The Debate Is Never Over

I’ve been spending a while reading some pro-AGW literature. In DeSmogBlog I came across Revealing the Climate Cover-up, which I reproduce in full:

Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.

Exactly the opposite charge might be levelled at the warmists – that in promoting belief in climate change they are misinforming electorates, undermining democracy, and using electorates’ (taxpayers’) money to do so.

It really depends who is providing ‘accurate’ information. If the warmists’ views are accurate, then by definition the sceptics’ views are inaccurate, and vice versa. But who knows which is accurate? It is the goal of science to discover accurate information. Before that task has been completed, information will very likely be inaccurate. What seems to be being suggested here is that the scientific investigation of climate is complete, and accurate information is available, and it supports the warmist views, and so the sceptics are peddling scurrilous misinformation.

If the science has been done, and ‘the science is in’, why are we paying all these researchers to carry on with their research at UEA, GISS, and NOAA? Shouldn’t they have all been pensioned off?

There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.

If someone states something that is factually incorrect, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are intentionally deceiving anyone. They may state something that they believe to be true, but which is in fact untrue. In science, someone may put forward a hypothesis which subsequently proves to be incorrect. In advancing a hypothesis, and vigorously defending it, are they engaging in deception or intentional subversion, if the hypothesis subsequently proves to be wrong? If yes, then the scientific process cannot proceed at all. Science proceeds by putting forward hypotheses, trying to falsify them, and retaining unfalsified hypotheses.

Although all public relations professionals are bound by a duty to not knowingly mislead the public, some have executed comprehensive campaigns of misinformation on behalf of industry clients on issues ranging from tobacco and asbestos to seat belts.

You mean antismoking campaigners backed by Big Pharma? I suspect you mean Big Tobacco.

Lately, these fringe players have turned their efforts to creating confusion about climate change. This PR campaign could not be accomplished without the compliance of media as well as the assent and participation of leaders in government and business.

What? Big Tobacco is funding climate sceptics? Or do you mean Big Pharma? I suspect you mean Big Oil.

Is it a crime for industries to resist moves which might damage their interests? Big Tobacco is under threat from antismoking and health activists who would like to close down the industry completely, for being ‘dealers in death’. Environmental groups and global warming activists seem to want to do the same to Big Oil. Are they not permitted to resist? I suspect that they are really being disqualified because they make profits, and are therefore evil. Anti-smoking and health activism, funded by taxpayers’ money, is perfectly all right, even if smokers have no wish to fund the organisations that persecute them.

The world’s best-qualified scientists agree that climate is changing and that the burning of fossil fuels is mostly to blame. Although there is no debate in peer reviewed science journals, the well-funded and highly organized public relations campaign has left the impression – in mainstream media – of a lively and continuing scientific controversy.

This is the paragraph that really caught my attention. Clearly the anonymous author believes that it is a virtuous thing that there is no debate, because he believes it indicates that the debate is over, the science is settled, and all the facts are known. He also clearly believes that creating the impression that the debate is continuing sends the wrong message – that the science isn’t settled at all, when in fact he believes that it is.

As I see it, scientific debates are never over. All that happens is that the debate is temporarily adjourned, usually when most people reach agreement, but the debate instantly re-opens the moment somebody disagrees. There is never a time when the debate is over. Or, if there is, that is the point when people have ceased to engage in scientific inquiry.

For something like 1500 years or more, the debate was ‘over’ in respect of the motion of the sun around the earth (the geocentric Ptolemaic hypothesis). It was re-opened when Copernicus advanced another hypothesis, which was that the earth revolved around the sun. This resulted in controversy for a century or more, before most people adopted the Copernican heliocentric hypothesis. Now nobody much contests this view. But anyone is perfectly entitled to re-open the debate at any time, and put forward either the geocentric hypothesis or some other one. At the moment the settled scientific view is in favour of the Copernican heliocentric hypothesis, and this is the working hypothesis that most people use. And that’s all science ever is: a set of working hypotheses, any of which may be abandoned at any time if a better one comes along.

Scientists from within the fossil fuel industries’ own organizations raised red flags about climate change as early as 30 years ago – and they specifically dismissed the credibility of deniers by 1995. Yet the fossil fuel industry has continued to support efforts to subvert the science, attacking real scientists and promoting a cast of “skeptics” in their place. DeSmogBlog looks behind these deniers to test their credentials and to search out their source of funding.

People have a right to know who is paying the deniers. It is difficult to deceive or confuse a well-informed person. DeSmogBlog exists to clear up the PR pollution around fossil fuels and climate change.

I don’t know why it is that climate deniers are always said to be being paid by somebody to do their denying, as if no honest man would do any such thing of his own free will. Warmists like Jim Hansen and Michael Mann and Phil Jones and the like are all being paid to carry out climate research, mostly by governments. Does that mean that they wouldn’t do so if their funding was slashed? Or that they would no longer advocate the warmist view?

It seems to me that, sitting at the heart of all this, there are some misunderstandings about the nature of scientific enquiries. The warmists seem to think that there is an investigation and a debate, and at the end of the debate, when the science is in, a vote is taken and whoever wins the vote carries off the prize of being able to call their views ‘settled science’ or the ‘consensus view’. So far as it goes this is more or less right, because at any particular time opinions will be more in favour of one hypothesis than another. But it doesn’t go far enough, because once one debate is over, and a vote is taken, a scientific debate immediately re-opens once again. The debate is never over. Scientific debates are not like political debates in the House of Commons, where some sort of decision must be made, and debates can’t go on interminably. Nor are they like debates between friends about which pub they’re going to visit one evening, which are similarly time-constrained, and can’t go on all evening.

The real problem with the climate issue is perhaps that, at some point in time, a scientific debate became – or was converted into – a political debate which was necessarily truncated, because in political debates decisions need to be made, and policy decided, and action initiated. Climate science has become politicised by attempting to force it to draw quick conclusions, and reach a premature consensus opinion.

It’s rather as if somebody knocked on the door of Isaac Newton’s room in Cambridge, and shouted through: “Are you done yet with your equations? We can’t wait for ever, you know! We’ve got a moon rocket here that’s waiting to be launched, and 10,000 paying spectators.”

The same applies in the case of the smoking debate. There was a debate about smoking that began in 1950, and which seems to have reached a consensus view that smoking caused lung cancer. Once again, it is being said that the debate is over, and the science is settled. It is now regarded as somehow improper to question the settled consensus view. Same also with the subsequent passive smoking debate. But in this matter, as in all matters of science, the debate is never over.

About Frank Davis

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10 Responses to The Debate Is Never Over

  1. Anonymous says:

    Anti-smoking was the bedrock falsity, upon which everything else now rests – the AGW Fraud included.
    Once industries paid off Doll to manufacture numbers that could be used in propaganda against smokers and that campaign of preaching falsehoods was inculcated into the general belief system, next began the payoff to manufacture the SHS Fraud statistics necessary to bury the truth once and for all.
    Without overturning the SHS Fraud for what it is, all the rest, the AGW Fraud and other lines of false reasoning being used to implement the rise of a one-world anti-christ government essentially, will remain untouchable and the power of the state over the free choice, freedoms and liberty of the individual will increase speed and acceleration as the next years ensue.
    People wish to ignore the SHS Fraud – then people wish to have no freedom, liberty, truth or justice in this world.
    It is, to me, as simple as that.
    Overturn the SHS Fraud, remove the smoking and tobacco restrictions, permit freedom of choice – and all the rest of it will snap back into place – normality as true normal is – and no more of this false propagandized normality, the manufacturing of lies into truth, the entire propaganda machine disassembled in one fell swoop.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Andy Rowell
    No doubt you noticed this but just in case anyone missed it. About the amazon article the IPCC relied on.
    From the James Delingpole article you linked to yesterday.

    “And the lead author Andy Rowell is a freelance journalist (for the Guardian, natch) and green activist:
    Andy Rowell is a freelance writer and Investigative journalist with over 12 years’ experience on environmental, food, health and globalization issues. Rowell has undertaken cutting-edge investigations for, amongst others, Action on Smoking and Health, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, IFAW, the Pan American Health Organization, Project Underground, the World Health Organization, World in Action and WWF.”

    (My emphasis)
    Tony

  3. Anonymous says:

    Raw Data
    In The Times 27th Jan, the Government’s chief scientist –

    “Professor Beddington said that climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. He condemned scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports.”

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7003622.ece
    What about Doll and his raw data? He refused to give Fisher access for example and I don’t think Fisher ever obtained it even after threats of legal action. (I strongly suspect he was able to come up with the inhaling ‘paradox’ even without access)
    Tony

  4. Frank Davis says:

    Anti-smoking was the bedrock falsity
    That’s certainly how I see it. AGW activists have been following the instructions in the antismoking playbook, of establishing a ‘science’, and then using it to scare politicians and voters to adopt desired measures. Democracy doesn’t come into it anywhere.
    With luck, people will take a look at a few other UN organisations than the IPCC, for instance the WHO just down the corridor.

  5. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Raw Data
    I think Fisher did eventually get the data he wanted. But I think it took quite a long time though. He must have got it in order to produce his little study that showed inhaling tobacco smoke had a protective effect against lung cancer.

  6. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Andy Rowell
    I didn’t notice it, actually. I barely skimmed through the article. There’s a tidal wave of things happening right now. Thanks for pointing it out. They’re all in it together, aren’t they?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Re: Raw Data
    I’m not sure Fisher needed the raw data for his inhaling study.
    From the 6th page of Doll’s 1950 study:

    All patients who smoked were asked whether or not they inhaled, and the answers given by the lung-carcinoma and non-cancer control patients were as follows: of the 688 lung-carcinoma patients who smoked (men and women) 61.6% said they inhaled and 38.4% said they did not; the corresponding figures for the 650 patients with other diseases were 67.2% inhalers and 32.8% non-inhalers. It would appear that lung-carcinoma patients inhale slightly less often than other patients (Chi squared = 4.58; n = 1; 0.02 < P < 0.05). However, the difference is not large, and if the lung-carcinoma patients are compared with all the other patients interviewed, and the necessary allowance is made for sex and age, the difference becomes insignificant (Chi squared = 0.19; n = 1; 0.50 < P < 0.70).

    Of course you may be right and Fisher may have examined the raw data himself as well.
    Tony

  8. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Raw Data
    In his paper on Inhaling, Fisher wrote: “It has taken some years, therefore to elicit the tables below, which are a reconstruction of the original observations. I have asked for, and have now obtained, confirmation that these are the actual counts originally made.Certain pipe and cigar smokers were originally included on the basis of total tobacco consumed, andI have not been able to secure their removal.”
    The table give numbers of smokers, cancer and control group men and women, and numbers of cigarettes per day for inhalers and non-inhalers – a total of 40 numbers.
    I have read elsewhere (can’t remember where) that Fisher was quite persistent about getting these numbers, and got rather angry at one stage.
    It’s much like with Global Warming these days, when researchers have been slow, or have refused, to provide data and methods.
    Frank

  9. Anonymous says:

    Re: Raw Data
    I stand corrected. Many thanks Frank.
    And indeed it is very much like the Global Warming scam!
    Tony

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