“Being a scientist means being a skeptic”
This first part of an address by Dr Gerrit van der Lingen, of Christchurch, to the Royal Society in Wellington in March, dealt with the philosophy of science, and related it to the “man-made global warning doctrine.”
It is not “politically correct” to be an anthropogenic global warming skeptic. But being a scientist means being a skeptic.
This quote is from Thomas H. Huxley:
“The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties: blind faith the one unpardonable sin.”
Let me give you a few more quotes:
This one is from Walter Lippmann: “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much”.
This one from Alston Chase [via Richard Courtney]: “When the search for truth is confused with political advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest for power”.
This from André Gide (1869-1951): “Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who found it.”
This one from Ibn Warraq (Islam scholar, author of “Why I am not a Muslim”):
“To assess the truth of a doctrine by the number of people who believe it is totally ridiculous”.
No doubt you are all aware of the common statement that there is unanimity (or consensus) among scientists that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are causing catastrophic global warming. Not only is scientific truth never decided by consensus, it is also one of the foremost lies by promoters of the man-made global warming scare. There are thousands of scientists who do not accept that the science of man-made global warming has been settled. Hundreds of those are actively debating the
science behind the Kyoto Protocol. I belong to an international Internet forum, called “Climatesceptics”, where 250 scientists are vigorously debating the science.
Professor Oerlemans of Utrecht University (my Alma Mater) is one of the foremost glaciologists in the world. His team of co-workers and students are carrying out research on glaciers and ice caps in Greenland, Iceland, Norway, European Alps, and Antarctica. He is aware that many glaciers are retreating (although some are not), but refuses to blame man-made greenhouse gas emissions for their retreat, as there is no real scientific proof of that. He is still an
old-fashioned, true scientist.
Last December there was a large article about Oerlemans in a Dutch weekly Vrij Nederland. They interviewed him in his office in the University and also accompanied him to the Alps where he climbed a glacier on which he had placed
a meteorological measuring station. The station had been there ten years already. He believes that science is a slow, painstaking business. It takes many years of making observations and collecting data. He said that in the past, people would
measure climate at least 30 years before expressing careful opinions on climate change. He now sees people who after only ten years of observations make unwarranted, far-reaching conclusions and predictions.
Oerlemans has been working for over 15 years in Greenland. He was involved in the preparation of the ACIA report “Impact of a warming Arctic”. He wrote the chapters on hydrology and glaciers. But he said that was the last time he would be involved in that, as “too many of the data were manipulated”. He showed the reporter two satellite photographs of Greenland, taken in 1992 and 2002. The first one shows that a small piece on the south end of the ice cap had melted. The second one shows that some sea-ice around Greenland had disappeared. But these photographs say nothing. They are two snapshots ten years apart. One a cold winter, the other a warmer winter. You can’t conclude from that that the temperature is rising. But there are people who say, based on those two photographs, that the Greenland ice cap will disappear in 30 years. He did not want those photographs in the report. But when it was published they had put them in nevertheless.
Oerlemans was also involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But he has stopped his involvement, because, as he says, “the IPCC has become too political”. I mention Oerlemans, because he is a rare exception. Many scientists have not been able to withstand the siren call of fame, research funding and meetings in
exotic places that awaits them if they are willing to compromise scientific principles and integrity in support of the man-made-global-warming doctrine.
Famous philosophers have thought deeply about the nature and rules of science. Two of the best known are Sir Karl Popper (1902-1996) and Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996). Sir Karl Popper was an Austrian who fled the Nazis in 1937 and came to New
Zealand where he was lecturer in philosophy at Canterbury University. After the war he moved to England where he was first Reader and later Professor at the London School of Economics. He was knighted by the Queen in 1965. In 1934 he published his book “The logic of scientific discovery”. In which he put forth his well-know theory of falsifiability. He developed this theory to
distinguish science from pseudo-science. In short, this theory states that “A proposition or theory cannot be considered
scientific if it does not admit the possibility of being shown false”. He used a simple example of the colour of swans. In the Northern Hemisphere swans are white. One could thus conclude that “All swans are white”. This statement is falsifiable by finding just one black swan. It now happens that there are black swans in Australia and New Zealand. Their discovery has falsified the statement that all swans are white.
To put this in another way, “A scientific statement must be able to be tested and proven wrong”. One of the corollaries is also that scientific observations and experiments must be reproducible. For this principle to work properly, all scientific endeavours must be open and transparent. Data on which scientific publications are based must be properly archived and accessible for verification But scientists are human and become very attached to their work and theories and don’t like their work to be falsified. A good example in the field of climate change is the following. The IPCC has published three scientific Assessment Reports, in 1990, 1995 and 2001. Most of the IPCC conclusions about man-made global warming are based on two pillars. One - the record of land-based temperature measurements, and two - the so-called ‘hockey stick graph. I’ll come back on the second a bit later.
The analysis of temperature records are from Phil Jones. From his work comes the conclusion by the IPCC that temperatures on Earth have increased by 0.6oC since the middle of the 19th century. There has been a lot of criticism of the reliability of his data. One is that the quality of measurements from many stations are of dubious quality, especially from third-world countries. The second, and more serious is the phenomenon of the so-called Urban Heat Island effect. Cities with lots of concrete, buildings and asphalt can have temperatures up to 5 degrees warmer than it would have shown had there be no city. Phil Jones said that he had made corrections for those. But a New Zealand scientist, Warwick Hughes, long resident in Australia, disputes that and has shown examples to back up his criticism. But he had difficulty getting access to the basic data used by Phil Jones. He asked for the data. First Jones said that they were on some computer disk but that he could not find them. Hughes persisted and finally got the following reply: “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data
available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.” He obviously does not accept the principle of falsification. According to Popper’s philosophy, this would leave his research in the realm of pseudo-science.
Thomas Kuhn, an American, published his science-philosophical ideas in his book “The structure of scientific revolution”. His ideas are closer to the way humans actually carry out their scientific research. He argues that scientists work within a conceptual paradigm that determines the way they view the world. Scientists go to great length to defend their paradigm against falsification. Changing one’s paradigm is not easy, and only through some pain and angst does science change paradigms.” More commonly, Kuhn’s work is seen as showing that sociological factors, rather than adherence to a strict, logically obligatory method, play the determining role in deciding which theory is accepted. Such “sociological factors” also include “ideological factors”. And this is certainly the case in the anthropogenic-global-warming debate.