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Author Topic: The evil of scientific consensus
Wayward Son
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I certainly did not mean to imply that scientific consensus creates infalliable results. In fact, as I was writing my post, that quote from Churchill kept running through my mind. I just didn't find a good place to include it. [Smile]

All science is basically tentative. Results can be overturned by a few good experiments and observations. And scientific consensus is not perfect.

But it is the "best bet" for any given subject when properly based on the data. As I pointed out in my post, when 900 papers on a subject are reviewed, from many different journals, and all either point to a conclusion or are, at worst, neutral about the conclusion, the data can be said to point a certain way. Typically when a large majority of the experts in a field agree that the data points to a certain conclusion, that conclusion is pretty strongly supported.

But it's not infallible. New evidence can change everything. Refinements to the hypothesis can change everything. As I said, if there weren't any unanswered questions, if there weren't any uncertainty, it wouldn't be science. It'd be engineering. [Smile]

But to expect such changes and refinements to occur, to actually state that they will occur, or to state that they have actually occurred and scientists are just too stuborn and/or political to acknowledge it--that is a bad bet. Possible, of course, but unlikely.

Most scientists love to show how they are smarter than they next guy, especially the next scientist. For every guy heavily invested in a theory, there is another guy--often a grad student [Wink] --who would love to show him up.

quote:
As a result, it is generally prudent to remain somewhat skeptical of the results and consensus that result (esp. because the consensus can heavily be skewed by who is paying for the research and what they want to see).
But you did not address my criticism of that belief. Namely, if results can be skewed by those paing for the research, why haven't we seen many results disproving AGW? There has been plenty of money thrown at this from anti-AGW interests (such as oil companies), and for eight years the U.S. had an Administration hostile to AGW, but I have not heard of many results that dispute AGW by the authors of the papers. (A few laymen's interpretations of papers, usually disputed by the authors, though. [Smile] )

Although it is a problem, it does not seem to be very influential over the many papers from the many different fields.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Tom, the word science means knowledge.
Wow. You and the President of Iran agree on this. [Smile]

I don't, of course. Neither does the dictionary.

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Dave at Work
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Tom, the word science means knowledge.
Wow. You and the President of Iran agree on this. [Smile]

I don't, of course. Neither does the dictionary.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/science

quote:

sci⋅ence
  /ˈsaɪəns/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [sahy-uhns] Show IPA
–noun
1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.
2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
3. any of the branches of natural or physical science.
4. systematized knowledge in general.
5. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.
6. a particular branch of knowledge.
7. skill, esp. reflecting a precise application of facts or principles; proficiency.

Based on the above definitions I can see where the misunderstanding that science equals knowledge comes from. I think it would be more accurate to state that knowledge is often a fruit of science.
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DonaldD
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Actually, Wayward, we have seen several fairly well-known scientists publish papers refuting some aspects of global climate change... they were often well-known for also denying the link between tobacco and cancer, and were suspected of being funded by the tobacco companies themselves at the time, but whatever.
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RickyB
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The same guys have the chops to discuss AGW AND the Tobacco -> Cancer link? Pretty impressive [Smile]
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TomDavidson
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quote:
I think it would be more accurate to state that knowledge is often a fruit of science.
Which is why I said that science is an epistemology.
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Dave at Work
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I wasn't trying to argue with you Tom. I was providing some information so that the other guy might see his error a little more clearly.
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IrishTD
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quote:
But it is the "best bet" for any given subject when properly based on the data. As I pointed out in my post, when 900 papers on a subject are reviewed, from many different journals, and all either point to a conclusion or are, at worst, neutral about the conclusion, the data can be said to point a certain way. Typically when a large majority of the experts in a field agree that the data points to a certain conclusion, that conclusion is pretty strongly supported.
Quite true. However, as Mariner's initial post pointed out, a simple error can invalidate most of this work very quickly. While unlikely, it is certainly possible (hence, your 'best bet' is fairly accurate).

quote:
But it's not infallible. New evidence can change everything. Refinements to the hypothesis can change everything. As I said, if there weren't any unanswered questions, if there weren't any uncertainty, it wouldn't be science. It'd be engineering. [Smile]

But to expect such changes and refinements to occur, to actually state that they will occur, or to state that they have actually occurred and scientists are just too stubborn and/or political to acknowledge it--that is a bad bet. Possible, of course, but unlikely.

I'm not so sure that it is a bad bet. I wouldn't call it a good bet though either. Most likely, it's the great unknown. How many people, scientists or non-scientists, are willing to stand by and see their life's work be trashed as wrong and inaccurate? There will always be a fair amount of resistance to new ideas for this reason. Couple this with the potential for groupthink or an echo-chamber within the traditional publishing venues, and it can be a significant challenge for new ideas to become mainstream.

quote:
Most scientists love to show how they are smarter than they next guy, especially the next scientist. For every guy heavily invested in a theory, there is another guy--often a grad student [Wink] --who would love to show him up.
True. However, if unnamed grad student works for young assistant prof at nowhere school, how seriously will the unnamed grad student's theory be taken? Again, this is where some work needs to be done within the peer review process (even if double-blind reviews are done, it's not that hard to figure out where a paper came from).

quote:
But you did not address my criticism of that belief. Namely, if results can be skewed by those paing for the research, why haven't we seen many results disproving AGW? There has been plenty of money thrown at this from anti-AGW interests (such as oil companies), and for eight years the U.S. had an Administration hostile to AGW, but I have not heard of many results that dispute AGW by the authors of the papers. (A few laymen's interpretations of papers, usually disputed by the authors, though. [Smile] )
Again, how seriously is a reviewer going to take a paper saying that AGW isn't happening if Exxon is sponsoring the research? My guess is that it is likely to be rejected at the end of the day (probably subconsciously). Even if it's all government sponsored research, in many cases the scientist(s) may not want to rock the boat to ensure that future grants will be forthcoming. Since the peer review process is generally used to award federal research grants, it can suffer from the same challenges that publishing a paper against the orthodoxy may face. (Also, an administration being given/hostile to a certain point of view may have no real effect on the process because most of the underlying work is done by career civil servants.)

Overall, what I'm really trying to get at is that it is prudent to remain at least minimally skeptical of scientific results in cases where some of the results/work may be immature. For an issue like AGW, there is a lot that we do know, however, I'd venture to guess that what we don't know far exceeds what we do know. (I wouldn't be surprised if this holds true for most chaotic systems.)

As an aside, I really don't care about the AGW debate. In many ways, I think it is a serious waste of money and time, because, as has been pointed out on these boards many times, there are a variety of better reasons for reducing the use of natural resources. However, that doesn't sell quite as well to the public.

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Mariner
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For every guy heavily invested in a theory, there is another guy--often a grad student --who would love to show him up.
Nah, the grad student just wants to get out of there and will say or do anything he can to do so. Trust me on this [Smile]

Anywho, I think we're thinking of different things when it comes to global warming. I don't want this topic to become bogged down by the particulars (although if you want to start a new topic, feel free). But the whole climate change aspect involves a ton of different facets. To focus on a few of them and then use them to support a political goal is as silly as the opposite. So let's lay out a different approach:

1) It is undeniable that the Earth has warmed over the last 100-150 years or so
2) It is undeniable that CO2 concentration has increased over the last 100-150 years or so
3) It is more or less undeniable (I think some still argue this point, but it's kinda moot I think) that at least a good chunk of that CO2 increase is due to humans
4) It is undeniable that CO2 has a global warming effect

Now, does that translate directly to the following conclusions?
1) Current warming is unprecedented in the past ~2000 years
2) Current warming is due primarily to human impacts
3) If current human activity continues, the impact on the climate will be catastrophic within the next 100 years or so

Anyone can see that those three conclusions aren't necessarily true from the four premises above. There are more details that need to be fleshed out to reach those conclusions. And there, scientific consensus isn't complete. There are dissenting papers being published, in peer review journals no less. But these details are scattered among plenty of different fields. And many of these people in these fields aren't qualified to bring everything together, so even though there's dissenting evidence it doesn't automatically get flagged as anti-AGW or whatever. Putting people into teams is silly.

You have to be clear what you're talking about when saying there's a consensus. But when science gets messed up with politics, you don't always have to be clear now, do you? Scientists can pretend there's a consensus for everything when there's not (the silly list of how many scientists contribute to the IPCC, for example), and politicians can use that to create policy when it's not quite true. If the people packaging the studies are biased, results can be a bit skewed.

Irish's post about peer review is excellent. I hesitate to do this since I can't vouch for the accuracy, but read this as an example of editorial and peer review shenanigans. Peer review is fine in an apolitical world. But if politics can dominate, then it can screw up the process.

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LetterRip
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Mariner,

quote:

1) Current warming is unprecedented in the past ~2000 years
2) Current warming is due primarily to human impacts
3) If current human activity continues, the impact on the climate will be catastrophic within the next 100 years or so

I don't think 2 is being claimed (I seem to recall that current 'recent' warming is about half or more natural variability at this point), and 3 is ridiculously loaded (what is 'catastrophic' - x % of species diversity loss?, x% loss of fragile habitat?, x% reduction in food productivity?, x% coastal land loss?, x% increase in salt intrusion to aquifers? x% increase in economic burden to particular populations?). Catastrophic is an emotional and undefined term.

Regarding your link, didn't read the whole thing, but I'm familiar with the work of McIntrye and Mann in this regards, I'm also familiar with the work of the 'Blue Ribbon Panel'. What is ironic about your link is that I'm fairly confident some of the biggest 'shenanigans' have been pulled by the 'Blue Ribbon Panel' referenced (For those not familiar with the arguement Mann et als analysis of some of the data used to generate the temperature series had two flaws - one that it used a tree series which are sensitive to other factors and hence a 'temperature' signal proxy can not reasonably be extracted, and two that in that analysis of that tree series data the analysis was miscentered resulting in an exagerated slope of temperature increase. McIntyre reanalysied the data changing the 'centering' of where the data was analysed for that tree series. In his analysis the slope is largely eliminated from that series.) The problem I have is that McIntyres result is in using only one eigenvector (essentially the number of eigenvectors to use is determined by their explanatory power - Mann used one since it explained almost all of the variability, when McIntyre adjusted the centering and reanalysed the data the first eigenvector explained much less of the data so one eigenvector was no longer appropriate (see this paper for the varied methods for selecting the appropriate number of eigenvectors - http://www.biology-direct.com/content/2/1/2 although I haven't done serious analysis my impression is that McIntyres choice of just one eigenvector meets none of the criteria). The 'Blue Ribbon Panel' then repeated McIntyres work and again used only the one eigenvector.

Using four eigenvectors gives essentially the same result as Mann according to Wegmann (I think it was? been awhile since I looked at this stuff) et al. (I haven't actually analysed the data but I suspect that neither 1 nor 4 eigenvectors are an appropriate number to use.)

So the upshot of this is, is that Mann, nor McIntyre, nor the 'Blue Ribbon Panel', nor Wegmann, appear to have analysed it correctly.

I haven't followed other threads of the arguement for quite some time (not since shortly after the testimony before congress), so no idea what new developments there have been (Ie I can offer no insight into arguements regarding reduction of error, etc.).

LetterRip

[ June 17, 2009, 06:04 PM: Message edited by: LetterRip ]

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LetterRip
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Dang it - confused my authors Wegmann was the guy on the "blue ribbon panel", I meant Wahl and Amman.

LetterRip

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Ron Lambert
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Thanks for your link and list of definitions, Dave at Work. I stand by my original definition that science simply means knowledge. Your list of definitions does NOT refute or deny that. And my definition is more philosophically correct. It is also entymologically correct.

Here is the entymology of the word according to Webster's online dictionary:
quote:
Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin scientia, from scient-, sciens having knowledge, from present participle of scire to know; perhaps akin to Sanskrit chyati he cuts off, Latin scindere to split — more at shed
Date:14th century

And here is the number one definition given by Webster:
quote:
1: the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding
Link for both above: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/science
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TomDavidson
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Sure, let's define "science" the way they did in the 14th century. That's bound to be useful.

Do you define the word "wife" the same way?

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kenmeer livermaile
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it is true that to 'scient' is to know.

However, we distinguish 'science' from 'knowledge' because the latter is a term so wide as to include subconscioues murmuring while the former, as used in the overwhelming vernacular and in the specific community that calls it home, is an epistemological method: s specific manner of gathering data and analyzing it to produce knowledge that can be shared universally.

Science is a method of producing principles of understanding using consensually verifiable and rigorously reproducible data via objective means, that is, using tools that are not influenced by subjectivity.

"It is also entymologically correct."

I took a survey of my ant farm. 97% of the little critters disagree.

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hobsen
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The most common use of the word science has to do with the facts and theories published in scientific journals by mostly professional scientists in reporting on their observations and experiments. But the old definition is still in use, for example in the name of the well known online newspaper the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science mentioned in that name has to do with the religious belief system founded by Mary Baker Eddy, and has little or no connection with science as it usually thought of today.
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The Drake
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Well the etymology of truth from Mirriam-Webster:

quote:

Middle English trewthe, from Old English trēowth fidelity

and the number one usage

quote:
1 archaic : fidelity, constancy
I'm with kenmeer's ants. This is not a helpful way to understand the meaning of a term. Very few words "simply" mean anything. They morph over time, have multiple definitions distinguishable only by context, and they carry connotations along for the ride.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
The Christian Science mentioned in that name has to do with the religious belief system founded by Mary Baker Eddy, and has little or no connection with science as it usually thought of today.
Even at the time the name was chosen, it had little to do with science as it was thought of then.
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Ron Lambert
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Regardless of how you want to qualify your contemporary usage of the word science, the fact remains that what is true has to be science, and anything untrue is false science, mistaken science, or non-science. There is no way you can get around that.

[ June 18, 2009, 11:39 PM: Message edited by: Ron Lambert ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Regardless of how you want to qualify your contemporary usage of the word science, the fact remains that what is true has to be science, and anything untrue is false science, mistaken science, or non-science. There is no way you can get around that."

It was scientifically valid for ages to believe the sun went around the earth. This view bore perfect fidelity to what human beings observed in the sky for millennia. It was true.

But it ain't true no more.

The word true, if one examines *its* etymological roots, is a very poor word for defining a word as basic as science. True is a relative term; something is 'true' with something else.

Science is the art of forming explanations to fit the data, or, conversely, finding data to fit the explanation.

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Bishop Hill
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LetterRip

You seem to have a good understanding of the arguments between Mann and McIntyre, but there are certain things you are missing.

You mention Mann's use of proxy series (bristlecone pines) that are contaminated with a non-climatic signal, but then move on to discuss principal components analysis. First of all we have to recognise that these bristlecone pines are genuinely contaminated (Mann's co-author Hughes calls the twentieth century growth spurt "a mystery"). So we first have to ask ourselves why this data was used in the first place.

Your representation of the principal components analysis arguments are broadly correct. Mann's novel and undisclosed methodology overweighted hockey stick shaped records in the principal components calculation. This was agreed by both the expert panels that looked at the subject. So Mann's methodology had the effect of emphasising the bristlecones - known to be unreliable - in the final result.

If the data is correctly centred, then instead of turning up in the first principal component (ie the most important pattern in the data) the bristlecones turned up in the PC4. Now you are right that you then have to consider how many PCs to retain, but we should note that in the correctly centred calculation the PC4 explained only 8% of the variance in the dataset. If one retains the PC4, and takes it forward to the rest of the calculation, the final reconstruction ends up being over 90% derived from the bristlecone pine (because the PC4 happens to correlate well with instrumental temperatures in the 20th century).

So if we are to accept Mann's current argument, we have to believe that bristlecone pines in the White Mountains of western USA, whose growth is known to be unrelated to climate, can magically reconstruct the temperatures of the whole northern hemisphere.

It's absurd.

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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
True science does not reject out of hand the possibility that there could be a Creator, who is reponsible enough to tell us about His creation of our world and His purpose in creating us, and at what point things went wrong among us, and what He is doing about it to fix it.
Question: is this your definition of True Science, or is it an example of the sort of conclusion one might draw by applying True Science?

(Science, by the way, is not "knowledge that is true." If that's what you've been meaning by it all these years, you've been using the word incorrectly. Science is an epistemology.)

Actually Ron's right for once. To dismiss "God did it" out of hand before you've even examined the evidence would be incredibly unscientific.

He only gets (hilariously) wrong when he implies that this is just what the scientific community has done to Intelligent Design, and that they've rejected it out of hand based on their religious prejudices rather than deigning to examine the evidence and see if it holds up.

Oh no wait, that's one problem. The other is that Intelligent Design is guilty of exactly what he's just accused mainstream science of doing: wading into the debate with a preconceived opinion and refusing to acknowledge the existence of evidence to the contrary. The Discovery Institute has straight-up admitted that Intelligent Design is not a concept that was reached impartially after checking the observable data, but an ideological tool based on preconceived ideas and intended specifically to convince politicians, journalists, and the public that evolution is false.

And at the risk of Godwinning the thread, that puts Intelligent Design on the same level as Deutsche Physik.

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Rallan
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Oh and just to clarify, I ran with Deutsche Physik deliberately, Godwin's Law be damned. The only other example I could think of when it comes to junk science on such a grand scale was Lysenkoism, and it would be unfair to use that for comparison since it just happens to be attached to the greatest humanitarian crisis in the history of junk science. Basically the Godwin option was less Godwiny than the Nazi-free alternative [Smile]
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RickyB
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You could have chosen Vedic Math...
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Rallan
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Damn it all, I had to wiki that one.

And I dunno if Vedic Math would've been a good example of what I'm after, since it looks like it's more of a one-man hoax than an orchestrated political attempt to make science conform to an ideology. And it was really only history he was playing fast and loose with, since from the looks of it the mathematics itself is sound.

Plus you just can't beat the mock epic overtones of Deutsche Physik. Where else can you see a whole ideology get run aground because a nerd's mother complained about mean people picking on him?

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hobsen
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quote:
Actually Ron's right for once. To dismiss "God did it" out of hand before you've even examined the evidence would be incredibly unscientific.
If the twelve Olympians - Zeus, Poseidon, Demeter, Ares, Hera, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Hestia, Apollo, and Artemis - commonly walked among men, and appeared on television, and demonstrated their supernatural knowledge and powers, then it would be unscientific to disbelieve in the gods of Olympus. What we have instead is the Bible, a collection of books written over several thousand years by authors often unknown even by name, mutually conflicting and often at variance with the scientific knowledge our society has gained today, and with presently known facts of geography and history - and a faction of U.S. Christians wants to pretend these are consistent with one another and provide divinely inspired guidance for the conduct of our lives. Sorry, but that is not true. On the other hand, those authors were in some ways closer to the usual human experience throughout history than civilized men today - so some of what is contained in that collection is indeed better than much now written, and provides a common body of accepted knowledge important for understanding our history. Saying parts of the Bible are false does not mean those writings did not influence what our society has become, nor does it deny that other parts are both true and still useful.

On the other hand, Ron Lambert would consider I am wrong about this, as is rather usual on Ornery. Still, in such matters I have no better guide than my own understanding.

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Mariner
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OK, before I respond to LetterRip, I have to post this, because I found it to be so depressingly hilarious. This is EXACTLY the sort of bad reasoning I'm talking about when I warn of the perils of scientific consensus in a political environment. There is no justification for this one. None.

OK, so the US Global Change Research Program (BTW, for all those people insinuating biased results from people funded by Big Oil, why should people funded by a climate change research program be let off the hook) recently released its report on global climate change impacts ( download here). Needless to say, being a report released by the US government when Congress is trying to create carbon legistlation leaves it highly suspect to political shenanigans. Despite that, it presents itself as pure science. Its cover letter states (emphasis mine):

quote:
Members of Congress:

On behalf of the National Science and Technology Council, the U.S. Global Change Research Program is pleased to transmit to the President and the Congress this state of knowledge report: “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States.” This report summarizes the science of climate change and the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future.

As our nation strives to develop effective policies to respond to climate change, it is critical to have the latest and best scientific information to inform decision making. More than a year in the making, this report provides that information. It is the first report in almost a decade to provide an extensive evaluation of climate change impacts on the United States at the regional level.

An expert team of scientists operating under the authority of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, assisted by communication specialists, wrote the document. The report was reviewed and revised based on comments from experts and the public in accordance with the Information Quality Act guidelines issued by the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

We highly commend the authors and support personnel of both this report and the underlying Synthesis and Assessment Products for the outstanding quality of their work in providing sound and thorough science-based information for policy formulation and climate change research priority setting. We intend to use the essential information contained in this report as we make policies and decisions about the future, and we recommend others do the same.

So we should have a lot of faith in the level of care put into this report, right? On page 58 we have a graph purporting to state that electrical outages due to severe weather is on the rise. They state:

quote:
The number of incidents caused by extreme weather has increased tenfold since 1992. The portion of all events that are caused by weather-related phenomena has more than tripled from about 20 percent in the early 1990s to about 65 percent in recent years. The weather-related events are more severe, with an average of about 180,000 customers affected per event compared to about 100,000 for non-weather-related events (and 50,000 excluding the massive blackout of August 2003).201 The data shown include disturbances that occurred on the nation’s large-scale “bulk” electric transmission systems. Most outages occur in local distribution networks and are not included in the graph. Although the figure does not demonstrate a cause-effect relationship between climate change and grid disruption, it does suggest that weather and climate extremes often have important effects on grid disruptions. We do know that more frequent weather and climate extremes are likely in the future,68 which poses unknown new risks for the electric grid.
This passed the rigorous peer review. This passed the rigorous analysis of the scientific authors. This is what our best and brightest climate change experts believed. This is "outstanding quality" and "latest and best scientific information."

It took all of 5 minutes to debunk the graph.

If the authors had bothered to think about it, they may have become perplexed why electrical disturbances due to severe weather would rise so rapidly when it didn't correlate with changes in severe weather. If the authors and reviewers would have become perplexed based on this, they may have asked the source of the graph if there's any other information to note. And if they did that, they would have recieved a nice prompt reply stating that the apparant increase in electrical outages was due to changes made in how they're reported. That's it. No climate change involved. No dramatic danger. Just better reporting ability.

That's what the horrible climate denialist did. The EIA confirmed that this was an artificial increase, not one that represents the real world. Its inclusion in this report is pathetic.

So how did it get in?
1) The scientists were so blinded by the consensus of catastrophes caused by climate change that their reasoning abilities are hampered when presented with evidence that supports their bias.
2) The scientists are in this for political reasons, and don't care about the truth or scientific integrity of what they right.
3) One scientist slipped this in based on either of the two above, and the reviewers didn't bother to apply critical thought to this graph, based on either of the two above.

See what I mean?

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Ron Lambert
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No Kenmeer, whether something is true or not is not determined by consensus. Humans as a whole have no say in the matter of what is true. The universe is not a democracy. No matter how many people have believed it, and no matter how long they have believed it, if it is ever proven to be wrong, then it was never true. Evolution has never been true. It is patently impossible for anything as complex as the genome, or the vastness of the order of the cosmos, with its reliably unchanging laws and constants, to have been produced by anything other than Intelligent Design. Eventually this will be recognized and admitted by everyone. It is inevitable. Then it will be admitted by everyone that evolution theory was never true.
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RickyB
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Ron, for the umpteenth time - evolution does not preclude intelligent design. Evolution is the how, not the why. It is eminently possible that an intelligent designer designed life through evolution. I certainly don't know for sure that such is NOT the case.

But you and people like you are not content with "God created the universe" - it has to be according to a literal reading of a book. Sorry.

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DonaldD
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ehhh... intelligent design makes no claims about the unchanging laws of the cosmos unless they've added an appendix recently.
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TommySama
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I don't understand the emphasis on climate change. There are many other negative consequences of using a lot of fossil fuels. It immediately pollutes our environment when it mixes into the air and we get a lot of it from countries which don't have a long friendly history with us.
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LetterRip
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Bishop

quote:
You mention Mann's use of proxy series (bristlecone pines) that are contaminated with a non-climatic signal, but then move on to discuss principal components analysis. First of all we have to recognise that these bristlecone pines are genuinely contaminated (Mann's co-author Hughes calls the twentieth century growth spurt "a mystery"). So we first have to ask ourselves why this data was used in the first place.
At the time that the original work was done I don't believe that the potential issues of using that series was known.

quote:
Your representation of the principal components analysis arguments are broadly correct. Mann's novel and undisclosed methodology overweighted hockey stick shaped records in the principal components calculation. This was agreed by both the expert panels that looked at the subject. So Mann's methodology had the effect of emphasising the bristlecones - known to be unreliable - in the final result.
From my reading I don't think they are as 'novel' as is being claimed. Again as above, the potential problems of the bristlecone series were not known at the time that the paper was done (from what I can tell).

quote:
If the data is correctly centred, then instead of turning up in the first principal component (ie the most important pattern in the data) the bristlecones turned up in the PC4. Now you are right that you then have to consider how many PCs to retain, but we should note that in the correctly centred calculation the PC4 explained only 8% of the variance in the dataset. If one retains the PC4, and takes it forward to the rest of the calculation, the final reconstruction ends up being over 90% derived from the bristlecone pine (because the PC4 happens to correlate well with instrumental temperatures in the 20th century).
Well part of the issue is that I'm not sure that I agree with arguement on 'proper centering'. If there is a signal imposed on data, then the impact of changing the centering will drastically impact the detection of the signal since some of the signal will then be interpreted as background.

When you do PCA on 'mean centered' then you get the components deviation from the mean, which if you have a signal imposed on a baseline then your mean will be part way between the imposed signal and the baseline signal.

quote:
So if we are to accept Mann's current argument, we have to believe that bristlecone pines in the White Mountains of western USA, whose growth is known to be unrelated to climate, can magically reconstruct the temperatures of the whole northern hemisphere.
You do realize that reconstructions eliminating the bristlecone series give substantially similar results. Also the bristlecone series growth isn't 'unrelated' to climate, but its growth is dominated by other factors. A subtle difference.

LetterRip

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hobsen
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Fascinating. Thank you both.
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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by Ron Lambert:
No Kenmeer, whether something is true or not is not determined by consensus. Humans as a whole have no say in the matter of what is true. The universe is not a democracy. No matter how many people have believed it, and no matter how long they have believed it, if it is ever proven to be wrong, then it was never true. Evolution has never been true. It is patently impossible for anything as complex as the genome, or the vastness of the order of the cosmos, with its reliably unchanging laws and constants, to have been produced by anything other than Intelligent Design. Eventually this will be recognized and admitted by everyone. It is inevitable. Then it will be admitted by everyone that evolution theory was never true.

I've asked you this before Ron, and I'll ask again (not that I expect an answer). If creationism is so self-evidently true, and if it's so ridiculously hard to find good evidence to support evolutionary theory, why is evolutionary theory the dominant paradigm? Especially when you consider that the pioneers of all the things you dislike (people running around and saying that the Earth is billions or years old or that man is descended from primates) tended to be christians themselves and lived in the thoroughly christian world that was western europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Seriously, with that sort of cultural background and no good evidence, how did science end up getting it so wrong so consistently for the last two hundred and a bit years?

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Ron Lambert
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Rallan, you will have to ask those who get it wrong why they still insist upon getting it wrong. What keeps the "groupthink" of evolution going?

One thing that could be noted, in the time of Charles Darwin, the cell was thought to be a very simple thing, not too hard conceptually to say it evolved. Had they known then the immense information density of the genome and its DNA coded encylopedia of genetic characteristics, the idea of evolution would have been immediately discarded as absurd.

Why so many still have not discarded it as absurd is something they will have to explain. Some of us speculate it might be antagonism toward God, toward organized religion, toward the idea of having to face the Creator in the Final Judgment. But they will have to explain for themselves.

RickyB, you are very tolerant and charitable in saying you think it is OK to hang on to Intelligent Design and Evolution. I think you will find that most people do regard them as logical opposites, and the idea of God working through "directed evolution" is really contradictory--it is so wasteful, and makes God look pretty weak and unethical, certainly unloving.

And RickyB, just try getting that idea past the editors of any mainstream scientific publication, or the staff of the Smithsonian (which has as part of its charter that it "promote evolution theory"). Some reputable scientists have been pilloried and persecuted by the mainstream science establishment merely for saying anything favorable about Intelligent Design. Period. No matter whether they still hold on to evolution. It is forbidden to suggest Intelligent Design could be true. See Ben Stein's movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

[ June 20, 2009, 01:29 PM: Message edited by: Ron Lambert ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
the fact remains that what is true has to be science, and anything untrue is false science
Well, I don't quite agree. But I will say that science is not capable of proving something untrue, which is almost the same thing. My question to you would be: how do you know that what you believe is true? My definition of "science" includes an epistemology that, through the application of sound methodology, provides a good framework for the evaluation of knowledge. How do you evaluate the truth of, say, the book of Acts?

quote:
What keeps the "groupthink" of evolution going?
Probably all the empirical evidence that supports the theory, really.

[ June 20, 2009, 04:31 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Rallan
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What Intelligent Design research has been suppressed anyway? Or more to the point, what Intelligent Design research has been performed in the first place? When it comes to actually doing science, the ID movement turns out to be as big a bunch of navel-gazers as the Baraminologists.

And why are you promoting Intelligent Design anyway? I thought it didn't claim that God made life, didn't claim the world is six thousand years old, and didn't claim that all mankind can be traced back to Eden. Are you just being the devil's advocate for ID, or is it actually Young Earth Creationism by another name?

[ June 20, 2009, 10:11 PM: Message edited by: Rallan ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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" Humans as a whole have no say in the matter of what is true. "

The very concept of truth is a human notion. I'll let you follow the logic from there, if you can or will..

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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by kenmeer livermaile:
" Humans as a whole have no say in the matter of what is true. "

The very concept of truth is a human notion. I'll let you follow the logic from there, if you can or will..

Rather a bold statement by Ron, given that the entirety of Creation Science is a very deliberate exercise in confirmation bias. Start with a premise that you assume is unquestionably true, then assemble any data you can find which confirms your premise and come up with as many criticisms as possible of data which contradicts the premise.
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hobsen
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Almost everyone promoting Intelligent Design is associated with the Discovery Institute. The May 1999 article "Is intelligent design a dumb idea?" by Jack Collins - displayed on the Discovery Institute website - states,
quote:
Let's take the theological objections first. First, the notion that ID is just re-packaged "young-earth creationism" is laughable. There is no ID position on the age of the earth - probably most of its advocates accept the standard geological picture of a 4.5 billion year old earth. You should recognize, though, that this will not stop its opponents from playing the anti-fundamentalist card. In the Firing Line program I mentioned, several members of the anti-ID team tried to paint all opposition to Darwinism as just young-earth fundamentalism; that was hilarious, since the pro-ID side included Phil Johnson, an old-earth creationist; Mike Behe and William Buckley, both Roman Catholics who have no problem with an old earth (or even with the possibility of common descent for all animals!); and David Berlinski, a mathematician who is a secular Jew (once when I told him I went to MIT and worked as a high-tech engineer, and then went into the ministry, he asked me "What happened to you?").

As I said, realizing this turns many young-earth creationists against ID; they say it's a compromise of a "literal reading" of the Bible. And other opponents will take this up and say, "See, you're not being consistent." Now, it just so happens that what I know best is the Hebrew language; and I would argue that the Genesis account does not require a young earth, but instead the six days are "God's work days". That doesn't stop it from being a true and historical account; it just makes us careful about chronology.


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PSRT
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I've been pondering the following question for a few days now:

Is there any way to follow the scientific method that, over time, does not produce a consensus on a given question?

The answer I've come up with is "no." A consensus will inevitably be reached if scientists follow the evidence.

[ June 21, 2009, 07:39 AM: Message edited by: PSRT ]

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