Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 2, 2013

Heartland Institute Knows Squat About Science

I told you so.  For years, I have been arguing that scientists and science educators should stop talking about science as if it were possible to completely “prove” a hypothesis or theory.  Instead, we should be MILITANTLY trying to get our students and the public to understand that science is always tentative, involves creativity, and so on.  For example, I argued this point in a recent talk at DePauw University, a 2010 blog post, and a couple 2009 papers published in the Journal of Geoscience Education.  Here’s a passage from one of the papers.

Scientists and science educators are often frustrated when their students or the general public reject certain scientific theories (e.g., evolution or climate change) without a proper hearing.  We then complain that if people only understood the nature of science (NOS,) they wouldn’t be so militant in their resistance.  This is true, but much of the fault lies with us.  Science educators often either neglect to teach the NOS, or hold to outdated views and pass them on to students.  If we hold more sophisticated views of the NOS, we often soft-pedal the creative and tentative aspects of scientific thought, out of fear that students will take this as license to reject science outright.  (Bickmore et al., 2009, On teaching the nature of science and the science-religion interface, Journal of Geoscience Education, 57, 168-177.)

Now, a recent case in point.  On the “Somewhat Reasonable [sic]” blog of the discredited Heartland Institute, James Trzupek reported his astonishment at a comment about the nature of science by climate scientist Michael Mann.  Here’s how Trzupek begins.

In a post over at Peter Guest’s blog, Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann is quoted making one of the most remarkable statements that I’ve ever heard coming out of a supposed scientist’s mouth:

“Proof is for mathematical theorems and alcoholic beverages. It’s not for science.”

He goes on to explain that science is all about “credible theories” and “best explanations” and his gosh-darn critics supposedly don’t offer up any of those.

Now it seems pretty obvious that Mann’s attempt to separate proof from science stems from increasing public awareness that the warming predicted by the high-sensitivity models that Mann and others have championed just hasn’t occurred over the last fifteen years. No matter. You don’t need “proof” when you have “credible theories.”

That comes as something of a shock to me. When I was going to school to earn my degree in chemistry, we were taught that science was indeed all about absolute truths and proofs at the end of the day. “Credible theories” is how you got to those truths, not an alternative to them.

Mr. Trzupek’s comments seem to show an astonishing ignorance about the nature of science that could be cured by taking a single course in the History and Philosophy of Science or reading a single textbook on the subject.  My recommendation for the beginner would be Samir Okasha’s Philosophy of Science:  A Very Short Introduction, but if you don’t want to spend the time to read Okasha’s 160 pages, I wrote a 15 page piece on the subject for introductory science students called “Science As Storytelling“.

The idea that scientific theories (or any other kind of theories) are always “underdetermined” by the data has been around at least since David Hume in the 18th century, but since the last half of the 20th century it has been the standard position among historians and philosophers of science.  E.g., even back in 1934 Karl Popper could write (in Logik der Forschung) that scientific theories are “forever tentative,” because they can never be conclusively proven true, but he clung to the idea that at least they can be “falsified,” i.e., conclusively proven false.  Subsequent scholars like Imre Lakatos and Thomas Kuhn employed very strong historical and philosophical arguments to show that even Popper’s falsifiability criterion was too strong.  Now, a standard textbook in Philosophy of Science can bluntly state,

As a matter of logic, scientific law can neither be completely established by available evidence, nor conclusively falsified by a finite body of evidence.  This does not mean that scientists are not justified on the occasions at which they surrender hypotheses because of countervailing evidence, or accept them because of the outcome of an experiment.  What it means is that confirmation and disconfirmation are more complex matters than the mere derivation of positive or negative instances of a hypothesis being tested.  (Alex Rosenberg, Philosophy of Science:  A Contemporary Introduction.  London, Routledge, 2000, p. 114.)

But are the philosophers going off on a tangent, here?  No, well informed science educators all accept this point, so that the National Academies of Science publication, Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science can say that “the statements of science should never be accepted as ‘final truth.’”

I said Mr. Trzupek’s comments “seem” to show an “astonishing” ignorance, but unfortunately his ignorance isn’t so surprising.  The fact is that it is well known to historians and philosophers of science that scientists themselves are often quite ignorant about these things, and even if they aren’t, they don’t spend a lot of time trying to help their students come to the same understanding.  The result is that it is perfectly possible for someone like Mr. Trzupek to earn an entire BS in Chemistry, and still believe that “science [is]… all about absolute truths and proofs at the end of the day.”  This problem was noted back in 1990 by Virginia Tech philosopher of science Joseph Pitt.

Rarely is a connection made between the different sciences and it certainly is the case that little, if any, effort is made to touch on the history, philosophy or sociology of science.  In short, most of our students are exposed to a year of the current (and soon to be obsolete) thinking about biology, or physics or chemistry and we call that science education.  That’s a laugh.

The situation is not much better in the colleges.  While it is true that there are more courses taught there, it is generally the case that in no science or engineering curriculum are students required to take courses in the history, sociology or philosophy of science, nor are they required to consider the relationships among the various sciences.   (Pitt, 1990, The myth of science education, Studies in Philosophy and Education, 10, 7-17.)

Given these considerations, here are my conclusions about the Heartland Institute’s recent pontifications on the nature of science.

1. BRAVO to Mike Mann.  What he said about the nature of science is spot-on, and scientists need to keep pounding this point home to students and the public.  “Proof is for mathematical theorems and alcoholic beverages. It’s not for science.”

2. Mr. Trzupek provides us with an excellent example of what happens when we fail to pound the message in.  Here we have a guy who managed to graduate with a degree in chemistry, and still has wildly naive ideas about the nature of science.  Thinking that “real science” is a matter of proof, all he has to do to convince himself to reject any branch of science he doesn’t like (climate science, evolutionary science, or whatever) is to point out a few grey areas.  I invite Mr. Trzupek to update his thinking about the nature of science so that he can join substantive conversations about climate science.  (WARNING:  It’s a lot more work.)

3.  People like Al Gore, while I appreciate what he and others have done to publicize the problem of climate change, need to knock it off with their pronouncements that “the science is settled.”  Warts and all, science has a pretty darn good track record, and everyone knows it.  Thanks, but scientists don’t need that kind of help to make our case, because it’s too easy to point out some grey areas in ANY branch of science.

[NOTE:  Tamino has also posted about Mr. Trzupek’s nonsense.]



  1. Great article, marred only by the bizarre desire to indulge in Gore-bashing at the end. Where did that come from?

    Saying that the “science is settled” on the basic mechanisms underlying climate change is entirely consistent with what you’re arguing here. The science is also settled on the motions of the planets, the laws of thermodynamics and the link between smoking and cancer. Saying “it’s settled” means it’s well understood enough to support sound decision-making in areas such as rocket design and basic preventative medical advice. What other interpretation of “settled” do you think Gore intends?

    You end up equating the stupidity of Trzupek’s “science is about absolute truths” with the very sensible observation that basic science needed to inform sensible global climate policy was worked out in detail decades ago. Is this some kind of false balance you’re trying to achieve?

    • Hi Steve,

      Gore isn’t guilty of being as ignorant as Trzupek, but consider this. Given that most people have the impression that science CAN provide “proof,” how do you think they are going to interpret Gore when he says that “the science is settled”? They naturally equate that with “scientifically proven.” When you hear Gore, you fill in a bunch of (reasonable) caveats to interpret what he means, and you are probably right. But how often does Gore say any of that explicitly? I don’t recollect ever hearing about him doing that. So in this case, what he is saying and what most people hear are probably not the same thing, and (in my opinion) he needs to take care to be clearer about what he means.

      In any case, I don’t mean to be a “Gore basher”. See this blog post.

      • Barry, it hasn’t been settled that Al Gore said the science is settled.

        You have bashed Al Gore before. As in took SOMEONE ELSE’S word for what was said WITHOUT CHECKING yourself, but taking it as true and then using it to berate Al Gore for Not Doing It Right ™.

        • Will you take Al Gore’s word for it? See:

          • That’s better, Barry.

            You’ve been had before, remember, jumping the gun and just believing what someone SAYS he says, ‘cos he’s, well Al Gore, innit?

            So how come you had to go and link to a puff piece where his words were taken out of context and placed elsewhere?

            Or are you saying that he tweets the senate now? Remember, your link report says:

            “The former vice president — and star of the film An Inconvenient Truth — spoke about global warming with the House Energy committee and the Senate Environment committee.

            The science is settled, Gore told the lawmakers.”

            I guess you need to rethink your default position on claims about what he said, right?

            And now, when you’ve considered that. Consider this:

            How would you have put it to fit in the 120 char limit of a tweet? Your post was a hell of a lot longer than that and didn’t really say anything.

            • Hi Wow,

              I have vivid memories of seeing the video of Gore saying that, and NPR is usually pretty reliable, so I went with it. I think Gore has a reasonable understanding of the limitations of science, but he tends to do soundbites like these in which he uses “black-and-white” language too much. If you listen to his congressional testimony, you will find that he does allude to a number of nuances, but he talks about things like the “unanimous consensus” among the IPCC scientists. Well, all Senator Inhofe has to do then is trot out a few of the IPCC scientists who didn’t agree with the consensus.

              How about instead talking about an “overwhelming” consensus? How about saying there is “overwhelming evidence,” or that it is “extremely unlikely” the scientists are so far off that we shouldn’t be aggressively curbing emissions? You can do a tweet or a soundbite using that kind of language.

            • Yeah, and people have vivid memories of an Out Of Body Experience.

              Problem is that there’s no independent corroboration of the phenomena and there is evidence that no such event occurred.

              The video AIT ***IS ACTUALLY OUT THERE***. You can go watch it. The transcript is available. You can peruse it for the claim.

              But you said you would look.

              Apparently you did not.

              You just KNOW that he did so. No doubt, despite being unable to say where he did it. And as long as you don’t look, you don’t know you’re wrong, eh?

              Come on, Barry, you’re smart enough to see past your preconception. Is the problem that you’ve invested in the idea Al Gore did say it, and it is no longer a matter of record but is a core part of your perception of self that you are right and Al Gore is wrong?

              NOWHERE is what was claimed he said ACTUALLY SAID.

              All that is required is finding out one place in the hour-and-a-bit video where he did say as you claimed.

              But you appear afraid to look.

              Memories are not reliable.


            • Remember too, Barry, that NPR may have heard it from “a reputable source”. Who heard it from a “reputable source” who heard it…

              Problem: Journalists are supposed to be journalists, not parrots.

              None of them bothered to investigate, apparently, whether the allegation was true.

              Neither did you.

              You aren’t a journalist, so your initial mistake was merely a mistake.

              Doing it again is more than a mistake.

              My advice: ignore what people say Al says. Something about him annoys you, so unless it’s not possible to avoid talking about him, don’t.

            • Wow,

              For my purposes, I only need to show that Gore goes about saying things like, “The science is settled.” You had a (very understandable) problem with my source, but then I went and found his tweet where he said the same thing. As far as I’m concerned, my point is made, and I don’t care that much whether NPR had the story correct about the 2007 hearing.

              Nevertheless, I tried to find a video of the hearing, but the one they had archived on the govt. website doesn’t seem to work on my computer, and one I found on Youtube doesn’t include the Q&A period, where I think Gore said “The science is settled.” The part I did watch, however, included a number of unwise statements, such as one about the “unanimous” consensus of the IPCC scientists.

              So the fact is that Gore does tend to make the kinds of statements I object to. This particular statement has been so widely reported and criticized that one would think Gore would have put it to rest if it were in error, but instead he tweets the same words.

            • Here’s another one. On Larry King Live, Al Gore said, “And the debate in the scientific community is completely over now.”


              All one has to do to refute that (at least when taken at face value) is trot out a single paper by Dick Lindzen.

  2. Nice article overall, but it should be clarified that Samir Okasha in his “Philosophy of Science: An Introduction” promulgates the sloppy feed (which has reached the status of received opinion) that Karl Popper was some sort of naïve falsificationist. Even a flick through Popper’s “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” (1934, first English edition 1959) shows that Kuhn and Lakatos did not produce a straight feed on Popper.

    That being said, the overall message of this article is to be applauded.

    • What are the nuances Kuhn and Lakatos were missing?

  3. For one thing the difference between falsifiability and falsification has been blurred in many Popper commentaries.

    Perhaps it is worth going back to first principles. We should recall that falsifiability is based on the the “modus tollens” deductive argument:

    If the theory is true then the inference is true.
    The inference is not true.
    Therefore, the theory is not true.

    Falsifiability is thus a LOGICAL property of a proposition that is vulnerable to refutation by a true existential statement. A universal laws in the form: all swans are white, would be falsified by the statement (if true): here is a black swan.

    Falsification is, in contrast, the PRACTICAL demonstration that a proposition has been falsified. Unlike the decisive logic of the modus tollens, the real-world process of falsification can never be decisive due to the Duhem problem, the uncertainty of observations and even sheer avoidence of testing by production of “ad hoc” hypotheses and so forth. This is adressed in Popper’s “The Logic of Scientific Discovery”.

    Popper’s theory of rationality isnt a theory of justified belief, it is a theory of critical preference between options. It is a myth that Popper was simplistic in his views on testing, probably the converse is more accurate, in that his early books took some effort to digest and it was easier for commentators to over-simplify the message.

    Popper from “Conjectures and Refutations” …. critical preference :

    “Thus every statement (or ‘basic statement’) remains essentially conjectural; but it is a conjecture which can be easily tested. These tests, in their turn, involve new conjectural and testable statements, and so on, ad infinitum; and should we try to establish anything with our tests, we should be involved in an infinite regress. But as I explained in my Logic of Scientific Discovery (especially section 29), we do not establish anything by this procedure: we do not wish to ‘justify’ the ‘acceptance’ of anything, we only test our theories critically, in order to see whether or not we can bring a case against them.

    Thus our ‘basic statements’ are anything but ‘basic’ in the sense of ‘final’; they are ‘basic’ only in the sense that they belong to that class of statements which are used in testing our theories.”

    • Thanks, Bruce, I also think Popper gets a raw deal in modern philosophy, though I think his work will survive and always be relevant.

      James Ladyman’s “Understanding the Philosophy of Science” is an alternative to Okasha, and anything by Massimo Piglucci.

  4. I am with Steve here. Surely empiricism tells us that GH gases trap more energy in the system ? Settled enough for me.

    • Hi Pete,

      We can amass enough evidence for this point that almost anyone who bothers to examine the evidence will accept the conclusion. But having lots of evidence isn’t the same thing as absolutely proving something in a logical sense.

      • What would be the mechanism by which a gas that can absorb a photon incident on it not absorb the photon?

        It is “entirely possible” that gravity will stop tomorrow or that the earth will stop rotating.

        Is it?

        Or is that a load of tosh?

        • Wow,

          Your questions are entirely appropriate to ask someone who rejects the scientific principles you mention, but I don’t reject them. Just because nobody has come up with alternative explanations for some things does not mean that no such explanations are possible, or that the current best explanations are thus absolutely proven.

          How do you know, for instance, that the entire universe isn’t rotating about the Earth? You don’t. All you can say is that gravitational force laws to explain celestial motions collapse to a very few universal principles if we assume the Earth is not in some special position, whereas the explanation of the motions gets way more complicated if we assume it is. We tend to prefer simpler explanations.

          The principle of underdetermination is not just philosophical twiddling, though. It is important to keep in mind, because the ability to improve relatively quickly has been one of the great strengths of science. It’s also important to keep in mind when talking about science, because it helps us stay in a rhetorically stronger position.

          • Barry, they are appropriate questions to ask someone who says that GHGs trapping heat cannot be settled science.

            You know, you.

          • PS I *know* you don’t think that.

            However, if I were to apply your methodology used to phrase Al Gore on you and were wishing to pretend you were that illiterate scientifically, I would be 100% successful.

            This should be demonstration enough that your methodology is insufficient to the task of determining the capability of a person talking about the climate.

            • Wow, my methodology wit Al Gore has simply been to say I think he ought to use a few more weasel words here and there, and supply some instances where I thought that was the case. I never said he was scientifically illiterate, nor do I think that. I merely said that I think sometimes his language gives scientifically illiterate people an opening to find fault with the science to a ridiculous degree.

            • Your methodology has been to ignore what he’s talking about and just quote three words in a sentence.

              I did the same with you: YOU HAVE SAID “the science is settled”. You yourself insist you need to cut that crap out.

              So do so.

      • “But having lots of evidence isn’t the same thing as absolutely proving something in a logical sense.”

        This strawman illustrates the intellectual dishonesty of your argument against Gore that you were called out for.

        Oh, but you’re a still a Republican (it says up there) … that explains it.

  5. ‘Barry Bickmore knows squat about science’.

    How does it feel to be on the receiving end of that ad-hom statement, Barry?

    In fact, Heartland does a tremendous amount of good work on a shoestring budget, and they take no government funding. Place Heartland’s extensive knowledge in contrast with those paid with public funds [like the .edu industry], and you will see whose ‘science’ is bought and paid for. So just because you may disagree, it does not follow that you are right.

    The fact is that global warming has stopped. It may resume, or not. But one thing is pretty clear: CO2 has nothing to do with the natural rise in global warming. And the great majority of CO2 emissions are natural: when the oceans warm, CO2 is emitted [Beer’s Law], just like a warming Coke naturally outgases CO2.

    You see, ∆CO2 is an effect of ∆T, not the cause of any measurable warming. But the alarmist crowd’s original premise was that the rise in man-made CO2 causes global warming. When you begin with a false premise, your conclusion will necessarily be wrong.

    The climate alarmists’ premise was wrong, but they cannot let it go. Their ego won’t let them, despite the fact that the NY Times, the Economist, and even the IPCC all now admit that global warming has stopped. Oh, ‘scuse me: GW has “stalled”. <– [GW Newspeak]

    Global warming preceded, and therefore caused the rise in CO2. That is not an assertion; rather, that is scientific evidence, based on solid empirical observations.

    Man-made global warming, however, is simply a man-made assertion, with no testable, measurable scientific evidence to support it. None. There is zero testable evidence showing that ∆CO2 causes ∆temperature [if you believe otherwise, post a chart comparable to this one, showing that ∆T causes ∆CO2… IF you can find one. I can’t.

    The man-made global warming scare is a proven false alarm. But there is big money [and even bigger egos] behind it, so it will be a while before the dominoes really begin to topple. But they will; in science, the truth has a way of emerging.

    • Smokey,

      Almost everything you said is absurd. E.g., supposing there are a number of factors that affect Earth’s surface temperature, and CO2 is one of them, it does not follow that CO2 and surface temperature trends should exactly correlate over any arbitrarily small time period. If you had ever tried to mathematically model any natural process, you would know this.

      Therefore, in answer to your question, I’m not insulted at all by your ad hominem. I consider it a compliment.

      • Ha, yes, exactly.

        Even if I knew nothing about Barry Bickmore, at this point I would begin working on the assumption that he probably knows a great deal about science. Because Smokey’s claims there are not merely uncorrelated with reality, they display a strong negative correlation with reality.

        That of course is not proof that Smokey’s opening sentence is similarly false. It’s entirely possible that despite being wrong on a long series of factual claims, Smokey happens to be right on that one.

        If you left Smokey’s comment intact but replaced “squat” with “a lot” in his/her first sentence, then I would begin to worry.

        • I see a series of opinions and assertions in reply to my comment, but no credible scientific facts. Not one.

          I gave explicit references and links backing up everything I wrote, while Bickmore and Ned emitted their baseless conjectures; the typical stock in trade of the climate alarmist crowd. I think neither of you would know the Null Hypothesis if it bit you on the a …nkle.

          As I expected and wrote, no one here could find a chart showing that the change in CO2 is the primary cause of temperature change, so of course the alarmist cult members rely on their baseless conjectures and assertions.

          One more chance, boys: produce a chart, like I did, but showing that the rise in CO2 is the cause of temperature rise. [Overlays don’t count.] Let me predict: you can’t produce one. Because the fact is, there is no sciewntific measurement showing that ∆T is caused by ∆CO2. And if you can’t measure something, it is hardly science, is it?

          You kids can wake me when you learn some science. Really. Pronouncements are not adequate to support your belief system.

          • Smokey, you’re not getting it. A chart can’t show causation, especially over short time periods when there are multiple factors at work. It can show correlation, and CO2 and surface temperature are very well correlated over longer time periods–but nobody ever said it was the only driver.

            • Barry Bickmore says:

              “A chart can’t show causation…”

              Yes, it can. You may have convinced yourself that this chart shows no causation, but I don’t think reasonable people would agree with you. Just pretend you’re showing it to a jury. The cause-and-effect is crystal clear to even the most casual observer. If you really, truly believe that chart shows no causation, you may want to re-think who might not be ‘getting it’.

              You also seem to believe that CO2 is the driver of temperature — meaning it is the central factor driving temperature change. Further, you seem to believe that human CO2 emissions are the cause of much if not all global warming. But belief is not science, and neither of those conjectures are valid. I have shown they are invalid based on the empirical evidence that I have been posting here. But where is your evidence? All I see is belief. And conjectures. And opinions. And assertions. But where is the verifiable, testable science?

              Let me be clear: CO2 does have an effect on temperature. But that effect is so minuscule that it is not measurable at current CO2 concentrations. The largest effect by far was seen in the first 20 ppmv of CO2. Now the CO2 concentration is ≈400 ppmv. That explains why you were unable to produce a chart chowing the effect of CO2. At current CO2 concentrations, any temperature change due to the addition of a few more ppm is simplly too small to measure.

              The entire CO2=AGW scare has been completely overblown. At this point it is nonsense. CO2 is a minor, bit player; its effect is swamped by many other forcings and feedbacks. For all practical purposes, CO2 can be completely disregarded as inconsequential. CO2 simply does not matter.

              But of course, if we disregard “carbon”, then the grant money begins to dry up. Therefore the “carbon” nonsense will be with us for a while longer. But make no mistake: the canard that a rise in CO2 will cause any measurable “climate change” is a false alarm that is being promoted by a relatively small clique of scientists and ‘educators’ riding the grant gravy train, and by a larger anti-science, quasi-religious cult that has its ego invested in their belief in catastrophic AGW. The first are in it for the money and the prestige, and the rest cannot admit that they were so wrong. No one likes to admit they were suckers.

              So who should the rest of us believe? Planet Earth? Or the purveyors of the “carbon” scare. Because they cannot both be right.

            • Just in case you don’t know, Smokey is one of the Watties. Its interesting to see one venturing out of their walled garden though – they don’t often do that.

              As you say (well, OK, you’re too polite to say it but I’m not): Smokey’s stuff is just nonsense; fairly close to not-even-wrong. I think that he genuinely doesn’t know this; or perhaps, has never really though about it. Over at WUWT you can write what Smokey just has and get a pile of replies saying “how wise / how true / “.

              > showing that the rise in CO2 is the cause of temperature rise

              You can’t do that from just a chart, as BB points out. Understanding that would be the beginning of wisdom (you could even try chanting “correlation does not imply causation” perhaps). A basic starting point, would be

            • If you can use short time periods to show trends, then the trend 2011-2012 is 0.6C per decade.

              This therefore is proof that we actually DO have “Catastrophic AGW”, right?

          • Smokey

            Left the WUWT playpen have we.

            Try this correlation Smokey.

            Correlate the logarithm of CO2 concentration with total Ocean Heat Content – make sure you use the full 0-2000 meter data not cherry pick just the 0-700 meters. Mark the presence of the major volcanic eruptions in that data set – Pinatubo, El Chichon and Agung.

            Add that the rise in OHC is currently (last decade or so) running at around 250 TeraWatts. This is more than 5 times greater than the largest heat source available here on Earth – Geothermal heat. So this accumulation of heat in the oceans can’t be coming from anywhere here on Earth; it must have an extra-terrestrial source.

            And since the Sun hasn’t warmed over the last 1/2 century – we have observations of that – that can’t be the cause. In fact nothing that might be related to sunlight can be the cause. If it were we would see more warming when the Sun shines, daytime & summer. We don’t. Warming is occurring 24/7 and the only phenomenon that works 24 hours a day is the GH Effect.

            Something is increasing the strength of the GH Effect. That is the only possible conclusion from the observations.

            Open your eyes a bit Smokey, you might learn something. Or go back to Ant’s little playpen where you can all have a nice little singalong to the old stuck record.

    • Smokey: Who buys and pays for Heartland? Is it not the fossil fuel industry and their front groups?

    • “In fact, Heartland does a tremendous amount of good work on a shoestring budget”

      How much does it cost to make an uninformed opinion? They’re a dime a dozen.

      How much doe sit cost to make an experiment to inform your opinion? Now that can get expensive. Satellites aren’t cheap.

      HI got paid millions that we know about every year.

      That is not a shoestring.

    • “How does it feel to be on the receiving end of that ad-hom statement, Barry?”

      It wasn’t ad hom … he demonstrated that it’s true. You, OTOH, demonstrated that it’s true of you too.

  6. Uncertainty is the hallmark of science. All our explanations are conjectural, albeit some have survived robust testing and criticism better than others.

    It is not suggested that theories that have survived hard testing should be let go of lightly. We expect that greenhouse gases will continue to trap heat because such theories that have so far been tested are the best theories available. “Best available theory” means in comparison with other theories.

    Corroboration reports on the survival after testing. Popper was never simplistic and proposed that one might consider internal consistency in comparing conclusions, investigations of the logical forms of theories, comparing theories with other theories to determine whether or not the theory under consideration is a scientific advance, and empirical applications of the conclusions.

    If we wish to use the word, settled, that is fine, after all it is only a word, but sometimes it is worth pausing to reconsider the difference between science and non-criticisable dogma.

    • Bruce Caithness said:

      If the theory is true then the inference is true.
      The inference is not true.
      Therefore, the theory is not true.

      Similar to what I wrote above: “When you begin with a false premise, your conclusion will necessarily be wrong.”

      The false premise of the climate alarmist crowd states that ∆CO2 is the cause of ∆T, when it can be proved by using empirical observations that ∆T is the cause of ∆CO2. I invited anyone to produce similar observations showing that CO2 causes changes in temperature, but as we see, I got nothing but baseless assertions. I suppose that is good enough for true believers. For myself, I prefer evidence. [And note that models are not evidence].

      The true premise is that ∆T is the cause of ∆CO2. By using that premise everything observed falls into place, and we see the true cause-and-effect relationship: CO2 has no measurable effect on temperature at current concentrations. That is why CO2 can rise by ≈40%, while global temperatures have stopped rising.

      One final nit: climate science is not a “theory”. It does not fit the definition. At this point, it is hardly an hypothesis; more like a series of conjectures, most of which have been proven to be wrong.

      A theory [which is also a hypothesis] is capable of making repeated, accurate predictions. However, not one GCM [computer climate model] was able to predict that global warming would stop for the past decade and a half. Since they all failed that simple and basic test, there is a clear disconnect between climate models and reality.

      I am a “show me” kinda guy. Given the choice between a conjecture and empirical [real world] evidence, I will listen to what Planet Earth is saying: that CO2 simply does not have the claimed effect.

      Other than that, I agree with you on Popper. And PNS is not science, it is pseudo-science masquerading as science. There is way too much wiggle room in PNS.

      [For a good explanation of the difference between a Law, a Theory, and a Conjecture, see here.]

      • And your premise (Anything But Carbon) is a false premise.

        Global temperatures HAVE NOT stopped rising. Each year, the figures are different.

        To prove a flat trend you need a trend of 0 +/- 0.


        The proposition is that the climate is still rising at the rate predicted: 0.17C per decade.

        If you wish to claim that this is false, prove that the trend is different from that.

        • I like this comment, Wow. The standard null hypothesis when calculating the “statistical significance” of a trend is that the trend is really zero. So if we say it’s not “statistically significant,” we mean that we can’t prove with 95% confidence that it’s different than zero. If we’ve had a non-zero trend for quite some time, I don’t see why the null hypothesis shouldn’t be that the trend is no different than it has been. But then, you don’t see many (any?) contrarians pointing out that the recent trend isn’t statistically different than EITHER zero or what it has been for a few decades.

          • Barry, this is what Tamino has discussed, too:

          • It’s something that is pretty obvious when you look at what people who go “The temperatures are flat” are *REALLY* trying to say.

            The problem with most rational people is that they argue against the statement made. Which isn’t really worth arguing against.

            If by “flat” they mean “the trend includes zero”, then yes, their statements are correct. So what?

            The “So What?” is their attempt to the run along to the “AGW models are proven wrong!”.

            EXCEPT that isn’t what that statement says.

            If you want to prove the AGW models wrong, you have to prove the temperature trends are NOT what the models say they should be.

            Smarter people than me show things like the SkS “Going down the up escalator”.

            I’m dumb enough to look for a way of avoid doing the maths 🙂

  7. > produce a chart, like I did, but showing

    His point, I think, is that words won’t convince him, he wants a convincing picture. And he can get exactly what he wants at the sites he likes.

    Search on most any words related to climate science in
    — ‘oogle or any standard search engine
    — Google Scholar
    — Google Image Search

    The difference will leap out at you. The denial/PR sites are far, far heavier on pictures than on words, and use far more pictures than the science sites.

    Often they’re reusing pictures found on science sites — but with spin and misinterpretation attached.

    “This picture proves …” — nothing, but they like to do that a lot.

  8. PS for that guy — misusing Woodfortrees is a sucker play. Whoever made that link you posted up for you fooled you completely — and Woodfortrees has an info page explaining exactly how to do that, and what to watch for.

    Here, I fixed that chart for you:

  9. Once again, may I point out that the invective on display here takes the place of scientific facts, or data, or observations — which is exactly what went into producing the many charts and graphs I have posted here for the benefit of readers. At last count, at least three separate commenters have made me, personally, the issue. But they steer clear of trying to debate science. And that includes this blog’s host, Barry.

    I note the baseless conjectures, opinions, Beliefs, and assertions made by commentators, rather than their arguing with the scientific evidence I posted. The only scientific evidence anyone has posted was from Hank Roberts above — but Hank conveniently ignored my admonition that “Overlays don’t count.”

    Hank used an overlay, which neatly avoids the problem of cause-and-effect by showing only a time-insensitive correlation. You cannot tell from Hank’s overlay which came first: CO2, or temperature. But you can tell which came first from the chart that I posted, which clearly shows cause-and-effect. And to resolve Hank’s petty complaint: I personally prefer posting charts over the undelying data, because since most readers here avoid science in favor of ad hominem attacks, I think that charts are the way to go. Also, some readers’ eyes glaze over when they click on a link, only to find rows of digits. So I prefer charts; YMMV. Anyway, Hank, thanx for playing. At least you tried.

    I also note that the last two (2) comments I submitted are still idling away in moderation, while the baseless attacks against my posts [but which do not answer any facts I posted] were promptly approved. What a sterling guy our Barry is, eh? William Connolley’s M.O. is the same: delete uncomfortable comments, but promote pseudo-science at wikipedia.

    I also note that the same William Connolley, who has been repeatedly accused of altering numerous comments in his heavy-handed and disreputable manner at wikipedia [and apparently, disciplined for doing so], is one of the very few people who have been given the boot by Since Anthony Watts gives wide latitude to extremes of comments from both sides of the debate, Connolley would have to be seriously odious to get banned from that liberal site, no?

    I also note that Connolley tucks tail and runs away whenever he is challenged to a public debate, with a moderator and venue chosen by mutual agreement. “Brave Sir William ran away…” But last I heard the offer is still open, Billy. Lord Monckton would clean your clock, we all know that.

    Finally, since no one here is willing to try and challenge my numerous arguments based on the science [except for Hank — and kudos to him for at leeast trying], I think we can conclude that the True Belief of some other commentators takes precedence over the verifiable and testable scientific facts, and data, and empirical observations that I posted in my comments.

    But that’s how it always is with the climate alarmist crowd. When they can’t support their conjecture based on verifiable science, then ad hominem is all they’ve got left.

    Prove me wrong. Argue the science. I’m here, and I am still waiting.

    • My kingdom for a graph!!

      Go now, Smokey, and rest assured that you have vanquished us all. What? Did we expect that petty ad hominems like “correlation does not imply causation” would mar your brilliance? Nay, they never shall. They never shall.

      • And once again: not one iota of verifiable scientific evidence is presented by the climate alarmist crowd. And note that I have never said that “correlation does not imply causation”. Why do I get poetry when I am simply asking you to support your beliefs?

        I am still waiting for the science, but they refuse to argue the science. I certainly have done so, using [mostly] peer reviewed charts and graphs, and if you want more just ask. I have hundreds of them in a dozen folders. Let me warn you: they are pretty hard to refute, as they come from the IPCC and the U.S. government. But thety tell the same story: catastrophic AGW is nonsense. There is zero scientific evidence of its existence. Go ahead, take the bait. Because I can prove it.

        Also: will my two unpublished comments ever see the light of day? Or will this blog, like almost all alarmist blogs, censor all opinions and scientific facts that are hard to refute?

        I suspect that censorship is the easy way out.

        • Given you won’t every reverse your opinion no matter WHAT evidence is given to you, what the hell is the point of listening to your raving or answering your petulant queries, Smokey?

          Teaching a dog to play banjo annoys the dog and frustrates the one trying to teach him, so we’ll not bother teaching you.

          Call it censorship if you want, but who cares?

    • Well, that was funny, and deserves an answer.

      First of all, note the start, which complains of ad-homs, and then decsends into clear ad-homs himself. And the claims of censorship, which seems to be a fairly std tactic. But for actual censorship, a better example is AW suppressing Nick Stokes’ patient attempts to explain just how badly AW was wrong here

      But more important are the lies. WUWT is not liberal, except in the number of people it bans. I was banned there for pointing out AW’s errors (see The person who turned tail and ran in that debate was AW.

      The story itself is funny / sad (details at the post): WUWT readers need to be steered clear of wikipedia, or given an excuse for not editing there: there are too many inconvenient facts, and some explanation for why True Blog Science gets the boot there needs to be issued. So AW provided a tale of how he had been persecuted at wiki.

      But it was all a mixture of pure invention and AW’s misunderstanding of how wiki works.

      Which is an appropriate parable for AW (or Smokey)’s attitude to science in general.

    • “At last count, at least three separate commenters have made me, personally, the issue. ”

      Such a transparently hypocritical maggot you are.

  10. Physics is about condensed energy mapped to a coordinate system of choice. To take results from one system and port it to another coordinate system one need a description tangent to both spaces with the result so to be sure that the description has no influence on either systems and is independent of choice of origin.
    Now you have a framework everyone can agree on and independent for any of the co-ordinates,x,y,z and t, our most common used. Also independent of co-ordinates like a (Billy, William), (Smokey, Anthony) and internet events (loosy translated as the time). One might argue that there is a missing z but that can be the unnamed masses looking at the formentioned in amazement what the heck they are talking about and do what ever they like to do.

    Sciene is looking into the connection between co-ordinate systems or bundles of connections (sets of equotations) which maps a convinient space for science ( e.g. frequency, torsion,charge and energy of rigid body) back to the x,y,z,t space in which we do our measurements.

    That flipping back and forth and reducing, at times, the dimensions gives rise to a (mathematical) uncertainty between some of the parameters. If dimensions are reduced, like in graphs, the uncertainty is of a type that there may not be one solution but a line of solutions (reduce 1) or a whole plane (reduce 2) or a space full (reduce 3). Like stating ‘global warming is going to be 2 degrees in the next century’ a reduction is of 3 dimension, leaving only time t. Like drawing a 2D graph ( reduce 2) one can conviniently argue “global warming stopped since 1998” by picking a convinient start point (as the physics are origin independent). Just as well can be made clear: “global warming didn’t stop” by not picking a startpoint and take all available datapoints. However that is not more than selecting another convinient starting point. Take a starting point xx million years ago, sure we came back from a hell of a lot more CO2. But then coordinates (Bill,Will), (Smoke, Anthon),(masses) were not around, so what’s the point, will the relative independed (masses) say?
    So take multiple graphs, all displaying the connections between typical science co-ordinates and our space. Mathematical stable connections are there for 1,3 and 7 dimensions (proven, maybe more there are about 20 different). We live in a 4 dimensional space, so ultimate proof would be in a 4×7, 28 2D graphs displaying the mappings. To be consumed (as in reading, not as in drinking,eating) in combination, not separate.

    And with this I leave the readers with some food for thoughts. I must say that climate contrarians do have a tendency to reduce dimensions to minimal size so it is easy to pick a contradictonary solution and lean back and wait what the answer from science this time will be. Knowing that there is no such thing as ‘settled science’ one can go on for ages.

    Personally I think humanity has no time left for that. Nature doesn’t take prisoners but will punish instantly.

  11. It was good of Smokey to turn up here and unwittingly demonstrate the point.

  12. @Smokey Just one question. Is there any statement of evidence that you would accept to falsify your claim that global warming is not accentuated by human activities?

    • That is a perfectly reasonable question Bruce except you really need to quantify “accentuated”.

  13. Ah but the science is settled…

    It is settled to the extent that our current understanding is complete enough to project with adequate confidence the effect of anthropogenically sourced C02 to conclude our actions will seriously threaten our civilization….

    Now there are many details in the science of AGW that are not settled, but their resolution will not change the broad conclusions. For example, it is does not matter if the ice sheets melt in 20, 50 or 100 years. The fact that they will melt and its attendant sea rise is adequate….

    PS Smokey, you are a disingenous troll and these people have been far more polite to you than your empty rhetoric deserves….

    Why don;t you come and play at Zerohedge so you and I can have a discussion unhindered by moderators and censors, you know mano y mano…

  14. Barry, BAD BOY.

    And I mean that most sincerely.

    You’ve been asked by me before to discover where Al Gore said that Florida would be under water by 2100 in AIT.

    Widely though some reporter CLAIMED it was there, NOT EVEN YOU managed to find it. You proposed looking for it and the inference would be to come back with where you found it and that since you didn’t come back, such confirmation of Al Gore’s statement was refuted. No Indigo Swan was found, despite looking.

    And now, here today, you do the EXACT SAME THING.

    You claim in inference that Al Gore said “the science is settled” and put quotation marks around it and link to an NPR report where THE REPORTER HIMSELF says that Al Gore said it, BUT DOES NOT QUOTE HIM SAYING SO.

    “The science is settled, Gore told the lawmakers.”

    This does not quote Al Gore. It quotes the reporter ONLY.

    And I put to you this to read:

    DO SO.

    And remember that neither Al Gore nor anyone he was talking to was a scientist and none of them had time to go into all the proofs and failures of disproof that give the settled science of climate. Brevity of language requires some editorialising.

    We do not dispute that things fall down when dropped. That science IS SETTLED.

    The cause of it? In detail? Well, it’s a lot less settled.

    But that doesn’t mean that the earth will remove itself from the solar system because we can’t explain to 100% veracity why it doesn’t.

    I am VERY disappointed with you Barry.

    You’ve made this mistake before. And you go doing it again.

    You should feel ashamed.

    • Once again, straight from the horse’s mouth:

      And even I believe the science is “settled” in some limited sense, but if you go around saying that kind of thing without the caveats, it’s easy for your opponents (and morons in general) to beat up on the straw man. The wiser course, in my opinion, is to give the caveats, and then express shock that anyone would be so stupid as to think science without those caveats is even possible.

      • Once again, U fail.

        In the link you give, IT DOES NOT QUOTE AL GORE saying that.

        All that link says is that he said it.

        Which is EXACTLY what you did before.

        Guilty As Charged, Barry.

        And note: this response (all answers are responses, not all responses are answers) does not deal with the remainder.

        You now say “the science is settled”.

        In 120 characters, you’d be doing the same thing as you claim was wrong when it was Al Gore doing it.

        I get it: you don’t particularly like him because he did things differently from what you think he should have done.

        And he’s Fat. (j/k).

        How the hell can you fit those caveats into a twitter?

        • “The science is very strong.”

          And I have no particular animosity for Al Gore. What I said about him, I have said about scientists for several years. I just think it’s bad strategy, even if you can convince yourself that its entirely honest.

          • “And I have no particular animosity for Al Gore”

            The evidence indicates otherwise.

            You vilify and berate him for something you don’t actually have proof he did, apart from “I remember it vividly” when the event you “remember” WAS ACTUALLY A RECORDED EVENT.

            If you had no animosity toward him, you’d actually go look before you berate him for saying, for example, that Florida will be flooded “some time this century”/”by 2050″/”by 2100” or whatever meme has been promulgated by the deniers.

            You refuse, rightly, the claims of deniers when they make claims about the science, because you GO LOOK IT UP and verify or refute the claim.

            But you don’t when it comes to Al.

            • Wow,

              As I explained above, I tried to locate a video I could check, but failed. Since I found the tweet, I don’t really feel the need to make herculean efforts. Since my point was simply that Al Gore goes about saying things like that, and he manifestly does, one would think you would let go of this.

          • Give up Barry. There’s no point trying a sensible debate with this one.

            • Stop being so hard on yourself, Col.

              Oh, hang on, no, you can’t have a conversation with someone if they don’t agree with you that AGW is all wrong, can you.

              Go ahead, then.

    • In fact, here’s a short alternative. “Science is never totally settled, but in this case we have an awful lot of evidence pointing in the same direction.”

      • Which is more than 120 chars when you include the hashtag.

        Oh, and doesn’t say the same thing.

        > The data is clear. Man-made carbon pollution is real.

        This is ENTIRELY saying that CO2 is a result of combustion of a hydrocarbon chain in an oxygen rich atmosphere is being done by human beings.

        Where does your alternative say that people are doing it by burning hydrocarbons???

        > Use @RealityDrop to make your voice heard.

        Is telling people to make a noise and be noticed. You know, getting the public to make their opinions heard. It’s quite the in-thing in a democracy: people are free to speak their opinion and the politicians need to know what the people are actually thinking.

        Where does your alternative promote active participation in the political process?

        In effect, your alternative is “Say something completely different”.

        Try an alternative that does the same thing.

  15. 1) I like your comments about Gore. Some people fill in the caveats, and some don’t, and they hear different things as a result.

    2) I think that Trzupek’s characterization of science as “all about absolute truth and proofs” is a crude overreaction to Mann’s description of science. A fair reading of what Mann actually says doesn’t seem at all shocking to me, but I’m filling in the caveats, as Trzupek seems not to be.

    Be fair to Trzupek and fill in the caveats he omits in his own writing. Like any cliché, the one about math, alcohol, proof and science says something profound but at the expense of presenting the whole truth, and is not beyond criticism. I haven’t seen anyone acknowledging the obvious: that science includes plenty of deductive proof, in which a valuable conclusion is demonstrated as being necessarily true given certain assumptions. Also, a more colloquial usage of “proof” is often used by scientists and science writers, and there is some ambiguity in exactly what is intended if not taken in context. Trzupek himself puts the word in quotes, indicating to a charitable reader that he understands the distinction.

    In a way Mann and Trzupek are just referring to opposite sides of the same coin. You can argue that Mann’s side is the more valuable, but when a group of bloggers and commenters all ignore the other side completely it comes across as perhaps opportunistic and partisan.

    3) For those who miss Trzupek’s main point amidst the distractions, try viewing this old Scientific American article. I submit that if you don’t feel either embarrassment or outrage after reading the headline and first sentence, there are aspects of the issues of how science is done and how climate science is presented that you are not seeing objectively.

    • Hi David,

      The problem is that Mike Mann can’t go on the radio or TV and give a course in the philosophy of science. At best, he can get across the notion that 1) we don’t have everything worked out, 2) some things we think we have worked out might get turned around, but 3) that’s ok, because science is always like that, so 4) we are doomed to constant weighing of evidence, never strictly “proving” anything. What Mike said, I think, succeeded, given that it was a tiny soundbite, and it was STRICTLY TRUE. What Trzupek said is strictly NOT true. Reading his comments, I’m not at all sure he would agree with the caveats you mentioned–look at what he said about phlogiston theory, after all. Furthermore, what Mike said is obvious to anyone who knows any philosophy of science, and it counteracts a common (and harmful) misconception. What Trzupek said must have caveats added by charitable, but knowledgeable readers, but it REINFORCES the common misconceptions.

      I think you are engaging in a little false equivalence, here.

      • Pfft. When they DO, they get misquoted (Like Phil Jones “statistical significance is 93%, missing the standard science requirement of 95% or better” becoming “there’s been no warming since 1998”) or even downright faked with their quote (Mojab Latif’s “We see in the record many times where we have had 10 years or more with a declining trend in the overall upward trend” becoming “IPCC scientist admits there will be no warming for the next 20 years” “No, 30!” “Yeah, at least!” – see Greenman’s Crock of the Week from around that time for that one: it’s a hell of an eye opener).

        Talking about the caveats and uncertainties works ONLY if everyone listening is listening to learn.

        When there’s a massive cabal of loud mouthed but connected idiots trying to construe Anything But Carbon (a phrase I produced YEARS ago, now becoming a bit of a meme, I’m pleased), this doesn’t work.

        And much of the rank and file, especially the religious DO NOT WANT uncertainty. They DEMAND certitude. And Religion gives it to them. They sure as hell don’t want scicen with it’s “It is likely this, but we don’t know X”, they want “YOU ARE GOING TO HELL!!!”.

        And the kochs give it to them via the denialosphere: it’s DEFINITELY NOT US.

        Doesn’t matter if it’s certainly wrong: as long as they’re CERTAIN.

        • You can’t stop people from abusing your words, but you can make it harder for them.

          • No, you can only make it hard by not saying a damn thing, Barry.

            Which is entirely why they ABSOLUTELY DO NOT GIVE A SHIT about accuracy or relevance of the fact that they can be found to be contradicting their story even within the same sentence.

            They aren’t trying to convince anyone any more: it’s waaay too late for that.

            So the options are really only to ignore the shit they say and lay a metric ton of smack-down on them with no pretense that anyone thinks they are being in any way, shape, or form, reasonable.

      • Barry, I don’t have a problem with what Mann was quoted as saying about science in the Guest essay (as quoted from his book?). Likewise, I would be just fine with your numbers 1 -4 … except that you are emphasizing that it is strictly (STRICTLY!) true, and that seems to contradict what I said in my previous comment about proofs being a real part of science.

        Try this important historical example: Newton did not prove that the force of gravity follows the inverse square law. He did, however, prove that the planets will follow elliptical orbits, given that gravity does follow the inverse square law. If you argue that Newton didn’t actually prove that the planets will follow elliptical orbits, because he didn’t prove the premise that gravity follows the inverse square law, I agree completely. If one pushes the point too far and says that Newton didn’t prove anything at all, I say that’s wrong, as he did prove something.

        So what Mann says about proof not being for science is not strictly true. Of course what Trzupek said about science being all about proof is, as you put it, strictly not true.

        Though … I looked through my old physics textbooks, and most of the problem sets are loaded with “show that such and such is true” type problems. Some authors say “prove” instead of “show that”, and the terms seem interchangeable. If his chem books were like my physics books, I can somewhat see how he remembers college chemistry as all about proving things.

        What is it that Trzupek said about phlogiston that you object to?

        • The bit that Newton proved was pure maths, and therefore susceptible to proof. The bit that he didn’t prove was the physics.

          • Yes, that proof is math. And it’s easily within the realm of physics, a prototype of mathematical physics reasoning. And yes, the part that he didn’t prove was also part of physics.

        • Hi David,

          Newton mathematically proved that IF there is some kind of gravitational force that follows an inverse square law, the result WOULD BE elliptical orbits. Kepler had already shown that if you ASSUME elliptical orbits, you don’t have to use epicycles and the like to explain apparent planetary positions in the sky. So the choice was between a very simple, powerful set of ideas that let us explain a broad class of motions all with the same, simple equation, and a convoluted set of ideas that had to appeal to all kinds of ad hoc, unpredictable elements. Why choose Newton? Simplicity, power, and fruitfulness. He didn’t strictly “prove” anything about how the world really works–he only proved what the predictions would be of a particular mathematical model.

          Regarding phlogiston, Trzupek said, “The proposition that phlogiston made combustion possible was a ‘credible theory’ for a long time, until Lavoisier conclusively ‘proved’ that oxidation was responsible.” Well, no. I think phlogiston theory could have been saved by the idea that phlogiston has “negative mass,” and that “dephlogisticated air” (oxygen) could absorb a bunch of phlogiston. In fact, some phlogiston theorists had proposed this, but the problem was that Lavoisier’s idea that combusting substances fix oxygen gas from the air, and oxygen is just a gas like any other, was much more simple and elegant. There was no “proof” about it.

          • Barry,

            It’s interesting that people other than Newton postulated an inverse square law. And of course it was Kepler who postulated elliptical orbits; Newton “only” proved that one implies the other.

            The whole Principia is literally a book of proofs–of things that were mostly already known, based on a few axioms which were largely known (the laws of motion), using math that was known (geometry). Most of the genius was in how Newton fit everything together into a coherent system.

            You can’t remove the proofs from the Principia and still have the same presentation of a coherent system of physical science. I’ll go further and say that, historically, proofs are part of science’s fruitfulness. They help us choose which combinations of postulates are more powerful, like pruning a fruit tree, and sometimes they create new fruit where none was expected.

            Carnot’s Theorem, Noether’s Theorem, Bell’s Theorem–make your own list–as you say, none of these strictly prove anything about how the world really works, but we obviously can’t just remove them from what we call science, nor relegate them to second tier status. Consider the point that you make so well in a downstream comment, the distinction between how science is REALLY done as opposed to how people think it SHOULD be done.

            • Hi David,

              I conceptually agree with everything you say, but I wouldn’t say it that way. (And this discussion is about how we should be saying these sorts of things in public.) It seems to me that math is used in science, but it doesn’t become part of science until it is applied to the natural world. Therefore, I would expect a scientific “proof” to say something about the natural world.

              Any of the proofs Newton did could easily be classified as pure mathematics, and in fact, Newton invented an entire branch of mathematics (calculus). So I don’t think it’s inconsistent to say that when he was doing the proofs he was doing math, and when he was applying the math to the natural world, he was doing science.

            • I guess how you phrase it depends on what things you are trying to emphasize or de-emphasize. I consider math and logic to be embedded in science, and have no interest in trying to tease them out in any way.

              As for talking about these things in public: I think that the phrase “the science is settled” is much worse than even you say, Barry, and I can see that you take a bit of heat for criticizing it. But the connotations are just terrible.

              Anyway, I’ve enjoyed participating in the discussion.

  16. @Barry It is not easy to maintain philosophical rigor but you are taking a fine stance. You are standing up to the mistaken (positivist) belief that what elevates science over pseudo-science is the “scientific method” of finding true, secure, justifiable knowledge.

    Better theories are those with the greater content and the greater explanatory power (both relative to the problems we are trying to solve). Even if in strict philosophical terms we cannot justify our belief in the truth of a theoretical statement – we can sometimes justify our preference for one theory over another. This is subtle.

    Scientists tend to favour the greenhouse gas claim as an explanatory theory not because of some presupposition that blinds them to the truth but, rather, because it is scientifically more fruitful than the alternatives and enjoys greater explanatory power.

    • Please prove both that the belief as you propose is actually extant in the practitioners of science and that the extent of that belief is actually improved by your preferred approach.

      Otherwise all you’re doing is complaining about strawmen so you can pretend to be better than “those people”.

      Scientists do not believe what you ascribe them.

      You could even point to one that did, but my statement would be MORE ACCURATE than your statement that “scientists do”. Therefore you CANNOT claim me to be wrong. You have to claim something that is actually DIFFERENT between the statements of the actions and views of “scientists”.

      Which means you have to drop the weasel indefinite article “scientists” and actually state who the hell you’re talking about. Because unless you make a concrete statement, that statement can be claimed by fiat wrong: without being a concrete statement, there is no possibility of proving the statement correct.

      Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them;

      ― Thomas Jefferson

      • > “Please prove both that…”

        You drifted a long way from the actual topic of this thread, but now you’ve returned to it. Or rather, proved that you haven’t read it 🙂

        • Obviously, you only read up to the end of what you quoted, Bill 😛

          (really, why the smiley when what you really want is a snarky? just say what the feck you mean, don’t weasel [ pun not intended, stoater] a J/K, LOL, backdoor escape route)

          My main gripe with what Bruce was saying was the inspecifity (I just made up a new word!!) of it.

          A hell of a lot of my problem with this thread ATL and commenting BTL is that it’s been indefinite in its accusations, but when the definition of the accusation is made concrete, then the scope of the error and its ACTUAL effect can then be discussed.

          When the claim was indefinite, it was censorious, impossible to disprove, and could not be debated.

          When the claim was defined in concrete terms and reason could act upon it, it was discovered to be correct within the possible parameters for the claim.

          • Wow,

            Bruce’s claim about how scientists actually behave (whether all of them realize it or not) is standard fare in history and philosophy of science literature. It’s interesting reading, and I listed a couple places to start, if you so desire.

            Some scientists dismiss all this as philosophical quibbling, but the fact is that philosophy of science, at least for the last 50 years, has not been about philosophizing what science SHOULD be about, and how it SHOULD be done. Instead, the philosophers have started with the premise that science, whatever it is, seems to be very useful and successful for our purposes. Then they analyze the logic of scientific reasoning in historical case studies to try to tease out answers about what science is, and how it is really done.

            In other words, if you picked up a philosophy of science textbook, you would find a number of historical case studies that don’t PROVE what Bruce is saying. Rather, they would count as evidence for it.

            • Unless the statements are actually evidenced, it’s barely any form of science, Barry.

              Feynman put “The easiest person to fool is yourself” and placed the comments in framing that HE HIMSELF was capable of failing in this.

              Whereas what commonly happens with this sort of discussion is that the inference is “OTHER scientists do this” or “YOU scientists do this”.

              I.e. “I’m better than you, ‘cos I say you do this”.

              That isn’t science, that’s projection.

  17. “For my purposes, I only need to show that Gore goes about saying things like, “The science is settled.””

    Except YOU have said on this thread that “The Science is settled”.

    It’s OK when you do it, not when Al Gore does?!?!?

    This is why I conclude you DO have a bee in your bonnet about Al Gore the person (-ality).

    • “It’s OK when you do it, not when Al Gore does?!?!?”

      Exactly. Because when I do it, I am more careful to clarify exactly what I mean.

      • Uh, who gets to decide whether you ARE more careful to clarify exactly what you mean?


        Well, that’s hardly an unbiased source.

        Moreover, you refuse to allow any question of what care Al Gore HAS taken over his statements.

        Just demanded that they MUST be wrong.

        The pea soup is dribbling down your collar, dude.

        • Of course I’m the one who gets to decide, and I can blog about it to my heart’s content. You are also the one who gets to decide, and I’m nice enough to let you write about it on my blog comments section.

          But then you say, “Moreover, you refuse to allow any question of what care Al Gore HAS taken over his statements.”

          Huh? Weren’t you just asking such questions… on MY blog? Did I block any of your comments on said subject?

          Then you say, “Just demanded that they MUST be wrong.”

          But that’s not what I’m trying to get across. Gore’s comments aren’t necessarily “wrong,” at least when you supply a few mental caveats. They’re just “wrong” when you take them at face value. Even if he didn’t mean them that way, some people are going to take them that way, so I think he should be a little more circumspect. That’s all.

          And yes, sometimes I catch myself doing the same thing… so I try harder the next time to be careful.

          • Then surely Al Gore (or his speechwriters) get to decide what prhaseology is acceptable for him to say.

            If Al Gore were saying things like “The amount of ice melt in the Arctic is settled science”, that would be WRONG.

            If he says things like “AGW is real, this is settled science”, that would be RIGHT.

            YOU accept this, too. “Settled science” is right for (tautological though this is) science that is settled. This is almost always on the consequence, rather than mechanism, however.

            And Al Gore’s interview was about the consequence: humans burning 15Gt of petroleum products a year causes CO2 to be put into the atmosphere where it will accumulate, trap heat and cause global warming.


            But if you were to take my capitalised words above, you’d not have that context and therefore you could claim I was being wrong (since not all science is settled, therefore the bare statement “the science is settled” is wrong).

            Put the context to which that was the statement, where is the wrong?

            • You said, “Then surely Al Gore (or his speechwriters) get to decide what prhaseology is acceptable for him to say.”

              Obviously. I give Al Gore, his speechwriters, and everyone else, permission to ignore anything I say. See how magnanimous I am?

              You said, “If he says things like “AGW is real, this is settled science”, that would be RIGHT.”

              He would be right… in the sense that it seems very unlikely to be overturned by new evidence, given what we know now. My beef is only with how easy it would be to turn such a statement against him. He is free to ignore my advice.

  18. “Wow,

    As I explained above, I tried to locate a video I could check, but failed.”

    So you heard about a good quality film footage of a Bigfoot in a campsite, close up, but can’t quite find the proof…

    This isn’t science, is it.

    It’s not even rational.

    And the AIT is available, too. You took the word of an unverified length of chinese whispers to be fact there too.

    All it would REALLY have taken is NOT to link to a piece that you cannot verify and instead link to that tweet by Al Gore.

    That, at least, you have evidence of what he said (open to verification). But the problem there is that tweeting that statement isn’t worthy of censure, is it.

    You don’t like him or his politics or his approach or maybe even just his appearance on the stage. And the media have a bit of a hard-on for making shit up to make him look like a fool.

    Given your predilection for taking what is purported about him that you find wrong as being truth without being able at all to verify it, your best bet is not to bother with what people say Al Gore says and ignore the claims completely.

    You are invested in the idea he’s wrong.

    Your subjectivity is compromised.

    Bias is fine. Not recognising them isn’t, especially when you continue to exercise it and pretend it doesn’t exist.

    • > Bias is fine. Not recognising them isn’t…

      You’re completely unbiased, of course.

      • Sorry, Willy, YOU said that, not me.

        At least it’s only words you’ve tried to put in my mouth so far…


      • Yes, Barry, histrionics definitely helps your case in presenting yourself as a rational human being…

        Get real, babygirl.

        • Just giving you a heads up that you’re going ’round the bend a bit in this conversation, Wow.

          • Barry, no, just because you can’t seem to convince someone else that you’re not getting a figurative hard-on when offered a chance to tell everyone that Al Gore Got It Wrong Again ™ does not indicate a mental breakdown on the part of the one still unconvinced in your claims.

            YOU were the one thinking that histrionics was a good method of convincing people that you’re rational.

            That in itself is not a rational point of view, being entirely self-defeating.

            Yet have I claimed you to be trundling toward a mental institution?


            Just not liking someone, even if there is no obvious reason, is entirely human. We aren’t entirely rational in our opinions. One aspect is bias. Another self-deception. BOTH are why the scientific method is followed dogmatically: they aid in the avoidance of either irrationality becoming part of the knowledge discovered and promoted by science.

            Religious dogma annoys the hell out of me. So I don’t go looking to tell everyone how dumb they are for believing it. I don’t go to church, don’t go out of my way to go to a church meeting.

            I don’t avoid someone who wants to talk about it.

            So if Al Gore and you meet and someone starts discussing AGW, then fair enough, make your claims.

            But you should avoid trying to shoehorn him into a discussion in absentia.

            There’s no need for it. It’s not like there’s a paucity of things to bring up without making it Al Gore.

  19. Barry, when you claim Al Gore says: “And the debate in the scientific community is completely over now” Why did you miss out what he was atlking about?

    GORE: To some extent, and also this was at a time six years ago when more than half of all the news articles on this crisis were saying “Well, it may not even be real.”

    Remember: you’ve said “The science is settled” right here on your blog in the BTL comments.

    You claimed that this was fine because you need to qualify what you are talking about and the extent it is valid.

    Yet you won’t give that for Al. Even when you’ve wandered around looking.

    • Wow,

      This is what I mean when I say you’re getting weird on us. You quote Gore saying, “To some extent…” etc., but that was in response to a question about whether Bush had “diffused” (defused?) the issue of climate change in the campaign by making it sound like there wasn’t much of a contrast between the two candidates. Gore answered that this was true “to some extent.”

      So how does your quoted text at all mitigate the fact that Gore went on to say that the debate is “completely” over? If he had said it was “essentially” over, it would have been strictly true, and not so susceptible to attack.

      I said, “And even I believe the science is ‘settled’ in some limited sense….” Do you note how I had “settled” in quotation marks, and immediately afterward qualified it… all in the same sentence fragment? Now, where did Gore make the same kinds of qualifications in the CNN piece? Did he do it anywhere? If so, how close was it to the soundbite that I objected to? And this time read the context carefully.

      Personally, I think he should use a little more circumspect (less absolute) language, even though I freely admit that he doesn’t ALWAYS neglect all qualifiers. Your tirade against my opinion has so far only convinced me that 1) I should have cited a better source for the kinds of Gore statements I object to, but 2) my point was still valid, and 3) you get a bit weird (meaning it seems like you become incapable of trying to consider anyone’s else’s point of view and your reading skills go out the window) when anyone lays even the mildest criticism at Gore’s feet.

      For Pete’s sake, what did I do last time? As I recall, somebody else criticized Gore for saying something, and I said something about how sometimes I think Gore tends to emphasize worst-case scenarios too much. I wasn’t saying he was wrong. I was just saying I don’t always agree with what he chooses to emphasize, and frankly, I was just trying to shrug off some nut who was trying to make ME responsible for defending everything Al Gore happens to have said. Why should I bother? Then (again, if I recall correctly) you came in with guns blazing, DEMANDING that I check the transcript because Gore didn’t really say that. Well, I did, and you were right. And I’m still not that motivated to try and defend everything Gore has ever said.

      In this case, you are the one who is clearly wrong about the facts.

      • “Personally, I think he should use a little more circumspect (less absolute) language, even though I freely admit that he doesn’t ALWAYS neglect all qualifiers.”

        Except that you neglected to show any.

        The original link had no qualifiers, just “the science is settled” in quote marks. Yet I can do the exact same thing to you from your words here. “the science is settled”. WORSE is that rather than a quote from someone who was not Al Gore, that would be a direct quote of you.

        You would be far better justified proclaiming your unscientific bent based on the criteria you used to berate Al Gore for it. Do exactly as you did to him on your own words on this thread.

        The second one is a tweet. 120 chars and its intent was to motivate people to make themselves heard. Your alternative was not to invite people to participate in the political process. You are approaching the politics like the mainstream view of a scientist: ivory tower, uninvolved, spock-like aloofness. Al Gore was approaching it as a politician. Soundbytes, social.

        Al Gore is a politician.

        The third one you now have his quote, but you skipped the qualifiers he had: the domain to which he was replying with “this is settled”.

        If you had done to yourself what you did to him the third time, again you’d be berating yourself for unscientific jingoism.

        NOTE: I am not saying your “science is settled” is wrong.

        I AM saying that your saying “the science is settled” would be proclaimed to be wrong if it had been Al Gore saying it by you.

        “1) I should have cited a better source for the kinds of Gore statements I object to”

        At least I’ve managed that successfully. Your tirade against Al Gore was undermined by it.

        • Again, I don’t think you’re being reasonable. (I’ll forego saying you’ve “gone ’round the bend,” since you didn’t seem to appreciate it.);-)

          You said, “Except that you neglected to show any.”

          So if I’m criticizing Gore for saying things I think are impolitic, I’m required to dig up instances where he didn’t say something impolitic? I don’t think so.

          You said, “The second one is a tweet. 120 chars and its intent was to motivate people to make themselves heard. Your alternative was not to invite people to participate in the political process.”

          I’m not the most accomplished tweeter, but I did offer a suggestion that would have worked. “The science is very strong.” He could also have said, “The science is clear.” Or something like that.

          You said, “The third one you now have his quote, but you skipped the qualifiers he had: the domain to which he was replying with ‘this is settled.'”

          And when you tried to supply the context, it was clear you hadn’t read it carefully. The real context came after his impolitic statement.

          GORE: “And the debate in the scientific community is completely over now. There is no more debate about the fact that it’s real. We’re causing it. The consequences are bad, headed toward catastrophic. We need to fix it. And it’s not too late.”

          It’s unclear to me whether the “no more debate” refers only to “it’s real,” or also to the rest–it could be interpreted either way. But any way you slice it, it’s not strictly true. They may be fringe scientists, or even crackpots, but there ARE some credentialed scientists who question all of those things.

          You say, “I AM saying that your saying “the science is settled” would be proclaimed to be wrong if it had been Al Gore saying it by you.”

          Since I offered an appropriate caveat in the same sentence, your charge is false. I absolutely would not have taken issue with Al Gore if he had said it that way.

          You say, “At least I’ve managed that successfully. Your tirade against Al Gore was undermined by it.”

          That is a fair criticism.

          • “So if I’m criticizing Gore for saying things I think are impolitic, I’m required to dig up instances where he didn’t say something impolitic?”


            However, you have to show where he WAS saying something impolitic. You know, actual words said by him, not some reporter’s paraphrasing.

            You have to check that what he says IS what you claim is impolitic and you’ve failed to do that too.

            And if you double-down and just go “Is too!”, then you’d best make sure that you don’t do the same thing that you’re complaining is impolitic.

            Oh, and stop with the bullshit, Barry: only YOU have proclaimed that I’m demanding that you dig up something he wasn’t impolitic. The problem is that you’ve only found places where he wasn’t.

          • “Since I offered an appropriate caveat in the same sentence, your charge is false.”

            Since Al Gore offered his settled science in respons to someone else’s query AND WITHIN THAT QUERY is the same appropriate caveat, the only thing you’ve done is demonstrate that when you’re making up both sides of the argument, you’re always able to “win”.

            Al Gore’s interview has him saying that the science was settled in whether AGW was real or not.

            THAT IS SETTLED.

            YOU Are the one who decided that this wasn’t acceptable beause he said “the science is settled”. WELL SO DID YOU.

            THE CHARGE STANDS.


            Al Gore answered a question.

            The caveat (limitation of claim) is that it is valid only necessarily in the realm of the query asked.

            YOU asked YOURSELF a question. Then answered it with “the science is settled”.

            Al Gore did exactly as you did.

            But you berate him for it.

            Why? You obviously just do not like him.

            • Wow,

              I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

    • How about taking a pause and return to the now little-read classic in epistemology, Popper’s “The Logic of Scientific Discovery”:

      (P91) “It may now be possible for us to answer the question: How and why do we accept one theory in preference to others?

      The preference is certainly not due to anything like a experiential justification of the statements composing the theory; it is not due to a logical reduction of the theory to experience.

      We choose the theory which best holds its own in competition with other theories; the one which, by natural selection, proves itself the fittest to survive. This will be the one which not only has hitherto stood up to the severest tests, but the one which is also testable in the most rigorous way. A theory is a tool which we test by applying it, and which we judge as to its fitness by the results of its applications.”

      This has nothing to do with personalities and justifications . I am pretty sure that no agreement will be made here on the results of testing but maybe a meta-view of what error-discovery is about might help in future discourse.

      • Hi Bruce,

        If I understand your point of view, you think that Kuhn and Lakatos (and many others) have given Popper short shrift because he wasn’t as absolutist in his falsificationism as their discussions would imply. I wasn’t aware of this, and like you said, Popper isn’t the easiest to read, so maybe it’s understandable that he would be a little misinterpreted. In any case, here’s my point of view about Popper (from what I understand):

        1. Whether Popper was absolutist about it, or not, I think a fairly absolutist version of falsificationism is probably the most common view about the philosophy of science that I have heard expressed by working scientists.

        2. I think this absolutist version is a bit naive, and the scientists who say that kind of stuff would adjust their narrative if they would read Lakatos’s historical criticisms, or just pay better attention to their own thought processes.

        3. Nevertheless, I think even a naive interpretation of Popper is useful, and that’s probably why it’s so popular among scientists. The idea that we should be trying to “falsify” hypotheses is a good reminder to make some attempt to overcome our own biases. That’s the rest of the scientific community’s job, too, but we should be at least trying to put the reins on our own enthusiasm. Also, the idea that we give more credence to theories that make (and pass) bolder predictions, is spot on. Both of these are very practical things to keep in mind.

  20. […] Ah me – it seems that I wrote a post herebouts that was intended to hold AGW-panickers like Michael Mann to something of a standard, that standard being that they should have an obligation to show that their theories are pretty darn reliable and consistent with real world evidence. In my day job, dealing with air quality science and regulations, that’s the kind of standard I am held to by the EPA and it seems reasonable to expect that people who expect us to change our entire way of life in deference to a theory should be held to the same kind of standard. In attempting to make that point, I used the word that Mann had used – “proof” – and that it is of course that is the word that Mann’s supporters seized upon to demonstrate what an utter pratt I am. […]

  21. Barry, thought you might also like this one:

    James Trzupek, you’d probably enjoy it too, but I’ll warn you it is much closer to Mann’s way of thinking than to yours…

    And “an obligation to show that their theories are pretty darn reliable and consistent with real world evidence.” is a helluva long way from what you suggested in your article, stop digging and just man up about it, it’s OK to admit you brain farted here…

  22. “My beef is only with how easy it would be to turn such a statement against him.”

    Yeah, by doing exactly what you did and berated him for it, and I’ve done to you in precisely the same way.

    You seem incapable of recognising this, though, which is more indication of a problem with you and Al Gore in your mind.

  23. “It’s unclear to me whether the “no more debate” refers only to “it’s real,” or also to the rest”

    Then ask him.

    Oh, no, that would mean actually involving yourself and forgoing the strawman.

    This is what you do.

    This is what deniers do too, in their case to trash all of science that dares say that commercialism and free markets have problems in externalities, in yours to trash Al Gore.

    The point is that it doesn’t matter what you say, ANYTHING you say can be misused against you. I did that to you, but you refuse to see it.

    You said “the science is settled” and it is “unclear to me” whether that refers to all science or just the bits you later said you thought were settled, but are still so easy to disprove (only one piece of contrary evidence needed!).

    If I try, I can make out your statements to be heinously unscientific.

    The only way to stop that is to not say anything at all.

    Or, alternatively, when someone is making an ass out of statements made, rebut and refute those incorrect statements.

    Like you do with my mischaracterisation and mining of your statements, but refuse to listen when someone does that for Al Gore’s statements you’re eviscerating.

    Maybe you should be berating Larry King for not asking for clarification in the interview? Or maybe even HE thought it was clear enough to the reasonable viewer what Al Gore meant?

    • @Wow I think a lot is being made out of a little, an excess of triviality. Barry, in my view, was clarifying the critical philosophical point that uncertainty is the hallmark of science. All our theories are conjectural, albeit some have survived robust testing and criticism better than others. Theories that have been subjected to severe criticism and empirical testing and have survived better than alternatives are said to be corroborated. Barry is not suggesting that well-tested theories should be let go lightly. Some people like to use the word “settled” instead of corroboration but it does have connotations that can distract from the logic of science rather than a psychological perspective which is not what Barry is concerned with.

      • If it were so little, why was it said?

        I think you’re wrong.

        And Al Gore isn’t a scientist. So why must he care that scientific rigour (which bores people rigid in Merkinland) be maintained when he’s talking as a citizen?

        Barry complained of Al saying “the science is settled” and gave a link where Al Gore was not quoted saying any such thing.

        Barry has said “the science is settled” on this very blog. But apparently when it’s BARRY saying it, you have to include the words in context.

        But not when it’s Al Gore.

        That’s hipocrisy. I don’t care that it’s coming from someone who is well adjusted and intelligent, it’s still needing calling out.

  24. Another related post that I think you (and others) would enjoy Barry:

  25. […] week, I wrote a response to one Rich Trzupek, a guest blogger for the discredited Heartland Institute, who was outraged that […]

  26. Looks like it’s Shot Al Gore season.

    NWS are complaining that they don’t do a Cat5 hurricane classification when Al Gore says that scientists are considering adding a Cat6.

    Report from 2011 has several scientists concluding that there’s a 2-11% increase in hurricane intensity and there may be need for a Cat6 in future.

    It seems to me that if you make the conclusions accessible to non-scientists, this is VERBOTEN unless you also include the ravings of nutters on the “other sider” of the issue.

    Science MUST NOT be made understandable!

    • So someone complained that Al Gore had said something incorrect, when he was actually correct. Gore never said that EVERY climate scientist, or NOAA, or anyone in particular were considering adding a new category. He wasn’t specific.

      In my case, however, I complained that Gore sometimes says things that are TOO specific, and I gave some reasons why I don’t think that’s a good idea. So what?

      • So it seems like they agree they may have remembered and quoted wrong, Barry.

        So the rush to berate him for what he says goes unchallenged because it “makes good copy” for the editors BECAUSE SO MANY want to really *believe* he’d do it.

        Goes back to my “If they really want to misconstrue what you say, they’ll manage it, no matter WHAT you say.” The only way to avoid it is not to talk at all. And thats what the mulish deniers want to happen. Only their voices can be heard. Because free speech, apparently.

        People really REALLY want Al Gore to be wrong. Somehow, somewhere.

      • Problem here, Barry, is that it’s always a post-hoc requirement that “you must be more specific”.

        If he’d said “some scientists”, he’d be told it wasn’t specific enough, “How many?” and therefore accusations of a false consensus claim are made against him.

        Then if he says how many, “You haven’t said how much the hurricanes are going up”. Claims of alarmism made against him. Must be more specific.

        So he gives the name of the paper as well. “Where is the data, huh?” So now he has to give the data or the location of it.

        “But they can’t be *certain*, can they, so you missed out the caveats”. More claims of being not specific enough.

        So he’s now said what they said, where the data is, who said it, where and the content of most of the paper.

        But he’s still not said everything on the subject, and therefore he can be vilified with “You must be more specific, because you left X out!”.

        All that is needed is for someone to want him to be wrong SOMEHOW.

        It turned out his statement WASN’T wrong, just not every word said on the subject by others looking into it.

        Se he “wasn’t specific enough”.

        ‘sfunny how that required specificity is only ever said AFTER the claims of inspecificity.


  27. Gish gallop uses the same punishment.

    Make a thousand vapid and unsupported claims and each one must be rebutted IN DETAIL.

    Seeing that Sysiphus had it easy compared to this mountain of bullshit is meant to punish you and make you shut up because the threat of 10x as much more being brought up as the “reward” shows you the inevitable future.

  28. Here’s a record of Al Gore using less than temperate language on the notion that “the science is settled.”

    “Q (Off mike) — John Fisher from — (off mike) — South Bend, Indiana. There is a — it seems to me there’s still a debate about the effect that humans have on the contribution to global warming and global climate change, yet both in remarks you made and in remarks by the president you seem to dismiss them as a big minority. You just referred to the ones on your side, if you will, of “mainstream scientists”. Is the debate on that issue (within ?) the administration over?

    VICE PRESIDENT GORE: On the fact that there is a human factor in causing this? Yes. And not only in the administration, in the international panel on climate change, which has, what, 2,500 scientists from every country in the world, they have studied this for several years now. And just a couple of years ago they found what they call “the smoking gun” and came out with this consensus statement that there is now a discernible impact from human causes….But out of that noise level, this consensus international scientific process has now said that they believe that debate is over, that yes, the human cause is now discernible….

    Q And the administration accepts that fact that that debate is over.

    VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. On that one point, yes, sir.”

    Which brings up the notion of what, exactly, is “settled.” I’d say the science is “settled” that the increase in atmospheric CO2 over the last couple of centuries is mostly anthropogenic in origin, that the world has warmed since 1850, and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. What is not “settled” is climate sensitivity and regional responses to AGW.

    The word is used in vernacular. It refers to an overwhelming weight of evidence (analogous to, but evidentially stronger than the legal phrase “beyond reasonable doubt”), not perfect knowledge, which is unattainable anyway.

  29. “I’d say the science is “settled” that the increase in atmospheric CO2 over the last couple of centuries is mostly anthropogenic in origin”

    Yup, and as your quote shows, that’s what Al Gore thinks too.

    But if you cut out the question asked “Is the debate settled on whether humans have caused the increase in CO2”, then the answer “Yes, the science is settled” is proffered with glee as Al Gore saying that “the science is settled” and how dare he.

    Al Gore is wealthy (partly from investing and putting his money where his mouth is on the new technologies for energy generation) and prominent and as well versed in informing people of his facts as any other politician, so he must be silenced.

    One side because he’s an effective communicator.

    Another side because he’s “doing it wrong”.

    • Just to be clear, you’re responding to another Barry (not me).

  30. “What is not “settled” is climate sensitivity”

    I’d ask you “What do you count as “Settled”?”.


    At BAU if sensitivity is 2C per doubling or more, we’re fooked by 2150. At BAU if sensitivity is 3C per doubling or more, we’re fooked by 2075. At 4C, we’re already fooked.

    So in the instance of “How fooked are we if we do nothing”, then a sensitivity of 2-4C per doubling is already settled, yes?

    And we HAVE settled that. Currently we have around half a doubling of CO2 concentrations and EVEN BEFORE it regains equilibrium, we have around 0.9C of warming. That’s ruling out a sensitivity of less than 2C per doubling already.

    We can already calculate 1.2C without feedbacks for CO2.

    The CO2 contributes around 25-33% of the warming to the current atmosphere, indicating that the feedbacks are 2-3x from the atmosphere we currently have, ergo 2.4-3.6C per doubling.

    Hansen’s model published 1988 showed a sensitivity of 3.4C per doubling and if he’d done 3.2C per doubling, he would have had the resulting trend to date spot on with the actual composition changes of the atmosphere that took place.

    But I ask: what counts as “settled” for sensitivity?

    If it’s not to answer the query “Should we do anything now?”, then it’s already settled: YES.

    Otherwise, what error bars will you accept as having “nailed down” the climate sensitivity? 50% error bar? We already have that. If less, what? And to what end?

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