Monday, November 26, 2007

Scientific Proof, schmoof

More problems with a climate change denialist over on openDemocracy

Steveapub asked about scientific consensus over on the climate change action thread.
There is a common conception that science deals in proof. It does not. Popper showed that the best any scientific hypothesis or theory can attain is not-yet-disproven. Thomas Kuhn suggested that scientific consensus was equivalent to proof. So in the Kuhnian sense, AGW is "proven".
Steveapub also suggested that the situation wrt AGW is like a cardiological surgeon wanting to do bypass surgery on someone with indigestion. Well, no. I can assure you that in the UK (I cannot answer for what happens in the USA, where money enters into the equation) this does not happen. You should really find a better analogy, but for the sake of argument, yes, individual cardiologists can make a diagnostic error, but if a whole roomful of cardiologist agree that tou need a bypass, it really is time to give up on your Rennies and sign the consent form.
A better analogy is cancer. The surgeons are saying you have cancer, and that you need an operation. You do not want to have cancer, and you do not like hospitals, and so you have gone into denial. Happens all the time. It is a free country, so we can get you to sign a self discharge form to say we did warn you, and you can leave hospital.
But this is not just you, Steve. This is all of us, and although you may not accept the scientific consensus, the rest of us accept the science and accept the consensus, and we willingly submit to the fossilfuelectomy operation that is on offer.
So, sorry, you can stay here and rail against how unfair it is that you cannot keep on burning oil and coal, and how nobody will keep on talking to you, but over on the other side we have serious work to do.
Good luck

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