Belief in Evidence or Evidence of Belief
Posted by Jeff Id on September 7, 2010
A note to climate science.
Evidence drives science opinion toward truth. Evidence doesn’t seek truth, evidence is truth and the scientist is ever beholden to the evidence. It all gets confused when humans are involved. We all grasp that opinion is a form of understanding which can be thought of as an interpretation of evidence. Scientific opinion is no different and is complicated and obscured by an amalgam of emotion, experience and the data in front of you. Opinion can therefore be corrupted by all types of confounding factors and it is a constant war for a scientist who wishes to maintain integrity. Opinions are sometimes sneaky, creeping up on you where all the evidence points to what you believe. When you are later wrong, sometimes it’s embarrassing.
In soft science, you are the one who judges correctness. Soft science being that which are complex enough or new enough that all factors aren’t known. Examples are psychology, some forms of biological and biochemical sciences, philosophy and our favorite whipping boy, climatology.
Of course in soft science, you have more opportunity to be wrong than in hard sciences like mathematics. In math, someone catches your error, in climate science, the conclusion can be colored by pre-determined assumptions.
F = m a : Force equals mass times acceleration.
A stupidly simple equation for something so important. It’s easily proven or disproved. Climatology likes to say their problem is infinitely more complex than hard sciences. On some levels they are correct, climate is very complex if all details are wanted to be understood, but if the warming caused by CO2 is what is sought, it should be much simpler right? Nope, not really.
How much warming, is a soft science – and how much is the key we all want.
A popular concept in climate science ™ is at least 1.2 and up to 4 C or sometimes (2 to 6C) of warming per century for a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere. These numbers don’t always follow the IPCC. The science is based on a ‘base’ claim of 1.2 caused by CO2 and an additional warming caused because certain types of clouds are formed. What is oft forgotten/ignored is that even the base claim itself of 1.2 with no cloud formation is in question. The value is uncertain, or fuzzy, or possibly even incorrect depending on your opinion.
It is just an opinion too, because we don’t know.
F=ma is imperfect.
From special relativity we learned that
- — wiki
Does that mean F=ma is wrong? No not really, it means the world is more complex than we used to think. F =ma is good enough for most everything we do, I’ve never needed the relativistic form for work. But without the rest of the equation, the answer is not good enough for some applications. F = ma is a tiny bit uncertain, containing errors created by the differences between math and reality, but it is very close to the improved answer for small relative velocities.
In climate, the scientists have a window of uncertainty which is greater than the measured trend. They are still certain of the warming, basic physics of radiative capture demand it. Oddly, they are also self certain of both the magnitude of the CO2 based warming and the resulting positive feedback response from the atmosphere. The certainty of these two items are where they go wrong initially but it is followed by claims of damage which have so little foundation in reality, it is hard to express the contempt I hold for it. Follow that with their demands that we adopt scientifically ‘F = beer + pizza’ non-workable energy solutions and they’ve lost me. Soft science with wild conclusion and demands for scientifically non-workable energy programs.
All of these things revolve around a common core belief that humans are changing the planet, and that is always assumed bad. It gives a person a warm fuzzy feeling in their heart that they are doing the right thing. It gives them hope that they can make the world a better place. They are generally good people with good hearts and strong belief in the fact that what they are doing is a hundred percent right. It IS a very understandable position, when you are standing on an untouched mountain or an Antarctic plane and take a deep breath of the cold clear air.
But that is not science.
When (MMH 2010) demonstrates that models overshoot warming by 2 to 4 times measured evidence, climate science must take notice. They MUST come off the cold mountain, walk to the energy eating computer and face the even colder evidence.
I wonder if they will anytime soon.