Science and its tribulations – a general comment


A comment by Chuckles, regarding news that the alarm about the Atlantic Conveyor shutting down has had its underpinnings weakened:

@J Ferguson,

If something confirms AGW/CC in expected or accelerated form, there is nothing to check. The consensus is confirmed.

If it does not however, it is obviously in error, and must be debunked, rebutted or refuted, depending on how seriously it is in error.

In any of the heretic categories it is simply necessary for an approved ‘climate scientist’ to disagree in spoken or written form for the correct status to be achieved. In extreme cases a disapproving frown has been demonstrated to be enough.

March 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

Chuckles was commenting at the end about how the scientists at the Climate Research Unit at the U. of East Anglia tried and sometimes successfully blocked publication in major scientific journals of some opposing climate papers.  These efforts are part of the dirtiest part of Climategate, and have disgusted many scientists in particular, and many Joe Main Streets, too.  Peer review is supposed to be objective and politics-free.  Now we all know it is not, and science had gotten a black eye over the revelation.

My reply:

@Chuckles –

Yes, if the high priests have said it is so, who is to argue? It is spoken.

This is EXACTLY what the early scientists had to contend with – truth from on high.

The Royal Society was a group of inquiring minds who decided that among themselves  NOTHING was true unless it was supported by repeatable experiment, by reality.   By Jove, THEY would not need the Church to decide their fate – they would decide their own reality!  But then, in their own reality, even before that first generation of eminently rational gentlemen died, they were already violating that dictum, and Robert Hooke was fit to be tied about it. That was in the 1600s.

(This was, by the way, the beginnings of peer review.  They would test each others’ work, and if it was not possible, they were duty bound to discard the idea as either wrong or untestable and thus merely a hypothesis.)

When Louis Agassiz with his Ice Ages, and George Lyell with his Uniformitarianism, and then some guy named Charles Darwin with his Evolution came along in the first half of the 1800s, modern science (in spite of not always following its own rules of decorum) felt it had finally left behind the superstitions of religion. (But I for one am not so sure those three haven’t been turned into a latter-day synod. While 100% against Creationism, I am not sold on the arguments of those three, either. Catastrophism has had a new rebirth since comet Shoemaker-Levy, and the dust not only hasn’t settled, it has only just begun to be kicked up. Uniformitarianism has had a few chinks put in it. And we are a long way from having a clear idea where we are headed. But that is for another thread…)

Though much evidence came along supporting Mr. Darwin’s idea, it was accepted ass fact long before real proof ever came along.  In the meantime, scientists were operating in violation of the principles of The Royal Society.  This is something they don’t exactly teach in school.  Many theories are treated as real – and not just in a tentative way, either – long before proofs are established.  It is kind of the family secret no one wants let out of the bag.

Sometimes I work myself up into a lather over “scientist’s” conclusions that are nothing more than speculation, in a lot more fields than just climatology.

I don’t have a problem with that, as long as they correctly label their guesses as guesses, but they rarely do. Their certainty is common.  Each generation has it: the hubris of the “modern.”

Science is ALWAYS just at some point along the continuum. Even in our modern times – which is really just the latest “modern” times.  If any of you keep tabs, you’ll be amazed at how many current certainties are overthrown in the next 10 years, 20 years, and more.  And who knows WHICH certainties will remain!?  I certainly don’t!

All pontifications of our time will be shown, in time, to be in error – no matter HOW certain we are of that not being the case. (I don’t use the word “all” there lightly. I DO think that is the case.) All points in time are considered by its inhabitants to be the apex of knowledge – yet to people 50-100, years later, most especially by 200 years later, every one of those periods is looked at as if their inquirers were people just off the boat. Thus is the lesson of time.

AGW is teaching so many of us that the spoutings of scientists are no more than pontifications from on high. From Monsignor Mann, Pope Jones and The Dalai Hansen for example.

We are getting a dose of what Newton and Bacon, Galileo and Copernicus, Kepler and their predecessors had to deal with. And our rationality will be better for it.

…That was my response, though I fleshed it out a bit here.

. . . . Steve

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