No Science Without Contradiction

High-brow climate science specialists might almost be a lost cause, yes, but they are not the only ones working about climate-related stuff. So the latest development in terms of investigating the relationship between people and climate is very welcome, because it shows that not the whole world is supinely enthralled in fashionable doom-and-gloom deathwish: tentatively, the analysis of what “climate” means to us may have actually put a step forward.

I am talking about the ‘Climate not to blame for African Civil Wars‘ piece from PNAS, also described at the Centre for the Study of Civil War (CSCW) at PRIO’s website and in an article on the BBC News website.

What is important is not so much in the conclusions (“the paper concludes that climate variability is a poor predictor of armed conflict“): those contradict an earlier study, so we can only assume another peer-reviewed paper will soon get published contradicting CSCW’s work (perhaps even, putting forward a third interpretation).

What is important is that (finally!) an immature field such as climatology (finally!) sees some kind of scientific debate, instead of the usual circling of the wagons.

So far, that had surfaced only regarding hurricanes. Note that of course, this can only come about when theories meet empirical evidence…as per Alan Sokal’s “refrain”,

clear thinking, combined with a respect for evidence — especially inconvenient and unwanted evidence, evidence that challenges our preconceptions — are of the utmost importance to the survival of the human race in the twenty-first century

But in reality, that is the standard framework of science: peer-reviewed articles more often than most contradicting each other (see here, here and here), because to “do science” means to freely investigate, to see even dead ends as the results of a fun journey, to start anew.

And to consider contradicting articles as a great chance for a synthesis, rather than a mortal, dangerous opportunity for the enemies of science. Why, does anybody remember…”all human knowledge begins with intuitions, proceeds from thence to concepts, and ends with ideas“…


What will a mature climate science look like? From one of Scientific American’s blogs, take the word of “late, great anthropologist” Clifford Geertz:

progress [in a field of science] is marked less by a perfection of consensus than by a refinement of debate. What gets better is the precision with which we vex each other

“Vexing each other”: instead of working in the background to prevent people from publishing at all.

A Pickax Against Climatology (Beware Of Your Friends!)

It is funny to notice how, bit by bit, excuse-prone scientists are unwittingly destroying climate science.

For example now we know that decade-long temperature trends are irrelevant (if they cannot be used to show a cooling, or a stability in temperatures, obviously they cannot be used to show an increase either).

We also know that the number of strong Atlantic hurricanes is irrelevant (if the fact that there have been very few of late, cannot be used to invalidate AGW, then even if they return in large numbers, that won’t be suitable to demonstrate AGW either).

In other parts of the blogosphere, we are now learning that past reconstructions are irrelevant too (even if they’re wrong, it doesn’t matter to future warming).

And of course, the IPCC itself has declared in 2007 that attribution of a particular weather event to AGW may as well be impossible. Based on that logic, no mention of “global warming” or “global cooling” or pretty much anything else climate-related, makes any sense when talking about weather (trouble is, somehow all that irrelevant weather magically transmogrifies itself into “climate” over 30 years).

At this rate, climatology will soon remain as a bunch of pure “irrelevants”.