Tag Archives: Alfred L Wegener

History (at NASA) shows what’s wrong with “Scientific Consensus”

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. (NIV)

Quotes from NASA’s Earth Observatory pages about Alfred Wegener:

  • the international geological community’s reaction to Wegener’s theory was militantly hostile.
  • Wegener’s […] cogent and comprehensive work […] was impossible to ignore and ignited a firestorm of rage and rancor
  • most of the blistering attacks were aimed at Wegener himself, an outsider who seemed to be attacking the very foundations of geology.
  • Even though Wegener assembled many interlocking pieces of evidence to support his ideas, they were so radical that he was often ridiculed.
  • Because of this abuse,Wegener could not get a professorship at any German university.
  • In 1926 Wegener was invited to an international symposium in New York called to discuss his theory. Though he found some supporters, many speakers were sarcastic to the point of insult.
  • the merit of much […] of his supporting evidence was not widely recognized at the time.
  • As a result, most geologists eventually dismissed his theory as a fairy tale or “mere geopoetry.”

Past performance suggests any date between 2018 and 2091 as the year CO2-based CAGW (or CO2-CAGW) went the way of the dodo.

How Much Wrong Can Joe Romm Be? That Moon Hoax Again…

I have already blogged some time ago about the flawed comparison between AGW skeptics and people believing in the Moon landing hoax. It takes just a sentence: the Apollo mission are historical events (i.e.: they belong to the past, they have already happened), global warming is a forecast projection (i.e.: it is about the future, it has not happened as yet).

Or to explain it the way of Donald Rumsfeld: arguing if an apple that is already on the ground, is on the ground, is absolutely different than arguing if apple that is still on the tree, will or will not eventually be on the ground.

With the usual bottom scraping and blatant headline-following that characterizes his blog, it is now Joe Romm’s turn to recycle the same logic-free pontificating, on the back of the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo lunar landing. Only this time, the point appears to be about an “overall conspiracy“.

According to Romm in fact, claims for a “large conspiracy” would be needed to keep AGW skeptical arguments alive, just as they are fundamental to all Moon-hoax accusations. Citing Harold Ambler by way of Anthony Watts, Romm writes:

Watts approvingly reprints denier manifestos that claim global warming “is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind” — see here. As I’ve written, such a statement is anti-scientific and anti-science in the most extreme sense. It accuses the scientific community broadly defined of conspiring in deliberate fraud

But that is simply not true: it is just a form of reductio ad absurdum (as if one needed any more evidence of Romm’s inability to properly argue a point without infantile rhetorical attempts).


In general, the fact that people sell a “whopper” does not necessarily mean they are knowingly participating in a conspiracy and/or committing fraud: otherwise, jails the world over would be full of astrologers, wizards, sorcerers, and most probably experts in homeopathy and chiropractic practitioners.

And very pertinent to the AGW skepticism case is that the history of Science is full of examples where quite large “whoppers” have been “sold to the public” by scientists building up and then defending a flawed consensus. Perfectly honest scientists, one can safely assume, with a deeply-held belief that their consensual understanding of the world was the right one.

We know now that such a “consensus” attitude has hindered the scientific careers of scientists, among them Galileo Galilei, Alfred L Wegener, J Harlan Bretz, Sir Gilbert WalkerJohann Ludwig Wilhelm Thudichum, Reg Sprigg. Recent Nobel Prize winners Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren may have been just lucky to see their consensus-busting findings recognized whilst still alive.

Still, the fact that scientists fall repeatedly and across the centuries in the trap of “consensus” needs no conspiracy. It cannot be interpreted in any other way than as demonstration that scientists are human beings and that like all other human beings they introduce their subjective feelings, emotions, tribal drive, and who knows what else in the purportedly objective scientific process.

Nobody needs a “large conspiracy” to explain why it is so difficult to publish anything that does not include the customary “this may be caused by global warming” statement. All it takes is a large enough amount of scientists and science-related people convinced of the “truth” of Anthropogenic Global Warming, determined to read and to support only whatever confirms their prejudices.

The “consensus” behavior in AGW is exacerbated further by so many AGWers living under the impression that they are saving the planet. Under those circumstances, the esprit de corps is understandably as strong as it can be (this explains the existence of anti-skeptic rants such as Romm’s).


All in all, it is deeply ironical to find that it is Romm’s statement the one “anti-scientific and anti-science in the most extreme sense“, deep in its core. Because if there is one thing everybody in the scientific community should be well aware of, it is that whatever they will tell the public, it is likely to be wrong one way or another. As per this Bertrand Russell quote:

Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation. When a man tells you that he knows the exact truth about anything, you are safe in inferring that he is an inexact man. Every careful measurement in science is always given with the probable error… every observer admits that he is likely wrong, and knows about how much wrong he is likely to be.