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« Quote of the day | Main | Richard B at Nature »
Wednesday
Jan182012

A new climate science player

There has been a certain amount of excitement on upholder blogs this week - the cause being the news that the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has decided to involve itself in the climate change wars in the USA. NCSE has been at the forefront of efforts to keep intelligent design out of the classroom so this latest move represents a broadening of its focus.

Their website incorporates a shiny new climate change section, including a Climate Change 101 page. From there comes this paragraph on detection and attribution:

To ensure the accuracy of the models at projecting future climate trends, the models are often run backwards in time to “retrodict” past climate changes, and then compared with paleoclimate observations. The models through this process have become remarkably accurate and give the climate research community confidence that the future projections are robust.

Remarkably accurate? Is that right? And do we think they have portrayed the uncertainties in a reasonable fashion? Or in any fashion at all?

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Reader Comments (52)

Thanks for your good wishes Richard (Jan 20, 2012 at 12:27 PM) and nby (Jan 19, 2012 at 1:07 PM).

I've not yet heard back from NCSE about my submission. Presumably, they won't proceed until receiving David Morrison's response to it. I wonder, though, whether they'll have Peter Gleick "review" my essay. I rather hope so. It would be an opportunity to cross scientific swords before an audience of the recently converted.

I also intend to submit a full article skeptical of the entire corpus of AGW-science, so-called, to NCSE Reports; the NCSE house journal. I happen to have one ready, because it was turned down without comment by Michael Shermer at Skeptic and by Kendrick Frazier at Skeptical Inquirer. Their critical rejection was to not reply to follow-up emails. It appeared that neither of them could bear to even contemplate publication. Such is the potently traumatizing influence of the pervasive culture of lies developed by climate alarmists. NCSE is just the most recent group to fall prey.

Finally, Richard, please let me disabuse you about "Intelligent Design" (ID) theory. I have published on ID (in the journal Theology and Science), as well as on the chemical origin of life. ID is not science at all, primarily because it can make no deductive predictions and cannot be falsified.

Falsification of a design argument requires knowledge of the design principles.

People suppose that the order of the universe is a sign of design. But randomness can be as much a design parameter as can order, as is used, for example in glassy metallic alloys. The only way to demonstrate that the order we observe is due to design, is to present a theory of the design of universes that requires that sort of order. However, no one has such a theory.

The suggestion that order in the universe is a design feature, is therefore tendentious: order = design, design = order. Circularity: the ID version of QED.

Likewise, the claim of "irreducible complexity" amounts to a claim that no future knowledge can ever reveal how certain structures, such as bacterial flagellum (Behe's deus ex machina), could ever arise.

Obviously. no one today can predict the content of future knowledge. Therefore, the claim of "irreducible complexity" amounts to a claim that, as we don't know today how such-and-such happened, then no one will ever know at any time, no matter what they learn.

Obviously, any such claim is nonsense. The evolutionary origin of the bacterial flagellum is known, in any case.

Behe's "irreducible complexity" adjusts itself to the new edge of the unknown with the expansion of scientific knowledge, just as the claim of 'no intermediate fossils' adjusts itself every time a previously unknown fossil is discovered (such as Archeopteryx).

Stay away from ID. It's a seductive idea, superficially plausible, and entirely insupportable. That last could change if we ever learn how to design universes.

Jan 21, 2012 at 3:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterPat Frank

Great stuff Pat.

I don't disagree with you about the non-falsifiability of ID but I do think it's a set of arguments that should be in our kit-bag as we push at the frontiers of knowledge - as I thought James Shapiro brought out well in the Huffington Post two weeks ago in Evolutionary Lessons From Superbugs.

My own argument would rest more on Ingratitude Risk, a phrase I came up with as I tried to explain my long-term distaste for Pascal's Wager. I do think that a great deal of alarmism would be nipped in the bud by a daily attitude of thankfulness for the amazing (for us, sitting here on planet earth) anthropic whatever that led to us sitting here on planet earth! Including of course the astounding stability of climate for four billion years, whether thanks to Willis's tropical thunderstorm thermostat or some other, as yet unknown mechanisms.

Not that metaphysical truth should be decided on the basis of what works to keep us out of the clutches of overweening UN bureaucrats. Or maybe that's not such a bad criterion, depending how pragmatic - and compassionate - a supreme being we're dealing with :)

Jan 22, 2012 at 4:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

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