Time after time when discussing climate issues, people direct me to NASA… because they are a trusted source, and to those that don’t know better, an argument from authority is a powerful weapon. And this is where I am sent:
There are a number of issues with this page. Some more obvious than others. From the very first paragraph:
“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals1 show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.”
First off, you lead with “peer-reviewed”. This carries much more weight with laypersons unfamiliar with the term. Peer-review is simply a read through by someone knowledgeable in the field to rule out egregious and obvious errors, to ensure it is plausible. It is NOT a confirmation of results.
“97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree” – This is NOT true. No poll indicates any such thing. This is extrapolated from text search of selected abstracts, something you bury in footnote 1. To claim 97% of climate scientists agree from text searches of selected papers borders on fraudulent.
“Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities” – This is NOT part of the conclusions of the “97 percent or more” text search of papers. From the referenced Cook study, all that can be said is 97% of some selected papers attribute some warming to humans. There is no breakdown of how much warming they believe is happening, how much they attribute to humans, or if they consider it a problem.
“most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position” – This is a misleading statement with neither any statistical nor scientific value. Even if we assume it is true, scientific orgs could be endorsing based on the word of one spokesman. And if the statements are analyzed, most do not say their members were polled. They are the endorsements of a few directors. There is no way to quantify what the members (that are the ones involved in science) believe.
“The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources” – The implication is that NASA and the listed organization have confirmed the claims. There is no indication that any endorsement is based on independent research confirming these findings at all. And if one follows to their webpages to find their sources, it is in many cases the very same list of text search “studies” listed in your footnote 1.
And since the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers is also referenced, it is only fair I point out that the IPCC has acknowledged that there is a pause in warming over the last 15+ years, and that 111 of 114 climate models (a rather ironic 97%+) they reference for their projections overstate warming compared to real world observation. This is SYSTEMIC bias.
But even more troubling than the rest of these problems is the continued assertions by (once) respected institutions that science can somehow be decided by committee, with the decision beyond questioning. What step in the scientific method includes “consensus”? I’ve never seen it mentioned. Consensus science is a contradiction in terms, something an organization of your well deserved reputation should be embarrassed to repeat. It is an EXPLICITY anti-science position. No advance in science, not even one, not ever, has come from enforcing a faux “scientific consensus”. If this was the position of NASA at it’s founding, you never would have reached space, let alone reached the moon.
Considering the dismal inaccuracy of climate projections, and the IPCC’s admission of model failures, asserting certainty (something good science NEVER does) is silly. Richard Feynman’s words ring more true now than ever…
“If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is. If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
In short, your webpage as it is isn’t worth the electrons wasted to display it. Kindly fix it.
Regarding Geoffrey Johnston’s article, Extreme weather hits women hard… I wanted to point out some errors and assumptions that are not well supported by evidence or logic.
Subsistence farming has never been easy. That is the point of the term… subsistence is to survive but not thrive. Does drought or flooding make things worse? Of course! But the term “extreme” to describe these weather events is overused and inaccurate. There is no smooth average climate, and many parts of the world are prone to cyclical drought and/or flooding. That is the norm. Humans initially settled to farm in flood plains specifically because the silt and moisture made for fertile land and productive farming. And we’ve persisted in building dense settlements in flood plains and low coastal regions prone to flooding. Water is a blessing and a curse.
“Citing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, CARE Canada’s Pierre Kadet predicts that as the planet gets hotter, the frequency of extreme weather events, including droughts and floods, will increase.”
In fact the IPCC SREX report on extreme weather points out that incidences of extreme weather have not increased as predicted by models.
Further, recent years have seen much lower numbers and strengths of Atlantic hurricanes than “normal”, and a marked decrease in the number of tornadoes.
“According to the CARE Canada expert, “by 2020, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent.” And this could have devastating consequences for women farmers in developing countries…”
This is a stunning claim that I can only assume was conjured purely from imagination. Global yields of staple crops are increasing rapidly. Farming technology, from tilling, to drought resistant crop selection, to pest resistance, and on and on… We are producing far more food than ever before. And we do it on less land. Yields per acre are so high, marginal fields are being allowed to return to nature. There is no shortage of food globally. Areas where famine is a problem are almost without exception areas subject to political unrest, military action, or plain old incompetence and corruption (see Venezuela and much of Africa).
“Lambert contends that Sub-Saharan Africa’s geography makes it more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including desertification. “I think the Horn of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa are particularly affected,” she said in a telephone interview.
“If the global temperatures continue to rise, food production in Sub-Saharan Africa will continue to be severely affected,” UNICEF’s Hevey wrote in an email. “A worsening drought is currently ravaging Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe — the worst in 50 years in some cases.”
As mentioned, these are areas plagued by unrest and government incompetence and corruption. Satellite images show that the Sahara and Sahel regions are greening compared to the recent past. This may be due to increased overall precipitation, higher co2 levels, or both. Whatever the cause, it would appear hunger is not the result of conditions inhospitable to farming.
“Women must work longer days to compensate for declining food production, Lambert said. Meanwhile, they must also continue to perform all of the household labour. For example, women are responsible for collecting wood to burn as well as water for cooking, drinking and cleaning. However, as their climate gets hotter and desertification worsens, wood and water are becoming scare, forcing them to walk longer distances in search of these precious resources.”
The solution to these problems is not climate hysteria that results in energy deprivation for fear of demon co2 emissions. It is MORE energy access. With pumps for clean water and gas or electric stoves, the poor woman’s lot in life gets a lot better. This kind of energy can’t be provided by a 20W solar panel. In addition, energy allows them to adapt to conditions, and to prepare for and withstand weather events that could otherwise be catastrophic.
As bad as hurricane Katrina was, the death toll of 1800 or so, mostly seniors, from a category 5 storm that was a direct hit on a major population center and flooded much of 2 states was kept from being much higher because of energy… both in the shelters it helped construct, and in the infrastructure and transportation that allowed for evacuation. If Bangladesh had the same access to abundant and affordable energy, they’d have similar resistance to disaster during flooding.
In short, yes women have it bad in much of the world. But to frame this as due to climate change is not just inaccurate, it does them a disservice by sacrificing them to the elements through restricted energy access due to carbon paranoia.
Both aid and climate hysteria are industries. There are many billions of dollars at stake. In both cases it is wise to be skeptical about claims, especially where evidence is weak, or not offered at all. One column on aid by Rory Leishman from a few years back stuck with me… compassion must be effective. And climate activists that suggest that the poor must be sacrificed to the elements to appease the co2 gods place dogma before compassion. That is neither humane, nor necessary. We can help, but it must be the right way to allow the poor to progress. And we absolutely must NOT hinder the advancement of the poor to assuage some weird form of guilt over our good fortune.
How many opinions make up a fact?
The entire body of human knowledge has its foundation in logic, reason, and empiricism. We observe. We question. We attempt to explain. We want to know. As we’ve fine tuned the processes logic, reason, and empiricism depend on… math, philosophy, scientific method, etc… the growth of our body of knowledge has greatly accelerated. This has led to rapid improvements in every measure of human well being. We are healthier, wealthier, and live longer. We have managed to largely insulate ourselves against many of the forces of nature that formerly humbled and destroyed us. Disease, predators, and climactic conditions are more and more held at bay. War and other forms of violence are in decline. We’ve made great strides in much of the world in pollution control and protection of biodiversity and environment. These improvements are measurable. Statistics attest, and can be investigated at humanprogress.org and ourworldindata.org, among others.
Despite this amazing progress, and the empirical data that says it is true, large numbers of people around the world contend that things are NOT getting better, and are getting worse. They are pessimistic even though there is every reason to be optimistic for the future of humanity and nature. A great number of scientists share in this pessimism. And they always have. Human history is littered with prognostications of doom. This pessimism is evident in every ‘prophesy’ that the very progress that brought us our comfort and prosperity is dooming us. Many of these claims come from SCIENTISTS… scientists that have access to all the same data you and I have. Yet they grasp at minor and temporary indicators to assert that horrors await us, while minimizing or ignoring the impact of a much stronger set of positive indicators. Fortunately, brilliant minds like Steven Pinker and Matt Ridley (and many others) have begun to enlighten us to the realities of modern life: It’s a LOT better than what we had previously. We DO have reason for optimism.
So why are so many scientists so pessimistic? Because scientists are human, and subject to the same evolutionary influences as the rest of us. They are liable to various biases, poor reasoning, faulty logic, mistakes, self interest, and even deliberately misleading and corrupt practices. This is not to say something nefarious is afoot, at least not on any large scale. This is why the scientific method and peer review were developed; to weed out influences that might lead to incorrect conclusions. Of course they aren’t perfect screens. But the ongoing nature of scientific inquiry means any conclusion is open to future examination, revision, or rejection. Science is NEVER settled. Better explanations will always replace weak ones.
Which brings me to Michael Shermer’s article in Scientific American; Why Climate Skeptics Are Wrong. I’m a great admirer of Shermer, and greatly appreciative of his efforts to advance and promote skepticism as a force for good for everyone, scientist and non-scientist alike. However, like anyone else, he is also subject to bias and error. And here, it is his skepticism of skepticism that is wrong.
Shermer aims to replace scientific consensus with “consilience of inductions.” Fine. The explanation sounds reasonable. But he provides no examples of the “convergence of evidence.” In fact he moves from that description back to a discussion of “consensus science”:
“Is there a consensus on AGW? There is. The tens of thousands of scientists who belong to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Medical Association, the American Meteorological Society, the American Physical Society, the Geological Society of America, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and, most notably, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change all concur that AGW is in fact real. Why?”
This is misleading. Endorsement of the orgs doesn’t equal endorsement of the members in whole or part. Tens of thousands of scientists belong to those organizations. Do the members support leadership 100%? Or 1%? Somewhere in between? He doesn’t know, yet leads you to believe they ALL support the leaders’ endorsement. In truth, we don’t know if the members were consulted at all. What is this endorsement worth? It can’t be quantified. It’s value from a statistical or scientific perspective is nil. And it should be mentioned some of these societies base their position on the same Cook et al paper mentioned later. They are NOT all independent evaluations of the evidence. And one last tidbit regarding the IPCC… They admit warming is out of step with CO2 emissions, has paused for at least 15 years, and that 111/114 climate models overstate warming.
“The answer is that there is a convergence of evidence from multiple lines of inquiry—pollen, tree rings, ice cores, corals, glacial and polar ice-cap melt, sea-level rise, ecological shifts, carbon dioxide increases, the unprecedented rate of temperature increase—that all converge to a singular conclusion. AGW doubters point to the occasional anomaly in a particular data set, as if one incongruity gainsays all the other lines of evidence. But that is not how consilience science works. For AGW skeptics to overturn the consensus, they would need to find flaws with all the lines of supportive evidence and show a consistent convergence of evidence toward a different theory that explains the data.”
In each of these “multiple lines of inquiry” there are questions as to the rates, measurements, and cause. If you choose not to look at contrary evidence, disregard, or cherry pick only what supports your bias, you’ll arrive at a conclusion. But it will have nothing to do with science. In the case of ice cores, even prominent ‘warmists’ admit CO2 lags warming by 800 years. In the others, they are NOT unprecendented. All have happened before. And the geological record shows both lower and higher temps in much higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations. In fact all changes seen now are within the range of natural variability. Shermer then moves on (he is now using consilience and consensus interchangeably) to suggest skeptics need to “overturn the consensus” after saying in the very same paragraph: “It is not because of the sheer number of scientists. After all, science is not conducted by poll. As Albert Einstein said in response to a 1931 book skeptical of relativity theory entitled 100 Authors against Einstein, “Why 100? If I were wrong, one would have been enough.” Why would skeptics need to overturn a consensus? A consensus is an opinion. Notice the burden here is not on ‘the consensus’ to show a testable hypothesis confirmed by experiment, but on skeptics to overturn opinion. This isn’t science, but the epitome of politics.
Next Shermer moves on to the crux of all confused AGW arguments; the Cook et al study. To even call this a ‘study’ is laughable. It isn’t even a poll of opinions. It is a text search of selected abstracts. But even if we accept what Shermer says “Of those papers that stated a position on AGW, about 97 percent concluded that climate change is real and caused by humans” it still tells us nothing. Of course climate change is real. I defy Shermer or Cook to find any sane person, scientist or not, that disputes that. So it comes down to what “caused by humans” means. 100% caused by humans? 0.1% caused by humans? Somewhere in between? Doesn’t say. Again, this is statistically and scientifically meaningless. What it really says is that 97% of an unknown number of papers we carefully selected from 11,944 (how many were selected vs rejected?) by a text search of abstracts accept climate changes, and some undefined percentage of that may be due to human activity. A monkey with dementia would use more rigorous standards than Cook. And Shermer willingly repeats the nonsense.
Now if Shermer wanted to look into this a little deeper he could. He CHOSE not to. That is bias. And I hope he is uncomfortable with it. What Cook actually said about the 11,944 papers is this: “11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming.”
Joanne Nova, Richard Tol, and Jose Duarte (and others) have all written devastating critiques of Cook et al. Shermer could have found them as easily as I did before becoming Cook’s Minister of Propaganda. See:
In short, I don’t know whether Shermer is lacking introspection, careless, or simply a victim of unrecognized bias. In any case, I would urge him to reflect on his own closing sentence.
“Such practices are deceptive and fail to further climate science when exposed by skeptical scrutiny, an integral element to the scientific process.”
(This is very much a follow up to a previous blog post I did a few months back…)
I’ve seen, repeatedly, arguments that say atheists shouldn’t assert that there is no god because this shifts the burden of proof. The most recent is @godless_mom (who I very much like and very often agree with), tweet and video link here.
The problem seems to lie with how people interpret proof/prove/disprove. A widely held opinion is that any statement sufficiently vague and nonsensical can’t be disproved. For example, replace “god” in any claim with “magical platypus”. In either instance there is no evidence. And in the second anyone will admit the notion is ridiculous… a mockery even. Yet when pressed they will often admit that either claim meets the same criteria: It is BECAUSE it is purely nonsensical and totally beyond the bounds of reason that it can’t be disproved.
OK, fair enough. Let’s explore this farther. String theory of multiverse posits that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes that may or may not have characteristics similar to our own. There could be a parallel universe in which conditions to make life possible never happened. There could be a parallel universe in which the fundamental laws of physics are very different from ours. Perhaps another where 2+2=5, because the fundamental nature of reality is so completely different.
These ARE theoretical possibilities based on mathematics. Do we then say with a straight face that life doesn’t exist, gravity is a myth, or 2+2=5? Keep in mind that there IS a mathematical basis for multiverse… which is MORE than can be said for any god claim. No, of course we don’t. We discard these notions, just as we discard notions that our entire reality is a computer simulation. And I’ll state again, there is MORE reason to think these are possibilities than to think god is a possibility.
So we come back to what is proof, and what does it mean to prove or disprove… Proof: evidence OR ARGUMENT establishing or helping to establish a fact or the truth of a statement. Examine these two statements:
- There is a god.
- There is no god.
The first is not a valid hypothesis because it is unfalsifiable.
The second IS a valid hypothesis because it IS falsifiable. Producing a god falsifies it.
The OR ARGUMENT portion of the proof definition is critical here. Because material evidence of the existence/nonexistence of anything sufficiently vague or ridiculous to render it nonsensical within our knowledge of reality is impossible to establish. However, the problem isn’t with ability/inability to establish the absolute, but with the acceptance of the vague/ridiculous description. Wolfgang Pauli said of such arguments, “It is not only not right, it is not even wrong.” The assertion that something ridiculous and meaningless can’t be disproved is itself a fallacy because a ‘correct’ conclusion is drawn from premises that are not applicable in any way to our reality.
A color blind person may assert red is green. They have reason to believe it true. It is still false. And can be shown as such. There is no such rationale for god claims. This is WHY Hitchens was correct in saying “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” If the god argument WASN’T flawed, if X% independently verified the claim as with color blindness, the dismissal would be WRONG. Because the argument can be shown invalid… and invalid DOES mean false… the dismissal is valid. Material evidence is not required.
There are things that ARE knowable without such material evidence… We are sure of our own existence. We are sure of mathematical truths. We accept certain logical and philosophical propositions. To wrap, we don’t need smoking gun evidence to prove or disprove EVERY claim. And it IS logically valid and consistent to say so.
Of course I invite replies and corrections… 🙂
It is somewhat unsettling that someone that is permitted to use the title ‘Dr’ can be so wrong from so many angles. It is confounding that someone with the title ‘Dr’ can misunderstand the basic dictionary meanings of words, when free dictionaries are available to anyone with an internet connection. And it is unforgiveable that someone using the title of ‘Dr’ would attempt to misrepresent the values and intentions of others in support of his own bias towards a shaky dogma. So, ‘Dr’ Fekete, let’s address this mess of overripe tripe…
Let’s start with “revealed knowledge”. What “knowledge” is this? Revealed to whom? Knowledge is what is known. What is known can be demonstrated or explained to others. It can be tested. It can be confirmed by experiment, or through logic. And perhaps most importantly, it can be ARGUED. Now you don’t have the courage to describe your ‘revealed’ truth, but I think it a reasonable assumption that you are referring to oral traditions of illiterate desert tribes. Their stories were originally written in ancient, dead languages, on clay tablets, pottery, parchment or animal skins. This eventually coalesced into ancient Judaism. Successive generations continued to add to these stories. These were then translated and transcribed to Greek or Latin, with missing bits filled in as a best guess. This was centuries before the earliest Chinese printing methods, and at least 1400+ before the Gutenberg press, so every copy was done by hand, with every successive iteration introducing more possibility of error. Eventually, centuries later, the remnants of the Roman Empire adopted these traditions as their own. Centuries after that, the ROMAN Catholic church, a legacy of a great military power, convened First Council of Nicaea to decide what version of all these stories they should use going forward. This is the beginnings of ‘standardized’ Christian dogma of today. There is no revelation. It is not knowledge, nor is it testable, nor logical. It is dogma and dictation. You believe or else… The stories for other religions are similar. The mere fact that there are so many competing versions should give a reasonable person pause. They obviously can’t all be right, however they CAN all be wrong. And in light of all the knowledge accumulated through scientific discovery (a process religion fought desperately, and often to the death), the second possibility is infinitely more likely.
So let’s now look at your paranoid diatribe against secularism and humanism:
Secularism strives for a secular state; the separation of church and state. Keeping religion and governance separate benefits both; government isn’t distracted from its day to day duties, and religions are free from the heavy hands of theocratic dogma that might be imposed by another religion getting the upper hand. (There is a reason we have the word ‘theocracy’.) The state will not give the appearance of favor or endorsement to one , or any, or all religions. Freedom OF religion necessitates freedom FROM religion. It does not dictate that you can’t worship, that you can’t assemble in worship, or what form of worship you are permitted.
Humanism, in simple terms, values the wellbeing of humans and humanity above the dictates of ideology and dogma. That anyone could possibly construe this as a negative speaks to the devastating effects of religious indoctrination on the human psyche; the victims consider themselves and other humans as worthless. It also speaks volumes about the frailty of religions that they demand protection from reasoned thought, and dominion over the innocent, in return for protection of a nonexistent second life. No. I won’t allow you to speak against humanity in favor of an invisible dictatorship without challenge. If your religion has any value, it places the dignity of human wellbeing above all else. And if your god disagrees, he can tell me in person. YOU have no authority.
And let’s address some remaining points…
Secular humanism makes no assumptions other than the church and state function best separately, and human wellbeing should not be assumed secondary to any ideology or dogma.
Secular humanism denies no one a voice, and AFFIRMS pluralism by assuring all that they are on equal footing, with none favored over others.
Secular humanism makes no statement about what is “an acceptable system of knowing”. Reason and logic do that.
Now to address the most obnoxious and distasteful paragraph:
“For believers, including believers in secular humanism, faith is perhaps the deepest value held. It matters most to believers. Silencing the voice of a person’s most deeply cherished values does a great disservice to human expression. It disallows discourse on what matters most.”
Belief in secular humanism is grounded in logic and reason, as outlined previously. Religious beliefs are grounded in indoctrination with dogma, superstition and fear. These are not equal ‘values’. Nor is anyone silenced. You can stand on the steps of city hall and express yourself to your heart’s content. You can attend church with others of your faith. You can read scripture at home, on the bus, in the library, etc… You can write letters to publications expressing your faith, or your dismay in the lack of faith. You are not in ANY way silenced, or prevented from practicing or expressing your faith, except as an extension of the state. In fact you aren’t arguing for discourse, you are arguing for the opposite… the right to state unfounded opinion, unopposed, from a bully pulpit. Discourse is what happens in council when they DEBATE issues, like the decision to discontinue prayers.
Lastly, I very much doubt you stand by your statement that “every perspective on faith should be represented”. Should the likes of Jim Jones be given a platform in council? Mullah Omar? Kim Jong-Un? Segregationists? David Koresh? Satanists? Richard Dawkins? Scientologists? Snake handlers? Are their perspectives on faith worthy or not? Would you invite them to speak before your congregation?
Update at end (23-Apr-2015)
I thought for a long time about registering to be an organ donor. There are thousands of people in Canada on dialysis, waiting for kidneys. The cost to the health care system and taxpayers to have a patient sick and on dialysis is huge. And that doesn’t even touch on the cost to the patients waiting on the kidney, both in financial and human terms.
I was already registered to be an organ donor at death, but the greatest chances for a successful transplant are from living donors. We all have two kidneys and can function perfectly fine with one. I am very fortunate that by accident of birth, I am relatively healthy and live in a free and prosperous country… and wanted to do something to possibly help another that wasn’t so lucky.
So I registered and went through all the questionnaires, compatibility review, diagnostics and testing, and follow ups, and consultations, and retesting. (They are very thorough, as you would expect… nobody wants a worn out kidney that doesn’t match, or carries a payload.) And it is quite interesting. I learned things about medicine I didn’t know previously… like blood type compatibility is not always necessary for a donor match. Or that in donor chains, one anonymous donor can set off a chain that results in up to 4 successful transplants. Medical science is amazing!
After an ultrasound I was told I had what looked like I had kidney stones. But nothing serious; so far, so good. I moved on to the next stage which is testing kidney function and CT scan. Kidneys work like a charm. But the CT showed I had multiple cysts on each kidney. After consultations, the transplant team advised me that I wouldn’t be a good candidate for the donor program because of the risk of future polycystic kidney disease. So I have to see a nephrologist and talk about a management plan to keep an eye on things and make sure I don’t lose any kidney function…
Even though I was declined from the donor program, I am now aware of a potential problem that I otherwise wouldn’t know about. And I can monitor the condition to make sure if anything starts going wrong, I’ll know BEFORE I get seriously ill.
The point of this little story is that I want to encourage others to please consider registering for living donor programs. Your gift may never be needed, or you may give a sick person another chance at living the kind of healthy, carefree life most of us take for granted. Or, as in my case, they may find that you aren’t suited to be a donor, but you get a head start on managing something that you otherwise may not have known about until you were sick.
Thanks for your time!
Follow up: I’ve received permission to post the other half of this story. Theresa Richarz (@treericharz) was my potential partner in the LDPE program. This is an update to her side of this story: https://www.facebook.com/theresa.richarz/posts/10155437777395545