Science and Anti-Science

 

It never fails to irk me when some proggie, convinced of his moral and intellectual superiority – and thus his right to dictate our life decisions – claims that the right is “anti-science.”  Usually, proggies make this claim because more on the right believe in creationism and a six thousand year old earth.  That is the intersection of faith and science.  What is not at that intersection is the belief that anthropogenic global warming is “settled science” – as long as one ignores the repeated changes to the historical temperature record that are less trustworthy than even me when I have control of the golf scorecard – the best club in my bag is a pencil.  It is not at the intersection of the belief that GMO’s are inherently dangerous (we’ve been doing genetic modification for millennia), that vaccines are dangerous (the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the rare negative consequence), nor that racism is colorblind (what an utter travesty of modern proggie science).  And those are all proggie tropes, none of which stand up to experiment that fully satisfy the scientific method.

Three years ago I wrote about the need for reform in how we use, practice and fund science.  I stand by all that I wrote then:  

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The NOAA Study and Adjustments To Our Temperature Records

In June [2015], Tom Karl, a top level official at NOAA released a study, “Possible Artifacts Of Data Biases In The Recent Global Warming Hiatus,” purporting to show that temperatures over the past two decades have not paused but, instead, have been steadily increasing. On the recommendations in that paper, both NOAA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (“GISS”) have altered America’s historic temperature records. It was an incredibly fortuitous study as it not only found warming that science’s best minds and increasingly accurate measurements had missed, but it did so just as the UN prepares to host the Paris Conference and just before the EPA released its Clean Power Plan.

Karl’s study is problematic at best. The study ignores our most accurate measurements from satellite data, which show that global warming stopped almost twenty years ago, on both land and seas. Further, Karl’s changes to ocean temperature records and Arctic temperature estimates are just brazenly inappropriate.

To understand how brazen Karl’s work is, a little history is in order. Since 2000, a multinational effort has been under way to position and use so called “ARGO” buoys to measure, among other things, ocean temperatures and currents. There are over 4,000 such buoys spread out over the world’s oceans providing this data. The buoys are not perfect, since they do not provide daily temperature and satellite data must supplement their information. Nevertheless, there is no question that the ARGO system provides the most accurate data available. Despite this accuracy, Karl unilaterally adjusted the ARGO buoy temperatures upwards to bring them in line with inherently inaccurate sea temperature measurements taken from ship engines. An article that Dr. Richard Lindzen and others posted at the CATO Institute explains just how biased towards warming Karl’s work is:

[Karl’s] treatment of the buoy sea-surface temperature (SST) data was guaranteed to put a warming trend in recent data. They were adjusted upwards 0.12°C to make them “homogeneous” with the longer-running temperature records taken from engine intake channels in marine vessels. As has been acknowledged by numerous scientists, the engine intake data are clearly contaminated by heat conduction from the structure, and they were never intended for scientific use.

On the other hand, environmental monitoring is the specific purpose for the buoys. Adjusting good data upwards to match bad data seems questionable, and the fact that the buoy network becomes increasingly dense in the last two decades means that this adjustment must put a warming trend in the data.

My only complaint with the paragraph above is the description of what Karl did as “questionable.” There is nothing questionable about it. Anyone who tried to change the data that way for, say, a securities prospectus would find himself facing criminal charges. Nor was this Karl’s only fraudulent act. Additionally, he rejiggered Arctic temperature estimations in a manner wholly unwarranted and guaranteed to produce warming. The Lindzen article again explains what Karl did:

The extension of high-latitude arctic land data over the Arctic Ocean is also questionable. Much of the Arctic Ocean is ice-covered even in high summer, meaning the surface temperature must remain near freezing. Extending land data out into the ocean will obviously induce substantially exaggerated temperatures.

In other words, Karl has blatantly cooked the books. And Karl is not just any scientist; he is a high level public employee in charge of one version of our historic temperature records. He has now altered that version of our records based on this study for reasons seeming to have far more to do with politics than science.

Congress has decided to investigate this most recent change and has subpoenaed NOAA’s records related to the Karl study. The other day, NOAA announced that it will not honor the subpoena, citing to “the confidentiality of the requested documents and the integrity of the scientific process .” Obviously Mr. Karl has a very dark sense of humor to claim that the “integrity of the scientific process” is at stake by making all taxpayer-funded documents about a scientific study public. Prof. Judith Curry disagrees with Mr. Karl, concluding in a recent op-ed, “If the House Science Committee can work to minimize the political influence on government-funded research, and also help to resolve legitimate scientific issues, it will have done both science and the policies that depend on science a big favor.”

And do note, what Karl did in 2015 – i.e., adjusting our historic temperature records – is something that our government record keepers at NASA and NOAA have done multiple times over the past two decades. Those changes to the temperature record, never published for comment or publicly justified, have been coming (dare I say it) fast and furious over the last three years because raw temperature data has shown no warming since 1997: “By the count of researcher Marcia Wyatt In a widely circulated presentation, the U.S. government’s published temperature data for the years 1880 to 2010 has been tinkered with 16 times in the past three years.”

And here is the mystery about those changes: Every major adjustment of our temperature records during the past two decades has been to adjust pre-1950 temperatures downwards and post 1950 upwards, thus creating an ever greater illusion of warming. As science writer Richard Booker wrote in the Telegraph a few months ago, “The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest science scandal ever.”

One simple example illustrates how the scandal operates. Back in 2008, if you were to have looked at both NASA’s and NOAA’s historic temperature records for January, 1915, and January, 2000, you would have found the difference between the two to be .39 Celsius of warming. Fast forward to 2015, and if you look at both NASA’s and NOAA’s historic temperature records for the same two months, you would find the difference between the two to be .52 Celsius of warming. Certainly something is heating up in our historical temperature records. It appears to be the pixels.

This temperature manipulation reeks of fraud, it it renders our temperature records untrustworthy, and it provides the false information that is then fed into computer models to serve as grist for the resulting prophecies about catastrophic global warming. Worse, these adjustments to raw data have been significant,accounting for as much as half of all the warming that is supposed to have occurred in the 20th century. . . .

Scientific Integrity

Ironically enough, Obama promised to restore scientific integrity to our government when he took office in 2008. Instead he has taken a scimitar to it. There is nothing less trustworthy today than science as practiced under and relied upon by the Obama administration.

Science, born in the Age of Enlightenment, is defined ONLY by its process – hypothesis, testing, observations, conclusions, and reproduction. It is that last step that is crucial. Reproduction is the only means to provide objective verification and it is only that which sets science apart from religion or ideology. If a proposition cannot be validated or falsified, it is not science. If a study purporting to be science is not published with all the raw data and information to allow it to be validated or falsified, it is not science. It is at best wholly unreliable, at worst an outright fraud – just as Mann’s hockey stick proved to be after he was finally forced to publish all raw and supporting data.

Here is what science is supposed to look like. In 2011, CERN conducted an experiment during which physicists observed something seemingly impossible – neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. This observation, if true, would have invalidated Einstein’s theory of relativity. CERN checked and rechecked their experiment parameters and their data, then put all this information out in public, asking physicists to prove or disprove their finding. This whole process was lauded in the extreme by physicist Dr. Micho Kakuwho wrote of the event in the WSJ:

“. . . [I]n the end, this is a victory for science. No theory [not even Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the foundation of modern physics] is carved in stone. Science is merciless when it comes to testing all theories over and over, at any time, in any place. Unlike religion or politics, science is ultimately decided by experiments, done repeatedly in every form. There are no sacred cows. In science, 100 authorities count for nothing. Experiment counts for everything.”

Now compare that to Obama standing up and announcing that the “science is settled” as to climate change. What he is really saying is that the politics are settled and that he will brook no scientific challenges to his political conclusions. As Dr. Krauthammer pointed out last year, such a political statement is pure “anti-science.”

A second equally bright red flag that screams that we are not dealing with science should pop up when, in response to questions about gaping holes in climate science, the global warming proponent ignores the questions and says repeatedly that 97% of all scientists believe that man-made global warming is real and catastrophic. That “97% consensus,” in addition to being a gross distortion, is another extreme example of “anti-science.” Dr. Richard Tol has gone to the trouble of taking a hard look at the numbers and methods behind the 97% consensus claim. This from the abstract of one of his articles on the topic:

“A claim has been that 97% of the scientific literature endorses anthropogenic climate change (Cook et al., 2013. Environ. Res. Lett. 8, 024024). This claim, frequently repeated in debates about climate policy, does not stand. A trend in composition is mistaken for a trend in endorsement. Reported results are inconsistent and biased. The sample is not representative and contains many irrelevant papers. Overall, data quality is low. Cook׳s validation test shows that the data are invalid. Data disclosure is incomplete so that key results cannot be reproduced or tested. [emphasis added]”

As to that last line, to reiterate, anything that cannot be reproduced or tested because of a failure to make available all information is, by definition, not science. And that has been one of the great problems with so many of the studies purporting to support the hypothesis of man-made, carbon centric, catastrophic climate change. Starting at least with Michael Mann in the late 90’s, climate scientists began publishing results of their studies without providing all of the raw data and other information necessary to allow their studies to be validated or fully reproduced. That is not a scientific study, it is an encyclical to the faithful and a snake oil ad aimed at the gullible.

Instead, it has been customary since the days of Mann’s infamous hockey stick for many in the climate science community to claim that their work is valid simply because it has been subject to peer review. Peer review is virtually meaningless. It is not a measure of reliability or accuracy, it does not validate the study, nor does it in any way substitute for the scientific method.

Nor is corrupt science the only problem. Even when scientists publish both their studies and all applicable raw data, etc., in good faith and in accordance with the scientific method, recent efforts by researchers in a variety of disciplines trying to reproduce their results have failed in a significant majority of cases:

“. . . Over the past few years various researchers have made systematic attempts to replicate some of the more widely cited priming experiments. Many of these replications have failed. In April, for instance, a paper in PLoS ONE, a journal, reported that nine separate experiments had not managed to reproduce the results of a famous study from 1998 purporting to show that thinking about a professor before taking an intelligence test leads to a higher score than imagining a football hooligan.

The idea that the same experiments always get the same results, no matter who performs them, is one of the cornerstones of science’s claim to objective truth. If a systematic campaign of replication does not lead to the same results, then either the original research is flawed (as the replicators claim) or the replications are (as many of the original researchers on priming contend). Either way, something is awry. . . .”

It is tempting to see the priming fracas as an isolated case in an area of science—psychology—easily marginalised as soft and wayward. But irreproducibility is much more widespread. A few years ago scientists at Amgen, an American drug company, tried to replicate 53 studies that they considered landmarks in the basic science of cancer, often co-operating closely with the original researchers to ensure that their experimental technique matched the one used first time round. According to a piece they wrote last year in , a leading scientific journal, they were able to reproduce the original results in just six. . . .

The takeaway is that, even when science is done right in such areas as quantum physics or medicine, study results are still quite often subject to invalidation when another scientist attempts to reproduce the study. The problem is exponentially worse in climate science where little to no attempt is being made to practice the scientific method.

The absolute nadir to this travesty has come with Obama’s EPA. For the past five years, Obama’s EPA has been significantly altering regulations associated with the Clean Air Act, moves that will potentially cost hundreds of billions of dollars, on the theory that reducing a particular emission will save X number of lives. All well and good if true, but the studies upon which the EPA relies to justify its edicts have not been published with sufficient information to allow for reproduction or validation:

“The two studies that represent the scientific foundation for 1997 ozone and PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards are highly questionable and the data concealed, even though the studies were paid for by federal taxpayers and thus should be public property. Because the data is unavailable to the public, the two studies used to justify the federal government’s regulatory ambush have never been reproduced, independently verified or validated in any way.”

This is not science. It is outrageous and as far from science as the Torah and the New Testament – both of which are exemplary books, but neither of which anyone (including the faithful) asserts are science treatises. And it should be noted that Democrats and Obama are opposing a bill that would require the EPA in particular to rely only on studies that are subject to reproduction and validation – i.e., actual science. Here ThinkProgress discusses the objections that Obama and other hard left progressives have raised to challenge the proposed bill:

“The White House [said] in a memo released Monday that [requiring science to be public and subject to validation and reproduction] would cost the agency thousands of dollars for each scientific study it uses, thereby making it harder and more time-consuming to meet the requirements for each study it wants to use. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that the EPA relies on approximately 50,000 scientific studies per year, and that meeting the goals of the House “Secret Science” bill would cost between $10,000 and $30,000 per study. [whereas the regulations being imposed based on those secret science studies cost our economy in the tens of billions or more]”

The result, the CBO noted, would be that the number of studies relied upon by the EPA would be cut in half. That would mean EPA regulations based on less sound science[emphasis added] and less EPA regulations overall.

“In short, the bill would undermine EPA’s ability to protect the health of Americans, would impose expensive new mandates on EPA, and could impose substantial litigation costs on the Federal government,” the White House memo reads. “It also could impede EPA’s reliance on thebest available science [emphasis added].”

To say that subjecting scientific studies to validation and reproduction would result in “less sound science” or that studies that have not been validated are the “best available science” is quite literally Orwellian. It stands reality on its head. If a study is not validated or subject to reproduction IT IS NOT SCIENCE to begin with. It is merely a document that, in this case, supports an ideological position a politician favors and the reliability of which the politician wants us to accept on faith alone.

Compare this desire to rely on studies that have not been validated with Dr. Micho Kaku’s celebration of how physicists and CERN dealt with the testing that ultimately tagged as false the finding that neutrinos could move faster than the speed of light. What would the state of physics be today if Obama told the world that the science was settled, CERN hid its data from public knowledge, and the EPA proposed regulations costing our nation hundreds of billions of dollars for neutrino mitigation? While I am being tongue in cheek, this does highlight precisely the difference between politics coupled with the corruption of science and actual science of the only kind in which we should place any reliance.

Indeed, what the left calls “settled science” in regards to anthropogenic, carbon centric climate change is now a political movement far more akin to Lysenkoism than to science:

“Trofim Lysenko became the Director of the . . . Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences in the 1930s under Josef Stalin. He was an advocate of the [now falsified] theory that characteristics acquired by plants during their lives could be inherited by later generations stemming from the changed plants, which sharply contradicted Mendelian genetics. As a result, Lysenko became a fierce critic of theories of the then rising modern genetics.

Lysenkoism was “politically correct” (a term invented by Lenin) because it was consistent with certain broader Marxist doctrines. . . .

Lysenko was consequently embraced and lionized by the Soviet media propaganda machine. Scientists who promoted Lysenkoism with faked data and destroyed counterevidence were favored with government funding and official recognition and award. Lysenko and his followers and media acolytes responded to critics by impugning their motives, and denouncing them as bourgeois fascists resisting the advance of the new modern Marxism.

The V.I. Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences announced on August 7, 1948 that thenceforth Lysenkoism would be taught as the only correct theory. All Soviet scientists were required to denounce any work that contradicted Lysenkoism. Ultimately, Soviet geneticists resisting Lysenkoism were imprisoned and even executed. Lysenkoism was abandoned for the correct modern science of Mendelian genetics only as late as 1964.”

By 1964, Lysenkoism’s ascendency contributed to tens of millions of people starving to death because of Marxist created famines. That sad chapter in history – one which should be a dire warning, not a script — is obviously parallel to what has gone on, and is still going on, in regards to climate science in the west, even down to the calls that dissenters be imprisoned or banished from “public discourse.” Most recently:

Warmist scientists including UN IPCC Lead Author Kevin Trenberth [sent in a letter] to Obama: ‘We appreciate that you are making aggressive and imaginative use of the limited tools available to you in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. One additional tool – recently proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – is a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change. We strongly endorse Senator Whitehouse’s call for a RICO investigation.’

At least one of these calls for using our laws to punish “evil” corporations over climate change is already underway in New York, thanks to its Attorney General, who is investigating Exxon on the charge of fraudulently misleading the public about the reality of climate change:

“Scurry on board the Exxon prosecution express. Lest they be left behind and called “deniers,” Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley,the attorney general of New York, and Al Gore this week all demanded criminal investigation of Exxon Mobil as a result of recent media “exposés.” . . .

Not one of these worthies likely examined the evidence, which tells a story quite different from the claim that Exxon somehow concealed its understanding of the climate debate. . . .

Acknowledging and even studying man’s impact on the climate, as Exxon has done and continues to do, is not tantamount to endorsing a green policy agenda of highly questionable value.”

And that’s the real problem. Read closely and the accusation isn’t really that Exxon misled the public by emphasizing the uncertainties of climate science, which are real. It’s that Exxon refused to sign up for a vision of climate doom that would justify large and immediate costs to reduce fossil fuel use. . . .

Within a remarkably short time, we have gone from practicing science in this county – the objective search for truth – all the way onto the margins of Lysenkoism. Any deviation from dogma can lead to all sorts of negative consequences, now including the real threat of criminal prosecution. This is out of control. Lyesenkoism contributed to the death of tens of millions of Soviets in the famines of the 30’s. I can easily foresee our own brand of Lysenkoism contributing to as many deaths worldwide as a huge portion of the world’s economy is redirected to climate change mitigation, costing jobs, raising prices for transportation, energy, and all goods, and thus driving countless millions into poverty. There is reason for deep and sincere concern.

Summary

The Ridley, Moore and Roberts articles, as well as the Wyatt presentation, discuss in detail the problems with the carbon-centric, anthropogenic catastrophic climate change theory. What is supporting that theory now is not science, it is politics and economics. The marrying of politics and economics with the climate change theory has led us to corrupt science and relive Lysenkoism in the West.

There are a few things that could easily be done to help restore integrity to science:

One, Congress needs to pass the secret science bill requiring that government agencies may rely only on studies that have been validated or reproduced, based upon the studies’ underlying data. This utterly corrupt practice of relying on studies that have not been validated or reproduced because key data is withheld must end.

Two, when taxpayer dollars are used to fund scientific studies, those studies must adhere to the scientific method – a requirement that must be ruthlessly enforced. Any scientist whose name appears on a study that does not contain all of the raw data, etc., necessary to allow for the validation and reproduction of the study should thereafter be ineligible to receive any government grants.

Three, everything about the way we manage our historic temperature records needs to be changed. It is difficult to know where to begin. At a minimum, we must get rid of the current employees handling those records who are, almost to a person, vocal proponents of global warming. Further, any proposed changes to any aspect of our temperature records must be subject to the scientific method. Finally, we must require that proposed changes to the temperature record be published in advance, as well as all of the underlying work and algorithms, so that they can be subject to comment and validation.

Four, blatant academic fraud needs to be criminally punished. We no longer live in a time when scientists police themselves and deal with academic fraud at the institutional level. When Michael Mann can be rewarded with a full professorship and experience no adverse action for fraud, the rot in our system must be addressed or the message will be that it is okay to promote academic fraud as a means to secure not merely employment, but the government taxpayer-funded grants that are part and parcel of professional success in many areas of academia.

Five, though this essay merely alludes to the role of publications, peer review, and gatekeepers, their importance in the world of “publish or perish” academia is very significant. The government should take comprehensive steps to lessen their role in all fields of science. I foresee some sort of publicly available, searchable government database that collects and collates the results and information necessary to validate or reproduce all government-funded studies as well as any and all private studies that scientists might submit for inclusion. I can see no other way to lessen the corrupt practices and biases that, as Climategate revealed, have irrevocably tainted the peer review and publication process, and that have played such a huge role in limiting voices that dissent from the approved “science.”