Are All Computer Models Wrong?

Steven Mosher (commenting at Climate Etc., Dr. Judith Curry’s non-partisan climate blog): “The problem is that all models, I repeat all models are wrong.”

I disagree.

While all climate models are wrong, in applied science (called engineering) models are NOT wrong, or even modestly wrong. Why not? Because the science behind them is based on KNOWNS – knowns measured in times past and archived (by many now unknown people whose jobs and industries required it to be known). Because of those efforts – and the standardization of, say, basic materials production and off-the-shelf products – a lay person with only a reasonable amount of “skills” can design a structure that will not fall and injure people; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. Or a climate scientist.

The reason climate models all “are wrong” is because the underlying concepts and quantifications have not been done yet. If we engineered bridges and buildings with the unknowns allowed in climate science, we’d have a populace afraid to enter buildings or cross over running water. As it is, we have alarmed people to the extent that they are afraid the seas will boil (James Hansen) or the planet dying – afraid like hell for their grandkids. What level of ignorance permits such irresponsibility?

We live in a time before sufficient facts and processes are documented. We need to admit that to our overbearing egos and realize that real understanding of the climate will have to be left to those same grandkids or even later generations. If we want to do them a service, we should be putting out nose to the grindstone and simply logging facts as we find them – not running around screaming, “The sky is falling!” and rending our clothes and smearing ash all over ourselves.

The models SUCK, and they suck because we won’t even admit that what we are putting in them is garbage (because we don’t HAVE enough facts to put into them – if we did, the models wouldn’t suck). The models are premature; they are based on formulas and constants that are not known yet. If engineering models did that, they’d string the modelers up by the yardarm.

We can’t blame the climate models “sucking” on “variability” like the IPCC does. Variability is their code word for “we don’t know WTF is going on.” Shame on them for not admitting that – and then blaming the present state of our ignorance on such a vague lawyerese thing as some undefined variability. And then they still expect everyone to hop on the wagon and fork over their many trillions of future hard-earned euros on such an iffy proposition. Shame on them.

Personally, I am sure that when the underlying science is known, stripped of its mystical, magical, religious “variability” (like the Mind of God), the maths can be worked out and the modelers’ job will be a piece of cake. Until that time, the models suck – but only the climate models and economic models.


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