By John Droz, jr
In paleoclimatologist Dr. Curt Stager’s recent Adirondack Almanac piece about me it’s startling that he so openly disavowed traditional Science. By comparison, consider his insightful quote back in 2011:
“… my preference is for refraining from aggressive activist stances. I do so because I value Science itself more than any individual topic that it addresses.
“I consider Science to be one of the most valuable inventions of human civilization, and I recognize how precious and vulnerable to corruption it is as one who believes in objective reality, the fallibility of human perception, and the need for objective methods of seeking truth.
“I also recognize that public trust in Science itself depends heavily upon trust in the objectivity of those who pursue it. We must walk a fine line between defending truth and trying to force it on other people, and I personally choose to take a cautious approach in walking that line.”
I agree with every word of his well-phrased, important statement. However, the above-referenced article indicates that Curt has apparently abandoned his earlier commitment to traditional Science, and has evolved into a card-carrying political science activist. Since this transformation is becoming distressingly more common among scientists, let’s look into some ways he now deviates from real Science.
This is a key sentence in his article: “The consensus position that global average warming during the last half-century is real and mostly caused by humans, shared by the vast majority (97%±) of truly qualified climate scientists, is the result of huge amounts of peer-reviewed research from many independent branches of the sciences that have been conducted worldwide over many years.”
Let’s start with this definition: “Anthropogenic Global Warming” (AGW) is the belief that unusual global warming is caused almost exclusively by man-made influences.
#1 — When two scientists disagree, each one politely presents the best empirical evidence that they believe supports their case. Disparaging the other’s motivations, past associations, etc. (e.g. “Droz has been associated with ultra-conservative, pro-fossil-fuel organizations such as ATI”), and calling them names (“denier”) are political tactics, outside the realm of science.
#2 — Curt inaccurately asserts that the only people competent enough to assess the validity of the AGW matter, are “truly qualified climate scientists.” Whether the AGW hypothesis is true or not rests on the scientific validity of its proponents’ claims. Any competent Scientist can see whether other scientists (in their field or otherwise), have failed to follow scientific protocol.
#3 — Curt mischaracterizes a Scientific hypothesis by disparagingly calling it “mere guesswork.” Here’s a reasonable definition:
“The formulation and testing of a hypothesis is part of the scientific method — the approach scientists use when attempting to understand and test ideas about natural phenomena. The generation of a hypothesis is a creative process, based on existing scientific knowledge, intuition, or experience. The two primary features of a scientific hypothesis are falsifiability and testability.”
OK, now we understand that, here is the really important part: what does it take for a scientific hypothesis to become a scientific theory, the next step up the ladder?
“Theories, are broad explanations for a wide range of phenomena. They are concise, coherent, systematic, predictive, and broadly applicable.“ One scientific theory (cited as an example by this source, UC Berkeley), “has proven itself in thousands of experiments and observational studies.”
However, in this case, the Global Warming promoters have simply decreed that their AGW hypothesis has been elevated to the level of a scientific theory — but without adhering to the necessary scientific protocol. Such proclamations are the tactics of political scientists.
#4 — Curt is well aware of all this, but is averse to admitting that the AGW matter is a hypothesis: because he (and other AGW proponents) do not want to adhere to traditional scientific methodology. Typical excuses they give are: a) it’s too time-consuming, b) AGW is too complicated to be analyzed by traditional Science, c) AGW is not falsifiable, and d) traditional science methodology casts significant doubt on the AGW hypothesis. In other words Curt is effectively saying “let’s skip over this burdensome Science stuff, and cut to the chase.” That’s a political science person’s perspective: let’s get on to changing policies!
#5 — It’s unfortunate that Curt did not publicly acknowledge that we have HUGE gaps of knowledge in our understanding of climate. How accurate can computer models be when there are substantial unknowns involved? Traditional Scientists are very clear about exactly what we know and don’t know. Political scientists glaze over the unknowns.
#6 — Curt makes multiple references to “peer-review” but fails to inform readers that there are 2000± peer-reviewed papers that contest his AGW position (e.g. see here). A scientist objectively presents both sides of any dispute. (Note Curt’s quote about that at the beginning!) On the other hand, political scientists just promote their own agenda, pretending that there is no other reasonable conclusion than theirs.
#7 — Curt’s reference to “consensus” is similarly problematic. If he has irrefutable science to support his AGW hypothesis, why would he talk about such unscientific matters as consensus? The Scientific Method says nothing about consensus.
What is also indisputable is that there have been numerous cases in the past where the consensus of what scientists believed, was subsequently proven to be wrong. Genuine scientists are well aware of that reality, so they would never try to justify a hypothesis by referencing other scientists’ beliefs. On the other hand political science is all about getting a consensus.
#8 — Despite his lengthy commentary, Curt didn’t actually address renewable energy — the topic of my article that he disliked. When politicians are asked questions that might embarrass them, they smoothly change the topic. That’s another stark difference between real science and political science.
Those with Science on their side (on any topic) will put forth a position: 1) that follows traditional science conventions, 2) that honestly acknowledges how much we don’t know about the subject, 3) with no ad hominems, 4) without references to unscientific matters like consensus, and 5) without making false implications about the veracity of peer-review. Those taking a political science perspective will do the opposite.
It’s quite clear from all this that the AGW issue is not really about CO2. Instead AGW is just a convenient vehicle for those who want to radically alter our American way of life — to literally convert us to an agrarian, Marxist society. Just closely examine the elements (and consequences) of the Green New Deal, which is just a trial balloon for the real agenda here.
The bottom line is that AGW activists want us: a) to accept a hypothesis that has not followed traditional Science protocols, and b) to fork over $100± Trillion to implement “solutions” (like industrial wind energy) that are scientifically unproven. What could go wrong?
(Note: see here for a more detailed response to Dr. Stager’s polemic.)
John Droz, jr. physicist 3-25–19
PS — My original article (that sparked this exchange) was strenuously objecting to the Adirondack Park Agency’s (APA) proposed new Renewable Energy Policy I was opposed to the APA setting the stage for industrial wind energy to be in one of the premier parks on the planet. My objections precipitated Curt Stager going off on a tangent about AGW (see above)… The good news is that I just heard from the head person at the APA, and she said (based on inputs received from me and others) that the APA has decided NOT to enact their policy endorsing renewable energy. Kudos to them: that’s a wonderful, positive development!