Dembski Confirms it's Science Envy

Over at Uncommon Descent Dr. Dembski has replied to commentators who pointed out he misrepresented climate science, especially his claim that in the 70’s

The scare back then was global cooling!

In response, Dr. Dembski quotes an article which proves he did misrepresent climate science. If that’s not enough, he goes on to make stuff up.

I draw your attention to the last clause: there was “a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s.” One would think that this would constitute “scientific evidence” for global cooling. ….. But the Principle of Methodological Counterintuitiveness tells us that this just means that the earth is getting warmer.

Well, what did we expect (and he’s probably doing it just to stir scientists up anyway). What caused people to conclude global warming was the relentless rise in temperature from the early 70’s on.

Plot of global annual-mean surface air temperature change derived from the meteorological station network [This is an update of Figure 6(b) in Hansen et al. (2001).] Uncertainty bars (95% confidence limits) are shown for both the annual and five-year means, account only for incomplete spatial sampling of data.

What is more interesting is the continued tone of science envy, carried over from his previous article.

What allows scientists to line their pockets with our tax dollars is that science must, perforce, tell us things that we can’t figure out on our own.

Yes, yes, all those research grants go into our pockets weighs them down so much we can’t move except to type our panic-inducing screeds (I’ve dealt with this before). But weirdly, he is also envious of the counter intuitiveness of science.

But the Principle of Methodological Counterintuitiveness tells us that this just means that the earth is getting warmer. …. (a corollary of the Principle of Methodological Counterintuitiveness is that the greatness of a scientist is in direct proportion to the counterintuitiveness of his/her theories). Note that this is a methodological principle – we make it a method of science to look for the most counterintuitive theory and then baptize it as “science.

The findings of science are quite often counter-intuitive. That the Earth rotates around the Sun, that disease is caused by invisible living organisms, mass bends space (and so on and so on, don’t get me started on Quantum Mechanics)). Even in the simplest things. Ask someone to imagine they are walking along carrying a ball, and ask where the ball would land when they dropped it, most people imagine the ball would fall behind them, instead of beside them. Most of what we intuitively believe about the world is wrong.

But being counter-intuitive is not enough, these findings have to be supported by evidence. Earths rotation around the Sun is supported by the phases of Venus, Foucault’s pendulum, Stellar parallax and a whole lot more beside. A funny theory by some fusty old gent with big whiskers is accepted because of the findings of genetics, biogeography, paleontology, molecular biology and so on. And Global Warming is accepted because the world is warming.

And what about that flat bit in the warming record, from roughly 1940 to 1970? We were pumpimg out CO2 then, whey did the warming pause? Surely that flat bit is counter-intuitive. But at the same time as we were pumping out CO2, we were also pumping out a wide variety of aerosols, soot, sulfides and so on, which acted as cooling agents. In the 60’s, clean air acts were passed which reduced the input of the cooling aerosols, and the existing aerosols slowly precipitated out. by the 70’s warming started again. (actually, it’s a little bit more complicated, but lets leave the detailed stuff to Real Climate see also here and here).

The pause in warming may seem counter-intuitive, but there was a good reason for it, explained via painstakingly collected evidence. Dr. Dembski may envy us for our money (snort) and counter-intuitiveness, but the whole point of science comes back to evidence, the money we spend on experiments to produced data, and the counter-intuitiveness comes for that data of the real world confounding our expectations. Now if only the Discovery institute could get their minds around the data part of the equation.

(PS really read “How to talk to a climate skeptic”)