Elementary Truths

I’ve been turning over something that US Secretary of State John Kerry said recently:

Secretary of State John Kerry argued Thursday that the science showing Earth’s climate is warming because of human activity is as clear and settled as the science that shows gravity will force an apple to fall out of its tree and down to the ground.

“When an apple falls from a tree, it will drop toward the ground. We know that because of the basic laws of physics. Science tells us that gravity exists, and no one disputes that,” Kerry said in a climate speech before the Atlantic Council in Washington.

“Science also tells us that when the water temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns to ice. No one disputes that,” he said. ”So when science tells us that our climate is changing and human beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people stand up and just say, ‘well, I dispute that, or I deny that elementary truth?’ ”

“And yet there are those that do so,” he said.

Kerry has routinely called for steps to reduce human-based carbon emissions, and said Thursday that the issue is “personal to me.” Kerry’s devotion to the issue has led some to criticize him for focusing on climate issues instead of spending more time on Ukraine, Iran or other global hotspots.

Kerry spoke for nearly an hour at the Atlantic Council, and insisted that the science behind climate change is settled.

“It may seem obvious to you, but it isn’t to some,” he said. “The science is and has and long been crystal clear when it comes to climate change.”

There seemed to be something a bit screwy about what he was saying here, and I was trying to put my finger on what it was.

My best shot is to say that, no, it’s not that “Science tells us that when the water temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns to ice,” but that the temperature at which water turns to ice is defined as 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0 degrees Celsius). Just like the temperature at which water boils is defined as 212 degrees Fahrenheit (or 100 degrees Celsius). There’s really no “science” to this. It’s purely a matter of definition. The freezing and boiling points of water have been used for centuries to calibrate thermometers.

And what about the apple? “When an apple falls from a tree, it will drop toward the ground. We know that because of the basic laws of physics. Science tells us that gravity exists, and no one disputes that.” No, we don’t know this because of the basic laws of physics. We know it because we see it happening. It’s an observed fact. Just like it’s an observed fact that water freezes and boils. Empirical science starts with the observed facts, and proceeds to state laws which describe those observed facts.

For example, it was found (by Galileo, I believe, experimenting with balls rolling down ramps) that falling bodies like apples accelerated at a rate of 32 feet per second every second. They fell faster and faster. And a few years later, Newton suggested that this acceleration was caused by the mass of the Earth somehow attracting the apple towards it (he didn’t know how). And again, that came from observation of apples and lots of other projectiles, including the planets going round the Sun.

In both cases, we start with observed facts. We know that water boils when it’s very hot, and freezes when it’s very cold. And we know that apples fall downward from their trees. Everybody knows these things, because everybody sees them. Science only starts when what they do starts getting accurately measured, and general laws produced

On to climate change. ”So when science tells us that our climate is changing and human beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people stand up and just say, ‘well, I dispute that, or I deny that elementary truth?’ ”

Well, science didn’t tell us that apples fall or water freezes: it was just something we saw happening anyway. Do we see climate change happening around us, like we see water freezing or apples falling? Not really. Some people claim to see it. And some people say they can’t see any. I’m one of the people who can’t see it happening. Climate change isn’t an “elementary truth” like falling apples or freezing water. We don’t see it every day, or every decade, or every century.

No, climate change hasn’t become a talking point because we’ve noticed that the climate is changing, and we don’t know why. It’s become a talking point because some climate scientists have been predicting that it’s going to change, and that in 50 or 100 years the Earth will be a few degrees warmer than it is now. And they’ve made these predictions using computer simulation models with hundreds or maybe even thousands of equations and variables. These computer simulation models are supposed to behave just like the Earth’s atmosphere behaves, using the known laws of physics.

So the climate change scare is being driven by theoretical physics, not observed empirical facts.

And it seems like the computer simulation models the climate scientists are using aren’t too good, because for about the past 20 years the Earth hasn’t been warming like they expected it to do.

So finally, “By what right do people stand up and just say, ‘well, I dispute that, or I deny that elementary truth?’ ” Because it’s not an “elementary truth”. Climate change is not an observable fact like the fall of apples or the freezing of water. It’s a prediction made by theoretical physicists using very complicated computer models. And it’s a prediction that has so far turned out to be wrong – because we’re not seeing the predicted climate change.

And John Kerry was really conflating empirical science – the science that grows from watching apples fall and water freeze – with theoretical science – the explanatory models that physicists construct to explain the observed behaviour of things – and calling it all “science”.

I get the feeling that Kerry never studied science. After all, he studied political science at Yale. You don’t learn much about science in political ‘science’ (which isn’t a science at all).

And also he’s a politician. And if politicians start talking about climate change it’s probably because it has a political dimension. And if senior US politicians talk about it (e.g. Al Gore), it’s because it’s highly political. And it’s most likely much more about politics than it is about science.

Particularly when, by opening is mouth and talking about it, John Kerry has shown just how little he really knows about science.


About Frank Davis

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23 Responses to Elementary Truths

  1. Frank he was using Al Gores trick talking down to the people treating them as k-5 children not as adults. Meaning he and others like him believe they are above us all and the demean us all as subhuman to be herded and made to obey their beliefs and not our own. They deem us inferior and not smart enuf to see above their BULLSHIT claims.

  2. If somebody tried to make a fool out of you would you take it,
    If a Bully tried to demean you in public debase your masculinity in front of your wife and kids would you take it.

    Anyone of us who would sit back and take it just fill in the blank,you already know the answer.

    I wont and never have.

  3. John Watson says:

    Science once told us that the earth was flat, that shiploads of mariners would fall off the edge if they sailed too far from land, science also believed that the sun rotated around the Earth too. Both of these theories have long been disproved through empirical evidence. until Science can provide such empirical evidence then I will not believe a single word they say and given their scientific methodology today I’d have serious doubts even then!

  4. Reinhold says:

    We know that water boils when it’s very hot, and freezes when it’s very cold. And we know that apples fall downward from their trees. Everybody knows these things, because everybody sees them.

    Well, exactly, Frank.
    How can someone stand up and say: We know this because Science tells us so?
    And who’s that guy? Oh dear. I just can’t believe it. Please, Science, tell me how such a man could get hold of such a position.

  5. John Kerry was a political hack from the beginning he went into service at the behest of his father for a political future. He became a swift boat commander on the Mekong river. He shot one vietkong a kid running away in the back. Not that it really matters,what did matter was he got 3 purple hearts and then took the regulation of three times wounded you can get out of action. He got 2 for basically self inflicted wounds one might say.

    He got swift boated by his own men in a presidential bid………….and the facts just started piling up.

    He marched with Hanoi Jane Fonda who handed off a note given her by a POW in Hanoi and directly turned it over to the enemy,then she went for a photo op manning a enemy anti-aircraft gun.

    John Kerry by all other names would be deemed a Traitor by any standard.

    His actions here are no less than anyone should expect from a piece of shit!

    There is so much more to tell like marrying the Heinz companies widow a former senator who died in a helo crash in Philadelphia Pa in 1988 I believe it was and with the Heinz fortune backing his play ge won the same seat her dead husband held……….

    Then Kerry was hit with a yacht tax of 300,000 dollars in MASSHOLE state and he moved his boat to another state to try and avoid the rich mans tax………..

  6. Meta-analysis of all available population studies continues to show smokers who use e-cigs less likely to quit smoking

    sglantz’s blog


  7. waltc says:

    Here’s some “science” for you.% of cancers are caused by random mutation (which we know is more likely to happen with age) A medscape article dated March 6 starts:

    “The American Cancer Society estimates that environmental factors account for about 75%-80% of cancer cases and deaths in the United States, whereas hereditary factors make up the rest. Although most environmental risks can be attributed to lifestyle factors, such as smoking (30%) and a mixture of poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and obesity (35%), there is still a significant burden from a range of environmental exposures. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization’s cancer research division, has classified 107 such agents to be carcinogenic to humans; these include tobacco, asbestos, benzene, arsenic, ionizing radiation, and ultraviolet radiation.”

    • waltc says:

      Half the first line diasappeared. Supposed to say, ” In spite of the recent study that showed 70% of cancers…”

      • In other words they cant figure out what causes cancer to happen other than it strikes the old meaning advanced age is the culprit not lifestyles………or any damn thing else. Even with the old they still don’t all get cancers………..

        The above comes from that piece a month or so ago stating 2/3rds of cancer are due to bad luck so the cancer societies are trying like hell to cover their asses.

        • And all their bogus claims because above all else they have to be able to save face with the public and the press…………

        • Smoking Lamp says:

          You are both right, they are trying to keep the public from processing the inconvenient fact that over 2/3 of cancers are the result of random mutation. That renders the ‘lifestyle’ arguments moot which destroys their powerless. Even the Doll and Hill studies showed the strongest correlations with age rather than smoking status *and of course smokers and non-smokers dies at nearly the same rates from so-called smoking related diseases ~85 and ~84% respectively. Their data is weak and their manipulation of data is being disclosed. Hence they will fight harder to keep their power in tact.

  8. nisakiman says:

    Perhaps what is more to the point about the difference between water freezing and climate changing is that water always has and always will freeze or boil at the same temperature under normal atmospheric conditions. Likewise, the apple will always fall to the ground. The processes can be demonstrated ad infinitum, and the result will never vary. That makes them a scientific fact.

    The concept of man-made climate change is so far removed from those examples that there is not even the vaguest, remotest connection. It cannot be demonstrated, only theorised, in the same way that ‘smoking related deaths’ can only be theorised. It cannot be repeated endlessly with the same result, and the variables are countless and constantly changing. AGW is guesswork based on an ideological stance. Science doesn’t enter into it.

    • Rose says:

      AGW is guesswork based on an ideological stance

      Based on a widely shared childhood memory?

      AGW and it was all our fault, the first time we ever thought man could be powerful enough to destroy the Earth.

      The Day the Earth Caught Fire – 1961

      “Meanwhile, after the Soviet Union and US detonate simultaneous nuclear bomb tests, strange meteorological events begin to affect the globe. Stenning is sent to the British Met Office to get data mean temperatures.”

    • garyk30 says:

      Depends on the chemicals in the water as ‘salty’ water has a much different freezing point.

      On a technical point, the Earth does not revolve around the Sun.

      It revolves around the center of mass for our solar system.

      When the mass of the other planets is figured in, the Earth rotates around a point that, at times, is several hundred thousand KM above the surface of the Sun.

  9. Bernd Palmer says:

    Excellent reasoning, Frank. I have always known that “science” is based on observation and not the other way around, to use this to debunk “science”. An irrefutable chain of arguments. Brilliant, thanks.

  10. garyk30 says:

    Water does not always ‘boil’ at the same temp.
    Depends on the altitude, for one thing.
    At altitude, your two minute eggs will be under done.

    Water will boil at high altitudes, but it isn’t as hot as boiling water at sea level. This is because the air pressure is lower at high elevations.
    Boiling occurs when the water is hot enough to have the same pressure as the surrounding air, so that it can form bubbles.

    At high altitudes, air pressure is lower than at sea level, so the water doesn’t have to get so hot to get to boiling.

    Because the temperature of the boiling water is lower at high elevations than at sea level, it takes longer to cook at higher altitudes than at sea level. The speed that food cooks is not related to the time it takes to boil.

    Adding a little salt to the water will cause the water to boil at a slightly higher temperature which can be helpful while cooking especially at high altitudes.

    Elevation…Feet: Ft(Meters: M)

    Boiling Point Fahrenheit: ºF(Celsius: ºC)

    Elevation…Feet: Ft(Meters: M)
    Boiling Point…..Fahrenheit: ºF(Celsius: ºC)
    0 ft (0 m)…………… 212.0 ºF (100 ºC)
    5,500 ft (1,676 m) 202.4 ºF (94.67 ºC)

    • garyk30 says:

      Cooking is just boiling the liquid inside stuff to kill the deadly little critters that are there.

      It is also a scientific fact that if one is off the desired pasteurization temperature by 3F, the time will change by a factor of 100%.
      That is, at 155F, pasteurization time is 15 seconds, but at 152F, the time is 30 seconds for the same destruction of Salmonella in hamburger.

    • nisakiman says:

      Water does not always ‘boil’ at the same temp.
      Depends on the altitude, for one thing.

      Which is why I said “under normal atmospheric conditions”. Which one would assume to be sea level. And water with salt added is not water, it is saline solution, so different parameters apply.

      • garyk30 says:

        Altitude plus pressure
        Few things are simple

        At sea level, water boils at 212F. However, for every 500 feet above sea level, water boils about at 0.9F less.
        At 1,000 feet, then, water boils at about 210.2; at 2,000 feet, about 208.4; at 3,000 feet, about 206.6, etc.

        In addition to this correction factor, one must correct for barometric pressure.
        At a 0-feet altitude, if the barometric pressure is 29.921 inches of mercury, water boils at 212F.
        If the barometer is at 29.0, the water boils at 1.53F less than the 212F boiling point, with the altitude factor already considered.
        If the pressure is at 30.8 inches of mercury, one must allow for an increase in boiling of 1.43F.

        • garyk30 says:

          A person can do experiments and ‘prove’ those variations.

          There have been ZERO controlled experiments to ‘prove’ AGW.

          Unprovable theories are not science.

          My belief in a God is just as valid as AGW.

          Time for a bunch of red wine.

  11. Edgar says:

    “Science only starts when what they [observed facts] do starts getting accurately measured, and general laws produced.” A small minority of scientists believes that theory should be founded on empirical observations but, at least as far as physicists are concerned, the overwhelming view is that theory is proposed, without any empirical content, if possible, then the theory is tested by seeing how closely its predictions conform to experimental tests. There is no ‘theory’ of climate change. There are thermodynamics and statistical mechanics and the dynamics of fluid motion in non-inertial frames but there is no ‘climate science’ that is an accepted part of conventional physics. For that reason, also, the ‘science’ can not be ‘settled’.

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