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  • What is “Real Science?”

    Posted on December 20th, 2010 Helian No comments

    In our ideology drenched times, it’s the same thing as “good science:”  anything that happens to agree with your ideological narrative. 

    Powerline just served up a typical example relating to that über-politicized topic, global warming. According to the “good scientists” at Powerline, global warming theories are all wrong because they are currently experiencing snow and cold weather in Great Britain. Quoting from the article:

    It’s fun to ridicule the warmists because they are so often wrong, but their errors are in fact significant: a scientific theory that implies predictions that turn out to be wrong, is false. A principal feature of climate hysteria is its proponents’ unwillingness to be judged by the standards that govern real science.

    I know of not a single reputable climate scientist who would claim their theories “imply the prediction” that localized incidences of cold weather on the planet will no longer occur. In view of the solid evidence that, overall, the planet has, indeed, been warming over the past decade, I would like to know on what evidence Powerline is basing the claim that “warmists” are “so often wrong.” It’s rather cold in the DC area today, too. Does that also “disprove” global warming?

    It’s not hard to find the same phenomenon on the other side of the ideological spectrum. There we often hear the claim that theories that significant global warming will occur over, say, the next century have been “proved.” This is “good science” in the same sense as Powerline’s claims about the cold weather in Britain. In the first place, the computational models on which such claims are based are just that; models. Even the best computational models are approximations.  Computational models of climate are far from the best.  Ideally, they would need to account for billions of degrees of freedom just to model the atmosphere alone, not to mention the coupling of the atmosphere with the oceans, etc.  No computer on earth, either now or in the foreseeable future, is capable of solving such a problem without severe simplifying assumptions.  The mathematical error bars on those assumptions have never been rigorously proved.  Throw in the fact that the data is noisy and often corrupt or nonexistent, and the best models are themselves probabilistic and not deterministic, and the claim that they “prove” anything is absurd.

    “Proved” is much too strong a term, but I would buy the claim that significant long term global warming is probable.  Given the fact that this is the only planet we have to live on at the moment, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that we should be rocking the boat.  I doubt that “science” will offer any solutions, though.  The hardening of ideological dogmas on both sides won’t allow it.  Whatever decisions are finally made, they are far more likely to be based on politics than science.

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