Friday, June 7, 2013

Climatology Isn't Science

One of the more infuriating traits of progressives and Democrats is that they love to pretend that they are the party of science. Because the Republican Party is home to many devout Christians who publicly profess extraordinary beliefs, it is viewed by many as the party of religious kooks and people who deny science. This is somewhat strange, given the religious belief that the technocratic left has in "science".

Nowhere is this issue more obvious than with climate change/global warming. It's best epitomized with Bill Maher's constant declarations on this show that "the science is settled" and that the Republican Party is just full of people who deny that the earth's climate is being adversely affected by human activity. Is Maher a scientist? Far from it. But what about the climatologists he loves to cite? Are they scientists. And the answer is...not really.

Science is a method of knowledge discovery. And the key thing that separates science from other methods of knowledge discovery is that it involves rigorous experimentation and tests hypotheses within a controlled environment. Scientists are people who discover knowledge by following the scientific process. By that definition, climatologists aren't scientists. Because all they do is gather data and then try and then make assertions based on the correlations they discover within the data.

Much of the research on anthropogenic climate change is based on measuring the composition of air (the relative amounts of various gases within the atmosphere), measuring average temperatures, plot it on a chart where the x axis is time and then try and suss out what it all means. Currently, the understanding among climatologists is that various greenhouse gases, primarily CO2, raise the average temperature of the earth. And that industrial output and energy generation contribute to increasing levels of greenhouse gases within the atmosphere.

 But none of that is based on science. Because the problem is climatologists can't conduct experiments on the climate. They can only observe and report. They can't intervene. The inability to intervene and then observe any changes in behavior is what separates climatologists from scientists.

And nomenclature is important. For me to say that climatologists aren't scientists is a calculated attempt to change the public perception toward the field. The lay perception of a man in a white lab coat is that of authority and knowledge. By refusing to give climatologists the designation of scientist, it "demotes" them to "researchers". And researchers are subject to much more scrutiny and skepticism than scientists.

Because researchers gather data. And their preconceptions and biases can alter their analysis of the data. Or exclude certain data. Or limit the window of data to support their preconceived ideas. This is something we absolutely must consider when we rely on the data and the opinions of researchers.

And that's why we can't call climatologists scientists. They are researchers. And they must be accorded the respect that researchers are usually accorded. Which is to say, not as much as that of scientists.

1 comment:

  1. sorry, but you can't just write off their time series analysis because they're built upon strong micro-foundations, which can be tested.