On the Nature of Scientific Inquiry

Gary Taubes, the author of Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It and Good Calories Bad Calories, has written a really excellent blog post on the nature of scientific inquiry.    For those unfamiliar with his work, Taubes  is a science writer and has published articles in many science magazines about a variety of  scientific topics from cold fusion to low carb diets.    His most recent crusade is the excess carbohydrate hypothesis as the cause of obesity.  This blog post is a preliminary to another round of discussion of that crusade in which he explains about  paradigm shifts in science.   It is a very insightful discussion of the scientific enterprise  and of how paradigm shifts occur.  For that it is extremely valuable because it is expressed in terms most non-scientists can understand and is applicable to a whole host of scientific issues which have intruded on politics or which have become politicized.   The best quote in the post is from Richard Feynman,

“In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is — if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all there is to it.”

Now apply that quote to the whole climate science debate and you will see why I think this blog post by Taubes is so beautiful.  Because that simple statement  describes what has been missing in most of the debates about “climate science” and what needs to be repeated.  The reason some of us are skeptics is that the beautiful computer models developed by the so-called experts disagree with observation.  There are more than a dozen articles posted on Climate Depot about predictions that haven’t panned out.  They have made a number of key predictions that simply didn’t happen.  That means they are wrong.  That is all there is to it.

As lay people, when so-called scientists come to us with their hands out we need to ask them scientific questions like, what is your hypothesis?  What will the world look like if your hypothesis is correct?  Can you show me the experimental data or observational data that show that you were able to predict accurately based on your hypothesis.  Consensus is not science.

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