“Think Progress” can’t “Think Science”

Adapted from an article I originally posted elsewhere on 2/7/2011

In this article Brad Johnson of Think Progress attempts to mock and belittle Krauthammer’s statement that:

In science, you can actually deny or falsify a proposition with evidence. You find me a single piece of evidence that Al Gore would ever admit would contradict global warming and I’ll be surprised.

Krauthammer is referring to an essential property of scientific method. Here’s a chart published by a professor at University of Winnipeg which briefly summarizes how scientific method works.

A hypothesis is not scientific unless you can devise a test which would allow you to reject it as this Wikipedia article explains. In his statement above, Krauthammer is not denying that global warming is occurring. He is simply saying that Gore doesn’t grasp the essence of what makes science scientific. If, like the blogger at Think Science, you wanted to mock Krauthammer, instead of addressing global warming per se, you would need to show that Gore understands that it is hypothetically possible to disprove global warming theories. A scientific hypothesis only has predictive value can if it can be tested and discarded in the event that its predictions are inaccurate. The Think Science blogger, like Gore, doesn’t seem to grasp that this is what falsifiability is all about. One might argue that Gore isn’t a scientist, so he can’t be expected to understand how science works. However the elements of scientific method that are presented in the above chart are so simple that its routinely taught to fifth graders in the U.S. If Gore can’t understand science on a fifth-grade level, I would suggest that he is poor candidate to argue that others should accept his global warming views because they’re sound science.

Let’s consider an example of non-falsifiability described in this Daily Mail article. In the year 2000, Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, stated that in Britain:

within a few years winter snowfall will become ‘a very rare and exciting event. Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.’

Well, he was wrong, wasn’t he? Or to use scientific terminology, his hypothesis was falsified. Global warming theorists have taken this reversal in stride, however, since they now have turned their prediction on its head, claiming that Britain’s extreme winters is evidence that global warming is occurring.

Let me put this bluntly: if your theoretical model can only predict things that have already happened, it actually has no predictive value and it’s not science.

By the way, Krauthammer explains in this NRO article that he is a “global warming agnostic” not a “denier.”

And if you are interested, here is the video of Krauthammer that set Johnson off.


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