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How Scientific Consensus Has Been Incorrect

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posted on Jul, 5 2010 @ 12:19 AM
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Originally posted by traditionaldrummer
I work in a lab in the field of tribology.

In that case you'll know exactly what I mean.


The problem with the global warming debate is there are TWO polarized, powerful lobbies using it for agendas. One being industry and the other being government. When either entity pays the bills for "research" the results are due proper skepticism, and arriving at consensus based on such "research" is dangerous territory on which to make a stand.

There are two lobbies, but you identify them wrong. They are not 'industry and government'. Let's call them the Greys and the Greens. The Greys are the people I mentioned earlier. They consist of

  • big extractive industries, primarily the fossil-fuels industry, and those immediately downstream of them, such as the refining industry, the automotive industry, and so on;

  • politicians in America and elsewhere whose constituencies include large numbers of people employed by these industries, as well as politicians representing countries or regions to which these industries are large taxpayers;

  • also politicians and opinion leaders in corrupt countries who are on these industries' payroll;

  • Poor countries, especially big, influential ones like China and India, who know that curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions will make it harder from them to grow rich;

  • laissez-faire capitalist types of all kinds, including the big-business wing of America's Republican party;

  • American voters who have bought the Tea Party line and learned to blame every human ill they see on Big Government and/or Barack Obama.

Lined up against them on the other side of the debate are

  • educated voters in rich countries who have accepted the 'scientific consensus' regarding the dangers of climate change;

  • politicians whose constituencies include large numbers of such voters;

  • nostalgic lefties who think they can win more support for their ideas (or parties) by climbing on the Green bandwagon;

  • the great majority of climate scientists.

It is true that governments, in the rich world at least, are tending to side with those educated voters, growing increasingly resistant to the demands of big polluters, who wish to be allowed to go on polluting. This is because of the scientists, of course.

Whatever our opinions may be regarding the validity of 'scientific consensus', it is undeniable that the majority of climate scientists themselves are convinced of the reality of human-induced climate change. Politicians see this, and it helps convince them that HICC is real. They also get regular briefings on climate change, which are even more convincing. They realize that something serious really is wrong, and are trying to do something about it - to the extent that the Grey lobby will allow them.

So it is not really Industry vs. Government. It is more a case of ordinary voters against special-interest groups. For the most part, all that's in it for the Greens is a cleaner and fairer world for everybody's children. No doubt there are other rewards in the short term for some - funding for research into global warming or alternative energy sources (is this bad?), careers to be made in politics and the media by being conspicuously green - but these kickbacks are available only to a few. Most people in the Green lobby are there for unselfish reasons.

The same cannot, of course, be said for the other side. They're in it for the money, every one of them. This is not always reprehensible; the oil- or auto-industry workers who reject 'global warming' out of fear for their own jobs and paychecks have a right to their concerns that no-one would deny. Sadly, in the greater interest of the world and future generations, action against climate change must create some losers today. The task of governments here is to mitigate the pain, and spread it fairly.

The argument is moot, at any event. As things stand, there is a very considerable weight of evidence suggesting that climate change is happening and that human activity is driving it, at least in part. I'm not saying the thing is proved; but given the danger, given the number of unknowns in climate science and given what we already know, how can it make sense not to do anything about it? How can it make sense to go on blithely spewing filth into the sky?

*


We have been here before. Remember how long the tobacco industry, with the help of its lawyers and its billions, held out against medical consensus for decades? Their argument was basically this: until the connexion between smoking and cancer is more than merely statistical, until you can show precisely how smoking is supposed to cause cancer, the link remains conjectural and we should be allowed to push our products on the public without hindrance. Armies of people died of smoking-related cancers every year, yet the argument prevailed, in law as well as in the court of public opinion.

Eventually, the public-health costs of smoking became intolerable to governments, and legislation to reduce the effect of smoking on public health began to be introduced. Today we know, from the statistical decline in lung and other smoking-related cancers in countries where anti-smoking legislation and campaigns have been introduced, that governments made the right decision back then. If they had listened to Big Tobacco and its political supporters, things would be very black today indeed. Of course, it was already too late for millions of cancer victims all over the world.

The comparison between the tobacco debate and the climate-change debate is, to my mind, very close. In both cases carbon is the culprit. What the Greens are trying to do is stop the human environment (notice I do not say Earth as a biosphere) from catching a fatal case of lung cancer. The science - if you like, the 'scientific consensus' - is on their side, but powerful interests fight on the other. The outcome remains in doubt.

In this context it must not be forgotten that the function of governments is to govern. Governments exist precisely because some decisions are too important or too contentious to be left to public opinion. It is not the government's business to do what some of the people want, nor even to do what all the people want: that is not why we vote them into power. We vote them into power to do what needs to be done, sometimes against the will of the majority of the people. If that were not so, then we would not need governments at all; we could make policy by referendum, or simply let the law of the jungle take over. In this instance, it is important that governments take the hard decisions about climate change now, instead of waiting for some conclusive proof of human agency that may never come. The future of humanity depends upon it.

[edit on 5/7/10 by Astyanax]




posted on Jul, 5 2010 @ 01:43 PM
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The PNAS article is a sloppy attempt as sociology by the very same people who criticize AGW skeptics for being "out of their field."

Dr. Judith Curry, a climate change advocate, has previously published 2 excellent reviews on the credibility of AGW science. These bear reading, especially before jumping to any conclusions published by the "consensus" critical of the critics.

AS for the PNAS "analysis," it was researched and written by a biology professor, an engineer, a foundation executive, and Stephen H. Schneider, who has endorsed the exaggeration and media hype of catastrophic global warming and the use of duplicity and hyperbole in pushing the climate change agenda.

Their low-ball, or blacklist, rankings include eminent scientists who do not normally publish in "climate change" journals, bit who are prolific and well-respected in their fields, but who have spoken out about the false-flag propositions of AGW "scientists" and the "consensus."

In addition to Dr. Curry, Dr. Roy Spencer points out the uselessness of such "science" and the blacklisting of opposing thought.
wattsupwiththat.com...-20919

As does Fran Smith:
A New Low In Science

The liberal-minded Slate sums up the study's lack of credibility quite well:

the advocates have used bad social science to show that the science of climate change is sound.
...
Hyping this paper ... simply reinforces the dangerous perception that climate activists will credulously push any news that might further their case. For those who care about this issue, that's tragic.
A questionable study contends climate skeptics are lousy scientists

Be careful what you accept as "science," much less a "consensus."

deny ignorance

jw


[edit on 5-7-2010 by jdub297]



posted on Jul, 5 2010 @ 02:52 PM
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Originally posted by Astyanax
Things become even worse when, as in the climate change debate, a powerful and influential lobby - made up mostly of people who want to keep on consuming and polluting without let or hindrance - does its best to present the facts in a light favourable to its own agenda.


Take the same statement, but change your mis-characterization, and what do we get?

"Things become even worse when, as in the climate change debate, a powerful and influential lobby - made up mostly of leftist people and institutions who want to maintain their public and private funding, redistribute wealth, impose their social constructs, and reinforce beholden constituencies - does [their] best to present the facts in a light favourable to [their] own agenda."

So, it goes both ways, no?

As for the false dichotomy you present, you first characterize AGW advocates as "educated voters" which you later morph
into "ordinary voters." You have purposely ignored the fact that a majority of ALL voters question the AGW hypothesis, and especially a radical attack on developed and developing economies to prevent a "possibility."

Moreover, you imply that because "all that's in it for the Greens is a cleaner and fairer world for everybody's children" then skeptics MUST be against such.

There are NO anthropogenic global warming skeptics who are not "in it for a greener world," although I would bet that there would be much disagreement about what you and the "Greens" consider "fair."

You imply, if not outright accuse, that AGW/HICC skeptics do not want a greener environment or reduction in fossil fuel dependence. There is not one shred of evidence to support such a conclusion; thus your false dichotomy.


Most people in the Green lobby are there for unselfish reasons.

The same cannot, of course, be said for the other side. They're in it for the money, every one of them.


How sad that you resort to such exaggerations and distortions.


Sadly, in the greater interest of the world and future generations, action against climate change must create some losers today. The task of governments here is to mitigate the pain, and spread it fairly.


According to whose determination? Why MUST there be "winners" or "losers?" Again, your veiled implications are that the consumers in developed and developing countries must pay to their governments, for re-distribution to others, some of their "wealth" in the form of carbon taxes and increased energy costs for programs that have shown no proof of a positive effect on the environment, but have enriched the coffers of many AGW advocates such as yourself.

After acknowledging, sort of, the uncertainty of climate science and the AGW hypothesis, you conclude:

given the danger, given the number of unknowns in climate science and given what we already know, how can it make sense not to do anything about it? How can it make sense to go on blithely spewing filth into the sky?


Again, a false dichotomy. There are no AGW skeptics advocating
"blithely spewing filth into the sky." Who does? Even ExxonMobil and BP acknowledge and fund the desirability of alternative energy sources.

On the other hand, "given the number of unknowns," what justifies reducing productive economies to 18th century emissions standards? Or 19th?

There is a "scientific consensus" that developing economies are more wasteful, more polluting than developed ones. Why not push to ensure that all economies learn to wisely use the resources available, as we search for alternative? Why not enable the poor and backward to keep their waters clean and skies pure? Instead of sacrificing while they are relying on wood and coal and diesel, why not help them find alternatives?


The comparison between the tobacco debate and the climate-change debate is, to my mind, very close.


Then you should change your mind. The two are nowhere near the same.

No one sought to impose, in the tobacco debate, huge social costs and world-wide restriction on development to the benefit of an inconclusive and admittedly uncertain "consensus." Recall that you are arguing that the tobacco "consensus" was WRONG; so, too, may be the AGW "consensus!

It goes both ways, no?


In this context it must not be forgotten that the function of governments is to govern.
Shouldn't you have quoted Mr. Mandeville here? If you are going to 'borrow' from his philosophy of government magnanimity, doesn't he at least deserve some credit? I studied his reasoning as well, and agree for the most part. But I do not agree that government is inherently magnanimous.


In this instance, it is important that governments take the hard decisions about climate change now, instead of waiting for some conclusive proof of human agency that may never come. The future of humanity depends upon it.


And do what? To what purpose? Impose a "carbon tax" when all previous attempts to alter behavior thusly have failed? (The SO2 camp will point to the 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act, but that is false as well since SO2 had already leveled off and fallen, and there is a "consensus" that no widespread deleterious effects have resulted from "acid rain," except for the industries and consumers directly affected.)

Mass migrations? The 'hard decisions' should include the consideration of the real COSTS compared to the real BENEFITS ( present and measurable) from any forced changes in business and lifestyles.

All else is fearmongering.

jw



posted on Jul, 5 2010 @ 03:07 PM
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reply to post by mbkennel
 


On the subject of CFC's--The new 'eco' refrigerant 'greencool R411' is actually heavier than 'standard' R22 or R201 refrigerant.
This means that it will take more than 10 years to reach the upper atmosphere and start killing the ozone layer.
This stuff is being sold as 'scientifically proven eco freindly' gas.

In 10 years they will have to re-model their theory, taking this into account, which they won't since they are unaware of it.........
Oops!



posted on Jul, 5 2010 @ 04:43 PM
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Originally posted by Astyanax

So it is not really Industry vs. Government. It is more a case of ordinary voters against special-interest groups. For the most part, all that's in it for the Greens is a cleaner and fairer world for everybody's children.


Here is where I'll respectfully disagree with you. The AGW push is a U.N. funded agenda based on scientific ideas in order to ultimately achieve a political goal. This was not initiated in order to being about a cleaner world, but I'll agree it's in part to bring about a "fairer" one. We have consistently cleaned up industry after industry without the U.N. funding biased "research".

You have also hinted that primary opposition to AGW theory comes from big bad business. There may have been some of this but I believe the strongest hegemony and bullying comes from the pro-AGW lobby. There is legitimate skepticism about the theory and there are plenty of independent scientists who have objections to AGW theory who find themselves railroaded, threatened and labeled as deniers.

The debate is not over and the whole methodology of the AGW "science" wreaks.




posted on Jul, 5 2010 @ 10:43 PM
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reply to post by traditionaldrummer
 


The AGW push is a U.N. funded agenda based on scientific ideas in order to ultimately achieve a political goal. This was not initiated in order to being about a cleaner world, but I'll agree it's in part to bring about a "fairer" one. We have consistently cleaned up industry after industry without the U.N. funding biased "research".

I understand that the United Nations has an unaccountably demonic reputation among American conservatives, but it is only a servant agency doing the bidding of its masters. These are the plurality of nations in the General Assembly and the select few, always including the USA, that make up the Security Council.

Anyway, how does the UN, which holds no sovereignty over any territory, become 'government'?

*


reply to post by jdub297
 


Things become even worse when, as in the climate change debate, a powerful and influential lobby - made up mostly of leftist people and institutions who want to maintain their public and private funding, redistribute wealth, impose their social constructs, and reinforce beholden constituencies - does [their] best to present the facts in a light favourable to [their] own agenda.

So, it goes both ways, no?

I'm afraid it doesn't. The conspiratorial motives you ascribe to this lobby are far too contrived to be realistic. And as I pointed out earlier, the profit motive is relevant to only a very small fraction of those who believe climate change is real and should be taken seriously. On the other side, the motives are all too clear.

You appear to be an anti-global-warming zealot. I have no interest in derailing this thread, which is about the trustworthiness of scientific 'consensuses', by debating climate change with you. There are other threads on ATS for that.

I am far more interested in debating the degree of trust lay folk should place in science. That is a far more interesting question, and I hope the OP and the moderators will do their best to keep the discussion on topic.

[edit on 6/7/10 by Astyanax]



posted on Jul, 6 2010 @ 11:53 PM
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Originally posted by Astyanax
You appear to be an anti-global-warming zealot. I have no interest in derailing this thread, which is about the trustworthiness of scientific 'consensuses', by debating climate change with you. There are other threads on ATS for that.


I'm afraid that you have been playing the role of zealot, using loaded phrases and false dichotomies to support the validity of a "consensus" that may not be so much based on science as on political or other ulterior motives.

When the father of the "2 degree" precept bemoans the politicization of climatology, and, indeed, attributes the "2 degrees" benchmark to a political decision, the other motives you want to ignore or minimize are pushed to the forefront.

As for "scientific consensus" generally, 2 very good, objective articles exemplify the frailty of a herd mentality:


Even without the scandal, the very idea of scientific consensus should give us pause. “Consensus,” according to Merriam-Webster, means both “general agreement” and “group solidarity in sentiment and belief.” That pretty much sums up the dilemma. We want to know whether a scientific consensus is based on solid evidence and sound reasoning, or social pressure and groupthink.

Anyone who has studied the history of science knows that scientists are not immune to the non-rational dynamics of the herd. Many false ideas enjoyed consensus opinion at one time. Indeed, the “power of the paradigm” often shapes the thinking of scientists so strongly that they become unable to accurately summarize, let alone evaluate, radical alternatives. Question the paradigm, and some respond with dogmatic fanaticism.
www.american.com...

The quoted article goes on to list several factors in a lay person's assessment of the validity of a claimed "scientific consensus."

According to the author, a combination of the following should be
considered a sign that an alleged "consensus" may be doubtful:




(1) When different claims get bundled together.
(2) When ad hominem attacks against dissenters predominate.
(3) When scientists are pressured to toe the party line.
(4) When publishing and peer review in the discipline is cliquish.
(5) When dissenting opinions are excluded from the relevant peer-reviewed literature not because of weak evidence or bad arguments but as part of a strategy to marginalize dissent.
(6) When the actual peer-reviewed literature is misrepresented.
(7) When consensus is declared hurriedly or before it even exists.
(8) When the subject matter seems, by its nature, to resist consensus.
(9) When “scientists say” or “science says” is a common locution.
(10) When it is being used to justify dramatic political or economic policies.
(11) When the “consensus” is maintained by an army of water-carrying journalists who defend it with uncritical and partisan zeal, and seem intent on helping certain scientists with their messaging rather than reporting on the field as objectively as possible.
(12) When we keep being told that there’s a scientific consensus.


Another writer briefly summarizes some recent "consensus" opinions that have since been rejected by the scientific community.

Remember, in Newsweek’s April 28, 1975, issue, science editor Peter Gwynne claimed that “scientists are almost unanimous” that global cooling was underway.

Ron Bailey, in Reason, notes that sometimes "consensus" is rejected outright when politics favor a different conclusion:


Consider the overwhelming consensus among researchers that biotech crops are safe for humans and the environment—a conclusion that is rejected by the very environmentalist organizations that loudly insist on the policy relevance of the scientific consensus on global warming.


He then goes on to describe such scientific consensuses as the carcinogenic properties of saccharine, the benefits of high-fiber diets against colon cancer, the achievement of viable fusion power generation, and many others; all since rejected as unsound or unfounded.
[ur=http://reason.com/archives/2010/06/29/agreeing-to-agree] ... Turns out a lot of scientific consensuses are wrong[/url]

So, to hit the topic head-on, the mere fact that like-minded peers and the MSM agree to a "consensus" does not somehow validate the underlying science.

deny ignorance

jw

[edit on 6-7-2010 by jdub297]



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