Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Climate change and the nature of science.

Climate change is real, and it's mainly due to human production of vast amounts of carbon dioxide.  This is simply expressed, but in many quarters it's hugely controversial, when it should not be.

What's fascinating is how many people seem to have a very strange idea about how science works.

A scientist is someone who tests out ideas against reality.  A good scientist is someone who is good at testing ideas against reality.  A scientist is paid to test ideas against reality.  Scientists compete for money to do their work.  They compete against each other.  They are successful if they can show that they are better at coming up with ideas and testing these ideas against reality.  Because of this competition it pays scientists to find fault with each others work, but because science is about tests against reality, the faults must be true faults.  Scientists get to publish their work when competing scientists are prepared to recognise the quality of their work.  Science is full of competition, some friendly, some not.  Everyone is out to succeed, and reality is the judge.

Remember this:  reality is the judge.  This means that there isn't the degree of bias that you might suspect that could come from how a scientist gets paid.  The reason is that you don't hire a scientist if you know the answer you want to get - you hire someone who writes fiction.  There's no point paying for laboratory work if you know the answer you want to get.

The idea that scientists could somehow work together to invent climate change results is absurd, because scientists don't get money from working together - they are all out to find fault with each other.  And - reality is the judge.

The idea that you can pick the views of a particular scientist and say that he or she has the right view is absurd, because unless you have expertise in their field the only reason you are saying that they have the right view is because you already know what you want the right view to be.

The way a layperson should decide what is the right view to support, for now, is statistical:  what is the consensus view?  That's the only way a layperson can decide the view to support.  Anything else is simple prejudice, and a rejection of science.

So, climate change is happening, and it's mainly due to human production of carbon dioxide.  That the overwhelming scientific consensus.  If you aren't an expert in climate science and you disagree with that, then you are just making stuff up.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

here here!