Trust the Seance


Despite the casual tossing about of the epithet “science denier” in these oh-so-technocratic times, most scientific knowledge goes unchallenged by the unwashed masses. I’ve never heard anyone express skepticism of Coulomb’s Law and its scandalous claims about the forces exerted between charged bodies. Rarely is Bernoulli burned in effigy for the effrontery of his work in fluid dynamics. Even Richard Feynman, bad boy Nobel laureate and long-haired drummer, barely elicits a gasp of disapproval when quantum electrodynamics is brought up in polite company.

No, we get upset with science when people try to use it as a cudgel to drive us where we don’t want to go. Then, understandably, we get our backs up. This is true even when the science is pretty solid, which it often — though not always — is. It’s true even on those occasions when we might be better off, in the long run, going where science is suggesting we go: some of us resist good advice, no matter how many decimal places of precision it claims.

Science is a process. It’s a good process, the best we have for ferreting out objective truths about nature. It’s a good process, but scientists are people, and people, even good people who want to do what’s right, are imperfect. So science, as good as it is, isn’t perfect. Even when the people are careful and the science is good, science is never the only consideration. (That’s why letting one thing — say, health care policy — dictate a nation’s response to a crisis is generally a bad idea.)

But it seems that the loudest accusations of “science denier!” are made when the science is sketchy and, frankly, probably in need of some serious denial. That’s when the technocrats really up their game, censoring competing views, exaggerating their claims of certainty, and encouraging panic and the immediate action that comes with it. We’re seeing that today with the Wuhan coronavirus, where ambiguous and conflicting information and a lack of accountability leave petty authoritarians free to craft arbitrary and capricious public policy.

But the poster boy for abuse-of-science remains climate change. Here researchers gather around a table and place their hands on their computer models and, each loudly averring that he isn’t doing it, really!, watch the thermometer creep slowly across the board as it answers the question: How long have we got before it’s too late to save the planet? (And, by extension, how big a research grant can I get?)

Of course, the medium is in on it; at the best seances, some of the others are as well. When there’s enough money and power on the table, collusion goes right to the top. And so we get this gem reported over at Watts Up With That in an account of how the Brandon administration is cooking the climate books in a blatant effort to make an inconvenient past disappear.

Before the Brandon administration, this is how the heatwave record was presented:

There are some obvious problems with that. It’s too old-fashioned. There are too many numbers. And that graph is, well, boring.

This is how the data is presented now:

Really punches it up, doesn’t it? Not one graph, but four. That’s more information! And the look is a lot more modern.

Oh, and that inconvenient spike back in the 1930s is gone. Now everything marches relentlessly, terrifyingly upward.

Take that, science deniers.

Published in Science & Technology
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  1. DonG (CAGW is a hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a hoax)

    Nothing so sweet as cherry picking data.

    • #1
  2. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    DonG (CAGW is a hoax) (View Comment):

    Nothing so sweet as cherry picking data.


    • #2
  3. Hang On Member
    Hang On

    What was happening between about 1958 and 1975? That’s at least as interesting as the 1930s.

    • #3
  4. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward

    I checked out the “Watts up with That” site.  The time period that the Brandon administration chose to depict in those graphs conveniently starts in 1961, 30 years later than the great heat waves of the Dust-Bowl era, and also at the end of a modest cooling trend.  Thus, the temperatures are obviously going to rise from there.

    The biggest thing that has always struck me about the Global Warming theory is what small fractions of a degree they are having conniptions over.  According to their own data, they are only claiming that the earth has gotten about six-tenths of one degree warmer in roughly 150 years.  Sometimes they try to stretch it to eight-tenths.  Whatever.  It is a microscopic shift that will only be apparent on a graph if you stretch the y-axis to about ten or twenty times its size.  Even if you believe this micro-measurement (which I don’t) it is meaningless in a world where the temperature range is more than 300 times this size.

    I  like to tease Global Warming believers  by asking them if they could tell the difference of 6/10ths of one degree if they stuck their finger in two different cups of water that were that little temperature apart.  Then I ask if they could even notice the difference in a cup of water if it changed 6/10ths of one degree gradually over a period of 150 years!

    The fuss over this miniscule temperature shift is even sillier when the same scientists claim that the Earth’s temperature rose and fell by a full 4 to 10 degrees centigrade  during the Younger Dryas period, around 12,000 years ago.  And the change happened within just several years, making it hundreds of times more accelerated than the current trend.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Hank, you’re just a party pooper.

    • #5
  6. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hank, you’re just a party pooper.

    You have no idea, Susan.

    My young cousins, the ones I tutor, refer to me as “The Ogre,” and it’s generally agreed that my middle name is “Fun-Crusher.”

    • #6
  7. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball

    Lies, damn lies and statistics!  Mark Twain

    Statements claiming that it might be true, it could be true, it sounds true, it seems true, are the statements of fools and do not prove that it is true.

    Never trust an air conditioning salesman’s prediction that your compressor is about to fail.

    Utopianism begins with the assumption that for every crisis, man both is the problem and the solution; the solution begins with demands for sacrifice and ends with extinction. 

    • #7
  8. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    Never trust an air conditioning salesman’s prediction that your compressor is about to fail.

    Good advice.

    By the way, Doug, I’ve just picked up a fault in the AE-35 unit. It is going to go 100 percent failure within 72 hours.

    • #8
  9. TBA Coolidge

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hank, you’re just a party pooper.

    You have no idea, Susan.

    My young cousins, the ones I tutor, refer to me as “The Ogre,” and it’s generally agreed that my middle name is “Fun-Crusher.”


    • #9