The cat i' the adage

"The growth of knowledge depends entirely on disagreement" Karl Popper (1902 - 1994)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Popperian challenge to climate scientists

We're close to reaching the point in the summer when predictions of the hottest heat wave in a thousand years will give way to solemn assertions that, thanks to global warming, we must expect more cold and wet weather of the type that we have been experiencing at this time of year. This ability effortlessly to absorb apparently refractory experience is what is so troubling about the scientific credentials of theories of man-made climate change.

Most people who have reflected on the nature of enquiry have come to accept the value of Popper's criterion that for a hypothesis to qualify as scientific - as opposed to non-scientific, pseudo-scientific, religious or metaphysical - it must be capable of refutation. A scientific hypothesis should not be consistent with any conceivable empirical outcome: it should rule out certain phenomena, so that, if those phenomena are observed, the hypothesis itself can be ruled out. Furthermore, the scientific attitude consists of exposing hypotheses to potential refutation, rather than nursing them in the face of anomalous experience or bolstering them with more and more confirming evidence.

When Einstein said that he would abandon the General Theory of Relativity if the bending of starlight round the sun - as implied by his theory - was not observed during a solar eclipse, he was setting an example that climate scientists appear reluctant to follow. If they seemed more open to the fallibility of scientific enquiry, if they were prepared to identify the empirical circumstances that would lead them to reject their favoured hypotheses, I would take them - and anthropogenic global warming - seriously. In the mean time I shall continue to regard them as "mission-oriented" shills of the environmentalist religion.


At 5 July 2005 at 17:27, Blogger Jorgen said...

Hear, hear!


Post a Comment

<< Home