Scientific Consensus Redux

Looking back, it turns out that a lot of scientific consensuses were wrong.

Last week, the prestigious journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published an article that tried to assess the relative credibility of climate scientists who “support the tenets of anthropogenic climate change” versus those who do not. One goal of the study is to “provide an independent assessment of level of scientific consensus concerning anthropogenic climate change.” The researchers found that 97–98 percent of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field are convinced of man-made climate change. In addition, using publication and citation data, the study found that the few climate change dissenters are far less scientifically prominent than convinced researchers. The article concludes, “This extensive analysis of the mainstream versus skeptical/contrarian researchers suggests a strong role for considering expert credibility in the relative weight of and attention to these groups of researchers in future discussions in media, policy, and public forums regarding anthropogenic climate change.” Translation: reporters, politicians, and citizens should stop listening to climate change skeptics.

Naturally, there has been some pushback against the article. For example, Georgia Institute of Technology climatologist Judith Curry who was not pigeonholed in the study told ScienceInsider, “This is a completely unconvincing analysis.” One of the chief objections to the findings is that peer review is stacked in favor of the consensus view, locking skeptics out of publishing in major scientific journals. John Christy, a prominent climate change researcher at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who is skeptical of catastrophic claims, asserted that because of “the tight interdependency between funding, reviewers, popularity. ... We [skeptical researchers] are being ‘black‑listed,’ as best I can tell, by our colleagues.”

This fight over credibility prompted me to wonder about the role that the concept of a “scientific consensus” has played out in earlier policy debates. We all surely want our decisions to be guided by the best possible information. Consider the overwhelming consensus among researchers that biotech crops are safe for humans and the environment—a conclusion that is rejected by the very environmentalist organizations that loudly insist on the policy relevance of the scientific consensus on global warming. But I digress.

Taking a lead from the PNAS researchers I decided to mine the “literature” on the history of uses of the phrase “scientific consensus.” I restricted my research to Nexis searches of major world publications, figuring that’s where mainstream views would be best represented. So how has the phrase “scientific consensus” been used in past policy debates?

My Nexis search found that 36 articles using that phrase appeared in major world publications prior to my arbitrary June 1985 search cutoff. One of the first instances of the uses of the phrase appears in the July 1, 1979 issue of The Washington Post on the safety of the artificial sweetener saccharin. “The real issue raised by saccharin is not whether it causes cancer (there is now a broad scientific consensus that it does)” (parenthetical in original) reported the Post. The sweetener was listed in 1981 in the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens as a substance reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Interesting. Thirty years later, the National Cancer Institute reports that “there is no clear evidence that saccharin causes cancer in humans.” In light of this new scientific consensus, the sweetener was delisted as a probable carcinogen in 2000. 

Similarly, the Post reported later that same year (October 6, 1979) a “profound shift” in the prevailing scientific consensus about the causes of cancer. According to the Post, researchers in the 1960s believed that most cancers were caused by viruses, but now diet was considered the far more important factor. One of the more important findings was that increased dietary fiber appeared to reduce significantly the incidence of colon cancer. Twenty years later, a major prospective study of nearly 90,000 women reported, “No significant association between fiber intake and the risk of colorectal adenoma was found.” In 2005, another big study confirmed that “high dietary fiber intake was not associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.” While dietary fiber may not prevent colon cancer, it is associated with lower cardiovascular risk.

In its June 1, 1984 issue, The Washington Post reported the issuance of a massive new report by the White House science office supporting the scientific consensus that “agents found to cause cancer in animals should be considered ‘suspect human carcinogens,’” and that “giving animals high doses of an agent is a proper way to test its carcinogenicity.” Although such studies remain a regulatory benchmark, at least some researchers question the usefulness of such tests today.

The December 17, 1979 issue of Newsweek reported that the Department of Energy was boosting research spending on fusion energy reactors based on a scientific consensus that the break-even point—that a fusion reactor would produce more energy than it consumes—could be passed within five years. That hasn’t happened yet and the latest effort to spark a fusion energy revolution, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, will not be ready for full-scale testing until 2026.

An article in the June 8, 1981 issue of The Washington Post cited a spokesman for the American Medical Association opposing proposed federal legislation that would make abortion murder as saying, "The legislation is founded on the idea that a scientific consensus exists that life begins at the time of conception. We will go up there to say that no such consensus exists." It still doesn’t.

In the years prior to 1985, several publications reported the scientific consensus that acid rain emitted by coal-fired electricity generation plants belching sulfur dioxide was destroying vast swathes of forests and lakes in the eastern United States. For example, the March 10, 1985 New York Times cited environmental lawyer Richard Ottinger, who asserted that there is a “broad scientific consensus'' that acid rain is destroying lakes and forests and ''is a threat to our health.'' In 1991, after 10 years and $500 million, the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program study (as far as I can tell that report is oddly missing from the web) actually reported, according to a 1992 article in Reason: “The assessment concluded that acid rain was not damaging forests, did not hurt crops, and caused no measurable health problems. The report also concluded that acid rain helped acidify only a fraction of Northeastern lakes and that the number of acid lakes had not increased since 1980.” Nevertheless, Congress passed the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments that regulate sulfur dioxide emissions through a cap-and-trade scheme. Acid rain was clearly causing some problems, but was not the wide-scale environmental disaster that had been feared.

Interestingly, the only mention of a scientific consensus with regard to stratospheric ozone depletion by ubiquitous chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) refrigerants was an article in the October 6, 1982 issue of the industry journal Chemical Week. That article noted that the National Research Council had just issued a report that had cut estimates of ozone depletion in half from a 1979 NRC report. The 1982 NRC report noted, “Current scientific understanding…indicates that if the production of two CFCs …were to continue into the future at the rate prevalent in 1977 the steady state reduction in total global ozone…could be between 5 and 9 percent.” Such a reduction might have been marginally harmful, but not catastrophic. It was not until 1986 that the mainstream press reported the discovery of the “ozone hole” over Antarctica. This discovery quickly led to the adoption of an international treaty aiming to drastically reduce the global production of CFCs in 1987. (For what it is worth, I supported the international ban of CFCs in my 1993 book Eco-Scam.)

With regard to anthropogenic climate change, my Nexis search of major world publications finds before 1985 just a single 1981 New York Times article. “There has been a growing scientific consensus that the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is creating a ‘greenhouse effect’ by trapping some of the earth's heat and warming the atmosphere,” reported the Times in its January 14, 1981 issue.

What a difference the passage of 25 years makes. My Nexis search turned up 457 articles in major publications that in the last year cited or used the phrase “scientific consensus.” Checking to see how many combined that phrase with “climate change,” Nexis reported that the number comes to 342 articles. Briefly scanning through a selection of the articles it is clear that some of them involved the controversy over whether or not there is a “scientific consensus” on climate change. The majority appear to cite various experts and policymakers asserting the existence of a scientific consensus that anthropogenic climate change is dangerous to humanity.

So what to make of this increase in the use of the concept of “scientific consensus?” After all, several scientific consensuses before 1985 turned out to be wrong or exaggerated, e.g., saccharin, dietary fiber, fusion reactors, stratospheric ozone depletion, and even arguably acid rain and high-dose animal testing for carcinogenicity. One reasonable response might be that anthropogenic climate change is different from the cited examples because much more research has been done. And yet. One should always keep in mind that a scientific consensus crucially determines and limits the questions researchers ask. And one should always worry about to what degree supporters of any given scientific consensus risk succumbing to confirmation bias. In any case, the credibility of scientific research is not ultimately determined by how many researchers agree with it or how often it is cited by like-minded colleagues, but whether or not it conforms to reality.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  • jtuf||

    First!

  • ||

    It's amazing that that high of a percentage of scientists believe in a concept that none of them have been able to create in a laboratory.

  • ||

    Who needs a lab when you're that smart?

  • ||

    Hi, dumb-guy here,

    Can i get all the lab funding they don't need, being such geniuses. I've got a wishlist a mile long, and i mean, if they don't need the equipment...

  • ||

    Maybe an upgrade from my 10X microscope I got from ToysRus? A dollar an X baby!

  • Cyto||

    It's amazing that that high of a percentage of scientists believe in a concept that none of them have been able to create in a laboratory.

    God? Life? A decent cup of coffee?

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    A decent cup of coffee?

    The EH&S people are very clear on the questions of comestibles in the laboratory. I settle for making a decent cup of coffee in kitchenette.

    Of course, it is almost always necessary to educate new grad students on coffee.

  • T||

    Nobody's been able to create life in the lab, either, but strangely, scientists continue to believe in the concept.

    More seriously, nobody's been able to create a hurricane in a lab, either. Some phenomena don't scale to lab sizes.

  • Cyto||

    Actually, Craig Venter's group is pretty close to creating life in the lab. They've assembled their own artificial genome and placed it in an emptied out cell. The thing actually worked - not that there's any reason it shouldn't.

  • T||

    Meh. More modification of existing life. If I swap out the engine in a car, you wouldn't take me seriously if I said I built the car, would you?

  • ||

    How about if you claimed to have "re-built" the car?

  • ||

    Craig Venter can bootstrap life. Real question is whether you can create it from nothing.

  • Alex||

    Depends on the definition of "nothing".

    Create life from:

    A primordial soup of proteins, aminoacids and such?

    Raw matter?

    Vacuum?

  • ||

    There is no such thing as "nothing"

  • ||

    The unpredictability of hurricanes should inform scientists that 97% consensus on a theory about a system with so many variables is insanity.

  • Cthorm||

    +1
    Not to mention the general usefulness of our measurement methodologies.

    If we use satellites to measure surface heat, have we accounted for the warming effects of black asphalt? Walk around downtown Los Angeles at night: its still hot because the asphalt/concrete holds in the day's heat.

  • Keyboard Commando||

    Would this be considered man-made warming?

  • Chad||

    Wrong. The number of variables is irrelevant if most of the variables have minor effects.

    In the case of climate, this is precisely the case. The basic arguments only have a few, very well understood component variables. The vast majority of the other factors are simply too small to have large effects. They are important enough to study, but don't change the underlying physics much each way.

    1: If you put greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the planet will get hotter. Basic physics here.

    2: If you heat up the planet, you will vaporize water, which is a greenhouse gas. Even more basic physics here. Now see point #1

    3: If you heat up the planet, ice will melt. Even MORE basic than point #2.

    4: Turning bright ice into dark dirt or water will cause less light to be reflected, heating up the planet. Really basic, yet again. Now see points #2 and 3.

  • Sam Grove||

    They haven't been able to accurately model cloud cover. Has significant impact.

    They're not even certain of all the factors impinging on cloud cover.

  • ||

    Chad|6.29.10 @ 7:08PM|#
    "1: If you put greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the planet will get hotter. Basic physics here."
    All else being equal, that would be true. Sorta left out, oh, a truck-load of qualifiers, didn't you?

    "2: If you heat up the planet, you will vaporize water, which is a greenhouse gas. Even more basic physics here. Now see point #1"
    Since #2 is based on the faulty #1, why, that's a fail.
    Rinse and repeat through #4.

  • ||

    "Wrong. The number of variables is irrelevant if most of the variables have minor effects."

    How do you know which variables have minor effects?

    If what you were saying were true the climate models should agree with each other and climate runs should agree with each other. But they don't. For instance look at this link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climateprediction.net

    The models predict 2-5 degrees of warming over 100 years. That is an incredible range of uncertainty.

  • TallDave||

    Wrong. The number of variables is irrelevant if most of the variables have minor effects.

    Oh, the irony of that statement in the context of claiming a trace gas is driving climate.

  • ||

    Chad: "The vast majority of the other factors are simply too small to have large effects."

    Such as the less than 1/10 of 1 percentage point of Co2 that mankind puts up there?

  • trueofvoice||

    "Consensus" in terms of a general theory means scientists "generally" agree in its validity, not that they agree on all the specifics. There's a significant degree of debate regarding the effects of clouds, climate sensitivity, and feedbacks, but most climatologists accept that anthropogenic global warming is highly likely.

  • jtuf||

    Scientist replicated the first few steps of creating life decades ago. They did not believe in the curent theory for the creation of life until that experiment. They also stopped believing in spontaneous generation when lab results proved that theory wrong.

  • Chad||

    Yeah, like sustained nuclear fusion. Since we can't even do it in our biggest laboratories funded with oodles of money, it must be scientifically impossible and we should all cease to believe in the sun.

  • ||

    Dad made a fortune off of those oodles of grants and retired insisting a sustained reaction was impossible.

  • jtuf||

    I take it you've never heard of the Los Alamos National Labortory.

  • ||

    Dad was doing a lot of Los Aalmos trips in my teens. I can't imagine it was anything but a big waste of money, but the partying was great.

  • TallDave||

    Actually, the Sun is a really crappy fusion reactor. It has the mass/power density of a compost heap. That's why it lasts so long.

  • trueofvoice||

    The only way to create it in a lab would be to obtain a second earth and pump it full of carbon dioxide. Since this isn't an option, scientists have to follow the empirical evidence available to them, and that evidence strongly points to an anthropogenic influence on global climate.

  • ||

    Is that also why Mars is warming? And if co2 is the culprit, why haven't we seen any warming for the last fifteen years? We are still adding co2 to the system. And, finally, what context can you put around "hide the decline" to prove those scientists aren't frauds?

  • trueofvoice||

    Source please.

  • ||

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t.....ond point.

  • ||

    I'll try again: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t.....20024.ece. And Phil Jones admitted there hasn't been any warming.

  • trueofvoice||

    I'm afraid your link still isn't working, but I think you're referring to this article? http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t.....720024.ece

    It does indeed state that Mars is warming, but in the fourth paragraph down it states:

    "The mechanism at work on Mars appears, however, to be different from that on Earth. One of the researchers, Lori Fenton, believes variations in radiation and temperature across the surface of the Red Planet are generating strong winds.

    In a paper published in the journal Nature, she suggests that such winds can stir up giant dust storms, trapping heat and raising the planet’s temperature."

    The article simply doesn't indicate any relevance to the warming observed on earth.

  • TallDave||

    Or, it could be for exactly the same reason Earth is warming. Lori is just speculating.

  • ||

    To suggest that Phil Jones said there is no warming is actually a bald-faced lie.

    The actual statement was "no statistically significant warming"... which, given a small dataset, getting statistical significance is difficult. It requires that (roughly), assuming random variation between the datapoints, the observed pattern be possible in 5% or less of the output-landscape. It can be understood probably better as "Assuming no connection between X and Y, less than 5% likely to get said result" although "likelihood" is a technically incorrect way of phrasing it.

    Considering that Jones was using only data since 1995, this was not at all surprising - for so few datapoints, the trend would have to be incredibly strong (and measurements incredibly precise) to fit that 5% threshold.

  • ||

    However, even giving that, it's also worth noting that the 5% figure is ARBITRARY - a convention generally agreed upon, a convenient figment agreed upon by (cough) consensus. Further, researchers often publish "marginally significant" (usually .05

  • ||

    (sorry about the break) (usually .05 < p < .10) results all the time when there is prior work that supports the hypothesis in question - as is the case in Jones' work.

    (Apparently there are issues in formatting .05< p

  • ||

    retention of heat by carbon dioxide can, in fact, be demonstrated in the laboratory - i.e. it is a greenhouse gas.

  • ||

    RELEASE THE SECOND CHAKRA!!!

  • Yonemoto||

    (parenthetical in original)

    My head is spinning.

  • Doc Brown||

    Science is reduced and common sense is oxidized?

    Oh wait... you said redux.

  • jtuf||

    At one time it was a scientific consensus that Whites were superior to other races, that men were smarter than women, and that the continents were made when the Earth's crust wrinkled as it cooled.

  • ||

    Two out of three ain't bad.

  • Tony||

    So therefore you can pick and choose what to believe in based on your politics? Or something?

  • Old Mexican||

    You mean like you?

  • Tony||

    On complex scientific topics I generally defer to the relevant scientists, then formulate my policy preferences accordingly.

    You, on the other hand, don't believe in facts if they contradict your simplistic worldview in the slightest way.

  • ||

    Name one "scientific fact" that goes against your world view and requires you to support policies that you wouldn't normally support? Until you can name one, shut the fuck up.

  • Tony||

    I try not to have any beliefs that are undermined by facts.

    You imply I'd be in favor of climate change legislation even in the absence of climate change. That would be dumb. I sincerely wish climate change weren't a fact and that policies addressing it weren't necessary.

  • Chad||

    Actually Tony, it is true that I would support most things that should be done to fight climate change even if climate change turned out to be bunk, though to a lesser degree in most cases.

    Virtually everything that must be done to solve the climate problem has a large number of side benefits unrelated to climate, including lower levels of air pollution, more wild places and biodiversity, and better overall health.

  • Old Mexican||

    Which tells me you're just another guy holding a leash trying to find a dog.

  • ||

    Nicely said OldMex.

  • Chad||

    Naah, the dog came first OM. I actually didn't buy the leashes until much later.

    Remember, I was one of you idiots back in the day.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Would capping the emissions of factories, farm equipment, delivery trucks and the vast majority the electrical grid create any negative side effects Chad?

  • Chad||

    Sure. Cheap shit from China will be a little less cheap, we will generally drive smaller cars with smaller engines, and our McMansions will be a bit less mansiony. That's hardly too much to ask in return for everything we will get in return.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    So the negative side effects wouldn't also include downsizing and offshoring leading to higher unemployment, less food production causing higher food prices raised even higher by the more expensive transportation costs?

    Do you think cheap stuff suddenly becoming less cheap would hurt the McMansion owners or poor families?

  • Chad||

    Downsizing and offshoring are just the markets using the cheapest labor possible. I thought that was a good thing.

    You are right that climate change presents a standard prisoners' dilemma type problem, where individual nations can defect. You are wrong in that the solution to such problems is to find a set of carrots and sticks that can nudge everyone into cooperating, rather than trying to defect faster than everyone else, as you would have it.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Downsizing is not a shift to cheaper labor, it is a shift to production on an altogether smaller scale which requires fewer workers.

    I didn't mention any international prisoner's dilemmas. You completely dodged me and changed the subject.

  • ||

    "Downsizing and offshoring are just the markets using the cheapest labor possible. I thought that was a good thing."

    Not if it is the effect of government clouding the true values and costs of inputs and outputs.

  • JCA||

    Remind me again what it is we get in return - Transferring vast amounts of wealth to the politically connected for supposedly postponing the effects of global warming by about 2 years?

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Chad|6.29.10 @ 5:48PM
    "side benefits unrelated to climate, including lower levels of air pollution, more wild places and biodiversity, and better overall health."

    There you have it denialist JCA. Let's see if you can think of one single thing that's more important than having "more wild places and biodiversity". Didn't think so flat-earther.

  • The Blue Burk||

    Please, define "the problem" in scientific terms, then once you've managed that - please define the proposed solution and the expected results.

    I anxiously await Joe vs. The Volcano Part2.

  • TallDave||

    Virtually everything that must be done to solve the climate problem has a large number of side benefits

    None of those are free. I'm fine with you paying for them, as long as I don't have to. Maybe you could set up some sort of tithing system for your religion? The Catholics seem to do pretty well with that.

    Just don't leave your Pope alone with the nuns, he's a little grabby.

  • juris imprudent||

    I try not to have any beliefs that are undermined by facts.

    Religious belief is never undermined by facts, else it would've ceased to exist.

    That you should say such was unexpectedly and most likely unintentionally revealing.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    No, Tony. You can pick and choose what you believe in based of proof rather than in based of consensus.

    More importantly you can pick and choose which kind of gravy to put in basters of turkey.

  • T||

    Next you'll tell me there's no phlogiston.

  • CatoTheElder||

    Or that light waves are not transmitted through ether.

  • Trofim Lysenko||

    Or that Mendel's theories on genetics are relevant.

  • Hendrik Lorentz||

    I will be proven right on this yet, just you wait and see.

  • Brett L||

    I thought we emitted them from our eyes.

  • ||

    Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.

  • Rudan||

    Those were all really cultural/psychological consensus more than scientific ones. Of course there's plenty of hypothesizing but it has to be substantiative. Reminding people that Science isn't perfect really doesn't do anything to undermine Science. There's good science and bad science and a good deal of global warming Science is not that great. It's silly to argue a broader point about the fallibility of Science.

  • jtuf||

    Geology is a cultural construct!? Darwin wasn't a scientist!? Have you even read any work by evolutionists of the 19th century?

  • trueofvoice||

    Exactly. Almost everything Bailey points to was a product of politics and media reporting, rather than representing what the scientific community itself actually said.

  • TallDave||

    A better example would be Steady State. Before Hubble, everyone believed it.

  • ||

    How's about continental drift as a phenomenon that destroyed scientific consensus?
    And though ETS measures will have good side effects, sustainability is not the target, so any effects such measures do have will be quickly nullified by population growth and increased consumerism. Besides, the economic damage ETS systems will do could be far worse than global warming.

  • ||

    it's easy to take this line as far as you might like, so that anytime you see a "scientific consensus", you assume "wrong". but, these sorts of massively wrong paths are becoming less and less common as the basic sciences have been perfected in recent decades - i.e., there is near-unanimous agreement that the theories underlying modern physics, chemistry, biology, etc., are essentially correct. climatology is a relatively recent science, so we don't know yet (by the passage of multiple generations) whether its paradigm is correct or not. but, the notion that heat is trapped in the atmosphere by particular chemical components is a matter of scientific consensus. whether or not the human chemical contribution to the atmosphere produces a significant effect is what is controversial, but it does appear, to most climatologists, to be true. time will tell.

  • Cyto||

    Ooh, and Luminiferous Aether, don't forget that.

  • T||

    I never forget Luminiferous Aether. It's my favorite discredited scientific theory.

  • juris imprudent||

    Even above phrenology?

  • computer||

    umm, it exists. it's called the aethernet.

  • ||

    String theory has consensus and may very well be mostly wrong. Or, at least, mostly unfalsifiable.

  • No Name Guy||

    If it's unfalsifiable, then it's not testable, hence an unscientific construct.

  • Cthorm||

    Depends on the timeline you're considering. Not testable today maybe, but 20 (30, 50?) years hence? The theory of relativity wasn't scientifically verifiable when it was formulated.

  • ||

    I do hope you're kidding. True, special relativity was published in 1905 and general relativity a decade later, but it's not as though the eclipse was that hard to figure out -- the Royal Society had a conclusive example of curved space-time, along with measurements. Five years from publication to proof (of one major, important aspect) isn't that long.

  • CatoTheElder||

    I think Einstein applied the General Theory of Relativity to explain the perihelion precession of Mercury, which had been previously observed to conflict with Newtonian mechanics, as a test contemporaneously with the publication of the Theory in 1915.

    The famous 1919 eclipse experiment, however, was proposed by an English astronomer.

  • Not Quite||

    ...The eclipse experiment was one of three tests conceived of by Einstein *himself*. Indeed, he had some trouble fully accepting his own GTR equations UNTIL all three of his tests were in fact demonstrated in nature.

    "If it were proved that this effect does not exist in nature then the whole theory would have to be abandoned."

    [AHEM, cough]

    That didn't happen until 1923 when the "red shift" was observed from Mt. Wilson observatory.

    It is true, however, that the eclipse observations and photos from May29 1919 were financed and executed upon by the Royal Brits...namely Arthur Eddington.

  • ||

    "If it's unfalsifiable, then it's not testable, hence an unscientific construct."

    I prefer:

    "If it's unfalsifiable, then it's not predictive, hence of little real world value"

    E.g. I think Darwin's theory is scientific but extremely difficult to falsify precisely because it is not predictive. Because its not predictive it has little real world value. That is why I don't care whether my doctor is a creationist.

  • Not Quite||

    Oh my. The idiots have found mana in this thread.

    You do have this 100% backwards.

    *Creationism* isn't predictive, but Darwin's theories most certainly are.

    In fact, Creationists constantly seize upon any of Darwin's "predictions" that may wobble, as "proof" that God did it.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/b.....tions.html

    vs.

    http://www.judgingpbs.com/

    To suggest there is "no real world value" in Darwin's work is to suggest knowledge is useless unless it buys you a beer.

    UGH.

  • jtuf||

    Darwin's general theory about biological evolution was mostly right, but his book was still full of errors. You don't have to be a creationist to admit that scientist like Darwin made mistakes. Darwin's evolutionary theory has a few practical uses, like better farm management and avoiding antibiotic abuse, however the average person never applies evolutionary theory to every day life. Most proponents of Darwin's theory keeping using soap with antibiotics in it while they act smug towards the creationists.

  • alan||

    One error was the reliance on some popular misconceptions in geography at the time of his writing that the earth experienced very little change after formation. The Neo-Darwinist project of the mid 20th Century was pretty much centered on correcting those kid of errors. Baily has pointed to some more recent research that may solve some of the trickier, almost philosophical problems, like indivisible complexity at micro levels where modality in genetic placement (newt receptors and eagle eyes) is laid out in the same proximity in the genetic sequence that have gone a long way to make the case for macro-evolution.

    I would like to think even if I were a creationist I would still be able to recognize Darwin as one of the finest minds in the history of science.

  • Tony||

    97–98 percent of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field are convinced of man-made climate change.

    Which of course makes the proposition, at best, 50/50, and probably wrong, since you know all those people believed the earth was flat in the past.

  • Cyto||

    The flat-earth idea was particularly stupid, since the earth had been proven round before Jesus walked the earth. Not only that, Eratosthenes had measured the circumference relatively accurately.

  • ||

    A quick glance at the sun and moon is all ancient people should have needed to know the earth was round.

  • johnl||

    Right. It's unlikely anyone who ever thought about the question ever thought the Earth was flat. It's hard to understand the popularity of the myth that people did.

  • M||

    But there is a (mistaken) consensus that people did think this. Another wrong consensus by golly.

  • High School Dropout||

    Not wanting to be burned as a heretic was a pretty compelling reason.

  • CatoTheElder||

    Nobody ever got burned as a heretic for thinking or publishing that the earth was flat, at least not by European Catholics.

    St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about the earth being a sphere in Summa Theologica. He took it for granted that he readers acknowledged this as a fact. Aquinas was probably the most important intellectual in medieval Europe and his books were probably the most extensively taught in European universities of the day.

    The British Historical Association lists the belief that medieval Christians believed in a flat earth as one of the most common errors in history.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    So the intellectuals, Christian and otherwise mostly believed in a round Earth back then. Out of curiosity, I wonder if the commoners did?

  • alan||

    It was commonly recognized that you could infer the curvature of the Earth by the approach of a ship where the flag and the mastheads were the first things that appeared.

  • ph||

    why?

  • ||

    A quick glance at the sun and moon is all ancient people should have needed to know the earth was round.

    It seems obvious now. It was a series of difficult, major scientific breakthrough for the first scientists to realize that the seemingly flat earth that was seemingly the center of the universe was just another round ball like the sun and moon. And that the sun was nothing special. And that our galaxy was nothing special. And that even our universe might only be a tiny piece of what's out there.

  • CatoTheElder||

    I don't think that an educated European has believed in a flat earth since Aristotle. He believed the earth was spherical and, of course, nobody can seriously lay claim to being educated without having studied Aristotle.

  • ||

    97–98 percent of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field are convinced of man-made climate change.

    In 1904 99.99% of the physical theorists believed in the consensus theory of classical mechanics.

    In 1905 one dissenter published a paper on special relativity and then, later, general relativity.

    Science isn't a democracy. 50.1%+ believing something is so doesn't make it true.

  • ||

    Science isn't a democracy. 50.1%+ believing something is so doesn't make it true.

    The Consensus is ALWAYS right! (Except when it isn't.)

  • ||

    I understand the point you are making and agree with it but I think you chose a real bad example. Classical physics was well established theory, that could explain an extremely wide range of phenomena. If global warming were that good I would be happy with the theory and I would be a true believer.

    But it isn't. Global warming is worse than epicycle theory. The theory makes false predictions like tropical troposphere hotspots that are not observed. It does not agree with global climate. And warming models don't agree with each other. None of the models seems to have any predictive value whatsoever.

  • trueofvoice||

    "99.99% of people on teh internets make up numbers really quickly without any source."

    See, I can do it too.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "Consider the overwhelming consensus among researchers that biotech crops are safe for humans and the environment—a conclusion that is rejected by the very environmentalist organizations that loudly insist on the policy relevance of the scientific consensus on global warming. But I digress."

    I never put those together before. You can't have it both ways greenies. Thanks Bailey.

  • Earth First, You Second||

    YOU LIE!

  • Post-Modernist Greenie||

    You can't have it both ways greenies.

    Yes we can. We can select any truth we want. Science is a social construction that we apply to advance our agenda.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Ohhh, now I see. It's effect before cause. I stand enlightened Po-Mo Greenie.

  • trueofvoice||

    Environmental advocacy groups aren't scientific bodies, they're political organizations. Nice straw man, though.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    We were refering to the politically advocacy groups and their contradictory acceptance or non-acceptance of scientific consensus as an absolute depending on how it reflects on their ideology. Nice strawman, though.

  • trueofvoice||

    The quote was from an article on consensus in science, not consensus from activists. You know it. I know it.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Let me re-post the quote for you:

    "Consider the overwhelming consensus among researchers that biotech crops are safe for humans and the environment..."

    consensus in science

    "—a conclusion that is rejected by the very *environmentalist organizations* that loudly insist on the *policy relevance* of the scientific consensus on global warming. *But I digress*."

    A brief digression(while still a part of the article) about the idealogical inconsistencies of greenies as pertain to scientific consensus.

    I put stars by important clues to help you so don't get so confused in future attempts at reading things. You're doing fine, lil' buddy, don't give up.

  • Robespierre||

    +1

  • Fiscal Meth||

    You just broke my +1 cherry. Thanks for being gentle.

  • ||

    the NAPAP study is one of the most unreported scandals in the last 30 years. Acid rain was a lie and a scam. And the government funded the work that proved it. But by the time it came out the CWA amendments were law and no one cared that we were wasting billions on a nonexistent problem.

  • Old Mexican||

    An article in the June 8, 1981 issue of The Washington Post cited a spokesman for the American Medical Association opposing proposed federal legislation that would make abortion murder as saying, "The legislation is founded on the idea that a scientific consensus exists that life begins at the time of conception. We will go up there to say that no such consensus exists." It still doesn’t.

    Wow - life by consensus. The like of wish not even God has ever seen, Muab'dib.

  • Old Mexican||

    it's "which" . . . and it's Muad'dib. I am shedding my geekness, slowly. My bad.

  • Kwisatz Haderach||

    Shai Hulud reclaims all water in time.

  • Van||

    For he IS the Kwisatz Haderach!

  • ||

    It's Mauve'bib.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Surely, you jest?

  • Not Quite||

    ...It is Muad'Dib.

  • ||

    a scientific consensus exists that life begins at the time of conception. We will go up there to say that no such consensus exists." It still doesn’t.

    I noticed this part also and it is absurd.

    It can be argued that society does not deem it important to grant rights to an individual the moment his life begins but there hasn't been any scientific disagreement about when it begins for some time. We do it in a laboratory on a regular basis.

    From Wiki: Fertilisation (also known as conception, fecundation and syngamy), is the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism.

    There is a consensus of when life begins, and it approaches 100%.

  • ||

    "There is a consensus of when life begins, and it approaches 100%."

    Not if you have Peter Singer on speed dial.

  • MJ||

    It's just Bailey being a dick, since he came up with some truly painful rationalizations of why embryos should have no consideration.

  • Brett L||

    Societies have often used viability as the standard, which explains why many early societies didn't hold naming or other personhood ceremonies for the first week or two. People are welcome to discuss whether this is the best definition of life or not. It hasn't ever been a scientific debate.

  • Old Mexican||

    So what to make of this increase in the use of the concept of “scientific consensus?”[...]One reasonable response might be that anthropogenic climate change is different from the cited examples because much more research has been done.

    "Grant money" . . . "Grant money" . . . "Grant money."

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "Oprah guest spot"..."Oprah guest spot"..."Oprah guest spot"

  • Not Quite||

    "Your money"..."My money"...."His money"..."Her money".

    Other people's money.

  • ¢||

    But I digress.

    Oh, go on. There's something big that biotech crops aren't safe for, and it's the only thing environmentalists care about: purity. The German kind.

  • The Man||

    Ron, I have criticized you in the past (for that transhuman-singularity-artificial intelligence stuff) but this is really excellent science journalism. It's not popularized "expert opinion" but the product of real journalistic endeavor that puts the issues in context. Good job.

  • ||

    I sure he's is jumping up and down with excitement that you like him now.

  • ||

    I'm surprised that Eugenics hasn't been mentioned in a scientific consensus. Afterall, force sterilization in the name of advancing humanity's gene has been going as late as 1970's. It's also the main driving force behind Planned Parenthood's founding aim, to eliminate undesirable from our society.

  • Glen Beck||

    I've taught you well my son.

  • trueofvoice||

    Eugenics was a political and popular movement, not a scientific one.

  • Chad||

    A very unconvincing article, Ron. None of your "false" consensuses had even a tiny fraction of the evidence to support them as AGW, nor were alternative theories nearly as heavily tested and found wanting.

    You just kept repeating instances of scientists (and sometimes not even scientists...) saying at one point "well, our best guess is this" and then later changing their opinions on the matter as the data indicates that the truth lies elsewhere.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Chad,

    None of your "false" consensuses had even a tiny fraction of the evidence to support them as AGW, nor were alternative theories nearly as heavily tested and found wanting.

    Spoken like a true believer.

    Give Chad the Discovery Institute's prize for unrelenting perseverance.

  • juris imprudent||

    the Discovery Institute's prize

    Oh, I've seen the stature for that.

  • Not Quite||

    Yeah, me too. Unfortunately, they just torn it down.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/10412337.stm

  • JEP||

    Then you missed the point of the article.

    The point was that the concept of "scientific consensus", or any consensus for that matter, should not be trusted to be infallibly correct. And used to enact social, political, and economic reforms.

    He's just providing examples of other instances in which there was an overwhelming consensus and it turned out to be all wrong.

    But, yeah. The scientists are definitely right this time. No question.

    /sarcasm

  • Chad||

    Since when does wait for an infallible level of certainty before acting.

    If you ever read something like an IPCC report, you would know that it spends a great deal of time trying to understand the uncertainty involved in this.

  • Mike Laursen||

    And then politicians completely blow off what it says about uncertainty and propose drastic economic measures without a moment's thought about unintended consequences.

  • Chad||

    No, they are not blowing off what it says, because what is says repeatedly is "likely" and "very likely".

    Those are the odds that politicians should play, not the 5-10% chance that things will be ok under business as usual.

  • jtuf||

    Actually, I did read the IPCC report in grad school, and no it does not.

  • Bennett Kalafut||

    Read it again. If you're telling us the truth about having read the report, you missed it. No, the "summary for policymakers" is not the IPCC report.

  • jtuf||

    Link please?

  • Not Quite||

    Reading the IPCC reports demonstrates nothing of the kind.

    However, if you read any of the Climategate emails, which describe in great detail what actually happened in preparation of one year's report - you'd plainly see just how much time and effort really was spent trying to "understand" how best to manipulate and misrepresent known and unknown factors in the IPCC political reports.

    IPCC is about as scientific as Bill Clinton's insertion was biological.

    Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, and the weather is just the weather.

  • trueofvoice||

    I'm afraid you couldn't be more wrong, but this meme is going to continue circulating I guess.

  • ||

    well, our best guess is this

    Yeah, real different from all of the computer models. Many which produce "global warming" (or is it "climate change"?) regardless of the data used.

  • Chad||

    I love you guys. I really do.

    If you make a prediction about the future, you MUST use a model. Always. There is no way around it. Every time you guys blather "If you cut taxes, yada yada yada", you are using a model. For some reason, you put an absurd amount of faith in your very non-computerized, very childish models, but that doesn't change the fact that you are using them.

    And "regardless of data" my ass. Citation please.

  • ||

    Every time you guys blather "If you cut taxes, yada yada yada", you are using a model.

    There is an ocean of difference between a model using things that have actually happened in the past and one that attempts to predict the future!

    You show me where the claimed effect of industrialization has occurred similarly in the past and produced the results you claim and you might have a point. You can't, no does, so it doesn't compare. The very basis of your panic is that it will change the earth forever, as has never happened before.

    If it had occurred before, then catastrophe would have ensued, I suppose.

    All you have is weak predictions of the future. It simply doesn't compare to evaluations of past events. (which, admittedly, can still be wrong)

  • Chad||

    Unfortunately, there are plenty of instances where taxes were RAISED and yada yada yada happened, or taxes were cut and yada yada yada yada DIDN'T happen, or nothing happened, or just about anything you wish to connect to the tax changes did or did not happen.

    You can always find a cherry to pick.

  • ||

    There are certainly people who disagree with the conclusions of those who make predictions based upon previous events, as there should be.

    This is still different from making predictions based purely upon modeling, since no previous example exists. There have been tax increase in the past and results that can be debated. The horrific results of the industrial age has not occurred in the past, so it is considerably more speculative. Not that you care.

  • Chad||

    There are multiple lines of evidence that indicate that the sensitivity of the past climate to changes in CO2 levels are about 3-4C per doubling of CO2...right in line with what the models predict.

  • Chad||

    There are multiple lines of evidence that indicate that the sensitivity of the past climate to changes in CO2 levels are about 3-4C per doubling of CO2...right in line with what the models predict.

  • Apogee||

    right in line with what the models predict

    Wrong. CO2 trails temperatures in the data records, and any speculation about the 'accuracy' of the 'models' went right out with the CRU coding scandal.

  • trueofvoice||

    This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of climate science. CO2 increases do at times follow small temperature increases, and the CO2 amplifies the warming, leading to more CO2 buildup, more warming, and more positive feedbacks. Nothing in what you have said is at odds with mainstream climate science. I would strongly recommend you try to gain a better understanding.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-lags-temperature.htm

  • The Industrial Age||

    "The horrific results of the industrial age has not occurred in the past"

    Horrific results?!?! Is living past 35 on your list of things to do?

    Then you're welcome...ingrate.

  • ||

    My sincere apologies. Apparently Ages don't have sarcasm meters.

  • The Industrial Age||

    My bad, I shouldn't have lashed out like that. I've just been taking a lot of shit from hippies lately.

  • Chad on epistemology||

    Knowledge can never be attained by the application of reason to reality. No cause ever has the same effect twice, everything is chaos. There is no point asking for evidence because your feeble mind could never comprehend it. The truth exists in a higher realm and those who have not visited this higher realm may only know truth by accepting it, by faith, from those who have experienced the real truth in the other world... the higher world..... The Computer Model.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    LMAO @"Chad on epistemology"

  • Fiscal Meth||

    I aim to please

  • Van||

    Beat the crap out of that effeminate little pretentious Post Doc.

  • ||

    Here:


    On February 12, 2005, Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters that claimed various errors in the methodology of Mann et al. (1998). The paper claimed that the "Hockey Stick" shape was the result of an invalid principal component method.[23] They claimed that using the same steps as Mann et al., they were able to obtain a hockey stick shape as the first principal component in 99 percent of cases (counting both upwards and downwards-pointing "blades") even if simulated red noise without any inherent trends was used as input[24].
  • Chad||

    We are talking about models of the future climate, not past temperature reconstructions.

    Which, btw, have been confirmed by multiple lines of evidence.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_controversy

  • jtuf||

    Wikipeadia!? That is where you go for cutting edge academic proof on a politically controversial subject? LOL

  • Chad||

    No, I go here.

    www.sciencemag.org
    www.nature.com

    But you are incapable of reading such things, so I have to point you to the climate-science-for-dumbies page.

    You can try skepticalscience or realclimate for a little more advanced stuff.

  • ||

    The model used by "Nature" is probably the most damning to the model of the hockey stick graph.

  • jtuf||

    I spent grad school working on computer models for the Center for Remote Sensing and Spacial Analysis and for the Biometrics lab. I graduated from Nature to professional journals years ago. Of course you are so wrapped in your smugness that you assume anyone who disagrees with you is stupid. That attitude isn't scientific, but it's common among the indoctrinated.

  • ||

    From that same article, there is a graph showing all of the different theoretical models of past temperature, and at least 3 of the models shown disprove the entire hockey stick exaggeration. I'm not saying that the current warming is "normal," as there is no way to ascertain that from any level of research, but I will say that the hockey stick itself is a clear exaggeration. Not to mention the fact that the margin of error makes these models almost completely irrelevant.

  • Chad||

    Btw, you do realize that the current anamoly is actually off the chart, right?

    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/s.....stats.html

  • Brett L||

    Yawn. Anyone who defines their axes so the plot is off the chart is pushing a point of view.

  • Apogee||

    We're all gonna die!!!

    That's why we need your money.

  • Bennett Kalafut||

    This has _what_ to do with climate models?

    A mark of climate charlatans: No matter what the subject, bring up paleoclimate reconstructions.

  • ||

    So, the claims that the current catastrophists are making that the present-day temperatures are unprecedented is unimportant?

    Wait, I thought it was dreadfully important...?

  • Chad||

    Of course these temperatures are not unprecidented. However, the incredible rate of change we are inflicting upon the earth has few precidents...and largely resulted in mass extinction.

    Volcanoes slowly doubling the CO2 levels over 100,000 years is not the same thing as tripling CO2 levels in 200 years.

  • jtuf||

    Current CO2 levels are still well within the range of normal. When the dinosaurs were alive, carbon dioxide levels were several times current concentrations.

  • Chad||

    Bennett: the deniers aren't even smart enough to realize that by arguing that past climate fluctuated wildly (due to mysterious, unmeasurable causes), they are arguing that it is very sensitive to change, and therefore it is dangerous to perturb it. D'oh!.

    The harder they argue that the past climate was unstable, the more they undermine their own argument.

  • ||

    Shorter: "Heads I win, tails you lose."

  • ||

    Not really. Most of us are not arguing that climate change isn't happening. We are simply arguing that the climate fluctuates for unexplainable reasons all of the time. Humanity still manages to soldier on just fine, often better than before the changes. Any public policy based on "CO2 must be stopped at all costs" can be costly and foolhardy.

  • ||

    I was responding to Chad.

  • Chad||

    If the climate swings wildly because of the influence of causes so small that tens of thousands of scientists can't even find them, despite having every incentive to to do so, what the hell do you think happens when a big fat cause perturbation is introduced to the system? It swings even more wildly. You can't have it both ways.

    "at all costs", of course, is just an exaggerated strawman.

  • jtuf||

    Chad, to sum up your argument: Na, Na, Na, Na, Nu, Nu, you guys are stupid.

    How about talking shop? Which climate model do you think is most reliable?

  • ||

    The reason that the paleoclimate reconstructions are always brought up is that they are more approachable. Frankly, high end thermal physics is hard. The political spin in paleoclimate is far more visible to the casual observer.

    Perhaps the point is that if they can actually accidentally use datasets upside down and then dance around and spin the situation instead of actually admitting they made a mistake, I am not going to take anything more complicated that they do on faith no matter how much they claim it doesn't matter.

  • trueofvoice||

    Multiple independent reconstructions have confirmed Mann's analysis. But you don't have to take my word for it.

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/smith2006/smith2006.html

    http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~.....emp_Nature'00.pdf

    http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/ccr/am.....ge2007.pdf

  • ||

    And multiple analysis have shown much more of a w or U shape rather than a hockey stick. Mann's analysis itself has a margin of error that reaches temperature changes almost in excess of the change of temperature that we're seeing now.

  • trueofvoice||

    Citations please.

  • Not Quite||

    We use models all the time, it is true. To bad for you, the UN/IPCC "predications" and "models" failed after the first year of publication.

  • trueofvoice||

    Citation please, for evidence that IPCC projection have "failed".

  • ||

    "None of your "false" consensuses had even a tiny fraction of the evidence to support them as AGW"

    Give me millions of dollars of grant money, control of grant committees, control of editorships at a few important scientific publications, and a large number of graduate students and I will produce mountains of evidence to prove any proposition you want. Its not hard to produce evidence...all you need are the resources.

  • Apogee||

    Especially when the 'prize' is unfettered access via taxation to every business transaction in the world.

    Fucking scam.

  • Hooha||

    +1

  • trueofvoice||

    This is a political argument, not a scientific one. If it is your intention to "refute" AGW theory, then you'll have to refute the research itself.

  • ||

    The "research" consists of computer modeling that bridges on numerology. It isn't real science. Computer models have to be proven to be realistic via empirical analysis before they can be accepted. Really, this is all a discussion of how much we trust the computer models.

  • trueofvoice||

    Many lines of empirical evidence exist independent of computer models.

    CO2 levels are being increased significantly, and CO2 traps heat. Consequently scientists have confirmed a drop in outgoing infrared radiation in the bands in which CO2 and methane absorb energy.

    See: http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....355a0.html

    Ocean heat content continues to rise.
    See: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossr.....2105.shtml

    These are lines of empirical evidence that do not rely on computer models. I encourage you to review the data for yourself.

  • trueofvoice||

    Also, satellite measurements have confirmed that while the troposphere is warming, the stratosphere is cooling, which matches predictions.
    See this for an explanation of why this is important: http://www.atmosphere.mpg.de/enid/20c.html

  • RichN||

    Chad:"The vast majority of the other factors are simply too small to have large effects."

    Chad: "None of your "false" consensuses had even a tiny fraction of the evidence to support them as AGW"

    One question for you Chad.
    How much of the C02 up there does mankind emit vs nature?

    You've been had Chad. AGW takes more faith to believe in than GOD. Don't forget Chad AGW is based on flawed computer modeling. Science fiction at best but it does bring in the $$$$$$ for the alarmist.

  • No Name Guy||

    Consensus is a political concept, not a scientific one.

    Can the theroy / hypothesis in question reliabily predict the course of events from the given starting conditions?

    Yes? It's probably right. Case in point is F=ma. A perfectly good tool at low speed (relative to the speed of light). Testable, falsifiable, measurable.

    No? Then it's bunk.

    I'd submit that the AGW crowd is in the latter catagory as they repeadly fail to demonstrate the ability to make reliable predictions about atmospheric / weather / climate on even the multi year time scale (e.g. not being able to predict El Nino / La Nina events).

    If they can't even predict these smaller, but still significant climate events, how can one expect them to be able to predict the far larger, more complex, global scale patterns?

    Perhaps at some point in the future, the state of climate science will advance to the point that reasonably accurate predictions can be made. Until then, it's so much bullshit.

  • trueofvoice||

    You fundamentally confuse weather and climate. Weather is a short-term phenomenon, and generates a great deal of signal noise which is why it can be so difficult to predict.

    Climate is accepted by climatologists as a period of at least 30 years, because a large data-set allows scientists to accurately discern trends.

    In short, weather and climate are two different things.

  • ||

    So "climate" is really easy to understand and predict? Sorry, don't buy it.

  • trueofvoice||

    No, I would not say it is easy to understand. AGW theory was proposed 110 years ago, and it's taken this long for us to really get a handle on it! But our knowledge has advanced considerably over the last century.

    Scientists generally prefer the term "projection" over "prediction", as prediction is probably too strong a word. What they do is extrapolate from the existing trends, such as the upwards trend in global temperatures, and project them out to a certain point.

    The IPCC for example developed 24 different projections, then tried to take the middle road in attempting to determine what we can expect. You can examine it for yourself at: http://www.ucsusa.org/global_w.....hange.html

    Think of determining climate trends this way. One year the average global temperature drops 2.1 degrees from the baseline period of 1979 - 2000. The next year it is up 1 degree. The next year its up 1/2 of a degree.

    Looking at individual years, or even all three together, it looks totally chaotic. This is why climatologists deal in periods of 30 years or more, because the "noise" of each individual year can be smoothed, allowing the real signal to be identified.

    This isn't the best analogy, but consider this. I can't tell you for certain whether it will be hotter or colder than today in 6 weeks, but I can almost certainly tell you it will be colder in 6 months.

  • Jerry||

    My history of science course taught me that basically all science is bunk.

  • ||

    "The science of any age is not rooted in fact, but rather, its absense.

  • JEP||

    Science is about creating models that mimic reality. Experiments are designed to test those models. Models are changed when a counter example is encountered while testing the model.

    Thus, science is a set of rules that we *THINK* describe the world around us, but those rules have to modified when an exception is found. So, every scientific theory is essentially designed to fail at some point or another.

    Just like no one can draw a perfect circle, scientific theories and laws can never perfectly describe reality.

  • Jerry||

    Are these rules any different to how humans acquire kwowledge?

  • ||

    In theory yes, in reality not so much.

  • Van||

    You are right JEP. The map is not the territory.

    Have you ever heard of Hans Vaihinger?

  • Not Quite||

    Clearly, you never met Giotto.

  • Mike Laursen||

    One reasonable response might be that anthropogenic climate change is different from the cited examples because much more research has been done.

    Is it true that much more research has been done on anthropogenic climate change than the other scientific questions you list?

  • JRD||

    Of course a lot of scientific consensuses were wrong. That's how science works-- as Bailey is sophisticated enough to understand. But the scientific consensus is still humanity's best collective understanding at any given point in time, and the fact that science is necessarily incomplete is no justification for less-educated laypeople to reject it.

  • Not Quite||

    "Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled"

    &

    "A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually. "

  • JRD||

    I'm very impressed by your ability to Google anonymous quotes, but that's nonsense. Are we to take it that there's no scientific consensus on the elementary principles of physics, or biology? Are the laws of thermodynamics somehow suspect because the vast majority of physicists accept them?

  • AGW Shredder||

    Bye, bye enviro-socialist-evangelicals:

    http://wallstreetpit.com/32342.....al-warming

  • Chad||

    lol

    You don't even see the utterly absurd contradiction in your argument, do you?

    If our understanding of AGW is so good that we could be looking for such small third-order effects, then there is no way that our understanding of the proximate effects is seriously wrong.

  • Chad=Idiot Troll||

    Chad, you are truly an idiot. I'm a little afraid you are actually a 12 year old, so I do want to be gentle with your fragile mental state.

  • AGW Shredder||

    Chad is beyond rational reach. But for the rest whose ability to think isn't stunted so completely by religious zealotry - It is really very simple; from the peer reviewed paper:

    The data negate increase in CO2 in the atmosphere as a hypothetical cause for the apparently observed global warming. A hypothesis of significant positive feedback by water vapor effect on atmospheric infrared absorption is also negated by the observed measurements. Apparently major revision of the physics underlying the greenhouse effect is needed.

  • trueofvoice||

    Virtually nothing in this article is accurate. And I do mean virtually nothing.

  • Van||

    You yourself are a virtual nothing.

  • trueofvoice||

    An interesting comment, but has no bearing on the serious flaws in the article.

  • Bennett Kalafut||

    Bailey has hit a new low:

    "Scientists have been wrong about some stuff before, therefore...!" Therefore what? Make up whatever the hell position you want? Substitute things you pull out of your rectum for the consensus position of the best science we have?

    Yeah, he's not a denialist. He's worse. Anti-science.

  • Bennett Kalafut||

    "In any case, the credibility of scientific research is not ultimately determined by how many researchers agree with it or how often it is cited by like-minded colleagues, but whether or not it conforms to reality."

    Researchers tend to agree with it because it conforms to reality. Assessments of consensus are assessments of expert judgement of what best models (explains) reality.

  • Apogee||

    If it conforms to 'reality', then why the predictive failures?

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Kalafut seems too naive to be much of a philosopher or scientist.

  • Corduroy||

    I can tell you from experience that acid rain in eastern Europe (east Germany) was a real phenomenon. It literally stripped the bark from the trees. It soured me on coal.

  • jtuf||

    I got my grad degree in Ecology and Evolution. The professor in the program who had very little scientific or mathematical knowledge (his biggest claim to fame was writing a book about the evils of "speciesism") said that anthropogenic Global Warming was a certain fact and that we would run out of oil world wide between 2008 and 2012. The two computer modelers in the department said that anthropogenic causes were just one of many factors affecting in climate and that the models predicting Global Warming were the best guess so far but far from certain.

  • trueofvoice||

    No climate scientist has ever stated that anthropogenic factors were the only factors. You are making a fallacious argument.

  • jtuf||

    Yes, exactly. The climate scientist and the computer modelers say that there are many factors contributing to global warming. The other scientists in related fields say global warming is man made. The people driving the policy and the enviromentalist groups say that Global Warming is all man made and call others "deniers" if they bring up the natural causes.

  • jtuf||

    There is a ton of grant money to study Global Warming and its effects. If you write a grant for study forest growth in New Jersey, you will have trouble getting funding. If you add an opening paragraph saying that Global Warming is coming and you want to study forest growth to see how it affects the carbon budget, you can get funding. This greatly inflates the number of papers that mention Global Warming as a fact.

  • trueofvoice||

    This is a serious accusation, and therefore I'm sure you won't mind citing your source for it.

  • jtuf||

    It was my experience in grad school. All the plant growth studies in my department were funded through grants for Global Warming research. Go to the nsf website and seach for grants. Searching for "Global Warming" produces 14 grants to apply for. Searching for "Forest Growth" only produces 2 grants to apply for.

  • Sam Grove||

    It was scientific consensus until recently that all ulcers were due to diet.

    It took one persistent researcher to overturn that consensus.

  • Liberal Genius ||

    No need to worry. Fixing global warming will be a snap. All we need to do is reduce our carbon emissions by 80%.

    I'm doing my part. My computer is powered by an exercise bike with a generator attached.

    So...very...tired

  • Not Quite||

    Other "liberal geniuses" might consider just not breathing.

    Even tho reducing CO2 "emissions" won't change the observable and experienced temperature by anything other than a few statistically meaningless fractions of a degree Celsius. But, what am I saying, the liberal geniuses already and always know exactly how effective their central-plans will be....don't they.

  • trueofvoice||

    If this is the libertarian position, that science is the province of "liberalism" then libertarianism simply can't be taken seriously, because it can't separate politics from the rest of reality. I'm hoping this doesn't represent the majority of you.

  • ||

    Missed the point.....

  • Spartacus||

    Science is always wrong. It just gets less wrong (not monotonically) as time goes on.

  • Chad||

    Unlike political hacks, who stay equally wrong no matter what evidence is put before them.

  • AGW Shredder||

    Oh Chad, you sad, pathetic zombie. I pity you, I really do.

    Truth is compared to your flaccid (that means LIMP DICK) ability to present anything resembling a cogent argument, any "political hack" would fare far, far better than you. You fail to even reach the level of Paris Hilton in terms of your ability to reason.

    Please take a quick lesson from your intellectual equal Chris Brown - and take a good look at the man in the mirror. And please, quit beating your dog.

  • Paris "AGW" Hilton||

    Chad's hot.

  • Not Quite||

    Not quite.

  • Chad||

    Unlike political hacks, who stay equally wrong no matter what evidence is put before them.

  • Chad||

    Unlike political hacks, who stay equally wrong no matter what evidence is put before them.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Yeah, at least all your end-of-the-world-is-coming-make-me-your-king-and-I'll-save-you predecessors have been willing to change their minds back and forth between cooling and warming.

    You only have to be right once right?

  • Benedict||

    Science is never wrong.

    Science works in mysterious ways.

    Sometimes your little mind can't comprehend the infinite wisdom of science.

    Repent, before it is too late!

  • ||

    Measuring global temperatures is not really subject to debate. You can look at a comparative chart and tell if it's getting warmer or not.* It's neither a subjective measurement nor a subjective comparison.

    As Ronald Bailey is clear to point out: what we are discussing here is the causation (and even the correlation) and whether man's activities are responsible. That's very difficult to determine to 100% agreement.

    Scientists are currently in general agreement that the warming is manmade and that the upward trend will continue. Just to be clear, either of those conclusions are subject to change at any time, but the climate measurements/data are not.

    It's sort of weird to be debating this here, because for many readers of Reason, the answer is "Why are we discussing this? There shouldn't be regulation under any circumstance, no matter what scientists say."

    * Unless you are George Will.

  • Chad||

    And what are the odds that these conclusions will be changed? 1%? 5%? Does it even matter?

    Either way, we have to put our chips on the 95% or 99%.

  • ||

    No large number of climate scientists can model anything that even turns out to be remotely true. The only consensus is, "It's getting hotter." There really isn't a consensus about anything else. And that consensus only exists in the amongst the climate scientists who are the most "peer reviewed."

  • Tony||

    Or maybe you don't know what you're talking about and the experts do? Ever consider that?

    You said above that there wasn't a dispute about the fact of warming, just that we should let it happen and enjoy the bounties. Why you think we have the right to decide that for the other inhabitants of the world is beyond me, but you need to stick to one set of talking points at least, or you risk demonstrating that experts are by definition the ones we should go to, and not you.

  • Apogee||

    You are quite the projectionist. It's you and Chad who want to 'decide' what others should be allowed to do. All to save the planet!!!

    Oh, and maybe make some cash along the way!

    Take your taxation scam and shove it up your ass.

  • Tony||

    I earn my living from oil & gas (sort of), so I may have to look for another job. Nothing in this for me. Except a habitable planet in which it's considered proper for people to pay for the messes they make.

  • ||

    Very few scientists are arguing that the planet is going to be "inhabitable."

  • ||

    SOrry, uninhabitable.

  • trueofvoice||

    I'd much rather conserve the mild climate of the Holocence in which we evolved, as it's what we are adapted to.

    Also, ranting about a taxation scheme is a political argument, not a scientific one.

  • ||

    "the mild climate of the Holocence"

    Human beings live in the coldest and the hottest regions on earth. People have adapted to just about every climate. Advanced civilization exists in every climate of the globe.

  • ||

    Did you actually read my comment? I admit that it is getting warmer. I just don't trust the models for the future, and I don't buy the crisis mentality. You're the one who wants to tell me what to do in my life directly. Global warming is a much more indirect method of "forcing people." YOu want to stick the gun in my face and tell me what to do directly.

  • ||

    The climate data isn't subject to change? Who do you think you're fooling?

  • AGW Shredder||

    "Measuring global temperatures is not really subject to debate"

    LOL. No, not when you are a religious zealot, but then again, few things are in that case.

    Do your homework.

  • Brett L||

    Have you read the datasets? They are all corrected, and the corrections change over time. If you model the CRU data from 1997 against the 1997 data in the current dataset, you'll get 2 different plots. If you model the actual readings from the stations, you'll get a 3rd plot. Which one is true? There are valid statistical reasons to exclude datapoints and apply corrections to entire datasets. But which one most reflects reality?

    Anthony Watts has done yeoman's work blogging the discussion of what corrections have been done to datasets and why, as well as cataloging actual data stations. So yes, the data used in analysis have changed.

  • trueofvoice||

    Mr. Watts has yet to explain why the surface temperature record matches satellite and radiosonde records. Furthermore, the assertion that UHI has skewed temperature monitoring is simply erroneous. NASA goes to significant lengths to correct for any deficiencies resulting from UHI contamination.
    You can read about the exact methodology here: http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs.....n_etal.pdf

  • ||

    I am no scientist, yet I am an avid reader and my reading has taught me to question the 'general consensus'.
    I was curious as to how global temperature is measured, and how accurate those measures are. So I went to NASA's website (figured it would be a good place to start) - and found that the Goddard Institute for Space Studies was the people who make these measurements: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/ .
    Now wanting to know more, I clicked on the link and found that Goddard had somehow had the global temperature records all the way back before 1880. I am no rocket scientist so I wanted to know what machine they used to measure global temperatures back in the 1800's. Of course there were none. I found that it was not until 1951-1980 that anybody actually paid that much attention to global temperature, and that even back then they had to manually collect the data from thousands of sources and put it all together. Before that time they used trends and what they know of weather today to guess what the global temperatures were in the 1800's.
    As it turns out, it was not until the late 70's that they actually started putting equipment around the world globally to make any real measurements.In 1981 the first accepted measurement was made on global temperature for Nasa by GISS. It was not even until 1996 that they found a model they saw that would suite the purpose of determining global temperature:
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/ .

    I am not saying that our climate is not changing - like I said, I am no scientist. However I think it is really dumb to be using a 30 year snapshot of a 100,000 - 2,000,000,000 (depending on who you believe) year old planet and say that the noted change is unprecedented. What makes me even more skeptical is how no one seems to address how solar activity affects this climate change outside of NASA.
    Heck, I am not even sure about NASA anymore. Four years ago they published a nice little chart on solar activity. When put up against a chart on global temperature - it had to much in common in the ups and down by a variance of +/- 10 degrees. Now they say the suns impact on global temperature is negligible. The say that the arctic is refreezing again, but not as fast as it should during the ending of a solar max - yet do not list previous examples.
    My thought is that no one can claim to know why the weather does its thing - and setting expensive and restrictive fixes to this highly questionable theory is nothing short of stupidity.

    Just my 2 cents

  • trueofvoice||

    The machince used to measure surface temperatures since the 1880's is called a thermometer.

  • ||

    trueofvoice - I apologize for my sarcastic overtone, but i have raised this question before with no answer, so I figured if i was more offensive about it, I would get an answer - it worked.
    Yet in the 1880's we did not have thermometers covering the globe either. They did claim to use what readings they were able to find in archives etc, and I respect that - yet to say that in 1880 the measurements would be as accurate as they are today is exaggerating a bit isn't it?

  • Van||

    David Shirk:

    If you talk to any reputable Atmospheric Scientist they will admit that all weather is driven by Solar Radiation. That radiant energy is absorbed by "greenhouse house" gases like water vapor and to a much lesser degree carbon dioxide. These gases absorb and diffuse the heat and prevent it from radiating away at night and prevent it from burning us up during the day. These gases are what make the planet livable. Without them the temperature would fluctuate daily like it does on Mars, alternately freezing us and roasting us.

    Mathematical Models have to be Validated. Otherwise they predict nothing except fallacious "data". Validation means that data produced by a Climate Model or Weather prediction model has to match measured data from OBSERVATIONS.

    But Atmospheric Dynamics are nonlinear. That means they are governed by the property known as "Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions" aka "The Butterfly Effect." It also means that data observed from widely dispersed weather stations is no good for predicting weather over long time frames. If one attempts to predict future climate, then current climate data form the initial conditions, and you have a similar problem with predictability. That's why NASA uses a Statistical climate model known as GRAM99 to predict climate.

    http://gcmd.nasa.gov/records/GRAM-99.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....conditions

  • ||

    Van,
    Thanks for that - I really did not know any of that, and appreciate the response!

  • ||

    Van,
    Thanks for that - I really did not know any of that, and appreciate the response!

  • Van||

    De Nada, Amigo.

  • ||

    Ron Bailey said (at the second page of the article):
    "Disclosure: For what it is worth I generally accept the current "consensus" that anthropogenic climate change could be a big problem. I do worry that what governments are likely to do about global warming may be worse than climate change."

    As recorded in the rocks...CO2 influxes of the speed and magnitude we are now experiencing are closely associated with the great mass extinction events.

    The only thing a government could do now that might be worse would be a full scale nuclear war, or deliberately smashing a large asteroid into the planet.

    Corollary, allowing massive fossil fuel use is the moral equivalent of Global Nuclear War.

    And here we are after all these years STILL subsidizing fossil fuels. And libertarians STILL not noticing such subsidies; while they complain about subsidies of the alternatives.

  • Apogee||

    And to solve this self-described annihilation, a group of the enlightened will be appointed (wink wink) to tell everyone what to drive, what to eat, and what to think - for a minimal fee!

  • overlord||

    Yeah, solving self-described self-described annihilation, a step up from the libertarian solution of being self-annihilated.

    A minimal fee indeed...you're welcome.

  • ||

    Libertarians don't notice such subsidies???? I talk about them all of the time. FUck yourself in the neck, dumbshit. Every leftists just makes straw man arguments. Fuck off.

  • irony||

    "Libertarians don't notice such subsidies???? I talk about them all of the time. FUck yourself in the neck, dumbshit. Every leftists just makes straw man arguments."

    Wow, sweeping generalizations all over the place.

  • Van||

    The type of "scientific consensus" being cited here has more to do with the advertising technique, than actual science. For example, 75% of dentists recommend Colgate.

    Global Warming researchers have a clear conflict of interest that drives their recommendations. The key to recognizing this conflict of interest is an examination of their recommendations. Don't let them mislead you with their charts and appeals to authority.

    Jaques Lacan developed a typology for behavior in organizations with three categories: the bastards, the cynics, and the weaklings. Later Corinne Maier in her book "Bonjour Parnesse" redefined these categories as: the sheep, the pests, and the loafers. In Van's typology these are the bastards, the cynics, and the ass kissers.

    "Scientific Consensus" occurs when the bastards/pests on a scientific program decree what the facts are to be established and what the methodology for establishing those facts will be, then the weaklings/sheep/ass kissers get to work producing the "data" which they themselves dare not question. We know by Pareto's Rule that at least 80% of any organization are the sheep, so it follows that a "Scientific Consensus" can be established quickly once the desires of the bastards who run the scientific program are known.

    The cynics on the program do the minimum it takes to keep from getting fired while working on their own paper topics on the program managers dime.

  • Tony||

    So the Pareto principle originated with the observation that 20% of Italians owned 80% of the wealth. In America, the top 20% own at least 93% of the wealth. So does that mean in America 93% are sheep?

  • Van||

    So does that mean in America 93% are sheep?

    No, at least 80% have 7% of the wealth and are sheep. In the sense of Judge Napolitano's book.

    The neat thing about Pareto's is it can be applied to almost any group of human beings. For example, at least 80% of managers are mediocrities, at most 20% of managers are good people to work for. So, if Bob interviews with ten companies, how many bastards has he interviewed with? How many cynics?

    Hint: The best people to work for are cynics, not bastards, or sheep, or someone who kisses up and poops down.

  • Apogee||

    Is this related to the Team America "Dicks, Pussies and Assholes" speech?

  • Van||

    I only saw Team America once. It's more related to "Office Space". Imagine teams of weaklings/sheep/ass kissers sitting in cubicles and going to meetings where power point slides are presented. Sometimes fighting with their printers.

    The Bastards they work for making them work unpaid over time to produce data and fill out the equivalent of TPS reports with cover sheet.

  • trueofvoice||

    The Pareto Principle is not a fundamental law of nature. This is a specious argument.

  • Van||

    I guess you've never heard of Psychology or Statistics.

  • greeny ||

    "Consider the overwhelming consensus among researchers that global warming is caused by humans—a conclusion that is rejected by the very libertarian organizations that loudly insist on the policy relevance of the scientific consensus on the safety of biotech crops."

    That's really interesting. I never really thought about it that way.

    But wait: "One should always keep in mind that a scientific consensus crucially determines and limits the questions researchers ask."

    Ah, so biotech crops aren't safe after all.

  • ||

    Popular media about science is often wrong, sure, but did these previous "scientific consensuses" have the same amount of support in professional journals and organizations as climate change?

  • ||

    The scientific method is as much about philosophy as it is method.

    Given the frequency of fanaticism amongst actual research scientists I tend to question their observations about anything beyond small scale discrete phenomena.

    Keep in mind these geniuses still have no reasonable explanation for things like consciousness and gravity.

    Science is simply far more limited in its ability to explain complex phenomena that the practitioners wish to acknowledge.

    On that note, no one really likes to bring up eugenics and global cooling.

  • Van||

    Scientists typically don't study philosophy or literature. It's not in their undergraduate curricula and by the time they get into graduate school, forget it.

    Part of the problem is they adopt philosophical points of view which are ludicrous, i.e., Steven Hawking's pretension that he can know the mind of God through Mathematics.

    Philosophers have long recognized the existence of the incomprehensible. The mind of God is incomprehensible to Man, unless you want to believe in Solipsism.

    In addition, most of these twits are humanists, and misantropes at the same time.

  • quonset||

    Undergraduate scientists take all the liberal arts courses that are required for all majors: such as history, government, literature, economics, and foreign language.

    In graduate school the focus is entirely on the major, and this applies pretty much to all graduate students.

  • Van||

    Agreed quonset. But when I was an undergraduate Physics major I took Deductive and Inductive logic from the Philosophy department as electives, not as part of the required general curriculum required by the College of Arts & Sciences.

    My fellow students and some of the Profs in the Physics department thought me to be a bit of an eccentric for doing so. I can remember one Prof's astonishment that I had taken Existentialism as an elective.

    If you talk to people in the Humanities they will bemoan what has happened to Liberal education as thousands of middle class kids have had to be accommodated with weaker coursework and curricula to push them through the degree mills.

    All the while the students whine, "Why do we have to know THAAAT?"

  • trueofvoice||

    What researchers? What kind of fanatacism? You are slandering an entire profession (the field of science) and I insist you provide citations and sources.

  • SSM||

    umm, scientists do have explanations of gravity (at the very least NASA does).

    As for complex phenomena at large scales, scientists do understand the sun which is very large and complex.

  • ||

    Actually, regarding gravity they don't.

    Gravity is understood as a phenomena and from an engineering perspective (i.e. if I drop this ball from 30 feet it will take x amount of time to hit the gorund).

    No one has identified the mechanism by which it happens.

    Everything out there is either conjecture based off of shaky evidence (i.e. global warming/cooling/climate change) or describing a phenomena (i.e. things tend to be attracted to one another in the case of gravity).

  • trueofvoice||

    There is an entire line of quantum theory relating to the nature of gravity. You can learn more about the topic starting here: http://www.dmoz.org/Science/Ph.....avitation/

    Not sure why you are making this argument.

  • trueofvoice||

    The way this blog handles hyperlinks is atrocious.

    www.dmoz.org/Science/Physics/Q.....ravitation

  • SSM||

    There are two good "what is gravity" theories, one given by Einstein (the world is like a giant trampoline, and a heavy object causes the trampoline to dip locally, and objects get caught in this dip, and this is perceived as gravity). The second one is that gravity is caused by a particle called the graviton.

    Anyways, at least that's what I learned from watching popular science television shows.

    I do think it is a mistake to take one area of science to represent all of science. I don't think what gravity scientists do really shed any light into climate scientists.

  • christian louboutin||

    Aishika Chakraborty spends Christian Louboutin Pumps in the enchanting environs of Santiniketan and says its christian louboutin remain undiminished 'Besides the winter fair and spring festival, there is nothing much to see there. Palash and simul trees have just shed their blooms, and the monsoon cloud is nowhere near the christian louboutin sale. Blazing winds will greet you at Jhapater Dhal as the terrain onwards turns parched christian shoes and arid.'

  • Neu Mejican||

    wow. bad article. worse thread.

  • Neu Mejican||

    wow. bad article. worse thread.

  • Wegie||

    "Looking back, it turns out that a lot of scientific consensuses were wrong."
    Like string theory.

  • kazzam||

    There is no consensus that string theory is right. People study it because it might be right, not because it is right.

  • ||

    Aaron Wildavsky's 1995 book, "But is it True?" opened my eyes to the dangers represented by those who appeal to the authority of "scientific consensus". I strongly recommend to those who hold high stock in this type of rhetoric.

  • The Pharmacologist||

    If these threads are any indication of what libertarianism has become as a movement, then I hereby wish to turn in my card. With the crass anti-intellectual sentiment expressed on these threads as well as the pervasive rejection of science I can't tell if I'm on a libertarian website or if I'm reading comments on the Weekly Standard. I'm sure my comment will be met with witless sarcasm, but for what it's worth, count this "scientist" out.

  • worcestershire||

    You can find groups from all political parties that don't listen to science/reason.

    Anti-evolution from the creationists faction of Republicans, anti-animal testing from the animal rights faction of the Democrats, and anti-global warming from the libertarian faction of the Republican party.

    Every group distorts reason to fit their worldview.

  • jtuf||

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

  • worcestershire||

    Ignore this guy too.

    All groups have their idiots.

  • red herring||

    "I can't tell if I'm on a libertarian website or if I'm reading comments on the Weekly Standard."

    Nor can the general public tell the difference (and this has nothing to do with science).

  • Sam Grove||

    Should the scientific priesthood's proclamations be accepted uncritically?

    Skepticism is not anti-science, it is anti-fraud and anti-error.

  • tadcf||

    Most of the above examples 'did not' represent a consensus of scientific opinion, in the way that a consensus is represented in climate change.

    Furthermore, changes in evidence resulting in changes in conclusions is the nature of scientific method--as opposed to religion.

    All conclusions are based on the best evidence as we know it, and subject to change with changes is evidence. That does not mean we should not act on the evidence--especially when the results are as dire as those suggested by climate change.

    If we had acted upon scientific suggestions during the early 20th century, we would not have had the results of the 'dust bowl'. As it was, we acted upon the suggestions after the damage was done.

    There are always two sides of the coin. How you gamble depends on how much you can lose. Like in the case with the 'dust bowl', there was a gamble with the livelihood of other people's lives--an they lost.

    Conservatives haven't learned from the past, and, based on there lack of knowlege, still prefer to gamble
    with the lives of others--and, unknowingly their own.

    prescienceblog.com

  • Sam Grove||

    Conservatives haven't learned from the past, and, based on there lack of knowlege, still prefer to gamble
    with the lives of others--and, unknowingly their own.

    Who has? Certainly not the "progressive left".

  • ||

    Surgeons who operated on stomach ulcers believed in a consensus that was magnificently disproved by nobel winning Western Australian doctors --but it took 10 years before the surgeons admitted they were wrong.
    So much for consensus being useful or accurate.!!

  • ||

    Surgeons who operated on stomach ulcers believed in a consensus that was magnificently disproved by nobel winning Western Australian doctors --but it took 10 years before the surgeons admitted they were wrong.
    So much for consensus being useful or accurate.!!

  • TruthOffering.com||

    It's absolutely true that there have been many consensuses on a number of topics over the years that have turned out completely wrong. Global cooling was one, global warming appears to be the latest...and now the powers-that-be intend to bring back global cooling, it appears. It was a big topic at this year's Bilderberg conference in Sitges, Spain, where the most powerful men and women in the world gathered to discuss our future.

    Check out our blog for more:

    http://www.truthoffering.com/c.....grave.html

  • ||

    Consensus, as has been said, is not a scientific process. Why then is there such striving to defend it?

    Those who advocate for AGW must stop talking consensus and start talking about demonstrable effects--as they are demonstrating them. Until it can be demonstrated conclusively that the actions of humanity are warming the planet in an irrevocably harmful way the proponents of AGW theory are simply trying to scare us into accepting their ideas in much the same fashion as the Church scares us with the Devil to get us to bend the knee to God.

    For the record, I do not care if man is warming the globe. Humanity will adapt or die. The world will go on.

  • trueofvoice||

    Those of us who have children might care what kind of world they inherit. I certainly do.

  • jtuf||

    According to the most dire models, those children will inherrit a World that is about 5 degrees Celcius warmer.

  • bogeyman||

    There is a lot more proof in science than in economics. This doesn't stop people from arguing and suggesting economic policies. Saying that raising taxes will cause group A to do this, which will cause group B to do this...is the same as saying emissions will lead to A, which will lead to B...

    Greenhouse gases cause heat to be trapped, thereby raising the temperature, thereby melting the ice caps, etc. is no less rigorous than saying raising the taxes on the rich will cause less investment, won't work anyway because they will past the cost onto us, will cause them to seek loopholes, etc.

  • TallDave||

    Good article Ron.

    One reasonable response might be that anthropogenic climate change is different from the cited examples because much more research has been done.

    This is a bit of a myth. There are actually no studies that conclusively predict global warming. All we have are GCMs, and if you ask forecasting scientists about their predictive reliability they laugh.

    A lot of people don't seem to realize the GCM aren't fundamental, they're parameterized.

    Anyways, AGW is phenomological, not fundamental -- it cannot be derived directly from theory (that's why GCMS have so many differently parameterized functions) but has to be matched to measurements. That means AGW predictions have low reliability, as forecasting scientists (who study all kinds of predictions) have been pointing out for years. There is no rigorous empirical proof that CO2 is (significantly) influencing temperatures, it's just an expert opinion, and predictions based on expert opinions have a very poor track record, especially when those experts have a large stake in a particular outcome.

  • Oliver K. Manuel||

    Thanks for an excellent report, Ron.

    Consensus "science" is a propaganda tool of those who would mold "truth" to match their own purposes.

    Scientists are now trained with research grants like Pavlov's dogs were trained with dog biscuits.

    The US National Academy of Sciences and the UN's IPCC are not unlike the Truth Ministries described in George Orwell's book, "1984."

    The answer to global climate is in "Earth's heat source - The Sun",
    Energy & Environment, volume 20 (2009) pages 131-144
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0704

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    http://www.omatumr.com

  • liberalspwnu||

    lol, it's hard for laypersons to take seriously someone who believes that our model of the sun is bunk, that the 2002 Nobel prize in physics was bogus, that all the neutrino experiments in Japan are mistakes, or whatever crackpot theories you espouse.

    The scientific consensus is not the one in need of improvement here...

  • Hans Schantz||

    The turn of the century "Age of the Earth" controversy and Eugenics are two classic examples of scientific consensuses that have been proven wrong - examples with much to teach us in the modern context. As for the notion that Eugenics "science" was more a social and political movement than a true science, frankly, the same could be said of climate science. More at http://www.aetherczar.com/?p=978

  • IMP||

    The only reason they have "much to teach us" is because you don't like what science has to say about some topic. If it's biotech crops, then you would roll your eyes when someone against it points out some cherry-picked instance of science getting something wrong sometime in the past, just as evolutionists roll their eyes when some creationist points out some obscure instance where science got it wrong.

    And then not only that, you get to pick any information from any field from any time period, as long as the field is caused science.

    You are right in that science can be wrong, but it doesn't teach us anything else in the modern context, and it certainly doesn't teach us that global warming is wrong, biotech crops are right, or whatever grab-bag of your choosing.

  • ||

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/csd/a.....on dollars

  • ||

    Great article. Good science also suggests a new solution: Methane.

    "A Fast, Cheap Way to Cool the Planet -- Forget about carbon. If we want to buffer global warming, cutting methane is the key.
    -- Robert Watson (former chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change); and Mohamed el-Ashry (Senior Fellow, United Nations Foundation), WSJ, 12-09
    Few even know about methane as a major scientific solution, perhaps because it is not politically or ideologically correct. Thus it is an even greater opportunity.
    2. The Little Known Numbers
    "He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense." John Mccarthy, Stanford University.
    "Today, 90% of the horsepower we use ... comes from the burning of oil, natural gas and coal [hydrocarbons].
    "Global daily hydrocarbon use is about 200 million barrels of oil equivalent, or about 23.5 Saudi Arabia's per day [8.5 million barrels per day]."
    "No matter how much the United States may want to lead the effort to reduce carbon emissions, it cannot, and will not, be able to substantially slow the increasing global use of coal, oil, and natural gas. why? there are simply too many people living in dire energy poverty for them to forgo the relatively low-cost power that can be derived from hydrocarbons.
    -- Robert Bryce, Power Hungry (2000).
    3. Politician v. Engineering Solutions
    Jeff Jarvis, What Would Google Do? (2009), pp. 163-64
    "Where Gore talks about what we shouldn't do, Google talks about what we can do. There we see the contrast between the politician's brain and the engineer's. Google people start with a problem and look for a solution. they identify a need, find an opportunity, and then systematically, logically, and aggressively attack with innovation."
    "Google.org wants to find a way to produce renewable power at three cents per kilowatt-hour, cheaper than coal, which not only gives them a good deal, but also shuts down dirty coal plants."
    "Where Gore demands taxes and regulation, the Google team proposes invention and investment. Gore and company want to raise the cost of carbon -- the cost of polluting -- whereas the Google team wants to lower the cost of energy."

    Science is not about consensus, as the Inquisition should remind us.

    Science is about what works.
    Methane just may be the science that works, and a carbon dioxide focus the Inquisition mindset of our times--not good science.

  • ||

    Since it was overturned quite recently, by a man who won a Nobel prize for doing so, what a pity you missed one of the most uncontroverted consensi in medicine - that concerning the causes of peptic ulcer.

    For a structured analysis of Predictions of Catastrophe that remain unfulfilled, see Kesten Green: http://kestencgreen.com/green&.....logies.pdf

    He covers the last 150 years, and includes Eugenics and DDT.

  • ||

    PNAS - Penis. Ha ha [Hat tip: Nelson Munce]

  • ||

    I would happily accept AGW if it were not for one fact.

    The 'solutions' for AGW are exactly the same as the 'solutions' for getting rid of capitalism and replacing them with collectivism.

    What are the odds?

  • Jeremy||

    Yes, and right now the "consensus" is that people reporting the kinds of experiences targeted individuals report (organized stalking, mind control weapons) are mentally ill.

    There's a bunch of people who have been victimized by the "consensus" on this issue and quite frankly, the deniers (many of whom frequent sites like this) are on the wrong side of history.

  • ||

    Interesting.

    I have no doubt the idea that man made CO2 emissions is significant in any sense will in due course be debunked.

    In the meantime thank goodness for the US Senate and the Australian Senate who have refused to pass their climate change bills and for the Attorneys- General of Virginia and Texas who have instituted litigation on the issues with a view to getting matters dealt with by the judiciary in due course.

    All these organisations/ people are directly elected which gives you an idea what the electorates of the US and Australia think...only several hundred million probably...

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  • Project Humanbeingsfirst.org||

    'So what to make of this increase in the use of the concept of “scientific consensus?” And one should always worry about to what degree supporters of any given scientific consensus risk succumbing to confirmation bias. In any case, the credibility of scientific research is not ultimately determined by how many researchers agree with it or how often it is cited by like-minded colleagues, but whether or not it conforms to reality.'

    That reality, is that Science is always in the Service of Empire. Those who control the purse strings control science. And power exercises controls only for its own interests - howsoever it may be masked, idealized, packaged, and sold to the public mind.

    Examples are described here:

    http://humanbeingsfirst.wordpr.....102009.pdf

    and here

    http://print-humanbeingsfirst......egate.html

    That is the highest order bit of the matter.

    Underneath that, is of course the familiar and much lauded scientific process, entailing peer-review, a process of consensus ab initio that is built-into the scientific process of modenity itself, one which could not have permitted either Darwin or Galileo to publish, one which automatically favors maintaining status quo at the frontiers of beliefs and dogmas.

    And that process does not exist in vacuum either but is beholden to the political and financial reality of co-opting influences of those financining it.

    A reality which is unfortunately not alluded to in this article.

    Zahir Ebrahim
    Project Humanbeingsfirst.org

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