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Global Warming and The Scientific Method

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birdie1971 | 04:22 Sun 04th Jan 2009 | News
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I recently posted an answer to a question on Global Warming. I was told I was, "...extremely stupid and ignorant..." because I don't believe that Anthropogenic Global Warming (ie. man-made global warming) [AGW] is happening.

So my question is... is the age of reasoned argument over? Do we now live in a world where a sober, scientifically argued point is now irrelevant?

Is Global Warming a new kind of religion?

Are we in danger of slipping from an age of reason into an age of irrationality whereby scientific research, no matter how rigorous, is treated with distain if it disagrees with the polemic?


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If you disagree with the global warming people you run the risk of being burned at the stake.
A carbon neutral, environmentally friendly satake powered by a renewable source of course.
It's AB don't let it get to ya.
I wonder what is happening to the scientists who featured in the television documentary a year or so ago. They were very critical of the treatment they were receiving because they contradicted the views of the 'establishment'. I was convinced by those 'independent' men but still have to put up with the new religion of manmade global warming.
You have dared to challenge the fashion old chap. Most agree global warming is happenning the main point of contention is whether mankind has owt to do with it. I tend to go against he herd on his one, mainly because mankind has control of only 4% of the Carbon, the main contributor is the Oceans as they play their part in the Long carbon cycle. So logic alone tells me that the 96% has more effect han the 4%. However you are up against the modern equivalent of spanish Inquisition on this subject.
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Quite so, Geezer.

I�ve argued your �4%� point many times on AB and have been duly castigated for my ignorance. However, nobody has yet successfully countered the point that if only 4% of emissions are due to man�s activities (and this is not disputed), how does that 4% have such a disproportionate influence on the changes that are measured?

We heretics must stick together. In the past when �facts� such as these were presented (�half the world will die of AIDS�, �75% of the population will contract Bird �flu�, �most of Europe�s plant life will be seen off by acid rain�, �the hole in the ozone layer will mean we will all die of sunburn� etc. etc.) we could all have a chuckle and get on with our lives. It was usually the result of a short-term change being observed and the data being extrapolated into a long term catastrophe.

This time it�s different. This time the �experts� have secured the ears of those in power who have seen an ideal opportunity to raise taxes and generally bully their electorates into doing things they otherwise would not dream of.

Nobody currently alive, nor their children, nor their grandchildren will die as a direct result of �global warming� (save the odd one or two like me who may succumb to the boring tedium of it all). But we�ll be considerably impoverished as the process to relieve us of our hard-earned in order to �save the planet� goes on at an ever increasing pace.
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absolutely Judge, they bluster on about Isotopic evidence in the individual Carbon Atoms, yada yada etc. Just bl00dy well tell us heritics how 4% beats 96%!

I'm all for cleaning up our act and stopping polution but enough of his political con trick, please!
On a recent thread, I believe initiated by 123everton (I may be in error) the question revolved around whether or not 'scientists' could be induced to participate in covering up or otherwise producing statistics they knew (or at least suspected) were in error. Although I didn't contribute, I thought at the time the controversy over "global warming" could be a prime example.
Scientists of every stripe are really, at heart, a cross section of the population. They have biases and world views that they seek to support and additionally, they are subject to the pressures to seek financial support for their efforts.

All very harmless if, over a period of time, other scientists contradict the first groups findings and introuduce a leveling effect.

Sometimes this either doesn't happen or it takes an inordinate amount of time for the balance to aswing back to a sensible middle.

Here in the U.S. former Vice-President Al Gore has made millions of dollars and been awarded a Nobel Prize by his support of the view. What's become painfully apparent is that there is, in my opinion, a cadre of people including scientists that really resent mankinds advancements and believe we (not they) are a plague upon the face of the planet. We call them Birckenstockers here for their propensity for sandal wearing tree hugging (no offense to the generic sandal wearer).
One active volcano can produce more carbon in an hour than mankind produces in several years... in my opinion...
I don't know about "slipping from an age of reason into an age of irrationality"

That should read "SLIPPED from an age of reason into an age of irrationality"
Clanad, you are right I did initiate that post.
I also found your answr very offensive, tree hugging is my favourite hobby in fact I'm the current all England tree hugging champion and head of the Tree hugging asociation (UK). ;-)
I feel the shouting is done more by the public then scientists.
This 4% thing is news to me, could someone produce a link?
doesnt anyone think that the weather/temperatures etc is just cyclical? its all happened before tho its the first time its been called global warming, I think its all scaremongering
(but then Im no scientist)
Interesting, everton... are you judged on style, speed or species of tree?
Oh a bit of everything, but I stay awayfrom saplings.
That's just creepy and weird.
good old wikipedia expains it quite well everton:

Question Author
Long post warning...

Every time I debate with the believers of Anthropogenic Global Warming (ie. man-made global warming), someone always mentions the �consensus�. Apparently, every credible scientist who has looked at Global Warming agrees that it�s man-made � if they don�t believe it�s man-made, then by definition, they are not credible. Despite that fact that this is untrue (many credible scientists DO NOT agree that it�s man-made), the �consensus� argument is repeated again and again.

Historically, the claim of consensus has been a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus.
Question Author

Also, the track record of consensus is not one to be proud of. For example, everyone can see that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly on a map of the globe. In 1912, Alfred Wegener proposed that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensus sneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology - until 1961, when it began to seem as if the sea floors were spreading. The result: it took the consensus fifty years to acknowledge what any person can see with their own eyes.

Jenner and smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory. Saccharine, margarine, repressed memory, fibre and colon cancer, hormone replacement therapy� the list of consensus errors goes on and on.

Finally, nobody says that the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.

The consensus argument is only ever used in situations where the science is not solid.
Question Author
I would like to thank all the contributors to this question. I rather expected to be vilified.

I am pleasantly surprised.

Maybe there's hope for rationality.

But I won't hold my breath.
When I was a physicist some of the brightest and cleverest people I knew were Climate Scientists.

It's an area of immense complexity.

I wouldn't consider myself really qualified to reach a decision on the data and it always amazes me how many people seem to think they are based on reading a few articles or watching a one-hour documentary.

Consequently I reach my decision based on the people on each side.

On the pro side are the Royal Society, NASA the American Governments Environmental Protection Agency and pretty much every major scientific intstitution in the world.

On the con side is a list of individuals that nobody's ever heard of outside of this debate.

As for the 4% argument - what percentage of CFC's in the atmosphere do you think brought about the ozone hole - a damn site less than 4% I'm sure!

Let's be clear this is a conspiracy theory.

The Charge is that the worlds great Scientific communities are conspiring to defraud national governments for funding.

This is simply ludicrous - Faking the moon landings is more credible it would require fewer conspirators.

You ask what happened after the Great Global Warming Swindle - program?

Well Carl Wunch Professor of Oceanography at MIT repudiated the program

and Tim Ball who was meant to be a climatologist turned out to be a geographer who left his faculty 10 years previously.

The Cosmic ray theory that was so heavily featured in the show has since turned out to be highly unlikely m

I'm sure this won't stop the skeptics but let me ask what would it take to convince you?
I would just like to comment on some of the issues raised by Birdie.
1. "Science is not done by consensus - only one investigator is required."
True, but any methods and results used and obtained by said investigator need to be documented,broadly agreed with and should be reproducible, which in itself is a form of experimental consensus. Secondly, any hypothesis arrived at as a consequence of said experiment, or any hypothesis being tested by said experiment will require a form of academic consensus in order for it to be considered a viable description of the world.

2.To suggest, as your post does, that because there is a consensus the science is therefore suspect or wrong is itself a huge logical fallacy.

3. There are several areas in modern times where the need for a consensus view has become important, precisely because the issue has become extremely political.
a. HIV causes, origins and best case treatments. - A very high profile aids denier has recently tragically died from pneumonia. Her daughter died 3 years ago as a consequence of the vertical transmission of HIV, something that could have been treated with the consensus view drug treatment, the consensus view she denied.
b. The Apollo moon landing.
c. The Science behind the collapse of the WTC buildings during the 9-11 tragedy.
d. MMR vaccines and autism - We are still dealing with the fallout from this one, with a very real danger of loss of herd immunity and deaths!!!! from measles in the UK.
e. Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) - This obviously has huge global implications, perhaps less for our generation but certainly for generations to come if the consensus is correct.

f. The "Theory" of evolution. - Many deniers offer the view that because its "only" a theory, the concept that a supernatural, omniscient being who created everything in the space of seven days is equally valid,should be treated with equal scientific weight, and taught in science classes!

For each of these issues, it has become necessary to offer a scientific consensus to the public at large, simply because they, and many of the media outlets they rely on, continually demonstrate a very poor understanding of the scientific method or underlying scientific principles.In all of these areas, the arguments against consensus broadly fall into allegations of conspiracy or coverup, with very little evidence offered of a credible, scientifically tested alternate view.

What I find interesting is that almost always, the deniers of one of these issues mentioned above (HIV, Vaccines,AGW, 9-11 etc) are almost always deniers of each of the others. It is also interesting to note that many who commentate most loudly on these issues have little relevant background with which to offer an informed response and more importantly, fail to see the need for such a background.

For the record, I have a Masters in Biomedical Science, and degrees in both Biomedical Science and Chemistry.

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