Science needs skeptics
The important roles that outsiders and skeptics play in science.
By Floor Anthoni
April 2007
www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/probl/skeptic.htm
Updated with Climategate comments below.


Many who loudly advertise themselves as skeptics are actually disbelievers. Properly, a skeptic is a nonbeliever, a person who refuses to jump to conclusions based on inconclusive evidence. A disbeliever, on the other hand, is characterized by an a priori belief that a certain idea is wrong and will not be swayed by any amount of empirical evidence to the contrary.

The debate about global warming is raging all over the world, pitting believers against skeptics while widening the divide between them. Just recently in response to the documentary "The global warming swindle" produced by British Channel4 TV [1] [2], two hot rebuttals were published, one by Prof Carl Wunsch [3] and another by George Monbiot [4]. The documentary was also put down on the realclimate website [5]. Such violent reactions may discourage skeptics, and it is for this reason that I wish to contribute by placing the role of science and that of skepticism in a wider frame.

But let me qualify myself first. I was trained as an electronics engineer (ir. MSc.) from Delft Technological University in Holland, migrated to computer system software in which a PhD was obtained from same university. After migrating to New Zealand, I was busy with my own computer company, specialising in turn-key software of various kind, but diving remained a serious activity. In 1987 I self-studied marine ecology and established the Seafriends Marine Conservation and Education Centre in Leigh, New Zealand. My aim became to save our seas. So, I am neither accredited nor have any authority on matters of global warming. Just as well, because it is stupid to believe anything on the basis of authority.

When we study the reaction of Carl Wunsch, we can't ignore the words: "I believe", "polemic", "swindle", "hatchet job", "an out-and-out propaganda piece" and "The viewer is left to infer". These are all non-scientific arguments. Wunsch's main complaint is that the media are not as careful in reporting on science as they are for instance, on court cases, and he is right in this. The media should do better. His other complaint is that of unbalanced reporting. But where has he been in recent times? I've spent twenty years trying to find an unbiased account of global warming and it cannot be found anywhere: not in scientific journals, not in popular science, not in magazines and not on the Web. It is obviously very difficult to overview all necessary disciplines and then produce an educational web site that gives a totally balanced perspective. Would Wunsch rise to the challenge? More about this further down the page.

George Monbiot's reaction is typical of a firm believer in the infallibility of science and peer review and who also selectively filters evidence, but we must take notice of what he says without being intrepidated. He does, however, brush lightly over the hard times real contributors to science have made: "Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein who took tremendous risks in confronting mainstream opinion." What kind of risk is he talking about?

Only a few years ago a bright statistician approached the world's problems from hard data we can rely on, statistics. It enabled Bjørn Lomborg to say something about 'is global warming bad for us?' and 'would it pay to do something about it?' [6], both questions that are out of reach of Main Stream Science (MSS) who live in a quasi-stationary world where every change is considered evil. The reaction of MSS was violent in the form of an 11-page critique in the January 2002 issue of Scientific American without the courtesy of allowing Lomborg a sufficient amount of space for his defence.
Then matters became worse when the scientists in his own country treated him like a holocaust denier. His rebuttal had to disappear from the face of time. Fortunately it was mirrored also on our website, for all to read and remember [7]. The amount of hardship meted out to Lomborg fails description. Skepticism bears a high risk but can entire scientific disciplines collapse because of inadequate skepticism?

In June 2000 the entire science of Economics collapsed as it became exposed by French economics students [8]. Neoconservative economics was a fraud, a swindle to serve global corporations and the American Empire. Millions of students and practitioners have been brainwashed and millions still unwaveringly believe in it. Billions of people around the world have been ruined by its policies. At the moment the discussion goes about what can be saved and how to rebuild a dependable science from the rubble. Had there been a ground-swell of skepticism at the time, this disaster could have been prevented. But we all know the power and corruptibility of the Mainstream Media. Science has been wrong time and again on so many issues, that the skeptic in us should always be on high alert. The sobering lesson is that this could also happen to the global warming science and IPCC, after we've spent trillions of dollars on remedies that would not work.

Where does this leave the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its Global Circulation Models (GCMs)? The obscene amount of asymmetrical funding in the hope that "If you throw enough money at it, the problem will be solved or go away", combined with the IPCC changing its summary report to suit a political outcome, has in my view, completely discredited the IPCC (but not those planetary scientists who just contributed). Think about it this way: if scientists are placed before the dilemma of either the truth or bread for the family, what would most choose? Would peer review by like-minded peers help? Aren't too many academics in the USA working on machines of death and methods of killing and policies to this end? Just follow the dollar path.

There are a number of inconvenient truths you should know about GCMs:

  1. They are not science because computer models, spreadsheets and computer programs cannot be proved to be right. They cannot be falsified either. GCMers circumvent this problem by letting their models predict the past, while tweaking their many assumptions, and then believing what they predict for the future must be true. This is no proof and tweaking is not science either. GCMs just follow the GIGO law of computing: Garbage In = Garbage Out. If only a single assumption is wrong or a single factor has been left out, the GCM and its prediction is simply WRONG, and the chance of a GCM being RIGHT is infinitesimally small.
  2. Imagine our planet the size of a billiard ball. Then the thickness of our biosphere from the deepest ocean trench to the highest mountain and above that, amounts to a smear of no more than a human hair in thickness. Within this thin smear, everything happens from deep ocean circulation to surface currents to surface weather to jet streams to troposphere and ozone holes. Computer models do not like the absurd difference between vertical and horizontal dimensions (1000 times). So they work with all kinds of assumptions on how one layer affects the next. They are not EXACT. The computer power to do better has not yet arrived.
  3. GCMs treat the planet as a dead planet, but we know that the planet reacts as if it were a living organism. We owe this to independent scientist James Lovelock who concluded that Earth's atmosphere was so unlike its two sister planets (Venus, Mars) because life had changed it. He also discovered how Planet Earth as a living organism (GAIA), regulates its temperature. Read what Lovelock says about his own life [9] and what his Wikipedia entry says [9a].
  4. The driver of global warming is thought to be: more people -> more fossil fuel burning -> more greenhouse gases -> global warming. But the GCMs concern themselves only with the last step. However, the planet reacts: more CO2 -> more plant growth, thereby absorbing a very large part of human-made CO2. Better still: more CO2 -> more plankton -> more dimethylsulfide (DMS) -> more clouds -> global cooling. Leaving this feedback effect out, will simply give wrong results. One would expect that the global cooling gas DMS has been studied extensively and monitored accurately since it was first discovered, but not enough of this has happened, even though NOAA is constructing a database of DMS concentrations for future use by GCMs.
  5. One of the largest drivers of climate change has been ignored almost completely by MSS: more people -> less forest -> less water circulation -> less heat transfer -> major climate change. It results in the centres of continents drying, deserts expanding, continental glaciers shrinking, winds changing their paths, ice caps shrinking, and ocean currents changing. This climate change began even before fossil fuel use. What you need to understand is that heat transfer around the globe is done mainly by water evaporating and condensating, and that all rain and snow come from the sea. If such a large driver is left out from GCMs, how reliable can they be? What is the whole climate change debate worth without it?
  6. There exists yet another strong driver: more people -> more agriculture -> more erosion -> more plankton blooms -> more DMS -> more clouds -> global cooling. This driver could even prove to contain a run-away effect: more erosion -> more clouds -> more heavy rains -> more erosion. Obviously, there remains ample scope to remain skeptical. Why is so much being ignored or overlooked or not mentioned by MSS?
Environmental science is evidently at an all-time low, as also witnessed by the anti-whaling hysteria, anti-fishing hysteria, marine reserves hysteria [14], and now also the hysteria about ocean acidification. All these have in common: too few original experiments + too little reliable data + too much consensus + too little self-criticism + too much ideology. In their descent from scientist to activist, scientists have traded their scientific objectivity for their firmly held beliefs.

Who are these people who call themselves scientists? Many scientists see themselves as High Priests of Truth, members of an almost secret society, meeting worldwide with like-minded ones and publishing in obscure journals that are not freely accessible to the public, even though all was paid for from the public purse. Scientists look down from the higher moral ground, little realising that they too, are dominated by remnants of our animal past: emotion and superstition. Worse still, they have created around themselves bulwarks of obstructions that most scientists are not aware of [11,18]. They have created a strict hierarchy, like that of monkeys in a monkey tree. Young apes enter from below, and old ones drop dead from the top branches. Not until the old ones die, can a new idea take hold. Why?

Unlike you-and-me, scientists invest heavily in knowledge that distinguishes one from the other. Like capital, it exacts power and position in the monkeytree. Should that knowledge be proved wrong, it is experienced like a share market crash that should be avoided and rallied against at all cost. Hence their fierce rebuttal and consensual behaviour. This part of our animal origins has been noted by ancient sages like Socrates and Plato. They knew that all truth (or belief proved wrong) passes through a birthing trauma, from denial to ridicule to violent resistance, eventually to acceptance. Any angry scientific rebuttal can be placed somewhere in these 4 phases. But there is more to scientists and the scientific beast.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates taught his students that the pursuit of truth can begin only once they start to question and analyse every belief that they ever held dear. If it doesn't survive scrutiny, it must be ditched. Check how your own beliefs stack up in Belief systems of the world [10]. In honest scientific debate, beliefs have no place. But what is science?

We should ask ourselves the serious question: If science, technology and human nature [11] (important reading to understand science!) got us into the mess we are in, why then do we think the same culprits can save us? Didn't Einstein observe that "The problems we have today will not be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them" ? It will need a mind-set shift or paradigm shift. Can we save ourselves at all? Not likely.
 

 

"There is no harm in doubt and skepticism, for it is through these that new discoveries are made".- Richard Feynman, 1985

"It is really quite amazing by what margins competent but conservative scientists and engineers can miss the mark, when they start with the preconceived idea that what they are investigating is impossible. When this happens, the most well-informed men become blinded by their prejudices and are unable to see what lies directly ahead of them." - Arthur C Clarke

Scientists live in a bivalent world of judgment where new discoveries are so desired, yet also so much resisted. A scientist needs to be a skeptic, and most skeptical of his own work and thoughts, but he must also be creative and take a ludicrous/crank idea further, for it may contain a true gem. It is not surprising then that the outsiders make the epoch-making discoveries. Why?

"Do not believe what you think" - Floor Anthoni

All knowledge can be divided into four main types which I have labelled with K for Know and D for Dontknow (911 knowledge not excepted):

"What we know is a drop, what we don't know is an ocean."- Isaac Newton
.
Both the DK and DD types of knowledge have to pass the birthing trauma towards acceptance. It so happened that I stumbled on a DK type of problem when I discovered that MSS and engineers do not understand how beaches and dunes really work. It took a new paradigm to connect the dots: beaches and dunes behave like living organisms because they absorb energy from the environment. This led to the formulation of the six laws that define every beach and (sea-) dune in the world [12] but it may take decades before it becomes acknowledged by MSS. Another elegant example of DK is found in a new explanation of redshift in the light of distant galaxies [17].

A DD type of knowledge fell into my lap while pursuing the simple question "Why are we losing so much (in the sea), over such large areas, so fast, why now, and why here (in New Zealand)?". After some 15 years, the answers came when I considered that the many unexplained paradoxes perhaps had  the same origin and that we had overlooked something so important and so big and so invisible that it remained overlooked by hundreds of thousands of scientists over at least half a century of time. To prove it, I invented a new scientific method that had also been overlooked; a method so cheap and simple that it can be afforded easily ($300) while being entirely portable by car, boat and plane. With it I then discovered what could well be the six most important ecological laws that had, quite simply, been overlooked [13]. Could this really be possible in this age of advanced science and communication?

As a skeptic using just common sense, you should now be able to determine for yourself after following link [13]:

Why then are scientists not reacting? As you can see, skeptics are an absolutely necessary component of science and democracy. Don't give up. We owe it to our children, even though we run that risk of opposing Main Stream Science.

Science progresses by skepticism and paradigm shifts when new theories rise up
and displace dominant ones - Prof. Philip Stott, 2007

without questioning and challenging a scientific consensus, science would never advance

Whenever there exists scientific consensus, brace yourself [15]. When the case is closed and discussion is over, you know you've been fooled because consensus is not science. Remember the ocean acidification scare? Google these two words to see what has been published without any criticism, and then add the word skeptic or uncertain or doubt, to see how much criticism it received - none. Then read our independent analysis [16] and make up your mind - another misadventure of science?

There is no such thing as consensus science. If itís consensus, it isnít science. If itís science, it isnít consensus. Period.Ē
- Michael Crichton in a speech at Caltech in 2003

"New ideas in science are not always right just because they are new. Nor are the old ideas always wrong just because they are old. A critical attitude is clearly required of every scientist. But what is required is to be equally critical to the old ideas as to the new. Whenever the established ideas are accepted uncritically, but conflicting new evidence is brushed aside and not reported because it does not fit, then that particular science is in deep trouble - and it has happened quite often in the historical past." Thomas Gold [19], a must-read.



Dr J Floor Anthoni is founding director of the Seafriends Marine Conservation and Education Centre in Leigh, New Zealand, and can be reached at www.seafriends.org.nz/email.htm  His extensive website www.seafriends.org.nz aims to bring balanced environmental education, particularly relating to the sea.

[1] http://www.channel4.com/science/microsites/G/great_global_warming_swindle/index.html - the global warming swindle, programme
[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XttV2C6B8pU - the global warming swindle, movie
[3] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=WUN20070318&articleId=5105 - Open Letter to Channel 4 Head of production of The Global Warming Swindle., by Prof Carl Wunsch
[4] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=MON20070318&articleId=5104 - Don't let truth stand in the way of a red-hot debunking of climate change by George Monbiot
[5] http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/swindled/ - the global warming swindle, rebuttal by realclimate web site.
[6] Lomborg, Bjørn (2001, 2006): The skeptical environmentalist, measuring the real state of the world. Cambridge Univ Press.
[7] http://www.seafriends.org.nz/say/lomborg1.htm - Bjørn Lomborgís comments to the 11-page critique in January 2002 Scientific American (SA) by various scientists. (35pp)
[8] http://www.paecon.net/   - the post-autistic economics network  how is it possible that a whole discipline of science collapsed?
[9] http://www.channel4.com/science/microsites/S/science/nature/gaia.html - Gaia Theory, Feb 2003, James Lovelock about his life.
[9a] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lovelock - a synopsis of Lovelock's life and discoveries with many links.
[10] http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/probl/beliefs.htm - Belief systems of the World. Where do you fit in? by Floor Anthoni (2001)
[11] http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/probl/science.htm - Science, technology and human nature. by Floor Anthoni (2001)
[12] http://www.seafriends.org.nz/oceano/beachgo.htm - Why are we losing our beaches and dunes? by Floor Anthoni (2000)
[13] http://www.seafriends.org.nz/dda/index.htm - Epoch-making ecological discoveries with a new plankton tool. by Floor Anthoni (2003,2005)
[14] http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/war/index.htm  - The war for marine reserves. Scientific madness exposed. by Floor Anthoni (2003 - )
[15] http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/cons/statemt.htm - Statements of consensus from the world's scientists. (1992 - )
[16] http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/global/acid.htm - Ocean acidification: does the science stand up to scrutiny? by Floor Anthoni (2007)
[17] http://www.contrarianthinker.com/Red%20Shift.htm - A Prosaic Explanation for the Observation of Red Shifts in Distant Galaxies by Dr. Graham Laurenson (2007)
[18] http://www2.uah.es/jmc/nobel/nobel.html - Rejecting Nobel class articles and resisting Nobel class discoveries by Juan Miguel Campanario (2003)
[19] http://www.suppressedscience.net/inertiaofscientificthought.htmlThe inertia of scientific thought. Thomas Gold (2004)
[20] http://www.naturalnews.com/049694_BMJ_peer_review_science_journals.html      Peer review is a failure and, ironically, it's more faith-based than science-based; Most of what is published in journals is just plain wrong or nonsense
 
 


Climategate
The biggest scientific scandal of our age.

By 21 November 2009 a large number of damning e-mails and data files were leaked from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU). They demonstrated far-reaching corruption and fraud at the very centre of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As illustrated above, deliberate falsification of results, combined with media-hype were long suspected of being at the core of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) thought to be caused by human emissions of CO2, yet having no foundation in science. More specifically:

All this was made possible by huge handouts ($3 billion per year!!) to anyone able to provide more global warming scare. Some scientists received more than 1 million dollars every year, over many years. Nearly all academic societies, including the AAAS (USA), Royal Society (UK), Royal society of NZ, were openly complicit. (See our collection of scientific consensus statements). Openly complicit were also the most 'respectable' journals like Science, Nature, Scientific American, New Scientist and many more. Indeed, even in March 2010, Nature's editor shows he does not understand the seriousness of the situation. (Sigh . . . how could so many scientists be so wrong?)

The damage these few people have caused to science as a whole cannot be overstated, and it is only because of tenacious skeptics that the truth has finally emerged. If scientists do not react now with fervor to clean their dirty stable, the public will have little reason to ever believe them again.

But worst of all has been the unjustified fear imprinted on all children of the world. How can this ever be undone?

As we began this page with journalist George Monbiot, we also end with his feeble admission to readers (23 Nov 2009): "I apologise. I was too trusting of some of those who provided the evidence I championed. I would have been a better journalist if I had investigated their claims more closely."
Indeed George, you have been an utter disgrace to your profession, trading objectivity and investigative research for your firmly held beliefs. The damage you and your ilk caused to society cannot ever be repaired.
Should you think George Monbiot has finally opened his eyes in regret, follow his further nonsense here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/
 

David Bellamy: "To date, the way the so-called Greens and the BBC, the Royal Society and even our political parties have handled this smacks of McCarthyism at its worst."

David Archibald: "The warmers captured the whole system Ė all the journals, all their editors and journals' boards. They successfully removed inconvenient editors"

Do you want to know more about global climate, study our extensive section of 7 chapters:   issues/global/climate.htm