for the dismissal and academic blacklisting of archaeologist V. Steen McIntyre Ph.D for the latter’s insistence on publishing the authentic data gathered by the team of diggers who worked with the professor on the dating of the ancient city of Hueyatlaco, which indicates far greater age than existing theories can permit. Dr. McIntyre’s reputation was destroyed and the professor’s career in archaeology ended.

E.   From a 1925 appeal by Leipziger geologist Franz Kossmat before American Association of Petroleum Geologists to ignore and suppress the findings of astronomer and then-amateur meteorologist Dr. Alfred Wegener regarding his widely rejected theories of Pangea and continental drift first published in 1912 (which now form the basis of the science of Plate Tectonics).

F.   From a 1943 appeal by George Gaylord Simpson published in the American Journal of Science, urging his colleagues to continue the academic blackout despite mounting evidence that the (by then) late Dr. Alfred Wegener was right all along (The appeal was heeded – the blackout continued well into the 1960s).

G.   An open letter by Albert Einstein to his colleagues in all the sciences urging them to ignore and suppress the then-fringe cosmological theory of Monseigneur Georges Lemaître, now known as the Big Bang Theory.

H.   A letter from the American Psychiatric Association to the American Medical Association justifying their mutual tacit support of the federal government of the U.S. seizing the equipment and research of Dr. Wilhelm Reich and destroying it in a government incinerator.

I.   Professor Carl Edvard Marius Levy speaking before the Danish Maternity Institute of which he was the head, regarding his support for the widespread rejection by the medical and scientific community of the discovery of Ignaz Semmelweiss that infant illness and mortality could be cut dramatically if physicians and midwives would simply wash their hands. Semmelweiss’s insistent promotion of the radical new “hand-washing protocol” in the teeth of the medical and scientific consensus led to his dismissal from his post at the hospital in Vienna where he worked, and eventually he was committed to an asylum where he died of sepsis (as a consequence of that institution’s rejection of the very basic hygiene he advocated).

J. Dr. Robert Pitt, from the proceedings of the College of Physicians, regarding William Harvey and whose bizarre “crack-brained” theory of the circulation of the blood was widely reviled and whose scientific work was marginalized, censored, dismissed and ignored by the physicians of his day.

K. Translated from Latin, it is an excerpt of address by the Jesuit astronomer Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc to the professors at the Roman College, with former rector and Cardinal Inquisitor Robert Bellarmine in attendance. The subject is Galileo, whose support of Copernican heliocentrism threatened to overturn the cross-disciplinary paradigmatic commitment to the theories of Aristotle.

Rice’s answer:

By now the astute reader realizes that the correct answer is Z. All and None of the Above. None of the above because I wrote that section of text myself, but All of the Above because they all reference genuine examples of the suppression of scientific knowledge by the scientific consensus (though I admit that I embellished a bit here and there on the precise details of who was involved and how it came about). You can Google any of them and confirm that.

With regards to climate change, Rice refers to several articles by Kyle Cupp:

Last November my old friend Kyle Cupp published a couple of blog articles about climate change and the scientific consensus:  A Question For Climate Change Skeptics at Vox Nova, and a follow-up on his own blog a day later entitled Climate Change, Consensus and Political Action.  

To his credit, my old friend Kyle is quite up front and honest about his ignorance of climate change science, nevertheless he is inclined to trust the conclusions of the scientific consensus and support the urgent and coercive actions of the state to curb the carbon dioxide emissions of much of the industrialized world which would certainly lead to a catastrophic collapse of the global economy and a massive transfer of wealth into the hands of a very small club of billionaires who control most of the still highly ineffective, inefficient (and incidentally, environmentally destructive) “green jobs” technologies, all on the chance that anthropogenic global warmingmight be happening, and the even smaller chance that such drastic action might save us.

“I’m no climate scientist; I couldn’t construct a serious argument in support or in opposition to idea that human beings have caused significant changes to the climate. I have to defer to the experts if I’m to have any position on the matter, and as the matter here may be one of urgency and grave importance, I’m inclined to go with what those trained and active in the field of climate science have to say. From what I hear, the vast majority of actively-publishing climate researchers buy into the tenets of anthropogenic climate change, so I’m willing to take a stand and say, ‘Yeah, I suspect there’s something to this.’ “

Kevin Rice responds to Cupp’s argument:

Kyle feels he is justified in throwing up his hands and saying, “Oh it is all too complicated for little old me, don’t ask me to think critically about it. Let me just trust what most of the experts are saying.” But the true examples I have given above should give the reader pause about the track record of trusting the scientific consensus and the wisdom of such an attitude of resignation (to say nothing about the subsequent retrieval and adjusted application of a critical attitude, now aimed at global warming skeptics). I do not grant that non-expertise excuses critical thinkers, especially self-styled skeptics of the establishment (which Kyle wants to believe he still is) from a grave responsibility to continue to contend with the data and hold consensus conclusions (and for that matter, the organized opposition to the latter as well) in suspicion when so much is on the line. Otherwise one cannot avoid taking “an irresponsible position” (his words), no matter what position one takes. If you abdicate your responsibility to draw your own intelligent conclusions based on all the evidence available while you yet retain the  ability to come to them on your own, you may accidentally end up accepting the sound argument as and its true conclusion as our own belief, but you do not do so responsibly.

How do we non-experts decide when to take the pronouncements of the scientific consensus with a grain of salt?  The reader may well find the following rules of thumb quite helpful. Be skeptical of scientific research, even that which supports, and is favored by apologists for, the scientific consensus, whenever:

1. …the people paying for the research have a vested interest in the results.

2. …vast concentrations of wealth and power hang in the balance on the results.

3. .…a prominent scientist’s professional reputation and career is on the line.

4. …the dominant paradigm is threatened.

In considering Cupp’s and Rice’s arguments, it is useful to remind ourselves of what Bertrand Russell has to say in his 1928 Skeptical Essays:

There are matters about which those who have investigated them are agreed. There are other matters about which experts are not agreed. Even when experts all agree, they may well be mistaken. …. Nevertheless, the opinion of experts, when it is unanimous, must be accepted by non-experts as more likely to be right than the opposite opinion. The scepticism that I advocate amounts only to this: (1) that when the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain; (2) that when they are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert; and (3) that when they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary man would do well to suspend his judgment.

JC comment:  Bertrand Russell’s statement to me defines rational skepticism.  Political motivation for establishing a scientific consensus associated with a policy prescription, such as occurred in the context of the UNFCCC/IPCC, seems to me to provide grounds for non-experts to question the consensus.

Put in this light, engaging in the climate blogosphere, challenging the consensus and demanding accountability is part of our individual attempts to draw our own intelligent conclusions and do so responsibly.

It is interesting to see this perspective emerge from a catholibertarian.

357 responses to “On the dangerous(?) naivete of uncritical acceptance of scientific consensus

  1. Thanks for this posting on Kevin Rice’s quiz.

    Science is almost always advanced by dissent from “the most learned men”.

    • Dr. Curry, thank you for posting the quiz. Examples could be multiplied.

    • Facts vs Consensus: A massive star heats a tiny speck of dirt!

      1. Three hundred thousand (300,000) = Mass(Sun)/Mass(Earth)
      2. One million (1,200,000) = Mass(Sun)/Mass(Earth’s atmosphere)
      3. Two billion (2,000,000,000) = Mass(Sun)/Mass(CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere)

      Tonight voters in Iowa will show ordinary citizen’s opinion of consensus world leaders who ignored facts.

  2. The difficulty I see with the presentation by Kevin Rice is that it assumes a too narrow view of experts. In the case of Climate Science, who is the expert? There are many different aspects to this science. There are many different fields of expertise included. Simply including only those who wear the label ‘Climate Scientist’ as experts provides the possibility of false consensus. An instrumentation engineer is more likely to provide an accurate evaluation of the rationality of a conclusion made about data collected by instruments than the scientist who hired him. A biologist is more likely to understand the complexities of the factors that effect plant distribution and growth than a scientist who specializes in a narrow part of that field such as tree ring widths.

    The consensus of ‘Climate Scientists’ does not appear to be built upon the appropriate use of expertise in the fields they build their conclusions from.

  3. I’ve found persuasiveness of the rhetoric to be a fine guide.

  4. Here’s another pop quiz:

    Who would consider someone who writes the following to be a skeptic?

    …nevertheless he is inclined to trust the conclusions of the scientific consensus and support the urgent and coercive actions of the state to curb the carbon dioxide emissions of much of the industrialized world which would certainly lead to a catastrophic collapse of the global economy

    Answer: Someone who doesn’t understand skepticism.

    • Someone who wrote this most likely does not understand what this someone wrote.

      • It’s interesting to watch when concerns about uncertainty suddenly stand up, flap their wings, and fly out the window.

      • Joshua: It’s interesting to watch

        I enjoy reading your accounts of your visions. Please do not ever leave us.

    • Joshua, you have yet to demonstrate any understanding of skepticism. Get back to is when you have something new.

      • Joshua, what is your definition of the word ‘overlap’. A few different speech writers and a tele-prompter? From where I stand, there is no real overlap.
        Who wrote the Patriot ACT… it had already been laid out by our lame duck VP, years before. You know.

      • Tom –

        Joshua, what is your definition of the word ‘overlap’.

        In which context? The overlap I noted (in response to your post) between the PNAC and members of the Bush administration? Have you looked at the names that comprised the members of the PNAC?

    • Joshua, the person you quote is clearly a climate change skeptic. This is very different from being a universal skeptic, if there even is such a thing. In fact climate skepticism is broadly defined by a consensus! Specifically the consensus that CAGW is not known to be true and the policy proposals it includes are dangerous. Note that this is a political consensus, as is CAGW. Skepticism is defined by opposition to CAGW.

      • David –

        He’s a climate change “skeptic.” The question is whether he’s truly someone who approaches scientific theories from a skeptical perspective, as he claims.

        That he could dismiss any uncertainty about the outcomes of mitigation policies suggests to me that he is not broadly skeptical. In the sense that you’re describing, uniformly, the belief that the effects of anthropogenic CO2 could cause be catastrophic as merely a political phenomenon I could do the same for the belief that urgent and coercive state policies would necessarily be catastrophic.

      • Joshua, I don’t know what you mean by “merely a political phenomenon.” Compared to what? The core of the CAGW political movement is a scientific hypothesis regarding attribution and projection of climate change. It has been thus with environmentalism ever since Silent Spring. I have already said that climate skepticism is a political (counter) movement. So what? There is nothing mere about it.

        As for his claiming that he approaches [all] scientific theories from a skeptical perspective, I don’t see him claiming that. Where does he say it? Is he skeptical of gravity, Newton’s laws or the germ theory?

        This just seems to be another case of your arguing that skeptics are hypocritical because they have strong beliefs. Skepticism is a strong belief.

      • David –

        Sorry that in my first reading of you post, I misunderstood it and wound up posting essentially the same point that you made.

        I thought of what I find to be an interesting parallel.

        As someone who was raised in a tradition of skepticism, I tend to be skeptical of consensuses, and often question the motivations behind consensus viewpoints on politically charged issues – particularly when a particular consensus viewpoint overlaps with powerful financial interests. That is why, when the ramp-up to the invasion of Iraq was underway, I thought it important to examine the financial (and political) motivations that might overlap with the consensus that Iraq possessed WsMD and posed an imminent threat to the security of the United States.

        However, being a skeptic, I also thought it important to examine skepticism about the Bush administration’s Iraq war policies – specifically, a simplistic skeptical viewpoint that the true motivation for an invasion could simply be boiled down to a “war for oil” agenda. Such an explanation seemed implausible to me for a number of reasons, the primary among them being that it would necessitate a widespread conspiracy between numerous and disparate power-brokers in the government, industry, and military to disregard casualties of tens of thousands of American military personnel, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and far-reaching negative geo-political and long-term economic outcomes merely for the interest of short-term profits. As much as I was predisposed to distrust the motivations of the Bush administration and powerful stakeholders in the oil and military armament industries, I thought it unlikely that their motivations could so easily be dismissed as essentially Machevellian in nature.

        The certainty I often found among some of the “skeptical” opposition to the Iraq war did not stand up to rigorous scrutiny, and it became rather obvious to me that putative skepticism about the pro-invasion rationale offered by the Bush administration was often influenced by the political and socio-centric biases intrinsically associated with the supposed “skeptics,” and thus among them, the analysis they performed was often, IMO, biased by motivated reasoning. A starting premise was that Bush was evil and simply driven by a financial agenda, and thus the conclusion that the Bush administration’s Iraq war policy was based only on a “war for oil agenda” was consistent with and in the end confirmed the premise.

        Although I disagreed with the perspective of people like Tom Friedman and Hitchens, I thought it was important to consider their perspectives because they reflected a more robust flavor of skepticism, and not a “skepticism” that was so obviously linked to political and socio-centric identifications. But even there, in the end, I found their analysis to be failed skepticism because of an unsupported certainty about outcomes that predicated their conclusions.

        And, of course, in the debate about invading Iraq, in the end we saw clearly that unfounded certainty afflicted the arguments from across the entire spectrum.

        For me, the “skepticism” (as opposed to skepticism) in the AGW debate – as I saw in the debate about the invasion or Iraq – is laid bare when clear certainty exists at the nexus of overwhelmingly complex and divergent variables and influences, or when certainty is not clearly quantified. I’m sympathetic to skepticism about whether the certainty of AGW is sufficiently quantified, but I find it unfortunate that so much of that skepticism comes from “skeptics” who found their perspective on unwarranted certainties and then hang on for dear life.

      • Joshua,

        Quit drinking that stuff, it is making you more reasonable. Nice post.

      • David W –

        BTW – I assume you’ve already read it, but I am currently reading a book I think you’d find interesting. If you haven’t read it and you have a Kindle, you might want to download the free excerpts and take a look. The content relates to much of what you and I debate:


        Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology that challenged the rational model of judgment and decision making, is one of our most important thinkers. His ideas have had a profound and widely regarded impact on many fields—including economics, medicine, and politics—but until now, he has never brought together his many years of research and thinking in one book.

        In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the challenges of properly framing risks at work and at home, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning the next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.

        Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives—and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Thinking, Fast and Slow will transform the way you think about thinking.

      • Now what do you think?


        Use it or lose it? Our leadership has done both in just a decade of small changes to the United States.

      • David, really,

        Is skepticism really a belief?

        Skepticism is defined by opposition to CAGW?

        Therefore skepticism is a religion, however you are not practising it correctly, and are hereby excommunicated.

        Bob Droege, first high priest of skepticism, holy wielder of the sacred noodle, may his sauce be with you.

      • David W –

        This is an interesting example:

        It has been thus with environmentalism ever since Silent Spring.

        When you actually read Silent Spring, you come to see that the arguments it presents are quite different than how they are frequently characterized by those with an abiding agenda in opposition to environmentalism.

        And from your earlier post:

        Specifically the consensus that CAGW is not known to be true and the policy proposals it includes are dangerous.

        I have a number of problems with that point, in particular the clause I put in bold. As I see it, you are being very reductionist in your definition of “it” and overly certain about the inevitability of the dangers of “it.”

        I see much variability in the “consensus” viewpoint on the nature, degree, and certainty of negative outcomes resulting from AGW. I see much variability in the “consensus” viewpoint on recommended policies to target mitigation.

        And I see much uncertainty in the “consensus” analysis of probability among potential outcomes resulting from various policies. That is a variability that I don’t see, IMO, appropriately represented in your certainty about the dangers of an ill-defined “it.”

      • Tom –

        The product of the PNAC, and the overlap between that organization and those empowered to develop policy in the Bush administration were perhaps the most relevant evidence, IMO, for understanding the Bush administration’s policies. It is exactly that evidence that caused me to be skeptical of the “war for oil” meme.

      • David –

        As for his claiming that he approaches [all] scientific theories from a skeptical perspective, I don’t see him claiming that.

        It is implied. IMO, by the listing of a dangerous “consensus” intolerance of dissenting viewpoints – and an entirely selective list, at that, where the point is that the consensus was “wrong.”

        IMO, this is a rhetorical mechanism with the obvious intent to argue that AGW theory, as an example of scientific consensus just like the selective list provided, by definition, is “dangerous.” As I see it, the implication is that scientific skepticism is more appropriate, (and as such I would agree entirely, but disagree as too how “skeptics” have laid claim to all skepticism w/r/t AGW theory).

        There is a reason why that list is selectively culled from a vast range of “consensus” scientific viewpoints to isolate notable examples where the consensus was wrong. The intent is rhetorical, and by extension to the stated libertarian ideology of the author, clearly political in origination. The linkage isn’t even covert as we might commonly find.

        From the post:

        But the true examples I have given above should give the reader pause about the track record of trusting the scientific consensus

        Track record? How is this an argument for assessing a “track record” if it is a selected list without any representation of proportionality?

        Let’s look at this year’s “track record” of the Indianapolis Colts by selectively noting that they had two victories without also recognizing that they had 14 loses?

        This is an absolutely perfect example of climate “skepticism” and how it can be, among some of its proponents, antithetical to skepticism.

      • good post joshua. i can see where your scepticism of climate sceptics comes from but still consider that agw has not been properly subjected to the scientific process. have injured arm and cant use shift key for at least 10 weeks.

    • nice catch joshua.

      • Bill, if you think climate skeptics can’t have strong beliefs you do not understand the situation. We are objecting to a specific and dangerous set of false certainties. In fact I am certain the CAGW is wrong, both scientifically and politically.

      • David, I do understand what you are saying generally and often agree with you. Here, I think Joshua’s point is worthy of note as what he did was excerpt a relevant quote from the post. Being skeptical of the science while also certain of the disastrous implications of certain policies is a specific stance based on a belief system, as are most positions in this debate, and as you yourself have pointed out. I don’t think climate change skeptics can’t have strong beliefs, but taking this stance is not equivalent to being skeptical in ones approach to science, generally.

      • BillC –

        I don’t think climate change skeptics can’t have strong beliefs, but taking this stance is not equivalent to being skeptical in ones approach to science, generally.

        What I find particularly interesting is this: I think that when someone identifies as a skeptic, and generally condones a skeptical approach towards scientific consensus, it becomes notable when they express a viewpoint towards complicated analysis that is particularly un-skeptical.

        Taking someone at face value, and assuming that they really mean it when they identify as a skeptic and promote scientific skepticism conceptually, as does the author Judith has excerpted, what does it mean when their skepticism sprouts wings and flies out the window as they express certainty in the face of myriad uncertainties?

        To me – it serves as a potential indicator of bias – a bias that overwhelms their skeptical nature. I don’t know that “belief” is inherently casually linked to bias – but a confusion between “belief” and is antithetical to skepticism.

      • er… “…a confusion between ‘belief’ and scientific analysis is antithetical to skepticism.”

      • Joshua: What I find particularly interesting is this: I think that when someone identifies as a skeptic, and generally condones a skeptical approach towards scientific consensus, it becomes notable when they express a viewpoint towards complicated analysis that is particularly un-skeptical.

        The classic example in the climate change debate is to be convinced of the accuracy and utility of the laws of thermodynamics, and to accept the laboratory studies on the absorption/emission spectra of atmospheric gases, but to be skeptical that increasing anthropogenic CO2 will cause (harmful) increases in Earth spatio-temporally averaged surface temperature.

        I dare say that every global warming skeptic believes something, so your interest in this could lead you to much study. I, for example, believe that more people read my posts than respond to them, yet I have never witnessed any of them doing so. It’s hard to explain, given that I am skeptical about claims of global warming.

      • Matt –

        I’m having some difficulty understanding your post.

        As I understand it, you think that a conclusion that more people read your posts than respond is predicated on an unskeptical assumption? You think that to reach such a conclusion you need to find certainty in the face of myriad complex variables?

        Was that your point?

    • Matt –

      I enjoy reading your accounts of your visions.

      There are none so blind as those who will not see.

      which would certainly lead to a catastrophic collapse of the global economy

      Dude, skepticism just left the building.

      • Joshua: There are none so blind as those who will not see.

        Oh, wow! I shall have to think about that one for days.

      • “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

        Cigar for Joshua please!

  5. Back in the late 1980s, I had a friend who was a graduate student in paleontology. At about the same time, the theory of “asteroids causing mass extinctions” was just gaining some traction.

    Except not with trained paleontologists.

    One of the quickest ways to royally piss off my good, smart, well-educated friend was to bring up things like “asteroids killing dinosaurs.”

    One the subject was brought up, he would spend the next hour explaining, in detail, how it was completely impossible for an impact of that sort to cause a major extinction, the suggested scenarios had all been ruled out, and that he (and all of the trained experts) knew, for certain, that it was evolutionary pressure. Or food sources going extinct. Or something, ANYTHING but this weird hole in the ground that some grubby petroleum geologists had found in Mexico…

  6. Nearly 400 years ago Francis Bacon pointed to the fundamental problems with “consensus” science. His description of the dominant Aristotelian-based science of his day (which, as he alleged, had largely strangled real scientific advancement) seems to greatly resemble “consensus” climate science today. Most retail-level climate science, and much at the wholesale level as well, corresponds to what Bacon called “anticipations” of the natural world. Against “anticipations” which are fundamentally deductive in nature (that is, derived from the largely uncritical reception of consensus wisdom rather than empirical observation) Bacon proposed that genuine productive science derives from careful observation of actual phenomena.

    It is a principle that needs reasserting in the 21st century.

    Here are a few relevant passages from the “Aphorisms” section of Bacon’s _Novum Organum_ (1620). Enjoy.

    The conclusions of human reason as ordinarily applied in matters of nature, I call for the sake of distinction Anticipations of Nature (as a thing rash or premature). That reason which is elicited from facts by a just and methodical process, I call Interpretation of Nature.

    Anticipations are a ground sufficiently firm for consent, for even if men went mad all after the same fashion, they might agree one with another well enough.

    For the winning of assent, indeed, anticipations are far more powerful than interpretations, because being collected from a few instances, and those for the most part of familiar occurrence, they straightway touch the understanding and fill the imagination; whereas interpretations, on the other hand, being gathered here and there from very various and widely dispersed facts, cannot suddenly strike the understanding; and therefore they must needs, in respect of the opinions of the time, seem harsh and out of tune, much as the mysteries of faith do.

    In sciences founded on opinions and dogmas, the use of anticipations and logic is good; for in them the object is to command assent to the proposition, not to master the thing.

    Though all the wits of all the ages should meet together and combine and transmit their labors, yet will no great progress ever be made in science by means of anticipations; because radical errors in the first concoction of the mind are not to be cured by the excellence of functions and subsequent remedies.

    • This kind of sums it up! Thanks!

    • Ken, Thanks for reproducing the quotes. However, I must disagree and have a post later discussing this. Look forward to your response.

    • Ken Smith –
      Bacon’s musings and cautions are very apt here, although I would point out that inductive reasoning has also had its critics since Hume’s day. Perhaps we would do well to be less ready to jump to a ‘belief’ through any means – history shows us that human beings have an extraordinary capacity to believe things that are utter nonsense.

      I’d also point out that many of the things that turn out to be utter nonsense seem to be supported by what people call ‘evidence’ – that the earth is flat, for instance. And at the same time, people have a dramatic propensity to believe that ‘things are going to be bad’, ‘we’re heading for a disaster’, and ‘the sky is about to fall down’.

      So, a normal state of affairs, where the world is moving happily along and history is unfolding as it always has, also means significant numbers of people being convinced that a catastrophe is about to occur – or even that a catastrophe is already in progress, and which is readily observable for those that know how to squint in the right kind of way.

      I’m not sure ‘science’ had much to do with it. James Hansen is not using science when he says that tapping into Canadian Oil sands will lead to a disaster. If I may be frank, he is using nothing more than fevered imagination on a subject he knows nothing about – how people of the future, as yet unborn, will enjoy or otherwise the climate in which they live. Where does ‘science come in to it? Where is the expertise?

      Bacon was right to say that no great progress will ever be made in science by ‘anticipations’ because of the radical errors in the first concoctions of the mind. In other words our pre-emptive world views dogged by fears and imaginings preclude the possibility of us proceeding reliably by the use of reason – we cannot guarantee a solid foundation. Another way this has been put is that there are no facts, merely interpretation of facts.

      I would add that being sceptical of the consensus of scientists, is not necessarily the same as being sceptical of science per se, although in addition to that, climate science is clearly still primitive and immature.

      • Anteros:

        Thanks for your response. Your observations are generally in accord with Bacon’s approach. Bacon frequently pointed out the weaknesses of initial sense perception, and the tendency to use a narrow set of observations to buttress artificial and false beliefs and systems. A careful reading of his discussion of the “Four Idols” shows that he was fully aware of the key epistemological traps that hobbled natural philosophy in his day and that no modern formula or technique has ever been able to banish.

        Empiricism and inductive reasoning of course has its critics. Hume went about as far as it’s possible to go with empiricism and his more extreme claims are of course subject to severe criticism. But Bacon’s approach was quite practical: it formed, for example, the basis for the organization and work of the Royal Society.

        In my view the issue between inductive reasoning/empiricism and deductive reasoning/rationalism is more one of emphasis than exclusion. In everyday life as well as professional life, we all necessarily resort to both inductive and deductive thinking. To me the value of the Baconian perspective is that when taken seriously, it encourages a continual questioning of received assumptions and authorities, while fully affirming the great potential for the advancement of knowledge.

        Regarding the view that “that there are no facts, merely interpretation of facts,” this statement seems to express an extreme nominalism that is pretty far away from Bacon’s thinking.

        For Bacon, facts and interpretations are two different things. Bacon advocated appreciation for a wide variety of facts, while continually warning against the arbitrary selection of facts (what we would call “cherry picking”) to buttress preconceived notions. I leave you with another selection from his _Aphorisms_, which has broad epistemological application:

        “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who, when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods — “Aye,” asked he again, “but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?” And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by. But with far more subtlety does this mischief insinuate itself into philosophy and the sciences; in which the first conclusion colors and brings into conformity with itself all that come after, though far sounder and better. Besides, independently of that delight and vanity which I have described, it is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human intellect to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives; whereas it ought properly to hold itself indifferently disposed toward both alike. Indeed, in the establishment of any true axiom, the negative instance is the more forcible of the two.”

  7. Judith –

    It is interesting to see this perspective emerge from a catholibertarian.

    Judith – why do you find that interesting? It seems entirely predicable. Do you also find it interesting that the following perspective would emerge from a catholibertarian?

    <blockquote?Pastor Steven Andrew who is President of USA Christian Ministries and author of “Making A Strong Christian Nation” has stated that “voting for Bachmann or Santorum is saying ‘yes’ to God and ‘no’ to the devil.”

    • As predicted by many, the one trick troll bangs hid one drum and his one song of ignorance.

    • Joshua – I found that blog entry at catholibertarian too. Further down the post it discusses a Catholic bishop who more or less says the same thing without reference to the devil. This is a pretty divisive issue among Catholics, as you may know, and including among Catholic clergy, whose social views often lean liberal on other issues. Probably not catholibertarians, but I doubt all followers of the blog resonate with both posts.

      • BillC –

        Probably not catholibertarians, but I doubt all followers of the blog resonate with both posts.

        Sure. But I still don’t understand why Judith finds it interesting that a post such as the one she excerpted would be found at a “catholibertarian” blog. It seems to me that if one wanted to find such a viewpoint, a catholibertarian blog would be the third place to go after “climate skeptic” blogs and non catho but libertarian blogs.

      • maybe that a climate subject was discussed

      • BillC –

        maybe that a climate subject was discussed.

        On a blog that is largely focused on political issues? Are you suggesting that the climate debate isn’t political, or that Judith is surprised that it might considered to be so? By a libertarian no less?

        A real head-scratcher.

  8. incandecentbulb

    The belief among some schoolteachers in the West that the Earth is doomed if they are not given control over all the factors of production is a mass mania not science. These schoolteachers equate CO2 with capitalism which is the white whale that their fear, superstition and delusions of grandeur drive them to impale impale.

  9. Of course, this is the same line of argument used by the Soviets that propped up Lysenkoism; that is used in support of chemtrail poisoning; the inside job with 9/11; the suppression of UFO information; ESP; the assassination of JFK, RFK, and King; evolution; HIV and AIDS; Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide; Floridation of water:vaccination and autism, and a large percentage of any subject that Glen Beck discusses. I could go on and on.
    What are your criteria for a competing alternate theory? the people who did successfully overthrow an invalid consensus, Copernicus, Newton, Priestley, Darwin, Pasteur, Maxwell, Einstein, Arhennius, Wegener, Marshall all had very specific comprehensive theories that once tested proved much more useful than the prevailing consensus.
    You have been studying this issue for a number of years, so as a trained scientist and sceptic you must have a good idea of which opposing theory fits the facts better than the IPCC consensus.

    • …that is used in support of … the inside job with 9/11;

      Excellent point.

      The “consensus” belief is that 9/11 wasn’t an inside job – that yes, airplanes crashing into the World Trade Towers could cause them to to collapse.

      Belief in that consensus viewpoint was crucial to the rationale for wars that cost us trillions – costs that had a devastating effect on our economy.

      Obviously any true skeptic must doubt that dangerous (?) consensus viewpoint. Indeed, suppression of “skepticism” that 9/11 was an inside job is another “genuine example[s] of the suppression of scientific knowledge by the scientific consensus ”

      Wegener was right, so Alex Jones must be right also.

      • Josh, This is just silly. There has been no attempt to supress “truthers,” just a careful debunking process. It’s like saying that there is a large overlap between climate scientists and Democrats and environmentalists. That observation has little value in adult discussions of the science. Ultimately, we must deal with substance and not superficial coincidences of words that have no substantive import.

      • David –

        The argument made by “truthers,” that the truth is being suppressed because it is “inconvenient,” is not different in kind from the arguments being made by some “skeptics.” There is the same conspiratorial echo-chamber that serves to confirm a sense victimization at the hands of a politicized opposition. And for many “truthers,” there is even an overlap when it comes to “skepticism” about climate change, and you can often read “climate skeptics” voicing “One World Government” concerns of the type that animate many “truthers.”

        Do I think that there is an equivalent degree of scientific basis for questioning AGW as there is for thinking that 9/11 was an inside job? No. But what we have in this post is a rhetorical device used to very selectively link intolerance of dissent to the climate change debate. When a list of examples is so selectively derived, it should tell you something.

      • Joshua

        Can you please be more specific in regards to what you believe there is a consensus on in regards to the topic of climate change? To make is very simple, is it:
        a. Additional CO2 will warm the planet somewhat all other things being unchanged? or

        b. There is great harms coming to humanity if the world does not reduce CO2 emissions immediately?

        Simply writing there is a consensus does not make it true? To claim there is a consensus, don’t you also need to state that there is one amoung this specific list of individuals on this point, as of this point in time?

        Do you really believe there is a consensus today regarding the rate of warming that will occur over the next 20 years and what the impact will be???

      • Joshua, you may be over analyzing the situation. Some people are nearly completely nuts, some people are a little bit nuts and all be came be nuts if they obsess on anything. Believers in catastrophic global warming are nuts just like conspiracy theorists are nuts.

        I know my significant other is nuts. She thinks at times I am nuts. The big question is not who is nuts but how nutty are they?

        You have the perfect lab to experiment on global warming, your house. Install double glazed windows to replace your old single glazed windows and check you energy usage. They to be some what scientific and record the average temperatures inside and out.

        Now either replace the double glazed windows with triple glazed or look at the U value as a cost saving comparison. How much energy would you save?

        Now try to find some quadruple glazed windows.

        Hansen would buy quadruple glazed no matter how much the custom design costs. If Hansen showed up at your house selling quadruple glazed windows would you buy or think he is nuts?

      • Sorry for the typos, :(

    • andrew adams


      Good points. I think the vaccines/autism example is a particularly good one because it was portrayed as the establishment closing ranks and trying to suppress evidence which undermined the “consensus” position, which turned out to be correct all along. Also a lot of it was driven by anti-government types who instinctively distrusted state-driven mass vaccination programes, and (at least here in the UK) there was a big overlap between them and climate change “skeptics”.

      • Andrew, this is the old sophist trick of guilt by association. The vaccine controversy is not about substance but about feelings. Your argument is just the argument that some skeptics are clearly wrong about other issues, therefore we can assert that the concensus point of view is always right. It’s just the same as asserting (as Muller so aptly points out) that climate skepticism is an “attack on science” just as intelligent design skepticism about evolution is an attack on science and that therefore we must close ranks around science because both attacks are wrong. This is sophistry. You need to do better.

      • I disagree with both of you. Vaccination is a lot like climate change: A complex issue with a “war” going on by extremists on two sides both portraying it as one simple black and white, either/or question. When in fact it is no such thing.

      • And if your framing of the issue is false to begin with, listening to experts is not likely to make you wiser.

      • andrew adams


        The vaccine controversy is indeed about feelings rather than substance, I would argue that this is also true of much of the AGW “controversy”, but those who pushed the anti-MMR line tried to pretend that there was a scientific basis for their views. It’s not guilt by association to point out the overlap between some of the parties involved and their views on AGW – I think it has direct relevance to their credibility on the latter and they are damned by their own actions, not by those of others.

        I was not arguing that the existence of bogus controversies such as MMR/autism means that the consensus is always correct, merely that just as the consensus position has on occasions proved to be incorrect, there are many others when it has been correct and challenges to it have been mistaken or downright bogus. If anyone is making a unduly sweeping argument it is Kevin Rice – it is fair to point out that we should be properly skeptical about questions where there is a consensus of expert opinion but that doesn’t mean the existence of such a consensus can simply be discounted as worthless. Nor does the fact that consensus positions have been overturned in other fields mean that this is necessarily likely to happen in climate science. His argument comes dangerously close to the Galileo gambit.

      • andrew adams


        I’m not sure that I would call either the vaccine or AGW debates “black and white” but the balance of evidence lies firmly towards one side in either case.

      • It would be interesting to read some sort of tally comparing the number of times that the consensus has proven correct versus the consensus proven incorrect.

        The fact that this kind of listing of issues where the consensus was wrong always contains the same issues should serve as evidence that the exception proves the rule.

        Of course, when one is only selectively “skeptical” one can’t see such an obvious point. If “realists” in the current debate dogmatically reject legitimate science, take them to task, by all means. But this kind of rhetorical nonsense only undermines legitimate skepticism.

      • Andrew,

        The very notion of a “balance of evidence” is based on the over-simplified black and white view I’m pointing out. There isn’t a single vaccine issue, there is at least one per vaccine. Each vaccine and the disease it targets is unique. If one vaccine is safe, or unsafe, it’s almost completely irrelevant to the safety of a different vaccine.

        This is blindingly obvious, yet it seems to escape many who feel strongly about the “issue” of vaccination.

      • Dagfinn –

        If one vaccine is safe, or unsafe, it’s almost completely irrelevant to the safety of a different vaccine.

        That’s not entirely true. If one believes that one vaccine is widely promoted (even government-mandated) even though it is clearly unsafe, and that it can be so promoted because the approval process is so significantly corrupted so as to allow large-scale profit-taking from clearly unsafe vaccinations, then the views about that one vaccine do not stand in isolation.

        If you think that vaccination campaigns are the result of attempts by governments to limit individual freedom, or the outgrowth of coverups and the suppression of scientific evidence for the purpose of achieving financial gain, it is a general belief and not one limited to safety concerns about an individual vaccine.

      • Dagfinn,

        Yes, I accept that point. I specifically had in mind the MMR/autism issue, as i mentioned in my last reply to David – I accept that the wider issue of vaccination is more complicated.

      • Andrew & Josh, The point is about the process by which science gets better. That process is bases on constant challenge of authority. Skepticism is almost always good despite numerous examples of flawed skeptics. Its not about adding up all the instances in which the concensus is correct and using this as a substitute for thought.

    • The AfFECT believers are the ones invoking the long list of sad ideas.

      • Let us try this again: AGW believers are the ones relying on plots, conspiracies, consensus enforced by punishment, suppression of critics, etc. It is a bit amazing that an AGW believer actually believes turning that around will work in any honest discussion.

    • Small climate sensitivity and a negative rather than positive feedback mechanism. That is basically my alternate theory. Thirty-three years of satellite readings of temperature reading at least do not produce any problem for this theory. They do seem troublesome for the 6C per century projections.

      • andrew adams

        Small climate sensitivity and a negative rather than positive feedback mechanism. That is basically my alternate theory. Thirty-three years of satellite readings of temperature reading at least do not produce any problem for this theory. They do seem troublesome for the 6C per century projections.

        The problem is that if your “alternate theory” were correct we would have seen virtually no warming trend over that period, rather than the positive trend which we actually see.

        What is the basis for your belief in low climate sensitivity and negative feedbacks?

      • scepticalWombat

        Given that a negative feedback how do you explain (for instance) the major cooling of the Little Ice Age resulting from a minor shift in solar irradiation? Surely the negative feedback would have compensated for the reduction in incoming energy.

      • @Andrew Adams

        “The problem is that if your “alternate theory” were correct we would have seen virtually no warming trend over that period, rather than the positive trend which we actually see.”

        As I see this: no, that is not what is to be expected. This alternate theory allows for small warming due to CO2. And frankly, that does seems to be what those readings show. At least the satellite records do not seem to disagree with a low sensitivity. Mind you, I am aware that this could completely change in a few years. I hold my position with the required


        ” Given that a negative feedback how do you explain (for instance) the major cooling of the Little Ice Age resulting from a minor shift in solar irradiation? Surely the negative feedback would have compensated for the reduction in incoming energy.”

        The implication off course of what you say is that feedback and forcing in paleo-records, are distinguishable beyond reasonable doubt. Is that really true? This does, however, goes to show that the discussion about the “hockey stick graph” is not so trivial. Mind you, that was a proxy record that hardly showed the little ice age.

        However, you may have a point there. There seems to be a certain elegance in explaining these cooling events by positive feedback as reaction to small variations. However, as I see it, such a mechanism would require an escalation of the warming trend where we actually see a flattening in UAH and RSS graphs. I am aware arguments have been made that this flattening is nothing but accidental. It is quite stunning though that 33 year never show evidence for extreme escalation.

        And I’ll ask again: How sure are we that small sun flux changes resulted in big climate change?

      • “I hold my position with the required carefulness”, that should have said.

      • @scepticlaWombat

        Mind you, the flat hockey stick was meant to prove that current temperature change was unbelievably large in comparison to the past. That was presented as the only logical conclusion to be derived from the flat line with a large uptick at the end. The explanation for the largeness of that uptick was the escalation, the positive feedback as reaction on the increase of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. I always found that strange: if the climate was so unstable, how could that line be so flat even when we could correlate things like the Little Ice Age with Maunder and Spoerer Minima, minima that were known changes in solar forcing? On the other hand, if the line was flat even though there were these known changes in solar forcing, how could there not be a negative feedback?

    • Tony Duncan writes (12:20): “What are your criteria for a competing alternate theory?”

      Perhaps an “alternate theory” is too stringent a criterion. In assessing an assertion, I look for recognition of things that the assertion does not explain. For example, the original Hockey Stick does not address the absence of the medieval warm period or the little ice age. The “unexplained” often leads to advancement of understanding: e.g., the orbit of Mercury and the Gamow-Hoyle debate.

  10. Hannu Korpilampi

    I would add the cholesterol theory.

    L. Dietary concensus about the swedish doctor Annika Dahlqvist, who suggested that type two diabetes could be healed with low-carb-high-fat diet. She recommended butter and other animal fats, since those were the most natural form of energy for human consumpion. She was attacked in the media and sued for reckless endangerement of her patients.

    The court found that despite claims of scientific consensus and “thousands of studies”, the prosecutor could not show a single study which proved that 1) eating LCHF was harmful, 2) eating animal fats causes heart disease (!). They found her not guilty and the swedish dietary recommendations for diabetics were revised.

    • So do you believe “that type two diabetes could be healed with low-carb-high-fat diet.”?

      • Hannu Korpilampi

        “Healed” might be an overstatement, but you can live a full and long life without medication and complications that the medication causes, such as blindness and amputations.

        This is nothing new. Before insulin shots were invented diabetes was treated with LCHF-diet. If you don’t eat carbs, your blood sugar doesn’t get abnormally high and you don’t need insulin to bring it down.

        In T2D your body develops a resistance to insulin and stops reacting to it like it should. You start needing larger and larger doses to get your blood sugar down. Then you get the insulin shots. The problem is that its the huge amount of insulin in your blood is what causes blindness and the need for amputations, not T2D itself.

        I have seen it working, so this is not just a theory. In fact LCHF-diet is becoming so popular in scandinavia that there has been butter shortages during this fall in Norway and Finland.

  11. Tony, there are several competing theories ranging from natural cycles caused by solar changes to shifts in the reflective capacity of the atmosphere. The is also the negative theory that the measurements suggesting “global warming” greater than that expected from nature are flawed in one or more ways.

    At the moment, in my view, the null hypothesis – no CO2 driven global warming – is likely as explanatory as the various attempts to make the direct CO2/temp increase link. The null has the advantage of allowing for a range of warming without having to build models (which fail) or draw hysterical, end times graphs suggesting that we head for the hills.

    Best of all, the null can be disproven with evidence of actual, greater than expected, warming and, of course, proof that warming has been caused by an increase in CO2. Such proof on temp should not be so terribly hard to find in a warming world – say >.05 degrees C above natural variability per decade.

    The attribution will be trickier because it requires such things as UHI, aerosols, changing land use and such like to be added and subtracted. And it would have to zero out clouds and other confounding factors. But, with a modest research budget, a clear signal and thirty years, I am sure a patient scientist will have something solid by IPCC XIV.

    • Theo Goodwin

      Well said. What counts as natural variability is something worthy of serious attention from scientists.

  12. The greatest climate expert is the person who lays on the thickest baloney

    My vote goes to Al Gore

  13. Jay,
    I am not sure how you can say the null hypothesis is “no CO2 driven global warming”, unless you can explain to me how the most vocal scientific critics of Global Warming, lindzen, Christie, Spencer, Michaels, etc are also completely wrong in their acceptance of that being an absolute fact.
    What were the predictions of natural variation in 1985 for the next 30 years? Are they more accurate than the various predictions of CO2 increase? Both Hansen and Schneider made significant adjustments to their early analysis. Hansen- modifying his doubling factor, and Schneider completely reassessing his climate sensitivity based on real data.
    Certainly closing the uncertainty parameters is a complicated endeavor, and far from over, but an astounding amount of progress has been made in every field related to this issue.
    Being as there is correlation that was predicted with the CO2 theory, I would need to be provided with concrete predictive statements of an alternate theory. Don Easterbrook and others have predicted an immediate cooling, that so far has not been in evidence. Certainly if in the next ten years there is a significant downturn in temps approaching 1970’s levels and there is no significant mitigating explanation (say a huge increase in reflective aerosols during that period, or a totally unprecedented cooling of the sun, i would definitely consider more seriously that the null hypothesis of our understanding of physics regarding CO2 has serious faults.

    • Tony, I have no doubt that, ceteris paribus, an increase in CO2 will lead to some warming on top of the rebound warming nature has been throwing at us for the last 150 years. My suggestion for the null is >.05 degrees C per decade. However, I suspect at the concentrations we have now reached, the CO2 signal will be so small that if anything is even slightly not paribus, the signal will be overwhelmed.

      Given the rather profound limits on our understanding of the confounding factors in climate, it seems the height of folly to make policy on the basis of a minor, albeit interesting, bit of physics.

    • Tony, Trenberth is the one invoking the null. Shifting the issue to Lindzen, et al is a dodge on your part. The problem is on the null, not those whom you manipulate into agreement with it. The question is why does AGW rely on a nonfalsifiable null?

      • andrew adams


        “no CO2 driven global warming” is also nonfalsifiable.

      • aa,
        That would be why skeptics are not really purusing that one.
        But also don’t forget that skeptics have the job of poling holes in the current consesnus.
        From the responses here, it would seem reasonable that most believers now recognize there are serious problems in the consensus.
        Even Richter’s book, while making pro-forma insults to skeptics largely relies on the arguments of skeptics to make his case.

      • hunter,

        I’m not sure what particular comments are giving you the impression that

        it would seem reasonable that most believers now recognize there are serious problems in the consensus.

        That’s not the impression I get either from comments here or elsewhere, it seems to be BAU to me.

        I’m not familiar with Richter or his book. From a quick search on Amazon it looks interesting enough but at twenty quid for just over 200 pages I don’t think I’m going to find out.

  14. A fundamental problem with Russell’s statement is that there is no good, objective way to measure consensus. That’s clear enough in the climate change issue. There have been some polls among climate scientists. These have been misleadingly and selectively reported, but that’s not the whole problem. How do you know who are the experts? Any politically significant scientific issue is complex enough to make this a non-trivial problem. And how do you know which questions to ask? This is a problem in public opinion polls as well (unless the question is predefined as in an election). Slight differences in wording may give rise to major differences in the results.

    Experts from different relevant fields may give different answers. Ask psychologists and nuclear physicists about the causes of a nuclear accident. The physicists are not qualified to discuss human error, the psychologists are not qualified to discuss nuclear reactions. You’ll get two distinct sets of answers.

  15. This is a great post and illustrates why I’m impatient with expositions of the literature on other threads unless accompanied by explanations of the weaknesses and what further work is required. As a onetime student of Russell’s writings, this quote is quintessential Russell. While his attitude toward religion was Sophomoric, especially with regard to Christianity against which Russell had a prejudice, his History of Western Philosophy is generally accurate, profound and in some cases funny. His destruction of Romanticism and Rousseau is convincing as is his skepticism about modern post-rational philosophy. His autobiography is sometimes interesting but it seems to me full of inaccurate judgments of people he knew only tangentially. It does describe the struggle to finish the Prinicipia with Whitehead on mathematical logic. This episode is depressing in a way. Russell describes a decade long struggle with a problem that seems so trivial as to be not worthy of adult attention but that seemed a fundamental problem. He describes days on end when he would get up an sit at his desk with a blank sheet of paper in front of him and at the end of the day it was still blank. The problem is illustrated by the following statement: The only barber on an island shaves everyone who does not shave himself. A moment’s reflection will show that both the truth of falsity of this statement leads to a contradiction. Russell overcame this by resort to the theory of types, which simply stated disallowed statements of this type. Of course, this just masked a deeper problem with the axiomatic method later explained by Godel. One feels great pain in reading this episode while also respect for the fortitude to tackle a seemingly intractable problem over a long time period. At the time, the faith that an axiomatic explanation of everything was possible was the driving force even though it proved ultimately impossible. We should I think regard this as an example of how difficult fundamental progress in understanding is and how fundamental understanding comes with great effort.

    Russell was an empiricist in theory but not in practice. Science is advanced by fundamental new theories, such as the theory of mathematical logic advanced by Russell and Whitehead, (usually mathematical in nature) that explain the world and allow true predictive capability. The mere accumulation of facts and data does not result in real advances, but merely in an encyplopaedia of disconnected results. Sir Frances Bacon was said to have been the last man to have known everything there was to know in science. But yet, he made no significant scientific advances except to prove that it was possible to meet an early death from a cold contracted while out in a blizzard stuffing a chicken with snow in an attempt to show that freezing preserves meat. This image is quite hilarious to me since it was common knowledge at the time that this was true.

    In my experience, most science is not particularly deep. This is certainly true in medicine, which perhaps is more akin to Bacon’s vision of science and is of course Fred’s native field. But I forgot, medicine is an art and not a science. This is why I’m interested in interdisciplinary teams that include rigorously trained people. Only through constant challenge will progress be made. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a scientist or engineer say “I know mathematics is true, but my field is different and this well documented effect is an example” I’d be writing this from the beach on my private island. I do not denegrate this statement because its the first step to progress through the process of the Socratic method. In any case, this model makes me suspicious of climate science and of the expository style of many of its advocates. The problem here is that this type of discussion is by its very nature uncomfortable and requires mental toughness and a certain disregard for the approbation of ones peers. I find it strange to argue as Fred did on a previous thread that for Judith to maintain her doubts about attribution in light of the opinion of the community would destroy her credibility. I suppose the idea is that she should consider this and change her public stance. I would argue this is an advantage of the tenure system and of retaining senior people who have little to lose financially from challenging the majority opinion.

  16. There is also the dangerous naivete of the uncritical acceptance of maverick claims, simply because they go against the concensus.

    • Of course, just because most scientists believe something does not make it false. But, progress is science depends on skepticism, not mindless repetition of the current doctrines. That’s the key. How do we improve? The answer is through constant challenge.

  17. Joshua,

    yes. Exactly. Consensus in the belief that planes witnessed by thousands that actually crashed into buildings (including my step daughter and a few other acquantances could cause them to collapse was essential for the war in Iraq. It was also essential having a president who had clearly been looking for any excuse to attack Iraq and was willing to fabricate, and totally distort and censor information that did not fit his purpose of starting that war which cost millions.
    On the other hand. this was an administration which not only was unable to keep secret numerous unconstitutional and illegal actions, but was never held responsible for any of these numerous secret activities. yet in order for 9/11 to be an inside job, extremely powerful munitions would have had to have been placed into four buildings with no one being aware of them. they had to be detonated at exactly the right time, and they had to be perfectly executed. Also failing the impact of any of the planes they would have had to have been removed without anyone finding out during a time when the most heightened scrutiny of the entire countries intelligence and numerous outside groups would have been looking for anything suspicious. How could the admin be so incompetent on so many levels and pull off the biggest conspiracy in world history,
    What is fascinating about 9/11 is that is has conspiracy theorists of both the extreme left and right willing to ignore how conspiracies in the real world actually operate and instead attribute super confidence and co-ordination to people only possible in hollywood movies.
    and while only marginally relevant to climate change, it does share the view that numerous experts in many different yet connected fields are either too stupid or two blind to see what non experts are absolutely positive of.

    • This is a poor analogy. 9/11 truthers are clearly divorced from reality and are on a par with the theory that Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbor and allowed thousands of Americans to die to get us into World War II. It’s just the kook fringe that has psychiatric issues and a deep need to ignore the obvious fact that conspiracies of such magnitude are in fact impossible.

      There is no conspiracy theory about climate science that I know of that is taken seriously. The mechanics of the field are clear and open especially with the exposure of the emails. It’s the same mechanism that operated with the Vioxx fiasco. Openness with regard to data and methods is the clearly superior paradigm. And a willingness to examine your assumptions.

      Just because something is widely believed does not make it false. Just because something is believed by a large group of specialists does not make it true especially in a small primitive field beset by immense uncertainty to quote Richard Lindzen. And climate science is a small primitive field in desparate need of better methods and data. I think even honest climate scientists like Andy Likas see this as an issue. The trick is to get this group of scientists angry enough to try to prove the skeptics wrong. That is the beginning of progress and will ultimately prove salutary. Mere repetition of the existing literature is a recipe for stagnation. That is why Judith is a key player in this field.

      • David, the AGW believers seem dedperate to avoid confronting the implications if posts luke this and relentlessly work to hijack the threads into 911, etc. Which is ironic on so many levels.

      • David Young: There is no conspiracy theory about climate science that I know of that is taken seriously.

        There is one conspiracy theory that is taken seriously, namely that some climate scientists have “conspired” secretly to deny funding, degrees, promotions, and publications to scientists critical of the consensus. A part of the “conspiracy” was disclosed by the CRU emails. The serious conspiracy theorists think that these actions went beyond the usual procedures of scientists. When exactly gossip and informal communication transforms into “conspiracy” eludes me, but some people do seriously maintain that it was a “conspiracy”.

      • kook.
        Don’t any of you scientist watch the TV?
        How do you know when to be scared?
        Hollywood knows.
        NASA knows.
        Eli, knows…

        Hurry, get the picture.

      • Cons-piracy, goes something like this…

        “An agreement between two or more persons to engage jointly in an unlawful or criminal act, or an act that is innocent in itself but becomes unlawful when done by the combination of actors.”

        Too, or more.

    • Tony said “it does share the view that numerous experts in many different yet connected fields are either too stupid or two blind to see what non experts are absolutely positive of”

      On the other hand, this propaganda was first pushed out to the West from a channel in France to reinforce preexisting beliefs about the US and the CIA.

      “it does share the view that numerous experts in many different yet connected fields are either too stupid or two blind to see what non experts are absolutely positive of”

      And here is an actual material difference. Without being an expert, but with some relevant knowledge, it was easy to see conclusively from the TV coverage that the airplanes were the only possible cause. Global Warming has no easily observable cause and effect relationships like airplane impacts causing explosions / fires to point to.

    • Crime scenes by law, are to be investigated before clearing the area. Waco was bulldozed to protect the people. WTC was shipped to China. Lets listen to the US news and get the straight poop right, from the top. This is America.
      You know?

  18. “Put in this light, engaging in the climate blogosphere, challenging the consensus and demanding accountability is part of our individual attempts to draw our own intelligent conclusions and do so responsibly.”

    Perhaps I am not well read enough, but in what other field of mainstream science is there such prolonged and widespread debate, in particular sceptical debate, regarding a generally accepted scientific consensus?

    Having followed the various blogs for the past couple of years and engaging people in conversation, I have found the concept of Global Warming evokes rather strongly polarised views. Is this a genuine polarity arising from genuine doubt/scepticism, or is more of a political divide?

    It seems to me that broadly speaking we expect science today to be largely reliable and to be ‘quality assured’ sufficiently well to ensure that scientific consensus eventually settles matters to a close enough approximation of the truth as to be able to act upon that consensus.

    The greenhouse effect is as far as I know considered a settled hypothesis by mainstream science – that is its explanatory power is well shown. CO2 is known to be a significant greenhouse gas. Any increase in a greenhouse gas’s constituency within the atmosphere must by definition lead to an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere. And that increase is likely to give rise to climate changes which on balance could be expected to bring negative outcomes.

    That seems to me a pretty simple summary of the consensus.

    Given that we accept pretty much without question many other consensus views why does this one in particular evoke such divided opinion and blogospheric debate? Why are we “challenging the consensus and demanding accountability” in this one issue? And is it in fact reasonable and responsible for the blogosphere to influence public opinion, and perhaps state policy, when the outcome seems so critical to the ongoing success of our civilisation?

    What is the one deciding factor that makes it reasonable and responsible to demand scepticism beyond the norm in this case?

    • Graeme,
      the reason why is exactly because it IS a political issue, and there are very significant consequences. There are definitely environmental “alarmists” who advocate based on the worst case scenario, even ones with vanishingly small possibilities. And both these advocates and the main stream media have distorted and made inaccurate and. or simplistic conclusions.
      there certainly needs to be skepticism and the freedom of unrestricted speculation that both explores the possibilities of the worst case scenarios as well as factors that could lead to the best case scenarios. And while I think on balance the atttacks on the consensus are far more destructive than valuable, they certainly have caused a much deeper exploration of the many complicated issues than would likely have otherwise occurred if the results of the IPCC assessments of the science were accepted the way most science is.
      Of course the politics of those making extraordinary conspiratorial claims about fraud in the science and ridiculous claims about economic impoverishment and political enslavement by government bogeymen are pretty much propaganda. there does need to be serious analysis of effective practical strategies for dealing with the most likely scenarios of climate change and some insurance against the most extreme possibilities. Without very sober assessment of energy and development we are likely to make some pretty big mistakes that will not help solve the problems engendered by climate change. Fortunately there are lots of private, academic and government initiatives that are not standing still in spite of the political logjam in congress and the inability of the administration to push for much of anything on a national level

    • Graham M,
      Your key statement is

      “CO2 is known to be a significant greenhouse gas. Any increase in a greenhouse gas’s constituency within the atmosphere must by definition lead to an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere. And that increase is likely to give rise to climate changes…”

      Most sceptics have no problem with this. You won’t find Monckton or Lindzen or Spencer disagreeing. Most sceptics however don’t accept that your conclusion

      “…which on balance could be expected to bring negative outcomes.”

      has been in any way proven to a sufficient extent to justify the proposed actions and costs.
      The reason is that the CAGW theory is in two parts: part 1 is the laboratory behaviour of CO2 (it logarithmically ‘traps’ heat), but the laboratory results will only get at most 1.2C per doubling. This is broadly accepted, and there is probably a genuine consensus for a range of 0.5C to 1.5C per CO2 doubling only. The ‘C’ in ‘CAGW’ comes from part 2 – the modeled feedbacks. A little bit more CO2 creates a bit more warming, which in turn causes more water vapor by evaporation, and it is the water vapor which does the major work. Thus, more CO2 ->warming-> more water vapor and CO2 because warm oceans release CO2->more warming ->more water vapor->more warming and so on until the system levels out at somewhere between 3C and 7C – much like a squealing microphone hits a volume limit. It is water vapor which is the most important greenhouse gas. CO2 is very minor by comparison.

      Now, part 2 theory predicts that all this extra heat-retaining water vapor will be concentrated at about 10k above the tropics (the troposphere). But this so called hot-spot cannot be found. Also, CO2 went up rapidly in the decades after WW2, while temperatures went down. The most rapid increase in CO2 has been the last 15 years, but temperatures are basically flat over most of that period. So the data and the modelled theory so far do not agree. All the data says is that for the two decades from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, CO2 and temperatures went up together. But the rate of surface temperature increase over those two decades is not greater than the increase leading up to the 1930’s dust bowl, so natural variation cannot be ruled out. Looking at the last 300 years, the rate of surface temperature increase, glacial retreats, sea levels etc is pretty much linear, rather suggesting that the natural variation is simply the recovery from the Little Ice Age back to the levels of the Medieval Warm Period. And over the last 10,000 years (the holocene) it has been up to 2C warmer than now (during the Minoan or Bronze Age warming). The only arguments provided against natural variability are paleo, ie hockey sticks, but they all in various ways elevate bad statistical analysis over the hard facts.

      An important point not often noted is that although it takes the scientists to know about O18/16 ratios, foraminifera, trace elements in stalactites and stalagmites etc, once the data has been collected and the analysis starts, you no longer need to be a scientist – you just need to be a data analyst. And there are a great many of them (people like Steve McIntyre, JeffID). Their clear consensus is that all the hockey stick charts are pure crap because they necessarily calibrate on the recent warming of the instrumental period rather than the whole record. This has the effect overweighting any proxy which has gone up recently while (because proxies are inherently noisy) averaging out to a flat line for the past – Voila! hockey stick from red noise. Furthermore, many tree ring proxies have declined since the 1960s, an inconvenience hidden from policy-makers by ‘hide the decline’ and other ‘tricks’.

      So, to summarize: there is a basic consensus for the part 1 theory. But the part 2 theory is based on models, not on data, and such data as is available would seem to contradict or at least cause severe difficulties for the models. That is a poor position to be in, and sceptics want to see a much stronger scientific case before we dismantle industrial society at vast expense and at great sovereign risk since the West would be deliberately weakening itself in the face of the resurgent BRICS.

      There is nothing at all unreasonable about questioning modeled outputs, and given the importance western governments are placing on the models, deep and detailed questioning of the part 2 theory is entirely appropriate. It may be for example that more CO2 ->warming->more water vapor->more low-level clouds->cooling. It may be that increased solar wind->fewer cosmic rays->less cloud cover->increased warming. It may be that the entire climate system is simply the random outcomes of intersecting cycles many of which are presently unknown. On my reading of the great climate debate, I don’t think that anyone really has a clue one way or the other, whatever their public prognostications.

      As to why the debate is so passionate – it is because both sides see themselves as saving the world. The sceptics are fighting for the values of the Enlightenment and the scientific method properly applied (data trumps models), while trying to prevent a pointless weakening of western civilisation and our democratic institutions. The AGW advocates are trying to create an eco-utopia where everyone does the right thing by the environment, by force and the dismantling of democracy if that’s what it takes, for the greater good of all. The AGW advocates are primarily of the left, and a great failing of the left is that the means justifies the ends, so the travesties of mathematics in the hockey sticks and things like the 2035 Himalaya glacier meltdown fiasco just do not faze them. The sceptics, tending somewhat more to the orthodox in matters of how to develop public policy, see this cavalier disregard for the facts as an outrageous abuse. Neither side shows the slightest indication of backing down, so as far as I can see this impasse will continue indefinitely.

      • Ooops, I meant “a great failing of the left is that the ends justifies the means”

      • Dale C

        You wrote:

        The reason is that the CAGW theory is in two parts: part 1 is the laboratory behaviour of CO2 (it logarithmically ‘traps’ heat), but the laboratory results will only get at most 1.2C per doubling. This is broadly accepted, and there is probably a genuine consensus for a range of 0.5C to 1.5C per CO2 doubling only.

        This is absolutely correct.

        But, in addition to the empirical evidence based on reproducible laboratory experimentation, to which you allude, we have empirical evidence as supplied by actual physical observations of our climate: CO2 and temperature measurements from 1850 to today.

        These show an increase in CO2 from ~290 to 390 ppmv and a linear temperature increase of ~0.7C over the 161-year period.

        IPCC tells us that the CO2/temperature relation is logarithmic, that 93% of the observed change was anthropogenic, and that all other anthropogenic factors other than CO2 (other GHGs, aerosols, etc.) cancelled each other out.

        IPCC does, however, concede that its “level of scientific understanding” of natural (solar) forcing is “low”.

        Several independent solar studies tell us that around 50% (not 7%) of the observed warming can be attributed to the unusually high level of 20th century solar activity (highest in several thousand years).

        So using these two estimates we can easily calculate the observed CO2-temperature response at 0.7 to 1.4C.

        This is very close to the laboratory range of 0.5 to 1.5C, which you mention.

        And we didn’t even need a bunch of model simulations backed by theoretical deliberations to get there!

        Just empirical data, that’s all.


      • DaleC

        “The ‘C’ in ‘CAGW’ comes from part 2 – the modeled feedbacks. ‘”

        Hence Computer Aided Global Warming …

        Winston Smith

    • That’s a easy one to answer Graham M, Scientific consensus has been shown though history to be wrong. I only need to quote one, Galileo.
      What is this consensus you speak off, a consensus of opinion is not a consensus of fact.
      A consensus between a clique of climate scientists is no more than a conspiracy.

      • Scientific consensus is mostly right, otherwise nothing like a scientific consensus would ever form. The fact that it comes to mind to start listing cases, when the scientific consensus has failed badly during a period of 1000 years or so is perhaps the greatest proof of the fact that the consensus is mostly right.

        That doesn’t mean that it would not be very important to remember that the consensus may err, but it does mean that dismissing the scientific consensus, just because you don’t like it, would be justifiable.

      • Pekka

        I would agree with you that

        dismissing the scientific consensus, just because you don’t like it, would [not] be justifiable.

        But most rational skeptics of the CAGW premise do not dismiss the scientific consensus on this premise because they don’t like it, but because it has not been corroborated by empirical data supported by real-time physical observations or reproducible experimentation.

        In fact, the experimental data that exist point to a CO2/temperature response of 0.5C to 1.5C (as Dale C points out above) and the real-time physical observations confirm this range at 0.7C to 1.4C (see my response to Dale C).

        IOW a mean observed CO2 temperature response is around 1.2C, which tells us that there can be no CATASTROPHIC warming from human CO2 emissions, and the CAGW premise (as promoted by IPCC) becomes simply an AGW premise (which few would disagree with).

        That is the problem here, Pekka.

        The empirical data do not support the premise that AGW will become CATASTROPHIC (as IPCC would have us believe).


      • Pekka, deal with the long list at the top if this post before asserting that it is mostly right.

    • Any increase in a greenhouse gas’s constituency within the atmosphere must by definition lead to an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere.

      With regard to the Earth’s climate systems, this statement is not correct. It is completely correct if the atmosphere of interest is comprised of an isolated, homogeneous mixture of gases and the energy addition into the mixture is provided by a source having the proper characteristic wavelength. Under these conditions, the energy content of the gaseous mixture will increase and thus so its temperature.

      The Earth’s climate systems are not such a mixture. You need to throw in there the infamous ‘all else being equal’ dis-claimer. It would also help if the Earth’s climate systems were not open to both increases and decreases in energy content. And if the Earth’s systems were such that the energy addition supplied by the, by far, dominant source was un-affected by natural physical phenomena and processes within the atmosphere and so could be counted on to provide a constant supply of energy into the systems.

    • “but in what other field of mainstream science is there such prolonged and widespread debate, in particular sceptical debate, regarding a generally accepted scientific consensus?”

      The Medical field, for one. But even in the medical field, shifting terms and morphing of definitions on the PR level as seen in climate science isn’t seen.

    • “What is the one deciding factor that makes it reasonable and responsible to demand scepticism beyond the norm in this case?”

      Here you assume abnormal skepticism at work. In a professional setting, I would probably accept some of the work regarding effects if the physics underlying it was sufficiently developed. A lot of the detail work is very good, but it represents a leap of faith to say “If we do this, that happens” .

    • Graeme: The greenhouse effect is as far as I know considered a settled hypothesis by mainstream science – that is its explanatory power is well shown. CO2 is known to be a significant greenhouse gas. Any increase in a greenhouse gas’s constituency within the atmosphere must by definition lead to an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere. And that increase is likely to give rise to climate changes which on balance could be expected to bring negative outcomes.

      The science can be accepted as approximately correct, but imprecise in some details.

      1. The increase in temperature predicted by the steady-state radiative energy balance simplified models, if it occurs, may take 4,000 years to occur.

      2. Within the limits of accuracy of applicable knowledge and mathematical models, the next increase of CO2 may: (a) warm the atmosphere and surface; (b) cool the lower troposphere but warm the upper troposphere; (c) have no net effect; (d) cool the troposphere. Similar unknowns afflict the anticipations of rainfall changes. Even if the models are correct in most details, no predictions about particular changes in particular places can confidently be made: the model predictions are not in agreement.

      3. The role of the sun is incompletely known, and may not be well-modeled.

      Dr Curry puts up technical papers. It will be worth your time to read them and the discussions of them.

      Lastly “on balance could be expected to bring [positive] outcomes”. Could be.

      • andrew adams


        Which models predict cooling of the lower troposphere or of the troposphere in general as a result of increasing CO2?

      • Andrew Adams: Which models predict cooling of the lower troposphere or of the troposphere in general as a result of increasing CO2?

        Broadly speaking, models that predict increased daytime cloud cover. I outlined a mechanism a while ago, and there is a peer-reviewed paper I found (I posted a link) at Isaac Held’s blog that is similar.

  19. Bertrand Russell was also well known for how he dealt with quacks and wackos.

    This is a Russell quote criticizing Henri Bergson, who was a prototype scientific skeptic/wacko known for his alternate space-time theories challenging Einstein:

    “One of the bad effects of an anti-intellectual philosophy such as that of Bergson, is that it thrives upon the errors and confusions of the intellect. Hence it is led to prefer bad thinking to good, to declare every momentary difficulty insoluble, and to regard every foolish mistake as revealing the bankruptcy of intellect and the triumph of intuition. There are in Bergson’s work many allusions to mathematics and science, and to a careless reader these allusions may seem to strengthen his philosophy greatly.”

    • You must also bear in mind that Russell was very effective at challenging the latest thinking in philosophy. Witness his History of Western Philosophy in which he says that he considers St. Thomas Acquinas superior to Dewey and the utilitarians.

    • Web,
      Sounds like Bergson would have been a leading promoter of AGW.

      • “Anti-intellectual” is like “anti-science”; it’s a sign of a paranoid personality.

      • No, he would be a skeptic posting here, and none of you clowns would rebuke him. In your eyes, anything promoting FUD is condoned.

      • Web,
        That is your opinion. We already know the quality of your opinoin on matters like peak oil, so we can discount your opinion on Bergson as well.

  20. andrew adams

    Political motivation for establishing a scientific consensus associated with a policy prescription, such as occurred in the context of the UNFCCC/IPCC, seems to me to provide grounds for non-experts to question the consensus.

    A fine example of begging the question.

    • “A fine example of begging the question.”

      And here you somehow try to divorce human activities from the operating environment. A fine example of thought without context.

    • andrew adams

      It is possible to acknowlege the environment in which human activities take place without assuming that such activities must necessarily be completely corrupted by that environment.

      • Complete corruption doesn’t have to be assumed; if it were, the consensus should be condemned.

  21. I see a problem if we talk about “experts” in general. There are experts in many kind of fields, and you don’t trust them all at the same level. Astrology, nutrition, rockets, soccer coaching, finance, anthropology, climate, climate change, linguistics, mechanics, and so on, all have their experts. But we don’t put our money on their findings based solely on whether they have a consensus or not. We also consider:

    1- Which field are we talking about? And the field is not just “science”, but such science.

    2- Are we talking about firm ground or about bleeding edge knowledge in that field?

    We also consider possible biases due to politics, money, or ideology. And then, we bet.

    That’s why they absolutely love the expression the science says. It’s the way to get out of perspective.

    • Russell is saying “There are matters about which those who have investigated them are agreed.” I read this as meaning that the experts are the ones who have investigated the specific issue, not just those who are experts in the field to which it belongs. It’s a real difference, because experts often have superficial opinions, even within their own field. And sometimes they all agree without the most elementary double-checking, as Richard Feynman discovered was the case with the experts on beta decay.

      • This brings to mind the quote by Mark Twain:

        ” . . . people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.”

      • I hadn’t seen that Mark Twain quote before. About as accurate as it could get, in my experience. And the point, of course, is that scientific experts are no exception. My favorite example are the nutritionists who (used to) claim that mushrooms have little nutritional value even though this could be debunked by looking up in a standard nutritional data table.

    • Interesting that you mention mechanics, because that field illustrates how uncertainty can change with time and evolving technology. 50 years ago, if you car was running roughly, you’d take it to a mechanic, and inside of 15 minutes, he’d know exactly what was wrong and what you needed to do to fix it. Nowadays, you get a check engine light, take it in, and after 4 hours of diagnosis, the guy calls you and says he can’t find anything wrong. And then gives you a bill for 4 hours of labor.

      That’s one example of where the professional experts are losing ground.

      • Replace the fuel tank filler cap.

      • randomengineer

        Bad example.

        50 years back my dad would have been lucky to hit 50k miles without major overhauls. Today my acura is reckoned to be properly broken in at 100k miles and will likely hit 400k before major trouble strikes. By that time the vehicle will be replaced (this year’s model has an optional doppler radar display. [!!] )

        I like the argument people give for buying domestic US vehicles — the parts are cheaper. Me, I say buy japanese. If you’re not buying parts in the first place this is cheaper yet.

      • Check engine lights are a pain. I do miss the days when I could rebuild an engine over the weekend and tweak it a touch but I don’t miss the fuel consumption at today’s prices. Now with supercharged direct fuel injection outboards I don’t think I can pull the cowling without violating the warranty.

      • Beside the point.

      • randomengineer

        Beside the point? Hardly. The point is that all of that expertise has resulted in more efficient, safer, and more reliable transport. Gone are the days of shade tree mechanics, and this is a good thing. Last thing I want is Cletus McChanic tweaking the air bag settings in my teenager’s car.

      • Dude, the point is whatever the person who brings it up says it is. Replies are either responsive of non-responsive. That was non-responsive.

      • So I do you feel about Gomer Pyle filling your compressed natural gas tanks?

      • randomengineer

        Gomer Pyle alredy delivers LPG here and hooks up the lines accordingly, so this looks to be something fairly gomer-proofed.

      • Well, I used to do hot-air ballooning, and I witnessed 4 near catastrophes while filling tanks with propane, and propane pressures aren’t that high.

        CNG can reach 3600 psi.

    • “and you don’t trust them all at the same level”

      There’s only a need to trust if what is being asserted isn’t demonstrated.

  22. simon abingdon

    @ Graeme M: “Any increase in a greenhouse gas’s constituency within the atmosphere must by definition lead to an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere”.

    Such increase depends on the sensitivity of the atmosphere. This value is not yet determined due to a lack of understanding of cloud feedback effects. (Clouds cover well over 60% of the globe at any time).

    You will have noted that the relentless CO2 emissions this century have not been accompanied by any measurable increase in temperature. To paraphrase the well-worn cliche, “without correlation there can be no causation”.

  23. Science is considered to be the opposite of art, but doing science is definitely art.

    The issue, whether some particular minority view should be given special emphasis or dismissed based on the existing evidence, is an eternal problem. On the other hand science must be open to new ideas, on the other it’s not possible to give full weight to every view. Handling this controversy is an art, where the best scientists are best professionals.


    Looking at the original text of Kevin Rice, it’s really strange to start the list by the role of CERN in connection with the acceptance or non-acceptance of the work of Svensmark. CERN is not in climate research and has no direct connection to the evaluation of the work of Svensmark. The connection came through another Dane, Jasper Kirkby, who got interested in the ideas and proposed experiments to be performed at CERN. He gave a presentation in the main auditorium of CERN, which has received a lot of attention, and certainly also critique. It’s not surprising that Kirkby had to fight to get approved such a costly experiment that’s pretty remote of the basic CERN interest, but it was approved. The may be reasons to argue on the response of the climate science community on the Svensmark ideas, but CERN is not a significant contributor to that. (I have some extra interest in following the Kirkby experiment, because another main figure in the work is a highly respected Finnish aerosol physicist Markku Kulmala, whom I know.)

  24. “Political motivation for establishing a scientific consensus associated with a policy prescription, such as occurred in the context of the UNFCCC/IPCC, seems to me to provide grounds for non-experts to question the consensus.”

    If you ever want to get anything done that depends on scientific knowledge, you’ll seek a scientific consensus. How else to proceed?

    This argument seems to me to be simple anarchism. It builds automatic resistance to any government that seeks to act on scientific advice.

    • Nick,
      You are simplifying the situation until it bears no relationship to what has happened irt AGW.

    • Theo Goodwin

      There is no need to “seek” scientific consensus. Consensus emerges as scientists discover what is interesting and promising in one’s research. Any attempt to create consensus is a form of coercion that has no place in science.

    • As Theo has implied, “seeking” a consensus is an ambiguous term.

      Some “seek” consensus by attempting to manufacture it through coercion. They will inevitably, over time, lead themselves astray, as has happened in climate “science”.

      Other seek consensus by looking to see where it ALREADY exists, FREE of any attempt to manufacture it. They are trying to FIND consensus, not create it. Such a consensus may still be wrong, but unlike the earlier search, it is not bound to be. And over time, a scientific consensus freely shared is likely to correct its errors, while its coercive counterpart will fall further into error, as has climate “science”.

      Of course there are few ideal examples – most consensi are subject to the milder forms of coercion, such as peer-pressure and group-think, and even the most repressive orthodoxies eventually fall to rebel thinkers, as must climate “science”. But judging a consensus by the freedom with which it is held is a good way to predict its present, or eventual, accuracy.

      If warmists understood this better they would realise how self-defeating their attempts to stifle dissent will eventually prove.

  25. “Oh it is all too complicated for little old me, don’t ask me to think critically about it. Let me just trust what most of the experts are saying.”

    Sounds exactly like what I heard one of those Canadian Senators saying in the recent hearing where they invited the skeptical viewpoint to be heard.

  26. Consensus? The only consensus is that atmospheric CO2 has a radiant impact and that man adds CO2 to the atmosphere.

    3C of warming due to a doubling is not a consensus, it is a guess based on an average of the worst case guess, Hansen and Arrhenius and the more scientific guess of Manabe and Calender.

    Climate science perverted itself by attempting to build consensus around an average of guesses.

  27. Judith,

    Sometimes you surprise me!
    7 billion people on this planet and a single voice trying to challenge the mass of programed people from consensus science and religion.
    The few challenging the many to be accountable for their conclusions and papers that have influenced the change of our society by influencing the policy changes of governments.

    Considering that governments are paying for the research and studies and literally buying it back from the IPCC that has only cherry picked for a one sided conclusion.

    SIMPLE TEST: Is the media influenced by government policies and are they reporting fairly?
    Currently as I have seen: Weather reports include the record highs for the day, why are record lows not shown?
    Is that not bias?

  28. Judith Curry

    Wow! That was a real stumper.

    But, before we get into analyzing or rationalizing it to death, I think the more important questions are:

    ”who said it first?” and

    ”how does it apply to climate science today?”.

    The first question is difficult to answer comprehensively, but we can look at old records to see whether or not we can find similar statements.

    The first example I could find where a powerful body dictated an accepted dogmatic consensus position is (from Wiki):

    The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia (present-day İznik in Turkey) by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325. This first ecumenical council was the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom

    Its main accomplishments were settlement of the Christological issue of the relationship of Jesus to God the Father; the construction of the first part of the Nicene Creed; settling the calculation of the date of Easter; and promulgation of early canon law.

    Interesting is that this was ”the first effort to attain consensus in the Church” (a similar process as is now practiced by IPCC).

    Constantine informed the audience how averse he was to dogmatic controversy; he wanted the Church to live in harmony and peace.

    Wiki continues to explain how the Council handled dissenting viewpoints (heresy):

    The suppression of the Meletian schism, an early breakaway sect, was another important matter that came before the Council of Nicea.

    Meletius was banished to effective “house arrest” in the “city of Lycopolis in Egypt, but without exercising authority or the power to ordain new clergy”.

    How does it apply to climate science today?

    Today Melitius’ gag order would be equivalent to banishment from publishing rights in scientific journals or exclusion from IPCC summary reports.

    The IPCC “consensus process” is a perfect example of a procedure by a powerful body to ensure that its consensus dogma is protected against dissenting views.

    ”The science is settled” is its credo.

    The powerful political leaders of many scientific organizations (RS, NAS, etc.) are equivalent to the powerful bishops of the time, who saw to it that the consensus dogma was not challenged

    Voilà! Déjà vu all over again…


    • Thanks Max!

      A simple way of controlling the masses and spreading their power structure throughout the world.

      Still have not seen any evidence of a spirituality that changed or created anything!

    • I think you will find that the IPCC and NAS are a bit more lenient when it comes to dissent than Constantine, unless I am mistaken and you can inform me what the visiting policy is for McIntyre, Watts, Moncton and the rest.

      Can I bake them a cake with a file inside?

      Banishment from publishing rights in scientific journals?
      You have got to be kidding, right?

      No one has such rights, except for PNAS, which gives such rights to members, which must be earned. Well voted in, anyway.

      And you are also equating the IPCC reports with the virgin birth of a god.

      Well done sir.

      • bob –

        I think you will find that the IPCC and NAS are a bit more lenient when it comes to dissent than Constantine,

        Seriously, dude.

        Today Melitius’ gag order would be equivalent to

        banishment from publishing rights in scientific journals or exclusion from IPCC summary reports.

        You actually see a difference between Constantine and the IPCC? You can’t see that they are “equivalent?”

        Next, you’re going to tell me that the AGW cabal aren’t uniformly eco-Nazi, eugenics-loving, socialist/communist/statist/progressive statists who are indifferent to the deaths of millions as they force-march the planet into a One World Government to advance their agenda of destroying life-sustaining capitalism.

        Why your religious belief in AGW will enable you to ignore the most certain of realities, won’t it?

      • Yes. Overstatements never convince anyone. Neither does avoiding the real problems

        On visiting rights, you can of course visit McIntyre, you cannot however ask him to visit your university to speak about statistics without consequences. Ask Judith.
        You will not be banned from publishing but peer review will be redefined to exclude or alter your conclusions.

      • Joshua,

        Seriously dude,
        Banishment in Constantine’s day was harsher than what we today call house arrest. The guy was bansished to the mines and probably did hard labor for the rest of his, short from that point, life.


        But you Godwinned the thread, so I win. Just because you are paranoid about a one world government doesn’t mean that we are not coming to get you.

        But really, the IPCC and NAS has never done anything like what was done to some of the early Christians.

      • But really, the IPCC and NAS has never done anything like what was done to some of the early Christians.

        It’s interesting how such broad dissimilarities doesn’t prevent Max from describing them as “equivalent.”

  29. Let me try again; without any hope of success, Judith you write:-

    “Put in this light, engaging in the climate blogosphere, challenging the consensus and demanding accountability is part of our individual attempts to draw our own intelligent conclusions and do so responsibly.”

    I have stated what my “intelligent conclusion” is. CAGW is a hoax. However, I, and I suspect many others, would dearly like to know, in unequivocal terms, what your “intelligent conclusion” is.

    • Jim, Cagw is likely incorrect, but it is not a hoax since to build a consensus all possible range of AGW had to be included. It is a delusion not a hoax.

      A doubling of CO2 from 190 PPM will produce about 2.25 C of warming. A doubling of CO2 from 280 PPM will produce about 1.2 C of warming. Because Arrhenius need strong water vapor feed back to match his theory he initially over estimated feed back by selecting the maximum impact possible. His goal was to prove that CO2 concentration caused the glacial and interglacial.

      Hansen used the maximum possible impact of CO2 to attempt to prove that runaway global warming is the cause of the higher than expected surface temperature of Venus.

      So two questionable theories are part of the consensus because two scientists needed the perfect impact of CO2 to build their theories.

      Science should be competition to discover the truth, not a milquetoast attempt to not offend the emeritus..

      • Capt Dalls you write, with considerable certainly “A doubling of CO2 from 190 PPM will produce about 2.25 C of warming. A doubling of CO2 from 280 PPM will produce about 1.2 C of warming.”

        I have read all the science, and, IMHO, you are just plain wrong. There is no way, using proper physics, that anyone can go from a change in the acknowldeged change in radiative balance of the atmosphere as you add more CO2, to a change in surface temperature. Zero, nada, zilch. Until I see the appropiate estimations that prove me wrong, I will go on believing that CAGW is a hoax.

      • Capt Dallas,

        Since you bring up Venus, do you have any explanation for the higher than expected deuterium levels found on Venus?

        The deuterium excess on Venus does lend support to Hansen’s theories.

        Do you have another possible explanation other than Hansen’s?

      • Jim, Now you want to complicate things and have the warming at the surface. The radiant impact of CO2 is felt where it is felt. In the tropics it would be felt higher in the atmosphere where it would have little impact on the surface and more impact on the clouds and water vapor. Then the combined feed back from the CO2 forcing would be cooling, due to the increased rate of convection. CO2 still is providing energy to the atmosphere that wouldn’t be there if it were not there.

        CO2 does have a impact on the radiant cooling of the Earth and that impact would be about 1.2 C for a doubling. The real question is how the atmosphere responds to that forcing.

        On average, that 1.2 C would be about 0.8 at the surface using the classic caveat of “if all things remain equal”. Things don’t remain equal though. As it stands, convection has an impact of about 14%, evaporation of about 45%, and radiant of about 41% on the surface cooling. If the radiant changes, so will the other two. If solar change so will all three. That does not mean that CO2 doesn’t have 1.2 C impact, all things remaining equal :)

      • Bob, Deuterium is interesting. With a lack of or very weak magnetic field, Venus has little protection from solar winds other than the density of its atmosphere. With about twice the mass, deuterium would penetrate the atmosphere more deeply than normal hydrogen. I have research it yet, but I would suspect Venus may also have more 3He if solar winds play a role.

        Deuterium created by the disassociation of water by ultraviolet radiation assumes that the formation of Venus was similar to Earth and Mars. Other than size and distance from the sun, Venus doesn’t much resemble Earth or Mars.

        So no, I don’t know if Deuterium on Venus supports Hansen or not. The D/H ratio though does not contradict the theory that Venus’ atmosphere is thermally iso-conductive near the surface. The density of Venus’ atmosphere at the surface and its CO2 composition would greatly increase its thermal conductivity. Since Venus does have evidence of volcanic activity, it is not absurd to believe that some portion of its elevated surface temperature is due to retained geothermal energy.

        How much geothermal is retained is the question. If it is significant, on the order of adding 250C to the surface temperature as I believe, that would indicate a limit to the greenhouse effect that is more realistic with the amount of solar energy that Venus’ dense atmosphere allows to penetrate.

      • Capt Dallas: I’m curious about “runaway global warming is the cause of the higher than expected surface temperature of Venus.” (Hansen)

        Not to quarrel with you, but did Hansen explain how Venus got an atmospheric pressure of 90 atmospheres? :-)

    • Jim Cripwell

      This may be a repeat, but here goes, anyway.

      A bit more than a year ago, our host was asked to testify as an expert on climate change before a US congressional committee.

      The clip is fun to watch. In observing the entire session, it is clear that the committee chairman, Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), was trying to get a group of experts on various climate-related subjects, including our host, to give him the statement that the “consensus” science is OK and sufficiently robust to give him scientific support for “policy action”.

      He essentially got what he wanted from the other invited experts and things were “on a roll” when it was our host’s turn to testify under oath.

      In contrast to the others, Judith did not give Baird what he wanted in her testimony.

      She started off saying:

      Anthropogenic climate change is a theory whose basic mechanism is well understood, but whose magnitude is highly uncertain.

      She stated that there is ignorance about what is known about natural climate variability, what is not known about natural climate variability and the feedback processes.

      These are the key issues that divide the supporters of the”mainstream consensus view” that AGW poses a serious threat from the ”lukewarmers” who are rationally skeptical of this premise.

      A few sentences later Judith said:

      The threat from global climate change does not seem to be an existential one on the time scale of the 21st century even in its most alarming incarnation.

      [This is definitely not in line with the “mainstream consensus” of IPCC.]


      It seems more important that robust policy responses be formulated rather than to respond urgently with policies that may fail to address the problem and whose unintended consequences have not been adequately explored.

      [Also not in line with the “mainstream consensus” of IPCC.]

      Judith called for a greater need for scientists to explore uncertainties and for improved and transparent historical and paleo-climate data records. She stated that citizen science groups in the blogosphere bring much needed scrutiny, particularly with regard to paleo-climate data [a reference to the “hockey stick saga”?].

      So Baird did not get what he wanted from our host.

      To me, her “intelligent conclusion” seems very clear, based on this testimony.

      It may not be the same as yours or mine, but it appears to be very clear to me.


      PS Baird is no longer a congressman.

      PPS If Judith has changed her position, she can so state here

  30. This reminds me of Arthur C. Clark’s famous quote:
    When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

    However, I disagree that the most dire consequence of the “catastrophic collapse of the global economy” is the”massive transfer of wealth into the hands of a very small club of billionaires…” selling the politically preferred solution.

    The collapse of the global economy will cause the deaths of many millions of people. Folks like us who live in affluent countries will be able to cope. However, for those who spend a significant portion of their total income just to survive, increasing the price of food and energy (the primary effect of the preferred solutions) will push many over the edge into starvation and death.

    I find this unacceptable. I suspect most supports of concesnus would agree, but so far, their only mitigation strategy is to pretend it can’t happen.

  31. The use of the term ‘experts’ is problematic for two reasons. One, there are recognized experts in many fields. Climate science is not one of them. Given the demonstrated incompetence of many of the supposed leading lights claiming to be climate scientists, we are obviously a long, long way from the day where anyone should be considered an expert in climate science. Two, there is an enormous difference between expertise and the ability to predict the future. Not even experts can predict the future. Only a fool afflicted by an inadequate knowledge of history and infected with a fatal dose of hubris would be so stupid as to try.

  32. I find this current posting at WUWT presenting the views of expert dendros on the suitability of using tree rings to measure temperature. This clearly shows the limitations of certain consensus driven climatological practises:
    When is it all going to end?

    • Theo Goodwin

      Yes, this is important to read. Notice that all of the offenses discussed are either against statistics or against scientific method. In particular, the latter involves failure to test proxies for reliability. Instead, the offenders never questioned the quality of their proxy data. All of them need therapy for undeveloped instincts for the empirical. (Such a discussion is totally understandable for anyone who learns the basics of scientific method.)

  33. Sure, let’s follow along with Rice for a moment.

    Have you 1) examined the vested interests and history of industry and government politics in relation to climate change, in your country 2) examined the dominant power relations at play in your society 3) examined the credibility of the most influential ‘precontemplationists’ (we can replace ‘denier’ with this new term, to communicate the possibilities of meeting resistance with new information) or 4) examined the dominant worldviews and ideology espoused by the ‘dominant paradigm’ of climate change precontemplation?

    No, no, no and no.

    Why not?

    Regarding the suggestion of any serious comparison of the rhetoric of your blog and ‘Philosophical Counsellor’ Kevin Rice of the Catholibertarian and Nakedontologist blog efforts, with his ‘ABT’ M.A. (thesis topic: the scientific viability of the immortal soul) to Bertrand Russell’s analytic expertise and understanding of how science evaluates and advances knowledge …


    There seems to be a vast gap in critical skills, and views. I think there may be little to no serious comparison to be made with the analytic philosophy of Bertrand Russell, his views on uncertainty, his understanding of how scientific knowledge is evaluated or advanced, or what he might have said about current issues. Russell was against the societal dogma of any and all theology and he was a progressive.

    The anti-science American public, is not Russell’s public. Don’t pretend it is.

    • Martha,
      The gap is entirely within you.

    • I’m part of the American public, and I take offence to that. You’re English, right?

      • Russell, like all people, was not some flawless proponent of the jsut and good. His embracing of eugenics is well documented. It takes a very bold person to assert that eugenics was based on sound science and was not a social mania with a sciencey veneer.
        To assert that Russell’s audience was not Americans is to ignore history and to claim that Americans are anti-science is to beg the question, “in comparison to who?”
        But Martha has never been constrained by truth, history or facts.

  34. Let me suggest another rule of thumb for when the non-expert to be skeptical of scientific research.

    5. Failure of predictions resulting from established science.

  35. This is a good post. Well before GW reached sci certainty (.05 on the null or 95% confidence…which happened in some studies back in 1995), I started reducing my GHG emissions thru energy/resource conservation/efficiency in 1990, eventually going on alt energy, 100% wind generated household electricity by 2002. I did not need scientific consensus on what just might turn out to be a very serious harm to humanity and other living things, and I was even willing to sacrifice. So even though it turned out I was able to save $1000s AND slightly raise my living standard, I would have done it if I had spend $1000s and had lowered my living standard. Natural Capitalism can show a similar way for industry & business (www.natcap.org). It would have been completely morally wrong to wait around for sci consensus. And even if (my greatest hope) GW is not really happening, I have saved money, improved my health, and mitigated many other environmental & non-environmental problems. If GW is a hoax, then it is a really truly wonderful hoax.

    • “If GW is a hoax, then it is a really truly wonderful hoax.”

      Speechless. I am without speech.


    • lynnvinc

      Yours sounds like a success story with a truly happy ending.

      Many are not as fortunate as you to have the options you had and pursued.

      So, while CAGW may be a “really truly wonderful hoax” for you it could turn out to be a “cruel hoax” for someone else, if the planned global steps to mitigate against CO2 emission are enforced and underdeveloped nations are denied the possibility to build up a universally available energy infrastructure based on low-cost, local fossil fuels…

      As Judith has pointed out, there will be “winners and losers” from AGW.

      Glad to hear that you are among the “winners”.


    • lynnvic,
      sorry but you are a fibber.

    • Lynnvinc, We would have to see your numbers and some other details, such as where you live, the kind of house, local electricity costs, how much electricity you use, etc. I think there are a few cases where even 100% wind can work, but they are very few. The obvious first question is how do you store, say, a week’s worth of electricity? The second is how much do you use a year? Perhaps yo could do a guest post. Sorry to be skeptical but a lot of people have studied this problem.

    • Horsetuchas. The only people who save money from renewables are either the off-grid, or the ones who know how to work the government slot machine.

    • lynnvinc: If GW is a hoax, then it is a really truly wonderful hoax.

      I think your example is essentially irrelevant to your conclusion. It is no news that “A penny saved is a penny earned”, or that a rational “homo economicus” attempts to maximize net income. Some of my neighbors waste money on air conditioning, but I don’t — they do not consider it waste, but I reap a financial benefit from consuming less electricity.

      This is totally independent of claims of AGW.

      Among my charitable donations I buy CO2 offsets that help fund reforestation in Ecuador; that is, I help to pay poor people to plant trees. Reforestation and aiding the poor (of whom there are way to many for one to feel any satisfaction from a small effort) have value independent of AGW.

      • In the Dakotas, before rural electrification, which was fought as being socialist, many farms had wind generators and batteries. My first economics professor grew up on a farm that was, and not by choice, off the grid. After horrifying us with thoughts he grew up in total darkness, he added the bit about having a wind generator, and that even their outhouse had a lightbulb.

      • mattstat – Do you know for sure your money actually gets to the poor. Frequently, it goes to those in charge.

  36. randomengineer

    Face it, without the politics and threats by the green leftists to screw up the entire economy, climate science would be in the same boat as veterinary disease studies (which the public never hears of, but must exist.)

    You *know* that the climate “debate” is political theatre orchestrated by the lefty greens simply by some cursory reading. The first foray I had into the blogosphere re climate was at dot earth where an early (for me) article by Revkin started out talking about some sort of unicorn fart level technology that could remake cities, and Revkin solemnly intones that this could also fix urban sprawl.

    Well then. So here’s the proof. The two for one special. Not only do cities benefit, the claimed problem of urban sprawl can be addressed with planned communities. Ummm… wait. Who exactly says that urban sprawl is a problem? It’s not the free market people, it’s not the republican politicians (I should know, I did a web search) and it’s not the general public. No. It’s solely the purview of the green leftists, the class of self-proclaimed do-gooders who will (or course) be in charge of the brave new world. After all we in the hoi polloi are obviously too stupid and watching the latest reality tv incarnation of the Kardashians anyway; we need the enlightened to think in our stead. When I read that Revkin sentence, it was crystal clear that the entire discussion has been hijacked by those who seek to impose their will on others, period; there can be no meaningful discussion in that circumstance.

    So here we have this (climate etc) blog where the mainstream consensus buyer also happens to think Revkin is a serious and impartial journalist, and every time I read any sort of remark that contends agreement with this, I am reminded that in the case of the climate discussion any and all broad spectrum consensus is trumpeted almost entirely by the political left (green left actually.)

    Insofar as I can tell the scientific consensus by those who can speak without spewing green platitudes is that GHGs by all account can and will cause changes to the climate system, but how much and to what effect is currently unknown. There is no reason to reject the portion of the consensus that is not political football; it is very likely to be the correct understanding. Conversely there is EVERY reason to reject out of hand all claimed “consensus” that has even the slightest tinge of political slant. Therefore it compells me to ask Dr Curry here what sort of limits are we placing on the notion of “scientific consensus” — are we still talking about the basic concepts re radiative physics or does this meander into the area where the self-appointed feel duty bound to identify and solve problems (e.g. urban sprawl) for us?

    • Random, the interesting part is the part in between “the basic concepts re radiative physics” and “the area where the self-appointed feel duty bound to solve problems for us”. If I bothered to do the html I’d put back in your “identify and” with a strikethrough because identifying the problems I think falls somewhere in that in-between. Like, what’s the shape of the climate sensitivity curve for different sets of initial conditions, etc. etc.

  37. Doomsday Songtext
    (submitted to IPCC by “Blutengel”, as suggested foreword for AR5 SPM report) :

    We try to understand
    What we have done…
    But we have lost the world forever

    We are walking over frozen oceans
    We see no trees, we see no sun
    All the

    We hear a thunderstorm from far away
    It’s a dark sign for the end of days
    The earth stands still, the sky is on fire
    It’s natures revenge for what we’ve done

    There are no animals, there is no rain
    To wash away the blood from our hands

    And we’re still praying for redemption
    For someone to show us the way
    But we have lost our future today

    We hear a thunderstorm from far away
    It’s a dark sign for the end of days
    The earth stands still, the sky is on fire
    It’s natures revenge for what we’ve done

    This is doomsday -we’ve lost the game
    It’s doomsday -and the world falls down

    Hey! These guys have got it all wrong.. The “sky is on fire” is OK but “flowers in the garden died years ago under the ice” does not fit the CAGW doomsday scenario, unless IPCC is already shrewdly planning to include local or regional sub-cooling to the model-simulated anthropogenic global warming scenarios and storylines, in view of the past decade’s cooling trend (just to cover all bets).

    Alle Infos über Blutengel: http://www.musictory.de/musik/Blutengel

  38. The issue is bigger than just science. Big shot investment experts are spectacularly wrong all of the time. This is really the uncertainty monster in yet another costume.

  39. Correction: Lines 6 and 7 of the Doomsday text were left out:
    All the flowers in the garden
    Died years ago under the ice

  40. The biggest threat to the future of the US is not global warming. It is the challenge faced by a legal system that must indulge a growing class of an uneducable citizenry that is wholly contemptuous of the property rights of others.

    • Who are these people?

      • BillC –

        Who are these people?

        My guess is that Wagathon’s referring to the “parasite class.” You know, tens of millions of American working poor, tens of millions of American seniors on Medicare, and tens of millions of American children born into poverty.

        Your basic unwashed masses types – so easily duped by blood-stained environmentalists as David Y pointed out in the previous thread.

        In contrast, this quote from Mencken comes to mind (in reference to the Old Confederacy): “…with men of delicate fancy, urbane instinct and aristocratic manner — in brief, superior men. It was there, above all, that some attention was given to the art of living — a certain noble spaciousness was in the ancient southern scheme of things.”

        Ah yes, the delicate fancy and noble spaciousness of slave-holders who had a full understanding of property rights.

      • randomengineer

        In wagathon-ese, democrats.

  41. When powerful ideological or economic interests mount a PR campaign to discredit some inconvenient piece of science, their efforts distort the normal course of scientific debate and progress. The original instance in which scientists appealed to “consensus,” for example, took place back at the time when the tobacco industry was still fighting the notion that cigarettes had something to do with cancer. It’s not that working scientists normally appeal to consensus to defend themselves. It’s a defense mechanism and not an especially effective one at that. Scientists are lousy at PR, not only because they lack the requisite training but because they are handicapped by moral scruples.

    • patrioticduo

      Might those nasty rascally “powerful ideological interests” actually turn out to be far more benign than you imply? For me, the questions surrounding climate “science” are, in Bacon’s words, “a concoction of the mind” and when coupled with the uncertainty monster (love that term), and as regards to mitigation techniques, the rubber has never been allowed to hit the road. To extend the analogy, anyone can pretend to build a Formula 1 race car but until you actually put your concoction onto the race track and compete, your claims are just fanciful wishful thinking. And that’s before we even begin to analyze the question of human produced CO2 and its claimed affect on climate. Notice that Galilleo didn’t go so far as to get his head removed from his torso because even he knew that his radical idea was not actually going to cause any immediate death. He instead crafted a compromise that led to his house arrest while also being true to his inner principles. But what if he had discovered some other scientific fact that he knew to be causing immediate and grave harm to others? Would he have been more strident in his actions and words? It seems to me that if human produced CO2 was really causing harm then the scientists themselves would be using dialog, demonstrating and calling out for radical change far more shrill and compelling. But instead, we see that they, like Galilleo, know that there are limits to their understanding and one doesn’t need to wind up getting executed or perhaps worse, totally discredited by pushing something that they really aren’t too sure about at all. And certainly, they know that shouting fire, crying wolf and other extreme warning must be left to politicians and the U.N. and other enviro wacko outfits. The scientists just need their funding to continue – for as long as possible.

    • “Scientists are lousy at PR, not only because they lack the requisite training but because they are handicapped by moral scruples.”

      I guess you don’t follow nanotechnology research – lots of snake oil being sold by scientists. I see it more and more in various fields.

      • The more people are convinced that scientists have high moral standards, the more they can get away with not having (or practicing) them. It’s a form of power, and power corrupts.

  42. Several drugs trials that combine statins, which drop LDL and new drugs that raise HDL, have been run or are running.

    The consensus view, which drug companies have spent billions researching and testing, is that high HDL and low LDL protects against heart attacks and strokes.

    Some trials have been stopped and the rest will most likely be terminated before the term is up.

    The drug combinations are not helpful, and the incoming evidence suggests higher morality.

    A least 4 big trials are underway or in the pipe.
    Each trial is about a half billion.
    The consensus view appears to be wrong. In biology and pharmacology it often is.


    • DocMartyn,
      An interesting question might be to explore what correlation, if any, there is between statins and other fat control drugs like zettia and welchol and significant gastro issues like ulc. colitis, gall bladder issues or pancreatitis or even colon/stomach cancers.
      I have an impression we might find out there literally is no such thing as a free lunch……

    • “The drug combinations are not helpful, and the incoming evidence suggests higher morality”

      I thought the original research wasn’t very good. Everyone was ignoring that cholesterol is an important antioxidant, and levels increase due to oxidative stress. One small test suggested that lowering cholesterol through vitamin A lead to possibly increased cancer risk. Also, while nitric oxide’s role in cardiovascular protection is somewhat known and understood, I haven’t seen prior experiments on whether cholesterol also protects the cardiovascular system or not.

      I lump a lot of this stuff into the “Don’t drink milk if you have an ulcer because it has calcium, and calcium aggravates ulcers” category. Good idea, but show me actual data before you try to convince me.

  43. Some guy named Feynmann supposedly once said “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” But he was just some bongo-playing wing-nut as far as I can tell.

    • Theo Goodwin

      I had a dream about Feynman recently. He had been assigned the job of chief assistant at The Pearly Gates.

  44. Re: Vox Nova’s position. I’m not sure what a Catholibertarian is, and I don’t assume that Kupp presumes to speak for the church, but fwiw I would not stake my argument on anything the Catholic Church as to say about science. Their track record is right up their with the Holy Church of Dendrochronology.

  45. The consensus on global warming is wrong. It is clearly caused by the friction generated as the Earth travels through the Luminiferous Aether. Ask any late 19th Century physicist.

    And what’s this rubbish about stones falling from the sky?

  46. Michael Hart

    “How do we non-experts decide when to take the pronouncements of the scientific consensus with a grain of salt? ”

    Let me rephrase the question using an analogy: If someone approached me, selling their fiendishly sophisticated program for predicting the stock market, for the bargain price of a few % of my post-tax salary (!), what should I do? At a minimum, I might ask them to give me a demonstration and name a number of stocks [certainly more than 30] that are going to rise tomorrow, and by how much. I would also ask for some names of stocks that would fall tomorrow. Not which stocks rose or fell yesterday, or last year. Not whether they were ‘Bullish’ about the Dow Jones Index.
    In short, I would ask for concrete predictions that were at least better than ones I could get from my neighbours cat.

    This approach could be made more sophisticated, but it seems a good starting point.

    • How about I sell you one that was back tested for the last 50 years, and predicts what it will be 100 years from now, but not next year or 10 years from now?

      Any takers?

  47. Much discussion here about skepticsm as it is expressed relative to a scientific consensus. This is distinct from skepticism expressed relative to a scientific theory, and I think it’s important to recognize the difference.
    Many of us believe that in the framework of building scientific knowledge, “consensus” is a bogus concept. Consensus statements are generated by professional societies and other organizations for political consumption. They seek to exploit a misconception of science that knowledge is ratified by a deliberative process that nonscientists vaguely expect should mirror the trappings of democracy. Adopting this view, it is fair to ignore those who go against the consensus, because in a democracy the majority rules.
    In my own profession (I am a statistician) I have seen our primary professional society “ratify” the consensus that global warming is happening and is due primarily to human activity. What is the basis of this decision? The vast majority of its 18,000 members know as little about climate science as any member of the public who reads a newspaper or magazine. Those with specific, working knowledge of the field can probably be fit into an elevator with room to spare. Anyone who knows this can appreciate the vapidity of such a consensus statement, but to those on the outside of science it gives a purposefully wrong impression that another large block of scientists have carefully examined the evidence and reached the same, incontrovertible conclusion.
    Whether I agree with the central ideas or not, I am inherently a skeptic of any scientific proposition that is proclaimed as a consensus. Like the worker at a meat-packing plant, I have seen how the sausages are made and prefer the tofu burger.

    • Most results of science that practically nobody doubts are expressions of consensus. They have not been ratified or decided by any specific body, they have just been confirmed well enough to earn the status of consensus knowledge. Standard textbooks are based on this consensus knowledge and in most cases that knowledge will never be found faulty, although some refinements and extensions are common.

      Trying to decide and decree, what’s is consensus knowledge is another matter. It’s totally unnecessary for real consensus knowledge. Majority views can perhaps be found out by some specific procedure, but a majority view is not the same thing as scientific consensus.

      Even real consensus knowledge gets contested, and should get contested. It’s likely to survive, but only getting contested gives real assurance for the persistent validity of scientific knowledge. The extensions and refinements are often results of that process.

      • Well said

      • Very well said.

      • Correct. The only practical problem, of course, is that at some point, it just becomes tiresome to keep talking about perpetual motion, for example. You saw that here with the various sky dragon threads, which were obviously wearing many peoples’ patience thin.

        We can’t have officially sanctioned truth, but the other side of that coin is a responsibility that people have to restrain their own crackpottery. There are certain basics that are simply basics.

      • And, a legitimate consensus doesn’t need self-appointed guardians to defend it from the onslaught of heterodox ideas, by seeking to deny their publication in respected scientific literature, to remove the editors of journals who in a “lapse of judgment” allow such ideas to be published, or in other ways try to impose a monoculture of thought.

      • When at issue is only the final ultimate scientific outcome, not the efficiency of the process that leads to that nor a need to use best available knowledge, when it’s still lacking, then we can leave aside all guardians like journal editors and peer reviewers. When we cannot afford that we face the dilemma:

        How to avoid all the distractions that incompetent and purposefully biased research causes without loosing essential observations that must be taken into account.

        The automatic formation of consensus is often a slow process, and certainly more so, if less competent scientists are not screened out by some system of guardians. Similar issues influence also the cost of scientific progress.

        We have had on this site several threads where peer review has been discussed. We have had even more threads, where the issue of using lacking knowledge in decision making has been discussed. My view is that most of the controversies are due these inherent and unavoidable problems. Scientists have often erred in reacting to these issues. They are also naturally biased, when decisions are made on, what research is good and what is not.

        When we face such dilemmas, no perfect solutions exist. Certain procedures have been developed over time, but some of them are now outdated as Internet has changed greatly possibilities for publishing rapidly and with all supporting data as well as opened totally new possibilities for public discussion of scientific results.

    • “How to avoid all the distractions that incompetent and purposefully biased research causes without loosing essential observations that must be taken into account.”
      Pekka, there is an answer, albeit imperfect, for that: use objective standards for publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals. I am not afraid of an onslaught of papers touting cold fusion or perpetual motion machines, not because a consensus agreed to block them out, but because I cannot see how these papers can possibly survive peer review on their merits. Sure, the odd duck will waddle in now and then, but the published literature is not a sacred script and never has been. It is a filtered conversation that occasionally lets crap get through. I prefer to let peer review together with the marketplace of ideas do the vetting.

  48. Rob Nicholls

    Interesting article. As a non-scientist, over the last few years I’ve done everything I can to learn about climate science and to come to my own conclusions about climate change. I have to say that I find the consensus held by the vast majority of climate scientists (that anthropogenic climate change is very real and very serious) is extremely convincing; it seems to be backed by an absolutely massive amount of evidence. In contrast, the arguments put forward by those who reject the consensus seem to be very flimsy and based on very little evidence indeed. The Earth’s surface has clearly warmed by 3/4 of a degree C or so over the last 150 years; it’s very clear from the science that the majority of this warming is due to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by humans, and other human activities. It’s also very clear that a lot more warming is going to occur before a new equilibrium is reached , even in the absence of further increases in GHG concentrations. Furthermore, GHG concentrations (and therefore global temperatures) will rise much higher in the absence of urgent action to move away from reliance on fossil fuels. Such rises in temperature may pose major problems for humanity in the next few centuries. This is all rigorously evidenced in IPCC assessment reports and elsewhere. No so-called “climate skeptic” appears able to explain the observed rise in temperature over the last 150 years, or to explain how, against all the evidence, further major rises in temperature are miraculously not going to happen as a result of further rises in atmpsopheric GHG concentrations. No “climate skeptic” appears able to provide reassurance that massive sudden changes in global temperatures over the next few centuries are safe for humanity (in fact, the evidence suggests that such temperature changes will, overall, have serious negative consequences for humanity.)

    It’s great to make your own mind up about things, but probably a good idea to base your opinion on the available evidence rather than wishful thinking.

    • Rob, what is clear to you is a mater of debate for the rest of us. Sorry.

    • you are awar that the IPC only claim about half of that rise in temp is agw..!! ie most likleky realtes from 60’s onwards..

      the earlier rise, is natural accordingto the ipcc!!

      similarrates of warming in those periods as well…..

    • I’m interested in the massive amounts of corroborating evidence you found. Can you tell me what it is?

    • Rob,
      Bunk. You have made a faith based choice and have no evidence beyond your revealed faith to back it up.

    • “No “climate skeptic” appears able to provide reassurance that massive sudden changes in global temperatures over the next few centuries are safe for humanity (in fact, the evidence suggests that such temperature changes will, overall, have serious negative consequences for humanity.)”

      Rob, I always took words like “massive” and “sudden” to mean, like (huge, gigantic, towering) and (now, immediate, fast, quickly) – they just seem somewhat alarmist “over the next few centuries” – sudden?? by 0.75 degrees – massive?? Anyway, see David’s comment below yours; and why climate skeptic in quotations – do you doubt their affinity, or merely their being.

    • Rob Nicholls –

      May I point out a minor inconsistency in your comment? You talk about the “massive sudden changes in global temperatures over the next few centuries as having serious negative consequences for humanity. I got a little bit stuck with the ‘sudden massive’ and ‘few centuries’ conjunction. It seems to me that temperature changes of a degree or two spread over a number of centuries will be neither massive, nor sudden.

      Perhaps more importantly I query your assertion that there is evidence that such temperature changes will have serious negative consequences for humanity. I’m not even sure what would constitute evidence for such a thing. I’ve seen many prophecies, projections and predictions – none of them remotely convincing, but what I haven’t seen sight or sound of, is evidence.

      The IPCC used to make very firm predictions, and perhaps that is how we should judge the strength of their ‘evidence’. In 1990 they predicted that business-as-usual emissions would result in temperature rises of 0.3 degrees per decade. Part of my scepticism is the fact that their prediction is currently about 100% wrong [in an alarmist direction if anyone had any doubt].

      I’m convinced that many people in the world are vulnerable to the vagaries of the climate, but I’m yet to be convinced that many are vulnerable to climate change. And, as it happens, any development that would make people less vulnerable to climate would also make them less vulnerable to climate change. That vulnerability is almost entirely contingent on their poverty and the most important ingredient in reducing both their poverty and vulnerability to climate is fossil fuel.

      I think you need to find a little more evidence for these serious negative consequences before I’m going to join the bandwagon which wants to keep people poor.

    • AGW is a red herring. I don’t think anyone would disagree that there will be droughts, downpours, hot periods and cold periods. There are only two ways to approach controlling climate change: decrease local climate variability and / or adapt locally to climate variation. Neither of these are the major points of discussion, which leads me to conclude all this hot air people are blowing is not driven by climate change.

      The earth does not have one climate, it has many climates.

  49. Robert Doyle

    Thank you.

    A wonderful post.

  50. Can we see a counter? Something along the lines of, “On the dangerous naivete of thinking you know more than the experts”. It doesn’t have to even be related to climate change; it could compare the survival rates of those that follow the consensus of oncologists versus those that don’t.

    • LOL Going against the consensus is a bad idea if you are not an expert. Ten years ago my brother went with the oncology consensus. He’s dead. A few years ago my brother-in-law with more advanced cancer went with the oncology consensus, he is cancer free for now. The consensus changed because the science advanced.

      In climate science the same kind of radicals as the oncologists that moved into radiation therapy instead of surgery and massive chemo are saying parts of the consensus in climate science are not really a consensus. The consensus climate scientists at the same time are making excuses.

      While I am no expert, I will go with the nukes, both for oncology and climate change. I will leave the alternate macrobiotic diets and energy of the future for the warm and fuzzies.

      • I have a friend who was diagnosed with prostate cancer 5 years ago. He’s been getting all kinds of radiation and chemo up until a couple months ago, when he finally, after 5 years of futzing around demanded that they do a biopsy. Well, lo and behold. He never had cancer. He had a chronic prostate infection.

        If he’d have never demanded the biopsy, they’d still be treating his nonexistent cancer. I don’t know what exactly made him suspect that there was a problem with his original diagnosis, but after 5 years of cancer treatment, he’s basically disabled, and had a law career cut short due to a misdiagnosis.

        Moral of the story: don’t trust anybody’s judgement. Suspect everything. Believe nothing.

    • This is a false analogy. Medicine has an excellent track record in treating some cancers. With those cancers, you should follow the standard advice though demanding answers to your specific questions.

      Climate science, so-called, has no track record at all. They cannot point to one successful intervention in which they saved lives, saved property, saved money. Everything in climate science remains to be confirmed in some distant, unspecifiable future.

  51. The morality tale appealed to here is mostly a middlebrow fantasy. People who actually know what happened with Galileo, Semmelweis, or Alfred Wegener can only smile—if you think it’s hard to go against scientific consensus, wait till you try to complain about entrenched story lines that nourish wishful thinking. Historians know that Galileo got in trouble because he pissed off the Pope and that his arguments for a heliocentric solar system were very weak. They know that Semmelweis had a monumental writer’s block and that his reluctance to publish played a major role in the slowness with which his ideas were accepted. As for Wegener, his theory of continental drift was rejected because it makes no physical sense. He imagined the continents plowing through the crust like ships sailing across the water, an idea as nutty now as it was then. Wegener’s ideas have only the most superficial resemblance to plate tectonics. Noting that the continents may have moved is one thing–Francis Bacon pointed out the suspiciously close fit between the shape of South America and Africa back at the beginning of the 17th Century–but coming up with a theory that makes sense out of such motion is quite another and Wegener surely didn’t do that.

    Science is not a realm of free speech. Indeed, as anybody who has run the gauntlet of peer review knows, the sciences tightly control recognized speech–in this respect the Catholic church has nothing on the Royal Society. This systematic censorship is absolutely necessary to protect the various sciences from the ocean of nonsense that is public discourse. The odd thing is that this rather despotic system nevertheless welcomes even bizarre ideas if they meet the formal test of coherence and are subject to experimental validation.

    • Yet here we are with hockey sticks, runaway tipping points, non-falsifiable nulls, all well entrenched in climate science.

  52. Those scientists who don’t follow the consensus of oncologists will bring the progress to the field. Consensus won’t do it.

  53. So I’m being naive to uncritically accept the scientific consensus? Presumably this applies generally and not just to climate science?

    Well OK you skeptic types, I’ll challenge you show me some other areas of science which you have shown similar reluctance to accept consensus science uncritically.

    • There is a difference temp. Had Hansen’s predictions come to pass, there would be no skeptics. Had Jones and Mann been more upfront, there would be fewer skeptics.

      At what point would you become skeptical of science?

      • Cap’n –

        Had Jones and Mann been more upfront, there would be fewer skeptics.

        Evidence, please.

        The only in-depth study I’ve seen of the impact climategate shows that the vast majority of folks who claim it increased their skepticism were already of a political ideology that very frequently aligns with skepticism. I don’t know why the attitude of Jones and Mann would represent anything different. The majority of people who are “skeptical” most likely have no idea who Jones and Mann are; of those who do, I’d guess that significant majority were already quite fixed in their position prior to the heat up in the hockey stick controversy.

        You seem to be falling into the same trap as quite a few other “skeptics” who project their own views onto a broader cross-section of the public than seems supported by data.

      • I noticed you jumped over the Hansen thing :)

        Steven McIntyre developed quite a following doing a statistical audit of Mann’s hockey stick. Now just using logic do you think McIntyre would have developed that following had Mann properly archived his data or had responded differently to McIntyre? Would Jones had been on the radar either? Remember that the climategates only confirmed skeptical suspicions if you think their revelations should not be allowed.

      • randomengineer

        Joshua — The only in-depth study I’ve seen of the impact climategate shows that the vast majority of folks who claim it increased their skepticism were already of a political ideology that very frequently aligns with skepticism.

        It’s 2012 and you’re still beating the dumb right winger drum. The study you have seen is crap. WUWT is the most popular climate site in the world and all of the visitor non-US skeptics can’t be painted with that broad brush of yours. It’s 2012. New schtick for you, please.

      • I

        I noticed you jumped over the Hansen thing :)

        I “jumped over” it because I think you were right about that.

        think that there’s little doubt that if temperatures had increased more dramatically, there would be less “skepticism.” My view is that recent temps are the single-most likely driver behind public opinion on climate change, not the analysis of the “AGW cabal” as “skeptics” like to claim.

        Steven McIntyre developed quite a following doing a statistical audit of Mann’s hockey stick.

        Cap’n – what % of the “skeptical” public do you think have any idea who McIntyre is? Quite a following? Sure, among a tiny fraction of the American public. You seem to be confusing climate change fanatics with the general public. You could increase McIntyre’s followers by an order of magnitude and make end up with a tiny change in the overall # of “skeptics.”

      • R.E. –

        The study of the impact of climategate was relatively recent. I’m not beating a “dumb right-winger” drum. I don’t presume to pass judgement on the intelligence of right-wingers. But the available evidence is the available evidence. Those who claim that climategate affected their view of climate science (a small % of the American public) are very likely to have a strong right-wing/libertarian ideological orientation.

        Any evidence that you have that shows my statements incorrect would be highly appreciated.

      • Joshua, “Cap’n – what % of the “skeptical” public do you think have any idea who McIntyre is? Quite a following? Sure, among a tiny fraction of the American public. You seem to be confusing climate change fanatics with the general public. You could increase McIntyre’s followers by an order of magnitude and make end up with a tiny change in the overall # of “skeptics.”

        I can only guess, but the Tempest in the Teacup Mind thing increased his following, so most of the more well known skeptics where getting vocal well before climategate. Dr. Curry invited McIntyre to Ga Tech prior to climategate, http://climateaudit.org/2009/03/07/travel-plans/

        I wasn’t skeptical until after listening to reviews of the AR4 summary for policy makers. What I heard coming press didn’t match what I heard Susan Solomon present.

      • Cap’n –

        I wasn’t skeptical until after listening to reviews of the AR4 summary for policy makers.

        I’m not sure why your description of your experience informs the question of how fewer “skeptics,” at least in a relative sense, there would be if Jones and Mann had responded differently to criticism.

        You’re an outlier, Cap’n. A pitfall I’ve seen from many “skeptics” is a failure to see their own experiences in the full context. If you have any validated evidence that supports your apparent belief that a change in Jones and Mann would have decreased the # of “skeptics” by any significant fraction, I’d love to read it.

      • Joshua, how many outliers does it take before there is a signal? My personal example was of growing skepticism prior to climategate. The Tempest in someones Teapot Dome, http://climateaudit.org/2007/08/11/lights-out-upstairs/ started by the GISS Y2K error made the US national news. That did increases the number of skeptics in the US. No one did a poll so I can’t give you a solid number.

        The Y2K boosted the number of visitors to WUWT, perhaps Anthony has numbers. I think that was the year he won science blog of the year which just may have increased the skeptical audience.

        http://2008.weblogawards.org/polls/best-science-blog/ WUWT also got it in 2011 http://2011.bloggi.es/#science but I am sure that was just because of climategate.

        Skeptical, non-scientists, I believe have more than three peer reviewed papers, one published before, climategate, MM05 and two started before climategate,O’ Donnell 10 and Watts paper.

        The paper you referenced on how climategate increased climate skepticism should have accurate numbers of the handful of outliers prior to climategate 1.0.

        Speaking of climategate, http://climateaudit.org/2010/01/23/nasa-hide-this-after-jim-checks-it/ some of the email contents mean so much more to the outliers :)

      • noticed you jumped over the Hansen thing…- Capt. Dallas

        Here is (2). Have at it:

        (2) The greenhouse warming should be clearly identifiable in the 1990s: the global warming in the next several years is predicted to reach and maintain a level at least 3 standard deviations above the climatology of the 1950s.

    • Show me another area of science being used by progressives to radically transform the U.S., and I’ll show you another area of science of which I will be automatically skeptical.

    • I don’t accept any science uncritically. All of it is provisory and will be changed/improved.

    • Superstrings, dark matter, dark energy – may be on the path to truth, may be a wild goose chase.
      Aneutronic fusion – conventionally dismissed, or perhaps something in it.
      Causes of ulcers? Oops – that one’s in the bag.

      There’s always a swirl surrounding new (and sometimes old) science. The more complicated the system (eg: climate) the less plausable it is that you can go from a tabletop experiment with CO2 to a explanatory framework for compex, chaotic, non-linear system with thousands of parameters and a host of factors that we probably don’t know about yet.

      The Team took one known known (Arrhenius) and used it to bat every known unknown, unknown unknown and unknown known out of the playing field. As a sceptic, I want them all back in the game!

    • Prior to the 2000 U.S. census the American Statistical Association proclaimed a “consensus” that a statistically-adjusted census would be more accurate than an unadjusted census. This statement was the product of an ASA president who favored adjustment, and a one-hand-clapping “blue ribbon panel” appointed by the president that reached the same conclusion. The press reported it as if it were a proclamation from the Vatican, but many of us who were familiar with the issues weren’t buying it. The attempted adjustment of the 2000 census collapsed into a heap of confusion and was abandoned. For the 2010 census Obama didn’t even try.

    • randomengineer

      Hell, son… too easy. In no particular order —

      Lipid theory (dietary fat)

      Stress related disease

      Electromagnetics causing brain cancer

      Radiation is all bad period (i.e. anti-hormeosis)

      *All* environmental proclamations

      DSM IV

      *All* cultural anthropology

      *Most* paleontological and archaeological conclusions

      And there’s a lot of technological claims (applied science) based on soft sciences that are dubious e.g. “scientific” UI design, etc.

      • Stress related disease

        Really? You doubt the “consensus” science on stress-related disease? Got a link?

      • randomengineer


        For part of this I don’t need no steenkin’ link; history suffices. For years stomach cancer (and other maladies) was thought to be caused by a wide variety of consensus approved silliness like coffee. And stomach ulcers were thought to be the byproduct of stress. Turns out that not only are ulcers caused by H. Pylori, wow, so are stomach cancers. A simple antibiotic does the trick. Stress need not apply.

        As for the general notion of stress I no longer have the link but wish I did; there was a study of mental attitude concerning cancer patient outcomes where the general notion of the study was stress related voodoo whereupon the idea was that positive happy thinking types would live longer. Ummm…. no. They didn’t, and they don’t. Pessimism and stress play no role. You get sick, you die, and no happy thoughts keep you alive longer and stress won’t make you die sooner.

        And there’s more but I’d bore you to death. Suffice to say that I’m extremely dubious of any claim regarding stress and physical ailment.

      • R.E. –

        Are you aware of the evidence that shows physiological changes at the cellular level associated with stress?

        Against that evidence you weigh a very specific mistaken attribution w/r/t the role of stress in creating certain kinds of ulcers?

        Once again, the fact that certain examples pop up over and over again, and are given weight equal in proportion to the consensus science (in this case on the health outcomes of stress) is, unfortunately, all too common among “skeptics.”

      • randomengineer

        I’m aware of cellular change claims, which at this point seem to be about as useful as Rossi eCat claims. I am also aware of Dr Greg Cochran who posits the notion that ALL disease is biological based. Gardisil and other anti-cancer vaccines are a result of this type of thinking.

        How about sharing some of your infinite wisdom on the lipid theory? This is a great deal more “proven” than stress related disease is.

      • Don’t know anything about the lipid theory. I’d be happy to read about it just after I read your links debunking consensus science w/r/t the health impacts of stress.

        You do have some links, don’t you?

      • Last time I checked, double blind studies haven’t been done on stress caused diseases. Epidemiological studies are always suspect (assumes you know all the important blocking variables, but who knows what they all are?)

      • R.E.

        Started reading about the lipid hypothesis. Fascinating stuff.

        Came across this particularly interesting post from someone I’d call a true skeptic. “Climate skeptics” take note – ya’ might learn a thing of two:


      • Harold –

        Last time I checked, double blind studies haven’t been done on stress caused diseases

        There is some middle ground between proof from double-blind studies and finding evidence that their may be a causal link. This is especially relevant if to conduct a double-blind study you’d have to subject patients to empirical analysis that required inducing stress. There is more than just epidemiological evidence: there is also empirical evidence from animal studies and evidence of changes in cell biology due to stress.

        Please, also, note that the “science consensus” opinion on the relationship between stress and disease is actually quite varied.

    • A quote from a skeptic type:

      “You see, I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to get to really know something, how careful you have to be about checking the experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something, and therefore I see how they get their information and I can’t believe that they know it, they haven’t done the work necessary, haven’t done the checks necessary, haven’t done the care necessary. I have a great suspicion that they don’t know, that this stuff is [wrong] and they’re intimidating people. I think so. I don’t know the world very well but that’s what I think.”

      No need for attribution, surely. 1981, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out.

    • Climate science has been propagandized out of all proportion. Its “consensus” is the result of propaganda and so different from consensus in any other science.

      As regards your request, that is easy to fulfill. There is no consensus in favor of String Theory and because of String Theory there is no consensus in favor of Big Bang Theory.

  54. A classic example of uncritical acceptance of the consensus.

    “Confirmed: Fracking caused Ohio earthquakes

    Ohio lawmakers have put a temporary ban on fracking after experts say it is certain that recent fracking in the Buckeye State caused an outbreak of earthquakes.”


    I looked at over a dozen articles reporting this, and not one linked to any actual study or research to justify such certainty. Whatever the research was, it sure got done in record time.

    Since I couldn’t find the study on fracking causing earthquakes, I googled the seismologist quoted, John Armbruster of Columbia University. (I only did this because some commenters here insist that everyone is biased.) I found this article referencing his claim that New York is “More at risk” for an earthquake than previously thought, and in fact listed New York as the city 5th most at risk in the US.


    And the scientific basis for this claim? Three prior magnitude 5 earthquakes in 1737, 1783 and 1884.

    So one article by this seismologist “definitely shows” that fracking causes earthquakes, and another that New York (and the Indian Point nuclear faciiity) is the 5th most endangered city in the US.

    To be fair, Armbruster made clear that he was not saying Indian Point should be closed immediately, just that more study should be done. Gee, I wonder who he thinks should do the study?

    One wonders if the researcher is just coincidentally finding that his research supports anti-carbon and anti-nuke policies?

    • Since I couldn’t find the study on fracking causing earthquakes,

      Armbruster doesn’t say that fracking causes earthquakes, but that the injection wells used in wastewater disposal, near a fault line, was most likely casual to some recent earthquakes centralized in the same vicinity.. Apparently a series of earthquakes occurred withing 100 meters of injection wells.


      • Good pickup Josh! It might be interesting to track down just how such a misunderstanding of the science could have happened?

      • I don’t see a link to his research in that article either. But I would agree his language may not a florid as it is portrayed in the articles I did read. The word “certainty” may or may not have originated with him, but until I can see what he actually wrote, rather than others’ paraphrasing him, I just don’t know.

        But I find his placing New York 5th on the scale of cities most at risk of earthquakes to be a bit suspicious. It seems he is taking the increased potential for harm IF there is a quake, and letting others imply that that somehow increases the probability of a quake in NY. The words may not be his in either case, but he is providing ammunition for the advocates, and not correcting them if they are misrepresenting his own position.

        I would still like to know what research he did on the fracking/water insertion issue. I get that there has been a lot of observation of small seismic activity where ground water is reinserted deep under the surface under great pressure, but that is much different from the type of magnitude 4 and 5 quakes they are talking about in Ohio.

      • The word “certainty” may or may not have originated with him, but until I can see what he actually wrote, rather than others’ paraphrasing him, I just don’t know.

        He is interviewed, and alludes to the level of his certainty:


      • I would still like to know what research he did on the fracking/water insertion issue.

        Glad to see that you modified your assertion that he said that fracking causes earthquakes – although you should go further to take out the fracking side of the “fracking/water insertion” phrase. His argument re Ohio relates to injection wells for waste water – not the process of fracking itself.

      • Joshua,

        Thanks for the link to the interview. From what I heard, he is basing his conclusions on inference, not any actual research. But to his credit, he did not make any claim of “certainty,” just outlined his reasoning.

        In line with the topic of this thread, I think it is fair to be skeptical of his conclusions given that they are based on correlation alone, and (so far as I have seen as yet) no actual research, His apparent propensity to lend his credibility to those with a “green” agenda, based on such slim evidence, makes him a proper example I think of how the consensus drives research rather than the other way around.

      • “Glad to see that you modified your assertion that he said that fracking causes earthquakes…”

        It wasn’t my assertion, I was quoting an article that was quoting him. In fact, I copied and pasted the headline which contained that very assertion. Maybe you missed it.

      • It wasn’t my assertion, I was quoting an article that was quoting him


        So one article by this seismologist “definitely shows” that fracking causes earthquakes,…

        Your words, my brother.

        And there I thought that “conservatives” believe in personal responsibility.

        First you deny what you said, and then you blame me for missing something?

        I guess I should take back my compliment for your tacit acknowledgement that your original statement was incorrect?

      • Gary –

        In line with the topic of this thread, I think it is fair to be skeptical of his conclusions…

        I fully agree.

        Just as I think it is fair to show how what happened in this thread is an example of how sometimes “skeptics” inaccurately make statements about “consensus science” in their zeal to denigrate “consensus science.”

        I think that true skepticism is always fair. It’s “skepticism” that I have a problem with.

      • another day

        another thread

        joshy is up to his usual verbose nitpicking

        that boy needs a girlfriend

    • Capt. Dallas,

      I don;t think there has been any misunderstanding of Armbruster’s (and others’) claims. Most of the articles I saw made it clear it was the pressurized pumping of water back into the ground in deep formations that is supposed to be the problem.

      But that is irrelevant to the issue. IF greens can stop the energy companies from pumping the water back in, they can stop fracking all together. If nothing else, by forcing expensive water treatment of the water used in fracking.

      As far as the scare tactic of just mentioning the two, fracking and earthquake, in the same headline- “Confirmed: Fracking caused Ohio earthquakes” – that is not a misunderstanding, that is just good progressive propaganda.

      • I was being a bit sarcastic with Joshua. If he looks around with an open mind he will find a good bit of progressive hair splitting on the interpretation of “science”. Anti-nuclear is full of half truths and outright lies. I cracked up when I heard about merchants of doubt. What a hoot!

      • randomengineer

        Captain, the problem is that “merchants of doubt” is taken very seriously by a number of credentialed people. (Good lord, was that a Spock line?)

      • Random, MoD was a masterpiece. You have to admit, progressives are not dumb. With that one reference it is nearly impossible to challenge any questionable scientific conclusions or misinterpretations of conclusions, without being labeled a merchant.

    • Politicians don’t need hard facts to act, they only need cover for their actions. Some don’t even need cover, they’ll be reelected no matter what they do.

  55. Theo Goodwin

    “The reader may well find the following rules of thumb quite helpful. Be skeptical of scientific research, even that which supports, and is favored by apologists for, the scientific consensus, whenever:”

    Add one (or two) more:

    The so-called science is not being done in accordance with scientific method. Any reasonably intelligent person can learn scientific method. For starters, read Carl G. Hempel’s Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Israel Scheffler’s Anatomy of Inquiry. (By the way, scientific method is our inheritance from Galileo.)

    Ask for the empirical details. Scientists who have no empirical details, such as computer modelers, are not doing science.

    OK, three. Read Saint Judith’s blog and pay attention to her comments.

    • “Scientists who have no empirical details, such as computer modelers, are not doing science.”

      I was a member of the technical committee for an international conference some years ago. I had many excellent discussions regarding the overall shift in technical papers, but the one issue that bothered the NIST people the most was papers which modeled measuring something, but didn’t actually build the thing and measure it. They were still accepted, but they were obviously weak submissions for a metrology conference.

      In practice in my area, the work is viewed as of lesser quality, and some won’t accept modelling results at all.

  56. Excellent piece by Bruce Anderson on why/how the consensus among intellectuals is so often, and often disastrously, wrong. His work is the Euro-demarche, but his tools apply equally well to climate alarmism.


  57. The recent GRL paper by Qiang Fu et al on warming in the upper tropical troposphere has been revisited on http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/blog/isaac-held/ Isaac Held’s blog</a< (see posts 20 and 21), in reference to the concept of tropospheric amplification (the so-called "hot spot") due to changes in the moist adiabatic lapse rate resulting from surface warming of any cause (CO2, solar, etc.). Many aspects of climate dynamics predicted from basic principles and models are reasonably well supported by observations, but the hot spot issue has been vexatious because MSU data derived from the UAH and RSS satellite records have been interpreted as demonstrating the lack of amplification. In contrast, Fu et al decompose the signals in a different manner and find evidence for amplification, although at less than the level predicted by the models. I'm not sure the issue has been resolved, but the differing interpretations illustrate the complexity of interpreting microwave signals detected remotely from multiple atmospheric altitudes.

    At this point, it would be reasonable for readers to think, "He is posting this in the wrong thread. It's a technical comment and belongs in a technical thread." My perspective is that it belongs here. My argument is that when we evaluate an alleged mainstream "consensus" on the general magnitude of anthropogenically induced climate change, it is less important to ask whether Galileo was persecuted than whether we have an accurate picture of the rate of moist convection in the tropical troposphere. Do we have it exactly right? Almost impossible. Are we close? We probably are. Are we far off? Perhaps, but less likely. Of course, I cite tropical convection as an illustration, because the question is legitimately asked not about a single entity but rather a large multitude of findings that have converged to underlie mainstream conclusions on climate change. (For those interested in the hot spot per se, further discussion should probably be directed to an earlier thread on the topic rather than here).

    To me, then, the criteria for judging current thinking lies not in history but in evidence. As an inconvenient corollary, it requires more than a little knowledge of the evidence, and that knowledge is not something, in my view, that can be replaced by either historical precedent or abstract generalities. In fact, I find some of tendencies to engage in abstraction to be frustrating. When we discuss consensus, skepticism, dissent, and their philosophical underpinnings, we are operating at what semanticists call a “high level of abstraction”. Debates at this level can never be settled, because it is always possible to avoid being wrong by being very general. One of the attractions of abstractions, however, is that they are a great equalizer. Individuals with vastly different levels of knowledge on a scientific topic can compete to equal advantage as long as their mastery of the evidence is not tested.

    Alternatively, they can compete using historical rather than scientific evidence as ammunition, as Kevin Rice has done. I find my own position on this to reflect a curious irony. My strong belief is that climate science must ultimately be judged by scientific criteria. At the same time, I’m struck by the fact that if one substitutes historical evidence on the fate of “consensus” (in the sense of widely accepted mainstream principles), that evidence implies that current mainstream views on climate science should be judged almost irrefutable. The principles underlying the greenhouse mechanism were advanced almost 200 years ago by Joseph Fourier in 1827 ((‘ve also seen 1824 cited), further details were described by Tyndall, and Arrhenius put the atmospheric greenhouse effect on a fairly solid quantitative footing more than a century ago (1896). Despite rejection for decades, these principles finally began to take hold in the middle of the last century, and their acceptance by mainstream science has grown and endured for more than 60 years in the light of constant investigation and in the face of constant challenge. Many scientific theories come and go, but in the history of modern science, has any major theory under constant scrutiny and constant investigation survived that long only to be overturned? None that I’m aware of (ideas that have been long ignored and finally dismissed don’t count). Of the one’s listed by Rice, I think Wegener’s plate tectonics probably spent longer in the wilderness than any of the others, but even so, the alternative to his views crumbled within a matter of decades. Enduring theories (Newtonian mechanics, Relativity, QM, plate tectonics, etc.) evolve and are refined, but their basic tenets remain soundly established. False theories disappear in weeks, months, years, and at most less than half a century of challenge. If they are too implausible, they don’t even need to be challenged. Witness the experience of hundreds of misunderstood geniuses who abound on the Internet lamenting the failure of the world to appreciate the magnitude of their revolutionary discoveries but has instead chosen to ignore them. (It is a testimony to the rarity of true genius that almost all unorthodoxy has proved to be wrong, which is why it takes genius to be both unorthodox and right).

    Based then on historical precedent, we can say that mainstream climate science principles are now established beyond all doubt. They have achieved the status of absolute truth.

    This is nonsense, of course, and I don’t believe it. I state it merely to make the point that historical precedent, rather than supporting the notion that current climate thinking is vulnerable to rejection, seriously undermines that position. During the reign of modern science, bad ideas have been innumerable but haven’t lasted, and the good ones endured because reality was on their side.

    It would be better then, to leave aside the travails of Galileo or Wegener, and return to the rate at which surface warming reduces the moist adiabatic lapse rate. Climate science is an unfinished discipline, but it is no longer an immature one attended by great uncertainty over its basic principles. It should and will continue to be challenged, but in my view, this is best done in the realm of the specific rather than the philosophical. Most importantly, it is best attempted by those who have done their homework and learned the scientific basics as well as kept up with advances in the field. Knowledge doesn’t guarantee truth, but it’s more useful to know a subject than to have a philosophy about it.

    • Sorry for the html problem. The earlier thread on the “hot spot” is at Tropospheric Temperature Trends. The very long underlined link was to Held’s blog.

    • Fred, the issue is how you reason about multiple pieces of evidence, each of which is uncertain. The more complex the system, the more difficult it is. Having a philosophy of how to reason about multiple pieces of uncertain evidence is the major challenge, which is why we continue to look at historical problems and talk about the philosophy of reasoning.

      • Focusing on pieces of evidence and how to fit them together is a valuable exercise, but I don’t think reasoning about multiple pieces of evidence was what Rice was doing, nor do I see reasoning as the same as philosophizing. I look forward to discussing evidence.

        My other point was that the history of scientific theories is one that implies extraordinary strength for modern climate science thinking rather than the opposite, and so Rice’s conclusions are clearly unjustified on the basis of science history. If he instead claimed that historical precedent shouldn’t be overemphasized, and climate science thinking could have flaws despite the testimony of history, I would be more inclined to agree with him. The historical argument refutes his case.

      • Fred is just looking for “peer-reviewed research” that supports the consensus dogma. That is his mission. Don’t get in his way with talk about uncertainty. He ain’t hearing that.

        OK Fred, continue your droning.

      • Judith –

        Allow me to fix that for you:

        …, which is why we selectively look at the historical problems and talk, selectively about the philosophy of reasoning.

        I mean seriously, Judith – how can you support what the author does in your excerpt: determine a “track record” from selecting a tiny and disproportionate amount of the history in order to reach certainty in the face of myriad pieces of uncertain evidence?

        It’s your right to post this stuff, Judith, but the question remains why you do so.

    • “The principles underlying the greenhouse mechanism were advanced almost 200 years ago…”

      Fred, no-one is overturning Arrhenius, etc. The question is whether GHGs are the entire ‘absolute truth’ of climate science, the be-all and end-all. Plate tectonics would probably have shocked Wegener just as much as his critics, and a mature climate science may have GHGs as a small part of a much more intricate and satisfying structure.

      • cui bono – GHGs appear to be a large, not a small part of current climate change, but no-one to my knowledge has claimed them or anything else to be “absolute truth”. Still, I’m pleased that you and I appear to agree that these principles must be decided on the basis of evidence. If you disagree with my understanding of the role of GHGs, I hope you’ll describe quantitatively the multiple lines of evidence underlying your conclusions, along with your data sources (basic geophysics and paleoclimatologic texts, climate and general science journal references, Internet sources, etc.). This thread is not the venue for that, but your phrase about climate science as “a much more intricate and satisfying structure” is exactly the kind of abstraction that is fine if it then leads to some documentation with detailed data and precise numbers, but will remain unconvincing it not fleshed out with those details at some future time.

      • Fred, pardon me for butting in. “cui bono – GHGs appear to be a large, not a small part of current climate change, but no-one to my knowledge has claimed them or anything else to be “absolute truth”.

        GHGs in my opinion are a large part of current climate but the magnitude of the impact of the change CO2 is the big question. The amount of change thus far does fit the estimates. I firmly believe that the over estimate is mainly due to the common estimate that GHGs are responsible for 33C increase from 255K since there has to be some question about what the total impact would be because of the assumption of 0.30 no greenhouse gas albedo.

        Since some of the albedo should be considered atmospheric, latent and convective cooling should be considered. That would depress the surface temperature of the no GHG Earth, my estimate is by 20C and Manabe estimates by over 30 C, I definitely trust Manabe’s estimate more than mine :) That would make the current GHG effect approximately 53 to 70 degrees and the total atmospheric effect approximately 33C degrees. Which would roughly half the impact of a doubling of CO2, which seems to agree with current observations.


        I would like to Manabe’s and Calendar’s work discussed since their estimates appear to be more accurate.

      • “The question is whether GHGs are the entire ‘absolute truth’ of climate science”

        I’d just be interested to know whether or not climate is spatially and temporally chaotic or not. Projections and modelling have to assume it isn’t, but nobody has determined whether it is or not.

    • That’s fine Fred. I’ll try, but not at 3am UK time.

      Perhaps you would weigh some questions though:

      (1) Science is supposed to be capable of being falsified. Please point me to a paper that lays out the exact criteria under which the current consensus would be invalidated. (NB: I’ve seen physics papers which do precisely this – eg, if the Higgs boson has a mass > X, then my theory is wrong).

      (2) Science is supposed to make correct predictions. Things seem to be going slightly off the rails on this one.

      (3) How do you justify asserting that climate science is ‘mature’. Science grows. Climate science covers just about everything; it overflows every independent disipline. Yet it is supposed to be all expalined by 2*C02 ~ 3C. I respectfully submit this is the sort of simplistic reductionism that characterises an immature branch of science.

      Now off to bed.

    • Fred, I’ve seen data from all the data sources, perhaps in Christy or elsewhere and that data shows a wide range of temperature trends. It’s a little too convenient to pick a particular set of data that shows the correct sign of the trend. I would find your contribution more valuable if you could comment on the reasons for the divergence of the data and its implications. Lindzen also has a take on this suggesting that the surface measurements might be more likely to be wrong. This would imply less surface warming. According to Lindzen, to the extent that the trends are too low, it implies that the models will overestimate warming, and I note that that is the case for the NCAR model for AR5 or for Hansen’s 1988 predictions. In fact, as documented on Real Climate the temperature time series is below scenario C, which assumed that all emissions ceased in 2000.

      I agree that many of the posts on this thread are not worth Judith’s or my attention. However, I think you are betraying your prejudices here.

      1. Your assertion about the maturity of climate science is contradicted by Lindzen who has a much greater knowledge of the fundamentals than you do. In fact, I would argue that the range of the data and the results is still very large compared to more mature fields such as fluid dynamics. Your refusal to comment on interdisciplinary issues strikes me as narrow minded or perhaps a result of lack of fundamental knowledge. Perhaps there is less uncertainty than in medicine, but see my comments below.

      2. The data is much noisier than in fluid dynamics where decades of careful measurements have given a pretty good idea of some of the relationships, such as the growth of a turbulent boundary layer in some circumstances, even though not in all. We also have the opportunity to do carefully controled experiments. I believe such experiments could be designed that would illuminate key climate science issues.

      3. I think you may be suffering from a prejudice about science resulting from your training in medicine. Medicine is not a science but an art. It is a collection of often unrelated facts with no overarching theory. That incidently is not a negative thing, but it is typical of a very immature field of science. Mathematical theory comes later and provides predictive power. I’ve talked above about the Bacon mistake and you of course never respond. I must suppose that is because you are remarkably parochial or else remarkably incapable of introspection. At least that seems to be the null hypothesis.

      4. I think you are too literal minded about the point of this post. To me the point is one exemplified by Russell’s career. That fundamental point that seems to me uncontrovertible is that progress in any field comes from constant challenge and skepticism, not from dry repetition of the literature. This is why your contributions are sometimes interesting to me, but not likely to have any impact on the field. I do believe that the insights from fluid dynamics can have a profound impact however, precisely because they offer fundamental understanding and not just more “facts and data.” This point is a philosophical point, but a critical one since the natural tendency for people of a certain turn of mind to try to contribute by doing the opposite is probably doomed to failure. I am sympathetic. I had a classics professor I know as an undergraduate whose turn of mind reminds me of yours. He wrote a book on the relationship of Roman law to Christian concepts. It was rejected as containing nothing original. He later returned to the practice of law. People have different talents and all are valuable.

      I hate to be so personal, but I do think you could be more effective with some introspection. And you are in danger of having your posts read by a smaller and smaller group of people here.


      • In fact, as documented on Real Climate the temperature time series is below scenario C, which assumed that all emissions ceased in 2000. … – David Young

        Why do you think this is a big deal? In the original 1988 graph, actual observations bounced both above and below the scenarios. Look at ~1977, or ~1983, or ~1993 in figure 4 from this paper.

        Why would this be verboten in 2010 – 2011? Do you believe it’s now impossible for the observations to end up well above Scenario C in the future?

      • JCH, The problem is that the scenarios are diverging as time goes on. In 1993, there is little difference between B and C, its tautological to say that the data agreed with the predictions. Only in the last 10 years could the quality of his predictions be judged. I know there are rationalizations and reasons for this. But its part of a pattern.

      • Of course they are diverging. That was the intent, but by 2010-2011 is the divergence sufficient to say it is impossible for observations to end up well above Scenario C in the future?

      • JCH, I am not arrogant enough to say that I can predict the future. All I am saying is that models have historically significantly over predicted actual temperatures. I suggest that this fact says that the modelers should reassess the sources of uncertainty in their models.

    • “Many aspects of climate dynamics predicted from basic principles and models…”

      You cannot make predictions from models. Nor do models serve as data. These matters have been explained many times and in great detail on this site.

      • Why not? Models are all the time used to make predictions and very successfully in many fields.

        Models are tools. Tools are useful, when used correctly and to applicable tasks.

        Models are also always based on some data either directly or indirectly. They provide a mechanism for combining data that’s otherwise too fragmentary for productive use.

    • Something else Fred that is remarkably arrogant is your implication that people here haven’t done their homework and learned the scientific basics. What I think you really mean is “people don’t seem to be familiar with my exposition of the literature.” Based on your remarkable inability to respond to relevant points not explained in the paper you are currently holding forth on, I think that people who don’t understand the fundamentals of fluid dynamics are not making a very relevant contribution. If I assert this enough times and in long and verbose enough posts, I can make it appear to an outsider that there is no serious opposition to my point. By the way, the other essential tactic is to dismiss important and relevant issues as “irrelevant.” It is not worthy of someone of your obvious talents. Please, Fred, try to learn a little about science and mathematical fundamentals. In a field such as climate science where computational models play such a large role, it would add to your credibility.

      By the way, try Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy” to broaden your horizons on the “philosophical” and make your posts less brutally dry and lifeless.

      • I’ve noticed that several people on several blogs tend to argue by literature, rather than by fundamentals. It’s a form of argument to authority, and what’s underhanded about it is that it forces people with finite time to jump in and read the cited papers to even realize that they may or may not be relevant, let alone correct. I’ve never followed any of Fred’s links for precisely this reason (though I played this game a couple of times with others elsewhere). You simply can’t argue papers on a blog. If you can’t argue the fundamentals, you can’t make this format work.

        This is one reason why so many comments end up gravitating toward policy; the format lends itself more to policy than science debates. You have to be a full-time climate scientist (or retired/independently wealthy and a very serious wonk) to follow all of the literature.

      • If I could find any group of skeptics that started from fundamentals and worked their way forward, I would be actively engaged and following it closely.

        Unfortunately, I don’t see anything of the sort. Name just one skeptic site that builds up an argument from the fundamentals. I bet you can’t.

        Granted, there are some that look at problems of statistical methods from a collaborative POV, such as ClimateAudit.

        I spend my workday working on fundamentals within a collaborative environment so I know it when I see it, and I do see it on the real science side. My favorite is the http://AzimuthProject.org site, which is fearless in how deep it will go into the fundamentals.

        It is truly embarrassing how the skeptics can’t get anything going, and that they condone all the nonsense by the skydragons and assorted loons that repeatedly post comments here.

        P.E., Why don’t you stand for fundamental principles and attack the skeptic wackos that comment here?

      • Web, a few things here. It isn’t the skeptics who have proposed a multi-trillion dollar policy machine to address the claim that humans are driving the climate in a dangerous direction. My understanding of argumentation, let alone basic fairness or common sense, is that those who make such claims must accept the burden of proof. Skepticism is doing its job by examining the extent to which this burden is being met. There is no burden to offer a counter-theory of climate. What if there are no identifiable drivers that can demonstrably explain short-to-medium range climate trends that have been observed? If skeptics had to prove that this is the case, that would put them in the famous bind of having to prove a negative, which is a total non-starter. In a court of law, it would be absurd to suggest the defense must prove who committed the crime after the prosecution’s case has fallen apart.

      • BobK, I see plenty of models advanced by skeptics commenting on this blog. If I can name a few by memory, SkyDragon, Joe’s World, StefanTheDenier, H.A.Pope, Vucevich, Fred Hainey, O.K. Manuel, and a few others by people that are not quite as persistent at reminding us that they have a complete solution.

        This is the face of the counter-models that I see from the skeptics. I have to assume that all you skeptics believe in these models, as you never have any negative comments towards any of them. What’s that all about? Have you no BS detector, or is this exactly what you want, condoning these models just to maintain a level of FUD?

        Do you want me to write up a quick synopsis for each of these models to show how each of them is whack? Once this is done, anytime one of these models gets mentioned in a comment, a reply could link to the debunking synopsis. Or is this too much work for you guys to handle?

        Or has Robert already done this on his IdiotTracker blog?

      • Web, Maybe you’re setting your expectations too high. I wouldn’t put much stock in science by blog under any circumstances. As far as skeptic blogs being deficient, can you point me to some of the leading lights among the warmist blogs? What I have found, over and over again, is the same stilted jargon and an audience of sycophants who whine “troll!” at anyone who tries to have an adult discussion. Ask David Young about his experience at Real Climate.

      • That’s good they yell troll occasionally. There is no equivalent to dragonslayer on the serious side of the argument.

        It is serious business. Would you condone someone like that at your work?

      • WebHubTelescope: This is the face of the counter-models that I see from the skeptics. I have to assume that all you skeptics believe in these models, as you never have any negative comments towards any of them. What’s that all about?

        The point is not that one of these models is the true model, or that “skeptics believe in these models.” The point is that there isn’t sufficient evidence to know which of the models is (or are) accurate enough to form the basis of a policy for the next 20 – 200 years, yet an influential class of climate scientists are “full of passionate intensity” on the necessity to act radically now. Dozens of models, with conflicting assumptions and implications, fit the historical surface temperature or rainfall records equally well (or equally poorly!) There is insufficient basis for a claim that we know what increasing CO2 will cause.

      • You mean you don’t have the discriminatory skill to be able to pick out a whack model, say by Harry Dale Hoffman (another one to add.to the list)?

        Is that not skepticism, but pure gullibility?
        Wow, I thought that was part of the intellectual challenge, being talented enough to dismiss the crackpots quickly.

    • Fred, that was pretty good.

      I look forward to your equally long evaluation of the real holes in climate science.

      In the meantime, about this: Do we have it exactly right? Almost impossible. Are we close? We probably are. Are we far off? Perhaps, but less likely.

      Where has it been shown that we are able to make predictions that are sufficiently close? Even the assumption that the “climate sensitivity” is constant is suspect.

      And this: It would be better then, to leave aside the travails of Galileo or Wegener, and return to the rate at which surface warming reduces the moist adiabatic lapse rate.

      OK, but it does not take us very far; the fluctuations of the non-constant moist adiabatic lapse rates are not that helpful. What we need to know is how the change in CO2 concentration will change the rates of transfer of heat from (among other transfers) the lower troposphere and surface to the upper troposphere; the models of Pierrehumbert could be accurate within a few percent and yet get this exactly backward.

  58. ”Prominent scientist will lose their reputation”?! How about losing their assets, passports? Over 200 billion squandered on preventing the phony global warming… Bernie Madoff squandered only 1,3 billion of other people’s money – he lost more than his reputation. Science will get much more respect; if the rule is: intentionality misleading for cash / power / prestige on other people’s expense; to be a criminal offence… oops, I think that is already a crime to do those things. Doesn’t mention anything about ”their reputation”

  59. Dr Curry,

    After an alert on WUWT I nominated Climate Etc for best SciTech blog, together with WUWT and CA. To any readers wanting to do similar check out the instructions at WUWT.

  60. Let me repeat the main point that I think Russell would make if he could post here. Science and human knowledge for that matter advance by constant challenge and skepticism, not by the dry repetition of the opinion of experts. That point is it seems to me indisputable. It is an often uncomfortable and messy process, but the alternative is the dark ages and I much prefer the discomfort of debate.

  61. As Rice notes, those people he listed as examples actually did have a theory of their own. Since we are still waiting for a viable alternative theory, it is not naive to accept the one that does fit best so far.

  62. I note that Judith and this post are receiving some attention on Real Climate. This is a sure sign that some people are as nervous as sheep in Montana, i.e., the post highlights some inconvenient facts that Schmidt and Co. find challenging.

  63. After reviewing the many comments above that followed my own earlier contribution, I feel a need to offer a few acknowledgments.

    First, I want to express my deep appreciation for David Young’s conscientious and tireless efforts to improve my character over the past few months. No matter the topic, he has never failed to identify the character flaws that led to my responses. Few others would have exercised the dedication he has exhibited to this mission. My wife in particular is grateful to David for sparing her the effort to do the same thing, and she wishes him better luck than she has had in that endeavor. Unfortunately, I am beginning to conclude that I may be a hopeless case. I have tried to take David’s exhortations to heart, but discouragingly, in recent threads where I’ve commented on climate sensitivity, aerosols, or tropospheric convection, David has simply found still further evidence that what I had to say was symptomatic of a character flaw that I thought I had already corrected. Sadly, there may be some challenges that even David is unable to overcome.

    I also want to thank P.E. for pointing out that in evaluating climate science, fundamentals are important. I hadn’t realized that, but since his comment earlier today, I have tried to make up for lost time by reading Dennis Hartmann’s “Global Physical Climatology” and Raymond Pierrehumbert’s 652 page “Principles of Planetary Climate” – twice each. The transformation has been startling. Without those texts as background, the literature will strike anyone as gibberish, but armed with those fundamentals, I now feel I can actually extract useful information from the dozens of journals I follow every month, and thereby keep up with the others who already knew that.

    I want to thank cui bono for his willingness to go to bed at 3 AM last night without my yet having justified the entirety of climate science thinking to him. I promise, though, that I will try to answer his questions at the time and place where he has promised to restructure climate science as a “much more intricate and satisfying structure”.

    I musn’t forget to thank Don Monfort for his comment, which however brief, was no less helpful than any of his previous comments have been.

    And to all the above, thanks for realizing that the above was written with a smile rather than a snarl.

    Just to rehash the gist of my own earlier point, made seriously, it was twofold: (1) mainstream climate science thinking should be judged not by analogy with historical examples, but on the basis of the multiple pieces of evidence that it comprises, and how they fit together; but (2) to the extent history is a guide, it supports the robust nature of mainstream climate science thinking rather than the reverse. This is because the many false theories that have arisen over the course of modern science history have invariably given way within months, years, or at most three or four decades when subjected to intensive scrutiny and investigation. Among other perspectives that have endured in the mainstream for more than 60 years (Newton, Relativity, QM, tectonics), none has yet shown signs it is vulnerable to being overturned (as opposed to refined). I wouldn’t cite endurance as an inviolable sign of validity, but if it fails for climate science, that would probably be unprecedented.

    • Now, that is funny.

    • fred certainly expresses himself well and i appreciate his gentle humour. however, may i suggest that as a possible ny resolution, fred could make his points more concisely?

    • Fred, This is actually a good post. I am impressed. Humor is a very effective tool in making friends and influencing people.

    • However, Fred, it is quite possible for the “fundamentals” of a field to be secure while the uncertainty remains large. The Navier-Stokes equations have been well known for at least a hundred years but yet it was widely believed for at least as long that turbulence was NOT described by them. I think your confidence in the process of science is perhaps misplaced. We knew all the fundamentals of fluid dynamics in 1900, but had no idea how to build an efficient airplane, model turbulence, or actually do much of anything useful with the fundamentals. And that was because our understanding of the consequences of the fundamentals was virtually non-existent.

      • David, your allusion to early aeronautics is apposite. In the early days of aviation, a divide existed between the “men of science” and the “practical men”. The Wrights succeeded because they were, and were disposed to be, both, and because however much weight they gave to scientific theory, they ALWAYS gave more to practical experiment. The Wrights’ choice of marketing techniques meant that their data was not shared, leaving the Practical Men/Men of Science dynamic to continue playing out in the early years of aviation. In effect, the Practical Men (Glenn Curtiss epitomised them) made the early running, and the Men of Science were reduced to explaining what HAD been achieved, and pronouncing, usually wrongly, as to the limits of what COULD be achieved. In 1913 it was settled science in the US and Europe that no aircraft weighing greater than a ton (or thereabouts) could EVER fly.

        The reason for this was a misunderstanding over a vital co-efficient (Reynolds Number), the details of which I regret elude me (can anyone help?), but they didn’t trouble Igor Sikorski, who had all the Wrights’ dogged empricism in spades, but also what the Wrights lacked – vision. The Wrights were still trying to sell the US army a lethally unstable, two-seat spotter aircraft when Sikorski designed a 4-engined airliner with cabin heating and lighting, a stateroom and a loo. In defiance of “settled science”, it flew successfully. By 1914 a heavier, faster development, The Ilya Muromets, was built with production in mind. The prototype made several flights of 600+kms, at a time when crossing the English Channel was still a big deal, and while AV Roe was yet adamantly declaring the flight of such a machine an impossibility. War intervened, ending Sikorski’s dream of a passenger fleet, but the type was produced in quantity as a strategic bomber, in which role it enjoys the distinction of being the only type to have a positive kill ratio in air-to-air combat.

        Of course the Men of Science did eventually catch up with the Practical Men and their flying machines. Gottingen got its aeronautics faculty in 1907 and by the middle of the first War was responsible for breakthroughs in aerofoil design (eg Fokker DVII). But the early years of their discipline were humbling ones – unlike climate, it’s hard to dismiss something that’s droning over your head – no, not you, Fred :-)

      • Tom, I did not mean to imply that practical me couldn’t do great things, merely that the scientific fundamentals were of no use to them.

  64. Craig Loehle

    Have not read the thread yet but don’t forget Darwin, and the recent discovery of H pylori as the cause of ulcers, and the crystallographer who discovered odd symmetry in crystals and had his career shortened only to then get a prize many years later, and on and on. I could add the anthropologists who argued that the Amazon was NOT wilderness when the portugese arrived but was heavily settled, the geologist who proposed the explanation for the scablands of E. Washington state (catastrophic drainage of a glacial lake), and more.

  65. Craig Loehle

    How do you judge the validity of a consensus? If an expert can explain the topic to an educated layman, that means he has a good grasp of the topic. If however, you see the following behaviors, the consensus is fake, is contrived, has a political goal:
    1) Gets angry if questions are asked.
    2) Is evasive about things like accuracy and precision (and maybe doesn’t even understand the question).
    3) Will not debate.
    4) Will never admit error even when it is obvious.
    5) Spins results to support “the cause”.
    6) Hides data, methods, and computer code.
    7) Demonizes opponents rather than grant them rational reasons for their views.
    8) Strives to never admit the existence of contradictory literature.
    9) Uses power to eliminate rival points of view via journals & professional societies. This was evident in the continental drift example.
    Thus it is possible to evaluate the quality of a consensus, rather than assuming that all consensi (?) are equal.

    • Someone is sure to say, about 3) at least, “do you think they should debate flat-earthers etc?”

      Which makes me think of another possible criterion:

      10) Uses obviously inappropriate analogies with other, much more firmly established scientific theories and facts. :-D

    • Craig, I made the point earlier that you can judge a consensus pretty well by the freedom with which it appears to be entered into.

      As we have seen in the emails, the CAGW consensus seems almost entirely fabricated, and to be sustained through hysterically vigilant coercion.

    • Craig,

      Presumably, on this blog, you’d be a ‘climate sceptic’ taking on the scientific consensus on AGW.

      But, cut and paste your nine points onto a creationist or ID website, or even an AIDS/HIV ‘sceptical’ site, and you could be something completely different.

  66. Many climate sceptics seem to point out that Wegener overthrew the consensus with his ideas on plate tectonics. Similarly Barry Marshall with his work on ulcers. Some other given examples such as superstring theory, which while being accepted as being interesting and possible likely explanations, aren’t really at consensus level anyway.

    The implication of of this is course that because sometimes the consensus has been wrong, therefore it can’t ever be trusted. Carrying this argument to its logical conclusion means that science itself can’t be trusted. But what is the alternative? It may not be perfect, but is there anything better?

    • NB to note that the skeptics regualry get the details of the ulcer stort quite wrong.

      There was no real concensus about ulcers. While stress was a common explanation, it really was a case of ‘we think it could be stress, but we know that this does not explain all ulcers, so this is our best guess for now’.

      • Actually, it was more like the global warming diagnosis by exclusion. If it isn’t the stress, then what else could it be?

      • How different this would be from climate change depends on the exact wording. If the experts on ulcers at the time were under pressure to give “clear answers” about the cause of ulcers, they could probably have come up with something similar to what the IPCC is telling us.

    • randomengineer

      Unsurprisingly you have missed the point, which is that the consensus is constantly being refined. That which was considered skeptical 30 years ago is today’s mainstream. Given the topic of Dr Curry’s post (read it again if you must) the parties under the microscope here are represented by YOU, not those who question.

      I have said repeatedly that the overall vector of climate science is correct, although your ability to grasp this is so poor that the only thing you can do is promote legitimate criticisms to absurd strawman rephrasings to bolster your DENIER DENIER screeching.

      Dear lord, you sound like one of the betrodden critters from a star trek episode, bound and determined to cast out that which is not of “the body.” It’s ironic that you’re performing your average behaviours on a topic with the name that it has.

      • Randomengineer,

        Yes, of course, the consensus is constantly being refined. The consensus 40 years ago was that the Co2 effect in the atmosphere was saturated and therefore increases in concentrations weren’t thought to be a significant problem.

        Of course, its possible, that it may change back in another 40 years time may revert back to what it was. More likely it won’t. In any case, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you can only work with the consensus you have not the one you may wish to have.

    • tempterrain, the alternative is of course not to dismiss the consensus out of hand, but for more people (especially scientists) to take the time to investigate it skeptically.

      • Dagfinn,

        Yes, many would like scientists the take the time to do some more investigation. Then maybe some more time after that to may sure they haven’t made any mistakes. Afterwards maybe the problem should be looked at all afresh by anyone who still remains sceptical. There’ll be plenty who’ll to argue they can take as much time as they like!

    • No, the implication is that just because it is a consnsus does not make it right. Also, in the case of plate tectonics the establishment made a huge effort to deny the possibility of moving continents, supporting land bridges as an alternative. When one observes hysterical reactions to opposing views, that does not bode well for the consensus being on solid ground.

      • Craig,

        “…….for the consensus being on solid ground.”

        There are even those who would question that ground is solid.

        I dare say these guys would agree with you. They probably have the same problem with geology professors getting angry, refusing to debate with them etc etc.

  67. It is sobering to be reminded how much “Consensus Science” proved to be shockingly wrong.

    It was ever thus. It will always be thus.

  68. so of all the tens-of-thousands of theories of all of history of all of the scientific cannon we have about 11 cases where someone from the opposing side didn’t agree with the consensus (Wow the opposing side didn’t believe in the consensus, how strange!) in which the CONSENSUS slowly changed to the opposing view? Two observations:

    1) Guess we know we can trust the consensus if–after all these heterodox claims–the scientific consensus doesn’t shift to a competing hypothesis. (After all, seems like inherent to these 11 cases is the belief that the current CONSENSUS is correct, right? Right?)
    2) Things are looking good for AGW.