Come for the Politics, Stay for the Pathologies

Monday, November 30, 2009

Assume A Hockey Stick

You have probably heard the cogent points surrounding Climategate by now. A concise summary: Anthropogenic Global Warming  (AGW) alarmists at East Anglica University, with input from other “scientists” around the planet, have been caught red handed at their data manipulation trickery. Apparently it wasn’t terribly complicated. Anyone who passed Statistics 101 without cheating would be able to figure out how to set the parameters to achieve the “expected” results. When even that didn’t work, they directly manipulated data. And now we find out that they’ve covered their tracks by purposefully destroying their source data.  In most contexts such manipulation is known as fraud.

Roger L. Simon’s Climategate piece summarizes:

Things are “starting to unravel at the AGW seams,” because, apparently, the “dog ate the homework” – more specifically the temperature data on which the whole global warming “can of worms” depends. Yes, three clich├ęs in one sentence, yet somehow apropos for this unraveling fiasco that every day becomes more eye-rolling. Today’s unraveling – intentionally saved, I am assuming, for the weekend – comes from the Timesonline:

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

Not to worry. Carol Browner – Obama’s climate czar – assures us that global warming science is “settled.” And Carol should know. She has a B. A. in English from the University of Florida, not to mention a law degree from the same institution. (Pop quiz, Carol. What’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics? How about Einstein’s Unified Field Theory? Oh, never mind.)

More important to this discussion than anything else is a discussion of what makes science science? For starters, it is not consensus. It is challenge and replication. Scientific facts can never be completely proven, they can only be disproven. (Arguably, that’s what just happened with global warming.) Consensus has no role in science. Acceptance and incorporation into the body of scientific knowledge comes after a hypothesis is tested repeatedly and the same results are achieved each time. Only then is the hypothesis accepted as  theory, and even then a “proven” theory is good only until such time as it is disproved. Serious scientists are still trying to prove Einstein wrong: that is how real science evolves.

This process is the reason cold fusion is not an accepted scientific theory. After a flurry of excitement, it became evident that the scientists’ experiments “proving” its existence could not be reliably repeated. And because there was no political movement pushing cold fusion as a way to save the earth, no one kept the truth under wraps. It was real science, not politics tinged with religion. That’s why we don’t have billions of dollars being funneled into cold fusion research and development, and the reason T. Boone Pickens didn’t get a multi-billion dollar federal grant to build “cold fusion farms” along the Lake Michigan coast: the inconvenient truth of the hypothesis of cold fusion is that it apparently doesn’t exist. Not that some aren’t still pursuing it, but they are outliers, willing to pursue highly improbable hypotheses. But they are still using scientific method in their pursuit, hoping to discover a new truth. The  researchers in the AGW camp: they’re just liars.

Respectable scientists spend their days looking for the exception that doesn’t make the rule, but breaks it and sets science on course for new explanations, new horizons, new discoveries. Rigor is the glue that holds scientific theory and advancement together.* When a group of pseudo-scientists abuse the scientific method in pursuit of a political philosophy and personal gain, the world has the right and the obligation to reject EVERYTHING  they have done and published. This would be true even if their political agenda was trivial. But when their agenda is no less ambitious than transferring the balance of power from advanced Western societies to underdeveloped third world dictatorships, we have cause for grave concern. A demand for significant blood letting does not seem inappropriate.

If you are a so-called “scientist” who has participated in a massive fraud you can’t expect to be taken seriously when the fraud is exposed. Nor should you expect to go unpunished; you should be rebuked, discredited and thrown out of the scientific community.

These chicken littles of global warming apocalypse - whether they are simply true believers willing to fudge for what they consider a greater truth/good,  completely fraudulent practitioners in search of personal gain, or government funding profiteers (like Phillip Jones from East Anglia University who has received more than $20 million in research grants) – must be made an example of.  In order to survive, science must rid itself of the charlatans who practice the methods of agenda politics and politicians must demand the rigors of scientific method be adhered to before funding anything.  As for the “fact” of AGW, we now have “consensus,” the debate is over: AGW is a HOAX!

Who are the deniers now?



*A complete digression: we also have a relatively recent  phenomenon of “string theorists” in physics who hypothesize great things. In order to adhere to scientific method, their work requires them to assume an ever increasing number of new hypotheses (many related to additional dimensions) based on complex mathematical calculations. However, string theory, too, is becoming “unraveled” under it’s own weight. Many physicists are pulling back from the brink before they become known as the “economists” of theoretical physics: “assume another dimension.”