by Wal Thornhill | December 23, 2009 2:05 pm
“In the end, science offers us the only way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don’t know any better. That’s not a good future for the human race. That’s our past.”
—Michael Crichton, “Environmentalism as Religion,” (A lecture at the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, CA, September 15, 2003).
The Global Warming circus in Copenhagen was politics driven by a consensus that, by definition, has nothing to do with science. The apocalyptic nonsense that opened the meeting highlighted that fact. How many who attended or demonstrated at the meeting actually understand the (disputed) scientific grounds for the hysteria? Meanwhile, leading science journals allow skeptics of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) to be labelled “deniers” and refuse them the right of reply. It is doctrinaire denouncement, not science. It is the journal editors who are denying the scientific method by censoring debate. It is they who are peddling ideology.
Despite the glossy media image, modern science is a mess. When the fundamental concepts are false, technological progress merely provides science with a more efficient means for going backwards. At the same time, government and corporate funding promotes the rampant disease of specialism and fosters politicization of science with the inevitable warring factions and religious fervor.
“Science has become religion! ..although religion may have borrowed some of the jargon of science, science, more importantly, has adopted the methods of religion. This is the worst of both worlds.”
There have been several warm climatic periods documented in history that had nothing to do with human activity. There seems to be evidence that the Earth has actually been cooling since 2001, in line with reduced solar activity. So it would be more realistic to consider climate change as a normal phenomenon and to plan accordingly because despite all of the hoopla in the media, modern science is founded on surprising ignorance. An iconoclastic view suggests the following:
— cosmologists have been misled by theoretical physicists who don’t understand gravity, which forms the basis of the big bang theory. Imaginary ‘dark matter,’ ‘dark energy,’ and black holes have been added to make models of galaxies and star birth appear to work. When all else fails, mysterious magnetic fields are invoked. The bottom line is that cosmologists presently have no real understanding of the universe;
— astrophysicists don’t understand stars because they steadfastly ignore plasma discharge phenomena;
— particle physicists don’t understand matter or its resonant electrical interactions. They prefer to invent imaginary particles;
— geologists have been misled by astronomers about Earth’s history;
— biologists have had no practical help from theoretical physicists so they don’t understand what might constitute the ‘mind-body connection’ or ‘the spark of life;’
— and climate scientists have been misled by astronomers and astrophysicists so they have no real concept of recent Earth history in the solar system and they don’t understand the real source of lightning and the electrical input to weather systems. For example, the major city in northern Australia, Darwin, was utterly destroyed in tropical cyclone ‘Tracy’ in 1974. The catastrophe was described in part, “At 3am, the eye of the cyclone passed over Darwin, bringing an eerie stillness. There was a strange light, a diffuse lightning, like St. Elmo’s fire.” There was no solar energy being supplied to the 150km per hour winds at 3 in the morning. “A diffuse lightning” is an apt description of the slow electrical discharge (distinct from impulsive lightning) that drives all rotary storms and influences weather patterns. That is why the electrically hyperactive gas giant planets have overwhelmingly violent storms while receiving very little solar energy.
Yet with these unacknowledged shortcomings we have bookshelves filled with textbooks, science journals and PhD theses, mostly unread, that would stretch to the Moon, fostering the impression that we understand most things. And the public is assailed with documentaries that breathlessly deliver and repeat fashionable science fiction as fact. How can this be?
Science has left its classical and philosophical roots, rather like surrealist art departed from realism. The analogy is fitting. It is demonstrated by the fondness for expressing theoretical models in artists impressions, computer animations and aesthetic terms. The artist/philosopher Miles Mathis is of the opinion that:
“Science has become just like Modern Art. The contemporary artist and the contemporary physicist look at the world in much the same way. The past means nothing. They gravitate to novelty as the ultimate distinction, in and of itself. They do this because novelty is the surest guarantee of recognition.”
So why does the media not have science critics alongside art critics? Has science become sacrosanct? Bluntly, the answer is yes. No science reporter wants to have the portcullises lowered at the academic bastions. Happily, the Internet allows the curious to circumvent such censorship.
The Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) Debate
“Mother Nature doesn’t care what humans believe in.”
History makes it clear that climate does change. The real question is whether our activities today are a significant cause of global warming. We cannot simply label those who question Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) as “deniers” because climate science is not so well established, nor is the data so clear, that it can blame our CO2 emissions for climate change. In fact, the data suggests quite simply that global warming is not man-made. But like most of modern science, climate research suffers the negative aspects of specialism, which blinkers researchers and obstruct any global synthesis. Specialism allows a mistaken belief to infect one discipline and spread like a virus to others it touches. Other well-meaning specialists infected climate science before its birth with their misconceptions. As we shall see, theoretical astrophysics transmits the most virulent ‘bugs’ because it underpins our view of the Earth’s situation in the cosmos. In climate science, which involves the entire Earth, we must truly understand the space environment as well. There may be a source of energy that has not been considered.
There is a human aspect to the debate. Why do we keep repeating the mistakes of the past? Why can’t we ‘get a grip’ and witness our self-delusion and hubris in believing that in the last instant of our existence we have uncovered the secrets of the universe? Why do we so strenuously ignore the evidence for recent global catastrophe and, by doing so, not recognize the origin of our innate fear of doomsday? Is the AGW debate fuelled by the subconscious urge to vicariously revisit calamities that dimly echo from prehistory and keeps us firmly stuck in the past? Ignorance and fear are our undoing. And both are at the heart of the AGW debate.
To help us feel safe in this unpredictable universe we favour fairy stories to the truth. We cannot tolerate uncertainty. No matter how far-fetched the idea, if the climate is changing we must take the blame so that a remedy seems possible. But that exposes us to exploitation by authorities. It is a familiar pattern of behavior. The early astronomer/priests attained great power by presenting the facade of human control in being able to predict frightening eclipses. More recently, astronomer/priests received considerable funding and recognition by playing on our doomsday fear of comets. This game has been so successful that the same people are doing it again by pointing at Dante’s inferno on Venus and suggesting a similar fate for the Earth. But for the adventurous few who accept the uncertainty of our existence, the fossil record and the ravaged faces of other planets and moons bear witness to a dynamic history of the solar system. It is abundantly clear that the story of Venus is quite different to that of the Earth. The scare campaigns only work because of our frightful ignorance.
“It’s very disturbing that we do not understand the climate on a planet that is so much like the Earth,” said Professor Fred Taylor, a planetary scientist based at Oxford University and one of the ESA’s chief advisers for the Venus Express mission. “It is telling us that we really don’t understand the Earth. We have ended up with a lot of mysteries.”
Professor Taylor had written earlier about the Venusian north polar vortex:
“the absence of viable theories which can be tested, or in this case any theory at all, leaves us uncomfortably in doubt as to our basic ability to understand even gross features of planetary atmospheric circulations.”
Such an admission by a leading expert should be of fundamental concern to climate scientists. But apparently not. They are content with computer models that cannot predict “even gross features of planetary atmospheric circulations” provided the data can be manipulated to fulfill their beliefs.
The recent publication on the Internet of more than ten years of emails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of East Anglia University in England underscores the way science is done, as distinct from the way it is said to be done. The media performances of politicians and climate scientists trying to downplay the significance of the scandalous behavior revealed in the emails have been notable for the emotive language used to describe those who dare to question climate change ideology. They are “deniers,” or “stooges” for the coal and oil industries. In the worst examples, skeptics have been equated with holocaust deniers. The disingenuous excuse for the emails is that the “robust private exchanges only show that scientists are human.” Precisely! That’s why some of those emails propose not sharing the raw climate data and others suggest preventing dissident authors from publishing in peer-reviewed journals.
The misappropriated emails may be the “normal repartee and discussion between climate scientists” claimed dismissively by Professor Andy Pitman, co-director of the Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales. But they reveal frustration and anger with skeptics of AGW. They show how scientists allow their feelings to override scientific objectivity. However, I agree with him that the emails do not represent a scientific conspiracy. It is “only human” to defend one’s core beliefs and status irrationally and by any means. It is significant that those who disagree with AGW are labelled “deniers.” That smacks of religious conviction. It makes the arrogant and unscientific assumption that AGW is a fact beyond question, and that the “deniers” are operating merely from a misguided contrary belief. The ‘scientific method’ seems an empty ideal trumpeted by scientists who don’t trouble to observe it. Real science requires that competing views from skeptics be welcomed and examined objectively and dispassionately in the search for truth. But competition implies a victor and the vanquished. Alas for science, it’s a political and ideological battlefield and not a court of reason. (See this report of a meeting between government advisers and well-credentialed AGW skeptics).
“It’s like religion. Heresy [in science] is thought of as a bad thing, whereas it should be just the opposite.”
—Dr. Thomas Gold
Professor Tim Flannery, Chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council and a media celebrity in Australia, in the opening to a television interview about the emails controversy was conveniently provided an “Aunt Sally” by the interviewer who asked if he was a part of “a vast left-wing conspiracy to de-industrialize the western world.” It was a leading question, easily turned to Flannery’s advantage. He merely listed big companies who were on the committee. He didn’t mention the beneficiaries —all of the usual suspects who want to trade in carbon— the big banks. He accused “skeptics and those who don’t want to see action on climate change” of choosing their timing carefully in releasing the emails, the transparent implication being that the (generally unpaid) skeptics are the conspirators.
Flannery admits, “we don’t understand all of the factors that affect Earth’s climate.” So why do we foolishly indulge experts? Why can’t we recognize the narrow limitations and often self-interest of specialist views and weigh them accordingly? Why do we still suffer the financial experts and grossly overpaid businessmen who couldn’t see the global financial meltdown coming? Sub prime carbon is on its way. The problem is that we are not exposed to the skeptics and their views. Academia, politicians and the media see to that.
“It’s not easy being seen if you find information that does not support the accepted views because the supporters of the accepted views have publicity, money and power to grant degrees. Going along is how proponents of the accepted view obtained their degrees, how they obtained funding and how they obtained their publicity. So how could so many smart people have got it so wrong? A few got it wrong; the rest went along. Self interest, not science, ensured the status quo.”
—C. J. Ransom.
Human nature is the greatest impediment to scientific progress.
The CRU emails expose the anonymous peer review system as a means of excluding challenges to ideology. They reveal the “herd instinct” in science. Journal editors are the “sheep dogs.” As the late lamented skeptic, Tommy Gold, observed, “The sheep in the interior of the herd are well protected from the bite in the ankle by the sheep dog.” Of course, none of this is news to the dissident scientists who are vital to science progress. They are forced to publish in obscure journals, or self-publish, which lays them open to the accusation that their work is not peer-reviewed. And there’s the catch-22. Often they have no mainstream peers. We must learn to ignore such hollow arguments and insist on open debate.
The unpleasant reality is that modern science is an inverted pyramid of hypotheses and beliefs teetering on a foundation of surprising ignorance and historical wrong turns. For example, the ideology of climate science is based on the story of the history of the solar system and the Earth. However, the usual story is a fable based on gravitational theory while gravity itself remains a mystery. Many-body gravitational systems are inherently chaotic, so that it would be a miracle if the order we see in the solar system today were long established, according to that model. But the climate change models take for granted an undisturbed Earth. The models also rely on steady radiant energy generated in the interior of the Sun. But what if that global-warming plasma ball in the sky is powered from the outside? Would not all the planets share in some of that energy? And if so, there is no climate model that accounts for it.
I wrote in February 2007, in Global Warming in a Climate of Ignorance:
“Like Darwin’s theory of evolution and Big Bang cosmology, global warming by greenhouse gas emissions has undergone that curious social process in which a scientific theory is promoted to a secular myth. When in fact, science is ignorant about the source of the heat — the Sun.”
Climatologists rely on astrophysicists for the basic assumptions they employ in their climate models. In particular, it is assumed that the Sun is a steady source of radiant energy and that the Earth and its atmosphere have been a closed, undisturbed system for longer than man has walked the Earth. However, the theory of how the Sun works is of Victorian vintage. It was formulated in the gaslight and horse and buggy era, long before the space age showed that space is not empty.
Space is teeming with charged particles, known as plasma. And plasma is a better electrical conductor than copper wire. Meanwhile, the geological and mytho-historical record of past global catastrophes shows that we cannot simply assume an Earth undisturbed by external factors, even within the memory of mankind.
When Eddington put together his solar model in the 1920s the Sun was thought to be isolated in the vacuum of space. There could be no external source of energy causing it to shine. Therefore, it was assumed, the Sun must provide its own fuel to shine for billions of years. Decades earlier, Kristian Birkeland determined that charged particles from the Sun must cause the auroras. So the Sun has an electrical environment. But Birkeland’s discovery was not considered. It had no explanation at the time.
The next very peculiar assumption was that the Sun is composed mostly of hydrogen because it is the dominant element found radiating at the top of the Sun’s atmosphere. That is like saying, if the top of the Earth’s atmosphere were to be radiant, that the Earth must be composed mostly of nitrogen and oxygen. It is quite bizarre to propose that the lightest elements dominate the very core of celestial bodies.
No source of energy is of any avail unless it liberates energy in the deep interior of the star. It is not enough to provide for the external radiation of the star. We must provide for the maintenance of the high internal temperature, without which the star would collapse.
— A. Eddington, The Internal Constitution of the Stars.
The Sun’s fuel could not burn at the surface, like any normal fire, because a ball of inert hydrogen of the Sun’s mass requires somehow to be ‘blown up’ against gravity to be the size we see. A solution came to hand at the crucial moment; it had to be internal thermonuclear energy. The thermonuclear theory was cleverly force-fitted to the requirements but then there was the small problem that the lethal X-rays from the hypothetical thermonuclear core had to be ‘toned down’ before reaching the surface to give the relatively cool, benign radiance of the Sun. To do this, another strange assumption was introduced. The Sun, unlike any other body known, must transfer heat internally by radiation.
With such a far-fetched model it is little wonder that every observable aspect of the Sun denies it. It is one of the most amazing examples of group delusion that it persists. The temperature rises to millions of degrees as you move away from the Sun, which commonsense tells us must be due to energy arriving from outside the Sun. The surface of the Sun is not a seething convective cauldron transferring heat from the interior. It is ordered and granular. What’s more, where the granulations are pushed aside in a sunspot, it is cooler down below. And the Sun and the solar system are threaded by magnetic fields, which signify electric current flows.
The solar discharge has a very effective feedback system to maintain steady radiant output while the electrical power input varies. In fact, the solar radiant energy is termed a “solar constant,” which is critical to the AGW argument. However, no account is taken of the variable electrical power focused on the Sun but intercepted by the planets. The electrical connections have been traced from the Sun to the Earth’s magnetosphere; from the magnetosphere to the ionosphere; and from the ionosphere into weather systems. No one can claim to be “a climate expert” while ignorant of the electrical nature of the solar system. This common energy source explains the reports of simultaneous warming on other planets. The Sun’s galactic power source is the main driver of climatic variability. Human carbon emissions count for nothing in comparison.
Having an incorrect model of stars means that expectations are not fulfilled by observations. For example, in November a paper appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society which expressed “a huge problem” with the behavior of a group of variable red giant stars. Typically they were found to vary in radius by twenty solar diameters, which should “lead to changes in [the effective temperature of the star] that are vastly greater than the directly observed changes from spectra or photometric colour.” But this is not a problem if the energy that lights a star comes from without rather than within. In fact it is normal behavior in a plasma discharge tube to observe little change in color or brightness of glowing regions as they expand or contract in response to changes in electrical input.
If astronomers have bestowed an invalid theory for the Sun, the source of our warmth and weather on Earth, then climate science is adrift from reality. We can forget the portentous climate models. Climate scientists are unaware of a principal driver of weather systems on Earth and all the planets. The strongest winds are on the most distant planet from the Sun and even the Sun has been found to have weather. Like computer generated doomsday movies, computer climate models can be programmed to give the same illusion of apocalypse.
Insulated from dissent by peer review and strict disciplinary boundaries, much theoretical science has become as useful as medieval clerics calculating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Only now there are supercomputers to reify and count the imaginary seraphim. The result is far-reaching inertia in the market of ideas. The tales our grandparents handed down tend to remain the basis of our ideology in the 21st century.
The ideology that underpins the climate change debate is that which assumes billions of years of undisturbed clockwork motion of the planets: “Once upon a time, long, long ago, all of the planets were formed from a dusty disk about the newborn Sun.” Like any good fiction it introduces a crisis. For reasons only guessed at, disaster strikes our “twin” planet, Venus. It suffers a “runaway greenhouse” catastrophe in its carbon dioxide atmosphere and the surface becomes as hot as a furnace. Forget the fact that the “science” has been made up to fit the story.
Venus is not the Earth’s twin. The spectre of a similar fate on the Earth is merely the latest doomsday scare. The one before was a comet impact, and before that a nuclear holocaust. Apocalyptic nightmares are an instinctive part of human nature. It is a legacy of recent catastrophe in the solar system that involved our distant ancestors and which still echoes down the millennia. Scientists, being human, are not immune from this irrational fear. In fact, as the examples show, they are well placed to take advantage; to raise their status and their funding by playing on that fear.
“I have been interested, for a long time, in the psychological process of discovery as the most concise manifestation of man’s creative faculty – and in that converse process that blinds him towards truths which, once perceived by a seer, become so heartbreakingly obvious.”
—Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers.
A search for the truth must first establish a sound foundation and that requires a broad historical perspective that few scientists ever achieve. (Those who do take the trouble generally ask awkward questions and are ostracized as deniers, skeptics or cranks). Scientific truth cannot be arrived at democratically. Either something is true or it is not. The claim that most scientists believe in anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is worthless. The majority of scientists once believed the Earth is the center of the universe. Koestler is right, history shows that major progress is achieved by individuals, call them seers, and not by bureaucratic institutions. But seers are the people who today are shut out by peer review. Generally, seers have no peers.
“The established system may prevent stupid research but it also slows down originality and innovation, promotes timidness and conformity. Innovation, however, is absolutely necessary in science. At least in the USA and in England science was less institutionalised in the 19th century. A scientist like Darwin, who held no academic position and received no public funds, would probably not have been able to do his research on evolution under today’s circumstances. Important breakthroughs back then were mostly produced by researchers who were neither professional scientists nor part of a bureaucratic system.”
—Interview with Rupert Sheldrake, Die Zeit, July 11, 2002.
“Most of what you get taught is lies. It has to be. Sometimes if you get the truth all at once, you can’t understand it.”
All science is provisional. There is no “inconvenient truth” about the climate. Any inconvenience is self-inflicted. At this early stage of science we do not understand the climate or the Sun. But that kind of uncertainty is not to be tolerated by experts who have achieved massive funding and a kind of fame with their dire predictions. This poses a big problem for the rest of us. How long will it take for the media to wake up that they have been taken for a ride? Hopefully we won’t have to wait until the climate is obviously cooling again. You see, the Sun, like all electric stars, is a variable star.
We all, like Michael Crichton, wish to see “a good future for the human race.” But please don’t lazily turn to experts for answers. The past shows they will be the last to know. Look instead to those they push away to the boundary and use your own judgement and commonsense. To break away from our past we must first understand it. And if you would see the future, become a ‘boundary rider’ of science.
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