The possibilities and limitations of science have occupied me for a very long time.
44 years ago I wrote a paper for the course science theory, for which I received high grades. The main reason for this was undoubtedly that I had partly based it on the book Personal Knowledge by the genius, but not so famous, Michael Polanyiⁱ.
Scientific practice is not easy. Describing the conditions that must be met in order to arrive at scientific knowledge is less difficult. Practitioners of natural sciences come closest to the ideal. They can adhere to the rule formulated by Karl Popper (a social democrat!) to base themselves on the so-called falsificationⁱⁱ principle, but even for them the condition “linking to a clearly formulated theory” is a fundamental problem. Polanyi already wrote in 1958 that without this condition, scientific practice would not lead to meaningful knowledge but to filling cabinets of curiosities: loose, incoherent chunks of scientific knowledge in an ocean of opinions and traditional views.
There are three ways to deal with these limitations: a) with integrity, b) retarded, or c) insidious.
a. You try to stay aware of the danger of arrogance and of dwelling in ivory towers, you are reluctant in your claims and do your best to meet the conditions as well as possible.
b. You observe that people in science ‘change their mind’ and use that observation to reinforce your view that science is inferior to faith. The Islamic approach, more specifically, that of Islam ‘scholars’.
c. You decide that honest scientific practice is no longer possible, you no longer strive for that and you abuse the label of science to present your political beliefs as correct and/or inescapable.
Because c) is often chosen within certain branches of science (criminology, political science, social sciences in general), I am in favor of drastically cutting those disciplines, but that aside.
Hillary Clinton and Hitler’s engineers
The state of the ‘climate debate’ does strange things to weird politicians.
With the Social Democrat EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans, for example. He insisted for a long time that in this century the Netherlands would be half flooded by the global rise in sea level if we did not believe and obey him.
Hillary Clinton -but not just her- suggested that the tsunami of illegal immigrants making its way into Northwest Europe also had to do with “climate change”. I do not know whether she is still making a special effort to prevent the victims of that phenomenon from ending up in the part of the Netherlands that, according to Timmermans, will soon be flooded.
I believe this claim of Clinton c.s. is not 100% nonsense.
Many governments in countries where these migrants come from have a disastrous policy, or rather omit a policy that could prevent changes in nature that, with ‘some good will’, you could imagine as climate changes; local climate changes, that is. Yes, areas can desertify. Yes, Lake Aral has virtually dried up since 1989 due to the wrong policies of the Soviet Union and to an accelerated degree by that of Uzbekistan. Yes, due to deforestation and the like, floods can turn out much more serious than before, etc.
Changes of the climate on a global scale through human intervention are theoretically quite possible. In the Third Reich, plans were forged to turn the entire Congo (river) into a reservoir. Implementation of that plan would probably have had global effects. This certainly applies to the plans to build a dam in the Bering Strait (between Russia and Alaska: the connection between the Pacific Ocean and Ice Sea).
At United Nations Climate Change Conferences, however, there is no mention of such dams. On the agenda is everything and anything that can be pushed under what I would call: the supraparadigma of global warming caused by the use of fossil fuels. The replacement of the term ‘global warming’ by ‘climate change’ is so laughably transparent that I will pay no further attention to it. The image below of a statement by the Dutch minister Ploumen I will also let speak for itself. I cannot find any way of commenting on this in polite words.
Scientific paradigms need to ‘get it’ from time to time but are inescapable and actually useful, in the hardest, most reliable branches, as well as in the buttery soft ones. However, the climate debate is not based on one branch of science with one paradigm but on a special stack of scientific paradigms and political assumptions, priorities and choices.The ‘highlight’ of it is not formed by a scientific paradigm or given, but by the political dogma that the average temperature rise on earth is not only a reality, but also a great evil.The almost absolute taboo of talking about the undeniable benefits borders on the criminal. I am not talking about more pleasant beach walks per year but about increasing the agricultural yield. Read this interviewⁱⁱⁱ that the philosopher Ralph Bodelier had with Indur M. Goklany: one of the most influential climate analysts in the world. Of course, it is also about priorities; those things that are many times more important in politics than ‘positions’/pious wishes.
Spreading the lie that the gas CO2, indispensable for life on earth, is a poison does, in my eyes, not border on crime; it is criminal, criminal hysterical.
It is no small matter to determine the average temperature on earth and the fluctuations in it with certainty. In any case, the change has not been very significant lately, as the climate has been changing for centuries, millennia, no for billions of years. Politicians who speak in terms of the maximum permissible (!) increase in the average global temperature should be laughed at; whether they are called Punch or Barack Houssein Obama. As I indicated in the previous paragraph human activities can have effects on the climate not just locally but even globally.
The paradigm of the so-called greenhouse gases tells us that the use of fossil fuels is also a human activity that has an effect on the global climate. It is true that many scientists somehow accept this paradigm or even use it as a framework for their work. One of those greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide: CO2. The same CO2 that is literally the most environmentally friendly; the ‘greenest’ gas that exists.
For working ‘within’ that paradigm -or rather, for not striving to adjust or overthrow it- scientists have various reasons. Among them a lot of pragmatic ones. It is no coincidence that among the ‘climate sceptics’ of the scientific level there are many pensioners, who are completely independent of any political machination or prioritisation.
The biggest lie circulating in the context of the ‘climate debate’, perhaps the most dangerous lie that is circulating in the world at all, is that of the ‘scientific consencus’, even labelled as “97% of”. Alex Epstein (author of the book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels) wrote a truly damning article about this in Forbes in January, titled ‘97% Of Climate Scientists Agree’ Is 100% Wrongⁱᵛ. Some sentences from the article and an image from it:
‘It’s likely that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from. (…)
On his Twitter account, President Obama tweets: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Not only does Obama sloppily equate “scientists” with “climate scientists,” but more importantly he added “dangerous” to the 97% claim, which is not there in the literature.
This is called the fallacy of equivocation: using the same term (“97 percent”) in two different ways to manipulate people. (…)
This is a fairly clear statement –97 percent of the papers surveyed endorsed the view that man-made greenhouse gases were the main cause- main in common usage meaning more than 50 percent. But even a quick scan of the paper reveals that this is not the case. Cook is able to demonstrate only that a relative handful endorse “the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”(…)
… numerous scientists whose papers were classified by Cook protested’
The good listener reads a reference to that ‘moral case’ in the image.
Polar bears to the South Pole?
The suggested threat to the survival of polar bears as a species has everything to do with their specific habitat; it overlaps strongly with the northern polar region. It is often heavily exaggerated, but for some time there has indeed been a trend that the amount of Arctic sea ice is decreasing. In ‘the climate debate’ it is rightly noted that there is also a similar trend of an increase in the amount of Antarctic sea ice.
The polar bears have no use for it; they can’t swim as well as whales and those penguin birds in the south are also very measly as prey compared to the friendly, not to say downright cute marine mammals, with which these predators feed in the north. It is clear that the endangered polar bear population would better be tackled by focusing on local changes in the climate than by frothing it in that mentioned supraparadigma.
And then there’s something strange about the scale and nature of that threat.
If the decrease in the amount of Arctic ice is often exaggerated, the decrease in the number of polar bears is hysterically exaggerated. Scientists who do not want to be guilty of this (anymore) -scientists from both camps of ‘the climate debate’- conclude that there is no reliable data on the number of polar bears from forty or fifty years ago. The estimates for the current number are also moderately reliable. Both the development in the number and the reliability of the estimates vary greatly between the different habitats of those animals. Those scientists also agree that the size of the polar ice is just one of many factors that affect the overall size of the population. Other factors include the size of the hunt focused on seal or polar bear fur. When fewer seals are clubbed to death, more remain to be torn to pieces by polar bears. The decline in polar bear hunting is also beneficial for polar bear populations; in parts of Canada, the side effect is that the polar bears are becoming a greater threat to humans.
Complexity and politicians with ‘tunnel vision’, and without guts
Nowadays, many politicians like to avoid their responsibility with a kind of self-evidentness. Or a word game.
At the root of the COP21 circus is a similar desire among politicians not to think about a difficult issue. However, the fact that difficult issues exist is the basis for politics as a profession. When politics was all about simple yes-or-no questions about issues that took little time to delve into adequately, we could just have a referendum night every Friday night, where the entire population digitally speaks out about all the important government decisions of that week.
The populist scare with melting polar bears, climate refugees, toxic CO2 and colder winters in the US as a result of ‘global warming’ could well contribute to more and more people seeing politics as an idiotic profession.
With my paragraph about 97%, I take a serious risk. It contains a substantial dose of falsifiability. I quoted Epstein as saying that “numerous scientists whose papers were classified by Cook protested”. I did not follow the link he provides. He may have made this claim out of thin air. By proving that Epstein did that, you could give my story a hefty damn. I’m counting on Forbes not to throw away its good name by offering a fantasist a stage. In addition, I think Epstein’s approach is in line with that of the aforementioned climate analyst Indur M. Goklany.
There are risks associated with making these kinds of trade-offs. People who can’t stand the accompanying heat should leave the political kitchen. In the Netherlands this concerns the majority of the incumbent politicians.
Like many political careers, some scientific careers deserve to be completely broken; from people who, because of their lack of scientific integrity, shame science itself or who seriously undermine the self-cleaning capacity of the scientific world.
Getting serious about this undoubtedly has an educational effect. The destruction of only a few scientific and/or administrative careers and the closure of a few (sub)faculties will have a beneficial effect on the entire scientific world. Just about as expelling just a few imams and families of criminal revolving door Moroccans would have a beneficial effect on the behavior of others.
Previously published as part of Polar bears and muslims, Integrity and hysteria, on VerenOfLood.nu
ⁱ URL of Wikipedia entry about him: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Polanyi
ⁱⁱ URL of Wikipedia entry about that concept: nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifieerbaarheid
ⁱⁱⁱ URL of that article: www.staatvanhetklimaat.nl/2015/11/26/interview-goklany-klimaat-ons-grootste-probleem-is-armoede
ⁱᵛ URL of that article: www.forbes.com/sites/alexepstein/2015/01/06/97-of-climate-scientists-agree-is-100-wrong/