back to article The 'echo chamber' effect misleading people on climate change

Trick-cyclists in America have come out with research which could explain why the debate on climate change continues to rumble on, even though there is a solid consensus on the facts of the matter. Essentially, according to the researchers, people tend to live in "echo chambers" as far as climate matters go, seeking out …

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Re: Political Bullshit

Why would a field of experts around the world be convinced that CO2 emissions are driving up global temperature if it's so obviously wrong?

How many are convinced? Really?

How expert really, are these experts?

How many would keep their jobs if they refuted Climate Orthodoxy?

Nearly all the scientists and engineers I know are DEEPLY skeptical. But they cannot speak out for fear of their pensions and their jobs.

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Re: Political Bullshit

I've seen the content of their conferences and their textbooks. There is a clear consensus among people of expertise that man is driving the planet warmer. I don't think calling them liars or idiots is a particularly convincing argument, being the same argument the creationists and anti-vaxxers resort to to explain away the consensus in those particular fields.

And the expertise part cannot be emphasised enough - climate skeptics tend to overestimate their own knowledge on the subject. 9/10 when I bump into a person skeptical of manmade global warming I find them throwing out simplistic arguments that don't hold up, and having reached a conclusion on the matter via those arguments.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Political Bullshit

> It really makes no sense. Why would a field of experts around the world be convinced that CO2 emissions are driving up global temperature if it's so obviously wrong?

For that matter, why would a large proportion of the world's population, including many noted scientists, have religious belief in a supernatural creator for which there is no evidence? We're talking about human beings here. We have the scientific method specifically because we are fallible, heuristically-driven, animalistic beings that are especially good at deluding ourselves.

And this is exactly why we should pour scorn on any scientific claims that do not follow the proper process. The fact that there is consensus on the AGW hypothesis means that it is more difficult culturally to consider a dissenting view. That's just the way it is I'm afraid.

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Silver badge

"simply because it doesn't exist - there is no credible science to show that it exists"

97% of climate scientists and the overwhelming majority of scientific papers on the subject would disagree with you.

"Warmist predictions have been wrong the whole of my life and they continue to be wrong year after year"

Well no, it is certainly getting warmer unless you cherry pick specific time ranges of sub 20 years. The ice keeps melting. Sea levels keep rising. Temperature records keep getting broken. We are currently on target to beat 2014 - which was the warmest on record as defined by NOAA, UK Met Office and several others. Some previously forecast possibilities might have not yet occurred, but there a) no scientific doubt that the planet is warming at a historically very fast rate, and b) no scientific doubt that manmade emissions of CO2 are at least significantly to blame and highly likely are the primary cause.

"Show me anything that credibly even approaches real scientific consensus on the issue"

That say every scientific representative to the UN from every single country on the planet agrees with points a) and b) above?

"No significant change at all in fact"

Actually lots of significant change. For instance the Arctic has warmed by several degrees. Major permanent ice sheets have thinned significantly. Vast areas of permafrost are starting to thaw. Many glaciers have retreated, etc. etc.

Bearing in mind that all of the above has overwhelming observable evidence, I can only assume you are trolling - or are very outdated or poorly informed in your information - your position isn't even remotely supportable, and hasn't been for at least a decade.

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Go

why liberals

because they are believed to be godless commies who want to destroy capatalisism and mums apple pie - not so much the hairy sandal wearers (both sexes) and failed electioneers of the UK. Of course few have even met a marxist so have no idea what they are blabbling on about - a bit like the climate change debate

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Re: Political Bullshit

In fact your argument is completely inverted and incorrect.

The "anti-vaxxers" are those who hold that disasters will results from vaccination. The evidence is the opposite and demonstrates that the benefits of vaccination are such that the occasional real bad outcome is massively outweighed.

In climate science, the alarmists hold that disasters will result from tiny amounts of a trace gas being added to the atmosphere. However, the evidence is quite to the contrary, and the real benefits of carbon dioxide (the greening of the planet, the increases in food production) appear, at current volumes, to outweigh any apparent bad outcome.

Similarly, the alarmists seem to regard the statements of their high priests (Mann, Gore etc) as holy writ which cannot be undermined by evidence, just like the creationists who say the earth is 6000 years old. Thus any evidence which fails to support the 2 degree (or is it 4 degree, it changes rather a lot) agenda, needs to be disputed and, usually, the evidence and interpretation changed so that it conforms with the prevailing orthodoxy.

Finally, the not-too-infrequent calls for punishment (even capital punishment) for non-believers have a certain strong similarities to the similar punishments for apostasy which we hear from some of the more rationality-challenged leaders of certain religious groups.

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Re: Political Bullshit

Your conclusions are as confused as your understanding of the facts.

The Earth has indeed warmed 1.53 F since 1880 - NOAA

Following your own simplistic black-and-white logic: Human-generated CO2 is causing the Earth to warm.

For the record:

1) There are no legitimate scientists in doubt of the fact that the Earth is warming.

2) There is no debate among the educated that this warming is caused by human activity.

3) This sensational need to deny facts, is clear evidence that our educational system is failing.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Re: Political Bullshit

I agree. We should immediately execute dissenters who threaten humanity by questioning what experts tell them. It's for their own good.

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No peer review, that's hilarious? Human-induced climate change is an established scientific theory. It matches well with observed data. This has been independently verified by scientists around the world.

The idea that 'humans are not affecting the climate', is not an established theory and it has not been peer reviewed by any credible scientist...anywhere.

By the way, science is not a belief system; you would know this if you truly 'loved science'. To truly love science you need to put aside your pride and let your preconceived notions (beliefs) go.

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Well done

for demonstrating the point of the study so succinctly

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Re: Political Bullshit

The IPCC and their models is like a gambling addict: "No, look! I have a perfect system now! I only need to change this a silght bit and now I'll be rich, please lend me another 10K, I'm sure I have it right now and if you don't lend me the money they'll break my legs".

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Echo chambers

As with most debates there is a spectrum with absolute denier of any form of climate change on one side and fanatical MMCC co2 theory nut job on the other. I feel sorry for the scientists involved who now have their profession devalued by the 2 extremes who cherry pick and politicise the subject.

The climate debate isnt a scientific one. The science is ongoing. The only people who are certain of the outcome are the followers of the 2 cults at either extreme end. It really does remind me of the various attempts of religion to subvert science to 'prove' they are right.

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Re: Echo chambers

I wouldn't feel too sad for climate scientists -- they brought much of this upon themselves by not standing up for full data disclosure, proper statistics vetting, and by trying to retroactively justify the childish actions of some scientists in e.g. Climategate. Any field in which one prominent scientist publicly calls another prominent scientist a "denier" is bound to have major problems...

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Re: Echo chambers

"Any field in which one prominent scientist publicly calls another prominent scientist a "denier" is bound to have major problems"

Scientific arguments can get very vicious, especially when the protagonists feel their reputation is at stake. Dawkins relates an anecdote about a conference where, after one presentation, a respected scientist stood up and, to paraphrase, thanked the presenter for showing how he had been wrong all these years. So everyone applauded mightily. That's how scientific discourse should be, but I suspect that it doesn't happen very often. I've also heard it said that paradigm change only happens when the supporters of the old thinking die off.

There will be a lot of egg on face for many in the 'Climate Consensus' if things turn out to be nowhere near as bad as has been predicted.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Echo chambers

It annoys me when those defending the science use the vocabulary of religion.

"DO YE BELIEVE? DOES THOU HAVE FAITH IN THE UNFAILING GODS OF SCIENCE? OR SHALL YE BE DAMNED TO HELL AS A HERETIC? DENIER! DENIER! DENIER! BURN HIM!!"

It's enough to make some people change sides. I'm more aligned with the concept of always engaging in skeptical thinking as a firm policy (hint: that's called 'science'), than being seen to be aligned with the screeching mobs of quasi-religious defenders of the faith. They're an embarrassment.

Even if climate change is real (which it certainly is).

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FAIL

Re:how scientific discourse should be

JS notes "Dawkins relates an anecdote about a conference where, after one presentation, a respected scientist stood up and, to paraphrase, thanked the presenter for showing how he had been wrong all these years. So everyone applauded mightily. That's how scientific discourse should be, but I suspect that it doesn't happen very often..."

In fact, in real scientific disciplines, that IS how it works. For example, biologists didn't try to shout down Warren and Marshall when they showed that H. pylori bacteria, not the previous consensus "stress", caused most stomach ulcers. They didn't try to get them fired from their positions. They didn't concoct new, poorly-understood statistical techniques whose only virtue was to put a fancy gloss on poor-quality anti-H. pylori data.

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Re: Re:how scientific discourse should be

Given Dawkin's has been mentioned I would think the obvious parallel with climate science would be the theory of evolution. Dawkin's himself isn't particularly kind to some of the creationist scientists is he?

"H. pylori" was a small matter contained within a small field of science. Evolution and climate change are fully blown issues which threaten the ideologies of vast segments of the public. There really is no comparison.

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Re: Echo chambers

And the really bad news is that in the hysterical one-issue politicization of this, we have seen the seas fished into deserts, forests destroyed, great and wonderful habitats destroyed (Amazon, Indonesia, Africa) because organisations which used to campaign to "Save the whale", have now been taken over by "CEOs" on half a million a year who wish to stay in London, New York and Paris and "lobby" about a harmless gas.

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Re: Re:how scientific discourse should be

"creationist scientists"

What's that?

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This is one of the broader problems of online social interaction. Now we are connected to "everybody" it is very easy to find large groups of people who share your views on a particular issue - no matter how bizarre or misinformed they may be.

You can now have your crazy views validated by a social group online, but in pre-internet days you'd just have been laughed out of the pub or branded the village idiot.

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Silver badge

"but in pre-internet days you'd just have been laughed out of the pub or branded the village idiot"

I thought then you just bought the tabloid/redtop newspaper that fitted with your world view. Hence polarization of British press into areas with any newsprint that tries to fit middle ground getting rubbish sales (Independent, Today)

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(Written by Reg staff)

The Indy may have started out trying to occupy the middle ground but in recent years it's made the Daily Mirror look like a frothy-mouthed bastion of fascism.

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Political definitions

These apply to more than climate change, can be applied generally, or with regard to specific topics:

"Moderate" :== "Agrees with me"

"Commie Leftwing Wackjob" :== "more liberal than me"

"Fascist Rightwing Nutcase" :== "more conservative than me"

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Holmes

The Indy may have started out trying to occupy the middle ground but in recent years it's made the Daily Mirror look like a frothy-mouthed bastion of fascism

Quite. Anyone who believes the Indy is centrist is most definately a left winger. I'll admit I'm struggling to think of a paper that IS centre ground..... which is slightly sad. Possibly the Times, but that isn't as clear as it once was.

Perhaps all newspapers should be gaffered to their positional opposite to encourage wider reading?

Buy the Sun and you get the Mirror stuck to the back. Buy the Guardian and you get the Daily Mail too.

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Thumb Up

Echo Chamber

This is why Twitter and Facebook delude their members.

"Individuals who get their information from the same sources with the same perspective may be under the impression that theirs is the dominant perspective, regardless of what the science says,"

People need to use a wide range of news and other sources. The BBC etc need to stop dumbing down their journalism to recycled Tweets. BBC shouldn't be allowed to promote or use proprietary services like Twitter at all.

The Internet has increased the Echo Chamber syndrome far more than favourite newspapers, Radio or TV ever did.

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Re: Echo Chamber

These users tend to choose what they see in front of them.

You still get to see stuff sent by others to you but those are there to be argued over.

I 'follow' Britain Furst and don't feel that Britain First have influenced me (other than firming up my belief they are useless tools of the highest order)

Oh, you also used 'dumbing down' -- now, what influenced you to use that phrase, where did you get it from?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Echo Chamber

> These users tend to choose what they see in front of them.

The machines do that for you now. Search for "XYZ" a lot, the algorithms promote that type of search to the top of the list because you click on it more often than "ABC". The modern machine-lead learning experience of internet generally entrenches your own prejudices unless you really make an effort to dig our both sides of the debate (which most people don't).

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Anonymous Coward

Consensus is not science

As a physicist I am painfully aware of instances of consensus that when exposed to an actual experiment fell completely apart.

For 2000 years there was consensus that heavier objects fell faster than lighter ones (as postulated by Aristotle) this was never challenged until Galileo proved otherwise.

In the 19th century there was consensus that the aether filled space (instead of a vacuum) and again consensus failed.

Again the photoelectric effect overturned hypothesis's about light that again were the consesus.

When you hear consensus remember that this means that it is an opinion that cannot be backed up by an experiment i.e. it is a hypothesis rather than a theory.

Remember that the Emperor's new clothes had consensus that they were wonderful, when he was in fact naked (duped by a bunch of charlatans).

This is why people are attacked for challenging consensus as when the scientific method is used a lot of eggs end up on a lot of faces.

Beware!!!

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Meh

Re: Consensus is not science

Quite. I suspect that a good deal of "consensus" comes from the fact that most, if not all, funding programmes for scientific research are predicated on the assumption than man-made climate change is a done deal. So, if you want the money, you have to sing from that hymn sheet.

Example - if you are a newt studier and apply for funding under the heading, say, "Impact of man-made climate change on newt populations" you increase your chances of getting the dosh. And, incidentally, become part of the "concessus".

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Re: Consensus is not science

Or, as a friend of mine puts it -

"Most people are pretty stupid. Therefore, gaining consensus on a subject is a lot easier than actually being right about it".

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Re: Consensus is not science

"They laughed at Galileo! They laughed at Copernicus!"

"Yes, but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown"

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Silver badge

Re: Consensus is not science

It's a shame you posted as A/C. That is perhaps the best point to be made in all of this debacle.

Consensus is not science, and if you have to rely on it as a persuasion tool, you are not in a scientific debate, but rather a social one.

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Re: Consensus is not science

One of those responses that I wish I could upvote more than once.

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Re: Consensus is not science

Yes, and I upvoted.

However, we must respond intelligently to hypotheses. For instance, general relativity is an hypothesis which is accepted as correct by a majority of scientists. Some people -- the late astronomer Tom Van Flandern, for instance -- have at one time or another challenged the consensus on GR. But we still use the equations of GR despite these non-mainstream challenges.

The physics of CO2 (and other gases) and their relevance to atmospheric heat balance was investigated by Fourier, Tyndall, and Arrhenius in the late 1800s. The physics involved here is not new science. And of course the physics governing infrared absorption by CO2 can be challenged by skeptics. And the challenges can be met by experiment -- just as challenges to general relativity can be met by experiment.

But again, we need science to inform action in the real world. We simply can't say, "Well, the consensus on gravitation is just an hypothesis, and we can't base a rocket trajectory on a mere hypothesis... so we have no way to implement space exploration." In a similar way, we cannot say "Well, the modification of atmospheric infrared absorption by rising CO2 levels is merely an hypothesis, and we can't base policy for CO2 emission on mere hypothesis... so we have no way to implement social policy with regard to CO2."

Or, rather, we CAN say that. And currently, that's what the right-wing "echo chamber" has us doing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Consensus is not science

"As a physicist I am painfully aware of instances of consensus that when exposed to an actual experiment fell completely apart."

Yes, we get it. All "knowledge" is provisional and subject to revision in the light of evidence.

We can all produce examples of scientific knowledge that got modified. These range from the frankly comic assertions of Aristotle that got blown away by the first real test (although the internal inconsistencies should have been a clue) to the much more nuanced example of the nature of light.

Unlike the way that you have presented it there was not a universal naive assumption about light. Instead there was an enormous volume of observational evidence that light was a wave phenomenon. Alongside this was the theory of James Clerk Maxwell that unified observational evidence from electricity and magnetism and through an elegant set of equations showed that light was consistent with being an electomagnetic wave. Not only that, but the theory predicted the existence of waves of other frequencies, such as radio waves. Later, these waves were actually observed by Hertz. Fantastic!

The issue of what the medium was that carried the wave was the subject of debate as it did not appear to fit in fully with other understanding. It was the Michelson-Morley experiment that finally killed the aether concept, but it did not dismiss the idea of the wave nature of light. Maxwell's equations continued to work. Later, the photoelectric effect showed that light also appeared to have particle-like behaviour. However, even that could not overturn the vast amount of experimental observation of the wave-like properties of light. Let's not forget that physics students continue to observe the wave effects each and every day in labs all over the world. The result of all this is, instead, quantum theory which allows for *both* wave like and particle like manifestations of the underlying behaviour.

This is a far cry from "Ho ho, weren't they stupid for thinking light was a wave in a universal aether". This is a constant tactic used to dismiss a current state of knowledge that someone does not like. "We were a bit wrong before so therefore we could be, and probably are, completely and utterly wrong now". Well, maybe we are completely and utterly wrong now, but only actual evidence will back this up.

You said:

"When you hear consensus remember that this means that it is an opinion that cannot be backed up by an experiment i.e. it is a hypothesis rather than a theory."

Nonsense. Consensus can and, in this situation, does mean a censensus interpretation of all the available hypotheses, theories and *observational* evidence.

Oh, and yes, I am a physicist too.

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Re: Consensus is not science

It's easy to say we know how CO2 works, but that is not the whole story. You left out the effects of, among other things, H2O, whose effects in both directions on climate are IIRC actually at least two orders of magnitude stronger than CO2, and whose effects are still poorly understood and modeled, with significant drivers of cloud cover at different elevations still not included in most models. A 1% variance in predicted cloud cover has a much greater influence on the heat equation than any projected variance in CO2.

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Re: Consensus is not science

Science is 100% about consensus. It's about you being right and everybody else being wrong. About having the only theory that explains all the experimental data. It's about everybody else slowly discarding their pet theories and accepting the one you thought of. It's about challenging the current consensus with a new idea, such as Barry Marshall showing the connection between Helicobacter pylori and stomach ulcers. to become the newer, better consensus.

In religion, art, politics and sport and all other forms of human endeavour you will not find consensus. Science is the one activity we do that you can find consensus. Consensus is never immediate but it eventually happens and science does not move forward without it. It doesn't mean 100% consensus, I imagine Fred Hoyle went to his grave believing in the Steady State model but those outside the consensus get sidelined and forgotten. If we are going to bet on the future it'd be advisable to bet on the 19/1 on favourite aka the consensus.

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Headmaster

Re: Consensus is not science

"When you hear consensus remember that this means that it is an opinion that cannot be backed up by an experiment i.e. it is a hypothesis rather than a theory."

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

"Consensus" means there's general agreement over some issue, no more and no less. Why there's agreement is a different issue - it might be because people have just assumed things without actually investigating, it might be a working hypothesis, but it might also be because the investigations have been done and everyone got the same result.

To extend one of your examples, the consensus is now that heavy and light objects fall at the same speed [in a vacuum]. And that is very much not an opinion that cannot be backed up by experiment.

So, your subject is correct; consensus is not science, but at the same time it's also not a indication that something's only a hypothesis.

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@Palpy

There are legitimate doubts about GR - we know, because of conflicts with quantum observations, that it must break down at some suitably tiny scale; and there are serious cosmologists investigating modified gravitational theories, since there's still no sign of a suitable candidate to constitute 'dark matter'. But no-one believes that it could be replaced by some theory following an inverse cube law - any modification must be infinitesimal on most human scales to avoid conflict with day-to-day experience.

Similarly, despite your straw man, no-one seriously doubts that increased CO2 emissions will tend to cause global temperatures to rise. But the legitimate questions this raises are "rise by how much?" and "what are the effects of that?" - and no-one has any solid answers to these questions. So before we commit to actions which will significantly diminish developed economies and condemn many millions in developing economies to a continuing miserable existence, it's reasonable to question the scientific consensus.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Consensus is not science

> So, your subject is correct; consensus is not science, but at the same time it's also not a indication that something's only a hypothesis.

So why use the word consensus at all?

We used to say things like "evidence and experiment strongly suggest...". I can get behind a quote like that.

Saying that there is "strong consensus" is an immediate turn off for me and a lot of other people.

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Re: Consensus is not science

Consensus is achieved through peer review. In climatology, this doesn't happen, because too much is covered up and hidden away. Therefore, there can be no consensus. I don't see quantum or nuclear physicists saying "you can't see this evidence in case you make me look silly" - they're rarely wrong, and when they are wrong, everyone can prove they're wrong because everyone has all the data. Climate scientists are wrong all the time, but hide their data in case someone embarrasses them and swings the debate. I'm neither an advocate nor a denier of MMCC or whatever you want to call it - I just think that the entire business circling around it is genuinely offensive and refuse to get involved either way until people start acting like scientists.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Consensus is not science

@ac

A physics experiment fail, surely not.

As the old adage goes:

If it crawls it's biology, if it stinks it's chemistry and if it doesn't work it's physics.

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Re: Consensus is not science

Yes but Bozo the Clown understood the science of crowds and the power of populism

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DN4

Re: Consensus is not science

> Consensus is not science, and if you have to rely on it as a persuasion tool, you are not in a scientific debate, but rather a social one.

Well, this is unfortunately true only if we can reasonably falsify the statements by experiments. Which covers lots of science but not all.

For instance in pure mathematics, the purest of sciences, the consensus is everything. Yes, the theorems and proofs may be objectively correct or wrong. But that is something we cannot readily verify (leaving aside some simple cases). The only known method for checking them is that the original author tries to explain as well as he can and other people try to understand, go through and reproduce the proof. So at the end, mathematical proof is a social construct. It is verified by consensus, nothing else.

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Re: Consensus is not science

Yes, and the consensus was that Bozo was funny.....

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Re: Consensus is not science

Yes the physics of Co2 absorption of heat are known and there is an actual real consensus. But, and here is the big but, Co2 is not the ONLY driver of climate, and one has to think of the old "yes my theory works , but only for the apocryphal spherical chicken in a vacuum". Nearly every prediction made by the models has proved to wrong, and Armageddon (the so called "tipping point" ) has been delayed several years.

I feel sorry for those in the Northern Hemisphere, it looks like its going to get colder - I refer to

Gerard D. McCarthy, Ivan D. Haigh, Joël J.-M. Hirschi, Jeremy P. Grist, David A. Smeed. (2015) Ocean impact on decadal Atlantic climate variability revealed by sea-level observations. Nature; 521 (7553): 508 DOI: 10.1038/nature14491 which refers to the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) which looks like it is entering a cooling phase (hang about - if it is now cooling , could that mean it was warming at one point and was responsible for the warming seen until 1998?)

As for the echo chamber effect, it is assumed by our acquaintances, that because I am a teacher I am progressive, and so my inbox is full of "conservatives are weird/stupid because ..." stuff.

Sadly we are seeing more & more of this at a university level, where instead of healthy debate, and students being exposed to ideas that may offend see the rise of "trigger warnings", that expose them to controversial history (eg the fact that before the US Civil War there were a large number of black slave owners, and the man generally regarded as treating his slaves the worst was black, and an ex-slave to boot) or to the poor thinking of the "idiots' (usually whichever group or person is currently on the end of a twatter storm, or who has incurred the wrath of an NGO) "no platform". Is this because of the paucity of their own argument or the "idiot" actually has a better case ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Consensus is not science

> "They laughed at Galileo!

No, they arrested that one.

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Re: Consensus is not science

Consensus is about politics, not science. Science is about proof or disproof of a theory, the consensus comes later when the hypothesis become accepted as a Law of Science that is taught in Schools.

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Re: Consensus is not science

Well, the modification of atmospheric infrared absorption by rising CO2 levels is merely an hypothesis, and we can't base policy for CO2 emission on mere hypothesis... so we have no way to implement social policy with regard to CO2." Yes, we can say that. Abandoning the use of Fossil Fuels and refusing to use Nuclear power as an alternative means dismantling our modern industrialised civilisation, and replacing it with a "sustainable" one based on "renewable" power sources like wind and solar. That sustainable powered civilisation could support maybe 500 million humans on the planet, so before I support policies that will starve 6.5 billion of my fellow humans I demand proof that it is necessary. For the last 17 years there have been zero increases in global Temperatures while CO2 output has soared by 30%: it is clear that beyond 280ppm, increases in CO2 have no further effect on infrared absorption, so the correlation theory breaks down. In short, you are wrong and only listening to what the left-wing "echo chamber" has been telling you.

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Re: Consensus is not science

There is a consensus - the best human minds on the subject of climate are unanimous that man is driving up the temperature of the earth and will continue doing so. They are best placed to analyse the evidence and have been convinced by that evidence. This is a strong indicator that the idea has merit.

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