If The Skeptic Society Were Not Fast Asleep On AGW (Anecdotes Do Not Make A Science)

This is what the Skeptic Society would write regarding the constant barrage of reports, blog posts, news items, peer-reviewed articles about the current and future (lack of) catastrophes related to man-made CO2 emissions – they would write it, that is, if the Skeptic Society were not fast asleep on the topic, most of the time – but not always – seeing itself as Defender of the Orthodoxy of Established Science rather than, shock! horror!, a society of skeptics:

Anecdotes Do Not Make a Science:
The ThisShouldBeWhatSkepticsAreAbout Reply
by non-Michael Shermer, non-Arthur Benjamin & non-James Randi

We realize that hour-long “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) demonstrations” do not a scientific experiment make, but there is no question that you warmists present them as if it were a scientifically known fact that “we are experiencing or going to experience Catastrophic AGW” to some degree. In your blog posts and articles, in fact, you state that these “physical phenomenon” is “something that is happening to us all,” thus stating your support of the “fact” of the existence of catastrophical man-made global warming. But scientifically speaking, the “facts” of the matter are that there is no positive evidence whatsoever for the existence of any of the increase in exceptional weather you discuss, when records are compiled in controlled scientific conditions.

Even the pro-AGWers who do serious responsible research on the matter are now admitting that their entire research program, after over fifteen decades of data collection, has produced nothing statistically significant. The few “blips” in the data that appear, quickly disappear when conditions were instead expected to replicate. This is one of the beautiful components of the scientific method—its self-correcting nature. For those who are corrected, however, it may not seem so attractive.

(Of course, Mr. Warmist, if your arguments for the validity of CAGW claims are based upon religious, rather than logical, scientific reasoning, many of these arguments may not apply to your statements. In that case we are arguing about a preferred belief system rather than a provable—or disprovable—claim).

Our position is not meant to be scornful or condescending. We only want to make the point that under controlled measurements over many decades, there has never been a proper and statistically significant finding of catastrophic increase in exceptional weather events. What CAGW people have are anecdotes about hurricanes or Arctic sea ice, and anecdotes do not make a science. Anecdotes are stories related by participants: “I saw a tornado and thought ‘this is what CAGW is about’.” Or: “I spotted some maybe-dead polar bears and made a guess about how many more have died because of CAGW.” And so on.

The simple fact is that thousands and thousands of CAGW stories, as impressive as they may seem, do not make a science. Ten anecdotes are no better than one anecdote, and a hundred anecdotes are no better than ten. Actually, a hundred anecdotes are worse than ten, if you do not also have statistically significant data showing a worrisome change in weather patterns and events somewhere in the world. It is a fact, Mr. Warmist, that NO results shown so far have been adequately obvious and clear-cut. In the case of old data—and the reputation of CAGW rests almost entirely on old, dubious paleoclimate data—those requirements often cannot be applied, obviously. But if your CAGWers are able to NOW produce data, we can show you how standard statistics can be applied. We await, with interest, your response to this suggestion.

Anecdotes are only useful to illustrate a phenomenon that already has been proven scientifically, in this case, statistically. If you do not have this, and as far as we can tell you do not, then all those anecdotes indicate is that there is something else going on that has absolutely nothing to do with CO2 emissions. To repeat the six-word phrase that should be memorized by every CAGWer and skeptic (it is difficult for all of us to understand), and repeated every night before bed:


(freely inspired to the Skeptics Society reply to the Association for Research and Enlightenment, an ESP advocacy group)