Scientists

I notice that Robyn Williams and Stephan Lewandowsky continue to peddle their nonsense about scientists and climate change.

It is neither necessary nor sufficient to have a degree in a science discipline to be a scientist. Some of the greatest scientists in history had no formal academic qualifications. Some of the great fraudsters in history had an armful of degrees. A degree is merely an indicator.

To be a scientist requires just that a person proposes testable hypotheses and applies the scientific method. Not that their hypotheses are necessarily right, just that they apply the scientific method with rigour and care, and that their tests are repeatable, and that their conclusions are based on logic. It also requires that a scientist be open-minded, and be willing to reject previously strongly held views when presented with irrefutable evidence to the contrary. Finally, a scientist (should) normally attack only another person’s method and conclusions, not their person.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method thus:

a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses

Lewandowsky is not a scientist. He does not provide testable hypotheses, and he does not apply the scientific method. Williams has at times past shown some skill in applying the scientific method, but when it comes to climate change, he has treated it more as a religion than a science.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but no so-called ‘climate scientist’ has ever won a scientific Nobel Prize. None have won the Physics Prize, or the Chemistry Prize or the Prize in Medicine. None have ever won the Fields Medal in Mathematics. Yet there have been individuals such as Guglielmo Marconi who never went to university and later won the Nobel Physics Prize. Marconi did more for human welfare than all of the so-called climate scientists put together.

Williams has stated that sea levels could rise 100 metres. As no one has demonstrated my calculations wrong, I maintain that it is impossible for sea levels to rise anywhere near that level.

For my money, Maurice Newman is better at applying the scientific method than either Williams or Lewandowsky, and therefore Newman has more claim on the title of ‘scientist’.

And, by the way, peer review is also merely an indicator of the scientific method. It also is neither necessary nor sufficient. A person need never publish in a peer-reviewed journal to be considered a scientist. As long as individuals have used the scientific method, and have reached novel and potentially ground-breaking conclusions which are testable then they can be a great scientist even if they never write for a peer-reviewed journal (they might simply publish on a blog!)

About Samuel J

Samuel J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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32 Responses to Scientists

  1. Anne

    Science doesn’t lie. Scientists do.

  2. Jannie

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but no so-called ‘climate scientist’ has ever won a scientific Nobel Prize.

    Thats an ommission which they will no doubt cover.

    Sam, are you suggesting that Nobel prises are awarded on the bais of scientific excellence? I had the impression that the Nobel Committee was Occupied, and science has been subordinated to ideolgy for some time now.

  3. jupes

    Stephen Hawking.

    The theory always comes first…The theory then makes predictions, which can be tested by observation. If the observations agree with the predictions, that doesn’t prove the theory; but the theory survives to make further predictions, which again are tested against observation. If the observations don’t agree with the predictions, one abandons the theory.

    AGW Theory: That increased man made CO2 in the atmosphere will increase global temperatures.

    Observation: Man made CO2 (and total CO2) has increased every year for the last 16 years.

    Observation: Global temperatures have not increased for the last 16 years.

    The theory has not survived.

  4. Samuel J

    Jannie – no, again a Nobel Prize in Physics, Medicine or Chemistry is merely an indicator. To be fair, though, these awards have generally had much more substance that the Peace Prize.

  5. There is no need to have funding or a position to do science.

    Ironically, one of the best self-funded, independent scientists is James Lovelock, of Gaia fame.

  6. manalive

    If Williams and Lewandowsky were saying that the effect of adding human-caused CO2 to the atmosphere will probably cause dangerous global warming in fifty or one hundred years time and it is prudent now to reduce those emissions, then at least that is a rational stance which can be argued.
    But they are not saying that:
    … They [sceptics] are rejecting the enlightenment, and all that has been achieved over hundreds of years …(attributed to Lewandowsky by Williams who obviously agrees).
    Williams and Lewandowsky are attributing far more certainty to what ought to be called ‘IPCC science’ (which seems to be based on a combination of the known direct greenhouse effect of CO2, simple correlation and argumentum ad ignorantiam) than it deserves — it is they who are “rejecting the enlightenment”.

  7. Bruce of Newcastle

    Well I am a R&D scientist of 30 years standing and can cheerfully comment on climate science. I admit to trepidation when commenting here on economics or politics, but for science I’ve home field advantage.

    The ~60 year cycle accounts for 1/3rd of warming between 1900 and 2000.

    The relationship between previous solar cycle length and temperature in the following decade, which is caused by solar magnetic cycle (probably via GCR modulation), explains 1/2 of the temperature rise between 1900 and 2000.

    That leaves 1/6th available for pCO2. Which fits Lindzen & Choi 2011 well.

    No climate scientist or anyone else has so far shown me evidence which refutes this the climate sceptics’ hypothesis. ‘Consensus’ climate scientists refuse to debate it. Why? The current temperature hiatus fits it as both the solar and 60 year cycle components have switched to cooling mode. The IPCC’s accedited models fail to match the last 15 years of world temperature because they do not accurately account for either of these forcings.

    Climate modellers have a strong incentive to avoid both of these forcings because if they included them the derived climate sensitivity for CO2 would be in Lindzen’s range. And they would lose their well paid jobs as governments lost interest in the CAGW scare and defunded climatology.

  8. Annabelle

    I had the impression that the Nobel Committee was Occupied, and science has been subordinated to ideolgy for some time now.

    I would say that this is true for the peace prize. The real science prizes are holding up (so far).

  9. Johno

    And they would lose their well paid jobs as governments lost interest in the CAGW scare and defunded climatology.

    That is exactly where we are now.

  10. Jim Rose

    the situation is not different from having a degree in one field and speaking outside of that field of expertise as a self-appointed public intellectual.

    when that happens, they are little better than the rest of us in being able to evaluate good and bad arguments and evidence. they are not experts.

  11. AndrewL

    Svante Arrhenius won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, he also proposed the Greenhouse Gas theory.

  12. Jannie

    I would say that this is true for the peace prize. The real science prizes are holding up (so far).

    Annabelle/Sam, that is good to know, I shouldnt assume.

  13. Will

    If the day ever comes that I can look out my window over Moreton Bay and witness clouds quietly sublimating back into the ocean (net energy
    transfer from the atmosphere to the ocean), THAT is the day I’ll start to give some credence to the theory of greenhouse gas-inspired “global warming”.

    In the meantime I’ll stick with basic high school physics. The sun heats the oceans which evaporate and cool the planet’s atmosphere.

    Anything that adds to the heating effect will simply speed up the evaporative process, which, in turn, increases the energy loss from the oceans, speeding up the cooling process in response.

  14. Will

    A ≈40% increase in CO2 is a very significant rise. If CO2 would lead to runaway global warming as predicted, we would have certainly seen very significant warming by now, and the temperature would be closely tracking the rise in CO2. But it doesn’t.

    In fact, on a global scale over the past decade, there is an inverse relationship between the rise in CO2 and temperature. And as we see here, rises in CO2 follow rises in temperature, therefore CO2 is a function of temperature, not a cause.

    The planet has been warming, in fits and starts, since the LIA, at about 0.35°C per century. The current patterns, trends and parameters of the current warming since 1850 are indistinguishable from the past, when CO2 was much lower. According to empirical observations, there is simply no global evidence that CO2 makes any difference at all. And as Prof Richard Feynman points out, if a hypothesis disagrees with
    observations, it’s wrong.

    Therefore the CO2=AGW conjecture is wrong.

  15. Chris

    jupes – well perhaps you should listen to Stephen Hawking, because when he looks at the evidence he says of it:

    “As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and a period of unprecedented climate change, scientists have a special responsibility, once again to inform the public and to advise leaders about the perils that humanity faces,”

  16. Dead Soul

    As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and a period of unprecedented climate change, scientists have a special responsibility, once again to inform the public and to advise leaders about the perils that humanity faces,”

    Come on Chris, don’t you know that Steve Hawking is amongst the millions of scientists engaging in a secret cabal to introduce a worldwide socialist government. This is Catallaxy dude, get with the conspiracy program.

  17. C.L.

    Stephen Hawking, qua commentator, has always been an idiot. His chief claim to fame is writing a coffee table book nobody has read. I recall him arguing a few years ago that the possible discovery of an earth-like planet disproved the Bible. One of the dumbest utterances from anyone occupying his Chair in history. He is a classic scientific nerd who is close to imbecilic on questions arising within the humanities. My guess is that if he wasn’t for his tragi-melodramatic physical circumstances, hardly anybody would know his name today.

  18. Bruce

    we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and a period of unprecedented climate change

    Invoking Prof Hawking on climate is the argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy again, and a very sad one at that. I admire what he has managed to do, but I have never seen a reasoned argument from him to support that statement.

  19. John A

    And, by the way, peer review is also merely an indicator of the scientific method.

    In fact, as I understand the peer review process, it is a publication and editorial process originally designed as a quality control measure, and a means of fostering further scholarly debate.

    I am of course open to correction on that score.

  20. blogstrop

    The terms “peer review” and “climate scientist” are used by alarmists like playing cards. Their value is all but destroyed, but they continue to plonk them on the table as if they were trumps.
    I note that on another topic, innoculation of children against contagious diseases, the science is well and truly in and settled and has been for years. Much more convincingly than with climate alarmism. But there’s a trendoid cult who want to avoid innoculation, thereby endangering their children and guaranteeing that eradication is difficult.

  21. HH

    “Williams has stated that sea levels could rise 100 metres.”

    Samuel J, I don’t know if you noticed, but Williams has revisited that brave prediction to Andrew Bolt in a letter in Quadrant, July-August 2012. Here is the relevant part of the letter:

    “Bolt suddenly said some rude things about Tim Flannery including his supposed support for large sea level rises. I was asked whether a hundred-metre rise was possible by next century (200 years).

    I had just returned from Arizona where I had interviewed Johathan Overpeck, an expert in the field. He had told me of his research tracking overall rises and falls going from 100 to 120 metres in history. So I politely gave an answer accordingly: that rises on that scale (including surges) have been published and that extreme stimuli could possibly have such an effect over a long period. ” [Italics in original.]

    So let’s revisit the transcript the Bolt/Williams interview at the relevant point in the discussion:

    “Andrew Bolt: I ask you, Robyn, 100 metres in the next century…do you really think that?

    Robyn Williams: It is possible, yes. The increase of melting that they’ve noticed in Greenland and the amount that we’ve seen from the western part of Antarctica, if those increases of three times the expected rate continue, it will be huge.”

    So: Williams in the Quadrant letter claims he was making a point about documented historical sea level rises of 100 metres – which may of course have occurred at points in the ice age cycle when there was much more water locked up as ice. But in his discussion with Andrew Bolt, he makes no allusion to historical rises: he clearly implies that a 100 metre rise is possibly with current sea levels, at the point in the ice age cycle the earth is now - which, I think, you (and others) have demonstrated is manifestly impossible.

    Williams finishes his letter thus:

    “Climate is a serious topic affecting everyone. Indulging in puerile debating points demeans it.”

    True indeed. But misreporting the debate is a more grievous offence.

  22. Chris

    Invoking Prof Hawking on climate is the argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy again, and a very sad one at that. I admire what he has managed to do, but I have never seen a reasoned argument from him to support that statement.

    I didn’t invoke Hawking first.

    I note that on another topic, innoculation of children against contagious diseases, the science is well and truly in and settled and has been for years. Much more convincingly than with climate alarmism. But there’s a trendoid cult who want to avoid innoculation, thereby endangering their children and guaranteeing that eradication is difficult.

    Refusal to accept scientific consensus is fundamentally not a left or right issue. Anti-vaxxers do typically come from the loony left and use very similar methodology to the anti-climate change groups. At the core is a desire to somehow justify the views that they have rather than looking at the science to see what it is indicating. They cherry pick studies, and find a few doctors who agree with their view even though the vast majority don’t. They then attempt to portray this disagreement as a sign that there is no consensus.

    Look at another example where Marco Rubio can’t even commit to there being a scientific consensus around the age of the Earth for fear of offending potential voters. Once you can manage those sorts of mental gymnastics, denying there is consensus or a conspiracy around climate change is pretty easy.

    GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
    Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

    Read More http://www.gq.com/news-politics/politics/201212/marco-rubio-interview-gq-december-2012#ixzz2DN3afbtR

  23. Rococo Liberal

    As the Clash so pertinently sang:

    ‘If London is drowning, then I’ll live by the river.’

    Man will adapt, he always does.

  24. Rococo Liberal

    I agree with Samuel’s point. Credentialism in science is ridiculous. The only thing that counts is being right.

    Chris, history is full of scientific orthodoxies being challenged. Sometimes the challengers are mistaken, like those who oppose immunisation, and sometimes they are correct like those who argued for the germ-based transmission of disease over the old miasma theory.

    It follows that your equating of the anti-immunisers with the climate skeptics is a uselss exercise. It was an argument oone would expect from a Labor MP, full of plausible soundbites, but signifying nothing.

  25. m0nty

    Stephen Hawking, qua commentator, has always been an idiot. His chief claim to fame is writing a coffee table book nobody has read. I recall him arguing a few years ago that the possible discovery of an earth-like planet disproved the Bible. One of the dumbest utterances from anyone occupying his Chair in history. He is a classic scientific nerd who is close to imbecilic on questions arising within the humanities. My guess is that if he wasn’t for his tragi-melodramatic physical circumstances, hardly anybody would know his name today.

    The Currency Lad thinks he’s smarter than the smartest man in the world. Yeesh.

  26. Bruce

    use very similar methodology to the anti-climate change groups

    Chris – You should to back this unsupported statement up with citations or links.

    As an anti-CAGW person I use data (1st preference) and scientific literature (2nd preference) to justify my position. As I did above. This is the case with many sceptical climate bloggers.

    What frustrates is that pro-CAGW people, including ‘consensus’ climate scientists, refuse to discuss this evidence against the CAGW hypothesis and never refute the data and sources.

    Very occasionally someone will link a paper or some data. I have found it is usually easy to falsify such papers (eg Gergis et al recently) or to show from their own data why their conclusion is not supported. Perhaps that is why climate scientists won’t debate sceptical scientists like myself.

    None of this would matter except that the politics resulting from the faulty science has real impact on people, sometimes fatally.

  27. cohenite

    I don’t want this to be about Hawking, an inspirational man. Hawking says this about AGW:

    As we stand at the brink of a second nuclear age and a period of unprecedented climate change, scientists have a special responsibility, once again to inform the public and to advise leaders about the perils that humanity faces,” he said. “As scientists we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastation effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth

    This is simply wrong; there is nothing unprecedented about the current climate.

    But I don’t hold this against this man who also says:

    He also said it was essential humans colonise space to allow them to spread across the universe.

    What a champ! Unlike monty who is a fuckwit.

  28. What Cohenite said.
    At the moment our species could be wiped out by any number of cosmic mishaps.
    We need to get out there and colonise.
    To not do so is a folly of the highest order.

  29. Wutra

    Come on, why not just be open about the real agenda. Most of the people who comment here are of reasonable intelligence and education. They know that AGW is happening and that it will be disastrous within 50 years. They know that the consequences will be most severe for poor nations and for poor people in rich nations, which need to be culled. These consequences are entirely satisfactory and the most efficient way to bring about this result is to promote the idea that it isn’t going to happen.

  30. C.L.

    He also said it was essential humans colonise space to allow them to spread across the universe.

    Good call, Stephen.

    We’ll miracle our arses around the universe with our warp drives in a jiffy.

  31. m0nty

    Good call, Stephen.

    We’ll miracle our arses around the universe with our warp drives in a jiffy.

    You jest, but…

    How NASA might build its very first warp drive

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