NPR 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.