November 23, 2015

6 things for conservatives to remember as they reclaim science

Joshua LiebleinRebel Blogger

You've all read and reacted to last week's post about how conservatives can reclaim science.

Now, I'm going to share a few things that you can keep in mind to help make that possible:

Science serves no end but itself
In its pure form, science is not left or right, good or bad. It is amoral, apolitical and unemotional. We ascribe meaning to, and impose our own values on, scientific results all the time, but we’re doing that, not science.  

Science’s purpose is to increase knowledge about the world. New information is constantly becoming available, and what it says today (i.e. "humans cause global warming") could be overthrown tomorrow. We "knew" the world was flat, that it was the centre of the universe, and that it was 5000 to 6000 years old by the time we discovered the first fossil. Assuming we know what science will reveal is stupid.


The more science is done, the more science changes
When I was in pharmacy school,
I had a professor who asked the class each year to research whether eating egg yolks increased your cholesterol or not.

Sometimes, students tried to be clever and copied last year’s answer, but this prof always knew when that was happening because every year, more science was done researching this topic and every so often, the balance of evidence tipped the other way.

What was the point of this exercise? To show us that the answer to science is always MORE SCIENCE. Don’t like the scientific consensus? Do studies showing that it’s wrong!


Nothing in science is ever truly “settled”
Leftists giving you grief because of your beliefs? Tell them this: “There will always be a possibility that God exists.”

They will have no comeback for that, because what you’re saying is completely true. Science cannot fully remove the possibility of God. It can only make God really really unlikely.

Of course, believing in God despite the odds is what faith is all about, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

Speaking of which:


Scientists have no reason to take rejection of science personally
Shooting an abortion doctor instead of letting God judge that doctor, forcing women to cover their hair so that you won’t be tempted, and killing the editors of Charlie Hebdo for mocking your prophet are not demonstrations of how powerful your faith is. Instead, they show how insecure you are. If you think God is all-powerful, why should He need your help to run the world?

Similarly, a scientist should not be wasting his or her time attacking believers or people who reject evidence. Does someone refusing to get the flu shot make the shot less effective? No! So why are you being so insecure? Oh, wait, I know -- it’s up to you personally to make sure we don’t have a flu epidemic. Mmm-hmm. Sure.

I spent years calling people who drank raw milk stupid before I realized I was being stupid because it wasn’t my job to prove them wrong. 


Scientists also block scientific progress
There are so many stories of scientists getting so attached to their discoveries that they refuse to let go, but my favourite is about good ol’ Albert Einstein.

After he caused a revolution by developing the general theory of relativity , Einstein spent years --years --opposing the next big paradigm shift, which was quantum physics. Since he was "the man" as far as physicists went for a long, long time, his word held more sway than all the evidence anyone could muster. You would think he’d had known better, but…


Scientists should be humble
The amount of stuff we don’t know, and we don’t know that we don’t know, is awe-inspiring. Don’t lord your scraps of knowledge over so-called ignorant people. You really are in no place to judge.   



(Photo: CC BY Markus Spiske /


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commented 2015-11-25 21:21:55 -0500
Andrew – a theory makes predictions of what will, and what won’t happen. You’re correct that “global warming” can’t be proven. Whether CO2 is the primary regulator of the climate can be disproved through. That’s one of the things that is needed for a scientific theory, predictions of “if this happens then my theory is false”. Unfortunately, there are no falsification criteria listed for catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, and those criteria that had been given are consistently being changed (no periods longer than 10 years will fail to have an increase in global temperature. Then 15 years. Now the Royal Society says 50 years.). When something cannot be disproved then it is not science, it is faith. The “hockey stick” wasn’t a result of a bad model – it was an improper use of a statistical method in analysing a data set. Used in the way that it was (without even considering the fact that Dr. Mann removed the most recent data in the set, a deletion that changed the 20th century trend), most sets of random numbers result in a hockey-stick result. Had Dr. Mann (or any other users of that methodology with data sets) consulted or included a professional statistician then the chart would never have passed peer review.

The preponderance of evidence shows a warming trend over the last 400 years. And a cooling trend over the last 10,000 years. And a warming trend over the last 25,000 years. And a cooling trend over the last 20 million years. We have satellite data for less than 40 years. Two of the major cycles are 22 years and 60 years respectively. Right now we do not have enough data at a global scale (that is accurately measured) to know what the baseline should be. But we do know that the ice will return – ever since the Isthmus of Panama closed and the global circulation around the equator was disrupted, we’ve been in a prolonged ice age with occasional interglacials. We are in an interglacial now. When it ends (based on previous interglacials, within the next thousand years or so) everything in the country of Canada between Quebec and the Rockies will return to being a sheet of ice. That is normal. When an ice age starts or ends sea levels change by 130 +/- 20 metres. That is also normal.

Thinking that humanity is so important to the future of the planet that we can now drive the climate is the height of hubris. Two of the groups of scientists who are the most sceptical of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming are geologists and meteorologists. Geologists because they’ve seen the variations that came before. Meteorologists because they make their living off of making predictions based on circulation models. And they are continuously remind of the failures of their predictions. If you are going to reference and quote science, make sure you’re including all aspect of it, not picking and choosing the portions that support a particular belief system.
commented 2015-11-25 10:30:10 -0500
1) “global warming” can’t be proven. No theory can be. This is as true of the opposing theory you refer to, which posits that human activity has no impact whatsoever on natural climate cycles. At present, the preponderance of evidence does suggest that there is human impact, although the nature and degree of it is still up for debate. Yes, the “hockey stick” was a bad model (it was the best idea they had at the time, as computer models in the 80s were quite primitive) but discrediting the “hockey stick” model does not discredit anthropogenic climate change in general; it discredits the “hockey stick” model. The preponderance of evidence still suggests a general warming trend, especially once you smooth out month to month fluctuations or use proxies such as ocean temperatures which due to thermal mass have far smoother data. Notably, when you look at ocean temperatures, or their proxy (sea levels, which rise as seawater thermally expands) you do see what looks like logarithmic growth.

2) Eggs are a terrible example. What correlations they can find are weak and have far too many confounding variables to be meaningful. Eat as many eggs as you want and use the time freed up from worrying to go take a bike ride. That’ll do more for your health. Most omnivores evolved to grab eggs out of bird nests when they can, they won’t hurt you.

3) Scientists are rarely the initiators. They will respond in kind when hateful religious nonsense interferes but honestly, it’s not something we care about.

4) We’re not talking about general Joe Blow off the street. We’re talking about scientists. Often the subject of vicious attacks by ideologues on the right simply because they don’t like the idea of research. I’m happy to let the goons duke it out, but leave us out of your asinine ideology wars. Oh, and evolution was accepted 130 years ago, every time you try to have this debate you’re wasting everyone’s time.
commented 2015-11-23 17:11:02 -0500
Read what some real climate scientists have to say about the global warming / climate scam.

Princeton Physicist Dr. Will Happer, who has authored over 200 peer-reviewed papers, called policies to reduce CO2 “based on nonsense.”

“Policies to slow CO2 emissions are really based on nonsense. They are all based on computer models that do not work. We are being led down a false path.

“Our breath is not that different from a power plant,” he continued.

“To call carbon dioxide a pollutant is really Orwellian. You are calling something a pollutant that we all produce. Where does that lead us eventually?” he asked.

“Coal, formed from ancient CO2, is a benefit to the world. Coal is CO2 from ancient atmospheres. We are simply returning CO2 to the atmosphere from which it came when you burn coal. And it’s a good thing since it is at very low levels in the atmosphere. We are in a CO2 famine. It is very, very low,” Happer explained.

Read more:
commented 2015-11-23 15:27:23 -0500
1) Problem is that humans causing global warming has not been proven. The data proves otherwise. The falsified data “i.e. the hockey stick graph” discredits the theory.

2) The example of the eggs was simply to point out what you claimed in point one, that new knowledge comes available that swings the bulk of data the other way. Science continually progresses.

3) The existence of God something for faith, hence the term “faith”. So then why do so many deep into science as the only answer continually attack those who have faith if it is “ultimately irrelevant to objective observations”?

4) "A lot of less informed debaters are not only fundamentally misinformed or uninformed about what they are discussing, but actively compensate by engaging in personal attacks. " Yes, I find this on both sides of a debate, except I find the left leaning/progressives deny they are in any way “fundamentally misinformed or uninformed”. Odd how that works, eh?
commented 2015-11-23 13:27:57 -0500
A few comments

1) " New information is constantly becoming available, and what it says today (i.e. “humans cause global warming”) could be overthrown tomorrow" At the same time, this is prevailing knowledge today, and it’s just as likely that further work will strengthen this hypothesis. At the end of the day we have to go on what we presently have, instead of denying it and hoping that it will eventually be disproven.

2) Regarding the eggs, the correlations here are weak, bogged down in confounding factors, and seem to be very circumstantial. Many things have far stronger support; it’s important to bear in mind that theoretically every study should stand on its own and not get bogged down in other people’s assumptions (Your average study investigates only new phenomena, and although hypotheses may be based on previous knowledge,new experiments should be free-standing).

3) God’s existence or lack thereof is not a testable hypothesis. It lies outside the realm of science and is ultimately irrelevant to objective observations.

4) Regarding taking it personally, most scientists are not opposed to debating the merit of a certain theory with an opponent. (in fact, such debates, often over lunch or beers, is often the source of new ideas as it forces one to ponder paths not normally considered) However, there is usually a basic level of information required for an informed debate. A lot of less informed debaters are not only fundamentally misinformed or uninformed about what they are discussing, but actively compensate by engaging in personal attacks. You see such things in comment sections such as this one, particularly regarding controversial ideas like climate change – instead of debating based on facts, opponents merely call researchers “hacks” or worse and stomp off.

5) Although Relativity is fairly well established now, at the time it was not supported by any evidence. Good scientists will not simply adopt a thought experiment or mathematical calculation as dogma until there is evidence to support it – much as the existence of higher dimensions in string theory today is an interesting set of calculations, but has no experimental evidence. Relativity today is different than what Einstein initially proposed, as in fact, once we had experimental measurements, they did not actually agree with his initial derivations and in particular, “dark matter” was difficult to fit in. Even today they haven’t managed to reconcile quantum physics and relativity, and it’s not for lack of trying. Theoretically, they should be simply and elegantly connected as both attempt to be “theories of everything”.

6) Scientists should be humble, yes. However, in a knowledge based industry, having that knowledge is crucial, and using it is not the same thing as ’lording over people". Particularly when it comes down to discussing things like vaccination with vitriolic anti-vaccination sorts who do not argue from an evidence based viewpoint.