Is climate forecasting immune from Occam's razor?

Guest essay by Kesten Green

William-of-Ockham-razor-quote

Several authors have argued that the hypothesis of dangerous manmade global warming fails the test of Occam’s razor because the simple hypothesis of natural variation fits the data with fewer assumptions. As Harold Jeffreys noted, “simpler laws have the greater prior probability”. But are forecasts of dangerous warming immune from Occam’s razor?

It is on the basis of forecasts that the political leaders and government officials gathered in Paris are discussing agreements that would impose extraordinarily disruptive and expensive policies on the nations of the world. Those forecasts—called scenarios and projections by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—are the product of complex computer models involving multitudes of interacting assumptions.

The finding of Kesten Green and Scott Armstrong’s recent review that complexity increased forecast errors by 27% on average should give delegates at the Paris climate policy talks pause for thought. Occam’s razor would appear to apply to scientific forecasting, too.

At this year’s International Symposium on Forecasting, Kesten and Scott presented a review of the IPCC’s modeling procedures using a nine-item checklist on conformance with evidence-based guidance on simplicity in forecasting.

They found that the IPCC procedures have a “simplicity rating” of 19%. That figure contrasts with a simplicity rating of 93% for the Green, Armstrong and Soon no-change (no-trend) model of long-term global average temperatures.

Given the vast sums that have been spent on the IPCC process and how seriously the outputs are being taken by the Paris delegates, is it possible that alarm over dangerous manmade global warming is an exception to Occam’s razor in forecasting

Apparently not. The evidence presented by a notional bet between Scott Armstrong and Al Gore—represented by forecasts from the simple no-trend model and the IPCC model “business as usual” projected warming rate of 0.03C per annum, respectively—is that the IPCC’s preference for complexity has increased the size of forecast errors by as much as 45% over a seven year period.

Earlier evidence in Green, Armstrong, and Soon’s (2009) validation study found that the IPCC’s complex forecasting models increased the size of forecast errors by seven times relative to the simple no-change model for the period of exponentially increasing atmospheric CO2 from 1851 to 1975.

Kesten and Scott’s conference paper abstract and slides are available from ResearchGate, here.

Their paper, “Simple versus complex forecasting: The evidence” and their Simplicity Checklist are available from the Simple-Forecasting.com pages of the ForecastingPrinciples.com (ForPrin.com) website. (You can do your own ratings of the IPCC procedures, to check if your ratings might lead to a different conclusion.) The original Green, Armstrong, and Soon validation study of IPCC forecasting is available here.

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105 thoughts on “Is climate forecasting immune from Occam's razor?

      • Quite right Santa !
        Kesten Green says:-
        “It is on the basis of forecasts that the political leaders and government officials gathered in Paris are discussing agreements that would impose extraordinarily disruptive and expensive policies on the nations of the world”
        Not quite true is it ?
        By intentionally and wilfully omitting/ignoring naturally occuring climate cycles and solar activity, engineered computer ‘forecasts’ have been designed, with the aid of tampered data and shonky physics, to provide Marxists/Socialists with an excuse for the imposition of Global Governance and the dissolution of democratic rule by UN legislation supported by a compliant media and a “scientific establishment” that has, with rare exceptions, become afraid to ‘do science’ anymore. It’s for your own good, kamrade, just leave it ALL to us.
        In the final analysis – what’s the climate got to do with this ? – Nothing, it’s the endgame that is all and it doesn’t really matter HOW you win – just win – there will be no replay.
        By the time everyone taken in by AGW and the party bandwagon (including those in the Polar Bear costumes, but excluding those at the ‘top table’ who planned it this way), realise they’ve been ‘used’ or robbed it will be too late………….
        Merry winterval. (yuk)

  1. Climate forecasting, IPCC style, is immune from everything except ingrowing toenails.
    But send grant money and I will see what I can find out about that.

    • The heat will make the keratin more plastic so that people do not cut them properly.
      I want my fair share of the trough, OSD. Big Oil has stiffed me again.

  2. “Is climate forecasting immune from Occam’s razor?”
    It would seem that all of climate “science” is immune from the laws, procedures, and traditions of science. Open and honest debate is gone. Honest reporting of methods, observations, and results is a thing of the past. Even the idea that if the scientist claims CO2 warms the planet and is the control knob of climate, then it is his/her responsibility to prove that contention rather than the responsibility of others to disprove that. Wild Assed Guesses about the climate are not the null hypothesis.
    Then there is the idea that statisticians know that just because two things (say temps and CO2) are correlated in a time series does not prove causation at all. And you can not use any loose correlation to make any predictions — especially if you are trying to find a “fix” that would require dismantling the industrialized societies.
    Occam’s razor? What chance does that general observation have in the face of the total destruction of the method of science in this modern era? Hell, someone is going to ask Occam was “peer reviewed”!

      • I agree with the first sentence, but await with interest the responses to the second!
        I think you could get an earful from the other women posting here…..I, myself, assume it was missing the /sarc tag?

      • Alex December 12, 2015 at 3:53 am
        “All emotion and no logic.”
        Yes, as I have said many times here, it is simply Sales 101. You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle. And the warmists are certainly trying to sell the sizzle!

      • melte
        “It’s like discussing something with your wife.”
        It’s like discussing something with your spouse.
        Helps any?
        It’s like discussing something with your significant other, than whom there is nobody.
        Dunno.
        I wrote it, and all, but . . . . . . . .
        Auto

    • and correlation beetween CO2 and T is very weak il you consider the whole century, she is only relevant from 1975 to 2000

    • Temp and CO2 are more often not correlated than correlated in time.
      Take the past 70 years, for instance. CO2 took off after WWII and has been rising at a monotonous rate since then, with perhaps a slight uptick in the past 20 year, as China and India embraced imperfect versions of capitalism. What has been the actual response of our plant to this presumed “forcing”?
      For the first 32 years, ie 1945-77, of the rapid and steady rise in this GHG, earth cooled noticeably. Then for about 20 years, c. 1977-96, temperature rose slightly, accidentally coinciding with the continued increase in CO2. But since 1996, earth has not warmed and indeed, despite even more CO2 staying in the air, has lately cooled again.
      Thus, the null hypothesis, ie that nothing out of the ordinary is happening with our climate, not only can’t be rejected, but is supported by actual observations.

    • “Then there is the idea that statisticians know that just because two things (say temps and CO2) are correlated in a time series does not prove causation at all”
      Ya know? It would be nice occasionally if people stopped pissing in the cornflakes of statisticians?
      Just for a change maybe? Exactly when did a statistician last rape your dog? Burgle your house? Some statisticians work for those morons we call the government. Others don’t.
      Most of us actually know the difference between correlation and causation. It’s sort of in the blood. It’s my understanding we invented the word “correlation”. My guess is we know what it means.

      • “Exactly when did a statistician last rape your dog?”
        For the last 15 years I had a wonderful male tuxedo cat as a familiar and he would tell me about any statistical problems and he would also tell me if anyone at all had raped a neighborhood animal either cat or dog. Now that he has passed on to cat heaven I have to rely on my failing memory of teaching the subject decades ago. (stat, not rape)
        Oh, and sorry about the cornflakes. 🙁

      • Um, I think the quote was saying that statiticians DO know the difference, but that “climate science” ignores that (just like the other thing in the litany of ignored science norms).

  3. I don’t care. Every time I reach in to my wallet, and that is AFTER WORKING AND PAYING TAX (I am working again), I find some EXTRA green tax has taken a few dollars more off me. Keep ya hands in ya own pocket please!

  4. Climate alarmists love their hocus pocus. Why have a simple solution when you can call on the dark arts of climate “science”
    It works for astrology, homoeopathy, etc.!

  5. Actually AGW is a prime example of Occam’s Razor, which actually say ‘entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity’ (in the construction of a theory).
    The conflict arises out of the term ‘necessity’ and what, in any given context, it means.
    Since the purpose of AGW is not to elicit accurate forecasts of future temperatures but to justify political commercial and social actions, its sparse and clinical nature (‘it’s all down to CO2’) is fully in the spirit of Occam.
    /sarc

    • Leo
      A massive contribution.
      Thanks.
      But – perhaps, unhappily, not actually /sarc
      You know – real.
      Like the watermelons ARE trying to screw the rest of the world over – and for keepsies . . . .
      Auto

  6. Occam’s (Ockham’s) Razoror the Law of Parsimony is one of the most widely misunderstood and/or misstated tenets of logic. It essentially states that the explanation with the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct.
    In a classical logic sense, AGW doesn’t even make it onto Occam’s cutting board. Apart from black body radiation, AGW is comprised of nothing but assumptions.
    As it applies to the scientific method… If two competing hypotheses explain all of the observations, the simplest hypothesis is most likely to be correct.
    Chamberlin’s Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses coupled with Occam’s Razor is an ideal work flow in sciences subject to the non-uniqueness principle (Earth & Atmospheric sciences in particular).
    Natural variability alone, doesn’t explain all of the climate-related observations. It only explains 75-95% of the observations. On the other hand, AGW fails to explain 75-95% of the observations. So, Occam’s Razor isn’t applicable. AGW is a failed hypothesis on its own merits (or lack thereof).

    • “As it applies to the scientific method… If two competing hypotheses explain all of the observations, the simplest hypothesis is most likely to be correct.”
      I was taught it was a bit more than just that. We could have two wrong hypotheses where one is much simpler than the other but that does not make the simpler one correct. So far, the CO2 drives the planet’s temperature has not produced any evidence (honest evidence at lease) of being correct. That hypothesis has made no correct predictions that are convincing.
      Besides, there are not just two hypothesis. There is the “natural variation” hypothesis and the IPCC “CO2 is the control knob of temperature” of course, but there are others. I personally find that those who look to gravity, density of the atmosphere, solar insulation, water in all its phases, and even more to explain the temperature and climate of the planet make far more sense.

      • If a hypothesis is wrong, it doesn’t explain all of the observations, therfore Occam’s Razor isn’t applicable. Occam’s Razor doesn’t give merit to a simple failed hypothesis relative to a complex failed hypothesis.
        My citation of Chamberlin’s Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses should have been a pretty good clue that I wasn’t limiting climate change to two hypotheses.

      • David,
        Yes, but in this game pointing out the obvious in detail is often necessary. There are those out there who think that “natural variation” and “CO2 done it” are the only two possibilities that there are. I was amplifying that there is not just two.

      • Gloateus Maximus,
        Yes, but I was pointing out that there are multiple theories of how these natural factors work together to give us the climate and temperature that we have. Even the “CO2 is what done it” brand should take all those factors into account if they truly wanted to explain climate. For example, we have been told that the “climate scientists” and their models don’t do cloud cover very well at all.
        In fact, the AGW hypothesis is already falsified if one honestly looks at the evidence. For example: “How AGW isn’t happening in the real Earth system …” https://okulaer.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/how-agw-isnt-happening-in-the-real-earth-system/

      • Natural variation is not a hypothesis. It simply says “we don’t know what is doing it, but it happens anyway”. If we believe in causation then all climate changes have a cause. To say it is due to “nature” is not an explanation of the cause, simply passing the buck.
        Compare to ideas about disease. Go back a while and “nature did it” was about as good an explanation we had. People just got ill as part of the natural way of things. Then we came up with the much more complex microbe theory. The complexity of the germ theory is very high – it entails a whole new order of living things we can’t even see. Yet this complex answer is the right one. What has happened to Occam’s Razor? Well, “Nature did it” is not an explanation, so its apparent simplicity does not help.

      • Mark,
        Thanks for yet another falsification of the hypothesis that humans are warming the globe dangerously.
        Seaice,
        That to the extent the climate has changed since 1950 (or whenever), it’s due to normal, natural variation most certainly is an hypothesis. It is in fact the null hypothesis, ie that nothing unnatural is happening with climate now. Its antithesis is the repeatedly failed hypothesis that something unusual is happening now and it’s because of man-made GHGs.

      • Gloatus-just saying something is natural is not an explanation. Please explain why climate is different from disease in my example.

    • markstoval on December 12, 2015 at 4:48 am
      David,
      Yes, but in this game pointing out the obvious in detail is often necessary. There are those out there who think that “natural variation” and “CO2 done it” are the only two possibilities that there are. I was amplifying that there is not just two

      Fair enough.
      Furthermore, neither “CO2 did it” nor “natural variability” are scientific hypotheses. They are about as scientific as saying, “God did it.”
      My primary point was that Occam’s Razor isn’t applicable to AGW because it is a failed hypothesis which fails to explain most of the observations.

      • “My primary point was that Occam’s Razor isn’t applicable to AGW because it is a failed hypothesis which fails to explain most of the observations.” ~ David
        And I agree with that point completely.

    • “It essentially states that the explanation with the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct.”
      I understood it as you go with the simplest explanation, not that it is most likely correct but its the one that is the easiest to disprove ie. the first one that you will discover is wrong.
      Where climate science has been perverted is the assumption that atmosphere is so well understood (as a linear system) that there can’t be any natural reason that the mean global temperature anomalies weren’t flat as a tack since 1950.

  7. Lord Monckton’s pocket calculator model would be a good exampe of a simple model outperforming more complicated models.

  8. The All Powerful Left has spoken. “Legally binding” framework by 190 totalitarians is soon to pass. Is deindustrialization far behind? The 25/75 Rule? It seems Hanson, Mckibbon, Erlich, et al, have won this one. Public Schools are largely responsible for this, without changing that everything else is for naught.

    • wharfplank says:
      Public Schools are largely responsible for this, without changing that everything else is for naught.
      Right you are. The US Public Schools are “brainwashing” their students to believe the Religion of CAGW ….. just like the Muslim schools “brainwash” their students/children to believe the Religion of Islam (Mohammed). And there is no way in ell to re-educate those children of either Religious belief once they attain adulthood.
      In truth, there is no such thing as a “radicalized terrorist” ….. but there are great numbers of “Religious fanatics” …. simply because their early Religious nurturing dictates that is what they should be.

  9. Occam’s Razor is a frequently useful tool when evaluating “first guesses.” Knowledge and understanding of processes eliminates its need.
    Re: statistics and forecasts
    Statistics is analysis of data. There is no future data; therefore the future is immune to statistics. Predictions and forecasts are solely the product and responsibility of the predictor (or statistician).

  10. When Occam’s razor is applied to the CAGW interpretation of climate, empirical insight (as opposed to dogmatic insistence) becomes possible. CAGW believers insist on lumping together these assumptions:
    1) Added CO2 (all other factors being equal) tends toward warming
    2) this warming (and perhaps the additional CO2 itself has profoundly negative consequences for the human and non-human world. Under (2) maintain a constantly updated list of apparently unusual or frightening events in the human and non-human spheres, noisily adding new entries to the list, quietly dropping off old entries whose usefulness has expired.
    An Occamistic approach would insist on treating these as separate questions. It’s their promiscuous lumping together of these assumptions (plus more that could be named) that results in most of the confusion around climate issues, most notoriously the much-touted “97%” meme. That meme is, as David Hume might say, as artificial as a crocophant. It’s derived from conflating multiple entities, none of which have any necessary relation to one another.

  11. Occam’s razor is not a law of nature. If it were, it would already be falsified several times because the simplest explanation is not always true. The simplest model of the planet trajectories are perfect circles but they are ellipses. Karl Popper explained this and argued that the value of Occam’s razor is that it selects the best testable theories. So the question is of whether the AGW theory is more difficult to falsify than the theory of natural variations. Well, 97 percent of the AGW models do not agree with the real temperature development. So the theory is falsified, as remarked above by an other commenter. The theory was very easy to falsify. How easy is it to falsify the natural theory? I would say not very easy. Take the temperature variations over millions of years. These are huge because they encompass the ice ages and the warm periods in between. In this variance a small increase of temperature simply drowns. My conclusion is the opposite of what is said in this post.

  12. Simplicity of a gravitational based thermal surface enhancement over the “Greenhouse Effect” also wins the Occam’s Razor test. The 66C average tempersture of Venus’s atmosphere at sea level pressure observation should have put this issue to bed decades ago.

  13. Casting of bones and reading tea leaves would do better than the so-called “climate forecasts”, so yeah, simpler would be better.

  14. The author uses a direct quote: ‘All things being equal the simplest solution tends to be the best one’ – William of Ockham.
    There is nothing in this quotation that I recognize as coming from William of Ockham, e.g. ‘All things being equal’, ‘the simplest solution’, ‘tends to be’ and ‘the best one’. Nothing anything like this would have been written by a Scholastic philosopher on his worst day.
    Could I ask the author to give us his source for this quotation in Ockham’s works and the source for the translation? The quotation is in quotation marks so it should be directly sourced from Ockham’s works.
    Since the author is allegedly quoting ‘William of Ockham’ we would as a minimum requirement expect this source to be spelled in that way throughout the article, instead of ‘Occam’.

    • fos:
      You may want to read this item that includes the same pictorial illustration as the above essay.
      In its explanation of “the razor” the linked item says

      For Ockham, the principle of simplicity limits the multiplication of hypotheses not necessarily entities. Favoring the formulation “It is useless to do with more what can be done with less,” Ockham implies that theories are meant to do things, namely, explain and predict, and these things can be accomplished more effectively with fewer assumptions.

      Richard

      • On this blog we quite rightly shout at warmists for making stuff up; we should hold ourselves to the same standard.
        A direct quote attributed to a source has to exist and be verifiable. The article invokes ‘Ockham’s razor’ but doesn’t define it in any way, forcing Anthony to fill in the gap with a non-attributable quote.
        In my opinion this quote does not describes Ockham’s razor or any principle he propounded. Therefore if it is used as the starting point for an article, the article has sunk before it has begun.
        In the link you gave there is still no source for the quote. Just because someone else has used the quote doesn’t make it any more authentic. I didn’t find this quote anywhere in the text at this link. There is nothing in the article that remotely corresponds to ‘All things being equal the simplest solution tends to be the best one’.
        ‘the same pictorial illustration as the above essay’. No it isn’t. The image Anthony used is not the same as the simple illustration taken from wikimedia used in the article. There is no text in the original image.
        The quotation from the linked article that you reproduce: ‘Ockham implies that theories are meant to do things, namely, explain and predict, and these things can be accomplished more effectively with fewer assumptions.’ is rubbish.
        Ockham never implied anything, he wrote clearly and quite explicitly. The idea that ‘theories are meant to do things, namely, explain and predict’ would be incomprehensible to Ockham, who knew nothing of theories, explaining or predicting.
        If you can’t answer my request for a source for the quote in Ockham’s works then you should say so and not just blather.

      • fos:
        You may think my attempt to help you was inadequate but I do NOT “blather”.
        If that is how you respond to attempted assistance then I for one will make no further attempt to help you.
        Richard

    • I think the quote is from the movie “Contact” and was uttered by Jodi Foster. Apparently that was sufficient to make it real.

    • According to this site, Ockham said this:

      Nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.

      I think in this day and age, we can replace “Sacred Scripture” with “IPCC report.” So there.

    • Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate is as near as I can find. Never find many [entities] unless necessary.

  15. The text of the draft Paris Climate Agreement has been released.
    The only good news is that it has an exit clause, see Article 28.
    After 2019 you can give one year’s notice and then withdraw from it.

  16. I would say that Occam’s razor for climate is pretty reasonable.
    1) Greenhouse gases trap heat. 2) CO2 is a greenhouse gas. 3) Humans are adding more CO2 to the atmosphere.
    Can’t get much simpler than that. Fact is, most skeptics also accept this. The problem comes about when you try to get more exact. Once again, few people doubt there is a feedback to the small, basic warming of adding more CO2 to the atmosphere. Skeptics tend to think the feedback is small or negative while alarmists think it is strongly positive. How do you determine whether one complicated set of feedback variables is less complex than another?
    I don’t think Occam’s Razor supports either side in this situation.

    • Point #1 is wrong. Heat can not be trapped. It may be re-directed but it is not trapped. I don’t know why very few people seem to understand that simple fact. Simple grade eight physics and owners of PhD’s can’t get it right.

  17. Several authors have argued that the hypothesis of dangerous manmade global warming fails the test of Occam’s razor because the simple hypothesis of natural variation fits the data with fewer assumptions. As Harold Jeffreys noted, “simpler laws have the greater prior probability”. But are forecasts of dangerous warming immune from Occam’s razor?

    This Video clip highlights Occam’s Razor when applied to Climate Science.
    https://youtu.be/QowL2BiGK7o?t=26m19s

  18. Even if humans stopped emission of CO2 today, the CO2 will continue to increase anyway because of the nature emissions. Then the politicians will stop the nature.

  19. Re: Occam’s razor 12/12/2015
    As quoted, Occam’s Razor is just fine. Comparing two incompetent climate models, one might as well choose the simpler, but the razor as stated applies to solutions not failures. In Modern Science a model is valid if and only if it predicts significant events to a prescribed accuracy. IPCC, which practices Post Modern Science, is free to play games with predictions, calling them projections, having no requirement from PMS that its models actually work. (PMS requires only that models meet the three-prong intersubjective [Popper] “Publish or Perish” requirement: (1) peer-reviewed, (2) published, and (3) arguably consensus-supported, each by its audience of certified practitioners. MS and PMS are orthogonal.)
    Nevertheless, the global climate models predict an Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity of 3º with a couple of confidence ranges that translate and extend to 95% confidence that it will be at least 1.05. What is being measured is less than 1.
    Moreover, what is being measured is not the warming following a forcing of CO2, as the definition of ECS requires, but a warming preceding a forcing of CO2, so the situation is much, much worse than one might guess [Feynman]. No ECS that fits the definition exists to be measured. (And putting aside that equilibrium other than thermodynamic equilibrium is undefined, and neither then actually occurs in Earth’s climate.)
    Occam’s razor applies regularly and routinely in science, as when one eliminates unnecessary assumptions in one’s working model. It does not apply to incompetence.

    • Dr. Glassman claims that that “In Modern Science a model is valid if and only if it predicts significant events to a prescribed accuracy.” This claim is terminologically incorrect. Using standard statistical terminology it is correct to state that a model is “valid” if and only if the values that are assigned to the predicted probabilities of the outcomes of events match the values that are assigned to the observed relative frequencies in a sample not used in the construction of the model.
      The model that assigns 3 ºC to the ECS is similar to the less “complex” model of Dr. Green and his colleagues in the respect that there is no statistical population, sample-space, sample, probability or relative frequency. Thus, it is insusceptible to being validated. However, both models are susceptible to being evaluated.
      In its older assessment reports the IPCC makes the false claim that its models are validated. In its recent assessment reports IPCC makes the true claim that they are “evaluated.” “Evaluation” is a logically, statistically and scientifically nonsensical neologism.
      As “evaluate” sounds like “validate” many observors are led to believe that models are susceptible to being validated when they are only susceptible to being evaluated. Among the many who have taken the IPCC’s bait is Glassman. Green seems also to have taken it.

    • Terry Oldberg, 12/17/15 @ 8:42 pm, conflates statistical models and scientific models by applying “standard statistical terminology” to science. My statement he quoted, In Modern Science a model is valid if and only if it predicts significant events to a prescribed accuracy, is the definition of valid in the sense used in modern science. A writer is always free to define words as he might choose, as long as the definition is unmistakable. The word validate is necessary to clarify that scientific models are not susceptible to proof.
      As Terry Oldberg’s statistical definition of valid shows, it applies just to predicting probability distributions. Science is concerned with probability, too, but in the context of predicting events from postulated Cause & Effect relationships. This is what makes science deductive, instead of inductive, a model which confounded philosophers anfd scientists until Francis Bacon, and many stragglers ever since. Cause & Effect relationships are what science validates.
      Statistical models are very much like scientific models, but statistics applies a tacit assumption that whatever C&E relationships effected the database remain in effect for the term of the prediction. Statistics is mathematics. As Moore, et al., Introduction to the Practice of Statistics, 2009, says, Statistics is the science of data. Science is all that plus the principles of processes, including especially the life and physical sciences, both natural (physics, chemistry, etc.) and manmade (technology).
      Having no information as to (1) who Dr. Green is, (2) what Terry Oldberg means by similar wrt whatever Green’s model might be, (3) what older assessment reports [of] the IPCC references, or (4) how Terry Oldberg deduced that similar sounding words have lead to his perception of a confusion, his discussion of ECS cannot be parsed.
      One can only show how IPCC unintentionally predicted ECS, and how investigators have erroneously computed it to be 1ºC or less, well below IPCC’s 5% confidence level.
      First, is the definition:
      In IPCC reports, equilibrium climate sensitivity refers to the equilibrium change in the annual mean global surface temperature following a doubling of the atmospheric equivalent carbon dioxide concentration. Bold added, AR4, Glossary, p. 943
      This definition implies that absent a CO2 forcing, the reference temperature would not be changing, the (0,0) point. An equilibrium as imagined by IPCC and its definition surely would occur in a GCM, but without a definition, no one can claim that it ever exists in the Real World. Thermodynamic equilibrium, of course, occurs nowhere in climate. Secondly, no investigator has ever shown any lag, much less the requisite lag, of MGST with respect to an increase in atmospheric CO2. Indeed, atmospheric CO2 follows MGST, both à posteriori in the paleo record and à priori, invalidating the very existence of the ECS parameter. Climate models rely on a parameter that doesn’t exist.
      Second, IPCC says, The [ECS] … is likely to be in the range of 2ºC to 4.5ºC and very unlikely to be less than 1.5ºC. AR4, SPM, p. 12. And it has a most likely value of about 3ºC. AR4, Ch. 10, Executive Summary, p. 749. Where Likely > 66%, More likely than not > 50%, Unlikely < 33%, Very unlikely < 10%. AR4, SPM, p. 3, fn. 6. Curve fitting with a couple of reasonable models to these data [(0,0),(1.5,10),(2,33),(3,50),(4.5,66)] puts the 1ºC confidence level at a pitiful 2.5% for an ECS level more than even the current erroneous estimates.
      This concludes a little tutorial in the interests of encouraging scientific literacy.

      • Jeff G says:
        Terry Oldberg… conflates statistical models and scientific models by applying “standard statistical terminology”…
        Oh-oh. Now you’ve gone and done it… ☺

      • Jeff Glassman:
        Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment and for taking the time to reply. Your definition of “validate” is the one that was rejected by IPCC after that agency was informed by Vincent Gray ( Gray, http://icecap.us/images/uploads/SPINNING_THE_CLIMATE08.pdf ) that its climate models were not validated contrary to the claim it had made in previous assessment reports. Thereafter, the IPCC replaced “validate with “evaluate” ( Gray, Ibid ). This replacement left “validate” with the meaning that I attribute to the term in my post.
        Prior to the replacement of “validate” with “evaluate,” “validate” was polysemic. When a polysemic word is used in making an argument and changes meaning in the midst of this argument, the argument is an example of an “equivocation.” While an equivocation looks like an argument having a true conclusion aka syllogism it isn’t one. Thus, while one can logically draw a conclusion from a syllogism one cannot logically draw a conclusion from an equivocation. To draw a conclusion from an equivocation is the “equivocation fallacy.”
        In the literature of global warming climatology, another commonly used polysemic term is “predict.” In a post to the blog of “Nature” circa 2007 (link is dead but several individuals have copies), Kevin Trenberth states that the IPCC models do not make predictions. According to Trenberth they make “projections.” Trenberth’s statement does for “predict” what Gray’s statement does for “validate.” This is to disambiguate the term. Disambiguation of the terms of an argument render applications of the equivocation fallacy impossible. Applications of this fallacy are common in global warming arguments ( Oldberg, http://wmbriggs.com/post/7923/ ); thus all people favoring a logical basis for public policy on CO2 emissions should take care to avoid these applications through use of a disambiguated terminology in making arguments. If one’s purpose is to draw conclusions from syllogisms and not to draw conclusions from equivocations, the penalty for use of a disambiguated terminology is nil. Nonetheless there are “skeptics” who refuse to do so.
        By the way, “science” and derivatives of it such as “scientific” are among the terms that are polysemic in the literature of global warming climatology. An approach to defining “science” monosemically emerges from solution of the philosophical problem that is called the “problem of induction.” I solve this problem in parts I and II of the three part tutorial that is entitled “The Principles of Reasoning.” The two parts are at http://www.judithcurry.com/2010/11/22/principles-of-reasoning-part-i-abstraction/ and http://www.judithcurry.com/2010/11/25/the-principles-of-reasoning-part-ii-solving-the-problem-of-induction/ . A disambiguation emerges under which “science” is synonymous with the concept that is called “mutual information” in information theory. The mutual information of a model is Claude Shannon’s measure of the intersection of this model’s condition space and sample space. It is the information that is available for the control of a system. For a model that makes projections, the mutual information and science are nil thus the climate system is uncontrollable. Governments obviously think this system is controllable. This misapprehension seems to result from applications of the equivocation fallacy that, as earlier pointed out, are frequent in the literature of global warming climatology.
        Footnotes:
        1) For a model that make projections there is no such thing as an “event.” As a probability is the measure of an event, there is no such thing as a probability. Neither does the empirical counterpart of a probability (a relative frequency) exist. There are no sampling units or samples. There is no statistical population, sample space or condition space.
        2) “Dr. Green” is Kesten Green. He is the author of the article that is under review.
        3) In recent years it has been realized that probability theory provides us with a kind of logic: the “probabilistic logic” that is a generalization of the classical logic and that extends from this logic to cover situations for which information that would be needed in order for a deductive conclusion to be reached is missing. The scientific method of investigation requires validation of a scientific model (else it is not “scientific”) and this entails the use of statistical concepts. Control of a physical system is a possibility under the circumstance that the mutual information is less than perfect. In practice there are seldom circumstances in which the mutual information is perfect.

      • Terry Oldberg, 12/21/15 @ 10:20 am, invited discussion about this proposition:
        [M]y argument … is that policy should be based upon conclusions drawn from logical arguments. IPCC global warming climatology is divorced from logic by the fact that its projections are not examples of propositions.
        By definition, policy questions are political, depending on all sorts of things, and science is of no help. Is the context that of a dictatorship? A limited government? Pragmatically, policy is based on some arbitrary combination of power, authority, and economics, where logic is a rhetorical apparition (e.g., fossil fuel vs. renewables, never nuclear; the toothless agreement from the latest Global Climate Summit). In short, political correctness, i.e., incorrect by any other standard.
        IPCC’s world of Post Modern Science is an oligarchy in which the global warming movement is an internal power grab against the success of free markets, Western democracy, and any precepts of its science — democratic suicide. The linguistics of propositions doesn’t enter into the analysis. The West vests extreme power in its leaders, but under limited authority, mostly honored in the omission.
        IPCC is perfectly OK under the precepts of PMS. Any who disagree are simply banished from the certified community of peers, publishers, and consensus.
        Under Modern Science it’s quite a different story. IPCC is an abortion, unable to predict what it pretends to understand, and full of excuses for its omissions as it sinks into an abyss created by its ever more obvious failure.
        Abortion: (2) An object or undertaking regarded … as unpleasant or badly made or carried out. Oxford Dictionaries.

        • A deception is evidently being perpetrated in the name of “science” through applications of the equivocation fallacy which employ polysemic terms that include “science.” Often, I find, these applications are made by “skeptics” wedded to the idea that the numerical value of the equilibrium climate sensitivity is not as great as represented by the “alarmists.” Skeptics of this persuasion tend to be stoutly resistant to disambiguation of terms in the language of their arguments that render applications of the equivocation fallacy impossible. When I call for disambiguation they see me as siding with their opponents, the alarmists. Conversely, alarmists see me as siding with the skeptics. That I am neither skeptic nor alarmist but rather am a proponent of logical thinking in the construction of public policy seems not to cross the minds of alarmists or skeptics. In the blogosphere, I find myself nearly alone in being neither alarmist nor skeptic
          The existence of this phenomenon leads me to doubt that a power grab is the sole motivator for behavior. In most cases, peoples’ positions suggest that the deception is the motivator .

      • Moderator, 12/21/2015 @ 7:20:
        Like this:
        WAS ªobjectively§. IS objectively
        WAS: ªfalse§. IS false
        WAS: ªpeer-reviewed literature by the combined efforts of many other scientists§. IS peer-reviewed literature by the combined efforts of many other scientists.
        I try to check my posts with a text editor, but as far as I have learned, it is strictly character oriented and can’t easily search for strings like embedded like this: .

    • Terry Oldberg, 12/18/15 @ 2:57 pm, reports this interesting scenario:
      Your definition of “validate” is the one that was rejected by IPCC after that agency was informed by Vincent Gray that its climate models were not validated contrary to the claim it had made in previous assessment reports. Thereafter, the IPCC replaced “validate with “evaluate”. This replacement left “validate” with the meaning that I attribute to the term in my post. [¶] Prior to the replacement of “validate” with “evaluate,” “validate” was polysemic. Citations deleted.
      Gray’s criticism, like Oldberg’s here, is misguided. This is the same mistake as criticizing the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) model for it’s failure to predict. That failure is not just in climate, where IPCC “projections” lie beyond the observations of anyone living. It includes failure to predict immediately its operative parameter alleged to effect climate change, its Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS), discussed above.
      Gray’s criticism would be correct applied to Modern Science, but it is unfair applied to IPCC, which practices no kind of science. Only in Modern Science do models have actually to work. IPCC reports and relies on Post Modern Science. In Post Modern Science, models must instead pass Popper’s three intersubjective criteria: peer review, publication, and consensus, each within a certified body of practitioners.
      Richard Horton, Editor, The Lancet, an appropriately certified journal in medicine plus anything else that might amuse or educate its readers, put it famously when in 2000 he wrote:
      Peer review as a reliable technique for assessing the validity of scientific data is surely discredited. The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability — not the validity — of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed {jiggered}, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong.
      IPCC recognizes the precepts of Modern Science, only to distort then when it writes,
      Scientific theories are ways of explaining phenomena and providing insights that can be evaluated by comparison with physical reality. Each successful prediction adds to the weight of evidence supporting the theory, and any unsuccessful prediction demonstrates that the underlying theory is imperfect and requires improvement or abandonment. AR4, ¶1.2 The Nature of Earth Science, p. 95.
      Despite popular views among scientists to the contrary, science is not about explaining or describing. Those are both subjective notions, depending on the skill and receptiveness of the audience. Modern Science bars all subjective notions in its models. However, IPCC’s part about evaluation by the success of predictions is on point and exclusive to Modern Science.
      But IPCC is not in the business of evaluating the success of models. As it says,
      It does not directly support new research or monitor climate-related data. AR4, ¶1.6 The IPCC Assessments of Climate Change and Uncertainties, p. 118.
      No requirement exists in Post Modern Science to make predictions, much less to check them by monitoring data. IPCC’s process of synthesis and assessment (id.) is encompassed in this paragraph:
      Science may be stimulated by argument and debate, but it generally advances through formulating hypotheses clearly and testing them ªobjectively§. This testing is the key to science. In fact, one philosopher of science insisted that to be genuinely scientific, a statement must be susceptible to testing that could potentially show it to be ªfalse§ (Popper, 1934). In practice, contemporary scientists usually submit their research findings to the scrutiny of their peers, which includes disclosing the methods that they use, so their results can be checked through replication by other scientists. The insights and research results of individual scientists, even scientists of unquestioned genius, are thus confirmed or rejected in the ªpeer-reviewed literature by the combined efforts of many other scientists§. It is not the belief or opinion of the scientists that is important, but rather the results of this testing. Indeed, when Albert Einstein was informed of the publication of a book entitled 100 Authors Against Einstein, he is said to have remarked, ‘If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!’ (Hawking, 1988); however, that one opposing scientist would have needed proof in the form of testable results. Bold added, AR4, ¶1.2 The Nature of Earth Science, p. 95.
      Popper’s falsification criterion is based on his misperception, widely shared even today, that science models by induction, which would require infinite regress to establish empirically. In his deconstruction of Modern Science, Popper rejected Cause & Effect (Bacon, 1620) and the whole of causation. Left with no way to establish the validity of a model, he invented the falsification clause. In his world, all scientific statements were equivalent to Universal Generalizations (UGs; e.g., “All ravens are black”) which empirically could only be disproved. Hence IPCC’s references attributed to Einstein and Hawking. Popper, like Wittgenstein and the whole of the Vienna Circle, mistakenly thought scientific propositions were logic statements. They are not truth-valued, but rather probabilistic.
      Moreover, no scientific model is known, I submit, in either version of science, which has a falsification clause. Certainly none exists in IPCC’s AGW model. What IPCC missed is that peer review, publication, and consensus are also tenets of Popper’s model. Popper is thus seen as the founding father of Post Modern Science, and his model has neither a method nor a requirement by which his models might be validated.
      IPCC may indeed have replaced validate with evaluate. It gave up on climate predictions, substituting projections:
      Climate variations and change, caused by external forcings, may be partly predictable, particularly on the larger, continental and global, spatial scales. Because human activities, such as the emission of greenhouse gases or land-use change, do result in external forcing, it is believed that the large-scale aspects of human-induced climate change are also partly predictable. However the ability to actually do so is limited because we cannot accurately predict population change, economic change, technological development, and other relevant characteristics of future human activity. In practice, therefore, one has to rely on carefully constructed scenarios of human behaviour and determine climate projections on the basis of such scenarios. TAR, §1.1.1 Climate, p. 87.
      and
      The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long term prediction of future exact climate states is not possible. TAR, Technical Summary, G.2 Climate Processes and Modelling, p. 78.
      IPCC attributes chaos theory to meteorologist Lorenz, but misapplies his work, which applies only to digital models, not to the real world, as in climate. The same applies to linearity. IPCC’s assignment of chaos and nonlinearity to the real world of climate is an excuse for the failure of its models to predict anything beyond the gullibility of democracies. So, too, is IPCC’s substitution of evaluation for validation. The failure is due to one thing: the practice of Post Modern Science, where models have to conform to dogma instead of actually working.
      As IPCC explains, it neither validates nor evaluates. Regarfdless, it only could have rejected validation in the context of its own reports. It has no authority to make its substitution with respect to Modern Science, converting it into Post Modern Science, as Terry Oldberg empowers IPCC to do. Science itself is polysemic, but that’s as far as that kind of ambiguity goes. Each branch of science has its own vocabulary.

      • Jeff Glassman:
        You seem to have misunderstood my argument. It is that policy should be based upon conclusions drawn from logical arguments. IPCC global warming climatology is divorced from logic by the fact that its projections are not examples of propositions. Do you disagree? If so, what is your argument?

  20. “Is climate forecasting immune from Occam’s razor?”
    Short answer: No
    Just look at the model predictions compared to actual experience.

  21. Mmmm … I’m not sure Occam’s razor is applicable here. Consider for example the path of a river in a relatively flat river valley bottom. The simplest assumption is that the river would take the shortest path from the highest ground to the lowest ground, basically a straight line.
    But in the real world, the river does NOT take Occam’s simplest path, the straight line from high to low. Instead, the river tells Occam to suck it, and it meanders in a long, winding path …
    To me, invoking Occam is generally like claiming that the climate problem is “simple physics”—it doesn’t help much. In our unimaginably complex world , the simplest path from A to B may never get trodden, and the physics is rarely simple …
    w.

    • I agree. I have never been a fan of Occam’s razor.
      There are too many systems in nature that are non linear and complex. Here is just a few:
      -The formation of life on planets with a wide variety of elements from debris left from a supernova. (The formation of the supernova itself is also non-linear).
      -The formation of abundant carbon in stars. (According to physicists when this process was discovered they found it so unusual they remarked-‘someone has been monkeying with the laws of physics’).
      -The failure of Newtonian physics to explain the orbit of mercury.
      -The failure of Kelvin’s heat loss model to explain the age of the earth.
      -The failure of fixed crustal models to explain the alignment of continents.
      -The formation of large gold deposits distal to and irrespective of size of source.
      -The nature of light/EM.
      The formation of rogue waves in the ocean.
      -Quantum uncertainty and non localism.
      etc

      • -The failure of Newtonian physics to explain the orbit of mercury.

        It seems to me as if you are missing the point about Occam’s razor. Newton was clearly wrong about mercury and Einstein was right. Occam does NOT suggest that we accept Newton’s view in this case since it does not satisfactorily explain things. According to Occam, if an extremely complicated explanation is needed, then it should be used. At least that is my understanding. Or did I miss your point?

      • Werner.
        Pros and cons of Occam’s razor would require a much longer discussion, but there are several reasons i have never liked it.
        My point was that the variation in the orbit of mercury was thought to be due to something small, such as measurement error, or something else relatively inconsequential-perhaps the ‘simplest’ answer using Occam’s razor. But relativity is not inconsequential. It’s an example of an apparent small anomaly that has large and complex implications-something Occam’s razor doesn’t deal with too well, at least if it is misused/misapplied.
        In climate science for example, Occams razor might be misused to overly-simplify complex climate processes in the direction they want certain models to show, such as claiming the climate is controlled by a ‘simple C02 climate knob’.

    • Mmmm … I’m not sure Occam’s razor is applicable here. Consider for example the path of a river in a relatively flat river valley bottom. The simplest assumption is that the river would take the shortest path from the highest ground to the lowest ground, basically a straight line.
      But in the real world, the river does NOT take Occam’s simplest path, the straight line from high to low. Instead, the river tells Occam to suck it, and it meanders in a long, winding path …
      To me, invoking Occam is generally like claiming that the climate problem is “simple physics”—it doesn’t help much. In our unimaginably complex world , the simplest path from A to B may never get trodden, and the physics is rarely simple …

      Applicable? It’s like a proverb or a platitude. Sometimes they fit, but they are not infallible. As with a tool, it’s all in what the user does with it. It’s not bad as a heuristic, the idea is good, and of course it has been expressed many times in many ways, from way before Occam to modern times. Take for example Einstein’s “Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Or von Neumann on overfitting. For hundreds of other formulations, see
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam's_razor
      including substituting “elegant” for “simple”, and “correlation is not causation”.
      But this one is a gift for Willis, the principle of least action, by Maupertuis and Euler according to Wikipedia, but the text I recommend is Chapter 19, “The Principle of Least Action” by Richard Feynman in his Lectures on Physics, volume 2.
      Now, about that river… Consider it from the river’s point of view. What is “simple” to the river?

      When I was in high school, my physics teacher […] called me down one day after physics class and said, ‘You look bored; I want to tell you something interesting.’ Then he told me something which I found absolutely fascinating, and have, since then, always found fascinating. Every time the subject comes up, I work on it. […] The subject is this — the principle of least action.

      • Toto December 14, 2015 at 5:44 pm

        Mmmm … I’m not sure Occam’s razor is applicable here. Consider for example the path of a river in a relatively flat river valley bottom. The simplest assumption is that the river would take the shortest path from the highest ground to the lowest ground, basically a straight line.
        But in the real world, the river does NOT take Occam’s simplest path, the straight line from high to low. Instead, the river tells Occam to suck it, and it meanders in a long, winding path …
        To me, invoking Occam is generally like claiming that the climate problem is “simple physics”—it doesn’t help much. In our unimaginably complex world , the simplest path from A to B may never get trodden, and the physics is rarely simple …

        Applicable? It’s like a proverb or a platitude. Sometimes they fit, but they are not infallible. As with a tool, it’s all in what the user does with it. It’s not bad as a heuristic, the idea is good, and of course it has been expressed many times in many ways, from way before Occam to modern times. Take for example Einstein’s “Everything should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Or von Neumann on overfitting. For hundreds of other formulations, see
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam's_razor
        including substituting “elegant” for “simple”, and “correlation is not causation”.

        Thanks, Toto, but isn’t that what I said, that it may not be applicable?

        But this one is a gift for Willis, the principle of least action, by Maupertuis and Euler according to Wikipedia, but the text I recommend is Chapter 19, “The Principle of Least Action” by Richard Feynman in his Lectures on Physics, volume 2.
        Now, about that river… Consider it from the river’s point of view. What is “simple” to the river?

        I fear that the river has no “point of view” so I can’t say what is “simple” to the rive.
        While the Principle of Least Action is indeed immensely valuable, I also fear that it doesn’t help us all that much w.r.t. the river. For that we need another law of nature, which is the Constructal Law. See e.g. Section 4.2 here. In it, Dr. Reis speaks directly to the difference between the principle of least action and the Constructal Law. From the abstract:

        The place of the constructal law among other fundamental principles, such as the Second Law, the principle of least action and the principles of symmetry and invariance is also presented.

        w.

      • “Thanks, Toto, but isn’t that what I said, that it may not be applicable?”
        Yes, I wasn’t disagreeing, just giving it a different spin. It’s a bit of philosophy, not a bit of science, so you can always try to apply it. Whether it works or not, well, that’s the problem; it often comes down to whether you agree with the answer or not. It’s too subjective to be reliable. Even William of Occam himself would reject the “simple solution” in this case, I’ll wager: “Mary was a virgin.” These days, you could use null hypotheses and p-values to *try* to make it more scientific, or at least more numeric.
        “I fear that the river has no “point of view” so I can’t say what is “simple” to the rive.”
        I hope you understand the River’s PoV is just a shortcut way of saying that every particle of the river, it’s bed, etc, has certain forces acting upon it, etc, and those are what count, not what seems simple to us.
        However, many thanks for that link to Constructal Law — fascinating. I see from that that my river’s point of view statement missed one essential element — time. The river evolves (in the constructal law sense) to become the meandering river, or whatever, according to the constraints it encounters in its history.

        To me, invoking Occam is generally like claiming that the climate problem is “simple physics”—it doesn’t help much. In our unimaginably complex world , the simplest path from A to B may never get trodden, and the physics is rarely simple …

        I agree totally, and the people who think physics is so simple just don’t get it, and they don’t know what they are missing.

  22. This is off topic, but speaking of Occam’s Razor…
    I love how some scientists are grasping at the Epicurean theory that there are a seemingly infinite number of universes in their quest to explain away the fact that our universe appears to have a start date and be fine tuned.
    What could be more antithetical to the razor than to create a whole new hypothetical universe? Creating an infinite number of hypothetical universes!

  23. re rising sea levels, seems it is caused by global warming, nowhere have I read that there are tectonic plates around the world that are constantly moving, up down and sideways, could these we having an effect on rising sea levels, or maybe sinking or eroding land would be closer to the truth. I believe the land in Indonesia moved over a metre during the last big earthquake, DUHHHH, now if it had sunk, would the global warmists be claiming it was caused by global warming, I wonder.

  24. Did you ever try Crabtree’s Bludgeon ? Invented it seems by Prof RV Jones.
    >>>..
    And then – and here whimsicality took over – he adumbrated Crabtree’s
    Bludgeon, a fearful blunting of Occam’s Razor: “No set of mutually
    inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect
    cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated.” In
    which case, he observed, all the Intelligence Officers can do is to
    stand by Occam. But Crabtree? Unmentioned by obituarists so far, he
    was Jones’s greatest spoof, though his genesis was shared with a
    number of contemporaries, including a distinguished Professor of
    German and a subsequent Public Orator of London University.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>……….
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/obituary-professor-r-v-
    jones-1290472.html
    It seems that it is still in use but without acknowledgement

  25. The problem with using Occam’s razor is that all things are not equal. There is far more money to be had if the global warming is anthropogenic rather than due to natural variation. (This leaves aside the issue of whether there is indeed any global warming at present.)

  26. Well, of course it is immune from Occam’s razor. (Likewise, AGW is unfalsifiable nonsense.) But, good luck convincing the public that that is not a good thing. BTW, the same is true for meteorology’s ‘storm theory’.

  27. Willis,
    Consider for example the path of a river in a relatively flat river valley bottom. The simplest assumption is that
    the river would take the
    shortest path from the highest ground to the lowest ground, basically a straight line.
    ____
    a river takes the shortest line, the (projected) fall line down the hill, until it encounters a strong resistance. Then it takes the path through a softer resistance: meandering.
    Occam’s razor.
    Regards – Hans

    • johann wundersamer December 20, 2015 at 2:17 pm Edit

      Willis,

      Consider for example the path of a river in a relatively flat river valley bottom. The simplest assumption is that
      the river would take the shortest path from the highest ground to the lowest ground, basically a straight line.

      ____
      a river takes the shortest line, the (projected) fall line down the hill, until it encounters a strong resistance. Then it takes the path through a softer resistance: meandering.
      Occam’s razor.
      Regards – Hans

      Thanks, Hans, but although that is simple, as Occam recommends, it is simply not true. Consider. A model river meanders on a sand table, where it’s all just sand and there is no “strong resistance”. Why do you think that is?
      In fact, the meander is the result of the action of the Constructal Law, a non-simple subject which you might enjoy reading about … I append some links to both the work of others and my own posts on the matter.
      w.
      Explanation and links from Adrian Bejan. From that link:

      The constructal law was stated by Adrian Bejan in 1996 as follows [1, 2]:

      “For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it”

      Wikipedia article on Constructal Law, in particular the section on Constructal Thermodynamics which shows how the Constructal Law explains a host of empirical relationships a priori.
      Bejan’s work on Constructal Climate Theory
      My own work

      The Unbearable Complexity of Climate 2009-12-27
      Figure 1. The Experimental Setup I keep reading statements in various places about how it is indisputable “simple physics” that if we increase amount of atmospheric CO2, it will inevitably warm the planet. Here’s a typical example: In the hyperbolic language that has infested the debate, researchers have been accused…
      The Constructal Law of Flow Systems 2010-11-15
      One of the most fundamental and far-reaching discoveries in modern thermodynamics is the Constructal Law (see the wiki entry as well). It was first formulated by Adrian Bejan in 1996. In one of his descriptions, the Constructal Law is: For a finite-size (flow) system to persist in time (to live),…
      Constructal GDP 2010-11-16
      Encouraged by the response to my post on Adrian Bejan and the Constructal Law, which achieved what might be termed unprecedented levels of tepidity, I persevere. Here’s a lovely look at the energy use of the United States: Figure 1. US 2002 Energy production and consumption by sector. There are…

  28. the simplestpath from A to B may never get trodden, and the physics is rarely simple …
    the physics basics are usually not that complicated, insists Occam, though every now and then we have to wait for the Newtons to clear the way.
    Regards – Hans

    • johann wundersamer December 20, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      the simplest path from A to B may never get trodden, and the physics is rarely simple

      the physics basics are usually not that complicated, insists Occam, though every now and then we have to wait for the Newtons to clear the way.
      Regards – Hans

      I thought I might wander into Occamland, wherein to my surprise I found a much earlier quote from Aristotle saying the same thing:

      We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [other things being equal] of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses.

      The closest Occam came to clearly stating his Razor seems to be when he said Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate [Plurality must never be posited without necessity]
      There are a couple of critical clauses, one in each formulation. One is “ceteris paribus” and the other is “sine necessitate”.
      The challenge, of course, is that the climate is unimaginably complex, and nothing is ever ceteris paribus. It has important phenomena going on at all spatial scales from the molecular to the solar system and beyond. It has important phenomena going on at all temporal scales from nanoseconds to millions of years and beyond. It has six major subsystems (atmosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, electromagnetosphere), all of which interact with all the others in known and unknown ways. None of the subsystems could be said to be well understood, and all of them have external forcings and internal feedbacks and resonances.
      Invoking either “simple physics” or Occam’s Razor in the study of such a chaotic complex system is … well … let me call it “unsupported by the evidence” and leave it at that.
      w.

  29. Occam’s razor is a rule for selection of each inference that will be made by a model from among the many possibilities. The need for a rule arises in the circumstance that information needed for deductive conclusion from one or more of these inferences is missing. If information is not missing there is not the need for a rule.
    As Toto points out, Occam’s razor is an example of a heuristic. As there are many possible heuristics, the use of a particular heuristic fails to deliver a unique solution of selecting the inferences. In this way, Occam’s razor violates the law of non-contradiction (LNC). The LNC is among the classical laws of thought; to violate it is illogical.
    The alternative to the use of a heuristic is the use an optimization that delivers a unique solution to the problem of selecting the inferences. The existence of this solution is a consequence of the fact that in the probabilistic logic every inference has a unique measure. This measure is the missing information in the inference for a deductive conclusion per event, the so-called “entropy.” The unique solution is produced by maximization or (dependent upon the type of inference) minimization of the entropy of each inference. Thus, this rule can be described as “entropy minimax.”
    Entropy minimax yields, for example, thermodynamics and Claude Shannon’s theory of telecommunication. The second law of thermodynamics is an expression of entropy maximization. Details on theoretical aspects of entropy minimax are available in the book “Multivariate Statistical Modeling” by Ronald Christensen (ISBN 0-938-87614-7). Applications have been made in engineering, medicine, meteorology and other fields of study but not in climatology.

  30. The problem with relying on Occam’s razor is that there are many, many examples in science in which it has proved to be incorrect. Just one example is energy metabolism in mammalian cells. It is not simple. It is nowhere near the simplest way one could conceive for energy to obtained form carbon-based molecules. If there is an obvious theme in mammalian energy metabolism, it is that efficiency and simplicity have been sacrificed to retain control and adaptability. This type of thing is so common in biology, that I do not know any serious biologists who use Occam’s razor in thinking about their research. It seems to me that the earth’s climate system is similarly complex, and I would suggest that Occam’s razor is useless in trying to understand it. Just for the record, I am a strong skeptic with regard to CAGW, but not because of Occam’s razor.

    • Steve:
      As you point out, Occam’s razor is capable of guiding us to the wrong theory. An alternative to Occam’s razor that guides us to the right theory is available but unused in global warming climatology.
      It emerges from the probabilistic logic. This logic is the generalization of the classical logic that results from replacement of the truth-values of propositions by probabilities.
      In the probabilistic logic each inference that is made by a model has a unique measure. This measure is the missing information in this inference for a deductive conclusion per event, the so-called “entropy.” In selecting the inferences that will be made by the model, the model builder executes an optimization that maximizes the entropy of each such inference under constraints expressing the available information. Alternatively and dependent upon the type of inference the model builder minimizes the conditional entropy.
      This approach yields a theory that is at an optimal rather than minimal level of complexity. Thermodynamics is a well-known result. It maximizes the entropy of the inferred microstate under the constraint of energy conservation.

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