In Science, for a theory to be believed, in must make a new prediction –different from those made by previous theories– for an experiment not yet done. For the experiment to be meaningful, we must be able to get an answer that disagrees with that prediction. When that is the case, we say that a theory is falsifiable –vulnerable to being shown false. The theory also has to be confirmable; it must be possible to verify a new prediction that only this theory makes. Only when a theory has been tested and the results agree with the theory do we advance the theory to the ranks of true theories.
Donald Devine, in the American Spectator, has a fine time debunking the community of fashion’s popular notion of “settled science.”
The idea that people will not accept the findings of science drives a certain class of self-described intellectuals crazy. Even those who can comprehend the Yale University Cultural Cognition Project research warning that scientific findings are screened by individuals through pre-existing cultural beliefs and are interpreted in ways to reinforce those beliefs still insist their own scientific beliefs are objective and settled.
That research finds progressives risk averse, biased toward control of their environment, while conservatives tolerate risk, partial toward greater freedom â€” the recognition of which does not overcome the progressive insistence that relativity explains all motion or that global warming is â€œsettled science.â€ Conservative wise man Eric Voegelin traced the progressive predisposition to the positivist philosopher Auguste Comte, who invented the social sciences to replace religion with objective empirical research that would eventually allow humans to achieve perfection in this world rather than waiting for the next.
The fact that this hope has fallen a bit short over the following century has not diminished its appeal. For progressivism, it is just science, at least when it agrees with its own reductionist, materialistic predispositions by academic fields dominated by fellow progressives. While it might surprise that 43 percent of physicists believe that God or some higher spirit affected material development, it is even a majority belief among biological and chemistry scientists. On the other hand, few hold this belief in psychiatry and many other social sciences.
In fact, settled science is rather difficult to find, even the purely physical sciences. Columbia University physicist Brian Greene explained: â€œ[G]eneral relativity and quantum mechanics cannot both be rightâ€ as currently formulated, even though they are â€œthe two foundational pillars upon which modern physics rests.â€ The journal Physical Review Letters reported that a major study of the light sterile neutrino, widely expected by scientists to undermine Standard Model physics, found at a â€œ99% certaintyâ€ level that neutrinos do not even exist.
An article in Current Biology questioned whether biologistsâ€™ long-held conception of the basic structure of the animal cell is in fact universal. Ninety-eight percent of human genome DNA had long been determined to be â€œjunkâ€ and only 2 percent meaningful â€” until the ENCODE project recently reported that in fact at least 80 percent of it was active. Scientists have known for years there are 83 distinct areas in the brain, but the journal Nature published a study last year more than doubling the number of brain regions to 180.
The one field where the science must be â€œsettled,â€ of course, is global warming. Or is it â€œclimate change,â€ when clearly no skeptic doubts climate changes? Why the alteration in terminology? Perhaps because, in 2007, the worldâ€™s leading experts at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported its â€œcentral forecastâ€ for long-term warming to be 3 degrees C. Yet, since then its reports have not listed a single central estimate but did reduce its minimal expected warming down from a 1.5-degrees rise to only a 1.0-degree temperature increase.
The U.S.â€™s NASA-Goddard Institute did announce that 2016 was the â€œhottest year on record,â€ but while NASA had formerly warned against accepting â€œmisleadingâ€ specific temperatures without considering the ranges of scores within the measurement margin of error, it did not repeat that warning in 2016. As the Wall Street Journalâ€™s Holman Jenkins showed, after taking into account error margins, 2015 and 2016, two El NiÃ±o years, were actually tied for being the warmest years recorded, and 1998, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014 were all tied for second place, close behind.
As climatologist Judith Curry testified to Congress, IPCC models have forecast surface temperatures to increase 0.2 degrees C each 21st century decade. But during the first fifteen years, actual temperatures only increased 0.05, four times lower than predicted. And the models cannot explain why more than 40 percent of the temperature increases since 1900 took place between 1910 and 1945, which produced a mere 10 percent of the carbon emissions.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to John C. Meyer.