Science magazine does Politics

Guest Opinion by Kip Hansen

Alternative_FactsScience, the journal, is beginning to go the way of the magazine Scientific American, in that it is beginning to become an oxymoron all by itself, as SciAm did in the Forrest Mims scandal.  Science Magazine has turned itself into Politics-uber-Science.

In today’s email of Science News, comes this article “Fighting back against ‘alternative facts’: Experts share their secrets” by Dan Ferber.   The article starts out with a clichéd attack on the sitting President of the United States and the repeated-ad-nauseam liberal-progressive assertion that all “alternative facts” are necessarily intentional falsehoods (“lies”) for the simple reason that they do not support their favored “experts”:

“…Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, confronted her about an overinflated White House estimate of the crowd size at the president’s inauguration. “Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck,” she shot back. “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. [But] Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts.”

The exchange became fodder for a thousand late-night TV monologues, and it seemed to launch a new era of degraded public discourse, in which falsehoods become “alternative truths,” and unwelcome news for politicians becomes “fake news.”

One has to feel sorry for Dan Ferber, who doesn’t even seem to get his own story straight.  He conflates and confuses “alternative facts” and “alternative truths”.   He is reporting on an “unconference session” at the AAAS Annual Meeting just wrapped up in Austin, Texas, which is listed in the meeting program as:

 “Alternative Facts and Fake News: How to Advocate for Science When Data Aren’t Enough”


The proliferation and staying power of alternative facts have grievous consequences for scientists, researchers, and others who rely on demonstrable evidence to do their jobs. Are there techniques that have shown promise in rebutting alternative facts and claims of fake news? Approaches that make matters worse? Any lessons from history, or is the current dynamic unprecedented? This unconference session will explore these issues with participants in an open, active discussion.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Although reportedly attended by “approximately five dozen researchers, teachers, journalists, students, and science advocates” who  “brainstormed ways to push back” — Ferber is able to report almost nothing about the meeting except for a few [obviously] politically inspired quotes. This is no surprise.  The unconference session is not led by a scientist at all but rather by the Democratic political operative Mark Bayer, an Arlington, Virginia-based consultant and former longtime aide to Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Markey who “just happens to be” the Chair of the U.S. Senate Climate Change Task Force.

According to Ferber’s report, there was nothing worthwhile to report, except for politician Bayer’s assertions: (please note: assertions are just definitive statements, not facts.)

Alternative facts are not facts at all, but socially sanctioned beliefs, said Bayer, who has studied the scientific literature of persuasion enough to call himself a “persuasion nerd.” — Bayer

Oops, not a social scientist, no degree, just read some stuff.  I have written about Alternative Facts in science over at Dr. Curry’s blog:  What’s wrong with ‘alternative facts’?  There I point out that the concept of “alternative facts” is not some late-night-comedian’s fodder, but a necessary and useful concept from Law:

 “‘Alternative facts’ is a term in law to describe inconsistent sets of facts put forth in a court given that there is plausible evidence to support both alternatives. The term is also used to describe competing facts for the two sides of the case.” 

Those who mock ‘alternative facts’ or denigrate them as ‘not facts at all’ or as ‘lies’ are just displaying their ignorance.

Quoting myself again:

“So . . . what’s wrong with ‘alternative facts?’

Nothing — absolutely nothing.   Quite the opposite, really. Alternative facts are what we use to learn new things about the world around us. Science is the subject of using alternative facts to come to a better understanding.   Discovering that there are alternative facts about something – even better, seemingly contradictory facts – is what points us to an area of study that promises the reward of new insights into the natural world.”

In Science (the field of knowledge, not the dodgy magazine), ‘alternative facts’ are used to help scientists discover new knowledge, when facts seem to be contradictory is when we know to dig in and find out what’s really going on; discovering new ways of looking at things, making new hypotheses  and formulating new theories and new paradigms.

Bayer, having flubbed the definition of ‘alternative facts’ then does nothing but brag about Senator Markey’s ability to persuade the Senate to pass various laws using rhetorical tricks taught in every high school debating class.  If  Ferber is representing the meeting properly, nothing further is said about “alternative facts”  nor the “fake news” meme at all, by Bayer or anyone else.

Dan Ferber might actually think the question is “So why is it so hard to change people’s minds about “alternative facts” that are demonstrably false?”

But, in my opinion, the real question is “So why is it so hard to change people’s beliefs about things that are demonstrably false?”   The second version is a serious question and has answers, it just has nothing whatever to so with Alternative Facts.  People do tend to believe things that are not based on good evidence — look at how many apparently believe in Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change.

The real beef that Bayer and Ferber appear to have is that the common man, that’s us and your neighbors and their kids and grandkids, have the nasty habit of thinking for themselves and not always automatically agreeing with …. ”The Experts”.  And when they say “The Experts”, they explicitly mean themselves and those who agree with them.  Those who disagree with them, however credentialed and widely published in science journals, are labelled as “non-experts” and are commonly described as “science deniers”.

So, STOP IT! is the message from ‘Science’ Magazine– stop thinking, stop using critical thinking skills to evaluate the validity of expert pronouncements, absolutely stop looking at the actual evidence behind those pronouncements, never ever read any journal paper that has not been approved by the “Name Your Topic’s” Consensus Team, and totally absolutely never ever allow any facts — no matter how true — into your mind that do not come from The Experts with a AAAS-Stamp-of-Approval.

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Author’s Comment Policy:

This is an Opinion piece — you may have a different opinion — I’d love to hear it.

I will not discuss US Two-Party politics — that is the egregious error the Science Magazine has made, I will not repeat it.

WUWT and the thousand or so skeptical blogs spanning many fields of Science and Medicine, serve up alternative facts as the main course — and like the facts they are alternatives to, they are not always perfect, not always accurate, not always well thought out and not always well expressed — and some, exactly like their mainstream twins, are just plain wrong.  But they move the discussion — they change mainstream thinking and move the edges of inquiry in the direction of greater understanding by challenging stultified, consensus-biased paradigms.

It is a crying shame to see Science co-opted by politics….yet again.

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201 thoughts on “Science magazine does Politics

  1. Yes, “magazine” is le mot juste. Science ceased to be worthy of journal-hood as far back as 2004, when it introduced an Essays section to allow Naomi Oreskes’ unreviewed, unreviewable tripe ‘Beyond the Ivory Tower: Wherein I Resurrect the Putrid Cadaver of Consensus Science’ to get into the pages of a supposedly peer-reviewed publication, thus supplying Al Gore with the killer fallacy he needed to round out his carbon-offset infomercial An Inconvenient Truth.

    • browses dictionary in order to know if being hurt is appropriate

      Brad Keyes, I think you should be writing some serious satire between two extremely hard covers instead of confusing us.

      Besides, Politics and its popular companion the PolAm are totally right – Politics can be defined as the infallibility of climate experts, like the holy person Jorge Mario Bergoglio and the recovering tobacco farmer A. A. Gore Jr. We shall not question the holy canon of collapsing glaciers, drowning fur-privileged big-teddies, or biblical sin-based floods. These are, as we all know, facts, as in ‘facts are written by the winners’. Should the glacier not collapse, the political fact does not stop existing; it merely becomes an old political fact, [see professor James ‘old fart’ Hansen] whose motivated reasoner (climate communicator) must be revered by the means of committee awards.

  2. Without truth there are no facts, just belief. With only belief at man’s disposal, how can he do science?

    Progressive thought appears to deny the existence of objective truth, unless, of course, it benefits their belief.

    • Bear in mind that knowledge has been defined, since Aristotle, as justified true belief.

      And science, strictly speaking, seeks knowledge, not truth.

      Of course I’m totally wrong, as was everybody since Aristotle. Oops. Thanks to Naomi Oreskes’ baseless, unreferenced assertions, we now understand that knowledge is actually nothing but “the ideas that are accepted by the fellowship of experts.” [Merchants of Doubt, page who cares.]

      To quote The History of The Climate Debate, “simply by dropping the ‘truth’ requirement, Oreskes […] ushered in a golden age of human ‘knowledge’ about climate change.”

      So… yay, I guess.

    • “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
      Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

      TS Eliot, “Choruses from the Rock”

      Or, as Frank Zappa would have it:

      “Information is not knowledge.
      Knowledge is not wisdom.
      Wisdom is not truth”.

      Or, as Neal Stephenson concurs:

      “Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
      Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad”.

      Then again, most of this is moot for generation that eats laundry pods.

      • That tomatoes are fruits is a fact.

        That they’re actually vegetables is a truth. A truth vouchsafed to the chosen few possessed of something more valuable than wisdom: taste.

  3. I’d like to know the difference between people who say they believe in Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change and those who actually do.

    Saying you believe in Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change can be quite convenient in that you can avoid losing friends, avoid being verbally assaulted, avoid losing your job, etc.

    • Wearing your whitest labcoat, start by placing a blood pressure cuff on the subject (and a skin galvanometer, if you have one lying around).

      Tell the subject, in your most scientific voice, that you have some bad news… and some bad news.

      First, The Scientists have calculated that CACC will destroy the planet in 40 years.

      Second, the subject has a slow-growing cancer, e.g. of the prostate, which is going to kill them in 41 years.

      If they really believed in the former, the latter wouldn’t get the slightest reaction out of them.

      • Jack, your reply (to PiperPaul, I’m assuming) would make more sense if CAGW were the wheat.

        Unfortunately for what seems to be your argument, but fortunately for civilization, it’s not even the chaff—it’s the blight, bunt, stinking smut, stem rust, wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) or locust guano on the crop of science.

        Before you reply, if you reply, please note the C which I prepended to AGW, even if dennisambler didn’t.

    • Since the average fictional character knows more about epistemology than Naomi Oreskes, let’s give Harrison Ford* the final say in The People v Fact v Truth:

      *Yes, he of the Leonardo diCaprio School of Eco-friendlier Living Through Aviation (“minimize your carbon footprint by spending as little time on the ground as possible.”)

  4. The reality of “alternative facts” regarding a phenomenon is that, if they are eventually properly understood, they HAVE TO merge into a coherent group of facts. That assumes that the two competing sets of facts are actually describing the same exact phenomenon. For example, observations of the effects of light on a CO2 filled jar are very different from CO2’s effects in the atmosphere. These are not “alternative facts,” they are different facts.

    • And it is also true that the “facts” claimed by the climate alarmists may not be real facts while they try desperately to label the real facts as “alternative” (aka, fake) facts.

    • higley7 ==> You must be a scientist! quite right — you have this right — when we finally understand, all the contrary and alternative facts are found to be different aspects of “the truth as we see it today”. (Which still might be far from complete).

  5. Agree entirely Kip. They seem to want to recreate the feudal days when the ‘expert’ priests (only) spoke Latin and everybody else except the royalty who supported them had to believe what they said, do what they said, or else!

    I think the deliberate dumbing down of the educational system to an indoctrination system since the 1960s was a key part of this strategy, and that process is now going into overdrive with the SJW enforcers.

    Fortunately there’s still the internet. Unfortunately they’re already working on eliminating ‘alternative facts’ and unapproved ideas from it as fast as they can. Once it is gone the future for freedom of thought and expression and freedom period looks very bleak indeed.

    Meanwhile, wasn’t it the AAAS that just gave Mikey Mann some shiny award?

    • EH ==> Don’t get me started on the US Educational System — I have strong opinions.
      On the other hand, my wife and I started early with our four kids — we taught them to read (well, we taught the first one and the other three kinds learned from her — reading by five). The ability to read combined with critical thinking skills and a decent broad undergrad education sets one up with all the abilities needed to understand the world around us — and is protective against Pervasive Expertism.

      • “The ability to read combined with critical thinking skills and a decent broad undergrad education sets one up with all the abilities needed to understand the world around us — and is protective against Pervasive Expertism.”

        Have any of your kids disappointed you by growing up to be real scientists?

        (Does this mean you agree with his guest opinion?) MOD

      • Jack ==> Well, at least you have answered my question — You are just trolling here a rather low order interaction — and will be deservedly ignored.

  6. Fact: Burning carbon based fuel with oxygen produces CO2.

    Then there are interpretations.

    Interpretation #1: CO2 is pollution. It can produce a GHE on the radiative energy balance by slightly raising the effective radiative level. But we really don’t know how that will affect long-term temperatures in a very complex system like the Earth’s climate, which is dominated by vast amounts of water and its phase changes Since we don’t know how it will change, any conceivable scenario can be written with computer-coded simulations.

    Interpretation #2: CO2 is the life giving building-block molecule fertilizer for all photosynthetic organisms on our planet. Without photosynthesis, the biosphere would collapse. Pre-industrial level of 275 ppm CO2 is slightly above the limiting amount for life. Photosynthesis is at least 2.5 Billion years old on our planet. Available CO2 has been a limiting resource for at least the last 3 million years, a period of Ice Ages. Adding a minor amount will almost certainly not cause any catastrophe, but likely the opposite, a biosphere productive bonanza for all life. The evidence of the last 60 years demonstrates that substantial additions of CO2 have minor to negligible effects on global temperatures.

    The Malthusians and the political operators like Interpretation #1.
    Anyone with a brain and some knowledge of science should prefer interpretation #2. Which is why the political operators like interpretation #1, as they have no brain, only an agenda.

    • how about the more subtle interpretation that above a certain limit CO2 goes from being life giving to
      be a pollution? Most substances are damaging in high doses and some like water or salt are both essential
      to life at the right level and poisonous at higher levels.

      • Okay, what is the optimal level of CO2 in our biosphere?

        And by any definition of pollution, less is always better. The old saying, “The solution to pollution is dilution.”

        If pCO2 were to drop below 250 ppm, serious consequences on the biosphere would begin to appear, mostly at higher altitudes where plant life would disappear. By 220 ppm, drier (arid) areas would become devoid of most plants due to the problems of water loss exceeded respiration needs.
        At 200 ppm vast areas of the Earth at the higher latitudes would be wastelands. Such as they were during the last Glacial maximum, both cold, ice and limiting CO2. And it gets very cold. Cold kills.

        By 180 ppm, the entire biosphere begins to collapse, especially C3 plant life.

        The solution to CO2 …is more is better.

      • And the huge problem with your “subtle”… subtlety implies fragility, an ability to break and not recover from perturbation to extremes. The Earth’s climate and biosphere by contrast is robustly resistance to major perturbations.

      • Joel,
        I don’t know what the answer is but clearly an atmosphere composed of 100% CO2 would
        be deadly as would an atmosphere with no CO2. Hence it would appear that there is must be
        at least one local optimum level for CO2.

      • Well all I can say is: you should study the the biochemistry of the RUBISCO enzyme. Free Oxygen (O2) is the poisonous molecule that did not exist for the first half of Earth’s age. Yet here we are at 22% O2 and 0.04% CO2. Ancient microbial and algae photosynthetic life consumed up most of the primordial CO2 billions of years ago and polluted the environment with O2.

        The appearance of free Oxygen caused the oceans to lose their vast amounts of soluble free iron (another essential fertilizer), as FeO2 and FeO3 have very low solubility constants. This great oxygenation most assuredly caused major perturbations to the biosphere. But the oxygen allowed animal life to evolve to use the reduced carbon for energy. And in doing so, we provide oxidized carbon back to plants. (We are the outcome of plant life consuming CO2 and we give it back to them). And if man’s CO2 slightly warms the planet by 2-3 degrees or so…. everyone is a winner. For most of the Earth’s age, CO2 was vastly higher than it is today. And the Earth wasn’t cycling in and out of Ice ages. And life flourished.

        CO2 is our Friend. By any rational consideration.

      • The problem is the whole argument revolves around what point of view you take.

        Lets take the evolutionary point of view. Evolving plants found stumbled on a interesting 2 step process.

        Step 1: 2 H2O + 2 NADP+ + 3 ADP + 3 Pi + light ====> 2 NADPH + 2 H+ + 3 ATP + O2
        Step1 stores the energy in molecules of ATP releasing Oxygen

        Step 2: 3 CO2 + 9 ATP + 6 NADPH + 6 H+ ====> C3H6O3-phosphate + 9 ADP + 8 Pi + 6 NADP+ + 3 H2O
        Step2 is Light-independent carbonation process and uses the stored ATP energy

        The moment plants started doing it then it is biologically referred to as the great oxygen catastrope, you see those nasty plants caused the extinction of masses of species by polluting the atmosphere with oxygen.

        Cyanobacteria were therefore responsible for one of the most significant mass extinctions in Earth’s history.

        So one perspective from an evolutionary point of view humans are an evolved parasite living on the pollution of killer plants. You could also say the correct atmosphere for Earth is all CO2 and no Oxygen giving the planet back to the anaerobic organisms.

        The real answer is the Earth has always been a battleground in an evolutionary arms race. The funny part is watching humans think they can somehow bring peace and stability to the battlefield. Things will change even if you stabilize our CO2 emissions. Humans have such short lives and fool ourselves that you can have some stable Earth condition and Econutts are the best at self delusion.

        Humans have an impact on planet Earth but there is no good or bad there is simply consequences and what the effect of those consequences will play out thru time. So you have short term and long term consequences. You can’t use “Precautionary Principle” because there is no way to judge the risks, standing still is a big risk in an arms race. It’s funny the last couple of generations has seen the rise and fall of antibiotics and how nature doesn’t care for stability and still many haven’t got the message.

      • When you know what that level is and can justify your reasoning, and when you have worked out all that will happen under three or four different scenarios based on that, and can then show why we should believe your forecasts for the world economy over the next 100 years. come back and lecture us on what we should do.

        Until then, I’m staying sceptical that we can do any of that in a way that makes sense for us to make major changes to the world.

      • We know that life not only tolerates CO2 levels up to at least 7000ppm, it thrives at those levels.
        So until we are getting close to passing that level, just leave me alone.

    • Actually, the way you wrote #1 is more skeptical than the climate alarmist’s version by many-fold. You used the words “slightly”, “really don’t know”, “complex”, “don’t know” (again) and “any scenario can be coded”. Most climate scientists would not use these words (except complex) and certainly those in the media, enviro-wackos, and politicians would rarely use any of these words the way you have them in #1. In fact, I was looking for #3 where you put the non-skeptical version.

      • Trying to give some benefit of the doubt to alarmists. Some really do believe there is a (1) CO2 tipping point and (2) we have already crossed it. I’m doubtful on both accounts. The evidence suggests “no” to both 1 and 2. But NOAA will continue to manipulate adjust the temp records until some insider blows the whistle on their fraud.

    • joelobryan

      I have no brian, nor am I ejakated, but even I know that NASA tells us the planet has greened by 14% over the last 30 years of satellite observations.

      I also believe it is one of the few, if not the only, observable manifestation of recently increased CO2 on the planet.

      To my simple thinking, that’s evidence enough to convince me I was correct to doubt the AGW fantasy story, concocted by people more interested in making money than with any concern for humanity.

  7. Kip,
    why is discussing the currently political state in the USA an “egregious error” for Science? Science is the
    magazine for the American association for the advancement of Science and as such discussing politics is part of its role. As such it has a “news” section and a “science” section. If you want to advance science in society you need to understand politics and be informed about it. Hence I would expect Science to discuss politics but for example I would not expect Optics Letters or Geophysical Letters to.

    • The Science editorial staff refuses to publish skeptical rebuttals to climate change affirming articles when it has been shown there are gross errors and misuses of statistics. AAAS is hopelessly lost with its current leaders. The entire senior editorial staff and AAAS President sorely need to be replaced.

      Getting rid of one or two won’t do it. The political operators have infiltrated multiple positions. And like any well written computer virus, they have placed the malicious code (operators) in multiple locations so that elimination of one or two only means the other operators simply re-populate those eradications.

    • Germonio,
      You raise an interesting point that I haven’t seen anyone address directly. That is, what would an optimal global average temperature for Earth be, and assuming that CO2 is the ‘Control Knob,’ what concentration of CO2 would provide the optimal temperature?

      • Clyde,
        I don’t think there is an global optimum temperature or that one could be defined. On the other hand for
        the 100 million or so of people who live on the coast then a significant temperature rise would be disastrous
        due to the resulting rising sea levels. But the same temperature rise would probably be a boon if you are a wheat farmer in Siberia or northern Canada.

      • Geronimo

        “then a significant temperature rise would be disastrous”

        It’s my belief that mankind is a nomadic race and but for the advent of the agricultural revolution, we would still be responding to local and global conditions by moving out of harm’s way.

        Those daft enough to settle permanently on a coastline or estuary because it used to be hugely profitable thanks to trade, deserve to pay the price by being forced to move and start again elsewhere.

        Call it natural wealth distribution, no need for climate scares to accomplish it, nature is pretty good at wealth distribution.

        The Egyptians used to be enormously wealthy didn’t they?

        Happy, as ever, to be enlightened.

      • so HotScot if 100 million people need to move who is going to let them change countries?
        Mass migration is not possible under the current political climate – who is going to let millions
        of poor homeless people come and live in their country?

      • Germonio asks if 100 million people need to move, in which country shall they go.

        I’d like to point out the question is speculative, but it appears Germany is willing to let anyone in. Some, like Hungary have been trying to stop and limit the inflow, and have been promptly attacked by the EU.

        Also, while California is heavily populated, it appears there is no willingness what so ever to stop illegal border crossing or to prevent unpermitted stay. Many would like to see these people vote.

        So it appears the question is rather where are the promised 100 million climate refugees? They should be here already, as the UN said so.

      • Time scale matters. A *sudden* rise of sea level can be devastating, as tsunamis demonstrate. But a rise of several meters over centuries can be easily managed by adaptation. Even a “significant” rise in temperature will result in slow sea level rise.

      • Germonio,

        You said, “I don’t think there is an [sic] global optimum temperature or that one could be defined.”

        I don’t think that you have thought this through. The whole position of the CAGW crowd is that a temperature much higher than what the Earth is currently experiencing would be disastrous for both humanity and many of the extant life forms. You state as much in your reply! On the other hand, during the depths of the last Ice Age, the climate was very harsh and much of the Northern Hemisphere was covered by ice, destroying forests, preventing significant agriculture, and prohibiting building cities. Clearly, something in between would be optimal. [Note that I have just defined an optimum temperature range that you said could not be defined.] Yet, you ‘de-Nye’ that there is an optimum! This seems to be typical of hand wavers. You really aren’t into thinking things through. Therein lies a problem. If you just parrot back catastrophe claims, and don’t think about them, you really aren’t contributing anything to the discussion. It might be difficult to to pin down a temperature to a tenth of a degree. However, if the claim can be made that a 2 degree increase would be an upper-bound, then surely one could bracket the optimum by about +/- 1 degree! If you are tempted to claim that we are currently at or just slightly past the optimum, consider the probability that after 4.5 billion years we just happened to be at the optimum immediately prior to the Industrial Revolution.

    • Germonio February 20, 2018 at 8:54 pm

      why is discussing the currently political state in the USA an “egregious error” for Science?

      The problem is not “discussing the currently political state” as you say. It is coming down hard and fast for one political side and opposed to the other political side in the discussion. “Alternative facts” is at present an emotionally loaded term. I interpreted it when Conway said it as being “facts that support the alternative explanation”, and was surprised at the furor. But furor there was, along with lots and lots of ridicule from the Left that left a very bad taste in my mouth.

      So using the term in this derogatory manner is equivalent to hanging out a big sign that says THIS IS A LEFTIST MAGAZINE AND WE HATE PRESIDENT TRUMP.

      And that, Germonio, is the problem … a scientific magazine may certainly discuss politics as it affects science, but taking political sides and using emotionally loaded political terms is a fool’s move, one that has nothing at all to do with science, and one that will end up costing them credibility.


      • Willis – Kip explicitly stated that discussing the US two party politics was an error. And I am curious why.
        If you want to advance science in society as the AAAS does then you need to understand the current political situation and hence you should be discussing it in the association’s magazine. Kip did not state
        that it was an error to come down on one side or the other.

        For what it is worth I would have thought that it was clear that claiming that the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was the biggest ever was clearly wrong and easily capable of being disproved. It was
        a lie and it is as simple as that.

      • Geronimo ==> You are entitled to an opinion, but let’s make sure we are talking about the same thing. When I say Two-Party Politics, with those intitial caps — it means the US system of having two political parties that fight for power and influence, with no regard for the needs or desires of the American people they each claim to represent. Taking sides in that school-yard brawl is decided unscientific and will eventually be disastrous for the group that the AAAS was founded to support, protect, and promote. Our venal political leaders, on both sides, have long memories — and the Republicans and Conservatives are not likely to forget the scurrilous attacks on all-things-Republican coming from the politically-biased leadership of scientific organizations.

      • Willis writes: ” ‘Alternative facts’ is at present an emotionally loaded term. I interpreted it when Conway said it as being ‘facts that support the alternative explanation’, and was surprised at the furor.” Yes, I’m with you, Willis. Except that I recall that Trump advisor and lawyer Kellyanne Conway introduced the term.

        I recall that “alternative facts” is a term of art, coined by trial lawyers in order to characterize contest of combat in a court of law, which requires the confrontation of alternative outcomes on an accused party or parties. It is easy is mischaracterize, and I’m sure that’s why it was seized upon: in order to heap ridicule upon opponents. My sympathetic grasp fits with your understanding.

        Strawmaning is a specialty of the Left, these days. And pundits rarely, if ever, do the opposite: Steel-maning an argument, ie, presenting the best possible characterization. Our only hope in the public sphere is that Truth-seeking will one-day return to partisan politics. That day is still a long way off.

    • Geronimo,

      fine, good point. So let Science discuss politics apolitically. If the current editorial team is not capable of doing that, it’s time for regime change.

    • Gewronimo ==> Did you read the Science Mag article? It id not “discuss… the currently [sic] political state in the USA” — Ferber, on behalf of the AAAS, takes part in the purely political — as in Two-Party Politics, Democrats vs. Republicans — filthy, non-scientific, non-rational, uncivil, divisive, Nation-wrecking childish squabble between the leaders of two political parties, far-divorced from the interests of the American public — BOTH sides.
      Note that the politically-inspired nonconference session chaired by a nothing-but-a-political hack operative was at the AAAS Annual meeting.

    • Garbage. Science is science, politics is politics. The assertion that science should be advanced in society is itself a political statement that needs to be justified.

      And advancing your own political views is not “advancing science in society”. It is advancing your own political views.

      This is such a poor, fallacious post I’m not sure why have bothered answering it.

    • ….perhaps,… except,.. “AAAS” is predominately Left political-science organization and the perspectives are skewed. Good to read,.. but also good to know where’s it’s coming from. “Science” is not exempt from political polarization and in someways seems to be instigating it. Even “Peer Review”, vaunted as the gold standard of methodology, would appear to be ossifying and occasionally corrupt as the ‘journals’ and ‘peers’; doing the reviewing are being stacked with biased ‘non-peers’. When ever i hear ‘peer review’ these days, i want to ask ‘ a priori’ who are the peers reviewing, how were they selected and their reputation for objectivity and minimal bias. In the Climate Space,.. i see ’eminent scientists’ using old leftist tactics to stack Journal boards and reviewers with activists giving great concern that the venerable ‘peer review’ has gone the way of many Universities infected with ‘group-think’ and progressive political agendas.

  8. Kip,
    Can you contact me offline, or give me an email address with which I can contact you?

  9. > Science, the journal, is beginning to go the way of the magazine Scientific American, in that it is beginning to become an oxymoron all by itself, as SciAm did in the Forrest Mims scandal.

    SciAm jumped the shark when it named the 50 most back in 2002.

    Here was my email to them 16 years ago ending my 30 plus year subscription:

    As distressing as the last few years of anti-science content has been to
    this 31 year subscriber, I am finally compelled to write about your SA 50
    award to California Assemblywoman Fran Pavley. The following is obviously
    too long to publish but I urge in the name whatever scientific honesty
    remains in the SciAm offices to review the data and reconsider whether
    California’s CO2 emissions Law has any merit whatsoever and whether the Law
    as written even agrees with the prevailing science.

    AB 1058

    Coming soon!, from the State that brought you partial regulation of the
    power industry; partial regulation of the transportation industry!

    The law in part reads:

    SECTION 1. The Legislature hereby finds and declares all of
    the following: (a) Global warming is a matter of increasing
    concern for public health and the environment in the state.
    (b) The control and reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases,
    of which carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most significant, are
    critical to slow the effects of global warming. (c) The
    transportation sector produces over one-half of the carbon
    dioxide emitted in the state.

    This new “greenhouse gas” law, formerly AB 1493 “Pavley’s Ploy” and now
    quickly being renamed “Davis’ (latest) Debacle” has been advertised as an
    innovative solution for controlling air pollution in order to do our part
    and slow world wide “global warming.” This law, passed by our Legislature
    and signed by our Governor, does nothing more than partially regulate one
    specific type of one sector of the economy that may or may not be a
    component of the global climate change “problem.” That singled out “global
    warming” contributor is also a byproduct of transportation sector provides
    92% of all passenger trips in the State but only represents 0.7% of
    California’s total manmade greenhouse gas generation. Based on this data
    the State has proceeded to single out and burden that minority segment
    because like all backdoor social reforms, “-they- can afford it” and “-they-
    are being selfish.” All this is based on the self proclaimed scientific
    expertise of our esteemed California politicians. Make no mistake, this
    isn’t about energy or pollution policy, this is nothing more than an ill
    conceived and unconstitutional attempt at behavior control and punitive
    economic revenge by a vocal minority of would be social engineers obsessed
    with an irrational anti-auto/anti-SUV agenda.

    The “science” driving this ill conceived foray into areas where the State
    has no business intruding is so poor that if it weren’t such a blatant
    assault on our Republics’ civil liberties it would be laughable. Bad
    science makes for bad law so let’s start there. CO2 is not the most
    important greenhouse gas. CO2 is not in any way implicated in ozone
    depletion or any other similar negative environmental impact. CO2 is
    acknowledged as a vital component of an atmosphere that sustains and
    protects all life on this planet. The US Energy Information Administration
    reports that 95.3% of all CO2 is from natural sources. These are probably
    the only things the world’s scientists agree upon concerning the unresolved
    debate over supposed Global Climate Change. Understand; Global Climate
    Change (as opposed to the discredited theory of Global Warming cited by the
    new law) is merely the latest fallback theory for the same people that
    failed to convince us all of their failed Global Warming theory and that
    fantasy was proposed only after their embarrassing 1970’s “Mini Ice Age”
    theory. Like all true zealots the people behind this latest assault are
    desperate for any excuse to advance their true agenda.

    As an example of the idiocy and danger inherent in Pavley’s Folly we should
    look at some of the technical ways we -could- meet the stated goals of the
    law. For instance, one way to reduce CO2 auto/SUV emissions is to change
    the combustion process slightly in a manner that will increase the amount of
    ozone depleting and other noxious byproducts. Another bright idea, and not
    coincidentally the “solution” the anti-auto crowd had in mind is to produce
    smaller, lighter, less capable vehicles. Unfortunately smaller, lighter,
    less capable also means more expensive, requires more total trips and most
    importantly, means less safe. Just what California needs; more vehicle
    trips being done in less safe autos. That drop in safety is on top of the
    current roughly 2,000 deaths per year caused by existing CAFÉ standards.
    Jerry Ralph Curry, former NHTSA Administrator, said in 1998 that CAFE had
    already claimed more lives than Vietnam, and that the NHTSA people knew in
    advance it would happen. Let’s not even get into California’s diversion of
    highway maintenance funds to wasteful and polluting transit that is forcing
    people to purchase more rugged vehicles in the first place.

    Back to carbon dioxide. By a large margin CO2 is ranked only the second
    most important of the greenhouse gases but in the scientific mind of
    California Law it has being promoted to the most significant *problem.*
    Excuse me, I spoke too soon, CO2 is not even -that- significant. The only
    status accorded CO2 amongst real scientists is that of the second most
    significant human generated greenhouse “gas.” There is
    still debate about how significant human generated airborne particulates are
    and whether they would bump CO2 down to third place amongst the human
    generated contributors to greenhouse effects. But that’s science not
    politics. This is all about politics.

    Advocates promulgating an insidious anti-auto agenda have convinced
    Assemblywoman Pavely (D-Agoura) and her gullible fellow members of the
    Legislature that California is in a position to legislate science. One of
    the factoids used to justify the restrictions is that a disproportionate 57%
    of California’s greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming, come
    from cars, trucks and buses.

    No, not even close. The “57%” quote is a carefully constructed half-truth
    that is then used to leap to a conclusion. That suprious conclusion is then
    extrapolated to justify a solution. Our use of autos and light trucks MAY
    contribute to global warming IF IT EXISTS but then again climate records
    also indicate that some 7500 of the last 10,000 years were warmer than the
    supposedly hot decade of the 1990’s. But 57% doesn’t tell the whole story.
    First off, human generated contribution to the planets’ greenhouse gases are
    only 4.7% of all greenhouse gases. Of that 4.7% from humans, some 70% is
    H2O. 30% of 4.7% brings the scope of “Palvey’s Ploy” down to the remaining
    1.4% from “transportation.” But even that isn’t the whole story since
    “trucks and buses and commercial vehicles” are exempted from the Bill. Even
    that grudging admission is a misdirection on the part of the legislation.
    You see the 57% figure is for the entire California transportation sector,
    planes, ships, trains, etc. Taken into account it turns out that CARB is
    being tasked at looking to less than 0.6% of the supposed “problem.” Got
    that? Even an extremely optimistic achievement of a 10% reduction would
    make a difference of zero point zero six percent. That 0.06% is only
    applicable to California’s contributions. What is our global contribution?
    Less than 3.5% and I’m sorry but 0.06% of 3.5% is far too small a number to
    have any meaning. That immeasurable improvement wouldn’t even take effect
    until after all the cars on the road are replaced by conforming vehicles
    somewhere around 2021. It might be interesting to go into why such a large
    portion of California’s energy budget is devoted to transportation.
    Remember, much of California’s fossil fuel electric generating capacity is
    in other States. We profit from and enjoy the benefits of making our
    pollution in Nevada and Arizona. Heaven forfend those States adopt our
    supposedly high minded principles and clamp down on California’s ethically
    questionable practice of exporting our pollution. For that matter -if-
    California were really interested in global warming and not SUV
    illegalization, then we could drain the Hetch Hetchy reservoir which
    contributes mightily to global warming; surface evaporation, a significant
    rise in surface temperatures and heat dumping into the ocean are global
    warming effects too. If the Legislature hadn’t so very conveniently
    dropped water vapor from the list of greenhouse gases they’d have many other
    “easy targets” for saving the planet without busting the State and Federal
    Constitutions in the process. They could end water subsidies to the Central
    Valley farmers for instance. Obviously this stuff is far more complex than
    reducing CO2 emissions from autos. Autos and light trucks no less. Not
    buses, not trucks not aircraft nor ships. Subtract out those from the
    “transportation” finding of “57%” and you see the legislation for exactly
    what it is; Anti-auto/anti-SUV social behavior modification.

    Legislative fiat in the State of California is alive and well. The bill is
    nothing more than the latest hodgepodge of eco-extremist poor science with
    the intent to insinuate the “benevolent” State into every aspect of daily

    Good to know we have a Legislature smarter and more informed than the
    collective body of the worlds’ scientists. Are we a lucky State or what?

  10. This term ‘alternative facts’ is fairly new to me. I have always thought of facts were just that, facts. Proven information derived from empirical evidence. I can understand there maybe different interpretations of raw data depending on what methods are used to extract what might be legitimately inferred, but the idea of alternative facts as being something that threatens science, and much more, is strange. I feel the use of this term owes much to the growing divisions of our world, the split between those who believe as Thomas Sowell put it, ‘The vision of the annointed’ and those who adhere to the more practical, down to earth tragic version of life. It is sad in the extreme to realise how many genuinely talented people prefer to serve an ideological end rather than follow where the facts lead them. It always has been so I suppose, the history of the Soviet Union is just one recent example of how mankind will lie to itself.

    • If there are legitimate “alternative facts”, the the reality is that neither side has facts, just opinions and interpretations.

    • Blue is Yellow. Black is Red. Truth is wrong. Untruth is right. Right is the way of the Group. Group is Consensus. We’re all agreed. Do what we say. Now that you are properly Educated, what is Blue? Yellow you say? No,.. Blue is Red as agreed to by the Group. Confused? Stop thinking and the confusion will end. Follow the Group. Don’t think,.. follow,….

  11. There certainly are alternative “facts” out there, but often it is simply a battle between different subsets of the plain old-fashioned facts. WUWT is great because it often gives the facts that are omitted from press releases and other “consensus” writing about climate.

  12. But, in my opinion, the real question is “So why is it so hard to change people’s beliefs about things that are demonstrably false?”


    And after many tears of pondering this exact point I have come to the conclusion that the answer is something like this.

    1. In order to deal with the complexity of the world, we have evolved with an innate predisposition to simplify it. Instead of having to recognise that ‘the red blister snake is only dangerous in the mating season ‘ we simply have a knee jerk response: “All snakes are dangerous”.

    2. In order to maximise communal safety, we cluster together in groups, and tend to move as a group. And think as a group. I seem to recall this principle is well illustrated in the Bible – “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not think” isn’t it? Going with the group even when its wrong is simpler and safer than going it alone.

    3. In what passes for civilisation, today, one’s very existence as a working social being is contingent,for most people, on fitting in with the prevailing cultural milieu. Would you care to go back to the days of the witch-finder general and tell him there are no such thing as witches?

    4. This collection of half truths, convenient lies and general bigotry forms part of a hypothetical construct I call the ‘world-view’ from the German ‘Weltaunshung’ – a term I borrowed from philosophy – and extend to form a description for everything we in fact believe on the absence of direct evidence, and more, everything that is used to understand what a fact is. This goes back perhaps to Kant and his ‘categories’…This is a key point. Our subconscious prejudices define what we consider to be actual objective facts. That is, there are in fact no objective facts at all, only raw experience, until we interpret them into ‘facts’.

    This is a key notion. What we think of as ordinary every day facts are not facts at all. They are – and indeed our whole world-view is – simply another model of the world with no more justification for its existence other than the fact that using it, we can survive and propagate as individuals of a species.

    I want that point to be carefully considered: What science is, as defined by Karl Popper, is a system of testing models against ‘facts’ and rejecting the models that do not accord with the ‘facts’. Science doesn’t ‘discover truth’, so much, as reject the more blatant non-truths.

    But science itself can only be practised in the context of a world-view that actually contains independently agreed and verifiable ‘facts’. And consider what happens when the notion of a ‘scientific fact’ and ‘verifiable data’ ceases to be ‘what any fool can measure with a thermometer’ and becomes ‘what all our scientists have measured and adjusted’.

    Likewise, we can conjecture that the survival of a ‘cultural world-view’ is contingent, analogously to a Popperian theory, not because it is right\ but because it is not sufficiently wrong to endanger that culture.

    And worse still, we can hypothesise world-views that are in fact completely wrong, but paradoxically which thereby increase the likelihood of cultural survival. Perhaps religion is exactly such an example. To live in a world that is empty, devoid of purpose, meaningless, uncaring and ultimately ends in a pointless death is extremely dangerous for any individual, and few survive it. Species survival is ensured by postulating a hypothetical caring moral Being whose main function, once Creation is achieved, is to set the standards of cultural behaviour for the conditions met by the citizens of the day. Thus regulated, society carries on and reproduces itself.

    The point is here, that it is irrelevant as to whether the Being is an accurate model of ‘Whatever is really there’ or not. What matters is that belief in the concept creates world-views that are conducive to species and group survival.

    And this is where this sort of world-view differs from what we may call the search for Truth, as evinced by Science. Science merely wants to predict the future. The other sorts of disciplines of Religions and so on, want to ensure that people are there to actually see the future, and if Truth has to be sacrificed on the altar of cultural expediency, so be it.

    Galileo wasn’t the first or the last to be told ‘such knowledge may or may not be true but its too dangerous for the common people to understand’

    How does this answer your question?

    If you accept this way of understanding human thought and human behaviour, it becomes clear that Truth does not necessarily equate to survival, for the individual and sometimes for society.

    And you can see that one ‘lie’ – the lie of Christianity, was debunked and replaced by another Lie – the Lie of Marxism and socialism masquerading as ‘rational , ‘materialistic’ and ‘scientific’. This Arriviste philosophy is more bunk than religion ever was, but it has served its purpose to dethrone the traditional elites whose ‘god given’ right to rule was overthrown by the death of God Himself, and replaced it with a nastier and meaner morality which has been developed into the cult of ‘political correctness’ by a very inferior elite who now control – or think they control – civilisation.

    I always like to use the following analogy. There is nothing virtuous or moral about driving on the left (if you are in Britain or an ex-British colony) or the right (elsewhere) But it is important that everyone does the same thing. So it is with societal mores. Society needs to understand what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Not because that behaviour is necessarily wrong, but because people just need to know where they stand. In the UK for instance we have a massive disconnect between the Western cultural ideas that women should be free to walk down the street dressed in practically nothing, unmolested, and the prevailing cultural view of some immigrant populations that any man who lets his mother/sister/wife/cousin out in anything that reveals even her elbows, is frankly not only asking for trouble, but a fool and a sinful man failing in his sacred duty to protect womankind.

    So there is nothing special about morality, or in fact any aspect of a world-view, other than it serves to perpetuate itself. We have seen, in the West, a broadly Christian and rational world-view be supplanted by a Marxist based atheistic one, that is in many ways darker and less pleasant, and more Faith based, if more sophisticated. To date this hasn’t eliminated the West. People grow up in this context, live in this context and its as natural and as real as the air that they breathe, to them.

    People don’t believe in climate change: They are educated – indoctrinated – from the moment they can talk and hear, into the concept that they are in fact sinful, guilty participants in a crime against Nature, (which has been elevated to the status of a deity). That they must feel shame, for being white, male, heterosexual, and successful in having run most of the world for several hundred years. That in the limit their very survival itself is a Sin against Nature. And the world is to be understood as a history of mankind’s oppressive domination of Nature, that must be expiated by recourse to the new religion of ecology, of which climate change is a creed, and for which spinning prayer wheels that generate the mysterious spiritual force ‘electricity’ without ‘harming the planet’, are the only means to expiate their guilt.

    It’s not just a question of accepting that climate change is scientifically ‘wrong’. It is a question of accepting that every single cultural precept they have been brought up to accept, is complete and utter bunk. It doesn’t merely mean they have to modify their world-view – it leaves them with no world view AT ALL.

    The most famous ex-member of the ultra conservative Christian sect, the Exclusive Plymouth Brethren, Aleister Crowley, self styled magician, devil worshipper and the ‘wickedest man in the world’, nevertheless could never stop being in rebellion against his upbringing. Once a way of looking at the world is embedded, it is easier to rebel against it, that simply cast it away.

    And that is why people won’t change their minds. CANNOT change their minds. It is simply too big a task. People who have been brought up to respect and trust Authority, may search for a different Authority to trust, but they will find it infinitely harder to learn to think for themselves.

    And this is the sad conclusion I have come to. Even in this blog, amongst the ‘climate deniers’ so called we are seeing posters who simply are looking for a new Authority. rather than learning to think for themselves. Sheep, it seems, will always be sheep, and its the Left who have realised that first.

    I have a personal position which is this. Let sheep be sheep, the game is always played out amongst the Shepherds anyway. Our task is not to convince the sheep, that is the job of the shepherds. Our job is to convince the shepherds themselves that they are driving the sheep over a cliff. And will likely get carried along in the rush.

    The Left has been brilliantly successful in capturing the hearts and minds and economic output of the sheeple, and in instituting its unpleasant and revolting visions of political correctness upon them. Everywhere they are regulated and taught to respect that regulation, not question it, and kept in place by a sad mixture of guilt and fear. The result is more unpleasant than any Christian culture was. But be that as it may, what is worse, is that these specialists in manipulation of public consciousness have no aptitude whatsoever for the actual disciplines that built the society they seek to control.

    That discipline is engineering, backed up by science. The myth builders don’t understand either, and like many people who are slightly ashamed of their ignorance, they belittle it and consider it unimportant: Scientists and engineers are their employees, and will produce whatever they wan’t, or starve.

    And THAT is the real danger. Not that people believe in lies – they always have, and it is not only something that does them little harm, but often helps them get through life – nor even that those in charge promulgate a more unpleasant set of lies than religion ever did – but it is that they are incompetent. Controlling the people via priesthoods and mythologies is not the be all and end all of a governing elite, as the Mayans found out.

    It is that the current ruling elite – we might call them the globalists – are wrong in a way that threatens not just the sheeple, but in fact themselves!

    The crime of the Al Gores of this world is not that they lied, but that they lied to ill effect, they are creating a situation which will ensure their own demise. That in and of itself is no cause for regret, but the collateral damage to everyone else, is what I fear.

    The only output of the climate change meme, has been a drive towards ‘renewable energy’ – a drive which has allowed many cronies of politicians to get rich and which has put many inferior politicians into positions of influence.

    ‘Twas ever thus, but it has also virtually wrecked the most fundamental part of the infrastructure on which Western civilisation has come to depend – access to cheap energy.

    THAT is how the minds of the elites get changed. By pointing out that wrecking the energy markets of the world is not in their interests. Renewable energy is a handy piece of virtue signalling, yes, but it is a complete disaster in terms of building electrical grids .

    And they, too, need electricity.

    I dont personally have a problem with the likes of Hillary Clinton running the show and showering te population with utter twaddle comprised of whatever fashionable bull excrement will get her elected. I do mind that once in power the likes of her, and Obama, then proceed to make a total pigs ear of areas of national management they simply have no competence in interfering in.

    Politics as a Muppet Show is one thing, but politics that interferes in the way things are necessarily run, is rather another.

    We can’t tell the people that the lies are wrong. But we can point out that the solutions are not working.

    • “why is it so hard to change people’s beliefs”

      IME, it is because beliefs are not quantized, separable. They are held in a context of reasoning, feeling, impressions, personal notions of definitions, and associations. Challenge that one conclusion, and you are challenging a sizable part of their whole mental model of reality. That is threatening.

      Even after, for instance, you have convinced them that not every pronouncement made by someone wearing a lab-coat is “science”, or even scientifical, the fresh way of thinking will quickly slip away, as they slide back into their old, comfy matrix. It requires re-inforcement for the change to stick. But that is unlikely, as they continue communicating predominantly with those of the same hive-mind.

      But beware. It can be difficult to force yourself to persist in studying the thinking of the other side. The deceptive terminology, alone, can make your skin crawl and a speed-read come to a slow slog through a morass. The most frustrating part, to me in this hyper-connected era, are the artificial barriers we construct (to avoid the spam, etc.) to be able to offer feed-back, when making break-throughs requires prolonged debate and discussion.

    • Leo ==> You commit the same crime of labeling the “alternate understanding” of others — with which you have no personal experience, therefore no facts or data — as “the lie of Christianity”.
      Come back to me on this when you can explain the 96% of the Universe that we can not see nor measure directly — but know from its effects on what we can see, that it is the vast majority of everything that there is.
      You are entitled to your opinions on religion — but expose your ignorance and hubris when you pretend your opinion is factual or think that those reading here agree with that opinion, which is offensive to many more here than you seem to think.

      • Well thank you Kip, for providing exactly the sort of stereotype I was trying to describe. Where nothing can be proven to be true, all is a lie.

        You also commit the cardinal sin of a pre-emptive close: That the world must be more than the 4% you estimate we see directly – actually I would claim we see NOTHING directly – is not denied: But that does not mean that painting an anthropomorphic face on it is ‘true’

        My complaint is not that you assert the Mystery of Existence, its that you are simply too damned parochial and naive in your understanding of it.

        But you cannot give up that ‘belief’ can you?

        Suppose I was to counter assert that God was in fact a raging chaotic omnipotent beast whose interest in mankind was precisely zero, and that our continued existence is down to us simply being too damned unimportant to merit His attention…

        Where we cannot know, we must proceed – it we are to proceed at all, in trust, and that is the root of the word ‘credo’ . I believe. I have faith.

        If we knew the answer, we wouldn’t need faith, would we, ergo I assert with total confidence that whatever we believe is almost certainly not the truth, and not even a tiniest fragment of it, and indeed there is no necessity for it to be the truth at all.

        This is not Hubris, the is humble acceptance of the only Truth we are privy to, that whatever is actually the case, our conception of it is always far far less than it must be.

        The hubris lies with you.

        Who assume far far too much about my experience. And your own.

        That you need to proceed as if the existence of a personal god who actually gives a damn about your existence is demonstrable fact, is down to you, but I do not have such a need.

        I have acquired just one if is not is. I do not need to believe in the is-ness of a Christian God in order to behave as a Christian does. Behaving as if one existed, serves all the purposes of Faith in people who need to believe in order to act.

        I presume you want certainty – moral and spiritual – because you are uncomfortable working in a vacuum. Well it is hard work, but one can learn to do it if one doesn’t see fit to accept easy answer group think and is prepared for the hard and tedious task of going back to first principles.

        In this life, there is no certainty, Kip. We build models that ,more or less conform to our experience, and we call them ‘facts’ . WE may build a model of certain aspects of our experience and call it ‘God’ and many people do.

        That doesn’t make it real, Kip. It’s just another model.

        My beef is simple: too many people are searching for unattainable certainty: There is none. There is not one fact, not even the ‘fact of ones own existence’, that can be proven to be true.

        Descartes dribbled ‘Cogito ergo sum’ which to most peole is a statement that the existence of thought implies the existence of a Thinker. Of course the irony is that the words have a different meaning: the Act of Thinking brings the Thinker, and in fact the whole world, of which his Thought is but a reflection, into being.

        Very Zen. Very Quantum. The act of opening the box makes Schrödingers cat alive, or dead. There is a personal Being who you can pray to and who may answer your prayers too, who created the world you live in, but sadly its almost impotent. It is of course you!

        All we have is a choice of models to express a relationship between the unknown mystery that is ourselves and the unknown mystery that is not our selves.

        Understanding that is the key to developing better models, if you have some value judgement you can apply to models and/or life in general. I do not. My observation is merely that that which persists, persists Stability is stable. Certain patterns of thought are self reinforcing, others are self destructive. All is a lie. WE cannot know the Truth. What we call true is in general a model that predicts the observed outcome. Religion has no truth content. It is not a scientific tool,. it is a pragmatic way to ensure survival of the species. A set of rules for living wrapped up in a fairy tale. Its a fine and useful thing and I mourn its decline. We all ought to be Christians, not because we believe in God, but because is a very very good way to live. If living is in fact a desirable thing at all, which the Greens seem to deny.

      • Oh good Lord, Leo…don’t you contradict yourself at every turn? Your epistemology is simply too messy to have any practical application in the real world whatsoever.

        Where nothing can be proven to be true, all is a lie.

        Including your beliefs? Why would you want to be a liar?

        I believe. I have faith.

        What do you believe? The Truth or a lie? Surely you don’t believe lies, Leo. Not you? You’re much too smart for that.

        I assert with total confidence that whatever we believe is almost certainly not the truth…/

        Well so I thought…

        I have acquired just one understanding.

        Are you sure?

        I assert with total confidence that whatever we believe is almost certainly not the truth…/

        And this understanding is true I assume?

        All is a lie. WE cannot know the Truth.

        There you go again…

      • I’ve always found it fascinating how atheists are so adamant that their belief system is so superior to all other belief systems. Usually to the point of being way more offensive about it than any other believers.

        Yes Leo, we understand that under your belief system, only you and those who think like you are smart.

    • My own wild hypothesis – beliefs become hard-wired, like memories. And, like memory, they become harder-wired with use.Like memories, they are pretty impossible to change without really working our neurons.

      I don’t think we hold lots of ideas and beliefs floating around in our minds, loose and unattached to physical reality. I don’t think we can.

      Sceptics for some reason seem to keep beliefs from forming physically. Maybe it’s genetic, maybe its an attitude that shunts things we hear and read to a different place of the brain.

    • Mr. Smith, your denigration of Christianity via the use of the words lie and hypothetical seems unnecessary and gratuitous in making your point. What truth leads you to claim hypothetical Creator?

      • Many people need something that proves to themselves that they are better than everyone else.
        The more insecure the person is, the louder and more obnoxiously they have to proclaim this superiority at every opportunity.

      • Mr Mkelly., regrettably I do not entirely understand your question. In a world where nothing is known for certain, use of the world ‘lie’ only is shocking and denigrating to those who feel that they are custodians of the One Truth.

        Of course what you see as unnecessary and gratuitous is a device to expose those who feel that that are…see above.

        As far as the second sentence goes, I simply have no idea what you are talking about: I have no truth, that is the whole point, and therefore no justification for claiming a hypothetical creator.

        Worse, the only reason for having a Creator in a world-view at all, is in an attempt to make Causality a Universal Principle beyond the world-view in which it has meaning. In my book that is simply wrong thinking – a meaningless jumble of words. A mistake of language. A sleight of mind.

        We experience , and we remember. Those two activities allow us to arrive at a notion of time, as an axis along which ‘events’ proceed. We link those events into a never ending chain of Causality to explain why the little pieces of experience we chop up the whole into are in fact a linked part of a greater whole.

        I.e. another way to look at the world is as a completely unified experience which we split into discrete ‘things’ and then have to reunite with ‘causality’.

        This is what we learn to do as babies.

        Its just technique. Causality doesn’t exist. Just experience. Causality is just a model of an aspect of experience. When you grow up, you may come to understand that :-)

        People who Believe in the Universal Principle of Causality and Linear Time need to posit a Prime Cause.

        Big Bang or Big God. Take your pick. They are, at the level we exist at, identical propositions in terms of predictability, but the Big God is a lot more complicated when you get into the details. *shrug* But its good enough for children, who don’t.

        Both are hypothetical models of course with no way to ‘prove’ either exists,. and who needs to? Only children who haven’t grown out of actually needing to be swaddled in certainty, because facing the actual uncertainties of life takes a bit more than they are equipped to deal with.

        If what you are actually trying to say is where is the confidence to assert THIS as truth coming from, well of course you have reached the nub of the argument. From nowhere at all, just the same place that religion assert its verities. Aleister Crowley didn’t call his book on life, the universe and everything ‘The Book of Lies’ without good reason.

        The point is to de-construct world-views that depend on certainty. By assertion as truth the proposition that there is no certainty, except the certainty that there is no certainty.

        This is a sell affirming statement. It is stable., It provides a starting point for the construction of more flexible world views.

        World views like that idiot Descartes that start with affirming a given statement as true, are bound to collapse when it is found that there is no way to prove their truth.

        That is my purpose and my point. To start with a proposition that merely asserts the truth of itself, not as a proven fact, but merely in order to drive some kind of stake into the desert of unknowing: When all is relative, we need to place a stake in the ground and say ‘relative to that’. It is not the centre of the universe, we merely proceed as if it was…

        And my position is simple. Everything we know, think we know and indeed this statement itself are not the Truth, they are simply models of our experience ways of having a relationship between ourselves as we think we are, and the world outside of us, as we think it is.

        This is of course just another world-view itself. It is an example of what it describes. Ergo it can never be proven to be true, but like a scientific hypothesis we may examine the effect of considering it to be true, pro tem. And I think it informs exactly into the point that was asked by the original poster I responded to, why is it so hard for people to change their minds? And the answer is, because to change your mind is to change yourself, and the world, completely irrevocably and forever.

        I once, in my younger days, got given a religious pamphlet by someone or other in which the pop star and raving Christian Cliff Richard described how ‘once he had put Jesus at the centre of his life, instead of himself’ his whole world changed

        No sh1t, Sherlock.

        We are addicted to our world-views. For they are – for most people – what makes them who they are. To change them in fundamental ways, is to undergo a reaction as powerful and as disturbing as religious conversion. That is where my proposition takes us. Very few people in my experience can handle that level of disruption without severe mental health issues. The Eastern philosophies and religions are all designed to take people to that point as slowly and as carefully as possible. Western culture is designed to ensure they never reach it, and the original shamanic rights of initiation were designed to blast the practitioner beyond it, in order that he might sink, or learn to swim without the water wings of belief.

        I assert this from the pro tem position I described above, not as an absolute statement of truth but as a derived position from my original assertion. I cannot prove that it is true, any more than you can prove that some entity called gravity exists outside of our minds. That is not the point. The point is does the derived picture make sense of people’s behaviour? Of Quantum physics? Of mental derangements? I say it helps : It is a useful view, that makes religion and science two bedfellows that can and should coexist without conflict, as neither is the Truth, and both are useful.

        To summarise, I start from a position of asserting the only true fact is our innate and necessary inability to arrive at a single true fact, beyond the one just stated. Like Heisenberg, Turing, Gödel et al, it is as statement of the limits to the truth concept.

        BY disposing of truth content as a measure of validity one is thereby freed to construct metaphysical systems in the sure and certain knowledge that none of them can be shown to be true, and most of not all are not, in the limit, and that is not in fact a particularly interesting property once the childlike longing for certainty is cast aside.

        What counts, is how useful they are for whatever purpose one has in mind, and ultimately, purpose itself is just another expression of a truth independent value judgement, and nothing can be said beyond ‘whatever gets you through the night, allows you to see the morning light’ .

        The OP asked ‘why is it hard for people to change their minds’ My answer is to propose a model of ‘life the universe and everything’ in which the character, nature and very being of what it means to be the person you think you are, is implicit – for most people – in the beliefs and structures that form your view of yourself and the world. To change your mind, is to change yourself, and your subjective world, irrevocably. That is the trick behind religious conversion.

        We gaily talk about ‘green heads exploding’. That is so near the truth its almost not funny.

        Back in the day, we used to get on with the business of blowing our minds as a proper pursuit of our youth. Perhaps the saddest thing today, is that not only does everyone lack the courage to do it, but that its held to be a bad thing to encourage.

        I think that’s a shame. Exploring the realms of experience beyond Belief is worthy of attention…

        So that’s my answer to why people can’t change their minds. They are too damned weak, timid , lazy, and scared and the Left insists that that’s exactly how they ought to be be and makes a virtue out of those weaknesses, that we characterise as ‘being a snowflake.’

        No one is encouraged to go beyond their limits – even the latter day Faithful have it all pinned down – there is no mystery any more.

        Well, the real question is, is that a stable situation? Or is it a harbinger of utter societal disaster?

        Time will tell…

    • I stopped reading when you decided you needed to insult anyone who doesn’t believe as you do.
      If you want to be influential, drop the attitude and learn to deal with people who don’t believe as you do.

    • Good post, Leo. I read the whole thing. :)

      excerpt: “The Left has been brilliantly successful in capturing the hearts and minds and economic output of the sheeple, and in instituting its unpleasant and revolting visions of political correctness upon them.”

      The Left’s success has been enormously enhanced by practically having a monopoly on the ‘truth” because of the Leftwing News Media propaganda machine.

      • “The Left’s success has been enormously enhanced by practically having a monopoly on the ‘truth” because of the Leftwing News Media propaganda machine.”

        Not just this, but also directly because of arguments denying the objectivity of Truth.

        Like this one (emphasis added):

        “My answer is to propose a model of ‘life the universe and everything’ in which the character, nature and very being of what it means to be the person you think you are, is implicit – for most people – in the beliefs and structures that form your view of yourself and the world. To change your mind, is to change yourself, and your subjective world, irrevocably. That is the trick behind religious conversion.”

        Indeed it is the trick behind many faith based conversions. For example, when some poor, confused, soul decides to believe by faith that today they’re a female, when in fact their DNA objectively identifies them scientifically and irrevocably (i.e., “truly”) as a male. After all, “to change your mind, is to change yourself, and your subjective world, irrevocably.” Who making such an argument can “revoke”, so to speak, a subjective declaration like this? On what grounds?

        Surely anyone who argued in such a fashion couldn’t criticize the Left for being, well…”Leftists”, now could they? Wouldn’t that be criticizing oneself, i.e., one’s philosophical simpatico?

        If not, why not?

    • Mr. Smith you say “… postulating a hypothetical caring moral Being …”. You are the one saying hypothetical, but then you say you have no “justification for claiming a hypothetical Creator”. If you have no truth for saying that and no justification for saying that, but you did say it, then you are a very confused person.

  13. at first glance, this article appears to be a very contorted apologia for the gaffe committed by a poorly rehearsed noveau celeb. it was obvious at the time it would be a gift that kept on giving. it ain’t gonna get rehabilitated. it was what it was- an idiotic thing to say.
    though i can, technically, use the author’s convoluted definition to translate his words into something from which i might derive meaning, having done so, semantic analysis reveals zero calories. it seems, superficially, to be a peculiar sort of quibble and one wonders what was the actual motive for holding forth on this particular topic in this particular way? or is it superficial to the bone?
    is this a kelly anne thang? u know- like drudge with streisand’s house of filth?

    english has a full complement of cognitive tools that are perfectly good, so don’t expect me to adopt this idiosyncratic (and all too precious) parsing of a simple and fundamental concept, which is this
    facts is facts
    and truth is a binary alternative.

    • “facts is facts and truth is a binary alternative”

      So which of these “facts” is true: 1) Newton – The earths follows an elliptical path around the sun because there is a mutual attraction between the earth and the sun or 2) Einstein – The earths follows an elliptical path around the sun because the mass of the sun warps space and the earth follows the shortest path in warped space. If you answer “Einstein” because his theory answers more questions than Newton’s theory did, consider that many scientists would tell you that both are true with General Relativity being a refinement of Newton’s gravitation theory despite the fact that in many ways the two theories are completely incompatible. Or consider that NASA generally uses Newton’s theory to launch rockets to the planets because at the low energies they deal with the answers given by the two theories are so close that the difference is insignificant for their purposes. Is NASA lying to itself and us by using Newton’s theory for its calculations and in explaining to the public what it is doing? If you asked me, the answer is no, they are not lying, they are simply being pragmatic because the math for Newton’s theory is much simpler to use than the math required by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity and it gives an answer that is close enough for their purposes. Also, Newton’s theory is much easier to explain to the public than Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. So in this sense you have two alternate “Facts” and you use the one most suitable for your purpose (for example, Newton’s theory to calculate the Earth’s orbit but General Relativity to calculate Mercury’s orbit [ see “The Perihelion precession of Mercury’s orbit”]).

      • Einstein is correct, and Newton is incorrect.
        Newton correctly describes the affect, but incorrectly attributes the cause.

      • MarkW ==> That said, in reality Newton was observably true — Einstein is on the very edge of being observably true.
        Newtonian physics allowed us to land the Rover on Mars — MAYBE Einstein will eventually be proven to be true…..maybe he will be modified once more — dark energy, dark matter, Black Holes, and who knows what else the stringy guys have up their sleeves….I’d say, wait and see — use what works to get things done — have those so inclined look for better fuller explanations in the meantime.

      • “Einstein is correct, and Newton is incorrect. Newton correctly describes the affect, but incorrectly attributes the cause.”

        Perhaps. On the other hand, you might want to look into a new theory called “Relativistic Newtonian Dynamics”. While it has not yet reached the level of completeness of the General Theory of Relativity, it is capable of accurately predicting many of the same things as General Relativity and in some ways is more “general” than General Relativity as it appears to work for any source of Potential Energy not just gravity and it doesn’t require curved space to work. Also, it makes one prediction in contradiction to Relativity, that the amount of acceleration of an object, not just its instantaneous velocity, affects the amount of time-dilation experienced by an object and there is some experimental evidence that this is true.

      • Ah, the truth, the truth

        Neither is correct. Both are simply models, of course. The maps are not the territory.

        Only those limited in philosophy would even answer such a ridiculous question.

        The quality of a map is not contingent on its (undiscoverable) truth content, only in how well it provides the desired answer.

        In this aspect AGW and Relativity are no different: Where they differ is that Einstein was interested in providing predictions that came true, whereas AGW is interested in providing predictions that enhance political power and profit.

        AGW is therefore not science at all, just marketing.

        Windmills will make your life greener than Green!

      • While it is true that models (or maps) are by definition a limited representation of the actual object or phenomenon, unless you are a god and can create an entire universe to observe to find the truth, they are all you really have and are useful if they provide predictions that can be tested.

        On the other hand, Philosophical wanderings can take you anywhere, even to unreal places or places you don’t really want to go such as Plato’s “Philosopher King”, which is a major influence on the theories of Socialism, Communism and even the “Green” movement.

      • for ricdre: there cannot be a reasonable discussion built on the premise that there are false facts. you can’t get anywhere from there for the distinguishing characteristic of a fact is that it is true, only true and nothing but true.

        for leo, whose major premise is that ‘only a purblind idiot would disagree with me when i instruct him that there is no way to know that anything is true (and i assert the truth of that with all the zealotry of a mussulman about to behead the kaffir)’. in 3 words or less: liars lie, you.
        your second major fallacy is ‘the stolen premise’ which is the necessary acceptance of a proposition in order to deny it…lol
        your challenge is to define truth- Before you deny its existence.
        that ought to keep you out of the way for a while.
        you’re not in my way, mind – i’m just honking as i go by cuz that’s what lolcows are for.

      • “for ricdre: there cannot be a reasonable discussion built on the premise that there are false facts. you can’t get anywhere from there for the distinguishing characteristic of a fact is that it is true, only true and nothing but true.”

        for gnomish: I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how that comment relates to anything I said…please explain…thank you.

      • Ricdre February 21, 2018 at 6:41 am
        “So which of these “facts” is true…”

        falsehood can not be an attribute of facts (by definition)
        the scare quotes are the way a concept is prepared for spaying or neutering.
        don’t transgender muh english, dude.

        it seems the missing ingredient for you is the understanding that truth exists in a context which must be part of the definition of any fact.
        a reasonable proposition takes the form of ‘if A then B’. it is called reasonable because it can be logically evaluated- i.e., it can be resolved to true or false (proven or falsified).

        if you drop the context, you do not have a proposition – instead you have a simple assertion which is not a proposition and can not be logically evaluated.
        then you call it a fact
        then you can no longer distinguish between facts and assertions. then u can no longer think.

        if you mean ‘assertion’, then say assertion. debasing the language is not punditry. it is the virtue by means of which reason is made impotent.

      • Gnomish says: ” instead you have a simple assertion which is not a proposition.”

        That is not true. A proposition is any statement than can have a truth value of “true” or “false.” Since an assertion can be either true, or false, an assertion is a proposition.

      • Gnomish says: “a reasonable proposition takes the form of ‘if A then B’.” Wrong again. In logic the conditional “IF…THEN…” has two propositions each with a truth value of T or F.

      • “gnomish February 22, 2018 at 11:30 am”

        Ok, I see your point. What I meant to show was that two seemingly contradictory things can both be true within their own contexts. I am sorry if my wording was unclear and will try to do better next time.

      • Rob Bradley:
        i understand your meaning. while there is a certain validity to what you say, in the context of reasoning (which is done by means of logic), it seems a pointless quibble.
        for example, please have a go at proving or falsifying this assertion:
        ‘everybody should have enough to eat!’
        you have asserted that this is a proposition and therefore can be evaluated.
        i contend that it is not reasonable for lack of context (the condition part of a logical proposition)
        i shall be interested to know if your distinction serves any practical purpose in this case.
        please indulge me if you have the time and inclination.

        thanks ricdre for crediting my statement with meaning and using your intelligence to abstract it.
        epistemology is my hobby horse, i admit. not everybody wants to hear it.

      • ” it seems a pointless quibble” If you are of the opinion that “inference” (one of the foundations of logic) is a pointless quibble, then you can throw most of mathematics, and all of science into the trash bin. For example “Reducto ad absurdum” depends on the truth table of the IF…THEN…. for it to work.

        Now you ask me to falsify the assertion “everybody………eat” Easy…..

        First off, that proposition is either true or false. Verifying it’s truth value may or may not be physically possible. This does not even take into account that the proposition contains the word “should” which encompasses the entire sub field of philosophy called Ethics. To “falsify” it is equivalent to proving “There exists somebody who should not have enough to eat.” Does a 600 lb obese person who cannot get out of bed, and requires a hole in the wall to be extricated from his bedroom qualify as per your definition of “should?” How about the death row inmate that faces execution in the next 5 minutes qualify as a person that should not have enough to eat?
        Once you explain to me how the word “should” applies, I can then determine if the existence statement I proffered above can be evaluated. If no such person exists with respect to your criteria, then the statement “everybody should have enough to eat” evaluates as true.

      • Rob Bradley
        in a discussion of truth as a logical value, there is a premise: logic.
        please note the conspicuous absence of a logical operator in any simple assertion.
        what you are dealing with are (alleged) identities – not logical relationships.
        definitions are not propositions and they may be entirely fictitious, e.g. ‘unicorns have one horn’
        thus is true by definition.
        and that’s the cul de sac where your notion leaves us.
        unicorns don’t exist but they for sure have only one horn.

      • Rob Bradley – you have been an excellent witness, thank you.
        your statement:
        “Once you explain to me how the word “should” applies, I can then determine if the existence statement I proffered above can be evaluated.”
        is a demand that i provide context so you can evaluate (what i labeled as) a proposition because you find that you can not do it otherwise.
        so can i drop the mic?

      • Logic is not a “premise”
        Definitions in logical systems are agreed upon conventions in the use of words.
        You cite the example: “‘unicorns have one horn’ thus is true by definition.” However should a unicorn encounter a human being with a knife that cuts off his horn, you are left with a unicorn with no horn. Does cutting off the horn of a unicorn change the unicorn into a regular old horse?

        Now, you put forth the proposition: “unicorns don’t exist.” Could you please provide me evidence for this proposition/assertion? I believe that if you could do so, you would be the first person that was able to “prove a negative.”

        PS, is this a unicorn?

      • “a demand that i provide context”

        Nope, I’m asking for you to define “should.” Definitions of the words you use are not context dependent. In logic, definitions are context-free.

      • oops. a typo- always red meat for a confirmed quibbler!
        i mean to say “(what i label as) a simple assertion”

      • “Nope, I’m asking for you to define “should.” Definitions of the words you use are not context dependent. In logic, definitions are context-free.”

        oh, all right. fair enuff.

        should means ‘the assertion made is not true’ it’s not anything to do with ethics. it’s simply the subjunctive mood.
        so i guess it didn’t serve the intended purpose which was to provide an assertion that you would admit can’t be evaluated logically. and i wanted to do it in an original way cuz i’ve gotta be creative, right?
        well, then, let’s go to the classics- evaluate this assertion:
        “this is a lie”
        no subjunctives for you to trip over there… no adjectives waiting to get winkled out and flung on the glass.
        howbow try that one?

      • “Logic is not a “premise”….”
        orly? you gonna try to be funneh with me? i didn’t say what you pretend i did.
        sine qua non for a logical proposition is logic. or will you claim that you don’t understand what the word premise means?
        if you claim to have misunderstood simple english, then this is a childish game you can play with yourself.

        unicorns are imaginary. imaginary things are frequent topics of conversation.
        your demand that i prove unicorns do not exist is stupid. they exist in your brony mind. that’s what imaginary means.

      • now you are backpedaling…lol you’re gonna trip and fall!

        no, i can’t do better than that classic. that’s what makes it a classic.
        there are others but it only took that one to stump you.
        if you can’t negotiate that simple trick, yu really are not prepared to buckle any swashes in the field of philosophy. you’re just pooping the deck.
        so give it a shot show some sincerity or go wait in the car.

      • LMFAO at Mr. Gnomish….”stump” ????

        Go play with your “imaginary” “unicorn” also known as a rhinoceros.

      • the rhetorical games you are playing are for noobs.
        they’ve been around for ages- e.g.

        commonly used to evaluate the level of accomplishment of an acolyte, they are ‘in jokes’ among the literati.
        they are somewhat akin to telling a child that masturbation will make hair grow on his palms- done for the pure lulziness of watching him pretend he isn’t looking when he does look.

        you looked.

      • And when you are done playing with your rhinoceros , consult Godel on his completeness theorem. Maybe you’ll understand self-reference.

      • “‘the rhetorical games you are playing are for noobs”
        Typical comeback from someone incapable of keeping up…..

        What’s next Junior?

      • you failed is all. it’s the end. try next season.
        you were unable to evaluate a simple assertion and are sitting on the wrong end of
        your failure is, indeed, on the very example goedel named as the logical representation of his incompleteness theorem.
        you haven’t passed the first pons asinorum and have yet to confront the other one based on goedel which is:
        you can’t really know anything because you can’t know everything.
        it’s another of the classics you must learn to negotiate.
        you have to be *this high* to go on this ride.

      • “Go play with your “imaginary” “unicorn” also known as a rhinoceros.”
        all i can say to that is – i never knew it was possible to be so bad at counting…lol

      • Let’s review all of your failures. Your claim that a unicorn does not exist was proven false by a simple picture. Your claim that “imaginary” things don’t exist is proven false by mathematics. Posting a paradox as “proof” that propositions are indeterminate when self referential has significance? Listen Junior, I suggest you get with the program, cause your self evaluation of competence is suspect.

      • Rob Bradley February 22, 2018 at 8:26 pm
        now you’re just flat out lying.
        i’ll have to interpret that as a declaration that reason can not prevail with you.
        howbow dah?

  14. “Science” and “Scientific American” magazines have discovered that Science Fiction has a good readership and can replace the slice of their income source that prefers to read real Science writing on the Internet and WUWT. Global Warming and Climate Change are an endless source of Science Fiction for them to publish.

  15. Kip asks: “‘Alternative facts’ is a term in law to describe inconsistent sets of facts put forth in a court given that there is plausible evidence to support both alternatives. The term is also used to describe competing facts for the two sides of the case.”

    However, there is a MASSIVE DIFFERENCE between science and law/politics. Law and politics are adversarial systems, where both sides (or all sides) are given equal time to present all of the facts (and expert opinion) that support their position – but no side is expected to candidly discuss the evidence that supports another position nor the weaknesses of their position. If you’ve ever been sued, you’ll recognize that the non-criminal legal system is an exceptionally expensive and inefficient system for discovering the truth. Defense criminal law is often about creating “reasonable doubt”, and not about a coherent alternative theory of the crime. Likewise, our political system has become a series of talking points and fact-free debates with neither side listening to the other and no one interested in solving problems.

    Scientists don’t have the time or funding to indulge in an adversarial system for discovering the truth. They use a different system for discovering the truth. As Steve Schneider infamously said:

    as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts.

    Feynman’s Cargo Cult Science describes scientific ethics in greater detail – and by someone who (unlike Schneider) actually practiced what he preached. Since scientists understand the strengths and weakness of their work the best, they are expected to provide all information that contradicts their preferred conclusion – to include all relevant facts in their discussion, leaving none behind to be called “alternative facts”.

    It is simple to prove that the IPCC doesn’t produce “ethical scientific reports” – all of the caveats and some of the truth is missing. Who writes the SPMs? A group of political appointees who must unanimously approve every word guided by a self-perpetuating group of activist scientists who believe their job is to produce a consensus report that will scare policymakers into action. This isn’t science, the IPCC is a kangaroo court trying our fossil fuel based society where activist scientists serve as prosecutors, judge and jury, and no defense attorneys are allowed. It is a perversion of our adversarial legal/political system. Here the phrase “alternative facts” makes sense.

    In science, there are no “alternative facts”; there is a collection of evidence which may or may not point to a single conclusion. Some of that evidence is more persuasive than others. The law of conservation of energy demands that our planet warm if rising GHGs reduce the rate of radiative cooling to space. This tell doesn’t say how much warming will occur, how fast it will occur, or where it will occur. It doesn’t tell us that GHG’s are the only cause of climate change, nor does it mean that observed change in a chaotic system must have a “cause”. It does say we should carefully consider the evidence from laboratory experiments and theory that is claimed to show that rising GHGs will reduce radiative cooling to space. If there are “alternative facts” about this subject, they are critical to the scientific process.

    A decade-long Pause in warming while GHGs are rising doesn’t produce a significant challenge to the law of conservation of energy and the conclusion that rising GHGs must cause some warming. It isn’t an “alternative fact” contradicts this theory. It is, however, an observation that makes it more likely that climate sensitivity is lower than AOGCMs project. (An AOGCM is an elaborate hypothesis.) It isn’t an “alternative fact” about climate sensitivity – it is an important part of the evidence concerning climate sensitivity.

    • I’ve been trying to understand why “alternative facts”, “fake news” and related phenomena have become so popular lately. I’ve been struggling with “WInning Biggly. Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter”, by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert and blogger admiring Trump’s persuasive abilities. This thesis (based on much psychological research) is that on important issues, deep emotional belief filters what we experience, so that we absorb only the information that agrees with our prejudices: The Pause, not the consequences of the law of conservation of energy. Thus that consummate politician, Lord Monckton, posted monthly about the Pause during the Pause (but not lately). “Alternative facts” appear to be those that support confirmation bias, something science used to discourage.

      • Yes, and applying the principle of conservation of energy, it seems the ‘pause’ was more apparent than real. It looks like the fact may prove to be that energy was indeed retained on the planet rather than radiated back to space, but that it was sequestered in such unmeasured realms as the ocean depths.
        Now it’s starting to look like that sequestered heat is going to come out with a vengeance.

      • Because some people need to blame such things for losing – Brexit in the UK, Trump in the US. They cannot imagine that they are wrong, so there must be a reason why others disagree with them.

        The irony is that “fake news” is the best and perhaps only real example of fake news.

      • Jack Davis, how can you apply the concept of conservation of energy when you admit that energy can escape to space? You say that energy isn’t conserved on Earth, then say that proves it is.Bizarre comment really.

      • When you can prove that this “energy” somehow managed to find it’s way to the deep oceans, without having any impact on shallower layers, come back to me.
        Until then you are just inventing another epi-cycle to try and keep the edifice of CAGW from collapsing completely.

      • I personally think, after considerable reflection, that what is happening now is something we pioneers of the Internet hoped would happen, that by allowing access to many conflicting points people would finally realise that all information is in a sense just someone’s idea, and most of it is only given to you for a reason.

        In short we tried to break the monopoly of the current elites on what in fact the truth was.

        Unfortunately the bad boys were first out of the starting block with the controllable broadcast media and that lead to the postwar rise of the Left: What has happened post the Internet is a reaction against that as in the attempt to control the information flow the Left has ‘jumped the shark’ into areas which even the most compliant liberal raises an eyebrow at.

        We are entering a post truth world. One in which the old certainties are being swept away on all sides by a tide of – well to put it bluntly – fashionable and sponsored bulldung.

        Nothing is demonstrably true, and the juvenile minds that comprise the electorate are simply having to deal with it.

        As Mark Twain put it ‘ a man who doesn’t read the papers is ill-informed, a man who does is mis-informed’

        Perhaps this next generation will finally stop believing in father figures, in the media, in academia, in the sky….

        ..and there will end this ‘appeal to authority’ that marks the witterings of the juvenile Left…

        And there is even a faint chance that they will learn to think for themselves.

        I have found none so arrogant in and vociferous in their opinions, as those whose opinoons are formed by those they consider better than themselves…

        Except myself. But then I am truly special ;-)

      • Thammond 65, you’ve just displayed that you have no idea what ‘conservation of energy’ implies. It does not mean ‘retention on Earth’. Apparently Mark W does not know how convection works.
        You guys are not much of an advert for the democratization of science via the internet.

      • Kristi – Not nearly as good as “Mike’s Nature trick.” But best you avoid knowing or thinking about that one.

    • Frank ==> I fear you are missing the simplest of points on alternative facts. To a North Slope Alaskan native, winter means 60 days of without the sun showing its face and summer has 80 days in which the Sun never sets completely. These are facts and true. But they are not universally true for all places on Planet Earth. The people living along the Equator experience the seasons quite differently — and their statements about the seasons are also facts. Pitted against one another, these would be CONTRARY — ALTERNATIVE FACTS — about the seasons.
      Science, using those alternative, contrary facts, managed to figure out why and how both of those sets of facts could be true at the same time.
      The world is complicated and there is not JUST ONE FACT about anything really — those claiming so are over-simplifying.

      • Kip: I never claimed that their was JUST ONE FACT about anything. From a scientific perspective, there is a body of evidence. Ethical scientific opponents are obligated correctly summarize that body of evidence before expressing a personal opinion about what evidence is most persuasive to them. Ethical journalists used to be required to contact both parties in a dispute and summarize both positions in their reports

        From a scientific perspective, seasonal changes are experienced differently in different locations on the planet. There are no alternative scientific facts about seasonal change. Non-scientists – especially attorneys and politicians – will select a fraction of what is known about seasonal change, creating an opportunity for you to claim alternative facts exist.

        However big it may be, climate change will certainly impact different areas differently. Away from the coasts, moving south 100 miles raises mean temperature about 1 degK. That’s not a big change, its smaller than year-to-year variability in seasonal temperature (a “cold winter”, for example). Make that change bigger at night and during the winter, it becomes even less important. These are facts for those living in temperate zones away from the coast.

        I personally adamantly believe that alternative facts have nothing to do with science. They are all about confirmation bias: Experiments show that our subconscious picks out evidence that confirms our most deeply held beliefs and rejects evidence that contradicts them. Our job as scientists is to avoid confirmation bias.

      • Frank ==> You already seem to exhibit a tendency towards “confirmation bias” — it seems to be the basis of your position — your view on seasons, for instance, is very simplistic, and represents only our current level of knowledge and only abut the present — quite limited.
        The point is that our current better understanding was formed because those very alternative facts seemed contradictory — forcing Science to come up with an explanation that accounted for both sets of true facts.

      • Kip: Thanks for the reply. I am very frustrated with the idea that different people see things differently. “Alternative facts” seems to be part of this trend.

        Black Lives Matter has been telling us that racial prejudice is responsible for the killing of many blacks by police. Statistical studies indicate this isn’t true, but that it is true that police routinely treat minorities much more aggressively than non-minorities. When you consider how many times a year inner-city minorities (and their friends and families) are likely in contact with the police and experience/witness discriminatory treatment, inner city minorities are being raised in a climate of racial oppression by the police. We need to address this injustice, but we are focusing on the wrong problem. The police know that wounding or killing a suspect or bystander is an event that has forever changed the lives of other policemen, and that failing to protect themselves is worse. The idea that many police fire consciously and recklessly shoot at minorities seems absurd. However, years of working in inner cities with uncooperative crime-ridden citizens creates stereotypes and unacceptable counterproductive behavior in too many police. If only 1 in 5 or 10 acts in a blatantly discriminatory manner (that is tolerated), how many acts of discrimination does a black teenager witness while growing up?

        In her book subtitled “Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice”, Alice Dreger makes the point that sustainable justice can’t be achieved without knowing what is true.

        “Justice can not be advance by letting “truth” be determined by political goals. Only people like us [academics], with insane amount of privilege, could ever think it was a good idea to decide what is right before we even know what is true. Only insanely privileged people like us, who never fear the knock of a corrupt police, could ever think guilt or innocence should be determined by identity rather than facts”.

        Dreger’s relatives lived in Communist Poland. To the extent that “alternative facts” represent CONFIRMATION BIAS, IMO SCIENTISTS (and academics and the press? and policymakers?) should try to stay away from “alternative facts” and promote a holistic view that considers ALL the facts (including associated uncertainty). The IPCC is a classic example of a scientific organization set up to present only a fraction of the facts to policymakers and the public to achieve political goals.

        Thank you for listening to an alternative OPINION about “alternative facts”.

      • Kip – Your argument about the seasons is wrong. Just because there are differences in perception of “winter” doesn’t mean they are alternative facts. This is a phenomenological question. Think about an optical illusion in which you can see two pictures in the same image. The pictures are the perceptions. The “fact” is what’s printed on the paper. That doesn’t change just because our perceptions do. Two people could stand next to each other and one feel hot, the other cold, but the temperature is the same.

        Your winters are not alternatives. They aren’t contradictory. “Winter” is a symbol that evokes a different image/idea for everyone according to their experience of it. “Winter” isn’t a fact. “In Minnesota, winter is colder than summer” is a fact.

        Do you see the problem in your reasoning, or am I totally misunderstanding you?

        —“Burning of fossil fuels is leading to an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere” is a fact.
        —“Increased CO2 in the atmosphere is leading to increased average global temperature” is a fact.
        —“Increased average global temperature of 2 C by 2100 is highly likely to have greater detrimental
        impacts than positive ones” is a fact.

        These are all things known and attested to multiple times, by multiple researchers for the petroleum industry, by around 1980. Stated as FACT. Yet 38 years later they have become “debatable” and “uncertain” and the scientific community has been trashed despite massive amounts of supporting evidence. Ask yourself, why? How did this happen? What do I know for certain, based on absolutely credible sources?

        (Here’s a question – what do you all consider a credible source?)

      • Kristi ==> The facts about the observable behavior of the sun in northern Alaska and facts the observable behavior of the Sun in Florida are simply facts. Thjat’s what FACTS are….true observations.
        The CliSci consensus talking points in your comment are conclusions, opinions, predictions and hypotheses — not facts.
        some of them may turn out to be true, when we know more about Earth’s climate — some of them sill be modified as we learn more — some of them will be negated and abandoned we we learn more.
        “Credible sources” have nothing whatever to do with facts, which have to stand on their own. “Credible sources’ have to do with opinion, expert judgements, etc — not facts.

      • Kristi asks: “What do I know for certain, based on absolutely credible sources?”

        Have you had a chance to read this new post here? In the words of some “absolutely credible sources”:

        “On 24 April 2003, Wigley wrote, “One approach is to go direct to the publishers and point out the fact that their journal is perceived as being a medium for disseminating misinformation under the guise of refereed work. I use the word ‘perceived’ here, since whether it is true or not is not what the publishers care about — it is how the journal is seen by the community that counts.” They also got James Saiers, editor of Geophysical Research Letters, fired.”

        “On the 14 October 2009, Trenberth expresses something to Tom Wigley that none of them ever dared say in public. “How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are nowhere close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system… is a travesty!””

        “Briffa struggles to maintain the illusion when he writes to Mann on April 29 2007, “I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same. I worried that you might think I gave the impression of not supporting you well enough while trying to report on the issues and uncertainties.””

      • Kip – “Frank ==> You already seem to exhibit a tendency towards “confirmation bias” — it seems to be the basis of your position — your view on seasons, for instance, is very simplistic, and represents only our current level of knowledge and only abut the present — quite limited.”

        How does this represent confirmation bias?

        Confirmation bias is exhibited by the vast majority of people who visit this site

        FRANK: ” The IPCC is a classic example of a scientific organization set up to present only a fraction of the facts to policymakers and the public to achieve political goals.”

        I don’t see this. The role of the IPCC is not to present all the possible hypotheses or approaches. If it did so, it would also have to evaluate which are more likely than others, and that could get even more politically sensitive. If it didn’t evaluate them, multiple approaches would be represented with equal credibility or usefulness, and that wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest.

        Perhaps I should ask what facts you think the IPCC is omitting. What specific political goals does it have?

      • Kristi ==> If you will stay focused on your own opinions and ask reasonable questions, I will continue to try and help you. Let Frank worry about Frank.

      • Extreme Hiatus – well, that explains a lot. I hope you weren’t expecting me to be influenced by comments taken out of context, though. That’s a really sneaky TRICK, but serves well for propaganda’s sake.

        I have a very low opinion of Dr. Ball’s methods of conveying a message.

      • Kristi Silber: which only goes to show that it is the interpretation of facts that can be flawed, not the facts themselves: any combustion process will lead to an increase in atmospheric CO2. Depending on the presence of sunlight, this CO2 will eventually be absorbed by plants. Also, there might be other causes for CO2 concentrations to increase – release of CO2 from the oceans as they warm being one example.

        To the best of my knowledge, there has NOT been any definitive proof, or even strong evidence, that increasing CO2 is causing global temperatures to increase; correlation is NOT causation, and the two do not correlate well, anyway – okay, both may have risen, but the rise in CO2 has been steady, while the rise in temperatures has been sporadic, at best – remember that the fall in temperatures that led to the fear of another ice age of the 1970s was also blamed on CO2.

        It could be argued that your last point is absolutely NOT a fact – it is just a projection, with nothing whatsoever to support it. Also, no attempted prediction can be considered a fact – a fact IS, not might be. A fact is that the increase in temperatures that we have seen since the end of the little ice age has been generally beneficial, so why should a continued increase become detrimental? At what point will the effects switch from positive to negative? It could even be argued that to make such a contentious projection is a deliberate attempt to generate fear. Now, what was it you were saying about the IPCC?

      • Kip – Sorry, I think I was in a hurry and didn’t explain myself.

        “The facts about the observable behavior of the sun in northern Alaska and facts the observable behavior of the Sun in Florida are simply facts. Thjat’s what FACTS are….true observations.”

        Yes, they are facts but not ALTERNATIVE facts. They do not contradict each other.

        “Burning of fossil fuels is leading to an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere”
        OK, let’s call this a hypothesis for now. But that means that “Increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is due to natural factors” is not a fact, either. They are not “alternative facts.” Only one can be right. Since neither can be “proved,” at some point it behooves us to decide on which is more likely, so that appropriate policy measures can be taken. So which statement has more evidence behind it? (Keep in mind that C14 ratios in plants and soot can be used to trace CO2 from fossil fuel sources.) The same exercise can be done for the other statements.

      • Kristi ==> “Yes, they are facts but not ALTERNATIVE facts. They do not contradict each other.” They don’t now, because their very contradiction is what helped lead science to a better understanding of planetary rotation, polar tilt, and all that. The Sun rises and sets every day without fail was a fact to nearly all mankind Natives very far north had months in which the sun never set and months in which it never rose. That’s certainly contradictory. The two facts were in total contradiction before we discovered those things. You are not reading the example in its own time.
        Many of the “facts” we have now will turn out to have been keen observations and when coupled with contrary observations, alternative facts, will lead to new understandings in the future.

      • Radical Rodent:

        See here for explanation of how it’s determined that CO2 from fossil fuels is entering atm.

        Correlation does not mean causation, true. The temp. increase is not expected to follow increase in CO2 for a variety of reasons, but mostly because there will always be natural temperature variation that is apart from atm CO2.

        The last point includes a probability factor, “highly likely,” which is undefined so pretty wishy-washy, actually. However, one can make a list of the likely effects of such an increase in temperature, how deleterious and likely they are, and make a conclusion based on that. It may be wrong. We can’t predict the future with certainty, and we never will be able to do so, ever, regardless of what evidence or method we use. So the decision must be made: at what point do we say we have enough evidence to guide policy-making? The problem is that if people don’t trust the science then there is no scientific basis for any policy. Buoying the fossil fuel industry while crushing climate science is very definitely a policy decision.

        Dr. Ball and the rest of the vocal skeptics are bent on convincing people that science is corrupt – an easy thing to do when people want to believe it, but with tactics that are clearly dishonest if one sees them with SKEPTICISM. Why are all these little blurbs taken out of context? Why, after all these years and all the investigations and comments by other scientists is he still using the “Mike’s trick” quote as if it were a sign of corruption? Why is it so much easier to believe someone with an obvious desire to persuade people that AGW is a conspiracy than the independent investigations of 8 committees? The idea that they would overlook misconduct is absolutely phenomenally ridiculous when any 1 person in those 8 committees had the power to ruin the careers of the rest by blowing the whistle.

        Corruption in science is not tolerated. Ever. Willie Soon has no voice in climate science not because of his ideas, but because he is seen (with good reason) as corrupt. It taints the whole bunch of contrarians. But instead of rejecting people like him, they are embraced as symbols of victimization.

      • “Dr. Ball and the rest of the vocal skeptics are bent on convincing people that science is corrupt – an easy thing to do when people want to believe it, but with tactics that are clearly dishonest if one sees them with SKEPTICISM.”


        In the first place, “science” cannot be “corrupt”. It has no moral skin in the game. Science is a discipline. Those individuals who practice science, if they do, are the one’s who are corrupt, if they are.

        I’ve read your posts. From the manner in which you write, you’re perfectly aware of this.

        unter der Brücke riecht etwas faul…

      • Kristi Silber: I am not sure that I stated or even implied that burning of fossil fuels does not cause CO2 in the atmosphere; from where did you get that idea? It is good that you can accept that there is such a thing as natural variation in temperatures – is there any reason why the slight rise we have observed since the low point of the little ice age is also not one of these variations – especially when you bear in mind that the fall into the little ice age was also a natural variation. At which point over the past 1,000 years was the temperature at its “normal”? The high point of the Mediæval Warm Period? Or the low point of the LIA? Or some point in between? My money is on the last – now, what is an acceptable fluctuation for natural variation? I suspect that the figure will be more than we presently are over that “normal” temperature.
        You have revealed your own prejudices in your last comment by your implied vilification of the fossil fuel industry (who, by the way, are going nowhere, and are not in the least bit alarmed by any of this – people are going to need “fossil fuels” far longer into the future than any of us will live), your diatribe against Dr. Ball (who he? I certainly never mentioned him) and your use of the word “contrarians” (so much more subtle than “deniers”, yes?). “Mike’s nature trick” is a very good example of corrupt science – fiddle the data to fit the narrative; people still quote “Galileo’s gravity trick” of dropping balls off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, after all these years…

    • Frank – Interesting post.

      Here’s my take on the IPCC. They have a choice whether to present one side of the case, or all sides. If they present all sides, they have another choice: do they do so non-judgmentally, or do they evaluate their relative merits to assist policy-makers? Evaluating them would get very politically sensitive, and make the IPCC even more the focus of controversy. Including them non-judgmentally would give all ideas equal weight, which is hardly beneficial to policymakers. Besides, it would take far more time and expense (assuming there are credible, novel approaches to climate change).

      If it’s solid evidence from research that refutes the validity of a finding, of course it should be considered. But evidence that simply provides an alternative explanation of a single phenomenon, in isolation from the rest of the interactions, is at that point not yet worth including, in my opinion. It can be examined in more depth for the next report. The pieces must fit together, and that is why modeling is the only possible tool. Arguments from past climate are only of interest if they evaluate the way phenomena interacted, not correlated (and not used to show that the Earth would be fine with 1000 ppm CO2!).

      The IPCC can’t include everything. It’s inevitable that something is overlooked. However, caveats are very important. What kind of caveats do you think are missing?

      “It does say we should carefully consider the evidence from laboratory experiments and theory that is claimed to show that rising GHGs will reduce radiative cooling to space.”

      I think we can also do this in situ, can’t we? If not now, we will be able to soon.

      I was at NOAA at Boulder a couple weeks ago, and they’re developing a new way of sampling gases at different heights. I was looking at a display and its inventor came along, got to pick his mind. It’s a travesty that so many people think these brilliant minds, with tons of scientific integrity, would ever be involved in a global conspiracy. It’s personal for me, because it includes my uncle.

      • Kristi ==> Only crackpots think Global Warming is a Global conspiracy — it is the same illness that affects politically-motivated Climate Change Alarmist to say climate skeptism is a conspiracy funded by Big Oil,, that Big Sugar is a conspiracy, that Exxon Knew, that ..well, you get the idea.
        However, the idea that a strong consensus in a scientific field (any of them, medicine included) could simply be a measure of the field’s prevailing bias is well established.

      • “If it’s solid evidence from research that refutes the validity of a finding, of course it should be considered. But evidence that simply provides an alternative explanation of a single phenomenon, in isolation from the rest of the interactions, is at that point not yet worth including, in my opinion. It can be examined in more depth for the next report. The pieces must fit together, and that is why modeling is the only possible tool.”

        Given that the consensus opinion at the IPCC is that modeling the climate’s future state is not possible at present, don’t you contradict yourself? It would seem at this point the best models can offer is “an alternative explanation of a single phenomenon”, in this case, natural variability.

        If you don’t contradict yourself, why don’t you?

        “In sum, a strategy must recognise what is possible. In climate research and modelling, we should recognise 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. The most we can expect to achieve is the prediction of the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions. This reduces climate change to the discernment of significant differences in the statistics of such ensembles. The generation of such model ensembles will require the dedication of greatly increased computer resources and the application of new methods of model diagnosis. Addressing adequately the statistical nature of climate is computationally intensive, but such statistical information is essential.

  16. I would argue that there cannot be “alternative facts” – a fact simply IS, no ifs, no buts – however, there can be different interpretations of a fact. These interpretations can change as more facts are revealed: is the assailant shoving the victim against the wall intending to harm the victim, financially or physically, or is he trying to save him from the piano that lands where he had been standing? More facts are required to determine which interpretation is correct: if the assailant steps back and helps the victim regain his composure, then he was intending to save; if, however, he presses harder, and rifles though the victim’s pockets, then the falling piano was just a coincidence.

    • Good. I hadn’t read tour comment when I wrote my criticism. I agree with you – to take the concept of ‘alternative facts’ seriously is a sure sign of sloppy thinking.

      • Using your own definitions of something to “prove” your are right is a sign of sloppy thinking. The idea that somebody, somewhere, has an infallible list of what are facts and what are not is the sign of an idiot.

      • Thammond65: please read it carefully. Where did I say that there is a person with an infallible list of facts? That really is an utterly absurd idea. However, a fact IS; it is our own interpretation of the fact that can vary. Observing the Sun traversing the sky, the ancient Greeks interpreted this fact as a god driving his blazing chariot; other civilisations had other interpretations. But, whichever civilisation it was, not being in possession of more facts meant that their interpretation was flawed – and, whatever their interpretation of the event, and how that interpretation has changed over the centuries, has not altered the simple FACTS one jot. It is quite feasible that we still have a flawed interpretation of our solar system; we will not know until more facts are revealed.

      • Kip Hansen: of course it is over-simplification; every interpretation is a simplification of the fact, else we could not understand it – we have to place it within our own frame of thinking, which, being human, will be flawed. Your use of different day-lengths, depending on your location of the Earth, is an interesting analogy, but all these apparently conflicting facts merely show that your original interpretation was flawed, and direct you to re-think the theory – or ditch it, altogether.

      • RR ==> Exactly correct! I think you’ve finally got the value of alternative facts. Both sets of facts are observably true — they seems contradictory — until as a scientist, someone gets in there and figures out HOW the contradictory, alternative facts can be reconciled. The seasons example show how, in the year 500 or so, there were seriously contradictory facts about whether or not the sun rises and sets every day — in some places it doesn’t do that. Vikings were called “liars” when they recounted such things — everyone KNEW the FACT that the Sun rises and sets every single day.
        We the Earth Sciences advanced — that fact was modified with our better understanding — which we feel today is a FACT and not likely to be changed on the simple matter of Sun rising/setting.
        So, in that example we see that the present’s facts just represent our best current understanding — and when the facts seem contradictory or there are equally possible alternatives, science only advances by addressing them head on.

    • RR – i assert the same unconditionally. a fact is true by definition
      oh, poor mr thammond65 – failure to provide definitions is a sign of sloppy argument. you’ve got it backwards. your scarecrow is poorly constructed, too. but the irony of you calling somebody an idiot for being reasonable is trenchant af.

  17. In the current bizarre paradigm of claimed sexual inequality, to bravely enter the lioness’s den , “Sciences” Editorial board [ ‘s ] lists 54 editors of whom 30, judging by their personal names are of the female persuasion.
    Although there could be a couple more female editors as I had trouble translating some names into the appropiate sexual context.
    I have taught both men and women to fly gliders over many years, now long gone in the past.
    Obviously there s a very big cross over and greying of the borders between males and females in their abilities and their quite different decision making characteristics when under pressure in a technological, fast decision making world in my following claim.

    Women overall or at least the ones I taught for the most part are probably a little smarter and more intelligent than most men.

    BUT women distrubute that small mental superiority over the male of the species over a much wider range of immediate mental inputs which makes their decision making abilities much more fuzzy and variable.

    With the possibility that with fast changing situations such as preparing to land a glider they will select a or be forced into selecting an option out of a whole range of options they are trying to mentally process all at once which may be far from the best or easiest option available.

    Men or a high percentage of them will drive towards an obvious and usually self preset goal and discard a lot of peripherial distractions such as another glider also entering circuit to land but is a minute or more behind.

    The male puts that bit of infomation into the back blocks of his mental calculations and concentrates on the immediate situation and the decisions that will have to be made within the next minute or even few seconds.

    With the predominance of women, no doubt very smart women indeed, [ I’ve got a couple of very smart indeed trained scientists in my immediate family’s matrimonial relationship which it doesn’t pay to tangle with in a argument as they can destroy all of the most well rehearsed arguments in next to nothing flat timewise ] on the Science Editorial Boards, maybe, just maybe there is a growing lack of concentration on what is of real and central benefit to science and the community which is being replaced by the usual female’s wide ranging mental fuzziness as compared to the males brutal concentration on central themes compared with the female propensity to move towards the warm and fuzzy feelly, feelly manner of depicting Science to the public and Scientific information consumers.

    ie; post normal scientific Editorship.

    • OTOH, I have seen some good work from AAAS over the last, er, well, more than a decade. They split off Science Careers, for instance, in an effort to avoid pollution of the science by the political facets of the issues surrounding the job markets for STEM professionals as a result of politically instituted changes in those markets since the late 1980s. And they have been juggling the proportions and mix of specialties they cover in an attempt to avoid bias while staying in the economic and format constraints.

    • ROM & mib8 ==> The recent advent of Scientific Societies and Organizations issuing organizational position Statements on Climate Change — written entirely by a handful of leaders and voted on only by the Board — illustrates to us the effect I describe in my essay on Editorial Narratives.
      Run-away political bias in the leadership of these organizations is no surprise, and often runs contrary to the views of their greater membership.

    • ROM – It’s a hypothesis. “Wide ranging mental fuzziness”? Bah.

      If anything, a male “brutal concentration on central themes” would be a detriment to science since so much of science is looking for alternative explanations, and it is not good to make hasty decisions. However, that doesn’t mean women can’t recognize the central importance and benefit of science.

      Your assessment from glider experience is also confounded by the fact that women on average are not as good at spatial relationships. Interesting perceptions, though.

  18. Reading this post and responses is like leaving the realm of occasional disputed fact and traveling to an alternative universe where critical thinking is surgically removed at birth to enable folks to believe the world is as they want it to be, rather than as it is.
    Of course the late night comedians were right to laugh at ‘alternative facts’ and of course, if it really is what they do, lawyers are guilty of semantic sloth if they talk of ‘alternative facts’. We don’t live in a universe where alternative facts are a possibility, but we do live in a universe where intelligence mediated by protoplasm can delude itself and be blind to fact. That is why we have the discipline of science and why science promotes critical thinking.
    Unfortunately, critical thinking can be hijacked by that pesky protoplasm, and when the hijacked find each other, they can have a lovely time sharing their delusion and laughing at the truth they cannot see.
    That is what we have here.

    • Jack ==> Honestly, I can’t tell if you are just trolling or if you have misunderstandings.
      Try a little tiny thought experiment: List for yourself all the facts you can think of about any one thing. How many are in the list? Not just one, right? Now, ask someone you know and trust to list all the facts they know about the same thing. How many on their list? How many match your list? How many are alternative facts which are also true? That’s what this, and the legal concept, are about.

      • Kip – Alternative facts in law are about competing versions of reality that can’t be proved one way or another because the reality is in the past. This is not so with science (although science doesn’t “prove” anything; “fact” in the realm of science is itself a slippery term for methodological and philosophical reasons), which always searches for truth about the physical world and assumes it is discoverable.

        I don’t understand your thought experiment. Maybe you can give an example.

      • Kip Hansen: a person listing facts might not necessarily list all the facts; the second person, might not, either, but might give different facts – NOT alternative: different. “The door is open,” could be a fact; “The door is closed,” is an alternative fact: only one of those can be correct; only one can be a fact. “The door is open,” and “The door is closing,” are different facts about the same condition, and both can be correct; both can be facts.

      • RR ==> You’re getting there — I’m not sure yet. Any fact that I offer about something that is different than the one you are offering is by definition an “alternative”.
        Your doors depend on the instantaneous time element — “the door was open” and “the door was closed’ are both true statements.
        I went to UCSB is true. I attended UCSB for four years is true. You might counter with the true alternative fact “Kip Hansen has no university degree”. (which is true) These are facts about my higher education and my be used to imply something about the value of my opinions. They are alternative facts — all true.

    • So tell us Jack, why did the comedians believe one number and not another? Did they count? Did they oversee the count? Did they audit the count? No, they believed, that’s all. Why? Because the people who pronounce on things are always right?

      And have you read a biology textbook from say 50 years ago, with all its facts? How many are still facts?

      The sheer arrogance and hubris of your comment, the sheer, unadulterated ignorance is breathtaking. You think your opinions are right, and so any claimed facts that support your opinions must be facts. That’s all. You don’t check everything, you don’t do anything except believe what suits you.And then despise people who do the opposite. Just another brainwashed fool who mistakes his own opinions for brilliance.

      • awesome projection, there mr thammond65
        perhaps it would help you demystify your reflection if you learned a new word: ‘assertion’.
        ‘truth’ is a separate concept- that’s why we have 2 different words – so you can tell them apart.

      • Thammond65: the biology books are describing interpretations of facts; it is the interpretations of the facts that have changed, not the facts, themselves. In any point in time, a fact IS. Nothing can change that; it is only the interpretation of that fact that can change. When Copernicus postulated his interpretation of known facts that the Earth was not the centre of the solar system, did the Sun and stars rearrange themselves so that the Earth was no longer at the centre? Was it the facts that changed, or the interpretation of the facts?

      • RR ==> You may be conflating “facts” (which are observations that are true) with ACTUALITY (which is more real than reality — if you get that — our reality is subjective — actuality is objective and may not necessarily be known to us).

    • Jack Davis,
      You said, “…enable folks to believe the world is as they want it to be, rather than as it is.” That statement comes very close to my definition of a Liberal.

  19. The illustration, meant to show some high level of discernment, does exactly the opposite.
    The illustration actually shows how to institutionalize ignorance and bigotry by deciding ahead of time what will be considered worthy of consideration.

  20. I wonder if this is a symptom of a dying industry. One that has to appease a narrower and narrower market share. Frankly, I gave up on Scientific American long ago, New Scientist went bonkers on nuclear energy years ago and became political. Science News was in the crosshairs.

  21. Science and the AAAS became diseased under the leadership of Donald Kennedy–famous for the scandal of having NSF paying for his yacht at Stanford. Then the disease permanently took hold because no one following Kennedy wished to do the thankless job of correcting the place.

  22. The internet is overdue in killing off the old science magazines, news magazines, and other interpretive opinionated marketing platforms. Go direct to the publication clearing houses and short summaries on science dashboard sites. Save time and money and ditch the opinion dustbins of history. That goes double for Brits with their sad case of opinion sclerosis.

  23. Deplorable Climate Scientists Have Destroyed Credibility of Science
    Here at CO2isLife we have always maintained that CAGW isn’t a scientific issue, it is a political issue. Science is an unbiased, impartial, objective, blind and unbelievably politically incorrect process. Science is the search for truth, no matter how ugly, racist, sexist, homophobic or politically inconvenient it may be. The facts don’t give a damn if you … Continue reading

    • we have always maintained that CAGW isn’t a scientific issue, it is a political issue.

      On that point at least I think we agree. CAGW is political and commercial science disguised as ‘science’. Like any drug company ‘white paper’ it invents ailments to which – magically – its is the perfect ‘cure’

  24. From the article: “Alternative Facts and Fake News: How to Advocate for Science When Data Aren’t Enough”

    Well, the Alarmists are describing themselves and their current predicatment here: The data they have to promote CAGW is not enough so they need to figure out how to advocate for CAGW without having the facts to back up their claims.

    If they had the facts and the proof we wouldn’t be discussing this now. They are trying to win this game without having the proof.

    • Maybe they would have a better chance of “winning the game” if people didn’t persistently make such false statements about climate science and scientists. Maybe if the “skeptics” finally cottoned onto the fact that they’ve been manipulated for years. Fat chance. Most are not true skeptics and are incredibly biased, as their portrayals of “alarmists” reveal.

      • Kristi ==> Now you’ve slipped off into Climate Warrior mode, losing your credibility. Shame. I thought for a moment you were really “Kristi”.

  25. I recall a professor bringing current issues of Science into the classroom in the 50s to show modern discoveries and introduce students to scientific journals. I remember a small news section, now it is editorializing. This discussion has gotten away some from the issue with Science and similar organizations and their products, so let me suggest that what they are doing is the Orwellian, or other long known designations, of defining something to suit your politics. Examples are like Ocean Acidification, their Alternative Facts or Truths, Sustainability, Biodiversity, Ecosystem and others hijacked from their original meaning. The ones coming now revolve around communication, as Socialism is famous for, if we just explain it right they will understand!

    “Although current debates about climate change, evolution, and vaccines may suggest otherwise, trust in science has remained relatively constant over the decades, pointed out Yves Gingras, a historian and sociologist of science from the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada. So why is it so hard to change people’s minds about “alternative truths” that are demonstrably false?”

    These three examples all have viable controversies quite independent of politics and I suspect Bayer and Ferber do not understand this and that science loses it credibility over advocacy and activism. That is what the (especially ‘administrative’) scientific community needs to be re-taught. (“But there are ways to change minds, he said:”) Is this one approach?—-

  26. “This is an Opinion piece — you may have a different opinion — I’d love to hear it.”
    Let’s pretend the following is opinion – so it doesn’t get snipped as too slayery.
    The WB papers have comment sections at the ends and I am much more likely to see then there than here.
    Over 9,000!! views on my WriterBeat papers which were also sent to the ME departments of several prestigious universities (As a BSME & PE felt some affinity.) and a long list of pro/con CAGW personalities and organizations.
    NOBODY has responded explaining why my methods, calculations and conclusions in these papers are incorrect. BTW that is called SCIENCE!! (Well, I did get a lecture on water vapor which sort of misses the CO2 point.)
    SOMEBODY needs to step up and ‘splain my errors, defend 33 C and “back” radiation, ‘cause if I’m correct (Q=UAdT runs the atmospheric heat engine) – that’s a BIGLY problem for RGHE.
    Step right up! Bring science.—We-don-t-need-no-stinkin-greenhouse-Warning-science-ahead-

    • Nick ==> You are under a terrible misconception when you say “SOMEBODY needs to step up and ‘splain my errors,”.
      In reality, nobody owes you anything — no explanation, no reply, no thank you for setting us all straight, no pats on the back, no acknowledgement, no sympathy, no nothing.
      I tried to read your stuff linked — and truthfully, I found it very difficult to follow even just your line of thought, no less the sprinkling of various formulae.
      I suggest taking your work to an acquaintance or friend with whom you already have a relationship and ask them to review your work and writing and have them advise you on how it might be changed to communicate better.

      • This is HS science and 2nd year engineering curricula. If you don’t understand it, I suggest you excuse yourself from the table until you have done the assigned homework.

        If this is beyond you, all the esoteric S-B & QED explanations bandied about are way out there, besides being totally bogus..

  27. Kip: “Alternative facts”; gotcha. But I think it would have underscored this exasperating misunderstanding to give a couple of examples to make it clear. Is it something like this:

    Carbon dioxide is rising and so is temperature.

    Yes, but look how closely the temperature record follows the PDO and AMO.

    Yes but look how closely the major temperature shifts jibe with big changes in sunspot numbers.

    • Gary; “Yes, but look how closely the temperature record follows the PDO and AMO.

      Yes but look how closely the major temperature shifts jibe with big changes in sunspot numbers.”

      This is irrelevant if the temperature is rising overall. The temp is expected to follow natural cycles and factors, but they don’t account for the overall increase. Nothing does except for rise in CO2.

    • Gary P ==> Appreciate the observation, but my original essay at Climate Etc. was not about the climate wars, and neither is this one.
      Of course, the parallels are there — the entire Skeptic Climate topic is the attempt to get CliSci to look seriously at the facts, ALL of them, identify the conflicting anf contradictory aspects of what we know at the moment, and get busy digging in to find out what is really going on instead of simply doing confirmatory studies to defend the consensus opinion.
      If I had mentioned any single talking point of CliSci, my main message would have been lost in the squabbling.

  28. Since the contrarian scientist message is spread at a rate and pitch disproportionate to their representation in the scientific community, it’s high time the consensus scientists have a mechanism of having their voices heard – directly, not through the distortions of the media. Of course, one problem is exactly what is demonstrated here: outrage at consensus advocacy. So why don’t you complain about contrarian advocacy? Should the two groups be held to different standards? Aren’t you aware that the core contrarians are associated with conservative think tanks? It’s hypocritical.

    KIP: The problem with “alternative facts” is when they come to carry the same weight as primary, standard, normal facts, even if they are patently wrong. I don’t buy the argument that because the law uses a term in a certain way, that means it’s appropriate for general use. “Fact” loses its meaning as you define it. Is Trump’s claim that his inaugural address brought record-breaking crowds deserving of equal weight as the truth? Or does “fact” bear no relation to “truth”?

    Should we allow lies and errors to simply become seen as alternative ways of seeing things?

    People who believe that climate change is a threat that can be mitigated by human action are sick of being stymied by arguments based on “alternative facts” – that is, fictions (e.g., high CO2 and/or global warming is a good thing, current climate change is due to natural variation, etc.). Time is of the essence, and it seems to me that the contrarian movement is simply trying to delay action through manipulation of public opinion, not by coming up with better ideas. Climate science has been studied steadily for 50 years. The contrarians have had plenty of time to put together credible alternatives. The alternatives they’ve come up with are not ignored, they aren’t good enough. Now more contrarians don’t build science so much as they tear it down by discrediting it, making it useless to society.

    Dr. Curry in congressional testimony suggested there was a lack of “intellectual resources” in skeptical science. Doesn’t that suggest that it’s time to stop looking for “alternative facts”? Shouldn’t we just deal with the uncertainty in predictions? Are we going to do nothing to address the problem because we don’t know that in 2100 the average temp will be exactly 1.9427 C warmer if we decrease emissions by 32%?

    One thing that hasn’t been discussed much is the way policy can affect the RATE of change. Instead of thinking about it as, it will warm X degrees by 2100, one can think about it as, it will warm 1.5 C between 75 and 125 years from now. If we can delay the change it gives us more time to adapt. An extra 50 years to move a billion people away from the coast would be pretty handy.


    • Kristi ==> You’ve missed the point on alternative facts altogether — you conflate facts with conclusions, you conflate facts with hypotheses. Fcats are just things that have been observed and are true — science studies nearly always conflict with some previous study in the same field — this is how science advances.
      Try not to confuse simple facts with “talking points” from either side of the Climate Wars. Facts are Facts….and sometimes they seem contradictory — because we don;t really know what is going on.
      This is exactly what happens in a criminal trial. If everyone actually knew what had happened, then there is usually no trial held — it is when what really happened is not known that facts are presented by one side and alternative facts are presented by the other side — the jury is called upon to reconcile the seeming contradictory facts into what they think probably happened beyond a reasonable doubt.
      In science, the fact that northern Alaska sees 60 days of without the sun showing its face and summer has 80 days in which the Sun never sets completely had been successfully reconciled with the fact that the majority of humans see the sun rise every day and set every day without fail. Those alternative, contradictory facts have been reconciled by Science figuring out how both can be true.
      Conclusions, assertions, talking points, hypotheses, etc are not themselves facts — the facts are underlie them somewhere.
      Try thinking of this is some other field in which you don;t have so much emotional involvement.

    • Kristi:

      Your argument fails on the same basis as the rest of those who believe as you do, “belief” being the operative concept:

      Logical fallacy (Beg the Question) and human hubris.

      “People who believe that climate change is a threat that can be mitigated by human action are sick of being stymied by arguments based on “alternative facts” – that is, fictions (e.g., high CO2 and/or global warming is a good thing, current climate change is due to natural variation, etc.).”

      You assume the truth of your conclusion in your premise, i.e., that human action is capable of producing climate change of a threatening nature. Your side has no way to prove this conclusion. It isn’t possible as per the IPCC (see below). The best you can argue is that you have evidence for your conclusion and therefore further research is necessary.

      If I wake up in the morning and there’s a scratch down the side of my car, I have evidence that my neighbor with whom I’m currently having a dispute caused the scratch. Without PROOF, however, in the form of witnesses, video, etc., I cannot with surety claim my neighbor is the cause of the scratch.

      Your side has not proved up it’s assumptions. In fact it isn’t possible to prove your hypothesis at all, as the IPCC consensus opinion admits (emphasis added):

      “In sum, a strategy must recognise what is possible. In climate research and modelling, we should recognise 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.”

      What could be clearer? If consensus is your proof please advise on why you deny this statement from the consensus of opinion of IPCC experts?

      The best your side has to offer are a conglomeration of software models built upon the same presuppositions regarding the physics of the earth’s atmosphere that the IPCC has declared incapable of “long-term prediction” of future climate states:

      “The most we can expect to achieve is the prediction of the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions. This reduces climate change to the discernment of significant differences in the statistics of such ensembles.”

      Software models are all you have. Nothing more. And those models are built using the latest scientific presuppositions about the physics of the atmosphere which are not at all comprehensive. Furthermore, those models are shown over and over again to be unreliable.

      This brings us to your next problem: Hubris

      “Time is of the essence, and it seems to me that the contrarian movement is simply trying to delay action through manipulation of public opinion, not by coming up with better ideas. Climate science has been studied steadily for 50 years. The contrarians have had plenty of time to put together credible alternatives.”

      Clearly you suppose that somehow in 50 of 100 years of gathering evidence and studying the physics of a 4.5 billion year old planet’s atmosphere that humanity has figured it all out. There isn’t even consensus (your focus of proof) on the application of physics to describe that atmosphere, much less a comprehensive physics model to explain it!

      I gave you an example above of why that hubris is ill-advised with the 3000 year old practice of blood-letting. Each generation of humans believes themselves the best and the brightest of all time. “Ah, we are the ultimate of humanity!” And each generation is proved to be foolish in so thinking in subsequent centuries.

      Let’s apply your logical method of science to other fields, e.g., cancer research. Your logic above would seem to allow the following:

      “Cancer cures have been studied for over 50 years. The contrarians have had plenty of time to put together credible alternatives. Therefore, we must have a cure for cancer.” Of course, there is no cure for cancer, and this argument is seen to be absurd.

      Just as is, with all due respect, yours.

  29. Epilogue:

    Well, a fine discussion. Terrific examples of all the confusions about what facts are, how facts relate to one another, whether or not there can be contradictory facts or alternative facts and for most, a total failure to see that Science and Human Knowledge depends on alternative facts and contradictory facts to supply the grist for our intellectual mills to discover new truths.

    We have a couple of new Climate Warriors you have joined in to save us from our all-too-active critically-thinking minds — and insist that we simply STOP IT!

    Pervasive Expertism (the belief in the infallibility of ‘experts’) still holds a lot of sway over the public mind. The idea that today’s “facts” are forever and immutable seems to be epidemic — despite the obvious “contradictory facts” of the history of Science.

    Thanks for reading.

  30. If there are not “Alternative facts” and the “Science is settled” .. why do we still need scientists ?

      • Robert ==> Well, that is certainly a rather unique argument “I don’t like this phrase”. Is the words you don’t like or the concept? Have you read through the my comments to see the Sun Rise-Sunset example — that is very clear and is historical.

  31. Philip Abelson loosing his position as editor of the Journal Science must have been one of the earliest and most effective efforts at censorship. Like many others, in the early 1980′s I begin to take the question of Global Warming seriously. I started looking around for a source of information that I could rely on. For example I looked at an old favorite, Scientific American, but found it unreasonably enthusiastic. Eventually I decided that the Journal Science seemed to be doing the best job. Most of the articles were supportive of the Global Warming thesis, but about 1/3 to a 1/4 were what today would be called skeptical. My reaction at the time was that the science was still being sorted out, and that I would subscribe to the Journal and follow the progress in hope that things would clarify. I did for two or three years and and the ratio of pro and skeptical articles remained much the same. There did not seem much clarification going on, more talking past each other. Suddenly all the skeptical articles disappeared. I was confused until I came upon an interview with Philip Abelson, whom I discovered was no longer the editor of the Journal. In that interview, he stated that one of the reasons he had been replaced was his failure to fully subscribe to the Global Warming theory. There are some who dispute the fact that he was not a full supporter of the theory. In fact if you go to his page in Wikipedia, you will find that they state that he is wrongly touted as a skeptic based on one statement in an opinion piece published in the Journal. “Uncertainties About Global Warming” Science 30 MARCH 1990 VoLUME 24-7 NUMBER 4-950 The statement they quote is “[I]f the global warming situation is analyzed applying the customary standards of scientific inquiry one must conclude that there has been more hype than solid fact.” Wikipedia then rebuts that statement with one from 1977, as if one is not allowed to change ones mind. In this short piece he takes issue with several of the accepted tenets, for example “Modeling of global climate is being carried out intensively by at least 14 different groups. They have largely concentrated on examining effects of doubling the atmospheric content of greenhouse gases. As might be expected, the answers they get are functions of the models they employ. The spread is from 1.5° to 5°C; that is, there is great uncertainty. In addition, if one examines some of the scientific articles on the subject, one finds virtually unanimous agreement that the models are deficient. For example, they do not adequately incorporate effects of clouds, which are expected to increase with warming.” On the other hand, he was very concerned about natural resource depletion and on that ground was a enthusiastic proponent of renewables. Interestingly if you search for this opinion piece on Science’s website, you can find it, but an attempt to buy it returns an error. It is available elsewhere on the web.
    Unfortunately, long ago I lost the source of the interview where Abelson stated that his stance on Global Warming was a factor in his having to resign the post. I would hope that someone would be able to resurrect it.

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