Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Politics and (Junk) Science

Mention Global Warming and a rather heated debate usually erupts about whether or not humans are causing it. Of course, various studies would be cited to support or not support this opinion (and yes, I’m calling it an opinion, not a scientific fact). But before you start flaming me to a toasty golden brown, kindly consider the rest of this post.

Many of us have been raised with the notion that scientists, by & large, are benevolent people, working for the betterment of mankind. Mention the word “scientist” and what is the mental image that you get? More often than not, you will conjure up a person in a spotless white lab coat mixing chemicals in a test tube or peering through a microscope. The exception to this rule is usually the wide-eyed “mad scientist” that is portrayed in the late-night horror shows, but even then, these misguided scientists generally have a goal in mind – the betterment of mankind according to their warped vision.

More recent movies and portrayals still show scientists in this light, but with an increased sense of reality. I can recall a couple of movie scenes of where the scientists are concerned with the continuation of their work because of the lack of available funding.

We should all realize that scientific studies take money, sometimes lots of it. This funding comes from both private and public sources, the last being your tax dollars being routed through research grants. Continued funding from either source is dependant on results or the promises of the desired results. Note the last statement – “desired results.” After all, who wants to fund any research if it doesn’t produce what you want?

Here’s where the politics begins to enter into the scientific field. What researcher wants to have his pet project run out of money & get canceled? None, I would wager. And the desperation runs higher if the researcher has spent years working on the project. So the research scientist now resorts to politics to keep the funding flowing. And this will sometimes put the scientist in a rather compromised position – how to present the data to insure continued funding? There’s an old saying that states –

Figures don’t lie, but Liars figure.

And that’s exactly what happens. The data is manipulated in such a way that supports the sponsor’s opinions and views. This is when science becomes junk science, and the scientist is nothing more than a parasitic shill.

We have been conditioned that scientists and researchers are ethical people, concerned only with the Joe Friday version (just the facts, ma’am) of what the research can prove. Unfortunately, where large sums of money are concerned along with a life’s worth of work that just will not be the case. This is where I have a problem with the arguments for humans causing Global Warming.

I stated in an earlier post:

…computer models vary widely as to the cause and effect of global warming, and thus, any conclusions that can be made from such models (and scientists’ opinions) must be considered suspect. I recall that these same scientific communities raised the alarm back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s that the Earth was cooling, and they were warning of a new Ice Age coming hell-bent around the corner, and they had essentially the same data (minus a couple of decades) as they do now…

If Global Warming were truly caused by human activity, then every scientific community around the world would be in total agreement with the data and raising the alarm. The fact is, they’re not, and they are having pretty ugly arguments over it too.

Global Warming is an unproven theory based on computer modeling. Computer modeling is only as good as the data used in the model and the sophistication of the program to manipulate that data in as realistic manner through algorithms (mathematical formulas). And there isn’t a person or persons alive that can write such a sophisticated program to allow for each and every variation of the Earth’s climate. If that were the case, then why can’t your weatherman tell you what the weather is going to be in exactly one month from now?

Just for grins & giggles, what variations could affect this model? Well, let’s see….

  • Solar flare activity
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Large meteor impacts with the atmosphere and/or ground (can you say “extinction”? I knew you could…)
  • Any other “acts of God” you could imagine

Now the program could take into account the above, but the varying degrees of random activity of each of the above in combinations with each other will introduce wide variations in the results. We could predict anything from no effect to the end of the world as we know it. Having programmed a fair amount in my career and performed simulations with multiple variables in specific applications, I know the above to be true.

So here’s where I have a problem with blindly accepting the results of these models that humans are the cause of or are contributing to Global Warming. On one hand, these computer models cannot possibly take into account every single variable and predict with any certainty the climate of the earth over the next couple of weeks much less in ten years time. On the other hand, we have research scientists who have made a career in predicting the climate trends and have already reversed themselves once in my lifetime. This all adds up to one big steaming pile of manure.

I’m not alone in this assessment. One of the websites that I have listed to the right is the Global Warming Hysteria Blog. Then there’s the sixth-grade class that debated this subject after performing some research and concluded that (hat tip to jimmyb). And finally, there are the numerous news reports of scientists and climatologists disputing the findings of the Global Warming researchers (and getting death threats besides). Don’t believe me? Then do your own research and educate yourself.

So why is such a fuss being raised over a theory? The short answer is politics and power. Environmentalists are a powerful lobby in Washington, and will seize upon anything possible to promote their agenda.

Don’t get me wrong – we need to be environmentally responsible. It is our planet, and we shouldn’t trash it up. But some of the agendas this group promotes would cost extreme amounts of money for very little (if any) return. Global Warming is one of those.

However, between a couple of Hollywood movies dealing with global weather catastrophes and a powerful politician supporting these views, the old adage of “saying something long enough and often enough to become fact” is becoming true. This is nothing more than propaganda at its very best. And just like all the other successful propaganda and marketing schemes used in the past, this one is sucking in people (and entire countries). After all, scare tactics work very, very well.

The upshot is that you and I will be pressured, forced, or otherwise mandated to bow to the Goracle’s version of environmentally friendly. And some of these choices are not, in the long run, environmentally friendly nor energy-efficient. But more on that in a later post…

Sorry, folks, but I think our scientists and researchers need to stay out of the politics and stay in the lab. They should also stick to reporting facts as facts, and not spin it around to suit whatever is the buzzword for the day.

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