Friday, June 5, 2009

"Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition"

"We have received from Divine Providence the supreme favour of being relieved from all error."

-Constantine, Letter to the Church of Alexandria, c.330AD

Concerning the end of the world, as a youth I heard a sermon in a church in Paris that as soon as the number of a thousand years should come, the Antichrist would come, and not long thereafter, the Last Judgment would follow; which preaching I resisted with all my strength from the Evangels and the Apocalypse and the book of Daniel.

-
Abbo of Fleury 996 AD

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.

-
1798 Thomas Malthus

“I believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ is near, even at the door, even within twenty-one years,—on or before 1843

-
William Miller, 1822

[Christ will return on] “the tenth day of the seventh month of the present year, 1844"

-
Samuel Snow

"Sometimes I really regret that I did not live in those times when there was still so much that was new; to be sure enough much is yet unknown, but I do not think that it will be possible to discover anything easily nowadays that would lead us to revise our entire outlook as radically as was possible in the days when telescopes and microscopes were still new."

- Heinrich Hertz as a physics student, 1875

"We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy."

- Simon Newcomb, early American astronomer, 1888

"The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.... Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals."

- Albert. A. Michelson, speech at the dedication of Ryerson Physics Lab, U. of Chicago 1894

"There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement"

- Lord Kelvin, 1900

"During the last 20-30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the last decade...The cause of the cooling trend is not known with certainty. But there is increasing concern that man himself may be implicated, not only in the recent cooling trend but also in the warming temperatures over the last century".

National Science Board report, 1972

"we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate...The climates of the earth have always been changing, and they will doubtless continue to do so in the future. How large these future changes will be, and where and how rapidly they will occur, we do not know.."

National Academy of Science report, 1975

"ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change" [due to a] "a drop of half a degree [Fahrenheit] in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968."..."The evidence in support of these predictions [of global cooling] has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it."..."what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery"... "not only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions."...."melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting Arctic rivers" ..."But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies...The longer the planners (politicians) delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality." The "resulting famines could be catastrophic", "drought and desolation," "the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded", "droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons," "impossible for starving peoples to migrate," "the present decline has taken the planet about a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age."

"The Cooling World", Newsweek, 1975

"I think the main question is, How does the sun [in general] act on climate? What are the processes that are going on in the Earth's atmosphere?"

Simi Solanki, Max Planck Institute, National Geographic, September 2006

Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says

Now, Canadian scientists are seeking additional funding for more and better "eyes" with which to observe our sun, which has a bigger impact on Earth's climate than all the tailpipes and smokestacks on our planet combined.And they're worried about global cooling, not warming.

IBD, February 2008

Last year, it was expected that it would have been hotting up after a quiet spell. But instead it hit a 50-year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.

According to Prof Louise Hara of University College London, it is unclear why this is happening or when the Sun is likely to become more active again.

BBC, April 2009

No-one knows how the centuries-long waxing and waning of the Sun works. However, astronomers now have space telescopes studying the Sun in detail.

"This is very exciting because as astronomers we've never seen anything like this before in our lifetimes," he said.

"We have spacecraft up there to study the Sun in phenomenal detail. With these telescopes we can study this minimum of activity in a way that we could not have done so in the past."

BBC, April 2009

The rapid temperature increase of 1°C over mainland Europe since 1980 is considerably larger than the temperature rise expected from anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases. ...The measurements show a decline in aerosol concentration of up to 60%, which have led to a statistically significant increase of solar irradiance under cloud-free skies since the 1980s. The measurements confirm solar brightening and show that the direct aerosol effect had an approximately five times larger impact on climate forcing than the indirect aerosol and other cloud effects. The overall aerosol and cloud induced surface climate forcing is +1 W m−2 dec−1 and has most probably strongly contributed to the recent rapid warming in Europe.

Geophysical Research Letters, June 2008

"Global warming is pushing northwards diseases more commonly found in developing countries, posing a risk to the financial and physical health of rich nations, the head of a livestock herders' charity said. Steve Sloan, chief executive of GALVmed, said on Friday insect-borne diseases were increasingly moving north, such as the viral infection bluetongue that has hit cattle and sheep in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany."

Yahoo News, 2007

"On Disko Bay in western Greenland, where a number of prominent world leaders have visited in recent years to get a first-hand impression of climate change, temperatures have dropped so drastically that the water has frozen over for the first time in a decade."

Copenhagen Post, 2008

"The real reasons for climate changes are uneven solar radiation, terrestrial precession (that is, axis gyration), instability of oceanic currents, regular salinity fluctuations of the Arctic Ocean surface waters, etc. There is another, principal reason—solar activity and luminosity. The greater they are the warmer is our climate. "

Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin, RIA Novosti, March 2008

The effect that our meat addiction is having on the climate is truly staggering. In fact, in its recent report “Livestock’s Long Shadow—Environmental Issues and Options,” the United Nations determined that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.

Drudge Report, 2007

A detailed analysis of black carbon -- the residue of burned organic matter -- in computer climate models suggests that those models may be overestimating global warming predictions.

The findings are significant because soils are by far the world's largest source of carbon dioxide, producing 10 times more carbon dioxide each year than all the carbon dioxide emissions from human activities combined. Small changes in how carbon emissions from soils are estimated, therefore, can have a large impact."We know from measurements that climate change today is worse than people have predicted," said Lehmann. "But this particular aspect, black carbon's stability in soil, if incorporated in climate models, would actually decrease climate predictions."

Cornell University Chronicle, November 2008

Scientists quoted in a past DailyTech article link the cooling to reduced solar activity which they claim is a much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases. The dramatic cooling seen in just 12 months time seems to bear that out. While the data doesn't itself disprove that carbon dioxide is acting to warm the planet, it does demonstrate clearly that more powerful factors are now cooling it.

Michael Asher, Daily Tech, 2008

Patterson said much of the up-to-date research indicates that "changes in the brightness of the sun" are almost certainly the primary cause of the warming trend since the end of the "Little Ice Age" in the late 19th century. Human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas of concern in most plans to curb climate change, appear to have little effect on global climate, he said.

Standard Freeholder, 2007

During the last 10,000 years climate has been seesawing between the North and South Atlantic Oceans. As revealed by findings presented by Quaternary scientists at Lund University, Sweden, cold periods in the north have corresponded to warmth in the south and vice verse. These results imply that Europe may face a slightly cooler future than predicted by IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Science Daily, 2007

"Brothel owners in Bulgaria are blaming global warming for staff shortages."

Metro UK, 2007

"Violence within and between communities and between nation states, we must accept, could possibly increase, because the precedents are all around." He [Sir Crispin Tickell] cited Rwanda and Sudan's Darfur region as two examples where drought and overpopulation, relative to scarce resources, had helped to fuel deadly conflicts. "Experts at the conference hosted by the Royal United Services Institute said it was likely that global warming would create huge flows of refugees as people tried to escape areas swamped by rising sea levels or rendered uninhabitable by desertification. Tickell said terrorists were likely to seek to exploit the tensions created."


Yahoo News, 2007

"any attempt by countries to build fortress walls to keep out climate change refugees -- what he called the 'barbarians at the gate' mentality -- was doomed to fail."


Paul Rogers, Professor of "Peace Studies", 2007, Yahoo News, 2007

Global warming possibly linked to an enhanced risk of suicide: Data from Italy, 1974–2003, Journal of Affective Disorders, In Press, Corrected Proof,
Available online 17 January 2007, A. Preti, G. Lentini and M. Maugeri

"The debate on the science is over, but the science is now telling us that action is urgent".

Peter Cosier, Group of Concerned Scientists, October 2007

“Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.”

Dr. Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe, 2007

Experts say over the next hundred years the "perfect storm" of population growth, resource depletion and climate change could converge with catastrophic results.

ABC News, Earth 2100

(For a list of apocalyptic predictions from 2800 B.C. to present see this.)

These quotes not only show the uncertain state of modern climate science, they demonstrate that the hysterical doomsday predictions of the modern environmental movement increasingly resemble the apocalyptic rantings of ancient mystics. Even their method of chastising and proselytizing the "non-believers" has taken on a religious tone. But what is the connection between biblical prophecy and modern scientific warnings about the end of civilization due to "global cooling", "global warming", or "climate change"? When observing the spectacularly absurd predictions of Malthus in 1798, lamentations about the end of discovery in the 1800's, or Newsweek's dire warnings of global cooling in the 1970's, and in light of overwhelming evidence that modern climate scientists do not fully grasp, uh, well, climate - how can someone like Peter Cosier claim that the "science is over" and that "urgent action" is required?

Furthermore, do these notoriously wrong predictions show that man can never be certain of anything and that knowledge is impossible, and would that imply that man's only choice is between the arbitrary prophecies of mystics or the skepticism of modern philosophers? (On a related note, why is it that Ayn Rand's work is continually prophetic on a scale that would make Nostradamus followers blush yet modern economists can't tell us for sure if fascism is "bad" for the economy?)

The answers to these questions are essential to understand why America is collapsing. The reason they are essential is that these questions relate to how we determine what individuals regard as "true" and therefore relate to what people consider to be "true". If people largely accept the prophecies or theories of the Pope or the Bible it would have enormous implications as the Dark Ages showed. If people largely regard truth as impossible and turn to subjectivism it would have enormous implications as modern culture demonstrates. In general, to the extent that intellectuals can not properly validate concepts or theories, people's ideas will tend toward a bastardized mixture of religion or pseudo-science and subjectivism - a state which will lead to the collapse of civilization itself as we are already witnessing today.

Modern culture is infected by two sides of a false alternative: the religious mystics who claim that knowledge is revealed by God and the subjectivist intellectuals who claim that knowledge is impossible. Where do the global warming scientists fit in? Afterall, religious prophecy overtly rejects evidence in favor of faith and scientists supposedly rely on observation of actual data and logic.

What unites overt mystics and these particular scientists is that both camps reject rational epistemological methods, i.e., both do not understand or overtly reject a rational approach to validating knowledge - although they default in different ways. With respect to both camps it can be said: junk in - junk out, i.e., if one does not properly validate a theory or concept then any prediction based on that theory will be flawed. It is therefore not surprising that the claims of the modern climate scientists resemble the prophecies of ancient mystics.

What is different is that religion is not as powerful as it once was and physical scientists still retain the mantle of "experts" in our society. However, the public at large has largely been disarmed by the modern philosophers assault on reason. If modern climate scientists are considered to be "experts" by a public that does not have the ability to discern truth, scientists take on the same authoritarian role as the priest once did. In other words, rather than evaluate scientific claims independently and objectively, the public accepts the claims of scientists as epistemologically equivalent to the word of God. If scientists say so, it must be true because they are scientists just as whatever the Pope said was once regarded as the word of God. To the extent that a scientist relies on an argument from authority rather than objectivity, he should be regarded on the same level as a religious mystic.

Why do scientists "reject" or fail to understand rational methods of validating ideas and what is the proper method? The root cause of the false alternative between dogma and subjectivism is the modern philsophical assault on reason and the utter default by intellectuals to provide rational methods of validating concepts. The solution is not to throw away the possibility of knowledge nor is it to turn to mysticism. The solution is an objective theory of concepts. Such a theory exists and without it, we are doomed.

In Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, protagonist John Galt states:

No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge.

In its most basic form, I submit that this one simple sentence is the solution to the world's problems. This essential principle is the principle of context. What does the contextual nature of knowledge mean? It means taking into account everything you know and don't know when stating a conclusion.

For example, say it is observed that temperature is increasing somewhere over a certain period of time. Understanding the causes that give rise to this fact could be incredibly difficult. Varying temperatures across the globe made under different conditions at different times with different instruments makes just the act of observation difficult and subject to error. To then go forward and understand the relationship of solar variation with the earth’s atmosphere taking into account solar cycles, the earth's precession, levels of certain gases in the atmosphere affected by such diverse factors as aerosol concentrations, animal emissions, black carbon in the soil, fossil fuel emissions, volcanic activity, oceanic variation, and further grasping that there are factors of which one is not aware makes this process difficult.

Every day, scientists make new observations which enhance their current understanding. The contextual nature of knowledge is not grounds to invalidate reason and knowledge, it is crucial to understanding the human method of cognition. In other words, the fact that scientists make new observations which add to their knowledge is simply a recognition that man is not omniscient, i.e., we don’t and can’t know everything. It is vital that the scientist understand this fact as well. Pronouncements by scientists that “the science is over” or “physics is over” or we are close to “the theory of everything” is spectacularly misguided. Scientists should just state what they know. That means stating a conclusion within a context.

The best current sources on rational epistemology are Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology and Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. One of the best writers on this topic today is David Harriman. In an excellent piece titled Errors in Inductive Reasoning in the Winter 2008 issue of The Objective Standard, David Harriman analyzes notorious errors committed by scientists and explains how each case represents an instance of a failure to properly use the method of induction. In the introduction, he states:

In contrast to perception, thinking is a fallible process. This fact gives rise to our need for the method of logic.

Logic, when properly applied, enables us to arrive at true conclusions. But it comes with no guarantee that we will apply the method correctly. The laws of deduction were identified by Aristotle more than two millennia ago, and yet people still commit deductive fallacies. If one remains attentive to the evidence, however, further use of logic leads to the correction of these errors. The same is true of false generalizations reached by induction. Although even the best thinkers can commit inductive errors, such errors wither and die in the light shed by continued application of observation and logic.

During the past century, however, many philosophers have rejected the validity of induction and argued that every generalization is an error. For example, Karl Popper claimed that all the laws of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton have been “falsified”; in his view, no laws or generalizations have ever been or can ever be proven true. By demanding that a true generalization must apply with unlimited precision to an unlimited domain, Popper upheld a mystical view of “truth” that is forever outside the reach of man and accessible only to an omniscient god. In the end, he was left with two types of generalizations: those that have been proven false and those that will be proven false. He was then accused by later philosophers of being too optimistic; they insisted that nothing can be proven, not even a generalization’s falsehood.


Such skeptics commit—on a grand scale—the fallacy of dropping context. The meaning of our generalizations is determined by the context that gives rise to them; to claim that a generalization is true is to claim that it applies within a specific context. The data subsumed by that context are necessarily limited in both range and precision.

Harriman further discusses the role of context in forming a generalization:

A true generalization states a causal relationship that has been induced from observational data and integrated within the whole of one’s knowledge (which, in terms of essentials, spans the range of facts subsumed by the generalization). A scientist makes an error when he asserts a generalization without achieving such an integration. In such cases, the supporting evidence is insufficient, and often the scientist has overlooked counterevidence.

Good science includes understanding the nature of knowledge, i.e., that knowledge is contextual and forming generalizations accordingly. In this sense, the statement that "the science is over" as it relates to climate science is an egregious fallacy. When one understands the contextual nature of knowledge it can be seen at a fundamental level that unless human knowledge is over, the science is never over and as it relates to climate science, in particular, as one can see from the above quotes - it is not even close.

Scientists should understand the limits of their knowledge and be ruthlessly objective with respect to stating or accepting conclusions. Applying induction properly to validate theories is extremely difficult. The modern philosophic assault on reason and induction has resulted in this sorry state of science where many dismiss the pursuit of knowledge as impossible and those left pursuing have no concrete epistemological tools with which to work. If the intellectuals and the scientists have no clue how to validate theories properly, then is it any wonder that the public at large is routinely taken in by apocalyptic forecasts made by "the experts"? Is it surprising that intellectuals within academia and the media are so easily able to exploit the ignorance of the public to advance their own political agenda?

Modern civilization is founded upon the recognition and celebration of the power of the free and independent human mind to discover, create, and build. The Dark Ages and any dictatorship is a consequence of the rejection of the efficacy of the individual mind in favor of revelation and faith in mystic, supernatural forces conveyed to the ragged masses by self-anointed "experts" able to divine real Truth or the will of God. You choose which world you wish to live in.

I came across this poem which inspired this post and I think it eloquently captures the essence and suffocating sense of life of the mystic or in modern times - the crusading environmental pseudo-scientist.

Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition

The church bells toll a melancholy round,
Calling the people to some other prayers,
Some other gloominess, more dreadful cares,
More harkening to the sermon's horrid sound.
Surely the mind of man is closely bound
In some black spell; seeing that each one tears
Himself from fireside joys, and Lydian airs,
And converse high of those with glory crown'd
Still, still they too, and I should feel a damp, -
A chill as from a tomb, did I not know
That they are dying like an outburnt lamp;
That 'tis their sighing, wailing ere they go
Into oblivion; - that fresh flowers will grow,
And many glories of immortal stamp.

John Keats, posthumous

9 comments:

Harold said...

Bookmarkable.

Doug Reich said...

Harold,

Thanks for that. I love this word - a compliment that would make any true blogger proud!

Incidentally, I was hoping this post would provoke some more comments. So, I am going to begin commenting on my own posts and if a reader wants to answer it feel free. So, here are my comment on my own post:

Is it really fair to criticize modern climate scientists or equate them to past religious mystics when the scientists are at least basing their theories on some objective evidence whereas religious mystics are at a far lower level since they dismiss factual evidence altogether and rely solely on faith or belief in the absence of evidence?

This relates to my next comment. Historically, when mankind was at a more primitive stage, was it reasonable for intellectuals to regard biblical prophecy as more "legitimate"? If knowledge is "contextual", what is the process for evaluating or judging modern climate scientists vis-a-vis past mystics? In a sense, are modern climate scientists more guilty since they should "know better"?

Per-Olof Samuelsson said...

My only comment is that this is another really good post!

Beth said...

Your post makes the crucial point that the ultimate battle we must fight is epistemological. Unfortunately, I have found it almost impossible to engage the people at this level of discussion--precisely because mysticism and subjectivism cut off thinking before it can begin.

On a less fundamental tact, two points that some people seem a bit more willing to accept in regards to the climate change debate:
1. The IPCC is a political not a scientific organization--it is, afterall, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
2. The current state of scientific knowledge has no underlying theory of climate, without which any attempt to distinguish "natural" from "man-made" is futile.


As to the questions you raise in the comment section, I would think it always "fair' to criticize--if done objectively.

And, because mysticism and subjectivism are at the root the same (the substitution of one's emotions and desires in place of the rational evaluation of observations of external reality) it is accurate to equate modern mainstream climatologists and religious mystics. To the extent scientists attempt to base their theories on fact and reason, of course they are superior. The problem is not so much the state of the science, but the failure to acknowledge when the debate is no longer over the science but has shifted to politics.

I have studied the science behind the claims of anthropogenic global warming theories, and the critiques by those who are challenging those claims, because I find the science fascinating and intellectually stimulating. But, whether or not we as a species are collectively altering the earth's climate is irrelevant to the discussion of how to respond to changes in climate. That is a political, and thus ultimately moral, question. Where I find the actions of climate alarmist reprehensible is in their attempt to conflate science and politics--to use the mantle of "objective science" in order to implement a political ideology of coercion and collectivism, or any ideology for that matter, even one with which I would agree.

The religious leaders of the past used the current state of knowledge to gain power over the masses. Vocal and politically active climate alarmists are attempting to do the same. I don't see one group as worse...they are both pretty awful.

The Pope, who claims to be in contact with God, has to be lying or delusional. I think the same can be said for the climate alarmists. However, I don't think it's possible in most cases (short of being their private psychologist) to know how much of the evasion is conscious, and thus open to moral judgment. It's an interesting question though.

Thanks again for some great connections. I hope the discussion picks up.

Harold said...

"I have found it almost impossible to engage the people at this level of discussion--precisely because mysticism and subjectivism cut off thinking before it can begin."

Totally understandable. Where I work, a lot of people are willing to criticize the environmentalists, but pointing out that it's just another religion like theirs would be disastrous.

"...to use the mantle of "objective science" in order to implement a political ideology of coercion and collectivism..."

I think that's an important issue. It seems that "we" are so lacking in self-esteem, that we'll accept any scheme designed to reduce our freedom--as long as it's for the common good or future generations or whatever. There's literally an entire universe out there to explore and we're worried about drinking water and "sustainability". What happened?

seine said...

Doug, also I've been told the Mayan calender claims 2012 as the last year. Regrettably, the prognosticator won't take bets.
A diversion - Arthur Robinson, the petition project, has put together a number of 230 page books listing all 31,478 signitors and 12 pages of support material. He is prepared to mail a copy to readers who will make the effort to place it in the hands of a senator or a congressman, not one of their aids.
It is one of the things we can do to carry the fight further. You can check this out at, http://oism.org

seine said...

Doug, this is to answer your call for comments and to give you my answer to your question. Yes it is more than fair to criticize modern climate 'scientists'. Of course there is far less excuse for their blind adherence to their beliefs than the mystic of a thousand years ago. Knowledge is available everywhere and since Ayn Rand, provable.
I've always been fascinated by quotes from the past, as they give us a window into the world of yesterday. When reading them one needs to keep in mind generally, what was written was the most profound thoughts that each author believed to be true. While some of these people may have been honesty mistaken, many of them were the manipulators of their era and also deserve condemnation.
A historic truism, Those who forfeit there their ability to think are resentful and angry when you refuse to do the same. Both yesterday's mystic and today's unwavering 'global warming scientists' renounce the though process.
To be a scientist is not repeating another persons outlandish claims, but rather following the evidence and let reality establish the validity of an idea. Global warming advocates fall into two categories, manipulators and repeaters. They get away with the nonsense because most of the people in the know, fear the loss of government research funding.
To quote from 'access to energy' a
1974 commencement address by Richard Feynman, "But this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves - of having scientific integrity - is, I'm sorry to say, something that we haven't specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you've caught on by osmosis.
"The principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, its easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.
"I would like to add something that's not essential to science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you're talking as a scientist.........
"So I have just one wish for you - the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom."
That I believe, describes where we are today and what we have lost. Until the people who fool themselves realize that they are fooling themselves, we will remain in trouble. Without introspecting and an internal system to decern truth from falsehood, there will always be self-righteous people forcing others to comply with their thoughtless whims.
And yes, as Harold said, your blog remains bookmarkable. I'm guessing your followers would agree, there are far too few place where ideas are considered important.

Doug Reich said...

Thanks to all for your excellent comments. They are much appreciated.

Seine, thanks for the Feynman quote. As I majored in physics, Feyman is a great hero of mine and I have read most of his stuff. Thanks for that quote. As usual, he was on the money. Also, I will check out the link. Are you on Oactivists? That kind of stuff is exactly what they do.

Beth, I was actually taken by your statement that currently there is "no theory of climate". I'm interested in hearing more on that given your studies. That statement surprised even a die hard GW skeptic like myself.

Harold,

You said
"There's literally an entire universe out there to explore and we're worried about drinking water and "sustainability". What happened?"

Indeed! Well put.

Beth said...

Doug,
RE: lack of a theory of climate

One place that gives a nice discussion of this is the chapter "Climate Theory versus Models and Metaphors" in Taken by Storm by Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick. As someone with a physics background, you will be able to read this with a point of view I lack, and I would love to hear your reactions. The discussion is not perfect in that the authors seem to hold a Popperian view of science, and the writing style is aimed at the non-scientist layman, but there is good stuff to learn from them.

A few quotes to pique your interest:
"We need to draw some important distinctions between these three things: theories, models and metaphors. If any of these deserves to be called certain, it is the first--and science has taught us to be very tentative in such a use of this word. In this sense, models have a lower standing in science, and metaphors even lower. They are useful but can be misleading if they are not used wisely...
We will start with the question of whether there is such a thing as a theory of climate. The answer is brief (no), but explaining will require your sustained attention over many pages."

"Misplaced confidence in models, as substitutions for theory, and the overuse of metaphor...has done damage to climate science and the policymaking process."

"[F]or now we have no theory for climate comparable to what Navier-Stokes theory is for middle realm fluids. Unlike kinetic theory, where our journey through averages is toward a known theory, for climate the journey is away from a known theory in to the unknown."

The chapter discusses at length the problems faced by computer modeling (level of detail to include, problems of averaging, effects of truncating input, subgrid phenomena, and the difference between simulations and experimental evidence.) It emphasizes the lack of a theory of climate to guide the computer model inputs and evaluations. This is a major problem that has been ignored by mainstream science and media--and all the predictions of catastrophe stem from these models.

Yesterday, I just started reading Heaven and Earth--Global Warming: The missing science by geologist Ian Plimer. This book has made quite a ruckus over in Australia. I have only read the Introduction and part of chapter 1, but it looks promising.

Plimer says it this way:
"Before we can hope to understand present climate change, we must understand how climate has changed in the past...[W]e do not understand all the drivers of these past climate changes."

A third source which deals with this in some detail is Global Warming: Myth or Reality? The erring Ways of Climatology by French climatologist Marcel Leroux. Unfortunately, it is either poorly editted or poorly translated--but still provides a detailed critique of the IPCC's attempt to oversimplify climate processes and the great damage being done to climatology as a science by the global warming movement. This book is written at the level of an upper level college text and requires more of a commitment to read and understand.

These are just a few of the places where I have come across "There is no theory of climate." I wish I had time to provide you with a better summary, but pointing to sources is all I can do for now.