Saturday, June 17, 2006

Global warming and consensus science - the wreckage of the consensus

There was a time when scientists looked for facts, drew conclusions based on logic and the evidence before them, and were happy to challenge superstition and prevailing myths by resting on their science. Scientists such as Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein sought to explain and integrate the broadest range of observable facts by means of reason and the use of the scientific method

Sadly, those days are over. For some time now, according to philosophers of science, scientists have beeen working in a 'scientific paradigm' in which the 'paradigm' is said to be more important than the science. This is, if you like, subjective science, in which the more people who agree with an idea -- the more consensus that builds around a notion -- then the more scientifically successful that notion is considered to be. This is in contrast to the idea that the more facts explained by an hypothesis, and the more comprehensive the testing of that hypothesis, the more successful it is.

Consensus is now king, as Terence Corcoran explains in Canada's National Post:
Throughout the 20th century, science was overwhelmed by the sociology of science and "sociological explanations of knowledge." At the extreme, we end up with the idea that there are no facts and nothing is verifiable. "Customs and conventions are seen as the creations of human agents, actively negotiated and actively sustained, under the collective control of those who initially negotiate them.... Scientific knowledge is seen as customarily accepted belief."
Ed Younkins explains how this post-modern science fits into post-modern discourse:
Postmodernism encompasses the idea that people tell stories in order to explain the world. None of these stories is reality but are simply representations of reality based on incomplete and often inaccurate information. There are a variety of socially constructed realities, belief systems, and stories that attempt to explain the world. People construct stories that seem to fit the information at their disposal. This is analogous to Thomas Kuhn's idea of paradigm shifts in science. When experiments yield evidence that does not fit the reigning paradigm, then eventually a new paradigm that better explains the evidence at hand is adopted.
But note that at no time does the post-modern consensus scientist take a view on facts as such. The paradigm does not seek to explain reality, he seeks only to fit with or to build a consensus. Consensus is the new reality.

As Corcoran explains, the highest profile example of this particular view of science is seen in the sciecnce of global warming, where 'consensus' is seen to outweigh scientific findings that don't fit the prevailing model. Rather than seek to integrate and explain new and troublesome facts, the 'consensus scientist' chooses instead to ignore them as irrelevant, and to paint them as outside the consensus. After all if they don't fit the 'consensus,' how could they be relevant?
In short, under the new authoritarian science based on consensus, science doesn't matter much any more. If one scientist's 1,000-year chart showing rising global temperatures is based on bad data, it doesn't matter because we still otherwise have a consensus. If a polar bear expert says polar bears appear to be thriving, thus disproving a popular climate theory, the expert and his numbers are dismissed as being outside the consensus. If studies show solar fluctuations rather than carbon emissions may be causing climate change, these are damned as relics of the old scientific method. If ice caps are not all melting, with some even getting larger, the evidence is ridiculed and condemned. We have a consensus, and this contradictory science is just noise from the skeptical fringe.
And as we all know, the skeptical fringe are all lunatics in the pay of the oil companies anyway. Read on here.

LINKS: Climate Consensus and the end of science - Terence Corcoran, National Post
Consensus science - Wikipedia
Paradigm shift - Wikipedia
The plague of post-modernism - Ed Younkins, Le Quebecois Libre

TAGS: Science, Philosophy, Global_Warming

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

A young beautiful lady turned up at my door the other
day with some campaign fliers. She asked if I would support
the Green Peace against climate change and global warming.
Initially, I told her to fuck off when I first opened the
door and noting the vest she was wearing that it printed with "Green Peace Oppose
Mad-made Global Warming", but she was trying to convince
me not to shut the door but let her give me some lectures
on what is happening. Finally, I toned down my opposition
to her presence and start to listen. I knew that there would be
nothing at all of what topic she was going blah, blah, blah about would
interest to me, but I just liked the idea that I am having
a conversation with a beautiful young lady whom I think has
been brainwashed by tree huggers from Green party and Green
Peace movement. I asked if she has a background in science and
she replied 'no'. I explained to her that I studied science and
all the hype about global warming must be dismissed. She said, that
the Green Peace are in sync with similar calls from heads of NASA and
NOAA (US govern departments). I think that the reason she mentioned those
associations to me as to make it sound convincing that if top researchers
in the US agrees with them (Green Peace), therefore , it is genuine of
what they (Green Peace) are campaigning against. I said to her, 'young lady, you are
too beautiful to be involved in such a misguided campaign with the Green Peace, I suggest
you go and withdraw your BA degree course at Auckland and enrol in a BSc degree, where
you will see the light at the end of the tunnel , then realised that you have been mislead'.
This lady already told me at the beginning that she is a Uni student doing BA in art history but helping out with
the Green Peace movement. I also told her that if Einstein is still alive today and perhaps supposedly he became
religious and if his followers say, 'hey Falafulu Fisi , you must believe God because Einstein does'. I would still
be an atheist and it is the same situation as you have quoted the heads of NASA & NOAA that they are supporting Green Peace's
view. Reason & facts must rise above mis-information and faith, and that is why I will not endorse it just because
Einstein say so. My brief encounter with this Green Peace young lady, sums it all up. Tree huggers have no background in science, but nitpicking on certain
science publications to make their case and say that it is the consensus of the majority (misguided scientists; animal lovers (pigs, rats, possums, etc,...);
Zarqawi sympathisers - Er!, Keith Locke & Robert Fisk ; celebrities (whom they think they are but not), and so forth.

6/17/2006 03:54:00 pm  
Anonymous Polemic said...

There is also danger in disagreeing just for the hell of it, and, while scientific consensus does not equal scientific fact, it does lend the argument weight. Case in point: evolution.

FF: While I strongly disagree with Not PC's take on Consensus Scientists (Science is a very broad profession, filled with vigorous debate, expermientation and ground-breaking ideas... to pass judgement on the whole scientific community is negligent), the point is not that Global Warming doesn't exist, but rather that new evidence is not examined and reconciled with current theories.

PC: I did have one question,

"If ice caps are not all melting, with some even getting larger..."

Last time I checked, there were two icecaps. The Artic has trended strongly upward in temperature, as has the Antarctic. Putting aside why this has happened, I don't see how you back this up.

6/18/2006 10:37:00 pm  
Anonymous Polemic said...

Addenum..

"Tree huggers have no background in science, but nitpicking on certain
science publications to make their case and say that it is the consensus of the majority (misguided scientists; animal lovers (pigs, rats, possums, etc,...);
Zarqawi sympathisers - Er!, Keith Locke & Robert Fisk ; celebrities (whom they think they are but not), and so forth."


How very emotive, but none of this is relevant. Nitpicking on science publications? How inconvenient for you! I'm a Physics major, but I don't assume that, as a 'studier of science' I'm more qualified to answer questions about climate change than Joe Bloggs who has done his/her reading. Frankly, I think you are resorting to exactly the sort of non-rational arguments that Not PC was railing against.

6/18/2006 11:01:00 pm  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

Finally a good post on science. And you're absolutely right. A lot of stuff is consensus science. Unrepeatable unsupported story telling and handwaving.

6/19/2006 09:05:00 am  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

polemic, sea levels in the artic are dropping. Does that indicate a melting artic to you?

6/19/2006 09:06:00 am  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

Just went through falafulu's long post. Let me give you a quote from Einstein: "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings."

6/19/2006 09:10:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said to her, 'young lady, you are too beautiful to be involved in such a misguided campaign with the Green Peace, I suggest you go and withdraw your BA degree course at Auckland and enrol in a BSc degree, where you will see the light at the end of the tunnel, then realised that you have been mislead'.

What a wanker!!

6/19/2006 12:49:00 pm  
Anonymous Polemic said...

Berend... perhaps, but you need to reconcile lower polar levels with rising sea levels at the equator. Clearly there is something else going on there that is not well understood. I do think that we can assume that higher average temperatures (or, more accurately, shorter seasons of polar freezing) would lead to polar melting. That is an assumption, but so is your statement.

6/19/2006 12:54:00 pm  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

polemic, my statement that sea levels at the arctic are dropping is not a believe but a FACT.

You've put forward only believes and statements.

6/19/2006 01:09:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

"Polemic said..."
[There is also danger in disagreeing just for the hell of it, and, while scientific consensus does not equal scientific fact, it does lend the argument weight.]

No, I don't disagree for the hell of it. This is based on my understanding of certain publications in weather data computer modelling. I am not a weather scientist, however my main area of interests is in numerical computing - ie, mathematical , statistical, data mining & scientific computing. I develop numerical codes in Java, and since mathematical computing is universal, my codes are readily applicable to weather data analysis. I will give you an example: A digital signal-processing algorithm (mathematical techniques), which I am familiar with, is called ICA (Independent Component Analysis) has been applied by researchers to climate data modelling. One of the areas that I develop numerical codes in is 'wavelet', where it has many publications about its use in weather data analysis. I won't list any wavelet papers here but there are tons of them on the internet.

"Weather Data Mining Using Independent Component Analysis"
- jmlr.csail.mit.edu/papers/volume5/basak04a/basak04a.pdf

ICA is mainly used today in speech recognition and speech separation software applications. It is used in Financial modelling:

"A First Application of Independent Component Analysis to Extracting Structure from Stock Returns"

http://andrewback.com/webpapers/ica_finance/index.php

"Independent Component Analysis and Its Application to Value at Risk Calculation"

http://ise.wiwi.hu-berlin.de/stat/forschung/veranstaltungen/hejnice2005/ICA.pdf


ICA is used to detect 'Terrorist Network Cells'.


"Social Network Analysis via Matrix Decompositions: Al Qaeda"

http://www.cs.queensu.ca/~skill/alqaeda.pdf

"ICA used in Text Mining and Text Search Engine Applications"

http://lib.tkk.fi/Diss/2003/isbn9512268205/article4.pdf

ICA used in medical imaging analysis , MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

"Spatial Independent Component Analysis of Functional MRI Time-Series"

http://www.indiana.edu/~iung/fmriPapers/esposito2002_ICA.pdf

ICA is being used in DNA & Gene sequencing analysis. Discovering how gene align in certain sequence will give some hints of why certain traits leads to fatal diseases and other sequence are safe.

"Linear modes of gene expression determined by independent component analysis"

http://bioinformatics.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/18/1/51


"Polemic said..."
[FF: While I strongly disagree with Not PC's take on Consensus Scientists (Science is a very broad profession, filled with vigorous debate, expermientation and ground-breaking ideas... to pass judgement on the whole scientific community is negligent), the point is not that Global Warming doesn't exist, but rather that new evidence is not examined and reconciled with current theories.]

I don't dispute science. I dispute the fact that people who have no science background do hijack genuine scientific research in order to lobby governments. Now, that is where the problem starts. Ok, tell me, how many in Green Peace (New Zealand) members who have some detail knowledge about the current researches in Climate Change? Probably none. Those Green Peace do occasionally lobby scientists to agree with them or coerce them into following their theme which they preach all the time that is "we are doom".

I do read different peer review journals which are related to data analysis and mathematical computing, and sometimes I usually adopt an algorithm and develop codes of that model if it of any interest to my software development projects. Scientists do publish their work in their respective disciplines and they are subjected to others in their community to refute and challenge by counter publishing their arguments and this goes on and on and on. In weather simulation community, the scientists with some lobbyists already made up their mind that we are doomed unless we do something about global warming. My point here is, why not just let the peer review process runs its course, and allow genuine scientific debate to go on, rather than some scientists already closing their mind and decided that global warming is final.

I have described some publications of techniques that are applicable to weather data analysis although I am not a weather scientist, but I am familiar with numerical simulations which is something I do all the time using standard scientific package Matlab software or develop my own codes. I do raise some concerns, because the debate is about misreporting of computer simulation models by lobbyists and tree-huggers rather than a robust scientific debate. To sum it up, I am very qualify to make comment about weather simulation models which I use the same mathematics as those at NIWA are using. We may be using slightly different type of mathematics, but majority of computer model simulations just boils down to ‘Matrix Algebra’ , whether it is financial modelling using ‘monte carlo’ simulations, ‘hidden markov’ models in weather data analysis and I am sure that I use the same algorithms as the ones that NIWA scientists are using but different only in application domain.

6/19/2006 09:14:00 pm  

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