Saturday, December 5, 2009

Misunderstanding Science

As described in this post on Desmogblog, someone who actually took the trouble to read the entire set of e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia, assures us that there is nothing in these messages to cast any doubt on the fundamental science supporting the theory that human activities are causing an increase in carbon dioxide levels, which contributes to global warming. This reader also saw ample evidence that the authors of these messages are generally conscientious, careful and dedicated researchers. Have any of the journalists who have reported on this story read all of the stolen e-mails? If not, it seems doubtful that they are providing the needed context.

The thing that everyone who went to high school should understand about science is that scientific claims can only be proved or disproved by scientific experiments.  If someone's experiment is invalid, it will be debunked when others are unable to duplicate the results, or when new data support a different result.  In other words, you can't really fake the data or the results, because if you try to do that, your results will be disproven eventually.  So if the East Anglia e-mail messages have raised any questions about the work done by any climate scientists, that still would need to be demonstrated by showing that some of their experiments are invalid, or by doing a new experiment that disproves some result.

None of that seems to matter, of course, to the climate change skeptics, supported by the fossil fuel industry, who are only too happy to pounce on a few statements in the leaked e-mails suggesting that they can't explain all of the data they were seeing, or that they wanted to present their data in a way that is favorable to the global warming theory. None of these skeptics bothers to explain how such statements could possibly impugn the work of thousands of dedicated scientists who have studied this issue, and whose published research is there for all to see, and to challenge by scientific methods. I suppose the idea is that if a few of these scientists made some over-zealous or careless remarks, that is supposed to cast doubt on all of the research ever done by every climate scientist who supports the theory of global warming.  But if we are going to throw out all of this science because we question the statements or methods of a few of their number, then we ought to treat the "science" of the climate change deniers exactly the same way. If we can find a few climate change deniers who have left out some data they can't explain, or who have distorted the work of other scientists, or whose efforts are funded by energy companies, then wouldn't we have to throw out the entire "science" of the climate change deniers as well?

I guess we would then just have to throw out science altogether, and put the issue of climate change up for popular vote.  As for the polar bears, they will just have to learn to tread water.


  1. Funny, I thought the big energy companies, the big oil companies, and Ken Lay of ENRON WROTE THE STINKIN' BILL.

    Why are they paying people to use logic ?

    Also, the polar bears are doing better than ever.


  2. Tough to prove or disprove anything considering all of the source material on which this analysis was based was thrown out.