Guest essay by Geir Hasnes
Very often, and arguably most often, a disagreement is rooted in a lack of definition of what one agrees upon before starting the argument. Thus the argument soon develops into a quarrel, and while each side thinks he has won the argument in the end, he is also puzzled by why the other side doesn’t give in to the facts, of for instance, as in the case of the climate quarrel, the ‘Science’.
The statistician William M. Briggs, in his recent article Climate Change Alarmists Appear Immunized against Reality (link) asks: “This brings us to the crucial question: how do we reach educators like Johnson? We can’t do it with reality. Temperatures aren’t increasing, storms are down in number and strength, sea levels aren’t chasing folks from beaches, droughts are not increasing, parts of the world are growing greener.
“I don’t have the answer. Do you?”
Most people doesn’t know that ‘science’ is Latin for ‘knowledge’, but they do know that it has become a term for the pursuit of knowledge. The implication of basing your reasoning upon ‘science’ is that you have the facts in hand, and the ‘climate prophets’ will wholeheartedly state that their adopted prophecies, from the IPCC summaries for policymakers, are Established Science. For, you see, they base their reasoning upon the fact that the IPCC reports are ‘science’. They couldn’t be more wrong, but how to convince them about it?
In an argument with the climate prophets and their followers (a collective term for the IPCC prophecy contributors, politicians, activists, journalists and the man in the street, in which I purposedly left out the scientific contributors) one must first state the underlying facts that the IPCC reports and the summaries for policymakers, with their implicated prophecies, are not ‘knowledge’, and consequently not ‘science’.
This is the first step in convincing your opponent.
Then you introduce a new term to your opponent, as you state that the IPCC report, on which most, if not all, climate assumptions are based upon, is not ‘science’, but ‘assumpsence’. It is based upon assumptions, which are not science or facts, but in the realm of philosophy, and maybe even in the realm of religion.
This is the second step of convincing your opponent. The foundation he thought was rock solid for his argument, is crumbling; in fact, it is suddenly found not to be there.
Then you supply the facts about the IPCC report. It is in three parts: the science; what will happen because of this; and proposed mitigations. In addition to this, you have the summary for policymakers which not only sums up, but simply adds its own statements regardless of whether it is included in the IPCC report or not. And, you state; since what should happen (part 2) does not happen, the science (part 1) cannot be correct, and consequently, the mitigation (part 3) is unnecessary. Consequently also, the summary for policymakers (part 4) must be wrong.
This is the third step in convincing your opponent. Your opponent will be slightly bewildered because usually he has only referred to the report as a whole, and having it divided into four pieces requires some actual thought before it can be digested. At this stage, anything you say is mistrusted because there might be some conclusion from it that is perceived to be annoying.
However, your opponent will still believe that you are wrong with regards to the science (part 1), because as it is called science, it can’t be wrong!
Now you introduce the relationship between science and assumpsence again, because your opponent in the meantime has forgotten all about it. You state that collecting the facts of the science in part 1 may be called science, that is, the pursuing of knowledge. But the rest of it is pure assumpsence, assuming relationships between facts, also known as hypotheses, which are not true. And we know they are not true because they do not happen. The assumptions of the science of part 1 has in part 2 turned out not to happen. Even the reconstructions of temperature series within the science part are not science, but assumpsence, simply because you base the reconstructions upon assumptions. The hockey stick curve was not only assumpsence, but can be regarded as fakery, but then again, assumpsence is often based upon a preconceived notion about how things should appear. And it is much better to be able to dismiss the hockey stick curve because it is assumpsence, than to have to call it bad science.
Now bad science is often assumpsence, and the assumptions are often hidden. We should not talk about good and bad science because the discussion will always turn into statements coloured by personal taste. We should rather only accept that as science that is knowledge and the method of pursuing knowledge. Statistics may be a branch of science, but the application of statistics is based so heavily upon assumptions that it can only be assumpsence in practice. Just as the theory about the population explotion and what it would do to mankind and the Earth was mainly assumpsence, so it is with today’s IPCC report with its maps of the Earth where the polar regions are coloured in a fiery red, redder as the decades of the future pass by. There is no need to accuse your activist or politician opponent to be devoid of knowledge or being led astray by religious feelings. The only need you have is to tell your opponent that his reasoning is assumpsence, not science.
This is the fourth step in convincing your opponent. He will be bewildered, but also begin to perceive that there is something here he hasn’t pondered.
Assumpsence is not morally bad, like bad science is. It is simply not science. Accepting this removes the need for faith in science and the scientists. Of course, a lot of people calling themselves scientists will hate being called assumptionists instead. But that is not the case. The case is rather that your opponent will as the last resort invoke the authority of the scientists as opposed to what he perceives as your lack of authority. Being made aware that his scientists are assumptionists and that he himself practices assumpsence when he assumes that he can believe in what declared scientists say, will make him bewildered, because you not only questions his choice of authorities, but leave them invalid as authorities, as well as leaving his belief in them as being unfounded, and he will have to give up.
That is the fifth and last step in convincing your opponent. He will now ask for the real authorities, that is, the actual science, and now you can begin telling about the thriving polar bears, the relatively constant polar caps, the declining number of storms, the constant sea level and so on. But do not forget: He must not forget that he listened to assumpsence, he must understand and remember assumpsence, that what he based his beliefs upon was no foundation for action at all.
And you might even wish to add this at an early stage, but do not say it until you are sure that your opponent has begun to ponder the real science, and be sure to be smiling while you say it: “Remember, assumptions may often make an ASS out of U and ME.”
Geir Hasnes graduated in Electrical Engineering at the Norwegian University of Technology in 1982 and after 15 years as a research scientist now works as a principal engineer within dynamic positioning systems.