I keep a weblog like it's still the 90s. For commentary and dissent please visit jontaylor.ca, or various other purveyors of thought online.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

I believe the consensus: April Fools!

Just joking, still March,

I'm just wondering about the number of scientists who have sullied the name of science by believing that consensus equals truth.

Einstein faced some notable political descent to his science in Germany, before he moved to the USA. During that time 200 scientists stated that by consensus they believed he was wrong. To this he said, 200 beliefs mean nothing, all they needed to do was to prove. He was, of course, right.

The scientific method is not well understood by politicians. I believe this to be because to become a politician you will most likely be a lawyer. If you are a lawyer, there's probably a good chance that you did your undergrad degree (at least in Canada) in history or politics or sociology, and therefore had little time for science.

So, a primer for those who are being primed:

When a scientist comes across a problem, he or she will state a hypothesis (an educated guess) as to what the problem is and how that problem manifests itself.

At this point the hypothesis is a theory. (this is important)

A scientist will then create an experiment. During this process she or he will create a list of constant measures that will be enforced to assure that the test can be repeated.

The hypothesis is then tested using the materials and methods listed as constant measures.

Should the data observed in the test be in support of the hypothesis, the scientist can report that his or her first test positively reinforced the hypothesis and therefore the theory.

The test must then be repeated using the same control. Should the results be repeatable then the theory can be reported as verified.

A scientific theory can only become truth in the case that all possible reasonable detractions from the theory are proven to be false (also with scientific hypothesis testing).

So, as always, I will link this with global warming.
Firstly AGW (warming caused by people) is a theory.
Secondly, consensus does not replace the scientific method.
Thirdly, the models used to simulate the effects of different GHGs on our atmosphere are not repeatable and therefore invalid.
Fourthly, those models did not take into account various levels of solar radiation change.

So, in conclusion, please remember that if a scientist relies on funding she or he will probably report that his experiment is unproven, but there is consensus that could be true.

I don't think that people without science degrees should decide on matters of science. I don't think that people without law degrees should decide on matters of law.