If you follow the subject of global warming alarm, you will have read many times that there is a “consensus” of “97% of climate scientists” on — well, on something. I’ve actually never been able to find a precise statement of the proposition on which the 97% supposedly agree. But suppose you can find the statement. And suppose that it consists of some kind of definitive assertion that there has been significant atmospheric warming over the past century, and that most to all of such warming has been caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. Is this real science or fake science? How do you tell?
It seems that the most common approach of most people to this question is to trust the “scientists.” After all, science is complicated. You are not a scientist, so how are you ever going to understand this? And even if you are a scientist in some other field, and you have both the talent and the interest to delve into the details of how this conclusion was reached, you don’t have the time. You are told that 97% of “climate scientists” agree. Really, what choice do you have other than to trust the people who have done the work, and who call themselves the scientists and the experts on this subject? This approach apparently seems reasonable to a lot of people, including many, many seemingly intelligent people.
But not to me. The approach does not seem reasonable to me because the scientific method provides a very simple check for testing whether scientific claims are valid, and you don’t need to be a scientist to apply this check. (Another way of looking at it is that the people who apply this check are actually the real scientists, because they are the ones using the scientific method; and the people who call themselves “scientists” and work in “scientific” fields of endeavor and publish in scientific journals and wear scientist outfits, but don’t apply the actual scientific method, are not really scientists. But at this point in time the label “scientist” has been so captured by those who apply it to themselves whether or not they follow the scientific method that I think it is hopeless to get it back.)
Here is the very simple check. When confronted with a claim that a scientific proposition has been definitively proven, ask the question: What was the null hypothesis, and on what basis has it been rejected? . . .Read More