Do Your Own Research?

Guest Opinion by Kip Hansen  —  12 October 2020

Judith Curry recently highlighted the 9 October 2020  Wall Street Journal piece by Matt Ridley titled: “What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Science”.  [ It is annoyingly paywalled, so Dr. Curry offers extensive excerpts at her own blog, Climate Etc. ]

[ Full version of Matt Ridley’s piece is available at his own website here. — h/t to Malcolm Robinson]

The Ridley piece, intentionally or not, is a foil to a science column published in Forbes on 30 July 2020 by Ethan Siegel, Senior Contributor,  which declared in its headline “You Must Not ‘Do Your Own Research’ When It Comes To Science “The piece is marked by Forbes as an “Editor’s Pick”. 

I encourage readers to take the time to read both of these fine essays, in full.  Please don’t just stop when you find something with which you disagree (and you will find things, I promise).  If you have access to the Wall Street Journal read Ridley’s full piece there.  If not, you can read the extensive excerpts supplied by Judith Curry here.  The Siegel column is available at Forbes.

What follows is a rather long Opinion Piece on the topic:

Should we “do our own research when it comes to Science”?

Both of these essays are valuable – and contain truths we need to be aware of and accept.  But they also represent the problem we see all across human endeavors in today’s rather complicated world, and particularly in scientific fields:  It ain’t that simple.

The arguments in opposition can be simplified to these two quotes:

SIEGEL —  “You Must Not ‘Do Your Own Research’ When It Comes To Science”:

“The reason is simple: most of us, even those of us who are scientists ourselves, lack the relevant scientific expertise needed to adequately evaluate that research on our own. In our own fields, we are aware of the full suite of data, of how those puzzle pieces fit together, and what the frontiers of our knowledge is. When laypersons espouse opinions on those matters, it’s immediately clear to us where the gaps in their understanding are and where they’ve misled themselves in their reasoning. When they take up the arguments of a contrarian scientist, we recognize what they’re overlooking, misinterpreting, or omitting. Unless we start valuing the actual expertise that legitimate experts have spent lifetimes developing, “doing our own research” could lead to immeasurable, unnecessary suffering.”   [the link is given by Siegel in the original  – kh]

RIDLEY —  “What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Science”:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has stretched the bond between the public and the scientific profession as never before. Scientists have been revealed to be neither omniscient demigods whose opinions automatically outweigh all political disagreement, nor unscrupulous fraudsters pursuing a political agenda under a cloak of impartiality. Somewhere between the two lies the truth: Science is a flawed and all too human affair, but it can generate timeless truths, and reliable practical guidance, in a way that other approaches cannot.”

“Organized science is indeed able to distill sufficient expertise out of debate in such a way as to solve practical problems. It does so imperfectly, and with wrong turns, but it still does so.   ….  How should the public begin to make sense of the flurry of sometimes contradictory scientific views generated by the Covid-19 crisis? The only way to be absolutely sure that one scientific pronouncement is reliable and another is not is to examine the evidence yourself. Relying on the reputation of the scientist, or the reporter reporting it, is the way that many of us go, and is better than nothing, but it is not infallible. If in doubt, do your homework.” [my bolding —  kh]

I agree with both of these fine, well-meaning individuals.

Who are they?

Matt Ridley is a scientist (DPhil or PhD in zoology from Oxford), the author of several science books, a celebrated British journalist and a Conservative hereditary peer since 2013, with a seat in the UK’s House of Lords.    He has been called “a heretic on most counts”. 

Ethan Siegel is a theoretical astrophysicist and professional science writer.   He studied physics at Northwestern and got his PhD in astrophysics from the University of Florida.  To get a fuller picture of the man, see his personal science blog:  Starts With A Bang!

I agree . . . but . . .

Ethan Siegel makes most of the points I would make about the average Joe or Jill “doing their own research”.  I speak from experience…I do a lot of my own research.  And I deal with family and friends and readers here at WUWT who “do their own research”.  I wrote the following  comment in response to the WUWT re-post of Judith Curry’s essay on Matt Ridley’s piece:

“Do Your Own Research!

Even this common-sense idea is strongly contested.

You Must Not ‘Do Your Own Research’ When It Comes To Science by Ethan Siegel — Senior Contributor — Forbes Editors’ Pick — Jul 30, 2020 [link in text above]

I always do my own research when it is important or some current proclamation or pronouncement pins my BS Meter to full on.

But in the real world, many people are incapable of doing their own research — either from lack of adequate general and/or specific education or from (and it is dangerous to even say this bit…) low IQ (meaning here: inability to understand/comprehend complex data).

These people, instead of “doing their own research”, do something that they think is that [doing their own research] but is in reality just surfing the web or channel searching the TV looking for opinions that agree with their own biases or new information that “seems true” to them — something that mixes well in their muddled understanding of reality.

Gads — that sounds so elitist, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it is all too true.

I have relatives that are terrific people — do anything to help anyone in need — but who, for various reasons, would find it totally impossible to research and come to any kind of reasonable evidence-based or fact-based opinion on any of today’s complex problems. They simply don’t have the educational background, don’t have enough foundational understanding of basic science, political theory and practice, biology, physics, philosophy, etc — and, truthfully, they have never learned how to think clearly or critically. This includes people who are “professionals” — but only in their narrow fields.

Asking many of our neighbors and relatives — people on the street — or even professional journalists and columnists — to “Do Your Own Research” is like YoYo Ma asking them to “Play the cello like me!”.

I agree with Dr. Curry and Matt Ridley — with the above caveat.”

At first glance, I agree with Siegel that many people are unable to “do their own research”.  The call for people to do their own research is hampered by the points above and by other simple facets of the human condition.  What does this mean?

PRIDE:  Many, if not most, if not all, people suffer from Pride.  In this sense, that means they think they already know and are unwilling to read, research or accept information that doesn’t agree with their pre-existing “knowledge” – in quotes because this knowledge becomes,  almost always,  a bias that prevents further learning and understanding. This is true even for scientists and professionals who are even more prone to believing that their existing knowledge is superior to any contrary knowledge being offered by others, even by other professionals in the same field of study.

LAZINESS:  Let’s admit it – far too many of us (occasionally including myself) are simply too lazy to bother fact-checking, reading original sources or comparing the value of evidences offered by various voices – too lazy even when it is important.  This laziness often leads to ready acceptance of “consensus science” – we rest assured that what “the experts say…”  is correct — even when we are fully aware that the consensus is politically, and not scientifically, based. 

BUSYNESS:  Many people simply don’t have the time to “do their own research” even when motivated to do so.  Busy professionals, busy students, busy mothers and fathers.   How many of us even fail to read the whole essay or column on topics we are interested in, instead skipping ahead to write a comment, only to be told the answer is in the essay?    Unsure about Global Warming?  Sure! Do Your Own Research!  If you already have all  the basic science and math under your belt and have a year to spare….

As Ridley points out, we are human.  Scientists are human.  Doctors are human.  Astrophysicists are human.  And we are all fallible.   We make mistakes, we misunderstand things, we are prideful, we are hubristic, we fall in love with our own theories and opinions, we have “better things to do”.   And, being human, we all have differing abilities – some  are mathematical, some artistic, some philosophical, some spiritual, some intellectual, some mechanically practical.

So, in this sense, Ethan Siegel is right.   However, Siegel’s column is spoiled by his selection of examples (you really must read his essay) which exposes his biases and misunderstandings and leads him to a conclusion not supported by his argument

It does not follow that

  1.  Because “doing your own research” is hard or even “impossible” for many people
  2.  And “doing your own research” can be done incorrectly, even by scientists
  3.  That thus “you need … to turn to the consensus of scientific experts” and that we must “all agree that we should base our policies on the scientific consensus”. 

This is what I call “almost true”.  The most dangerous kind of mendacity.  Certainly, we can all agree with Newton’s Laws of Motion in a practical sense.  But not because there exists a “scientific consensus” on the issue,  rather because they have been found to be true (enough) in actual practice through innumerable tests and trials.

Siegel, in effect,  concludes:  “Always stick with the apparent consensus.” 

I say “apparent”, because in many fields there is almost always a vast difference in the publicly perceived – media presented – apparent consensus and the real professional-field-wide-scientists consensus.  See my series on Modern Scientific Controversies.

Even worse is Siegel’s proposition that “When they [people] take up the arguments of a contrarian scientist, we recognize what they’re overlooking, misinterpreting, or omitting.”   In this, Siegel uses the “Royal We” so often seen in declarations in support of consensus science – a usage with the definition here of “Us Right-Thinking Scientific Elites”.   Somehow Siegel overlooks that his very own field, theoretical astrophysics,  is itself filled with conflicting theories, “contrarian scientists”  and that many would assign Siegel himself to that category.

Matt Ridley is correct:  He calls for us to “examine the evidence yourself. ….If in doubt, do your homework.”

Why?    Because, in the end, “The only way to be absolutely sure that one scientific pronouncement is reliable and another is not is to examine the evidence yourself. Relying on the reputation of the scientist, or the reporter reporting it, is the way that many of us go, and is better than nothing, but it is not infallible. If in doubt, do your homework.

Matt Ridley is pragmatic.  For instance, on the virus, his view is straight-forward:

“The health of science depends on tolerating, even encouraging, at least some disagreement. In practice, science is prevented from turning into religion not by asking scientists to challenge their own theories but by getting them to challenge each other, sometimes with gusto. Where science becomes political, as in climate change and Covid-19, this diversity of opinion is sometimes extinguished in the pursuit of a consensus to present to a politician or a press conference, and to deny the oxygen of publicity to cranks. This year has driven home as never before the message that there is no such thing as “the science”; there are different scientific views on how to suppress the virus.”

I maintain that there are “different scientific views” on almost all modern scientific questions.  Why?  Because for these questions we are just starting along the necessary scientific path to discovering the basic truths of these topics.   When we are uncertain what to believe, what to think or how to understand one of these topics, we can, as Matt Ridley suggests try “Relying on the reputation of the scientist, or the reporter reporting it, is the way that many of us go, and is better than nothing”.  

Or, if it is important enough to us individually or societally and we are capable of doing so, we should examine the evidence ourselves  – we should do our own homework.

We should, however, acknowledge that not everyone is capable of doing so, for the reasons I identified at the beginning of this essay.  Some people can overcome their deficiencies,  they can study up, read widely, retrain their minds to think clearly and critically and learn to ignore their own biases.  Others may not be able to do so.  In this case, they need to call upon others, who are capable, to help them examine the evidence – honest information brokers. 

This task becomes the responsibility of Science Journalists.    People like myself and many other professional authors, paid and unpaid.  It is not our job to dictate what “the Science” says.  It is our job to publicly examine the evidence on different topics in a way that the general public can understand it – carefully giving the various major viewpoints and laying out the evidence for all to see, in a way that they can comprehend it and come to their own understandings.   

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Author’s Comment:

It is interesting to me that Ethan Siegel could be right about the details of the human condition that impede efforts to do one’s own research and yet come to the exactly wrong conclusion of discouraging people from examining the evidence for themselves.  Because he fails to take Matt Ridley’s advice, and does not examine the evidence for himself, he ultimately falls back on “Listen to us, we’re the experts!” and denigrates all other professionals who don’t agree with the “us” as “contrarian scientists” unworthy of serious consideration.  And that last part, my friends, is an intellectual crime most foul.

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John Bruce
October 12, 2020 6:09 pm

do your own research
it is arrogant to tell people that they can not do analysis
obviously some topics will be out of reach of your understanding but if you don’t open your mind and only listen to the controlled topics then no one will see climate change and other topics for what they are – political propoganda

Charles Higley
Reply to  John Bruce
October 12, 2020 9:42 pm

The big problem is that many people do not have a basic science foundation that allows them to have a knowledge filter that detects junk science that does not make sense. I call it a BS filter from the other direction. We should teach people how to discern opinion from facts and established science. At least teach them to detect terms in”science” discussions that indicate an opinion is being advanced disguised as science.

Reply to  Charles Higley
October 13, 2020 5:16 am

CH: The CAGW cultists have already done this.
The article is actually pretty good in providing a method for assessing the integrity of a study – see below.

Ultimately, there are a few fundamental limits in CAGW theory, and here is one. “Science” cannot test the future; if you are modeling what may happen in the future, you cannot base your findings on observations since the future has not yet happened, and you cannot replicate your finding.

We can model what model what might happen in the future based on some knowledge we have now, but speculation about the future is NOT “observable,” or “replicable.” And, once the future has arrived and happened, we cannot scientifically test why one thing happened and not another. We cannot re-run the Civil War a few times to test the robustness of the theory that it was fought over slavery. Science is limited to cause-and-effect hypothesis about what matter and energy do in the physical universe. When staying in its lane, science is a useful tool. When we fool ourselves that we have “observed” the transition fro water-based life to land-based life, we are fooling ourselves. We can observe a fossil, but we have not observed such an event. Assigning causes in the past and in the future is outside the realm of “science.” They are in the realm of “history, and “modeling”/”projection”/”forecasting.”

John Cook. Understanding and countering climate science denial. Journal & Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, vol. 150, part 2, 2017, pp. 207–219.
John Cook. Understanding and countering climate science denial. Journal & Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, vol. 150, part 2, 2017, pp. 207–219.

This provides a model: “FLICC:” fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations, cherry picking, and conspiracy theories. This article cites a couple sources for this model. Hoofnagle 2007, Diethelm and McKee 2009.

Hoofnagle, M. (2007, April 30). Hello Scienceblogs. Denialism Blog. Retrieved from

Diethelm, P., & McKee, M. (2009). Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond? The European Journal of Public Health, 19(1), 2-4.

Reply to  TheLastDemocrat
October 14, 2020 12:57 pm

If you hear a prediction of the future, just ignore it. The probability of it being right is low. The coming climate crisis is 50 years of wild guess predictions, 62 years if you start with Roger Revelle in 1958.

I don’t need a scientist to tell me about the climate change where I’ve lived since 1980, and I don’t need a weatherman. To know which way the wind blows.

Mark Pawelek
Reply to  Charles Higley
October 13, 2020 9:59 am

Many people’s science foundation leaves them easily fooled by people claiming expertise. Gavin Schmidt, head of GISS is a mathematician. He has no great understanding of climatology beyond what he picked up writing mathematical climate models. Neil Ferguson, author of the great COVID-19 lockdown model, is a mathematician too. Both of them claim to be ‘scientists‘. But they don’t do science – they do models. Science involves ultra-respect for data. It is closely connected with experiment and observation. None of these models, which have taken over government policy, pay any respect to experiment and observation. Modeling is the substitution of fake science for good science. It is foolish and irresponsible for government to rely on untested, non-validated models.

Many people think models are science because the modelers make that claim.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Mark Pawelek
October 13, 2020 2:44 pm

“Mark Pawelek October 13, 2020 at 9:59 am

Neil Ferguson, author of the great COVID-19 lockdown model…”

Ah but this guy has form. He also used his “computer modelling” to predict SARS1, MERS, bird/swine ‘flu, BSE and foot and mouth infections/deaths all of them monumentally wrong but he never resigned until his COVID-19 predictions. So, computer modelling, in “climate science”, is not fit for purpose IMO.

Ron cocco
Reply to  Charles Higley
October 13, 2020 8:46 pm

That’s extremely true. People say that u.s. is the dirtiest country on Earth but China has 3800 Coal Fired power plants.

Reply to  Ron cocco
October 15, 2020 6:43 am

“People say that u.s. is the dirtiest country on Earth” Only people who have A. never been outside the US, or 2. have never been to the US, say such stupid things. Ranks right up there with all the wailing&screeching about America cutting down all it’s trees, a simple drive along I 80 from Ohio through PA and NJ to NYC will prove that is an hysterical fantasy. People really need to do their own research and NEVER believe anything said by any expert, ever, period. Full stop.

Izaak Walton
Reply to  John Bruce
October 12, 2020 10:27 pm

Hi John,
I think the main point that Ethan was making was that most people do not have the time or training to do their own research (or access to the peer reviewed literature that is hidden behind a paywall). Take for example the two recent physics discoveries namely gravitational waves and the Higgs boson and ask yourself how long it would take for the average person to be able to do enough research to confidently decide whether or not that research was correct? Or how would somebody decide whether or not a bridge was safe to drive across?

None of which is not to say that people can’t do it but rather to do as good a
job as a professional requires you to effectively become a professional.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 13, 2020 12:07 am

Izaak, your examples do not really impact me, nor many other people. On the other hand the impact of the Covid responses impact almost everybody and I would say it is important that people do their own research. We can look unambiguously at the data and draw our own conclusions. No not the number of “cases”, i.e. a positive PCR test, which will increase due to false positives as testing increases, nor the number of “Covid deaths” previously in the UK someone who died who had previously tested positive, now someone who tested positive in the previous 28 days regardless of other co-morbidities, which will also increase with increased testing as people die. No we can look at unambiguous data like all deaths and excess deaths, which tell us a completely different picture of the so called second wave. In Europe we have EUROMOMO, where excess deaths are recorded and are now below average in most European countries and cumulative excess deaths are falling. What second wave?

Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 13, 2020 8:07 am

The answer to that is to know your own limitations and to direct your personal research towards fields that have some practical meaning in the real world — which pandemics and climate do and (with respect to those physicists with planet-sized brains) the Higgs boson and gravitational waves do not.

I had to do a lot of reading to justify my initial hunch that the global warming argument was full of holes but the more I learned the clearer it became that “scientists” were no more to be trusted to be honest and impartial than any other “closed shop” — which is why I am now equally cynical about the advice which “experts” are now giving to politicians trying to find their way through the Covid maze.

Where I immediately part company with Siegel is that he appears to be saying (I haven’t read the article yet so I apologise if I’m misreading him) that anyone who has spent three years at Cambridge or Harvard and now has M.Sc. or B.Sc. after his name has (at best) become an expert in all things “scientific” and is not thereafter subject to challenge or (at worst) has become a member of that “closed shop” I referred to above and will defend to the death other members against the views of those not blessed with those magic qualifications.

The ability to think and to analyse is not the exclusive property of any group.

Logic and Reason
Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 13, 2020 10:19 am

I think there is a big difference between ‘don’t do your own research’ and ‘don’t question my research’. That’s what this boils down to.
I’m a licensed Architect and have designed projects up to about $125M.
Does that mean no one is allowed to criticize my designs?
Only Architects are allowed to?
Only certain approved Architects?
Believe me, nothing irritates me more than people who spout off about design without knowing all that goes into it, but that is different than saying they should not have an opinion.

Reply to  Logic and Reason
October 13, 2020 11:53 am

I think there is a big difference between ‘don’t do your own research’ and ‘don’t question my research’.
And from the last part of the article, it almost seems that Siegel is arguing the latter.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 13, 2020 2:37 pm

Wrong. The point he was making is that you climate deniers should shut up and take your medicine, and don’t break your lockdown unless you are looting shoe stores for social justice.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 13, 2020 5:34 pm

Perhaps the solution to the problem is to withhold forming an opinion or stating support for something for which one does not have expertise, or cannot quickly master.

The other side of the coin is the situation where it is obvious that the “king has no clothes.” That is, sometimes a position is so flawed that one does not have to be an expert or subject-matter specialist to spot the problem. That comes about because of a tendency for crowd behavior, where researchers ‘jump on the bandwagon.’ This is particularly noticeable for popular paradigms — dare I say it — such as Anthropogenic Global Warming! Even if, in the absence of formal expertise, one can understand the problem well enough to ask embarrassing questions of supporters, then it should be obvious that the supporters don’t really have the expertise either. That is, just because someone calls themselves a “climate scientist,” that doesn’t mean they are really a scientist.

Reply to  Izaak Walton
October 14, 2020 12:40 am

Or how would somebody decide whether or not a bridge was safe to drive across?

Er, by sending a heavily laden slave cart across it first, traditionally.

Engineering predates science by half a million years.

Brent Hargreaves
Reply to  John Bruce
October 13, 2020 1:24 am

John Bruce, you should research punctuation and capital letters, absence of which reduces the comprehensibility of what you write.

Jeffrey Alberts
Reply to  Brent Hargreaves
October 13, 2020 9:31 am

Maybe he’s been studying at the Mosher School of Drive-bys.

Reply to  Brent Hargreaves
October 15, 2020 7:49 am

You are wrong Hargraves
random rambling blabbering does not require punctuation or capital letters

Chris Wright
Reply to  John Bruce
October 13, 2020 2:53 am

I agree. I think Siegel is talking nonsense.
Is Siegel seriously saying all the great scientists of the past were wrong to do science because they didn’t have scientific qualifications?

Think of Willis. He’s not officially a scientist, but I would say his scientific work is better than that of 97% of climate scientists.

Obviously most laymen can’t do experimental work on nuclear physics or quantum mechanics. But in many areas of science there are vast accumulations of publicly available scientific data. Two good examples are climate change and covid. In many cases simply examining the data can show that the scientific consensus is wrong. You don’t have to be a scientist to compare the climate model predictions with what actually happened.

I think science done by non-scientists is an excellent thing. It doesn’t matter who does the science. All that matters is the quality of the science.

Jeffrey Alberts
Reply to  Chris Wright
October 13, 2020 9:32 am

Three thumbs up!

Reply to  Chris Wright
October 13, 2020 11:37 am

Winston Churchill, one of the greatest critical thinkers of the twentieth century, spoke often about questioning expert authority. He wrote that non-experts “asked all kinds of questions. They did not always take No for an answer. They did not accept facts and figures put before them by their experts as necessarily unshakable. They were not under awe of professional authority, if it did not seem reasonable to the lay mind.” The lesson would seem to be that we should never be quick to act on expert advice without rigorous debate and examination.

Reply to  Winnie
October 13, 2020 5:18 pm

I have a PhD. It’s rather old and worn, and I haven’t kept it in the best condition, but I have it. Experience tells me that it’s very hard to tell what is right – but not that hard to tell what is wrong. When the arena is filled with Chickens Little and Boys Who Cry Wolf, you’re probably better off following your gut rather than the guy who makes the most catastrophic predictions.

But listen when the guy is named Willis, or Feynmann. Science is science. Listening to it is art.

October 12, 2020 6:13 pm

Who determines who is qualified to research a subject? And who determines who is qualified to determine who is qualified to do research? This can be fun! Pointless, but fun!

Reply to  ScienceABC123
October 12, 2020 6:35 pm

Nobody is qualify to determine who is qualified to research a subject. NOBODY.
Nobody is qualified to determine who is qualified to determine who is qualified to do research. NOBODY.
We get it done. How good it is, is discussed and evaluated after publication. Old stuff. Nothing new.

October 12, 2020 6:21 pm

Listen to Bill Gates. He knows a lot about viruses.

Reply to  Scissor
October 12, 2020 7:57 pm

Good point !

Robert of Ottawa
October 12, 2020 6:27 pm

In the future you will need a license to do science.

Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
October 13, 2020 12:01 am

Licensure is already required in limited applications, usually where the scientific opinion carries a direct human health, safety, or major financial impact. Engineers, who are quite well grounded in one or more sciences as a requirement for their disciplines, also must be licensed to stamp critical work. However, there are vast arenas in both science and engineering where licensure is neither warranted nor helpful. Universally requiring a license would open the floodgates to abuse and corruption.

The only real “climate science” is climatology, a branch of meteorology or atmospheric science, and historically their work, important as it was/is, did not carry such a societal burden as is forced upon it today. No license required. Probably 97% of persons who claim to be “climate scientists” today are no such thing. They may have expertise in one segment or another of the multi-disciplined effort to measure, characterize, and predict climate, but most act as arrogant hucksters when they step outside of their niches to promote the prevailing narrative. Most quickly reveal their personal biases and political leanings. When pseudo-scientists (e.g., social “sciences”) jump into the fray to promote the cause, they rarely do so critically, but accept the narrative as true without serious question. Higher education, especially so-called “sustainability” practitioners can be among the most unscientific, ignorant and backwards people of the bunch. I watch this human comedy (tragedy) every day as I monitor the GreenSchoolListserve and read post after post of knuckleheaded, foolish social activism, from people hired by universities to run their sustainability programs.

This is where many people, mature laypersons included, can use their experiential faculties from life experience to detect falsehood or exaggeration, even though they couldn’t personally solve a differential equation or even a basic algebra problem. A discerning individual who has learned the traps and pitfalls of the Information Age can do enough research to reach sound conclusions on many topics. That is becoming easier as the lunatic fringe, including many “climate scientists,” continue to plunge deeper into their socialist, regressive folly.

Reply to  Pflashgordon
October 13, 2020 3:24 am


Thank you for that comment. I am one of the laymen who have ‘no right’ to even read and consider scientific opinions because I have no higher education.

What I do have, however, is 63 years of experience underpinned by the education and experience of a Police Officer. A humble post but one almost wholly reliant on evidence. I say almost wholly because what we learn, with no formal instruction, is that gut feel is often as reliable an instinct as scientific evidence.

We don’t know why, or how; some get it, some don’t, but the best of us have used it to devastating effect when evidence, and the science of Policing come up empty handed. It’s something never to be ignored, and often the basis for Feynman’s “Guess”.

In my humble opinion, the ability to study and practice science is a privilege which should be awarded only to the finest minds, and hardest workers of society. The Scientific Method is a rare and valuable tool which should be entrusted to only the most capable and ethical of candidates.

In return, their job is to advocate on behalf of the rest of society. Doing the research as a quest for truth on behalf of those less capable than them. But they also have the responsibility of explaining their endeavours clearly and concisely to the public who rely on them for direction.

That, to me, goes well beyond publishing papers in Journals for consumption by peers, it includes, but rarely manifests itself as, an explanation for the layman, in layman’s language.

Wasn’t it Einstein who said ‘if you can’t explain your theory to a 5 year old then you don’t understand it yourself’?

Matt Ridley is a past master at presenting complicated subjects in a manner we laymen understand.

My Gut instinct is to prefer him to a man who would far rather keep the public in the dark about the detail of his science. Einstein might have a view on that as well.

Reply to  HotScot
October 13, 2020 3:58 pm

“Wasn’t it Einstein who said ‘if you can’t explain your theory to a 5 year old then you don’t understand it yourself’?”

Sure, anyone can explain a theory. But did Einstein also say how one could prove that the 5 year old understood the theory?

Steve Case
October 12, 2020 6:29 pm

There’s lots of data on the net and there’s the Internet Archives Way Back Machine. Some data is way too extensive for ordinary examination, i.e., an Excel Spreadsheet. So there’s only a sliver of the overall topics an average Joe & Jill no matter how dedicated can reasonably research. However, when folks turn over those accessible stones, and find worms and rot, is it wrong to make an assumption that those areas that the research is too daunting but administered by the same group of people also full of rot and pestilence?

Reply to  Steve Case
October 13, 2020 5:24 am

Steve Case we agree: ” when folks turn over those accessible stones, and find worms and rot, is it wrong to make an assumption that those areas that the research is too daunting but administered by the same group of people also full of rot and pestilence?” It is this level of scientific research the nearly everyone is capable.

If there are alternative explanations/hypotheses out there are they stronger or equivalent to that being presented? Its on the strength levels that personal bias can deceive, but researching is possible.

Too often even this level of research analysis is lacking in the proponents who believe blindly.

Science is seldom the one and only truth, but a path to a more in depth knowledge. This is where Ridley is more correct.

October 12, 2020 6:31 pm

A scientist who cannot explain a critical point of his/her subject in plain language, and defend it with data they, themselves, have verified is indistiguishable from a charlatan. A non-scientist (or non-specialist) who gets their opinion about a scientific subject via a science journalist is a fool. Your mileage will vary.

Rick C PE
October 12, 2020 6:38 pm

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
Richard Feynman

What exactly is the consensus of astrophysists regarding the existence and nature of dark energy and dark matter? Do singularities with infinite mass/density exist? I find the research on these things to be long on hypotheses and short on evidence. You could easily just substitute “God’s will” for such things without being contradicted by evidence.

sky king
Reply to  Rick C PE
October 12, 2020 7:13 pm

Feynman also advised that the best way to learn a topic to mastery is to try explaining the topic to someone with no background in it. Until you are able to explain something in everyday language, you probably don’t grok the topic yet yourself.

Reply to  sky king
October 12, 2020 8:20 pm

Einstein said, “You never truly understand something until you can explain it to your grandmother.”

Reply to  sky king
October 12, 2020 9:24 pm

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

― Albert Einstein

Roger Knights
Reply to  sky king
October 13, 2020 8:31 am

Reportedly, a five-year-old asked Einstein if he’d pooped that day. His mother apologized and was embarrassed, but Einstein said, “At last a question I can answer.”

Reply to  Rick C PE
October 13, 2020 5:23 am

BTW: it is God’s will.
Colossians 1:17
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

It is interesting how the Bible, while not trying to be a science text, can be accurate on a range of such things.

Peter W
Reply to  TheLastDemocrat
October 13, 2020 9:26 am

That reminds me of a letter I wrote some years ago on my findings on socialism. I observed, with multiple examples, the fact that socialism and starvation, or reported crop failures, were quite closely related historically, and offered several possible “reasons,” the last of which was, “There really is a God, He does not like socialism, and is telling us so with His strange weather patterns (see Jeremiah 29:17, Ezekiel 5:16.)

Jeffrey Alberts
Reply to  TheLastDemocrat
October 13, 2020 9:39 am

I don’t see any accuracy in the statement at all. It’s simply a gratuitous assertion, that can be just as gratuitously ignored.

October 12, 2020 6:50 pm

How much research has been proven wrong over thousands of years? Nuff said.

Reply to  rbabcock
October 13, 2020 1:08 am

Exactly, when the science is junk, anyone can have a go.

October 12, 2020 6:51 pm

Many of the people purporting to do the homework as in the various *BC broadcasters are perhaps less qualified to be arbiters of the truth than a large proportion of their follower. Journalists are notoriously low in critical thinking skills and seem to be obsessed with emotional content, the human condition and social justice. They have repeatedly demonstrated an inability to cut through the shinola in their treatment of a vast array of topics including homeopathy, acupuncture, dietary fat and salt, the H1N1 Casedemic, Y2K, AGW, second hand cigarette smoke, environmental effects of plastic and on and on. In short, they have shown themselves to be wholly unreliable arbiters of truth. For those who can’t critically evaluate the quality of the science, the best one can do is read commentary in favour and against (in my experience most journalists studiously avoid the second) and then make up your mind about who is more credible using the vast array of tools that humans have always used to measure credibility. Be prepared to change your point of view with new evidence and rank down journalistic pronouncements on what the science says.

October 12, 2020 6:51 pm

Siegel: “And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

Rhoda R
October 12, 2020 6:59 pm

Even if all anyone does is surf the web for information they can at least learn that there are two or more opinions on just about any scientific endeavor coming from actual scientists. It might open a few eyes.

HD Hoese
October 12, 2020 7:11 pm

With all these college graduates with some sort of science requirement, one would expect knowledge about the basic scientific method, consistency, and relevance, even in the most difficult and complex subjects . At least that used to be taught. It is very easy to see the conflicts between titles, abstracts and texts, press releases especially suspect when they contradict the paper if not the title. With current longevity there are numerous retired engineers, scientists, among others with enough background to do at least basic analysis, as happens here in WUWT, and show it to those who question in order for them to make up their own mind. I live where politicians are often remiss in such transparent analysis, but people who you would think might not have the necessary background, somehow come to understand the nonsense. Someone I knew who followed local politics brought up the understanding that political parties evolve to lose touch, takes a while to correct it, but it happens.

I read only the Ridley article, suspect that Siegel lacks his wisdom as in “Always stick with the apparent consensus. ” Humans must have long dealt with ‘snake oil’ to survive.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 13, 2020 7:07 am


Gerard Flood
October 12, 2020 7:12 pm

And what about those scientists and institutions who deplorably refuse access to their data and methods? Their work ought be identified, blacklisted and utterly shunned by all legitimate authorities, institutions, scientists, governments and lay people.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Gerard Flood
October 12, 2020 8:37 pm

Why should they give you their data? You would only try to find something wrong with it!

Malcolm Robinson
October 12, 2020 7:12 pm

The WSJ article may be pay-walled but it isn’t pay-walled on Matt Ridley’s website.

john rattray
October 12, 2020 7:13 pm

The problem is also that Science and Politics are intermingled.

No-one in their right mind would ask George (met in the pub on Friday night) to design a four lane bridge, nor would I suggest that everyone get an engineering degree and examine the design before they drive over it. But then again I am not going to trust Matthew from the “Woke Scientists Association” who knows all about atmospheric physics to decide who is going to be rich and who is going to be poor.

The whole history of politics over the last few centuries has been a story of the elites trying to keep power and its benefits and the rest of us trying to gain control over our lives and share out some of the benefits more widely.

Global warming catastrophism is no different.

Joel O'Bryan
October 12, 2020 7:20 pm

I disagree strongly with Kip’s YoYo Ma analogy. YoYo Ma is an artistic creator. Every time Ma plays the cello he could do the exact same musical piece ever so slightly different, creating a different experience for the consumer of the music. Together all of those through multiple studio or concert hall recordings, he could select the ones he and his producers liked the best for a pressed commercial recording or an upcoming concert. That is artistry.

A practicing physicist or chemist or biologist is also creating. Creating data by running experiment and trying to understand what the data from each experiment says when enough has been gathered. A scientistic should, as Matt Ridley pointed out, be looking for the exceptions that show his/her theory to be wrong, not just affirmation. The lay person has no ability to do this kind of woork, either experimental or theoretical math.

But what the non-expert but educated scientist/engineer can do is, again as Matt pointed out, show there are documented examples from others of black swans that the scientist or team of scientists are trying mightily to ignore because the black swans are in Australia or some such other attempt to keep a pet hypothesis alive when it really needs an intellectual knife through through its heart. Or to understand that adjusting more accurate (lower StndDev) buoy data with less accurate (higher SD) ship’s water intake temp data is an egregious abuse of credibility that skews a result toward a desired outcome. You don’t have to be a rocket engineer to recognize a flawed o-ring design for cold weather reliability, which is why the Columbia Accident commission was headed by Richard Feynman.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 12, 2020 9:55 pm

Joel needs to lighten up sometimes.

October 12, 2020 7:26 pm

I once knew the son of a very wealthy man. He told me that his father was a voracious reader who wouldn’t budge from the house until he had spent an hour with the New York Times over breakfast. I think he told his son that the secret of success was to read everything.

Why did I become a climate skeptic? My reading of history convinced me that Dr. Mann’s hockey stick was bogus. (By avoiding cross examination in the Ball case, he has admitted that he does belong in state pen.)

When you evaluate what experts are telling you, it’s useful to pull in knowledge from other fields. Most experts can’t do that which is why they often say such stupid stuff.

So, yes, absolutely, do your own research. It won’t look like what the experts are doing but you stand a better chance of not missing the glaringly obvious. It takes a special kind of education to miss the glaringly obvious.

My favorite example:

I knew we were losing because all our great victories kept getting closer to Berlin.

Art Slartibartfast
Reply to  commieBob
October 13, 2020 1:59 am

As an example of the glaring obvious: the IPCC takes the average of over one hundred climate models to come to a more “accurate” result (apparently not one of these models gets it sufficiently right).
As any first year STEM student can tell you, two necessary conditions to make this a valid approach are that:
a) the models are independent (they are not because they share some of the same computer code and algorithms), and
b) that the error in these models has a Gaussian distribution (unproven as far as I know).
In other words, what the CMIP models say is unvalidated and highly likely to be wrong. And that is before comparing the output to real world data. The basic rules of statistics are being violated here.
You do not have to be a connoisseur to notice that the wine you are tasting is sour.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Art Slartibartfast
October 13, 2020 6:06 pm

It is worse than you realize. The unstated assumption is that the models are basically correct, and only vary a small amount from the ‘true’ value(s). If there is a fundamental flaw, and they are all seriously wrong because of the shared code, then averaging all of them will NOT provide the right answer. Under the best of circumstances, there can only be one ‘best’ answer. Averaging all the rest of the poor answers with it means that the average is not better, but worse. Of course, the trick is identifying the ‘best’ answer. A good place to start is to see if past forecasts turn out to have been a good match to the climate of today, and then look to see if there are some identifiable traits of the better models.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  commieBob
October 13, 2020 7:25 am

“Philosophers are people who know less and less about more and more, until they know nothing about everything. Scientists are people who know more and more about less and less, until they know everything about nothing.”

― Konrad Lorenz

I have a nephew who recently got his PhD in microbiology and is currently doing postdoc work. He has said when laying out his coursework, his advisor told him not to bother with advanced statistical classes because there are experts who can “give him what he needs”. I thought to myself, how appropriate to climate science. Collect data, give it to someone, and tell them what you expect the data to show. Voila! It comes back with all kinds of mathematical gyrations showing exactly what you thought the result would be. Glad to say he decided to take the courses anyway.

I have argued with many on twitter about significant digits and propagation of measurement uncertainty. Invariably they end up falling back on the quote that the Central Limit Theory says a sample mean will converge on the true mean and that the error reduces by 1/sqrt N. Of course this cancels all errors and uncertainty in the original recorded measurements. They combine station data (populations) without a worry in the world about increasing variance when doing this. They find averages out to three decimal places and then subtract them from integer data to “calculate” anomalies that have three decimal places.

These people are basically math types that play with numbers and have no comprehension about the physical world. They have never worked with their hands. They have never built walls and had the ceiling look wavy because you didn’t check the 2×4 lengths in the walls. They have never had a crankshaft not turn because you ordered bearings using the low spots instead of the high spots. Measurements, measurements what’s the big deal? If you average enough of them you’ll get a perfectly accurate answer, right?

Ask some of these scientists if they have ever had even an introductory course in metrology.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Jim Gorman
October 13, 2020 1:57 pm

Of course they ignore the part of CLT that assumes the distribution is normal. As you imply, treating accuracy limits as precision errors is another great sin. But then, in theory, accuracy is always perfect and errors are normally distributed. Too bad the real world refuses to bend to theory.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Jim Gorman
October 13, 2020 6:09 pm


Reply to  Jim Gorman
October 14, 2020 12:44 am

Wow. If I have low spots and high spots I get that crank reground, I would never order shells first.

David Lilley
Reply to  Jim Gorman
October 14, 2020 5:38 am

The Central Limit Theorem applies to random samples from the same sample space. The problem with how it is used in some branches of science is that some errors are not random : they are systemic. Also, the CLT is often (mis-)used to average errors from different sample spaces.

For example, a climate computer model is deterministic. There is no randomness except to the extent that it may use a random number generator in order to create different outputs from different computer runs. In this case, averaging the results of these runs would enable a closer estimate of the true mean value of all runs for that model. This says absolutely nothing at all about whether that model properly represents the actual climate.

Each climate model will have its own error sample space. When the results of different CIMP models are averaged together, they are not even averaging errors from the same sample space. The idea that the mean of these computer models contains less error than the individual models is not justified and the notion that the average is a better representation of the real climate is sophistry.

Reply to  Jim Gorman
October 14, 2020 7:25 am

Elementary metrology was the first lab in Physics 100. Having built lots of model planes and things I had learned a lot about mis-measuring. The lab showed how, with a random sampling of measurements, it was possible to get very, very close to and exact figure. It took the whole class, 30 students, the whole period to measure an 18.382in. long piece of steel with a ruler marked in 1/2in. increments. The final measure was 18.387in. about 300 measurements.

Reply to  philo
October 14, 2020 6:25 pm

It’s a wonderful trick but the profs never tell students the necessary condition for it to work. I used to do a similar lab in which students would extract a beautiful sine wave that had been buried in 20 db of noise. The necessary condition is, of course, that the noise averages out to zero.

The problem lies in the nature of noise. Red noise, also called Brownian noise, is characterized by its predominantly low frequency content and can resemble a slow drift or a random walk.

Red noise does not average zero. It can be a real bear to deal with.

Dave N
October 12, 2020 7:27 pm

The main problem is not with laypeople – it’s with the orthodoxy attempting to silence others that have just a deep an understanding as they do, but conflict with their beliefs. If this problem was extinguished the whole “do your own research” nonsense would not even exist.

Mike Dubrasich
October 12, 2020 7:28 pm

The cases of ordinary people doing cutting edge research are too numerous to list.

One example is the Surface Station Survey that pre-dated and initiated Watts Up With That. Volunteers, many without credentials, photographed weather stations across the country. Those pictures demonstrated the poor siting of long-term temperature sensors and produced many important scientific findings.

Agriculture and animal husbandry made enormous scientific leaps that gave rise to civilization without a single academic involved. Even today individual farmers record and analyze data and adjust practices without the imprimatur of certified “scientists”.

Most of the great inventions we rely upon today were made without the involvement of government authorized “experts”.

Indeed, the application of approved science to policy is a modern practice that has failed in almost every case. The Covid-19 crisis, global warming, endangered species protection, and almost every discipline that relies on peer-reviewed journals are examples of the failure of “normal science”.

Just because a so-called scientist has a stamp of approval from some bureaucracy, political party, or university is no reason to accept their findings. It’s just the opposite — they are probably wrong. Question authority is the best advice.

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
October 12, 2020 8:06 pm

I don’t wish to get too exercised by this topic, but every day on WUWT we see examples of the dunderheads of “science” making ridiculous pronouncements. Agenda-driven science is the bane of our age and the mothers’ milk of tyranny and propaganda.

I wonder if Ethan Siegel, Senior Contributor, and certified science writer is the fact-checker at Googers or Farcebook. Is he the empty jogging sweats who CENSORS medical doctors and other true experts who dare disagree with Woke-Approved Science?

We have been house-arrested and our economy crippled by power-grabbing morons, thieves, and dementia sufferers who claim to “follow the science” but are actually following a pack of lies of their own creation.

Trusting “science” from pathological liars and petty dictators is the worst thing society can do. The High Priests are frauds and quacks of the first order. Trust your own common sense.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
October 13, 2020 6:17 pm

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
October 12, 2020 8:36 pm

We need a much better understanding of experts. You trust some experts with your life whether you realize it or not. Those are people who have demonstrated that they can perform certain tasks reliably.

The other type of expert merely knows a lot about a topic. They have no demonstrated expertise other than regurgitating facts and sounding erudite. A dart-throwing chimp makes more accurate predictions. link

Because of perverse incentives, most published research findings are wrong. That puts scientists in the same boat as economists … unreliable.

Society has to learn to ignore experts, especially serial failed prognosticators. Instead, we beg them to tell us how to run our lives. It’s a bit disgusting.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  commieBob
October 13, 2020 7:35 am

Most of these are wrong because they ignore measurement uncertainty and assume the error of the sample mean applies to the general data population. I have been watching how many papers even discuss propagation of uncertainty. Almost none do or at least their abstracts don’t. No wonder their claims of absolute proof and accuracy are proven wrong so often.

October 12, 2020 7:34 pm

Unfortunately for most people research = Google (or insert your preferred search engine).

I may have missed it but I haven’t seen a post here on The Social Dilemma, the ‘documentary’ on Netflix. It’s interesting but to me the most interesting take away is that algorithms essentially function on the principle of confirmation bias. The point is to keep you online, not provide a breadth of information. We’re all more likely to agree with what our biases lean towards and those algorithms will trend you in that direction. So you’re somewhat unlikely to find contradictory and accurate information.

As john rattray says above the real problem is that Science and Politics are no longer remotely separate. I expect they never truly have but now “Science” is wielded as both a shield and a sword, notably in the media and by politicians. It is neither. As such, the information we are now presented with is not presented to us as “make up your mind” but rather “we made up your mind for you and we are beyond question”. That’s not science and it never has been, never will be.

Keep in mind those with university degrees form a significantly small proportion of the population. Those with degrees in actual sciences (not ‘social sciences’) are significantly smaller again. Those with the integrity to remain unbiased, willfully or not, is infinitesimally smaller again. Science, in the moment, cannot inform us. It’s a process that requires time.

Reply to  buggs
October 12, 2020 8:42 pm

Search engines are fine – so long as you realize that there is a bias involved. Even without the engine provider placing a heavy thumb on the scale, what you will get as the “top ranked” results are only what the majority using the engine has eventually gone to. Every one of those is going to be biased in different ways – and facts are NOT politics that are subject to a vote!

Not Chicken Little
October 12, 2020 7:42 pm

You have to do your own research to separate the sheep from the goats. Some “scientists” have agendas that do not necessarily include the objective truth, as much as that is possible. Some seek to deceive, and if that works out well for them others, being imperfect humans, will copy their methods. Just because you are highly educated, it does not follow that you are highly ethical.

Scientists are human, after all, and are subject to the same human foibles as all of us. In fact many “ordinary” people have noted the strange phenomenon that some people, the more “educated” they are in one area, seem to become stoopider in other areas…

October 12, 2020 7:56 pm

Without “do your own research” some of the most important scientific discoveries would never have been made.

The British Science Association would disagree with Siegel … and for that matter, should ‘scientists’ be allowed anywhere near statistics ?

” [ … ] we see science as the way in which we explore the natural and social world. We see its influences in fields ranging from mathematics to engineering, and medicine to economics. But even with this broad and inclusive definition and scope, science is often seen as too complex for anyone but experts.

This is a problem. Science is too important, valuable and fascinating to be left to professional scientists alone. For the good of society, the public, and scientific progress itself, science needs a broader community.”

Reply to  Streetcred
October 13, 2020 7:31 pm

Thanks for the link Streetcred. Very occasionally, the Guardian puts out a really good article. This was one of them.

I understand that scientists have to find funding to do what they do. But at the end of the day, the government funding comes from the pockets of taxpayers. It’s a bit like the ABC here in Australia, they’re funded to the tune of a billion dollars annually. They are politically left wing to the extreme. Most mainstream Australians refuse to tune in to them and resent that they are publicly funded.

Similarly, grants are being handed out willy nilly for some ludicrous studies that will do nothing to further anyone other than the person applying for the grant.

So to follow on from that, I see the rollout of renewable energy, supporting batteries and EV’s as a threat to the planet. With this choice of energy we are not only going backwards in regard to energy density, we are wasting valuable resources, creating vast environmental problems, ignoring humanitarian issues and destroying economies.

We ordinary folk are simply told to ‘trust the scientists’. Now I have no education in mathematics or science, but I know that this ‘cure’ for a problem that does not exist is beyond just being plain wrong.

Now, I only know from discovering this site that there are large numbers of scientists who agree with me. Except of course, you know why it’s all BS. I can only put down my doubts to ‘gut feeling’ or even just plain common sense. Of course collectively, you have helped me gain a greater understanding. I would hope that when I say that I’ve done a great deal of ‘research’ on a subject you would realise that I am referring to related articles. I have read thousands, from different sources and different perspectives. Of course, I’m not pretending it equates to government ‘research grants’ or that it covers to depth of research required of a scientist. But it’s the best I can do and it’s the only form of research available to me.

The MSM are not going promote alternative views on science. I just don’t get why some scientists are offended that laymen use the term ‘research’ when we’re describing our method learning. How else are we supposed to get information if we don’t read up on it?

The general public are paying the scientists who aren’t privately funded through our taxes. The public are being told only what the ‘consensus’ peer buddy scientists want them to know. This is grossly misleading and the public deserve to know that there are many scientists out there who do not agree with what is driving government policies globally.

Thanks for the opportunity to make my point to a broader audience Streetcred, it was originally my intention to keep out of this one.

October 12, 2020 7:58 pm

How many early inventions and discoveries were made by “laymen”? They certainly couldn’t depend on experts because there were none. Everything we know today started with someone making a discovery. Before we had learned experts there was no discovery? Thomas Edison did his own research. Enough said.

October 12, 2020 8:00 pm

Seigel thinks he’s a scientist, but Seigel is not scientific.

Hand waving at vague and vast swaths of scientific knowledge (generalities) has he does with, “In our own fields, we are aware of the full suite of data, of how those puzzle pieces fit together, and what the frontiers of our knowledge is [sic]” is not scientific. Its an old trick of scientific shysters, charlatans, and high priests too. It’s all too complicated for mere morals like you to understand. Leave it to us to ensure the rain falls as it should. Go back to your hovels, we shall call upon when we need your sweaty backs to build a taller pyramid.

F = ma, e = cm2. These are scientific proclamations. Concise statements open to evaluation by all. Neither of which explain gravity, so please feel free to come up with something better. In the meantime, these work well enough for most of our purposes

At best Seigel is a philosopher with an obvious political bias. Specifically, authoritarianism (i.e. modern Liberalism, which has only a slight resemblance to the dictionary definition of the word liberal). No conservative would write such a piece because no conservative would deign to take away, with one puny, illogical essay, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit happiness (i.e. knowledge), or the right to make up ones own mind on political maters, which is what he’s really taking about (not science).

And is anyone shocked that Portlandians reject the science on fluoride? Assuredly not I.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Thomas
October 13, 2020 6:24 pm

Seigel is writing on a topic that is outside his personal expertise. Should we trust the opinion of someone who violates his own guidelines?

October 12, 2020 8:05 pm

The motto of the Royal Society says it very succinctly, Nullius in Verba or “on the word of no one”. Science is structured debate. When the debates is over, the science is over.

Reply to  Sean
October 13, 2020 11:26 am

No it isn’t.

The debate is never over. As Feynman made so clear in his lectures. “WE can only ever be wrong”. Yes there are laws that are provable by observation repeatedly BUT, there may be better laws that more completely describe the natural phenomena. It is true that a law repeatedly proven by observation may be considered proven science until a more precise law is formulated, but theories that are disproven by observation are wrong in fact.


October 12, 2020 8:08 pm

How much knowledge, intelligence, etc. does it take to notice that scientists in some fields have a long and large track record of making predictions that did not come to pass? A person does not need to understand the concept of “falsifiability” to realize that a lot of predictions are failing.

October 12, 2020 8:09 pm

“The reason is simple: most of us, even those of us who are scientists ourselves, lack the relevant scientific expertise needed to adequately evaluate that research on our own.”

Only someone very stupid, or a sellout, would suggest that a very average 11 years old lacks “relevant scientific expertise” on vaccine and medical science to see that the CDC is full of it.

I call that adultoidy: the pseudo savant “adult” attitude that dismisses the fact that a child would immediately see that provax propaganda is demented. The minimization of “childish” abilities that adults do to make it so that they progressed when they actually regressed.

Flight Level
October 12, 2020 8:12 pm

Those who feed on crises need crises.

In July, while those lucky enough to work flew here and there tons of masks as relief aid, shops (and pharmacies) in France, Portugal, Spain and Italy were selling ordinary disposable China imported paper masks for about 12.50 Euros each. No kidding.

Today the very same are offered for 1.50 Euros each or in 10 packs for 15 Euros. About 30 times their production cost.

Sale staff will pick and handle them to you with the very same hands used to handle money coming from all customers.

No wonder masks are just compulsory virtue signaling overpriced amulets.

EMM, Easy Money Matters. Be it COVID, climate or even better, both combined.

October 12, 2020 8:24 pm

Typo causing miscommunication?

“The only way to be absolutely sure that one scientific pronouncement is reliable and another is not is to examine the evidence yourself.”

Looks to me that a comma or two are needed.

Seigel’s article argues in favor of ‘depending upon the Argumentum ad Verecundiam’ fallacy.
Instead of being wary of authoritative claims, Seigel proposes that should swallow authoritative claims hook line and sinker.

Next up; Forbes publishes an article in favor of pyramid scheme scams and fast talking con artists.

Reply to  ATheoK
October 13, 2020 12:43 pm

“…is reliable, and another is not, is to…” would be the proper way to write this. I was surprised by the confusion it created for me, since there is only one meaningful interpretation. But I’ve noted that lately
more and more public speakers are getting double negatives wrong and saying the opposite of what they mean.
And so I think we’re being conditioned to think first of typos and secondly of syntactical errors before considering simple punctuation. Spoken normally, this sentence would have been unremarkable.

Craig from Oz
October 12, 2020 8:24 pm

What has bemused me for years is the entire ‘peer reviewed’ argument.

The argument usually goes that unless your paper (or whatever) is ‘peer reviewed’ then your argument is clearly inferior to my ‘peer reviewed’ counter.

However, when you claim that their ‘peer reviewed’ paper has flaws your are mocked and rejected because you are clearly not a peer.

This is where we get to the topic of the day – Do Your Own Research vs Don’t.

Are we not ALL peers?

Not only that, we do not need to understand the research fully if we can clearly see the conclusions don’t make sense.

For examples – if someone was to claim that an event would cause millions of deaths, then we, the outside observer, should expect to see these deaths. If you are only observing hundreds of deaths then do you not have the right to question?

– If someone who is an expert in topic A (say – viruses) and makes the suggestion based on their virus knowledge that it would be a ‘no brainer’ to convert an entire counties manufacturing capacity into say ‘face masks and respirators’, then does someone who has little skill in topic A, but significant experience in topic B (say… engineering and manufacturing process) to reject this suggestion as completely unworkable? Having a skill in B does not make you a peer of someone who has skill in A, so therefore the B skilled person must be ignored when discussing A based recommendations?

Not all of us have the skills to be an exceptional cook, but I feel safe in saying that nearly all of us recognises a burnt meal when they see one. Just because you can’t technically describe what went wrong in the cooking processes does not prevent you from claiming the cook has made an error.

It would possibly prevent you from being able to offer a solution to prevent cooking failure in future, but the burnt dish is still burnt.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
October 13, 2020 5:04 pm

Kip – that is a better analogy than I was going to throw out, along the lines of ‘Only professional politicians should be allowed to judge politics’. Anyway, another thought provoking column. Thanks.

I read Matt Ridley regularly and have even given some of his books as gifts (although I never bought one for myself). Even when I don’t agree with Ridley he makes his points clearly and fairly.

I used to try to read Eric Siegel but I gave up long ago and now I avoid him. He always came across as a bombastic handwaver to me, a ten-cent Sagan, and never actually helped me understand anything about cosmic questions. I’d rather listen to someone like Roger Penrose – he always leaves me more confused than ever, but in an enjoyable way.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Craig from Oz
October 13, 2020 6:33 pm

You raise a point that I think deserves to be formally accentuated: the judgement about the quality of something is asymmetrical. That is, one does not have to have a PhD in ichthyology to know when a dead fish stinks.

The Dark Lord
October 12, 2020 8:28 pm

ahhh … theoretical astrophysicist … sounds like a hobby …

October 12, 2020 8:32 pm

Similarly, in the field of climate science, it’s overwhelmingly well-understood that:

NO, it is not overwhelmingly understood…… but there is a FABRICATED consensus.

the Earth is warming,
From the coldest period in 10,000 years, and still well below most of that 10,000 years
Only happening at El Nino events. Thank goodness for that slight warming.!

and local climate patterns are changing,
WEATHER patterns have always been variable , everywhere.

caused by changes in the concentration of gases in our atmosphere,
Only when those chemicals block incoming energy…..
Excess surface energy is removed mainly by convection and conduction, controlled by the molecular density gradient in the atmosphere. Only H2O has the ability to alter that control, because of its changes of state.

driven by human-caused emission of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels,
Absolutely NO EVIDENCE of that.. a mumbo-jumbo anti-science ASSumption.

and that this is having a number of adverse consequences: causing changes in food supplies, water availability, and land use all across the world.
Crop yields keep increasing, water supply issues are an engineering issue, often blocked by the greenie agenda. Land use for bio-fuels is causing a lot of harm, actual food crop land is decreasing.

So, basically everything in those statements is either trivial or WRONG.

Reply to  fred250
October 14, 2020 7:09 am

“and local climate patterns are changing,
WEATHER patterns have always been variable , everywhere.”

It’s comic that many scientists will talk abut the climate and forget that “climate” is the average of weather over 30 years(pretty arbitrary). . So trying to forecast climate for even a couple of months is impossible to do reliably. But weather forecasters such as Joe Bastardi have discovered that the weather follows patterns over 50 years long. So they can make more accurate weather forecasts by pattern matching current weather conditions with a similar, previous pattern. Computer modelling does about as well, if you, as a consumer, ignore forecasts more than a few days long. Computer models always fail after a short period as the errors mount up. Pattern matching, experience, and computer modelling can work more accurately because any pattern will only segue into other fairly specific patterns(rain storms rarely turn into snow in July).

The “climate experts” are mostly politicians. They should take their own advice. If CO2 is a cooling preventive gas they should all note that the increase of concentration is well along the exponential absorption curve. It will roughly take another doubling to 1200ppm to get warming equal to what we’ve seen- 150ppm to 300-400 ppm.

Jere Krischel
October 12, 2020 8:32 pm

The trick for laymen is to understand the scientific method, and insist on a necessary and sufficient falsifiable hypothesis statement before accepting anything as scientific.

In layman’s terms:

1) Tell me what observations would prove you wrong;

2) Tell me why if we don’t see those things, your explanation is the only one that works.

More precisely:

1) a list of observations, which if observed, mean your hypothesis is false;

2) a logical argument that the lack of those falsifications means that your hypothesis must be favored over all others (including the null).

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Jere Krischel
October 13, 2020 8:05 am

I think you have some steps messed up.

1) Observation of some outcome
2) Theory of why the outcome occurred
3) Create hypothesis that adequately predicts the outcome
4) Experimentation to confirm/falsify hypothesis

I am not sure a “null” hypothesis is always adequate in a situation with many confounding variables. With climate change you can make the hypothesis that “CO2 is THE control knob for temperature” and the null hypothesis “CO2 is NOT THE control knob for temperature”. I think the null has been proven but it doesn’t buy us much. CO2 is obviously a PART of atmospheric temperature but not the only part. GCM modelers are trying to create a testable hypothesis but are failing miserably.

My problem is spending trillions to “solve” something that doesn’t even have a testable hypothesis at this time.

Reply to  Jim Gorman
October 13, 2020 12:07 pm

SciAm now saying that falsification is a myth and it’s time to abandon it

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  TonyG
October 13, 2020 6:49 pm

I might start out by dismissing this as coming from SciAm. However, what the author is basically advocating is pragmatism. There is nothing pragmatic about a hypothesis that is shown to fail, that is, has been falsified. When the Black Swan trumpets, the game is over. So much for the pronouncements of yet another ‘expert!’

The Dark Lord
October 12, 2020 8:36 pm

“Relying on the reputation of the scientist, or the reporter reporting it, is the way that many of us go, and is better than nothing”.

actually its much worse than nothing becasue it gives the power of the truth to someone else when you should control it for yourself …

don’t do your own research really means DON’T QUESTION ME … and a BIG RED Flag of a fraudulent sceintist or hobbyist ( theoretical astrophysics, come on …)

October 12, 2020 8:58 pm

“Controlling the fluoride levels of water is a safe and effective public health intervention, reducing dental caries in children by 40% where it is implemented versus places where it isn’t implemented.”

Who drinks tap water?
I do, because I drink coffee.
But if you don’t drink coffee, do you drink tap water?
I think an effective public health intervention would be to provide tap water that taste good- particularly in low income areas.
Is everything you drink have controlled fluoride levels?
Should I “research” it?

Reply to  gbaikie
October 14, 2020 7:15 am

I generally drink tap water. It’s cheap, most places it tastes just fine. The problem I have is that I grew up with fluoridated water. Nearly cavity free after 4th grade. Out here in Pennsylvania you have to pay the dentist $40 for a fluoride treatment.

Robert of Texas
October 12, 2020 9:24 pm

People who are too ignorant, lazy, or busy to do their “own research” should at least be open minded and aware of the various points of view. Becoming convinced of one’s absolute correctness is the fastest way to end up espousing faith instead of educated opinion.

Maybe many scientists never learned, or perhaps they just forgot that anyone and anything can be wrong – all it takes is one leap in understanding to topple well-founded beliefs. The Standard Model is a perfect example of something that is scientific, well-founded, widely believed, very useful, and ripe to be replaced with something new and different. Maybe the new understanding will be a little nudge, or maybe like “The Theory of General Relativity” it is ground-breaking.

Many breakthroughs are performed by non-professional scientists – or at least were. It is getting to the point were one needs to be dedicated to a narrow field to really push the edge and that to me is a frighting thought. You can easily end up with a “clan” of elitists that dominate and pervert that branch of science. Climate Science is the perfect example of science gone bad.

Dodgy Geezer
October 12, 2020 9:38 pm

Feynman has his belief in the ignorance of scientists. I have belief in the wisdom of the uneducated and stupid.

No matter how low someone’s IQ is, people throughout history have shown a remarkable ability to tell when they are being conned. You may need considerable training and mental application to design wind turbines or nuclear power stations, but you don’t seem to need this to work out that being offered intermittent energy at ten times last year’s price is a num deal…

October 12, 2020 9:42 pm

–Similarly, in the field of climate science, it’s overwhelmingly well-understood that:

the Earth is warming,
and local climate patterns are changing,
caused by changes in the concentration of gases in our atmosphere,
driven by human-caused emission of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels,
and that this is having a number of adverse consequences: causing changes in food supplies, water availability, and land use all across the world.–

It also well-understood that we living in an Ice Age.
And what called Little Ice Age, ended around 1850 AD.
Anyone who read history, knows climate has been changing and we continue
to change in the future. No one is promising something as silly as stopping climate
change from occurring.
A trace gas is not responsible for climate changing.
One say that Dust Bowl was a climate change- and was not caused by CO2.
There was cooling in 1970’s and it was not caused by CO2.
There no valid claim that CO2 has ever caused climate change.
The climate change is referring to predictions. And many prediction have made
decades ago, and they did not happen. Most prediction about future have never happened, predicting the future as been a common hobby since the beginning of human history.
Oracles were go to priest class of Ancient Greece. Palm readers can found in any town.
There money to be made from guesses about the future.
People claim CO2 emission {in world which has low levels of CO2 {because we living in an Ice Age}, only climate change from higher CO2 level has been global greening and increase in crop yields. And nothing wrong with global greening or increasing crop yields.
So we are recovering from a colder period time, called the Little Ice Age which was few centuries of lower global temperatures. And prior to Little Ice Age, it warmer, and before that it was cooler, and etc.
And in regard longer periods of time, Earth has been slightly cooling for over 5000 years.
And more than 1 million years, we been in this Ice Age. Before that, there was a much higher global temperature. The human, as elementary school taught, “evolved” during this Ice Age. Perhaps you remember the bit about the increasing grasslands in Africa? Well, in cooler global conditions, forests give way to grasslands. Or cooler conditions are drier conditions- trees don’t well in drier conditions and the grass replaces it.

I think the key is education rather than “research”.
And part of basic education in the US, would be knowing what Supreme Court is.
What causes seasons- and a bunch of stuff.

kevin kilty
October 12, 2020 10:07 pm

When most of us say, do your own research, what we generally mean to say is protect yourself from the ordinary fools who will not do their own research, but just repeat what someone else told them.

Background research is but a part of doing science. No one is doing science unless after thorough background research they actually try to design an experiment, get apparatus to work, analyze data, and attempt to get it published in some way. There are virtually no amateurs who do anything like this. So with all due regard to Kip, and the two gents he quotes, the controversy is not real and the argument misdirected.

October 12, 2020 10:26 pm

Well done. Even in this technological age, there can be cases where our knowledge and overall understanding of a subject has yet to catch up to the extreme complexity of the problem at hand.

Alasdair Fairbairn
October 12, 2020 10:45 pm

The other day I made three observations on the Quora site.
1) That the IPCC was a political organisation.
2) That it was set up to determine any risks involved in anthropological CO2 emissions.
3) That it is not surprising that it found risks; as otherwise it would have been disbanded.

The first two were not supported by any deep research; so were well open to challenge.
The third was merely a personal surmise on the assumption that the first were true.

The result was an ad hominem attack on the basis that I had advanced a conspiracy theory; so had obviously touch a nerve which made me wonder whether this was indeed a matter where research was needed. Not I have any inclination or resources to carry out that task.

Boff Doff
October 12, 2020 11:13 pm

Siegel was saying “I am right and even if a ‘contrarian scientist’ disagrees with me do not dare form an opinion because you are a know nothing redneck”
That’s fair enough with regard to quantum theory or civil engineering. The problem relates to non-science science. Climate, political, economic, social, racial etc etc. Any conclusion drawn about these subjects is a matter of opinion not fact. None of these words can properly be followed by “Science”.
You may well be an expert in one or more of these subjects but you are not scientist. The vast majority of opinionology “theories” are postulates not even making it to the level of hypothesis.

Vincent Causey
October 12, 2020 11:46 pm

Siegel misses the point. People are not trying to analyse data and check the mathematics in scientific papers and then coming to “wrong” conclusions. Mostly, people are looking at the big picture and then applying common sense. For example, you might learn through a small amount of research that “predictions” of future temperatures are based on computer models, and moreover, that there are over a hundred of them and that they all vary wildly from 1.5c to 10c warming per doubling. Such a person applying common sense would then think “they cannot all be right.” That person may look a little closer and “oh look, there are 4 different model scenarios,” and they notice that the most extreme uses a scenario of a return to coal. But that is the exact same output being promoted by the worlds media. They might conclude that the model scenarios are being misrepresented to the public.

This is entirely appropriate role for the lay person to play. In fact it is absolutely essential for the functioning of democracy.

October 12, 2020 11:57 pm

If it is Science that produces a device, no one cares, the device will speak by itself. No one needs to know thermodynamics to choose the best car. The result of the knowledge is right in front of your eyes. However, when the “science” is used to impose government regulations with impacts in our daily life, every one is entitled to his/her own opinion. We dont want an expert dictatorship. I would love to see a REGULATION imposing equal public spending on opposite views research for any knowledge used to draw a regulation. Moreover, any industry that would suffer losses from the proposed regulation would be entitled to obtain public funds to conduct its own research to oppose the “science” used to harm its business. It would be a way to assure the society that the regulation was based on the best of our knowledge. Interesting, publications require scientists to show any funding from the private sector, but not the funding from public sector, which is orders of magnitude higher. So, researchers in the public sector are free to develop their own agenda. Finally, no one cares to do their own research for fields such astrophysics, particle physics – they just can wait to see who is going to be the winner.

October 13, 2020 12:12 am

It is true that “research” by some folks is not always helpful. I have quite a few times had colleagues who are quite intelligent but under-educated. Quite absurd theories can be quite genuinely held. Some training in the scientific approach and critical thinking is really helpful.

On the other hand if we were to rely on the “scientific” consensus surely the world would be flat, the sun would revolve around us and the weather would be controlled by the carefully timed sacrifice of virgins.

So possibly the way forward is for the independent researchers to keep bombarding the consensus with alternative theories and to keep asking “why” and “how” and “what about”.

I would have thought that to state that “the science is settled” shows a fundamental lack understanding about the scientific method!

October 13, 2020 12:24 am

That’s the Thunberg/Attenborough/Monbiot/Gore/ . . . problem solved.

Phil Salmon
October 13, 2020 12:38 am

SIEGEL — “You Must Not ‘Do Your Own Research’ When It Comes To Science”

This marks the beginning of a return to Medieval elitist scholasticism.
It won’t be long before they return to conducting research in Latin, to exclude outsiders.
They’re already doing all they can short of that to exclude outsiders, but they will always fail.
They’re simply not as smart as they think they are.
A lot of them are surprisingly stupid.

Venite formare atque mirabilis fabula de tempestate.
Uti possumus perdere inimicos nostros.

Reply to  Phil Salmon
October 13, 2020 2:25 pm

Better with “atque” removed.

Geoff Sherrington
October 13, 2020 1:05 am

Scientists who have had decades of accumulated experience in hard science should find it quite easy to recognize the trappings of this silly post-normal methodology and evualte it (mostly for rejection).
Discussions of the part to be played or not played by the sceptical onlooker quite often miss what the onlooker is doing and why. There are many, many instances of such people studying again the data of experts and obtaining quite different conclusions. This does not mean that they are right, but it does impose an obligation on the original researchers to take another look to see if they were wrong.
By ‘wrong’ I mean one or more of the dot points of logic failure had been used originally. Be that argument from authority or correlation/causation bewilderment or another of the many logic points, it is so, so easy to discover and so demote the importance of the original. Well over half of the “climate science” proponent authors can be found lacking by this simple filter. In the olden days, the authors and the sceptics would get together and sort it.
Another flashing red light is the inability or unwillingness of many climate authors to conduct proper, formal analysis of uncertainty. Again in the old days, this was unacceptable and authors claiming detailed, certain findings in a sea of noise were quickly rejected as unreliable. Geoff S
Today, the climate people actively avoid this collegial approach. I suspect that I know why. Geoff S.

October 13, 2020 1:07 am

Climate science is very immature, there isnt the depth of expertise needed to understand it to at least the level of almost all climate scientists.

““You Must Not ‘Do Your Own Research’ When It Comes To Science”” Even if that is so, you can certainly judge the prognostications of scientists!

You are also allowed to recognize eco-doom ‘scientific’ propaganda that is no different from that which has gone before.

Put it this way, when the science is junk, anyone can have a go.

October 13, 2020 1:31 am

Siegel is just an appeal to authority, “Trust me I’m a doctor”.

Reply to  Hans Erren
October 13, 2020 4:20 am

He was totally wrong in the one section I looked at.

Why would anyone bother with the rest. !

Climate believer
October 13, 2020 1:35 am

Siegel’s simple reason shows how Science can become a religion.

“The reason is simple: most of us, even those of us who are scientists ourselves, lack the relevant scientific expertise needed to adequately evaluate that research on our own.”

When even other scientists from unrelated fields are thought to be unworthy, what hope for the rest of us.

Here is a lighthearted article about our daily interaction with “Science”:

Andrew Lale
October 13, 2020 2:22 am

‘When laypersons espouse opinions on those matters, it’s immediately clear to us where the gaps in their understanding are and where they’ve misled themselves in their reasoning. When they take up the arguments of a contrarian scientist, we recognize what they’re overlooking, misinterpreting, or omitting.’ If scientists and educators took on the task of informing the public exactly where their reasoning is incorrect, and filling in the gaps in their knowledge in a polite and forthright way, we’d all really get somewhere. A healthy, high-functioning society like that would develop effective responses to real dangers. Compare my description, though, to the response of many in academia and the media to requests for clarification and substantiation of claims about Anthropogenic Global Warming and ‘Climate Change’. We are often told to shut up and go away, and just believe what we are told, often in a peremptory and defensive manner. Not a response, I think you’ll agree, which breeds confidence and trust.

October 13, 2020 2:46 am

“Or, if it is important enough to us individually or societally and we are capable of doing so, we should examine the evidence ourselves – we should do our own homework.”

And all homework needs to be turned in.

you are missing the last step.

So recently I had a Phd student send me some of his work.
he did it all himself
he was smart enough to realize that the last step is passing it to someone else to check.

Doing your own home is necessary, but not sufficient.

turn it in,

Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 13, 2020 4:17 am

Literature or social science , mosh ?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 13, 2020 7:11 pm

And most of us, having egos, don’t like to be embarrassed by publishing something that has stupid mistakes in it — things like no capitalization, incomplete sentences, and lack of punctuation. So, we ‘turn our homework in” to someone we trust to edit it, and if we are really paranoid (and the better ones usually are) we try to find someone to review it for content — the adult equivalent of the 6-year old we have to explain it to. It is ironic to be lectured by someone who doesn’t follow his own advice.

Scott Wilmot Bennett
October 13, 2020 3:10 am

Every conscious being engages in science! There is an uninterruptible continuum between sticking your toe in the water or smelling the air to calculating Newton’s mechanics in high school but – in my humble case – not attempting to solve quantum wave equations!

Look it up, “science” is an invented word that grew out of Natural Philosophy, used to describe and perhaps elevate, the amateur hobby of those with leisure to spare, observing nature and making “rational” conjectures based on reasonable assumptions.

The basis of science is Logic and while it can be taught the underlying “laws” have long been know to be “a priori”. This most fundamental aspect of thought is not learnt, studied or taught, it is akin to sentience itself, the root of the word science.

What these guys* are actually engaging in; is gas-lighting. The word “science” is debased to an ideological term like the words climate, carbon or racism!

These words are being abused for political purposes. And sadly, the particular purpose is to justify totalitarian authoritarianism. ;-(

*Siegel and Ridley

Reply to  Scott Wilmot Bennett
October 16, 2020 4:00 am

Seigel’s weak point is that all you really need is an decent understanding of human nature and basic politics, from there one can use simple tools to then examine the evidence. It’s actually not that difficult, it’s more that people don’t start from a Skeptical, reasoning position to begin with.

I had an argument recently over a politically charged Australian legal case with a bunch of lawyers and social workers, about a particular conviction, which ultimately went to the Supreme court. They were all adamant the legal system worked, the initial judgement was very likely correct, but I was very skeptical. The Supreme Court later overturned the decision, on exactly the same doubts and issues I was highlighting. It actually wasn’t that complicated, it was more about the approach one uses to begin with. Their judgement was ultimately clouded by their initial approach, they didn’t actually look in any real detail at the basic evidence to begin with, and just trusted that the system ‘worked’. Many in science make the same mistake. (Science research is like sausages and legislation, those who admire these things shouldn’t see how they are made. It’s the same with some legal convictions, the way this case came to a conviction was a biased mess. )

Andrew M
October 13, 2020 3:20 am

Don’t read non primary sources. Don’t trust call to authority.
Dig for experimental data, check data backs inferences, check for sources of error and controls. Check maths used. Check simplifying assumptions are valid.
Attempt to reproduce the experimental observations yourself.
If the observations don’t fit the model, change the model!

Reply to  Andrew M
October 13, 2020 9:52 pm

Well Andrew, since the whole renewables ‘experiment’ has proven to be an epic failure, how do we stop it?

October 13, 2020 4:25 am

All Siegel is doing is regurgitating often-faked consensus memes. !

Then saying no-one should question them.

In that way, he is no better than griff or loy !

Ben Vorlich
October 13, 2020 5:35 am

Michael Faraday, a book binders apprentice. Humphreys Davy apprenticed to a surgeon. Antoine Gombaud a gambler, Hedy Lamar an actor, Albert Einstein a patent office clerk. Scientists masquerading as lay people. There are many more, and discoveries by scientists and engineers outside their fields of expertise, Michael Mann for example

October 13, 2020 5:44 am

(voice of siegel) plebes be silent. your betters will tell you what to think.

Coeur de Lion
October 13, 2020 6:10 am

Not a ‘scientist’ but well educated, I have no difficulty in researching the climate change question with an incredible accuracy and strength. I merely run Mann versus Montford, Mann vs Steyn, Cook et al vs Duarte, Monckton vs the U.K. Met Office; Ridley vs windmills, Heller vs NASA, Homewood vs the BBC, Booker vs a lot, WUWT vs many issues incl UHI effects, Curry vs that appalling Congressman. , any one who says ‘carbon’ when they mean carbon dioxide, the composition of the UK’s Climate Change Committee vs the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Academic Advisory Council and there doesn’t seem to any need for RESEARCH as such.

October 13, 2020 6:39 am

I will continue to do my on research, anyone trying to stop me just makes it that much more important. Until all the leftist political hacks and liars are driven out of science non-scientists have to keep slamming their heads into every available wall. The louder they screech the harder we have to slam.

October 13, 2020 6:55 am

There’s a lot I can’t understand in the scientific research. I have to rely on experts or science writers to help me understand what is likely to be true and what is likely to be important. BUT, common sense and reasoning skills are a separate skill and I consider mine to be at least on par, and often superior to that of the scientific experts.

For instance, with climate science, I may not be able to understand much of the hard science and I need science writers to help me digest the current state of knowledge, but I know what it means to prove an argument and if it is clear that data is being misused, alternative explanations are ignored, or uncertainties are downplayed or also ignored, I have no problem calling bullshit. And when it happens with regularity and all the fudging is in a particular direction, I am comfortable rejecting the entire effort even if I’m not an expert.

October 13, 2020 7:01 am

The main precondition to do science is a high IQ. Although it can be trained, it is mainly a gift by nature and any lack of it, can not be compensated by education. Being in the top 0.1% range I find it relatively easy to dive into certain scientific disciplines and soon overmatch its most experienced proponents. “Climate science” was not a hard nut to crack.

On the other side universities mass produce low IQ “scientists” (<130), whose only ever contribution to science will be (hopefully) quoting others correctly. Regrettably it is not just useless, but actively harmful to science. We are priorizing quantity over quality, formalism over materialism, and get spam instead of science.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Leitwolf
October 13, 2020 7:30 pm

There is more to being a scientist than the good luck to have a high IQ. More important is an attitude or a way of looking at the world. It is a desire to understand things as part of a coherent mental model. It is a reaction to an unexpected result: “Now that’s interesting!” Idiot Savants that can provide the 5th root of a 17-digit number might score well on a math test, but I don’t know of any that became famous for their discoveries about how physical processes inter-relate. Someone like Edison probably had a higher score for perseverance than general intelligence. He probably frequently said to himself, “What if …?” However, most importantly, exceptional scientists have to ‘think outside the box,’ not go along with the consensus.

However, I do agree with your opinion that, in general, the quality of today’s scientists pale in comparison to the giants of the past. Could any of today’s self-anointed climatologists duplicate the work of Maxwell or Fresnel?

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
October 14, 2020 8:11 am

Well, “‘thinking outside the box’ is the key intelligence function, not drawing 5th roots out of whatever. Actually those boxes are the auxiliaries for those not gifted enough. They do “science” by imitation, not by innovation. And the whole education system is totally supporting it.

“Could any of today’s self-anointed climatologists duplicate the work of Maxwell or Fresnel?”

Probably not! But at least one could consequently apply the work of Fresnel on climate science to make same real progress..

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Leitwolf
October 14, 2020 5:09 pm

A minor complaint is that, strictly speaking, all indexes of refraction are complex, having an imaginary component commonly referred to as the extinction coefficient. The extinction coefficient is small for water, but probably shouldn’t be ignored. Also, since a ray of light is composed of orthogonal components of p and s polarization (one can resolve the p and s components by passing the light through an anisotropic, transparent crystal such as calcite) it makes more sense to show the total reflectivity as the sum of the p and s, rather than the average. However, the Fresnel equation can be manipulated to get the right answer either way.

In case you missed it, you might find this interesting:

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
October 15, 2020 12:47 pm

Well Clyde, I read your article a while ago and to a certain degree it was helpful back then. Please don’t feel offended, but it was because a) it showed some of the things to be explored, and b) how much you guys struggle with logic. It got clear that if I would not deal with it, no one ever will.

“I also did a discreet summation of the frustums of a hemisphere (Af = 2πR DX). Multiplying the normalized (to a unit area for the hemisphere) frustum areas by the average reflectivity for the angle of incidence, for each of the frustums, gives the area-weighted reflectivity for each frustum. Summing them gives an area-weighted average reflectivity of about 18%. This is the instantaneous area-averaged reflectance over a hemisphere. This is almost an order of magnitude larger than the sunlight reflected from a small spot on the surface of the ocean directly below the local noon sun during an equinox. It is far greater than the apparent albedo (≪2%) of our hypothetical Waterworld!”

If I use n = 1.34 that result is 17.5%. But let me explain the problem. Let us look at the hemisphere gradient by gradient, with 0% being where the sun is in the zenith and 90% for the terminator. Then obviously the gradient 0-1° makes up for a tiny share of the surface (0.02%), while the last gradient (89-90°) covers the largest surface (1.74%). Thus the high reflectivity towards the terminator (according to our Fresnel equations) get a large weighting.

However that last gradient only receives a tiny share of sun light, because it is hardly visible from the sun’s perspective, if you will. On the other side the first gradient receives the maximum share of sun shine. If we allow for this, then both the first and the last gradient have a weighting of only 0.03%, while gradients 45 (and 46) have the largest weighting of 1.74%. That is because they have both a relatively large surface AND get a decent amount of insolation. Then, as explained in the article with n=1.33 hemispheric reflectivity (or albedo) is indeed 6.6% and NASA is essentially right.

Important: the same weighting applies to emissions from the surface into a hemisphere, if you include lamberts cosine law. So even in this regard absorption and emission are symmetric!

“There has been work done with modeling CERES satellite measurements; however, judging from the following illustrations, they don’t have it right. The right-hand illustration of Fig. 2 shows a hemisphere with a large amount of land. The oceans are shown as darker than vegetated land (8% –18% albedo). Indeed, a value of 6% for open ocean seems to be totally inappropriate”

No it is not, as explained above. However if you look at satellite pictures the question is always if they include clouds or not. But then, even if the sky is clear, a lot of light is actually coming from the sky. I think it is best understood if you look at a picture like the one below. The sky is bright, while the (open) water is pretty dark. So looking from space onto the ocean, most light you see is not from the water, but from the atmosphere above it. Even with a clear sky! Even then, as you can see in the picture, most light from the water is only the reflected sky. Where the water, due to waves, is more directed to the observer, it is almost pitch black.

“Clouds can vary widely in their albedo, but a commonly accepted average value is around 50%.”

I would say clouds have naturally a higher albedo. The question is just if they are opaque or thin and transparent.

“When sunlight does reach the surface, the 100% reflectivity at the Earth’s limbs helps explain, in part, why the poles are so cold”

Interestingly snow behaves very differently in the near IR spectrum, that represents are large part of insolation. There snow reflects little to almost nothing and turns into an excellent absorber. On the other side we know water reflects o lot of light at flat angles. For that reason melting poles are not such a significant feedback to “global warming”.

comment image

Finally, with clouds, as I have pointed out “climate science” is totally on the wrong path. There would be an aweful lot to explain, but my article covers some of it.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
October 17, 2020 2:35 pm

The 18% in my article is double what it should be, as was pointed out by another commenter. I don’t have the luxury of being able to go back and change things as certain other privileged posters do. Otherwise, I would have.

Yes, the reflectance of IR by snow is low, but also the output of the sun is low at IR wavelengths, and the atmosphere is most transparent in the visible range, so visible light is most responsible for heating of land and water.

Your article states, “The 1 below the comma, which is usually omitted, represents emissivity, …” Did you mean “division operator symbol” rather than “comma?”

Your analysis is flawed. The reflectivity at any point is what is is. However, the energy reflected is the product of the reflectivity and the intensity of a point ray, integrated over the surface area of the water.

Despite your brilliance, you have missed the most important part. Namely, the climate models, using only albedo, miss the energy that is scattered forward and only estimate the back-scattered energy. Therefore, the estimate of light that is absorbed in water is biased high.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
October 17, 2020 5:54 pm

Your article states, “The 1 below the comma, which is usually omitted, represents emissivity, …” Did you mean “division operator symbol” rather than “comma?”

Oh yes, sorry for that!

Also I fear I failed to decipher what you wrote after “Your analysis is flawed”..

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Leitwolf
October 13, 2020 10:32 pm

Would be interesting to compare IQ with say golf handicap or ability to play piano.
I have a sly feeling that top scientists have more than a high IQ.

October 13, 2020 7:12 am

We have arrived at the point of the churches of medieval times. Only the professional clergy was allowed to read and interrupt the scriptures, lest any one else, who could read, interrupt them differently. Indeed, they determined what scriptures were canonized and what were not. It shows clearly that CAWG is a religion-not a science.

At that time only few of the population could read or write, even their native language, much less high Latin or Greek. This hi-lights another problem. The slide back into basic scientific illiteracy among the general population.

Many here received basic scientific education decades ago. Moreover, many here were taught how to self learn. Neither of these basic pillars exist in today’s education systems.

The solution to this problem is not as Siegal proposes, but rather it is doing your own research. The only way to learn how to do you own research, or to apply the skill if have been fortunate to have been taught how to self learn, is by doing it.

October 13, 2020 7:13 am

These two articles are missing a discussion of bias, which can affect both laymen and scientists.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” ― Upton Sinclair

Follow the money, and you find Big Pharma behind a lot of “news” and Medical Journal articles. These promote the drugs/vaccines/etc. They deal with nasty results like Wakefields’ discovery that vaccines cause autism by blithely claiming “Oh, that’s been debunked,” when in fact his research has been repeated in several other countries.

One of these is a heavy defense of the Logical Fallacy “Appeal To Authority.” Yet it is absolutely correct in saying that most of us are doing Confirmation Bias “research,” and that most people simply do not have the background needed to “do your own research.”

One thing that helps a lot and needs to be said more often is “follow the money.”

Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
October 13, 2020 7:16 am

“follow the money.” THAT is precisely the kind of “do your own research” that is frowned upon. How dare you try to hold your superiors accountable.

Tim Gorman
October 13, 2020 7:23 am

I hark back to the old bromide: A specialist is someone that knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing”

So many of the so-called scientific studies presented here on WUWT are perfect examples. E.g. a study saying that rising maximum temperatures will negatively impact the harvest of wheat and rice and we need to spend trillions to lower CO2 emissions. The problem is “assuming” that maximum temps are going up because the “global average temperature” is going up. You simply can’t make that assumption. Even a layman can look at the record grain harvests we are seeing for more than 15 years and question what that study is really telling us.

I could go on and on with other examples but the real takeaway is that even if you don’t have the math skills to analyze the study data independently, it is still possible to determine if the data actually describes reality – and that is true measure of science.

October 13, 2020 7:55 am

Questions to ask:

1. Where are the controlled physical experiments that led to this conclusion?
2. Are the data and analysis behind the conclusion freely available and presented unambiguously?
3. Does the conclusion make definitive predictions on a timescale relatively smaller than a human lifespan and that for any possible human responses?
4. Does someone have a financial or political stake in this conclusion?
5. Is the debate over this issue free and vigorous or has the debate been suppressed or restricted?
6. Can the supporters of the conclusion provide a hypothetical situation which would cause them to reject or modify their conclusion?
7. Can the skeptics conceive of a hypothetical situation which would cause them to accept the conclusion?

Reply to  Kevin
October 13, 2020 12:09 pm

Another easy starting point is to recognize what you are being presented with.

Is it a Story Referencing A Study?

If so, you already know the info in front of you is too superficial to be scientific.

You then have to do some of your own digging to find if you are being presented with anything useful somewhere buried or linked.

Usually, the Study is inconclusive anyway, and you can move on to the next. The Study is very often just a Sciencey Sounding Plot Device for the Story.


October 13, 2020 8:36 am

Trust the Science! Science Over Fiction!

Put Statins into the Water Supply
Dr John Reckless (great name), chairman of Heart UK and a consultant endocrinologist at Bath University, put forward the case.
“So maybe people should be able to have their statin, perhaps if not in their drinking water, with their drinking water. The issue is how far we should be encouraging wider use,” he said.

All Post-Menopausal Women Should be on Hormone Therapy
This was based on the “Nurses Study”. Only one problem: it killed a lot more women than it saved.

The Continents are Fixed and Do Not Move
This one was disproved while I was still in school. No text book we ever had mentioned Plate Techtonics. This was less than Sixty years ago. We were taught that the continents were fixed and immovable.

The Universe is Fixed and Does Not Expand
A guy by the name of Hubble (they named a telescope after him) proved this one wrong early in the 20th century.

97% of Scientists in Agreement About Global Warming
If you don’t believe this one is total BS, do a search on ‘Doran Zimmerman 97%’. They handpicked 79 respondents to a questionnaire (sent to over 10,000) and found that 77 of them agreed with them. 77 / 79 = 97%. For those of my age, this is no different than hearing, “Good news Comrades! Chairman Khrushchev was re-elected by 97% of the vote!”

Cataclysmic Events Do Not Cause Evolution or change the planet
Tell that to the dinosaurs. Thank you, Alvarez father and son.

Saturated Fats Will Kill You
No, they won’t. There is overwhelming evidence on this one. If you don’t believe that, ask yourself, “Should I consume food invented in the past few years in a laboratory, or just eat what humans have been eating for over a million years.”

Computers Will Get Huge and be Bigger Than City Blocks
The first computer system I ever worked on (a Univac) filled a room, was noisy as hell, generated an enormous amount of heat, and gave answers after a few minutes. My cell phone has millions more bytes of storage than that Univac, generates almost no heat, and gives answers in milliseconds.

comments attacking my position will most likely be in an ad hominin attack, so I should be referenced as ‘greaser’ or ‘redneck’

October 13, 2020 8:48 am

It’s called due diligence and anyone who accepts one side of controversial science without applying the proper due diligence TO BOTH POSITIONS lacks the legitimacy to choose either side.

Mark Pawelek
October 13, 2020 9:12 am

Siegel points out the cavity rate among children is 40% higher in non-fluoridated areas. His argument boils down to parents are unfit to raise children so the state must take over. It’s been a disaster wherever the state tried it’s hand rearing children. For example in children’s homes.

To the voting public, a fear of chemicals and an affinity for what feels natural was more compelling

Siegel should ask himself how much ‘science‘ contributes to public fear? By promoting linear no-threshold, cholesterol-the-killer, ‘climate crisis’, and now the virus lockdown scams. How many more scams and lies should the science establishment be allowed to con the public with?

“Even those of us with excellent critical thinking skills and lots of experience trying to dig up the truth behind a variety of claims are lacking one important asset: the scientific expertise necessary to understand any finds or claims in the context of the full state of knowledge of your field

I don’t know why he says us. He has no critical skills.

1. I’ve spent a fair bit of time mastering critical thinking. Studying it. Debating (including logical fallacies – avoiding, refuting). Understanding the scientific method including many of its critics. Studying philosophy in general. But what about this ‘scientific expertise‘ thing? I have no qualifications in climate science.

Guess what Professor Ferguson has qualifications in virology. He’s a mathematician.
GISS climate modeling boss: Gavin Schmidt has no qualifications in climatology. He’s another mathematician.

Where is Ethan Siegel when we need him: identifying faux-scientists who aren’t? Nowhere to be found it seems. I have a first degree in Maths/Computer Science. That gives me basic qualifications to look at mathematical models. Plus a HND in Chemistry and Microbiology. Microbiology included viruses. Chemistry includes pH, and ocean acidity.

Siegel presents a chart of average global temperature anomalies since 1880.

His chart is illegitimate:
(1) There was hardly any data before the 1920s. Even after, and now, there are large areas of the world with no surface thermometers.
(2) The data is all first homogenized, infilled, and kringed. The chart is not an average of raw data.
(3) Many of the surface stations used are greatly influenced by the urban heat affect which makes urban temperatures far warmer than rural temperatures. About 50% of the climate stations used on land are, potentially, corrupted by the urban heat effect. The only legitimate solution is for scientists to relocate the vast majority of climate stations to rural areas. They haven’t.
(4) There’s no good evidence for a signal from man-made climate change. The causes of climate change since 1880 could mostly be natural
(5) In the case of the USA, which has the best network of ground climate stations in the world: USCRN, there’s a major anomaly. The hottest years on record are in the 1930s!
(6) Globally when we split ground temperatures into two series
6.1 Ocean air sheltered (OAS)
6.2 Ocean air affected (OAA)
We find warming for the OAA but not for the OAS. No warming for the OAS since the 1950s. None for USA OAS since the 1930s.

That is incompatible with the expected behaviour of the greenhouse gas effect; or man-made warming (AGW). AGW should show warming irrespective of OAA or OAS.

Therefore, the lack of warming in the OAS temperature trends after 1950 should be considered when evaluating the climatic effects of changes in the Earth’s atmospheric trace amounts of greenhouse gasses as well as variations in solar conditions.

– 2018: Lansner and Pedersen.

After the chart, Siegel flies off to outer space with wild, and unsubstantiated claims about the climate revealing him as another hysterical climate alarmist. [Something Forbes is now expert at] Siegel should stick to making stories up about space and space travel. Leave the science commentary to adults willing to take jumped-up modelers to task.

Peter W
October 13, 2020 9:52 am

There was a certain man, a scientist, who did his own research and proposed a theory based on that research. His research was not in his recognized field of expertise, and was roundly criticized and insulted by the REAL experts in the field. He was then ostracized, along with anyone who dared to agree with him, and he died some 15 years after presenting his paper, largely despised.

It took another 30 to 40 years before most people finally agreed that this scientist was basically correct. Unfortunately it was too late to apologize to him for the way he had been treated. You can read the story of Alfred Wegener on the internet today.

I graduated in the top quarter of my class with a 4 year degree in physics and no intent of becoming a physicist, but that is a long, unrelated story. About 14 years ago I became aware of this climate change debate, and decided to do my own research. On a trip to Alaska I learned about the melting of the 65 mile long Glacier Bay glacier, which started melting about the year 1800, and was 3/4 melted by the year 1900, prior to the invention of the airplane, the mass production of the auto, and with worldwide population about 1/4 of today in 1900, even less in 1800.

By the way, it appears that the information on the melting, obtained from the charts of the early mariners, has been deleted from the charts by the National Parks Service.

Bob Weber
October 13, 2020 10:10 am

The problem with science is once those in high places have spoken, the rest will follow, and thereafter it becomes very much more difficult to break through the original groupthink biases and control systems put in place to enforce their consensus. Once scientists attain power they have no incentive to change their minds.

Recently I recieved emails from the AGU and the NAS/NAM with offical sounding statements regarding the need to keep politics out of science, but the problem is it’s too late – they are already captive to politics.

Most of the climate science leaders came up under Al Gore and the IPCC’s influence, who’ve directed climate science politically for decades. All government money is channelled to it, enhancing it’s power. Now Democrat Senators Harris and Warren have called for legally enforceable climate discussion censorship to stop the strawman ‘denyers’. Their main argument seems to be we deny the climate changed. Pretty weak.

In this way no textbook has to be changed and no scientist who is fundamentally wrong has to lose face by admitting failure, nor any politician who promoted those ideas and scientists, and everything can keep blissfully rolling along built on a foundation of error. Imagine how far they would go with unrestrained power, all because they don’t want anyone to do research that contradicts them – so true for COVID-19 too.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

Fortunately we still have the freedom this year to explore the hows and whys of what the elite got wrong.

-the solitary inventor tinkering in his shop

October 13, 2020 11:46 am

When it comes to “Do your own research”, it would be a major step forward if people just did enough research to see what scientists and the cited authorities actually said, and interpret that for themselves, instead of relying on newspaper articles and the like to tell them what it means.

Reply to  TonyG
October 13, 2020 12:10 pm

I just kind said the same thing upthread.


Reply to  TonyG
October 13, 2020 1:31 pm

Well put TonyG. I have only a BS in Biology, however, thanks to Willis, Anthony, Kip and others on this site, I have little trouble spotting the BS. It doesn’t take too much effort to spot the biases, assumptions, over-reliance on models, appeals to authority and other nonsense being passed off as science by those who want us to bow to their ‘superior’ knowledge.

Pat from Kerbob
October 13, 2020 1:50 pm

I would love to trust the experts, but i have read too much about mickey mann, peer review and how a bunch of checks and balances have been subverted or bypassed.

So, no, horse has left the barn.

Love it when the people most responsible for destroying public faith in science say we need to trust the consensus.
Again, no.

At least, not any more

Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
October 13, 2020 10:45 pm

+100 Pat

Steve Wood
October 13, 2020 2:05 pm

I fully understand the core arguments from both Siegal and Ridley and it is difficult to to tease out from the pros and cons of a scientific argument who is right and who is wrong or if both sides are flawed. But, and this is a big BUT, you only need to see a single a flaw in an argument to reveal that it is likely to be unsubstantiated. So while other factors may be out of your scientific purview it could be a methodology issue rather than a scientific principle which gives the game away.

October 13, 2020 3:24 pm

Siegel says:

“In our own fields, we are aware of the full
suite of data, of how those puzzle pieces fit together, and what the frontiers
of our knowledge is.”

It is to laugh!

I recently had a consultation with a youngish hip surgeon, considered the best by some of his colleagues at the fourth largest hospital in the province of Quebec. I sought his expert opinion on whether recent symptoms on my metal on metal Birmingham hip might be related to metallosis, and specifically whether he would order a nickel sensitivity test for me.

He told me that my cobalt and chromium test results were not worrysome, and that my BHR was properly positioned (all of which I knew already).

I replied that Derek McMinn, (the originator of the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing (BHR), and arguably the most successful hip surgeon in the world), was quoted in an interview of February, 2019, saying that, in the course of implanting and following 5,000 metal on metal hip emplacements over 28 years, he had not seen a single case of cobalt toxicity. But that, even in properly positioned BHRs, nickel sensitivity was a serious issue in that “ the BHR patients’ immune system is
affected , with some patients being rendered highly sensitive to nickel.”

My local “expert” airily dismissed this, saying the he was certain that cobalt poisoning is the primary metallosis issue for MOM hips, and that Nickel is an insignificant factor.

I had brought a copy of the McMinn interview of almost two years ago, which my consultant clearly had not read or heard of, and offered it to him. But he refused to look at it, and his subsequent report shows no indication that he had learned anything from our meeting.

Siegel is simply an apologist for dogma, and “established authority”, as shown by his use of phrases like:

“arguments of a contrarian scientist”,

“valuing the actual expertise that ‘legitimate’ experts have ‘spent lifetimes’ developing”, and

“scientific consensus is so remarkably valuable: it only exists when the overwhelming majority of
qualified professionals all hold the same consistent professional opinion”

The latter can fairly be equated with the statement, “60 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong”,
just substitute “x thousand scientists”, or even “7 billion sheep”. Siegel would surely have called for Galileo’s execution.

Ridley, OTOH, is unbelievably naive in his suggestion that:

“The only way to be absolutely sure that one scientific pronouncement is reliable and another is not is to examine the evidence yourself.”

If this were true, we would be doomed. It’s comparable to saying that if you want your hip done correctly, you’ll have to do it yourself.

It’s impossible for anyone to master all of the technical terminology, the tools, and the data available, even if they were universally accessible to everyone. Which is very far from the case.

Nor are the two fallible methods suggested:

“Relying on the reputation of the scientist, or the reporter reporting it, is the way that
many of us go, and is better than nothing.”

the only, or even the best ways to determine plausibility.

The first technique is to detect the liars, the cheats, the inconsistent data, the experiments set up to fail, etc.. This alone will allow us to eliminate the great majority of claims.

Hydroxychloroquine is a good example.

Two reports in The Lancet claiming that this commonly used drug with a long record of use was highly dangerous to cardiac health were withdrawn when it was discovered that the source and integrity of the data could not be confirmed. But the CDC immediately stopped clinical testing.

A JAMA report of another clinical trial maintaining no benefit and making the same assertions of serious health risks of using the drug was fatally flawed in that it failed to follow the clearly detailed protocol of successful clinical use around the world by starting the treatment when the virus was already replicating and by using a dosage close to the established toxic level.

Yet the CDC failed to resume testing, and so hydroxychloroquine was not approved for use in the US (nor Canada), and the CBC, BBC, and PBS all reported this drug as dangerous and useless. I recall particularly the PBS Newshour’s resident “science reporter”, saying that “several studies” had proven this, long after they had been discredited.

Well, this will not teach you anything about the safety or efficacy of hydroxychloroquine taken at 400mg/day for five days starting during the first five days of Covid-19 symptoms, with or without zinc or remdesivir. But it should teach you something about the reliability of these three public broadcasting sources, the CDC, Dr. Fauci, and a whole boatload of sheepish epidemiologists, virologists, and infectious disease specialists, etc..

And I’m not saying this because I like Trump. In fact, I consider him a bloody coward for not following his own advice and taking the established hydroxychloroquine treatment when he got the virus. And more importantly, for not using his executive power to prevent the State Governors from blocking public access to this affordable drug.

I would rather trust the reports of the many physicians around the world of successfully treating dozens to thousands of Covid-19 infections with this protocol.

Peter W
Reply to  otropogo
October 13, 2020 4:50 pm

I developed a nasty case of psoriasis on my right knee a few years ago. My family doctor prescribed an ointment, which had limited effectiveness, so I decided to look up psoriasis on the internet. A statement there reported that nobody really knew what caused it, but it seemed to be related to an overactive immune system. Overactive immune system describes me perfectly, and suddenly I realized that the right knee was the one with the partial knee replacement, put in a couple of years or so previously. So I went out and purchased one of those 24 hour antihistamines, and the knee cleared up quite adequately. It is not the first time it has taken me a couple of years to develop a reaction to something new!

A few months later I ended up in the hospital for 2 1/2 days for an unrelated problem, and was asked on the second day what prescriptions I was taking. I told them, and requested a daily antihistamine also. “What do you need that for? I was asked. I told them, and the request went down to the hospital pharmacist. Back came my prescription pills and the sarcastic comment “Antihistamine isn’t for knees!” I knew I was getting out soon, so didn’t fight it. By the time I got home, the knee was a mess again and it took a few days on the antihistamine to get it cleared up.

I have had allergy problems all my life, and it is sad to report the times I have had to solve them myself, with much lack of knowledge and even denials from the professionals, including allergy specialists.

Nick Schroeder
October 13, 2020 4:12 pm

Don’t know quite where to post this. Here is as good as any.

A book recommendation: “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson

Comprehensive and an easy read.

And tainted like most everything by greenhouse and carbon dioxide nonsense.

What I found of particular interest was that several major insights, breakthroughs and explanations of the earth’s science and history were made by persons imminently unqualified to make them especially in the eyes of the pretentious, good-old-boy, scientific “consensus” network that stood by throwing rocks, name calling and making threats when in the end it became obvious they were the ones in error.

Sound familiar?

October 13, 2020 10:45 pm

Seigel is suggesting a religious approach, that the high priests are infallible. In other words, don’t read the bible for yourself, just accept what your priest is telling you (and out money in their bowl). People who read the bible for themselves immediately find out just how nuts the whole thing is

Steve Case
October 14, 2020 8:56 am

Here’s some research anyone can do: Every month save GISTEMP’s Land Ocean Tmperature Index
and compare it to the previous month. So GISTEMP released their monthly update this morning, and of the 1689 entries since 1880 they changed 303 of them. This goes on in a steady drone every month. Plotted out the differences over the last ten years looks like this
comment image
If you follow the link, you will see that ALL of the adjustments since 1970 were bumped up, and most of the previous years were bumped down.
Note that each bar represents the average adjustment for that year.

That those adjustments are made is a matter of fact.
Why they’ve been made is a matter of opinion.

October 14, 2020 1:34 pm

There is an interesting point of agreement between Ridley and Siegel in that both emphasise the danger of confirmation bias, and it is this that brings out the difference between them. Ridley’s piece is an lucid invitation to watch empirical science at work investigating coronavirus, and he emphasises that the key is falsification. Established science is the set of hypotheses which have survived all attempts to falsify them with evidence.

Siegel sees the matter rather differently. He envisages the scientific amateur researching “both sides” of some topic such as coronavirus; those sides, one gathers, being received opinion and contrarianism. Amateurs, he warns, will inevitably come across evidence appearing to confirm crank theories and be deceived by it. Professionals, on this view, are people who have mastered a far greater amount of relevant knowledge than the rest of us: that body of knowledge is “the” science and it “overwhelmingly indicates” that, for instance, vaccination is safe. Falsification does not come into this view of science: scientific knowledge is the body of hypotheses with the most facts confirming them.

Implicit in Siegel’s picture of “consensus” maintained by scientists and fake controversies manufactured by conspiracy theorists is an assumption that the purpose of science is to take action about coronavirus, climate and so on. To him, dissent is not only wrong but dangerous, and scientific laymen armed with a little learning can only do harm.

Naturally, my sympathies are with Ridley. I try to form an understanding of what the scientists are saying about coronavirus, though I am not scientifically educated and it is true that the experts understand a huge body of knowledge about viruses and the immune system which I have no hope of mastering. Most of the disputed questions do not involve observed fact but general issues of scientific reasoning, particularly statistical inference and experimental design, which are within the grasp of any reasonably intelligent individual to understand. To my mind, it is when you see scientists in dispute that you can form a judgement as to which ones have the better grasp of scientific method and are more likely to be right.

Alasdair Fairbairn
October 15, 2020 5:19 am

Amid all this I have a problem. How do scientists differentiate between Albedo and Emissivity when they measure upwelling radiation? The Stephen-Boltzmann equation determines temperature as a function of these two parameters: T^4 = I*(1-A)/E*B
(Where T is temperature, I is insolation, A is Albedo, E is Emissivity and B is the Boltzmann Constant.)
Thus the Emissivity component of observed radiation from tropical seas will be higher than that from arctic seas. How, therefore, can the Albedo be calculated if the value of the Emissivity component is unknown?

As an aside: My own unsuccessful attempt to resolve this issue led me to consider the concept of what I called the “Glow Factor” (GF) which was the ratio of Albedo/ Emissivity which generally had a rough value 0.3/0.62 = 0.484. However the units of this factor were exceedingly odd, being a ratio of ratios where each ratio was differently defined.!!?🤯
I therefore ceased further consideration; as unable to get my head around that in practical terms. On the other hand maybe it is this factor that the satellites are actually measuring?

October 15, 2020 7:52 am

When someone gives you a “scientist say” story, ask them this question; Is that true, or did you read it in the New York Times?

October 16, 2020 1:12 pm

re: “Do Your Own Research?”

That’s EXACTLY what Randell L. Mills did (and does) regarding the hydrino … YET everybody (excepting just a few) castigate him for continued ‘findings’ that point out QM is short-sighted and has unnecessarily hamstrung so-called “science”.

Yes, he has published MANY white papers (either no bothers to check them out BEFORE popping-off with a comment, OR, they don’t understand them in the first place) on this subject covering a veritable plethora of valid tests verifying his theories and the presence of hydrinos ….

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