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The nature of authority

Posted on 23 July 2010 by gpwayne

Guest post by Graham Wayne

In a recent post, John Cook wrote:

"When it comes to complex science, whether it be climate science or heart surgery or how a plane manages to stay up in the air, we defer to the experts who do this stuff for a living. Why? Because they know every nook and cranny of their area of expertise.

Well, I think there is another reason why we should defer to the experts, but we have to be clear about what that deference entails, for words can be misleading. Sometimes, the dual nature of a word leads us to confuse one thing with another. Consider the word authority, for example.

I started out as a musician. I remember meeting plenty of older players, and they would tell me things from time to time. They didn’t equivocate, nor did they leave any room for doubt in the way they put things. Frankly, they sounded just like my dad, and equally certain. Since he was usually wrong, I assumed these musicians were simply as dogmatic as my old man, and probably talking as much bollocks as he did. ‘Don’t tell me what to do’ I would say, mostly to myself. As far as I was concerned, what they knew was like what my father thought he knew – assumptions, dogma, convention. What right did they have to insist certain things were a particular way, and had to be? I was young, ready to rebel, to change things. The world didn’t have to be like they said, like my father said. I could reshape the world in my own image. I acknowledged no authority but my own, and anyone who told me what to do or how to do it could sod off.

Fast forward 20 years. I’m talking to some young musician, and I have that self-conscious experience of listening to myself, and what I’m saying. And bugger me if I don’t sound just like them, just like my dad. What on earth has happened? How did I become so bloody sure of myself?

The answer is that I did the work. In those intervening years, I paid my dues (rather over-paid, I suspect, due to a certain intransigence). I gained experience, I practiced, I learned from mistakes, I worked hard, and with each passing year my knowledge was improved by my education. Out of these experiences, I gained something unexpected: authority over the subject matter I had spent so much time studying. There are rules, and you cannot break them except at your cost (and the cost of your audience). These standards must be met, else you are doomed to be second-rate.

There are, it turns out, inviolable precepts. If you aspire to excellence and consistency, you are obliged to both acknowledge and obey the precepts that apply. Those who think they can get away with it, take a shortcut, cheat a little here and there; they always discover the same thing – exactly as I did. You can’t fool your audience, not for a minute, and it is equally hard to fool yourself. The work must be done and the dues paid, no matter what discipline you seek to acquire or what reasons you have for doing so. Success is built on the foundations of discipline and experience; once you have these attributes, there is nothing that can undermine them because you know they are not arbitrary, they are not personal. I know now, from discussion and experience, that all the people I admire have learned the same thing, and applied that knowledge uncompromisingly. They respect the rules of engagement and obey them, because they are not optional and you ignore them at your great peril.

So, in this personal example, we can use a synonym for authority: we can call it mastery. In art, in science, in business; in any sphere, if you do the work – all of it – and do it diligently, you gain mastery over your subject. Consequently, when I speak about playing or performing, I am not equivocal – I’m telling it like it is. I’ve had students who argued with me, but they lost every argument, because I had paid dear for my knowledge, as did all my peers, and what I gained was a profound certainty in that which I can be certain about, because this kind of authority is tested under fire - every single time we enter the fray. Since what I learned never let me down – not ever – it becomes more than a theory (and when I ignored the rules, I always got my arse kicked). It becomes like the rules of physics, unbending and subject to no negotiation whatever. When I talk about the knowledge I have gained from such effort and discipline, I may end up sounding like my dad, but it turns out he knew a thing or two after all.

***

The other kind of authority is the kind that children resent when they are told to go to bed or wash behind their ears. It is the arbitrary authority of those bigger than us, stronger than us, richer than us, more powerful than us. Teachers deploy this authority. So do bosses, policemen, higher ranks in military establishments; anyone whose position in the pecking order gives them the notion they have the right to tell us what to do. Sometimes, we work for a boss who is smart, so perhaps we don’t mind him or her telling us what to do (and the wages generally provide sufficient leverage to mute our dissent).

What we resent is the arbitrary notion that underlies this authority. Who are these people? How do they assume they are somehow better than us, when they offer nothing more than a bribe or a cuff round the ear? That isn’t authority, it is bullying. Isn’t it? Taking advantage, in other words; getting us to comply with their wishes whether we like it or not, making us do what they want just because they say so. Just like scientists and their bloody climate change theories, right? Who gave them the authority to tell us what to do?

Well, nobody gave them authority. They earned it, and it isn’t authority over us, it is authority over their subject matter. Scientists have to struggle up a learning curve so steep it is beyond the comprehension of most lay people. To start with – before they can lay a hand on a test tube or a microscope – they must learn everything that has gone before. This can take a decade or more, and the rewards are not only paltry, but often unreliable, since many will not ever make the grade or the salary commensurate with all that work they put in.

After what we might call a very long spell in boot camp, after they have negotiated the training courses comprising several centuries of highly detailed work; only then may the fledgling scientist stand upright on the shoulders of the giants who preceded them, and take a look around them. Only then may they start to work on a theory of their own, or collaborate with others whose theories merit investigation. Even to call yourself a research scientist, it is necessary to gain that mastery, that authority, that uncompromising discipline that is defined by the scientific method. And some of these scientists are studying climate change.

————————–

Scientific authority should not be confused with the authority of parents, or teachers, bosses or politicians. I am constantly amazed at the way lay people dispute science, by attributing to it some arbitrary notion of authority. When all other forms of authority seem to be arbitrary, perhaps it is understandable that, when science speaks with an authoritative voice, it seems equally subjective or capricious. When hierarchical authority is exercised in the pursuit of an agenda – political, legal, caring, educative or whatever – its aims may be equivocal, self-serving or arbitrary, where a different aim or agenda would be equally valid.

Science isn’t like that: it tests what it find ruthlessly and repeatedly, for there is only one right answer to any scientific problem, only one theory that is wholly correct. It is often overlooked that scientists cannot afford to promote myths, or self-serving results. Scientific knowledge is a hierarchy too, where the last paper on a subject becomes part of the next paper, through the process of citation. Nobody wants to do all the work all over again – reinventing the wheel – so all scientists have a vested interest in making sure all the work that is incorporated into the body of science is scrupulously accurate and solid, because they may well base their next research project on the same work, the same given, the same method. Bad science puts all scientists at risk, which is one reason why all scientists are so keen to root it out.

When science speaks with authority, we should respect it, not resent it. And we should not be afraid to accept that there are people who are smarter than we are. One common tone I find in discussions about science is generated by a strange notion of equality, a rather topical political trope where all people are rendered so damn equal there isn’t any individuality left. There are a lot of people smarter than me, and it does not demean me to recognize this, or acknowledge them and their achievements. Of all the branches of human endeavor, science is one of the most intellectually demanding and difficult. What these people do astounds and humbles me. That they are cleverer than me at science does not make me less important as a human being. It does remind me that self-importance is a vice we can ill afford, especially when we try to ignore those who speak with genuine authority.

Check out more Graham Wayne action at gpwayne.wordpress.com.

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Comments 151 to 170 out of 170:

  1. Thanks for the reply Ned. Here's a couple of items, that led me to question the Stefan Boltzmann Law and Constant "1)Published online on May 24, 2010, the study argues that the flaw has always lain in Stefan-Boltzmann's equations. The long-trusted formula has been used by climatologists without question - until now. The researchers report that the numbers used in those equations are the “first assumption that climate science makes when predicting the Earth's temperature.” NASA Abandoned Flawed Climate Calculations in 1960’s Read more at Suite101: Apollo Mission: A Giant Leap Contradicting Greenhouse Gas Theory http://climatology.suite101.com/article.cfm/apollo-mission-a-giant-leap-to-discredit-greenhouse-gas-theory#ixzz0uoPWUQBV 2)Teaching Labs...dept of Physics and astronomy...Dartmouth College The Stefan-Boltzmann law states that for a blackbody the exponent should be 4. The student sees that for low temperatures the exponent is as low as 2.5 and for higher temperatures (approximately 1800K) the exponent lies in the range of 3.6-3.9. What I'm after is examples, and confirmation, of S-B at temperatures in earthly materials in the range of -40to100 degC as the titles of those two papers would suggest. 1)Deviations from the S-B Law at low temperatures, by HP Baltes,Universtat Berlin cost$34. 2)A Radiometric Determination of the S-B Constant and Thermodynamic Temperatures between -40degC and 100degC, Quinn and Martin, Nat Phys Lab, Teddington , Middlesex.Cost unknown and don't care as I ain't paying. Most of the information concerns incandescent filaments of 1000degC or other such unworldly situations. It looks as though there is little wrong with SB at earthly temperatures. The problems seem to come with assumptions built into application in the real world, such as happened on the moon.... and this method for deriving radiative flux arriving at the earth's surface. "The earth absorbs radiation as a disc...pi.r^2 but radiates it as a sphere....4.pi.r^2.....so just divide the incoming flux by 4". Yet the area irradiated is 2.pi.r^2.Is that a reasonable assumption? Maybe to a physicist, but not to a layman. And the sphere should be rotating. What effect would that have? Has anyone checked this out? Does theory match practice? Sorry for taking up space in exploring those fundamentals. Maybe there should be a "dummies section".I just don't see how one can form a reasonable opinion of AGW, without checking on the fundamental physics first......the actual measured results , here on Earth and not an extrapolation (which may or may not be accurate) from theory and highly controlled and unusual situations ie incandescent tungsten filaments, in the laboratory.
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  2. AWoL, let's see. In no particular order: "The earth absorbs radiation as a disc...pi.r^2 but radiates it as a sphere....4.pi.r^2.....so just divide the incoming flux by 4". Yet the area irradiated is 2.pi.r^2.Is that a reasonable assumption? Maybe to a physicist, but not to a layman. Imagine inserting a very large piece of paper in front of the earth (perpendicular to the sun's rays). You'd see a very bright circle, with roughly 1360 watts/m2 of solar irradiance shining on the paper. Now take away the paper. The same total number of watts are shining on the Earth ... but the surface of the Earth is curved, so they're spread out over a larger area (an entire hemisphere). So yes, the quote you cite is correct. The Earth emits radiation from its entire spherical surface (area = 4 pi r^2). It receives solar insolation from a cross-sectional area that is a circle (area = pi r ^2) though it's spread out over a half-sphere. For a planet in radiative balance, its radiant exitance would have to be 1/4 as many W/m2 as whatever the solar constant is at its orbital distance. Another comment from AWoL: It looks as though there is little wrong with SB at earthly temperatures. The problems seem to come with assumptions built into application in the real world, such as happened on the moon.... There isn't really anything wrong with S-B, but you do need to apply it in a properly characterized system. That means not just dealing with the spectral emissivity of the object being modeled, but with its thermal conductance etc. If you're interested in the Moon case, you might want to check out this nice explanation over at Science of Doom: Lunar Madness and Physics Basics The article you cite at climatology.suite101.com is actually what provoked the guy at SoD to put that together. Without trying to be rude, I would just say that the original source is a bit of a mess. For what it's worth, I use thermal scanners and thermal radiometers from time to time in my work. There is lots and lots and lots of science and engineering that involves using thermal remote sensing systems to measure the temperature of normal earth surface features. There are minor sources of error, like in everything. But there's not some massive bias, whereby you're flying over the Pacific and your thermal radiometer says the sea surface temperature is 80 C while a buoy down on the surface reports a more reasonable 14 C. If there were huge problems with S-B people would have discovered them long ago. Back to AWoL: Sorry for taking up space in exploring those fundamentals. Maybe there should be a "dummies section".I just don't see how one can form a reasonable opinion of AGW, without checking on the fundamental physics first......the actual measured results , here on Earth No problem. One nice thing about sites like this (and Science of Doom) is that we can answer each other's "dummy" questions and learn from others. However, I'd just be a bit careful about the "wanting to check on everything" thing. It's an admirable attitude, and useful in many ways. There is, however, a danger that one will assume that because I don't understand something it must be wrong. Now, I'm not a marine geochemist. If I were to start looking into the details of the air/sea CO2 flux, and I thought I'd discovered a problem, a certain amount of humility would be in order. It's highly unlikely that I, an amateur, have discovered some great flaw that's unknown to Taro Takahashi, Wally Broecker, etc. So I should probably proceed cautiously rather than leaping to the conclusion "Aha! I've just disproved all of marine geochemistry!" People who don't get that tend to veer off into Dunning-Kruger.
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  3. AWoL at 01:20 AM on 28 July, 2010: "Maybe there should be a 'dummies section'." I kind of agree here... I've had a lot of discussions about climate on Dutch forums and although I always try to make things as simple as possible, there's usually a "Ja, het is nu eenmaal een erg gecompliceerde materie" somewhere. (The last two words mean "complicated matter", as you might have already guessed.) "Why is CO2 a greenhouse gas?" "Because it does this-and-that." "Why does it do this and that?" "Um, how well versed are you in quantum mechanics?" "So you're going to use fake science talk now? Well, that proves to me that CO2 isn't a greenhouse gas and AGW isn't real!" And so on. (I wish I was making this up, but unfortunately, I'm not.) So a Climate Change For Dummies Who'll Use Every Excuse To Stay As Uninformed As Possible would sometimes be very handy indeed!
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  4. I have to admit that while I like the idea of the "Dummies" books, the title has always bugged me (something about catering to people's poor self-image and/or anti-intellectualism?) Maybe I should start my own publishing company for books called "___________ for basically intelligent people who happen not to have learned a lot about whatever-it-is yet". Come to think of it, there's probably a reason that I've never gotten rich off of books.
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  5. Hmmm. It looks like there is a gridded precipitation data set here. That might be worth checking out. The paper describing it (Huffman et al. 2009) does calculate trends (1979-present) for the tropics, although not separately for the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere tropics. For the whole 25N to 25S band, they show a slight increase in precip 1979-present over ocean. Over land, there's a slight decrease in precip, but it looks like it may be an artifact of the data sources, and it reverses after 1988.
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  6. #149 Ned at 00:21 AM on 28 July, 2010 Provided of course that illogical and unfriendly interpretations are preferred to simple and straightforward ones! OK, you have won. I went into the pains of calculating annual average precipitation for all recently available GHCN stations between the equator and 20 N. It looks like this: There are 229 GHCN stations in this latitudal stripe with some data in 2009. Of these 229 stations 211 were already alive in 1960, 180 in 1950 and 99 in 1920. But the overall shape of the curve does not depend much on the choice of station set. It starts to decline indeed after about 1960, as you say New et al. (2001) claims. But then, around 1990 it departs from their reconstruction sharply and starts to rise again to the same or slightly higher level by 2009 as it used to be before 1960. [self-censorship]
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  7. Hey, thanks, BP. That is ... interesting. Of course, I'd be happier if you'd spatially weighted the data rather than using a simple average. If you don't do that it's really important to understand the spatial structure of the data, so without seeing some maps or other information about the distribution of stations and autocorrelation within the data it's hard to know whether this is valid or ... not. But I do notice that the general pattern (declining up to the late 1980s, then increasing) seems to match what was described in the Huffman paper in the comment just before yours. So there's potentially some consistency here.
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  8. Good and patient reply Ned. Thanks for that. You're getting me back on to the straight and narrow. Regarding "dummies" and books, Dunning-Kruger etc. Isn't there a real problem nowadays in that whilst expert in our own fields we are all "at sea" with respect to other areas, especially those distant to our own. So a high level of trust is required, for never in human history has there been such a high division of labour.When it comes to climate science we depend on very few people to get this right and recent events have done nothing to support or build that trust. That little polemic over, I'm off to Science of Doom for a second look(good explanation of the moon temp phenomenon) Darkskywise, I know what you are experiencing. Heaven only knows why(probably idle conversation), but I get asked about"this global warming stuff". With regard to the understanding of the general public, I can well see why ancient societies worked on the principle of"the few set aside to bless the many".Universal education for all is a very recent and unusual phenomenon in human history. There is a duty to explain,truthfully and clearly, for that which is not understood will be rejected.
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  9. Nice job with the Stefan-Boltzmann matter, Ned and Peter, a lovely arc. Peter's train of examples from the sublime to the sweaty was sweetly expressed and as well included some hints about why GHG's work at all and meanwhile Ned seems to have reached AWoL with a combination of gentle pokes combined with patience as well as removing AWoL's notion of emissivity from the realm of suspicious "fudge." AWoL for his/her part turns out to be tractable and contrary to my Pavlovian training exits for the time being in grace, better informed. How refreshing.
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  10. #157 Ned at 04:22 AM on 28 July, 2010 I'd be happier if you'd spatially weighted the data rather than using a simple average Here you go. At least now it is divided into broad regions. Of course the African stripe is centered on Sahel and also includes Southern Arabia. The numbers in parenthesis are the number of GHCN stations in that region. It is only over the Pacific, where some decline can be observed, but I am not sure it is significant, because there are only 6 active GHCN stations there. Otherwise it is pretty stable, except some initial decline then a slow rise south of the great desert region and a recent rather steep rise in the South-East Asian monsoon belt (that's what pulled up the global average in the previous graph).
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  11. As far as I can see, there has been no progress on the issue of determining what "deference" actually means?
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  12. I'll add to the pot. "Due deference."
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  13. Thanks, BP. That's really great. You're right, there's no obvious trend in any of the regional series, particularly over the past three decades. For what it's worth, I find that kind of analysis much more convincing than looking at individual station records.
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  14. AWoL writes: Isn't there a real problem nowadays in that whilst expert in our own fields we are all "at sea" with respect to other areas, especially those distant to our own. So a high level of trust is required, for never in human history has there been such a high division of labour. Yes, that's a very good way of putting it. As civilization develops different skills become more important. Probably in this century the ability to sort through conflicting information and assess people's expertise based on various subtle clues will become especially necessary. With the Internet we are all suddenly exposed to thousands of voices all trying to sell us stuff (literally or figuratively) at the same time. There is also always the danger that one's expertise in one's own field will give one an inflated sense of the importance or correctness of one's opinions in other fields. (I think we all know a few people like this!)
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  15. Speaking of questions of expertise and the benefit of a deep understanding of one's subject matter ... There is a really neat post today over at RealClimate, in advance of the 35th anniversary of the first (known) paper to use the term "global warming": Broecker, W. 1975. Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming? Science 189:460-463. Wally is one of the half-dozen or so people who would absolutely have to be included on anyone's list of "authorities" or "experts" on the earth's climate. In the 1975 paper he leads off the abstract with "[...] a strong case can be made that the present cooling trend will, within a decade or so, give way to a pronounced warming induced by carbon dioxide." That of course is exactly what happened. Interestingly, in the paper he made predictions for various climate-change-related parameters from 1900 through ... 2010. Broecker slightly overestimates fossil fuel usage and CO2 emissions, predicting 403 ppm for the CO2 concentration in 2010 compared to the actual value of 392 ppm this year. He makes several errors that cancel out, and ends up with a value for climate sensitivity of 2.2 C per doubling of CO2 -- near the low end of the IPCC range, but not bad at all. Finally, he missed the thermal inertia of the climate system and assumed the rise in temperature would be basically instantaneous, leading to an overestimate of the temperature increase (+1.1C in 2010, versus around +0.8C in reality). Still, not bad considering that in 1975 nobody had ever compiled a global temperature reconstruction! It's a remarkably prescient paper. Check out the post over at RC.
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  16. Ned, in #165 you invoked the words of Wallie Broecker in his 1975 paper “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” in which he said "[...] .. the present cooling trend will, within a decade or so, give way to a pronounced warming induced by carbon dioxide". Your “That of course is exactly what happened” could be considered somewhat of an exaggeration. If the claims about global temperature increase are to be believed (which is, to say the least, questionable) the globe has experienced a “pronounced warming” of what – 0.5C! Terrifying, isn’t it, especially IF the trend during the past decade continues for another 30 years. Of course we must take into consideration the enormous uncertainty associated with that “if” word and the processes and drivers of global climates. In comment #33 Andrew Adams asked of me “what authority do you have for your claim regarding our very poor understanding of the drivers of global climate?”. My comment #134 on the “What do you get when you put 100 climate scientists in a room?” thread gives one prominent “climate” scientist’s opinion on this. Anyone who has read any scientific papers on human-made global climate change or even the IPCC reports will be aware of those numerous references to “uncertain”, “assume”, “if”, “may”, “could”, etc. all arising from uncertainty about those horrendously complicated global climate processes and drivers. There is a hypothesis that our use of fossil fuels may be causing significant global warming which, if assumed positive feedback effects occurred, might lead to a catastrophic tipping point at which point the globe may heat up drastically and possibly destroy life as we know it. This hypothesis is supported not by evidence but by a claimed scientific consensus. Those in authority would have us believe that such a consensus justifies taxing us in proportion to our emissions of CO2. There are also a hypothesis that there exists a benevolent (and vengeful according to the Jehovah's Witnesses) superpower that is keeping an eye on our earthly activities. This hypothesis is also supported not by evidence but by a claimed consensus. Those in authority would have us believe that this superpower will exert its ultimate authority in due course. Supporters of both of these hypotheses predict catastrophe if they are not accepted as truth. In my opinion both of these hypotheses are unacceptable confidence tricks supported by those in authority for the purpose of exerting their will. As one of the greatest physicists, mathematicians, astronomers and philosophers ever, Gallileo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei), demonstrated, consensus has little part to play in science. I (and I believe most people contributing here) have no significant scientific expertise in the poorly understood subject of global climate processes and drivers. Most here appear to me to pay unearned deference to the consensus and that’s their choice. My choice is to question it. I brought up my children to question what they are told. It made life hard for me on occasions but they have the sense not to blindly accept what those in authority tell them. Best regards, Pete Ridley
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  17. Pete Ridley wrote : "My comment #134 on the “What do you get when you put 100 climate scientists in a room?” thread gives one prominent “climate” scientist’s opinion on this." Sorry, but no matter how many times you try to convince yourself of that, Denis Rancourt is NOT a Climate Scientist. Just in case you have forgotten the in-line response you got, here it is again : He wouldn't get in the room, he's not a climate scientist. He's a physicist, specialising primarily in spectroscopy and hasn't published any peer-reviewed research on climate science. If you prefer your 'climate scientists' to not actually publish anything about climate science, go right ahead, but don't expect to be taken seriously.
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  18. JMurphy, sorry, I should have said 136.
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  19. Pete Ridley writes: There is a hypothesis that our use of fossil fuels may be causing significant global warming which, if assumed positive feedback effects occurred, might lead to a catastrophic tipping point at which point the globe may heat up drastically and possibly destroy life as we know it. This hypothesis is supported not by evidence but by a claimed scientific consensus. I am aware of no scientific consensus around a hypothesis that AGW would "destroy life as we know it." If you can't make your point without wildly exaggerating you're probably better off not making it at all. Furthermore, is "the destruction of life as we know it" the new bar to which a potential problem must rise before which we can address it? Do you suggest that anything that falls short of "the destruction of life as we know it" should be ignored? PR continues: There are also a hypothesis that there exists a benevolent (and vengeful according to the Jehovah's Witnesses) superpower that is keeping an eye on our earthly activities. This hypothesis is also supported not by evidence but by a claimed consensus. Discussion of religion is off-topic, and the use of religion as a mechanism for smearing your rhetorical opponents is particularly inappropriate. Your point is also completely illogical. Does the fact that some people are religious inherently invalidate all scientific consensus? Does the existence of the Vatican cause to to disbelieve in plate tectonics, and the fact that there are lots of Hindus in South Asia make you question Maxwell's equations? PR continues: In my opinion both of these hypotheses are unacceptable confidence tricks supported by those in authority for the purpose of exerting their will. As one of the greatest physicists, mathematicians, astronomers and philosophers ever, Gallileo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei), demonstrated, consensus has little part to play in science. Pete, would you please stop testing the boundaries to see how close you can skate to the edge of the Comments Policy before your comments get deleted? Accusing those who disagree with you of playing "confidence tricks" is completely inappropriate. You are free to believe that, but please keep such beliefs to yourself when commenting here. As for Galileo, it's very common to see people who disagree with any scientific consensus (vaccination, UFOs, the link between smoking and cancer, whatever) trying to claim the mantle of Galileo. Unfortunately, as Carl Sagan said, "They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Newton. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." Being an outlier on some scientific issue does not guarantee that you're right. In any given century, there are far more crackpots than Galileos. I would also particularly disagree with the Galileo analogy in this case, and in fact suggest that you have it exactly backwards -- it's the Moranos and Cuccinellis and Bartons and Inhofes who are busily playing the part of Galileo's persecutors. PR concludes: I brought up my children to question what they are told. That sounds nice, like most platitudes. I also believe in questioning what I'm told. I think on scientific questions it's important to examine the evidence for a proposition. Fortunately in the case of AGW the evidence (as summarized on this site) is pretty conclusive.
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  20. Ned, ref.#169, I appreciate that at least this time you quote me accurately, unlike on the “How reliable are climate models?” thread at #220 (although you persist in spinning what I say to suit your own agenda). Your suggestion that “If you can't make your point without wildly exaggerating you're probably better off not making it at all” is perfectly valid. I trust that supporters of The (significant human-made global climate change) Hypothesis will respond positively to it. Let me assure you that I make no suggestion “ .. that anything that falls short of "the destruction of life as we know it" should be ignored”, however, I do suggest that supporters of The Hypothesis are grossly over-reacting to speculation about what the impact of our use of fossil fuels is going to be on global climates. It pays to be reasonably cautious where risks exist but being excessively cautious can be as damaging as ignoring them altogether. You say that discussing religion is off-topic but the topic is “The Nature of Authority”. John says of his blog’s comment policy “However, I now delete any comments containing the following: * Rants about politics, ideology or one world governments .. ”. If John deletes one of my comments then I know that he considers me to have fallen foul of his policy. Perhaps you need to be a bit more careful when ranting on comparing different religions and science. Regarding my comments about confidence tricks, these were directed at anyone having a vested interest in promoting a myth in order to enhance their authority. Anyone who denies that there are those who promote The Hypothesis for reasons of vested interest beyond concern about the impact of our use of fossil fuels is in my opinion either gullible or dishonest. I invite you to consider the words of two sadly departed individuals who were prominent in the debate about The Hypothesis, supporter Professor Stephen Schneider and sceptic John Daly (http://www.john-daly.com/schneidr.htm). Best regards, Pete Ridley
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    Moderator Response: The impact of global climate change is covered in these posts: It’s not bad and CO2 is not a pollutant. Comments about those topics belong on those threads.

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