Raymond, climate

Theo Schmidt theo.schmidt at wilhelmtux.ch
Fri Dec 4 10:19:11 UTC 2009

Sam Liddicott schrieb:

 > This leak is the final nail, it makes a mockery of science has the
 > "verifiable religion"; science is as much blind faith as religion ever
 > was, especially when the high priests refuse to give you the data to
 > verify it for yourself.

This is not true. Science is "open source", all conclusions are there to be 
questioned, reproduced and refuted if they don't conform with known 
observations. Otherwise it isn't science. This in contrast to "closed source" 
beliefs, where someone or some book says something and it is believed because 
the original source is thought to be infallible or nearly so.

This aspect isn't off-topic here, it's just like with software. Some people 
believe Microsoft, Apple and so on make the best software even though they have 
no way of verifying this. We however trust the method of free software, which 
isn't perfect, but we can look into any part of it we please and fix it if we 
want. Of course not all people are capable of examining code, but some of them 
could learn to and others could get somebody to do it for them. It's the same 
with science. If you don't believe something, you can examine the research 
yourself, or get somebody you trust to do it. And you don't just believe what 
any person says, be it Newton, Einstein, Richard Stallmann or Eric Raymond.

> The position of science is as terminally damaged as politics because 
> science can't prove that the scientists are honest, but at least the 
> ordinary man can scrutinize the politics.

Not so. Of course scientists are just people and some of them will lie if it 
suits them. However the scientific method doesn't tolerate falsehoods in the 
long run. It's a bit like Wikipedia. At any given moment there may be lots of 
wrong things, but eventually they get corrected. Things in science are never the 
whole truth, but useful models in the circumstances. The whole of Newtonian 
physics is strictly speaking wrong, because it doesn't incluse relativity and 
quantum effects, but it is correct to use it in everyday life because the latter 
effects are negigible im most cases. The same applies to philosophy. Although 
there are different schools of thought, the application of logic eventually 
results in some pretty universal truths.

Politics isn't "damaged", it just is just a method of categorizing different 
role models in life, even if pretty much only in one dimension. Some people 
adopt one model, others another one. Neither is "correct", there is not 
necessarly a correct answer to any problem. The "ordinary man" can srutinize 
political debates but no more sucessfully than scientific ones, as the same 
principles apply: only small parts of the whole picture are widely publicised 
and taken note of. Chance plays a great role.

Anyway, 90% of scientists are said to agree with the present IPCC conclusions on 
climate warming and more than that agree on past conclusions which they may have 
disbelieve at the time. About 90% of computer users are said to use a Windows 
desktop. There is however a difference: scientific conclusions are based on the 
scientific method, computer use is mostly based on marketing. The scientific 
method doesn't require honesty, but it is only consistent in the long run with 
honesty, just like with free open source software.

And there is one last locigal point: if climate warming is just a lot of hot air 
(sorry, can't resist :-) ) and turns out to be wrong or exagerated, there is no 
harm done by the actions required to stave off the worst effects, on the 
contrary. But if we believe the sceptics like Raymond and continue in the same 
way as today, a lot of harm is done if *they* are wrong. They are therefore 
playing a dangerous game with other peoples lives as stakes. Therefore common 
decency demands that we behave in a manner appropriate to minimising global 
warming, even if we are ourselves sceptics.

Theo Schmidt

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