Oreskes, Harvard and the Destruction of Scientific Revolutions

Guest post by Bradley Keyes

consensus (kənˈsɛnsəs) — n.

general or widespread agreement (esp. in the phrase consensus of opinion )

usage Since ‘consensus’ refers to a collective opinion, the words ‘of opinion’ in the phrase ‘consensus of opinion’ are redundant and should therefore be avoided

Source: consensus. Collins English Dictionary—Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers.

As we all know, The Consensus is Strengthening. It’s growing deeper daily, stronger weekly, and more consensual monthly. This is the story of how Professor Naomi Oreskes pulls the trick off.

It would be “remarkable” enough, to use Oreskes’ favorite adjective, if more and more scientific papers endorsed AGW every time you sampled the literature. But what’s even more remarkable is that you don’t actually need to do multiple studies.

All you have to do, apparently, is sample the literature once, then spend the next decade and a half changing your story about the results.

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Professor Naomi Oreskes (pictured) is best known for her discovery that Freeman Dyson is old, so his arguments can’t be taken seriously.

But first, the context

c 375,000 ya: H. sapiens speciates from h. erectus.

c 375,000 ya–present: As social primates, we rely on a combination of popular and expert consensus to ascertain the truth about everything from the divine to the pudendal, with little success. For hundreds of millennia, encyclopaedic ignorance and increasingly-confident delusion will characterize the human condition, leavened only by spasms of understanding.

2,387 ya: In the Platonic dialogue Theaetetus, Socrates lays the groundwork of Western epistemology by characterizing knowledge as justified, true belief.

2,179 ya: Marcus Aurelius becomes the last of the Five Good Emperors. A keen philosopher with a surprisingly modern voice, he is best loved for the aphorism: “The aim of life is not to align oneself with the majority but to avoid finding oneself in the ranks of the insane[1].”

c 1,000 ya: Arab and Persian proto-scientists begin to understand that the authority of experts is worthless as a guide to the workings of nature. Ibn al-Haytham writes that the genuine improver of human knowledge “follows proof and demonstration rather than the assertions of a man whose disposition is marked by flaws and shortcomings of all kinds.”

c 500-300 ya: The Scientific Revolution marks the dawn of the Age of Reason and a gradual process of perfecting and enforcing what we recognize today as the modern scientific method.

One of the big ideas that make this revolution possible is Rule Zero of Science Club[2]: opinion is not a form of evidence. In the special epistemology of science, what scientists think doesn’t prove a thing about the natural world. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t tell us anything.

In Socratic terms, scientific knowledge can only be justified by scientific evidence. Expert consensus, majority opinion and unanimous agreement are now topics beneath the contempt of the men and women who call themselves scientists. The only evidence is evidence.

That’s the idea at any rate. But scientists, being part human, are heir to the weaknesses of the flesh. Of the four Fundamental Forces known to social psychology the laziest and stupidest, of course, is peer pressure. The Aschian need to conform—the fear of being the only person in the room who’s right—is ineradicable, even in science. It will always be a retardant of human discovery.

Fortunately, science has certain behavioral norms that mitigate the entropic influence of consensus—norms like not talking about it. This taboo is so visceral that even the ’softest’ fields internalize it. The ecologist James Lovelock doesn’t exaggerate when he says that the very word ‘consensus’

has no place in the lexicon of science; it is a good and useful word but it belongs to the world of politics and the courtroom, where reaching a consensus is a way of solving human differences. Scientists are concerned with probabilities, never with certainties or consensual agreement.

—Prof. James Lovelock, PhD,

The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning

[My emphasis.]

171 ya: Dr Ignaz Semmelweis makes hand-washing mandatory for obstetricians at Vienna General Hospital. The incidence of puerperal fever, a mass murderer of mothers, drops by 90% overnight, vindicating Semmelweis’ hunch that iatrogenic contagion is to blame. His students soon replicate this miracle in maternity wards throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire and publish their results in the scientific press.

153 ya: Almost two decades have passed since the empirical confirmation of Semmelweis’ ideas, but mainstream pathology perseverates in ignoring them, sticking to the ancient and evidence-free consensus on miasmas, ’humoral imbalance’ and leeching. Semmelweis himself has been vilified and hounded from his job by the medical establishment, to whom the very suggestion that their hands might be vectors of disease was an affront, coming as it did from a Jew with a low h-index. Unemployed, angry and deeply depressed by the needless deaths of thousands of women a year, Semmelweis is committed to an insane asylum. The guards welcome him with a savage beating. His injuries fail to heal and within a fortnight, at the age of 47, he has died of blood poisoning.

82 ya: The physicist Max Planck, running out of patience with the dead weight of scientific consensus, writes his bitter witticism: “Eine neue wissenschaftliche Wahrheit pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, daß ihre Gegner überzeugt werden und sich als belehrt erklären, sondern vielmehr dadurch, daß ihre Gegner allmählich aussterben und daß die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Wahrheit vertraut gemacht ist[3].”

24 ya: Dan Schechtman discovers and publishes proof of quasiperiodic crystals, whose existence flies in the face of the consensus. For the Israeli chemist this finding is about to usher in a decade of condescending derision and ostracism.

It starts when the head of Schechtman’s research group suggests that he “go back and read the [undergrad chemistry] textbook again.” A couple of days later he asks Schechtman to leave for “bringing disgrace on the team.” The great Linus Pauling, darling of the American Chemical Society, tells a lecture hall full of scientists that “there is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists.” Schechtman has to fight an uphill battle just to get his colleagues to look down a microscope (or crystallographic diffractometer, as the case may be) and see the evidence for themselves.

Thanks to this so-called Semmelweis reflex, it will take another 17 years for the Nobel Prize Committee to acknowledge Schechtman’s breakthrough.

15 ya: Anthropologist and author Michael Crichton is one of the first people to speak out against the recrudescence of consensualist tactics in science.

“Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus,” he thunders in his 2003 lecture to the California Institute of Technology, ‘Aliens Cause Global Warming.’ “Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right. In science, consensus is irrelevant….

“I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks.”

14 ya: Crichton’s warning has fallen on deaf ears. Science By Peer Pressure—whose progress we should have stopped at Munich—officially completes its long march through the institutions in 2004, with the appearance in the December issue of Science of an article called ‘The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.’

The paper, by nobody called Naomi Oreskes of UCSD, doesn’t conform to the standards of any academic discipline known to man. (At a grand total of one page long and with all the scholarly rigor one would expect from a manuscript sent back by Gender, it could only have been snuck into Science by the grace of a Special New Section, ‘Beyond the Ivory Tower,’ which is conveniently exempt from peer review.)

What it does do, quite openly, is not just discuss but quantify the supposed agreement on AGW among climate scientists. It almost doesn’t matter how bad the paper is; merely by getting it published in—or at least adjacent to—the peer-reviewed literature, Naomi Oreskes has weaponized the argumentum ad consensum. Science (the magazine, not the thing) has Scientized it under its own prestigious aegis.

Two years later, Al Gore will aerosolize it by citing Oreskes’ statistic in An Inconvenient Truth, his feature-length infomercial for carbon credits:

Isn’t there a disagreement among scientists about whether the problem is real or not? Actually, not really. There was a massive study of every scientific article in a peer-reviewed article written on global warming in the last ten years. They took a big sample of 10 percent, 928 articles. And you know the number of those that disagreed with the scientific consensus that we’re causing global warming and that is a serious problem[4] out of the 928: Zero. The misconception that there is disagreement about the science has been deliberately created by a relatively small number of people…

But have they succeeded? You’ll remember that there were 928 peer-reviewed articles. Zero percent disagreed with the consensus.

Thus is born the foundational myth of the climate movement. And to quote the inimitable Jim Franklin, by ‘myth’ I mean ‘lie.’

[1] Contrary to popular belief, no evidence exists that Marcus Aurelius actually said this. The attribution is nevertheless certain, because everybody thinks so.

[2] If you haven’t heard of Rule Zero that’s because it’s so deeply axiomatic as to be too obvious for words.

[3] Planck’s joke sounds better in English: “Science advances one funeral at a time.” Not until the great physicist’s death in 1947 do scientists finally move on from this depressing paradigm. Despite the occasional regression, many fields of science now advance one discovery at a time.

[4] This last embellishment—“that it is a serious problem”—is Gore’s personal lie, but That’s OK Because He’s Not A Scientist. TOKBHNAS, also known as Rule Zero of Climate Club, was definitively articulated by Richard Müller in his Physics for Future Presidents:

Al Gore flies around in a jet plane—absolutely fine with me. The important thing is not getting Al Gore out of his jet plane; the important thing is solving the world’s problem. What we really need are policies around the world that address the problem, not feel-good measures. If he reaches more people and convinces the world that global warming is real, even if he does it through exaggeration and distortion—which he does, but he’s very effective at it—then let him fly any plane he wants.

[My emphasis.]

The title of Prof. Müller’s book is particularly apt given that Barack Obama repeated—or retweetedGore’s lie in 2013. But that’s OK because… well, you know.

 

Naomi’s Science trick to hide the denial

In her career-making paper, Oreskes’ main accomplishment was to fail to see any sign of skepticism in the literature from 1993 to 2003. This can’t have been easy if skeptical arguments were as ubiquitous as she let slip on Australia’s ABC Radio:

This thing about the peer-reviewed literature being closed [to skeptics], that’s just false. I studied the scientific literature on climate change, and there’s all kinds of debate going on.

In fact, if John Cook’s textbook Climate Science: A Modern Synthesis is to be believed, half the world’s climate scientists still weren’t convinced of the reality of AGW during the period Oreskes claimed to examine.

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This graph, prepared by John Cook for his textbook Climate Change Science: A Modern Synthesis, Vol. 1 (page 449), implies Oreskes2004 must have missed hundreds of skeptical papers. How could a competent academic have done so? Very carefully, it turns out.

Just as the authors of MBH1998 had to steer clear of the evidence of a Medieval Warm Period, Oreskes had to avoid all evidence of the debate she knew existed. How did she succeed in failing to find any? The good, old-fashioned, climate way: by choosing the right proxy. Meaning the wrong proxy.

Oreskes starts by identifying ’the consensus view’ with a pronouncement made by the United Nations’ IPCC[1] in 2001:

Human activities… are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents… that absorb or scatter radiant energy. …[M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

A lesser historian of science—or a qualified market researcher, opinion analyst or pollster who’d rather not lose her professional standing for malpractice—would probably have asked scientists whether they agreed with the UN, disagreed or didn’t know.

But that could have backfired by yielding accurate results, so Oreskes divined their thoughts by papyromancy instead.

Normally this occult technique involves touching a document someone else has had their hands on, such as an article they wrote, closing your eyes, and receiving an unmediated “vision” of the memories, hopes, fears and skepticisms inside that person’s head, by means not yet fully understood. Oreskes’ method, however, relied (slightly) less on clairvoyance. She printed out hundreds of climate papers from 1993 onwards—eight years before the UN even made its ‘consensus’ statement!—and then checked their Abstracts, not for objections to said statement, but for data disproving it. Et voilà, the headline finding:

No papers in the sample provided scientific data to refute the consensus position on global climate change.

[My emphasis.]

In order to find this result “remarkable,” informative or even unforeseeable, you’d have to know literally nothing about what the Abstract of a scientific paper does. In other words, you’d have to belong to the target audience. Meanwhile, to the scientifically-literate rest of us, it hardly needs to be pointed out that no, scientists are not actually expected to devote their Abstracts to the falsification of any and all climate-related position statements, past and future, by political think-tanks with which they disagree, regardless of the subject of their own paper.

You might be forgiven for thinking that in setting a preposterously high bar for papers to count as anti-consensus, Oreskes was guilty of the Fallacy of Impossible Expectations; but of course you’d be wrong. That’s something only a climate denier would do.

 

Having spuriously proven there were no papers that ‘disagreed’ with the IPCC, the only question left is: how many ‘agreed’? This is where things get weirder.

The only straight answer Oreskes has ever given, to my knowledge, is in an essay she wrote three years after the original paper. It contains this graph:

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Here we see the “responses” of the 928 papers on what I have to assume is a Modified Likert, or Lumpert, scale—the instrument developed by Soviet agronomists to compare apples and oranges.

When I look at a dog’s-breakfast, false-hexachotomy ‘analysis’ like this I want to ask the good professor’s superiors to consider the statement:

“Naomi Oreskes is a statistical illiterate who shouldn’t be allowed within 40ft [12m] of any student currently or prospectively enrolled in a Mathematics, Science, Medical or Veterinary Sciences course.”

Do you:

1. Agree

2. Strongly agree

3. Impacts

?

Then I remember there’s a method to her madness—it’s just not the scientific one.

For all its defects, this graph does tell us that 232 of 928 papers indicated agreement[2]. If only Oreskes had had the probity to stick to this story, underwhelming as it is, then my fellow CliScep author Geoff Chambers might not have been forced to write her bosses and Research Integrity Compliance Officers at Harvard University. Geoff’s complaint, which he emailed three weeks ago, follows.

__________

[1] The initials IPCC stand for The World’s Top 2500 Scientists, also known as Ben Santer.

[2] Naturally, Oreskes fails to apply the same (absurd) criterion to Pro papers as to Anti papers. An Abstract doesn’t have to ‘present data proving the consensus position on global climate change’ in order to go on the Endorse pile.

The complaint

To: Ara Tahmassian, Evelynn Hammonds, Denise Moody, K. Harding, Matthew Fox

Subject: Academic misconduct by Professor Naomi Oreskes

Dear ___________________,

Literally dozens of people all around the world have seen Merchants of Doubt, the 2015 film adaptation of the book co-authored by Professor Naomi Oreskes.

 

In it, there is a false graphical representation of the findings of Prof. Oreskes’ seminal 2004 article on the scientific consensus on climate change (an article in which she coded 928 scientific papers according to their Agreement or Disagreement with the view that recent climate change was mostly anthropogenic).

As you see in this screenshot—taken approximately 25 minutes and 50 seconds into the film—an unambiguous claim is made that all 928 papers in the survey Agreed:

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As Prof. Oreskes admits in her original article, however, this claim is false. Of the 928 papers, she states that

25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change.

(My emphasis.)

In fact, two years after the publication of the original article, Prof. Oreskes revealed that “very few” of the 928 papers had Agreed. In point 3 of this article (a rebuttal in which Prof. Oreskes complains, ironically, about a fellow academic “misrepresenting” her results) she admits:

The blog reports of the piece misrepresent the results we obtained. In the original AAAS talk on which the paper was based, and in various interviews and conversations after, I repeated [sic] pointed out that very few papers analyzed said anything explicit at all about the consensus position. This was actually a very important result, for the following reason. Biologists today never write papers in which they explicitly say “we endorse evolution”. Earth scientists never say “we explicitly endorse plate tectonics.” This is because these things are now taken for granted. So when we read these papers and observed this pattern, we took this to be very significant.

(My emphasis.)

It goes without saying—and is taken for granted in Prof. Oreskes’ rebuttal above—that there is a fundamental difference between “no one disagreed” and “everyone agreed.”

To be clear, therefore, the graph in Merchants of Doubt involves an unequivocal falsehood, not merely an exercise in artistic license or debatable choice of emphasis for rhetorical purposes.

Moreover, this misrepresentation pertains to, contradicts and obscures what is, by Prof. Oreskes’ own admission, “a very important result.”

Prof. Oreskes accepts responsibility for the deceptive film in her academic CV (p. 15 ff.), where she classifies it as a “scholarly product” and admits having “consulted on all aspects of its production”:

SCHOLARLY PRODUCTS: FILM

Merchants of Doubt, 2015. A film by Robert Kenner, produced by Participant Media and distributed by SONY Pictures Classics. (I appear in the film and consulted on all aspects of its production. I also served as a liason [sic] between the film-maker and many of the people featured in the film.)

Appearances at Screenings: Toronto Film Festival; NY Film Festival; Landmark Cinema, Cambridge, MA; Wheeler Opera House Aspen, CO; U.S. Congress, House Energy and Environment Caucus, Washington, DC.

In closing, it may be useful to recall the definition of research misconduct according to Harvard University’s webpage on Research Integrity:

Research Misconduct

The Office of Science and Technology Federal Research Misconduct Policy (2000) defines research misconduct as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results“. The policy acknowledges that research misconduct should be distinguished from honest error or differences of opinion. In recognition of this policy, the University and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) have established policies and procedures and created structures to foster a proper research environment, to support and monitor research activities, and to deal promptly and effectively with misconduct or allegations of misconduct in research.

(My emphasis.)

Please keep me apprised of your investigation into Prof. Oreskes’ misconduct as a scholar and representative of Harvard University’s standards of integrity.

Yours sincerely,

Geoff Chambers

The reply

Dear Mr. Chambers

This is to acknowledge the receipt of your message regarding Professor Oreskes.

I am forwarding your message to the proper office for review and determination. You will be informed of their finding.

Best, Ara

Ara Tahmassian, Ph.D.

Chief Research Compliance Officer

Harvard University

Does Oreskes matter?

Yes.

The open society depends on walls. If Western civilization circa 2018 AD is one of the better times and places to be alive—and I think it is—then it’s only because of certain inviolate barriers we take for granted at our peril.

Without a secular wall between Church and State, we lose religious and civil freedoms alike.

Without a semantic wall between A and not-A, the sleep of logic produces monsters.

Without a septic wall between feces and drinking water, cities stop working.

Without a skeptic wall between opinion and evidence, science stops working.

When someone with a PhD takes a sledgehammer and puts a fistula in one of these walls, contempt is too good for them. They deserve our hatred and disgust.

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Pictured: Francisco Goya’s (1746–1828) haunting vision of a world without the Law of Non-contradiction. The boss monsters represent Anomie, Psychosis and War.

As I’ve mentioned, What Scientists Opine™ has an evidentiary weight of zero point zero to infinite decimal places. Papers on said question are scientifically worthless, by definition, and the act of writing them can therefore only be motivated by an intention to glamor the gullible with gewgaws of pseudoevidence. And yet, since Oreskes2004, publishing such texts has become a cottage industry:

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Let me be so clear even a believalist with the IQ of a YouTube commenter couldn’t possibly misconstrue me. There’s nothing wrong with most scientists happening to share the same view on the same topic. In a binary question with no abstentions, the existence of a majority opinion is mathematically inevitable.

What’s not so kosher is when the people who hold that opinion use their majority to persuade. In the everyday epistemology of the street we’d call this tactic—the argumentum ad consensum—a fallacy. Which is not to say you shouldn’t use it, or even that your conclusion is wrong, but that you’re lying if you try to pass it off as proof.

But in the epistemology of science it’s worse than that: it’s fraud. You’re lying just by passing it off as evidence. (Remember Rule Zero?)

Yet mankind continues to spew consensus studies into the noösphere like so much plant food into the atmosphere. Nobody has ever offered an innocent explanation for this genre—a challenge from which even the culprits are smart enough to silently back away every single time—because there is none.

At the risk of stating the obvious, here’s the guilty explanation.

If your mom was anything like mine, I’m sure she raised you to beware of peer pressure and its drug-pushing powers. Climate academics have even referred to acceptance of a consensus as a “gateway belief.” Oreskes herself observes that “the likelihood that someone might smoke marijuana increases with the extent to which the person over-estimates peer-support for the legalization of drugs.” In the same paper, she glibly reveals the contrapositive purpose as well: “Pluralistic ignorance is the phenomenon that arises when minority opinion is given too much attention in public discourse, which makes it seem like it represents more people. This makes those in the actual majority assume their opinion represents the minority—inhibiting them from speaking out.”

Oreskes has raised the Argument by Shaming to a science—or something that looks like one, to people who have no idea what sciences looks like. By lending the legitimacy of a top-dollar graduate school to the exercise, her 2004 Science piece set a cultural change in motion that would, within a few short years, make this kind of anti-intellectual propaganda respectable:

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In a classic case of intended consequences, this hate-graph at DesmogBlog is the logical extension of Oreskes’ illogic. Most of DeSmog’s emissions leave me with a greasy and asthmatic feeling, with snot as black as a graph, but this fallacious filth is bad even by Hoggan’s standards. It doesn’t matter whether I’m “red” or “black,” by the way, and it shouldn’t matter if you are either: you should share my revulsion as a matter of principle.

And that’s not the worst bit.

Science and its deniance

In order to gain popular forgiveness for her pseudoscientific arguments, Oreskes has to make generations of human beings forget something we all learned in grade school: that science has nothing to do with consensus. To this end she’s spent fourteen years, and all the ill-gotten influence at her disposal, miseducating the public about science itself.

If you think this is a victimless crime, and that anyone docile enough to take Oreskes seriously has only their own over-educated, under-talented selves to blame, then suppose you had a son who was about to start school. You’d probably take it for granted that he was going to learn the same version of science, more or less, that you and every other school kid has been taught for at least a century. But let’s say his Science teacher was a parti-pris warmist. Would you really trust someone like that to explain to your child the irrelevance of consensus in science, in between showings of An Inconvenient Sequel and Merchants of Doubt?

A WUWT reader, Ken, recently wrote me this comment:

December 3, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Oreskes is the worst of the worst. Have you seen her TED talk attacking the scientific method? Sickening. It sent Feynman spinning in his grave.

To be honest, I’d tried to forget it. The speech reaches peak psychosis with this:

If scientists judge evidence collectively, this has led historians to focus on the question of consensus, and to say that at the end of the day, what science is, what scientific knowledge is, is the consensus of the scientific experts who through this process of organized scrutiny, collective scrutiny, have judged the evidence and come to a conclusion about it, either yea or nay.

So we can think of scientific knowledge as a consensus of experts. We can also think of science as being a kind of a jury, except it’s a very special kind of jury. It’s not a jury of your peers, it’s a jury of geeks. It’s a jury of men and women with Ph.D.s, and unlike a conventional jury, which has only two choices, guilty or not guilty, the scientific jury actually has a number of choices.

Is this why people go to TED now? To hear unmitigated b*llshit?

I won’t insult your intelligence by pointing out that what counts in science is not whether other people agree with your hypothesis, but whether nature agrees. And Oreskes’ rejection of everything science stands for is no slip of the tongue. She peddles the same diseased redefinitions in writing—for instance, in Chapter 10 of Merchants of Doubt:

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Something funny has happened on the way from the agora to the forum, hasn’t it? This excursus would be unrecognizable to Socrates—and not in a good way. Not only has justification been reduced to a poor man’s social proof, but the truth criterion seems to have fallen by the wayside entirely. For Oreskes, truth doesn’t even get a look in.

Not content with winding back the Scientific Revolution, she would have us abandon the Western concept of knowledge. And make no mistake: she teaches this misosophical philistinism at Harvard, the cradle of American leadership. Her career as a soi-disant doctor of the history of science represents a systematic assault on 2,387 years of epistemology.

In the 2007 essay in which Oreskes denies the existence of a scientific method, she also denies any recognizable definition of science:

This latter point is crucial and merits underscoring: the vast majority of materials denying the reality of global warming do not pass the most basic test for what it takes to be counted as scientific—namely, being published in a peer-reviewed journal.

I guess that rules out pretty much everything published before 1945. So much for Wegener, Arrhenius and Einstein.

Of course I’m kidding—this is just the usual Oreskean copremesis. But infantile simplifications have always appealed to a certain demographic on the left of the bell curve, whose brains hurt when they try to grasp the real logic of science.

From time to time, fake scientists tell us the [insert emergency here] is so emergent that we simply can’t afford the luxury of actual science. In the meantime these charlatans always prescribe the same herpetoleum: Post Normal Science.

Here’s the problem with it. There is no science without the norms established by the Scientific Revolution.

Post Normal Science is therefore Post Scientific Nonsense, and it’s no accident that it looks uncannily like pre-scientific stupidity. PNS was the intellectual style of Transylvanian peasants back when nobody could tell you the difference between science and faith, because there was none.

This is not a criticism of religion, not in any sense. It’s just that some magisteria weren’t meant to overlap. And in the twenty-first century, nobody was supposed to be as scientifically-illiterate as this:

So I’m writing an article for a Christian magazine—in that one, I start by referencing scripture about how truth is established by two or more witnesses and showing how science runs on the same principle. I’ve also drafted something I’ll send to the ABC where I start by quoting some skeptics demanding evidence, complimenting that attitude

If the introductory chronology in this post had ended with the above quote, dear reader, you might have assumed you were going backwards through time. Yet these were the words of John Cook.

In 2011.

AD.

To be sure, Cook isn’t exactly Harvard material. On the other hand, he has won thousands of dollars’ prizemoney for excellence in science communication. And a major US university sees fit to employ him as an educator.

Where did Western civilization go wrong? I’ll give you a clue: who would you suppose is John Cook’s favorite philosopher of science?

If you’re guessing Karl Popper, you’re cold.

Does Geoff’s complaint matter?

Yes.

Given the sheer scope of Naomi Oreskes’ anti-scientific ambitions, fibbing about her findings might appear to be the least of her misdeeds, and it probably is.

On the other hand it’s easy to grasp, and impossible to deny, that Oreskes has materially changed her story about the world-famous results of Oreskes2004. Her handlers at Harvard don’t have to understand the first thing about the scientific method, statistics or the climate debate to know how she’s brought the University into disrepute.

Remember, they got Al Capone on tax evasion. So if Oreskes’ downfall is due to a comparatively minor crime against science, so be it.

When Cook, Oreskes and fourteen other mental mediocrities wrote a paper called Consensus on Consensus in 2016, a paper that received the imprimatur of the Institute of Physics—Physics!—it would have been the easiest thing in the world to laugh at the sheer decadence of the climate-hyphenated “intelligentsia.”

So that’s what I did, likening this [waste of] paper to “a Seinfeld paper about Seinfeld papers.” It reminded me of the announcement that scientists had successfully created a vacuum containing another vacuum. This time, however, I knew it wouldn’t turn out to be an Onion headline. (The climate movement crossed into that mirthless horror-land beyond Onionization long ago.)

Consensus on Consensus may be something of an intellectual low-water mark for the human race, setting a record for inanity that stands unbroken two years later, but it doesn’t just represent joke scholarship. It also makes it official: the believalist mind really is consensuses all the way down.

And the bottom turtle is Oreskes2004.

Almost nobody seems to have read the monograph for themselves, but that doesn’t alter the fact that it’s the foundational text of the climate movement.

After all, the Bible has been the most important, but least-read, item on bookshelves in the Western world for many years. One can hardly blame the common folk for being daunted by its thickness, particularly when schools do such a poor job of inspiring a love of poetry—and when the lyricism of the King James Version is all too often lost in translation anyway.

But if Oreskes2004 is the climatists’ Bible—or at least their Pentateuch—it’s probably not the word count that deters them from reading it. Rather, one suspects they’ve heard the whispers about how slap-dash and fallacious the article is. Why risk discovering for themselves that these rumors are–if anything—polite understatements? What good ever came of seeing how sausages are made? And of all the sausage-links that constitute the alarmist narrative, Oreskes2004 is surely one of the weakest.

Unfortunately, the tricky thing about the individual turtles that make up a totem-pole of tripe is that they still do their job even when they’re upside-down, dead as dodos. (Little wonder, then, that the versatile reptiles are often called ‘nature’s Tiljanders.’)

You might say the tessellation properties of a turtle are invariant to transforms such as z-rotation, putrefaction and skeletonization.

So Geoff’s Nature trick to topple a tower of truthless testudinal twaddle is to tackle t0 with feck, not ruth. We skeptics may be short on cash. We may be few in number (though I doubt it). But the Oreskeses of the world have a fatal disadvantage: the inability to keep their stories straight. All Harvard has to do is inspect the foundations. Retract the zeroth story, debunk the bunco at the basis of the entire bunkum, and the whole edifice of artifice might just vanish up its own orifice.

If Geoff’s letter reaches one or two retinas sympathetic to reason, it was therefore well worth typing.

Besides, what’s the alternative? Spend another decade trying to get it through people’s thick skulls that consensus surveys have no excuse for existing in science in the first place?

Appendix: Dramatis Personae

Naomi Oreskes is a Harvard-based half-historian, half-geologian, half-science-half-fiction-slash-alt-history-novelist whom William Connolly once described as “wrong.”

Inexplicably arrogant, she nevertheless manages to suffer herself gladly.

In the words of Tom Wigley, an Adelaide University Professorial Fellow in climate science, Oreskes “doesn’t know the field,” making her analyses thereof “useless.”

Albert A. Gore is a Former Future US President and unrepentant tobacco millionaire who denounces his critics as “merchants of poison.

In 2007 Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his rôle in starting the Climate Wars.

Michael Crichton was a Harvard-trained MD, professor of anthropology, writer and filmmaker.

At an Intelligence Squared debate in 2007 he helped make the victory of the motion ‘That Global Warming Is Not A Crisis’ so decisive that warmists are still too traumatized to debate. Gavin Schmidt has singled out Crichton’s “folksy, tall” arguments—as well as the audience’s gullibility—for blame in the failure of his own team’s average-height, unpopulist rhetoric.

John Cook was the creator of SkepticalScience, the anti-skeptical site for non-scientists, before becoming a henchboy to the punitive psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky. In 2011 he became one of the few males to write a college-level textbook on a subject he’d never attended a single class in.

Catch phrase: “Fake Experts are a key characteristic of science denial.”

Ignaz Josep Semmelweis, Alfred Wegener, Joseph Goldberger, Daniel Schechtman, Albert Hermann Einstein, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren—science deniers who rejected the scholarly consensus for unknown psychiatric reasons.

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220 thoughts on “Oreskes, Harvard and the Destruction of Scientific Revolutions

  1. “…Oreskes is the worst of the worst…”

    She has competition, but she’s certainly in the conversation.

    • My “Cold Curse”on the East is still working, but the best is yet to come. Brrrr!

      https://weather.com/maps/ustemperaturemap

      On the bright side, many of you will get a White Christmas!

      Fully ~85% of global primary energy is from fossil fuels, unchanged in decades – and essential for the survival of you and your family.

      Best Wishes for the Holidays!
      _______________________________

      https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/11/17/will-the-snowiest-decade-continue/#comment-2521702

      Fair warning: I’m calling down another very hard winter on the US Northeast, extending up into Canada.

      The reason I’m doing this is that you deserve it. You continue to bleat about global warming, in a world that is about to get colder.

      You continue to blather on about climate change and the need to eliminate fossil fuels – do that tomorrow and most of you will be dead within a month or two.

      Fully 85% of global primary energy is fossil fuels and that number has not changed significantly in decades. Fossil fuel energy provides almost everything you need to survive in this complex world. It IS that simple!

      So enjoy the bitter cold and snow this winter, good people, and maybe you will actually learn something.

      Cold kills far more people then heat in the world today, probably about 2 million excess winter deaths per year.

      Bundle up!

      • Here in northwest New Jersey we’ve had an anemic Christmas Eve snowfall. Not exactly a world-ender, but the boys will appreciate it nonetheless.

      • Incompetition!

        Many thanks for all the encouraging (and corrective) comments below—disproportionately from readers called John for some reason!

        Merry Christmas to one and all, except to the anti-science Oreskeists of course, who deserve only a Chinese power plant’s worth of coal.

        Brad

  2. Could it be that mental midgets Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt and Naomi Oreskes dislike the late, great Dr, Michael Crichton for being 6’9″ as well as right, and smarter than all three dwarves put together?

    I’d add, c. 2600 ya, Thales of Miletus rejects reliance on mythology (made up stories, however meaningful) to explain observations of nature, trying instead to understand the universe via non-supernatural hypotheses, a necessary step on the road to modern science.

    Still a long way from Popper’s falsification and modern scientific method, but at least in the right direction, unlike anti-scientific Oreskes.

    • With apologies to Mark Steyn, Naomi has mashed science as her “journalist” brother did his female coworkers.

      • Or should I say “Moshed” since rejection of the time-tested scientific method is a contagion among “consensus science” acolytes.

        Consensus is to science as the subprime slime was to sound mortgage lending.

      • John

        Hehe… In rē the *cough* hands-on management style at NRO, I sometimes find myself wondering if the Oreskeses, soeur et frere, share the same ‘silence equals consent’ rationalization whereby the former, in her latter years, has taken to pretending All 928 Papers Agreed.

        • Hard to pretend, when so many of those whose work historical Dr. NO marked “Agreed” have publicly said, “Huh-uh!”, to use precise scientific terminology.

        • Speaking of “hands on”, such mashing pales in comparison with the effect of Mannipulation of data, which has violated millions and cost trillions, not to take anything away from the trauma suffered by victims at the mains and lèvres of Oreskes frère.

    • John, thanks for bringing up Thales—that’s actually a great point.

      You wouldn’t think, in these modern, Anthropocene, Post Facto times, it was necessary to reiterate the importance of seeking natural explanations for natural effects.

      Yet with “It’s nature!” being officially classified as a myth by the ilks of John Cook, it seems the world in in desperate need of a refresher course on how science works… from scratch.

      When it comes to mystifying science, Dana Nuccitelli, Cook’s unindicted co-author at SkS, is one of the worst offenders in his drivel at the Guardian—the most drivelling of which I satirized here.

      • We’ve traveled back in time to the Posthocergopropterhococene in which sympathetic magic is the method du epoch.

        • Please make that “méthode de l’époque”.

          Since your estimable work contains a long bon mot auf Deutsch. Or more accurately, une bonne phrase.

      • Might I also suggest 475 ya, the year in which the modern scientific revolution began, when Copernicus in astronomy and Vesalius in anatomy challenged recieved authority of the Church and ancient “experts”, based upon actual observation and hypotheses making testable predictions.

        As the late, great Feynman, so denigrated by those of the Oreskes-Mosher School of Antiscience, famously said, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”. Sometimes that goes double for nonexperts, like cartoonist Cook.

          • How in the name of all that is holy can Professor Richard Lindzen, endowed chair emeritus professor of atmospheric physics at MIT not be an expert, while Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Grantham Institute; Professor Myles Allen, Oxford University, and Dr. Peter Stott, Met Office, are?

            Because he’s not well thought of by lesser lights, feeders at the CACA trough? Yet again consensus rears her ugly head, with a striking resemblance to a briefly once junior geologist, weatherbeaten by her years scouring the Outback for valuable minerals, until purveying a false history of science proved easier and more remunerative.

      • I visited your blog, Brad, but when I tried to follow both of my valid email addresses were rejected (only one of which is used for WUWT.)
        Don132

        • Don, sorry and thanks for letting me know—are you referring to CliScep or ClimateNuremberg dot com? Neither of them is even notifying me of your follow request but I’ll keep looking into it. How bizarre.

          • Climate Nuremberg. It worked in the third browser I tried, Firefox. Thanks. It didn’t work in Google Chrome or Chromium.
            Don132

      • Brad, thanks for this treatise on the modern practice of subverting science by replacing evidence with supposition. I should be grateful for your attempt to fob Oreskes off on Harvard, but in truth it was Stanford was the cradle of consensus climatism. The notion was born from three seminal papers, firstly by W. R. L. Anderegg, at the time a PhD student in the department of Biology at Stanford University. He went on to become a professor at Princeton and Utah Universities in the field of ecology and biological sciences, studying the effects of global warming on forests.

        Then the paper that invented the 97% number was published by Professor Peter Doran and his grad student Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, also at Stanford. Interests in global change and communicating science led to Dr. Doran named a Leopold Fellow in 2008 by Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment. Doran specializes in polar regions, especially Antarctic climate and ecosystems.

        Finally, Naomi Oreskes received her PhD degree in the Graduate Special Program in Geological Research and History of Science at Stanford in 1990. Her fields are History of Science and Economic Geology, and she is a prominent activist for IPCC activities.

        Unfortunately, my Alma Mater continues to offend Mater Nature. The latest example is a paper in Science purporting to show how new findings strengthen the GHG Endangerment Finding. It is a masterful display of cascading suppositions. My deconstruction is here:
        https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2018/12/24/ghgs-endangerment-evidence/

  3. Just a few:

    An Inconvenient Truth, his feature-length infomercial for carbon credits:

    And:

    Modified Likert, or Lumpert, scale—the instrument developed by Soviet agronomists to compare apples and oranges.

    Brad Keys is naughty. Very, very naughty.

    Solid Gold, through and through.

  4. My “Cold Curse”on the East is still working, but the best is yet to come. Brrrr!

    https://weather.com/maps/ustemperaturemap

    On the bright side, many of you will get a White Christmas!

    Fully ~85% of global primary energy is from fossil fuels, unchanged in decades – and essential for the survival of you and your family.

    Best Wishes for the Holidays!
    _______________________________

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/11/17/will-the-snowiest-decade-continue/#comment-2521702

    Fair warning: I’m calling down another very hard winter on the US Northeast, extending up into Canada.

    The reason I’m doing this is that you deserve it. You continue to bleat about global warming, in a world that is about to get colder.

    You continue to blather on about climate change and the need to eliminate fossil fuels – do that tomorrow and most of you will be dead within a month or two.

    Fully 85% of global primary energy is fossil fuels and that number has not changed significantly in decades. Fossil fuel energy provides almost everything you need to survive in this complex world. It IS that simple!

    So enjoy the bitter cold and snow this winter, good people, and maybe you will actually learn something.

    Cold kills far more people then heat in the world today, probably about 2 million excess winter deaths per year.

    Bundle up!

    • CTM – Apologies for the double-post.

      Sometimes my comment just disappears, and I think it is gone, but it reappears later. It’s a mystery!

      Thank you for all your good work.

      Allan in Calgary

  5. Good God Man. Do you have no decency? That picture of Oreskes has scarred my retinas. I will be in pain for days.

    • Naomi Oreskes is best known for her discovery that Freeman Dyson is old, so his arguments can’t be taken seriously.

      “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”
      Socrates

  6. From the article: “Pluralistic ignorance is the phenomenon that arises when minority opinion is given too much attention in public discourse, which makes it seem like it represents more people. This makes those in the actual majority assume their opinion represents the minority—inhibiting them from speaking out.”

    Can you say Leftwing News Media? That’s what they do. They pretend their minority leftwing opinion/voice represents the majority. They are preaching, leftwing consensus = majority view, every day. That’s how you sway public opinion.

  7. Let us not forget Galileo who was called a denier and told he was opposing the 97% consensus of scientists when he said that the Earth circled the Sun as did the other planets,

      • For completeness sake: it was Luther who made that claim, John, and not the Catholic Church as many have been trained by our left wing media to believe.

    • Hi Tom, thanks so much for your comment.

      “deserves lampoon”

      I s’pose ’tis not really the season to suggest that what she deserves is a lamp-post. References to the dying days of Italofascism can wait ’til we’re commemorating the crucifixion or something.

      Good will to all mankind, and may humanity forgive those who trespass against it.

    • A lovely comment, and a lively reply. Yeah, Brad can make people search for a dictionary with a single, well-chosen combat word. Like IPA phonetics. Hey, it’s approximating an aspirated velar with [k].

      I’m late for the party due to my time zone, but my thanks as well for the author. I’d share these pearls to my friends strong in belief, but then I think they’d go wasted there.

      • “Education today has become the casting of synthetic pearls before real swine.” H.L. Mencken (quoted by my physical chemistry prof in university class, 1960s).

  8. Elegant, sublime and gorgeous.

    I shall sleep soundly with the knowledge that I am not alone in my disgust and contempt for Oreskes.

  9. Grand comment Mr Keyes.
    Thank you.
    The scientific method had to be discarded,even discredited if possible, for the IPCC to even get off the ground.

    I remember a complaint by the consensus team,as to how difficult it was to persuade their sceptics,who they claimed “Were hung up on the science”.

    The parallels between the authoritarian’s appeal to consensus and the Fable of the Emperors New Clothes are staggering.

  10. A beautifully-written piece, Brad, thank you. Like all the best writers, you wear your scholarship lightly. This piece has both entertained and informed me.

    Now here’s the thing. When the great and the good at Harvard refuse Dr Chambers’ request to investigate Oreskes will they say why and will they “show their workings”. Reader, what do YOU think?

    • I think that unless a few large donors contact Harvard, and send next year’s donations to other schools**, this will be like Willis’ spark plug – into the depths, two miles out.

      I can offer suggestions.

      • Thanks for your comments, John & John.

        John V. Wright: you’re most generous, thank you. Is it possible to believe, do you think, in Christmas miracles… and entertain the fiction that it’s still a matter of “if,” not “when?” At the very least, by airing the issue on the world’s best-read clisci site, do we not make it slightly harder for Harvard to file Geoff’s grievance in the proverbial Basket Of Pachauri?

        John F. Hultquist: please do!

  11. … long march through the institutions …

    With the collapse of the iron curtain, Marxism was thoroughly discredited in the eyes of everyone except the ‘true believers’. They didn’t give up, they just changed tactics. They quit calling themselves Marxists. A whole bunch of them became postmodern ‘scholars’.

    The long march through the institutions is the strategy by which the Neomarxists are seizing the reins of power. link

    Of all the issues where people express skepticism of ‘science’, the only one that is obviously political is CAGW. link That’s because CAGW is being used as a political tool. It is indeed part of the long march through the institutions.

  12. Absolutely excellent.
    One would think that there is some way of prosecuting this fraud perpetrated by Oreskes, Cook, Doran, etc.
    Granted, at least Doran owned up to the fact that 97% of 77 is 75.

  13. 82 ya: The physicist Max Planck, running out of patience with the dead weight of scientific consensus, writes his bitter witticism: “Eine neue wissenschaftliche Wahrheit pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, daß ihre Gegner überzeugt werden und sich als belehrt erklären, sondern vielmehr dadurch, daß ihre Gegner allmählich aussterben und daß die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Wahrheit vertraut gemacht ist[3].”
    Google translates this as: ”
    “A new scientific truth does not prevail in such a way that its opponents are convinced and taught to be learned, but rather by the fact that their opponents gradually die out and that the adolescent generation is familiar from the outset with the truth”

    • Nice job, David.

      Google Translate certainly has improved in leaps and bounds recently (assuming you didn’t help out by cleaning that translation up a bit). It was actually an economist of all people—the writer Paul A. Samuelson—who, as it were, economized Planck’s passage, rendering the sardonic version we’re familiar with today. QuoteInvestigator did a good summary of the joke’s history.

  14. Global Climate Change proponents are Reality Deniers.
    There is no point trying to argue with them.
    Willis, Tim Ball and others regularly rip their arguments to shreds.
    They are not impressed. If the data refute their model, they simply change the data or ignore the data.
    They are not interested in Empirical Science, only power and money.

  15. Not to mention the scriptural reference “truth is established by two or more witnesses” culling isn’t an attempt at determining natural science at all. Talk about apples and oranges…

  16. Thank you Brad Keyes for a very entertaining and interesting summation of what I see as a pernicious meme. I’m also impressed by your extensive and somewhat challenging vocabulary.

    I would very much like to see Oreskes, Cook, et. al. present the concept of “science by consensus of experts” to, say, the physicists and astronomers as a means to determine the existence and nature of dark matter and dark energy. No need for more evidence or enormously costly experiments – just look at the data you have and poll the experts for their opinions. Maybe create a computer model based on expert consensus and use it (or perhaps the average of a bunch of different models) to determine the true nature of the universe.

  17. There is no consensus regarding the validity of the AGW conjecture. Scientists never registered and voted on the matter. All this talk of consensus is just speculation. But even if scientists had registered and voted on the matter it would not have mattered because science is not a democracy. The laws of science are not some sort of legislation. Scientific theories are not validated by voting or by some form of a popularity contest. The idea of a “scientific consensus” is politics and not science. Something must really be wrong with the AGW conjecture if consensus is presented as a reason to believe in it. Religions may take pride in the number of believers but it has nothing to do with science.

  18. Brief history of science:

    2500 BC – Egyptians built the Great Pyramid, an engineering marvel to this day
    1300 BC – Iron Age, large-scale iron smelting in Greece
    600 BC – Thales, first natural philosopher and Western mathematician
    250 BC – Archimedes, greatest mathematician, physicist and engineer of antiquity
    400 AD – Hypatia, first woman astronomer and mathematician, the last ancient Greek scientist
    1450 – Guttenberg invented the printing press
    1543 – Copernicus published heliocentric theory
    1600 – Galileo, founder of modern science
    1687 – Newton published Principia Mathematica
    1775 – Watt’s steam engine and the industrial revolution
    1859 – Darwin published the theory of evolution
    1879 – Edison’s electric lighting and 2nd industrial revolution
    1898 – Marie Curie discovered radioactive elements and nuclear energy
    1901 – Marconi’s transatlantic radio transmission
    1903 – Wright Bros. first flight
    1905 – Einstein’s theory of relativity
    1926 – Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Dirac invented quantum mechanics
    1929 – Hubble discovered expansion of universe
    1937 – Turing machine was published (conceptual design of modern computer)
    1938 – Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fission, led to development of atomic bomb
    1953 – Watson and Crick discovered the DNA structure
    1969 – Apollo 11 landed on the moon
    1989 – Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web
    2006 – Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, rise of fake science and decline to scientific illiteracy

    • In the beginning, there was serfdom, sufferance, starvation and ignorance.
      Then came the industrial revolution.

      Human history in two lines.

      • +1!

        though you may have to add a 3rd line to discuss a population that increasingly accepts that they don’t understand how the things they use every day work, and they don’t care.

    • Thanks Dr Strangelove—it’s never simple knowing what to include and what to omit. History is editing.

      I suspect 1905 deserves multiple bullet points!

      Happy New Year

    • Strange that the www is regarded as the ‘invention’ when the technology on which it depends for its existence, TCP/IP, gets no mention whatsoever.
      Galileo founded modern science!? He certainly contributed very meaningfully to science in some of his lesser known experiments but his unjustified elevation to the founder of modern science is surely due to his mythical smashing of Catholic religious dogma? (a fabrication rooted in a19th century anti Catholic campaign by some over-zealous Protestants).

  19. consensus = dogma

    Challenging dogma is dangerous, both for your health and for your career, although you may be posthumously rewarded. On the plus side, you are more likely to win a Nobel (not the Peace one) by challenging dogma.

    Planck must have been an optimist:
    “A new scientific truth does not prevail in such a way that its opponents are convinced and taught to be learned” — sometimes it does — “but rather by the fact that their opponents gradually die out and that the adolescent generation is familiar from the outset with the truth” — sometimes it doesn’t work that way. Youth now are being imprinted with the CAGW dogma and it is the skeptics who are gradually dying out. It’s not just climate science having this problem; science in general is at risk, as this article shows. Post Normal Science. Science by consensus and intimidation. Even quantum theory at 100 years old and very successful is increasingly under attack

  20. “2,387 ya: In the Platonic dialogue Theaetetus, Socrates lays the groundwork of Western epistemology by characterizing knowledge as justified, true belief.”

    You know, there was a lot more going on in the world 2378 years ago. One of the errors of omission “about the Greek philosophers” is that there was regular and significant contact between the Greeks and the leading theologians and philosophers in Jerusalem going back several centuries before that. The empires founded on the teachings of Zoroaster (and Moses) prized science, administration and philosophy as much as the Greeks.

    I realise all that is waved away with references to how “western civilisation” emerged from the wunderkind Greeks. Maybe there is some benefit in looking a little further into the matter. They didn’t call them “Darius the Ditherer” and “Cyrus the Mediocre”. Alexander the Great did not aspire to emulate “Cyrus the Muddled”.

    As it says in the text, if we want to understand the history of science and philosophy we should look at all the evidence. It’s pretty interesting.

    • Thanks Crispin.

      Point well made and taken. I didn’t mean to exclude anyone, or anywhere, from my chronology—but occidence happen. You’ll notice my acknowledgement of the debt science owes to the middle-Eastern custodians of rational inquiry during what was, for “us,” the Medieval Benightenment. Interestingly, even the most doctrinaire of Saracens was twice as scientific as John Cook, given that their Holy Book required four witnesses to a hypothesis.

      Joking aside, please tell us more about the haloed Medes in particular. I’ve always been interested, but under-informed, in the thought traditions of the sword-walking devotees of Ahura Mazda. The Parsee emigrés of Bombay made a deep impression on me long ago. I know much, much less than half the story, that’s for sure.

  21. ==========
    ❶①❶①❶①❶①
    ❶①❶①❶①❶①
    ❶①❶①❶①❶①
    ❶①❶①❶①❶①
    ==========

    Christmas is a time when Alarmists gather together, roast chestnuts, and share memories.

    – They tell their children how there used to be a cold white substance, called snow.

    – They reassure their children that Santa really does exist, and that he delivers presents to all of the good children (the ones who believe in global warming).

    – And they give thanks for the 97% consensus (that global warming is real, that it is caused by humans, and that there was no recent slowdown).

    In keeping with the true Christmas spirit, Alarmists have just published 2 new papers, which (they say) demonstrate convincingly that the recent slowdown wasn’t a real phenomenon.

    It is a pity that they didn’t read my article first. They could have saved themselves a lot of time, and millions of dollars (of your money)!!!

    The article is called “Alarmist thinking on the recent slowdown is one dimensional”

    https://agree-to-disagree.com/alarmist-thinking-on-the-slowdown

    Warning – this article contains undeniable proof, that the recent slowdown WAS a real phenomenon.

    So if you want to continue believing that the recent slowdown doesn’t exist, then don’t read this article.

      • “Too bad they don’t freeze to death, just to commemorate the “old days”.”

        Oh, come on. I know the rhetoric on Both Sides can get heated but chill the f__k out, john.

        Since when was climate alarm a crime, let alone a capital one? Isn’t it just another word for Being Wrong, a.k.a. the human condition? Unless someone has a tertiary science education (and should therefore know better), what grounds do we have to pass a moral judgement on their misguided beliefs?

        I have friends among the climate alarmed—I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t—and as long as they don’t culpably [= knowingly or recklessly] violate the rules of science or ethics, I’m not about to let the climate debate uglify our friendship one iota. Or 1 millihelen, if you want to get technical about it.

        It’s possible that you’re NOT wishing frostbite and worse upon the same set of human beings I’m thinking of, in which case I expect I’ll owe you an abject apology for having lectured you at cross purposes.

        So, would you care to disambiguate the “they” of whom the singer sings?

  22. One nitpick: Your date for Marcus Aurelius is wrong. He reigned from 161 to 180 AD, which makes it 1838 to 1857 ya, rather than 2179 (which would be 161 BC).

    Apart from that, thumbs up.

  23. Semmelweis was not Jewish or only had some Jewish heritage. One historian just asserted that he was and persecuted for it. Most likely Roman Catholic and persecuted because his brothers were strongly for Hungarian independence, and had a prickly personality which being blatantly right when trying to convince idiots wouldn’t have helped.

    Please don’t help what looks like a deliberate fudge of history take hold.

  24. And Semmelweis did die from an infection but to a cut on his hand from a struggle with guards as he was tricked into going to the asylum. Not likely a beating. Why is debated but that he was well and truly nuts is not NIR that he most likely would have gone nuts even if not harassed.

    • Robert, what’s your source for the events leading up to Semmelweis’ fatal pyaemia? You mention the Encyclopaedia Britannica (below), was that it? Is there a non-paywalled e-version of the entry

  25. Mr. Keyes’ essay contains what is probably the most detailed and best explanation of what’s wrong with Oreskes2004 that I have ever seen, and I am very grateful for this, but much of the rest of it is way, way over the top, angry and loaded with words and analogies which very few will understand and which might not even be apt. I can’t be bothered to read rants like this. No one should. A thing like this cannot be used to challenge or persuade people. I am disappointed

    • “A thing like this cannot be used to challenge or persuade people. ”

      Oh, yes it can.

      At present, we don’t see what Oreskes has done. She has almost single-handedly corrupted science, and this is even more insidious since she’s a historian of science.

      People aren’t stupid, but they can be deceived. When it’s pointed out how the deception works and they realize they’ve been had, then they tend to get angry.

      Happy Holidays, everyone! This essay is a wonderful present.

      Don132

    • Smoking Frog

      sincere thanks for your sincere criticism.

      Angry? Guilty as charged, although—try as I might—I can’t seem to think of a more proportionate reaction. In my defense, it’s not as if I’m pretending to be dispassionate: I believe I actually stipulated that acts of vandalism like Oreskes’ “deserve our hatred and disgust.”

      It’s a little worrying that you suspect my “words and analogies… might not even be apt.” I’d have been grateful for some inapt examples, but then, I’m in no position to demand you actually read my post, so I guess we’ll never know :-(.

      All I can do is promise to write future posts way, way under the top.

      Merry Christmas and thanks again!

      • Well you could sometime write to audience that’s not highly academic nor knows Oreskes at all.

        I value your word art a lot, but plain text simple English for journalists were more useful for the rest.

    • Smoking Frog, your response sounds a lot like a positive review that one might find on Amazon, whose real intent is to dissuade people from reading the book.

      I’ve noticed a number of those and it’s curious how they all take roughly the same form.

      Don132

    • Frog,
      The praise in your first sentence seems quite disingenuous to me given the content of the rest of your post. The corruption of science by Oreskes and her ilk is so destructive and repugnant that it deserves all the disdain that Keyes heaps on it. The fact that you don’t understand this speaks volumes.

    • “A thing like that cannot be used to challenge or persuade people.”

      Au Contraire!

      It is fun to use your opponent’s successful tactics against them.

      The Progressives’ Bible is Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals where he proposed Rule #5:

      5. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.“ There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.”

      Ridicule certainly does work.

  26. Is petitionproject.org obsolete? A consensus of 31,000 American scientists with the evidence against AGW laid out in a convincing manner.

    • “The evidence laid out in a convincing manner” is what matters. The signatures don’t matter except:

      — as requirements of the form (i.e. of the document as a petition)

      — in so far as they raise serious doubts as to the reality of an overwhelming, let alone a unanimous, warmist consensus—a question which, in and of itself, would mean nothing, had certain bad actors within the debate not been foolish enough to stake their credibility on such fictions

      But no, the OISM Petition wouldn’t be sufficient to establish a consensus if such a thing mattered. Fortunately it doesn’t. To quote the document linked to by Robert B. in a comment below,

      “[Ignaz Semmelweis’] life also proved Thomas More’s reflection: truth still remains truth if only one man speaks it, and it remains truth, even if no one speaks it.”

      • Love the Thomas More quote, thank you for sharing it. That reminds me of the following quote by Isaac Asimov: “There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere.”

        • And thanks for that Asimovism. I plan to use it! It’s the perfect comeback to people who try to define skeptical scientists as being outside of quote-unquote “mainstream” science.

      • Thank you for the More quote and for associating w Semmelweis’ life. How tragic

        I have tried to source the following but have been unsuccessful.

        Newspaper headline. “100 German scientists prove Einstein wrong.”
        Einstein “If I am wrong they only need one”

        And one have and info on this?

        Follows the mathematical principal that you cannot prove by example only disprove by example.

    • It matters only in the sense that it shows there are a wide variety of beliefs among scientists and that the pronouncement that there is a “consensus” should be questioned. It’s not proof of anything other than scientists do not agree on AGW, no matter what any believer tries to tell us.

  27. Thank you for the quote by Max Planck. Unfortunately it appears to be in German, which I haven’t studied since that one year in high school, so I only know about a third of the words written.

    Since you didn’t seem to have left a translation (there was a [3] footnote, but I couldn’t find it anywhere near the bottom of the article) I’m going to assume you didn’t think it was all that important I know what it says, and just skip over it.

    ~¿~

  28. Semmelweis was not unemployed (just dug out my old E. Britannica). He had a private practice while he was an unpaid professor at the University of Pest. His ideas were accepted by the Hungarian government at that time, ordering their introduction.

    The wound to his hand occurred before he went to the asylum, in an operation.

    The EB doesn’t mention ethnicity. This Hungarian site claims that the only questions about his ethnicity were due to his German background. States that he went to a Catholic school.
    https://eng.polgariszemle.hu/current-publication/148-religious-policy-history-and-ideologies/929-ignaz-semmelweis-the-saviour-of-mothers

    • Robert,

      actually what the (excellent) Polgári Szemle essay you link to says is

      The cause of death was: pyaemia. The entry point of the infection could have been the wound in the middle finger of Semmelweis’s right hand acquired during one of his last operations or it could have been a wound acquired in the asylum (he was probably beaten twice, both of his arms were broken and then secured in a straitjacket and strapped to a bed. By the time the straps were removed both of his forearms had become gangrenous.)

      As a compromise (consensus? 😉 ) interpretation, perhaps we can agree that mistreatment in the asylum led to the infection of a wound somewhere on the upper limbs, whether or not he was beaten after, or while, being consigned against his will to said abusive institution.

      • I think you’re right about the (ethno-)religious descriptor, mind you. The more sources I read the clearer it becomes that the Jewish epithet was at best someone’s misapprehension, at worst a smear to facilitate his discrediting.

      • Missed that. The EB (1979) didn’t mention a beating.

        As for why the misrepresentation of his ethnicity, it happens a lot. Deliberate church bashing by a single academic that gets repeated with little checking. Eg. Flat Earth, Bruno executed because of scientific views (hardly scientific and never brought up at trial), that Copernicus model was devoid of epicycles (required many more than the Ptolemaic to be just as bad a job).

    • Just one more thing. Rather ironically, his greatest critic was a Jew who converted to Christianity to further his career, Carl Edvard Levy.

  29. Hi, Brad

    Beautiful, entertaining, great. Rarely had so much fun over breakfast at 0900hrs on Christmas Eve before.

    Love the style, the construction, the breadth of the references, the playful yet informed use of language, including a few words I haven’t met before. Love the precision of the argument. Looks like you enjoyed composing it as much as I enjoyed reading it.

    Wish I could write like that

    • Hi again mothcatcher! I always like your comments but this was one of a few left at this article that made my day, so a million thanks.

      And let me compliment you in return by saying I wish I had such good taste in prose.

      Har har. But seriously have a great New Year my lepidopteroleptic friend.

  30. This is the essay I wish I’d written, but it’s elegance is more than I could have achieved. Thank you!
    Oreskes is the problem.
    Oreskeism is real, and it’s not so far off from Lysenkoism.

    Merchants of Doubt has infected much of the populace; the lies in the book/movie are the foundational “science” for so many people who assume that if you’re a denier, then you are paid off or deranged or emotionally challenged or all three. We do not look at the other side of the argument; Oreskeism effectively shuts off that avenue toward truth.

    The problem isn’t science and never has been. The problem is the narrative. The story supersedes the science and contains the science, even good science: we’re a story-telling people. Even those of us who are purists and think we only do the science, that’s missing the point: we only got there because we accepted the story of what science is in the first place.

    Oreskeism is the real problem. It’s an intellectual disease that needs to be recognized and rooted out.

    Don132

      • Relax—apostrophic AGW is make-believe! Thanks for the (needlessly self-effacing) words of appreciation, and more importantly for your spot-on remarks about the primacy of narrative. Brad

        • The problem is that the belief in apostrophic AGW is very real. When Paul Krugman writes that scientists who disagree with the consensus are “depraved” (I think that’s the word he used) then that’s a problem that can be traced back right to Oreskes and her distortions of the history of science.

          Ya gotta hand it to them: they’ve made it so that many people now believe that only one side is right, and that the other is depraved. And, they call it “science.”

          Don132

  31. I liked the graph that shows that the percentage of climate scientists believing that humans are causing global warming has gone up to 100%. Would I be right in thinking that a scientist who does not believe this is automatically disqualified from being classed as a ‘climate scientist’?

      • john (another John!),

        that’s rather insightful. I’d actually drafted the following, which was intended for the end of my post:

        Looking ahead

        Meanwhile, whither next for Oreskes’ Hundred? One might assume there was no more room for exaggeration, but I fear that would be myopic. Remember, agreeing with the “consensus view” only requires that half of recent global warming has been anthropogenic. Yet we’ve been assured that our emissions are, in fact, responsible for a hundred and ten percent of the increase in temps. I therefore expect the next stop for the Consensus Train to be 1.00 * 110/50 = 2.2.

        So when the next Democrat President tweets that 220% of scientists [sic] [don’t dis]agree, remember: you read it here first.

        This wound up on the proverbial cutting-room floor, but only because brevity is the soul of levity.

    • Susan,

      good question. If you’re wondering how “climate scientists” are anointed, exactly, you’re far from alone—I’m not sure anyone’s ever got a straight answer, or that there is a straight answer to give, which means (as you suggest) that the definition is to some extent arbitrary and open to tactical abuse.

      • It’s hard to tell whether you’re mixing metaphors, or just being wrong. Sauron’s lidless eye had nothing to do with balrogs.

        • It’s hard to tell whether you’re perpetrating a false dichotomy or a non-exclusive disjunction. The answer, obviously, is that I was wrongly mixing metaphors.

          Yet the mitigating circumstances of my crime against literature must surely include the years spent by the “authority” in pursuit of chthonic riches, delving too deep in the BHP Moria Minefields of Southern Australia. In a less fanciful mood I may well have been content to identify her with the Greek accusative singular for ‘lizard,’ but for various Christmassy reasons I went with the pontifractory bouncer of Khazad-Dum.

          So sue me, Tolkein Estate.

  32. “the whole edifice of artifice might just vanish up its own orifice.”
    The thought is a cheery one, and timely too, given the time of year.
    Could we be so lucky, to have the lot of them, situated as they are with cranium lodged firmly into posterior, wind up pushing their heads up their @$$€$ a bit too far, lose their balance, and fall all the way in…and disappear and be gone forever into their own fetid wormholes?

  33. Great article! And cites a FAVORITE author, James Franklin, from whom I learned of ERISTIC (after Eris, goddess of Chaos) that now passes for rhetoric. Before the calculus of logic there was only rhetoric able to find the truth. Now eristic seeks only the defeat of the opponent, truth be damned.

    Read and understand James Franklin’s The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal (JHU, 2001)

    • Doug

      I’m very pleased that you liked it. More than a decade ago I read The Renaissance Myth for the first time. Later that year, I enrolled in a Discrete Maths 101 course and James Franklin ran the seminars/homework-marking sessions. I never had a problem remembering our tutor’s name because it was the same as that of my new favorite historian.

  34. “There’s all kinds of debate going on.”

    True. But some ‘kinds’ just seem to be significantly more prestigious and financially rewarding than others. Difficult to choose. Well, let me see….ah….ummm…??

  35. Naomi Oreskes was not only wrong about the Marcus Aurelius quote, but the statement that homo sapiens and homo erectus split only 375,000 years ago is also wrong. After checking the internet, and reading
    “Who We Are And How We Got Here”, by David Reich, it appears that modern humans, Denisovans, and Neanderthals had a common ancestor, homo heidelbergensis, about 600,000 years ago. It looks like Oreskes drastically underestimated the time of the split.

    • All anthropological misunderstimations are mine. As you probably know there are numerous figures floating around and I won’t pretend the selection principle I used was especially… er, principled. Just to clarify what’s at stake, however: if Reich’s analysis is correct, does it falsify the date I gave for our speciation, my characterization of the event itself (“h. sapiens speciated from h. erectus”), or both? Cheers Alan. Brad

  36. Everybody forgets, or doesn’t know about, Naomi Oreskes 1994 paper (as lead author and also published in the journal Science) that correctly identifies the inadequacies of models.

    http://science.sciencemag.org/content/263/5147/641

    Yet the consensus she advocates is predominantly based on climate models she at one time did not find useful beyond exploring ideas.

    From the abstract: Models can only be evaluated in relative terms, and their predictive value is always open to question. The primary value of models is heuristic.

    Somewhere in the decade between 1994 and 2004 the consensus got to her and she went off the rails.

    • In that timeline, C 1,000 ya, a mint year: recognition by the Ibn that the genuine improver of human knowledge ‘follows proof and demonstration rather than the ASSertions of a man whose disposition is marked by flaws and shortcomings of all kinds.’ … Now there’s a leap for all mankind!

      14 ya, … one step backward take, alack, with December issue of Science, Naomi Oreskes’ paper, ‘The Sci Consensus in Climate.’

  37. Either I’m reading this wrong, or I think the author misinterprets what the troglodyte Oreskes is actually saying here …

    r, I repeated [sic] pointed out that very few papers analyzed said anything explicit at all about the consensus position. This was actually a very important result, for the following reason. Biologists today never write papers in which they explicitly say “we endorse evolution”. Earth scientists never say “we explicitly endorse plate tectonics.” This is because these things are now taken for granted. So when we read these papers and observed this pattern, we took this to be very significant.

    Oreskes here is implying that CAGW is as proven and accepted as gravity, or evolution, or plate techtonics, … and therefore, authors need not state in a paper that they agree or disagree, but rather, it is implied by Oreskes herself that the paper is in agreement simply because in her mind, it is fact. THAT is why she makes a graph that shows all 900+ papers agree with climate change.

    This is the perspective of a pompous intellectual who has no intellect at all.

    • I was struck by the same thought when I read that. I also agree with your assessment of her intellect.

    • Dr Deanster, agreed—something very much like that “logic”(except that the conclusion was AGW, not CAGW) must have been what Oreskes was getting at. But bear in mind that this was simply her argument du jour in 2006, in a backpedalling attempt to explain the *paucity* of “Agree” papers pointed out by Schulte. (It’s worth reading that whole link to discover exactly how pompous a pseudo-intellectual we’re dealing with here. Note her sixth and seventh bullet points especially. Accidental comedy at its best.)

      A decade later she’d forgotten all about that and was back to attempting the exact opposite argument.

  38. Brad, what happened to my two additional non-CAGW examples of consensus that have turned out to be false?

    You’re OK with a biological vector of disease transmission but not OK with a biological falsification of the neo-Darwinian synthesis by calculation of chance formation of a protein at 1 in 10^75, or with biological falsification of the standard age of the earth from soft tissue in dinosaur fossils?

    You aren’t keeping sacred Cows of Consensus on the sly, are you? That would pretty much falsify everything you write above, and put you on the side of the establishment that eliminated Semmelweis, wouldn’t it?

    • Dean,

      “Brad, what happened to my two additional non-CAGW examples of consensus that have turned out to be false? ”

      I don’t know—did they make it through the filter? I play no part in moderation.

      “You aren’t keeping sacred Cows of Consensus on the sly, are you? That would pretty much falsify everything you write above, and put you on the side of the establishment that eliminated Semmelweis, wouldn’t it?”

      Yes, it would if I were, but I’m not, so it wouldn’t! At least I don’t think I am.

      • Thanks, Brad, it had two links, so I guess it went into moderator deep freeze. It is Christmas, so I’d rather miss spend time on important things like family than approving comments. It looked like it was posted but when I refreshed the page it was gone. Anyway, my apologies and Merry Christmas!

  39. A small mistake, Marcus Aurelius died 180 AD and was a Roman emperor from 161 AD, therefore it should be some 1840 ya.

    I like the history line.

    • Thanks Renaud. Rood and Juan (supra) spotted my arithmetic blunder too. It happened because I was oscillating/vacillating between using regular dates and years-ago dates in my drafting process. I can’t modify the post, unfortunately, but I’ll ask Charles to do so after Christmas.

  40. Plato: Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance

    John Stuart Mill: Every man who says frankly and fully what he thinks is doing a public service. We should be grateful to him for attacking most unsparingly our most cherished opinions

    Herbert Spencer: The presumption that any current opinion is not wholly false, gains in strength according to the number of its adherents

    Bertrand Russell: One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny

    George Orwell: Public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law.

  41. Equally relevant to this post is the background of how Oreskes was quietly given a platform that gave her an unearned reach, I believe it has been revealed that her brother or some close relative worked at PBS and they quietly hid this fact while promoting her an an expert thus lending credibility to her pseudo-science, were it not for this inside help she might have remained in obscurity.

  42. Thanks Bradley Keyes — sobering post, but not a surprise to many of us. Your phrase:

    consensuses all the way down.

    is priceless.

  43. “Give me the child until he is seven and I care not who has him thereafter.” St. Francis Xavier? Aristotle? V.I. Lenin?
    When Al Gore issues an altar call for 11 yr olds (adolescence lasts far, far longer now) come forward to devote their lives to fighting “Climate Change”, it is obviously a religious movement where rational argument carries no weight.
    With Fear and Guilt, the eternal religious tools, having such power to stifle independent thought, I can not see the light at the end of this tunnel.

  44. This comment here from 2014 gets very close : it’s Kant :
    https://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/somebody-in-psychology-finally-gets-it-about-stephan-lewandowsky-and-john-cook-and-their-smear-science/#comment-1703972

    Much better is Heinrich Heine’s : Kant, the omni-destructor, the Robespierre of the human mind.
    https://archive.org/stream/religionandphilo011616mbp/religionandphilo011616mbp_djvu.txt

    It takes a poet to put Kant in perspective, that oh-so adored enlightenment pioneer of academia.

    What’s played out here is irrationality, no mere game, rather a pulverization of reason and the foundation of science. Kant set out to do this, amplified by Hegel, to give Zeitgeist (spirit of the times), then Weltgeist (spirit of the world , Napoleon), and Volksgeist (irrational mob consensus). The door to this horror show was prized open by that omni-destructor Kant, the pulverizer.

    Edgar Allan Poe, another poet, knew this too – Kant of the creeping and crawling inductive-deductive method, who Cant soar to scientific discovery. (Mellonta Tauta, Eureka).
    http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/poe/eureka.html
    http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/POE/mellonta.html :
    Two of Aries Tottle’s disciples were Neuclid and Cant, until the Hog preached something Baconian.

    Before claiming to know the “scientific method”, have a look at Poe, Heine, and then wonder how ye missed it.

    Some fool at Paris in 1927 tried to smear Einstein as a Kant-ian – response : Chacun a son Quant-à-soi. He was the only objector to the Copenhagen gang, never gave in, even being called a antediluvian.

    • “Who do you think you are, Kant?”
      —Sydney Morgenbesser, pronouncing it the German way (to a New York subway cop)

      Merci beaucoup, bonbon, for your allusive comment, much of which eludes me for the time being, the rest of which beguiles the time quite prettily. Now pursuing those links through notoriously non-Neuclidean hyperspace, will report back.

  45. Science began with Thales of Miletus in the 7th century BCE. He was first to require that explanations of the natural world be based upon investigations.

    Two centuries later Herodotus brought factual evidence to the writing of History.

    It was these two Greeks, Thales and Herodotus, with their new modes of critical thought, their demands of fact-based reason, who started the scientific revolution. Those that followed, and their time, are not called the Ionian Enlightenment for nothing.

    It was that Enlightenment, in fits and starts and with serious, almost fatal, set-backs, which gave us everything we have today.

    I don’t want to rain on the parade, but Evolutionary Theory, perhaps the most radicalizing scientific idea of all time, did not wait until everyone in its generation of introduction was dead before being accepted as correct.

    Einstein’s explanation of the photoelectric effect established Quantum Mechanics. Perhaps the most radical physical idea in all of science, QM did not await the death of everyone.

    In the 1860s Louis Pasteur’s germ theory overthrew all of established medicine, discredited the ideas of revered medical ancients (i.e., Galen), and did not require a new generation before acceptance.

    One could go on.

    But Planck was wrong, and it is not true that only after 1947 did scientists begin to accept better ideas before all the proponents of falsified theories died off.

    • “But Planck was wrong, and it is not true that only after 1947 did scientists begin to accept better ideas before all the proponents of falsified theories died off.”

      I know. It was a joke: people used to say science advances one funeral at a time, but thankfully the proponents of that paradigm have died off. OK, maybe it’s not a *good* joke.

      The whole premise is wrong anyway: science advancing and scientists accepting the advancement are two different (in fact, unrelated) things. The logic of science does not wait upon mass conversion.

      • It didn’t come across as a joke, Brad.

        I think the generation-dying-off idea has never been true in science.

        The idea popularized with the resistance to Wegner’s idea of continental drift, but that resistance rested on the absence of direct evidence and of a mechanism. That is, the resistance was rational, not a matter of an intellectually ossified generation.

        With Thomas Kuhn’s mischaracterization of science as paradigmatic and almost equivalent to fashion, the advances-with-generational-death idea was taken up with triumph in Sociology and science studies and has been a kind of smug truism in those parts for the last 40 years.

        Advance and acceptances are in fact related, because the consequences of a better theory do not proceed into and through science until scientists work with it.

        • “It didn’t come across as a joke, Brad.”

          Yes it did, I assure you—if not to you.

          “Advance and acceptances are in fact related, because the consequences of a better theory do not proceed into and through science until scientists work with it.”

          Good point, Pat—someone has to find a hypothesis plausible in order for work to be done with it. But not everyone, and not even a majority—in fact the hypothesis could just as well be unheard of outside a small group working on the specific question that it purports to answer.

          I’m still working out whether I agree with you that Kuhn himself mischaracterized science as paradigmatic, or whether it’s fairer to say that others (e.g. those who hijacked his account as a way of sneering at science, as you mention) mischaracterized Kuhn’s essentially descriptive account as a normative account. I’m sure you’ve encountered the type of person I mean—who treats the most cynical description of scientists being unscientific, a.k.a. boys being boys, as a kind of world’s-best-practice manual.

          Whether or not I wind up agreeing, thanks for the challenge, Pat, and particularly for the reminder about the Ionian Enlightenment.

        • Hi Brad, you wrote “The physicist Max Planck, running out of patience with the dead weight of scientific consensus, writes his bitter witticism: …

          Followed by your note [3] “…Not until the great physicist’s death in 1947 do scientists finally move on from this depressing paradigm. Despite the occasional regression, many fields of science now advance one discovery at a time.

          You may have meant that as a witticism, i.e., as a witty truth, but you didn’t write it as a humorous but factually untrue story, i.e., as a joke. Your construction implied Planck’s criticism is true. But it’s not true.

          I’ve been critically re-reading Kuhn. He uses equivocal language to describe science. In other words, he uses polysemous language to describe a monosemous methodology.

          His description of science is wrong. Using it, one cannot derive any difference between the work of Isaac Newton and that of Thomas Aquinas.

          However, Kuhn’s work is an invitation to the opportunist attack of post-modern pseudo-scholars, Lit-Crit professors in what were once Departments of English, Sociologists who have lost their way into Progressive politics, and anyone specializing in the fatuous narratives of cultural studies where obscurantist language apes deep scholarship.

          Kuhn studied theoretical physics before moving into the history of science. It’s possible he never did an experiment. That may explain why he does not explicate the absolutely central test-by-experiment aspect of science. He focuses only on theory, which, without experiment, is no more than philosophy.

          Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful and civil conversation, Brad. It’s appreciated.

          • Apologies, Pat—I wasn’t sure if you were disputing the jocularity of Planck’s leaden Teutonicism, Samuelson’s summary sardonicism, my meta kalimericism, all three, or one of the three possible combinations of two of the above, so I guess I guessed wrong in lieu of asking. No need to appreciate the civility of the ensuing disagreement, however, since it (said civility) was spontaneous and costless on my part, I assure you. For all my professions of skepticism, I must say I find your harshest criticisms of Kuhn prima-facie plausible, precisely because I’ve never heard them before, and originality has an inherent authority with me. Due diligence would require rereading the original author’s thesis in the original (which is English) “for myself,” as the kids say, however unoriginal I might find it the second time round—but then, that would conflict with the dictates of due laziness. Instead I might just ask your thoughts on Feynman v Kuhn, with an especial focus on the fact that they were both theoretical physicists, yet the former could hardly be accused of falling behind in his payments of the tribute proper to the Godhead of experiment over omphaloskepsis… so what is the latter’s excuse?

          • Thanks, Brad. 🙂

            Hard to know the why or how of the Feynman/Kuhn difference in views. Kuhn didn’t make a career in physics, while Feynman did. Maybe Feynman had to actually contend with experimental results.

            I can’t say, though; being unfamiliar with the details of the life of either man.

            If I finish the analysis of Kuhn’s work, it may be possible to publish it.

            My extreme disdain for the post-modernists and their attacks on science may power me to that finish line.

            Disdain of their pseudo-scholarship, of the lazy-mindedness of the entire field, and for their idiotic repudiation of the only way we have of knowing.

            We’ll see how that works out.

            Happy New Year, Brad. 🙂

      • Planck was joking? I didn’t know; I’d only heard this third hand and they were not joking.
        But that Planck was joking, that is funny. I didn’t know Germans joked. That’s a joke.

        “I know. It was a joke: people used to say science advances one funeral at a time, but thankfully the proponents of that paradigm have died off. OK, maybe it’s not a *good* joke.”

        Good one.

        “The whole premise is wrong anyway: science advancing and scientists accepting the advancement are two different (in fact, unrelated) things. The logic of science does not wait upon mass conversion.”

        I agree, and I guess that Planck would too? Oreskes would not; she ignores, is ignorant of, or hides that distinction. If someone builds a foundation (or provides a shoulder to stand on) and no one builds upon that, it is still there to be built upon later, or much later, or rediscovered. Although some things which were discovered have been lost.

        The “unrelated” comment is not quite absolute. If the consensus scientists have control of the journals and control of funding, that does slow down the advancement of science.

        Here is an article that Judith Curry linked to about how one scientist could not get funding for his potential breakthrough about Alzheimers because it went against the dogma.

        https://www.statnews.com/2018/10/29/alzheimers-research-outsider-bucked-prevailing-theory/

        “A third complained that although Moir wanted to study whether microbes might be involved in causing Alzheimer’s, no one had proved that was the case.”

        Classic.

        “Moir, a native Australian, isn’t sure where he gets his anti-establishment streak, but during his undergraduate days down under he took a microbiology course from Nobel laureate-to-be Barry Marshall, who bucked orthodoxy for years by believing that a bacterial infection (H. pylori) causes ulcers. Marshall even infected himself to prove the point. “Everyone thought he was crazy,” Moir recalled. “He was crazy, but he was also right.””

        • Love that Alzheimer’s episode, Toto. Thanks for the link. And that complaint about Moir’s grant application, second-hand though it be….classic indeed. Just when you think “Only In Climate,” something comes along that makes you concede “OIC.”

    • Planck’s hypothesis that “h” (hilfe) Quanta explained the blackbody power spectrum caused a revolution that Bertrand Russell a couple of years before declared could never happen based on a survey of consensus, which said only more decimal points from now on.
      Einstein then caused uproar that not only quanta emission but propagation also was real. That’s 2 huge whammy’s to the consensus. So in 1927 Solvay, the Copengagen gang declared no more whammy’s – the discussion was closed. Planck saw this going on. deBroglie, 21, had delivered another unbearable double whammy with quantum waves, the consensus leaning overboard seasick.

      The key point here is individual scientists, personally involved, send the massed consensus scurrying to the shadows with only individual creative reasoning, what Einstein called the most incomprehensible principle : that the universe is comprehensible. This is what Kant and the AGW crowd would pulverize.

      Planck gave a talk where he noticed that the more we know about matter, the less it is : “Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. . . . Music and art are, to an extent, also attempts to solve, or at least express that mystery.

      And even today Louis Pasteur’s discovery of optical bio-activity still causes uproar (optical chirality).
      Now look at Vernadsky’s “Life and the New Physics” which shows Darwin to be simply sterile, and watch the consensus go ballistic.

  46. Step one) Declare that only people who agree with you are scientists.
    Step two) Declare that any papers by people who aren’t scientists are to be ignored.
    Step three) Declare that since all the papers you are willing to look at agree with you, your position has been proven.

    • Mark, don’t forget to state that once your position is “proven” there can be no more debate. A prime rule of progressive ideology.

  47. Out of all the comments here, both positive and negative, I give most weight to those by prominent climate scientists. The comments by schmit, Mann and that other guy were particularly poignant.

    • Yes, it’s great how they have the courage [of their convictions] to come here and answer their critics, isn’t it? I wouldn’t have nearly so high a regard for names like Michael Mann and Stephan Lewandowsky if they merely preached to the choir from the safety of a block-happy Twitter account!

  48. Brad, I hope this is the first of many contributions to WUWT. Your enlightened wit is delightful to read. I usually don’t enjoy long articles but you hold the reader’s attention, looking for the next tasty wordplay to savor.

    • Ha! That’s a perfectly lovely Dunning-Krugmanism. (Where do you get these gems, Steve?)

      Bear in mind that Oreskes et hoc genus omne have long since drifted off to another continent, mentally. And all paper currency in Acirema reads, ‘DISSENT IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF TREASON.’

  49. The next intellectual (?) wave will be psychological in which the scientific community tries to figure out what the hell is the matter with the likes of Oreskes!

    (Jordan Peterson seems to be leading way)

  50. Brad, I’m a plumber and surely no wordsmith, however thought you might enjoy this poem:
    Self Examination 
     
    We’re all usufructuaries 
    of the earth and words.
    
We shouldn’t xenon the sun and bombulate.
 

    I’m ultracrepidarian,
I’ve often heard,
    
and somewhat ventripotent.
 

    I suffer tarantism and tachyphagia,

    usually simultaneously.


    Thank God most people are thelemic.
 

    I’ve taken up pogonotomy,

    right after pandiculation 
and before my break jentacular.
 

    I’m really very mumpsimus,
living in the nudiustertian,

    and also inaniloquent.
 

    But… 
my worst affliction is…
    my hippopotomonstrosesquipedalianism.

    Loved the post…

    [The mods tremble in fear of your possibility of sexipedialialistic hippopotamosquitomouses living above their understandium. .mod]

  51. Oreskes: a survey of abstracts of the responses to my 100% consensus paper shows not one disagreed with the consensus that the paper was controversial, startling, and quoted by Hollywood. Duh!

  52. My major complaint against the one-eyed environment extremists has always been that they use misinformation and extra-legal (at best) bullying tactics, not unlike former EPA senior management, several NGO’s, many university professors, partisan politicians, and some well-meaning but under-informed activists.

    O.K. I have several complaints with the entire group mentioned above: They have been ruthlessly political, overly arrogant, imperially ambitious, utterly shameless, funding biased, morally superior, and essentially lawless.

    When will these environmental screeds be recognized for what they are? Undemocratic, anti-intellectual, and unproven purple prose.

  53. I think we go to far if we utterly dismiss the relevance of a scientific consensus. For instance, our opponents, except Oreskes, aren’t claiming that consensus = proof, and it’s a strawman to claim that they do. They’re just implying that the collective judgment of experts in a field increases the likelihood of their opinion being correct. And who would dispute that? They’re also implying that a minority view of only 3% amounts to a crankish fringe, which again is generally correct.

    Here’s my response to the 97% canard:

    1. Some scientific fields succumb to fads and dogmatic suppression of non-faddish opinion by “gatekeepers.” Nutrition is an outstanding example. The only accredited experts get boiled down to those who are dogma-disciples. Given this, a consensus in a field does not necessarily imply its correctness.

    2. The 97% findings have been found by fad-enthusiasts. The only two neutral surveys (Harris/George Mason in 2008 and von Storch later) found a consensus level of about 85% and a “dangerous” level of about 60%, IIRC.

    A) If a questionnaire is used, it should be a sophisticated, multi-question one, unlike the first two 97% surveys. For instance, it should include questions about “How dangerous” and “How preventible?” and “At what cost?”

    B) If a literature review is employed, reviewers should be neutrals, and more recent papers should be weighed more heavily than earlier ones, being more up-to-date on the latest findings. And the other flaws in the Cook and Powell surveys should be avoided too.

    C) Those polled should include a group that is NOT the most-published authors, but rather outsiders in neighboring fields (e.g., statistics, chemistry, physics, meteorology, and electricity production), who can understand the field well enough to have a credible opinion of its position.

    • Roger, here’s the problem as I see it with your (prima facie tempting) suggestion that consensus be used as a guide to the truth, i.e. as evidence (even if we stipulate that it’s not proof per se):

      Scientists supposedly form a consensus on the basis of evidence, right?

      So what happens if we relax the rules of epistemological hygiene and concede that a consensus IS evidence?

      Answer: scientists will then agree with the consensus BECAUSE it’s the consensus. And they’ll be perfectly within the [new] rules of science to do so.

      What effect will that have on their field?

      Answer: it grinds to a halt.

      See climate science.

      If your suggestion is a good one, then why do you think no field of modern science has ever made explicit use of opinion surveys as a compass to the truth before? It would surely be an indispensable tool of scientific inquiry.

      The fact is, it doesn’t work. It’s not that is SOMETIMES works. It never works. Just like a clock that’s stopped NEVER works. It may sometimes point to the right time, but that’s not the same thing as working.

      • Your response should be the subject of doctoral theses on the application of grace with restraint. If only I could be as good a Christian as one who (I assume) doesn’t even claim the autograph!

        Merry Christmas sir.

    • Roger, it’s not that anyone is claiming that consensus = proof; it’s that they’re using consensus to discredit anyone who dissents. We can trace a lot of that line of thinking back to Oreskes, who trumpets this point of view in her book, in the movie based on the book, and in her Ted talk. She has popularized the notion that those who disagree with the consensus are paid off, deranged, emotionally unstable, anti-science, etc.– take your pick of negative descriptors. The point is: do not listen to those who disagree with the consensus. This point of view has now become so ingrained that even scientists who should know better repeat the drilled-in talking point. This is the scary part and reeks of Lysenkoism.

      Skeptic scientists have good things to say and it’s the height of deception to call them dishonest or depraved, yet this is exactly what’s happening. How many consensus scientists stood up after the economist Paul Krugman called skeptics depraved in a very public forum, to defend the back-and-forth of scientific debate? I daresay not one. Hello? Since we propose to base policy on the findings of the climate consensus then it makes a lot of sense to examine the consensus carefully and to weigh carefully the arguments skeptics put forward against the consensus, to ensure that we’re basing policy on the best due diligence that we can muster. But, Oreskes, Emanuel, and Santer explicitly reject this strategy. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/06/21/attention-scott-pruitt-red-teams-and-blue-teams-are-no-way-to-conduct-climate-science/?utm_term=.070717a9ce2e

      The insidious thing isn’t that there’s a consensus, but that the existence of a consensus is used to silence opposition.

      Don132

      • Don,

        that wasn’t my point, but it’s an excellent one! The more the merrier!

        I also have misgivings about a red-team/blue-team approach to science, but obviously not for the cretinous reasons proffered by los Santeristas. (That’s an eye-opening, gastroesophageal-sphincter-opening link, thanks!)

        My objection is simply the philosophical one I have to any other adversarial account of the scientific process: a proper scientist is supposed to be his own hypothesis’ defender AND prosecutor, red team AND blue team.

        It’s only with the ascendancy of Big Climate that we suddenly seem to find it acceptable, even normal, for scientists to run around treating skepticism as the OTHER side’s job. Rather than just take this for granted, we need to (occasionally, at least) stop to remember how repugnant this dichotomy is to the norms of proper, i.e. pre-climate, science.

        That said, climate science is now so far gone that a blue-team/red-team approach would probably be an improvement on the existing blue-team/blue-team Zeitgeist.

  54. “In 2007 Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his rôle in starting the Climate Wars.”

    No mention of Margaret Thatcher, who pushed the AGW idea into international politics?

  55. I had been getting worried, Brad. After your triumphant return to the blogosphere, there was another seeming pause. Now I see what was occupying your. What a wonderful Christmas present this essay is! Classic Keyes, absolute literary mind-candy! I spent a good portion of yesterday evening just following all of the links, and laughing until it hurt (especially at the John Cook and Stephano Lewandowsky links). My wife was watching me curiously, and finally asked: “Brad?” She’s got me pegged.

    Merry Christmas, and thank you for this!

  56. “Where did Western civilization go wrong? I’ll give you a clue: who would you suppose is John Cook’s favorite philosopher of science?”

    I waited for someone to either ask for the answer, or to give it, but by now I am on the edge of my seat…

    • I can’t bear to watch someone sitting non-ergonomically, Menicholas, so here’s another clue:

      it’s not the same answer Bush gave during the 1999 Republican Presidential debate in Iowa, either.

  57. None, really none, not a single sample of all the scientific papers rejected the idea that aliens were involved?

    • That, to me, is the most powerful and convincing finding of all.

      Clearly scientists have already settled that debate, and no longer even feel the need to mention that aliens were/weren’t involved, which they obviously were/weren’t.

      You can’t expect Oreskes to ask the next question: how far back do you have to search to see this debate in action, and what did it decide, and why? It’s not like she’s a historian, for continental drift’s sake.

  58. Oreskes success is easier to understand with a little research. Until earlier this year, her brother Michael Oreskes was the senior vice president of news and editorial director at NPR (until he was fired for his conduct, #METOO). No doubt this explains NPRs completely credulous position on anything alarmist on climate change. And, since we also know that the liberal news services talk to each other, no doubt this also helped push the narrative in other news services.

  59. The scariest quote is this one “What counts as knowledge are the ideas that are accepted by the fellowship of experts. Conversely, if the claim is rejected, the honest scientist is expected to accept that judgement, and move on to other things.” We’d get no where in science if this was THE practice.

  60. Nobody like a revolutionary. For the same reason kings don’t like to be overthrown, those who rule atop a scientific discipline are supported by their contributions to it. Any young zygote who comes along, proving those contributions wrong can be expected to be met with arrows and hot oil at the gate.

    But there is more than science going on. Science deals with finding truth. Politics deals with what actions do we take based on what we think we know. Society elects managers to handle public affairs for the common good, weigh various courses of action, and make decisions regarding competing interests for public resources. And an appeal to authority based on a so-called scientific consensus is valid evidence in the political realm, and can be entered into evidence as “the majority opinion.” But here we’re not doing science. We’re doing politics. Rules of evidence are different. However, it’s also acceptable to enter into evidence the fact that one side is lying about the level of consensus. The fact that some are lying to establish a point is also not scientific evidence, any more than a consensus itself is scientific evidence.

    But remember, we’re not doing science here. We’re doing politics. To me, the lying about a so-called consensus carries more weight than the so-called consensus.

  61. “For the same reason kings don’t like to be overthrown” — because they don’t like dying?

    But since you brought up kings, there is an analogy here — the separation of church and state. The king liked having God on his side, so the support of the church was always important. Flash forward and we still have the state, which still has king like powers. We still have the popular dogma, except God has been replaced by Gaia (metaphor), and the priests are now activists who claim to be scientists. Yet they use unscientific terms such as consensus.

    In politics, you have committees who design horses get camels, and you have consensus.
    Abba Eban: “A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.”

    Scientists are allowed to have opinions, even misguided ones, but opinions don’t count as science.

    Activists who use consensus claims to manufacture consensus are not scientists, they are totalitarian politicians.

  62. Wow I totally forgot the scientific method was so easy.

    Is cO2 a ghg? oreskes said the word consensus, therefore it is not.

    Is the rise in cO2 rhe result of humans?. Just ask Brad. Did oreskes use the C word? YUP. Therefore none of the cO2 is ours.

    Do ghgs warm the planet? Damn the physics, ask brad. Did madame O use the C Word? Yup. Therefore, tyndall was wrong.

    Heck who knew the scientific method was so easy. Just find silly things a historian says and your done.

    Something weird about a guy who hits girls rather than attacking the actual science.

    • Apologies Steven‚ my reply (downthread) was not nested properly. By the way, notwithstanding the snarkastic tone of voice I used, I’m glad you commented and I wish you the very best in the New Year.

  63. “Wow I totally forgot the scientific method was so easy.”

    At least you acknowledge there IS a scientific method, which makes you more redeemable than Oreskes.

    Sorry to damn you with faint praise, Steven, but your dull, irrelevant comment makes it hard to be more generous than that, even with my eggnog buzz on.

    “Is cO2 a ghg?”

    Last time I checked.

    “oreskes said the word consensus, therefore it is not.”

    Yawn.

    I have nothing against you playing the Shorter Brad game, especially when my actual position is probably too sophisticated for you.

    However, if you’re going to put words in my mouth, it would help to familiarize yourself with what the post actually says.

    “Is the rise in cO2 rhe result of humans?”

    No, “humans” do not entail a rise in CO2. Or have I misunderstood your question? Is that how English teachers say “industrial activities”?

    “. Just ask Brad.”

    Meh, who has time these days? Just close your eyes and imagine what my answer would be:

    “Did oreskes use the C word? YUP. Therefore none of the cO2 is ours.”

    Gosh, this “Brad” character in your brain sure sounds logic-challenged, Mosh.

    “ Do ghgs warm the planet?”

    No, energy from nuclear fusion in the nearest star warms the planet. This star, also known as the Sun, has been understood as the source of terrestrial warmth by all cultures on Earth for thousands of years, with the apparent exception of whatever culture you come from.

    Even back when we thought it was a giant sphere of dung being rolled around in the sky by a scarab, at least we had the sense to know it was the decomposition of said dung that warmed the earth. Which is relatively close to our current scientific understanding—in the sense that it’s closer than saying “ghgs warm the planet.”

    “Damn the physics,”

    Why?

    “ ask brad.”

    I thought you never would!

    OK, I’d be happy to help you understand primary-school science. First up, let’s define some terms. When we say…

    oh.

    You meant IMAGINARY Brad, didn’t you?

    “Did madame O use the C Word? Yup. Therefore, tyndall was wrong.

    Heck who knew the scientific method was so easy.”

    lol heck its as easy as, Punctuation?

    “Just find silly things a historian says and your done.”

    My done? My done what, Steven? Come on, use your nouns. I know you can do it.

    “Something weird about a guy who hits girls rather than attacking the actual science.”

    Not as weird as a guy who claims to be on the side of science but actually:

    — defends a girl who attacks science
    — criticises me for failing to… wait for it… attack science.

    Hate to disappoint you, Steven, but I wouldn’t attack science if you paid me TWICE Oreskes’ salary. Some of us aren’t for sale, I’m afraid.

  64. “Did oreskes use the C word?”

    I like C words; there are so many nice ones to choose from.

    Condescending, contempt, coerce, corruption, crime, confusion, control, confront, conflating, catastrophe.
    Context, conversation, cooperative, commitment to the search for “Truth” — whatever that is, it’s not the same as consensus. What a concept.

  65. I have no disagreement with the position that consensus is not scientific evidence or that while consensus on any particular idea might be consistent with reality it often is not, but I think that the practice of evoking consensus to exert control over people actually extends back to the power groups surrounding the leaders of the first tribal conglomerates: discredit unbelievers, stone them, burn them, or drive them into the desert to die. Madame O is just a current practitioner of a very old art.

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