The Issue of Consensus.

I have offered the services of this blog for those interested in climate science to debate the issues.

In this debate LabMunkey who often posts on Paul Hudson's BBC weather Blog, considers the value of the scientific consensus on Antropogentic Global Warming.

No rules and no censorship as long as things are kept civil.

25 comments:

  1. Thanks for setting the Blog up Laz- could be interesting. I’ll Presume that Paul’s still game as it were- so the first question is- do you (Paul) want to continue debating this point (–consensus)? If so, it’d probably make sense to ‘start again’; so an opening post from each would probably make sense?

    What do you think?

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  2. Assuming Paul comes along it sounds like a good idea. I don't want to feel I have brought you here to gang up on you but I have never really understood the skeptics fascination with the 'consensus'. I mentioned it in my other blog which I can repeat here;

    'Consensus' must be used with a different meaning than I suppose because I can't see what is gained by going on about by denying the 'consensus'. I get the basic idea that if you can construct a straw man such as ‘climate scientists claim the science is settled’ you can then easily show that it isn’t and insist that a scientific debate should exist.

    However science is not done by consensus, but by research and evidence. There is always more research that needs to be done. But there must come a point when the majority of those researching and publishing in a particular field agree the basic science (in this case that GHGs cause warming and more GHGs will cause more warming). This has happened to such an extent that every national institute and academy of science representing the wide spectrum of disciplines researching AGW make very specific statements about the science. If ‘consensus’ means ‘majority’ I think it is fair to say that there is a consensus on the basic science.

    Of course science that is thought of as settled could be over turned by a single piece of credible research but it is only rational to base any actions or policies on what the science currently suggests, not what we hope it might do sometime in the future.

    That is it's strength.

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  3. NO- no problem at all Laz, i'm more than happy to discuss this with whoever and again- just to clarify i'm not arguing this particular point to use it as a way to discredit the science- i have other more technical and 'real' reasons for that, but because of it's prevalent use as a reason TOO support the theory.

    The whole consensus point really is an irrelevant (though interesting) side show.

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  4. My whole issue with the consensus stems from its use as evidence for the cAGW theory. This is why most sceptics (credible ones anyway, not the loons) attack it.

    As a side note, the actual consensus is quite small. The survey that was used as a basis for the consensus has been shown to be very poorly performed and in fact has been deliberately spun
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/08/02/scientific-consensus-on-global-warming-sample-size-79/
    , so 97% of all scientists DO NOT support the theory. But that point aside:

    A consensus, as you stated, means nothing in science. Paul will argue this, but it’s not a position that he (or you) can defend. The more people that think something does not lead to a greater ‘accuracy’ of results. Or a greater likelihood of it being correct (conversely it means the opposite too, you CAN NOT use it as a reason to discredit the theory either- as I said this whole point is a side show). Einstein himself knew this and said as much.

    My ‘pet’ example is the stomach ulcer example- two Australian scientists thought stomach ulcers were caused by a bacterium. Everyone else in the world thought it was stomach acid. They were ridiculed, they were attacked (intellectually, not with a brick!), their work was blocked, their research dismissed and they were told (paul’l like this) that the only credible position was that stomach ulcers were caused by stomach acid and that they should quietly apologise and go away.

    They, rather bravely (or foolishly depending on your outlook) performed the required experiment on themselves to prove their point. They disproved a very active and vocal ‘consensus’ with one experiment and subsequently won the noble prize for it. This is a recent example and direct evidence that the consensus can be wrong; two people against (pretty much) the entire scientific world.

    Again, to be crystal clear- this point I’m making; that a consensus is irrelevant, does not in any way undermine the science. As Paul states, science is evidence based (or proof as I sometimes say- not 100% correct terminologically, but it’s a parlance I often use without thinking), so how many of your friends agree should be irrelevant.

    I’m being deliberately focussed on this point as it is very important. The minute as a scientist you stop questioning and accept what you are told as gospel, you’re in big trouble.

    There are some very very clever people on the pro-cAGW side. But there are also some very very clever people on the other side.

    As a further side note, I think we need to distinguish between sceptics and the idiots. Most sceptics accept the ghg theory, accept the world WAS warming and accept that all things being equal co2=warming. It’s the degree that’s at debate here. It often suits the cAGW-ers to respond to the caricature of a sceptical position- especially by throwing the reprehensible term ‘denier’ around, but as ever in life as much as science- things are not that clear.

    Shades of grey.

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    1. Paul has expressed his preference to just continue on Paul Hudson’s blog so I have changed the wording of the above post to reflect that and also highlight the ‘consensus’ subject.

      Your post deserves a reply. There is a limit of about 4000 characters for any post so longer ones will have to be broken up into sections.

      You say;
      “My whole issue with the consensus stems from its use as evidence for the cAGW theory. “

      No this is completely wrong. This scientific consensus, any scientific consensus has nothing to do with evidence. I will explain the importance of the consensus a little later.

      However, about the survey you mention. You really should not be using WUWT as a credible source. The actual Doran paper reporting the survey results is easy to access and understand.
      http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf

      In summary, an invitation to participate in the survey was sent to 10,257 Earth scientists from a database which lists all geosciences faculty at reporting academic institutions, along with researchers at state geologic surveys associated with local universities, and researchers.

      3146 completed the survey, which is a typical response rate for Web-based surveys. Results show that overall, 82% thought that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.

      When only those who had published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change were considered this rose to 97.4%

      That is what the actual pdf says.

      So 97.4% of researchers’ best qualified to judge do accept that human activity is a significant contributing factor in increasing global temperatures. But I would settle for the 82%.

      What I don’t see is any deliberately ‘spinning’ as you, or Watts claim. Any research can be considered flawed in some why if you are determined not to accept its results but this recent research is some of the best evidence we have of a scientific consensus on this issue. None of these other lists, of less than credibly qualified people and designed to question the existence of a consensus, has any credibility. The exact same tactic is used to promote Intelligent Design over Evolution.

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    2. Now regarding you ‘pet’ example. It is a nice antidote but do these doctors have names? How strong was the ‘consensus’ against their ideas? Did any national institute or academy issue statements supporting this ‘consensus’ against them? Even if I accept what you claim as a verified example, why not just use Galileo or Darwin?

      Your example does have other problems too. One of which is that the consensus used to be that we could not affect the climate on the planet in any significant way by emitting an odourless colourless trace gas. But that consensus has been changed by research and evidence to favour our current consensus just as it did to favour the doctors you claim in your example:- today’s AGW researchers are the doctors in your example.

      But why do you feel it is significant that you pick ‘Mavericks’ that turned out to be right? I can just as easily find mavericks that have yet to be proven correct. I can find doctors that don’t believe smoking is as harmful as the rest of the medical establishment say it is. I can find qualified geologists who believe fossils are evidence of Noah’s global flood. I can researchers who believe in ESP, I can even find people with academic qualifications who still insist on a flat earth.

      Any of these people could actually be right. They lack the evidence to prove that they are but if such evidence came to light their beliefs would be vindicated. The entire consensus in these scientific fields could be wrong so by rights you should be giving them as much credibility as you give those who don’t think AGW is a problem.

      And THAT is the Importance of a Consensus. We both agree that any scientific consensus does not determine the actual science. But the consensus isn’t important for the science it is important for the non scientist, the layman. I can’t know everything about the way chemicals affect the body, or evolution, or geology, neuroscience or astronomy. I could accept the lesser consensus regarding the beliefs of those I have mentioned but I believe as a sceptic the only rational thing for people who can’t hope to be experts in everything is to accept that a consensus of experts is far more likely to be right than not. To accept that any policy or decision can only be rationally based on that consensus, not on what might become a future consensus if only the evidence would be found. So even if the doctors in your example were right, the only rational thing for people with ulcers to do at that time was to take antacids and not antibacterials, until the evidence was strong enough to change the consensus.

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    3. Now to my own example, and sticking with your medical theme.

      The diagnosis of an illness is the result of a consensus. It will be based on previous knowledge and evidence and delivered according to the experience of the practitioner.

      If someone goes to their GP with an illness the diagnosis that they give, if given with consideration with the main consensus and typical with most other GPs will be like the 82%. The rational thing to do is to accept it and the treatment for it.

      If the patient is referred to a specialist and 97.4% of those specialists agree then they would be either very brave or very stupid not to accept the diagnosis and treatment, especially if the medical institutes and academies that represent this profession has issued specific statements regarding the illness and it’s causes, prevention and treatment - as they have done with such things as smoking, heart disease etc.

      But the patient is entitled not to believe expert opinion and go with a lesser consensus, the few maverick medically qualified, the herbalists, faith healers, shaman etc. This lesser consensus could be right and people do make that choice though I can never accept it as a rational one.

      But following your logic, you are giving substantial credibility to and even favouring the lesser consensus in the simple hope that the evidence might at some future time support it.

      So just to summarise; A consensus of experts has nothing to with evidence supporting the science. It is simply what the majority of experts agree and is the only rational position to take for any really sceptical person who puts aside their bias about how they would like things to be and admits they are not as qualified as all the expert to judge.

      “As a further side note, I think we need to distinguish between sceptics and the idiots. Most sceptics accept the ghg theory, accept the world WAS warming and accept that all things being equal co2=warming. It’s the degree that’s at debate here.”

      I would also like to debate this further. Because if you are not an idiot but a real sceptic then I think I can show, without getting into complicated science, models etc. that accepting AGW as a problem is the only rational position to take. But that will have to be a separate topic.

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  5. "Because if you are not an idiot but a real sceptic then I think I can show, without getting into complicated science, models etc. that accepting AGW as a problem is the only rational position to take. But that will have to be a separate topic.
    "

    This made me smile.

    But i agree it would be an interesting topic.

    Re- consensus:

    I think you're falling into the same trap that Paul does- responding to my position rather than responding to me.

    You'll note that i have said on numerous occasions and at length that i don't consider the consensus point to be material to the actual issue; it's a side issue. A point of order if you will. It's pedantic, yes, but i'm a scientist and we're often VERY fussy over the small details- pedantry is often a trait seen in scientists.

    I also stated that just as 'you' can't use a consensus position to 'prove' a point, i also cannot use the past failure of a consensus to disprove a point- which renders half your argument above moot.

    The medical science analogy is an interesting one- but again, being pedantic, it doesn't quite fit (as with Pauls evolutionary example- though a deliberate attempt by him to mallign via association). Medical science has hundreds, if not thousands of years of work, experiment and TIGHT regulation behind it. Climate science does not.

    Now, of course i'm not arguing the ghg effect, the basic earth sciences etc- more the specific cAGW and co2 'effect' which is far more recent. BUt i still think my point stands.

    Re my specific example- it's very easy to find the info, they're the two australian scientists who last won the nobel prize. Again however i wasn't offering this as evidence that cAGW is incorrect, i have other reasons for this, but as evidence that a consensus position is not a gaurantee of being right. Far from it.

    That's my point, that's it. I'm not trying to use this to undermine climate science, i'm not using it as a way to discredit anyone or anything- i'm literally making on very narrow and pedantic point.

    It's telling that you, Paul et al basically agree with my, yet then go out of your way to qualify your position to remove that agreement- or at least tone it down.

    Be cold, be logical and remove the climate from the consensus and you'll see that not only is my point right, but also that it affects climate science or the theory in no way whatsoever.

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    1. “I think you're falling into the same trap that Paul does- responding to my position rather than responding to me.”

      I didn’t think you had laid traps for us.

      “ that i don't consider the consensus point to be material to the actual issue; it's a side issue. “

      Then perhaps I don’t understand what the (your) issue is. The consensus is important, nay vital, for policy. We both agree that it can’t be used as evidence for the science but it is evidence on how compelling the science is within the scientific community.

      “Medical science has hundreds, if not thousands of years of work, experiment and TIGHT regulation behind it. Climate science does not.”

      Not a valid thing to claim. You might as well reject modern theoretical physics which started with Einstein in the 1930s, or sticking to medical research, reject IVF, cloning or stem cell research. All young branches of science but the published research is sound and the scientific consensual matters are still the basis for best practice. The scientific method is not affected by modernity.

      I would also contend that the study of climate isn’t a young science at all but probably the oldest - at least old as civilisation. Understanding of the weather, climate and seasons was vital for farming. Then required for trade and shipping.

      But modern climate science started in the 19th century, long before that of modern physics, with the discovery of the so called 'green house effect' and led to modern spectrography used in both physics, chemistry, astronomy and in applications like medical equipment and gas analysers used to determine exhaust emissions. I may be straying off topic but this shows how solid the basic physics of climate change is and is all that is needed to infer that the climate should be warming today.

      To go on suggesting that not being hundreds old should be viewed as evidence of a flaw without any actual evidence is just distraction.

      “ i'm literally making on very narrow and pedantic point.”

      But your pedantic point, that a consensus isn’t always right, is also a pointless one. No one would disagree with it. But the importance of the consensus also stands – It is more likely to be correct than not and is the best reference we have for decisions and policy. Would you disagree?

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    2. "I didn’t think you had laid traps for us"

      NO and i never will, i don't tend to use tricks like that- i'm very straight forward and to the point (unless i'm trying to be funny, in which case good luck understanding what i'm going on about!). It's just a 'response' i come across alot where people respond to a percieved position, rather than what i've said.

      "Then perhaps I don’t understand what the (your) issue is. The consensus is important, nay vital, for policy."

      And

      "But your pedantic point, that a consensus isn’t always right, is also a pointless one"

      Are the same thing so Yes, in a sense.

      Believe me, i understand the value of a consensus. It's comforting to think that you're in the majority but from a scientific view point, it's irrelevant. That's it. That's my point. I can't use a rival consensus or the past failures of a consensus to prove a point just as you can't use one to proove it.

      As an aside, it is often when someone repeatedly appeals to such an authority that you get your first warning signs.

      "I would also contend that the study of climate isn’t a young science"

      I'm not arguing that climate science is young, only the fields that have sprung up around cAGW are young.

      "No one would disagree with it. But the importance of the consensus also stands"

      Can you see how those two statements directly contradict each other?

      "– It is more likely to be correct than not and is the best reference we have for decisions and policy. Would you disagree?"

      Well no. ESPECIALLY once it has been heavily politicised.

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  6. Labmunkey

    “Believe me, i understand the value of a consensus. It's comforting to think that you're in the majority but from a scientific view point, it's irrelevant. That's it. “

    No you still have no idea. The value of a expert consensus has nothing to do with feeling comfort. An expert consensus can be a very uncomfortable thing especially if you see it having an impact on you life. The consensus about the health effects of smoking were very uncomfortable for smokers which used to form the majority of the adult population, the consensus about climate change is very uncomfortable for most people in the developed world because we must face the fact that modern civilisation will have direct consequences on the environment and climate. It is certainly one of the most troubling things I have ever heard but I’m not the sort of person to wish it away and hope the best qualified people are wrong about the problems they foresee and they will just all go away if we just ignore them.

    Do not confuse me at any time with an environmentalist. My ‘carbon foot print’ is probably greater than the average European. I like travel, especially long hall and love motor sport. I have no intention of living in a cave and eating lentils to save the world. So the scientific consensus is very uncomfortable to me, but being rational, I know it is the best thing we have to base policy on whether I like that policy or not.

    I will agree with you yet again that a scientific consensus does not add anything to the science but it adds everything to how strong the experts see the evidence underpinning the consensus. Ignoring or belittling the consensus of scientific opinion means a De Facto rejection of much of the science and expertise at it’s foundation.

    “As an aside, it is often when someone repeatedly appeals to such an authority that you get your first warning signs.”

    Agreed. But stating that there is a scientific consensus on a subject is NOT an appeal to authority. Using credible authority IS important in decision making. To say that the medical profession states something causes cancer is in no way an appeal to authority in the fallacious sense, it is using the people best placed for advice.

    I suspect that you don’t really understand the fallacy of ‘Appeal to Authority’. The appeal to authority is a fallacy of irrelevance when the authority being cited is not really an authority on the subject;
    http://www.skepdic.com/authorty.html

    It is almost exclusively the climate ‘skeptic’ types that use appeal to authority fallacy, especially when they use the Monckton’s, Goddard’s, Watts’ and McIntyre’s or state that X number of scientists disagree with AGW. A tactic long used by creationists. Proper authority is the best thing we have for judgement.

    “I'm not arguing that climate science is young, only the fields that have sprung up around cAGW are young.”

    But this is totally irrelevant in any argument about the science. The scientific method is not different depending on how young a scientific field is perceived to be. IVF and Nanotech research is just as scrutinised before publication as traditional biology and physics research. Cutting edge research, the type that gets published in the most prestigious journals like Science and Nature is always ‘young’.

    “Can you see how those two statements directly contradict each other?”

    No I’m not sure I follow your reasoning.

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    1. “ESPECIALLY once it has been heavily politicised.”

      Here really is the main point of contention and one where you are absolutely wrong. It is a straw man to suggest that the consensus is ‘heavily politicised’ and one probably put about by groups with vested interests in delaying any possible regulation.

      A consensus based on the science, expressed by a majority of experts in the field and supported by statements from the scientists own academies and institutes is not in any way a political statement.

      When national science academies from as diverse places as, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, make joint statements saying "It is unequivocal that the climate is changing, and it is very likely that this is predominantly caused by the increasing human interference with the atmosphere. These changes will transform the environmental conditions on Earth unless counter-measures are taken”, this is in no way a politicised opinion.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

      If I can’t convince you of that then I doubt that anyone can, but you are entitled to carrying on believing all the worlds scientists have grouped together in some sort of cabal or conspiracy to issue ‘heavily politicised’ statements for whatever ends you imagine.

      But don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the scientific consensus isn’t being used as a political tool. It is by environmental groups and governments to push renewable energy, carbon taxes, rain forest protection etc.

      And this is the heart of the problem I have with climate ‘contrarians’. The consensus is the best tool non scientists and policy makers have to base any actions and policies upon. It will and must be used politically. But while there are groups of people denying that there is any value to what our best experts conclude and believe it is just a political device, rather than a device to derive policy then they are not engaged in the conversations that need to be taking place. They have actually become an obstruction to it.

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  7. You make some interesting points there laz.
    Again, we’re moving away from the point (though understandably so) that a consensus position does not add anything to the science. Additionally, as you alluded again I’m not using this point in any way to discredit the science- I have not, and I have been exceptionally clear on this. The point I’m making is exceptionally narrow and doesn’t impact half of what you’ve written here.
    I think, however, that you’ve highlighted one of the main issues with the consensus position that plagues climate science at the moment: the use of the position in activism and policy.
    This statement” It is a straw man to suggest that the consensus is ‘heavily politicised’ and one probably put about by groups with vested interests in delaying any possible regulation” is, I’m afraid laz, demonstrably wrong. It is trivial in the extreme to show that climate science has become heavily politicised (though I hastent to add that many of the core scientists are not at fault for this-they’ve just been caught up in a lot of it).
    Once you use a position, be it scientific or otherwise, to inform, drive and guide political policy you are unlikely in the extreme to get any change in ‘direction’, regardless of the evidence.
    Secondly, the minute someone moves from debate to advocacy (especially if they’re a scientist) they lose all impartiality and cannot be trusted as a source of information, though these are ancillary points.

    If you wish to divert the thread into discussing the benefits/pitfalls of a consensus position then I’m happy to do so- my initial point is separate to this.

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    1. You say that I make some interesting points and then apparently either miss or ignore them.

      Point One
      For the nth time we both agree that the consensus does not add anything to the science but you fail to acknowledge that an expert consensus, especially when supported by the academies of science, demonstrates how robust the science is. Not openly accepting this point suggests that you reject much of the conclusion of experts in the field any by default much of the science underpinning that conclusion and consensus.

      Point Two
      “This statement” It is a straw man to suggest that the consensus is ‘heavily politicised’ and one probably put about by groups with vested interests in delaying any possible regulation” is, I’m afraid laz, demonstrably wrong.”

      No it isn’t wrong. It is demonstrably NOT wrong. The countries mention above, our own Royal Society, the Scientific Academies of Russia, India, Japan etc have NOT decided to endorse a political statement any more than the globes medical researchers did when they issued statements about the negative health effects of tobacco. You really need to get your head around this and understand it.

      Pont Three
      I don’t know why you are going on about using the science ‘to inform, drive and guide political policy’. I have stated this very point. The problem is that you seem unable to separate policy based on a scientific consensus from Point Two, the actual consensus. Again with tobacco, policy altered the way tobacco products were packaged, sold, advertised and consumed. It does not affect the ability of scientists to continue to research and increase our understanding.

      So Point Three is really the need for you to acknowledge that an expert consensus should be the basis used ‘to inform, drive and guide political policy’. This does not stop the experts altering the consensus if further research leads to increased understanding.

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    2. No laz- i'm going to concentrate on this point again as you're still making the same mistake.

      "For the nth time we both agree that the consensus does not add anything to the science but you fail to acknowledge that an expert consensus, especially when supported by the academies of science, demonstrates how robust the science is"

      This shows you're not actually understanding my point. The stomach ulcer example had all the scientific academies suporting it- demonstrating just how robust the science was.

      The science was proven to be wrong (and in cases deliberatley blocked).

      So effectively what you (and paul) are doing is saying "yes, but...", which shows you don't understand my point.

      You may have a point yourself about it being the best way to reflect the current science- i'll need to think about that some more as it's a tricky one; but when i said you made a good point i meant it.

      Finally- as with Paul and evolution, your tobaco analogy is flawed.

      One (or both- evo and tobac) are actually directly demonstratable with some very hard evidence behind it- cAGW is not.

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    3. Sorry mate but it is you who are blinkering yourself to reality. If you cant get it we will have to leave it there.

      Your ulcer example has no relevance. There are loads of examples of accepted scientific thinking being over turned but there are even more examples of it not. It isn't a valid place to argue from. The Ulcer example is also very narrow - not in the same league, it is the same as one point, like how fast some specific glaciers should melt, being incorrect. Your ulcer example did not overturn a whole branch of science - it didn't even overturn how digestion normally takes place.

      The simple fact is that in all likelihood the main points of AGW theory are correct. The confidence of the scientific academies are a testament to this - none ever issued any statements about how ulcers formed. The worlds have issued joint statements regarding AGW.

      And the comparison with both tobacco and evolution is a perfect example, it is not flawed and even includes some of the very same scientists. Climate Scientists would not agree with you about the evidence supporting AGW not being sound.

      Do you really think there isn't scientists claiming that evolution isn't directly demonstration? It is the most common argument against evolution they use. Check out;
      http://www.icr.org/article/just-how-well-proven-evolution/

      And even today, Fred Singer will still claim that the case of second hand tobacco smoke causing cancer isn't demonstrable. Again it is the link between the two not being demonstrated that is the most common argument these scientists use to cast doubt among the likes of us when there is little controversy with the researching scientists and their academies.

      BTW, have you ever watched this?;
      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=522784499045867811

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  8. Laz, Laz, Laz.

    You're doing it again.

    The ulcer example is relevant because it shows when a worldwide consensus was not only wrong, but tried to subvert opposing research.The lack of public statements betrays the lack of political involvement, though the effect on the 'deniers' was largely the same.


    Evolution is not a valid example as it is directly measurable, experimentally replicatable and an exceptionally well supported theory.

    Smoking and cancer too, while less easy to demonstrate, is as much fact as you can reasonably get at the moment.

    cAGW however relies on unproven positive amplification and un validated climatic models to work. It is not directly measurable nor is it experimentally verifiable. (Again please note i am not saying here that the theory is not possible- i'm still arguing a very narrow point here).

    I think this point, and some of the other items in your blog, betray your line of reasoning and (hopefully) unconscious bias on this issue.

    The point i'm arguing in no way affects the science. It's demonstratably right and further, is a side-show to the actual issue.

    Now if you were to say, yes you're right- but then went on to discuss the benefits/pitfalls of consensus driven policy (which i think you almost did in an earlier post) then we could move on. The two points aren't mutually exclusive you know, you can accept that a consensus does not infact bolster an argument in any way, while still maintaining that it is the most effetive (current) way to represent the percieved current state of the science.

    Can you see now how your, and Pauls vehement defence of this point not only makes no sense and no difference to the overall 'argument', but in fact says more about your reasoning than mine?

    I am being deliberatley and painfullly narrow on this point for that very specific reason laz. I'll repeat- conceding this very, narrow and irrelevant (in the wider debate) point in NO WAY affects your position, the cAGW position or the debate as a whole.

    But yes i agree, if we can't get past this very simple and trivial point there is very little reason for us to continue debating. A shame.

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  9. “The ulcer example is relevant because it shows when a worldwide consensus was not only wrong, but tried to subvert opposing research."

    How's that relevant? There's no comparison between these issues. You can’t base an argument on the chance, hope, and wishful thinking that it has happened again but in a much wider sphere and involving many more people. To cling to the possibility a consensus would be overturned but for crucial research being subverted is a straight conspiracy theory.

    Perhaps I didn’t explain very well previously. It isn’t valid or credible to argue from the position of how you think things could turn out to be. Even if the opinion of scientific experts were wrong more often than not, it is still folly to assume the same again. A rational person, including both Paul and I is not going to take such a position seriously.

    “Evolution is not a valid example as it is directly measurable, experimentally replicatable and an exceptionally well supported theory.”

    Most all researching scientists into AGW would state the same. By rejecting their consensus you reject their expert opinion.

    “Smoking and cancer too, while less easy to demonstrate, is as much fact as you can reasonably get at the moment.”

    Ditto.

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    1. “cAGW however relies on unproven positive amplification and un validated climatic models to work. It is not directly measurable nor is it experimentally verifiable.”

      This is outside the ‘consensus’. If you want to pursue it I’d rather set up a separate thread. However this is an absurd thing to say. Even without models and the complexity of science, a positive amplification is the only rational outcome to assume. Even without such an amplification, AGW will still be a serious issue.

      “I think this point, and some of the other items in your blog, betray your line of reasoning and (hopefully) unconscious bias on this issue.”

      I am only biased by the published science. You reveal you are biased by wishful thinking.

      “ The two points aren't mutually exclusive"

      You are correct. But if the current state of the science suggests a need for policy, to protect people’s health for example, to be the most effective you should base that policy on the science. The very last thing you should do is ignore conclusions of the scientists and base policy on something else that might work, or worse, do nothing at all.

      Going off topic, I’m not suggesting I favour any of the policies currently on the agenda. In fact I am very critical of them. Most would be ineffective coffer fillers.
      In my opinion Carbon Credits and Cap & trade must be the worst way imaginable to manage climate change. But these ideas appeared as probable policy solutions while most ‘climate contrarians’, most with a similar political bias, wasted time insinuating that scientists didn’t know what they were about and that nothing needed to be done, instead of actually entering the debate.

      “Can you see now how your, and Pauls vehement defence of this point not only makes no sense and no difference to the overall 'argument', but in fact says more about your reasoning than mine?”

      No actually. Not at all. Consensus based policy is the only rational view to make. In that light your reasoning is flawed.

      “conceding this very, narrow and irrelevant (in the wider debate)”

      You’re wrong. An expert consensus is relevant in any debate and any proposed solution. If our Royal Society hadn’t issued joint declarations with many countries national academies, confirming AGW, urging the nations to act, and indicating that detrimental climate change was considered a very high probability within the global scientific community, I wouldn’t give a fig about AGW. Almost no one would. It would just be an academic issue with Greens, anti-nuclear nuts etc ‘saving the world’ but generally getting ignored.

      I repeat a point unacknowledged; An expert consensus, especially when supported by scientific academies, indicates robust science. It is not agenda or politically driven. Basing any action or argument on the chance that this might isn't the case is biased and irrational.

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    2. Labmunkey, I forgot to ask, did you get a chance to view "The Denial Machine"? You keep suggesting that evolution and tobacco promotion are not valid examples to use with global warming but that video clearly traces some of the connections, including links to the same organisations, think tanks and scientists.

      An article just published in New Scientist agrees;
      http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328533.600-dont-cloud-young-minds.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news

      In fact there are whole books tracing the subject and I'd recommend 'Merchants of Doubt' for a good read written by academics.
      http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/

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  10. I see we're not going to get past this point.

    To reiterate though; "An expert consensus, especially when supported by scientific academies, indicates robust science"

    Is directly invalidated by the stomach ulcer example. There are other examples too.

    Additionally, your attempts to draw parallels between those against evolution and tobacco/cancer would be just the same as me showing parallels between 'pro' nuts.

    Do not confuse those idiots with sceptics 'proper' (and believe me, there are nuts on BOTH sides).

    See this http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/26/the-skeptics-case/

    For a reasonable sceptical stance. Marginally different to my own, but close enough that it doesn't matter for the purpose of this discussion. Many of your counter arguments rely on you responding to the caracetuer of the sceptic, rather than the individual in question.

    As you are unable to keep to the very narrow point i'm making w(ithout extensive hedging) i'll probably bow out now- but thank you for providing this forum for our debate and i wish you the best of luck with your blog.

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    1. ““To reiterate though; "An expert consensus, especially when supported by scientific academies, indicates robust science"

      Is directly invalidated by the stomach ulcer example.”

      This really seems to be the sticking point where you are blind to the irrational and faulty logic of your argument so I will only concentrate on this statement.

      The stomach example does not invalidate the consensus on climate change. It has nothing to do with climate change. It only invalidated the consensus on how stomach ulcers formed.

      Using you flawed thinking then any consensus position by experts is invalid and it can’t be a reliable source for basing policy or action. That includes evolution, harmful effects of smoking, even gravity. In fact the new consensus position on stomach ulcers is invalidated by the new consensus position on stomach ulcers!

      So are you really prepared to say that; ‘The expert consensus on gravity which is supported by scientific academies is invalid and therefore does not indicated robust science’, because of a change in thinking over the formation of stomach ulcers’?

      If the answer is ‘yes’ then this debate really has come to a conclusion and I leave it to others to judge the soundness of you arguments based on that logic.

      If the answer is ‘no’, because such logic now sounds as ridiculous to you as it does to me, then you will have to admit that your rejection of the scientific consensus of experts on climate change is just a way, perhaps unconsciously, to confirm you own biases on the matter.

      ***************

      If you are finished debating with me, may I as a friend offer you some advice on your “parallels between 'pro' nuts” thinking? - (They are not really ‘pro’ nuts just people driven by ideology).

      I think you should seriously consider the implications that the pro nuts are funded by the same organisations, think tanks and groups, and even have some of the same scientists supporting their pro nut position as are funding and supporting the climate ‘skeptic’ position.

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  11. Hi guys,

    my perspective is a little different from both of yours, though I am pretty firmly in Lazarus' camp.

    regarding the specific issue that you keep disagreeing about, the analogy to the cause of ulcer's being shown to be upsetting the establishment consensus. I see it as a good example if one looks at the ways that it is similar and the ways that it is different. It is very different in the ways that Laz pointed out. There was not a lot of research on the issue, and the consensus was not based on rigorous science that was reconfirmed through many different lines of evidence. In my view that disqualifies it as being a defining analogy that unambiguously supports the skeptic position about the over reliance on consensus in this case.

    But I also think that this issue is much more complicated than the ulcer issue. As Laz says that case did not undermine medical science in any way, it just showed that assumptions and lack of fully testing a hypothesis led to incorrect conclusions that were accepted without justification. Climate science has many more factors that impact the conclusions regarding ACC, so there are many more ways that it could potentially not play out as predicted by specific models. And also there has been MUCH more attention paid to just those factors. The conclusions are subject to an array of interpretations over these particular specifics. How are the factors that impact natural variability accounted for, and how are the uncertainties accounted for in models that posit ACC.

    I consider myself a skeptic and have followed a number of websites that call themselves skeptic sites. WUWT, Steve Goddard, JoNova, Delingpole, etc. I agree with labmunkey that the politicization of the issue has led to a bias in the consensus position. the issue has become extremely polarized so that many scientists and advocates for the consensus position do present the information that supports the premise of climate change causing devastating consequences in the future and downplaying information that minimizes that possibility. But I would argue that only the most extreme advocates are presenting scenarios that are unlikely. I do consider some of Hansen's statements indicating a possible 5 meter rise in sea level in this century to be alarmist, and not credible. yet the "skeptics" ignore that even he offers qualifiers and separates his emotional concerns about wild possibilities from actual scientifically defendable positions.
    Whereas the so called "skeptic" arguments are so often clearly not based on assessing all the science as to be pretty much straight propaganda much of the time. Especially from the sites that I mentioned above.

    In my view the consensus position encompasses a wide range of possible outcomes and, while there is political pressure due to the polarization, I do not see that it amounts to a situation that is actually undermining the scientific development of the theory of ACC. Certainly aspects of it are going to be found to be inaccurate, but the argument that the science has been completely poisoned by politics and the real science as a whole is being prevented from being published seems like a paranoid fantasy. this is further supported by the explicitly paranoid conspiracy theories that are blatantly and often tactily supported with only the barest threads of justification.

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  12. as for real skeptical alternatives to ACC labmunkey credits that post from WUWT. Whenever a "skeptic" posts a comprehensive justification, not being a climate scientist myself, I always ask what are the arguments against the points being made. It sounds very compelling, but so do Moncton, And Ian Plimer and others whose information has been shown repeatedly to be wrong or misleading in almost every case. I see a few issues that seem reasonable but are wrong or misleading in that post. For one he appears to ignore the acknowledged fact that Hansen had a climate sensitivity of 4+°C for a doubling of CO2, when the best estimates are 2.5-3+°C. He also uses sea temp data for an extremely short period, and ignores arctic sea ice loss, as well as a number of other issues.

    The key issue he points to is the lack of amplification of the forcing from CO2. He says this is absolutely clear, and yet he cites no papers that have been peer reviewed that would overthrow this consensus. Why is there no peer reviewed citation of this revolutionary truth that he says is so clearly pointed out on the data? And why do so many scientists accept the general feedback theory? I am skeptical that such a simple basic thing is shown to be wrong on a blog, and yet it is not presented as peer reviewed science. if it is so clear and the consequences so easily overturn the consensus, as did the ulcer model, why are there no established non skeptic scientists questioning this? They cannot ALL be so caught up in the politics of the issue that they are all willing to ignore real science.

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