Scientific Consesus (and Climate Change)

I find the whole debate about “Scientific Consensus” (or lack thereof) with regard to climate change is a very odd one.

The same people who try to claim the science isn’t settled are then quite happy to use the data from that unsettled science to “prove” their own point of view. So firstly, if they believe the data is flawed, then how do they explain using that same data themselves?

So of course they also argue the data other people have gathered is just wrong and as such should just be ignored or dismissed. In those cases though they rarely put forward alternative data that explains there differing position. In the few (very small) number of cases where alternative data has been presented, it seems to be readily debunked (as per proper scientific principles) or is such an isolated or specific example as to be statistically insignificant in the face of all the other evidence in the bigger picture.

So, my analogy for scientific consesus for today is this:

Get a bunch of people to stand on an expressway over-pass and to predict, estimate, or calculate the speed of the cars driving past.

There may be an “average” speed presented, which will of course have cars going faster or slower than that speed

Some estimates may say 110km/h, some 112km/h, others may say 109km/h. While they don’t all agree *exactly*, they do all demonstrate a “consesus” that the cars are going fast, and it’s unlikely that anyone will present a result that is wildly different (e.g. 60km/h)

Say we then take this information to someone who wasn’t part of the observing group. That person may then read that data and offer one of these responses:

1. Yes, I would agree that all those people have reached a reasonably conclusion for the speed of the cars

or

2. Those results are “utter crap”. Hardly (if any) any of the results match exactly, and the fact they all have different numbers is proof the entire observation is flawed.

There are logical fallacies that may then follow response #2. Let’s say the person making that response may not like the fact that there are speed limits on the expressway, so they would use the data to claim that the lack of consensus is proof that speed limits are a waste of time

They may use the data and then make a completely unrelated claim that because there were no accidents reported that the speed limits can be safely raised, despite the fact that was not in any way part of the study

There may have been a convoy of trucks or caravans that were travelling well below the 110km/h limit (e.g. 90km/h). They may then pick that section of observations to highlight “obvious errors” in the overall results.

So in summary, the key point I’d like to make is that SCIENCE isn’t about absolutes, it’s about observable facts that can be tested and retested by different people. It’s always possible that new discoveries will change or adjust a current “belief”, but when the vast majority of observations affirm a given hypothesis, it doesn’t make sense to ignore the results until absolute proof is available.

We still don’t really know how Gravity works, but that doesn’t stop us using it or working with it while we try to find out, There are lots of different hypothesis about how the Universe started, but that lack of “consensus” doesn’t stop the fact that it did start and just happens to be here right now.

So sure, if you don’t think something is the way everyone says it is, then by all means go and test your own idea and present the results for others to also test. That does not mean that until that time, you should get to have an equal say against the current body of evidence.

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