Comparison of dentists, climate scientists, astrologers
The Wall Street Journal just published a letter to the editor
Ms Katharine Hayhoe, a typical religiously obsessed woman with IQ around 80, is an important co-author of the letter in the Wall Street Journal. Her chapter called "How It Is Crucial for the Survival of the Planet for the Future U.S. Presidents To Sleep With Nancy Pelosi On Al Gore's Couch" has been removed from Newt Gingrich's future book. For years, media would paint a surrealistic picture in which Ms Hayhoe and similar "experts" beat folks like Richard Lindzen.
The new published letter is somewhat less hysterical than the responses by the alarmist blogosphere; but it is arguably even more pretentious than the comments by the alarmist bloggers.
Let's look at the letter in some detail:
Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition?To some extent, I do. Or at least sometimes I am forced to.
Last time I visited my dentist, she gave me a pretty long lecture about the weakening of the cardiovascular system that may be induced by bacteria living in the teeth or canals or abscesses. At the end, I decided to say "No" to a proposed procedure but that's not important here.
My more important point is that experts often have to study adjacent disciplines in quite some detail. After all, even the climate alarmists sometimes claim to be able to do some statistical calculations although they are not specialized statisticians – a fact that is often self-evident to the readers of the climate articles; Michael Mann's statistical methodology behind the hockey stick graph is just the most notorious example. There are lots of others.
But some other people who are better scientists do learn the methods of the adjacent disciplines pretty much perfectly. I would argue that the experimental particle physicists at CERN do know statistics – at least those members of the team who are responsible for this portion of their scientific research. They may be much more reliable and comprehensively trained experts in statistics than many people who are "just statisticians".
Climate alarmism and astrology
However, I want to make one more important point. The specialization may be a good thing but too specialized disciplines run a much higher risk that they could be totally wrong: the whole discipline could be based on a misconception. What do I mean?
What I mean is that the comment "We're just like the heart surgeons and you shouldn't ask anyone else" may also be exploited by the astrologers, if I pick a specific example of a discipline that is almost generally accepted as a pseudoscience.
An astrologer could tell you: "I am the only expert in astrology. I have been doing horoscopes for 40 years and earned millions of dollars by doing so. The astronomers and biologists who wrote an article that disagreed with me aren't really certified experts in astrology. You should better listen to astrologers when they're talking about the impact of planets and about the horoscopes; everyone else is a layman."
Now, is this argument valid? It could be valid in some sense; the astrologers may have written down many more predictions how the planets influence the human fates than anyone else. However, there's a more important problem here: everything they have done is scientifically indefensible. It's just a pile of crap.
Climate alarmism is analogous. You may be an expert specialist in diverse kinds of threats that the human activity creates for the climate and for the ecosystem (via the climate). The only problem is that the very basic foundation of your expertise, the idea that humans are significantly changing the climate so that they really matter for the thermodynamics of the atmosphere and things influenced by the atmosphere as strongly as other factors (or more so) is invalid.
So you may be a great expert because you have written more papers about the threats that the climate is facing, about all the catastrophes that have already taken place because of the climate modified by the mankind and about the future ones that await us, and so on. The only problem is that all this stuff is just rubbish. The more stuff of this kind you write, the more rubbish you produce. You may become an increasingly potent expert if you write many more papers like that, but you're just an expert in a wrong subdiscipline.
Much like in the case of astrology, it's an expertise that makes you a clown whose clown status is growing with the number of papers you write about the dangerous man-made climate change.
Getting back, to the broader Earth sciences
What is the systematic solution in the case of astrology? How does science catch disciplines such as astrology that are totally wrong and that are developing a class of "experts" who are completely ludicrous from a scientific viewpoint? How is the institutionalized science protected against the growth of disciplines such as astrology that could be inviting an ever increasing number of new astrologers and strengthen because it is so cool?
The answer is that the claims made by astrology are actually being evaluated by other scientists whose research focuses on very similar claims – by astronomers (when you care about the actual rules that govern the motion of the celestial bodies), by physicists (who figure out whether the bodies do or don't exert forces of various types at a distance), psychologists (who determine how people react and which of the human reactions may be placebo effects etc.), biologists and physicians (who study what are the actual factors that determine your health), economists (who study what decides about your banking account, and whether Jupiter or the balance of supply and demand is a major factor), and so on.
The punch line is that those other scientists will tell you that astrology doesn't work. They may surround it and see (and tell you) that there's no legitimate room for a big new discipline at the "interdisciplinary point" where microeconomics or medicine meets astronomy.
Needless to say, this is exactly the treatment that must apply to another controversial scientific discipline, the research of man-made climate change, as well. Much like astrology, this whole discipline stands on the assumption that there's something very interesting to study about the sufficiently significant and observable (by assumption) effects of the human activity (analogy of the planets) on the Earth's climate and ecosystem (analogy of the human fates in astrology).
It's totally necessary for people with backgrounds similar to the 16 scientists who wrote the op-ed in the WSJ to independently evaluate the question whether the discipline studying "man-made climate change" is a legitimate one, or whether it is analogous to astrology and also tries to defend a predetermined conclusion that there exists a significant effect of AB on XY.
Make no doubts about it, the scientific assessment that you may actually get these days is that the man-made climate change science is analogous to astrology, indeed. So you shouldn't view the authors' achievements in the research of dangerous man-made climate change as scientific achievements. If they actually want to talk about natural science, they should better leave it to experts – i.e. to scientists, a group that they don't belong to.
Alarmists compare themselves to scientists
The climate alarmists try to compare themselves to the legitimate scientists in various fields while the climate skeptics are being presented as counterparts of those who don't believe in the HIV-AIDS relationship and many other crazy things. However, they don't have any evidence whatsoever that these ad hominem attacks and comparisons are the right ones. They don't seem to care. They believe that the readers of the Wall Street Journal are gullible enough that they will just accept whatever is written in the daily.
The search for a right analogy is a problem that can't be solved just by vague comparisons and by counting the number of "experts". At least 97% of astrologers will also agree that the planets have a significant impact on the human fate. Does it prove something? Does it prove that astrology is right? We could double or triple or quadruple the number of astrologers, much like we did it with the climate doomsayers in recent decades. Would it make the case for astrology as a real science any stronger? You do understand why it wouldn't, don't you?
(BTW, 97% depends on how you count them. Using another methodology, one may find out that only 2.38% of climate scientists subscribe to the alarmist proclamations.)
I am already tired of crackpots comparing themselves to Galileo Galilei or the best heart surgeons, so let me terminate this part of the article at this point.
Trends in a decade
Katharine Hayhoe and the other "climate scientists" offer us several of the basic slogans of the kind "global warming is real and it is man-made", something that the readers are probably expected to memorize and parrot. But what they are missing is that many of the readers – and most of the important ones in the "debate" – actually know much more about the climate than the science that the letter written by the alarmists offers.
For example, millions of people who actively participate in the debate have studied the actual global temperature data and the trends. It is not really rocket science. Hayhoe et al. write the following, among similar statements:
Climate experts know that the long-term warming trend has not abated in the past decade. In fact, it was the warmest decade on record.The sentences are constructed in such a way that the writers implicitly believe that the last decade's being the warmest one on record (which is true e.g. for the HadCRUT3 record since 1850) implies the first sentence, namely that the warming trend hasn't abated in the last decade which probably means that the trend is either positive or even greater than the trend in 1991-2000.
But this implication is clearly logically invalid. The fact that the period 2001-2010 was the warmest XYZ0+1–XYZ0+10 ten-year period doesn't imply that there was a positive global warming trend since 2001. And indeed, it's straightforward to calculate that the HadCRUT3 warming trend was negative in the last 10 years. It was negative in the last 11 years, too. In the last 12 years or 13 years, the trend gets a positive sign, but since 1998, it gets negative again. Quite generally, the trends you get from those 10-15 years of data are so small relatively to the noise that they're "statistically insignificant" which is a technical way of saying that you shouldn't attribute them any importance and you should treat them as numbers that are zero for all practical purposes. They only differ from zero by small amounts that may be interpreted as noise or error.
In some approximation, you could say that the statement "last decade was the warmest one" depends on the comparison of the temperatures in 2001-2010 with those in 1991-2000 or, approximately, on the trend in 1991-2010, a 20-year period, which was slightly positive. However, the claim that the temperature trend was negative in the last decade depends roughly on the comparison of the periods 2001-2005 with 2006-2010. And the latter, most recent 5-year period of this type, simply wasn't warmer than the previous one. That's pretty much the reason why you don't get a positive warming trend in the last 10 years. Note that for each question, we are comparing different periods or we are computing the linear trends in different intervals.
Hayhoe et cl. don't distinguish these things. This kind of sloppiness is probably self-evident to many readers. It's not the only elementary technical problem in the alarmists' letter. Such points make millions of readers understand that the authors are really not competent in discussing time series or the evolution of the global mean temperature; or they're being deliberately dishonest. At any rate, there exists no sensible reason to take their other words seriously.
Even a moderately intelligent reader is able to find out that the temperature trend was negative in the last 10 years; Hayhoe et al. obviously underestimate the number of people who are capable of finding such elementary numerical results. The people who can calculate the negative sign of the trend in the last 10 years simply know that Hayhoe et al. are either incompetent or dishonest – and that's really enough not to trust them when it comes to much more complex (and politically far-reaching) questions than a simple linear regression applied to 10 annual temperature figures!
Comment section and reactions by the readers
The discussion in the comment section of the Wall Street Journal also makes it clear that a vast majority of the readers actually understand that the climate alarmist memes have been spreading primarily by the same intimidation which is the heart of this very letter to the editor, too. For decades, climate alarmists – including many of the very authors of the letters – have been harassing their colleagues, other scientists, and laymen. They were bullying them and screaming that everyone has to agree because someone else has already agreed and everyone must join a majority.
However, aside from bullying, harassment, intimidation, and propaganda, there has never been any convincing scientific arguments that we are facing any dangerous change of the climate that would deviate from the changes that the mankind has experienced in past centuries, apparently for natural reasons. What they're missing is the scientific beef. Snobs and scientific secretaries in various universities and scientific institutions (and some researchers) who depend on a big inflow of money into the climate and related research and who love to improve their status in an extreme left-wing environment of the Academia may have reacted in the way that the climate alarmists wanted. They just joined the bandwagon. No doubts about that, a huge number of those folks did.
But the impartial experts outside these morally contaminated structures don't have these motivations and biases. In combination with the fact that the climate fearmongering turns out to be scientifically incorrect, that's why most of the people in the broader scientific and technological community (but even most of the WSJ readers) simply don't buy into this propaganda. They have figured out that it is scientific rubbish, a counterpart of astrology. Ms Hayhoe and her fellow alarmist cultists should finally take notice.
And that's the memo.