Science or political science?
In paleoclimatologist Dr. Curt Stager’s recent Adirondack Almanack piece about me, it’s startling that he so openly disavows traditional science. Consider his 2011 quote:
“… my preference is for refraining from aggressive activist stances. I do so because I value science itself more than any individual topic that it addresses.
“I consider science to be one of the most valuable inventions of human civilization, and I recognize how precious and vulnerable to corruption it is as one who believes in objective reality, the fallibility of human perception, and the need for objective methods of seeking truth.
“I also recognize that public trust in science itself depends heavily upon trust in the objectivity of those who pursue it. We must walk a fine line between defending truth and trying to force it on other people, and I personally choose to take a cautious approach in walking that line.”
I agree with every word of his well-phrased, important statement. However, Curt appears to have abandoned his earlier commitment to traditional science and has now become a card-carrying political science activist. Since this transformation has become distressingly common among scientists, let’s look at some examples here. (See tinyurl.com/y2fen8kv for a more detailed response to Curt, including links.)
This is a key sentence in Curt’s article: “The consensus position that global average warming during the last half-century is real and mostly caused by humans, shared by the vast majority (ca. 97%) of truly qualified climate scientists, is the result of huge amounts of peer-reviewed research from many independent branches of the sciences that have been conducted worldwide over many years.”
“Anthropogenic Global Warming” (AGW) is the belief that unusual global warming is caused almost exclusively by man-made influences.
1. When two scientists disagree, each one politely presents the best empirical evidence that they believe supports their case. Disparaging the other’s motivations, past associations, etc. (e.g. “Droz has been associated with ultra-conservative, pro-fossil-fuel organizations such as ATI”), and calling them names (“denier”) are political tactics, outside the realm of science.
2. Curt inaccurately asserts that the only people competent enough to assess the validity of the AGW matter are “truly qualified climate scientists.” Whether the AGW hypothesis is true or not rests on the scientific validity of its proponents’ claims. Any competent scientist can see whether other scientists (in their field or otherwise) have followed scientific protocol.
3. Curt mischaracterizes a scientific hypothesis by disparagingly calling it “mere guesswork.” Here’s a reasonable definition: “The formulation and testing of a hypothesis is part of the scientific method — the approach scientists use when attempting to understand and test ideas about natural phenomena. The generation of a hypothesis is a creative process, based on existing scientific knowledge, intuition, or experience. The two primary features of a scientific hypothesis are falsifiability and testability.”
4. Curt knows this, but is averse to admitting that the AGW matter is a hypothesis — because he doesn’t want to adhere to traditional scientific methodology. Typical excuses are: a) It’s too time-consuming, b) AGW is too complicated to be analyzed by traditional science, c) AGW is not falsifiable, and d) traditional science methodology casts significant doubt on the AGW hypothesis. In other words, Curt is effectively saying, “Let’s skip over this burdensome science stuff and cut to the chase.” That’s a political science person’s perspective: Let’s get on to changing policies!
5. It’s unfortunate that Curt did not publicly acknowledge that we have HUGE gaps of knowledge in our understanding of climate. How accurate can computer models be when there are substantial unknowns involved? Traditional scientists are very clear about exactly what we know and don’t know. Political scientists glaze over the unknowns.
6. Curt makes multiple references to “peer review” but fails to inform readers that there are about 2,000 peer-reviewed papers that contest his AGW position. A scientist objectively presents both sides of any dispute. (Note Curt’s quote about that at the beginning!) On the other hand, political scientists just promote their own agenda, pretending that there is no other reasonable conclusion than theirs.
7. Curt’s reference to “consensus” is similarly problematic. If he has irrefutable science to support his AGW hypothesis, why would he talk about such unscientific matters as consensus? The scientific method says nothing about consensus.
What is also indisputable is that there have been numerous cases in the past where the consensus of what scientists believed was subsequently proven to be wrong. Genuine scientists are well aware of that reality, so they would never try to justify a hypothesis by referencing other scientists’ beliefs. On the other hand, political science is all about getting a consensus.
8. Despite his lengthy commentary, Curt didn’t actually address renewable energy — the topic of my article that he disliked. When politicians are asked questions that might embarrass them, they smoothly change the topic. That’s another stark difference between real science and political science.
Those with science on their side (on any topic) will put forth a position: 1) that follows traditional science conventions, 2) that honestly acknowledges how much we don’t know about the subject, 3) with no ad hominems, 4) without references to unscientific matters like consensus, and 5) without making false implications about the veracity of peer review. Those taking a political science perspective will do the opposite.
It’s quite clear from all this that the AGW issue is not really about CO2. Instead, AGW is just a convenient vehicle for those who want to radically alter our American way of life — to literally convert us to an agrarian, Marxist society. Just closely examine the elements (and consequences) of the Green New Deal, which is a trial balloon for the real agenda here.
The bottom line is that AGW activists want us: a) to accept a hypothesis that has not followed traditional science protocols, and b) to fork over about $100 trillion to implement “solutions” (like industrial wind energy) that are scientifically unproven. What could go wrong?
John Droz Jr. is a physicist and lives in Brantingham Lake.