The Washington Post Morning Mix reported today on a pair of scientists who devised a mathematical model for calculating the surface temperature of a planet based on solar radiation and atmospheric pressure had to use false names in order to get their work published.
“Caught.” That’s an interesting word choice, isn’t it?
The scientists briefly known as Den Volokin and Lark ReLlez thought they had found something big.
It was not data wrung from a clever experiment or a lucky field observation. Instead, the pair had constructed a model, a mathematical argument, for calculating the average surface temperature of a rocky planet. Using just two factors — electromagnetic radiation beamed by the sun into the atmosphere and the atmospheric pressure at a planet’s surface — the scientists could predict a planet’s temperature. The physical principle, they said, was similar to the way that high-pressure air ignites fuel in a diesel engine.
If proved to be the case on Earth, the model would have dramatic implications: Our planet is warming, but the solar radiation and our atmosphere would be to blame, not us.
All predictions about man-caused climate change are based on computer modeling. Distinguishing the Volokin and ReLlez work on that basis is misleading. Let’s be clear. None of the most orthodox “man is undoubtedly causing climate change” scientists are wringing data from “clever experiments” or making “lucky field observations” unless you count mechanical engineer-cum-children’s television personality Bill Nye tweeting “CLIMATE CHANGE!!!1!” every time there is tornado in Kansas. (A guy starting from mediocre sketch comedy on Seattle TV becoming recognized nationwide as a scientific authority did require a certain amount of luck though.)
Volokin and ReLlez are in reality physical scientist Ned Nikolov and meteorologist Karl Zeller. They used the pseudonyms—their real names spelled backwards—because they had become more critical of the climate change consensus after incidents like “Climategate.” Their work was being rejected by journals based not on its merits but based on who they were and the questions they were asking. Like a great many who are labeled “deniers” Nikolov readily admits that the climate is changing. It’s the human contribution to it that he questions.
Submitted under the pseudonyms, their work passed the peer review process and was published online by the journal Advances in Space Research. When it was discovered that they used false names, their work was retracted and criticized for “having an agenda.” The actual research appears to have now been swallowed up by the nitpickery of the practice of using pseudonyms. The scandal is in the pseudonyms, not in rejecting work simply on the basis of who authored it.
The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) published a commentary this week on the scientific method which argues that “settled” science is not the same as “proven” science.
One of the great errors in the public understanding of science is to equate settled with proved. While Einstein’s theories are “settled”, they are not proved. But to plan for them not to work would be utter folly.
As the philosopher John Dewey pointed out in his book Logic: The Theory of Inquiry:
In scientific inquiry, the criterion of what is taken to be settled, or to be knowledge, is [of the science] being so settled that it is available as a resource in further inquiry; not being settled in such a way as not to be subject to revision in further inquiry.
Those who demand the science be “settled” before we take action are seeking deductive certainty where we are working inductively.
The ACSH is using this explanation to justify making climate change policy in the absence of 100% certainty, but even if we concede the point that the skeptics are misinterpreting what “settled” means, the true believers are doing so as well by thwarting any attempts at further inquiry. For example, Secretary of State and noted non-scientist John Kerry proclaims that man made climate change is as certain as the basic concepts routinely tested and verified by middle science students. The man negotiating international policy on the subject is in effect saying science has proven beyond any possible doubt that human activity is the primary cause of climate change.
Kerry goes on to express what “settled” science really means for the alarmists, anti-capitalists, radical environmentalists, and political opportunists who have glommed on to climate change as a vehicle for realizing their agendas. “Settled” means that you literally have no right to question or doubt. Nikolov and Zeller had no right to consider that the gigantic ball of nuclear fusion around which we orbit might have at least as much influence on planetary temperature as the SUVs owned by John Kerry’s family.
When you have no right to investigate or question authority, you have tyranny. That is an elementary truth. A self-evident one, you might say.