A question for Oreskes – But what do we mean by consensus?

Guest essay by Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

Politicians pay for science, but scientists should not be politicians. Consensus is a political concept. Unwisely deployed, it can be damagingly anti-scientific. A reply to Naomi Oreskes (Nature, 4 September 2013).

Subject terms: Philosophy of science, consensus, climate change

The celebrated mathematician, astronomer and philosopher of science Abu Ali Ibn al-Haytham, or Alhazen, is justly celebrated as the founder of the scientific method. His image appears on Iraqi banknotes and on the postage stamps of half a dozen nations of the ummah wahida.

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Al-Haytham on a 10,000-dinar Iraqi banknote. Image source: banknotes.com.

Al-Haytham, unlike Naomi Oreskes,[1] did not consider that consensus had any role in science. He wrote that “the seeker after truth” does not put his trust in any mere consensus, however venerable: instead, he submits what he has learned from it to reason and demonstration. Science is not a fashion statement, a political party or a belief system.

The objective of science, as of religion, is truth. Religion attains to the truth by accepting the Words of Messiahs or of Prophets and pondering these things in its heart[2]. Science attains to the truth by accepting no word as revealed and no hypothesis as tenable until it has been subjected to falsification by observation, measurement and the application of previously-established theory to the results.

The Royal Society’s dog-Latin motto, Nullius in verba, roughly translates as “We take no one’s word for it”. The Society says, “It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.”[3] No room for consensus there.

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The Royal Society’s achievement of arms and dog-Latin motto. Image source: The Royal Society

T.H. Huxley, FRS, who defeated Bishop Wilberforce in the debate over evolution at the Oxford Museum of Natural History in 1860, put it this way: “The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties: blind faith the one unpardonable sin.”[4] Richard Feynman agreed: “Science,” he said, “is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”[5]

Karl Popper[6] formalized the scientific method as an iterative algorithm starting with a general problem. To address it, a scientist proposes a falsifiable hypothesis. During the error-elimination phase that follows, others demonstrate it, disprove it or, more often do neither, whereupon it gains some credibility not because a consensus of experts endorses it but because it has survived falsification. Head-counts, however expert the heads, play no part in science.

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Left to right: T.H. Huxley (cartoon by Spy), Karl Popper (ivanjeronimo.com.br), and Richard Feynman (swfan444.deviantart.com).

The post-modernist notion that science proceeds by the barnacle-like accretion of expert consensus on the hulk of a hypothesis is a conflation of two of the dozen sophistical fallacies excoriated by Aristotle[7] 2350 years ago as the commonest in human discourse. The medieval schoolmen later labelled them the fallacies of argument ad populum (consensus) and ad verecundiam (appeal to reputation).

Science has become a monopsony. Only one paying customer – the State – calls the tune, and expects its suppliers to sing from the same hymn-sheet. Governments, by definition and temperament interventionist, are disinclined to pay for inconvenient truths. They want results justifying further intervention, so they buy consensus.

The Hamelin problem is compounded by a little-regarded consequence of nearly all academics’ dependency upon the public treasury. Those whom the State feeds and houses will tend to support the interventionist faction, and may thus give a spurious legitimacy to a political consensus by parading it as scientific when it is not.

Too often what is really a political consensus will be loosely defined with care, allowing its adherents to pretend that widespread scientific endorsement of an uncontentious version implies support for a stronger but unsupported version.

Consider climate change. The uncontentious version of the climate consensus is that greenhouse gases cause warming. Oft-replicated experiment establishes that the quantum resonance that interaction with near-infrared radiation induces in a greenhouse-gas molecule, such as carbon dioxide, emits heat directly, as though a tiny radiator had been turned on. Thus, adding greenhouse gases to the air will cause some warming. Where – as here – the experimental result is undisputed because it is indisputable, there is no need to plead consensus.

The standard version of climate consensus, however, is stronger. It is that at least half the global warming since 1950 was anthropogenic.[8],[9] Supporters of the uncontentions version need not necessarily support this stronger version.

Though IPCC (2013) has arbitrarily elevated its level of confidence in the stronger version of consensus from 90% to 95%, Cook et al. (2013),[10] analyzing the abstracts of 11,944 papers on global climate change published between 1991 and 2012, marked only 64 abstracts as having explicitly endorsed it. Further examination[11] shows just 43 abstracts, or 0.3% of the sample, endorsing it.

No survey has tested endorsement of the still stronger catastrophist version that unless most CO2 emissions stop by 2050 there is a 10% probability[12],[13] that the world will end by 2100. The number of scientists endorsing this version of consensus may well be vanishingly different from zero.

The two key questions in the climate debate are how much warming we shall cause and whether mitigating it today would cost less than adapting to its net-adverse consequences the day after tomorrow. There is no consensus answer to the first. The consensus answer to the second may surprise.

Answering the “how-much-warming” question is difficult. Models overemphasize radiative transports, undervalue non-radiative transports such as evaporation and tropical afternoon convection, and largely neglect the powerfully homoeostatic effect of the great heat-sinks – ocean and space – that bound the atmosphere.

Absolute global temperatures have varied by only ±1% in 420,000 years[14]. Will thermometers be able to detect the consequences of our altering 1/3000 of the atmospheric mix by 2100?

Uncontroversially, direct radiative warming at CO2 doubling will be the product of the instantaneous or Planck parameter[15] 0.31 K W–1 m2 and the CO2 radiative forcing[16] 5.35 ln 2: i.e., ~1.2 K. Models near-triple this value by temperature feedback amplification. Yet no feedback can be measured directly or determined theoretically. Feedbacks may even be net-negative.[17],[18]

Another uncertainty is introduced by the amplification equation in the models, which was designed for electronic circuits, where it has a physical meaning. In the climate, as the singularity at a loop gain of 1 approaches, it has none. In a circuit, feedbacks driving voltage to the positive rail flick it to the negative rail as the loop gain exceeds 1. In the climate there is no such physical mechanism.

The chaoticity of the climate object is an additional, insuperable uncertainty.[19],[20] The IPCC admits this: “In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system and, therefore, that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”[21]

The atmosphere, like any object that behaves chaotically, is highly sensitive to initial conditions. The available data will always be inadequate to allow reliable prediction – especially by probability distribution in model ensembles – of the chaos-driven bifurcations that make climate climate.

Given these real uncertainties, the IPCC’s claim of 95% consensus as to the relative contributions of Man and Nature to the 0.7 K global warming since 1950 is surely hubris. Nemesis is already at hand. Empirically, the models are not doing well. The first IPCC Assessment Report predicted global warming at 0.2-0.5 Cº/decade by now. Yet the observed trend on the HadCRUt4 data[22] since 1990, at little more than 0.1 Cº/decade, is below the IPCC’s least estimate.

Taking the mean of all five global-temperature datasets, there has been no global warming for almost 13 years, even though CO2 concentration increases should have caused at least 0.2 Cº warming since December 2000.

Given the Earth’s failure to warm as predicted, and the absence of support for the IPCC’s version of the climate consensus, its 95% confidence in the anthropogenic fraction of the 0.7 Cº warming since 1950 seems aprioristic.

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No global warming for 12 years 8 months. Data sources: GISS, HadCRUt4, NCDC, RSS and UAH.

So to the economic question. Posit ad argumentum that the IPCC’s central estimate of 2.8 Cº warming from 2000-2100 is true, and that Stern[23] was right to say the cost of failing to prevent 2-3 Cº warming this century is ~1.5% of GDP. Then, even at a zero inter-temporal discount rate, the cost of abating this decade’s predicted warming of 0.17 Cº[24] by CO2-mitigation schemes whose unit mitigation cost is equivalent to that of, say, Australia’s carbon tax will be 50 times the cost of later adaptation.

How so? Australia emits just 1.2%[25],[26] of global anthropogenic CO2. No more than 5% of Australia’s emissions can now be cut this decade, so no more than 0.06% of global emissions will be abated by 2020. Then CO2 concentration will fall from the now-predicted 410 μatm[27] to 409.988 μatm. In turn, predicted temperature will fall, but only by 0.00005 Cº, or 1/1000 of the minimum detectable global temperature change. This is mainstream, consensus IPCC climatology.

The cost of this minuscule abatement over ten years will be $162 billion[28], equivalent to $3.2 quadrillion/Cº. Abating just the worldwide mean warming of 0.17 Cº predicted for this decade would cost $540 trillion, or $77,000/head worldwide, or 80% of ten years’ global GDP[29]. No surprise, then, that in the economic literature the near-unanimous consensus is that mitigation will cost more than adaptation[30],[31]. The premium vastly exceeds the cost of the risk insured. The cost of immediate mitigation typically exceeds by 1-2 orders of magnitude that of eventual adaptation.[32]

Accordingly, Oreskes’ statement that “Political leaders who deny the human role in climate change should be compared with the hierarchy of the Catholic church, who dismissed Galileo’s arguments for heliocentrism for fear of their social implications” is not only scientifically inappropriate but historically inapt: for no political leaders “deny the human role in climate change”, though some may legitimately doubt its magnitude or significance; and none impose any such opinion upon their citizens.

It is the true-believers in the New Religion of Thermageddon who have demanded that their opponents be put on trial for “treason” (Robert Kennedy), and for “high crimes against humanity” (James Hansen, NASA)[33]. The penalties for treason and for crimes against humanity are not the house arrest to which Galilei was sentenced, but death. Insistence upon consensus has often bred the most brutal kind of intolerance.

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Galileo Galilei. Image source: content.answcdn.com.

The true lesson of l’affaire Galilei, then, is that the governing class, then the high priests of Rome, now the acquiescent archdruids of academe and their paymaster the State, should not intolerantly abuse their power, then of theology, now of monopsony reinforcing peer-pressure rebranded as consensus, by interfering in scientists’ freedom to be what al-Haytham had beautifully called them: seekers after truth.

References


[1] Oreskes, N, 2013, Nature 501, 27–29 (05 September 2013), doi:10.1038/501027a.

[2] Luke II, 19: King James Bible.

[3] http://royalsociety.org/about-us/history/

[4] Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–95), Aphorisms and Reflections, selected by Henrietta A. Huxley, Macmillan, London, 1907.

[5] Feynman, R., What is Science?, 15th annual mtg. National Science Teachers’ Assn., New York (1966), in The Physics Teacher 7:6 (1969).

[6] Popper, K., Logik der Forschung, (Julius Springer Verlag, Vienna, 1935).

[7] Aristotle, Sophistical Refutations, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 52 pp. (2012).

[8] IPCC, 2001. Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis: Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Houghton, J.T., Y. Ding, D.J. Griggs, M. Noguer, P.J. van der Linden, X. Dai, K. Maskell and C.A. Johnson (eds.)], (Cambridge University Press, 2001).

[9] IPCC, 2007. Climate Change 2007: the Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007 [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Avery, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)], (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

[10] J. Cook, D. Nuccitelli, S.A. Green, M. Richardson, B. Winkler, R. Painting, R. Way, P. Jacobs, and A. Skuce, Environ. Res. Lett. 9 (2013), doi:0.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024.

[11] Legates, D.R., W.W.-H. Soon, W.M. Briggs, and C.W. Monckton of Brenchley, Sci. Educ. 22 (2013), doi: 10.1007/s11191-013-9647-9.

[12] Stern, N., The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review. Cambridge University Press (2006).

[13] Dietz, S., C. Hope, N. Stern, and D. Zenghelis, World Economics 8:1, 121-168 (2007).

[14] Petit, J.R., Jouzel, J., Raynaud, D., Barkov, N.I., Barnola, J.-M., Basile, I., Bender, M., Chappellaz, J., Davis, M., Delaygue, G., Delmotte, M., Kotlyakov, V.M., Legrand, M., Lipenkov, V.Y., Lorius, C., Pepin, L., Ritz, C., Saltzman, E., and Stievenard, M., Nature 399: 429-436 (1999).

[15] IPCC (2007), p. 631 fn., where the value is given as a reciprocal in W m–2 K–1.

[16] Myhre et al., GRL 25:14, 2715–2718 (1998), doi:10.1029/98GL01908.

[17] Lindzen, R.S., and Y.-S. Choi, Asia-Pacific J. Atmos. Sci., 47:4, 377-390 (2011), doi:10.1007/s13143-011-0023-x.

[18] Spencer, R.W., and W.D. Braswell, Remote Sensing 3, 1603-1613 (2011), doi:10.3390/rs3081603.

[19] Lorenz, E.N., J. Atmos. Sci. 20, 130-141 (1963).

[20] Giorgi, F., 2005, Climatic Change 73, 239-265 (2005), doi: 10.1007/s10584-005-6857-4.

[21] IPCC (2001, §14.2.2.2).

[22] C.P. Morice, J.J. Kennedy, N.A. Rayner, and P.D. Jones, JGR 117:D8 (2012), doi: 10.1029/2011JD017187.

[23] Stern (2006 op. cit.), ix.

[24] Derived from IPCC (2007 op. cit.), 803, Table 10.26.

[25] Boden and Marland, Global CO2 Emissions from Fossil-Fuel Burning, Cement Manufacture, and Gas Flaring, 1751-2007, Carbon Dioxide Information and Analysis Center, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA (2010a).

[26] Boden et al., Ranking of the world's countries by 2007 total CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel burning, cement production, and gas flaring, Carbon Dioxide Information and Analysis Center, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA (2010b).

[27] Derived from IPCC (2007 op. cit.), p. 803, Table 10.26.

[28] Derived from Wong, P., Portfolio Budget Statements 2010-11: Budget-Related Paper No. 1.4. Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, Australia (2010).

[29] World Bank, Gross Domestic Product 2009, in World Development Indicators 2009. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DATASTATISTICS/Resources/GDP.pdf.

[30] Tol, R., J. Econ. Perspectives 23:2, 29-51 (2009a).

[31] Tol, R., An analysis of mitigation as a response to climate change, Copenhagen Consensus Center, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark (2009b).

[32] Monckton of Brenchley, C, 2013, Is CO2 mitigation cost-effective? In Proceedings of the 45th Annual International Seminar on Nuclear War and Planetary Emergencies, World Federation of Scientists [A. Zichichi and R. Ragaini, eds.], World Scientific, London, 167-185 (2013), ISBN 978 981 4531 77 1.

[33] Happer, W., Letter to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming (2010 June 22): http://republicans.globalwarming.sensenbrenner. house.gov/Media/file/PDFs/Hearings/052010Science_Political_Arena/Response_Happer.pdf.

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DirkH

Why doesn’t the Obama USA just use its secret court system to put skeptics in camps and be done with it.
Can’t be that important if they don’t even bother.

Justthinkin

A sorta sad story for a sunny Saturday AM,Lord Monckton. I remember wayyyyyy back in HS chemistry,where an errant student flopped her experiment(just a baby bang). Her first words where,”oh my.That’s not right.My method must be bad.” While others laughed,our teacher stood up and awarded her A on the spot.When one of the increduolous students asked why she got an A for failure,he simply answered….because she has demonstrated the traits of a real scientist. She admmited her failure,and not that she was terribly wrong,but that her hypthosesis was wrong,and needed further research and study.
Where have these teachers and students gone?
Mr.Watts…what happened to the preview option?

Jon

In order to make a new and “better” world they have to get rid of logic and scientific principles?

Craig Loehle

Best essay by Monkton ever. He left out the insults but kept the logic. Very nice.

rogerknights

Given these real uncertainties, the IPCC’s claim of 95% consensus as to the relative contributions of Man and Nature to the 0.7 K global warming since 1950 is surely hubris. Nemesis is already at hand.
……………………
The true lesson of l’affaire Galilei, then, is that the governing class, then the high priests of Rome, now the acquiescent archdruids of academe and their paymaster the State, should not intolerantly abuse their power, . . . .

Beautiful.

Reblogged this on Power To The People and commented:
Barack Obama is using Climate Change “consensus” as the justification for shipping as many high paying manufacturing jobs overseas as possible, closing down power plants, and bankrupting the coal industry. The only people benefiting are the elite Green Liberal: bureaucrats, academia, alternative energy capitalists and the media class who promote their lies and fear tactics to the Democratic Party in power. The people hurt the most by these anti development fossil fuel policies are the poor who these elitiest green hypocrites claim to be on the side of.
http://wp.me/p7y4l-lnm
http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/09/05/mainstream-german-media-lashes-out-at-energiewende/

Bennett In Vermont

I enjoy expanding my vocabulary by reading your articles, Lord Monckton. Thank you!

mbur

It’s like the percent of relative truth( .).In order to increase your percentages of truth you change some part of the equation and run the model till it works.
Thanks for the interesting articles and comments

Great article, but what is the Hamelin problem? It says “The Hamelin problem is compounded…”.

PaulH

I am almost tempted to cut these warmists some slack. After all, all they know and understand is “consensus”. All their political experience is rooted in “let’s put this to a vote.” So of course when the majority rules, the decision is made, there is no need for further discussion on the topic. Politicians, consensus builders, debating teams, judge and jury situations… it’s all the same. The idea that their majority decision is incorrect is only a vague, distant possibility that is hardly worth considering and besides, that’s just sore loser talk to them. I would recommend the warmists take at least one 101-level course in one of the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, etc,) before they start forcing their belief system upon us, but I’m sure they have no interest in listening to my suggestions.
Like I said, I am ALMOST tempted to cut them some slack.

Bryan A

Perhaps the real experiment to determine if reducing CO2 will reduce temps is not to detect increased temps through an elevated CO2 environmant but rather to take a control of ambient atmosphere and a test of reduced CO2 to see if reducing CO2 will reduce temps

All of the reference links I have tried [1], [2], [3], [4], … [8]… Give me Page Not Found.
The Link Reference look like Relative References to documents on someone’s C Drive. as in:
….. AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/……

John West

“Fifty years on, history has not vindicated Jeffreys, and it seems unlikely that it will vindicate those who reject the overwhelming evidence of anthropogenic climate change. — Naomi Oreskes (Nature, 4 September 2013).
But Jefferys was in the consensus for ~50 years, it’s disingenuous to portray him as representative of the skeptics instead of the consensus. If the evidence were truly overwhelming no one would have to claim consensus in attempt to persuade, one would just cite the evidence. The hypothesis’ lack of predictive skill in observable net positive feedbacks (missing hotspot, missing outgoing LWR depression, etc.) are the missing evidence needed for the CAGW meme to truly gain consensus by “overwhelming evidence” instead of politics.
The article was actually quite good until the article went off into climate change religion apology. Early on the comment is made:
“But the arguments for continental motions did not gel until the 1960s, when a drastic expansion of geophysical research, driven by the cold war, produced evidence that reopened and eventually settled the debate.” — Naomi Oreskes (Nature, 4 September 2013).
So, in Naomi Oreskes’ own words the debate on plate tectonics was settled due to EVIDENCE not CONSESUS. But then she calls for us to believe the debate on climate change should be settled because of consensus instead of evidence.
Just a reminder on why one side doesn’t get to proclaim when the debate is over/settled:
http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2009/10/13/on-saying-the-debate-is-over/

Rod McLaughlin asks what the “Hamelin problem” is. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and the city of Hameln, in Niedersachsen, Germany, is where the Pied Piper played. So, in the context, by mixing a metaphor or two, one gets the Hamelin problem: that the State pays the scientists and expects them to sing from the same hymn-sheet.
Fact is that by spending so much on windmills and suchlike fooleries they’re pulling the rug from under the hand that lays the golden eggs.

gnomish

there is, however, a dispute:
adding antifreeze to the cooling system does not make it run hotter

“PaulH says:
September 7, 2013 at 8:48 am
Like I said, I am ALMOST tempted to cut them some slack.”
=================================================================
Agreed. Give them enough rope and tey’ll hang themselves 🙂

John G. Boice

Socially speaking, what Monckton points out is at least as worrisome as what he tells us about the state of “science” in this post-modern era. I mean, in the early 17th Century, the average person had a concrete reason to put faith in the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. The whole foundation of their authority was Divine Revelation, and Apostolic Succession. Faith was precisely what they taught, and hence what they required of their followers. That was what everyone was taught to understand.
Today’s Hierarchy of Science, however, ought NOT to inspire the same display of faith. Their (supposed) superiority over the Ecclesiastical luminaries that they have replaced is PRECISELY “that all things must be proven, and not taken on faith;” nor should “truths” be received because uttered by a Voice of Authority.
My observation is that very many people, university educated, have unquestioning Faith in the Scientific Hierarchy just as people in 1600 were suppsed to have unquestioning Faith in the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. Oddly, it seems (again, just based on my observation, not on any valid study), that the degree of Blind Faith increases with the number of years spent in Education. People with a High-School education (or less) seem much less gullible in this regard than the average _baccalaureus_ or post-grad degree holders.
One is tempted to weep at the irony.

David L. Hagen

Tyranny of Consensus: Liga v. Galileo
The tyranny of “consensus” was demonstrated by the Aristotelian academicians against Galileo (not initially the church). In A Brief History of Eternity, Physicist Roy E. Peacock discovered that the Liga, a secret conspiracy of academicians, used false accusations to bias Galileo’s friend, Pope Urban VIII against him, turn him over to the Inquisition, and put him under house arrest.
Peacock, A Brief History of Eternity p 141.; Notes on Science and Christian Belief Ch 1, p 10
See also Charles E. Hummel, The Galileo connection (1986) p 92, 94. ISBN-13:978-0877845003

Disgruntled professors at Pisa now allied themselves with a set of courtiers at Florence in a secret and loosely organized resistance movement known as the Liga. The leading figure was Florentine philosopher Ludovico delle Colombe. . . . Nicknamed the “pigeons” (colombi) after their leader, that academic group comprised the “conspiracy” of which Galileo often spoke. . . .Disappointed by their failure to break through Galileo’s lines on the fronts of physics and astronomy, the Liga adopted a new strategy. Carrying the attack into court circles, they would make his discoveries a religios issue.

Jon

They have invested to much politically and financially in the politically established UNFCCC since the early 90’s? Al Gore, Gro Harlem etc etc….

Jon

And when logic and scientific principles gets in the way of UNFCCC logic and scientific principles have to yield?

Tony McGough

Suchlike fooleries … straight from the penny catechism. Great stuff!

Thanks for the citation to Karl Popper and Aristotle. Popper spends much of the early pages of The Open Society and Its Enemies railing against Platonism, its Forms and Ideals as leading to authoritarian tribalism against the individual. I see a broad move to Aristotelian relativism in physics, cosmology and the philosophy of science.

Some may know the Hamelin Problem as The Golden Rule; he, who has the gold, rules.

poitsplace

The greatest flaw in post-normal science and the precautionary principle is that the near total inversion of falsification turns the very act of investigating a concern into a reason to act. Correlation is treated as “close enough” to causation. It is a superstition generating machine veiled in (pseudo)science.
Once someone fails to show concrete proof that action could never be necessary, related post-normal “science” springs up around it, new crises that never will be as reasons to stop a crisis that never was.

RACookPE1978

We (today’s scientifically-knowledgeable skeptics) are repeatedly told/threatened with the words: “Well, then, if you disagree with “CO2 causes climate change” then, “Show us YOUR theory”. Show us exactly how your supposed “natural climate change” works and what causes your “natural climate change” to vary temperature in today’s world. If you have no mechanism, then “natural climate change” cannot exist in today’s world.”
Seems to me that Oreskes just provided the answer to her religion’s own problem: In 1924, plate tectonics was operating just as it does now, and plate tectonics was operating in 1924 just as accurately and as completely as it had been working since the original plates cooled 3-1/2 billion years ago.
But the correct answer in 1924 to the question of “continental drift” and mountain formation and erosion was “I don’t know.” The correct answer was NOT “scientific consensus says ….”
The correct answer in 1871 to the problem of light and electromagnetism in a vacuum was “I don’t know.” Not “the aether” or “particles moving like waves through space”.
The correct answer in 1890 to the world’s heat loss problem into space was “I don’t know.” Not a 6000 year old earth, nor a 1 million year old earth. That radioactive decay and the E-M theory of electromagnetism were unknown does NOT mean they did not work, and it did NOT mean that they were working improperly nor unpredictably. It only meant that WE did not know how to make them work for us, in our language and with our apparatus of the time. The stars still flicker for the same reason they blurred Galileo’s first telescope, but it is only now that we know the engineering and materials and controls and optics to move the telescope so the flicker is momentarily “stopped.” But the flicker has never “stopped”. It’s just that we have improved our instruments enough to detect it, predict it, and correct for most of it. As a result, the distant stars and planets THAT ALWAYS WEER PRESENT are now more clearly seen!
Copernicus’ orbital circles were wrong. The first elliptical orbits were not quite right either! But the evidence for elliptical orbits around a focus point remained. And, in fact, the original theory of epicycles around epicycles with everything spinning around the earth was actually more accurate than Copernican orbital circles. Scientific consensus was wrong for 3000 years. The “scientific models” used for 3000 years were dead wrong. Yet for 3000 years they were logically and theoretically completely right, and proved right by that same logic and theory by every means that scientific consensus knew of! And these “scientific theories” (almost) worked exactly right anyway. Most of the time.
We “discovered” the true structure of the atom ONLY when the true scientists measuring particles that bounced off of a thin gold foil believed their data. Their “battleship shells” actually did “bounce off of tissue paper.” Oreskes’ “modern scientists” would have DELIBERATELY ignored those flashes of light as each nuclei impacted the detector BECAUSE those flashes did not fit their theory of how the atom was designed. Worse, she would never have even permitted other people to have LOOKED at those high angles because her theory holds that no [articles could have rebounded at those angles.
And, if she would have been on the “scientific” committee approving grants, she would have been the first to deny Rutherford, Roentgen, Becquerel, Fermi, Hahn. Meitner and others funding for any other experiments! What they found through their experiments was NOT predicted by theory before the experiments. The DATA did not fit the theory, so the theory was wrong.
Not today. Today, the trajectories would not have been seen. And, if seen, would have been erased by the model.
And those missed trajectories – that tragedy of missed data – is the reason Oreskes will never truly “earn” a Nobel prize, nor will any of today’s so-called climate scientists” ever discover how the world’s climate actually works. She – her type – doesn’t WANT to go look for answers. They think they ARE the answers.

mkelly

Lord M. Says: “… near-infrared radiation…”
Thought we were talking long wave the 15 micro.
Near-infrared NIR, IR-A DIN 0.75–1.4 µm

I get it. However, I’m confused by one thing. When/How does a guess become a hypothesis, and when does a hypothesis become a Theory? We have this “thing” called the “Big Bang Theory.” It hangs on the entire concept of CONSENSUS. Even wiki says it’s “the prevailing model…”
Doesn’t prevailing sound like consensus?
My point is: almost every scientific conclusion is consensus. Sometimes the consensus reaches 100%! THEN it becomes a Scientific Law. And even THEN it’s only a law as we define/observe it in our limited scope of existence! So it’s all consensus…

John G. Boice

“My point is: almost every scientific conclusion is consensus. Sometimes the consensus reaches 100%! THEN it becomes a Scientific Law. And even THEN it’s only a law as we define/observe it in our limited scope of existence! So it’s all consensus…”
The criteria is not (or should not become) consensus of beliefs or opinions. The criterion is supposed to be the ability to demonstrate the causality as far as necessary, and the inability of any other researcher to disprove it.
So the Big Bang is just an article of faith amongst people who “can’t imagine” anything different. It isn’t a Law, just a consensus belief. It may have been legitimately considered a “Theory” (I think) based on mathematically “rewinding” the cosmos (as it has been observed) according to known laws of physics. I don’t see how it can rationally be subjected to an attempt to falsify it, though! And the more weird “tweaks” that have to be added to make it “work” –as better instrumentation shows disharmonious observations– tend to indicate to me that what made some sense based on observations 50-70 years ago doesn’t make much sense anymore. When cosmologists have to add a “fudge factor” of 2000% to known properties of physical matter/energy, I think it’s time to just say “I don’t know.”

John West

gnomish says:
”there is, however, a dispute:
adding antifreeze to the cooling system does not make it run hotter”

Indeed, adding more radiative components to the atmosphere doesn’t intuitively suggest a warmer atmosphere, but it does intuitively suggest a increased share of heat transfer by radiation through the atmosphere and thus supports the estimated 3.7 W/m2 increase in down welling LWR, which also intuitively would suggest an increase in outgoing LWR. As it would happen, that’s exactly what is observable:
http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/image_thumb25.png?w=624&h=488
Of course, atmospheric radiation physics is hard:

Why does the stratosphere cool when the troposphere warms?
Filed under: Attic — gavin @ 7 December 2004 – ()
This post is obsolete and wrong in many respects. Please see this more recent post for links to the answer.
14/Jan/05: This post was updated in the light of my further education in radiation physics.
25/Feb/05: Groan…and again.

[bolds added]
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/why-does-the-stratosphere-cool-when-the-troposphere-warms/
Stratospheric cooling being one of those enhanced GHE “fingerprints” that just happened to stop circa 1995. Hmmmm.
The evidence for CAGW is best described as underwhelming in 2013.

Stephen Richards

Uncontroversially, direct radiative warming at CO2 doubling will be the product of the instantaneous or Planck parameter[15] 0.31 K W–1 m2 and the CO2 radiative forcing[16] 5.35 ln 2: i.e., ~1.2 K. Models near-triple this value by temperature feedback amplification. Yet no feedback can be measured directly or determined theoretically. Feedbacks may even be net-negative.[17],[18
This is the crux of the problem. Nice Post my Lord.

Stephen Richards

The evidence for CAGW is best described as underwhelming in 2013
Perhaps you could lay out you engineering quality proof then? Right here, right now would be good.

Bernie McCune

John West on Oreskes getting the idea of consensus backwards.
Absolutely right about her missing the point completely. I started working in 1965 tracking Navy Navigation satellites and on a host of satellites that were gathering geodesy data. We started noticing that our permanent stations were drifting over several year periods. By 1970 I was looking at some of the young guns theories and data on plate tectonics. Our stations operated by New Mexico State University staff and students were placed in a large number of spots around the globe. They seemed to be following these proposed plate movements in direction and magnitude was small (but sometimes as much as 6 cm over several years) buried in a lot of noise. I knew very little about these new theories but I did know there was a lot of kick back from some of the top scientists in the field. I agreed with some of the young ones who were also looking at some of their own data.
It is clear that the data won the day. Opinions were pretty cheap and I happened to have my own that in the end agreed with the final theory. Of course I was watching my own set of data that finally was used to help prove the theory. Consensus in the 1960s and early 70s looked a lot like consensus on AGW is right now. Monckton of Brenchley basically has it right about being careful about consensus and at looking carefully at the data. Again, these days, I have my own opinion but it is based on data and not models. I suspect we will be proven to be correct based on this growing body of data. But you don’t have to believe me!
Bernie

alan neil ditchfield

Engineers don’t believe in scientists. They use Euclidean geometry because its propositions stand demonstrated, not because they believe in Euclid. There is a gulf of understanding between believers and those who use science.

John G. Boice

Right, Mr. Ditchfield!
“Q.E.D.” is the only magic formula that makes any sense. It doesn’t matter how big a Wizard’s hat might be if he can’t conjure this one!

Thomas Traill

Regarding consensus, we shouldn’t chuck out the baby with the bathwater. When an ideal scientist tries to answer a question, (s)he doesn’t rely on any consensus over it. So far, so good.
But consensus can be a result and symptom of scientific progress. After all, if there is only one true answer to any well-phrased question and all scientists should independently seek it, then they should end up in agreeing with each other, in spite of their independence. There are endless examples of eventual success here, such as the broad agreement among today’s scientists on the existence of atoms, evolution, radioactive decay, black holes and plate tectonics.
But most of the public has no time to wade through the science behind all this, so recognizing consensus among scientists can be a shortcut to the truth. In fact, even scientists often don’t have the time for more than a brief look into the evidence behind conclusions from foreign fields. There are probably no scientists on Earth who know the science behind everything they believe right down to first principles. If every scientist in the world spent their time trying to achieve this, they’d have no time to research. We live in an age where a thorough understanding of all science is simply impossible in a human lifetime. And climate science is certainly interdisciplinary. It combines the overlapping but academically separate fields of physics, chemistry, biology, systems theory, sociology, geology, ecology and others.
Rather than be perfectionists, we need to live, which means solving problems in limited time and with incomplete information. If you’re hurtling through the sky with a parachute in you’re backpack you shouldn’t insist on reading up Newton’s law of action and wind resistance before opening it. It is enough to know that trustworthy people have told you that you would profit from opening it. If you have seen other people parachute, that’s a bonus. So many people make do with a premise like: “If most people who have studied a matter draw the same conclusion, then it is quite likely to be true.” Of course we must be wary of group-think and not mistake scientists for paragons of reason, but I’ve looked into Climategate in some detail and find that a number of scientists both believe in AGW and respect the scientific method. Tom Wigley, for example, who refuses to sign a ‘pro-AGW’ petition but disagrees with Kevin Trenberth about not being able to track the heat in the Earth system.

Gunga Din

Bruckner8 says:
September 7, 2013 at 10:20 am
I get it. However, I’m confused by one thing. When/How does a guess become a hypothesis, and when does a hypothesis become a Theory? We have this “thing” called the “Big Bang Theory.” It hangs on the entire concept of CONSENSUS. Even wiki says it’s “the prevailing model…”
Doesn’t prevailing sound like consensus?
My point is: almost every scientific conclusion is consensus. Sometimes the consensus reaches 100%! THEN it becomes a Scientific Law. And even THEN it’s only a law as we define/observe it in our limited scope of existence! So it’s all consensus…

===========================================================================
Mr. layman here. As I understand it, to become a “valid” scientific consensus rather than a political consensus, the “guess” must have some experimental or observational test that would show the “guess” to be wrong or maybe close to “right”. When enough have actually tried to prove the “guess” wrong but failed, then “prevailing” or “consensus” could be properly used.
Again, I’m not a scientist. I’m ignorant of many things. But that’s how I understand it.

Greg

CMoB: The Royal Society’s dog-Latin motto, Nullius in verba, roughly translates as “We take no one’s word for it”.
Oh, I thought it meant “don’t take our word for anything”. Seemed to fit after Climategate.
It could also mean (paraphrased) “don’t expect anything in writing”.
😉

John G. Boice:
re your post at September 7, 2013 at 10:51 am
I suggest you look up the microwave background radiation.
A theory can predict. The Big Bang hypothesis did, and the Steady State hypothesis didn’t.
In science, anything can be wrong, and an existing theory can be overthrown by new data and/or understanding. But Big Bang is a scientific theory, and consensus has nothing to do with why it is,
Richard

A scientific consensus is not something that has no value in principle. The climate scientists have shown that they can’t be trusted to acknowledge any finding that goes against or minimizes AGW. The paleo crew have shown themselves to be particularly untrustworthy. Mann has clearly not disclosed computed and widely used correlation values such as R2 for his hockey stick. They just make things up as they go along:
http://climateaudit.org/2008/08/08/caspar-ammann-texas-sharpshooter/

Beautifully crafted article. Thank you.

Thomas Traill:
At September 7, 2013 at 11:00 am you mistakenly assert

Regarding consensus, we shouldn’t chuck out the baby with the bathwater. When an ideal scientist tries to answer a question, (s)he doesn’t rely on any consensus over it. So far, so good.
But consensus can be a result and symptom of scientific progress. After all, if there is only one true answer to any well-phrased question and all scientists should independently seek it, then they should end up in agreeing with each other, in spite of their independence

NO! Absolutely not! That is a denial of science!
Science seeks the closes approximation to truth by seeking information which refutes existing understanding.
An idea which has predictive capability is a theory. So, the mutually exclusive corpuscular and wave theories of light (i.e. electromagnetism) are both used although neither is right because they are useful.
Similarly, utility is why the theories of Newtonian mechanics are still used although they are approximations to Newtonian mechanics in our present time and place.
Clearly, there is NOT “one true answer” in the cases I have stated.
Science ceases if consensus is adopted because it denies the seeking for information which refutes existing understanding.
Consensus is a denial of science. It prevents – at very least, it inhibits – scientific progress.
Richard

RCH

BRILLIANT…JUST BRILLIANT!
Perhaps Lord Monckton would be so inclined as to submit an abbreviated comment to his ‘hometown’ journal, NATURE, where Oreskes’ ill-advised op-ed appeared earlier this week. More from the other side need to read what Christopher Monckton has to say about Oreskes’ poorly thought out views of science (Plate Tectonics) and consensus (politics).

Ouch!
I intended to write
Similarly, utility is why the theories of Newtonian mechanics are still used although they are approximations to Einstinian mechanics in our present time and place.
Sorry.
Richard

I see the IPCC’s work as having the same effect as the global ed reform push that is also largely funded by governments and foundations with a view to power. It wants to create a mindset of unquestioning belief that is not centered in the rational mind or facts. We are being asked to return to an era of the government-sanctioned cosmology. This is what you are to value and believe and these are the attitudes we want to see you use.
We are being told to think dialectically without any mention of the D word. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/cultivating-understandings-of-consequence-to-guide-daily-life-and-prompt-desired-behaviors/ is a post that compares what is being pushed in education and these models to Stephen Toulmin’s 1982 book The Return to Cosmology: Postmodern Science and the Theology of Nature.
Anytime I start reading about nonlinear systems from a political authority, I would take the bet that the entire model or theory is about gaining dollars and behavioral changes in sociotechncal systems without admitting it outright. Only bureaucrats would come up with that as a term to describe people.

Gunga Din

I said:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/09/07/a-question-for-oreskes-but-what-do-we-mean-by-consensus/#comment-1410538
Richard, in light of what you said:
Science ceases if consensus is adopted because it denies the seeking for information which refutes existing understanding.
I’d like to amend my comment, “When enough have actually tried to prove the ‘guess’ wrong but failed, then ‘prevailing’ or ‘consensus’ could be properly used. But ‘consensus’ or ‘prevailing’ is never a valid reason to accept without question

Jquip

“But consensus can be a result and symptom of scientific progress. After all, if there is only one true answer to any well-phrased question and all scientists should independently seek it, then they should end up in agreeing with each other, in spite of their independence.” — Thomas Traill
This isn’t offensive on it’s own if you read your own values into it. But the post as a whole is a bucket of equivocation and Sophistry.
And scientific paper done under the ‘classic’ model of doing science is not one, but two, papers. A philosophical paper, and an engineering paper. The philo portion is all the fabulous rounds of theory that sciency folks like to get into. The engineering portion is just the raw experiment. Now there’s not a thing wrong with Philo papers, and there’s not a thing wrong with Engineering papers. But you don’t get a classic Science paper unless you put the two together in one shot. (Not withstanding Newton’s great derision about hypotheses.)
The modern model of science is no such animal. The papers often do not have any experimental contact at all; they are no more than pure Philosophy papers and have no greater weight nor reliability that any *honestly labeled* Philosophy paper. And far too often when the author testifies, in their paper, that they did in fact perform a legit experiment, there simply isn’t enough presentation of it to validly reproduce it.
To the degree that experimental science ‘will’ or ‘should’ converge on a given answer? Well, yeh. Unless you hold out that the universe is fundamentally deceptive and vindictive. To the degree that philosophical science ‘will’ or ‘should’? Philosophers are still struggling with the legitimacy and uses of ‘true’, ‘false’, contradictions, and why “If A, then B” isn’t justified without a “Because C” clause. So perhaps the Philo guys will converge on metaphyscial answers someday. But the last 2 milllenia haven’t been very encouraging.

I would not say it is entirely correct to say that religion and science both seek for truth, but one uses experimentation and observation to prove or disprove its claims. The reason this is not entirely true is because spiritual traditions must be practiced. If it is not applied in real time and in real life, it is dead knowledge. Academics or clever comparative mythologists do not understand or recognize this about spiritual beliefs. They are solely word masters, bless their scholarly hearts.
The process is the same whether you are testing a physical law in science, or a spiritual law in faith. That is, there must be application of what you learn and the results must be patiently observed. You often have to adjust because there was a wrong variable introduced which slanted your results.
“What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer.”

Oreskes got published in Nature!?
Well, that leaves the question; “Can Nature as a scientific outlet, degrade any further?”. I shudder to think how…
A great article Lord Monckton!
As Bennett in Vermont says; my vocabulary increases every time you post and article! Monopsony, indeed, now I know. You would think I’d have learned that term in college during economics or accounting classes; nope, I learned it at WUWT courtesy of Lord Monckton. Thank you!

Bruckner8 says:
September 7, 2013 at 10:20 am
I get it. However, I’m confused by one thing. When/How does a guess become a hypothesis, and when does a hypothesis become a Theory? We have this “thing” called the “Big Bang Theory.” It hangs on the entire concept of CONSENSUS. Even wiki says it’s “the prevailing model…”
Doesn’t prevailing sound like consensus?
My point is: almost every scientific conclusion is consensus. Sometimes the consensus reaches 100%! THEN it becomes a Scientific Law. And even THEN it’s only a law as we define/observe it in our limited scope of existence! So it’s all consensus…
————————–
An hypothesis is a guess. A theory is an hypothesis or a coherent collection of hypotheses which have been tested by experiment or scientific observations & have not yet been shown false (“falsified”).
The Big Bang Theory has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with consensus. It currently prevails because it’s the best explanation for observed reality, starting with the cosmic background microwave radiation at 3 K. When a theory is so well supported that its opponents are overwhelmed, then a consensus in its favor may form, but it does not prevail because of consensus, but its support in observation & experiment.
So every scientific conclusion is not consensus. Consensus changes when actual data show prior consensuses to have been wrong. Wegener was right about continental drift, even though the consensus in his day was for static continents. That consensus finally changed when a mechanism for the observed drift was discovered, ie seafloor spreading, but it required dragging older geologists along kicking & screaming. Some died without acknowledging the newly recognized reality.
The same could be said for many of the other now prevalent theories, to include Copernicus’ heliocentric theory (that the earth goes around the sun).

Beautiful reason and beautiful writing. That’s my immediate response. Thank You.
‘ “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. ‘
John Keats
I think it is the scientists themselves who have to stand up and say enough is enough. They must be sick of politicians by now. After all, years ago they likely were students and participated in sit down strikes at universities. I think it would be totally cool to see a big crowd of old guys with grey beards and thick glasses, wearing the typical white lab coats, marching in front of the president’s office with pickets:
“We demand Freedom Of Research.” “Politicians Buzz Off.” “Are We Whores?”

ATheoK says:
September 7, 2013 at 11:46 am
Oreskes got published in Nature!?
Well, that leaves the question; “Can Nature as a scientific outlet, degrade any further?”. I shudder to think how…
—————————
I too am appalled that Nature published her anti-scientific screed of CACA-phoney. Here’s what I commented in Tips & Notes yesterday:
milodonharlani says:
September 6, 2013 at 9:12 am
Naomi Oreskes draws false conclusions in analogizing the history of plate tectonics with present power politics & CACA backwards:
“Anthropogenic climate change has the consensus of researchers. Political leaders who deny the human role in climate change should be compared with the hierarchy of the Catholic church, who dismissed Galileo’s arguments for heliocentrism for fear of their social implications. But what of scientists who in good faith reject the mainstream view?”
http://www.nature.com/news/earth-science-how-plate-tectonics-clicked-1.13655
Clearly, political leaders are mainly in the CACA camp, happily suppressing real science. The false consensus against “continental drift” survived long after the evidence of sea-floor spreading had piled up. Ultimately it is not consensus that matters but evidence. Basing public policy on consensus will usually lead to bad decisions.
Note also that she plumps for against group-think against individualism, no surprise. CACA has corrupted the historiography of science along with science itself. She like Hansen, Mann, et al, is an activists, not a scholar.

Peter Miller

“The dead hand of government.”
This is the simple reason why centrally planned economies never work, likewise so much of government sponsored science.
That is the problem with climate science, dodgy politicians want to be seen to be ‘proving’ their green credentials, while simultaneously seeking new sources of tax revenue. So climate scientists have to provide the answers required by government, or they are not funded. So, that’s why there has to be a consensus, because consensus means funding.
I guess that means most climate scientists are ………………………………