September 3, 2009
The Science of Global Warming: Saving the World or Hunting for Ghosts?By Larrey Anderson
If we wanted to know how to cure a sick cow we could ask the scientist known as a veterinarian. The veterinarian has studied the biology, physiology, anatomy, etc., of animals and could probably help us with our sick cow.
Veterinarians know about cows and cow diseases. Vets can back up their knowledge with thousands of experiments and the accumulation of mountains of incontrovertible data.[i]
On the other hand, there are people who pretend to be scientists and pretend to have explanations for how certain things work -- things that either don't exist or aren't anything like the phenomena that the pretend scientist claims that the things are.
Take "ghost hunters" as an example. What is their science? Does it have a name?[ii] How does one become a ghost-hunting scientist? What evidence qualifies for proving that ghosts exists? How do ghost hunters cure us of the ghosts? (By mumbling some words and then telling their gullible clients that the ghost is gone?)
Doesn't the "science" of ghost hunting presume, without any credible evidence, the existence of ghosts? How do these ghost scientists even look for something that probably doesn't exist? Notice that veterinarians don't assume that cows are sick and that there is only one cow sickness. They study the cow for symptoms and then render a diagnosis. (A diagnosis, I should add, that the vet might change if the symptoms of the cow change.)
Now to our topic: What about the science of global warming? Is it more like the science of healing cows or the "science" of ghost hunting?
For starters, let me make it clear that the leaders of the AGW movement claim that there is a global warming science. Al Gore's official web site is called: "An Inconvenient Truth Official Site: Global Warming Science, Climate Change Science, Facts and Evidence." [Emphasis added.][iii]
Got that? "Global Warming Science." Let's ask ourselves: What could global warming science possibly be?[iv] Remember, when we needed a scientist to tell us whether or not a cow was sick -- we asked a vet. But what scientist do we ask to tell us that the world is "sick" because it is getting warmer? And aren't there two huge assumptions in the questions to begin with? Namely, (1) that the world is actually getting warmer? And (2) that warmer means sick. ("Can you prove to me the world is getting warmer and is sick?" is much more like asking, "Can you prove to me the noise I hear is a ghost and is scary?" than it is "Can you show me why this cow is sick and what is the specific disease?"[v])
When we talk to a global warming "scientist" are we talking to the equivalent of a veterinarian or a ghost hunter? And with whom, exactly, are we talking?
I, for one, have never heard anyone actually make this claim: "I am a global warming scientist." So I did a little research.
With a special thanks to Robert Carter, Professor at the Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University, Australia, here are some candidates for the title of "Global Warming Scientist":
Professor Carter in a personal email to me also estimates:
In other words, I have given AT readers a short list of possible global warming scientist candidates.
So what is a global warming "scientist?" The answer could be one of two things:
One: there is no such thing as a global warming scientist. There is, instead, a consensus among a number of scientists in differing fields that the planet is warming at an alarming rate. This is the usual explanation that we hear.
There are a couple rational criticisms of this position that need to be understood. Science is not in the business of consensus. It is (usually) in the business of collecting specific facts and then creating abstract principles and general conclusions from those specific facts.[vi] Now this does not mean that these facts cannot be collected and shared by different scientists from different disciplines -- in fact, science is becoming so complex that such cross-disciplinary accumulation and exchange of data is now the norm, rather than the exception.
Here is the problem with this approach as summarized by Professor Carter:
Sharing on this level of minutia would be okay but for (as Carter so masterfully puts it) the "climate change miasma." The fact is that the specific facts are not leading in a highly probable way to any general conclusions about global warming, CO2, and our (human) part in it. Induction just isn't working to prove the catastrophic theory of man made global warming ... and most scientists know it.[vii]
This is why those of us who have carefully studied the IPCC reports detect the numerous discrepancies between the logic of the scientists' articles in the body of the reports (and in any outside peer reviewed materials that disagree with the IPCC findings and are therefore spurned) and the rhetoric of doom and gloom in the political summaries of the reports. Scientists that complain about the polarization and the politicizing of the scientific process at the IPCC are routinely ignored, demoted, fired, or quit. Here are 50 (that's right FIFTY) articles that prove this internal dissension within the IPCC and between the leaders of the IPCC and the rest of the scientific community.
All of the talk about "healing the planet" shouldn't be fooling anyone. Global warming science is mostly about grant money, about keeping the myth alive, about buying fancy new equipment to prove that there really are ghosts ... er ... global warming. All of this talk of global warming isn't about healing anything. It is about stretching out the process of proving the unprovable and getting paid for it -- as long as the public can be suckered into coughing up the money for the ongoing studies.
If the history of our human fascination with ghosts is any indication, the "science" of global warming is just getting started.
Two (and more hopefully): maybe all of this confusion is finally teaching us that there is no science, none at all, of global warming. Maybe the earth warms and then it cools. Maybe there are sick cows and healthy cows. Maybe some ghosts are just a loose window, or rats in the attic, or someone's vivid imagination and the need to believe in something greater (and spookier) than the self.
It is not that we have learned nothing by focusing on the "problem" of global warming -- we have learned many things. I would hope that the most important thing that we have learned is that we should not take a half baked theory by Al Gore and jump to the conclusion that we must drastically reduce our output of CO2 or human beings will lay waste to the planet as the world exponentially heats beyond our ability to stop the carnage. And the only way to seriously reduce the human contribution of CO2[viii] is to completely (on a worldwide basis) revamp our system of energy production, delivery, and consumption -- by utilizing the full coercive power of the each nation state and the United Nations to enforce Draconian laws and regulations on the lifestyles of every human being on this planet.
Such a plan shows massive ignorance of that thing that rises in the east, sets in the west, and goes (insolationally speaking) bump (not "moo") all the time with our planet. It is not a ghost -- or a cow. And no scientist, or anyone else, can exorcise, heal, or save us from ... the sun.
Larrey Anderson is a writer, a philosopher, and submissions editor for American Thinker. He is the author of The Order of the Beloved, and the new memoir, Underground: Life and Survival in the Russian Black Market.
Hat tips: Professor Robert M. Carter and John McMahon
[i] Not all, or even much, of the experimental data will have been collected by any particular veterinarian. I have shown here why it does not have to be.
[ii] I hear "paranormalist" once in a while. It's got to be embarrassing to hand out that business card: John Smith, Professional Paranormalist. Got a ghost? We can handle it!
[iii] The proponents of global warming have been trying to shift the terms from the conclusory "global warming" to the more open and objective sounding "climate change." I have written about that elsewhere and will not go into their terminology scam here.
[iv] I recently published an article on AT showing that the probability of human beings as the major cause of any type of the heating of our planet is very low. But in this article let's focus on another question: is there is such a thing as a "science" of global warming.
[v] Here is the logic: Some things are cows, some cows are healthy and some are sick. It is hard for an untrained person to always tell the difference. The scientist who specializes in animals can, perhaps, tell us whether the animal is ill and what that sickness is. The ghost "scientist," like the global warming scientist, assumes the existence of the subject matter. (The ghost hunter assumes the existence of the ghost; the global warming scientist assumes a world that is getting warmer and sicker.) The faulty logic of these people is sometimes argumentum ex silentio and sometimes argumentum ad verecundiam -- although the dead polar bears and drowning cities arguments we hear from Al Gore fall under argumentum ad baculum.
[vi] This is called inductive reasoning. And it is the form of reasoning most often used in science. I have written about inductive reasoning and global warming here. Those who have been convinced by Thomas Kuhn that science is driven by consensus need to read David Stove's "The Jazz Age in the Philosophy of Science." This devastating essay (devastating for the followers of Kuhn anyway) has been reproduced in a number of works, most recently it appeared in Against the Idols of the Age, Transaction Publishers, 2001, edited by Roger Kimball.
[vii] This is why those of us who have carefully studied the IPCC reports notice the almost indescribable discrepancies between the rhetoric of the scientists in the body of the reports when contrasted with the fatalistic prophecies in the summaries of the reports.
[viii] Which happens to be only 3% of the total output of CO2.