|I remember many years ago, when Martin Gardner used to write his fantastic Mathematical Games column for Scientific American magazine, he once discussed how numbers could be manipulated to derive all sorts of interesting "correlations". As an example, he took the measurements of the sides, height, area and volume of one of the Egyptian pyramids and started adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing these numbers to get other numbers which he would compare as ratios, etc. After a while he was able to "prove" that the ancient Egyptians had an amazing knowledge of astronomical observations that were apparently lost to future generations and were able to predict all sorts of incredible things about our modern society. (I don't remember the details, but it was things like stock trends for Microsoft or other such ridiculous stuff.)|
The point is that, given a sufficiently rich data set, numbers can be manipulated to produce just about any correlation you want. If you are on the lookout, you can find this technique in practice on a daily basis in the news. Now, I'm not accusing Andrew of manipulating data. I'm sure he is sincere in his beliefs about climate change and CO2's effects, but I become very suspicious of arguments like:
> No one is denying that the earth warms and cools naturally; the problem
> that human emissions cause is the rate at which the changes are taking place
You see, if the absolute change in temperature does not fit with the desired model, why we can then look at the derivative rate-of-change and see what we get. And, like Martin Gardner's example, we can keep up this game until we find something "interesting". Now, I'm not saying that rate-of-change is not something useful to be examined. But an objective observer would scratch their head over data like this and use it as a starting point to formulate additional experiments which would have predicted results which could be tested for and verified. Only when there is a sizable amount of corroborating evidence that fits a predictive model, do we begin to act from a position of real knowledge. This is the scientific method.
But that is not what we typically find in the climate debate. Here we find ourselves bombarded with various pieces of raw data (such as rate of temperature change) which have often not been experimentally tested and have not been successfully integrated into a working predictive model. Nevertheless, we are expected to accept each piece of this data on it own merits, as "proof" of the initial postulate concerning man-made climate change. To do so would be intellectual suicide, but to forestall anyone from this position, the data is presented in the context of a immediate global crisis. Our lives hang in the balance. There is no time to think. There is no time to acquire real knowledge. We must act immediately or we are doomed! Fear. A brilliant strategy that has worked well throughout the ages. It got the witches burned in Salem and, if left unchecked, it might well significantly set back human technical progress today.
I'm all for looking at the data that environmental scientists are accumulating, but I am getting really tired of the double standard being employed. When Gore and his ilk find an interesting correlation between temperature and CO2 in the ice core samples, they declare that it significantly bolsters their case while conveniently ignoring the 800-year offset which wasn't worth mentioning. Hmmm. And when this piece of information is raised by the critics, it is quickly dismissed. It really reminds me of a magician who distracts you from what is happening in one hand by waving the other hand. And fear is the distraction.
There is one point that I made in a different forum that I will repeat here. The radical environmental movement is the one putting forth a positive claim: that we are facing a run-away global warming crisis and that the crisis is a man-made phenomenon. Therefore, it is incumbent upon them to prove their case - and to do so in a scientifically valid way. The critics of this global climate crisis hypothesis are not offering a positive claim. They are not saying that global warming is not occurring nor are they saying that there is no relationship between man's activity and the climate. Instead, they are simply reviewing the data that the radical environmentalists are presenting to see if there is sufficient correlation to validate the conclusions being offered or if other explanations for the data are equally plausible. Therefore, the two methodologies are different. It is important to keep this is mind. If you are making a critical review of certain environmental claims, it is not necessary to offer an alternative working model for the data. It is sufficient to show that the data is insufficient, inaccurate or contradictory with other data in order to dismiss the conclusions as being inadequately supported by the facts. Of course this really pisses of the exponents of these views, but whacha' gonna' do?
P.S.: Andrew, I acknowledge and appreciate the apology. Thanks.