Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Please leave the science to the scientists

Some RedState blogger named Vladimir is overjoyed that Great Britain's unusually cold winter is causing problems for its wind farms.

Vladimir writes:

In a replay of last year’s weather pattern, the U.K. is once again in the grips of a Global Warming Climate Change-induced record cold snap.

Not to worry. Those industrious Brits had the foresight to build wind farms with rated capacity equal to 5% of the country’s electricity needs.

But they’re getting only 1.6% of their electricity from the wind farms. Because…

Extreme wintertime cold comes from high pressure weather systems. And high pressure weather systems don’t generate much wind. Not much wind = not much wind energy.

But since the weather is so cold, big mechanical things like wind turbines freeze up. To prevent damage, they need to be thawed out.

This is priceless:

As the temperature has plummeted, the turbines have had to be heated to prevent them seizing up. Consequently, they have been consuming more electricity than they generate.

I know! As Erick Erickson would say, this is just so awesome! That serves those limey bastards for supporting our unprovoked attack on Iraq! Wait, that doesn't sound right and now I'm confused.

Does RedState require of their bloggers that they be assholes? Just wondering.

Anyway, Vladimir gleefully quotes a columnist for the Daily Mail as saying,
Even though the winters of 2008 and 2009 were ferociously cold, they were dismissed as ‘random events’. The Met Office put the odds on a third harsh winter no higher than 20-1. . . .

Needless to say, the head of the Met Office is not even a weatherman. He’s a leading ‘climate change activist’ who buys into the propaganda pumped out by the fanatics at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) — exposed for blatantly suppressing evidence which contradicts their messianic belief in ­‘global warming’.
There's a fair and balanced source!

Vladimir finishes his post with some dated philosophy of science:
Back in the olden days, the Scientific Method worked like this: you made a prediction based on a hypothesis, then tested the prediction. If it was false, you scrapped that hypothesis & went back to the drawing board for a new hypothesis. Now, when the facts are 180 degrees opposite the prediction, the hypothesis dogma stands unchallenged, and a new explanation is fabricated to wrap around and reckoncile with the contrary observations.
Vladimir sounds so smugly self-assured that his readers probably have no idea that he doesn't know what he is talking about. There are very few things more irritating than an idiot who thinks he's a genius.

Vladimir's understanding of philosophy of science goes as far as Karl Popper's idea that bona fide scientific theories are falsifiable. In Conjectures and Refutations, Popper writes,
Every "good" scientific theory is a prohibition: it forbids certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the better it is. . . . A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is nonscientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice. . . . Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to refute it. 
Now, what is wrong with this? Don't we want our scientific theories to have observational consequences?

As Philip Kitcher shows in Abusing Science: The Case against Creationism, falsifiability cannot be the only thing that separates science from non-science. For one thing, scientific theories by themselves have no observational consequences. In order to use a scientific theory to make predictions, one must make any number of auxiliary assumptions about the testing conditions, other background factual matters, and the like. Therefore, if the prediction turns out to be false, the falsity of the theory does not automatically follow: one of the other assumptions might be the culprit.

Now, one might attempt to modify Popper's criterion by stating that what makes a theory scientific is that it has observational consequences when combined with necessary auxiliary assumptions. But this won't do, either, because any theory, scientific or otherwise, has observational consequences when combined with auxiliary assumptions.

The upshot is this: a few cold snaps in Great Britain do not falsify the theory that human beings are warming the planet. The nature of scientific theory is much more complicated and much more interesting that Vladimir would have us believe. This is because Vladimir is completely out of his depth. And he should also learn how to spell "reconcile."

Those who deny the reality of man-made global warming usually have no expertise in the area. This "genius" compares global warming to a fictional card game mentioned in one of my favorite television series, Star Trek. (How dare he!) All he has shown is that he can't tell the difference between weather and climate:
As I sit here now, snowbound in our Offshore Command Center, I can see a parallel to the totally unbelievable explanations being given by the proponents of man-made global warming. A few years ago, they stated that snowfalls would become more rare. Now, it is a side-effect of the warming process. Much the same, I guess, as the 17 degree temperatures I experienced last week, a whopping 30 degrees lower than the norm for December.
And this "genius" (Vladimir again) appears to suggest that there couldn't be man-made global warming because a third of Americans don't think there is. Scientific questions can be settled by public opinion poll! That's just so awesome! In the same post, Vladimir writes,
There’s a huge difference between “global warming” and “anthropogenic global warming”. If one believes in warming, but that it is caused by natural forces, it is difficult to argue for man-made initiatives to counteract it. Wasting resources fighting earth-scale or even cosmic forces may be the ultimate act of hubris and folly.
I believe I have seen this argument before, i.e., if global warming is not man-made, then we don't need to concern ourselves with doing anything about it. If you think about it, that's not the sort of thing you'd expect to hear a genius say. Human beings have spent millennia battling natural forces, sometimes successfully. And if it just so happens that the scientific consensus on global warming is correct, wouldn't the prudent thing be to try to do something about it?

Hey, RedState bloggers: please leave the science to the scientists, you fucking morons.


  1. Simple rebuttals to denier talking points — with links to the full climate science

    Climate Progress does a splendid job of amassing the numerous Climatebagger talking points spouted off by the ignorant.

  2. Thank you for the helpful link!


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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson