NPR offers a perfect example of how an unfalsifiable, infallible theory works

Burning earthNPR didn’t mean to offer a perfect example of how an unfalsifiable, infallible theory works.  It’s stated goal was to have people better understand what a polar vortex is.  However, when it chose to interview “Andrew Freedman, senior science writer for Climate Central, an independent non-profit organization that researches and reports on the science and impact of climate change,” Mr. Freedman, true to his climate change beliefs, came up with a good one.

Before I get to Mr. Freedman’s words, let me make sure we’re all on the same page about an unfalsifiable, infallible theory.  Mike McDaniel has an easy-to-understand, elegantly stated explanation.  An unfalsifiable theory “requires no proof, for like religious dogma, it is rooted in faith.  One either believes or not; proof is not necessary and opposing proof may therefore be disregarded.  Such beliefs are, in the language of science, non-falsifiable.”  Non-falsifiable theories do not stand alone.  Because they cannot be proved wrong they are, by definition, infallible.  Like God, they are what they are, with no actual explanations required.

With that in mind, please enjoy Mr. Freedman’s response to the NPR interviewer’s question about the current polar vortex and climate change:

GREENE: I mean, is climate change playing some sort of role here in the cold we’re seeing this week?

FREEDMAN: We actually have these possible connections between the Arctic – which is warming rapidly, and which is losing sea ice – and these perturbations, these shifts in the jet stream over North America and over Europe. And many scientists are convinced that there’s enough circumstantial evidence to potentially convince a jury that there is this link, and that the weather patterns are becoming more and more suspicious as being influenced by human activities. But the physical connections, the actual smoking gun that would link Arctic warming to weather patterns that we see right now – like this one – isn’t quite there yet. It hasn’t quite been proven. So whether or not it would convince a jury of scientific peers in this case is unclear. And I think in the next few years, we’ll know a lot more. But certainly, climate change is influencing every weather pattern that occurs today, in some ways large and small.

Without all the unnecessary prevarication, what Mr. Freedman said is “We have no actual evidence that anthropogenic global warming has anything to do with this. That doesn’t worry us, though, because our operating, unchallengeable baseline is that anthropogenic global warming (which we now call “climate change” so as to be more encompassing) is behind every weather phenomenon that has ever happened since we decided that there’s something called anthropogenic global war. . . . er, climate change.”  This is unsurprising.  Mr. Freedman’s paycheck comes from an “independent non-profit organization that researches and reports on the science and impact of climate change.”  No climate change means no non-profit organization, which means Mr. Freedman and his cohorts are out of a job.

Just to demonstrate further that Mr. Freedman is operating within a closed, unfalsifiable system, let’s scoot over to Time Magazine for a minute.  As Ed Driscoll reports (in a post beautifully titled Time Magazine Swings Both Ways), the United States experienced a whopper of a polar vortex in 1974. Back then, Time breathlessly informed its readers that the problem was global cooling and that we trembled on the verge of another ice age.  This time around, of course, the pathetic shadow that was the once might Time, now reports equally breathlessly that global warming caused the big chill.

Faith is a wonderful — and dangerous — thing.

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  • Ymarsakar

    We need to kill off these Gaians and their Earth Front liberation orgs, because we’re going to freeze to death without enough CO2 production.
    That’s how humanity can become extinct. We’ll create our own nuclear winter, except without nukes.

  • MadGeometer

    It is interesting, too, how Mr. Freedman vacillates on scientific rigor – first it is having “circumstantial evidence to potentially convince a jury” then it is “physical connections” – i.e. causation or proof – and he moves the bar back to “convinc[ing] a jury of scientific peers”. Rigorous science this is not!

  • Call me Lennie

    “But certainly, climate change is influencing every weather pattern that occurs today, in some ways large and small.”
    Now who can argue with that?  I’m particularly pleased that our young millenials are reading here today, for not only was Mr Freedman’s article an  example of  authentic, pseudo-scientific, proggressive gibberish but it also encapsulates our own passionate beliefs about the relationship of climate and weather
    In a related goof,  I just penned two song parodying spoofs of the travails of the Akademik Shokalskiy  — one entitled “The Climate Boat Song”  based on Harry Belafonte’s “The Banana Boat Song”and the other, an untitled take off of the Beach Boys “Sloop John B”  And as you can see I’ve managed to sir up the wrath of the faithful

  • Earl

    Ha!  What ought to be on fire is not the EARTH, but this guy’s PANTS!! 
    I can only imagine what my graduate committee would have done with sentences such as this one (sort of depends where they were on the “I’m a sucker” continuum):
    And MANY SCIENTISTS ARE CONVINCED that there’s ENOUGH CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE to POTENTIALLY convince a jury that there is this link, and that the weather patterns are becoming more and more SUSPICIOUS AS BEING INFLUENCED by human activities.
    All those CAPITALIZED words are what my profs called “weasel words” and they were DEATH on these. “If you can’t show the evidence, then don’t make the claim.” was their refrain, and I spent hours poring over my dissertation removing such things….. 
    Having been thus trained, it didn’t take me long to see through this garbage, and for over 30 years I taught my students to “deconstruct” these pronouncements – to the irritation of some of them (although I still have some former students who gleefully send me current c**p from these guys, to show me that they’re still putting their lessons to good use) and especially of most of my colleagues.  A few of the latter have had the good grace to acknowledge that they were too gullible, but most are silent, and a few are STILL eager to tell me how wrong I am.  I can only pity them…..and their students.
    Nevertheless, what this guy is doing is “criminal” in the truly scientific sense….he’s using his authority to attempt to convince the audience of something for which he does not have good evidence – and his use of the language indicates that he KNOWS he doesn’t have good evidence for what he’s saying. 
    Of course, it’s possible that he totally believes what he’s saying, and is ignorant of what a fool he’s making of himself.  But, that’s no excuse….remember?
    “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”  Richard Feynman

  • Danny Lemieux

    Faith…in false gods…is a terribly destructive thing.

  • Libby

    Just once – once! – I’d like someone in the MSM to ask one of these guys what evidence would disprove AGW and not let them get away with an evasive answer. It’s pretty obvious what the honest answer would be: there is nothing that can happen that would not prove AGW; the’ll find a way to spin anything to fit their faith.

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