Friday, January 27, 2012

Unscientific Method

Ok, let’s talk about this. Go ahead, read it. It’s the Wall Street Journal Publishing an editorial from 16 scientists who say that there is “no need to worry about global warming.”

There are many things to address here. And I think I will leave the majority of the big questions to the experts in the field. So let’s talk a bit about the crux of the argument that is given. Not all scientists agree that global warming is real. That is 100% true. Not all scientists believe that. There are approximately 5-8% of scientists who don’t believe in global climate change.

And being a dissenting voice is great. In fact that’s all part of science. Dissent and alternative hypothesis/evidence is very important to improving our scientific base of knowledge. All of the best renegade scientists were not only brilliant but adamant challengers of the status quo.

So if you are really worried about something in the field and think that the evidence or conclusions are wrong then you go do some experiments. And that’s where these 16 scientists stopped being scientists. In looking on Wikipedia (yeah, shoddy research) all of the scientists that signed had a section on their dissenting views on climate change; none of them had peer reviewed papers. Fewer even worked in relevant fields of study.

A critique of group thinking has merit. We need rebels to tell us that we could be wrong. But we don’t need contrarians for the sake of being different. These scientists conveniently bypassed the scientific method by posting an editorial about global climate change. They weren’t reporting on findings; instead they were conjecturing as to other causes of global warming--which isn’t real.

And the public shouldn’t be concerned about reducing CO2 because plants love that stuff. They grow so well when there’s tons of it. And the earth could just be warming naturally even though CO2 is a known greenhouse gas along with many others that humans have been pumping into the air for the last three centuries and we’ve been depleting our CO2 consuming life-forms drastically so the greenhouse gases stay longer in the air and that exacerbates the effect and don’t mind the last 20 years as being the hottest on record and getting consistently hotter. It’s all cool.

But even if the earth is just warming naturally we still need to be figuring out what to do about the effects. Things like the fact that coastal cities are at risk to rising sea levels and the economic problems that could cause.

But that doesn’t matter because the scientists that work on this have some sort of economic agenda to help third world countries? According to this editorial, it is wrong to worry about the state of our natural environment (and to rigorously study the global climate), to work on sustainable future solutions that may not adversely affect human health and lead to energy independence, and--y’know--the polar bears thing.

I propose this. If you have a problem with the scientific literature then design an experiment, record the data objectively, and if the results come out differently then publish them in a peer-reviewed journal. Don’t bypass the system and complain from the outside to the public that the majority of scientists are practicing the scientific method and coming up with a consensus. It’s not dogma to rigorously experiment.

Final thought: Climate Gate 2009 was a hoax--look it up on the Daily Show. It was a bunch of pro-industry folks selectively picking quotes out of context and in context it clearly showed the scientists following the scientific method. What irony to accuse people of manipulation when that is what you do to make your case.

You don’t believe climate change is happening then explain the data with rigorous scientific experimentation and repetition. Same goes for all science based policy. That is all.