Monday, September 27, 2010

Why I Am a Climate Skeptic

As usual per the course for me, I started off on one side of the climate debate, looked at who my allies were, and promptly changed sides.

Want my reason summed up?

Here is a relatively intelligent guy, quite the rationalist, quite opposed to pseudoscience.

Who wrote this little gem:

"Notwithstanding all the unsolved problems in climate modeling and establishing past global temperatures, the fact that climate is getting warmer and carbon dioxide is increasing makes for a straightforward case of cause and effect. The burden of proof is on people who doubt the cause and effect relationship to show either that the cause-effect relation does not hold, or that some other process is responsible. Not raise questions or cast doubts - prove."

There are actually a number of other entertaining snippets - "If you woke up uncomfortably hot in the middle of the night and found someone had put an extra blanket over you, you'd logically conclude the blanket caused the warming. You wouldn't argue that your getting warm caused the blanket to appear on the bed, or that the two events were unrelated, or that there was no reason to connect the blanket and the warming." is particularly entertaining in light of the fact that carbon dioxide HAS trailed temperature repeatedly in the past; all evidence is that getting warm does, in fact, cause the blanket to appear.

Here's what's wrong with the former statement, however:

It is fundamentally, and irrevocably, anti-science. He's not saying the science is sturdy, he's not saying the evidence is good - actually, as far as carbon dioxide causing warming, the evidence is good, that's not what all the fuss is about - he's saying, and it's a line I've seen a thousand times over, <i>that it's the best theory we have.</i>

Five hundred years ago, "God" was the best theory on explaining where mankind came from. Even today, "God" is the best theory - meaning the only theory - on explaining prime cause. (Note that this presumes a prime cause, something I dispute.)

He isn't arguing from a position of evidence - he's arguing from a position of a lack thereof in other theories (which isn't even entirely true). He's not challenging people to prove him wrong; there's no evidence he would accept to prove the idea wrong. The endless revelations of unscrupulous behavior by climate scientists, the series of bugs continuing to be discovered in NASA's GISS software, the massive and massively successful project to discover siting issues with measurement stations, the complete absence of the CO2 fingerprint in the atmosphere, the fact that we're not currently melting in the temperatures forecast back in the 90's for today, a decade of more or less stable temperatures, statisticians continuing to break apart some of the key models in climate science - things aren't looking good for the science right now.

They weren't looking good for the science back in the late 90's, either; there was a certain objectivity which was clearly missing to many people then, and it's becoming apparent it never appeared.

Here's the problem, apart from the political grandstanding involved:

This shit helps causes like creationism.

When science as an institution lends its credence to a theory which falls flat on its face for dishonorable behavior, PARTICULARLY after causes like creationism were accusing the entities involved of conspiracy, it really, REALLY weakens the position of genuine science, like, to pick a cause not at all at random, evolution.

When an institution like the CRU is engaging in unscientific behavior like deleting data and refusing requests for information from skeptics for no reason beyond that they are skeptics - skeptics, people, are the fuckin' lynchpin of science, it doesn't work without people saying "Now wait a minute" - an institution which is supposed to be above such petty shit...

Well, what CAN you trust, anymore? You sure as fuck can't trust universities to keep bias out of their research. From the perspective of someone outside the domain of science, somebody who doesn't understand its mechanisms, this looks like a failure of, well, the domain of science.

Especially when science as an institution rushed to the defense of these assholes when they started claiming they were being assaulted by anti-scientific barbarians - and very, very critically, put forth the same defenses that it put forth when evolution was under attack.

This is the risk of institutionalizing science, why I have slowly begun to divorce myself from popular science; it has ceased to be the hobby of eccentrics which allowed it to function, and has become an important institution which we cannot allow to run all willy-nilly. You can't regulate science. You can't say, no, this isn't science, we haven't approved of this.

Science is the act of testing shit. Full stop. That's it.

Why am I a climate skeptic? Because climate science doesn't test shit. It actively works to prevent its shit from being tested. That's all I need.

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