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Even Princeton Makes Mistakes

Posted on 26 May 2011 by Chris Colose

In general, belonging to a respected department at a top institution (such as MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, etc) gives your word strong authority in the public eye.  Richard Lindzen, for example, is known for his work in dynamics and what he has contributed to the referred literature amongst colleagues, but to a general audience he is "Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT."  This, of course, is not an intrinsically bad thing-- we accept authority all the time on subjects we know little about.  Just last night, I watched a movie called "Double Jeopardy" with Tommy Lee Jones, a film built somewhat around a constitutional law that forbids someone from being tried for the same crime twice. Afterward, I was curious enough to check the internet to see how well the film did at legal interpretation, and I found through wikipedia that a "Harvard law professor" said it was not entirely accurate (though I do recommend the movie, it was quite good).  I'm sure he is right, his reasoning made sense to me, and I didn't have a particular interest in researching the matter further.

These respected institutions, in turn, must hire only the best to be the best, and in general to have a position of authority at these places means you have earned it.  Nonetheless, they do make mistakes sometimes.  Lubos Motl at Harvard comes to mind.  Another example is William Happer, a Professor of Physics at Princeton.  To me, the credibility of a scientist doesn't just come from what he publishes in the literature, but also what he publishes throughout the internet as well.  In the case of many of the more prominent global warming skeptics who have actual publishing experience, much of what they say on the internet is done precisely because it would never get accepted into a journal document.  Nonetheless, by placing themselves in a position of authority on the subject, they also position themselves to be criticized for what they say.  The same is true of me, or many other climate bloggers who now try to "teach the science."

Just who is William Happer to someone who doesn't really care much? Well, he is "the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University", which probably makes him correct concerning a lot of physical phenomena he chooses to talk about.  But then you come across an article such as this (which was then reproduced at Watts Up With That, presumably for the sole reason that it is a disinformation piece).

The outline of the article is to lay to rest the "contemporary moral epidemic" surrounding "the notion that increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, will have disastrous consequences for mankind and for the planet."  As one would expect from such an opening, there are also the usual references to a climate crusade, money-hungry govermnemts, greedy scientists, etc.  For the next 10 paragraphs or so, Happer uses a lot of words to say absolutely nothing, except that life needs carbon and it shouldn't be regulated as a "pollutant."

Personally, I have little interest in the legality of making CO2 a "pollutant" or not.  I'm quite sure different people here have their own perspective on this, but to me whether we call it a "pollutant" or a "banana" doesn't change its physical properties: CO2 is a strong greenhouse gas, and it is important in impeding how efficiently our planet loses radiative heat to space.  We don't often think of CO2 as a "pollutant" on Venus, yet it still allows the planet to support temperatures well above the melting point of lead or tin.

Happer then throws in a few classical straw man attacks such as:

"CO2 levels have increased from about 280 ppm to 390 ppm over the past 150 years or so, and the earth has warmed by about 0.8 degree Celsius during that time. Therefore the warming is due to CO2. But correlation is not causation. Roosters crow every morning at sunrise, but that does not mean the rooster caused the sun to rise. The sun will still rise on Monday if you decide to have the rooster for Sunday dinner."

This would, of course, be a perfectly valid counter-argument to would-be fallacious reasoning, yet it isn't the reasoning any real scientist uses, and is therefore a smokescreen.  Naturally, the WUWT crowd has eaten it up without thinking twice.  The causative mechanism is the underlying radiative physics of how a CO2 molecule interacts with infrared light, and also a wide variety of indirect signatures of climate change induced by agents acting on the longwave part of the spectrum, such as stratospheric cooling or the radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere.   

Happer can't resist throwing in a few outdated one-liners about the Vikings in a "green" Greenland, how CO2 lags temperatures in ice cores, and other boring punchlines that most skeptics don't even bother with anymore.  He implies that Earth cooled by about 10 C during the Younger Dryas, but actually the YD was a time of relatively little global temperature change, even though a large area of the planet was actually being affected (see here).  There's a whole list of other quick talking points about climategate, the hockey stick, etc that readers here will be well familiar with.  What is most surprising to me is that a distinguished physicist apparently has no original thoughts on the matter.

Happer's reasoning is well out of line throughout his entire article, yet that doesn't stop a Princeton physicist from declaring with such confidence that this CO2-induced global warming thing is all a sham.  Throughout the article he shows his unambiguous mission to confuse the reader, and his own ignorance concerning the physics of climate. He makes a number of serious accusations against a very large community, something which if unfounded (as it is surely is) should ruin the reputation of any serious scientist.  Indeed, for me at least, it has.  It is possible his own area of research is so far removed from climate that none of his colleagues will bother to care.

In short, even Princeton can make mistakes in who they decide should represent their department.

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 116:

  1. Based on the way he taught me undergrad quantum mechanics 30 years ago, my default explanation is that he is entirely too sure of his own abilities and too lazy to look up the actual articles. (His idea of helping us with a problem set during office hours once took the form of quickly teaching us the variational method, which was introduced about 3 weeks later in the syllabus. That takes some serious not-caring.) Some of the above comments do seem to point to the option of more deliberate misrepresentation, but I remain open to the possibility of blinding hubris.
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  2. "(DB) Interested in buying a bridge?" :-) I guess we should leave that to individuals to judge. Going further might breach the "no stalking" guide in Comments Policy.
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  3. Here's another point-if, as Jay Contends, Happer is a "genuine environmentalist" then he'd be arguing for a significantly reduced consumption of fossil fuels anyway. After all, extraction of coal & oil do *enormous* damage to the air, waterways & soil-not to mention oceans in some cases. Burning of petroleum generates particulate emissions, benzene, nitrogen dioxide & a number of other chemicals which contribute to photochemical smog & acid rain. Burning of coal produces radon, cadmium, mercury & particulate emissions-& generates millions of tonnes of fly-ash waste that needs to be disposed of. In some cases, it also contributes to acid rain & photochemical smog too. So even on the most basic environmental grounds-& even if AGW were somehow disproved tomorrow-it's severely unwise to go on consuming a resource that is so clearly harmful to both our environment & our health.
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  4. Marcus #53, that is an excellent point. First off, according to this paper describing an 11-year study (http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=119583&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click) in the real world plants to not absorb the amount of excess CO2 predicted by models. Even more critically, the idea that CO2 is good for plants ignores the effects of the other greenhouse gases and hydrocarbons that are released during the same process of fuel combustion. The ozone that results is well-known to be toxic to all forms of life. Humans suffer asthma, emphysema, allergies, cancer, and other maladies, all epidemics. Exposure to ozone stunts the growth of trees and annual crops and reduces the quality of fodder, seeds, nuts and fruits. In a world beset with food shortages from extreme, unprecedented weather events due to climate change, such as the floods, droughts and wildfires plaguing several continents, and a reduction in fish stocks from polluted, acidifying seas, the only sane collective action would be drastic energy conservation on an emergency basis while we transition to clean sources.
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  5. Marcus - in the same spirit as using "skeptic" to mean someone who isn't skeptical, and "liberal" to mean Tony Abbott, "genuine environmentalist" has come to mean those who have absolutely no interest at all in protecting and conserving the world we live in.
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  6. witsendnj: the deniers leave a crucial bit of the story out when they talk about CO2 being good for plants - the phrase "all other conditions being equal" i.e. "Increase CO2 leads to increased plant growth and crop yield, all other conditions being equal" In other words: for increased CO2 to be beneficial, the plants must have adequate supplies of water and soil nutrients. As regular readers of this site will already know, predicted impacts of increased CO2 in the atmosphere mean that plants in many areas will almost certainly not have adequate supplies of water & soil nutrients. I largely agree with your last paragraph. The funny thing, though, is that drastic energy conservation may actually result in little or no impact to the economy. Here's an opinion from industry: “It’s thousand-dollar bills lying on the ground. People just need to bend over and pick them up,” said Eric Spiegel, president and CEO of Siemens Corp., the U.S. arm of the Munich-based conglomerate.
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  7. You can find a copy of Happer's US Senate Testimony from 2010 here: http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/reprint/happer_senate_testimony.html another one of those merchant of doubt organizations. What I've also seen, and can't find right now is Happer making disparaging remarks about doing DOE reviews of the climate scientists. I suspect they knew they were in front of a hostile audience with him. I'd also raise this question about biological sinks for CO2. If CO2 were generally the limiting nutrient for plants, then wouldn't you expect that despite human CO2 emissions, that the system wouldn't have budged much from pre-industrial times? Plants should have sopped up every ppm. Take this forward: How high does CO2 have to go before the biological sinks equilibrate with our **present** level of CO2 emission from fossil fuels? How useful overall are these two thought experiments in understand what bogus notion is being advanced in terms of increased plant growth2?
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  8. I have a PhD, but I'm not comfortable disclosing anything about it. All the same, I really, really, really want all of you to know that I have one. OK. Now that everyone knows I have a PhD of some sort -- according to me -- I can say whatever I want without having to provide evidence for it, right? After all, I'm simply citing facts known to myself as an expert, right? That's how it works, isn't it?
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  9. Rob and Les, That is intriguing about Happer's involvement with JASON. Interestingly, Donald Rapp was also involved with JASON and has been up to similar shenanigans. I wonder whether or not Rapp and Happer are pals? It would explain a lot and would not reflect well on Happer, because Rapp lifted swaths of text from the Wegman report. DeepClimate has the juicy details. It seems that Happer joins Lindzen in abusing his academic credentials and affiliations with ivy league universities.
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  10. @58 Phila Sorry no, it's the other way around. If you have a PhD, you have to back up your claims with either experimental evidence or published literature. If you can't, then your colleagues do not respect you, and value your comments somewhere below those of taxi-drivers. Speaking of published literature, i did a search for publications by Cadbury, Jay on the ISI Web of Knowledge. I found none, only a James Cadbury: an English ecologist who retired in the 1990s. Odd that someone with a PhD has no publications.
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  11. Happer certainly fits the profile of a professor who'se "gone emeritus". He seems to be in his 70s, talking about a field outside of the area of his professional expertise (optics - seemingly on small scale stuff of the type that's useful in medical imaging.
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  12. Hi Jay, how about something simple from the beginning of Happer's article? He writes of the beneficial role of CO2 in the atmosphere, and then states;
    Now the Environmental Protection Agency wants to regulate atmospheric CO2 as a “pollutant.”
    The EPA wants to regulate CO2 emitted from cars and industry, they're not trying to regulate the natural CO2 cycle. Happer's rhetoric here obscures the facts. Agree? If you take this up with Happer, let us know. I think he'd be most welcome to post here, if you'd care to send him the link.
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  13. Chemware "If you can't, then your colleagues do not respect you, and value your comments somewhere below those of taxi-drivers." Highly paid TV news anchormen and women have all appearances of respectability, spewing calculated half-truths they are given to read. The taxi driver, on the otherhand, may actually know the real story. So at the end of the day, arriving at the truth depends not on the speaker, but the listener. (nor the publisher, but the reader).
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  14. Here's another field in which Happer is an 'expert': How about the politics of science?. Now a book like this is hugely suspect. First and foremost you look at the Editor. Sociologist? Political Scientists (yes, I know, oxymoron)? Philosopher or Economist, even? No: A Biologist. The publisher - Oxford? I.B. Torus? Harvard? No: an NGO, the George C. Marshall Institute. So, the normal academic checks and balances that are normally found in the social sciences / humanities are absent. In in Happers chapter he focuses on about how he was sacked by Gore and how that's almost like being in the Soviet Union - a key MoD trope - but no historical context. That isn't research; it's opinion. The book isn't analysis, it's data.
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  15. "much of what they say on the internet is done precisely because it would never get accepted into a journal document." When a handful of men have the opportunity to decide what gets published and what doesn't get published, well, people will find a way to get their message out. But seeing as how Happer's post is an opinion piece and not a scientific thesis, don't you think your judging a bit too harshly? He is entitled to his opinion, much the same way you are. But 'they' use straw man tactics. But not you. 'They' don't get papers published. But you do. 'They' make accusations that are misleading. But you don't. You seem to be quick to judge a man over an opinion piece, rather than settle it with counter claims. Instead you criticize by saying, "uses a lot of words to say absolutely nothing", "throws in a few classical straw man attacks", "can't resist throwing in a few outdated one-liners", "Happer's reasoning is well out of line" But, I suppose if the IPCC bases their theories on falsifiability law, you can be afforded the same luxury. Good Day !
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    Moderator Response:

    Welcome to Skeptical Science! There is an immense amount of reference material discussed here and it can be a bit difficult at first to find an answer to your questions. That's why we recommend that Newcomers, Start Here and then learn The Big Picture.

    I also recommend watching this video on why CO2 is the biggest climate control knob in Earth's history.

    Further general questions can usually be be answered by first using the Search function in the upper left of every Skeptical Science page to see if there is already a post on it (odds are, there is). If you still have questions, use the Search function located in the upper left of every page here at Skeptical Science and post your question on the most pertinent thread.

    Remember to frame your questions in compliance with the Comments Policy and lastly, to use the Preview function below the comment box to ensure that any html tags you're using work properly.

    "When a handful of men have the opportunity to decide what gets published and what doesn't get published, well, people will find a way to get their message out."

    At Skeptical Science we focus on science-based dialogue, not conspiracy theories. Please do get back to us with more clarity regarding "theories on falsifiability law" Thanks!

  16. 65 - Climate4All Happer gave much the same 'evidence' to congress... actually the chairwoman though it was pretty funny; never the less that has impact somewhat above the normal level of 'opinion'. You will find SkS does provide counter claims. Finally, I have absolutely no idea what "theories on falsifiability law" means. However the IPCC has no theories. It's a panel which takes data, theories, responses etc. in and generates consensus reports. Still, I would really like to understand what " I suppose if the IPCC bases their theories on falsifiability law, you can be afforded the same luxury." actually means. Could you, maybe, rephrase that in proper English and elaborate a little?
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  17. Climate4All wrote: "He is entitled to his opinion" His own opinion yes. His own 'facts' no. Many of the things Happer said were demonstrably false. At which point it ceased to be an 'opinion piece' and became false propaganda.
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  18. What are Princeton's policies on making statements like these when using their name as authority? It is one thing for Happer to make this gish gallop of verifiable lies and unscientific disinformation when writing personally, but it is something else when writing in his professional capacity, or using his position at Princeton as 'authority'. Especially when he is not an actively publishing member of the field of science that he is dismissing and insulting. This 'false appeal to authority' is quite common among climate skeptics, where their apparent posession of a Ph.D. is misinterpreted by those who don't know better as a passport to understanding of every topic. I have a relevant Ph.D. to the subject here, highly respectable institution, have published etc., but it is immaterial to the content of what I have to say - that must be judged on content, not 'authority'. But crucially, I am extremely careful about the content of any statement when it concerns a field outwith my professional expertise. I won't for hypothetical example, tell medical researchers where to shove their vaccine research, and then use my qualifications to back it up! That would be dishonest, and is what Happer is doing here.
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  19. There seems to be a lot of talk about CO2 not being beneficial to plant growth. While some studies have shown that for certain plants under certain conditions, the added CO2 will not be beneficial, the overall pattern is one of increased plant growth. Plants growth is limited by whatever is in the shortest supply; in a desert, that is water, in rocky soil, it is nutrients, etc. The "all other conditions being equal" statement would mean in the case where all other factors are plentiful, and CO2 is the limiting factor. The example given was a greenhouse: the temperature is optimal, water is plentiful, and CO2 is pumped in to levels ~1000 ppm. These are all done to promote plant growth. To say that elevated CO2 levels does not promote plant growth is absurd. The few examples of plants which have adapted to lower levels of CO2 is akin to the camel in the desert. It can survive on short supplies of water, but additional water is not harmful. Since most predictions of global warming indicate increased precipitation, this is doubly beneficial to most plant life. Think prehistoric times when vegetation flourished under warmer temperatures, increased rainfall, and higher CO2.
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    Response:

    [DB] This has already been thoroughly discussed many times on other threads; as such, it is off-topic here.  Your comment belongs on the http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-is-plant-food-too-simple.html thread.  Anyone responding to this, do so their with a pointer back here.

  20. What I find remarkable is that even the smartest and most academic people who dispute global warming can *only* do so by being thoroughly dishonest. Happer does it, Muller does it, Lindzen does it, Christy does it, Carter does it... the list goes on. That tells me that there really isn't any plausible argument against the consensus view of the 97% of climate scientists who think anthropogenic global warming is real and dangerous, because if there was any science behind the deniers' arguments, they wouldn't need to rely on long-debunked lies and myths and misprepresentations and political attacks. I think we really need to find a way of taking these people to a court of law where the penalty for knowingly lying to the court is a prison sentence. They will be less inclined to be dishonest when they have a very personal and serious stake in telling the truth. Case in point: John Christy, who frequently appears on video rubbishing climate science and dismissing anthropogenic warming, but when in court had to agree that "most of the observed warming over the last fifty years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations". The judge in that case said: "There is widespread acceptance of the basic premises that underlie Hansen's testimony. Plaintiffs' own expert, Dr. Christy, agrees with the IPCC's assessment that in the light of new evidence and taking into account remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last fifty years is likely to have been due to the increase in GHG concentrations. Tr. vol. 14-A, 145:18-148:7 (Christy, May 4, 2007). Christy agrees that the increase in carbon dioxide is real and primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels, which changes the radiated balance of the atmosphere and has an impact on the planet's surface temperature toward a warming rate. Id. at 168:11-169:10." "Christy also agreed that climate is a nonlinear system, that is, that its responses to forcings may be disproportionate, and rapid changes would be more difficult for human beings and other species to adapt to than more gradual changes. Id. at 175:2-174:11. He further agreed with Hansen that the regulation's effect on radiative forcing will be proportional to the amount of emissions reductions, and that any level of emissions reductions will have at least some effect on the radiative forcing of the climate." "Christy criticized the Hadley and Canadian models, suggesting that they were extreme and were downscaled unreliably. Tr. vol. 14-A, 121:13-122:4 (Christy, May 4, 2007). Although Christy testified that he had used climate models, however, he did not claim to be an expert on climate modeling. Id. at 78:20-79:3. In fact, his view of the reliability of climate models does not fall within the mainstream of climate scientists; his view is that models are, in general, 'scientifically crude at best,' although they are used regularly by most climate scientists and he himself used the compiled results of a variety of climate models in preparing his report and testimony in this case." ------- Get these people in court where the threat of imprisonment will concentrate their minds and keep them honest.
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  21. "Falsifiability Rule : Science today recognizes that there is no way to prove the absolute truth of any hypothesis or model, since it is always possible that a different explanation might account for the same observations. In this sense, even the most well established physical laws are “conditional”. Hence, with scientific methodology it is never possible to prove conclusively that a hypothesis is true, it is only possible to prove that it is false." Thats straight from the I.P.C.C. Thats the IPCC claim. Its like playing cats and dogs. Catch me if you can. If the IPCC is saying their models are not reliable, and the only way to prove them wrong is proving their claims is false, that pretty much sums it all for CAGW believers. Correct? If a different method, other than the ones the IPCC uses, it's considered trash. Of course, it has to be. /sarc If any information , fact, or evidence provides a clear disagreement with IPCC methods,then their claims become false. While MSM continues doing what Chris Colose claims Happer is doing, we can continue on the merry-go-round of disinformation. But whose disinforming? Time will tell. End of class gentlemen, I prefer the next time you don't know something, go look it up, because taking information for granted, is a terrible way to believe.
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] I suggest you read about the idea of falsifiability; you will find it is not the IPCC's invention, but a basic component of modern scientific method. The strength of the IPCC's position is revealed by the fact that they are willing to make testable predictions that would allow their theory to be refuted. The skeptics on the other hand are not willing to do likewise. No scientific prediction regarding future events can be proven, why should the IPCCs projections be an exception? Please take time to familiarise yourself with the comments policy and dial back the tone of your posts.
  22. On a side note, Prof. Happer is chair of the board of directors at the George C. Marshall Institute.
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  23. #70: Strange post, Climate4All. The first paragraph is not an 'IPCC claim'. It's a fundamental principle of science. The IPCC position is based on over a century of physical data and thoroughly tested theory, as well as the models that are constantly verified against data. A different method / explanation may exist, but so far all methods that people have proposed have not survived contact with the data. If an alternate explanation comes along that successfully explains all the data, from the radiative physics of the CO2 molecule, through palaeoclimate to instrumental observations at multiple wavebands and layers in the atmosphere, the proposer of the alternate explanation will be lauded. Though given how well-tested the current theories are, the explanation is likely to have to be pretty exotic... There is plenty of information on the current science both at the IPCC website and in numerous excellent articles here, all supported by reference to the core peer-reviewed science. To turn your advice on yourself - go look the evidence up, from the many links here, or Spencer Weart's history of CO2, or from the IPCC reports. Avoid disinformation sites if you can, and look at the world with a truly sceptical eye, as climate scientists have done since Tyndall... a scientific one.
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  24. 71 C4All "If the IPCC is saying their models are not reliable, and the only way to prove them wrong is proving their claims is false, that pretty much sums it all for CAGW believers." Where do they say their models are "not reliable"? Models are what they are - approximations to reality (see this post. But, sure, if something can be proven false; it's false. Much like many of Happers claims. Be that as it may, what I asked was for you to explain this statement: "the IPCC bases their theories on falsifiability law" theories can be based on physics, chemistry etc. etc. the Rule (not law) you posted is a comment of methodology - of how one tests statements; not how theories are developed. Also you said "you can be afforded the same luxury" - what does that mean? I would prefer, next time you try to answer a question.. that you answer it.
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  25. Climate4All@71: The 'falsifiability rule' you are talking about is a part of Popper's model of the scientific method. But only a part of it. It only makes sense if you include the rest of the model. Taking just falsifiability, then all science consists of is a heap of discarded (falsified) theories, and another heap of theories which have not yet been falsified. The second heap includes all sorts of things which we treat as foundational: gravity, thermodynamics, electromagnetism and so on. And also some theories which we think are probably garbage too, but can't prove it yet. And yet we could not have built a technological society, much less the internet without many of these theories. Clearly there is something more to science than falsification. If you read a little more of Popper's work, or an introductory text on philosophy of science, then you may find out what that is.
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  26. Indeed, a bizarre post, climate4all. In addition to the misrepresentations of the IPCC position, it contains an error in logic: "If any information , fact, or evidence provides a clear disagreement with IPCC methods,then their claims become false." Beyond the redundancy of "information, fact, or evidence," a single piece of evidence will never render an entire IPCC report false. I take that back: if increased atmospheric GHGs were found not to delay OLR, then that might do it. Do you believe this to be true--that GHGs do not delay OLR? If so, give the evidence as soon as possible (on the appropriate thread), and don't point to other people who say it: I like it when belief has a clear connection to evidence.
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  27. @ "Moderator Response: Welcome to Skeptical Science! There is an immense amount of reference material discussed here and it can be a bit difficult at first to find an answer to your questions. That's why we recommend that Newcomers, Start Here and then learn The Big Picture." I think I am a little beyond needing an education from this site or any other that you might wish to lead me to. I spent the greater portion of my life reading scientific journals and facts. Gullibility is a valueless trait. @73 Fundamental principle? If its so basic, then why did the IPCC include it in their report if its so fundamental. The rule was introduced, with their language, to describe their work. Thats like Einstein having to define whole numbers before he can write about General Relativity. Didn't happen. Amazing. @74 The quote in question, was written by the IPCC, and used in their own technical paper to describe their work. It's their summation of their models and their theories. The IPCC said. "even the most well established physical laws are “conditional” Their laws. Not someone else's. Theirs. It's the IPCC's "disclaimer". Yet somehow, climate change science is different than any other science. Any other science in the known Universe can be challenged, just not Climate Science. No no no. Can't do that. It's a forgone conclusion. Their is no debate. If I don't drink from your koolaid, I am a heretic, shill, troll, idiot. Right? I can't have anything valuable to add to the discussion. Because I am a skeptic. No one here wishes to discuss what the IPCC wrote, but everyone will gladly point me somewhere to 'help' me. I simply stated that the author of this post judged one writer for what some consider all authors do regarding climate change. Point finger here. Point finger there. Fight . Fight. Fight. Name call. Make fun of. Ad nauseam. You're right. Their wrong. Thats why I brought the quote up. The IPCC states that their models may in fact, not be reliable or accurate. Further study must be undertaken. Isn't that how almost every scientific journal concludes. But not climate science. No sir re Bob. Case closed. No debate. End of discussion. Are any of you here, willing to admit, that some of the science provided by the IPCC is flawed? Are any of you willing to admit that we don't know everything about what drives climate? If none of you can honestly answer those questions.... Who's in denial.
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    Response:

    [DB]Hmm, where to start?

    "I think I am a little beyond needing an education from this site or any other that you might wish to lead me to."

    Your comment as constructed belies that.

    "I spent the greater portion of my life reading scientific journals and facts."

    And who here hasn't?

    "Gullibility is a valueless trait."

    So is being antisocial with delusions of grandeur

    Spare us the ideology, tone and rhetoric, please.  It makes you sound shrill and pompous, which I'm sure you are not in your personal life.

    The reason I did the usual SkS Miranda Rights (the standard meet & greet message) was so you couldn't plead ignorance of the Comments Policy.  Participation in this forum is a privilege, not a right.  Accordingly, that privilege can be rescinded if participants refuse to comply with the Comment Policy.  Everyone here receives moderation, including the moderators (I've lost count of the number of my own comments I've had to delete, upon reflection).

    So the choice is yours: Comply and Participate, or find a different venue more to your tastes.

    (Quotes from Colossus: The Forbin Project)

  28. "If its so basic, then why did the IPCC include it in their report" Because the report was being written for non-scientists and thus needed to explain some basic scientific principles. "The IPCC said. "even the most well established physical laws are “conditional” Their laws. Not someone else's." Actually, they are here referring to ALL scientific 'laws'... as in, Newton's Laws of Motion, the Laws of Thermodynamics, et cetera. "Yet somehow, climate change science is different than any other science. Any other science in the known Universe can be challenged, just not Climate Science." Nothing in the IPCC report says that climate change science is different or unquestionably true. Indeed, the very passage on falsifiability which you quoted states the exact opposite. "Are any of you here, willing to admit, that some of the science provided by the IPCC is flawed?" Sure. The Himalayan glacier melt period is a proven example. Likewise, the different estimates of sensitivity obviously cannot ALL be precisely correct. "Are any of you willing to admit that we don't know everything about what drives climate?" Again, obviously. "Who's in denial." That'd apparently be you if you thought any of the above was controversial.
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  29. 77 - so, you refuse to answer my questions or can't?
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  30. The quote in question, was written by the IPCC, and used in their own technical paper to describe their work. It's their summation of their models and their theories. The IPCC said. "even the most well established physical laws are “conditional”
    Yes. Absolutely. The same is true of all science. Including gravity. And yet, every time we build a bridge, in fact every time I walk across a bridge instead of just stepping out into thin air, I make some assumption that gravity is in some sense more than conditional.
    Yet somehow, climate change science is different than any other science. Any other science in the known Universe can be challenged, just not Climate Science.
    No, climate science can be challenged, like any other science. For an example which some of us have been discussing for a few days, see this draft paper by James Hansen, the hockey stick guy himself, in which he challenges some significant chunks of climate science. Specifically, he's arguing that one of the inputs to current climate models is wrong, and in parallel the responses of existing models to changes are wrong too. So climate science can be challenged. As can gravity. But the challenge must meet certain conditions to be regarded as credible. What conditions? Principally, the challenge must be consistent with existing observations. A new theory which says that if you drop an apple it will float upwards is not a credible challenge because it contradicts existing observations. A theory that says gravity behaves differently close to the surface of a black hole may be credible, if it doesn't significantly change the way apples fall on earth. Hansen's challenge is credible, because he shows how it fits with existing observations. Happer's is not, because it does not fit with existing observations. (That's a gross oversimplification. But I'm trying to keep it simple.)
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  31. C4A: "I think I am a little beyond needing an education from this site or any other that you might wish to lead me to." Wow. What, then, are you doing here? You obviously want a response. Is this simply a sign that you are unwilling to engage in a learning community? If so, why should people here waste time on response? "Gullibility is a valueless trait." Pithy, pithy. The IPCC said. "even the most well established physical laws are “conditional” Beyond the punctuation problems, what the IPCC says should be true for any definition of science. Can you find me absolute truth? Give it up. I hunger for it. "Their laws. Not someone else's. Theirs. It's the IPCC's 'disclaimer'." Uhhh . . . I don't think you've provided evidence that the IPCC says that only "their" laws are . . . are what? Conditional? Still not sure what you're saying here. "Are any of you here, willing to admit, that some of the science provided by the IPCC is flawed?" What does that even mean? The science has not been provided by the IPCC. It has been collected and analyzed by the IPCC. The science has been done by thousands of researchers for, well, for about 130 years. I can't point to anything "flawed." I can point to various model outcomes that I agree with more and (not "or") less. Remember: this is all theory based on a basic physical model (a series of laws) and observation. Find me an alternative that matches the physics and takes into account the massive collection of observational data, or find the flaws in the physics. Or stop flapping your lips one line (and a space) at a time. "Are any of you willing to admit that we don't know everything about what drives climate?" If anyone here answers "no, we know everything!" they need to be banned. "If none of you can honestly answer those questions...." Again, clean up the logic. Everyone here can honestly answer any of these questions. They are capable. You should have said, "Answer these questions, please, or I will assume you cannot, and I will take that as a sign of your guilt and complicity with the great hoax known as AGW . . . or CAGW . . . or whatever."
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  32. Climate4you @71, I must congratulate you for your astute reading skills and comprehensive knowledge. After all, mere peons like me, when we read "Science today recognizes that there is no way to prove the absolute truth of any hypothesis or model" read that as indicating something about science today, and that what it indicates is something about all scientific theories and models, ie, that their absolute truth cannot be proved. Your astute reading has shown however that it really means:
    "[Climate] Science today recognizes that there is no way to prove the absolute truth of any hypothesis or model [of climate science, which distinguishes climate science from all other sciences]."
    Likewise, naively I would interpret. "In this sense, even the most well established physical laws are “conditional”." as discussing all well established physical laws, such as General and Special relativity, QCD, Maxwell's equations, and so on. Your brilliant reading shows it really meant:
    "In this sense, even the most well established physical laws [of climate, but not of any other science] are “conditional”."
    Can you please teach me how you so brilliantly read whatever you like between the lines to develop such patent strawmen so brilliant an analysis. It is, of course, self evident that you have nothing to learn from Skeptical Science for I have no doubt you have applied the same brilliant reading strategy you have here applied to the falsifiability law to any number of scientific papers to derive from them ideas conforming to your preconceptions make a brilliant analysis. Perhaps, in addition to your brilliant analyses of scientific papers, you could provide an analysis of Popper's Logic of Scientific Discovery, and how Popper was only preparing the ground work of the UN conspiracy of world government through the IPCC way back in 1959 when he first published his theory of falsifiability in English.
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  33. @Climate4All- One scarcely knows where to start with your post. The critque of Happer directly targets a series of false statement he made about AGW. So are you going to make any kind of factual challenge to the science....or is this all about how things "sound" to you?
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  34. Why is "Climate4all" being allowed to troll this site and make off-topic comments and 'attacks' on the IPCC? They were provided with some guidance and tips and have ignored that. This post/thread is about Happer, we know exactly why Climate4all is doing this....while everyone is trying to (futilely) reason with a D-K, the heat is taken off Happer.
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  35. I agree with Albatross@84. C4A's rants is not relevant to the topic of the post. Perhaps SkS should create a Conspiracy Theory/Random Rant article so there would be place for cranks to vent their collective spleen. It would be lively and fun to read!
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    Response:

    [DB] Just came on shift (was out drinking yesterday's per diem), sorry.  Yes, we are being "trolled".  If it persists, I can and will delete the troll portion of this thread, but multiple commentator's comments will then have to go as well.

  36. 85/Mods Feel free to delete mine. In truth I'm not all that interested in the andwers to my questions. It was more a matter of testing the quality than trying to learn something interesting. And anyway I have the answer; he's a bargain basement troll. It's a sorry state where SkS can't attract better than that :(
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    Response:

    [DB] You know we will.

  37. Well, getting back to Happer... You'd think someone at the faculty club would say something to him about all this.
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  38. Dave123... Based on his wiki page saying he got his PhD in 1964 I would venture to guess Happer is in his late 70's. I think he's at that stage in his career where he doesn't care. This is political for him, just like Fred Singer and other former JASON's. Literally, I think for these guys ideology trump facts. You know that Happer understands far more about global warming that this laundry list of denier points suggests. He's not in this to advance the public knowledge of science. His piece is designed to advance an ideology. Any colleague pointing out his errors would likely get a "talk to the hand" type response (it would fall on deaf ears).
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  39. Climate4all: "IPCC bases their theories" They don't have theories. The IPCC just collates the science from numerous scientists. It wouldn't matter if the IPCC existed or not the science and research would be the same.
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  40. Climate4all: "Any other science in the known Universe can be challenged, just not Climate Science." Currently 'science' only exists on Earth, so to include unknown species elsewhere, is misleading and an exaggeration. The laws of physics exist outside the human mind, but they are only relevant once a life form understands them, currently we only know that to be the case on Earth.
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  41. 87 Dave123 By and large, academic faculties don't work like that. Even over and above tenure and academic freedom; so long as one has prestige, bring in cash, do your teaching etc. you'll get on fine. And in that respect I'm fine about Happer and his like; accusations bad scholarship and conflict are standard fair in universities. What they do is not an issue of faculty discipline. Not at all. Happer was a high-flyer, did good physics etc. He may well be doing terrible and quite sad damage to that legacy - along with those highlighted by Rob Honeycutt - but that's his choice; no doubt he knows his personal priorities.
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  42. Depends on the faculty club I suppose. My whimsy was more social than political. But at the risk of saying to much about myself, I still remember my shock at learning the my retiring undergrad prof of P.Chem. was a serious believer in the lost continents of Atlantis and Mu. But overall, he's in a position where no one can reasonably induce him to respond in a factual fashion.
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  43. Mods, you might expand the comments policy or create an article (with a link above the comment box) that points out what happens when a Gish or a completely-unevidenced-but-soooo-obvious-you-idiots-absolute-Truth-,-pardon-me-,-TRUTH appears. I say this knowing full well how DB loves to repeat/copy "Welcome to Skeptical Science . . ." It might be good to work through a few example posts to define "quality" as SkS sees it.
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    Response:

    [DB] I do not love to type it, which is why I cut & paste it. ;)

    I refer to it as the reading of one's SkS Miranda rights...

  44. You know, Dave, they found Atlantis, although it turns out it wasn't a continent but was, rather, sort of incontinent. On Mu, there was a spelling error. Everyone thought it was "continent," but it was really supposed to be "content"--the Lost Content of Mu. Mu is an obscure continental spelling of "Moo," which of course is a reference to cows. The lost content of cows: milk. Every morning when you eat your continental breakfast, choose the lost content of Mu. Got Mu? You might even read this before it gets deleted.
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  45. Skywatcher (68) asks: "What are Princeton's policies on making statements like these when using their name as authority? It is one thing for Happer to make this gish gallop of verifiable lies and unscientific disinformation when writing personally, but it is something else when writing in his professional capacity, or using his position at Princeton as 'authority'. Especially when he is not an actively publishing member of the field of science that he is dismissing and insulting" Like the author of the post we're all commenting on, you seem not to understand how universities work. Happer is a member of the Princeton faculty. He's entitled to identify himself as such, even when saying stupid things. Princeton doesn't, and really can't, have a "policy" preventing him from doing so. Universities aren't like corporations, where you're required to vet public statements before making them. And I happen to know that colleagues HAVE confronted him on his nonsense. It clearly hasn't had any effect.
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  46. I think Happer is pretty qualified to speak on climate science considering he has studied the greenhouse effect intimately and the radiative chemistry of the physics aspect. I don't know if he is qualified to speak about weather patterns, sea level or other possible effects of climate change but since he is claiming that the forcing of co2 is weak, that leads him to claim that the possibility of extreme weather will be weaker than anticipated.
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  47. Mike @ 95... Princeton can't screen how a tenured professor chooses to represent his credentials but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts there are some meetings going on at Princeton following Happer's piece that are very close to coming to fisticuffs. Happer has clearly chosen to make a public and highly politicized statement on behalf of the George C Marshall Institute BUT chosen to identify himself using his Princeton credentials (and curiously omitting his GMI connection). Princeton would have every right to be utterly furious about this kind of activity. It'll be curious to see if the university responds publicly in some manner.
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  48. Dr. Jay Cadbury, Ph.D. @96 The forcing effect of CO2 is different from the radiative effect. If Happer wants to play, the same rules apply to him as everyone else. Do the math. The radiative calculations are out there. Tell us why they're wrong. Qualifications don't matter if people don't put the skills they learned to use. Since you know him Jay, does this guy EVER get in an equal-to-equal discussion with anyone on this, or is he episystemically closed? I know some senior profs get that way. But I look at it this way: Earning a Ph.D. did not grant me the privilege of opining and it being respected because I had a Ph.D. It was a lifetime sentence to proving what I said was true. The Ph.D. part means people expect me ( and you and everyone else with a Ph.D.) to be able to do it. Getting tenure or a named chair at a University only raises that expectation. Happer has the ability to do the math, to challenge whatever he wants and instead he's quoting the classics in polemical way. Happer in my view is letting down the academic tradition by his fact-free opining. One last point: when you say- 'leads him to claim the possibility of extreme weather will be weaker than anticipated"...are you attempting to move the goal posts here? That is not the least of Happer's positions.
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  49. Jay... You also might note that, as best as I can tell, Happer was on the steering committee as a JASON that produced a report on greenhouse gases in 1990. Over 20 years ago. That wouldn't make him an expert then or now.
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    Response:

    [DB] Fixed text.

  50. Rob@97 says: "Mike @ 95... Princeton can't screen how a tenured professor chooses to represent his credentials but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts there are some meetings going on at Princeton following Happer's piece that are very close to coming to fisticuffs. Happer has clearly chosen to make a public and highly politicized statement on behalf of the George C Marshall Institute BUT chosen to identify himself using his Princeton credentials (and curiously omitting his GMI connection). Princeton would have every right to be utterly furious about this kind of activity. It'll be curious to see if the university responds publicly in some manner." It won't. Happer's statements are the equivalent of someone who keeps passing gas at a party. It's embarrassing, and you'd be happier if they left, but you just politely ignore it. Happer's Princeton credentials are genuine, and he has every right to use them, even though it makes sensible people cringe. Really, you might as well give up on this, unless you like banging your head against a wall.
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