Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blinded By "Science"

Even now that they've largely been revealed to be money-hungry shills for a wholly unsubstantiated thesis that would rationalize the imposition of totalitarian control upon all human activity, the "scientists" of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are still at it:

A rapid shift to less-polluting energy will be needed to avoid catastrophic global warming, because global emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases have accelerated to unprecedented levels, the United Nations reports today.

These emissions — largely from the burning of oil, gas and coal — grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in any of the three previous decades and will need to be slashed 40% to 70% by mid-century and almost entirely by century's end to keep global temperatures from spiraling out of control, according to a landmark report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Please, please, please: Read every word of the above slowly and carefully. Note exactly what it says:

Emissions of greenhouse gases have risen rapidly.

Then note exactly what it doesn't say:

Global temperatures have risen in consequence.

The reason, of course, is that while the first statement might be true -- it's beyond my power to verify, and probably beyond yours as well -- the second statement is irrefutably false. Mean global temperatures, even according to the contentious methods used by the warmistas, have remained flat for seventeen straight years.

Which brings me to my subject for today.

A long, long time ago, I penned a short story titled "Terminal Guidance," about a scientist who had lost his family to an accident and was about to lose his life to cancer. The scientist reasoned that, if human death is somehow the will of God, then trapping God's agent in such matters could put a halt to human death. He then contrives an angel trap and uses it to capture and confine Archangel Uriel, the angel who serves as the Doorwarden between Time and Eternity.

But Uriel endeavors to disabuse the scientist of his hypothesis -- and succeeds:

    "Are you a scientist in name only, Dr. Culloden, or in fact?"
    The researcher stiffened. "What do you think, my unwilling guest?"
    "I think you have evaded the question."
    "I am a scientist." He hurled the words at the Dark Angel, a return of service of the glove Uriel had hurled into his face.
    "What is the first rule of science?"
    "Prediction is knowledge."
    "How many counterexamples are required to disprove a theory?"
    Culloden could see the end of the syllogism. "One."
    "Then let us return whence you found me."

Archangel Uriel reminded his captor that one can only claim knowledge by demonstrating the ability to predict the consequences of a stimulus applied to a well-defined context -- and that one's claim can be shattered by the failure of a single prediction. That is indeed the first rule of science -- real science, as opposed to the unsubstantiated theorizing of men in lab coats surrounded by glassware.

A pointed example provided by the late Sir Fred Hoyle in his novel The Black Cloud should make the matter even clearer:

    "It looks to me as if those perturbations of the rockets must have been deliberately engineered," began Weichart.
    "Why do you say that, Dave?" asked Marlowe.
    "Well, the probability of three cities being hit by a hundred-odd rockets moving at random is obviously very small. Therefore I conclude that the rockets were not perturbed at random. I think they must have been deliberately guided to give direct hits."
    "There's something of an objection to that," argued McNeil. "If the rockets were deliberately guided, how is it that only three of 'em found their targets?"
    "Maybe only three were guided, or maybe the guiding wasn't all that good. I wouldn't know."
    There was a derisive laugh from Alexandrov.
    "Bloody argument," he asserted.
    "What d'you mean, 'bloody' argument?"
    "Invent bloody argument, like this. Golfer hits ball. Ball lands on tuft of grass -- so. Probability ball landed on tuft very small, very very small. Million other tufts for ball to land on. Probability very small, very, very very small. So golfer did not hit ball, ball deliberately guided onto tuft. Is bloody argument, yes? Like Weichart's argument....Must say what damn target is before shoot, not after shoot. Put shirt on before, not after event."

The Black Cloud is a highly imaginative novel, but the above passage, for me at least, is the jewel in its crown:

Scientific knowledge is about cause and effect.
Therefore, a claim of knowledge can only be confirmed by a chain of successful predictions.

Successful predictions made by the warmistas, IPCC-affiliated or otherwise, specifically about the response of mean global temperatures to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide: NONE!

The warmistas have made much hay by pointing to simulations and to heavily constrained experiments with small amounts of gas in closed environments. But a simulation can prove nothing except that the assumptions upon which the simulation is based will lead to certain consequences. As for those experiments, they demonstrate only what will happen in the tightly specified context of the experiment itself. They cannot predict what the Earth's complex of living and non-living systems will do under unconstrained circumstances far less amenable to exhaustive specification -- to say nothing of the influence of events on the Sun, a 4% variable star.

But they do have lab coats and glassware. More important still, they have lots and lots of governmental backing. And the governments of the world are positively slavering over what the general acceptance of the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) thesis would justify:

Loss and damage [from global warming] is a gift to politicians in developing countries, who benefit from an external enemy, especially if it comes with gobs of foreign aid. Instead of voters blaming their government for not building levees, they blame Americans for their consumerism.

The mechanism creates an expectation that wealth redistribution will solve age-old problems, and if it is not forthcoming, it’s likely that resentment, anger, and a toxic victim mentality will increase. Loss and damage activists are fostering anti-American hatred in millions of people, teaching them that the prosperity of the West – its massive SUVs and unnecessary consumption of meat, its air-conditioned skyscrapers and mega-mansions – is destroying their homeland. And if Atiq Rahman gets his wish, these millions will have the right to immigrate to the United States.

It's not only foreign governments that like the idea of totalitarian control over the American economy. The Obama Administration, most recently through the odious John Kerry, has advanced the notion that combating global warming is a matter of national security:

Saying that climate change ranks among the world's most serious problems -- such as disease outbreaks, poverty, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on all nations to respond to "the greatest challenge of our generation."

Kerry, speaking before college students in Jakarta, Indonesia, also criticized climate-change deniers, saying "a few loud interest groups" shouldn't be given the chance to misdirect the conversation.

Kerry has no time or patience for skeptics or dissenters:

Kerry reiterated U.S. President Barack Obama's assertion in the State of the Union address that climate change is an undeniable fact.

"We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact," Kerry said at the U.S. Embassy's @america function in Jakarta.

"Prediction is knowledge" is the first rule of science. Political analysis is not a science, but it does have some rules of its own. The greatest of them is this:

Before all else, ask: Cui bono?
Who would benefit most greatly from what has been proposed?

While you ponder that, enjoy this little reminder of a more cheerful time:

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