Guest post by John Droz, Jr.
We live in complicated times, immersed in a society of incessant, loud, conflicting voices. Nowhere is this more true than in the discussion of the impact of carbon dioxide on the planet, oceans, better known as “climate change.” When interested citizens try to get to the bottom of such a highly complex issue, the standard, and proper, rejoinder is: “Listen to the Experts.”
Although that sounds like common sense, such advice is not as simple as it’s made out to be. For millennia, it was safe to assume that mainstream scientists (as a matter of principle) faithfully adhered to high scientific standards (see below). In our lifetime that has dramatically (and disappointingly) changed.
Today there is an ever-increasing number of scientists driven by political agendas, peer pressure, job security, etc. rather than scientific mores. This change has extraordinary societal implications — and none of them are beneficial.
No one is policing this abandonment of scientific principles. Consider:
Not all priests are exemplary Christian — but when priests violate the rules of Christianity, they are defrocked… Not all lawyers are law-abiding citizen — but when lawyers violate the rules of law they are disbarred… Not all scientists follow the protocols of Science — but when scientists violate the proprieties of Science, they get hired by organizations to help promote their interests!
So who are the “Experts” that we should listen to? For starters it’s important to understand that “Experts” is not a homogeneous collection of people. You can divide Experts into just two very different subgroups: “Real Experts” and “So-Called Experts.”
So-Called Experts are like doctors on TV: actors who wear a white coat. They look and sound like the real thing — but clearly they are not. How do we tell the Real Experts from the Imitations?
Most people think that the answer is to look at what academic degree a person holds in which fields and how many papers they have had that are peer-reviewed. In climate science, though, that’s all a little more difficult. The field is so broad that training in one area gives you no particular benefit in others, and some people who reach across disciplines have made major contributions. As for peer-review, sadly, there has been a successful conspiracy to suppress the publication of work whose results do not confirm climate alarmism. But competence, in any event, is just the first part of being a Real Expert.
Real Experts on a science-related subject have six distinguishing characteristics, which are really no more than the traditional scientific standards:
1 – They have a high degree of competence in the topic at hand.
[For example, out of 1000 people, they would know more than 999.]
2 – They have a comprehensive understanding of the topic.
[They are not one of the blind people examining just a part of the elephant.]
3 – They are objective in their conclusions and recommendations.
[They are not influenced by economic incentives, or undeclared political agendas.]
4 – They are genuinely open-minded regarding their positions.
[They encourage other parties to critique their analyses and conclusions.]
5 – Their research and data are transparent.
[No pertinent information is hidden behind such claims as “work product.”]
6 – Their research and data are based on empirical evidence.
[Real world data always takes priority over computer-generated information.]
Clearly it would be difficult for citizens and their legislative representatives to assess all six of these for anybody claiming to be an Expert. One solution to this conundrum is to focus on just one or two of the characteristics — because if any are missing, then it is highly likely that you’re dealing with a So-Called Expert.
A good way to assess whether you’re dealing with a Real Expert or a So-Called Expert when it comes to climate change would be to see where they stand regarding essential element #4. Anyone who asserts that “the science is settled” is self-identifying as a So-Called Expert, because no true scientist (Real Expert) would ever say that.
There is another useful tactic to separate the Real from the Wannabes.
Let’s say that a group of experts – such as the scientists that countries’ politicians choose for the UN climate research panel – has made two major policy statements. Can we examine these and determine whether we are dealing with Real Experts or So-Called Experts? Maybe.
In this case the UN experts have made these two statements:
Statement A: the planet is facing imminent catastrophic, man-made global warming, and the eventual consequences will be even more extreme.
Statement B: one of the best solutions for avoiding these catastrophic results is to build and operate millions of industrial wind turbines, worldwide.
Statement A concerns a highly complex collection of interacting phenomena in the chaotic world of ocean, land, and atmospheric physics. It gets a score of 90 out of a 100 on the complexity scale, and we will not know the veracity of its claims for many years.
Statement B concerns a mildly technical engineering problem. It rates a score of maybe 9 out of a 100 on the complexity scale, and we know the veracity of those claims today!
In other words, to determine the actual expertise of these people, it is a LOT easier to assess the validity of Statement B, rather than of Statement A.
In the example cited, Statement B is provably false (e.g. see here). Therefore, since the same “Experts” made both statements, it would lead us to believe that Statement A is also suspect — and that we are not actually dealing with Real Experts.
So there you have it: two independent ways of separating the wheat from the chaff on complicated scientific matters. A generous dose of critical thinking goes a long way!
John Droz, jr., is a physicist and a member of the CO2 Coalition, an alliance of 50 unalarmed climate scientists and energy economists.