Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Consistency in science.

Science is not always right. That's the bare-faced truth of it. I'm a scientist. I have degrees hanging on my wall and an IQ that means I'm smart enough not to pay MENSA to tell me I'm smart and then sell me an 'I am smart' badge and even I'm not always right. There was that time in 1983... it still hurts to think about it.

I did once get as far as the MENSA home page. In the corner it said "Did you know that only one in fifty people are in the top two percent?" Really. It said that. On the MENSA website. I went no further. Bunch of dolts.

Anyway, science is still not always right. In fact, it's safe to say that most of current science is wrong, we just don't know it's wrong yet. In my own field, the advent of DNA analysis led to an absolute upheaval in bacterial taxonomy. Before that, we classified on the basis of metabolic activity because bacteria aren't much to look at. Round ones, straight ones, bendy ones and twisty ones isn't a useful basis for classifying thousands of species. Some we thought were related turned out not to be. Some we thought were different turned out to be siblings. DNA analysis changed everything and it changed fast. For the better, in this case.

The point is, science changes all the time. New information is absorbed and taken into the whole. As soon as you hear the words 'the science is settled' you can be sure you're not hearing about science. You're hearing the words of a cult.

Apoptosis - where cells self-destruct rather than become cancerous - was resisted for a long time by science but eventually proven right. The aether - the idea that there is no vaccuum and light backstrokes through some mysterious substance - was considered possible by science for a long time but eventually proven to be wrong. Science is not a religion. It does not have a holy book. It does not have immutable laws (although sometimes it pretends to for a while). All science ever has is the current most-likely answer. Real science accepts that the current most-likely answer might not be the absolute, final answer.

There can be no absolute and final answer because if there was, we'd all be out of a job. The scientist who finds that answer is going to get seriously battered. I suspect several have, but were smart enough to shut up about it. Scientists have an enormous array of methods for disposing of the body, you know.

However, we do like those maybe-right answers to at least be internally consistent. Which means that the argument makes sense within the context of what we know, even though we accept that it might not be absolutely correct.

On that basis, climate studies cannot be classified as science. Because...

Exhibit A: China's rapid industrial expansion may have halted global warming for much of the last decade, climate scientists claimed.
They said sulphur pollution from China’s coal-fired power stations helped to keep world temperatures stable despite soaring greenhouse gas emissions.

Exhibit B: Injecting enough sulfur to reduce warming would wipe out the Arctic ozone layer and delay recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole by as much as 70 years, according to an analysis by Simone Tilmes of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

So China is producing enough sulphur to reduce global warming, but adding enough sulphur to the atmosphere to reduce global warming would destroy the ozone layer, but that hasn't happened because science has not added enough sulphur to the atmosphere to reduce global warming, but China has and it has had no effect on ozone, and round and round we go.

This is not science. This is the desperate scrabblings of the Righteous to justify their existence in the face of evidence that absolutely contradicts the reason they are being paid. The argument is utter rubbish. Yet the drones dive on it and accept it without question, then complain about fundamentalists who accept their masters' doctrines without question... and round and round we go.

Their drones also like to use the term 'The science is settled' which demonstrates that it is a religion, not a science (Leg-iron's law takes shape here. Up your squinty eye, Godwin). Science cannot ever be settled. Its nature does not allow such a thing to happen. We're not stupid, you know. If we told you all the answer to life, the universe and everything we'd all be unemployed.

So let's just reform all the university 'climate' departments into the Church of Climatology and forget about it. A sort of reverse Enlightenment. It's a religion, and one of the nuttier ones at that. It has its End of Days and it has its blind and moronic followers. Soon they'll be tapping on your door and asking in breathless tones if you want to talk about the Green God of Climate.

Whatever you do, don't say "You mean weather?" because that will cause them to clutch at their unmuscled chests and exclaim "Weather? Weather is the devil that besets the god of Climate!"

Science is not, and never can be, settled. Anyone who says it is, is a cretin.

Those scientists who refuse to adapt to new information should re-read Darwin. You guys are screwed. Darwin says so.

As for the Government, well if there was enough grey matter to form a whole brain in there, perhaps we could have a meaningful conversation. As it is... no, never mind. It would be like spending an evening in the monkey house, but without the witty banter.

There'd still be bananas, I suppose.


Anonymous said...

Before I retire to bed, LI, I must say that I agree with everything you say.

But the real problem is THE NATURE OF GOVERNMENT.

It does not seem to matter whether a politician is Sottish Nationist or whatever. It seems that they know nothing about the nitty-gritty. Only those who went to Eton know the nitty-gritty. But lots of them are not politicians - they are CIVIL SERVANTS. What is almost certainly true is that they are not scientists. Eton does not exist in order to produce scientists.

Be that as it may, the critical idea is that AT THE BASIC LEVEL OF WHAT PEOPLE ENJOY, the Eton example is insufficient. The Eton example is DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT. What a lovely idea! It means that COST AND AFFORABILITY is the most important thing.

I have painted a scenario. Most of it is rubbish. There are only two realities:

1. People who enjoy tobacco do so at their own risk.
2. There is no such thing as SHS harm.

Xopher said...

Inconsistent Science now tells us that the great salt scare is over - http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/257048/Now-salt-is-safe-to-eat
Who gets paid what to push their version of lifestyle interference.

Oldrightie said...

Beautifully presented. Sadly the wind farms will still proliferate, the aged freeze and the energy moguls thrive at our expense. As for the political world, cosy corruption will dominate in place of decency and honour.

Angry Exile said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angry Exile said...

Soon they'll be tapping on your door and asking in breathless tones if you want to talk about the Green God of Climate.

What do you mean "soon"? I had to tell one to fuck off last year, and he was by no means the first.

WV= Thermut. Some minor demon of warble gloaming, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

One thing which especially pisses me off about the Climate Change cultists (one thing of many, I might add) is that they make several very important assumptions, none of which is ever spoken aloud.

First and foremost, they assume that the sun's output is constant in every way. So, they assume constant energy input into the Earth's atmosphere, and constant density, composition and speed of solar wind. This latter one is demonstrably spurious, since sunspot numbers (a crude way of assessing solar wind) closely track rainfall, thus demonstrating that solar wind does have a very real input.

Secondly, they assume that CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere. Once again, this is crap; the half-life of CO2 is quite short before it is absorbed by the oceans or biosphere.

Thirdly, they assume that CO2 levels will not promote hugely increased plant growth which would sequester the CO2. The planet hasn't always had this composition of atmosphere, either; oxygen levels and CO2 levels are unusually low right now, looking over most of Earth's history when life has been present.

Finally, given the incredible rate of increase of CO2 output from China, any pretense that crippling the industrial might of Britain would have meaningful effects on global climate is idiotic in the extreme. A much better ploy would be to take advantage of our techtonically stable island and secure political regime, and develop ultra-safe nuclear power stations, experimental facilities and (most important of all) effective disposal systems for long-halflife "sludge", such as fast-neutron bombardment reactors. Given time, Britain could also become one of the world experts in plutonium recycling and use as a power-generation material; this is dodgy from an arms proliferation perspective but it is an effective way to utilise depleted uranium in a fuel cycle.

smokervoter said...

Your rare meshing of the hard science of Biology and the soft science of Literature is veritably remarkable. Writers usually don't make good scientists and vice-versa. Could we get you to write Microsoft Windows Help files for us by any chance? My desktop icons just rearranged themselves the other day for no good reason. It's amazing that a guy with Bill Gates IQ could read them and then sign off on them as a usable, intelligible end product.

Zaphod said...

I don't often comment here, cos there's nothing to disagree with.

Another illuminating post, LI.

Anonymous said...

Then there is the elephat in the room. The beast that noone will acknowlege, all the golabl warming graphs start at 1890, close to the year that Karkatoa blew and saturated the atmosphere with more CO2 and particulates than our entire civilization since Sumer.

The mechanism for much of our hot/cold cycles is driven by volcanos. However, we have been in a natural warming trend since the break of the mini-iceage, which started in the 16th century.

It's not just a notion. The data has been carefully selected to give them the results that they want.

James Higham said...

The Church of Climatology - Archbish Gore?

Anonymous said...

In Science, as far as I am aware, a given cause ALWAYS has a given effect, except, possibly, in sub-atomic physics, where 'chance' reigns supreme. What strikes me as odd about epidemiology is that no attempt is ever made to explain why 'a cause' only rarely has a gien 'effect'. Thus, if smoking causes lung cancer, it should always cause lung cancer, but it doesn't - unless people die from other causes before they get lung cancer. A 'proper' science would seek just as carefully to find out why smoking DOES NOT always cause lung cancer, and, in fact, rarely does so.

There are lots of weird things about the pseudo-science of medicine. For example, what is the true definition of the word 'disease'? If I get cramp in my leg in bed (which I do very occasionally), is that cramp a disease? Why is heart failure in very old people described as a disease? For some reason that I cannot remember, I have always been of the opinion that 'diseases' are either bacteriological or viral.

Dave H. said...

My favourite was the inclusion of ammonia on a list of atmospheric gases that cause acid rain.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Every tyranny needs a few distractions.

Climate change and financial crises; to name but two used by its Tribunes.

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