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"Glass is a liquid except when you touch it" and other impossible-to-disprove theories coming to the Internet this winter.

It would be nice if people trying to prove or disprove man-made climate change would stop hitting each other with snow shovels while the scientists figure it out.  

And if you must make the case, make it to someone who disagrees with you.  The rest of us are already there, mate.

We are under an epic snow.  It bends the trees, blots out the landscape, blinds us in sunlight. Children could be dropped into it and disappear, like pennies in a bowl of milk.

Snow is weather.  Being weather, it is now used as “evidence” in the climate change debate. This crazy winter is because the jet stream is bending in the wrong direction now; or alternatively, yeah, sure, “global warming” – borrow my shovel and dig my car out of the warming, won’t you?

If you accept the opinion of the vast majority of scientists that the world’s climate is changing due to human activity, or even if you agree with the fourteen scientists who don’t think that (they all do the weather on FOX News) here’s the problem with tossing this winter around as evidence :  almost everyone who does it is wrong. Wrong in the sense of (a) they don’t know what the hell they are talking about and (b) so will they please stop talking?!

Allow me to put forward some other theories which I can prove, just as soundly as the “this winter is proof of (blah blah blah)” argument:

* gravity is caused by the jealousy of the Lava Gods, who live under the crust of the earth and want our stuff
* tiny invisible soap bubbles in the air do battle with tiny invisible dirt bubbles, in an endless war of cleanliness
* glass is only solid when you touch it; the rest of the time, it is a liquid (prove me wrong !)
* inside of all steel is a sweet, caramel flavoured goo.  But it is hard to get at it
* Elvis Presley never died, he just changed identities and his wife Hilary is going to run for President in 2016
* All food is transported here from the past (this one, I can actually prove)

You get the idea.

Here’s the thing – maybe people are right that this brutal winter proves / disproves the existence of man-made climate change.  Most of them will be just as right predicting which side of a coin will be showing, when it lands on the ground.   They are as informed and informative as Punxsutawney Phil.  

One of the reasons I am certain that all these people who are certain, are certainly wrong, is that the damned experts don’t even know what this winter means:  check out this in the New York Times.

It would be nice if people put forward information, as opposed to their own opinions, dressed-up as information. Or they could at least pretend to be looking for facts as opposed to verbal ammunition. Unfortunately, propping up convenient facts as evidence of convenient or inconvenient truths, is not science: it’s just politics. Feeble politics.

Personally, I’m starting to believe climate change is caused by all the hot air about the Sochi Olympics.

Let it go.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Agreed. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wonmug, annecros, Calamity Jean

    On the other hand, we should also be reminding those on our side of the issue that, the next time their part of the country experiences an unusually hot stretch of weather, they should refrain from saying, "see, I told you, global warming!"

  •  Actually, glass is often described as a super- (0+ / 0-)

    cooled liquid since it doesn't have a crystalline structure. Others consider "glass" to be a class of materials in itself, neither solid nor liquid.

  •  The link you posted (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, dewley notid

    actually tends to support the idea that the extreme wackiness of the recent weather is from climate change related to large distortions in the jet stream.

    You have to read a bit further down the link, but the response by Francis, correcting the misinterpretation of the original group, and Green's support of her correction as well as his addition of empirical evidence from Cohen bolstering the connection between climate change, the polar vortex, and jet stream distortions tend to swing the balance on the evidence.

    In my opinion.

    But you are correct in stating that 'certainty' is the wrong way to express a scientific idea. The problem is that although scientists understand that science is always provisional, when you say 'uncertain' to a non-scientist, they often take that to mean you have an equal chance of being wrong.

    Uncertainty in science is NOT about flipping a coin, so your diary tends to continue this unfortunate comparison.

  •  OK, I won't talk climate change science (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewley notid

    Merely as a native English speaker, however, I would like to point out that "shut up" is a supremely disrespectful way to address anyone, not likely to win friends or influence people. Adding "please" doesn't really change that, just adds an off-putting element of cognitive dissonance.

    Also, as the holder of a degreee in the history and philosophy of science, I would like to talk about that subject.

    Unlike the field of mathematics, science is not about proof. Scientific theories are much more than mere opinions, speculations, anecdotes or tall tales. Yet they always provisional. At any given time in history, some theories stand out as more completely  tested, more explanatory, and more practically useful than others. The less useful theories die out. The better ones sometimes get replaced by new ones that work better still.

    As you observe, a general consensus exists among climate scientists (with few exceptions) that there is strong evidence of climate change and that human activity is contributing. Is it proved? No, it can't be proved the way that 2 + 2 = 4 can be proved. There is always the possibily that more information will change the picture. The question before us, though, is simply whether there is enough evidence that we would be more prudent to take action than to ignore the whole thing? (Or as a lawyer might ask, "What does the prepoderance of the evidence indicate?")

    One winter, you are also correct, "proves" nothing--but does this winter fit with patterns that are predicted by climate theory in line with global warming? Of does it tend to contradict such expectations? That point is meaningful and worth discussing.

    Meanwhile policy makers cannot afford the luxury of waiting for near-perfect certainly. If the majority of climate scientists are correct, we may have already waited too long. Disastrous changes are coming that humanity needs to prepare for and may still be able to mitigate, though not prevent.

    Nor can policy making be left to scientists. Policy making is a different kind of discipline that inolves determining and weighing not only evidence but also human values and costs, tangible or intangible--many things that are not a matter of science.

    Politicians, civil servants, science writers, ordinary citizens with only a general education, all should have roles to play, and we just have to do the best we can on the evidence that we have available to us at the time. There is no avoiding our human responsibility to make such judgement calls on behalf of ourselves and our children.

    If some individuals prefer to sit on their hands until they can literally see the letters "Mene mene tekel upharsin" written across the sky in red magic marker, before they decide something might be happening, that is their privilege...But it is not sensible.

    Nor is it sensible to demand a shutdown of discussions, even if we find some of the participants supremely irritating. Who knows, show some patience and yours might be the voice of reason to reach somebody who does not get it yet.


    •  don't shut up (0+ / 0-)

      yes, you are right, "shut up" is rude and plonking "please" in front of it may have been an ineffective way to soften it.  apologies for any offense

      I have never wanted to shut down debate.  What I see happening is that debate has been abandoned for advertising, and this diary is an imperfect way of asking people to consider how they sound and whether they're being effective.

      by the way, you don't sound like someone too affected by cognitive dissonance: you sound well informed and erudite. So thanks for reading and for writing.

  •  Please note that the scientists are kinda busy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dewley notid, Calamity Jean

    A friend of my brother is an atmospheric chemist in a premier research institution here on the West Coast.  

    He won't show up on a forum to discuss, comment or rebut anything.  For a really simple reason:  he's busy.  Extremely busy.  And so are his graduate students.

    One of the annoying things about this "debate" is that the people who are doing the science work like they thought the devil himself was chasing them.  Because the climate is changing quickly, and time is the enemy.  And there isn't a lot of time to work on things like organizing and activism.

    And worse:  the people who are spewing the nonsense -- I won't dignify these paid hacks, these clowns, with the title of "the other side of the debate", because they aren't aren't responding to any facts the scientists provide.  They are just spreading ink and darkness, like the corporate vampire squids they are.

    So, unfortunately, we amateurs are what we've got.  We do need to keep up on the science as best we can.  We need to understand our limitations, particularly the limits of our knowledge.  But given the urgency of the issues, we need to be involved, and yes, we need to respond to the idiots.  Because given the urgency, we're all the human race has going for it right now.

    Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

    by mbayrob on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 01:03:07 PM PST

    •  Then there are the retired scientists (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mbayrob, Calamity Jean

      Like me.  Like Jim Hansen.  And a lot of other professionals who have found themselves in early retirement because of budget cutting.  We've got plenty of time.  

      But what's really irritating is that after putting in 30 or 40 years of figuring out how this world really works, using stuff like math and computer models and simulations and comparing them to observations, we scientists are dismissed by people who can't even spell their protest signs correctly.

      The general public has been very willing to accept all the spin-offs of scientific progress, but the flip side is that when scientists tell you that there are bad side effects, those warnings also need to be heeded.  Jim Hansen has been ignored for the most part since his 1988 testimony, and we are rapidly getting to the point where we don't even have a fighting chance left.  

      •  Do your best (0+ / 0-)

        Folks like you are wonderful resources, and we need you.

        For many people in the current culture, the only elitism they venerate is the elitism of money.  Everyone else is the Enemy Elite.

        Breaking this weird yet widespread mentality is a hard problem, but one the US must solve if it is to remain an important country.  Or to be of any use in saving humanity from itself, which is what the whole climate change threat really is.

        At least, this kind of idiocy seems to correlate with age, so it will reduce with time as the Faithful go to meet (or not meet) their Maker.  I see them as mostly beyond persuasion.  

        So we work on the young, and do what we can to turn the ship of public opinion on this issue.

        Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

        by mbayrob on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 07:58:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The key fact about Global Warming (0+ / 0-)

    is that it is factual, not theoretical.

    It is made of millions of measured facts about warmer earth, air, and seas, about melting ice and permafrost, about rising and more acid seas, about more evaporation from the seas, and consequently about the combination of more and worse storms (including snowstorms) and more and worse flooding with more and worse droughts because storm systems now occur in different places than they used to.

    The thing about the snow is that the greatest ocean evaporation is in the tropics, so it goes on all year round, but the resulting precipitation doesn't care what time of year it is where you live. Rain, hail, sleet, snow, it's all good.

    And we also have facts about greenhouse gases, and about the climate going back billions of years.

    The theory is not that the world is warming, or even that it is because of greenhouse gases. The theory, in the form of climate models, has been consistently wrong. But that doesn't help the deniers.

    The actual warming is consistently worse each year than the models predicted.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 10:17:12 PM PST

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