Fake but Accurate -- Now Coming to the Hard Sciences

Most of us remember the famous "fake but accurate" defense of Dan Rather's story on GWB using forged National Guard documents.  If the post-modernism movement were to have an insignia, their tag line  (their "E. Pluribus Unum') could well be "fake but accurate." 

I have written for a while that post-modernism seems to be coming to the hard sciences (I differentiate the hard sciences, because the soft sciences like sociology or women's studies are already dominated by post-modernist thinking).  For example, I quoted this:

For
those of you who cling to scientific method, this is pretty bizarre
stuff. But she, and many others, are dead serious about it. If a
research finding could harm a class of persons, the theory is that
scientists should change the way they talk about that finding. Since scientific method is a way of building a body of knowledge based on skeptical testing, replication, and publication, this is a problem.The tight framework of scientific method mandates figuring out what would disprove the theory being tested and then looking for the disproof.
The thought process that spawned the scientific revolution was
inherently skeptical, which is why disciples of scientific method say
that no theory can be definitively and absolutely proved, but only
disproved (falsified). Hypotheses are elevated to the status of
theories largely as a result of continued failures to disprove the
theory and continued conformity of experimentation and observation with
the theory, and such efforts should be conducted by diverse parties.Needless to say postmodernist schools of thought and scientific method are almost polar opposites.

So here is today's example of fake but accurate in the sciences, not surprisingly also from climate science:

While the critic's advice - to use trained statisticians in studies
reliant on statistics - may seem too obvious to need stating, the
"science is settled" camp resists it. Mann's hockey-stick graph may be
wrong, many experts now acknowledge, but they assert that he
nevertheless came to the right conclusion.

To which the critics,
and doubtless others who want more rigourous science, shake their heads
in disbelief. They are baffled by the claim that the incorrect method
doesn't matter because the answer is correct anyway. With bad science, only true believers can assert that they nevertheless obtained the right answer.

A huge number of physicists and geologists who actually take the time to look into the details of climate science come away being shocked at the scholarship.  Take a world class physicist, drop him into a discussion of the details of the Mann hockey stick analysis, and in an hour you will have a skeptic.

Crazy?  Remember the words of from National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) climate researcher and global warming action promoter, Steven Schneider:

We
have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements,
and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide
what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

  • Anonymous

    This coincides with a pet theory of mine:

    We're witnessing the destruction of a society, namely one based on the reasoning which developed scientific method and social contracts that led to the founding of successful nations (not to mention the religious conditions that allowed for favorable supporting and feedback mechanisms). The internal destruction seems to be being pushed through mainly on the premises that (1) critical thinking is ineffective, so it should be shunned; and (2) human greed is bad but inescapable, and risk in general is bad but inescapable, so both should be eliminated in order to equalize conditions between groups of people.

    What I'd described sounds to me like a system of living and government that is adversarial to individual freedom and quality of life. I keep coming back to the origin of the root of "Satanic" -- "the adversary," and roll that around in my mind trying to connect voluntaryism and tribulationism.

    That's all I really have right now.

  • decon

    It's ironic that your opening gambit in criticizing pomo in the sciences is itself pomo like. The Rather Report was indeed Fake but accurate. On the other hand, nearly everything communicated by the GWB team has been "Technically true but deeply misleading" though they've also told a few outright whoppers along the way. I remember well all the lies Lawrence Lindsey told on GWB's behalf during the 2000 campaign. Then he told the truth, once, and got fired. GWB has been the first POMO president, IMO.

    And neo-classical economics falls in the "Fake But Accurate" category too. Just saying.

  • JimK

    Decon, if you think that Warren is defending GWB, you obviously are new to this blog. Warren seems to have this silly idea that the truth matters and he applies this standard equally across the political spectrum.

    I suppose it is a good thing that this blog is attracting readers who disagree with Warren, it means that readership is increasing.

  • Karol Karolak

    Current monetary system is not backed by any commodity like gold that was used in good old days. You can see this system falling apart as I write this comment as it turned out that the oil is better currency than US Dollar.
    Only viable option for stabilising currency in modern World is by backing it up with units of stored energy (oil). That can only be accomplished if there is a way to impose direct tax on consumption of oil and other forms of stored energy. In order to do that we need to find some form of global justification for such taxation scheme. If we can fool the whole World that carbon dioxide is a pollutant of World's atmosphere and than come to some form of agreement to tax consumption of hydrocarbon than profits from oil extraction could be shifted thru taxation from producers of oil and oil products to consumers of oil and oil products.

    It does not take that much imagination to envision situation where every oil company would have to deposit multi million dollars tax bond with US Government for every super tanker pulling up to US shores to unload its cargo.

    In current setup countries that are issuing international currency; US Dollar, Euro, Pound, Yen have an advantage over countries that do not issue such currencies.
    Once we do all that conversion whole currency crisis is solved and an international currency can be tied directly to barrel of oil or the barrel of light sweet crude oil become international currency. It would be a system where every country would contribute (have benefit) from international currency system proportional to their economy (oil consumption).

    All the rest of it is just mechanics and smoke and mirrors cloaked as science.

  • Dr. T

    "A huge number of physicists and geologists who actually take the time to look into the details of climate science come away being shocked at the scholarship."

    I'm a pathologist with an undergraduate degree in chemistry. I also have a good working knowledge of statistics. I read the draft of the IPCC report last year, and concluded that it was the worst piece of pseudoscientific junk I had ever encountered. The big finding was that they looked at 24 different climate models and correctly concluded that they all sucked. So, they then combined these models into a 'metamodel' which sucked less. The IPCC bragged that it had predicted mean temperatures within 2 degrees Centigrade in 95% of the 'zones.' What they did not emphasize that the models gave average temperatures 6 degrees too high in both polar regions. That is a tremendous amount of error, especially since the Antarctic region exhibits a disproportionately large effect on climate. The evil top brass at the IPCC used this crappy model to predict catastrophic polar ice cap melting.

    The studies on CO2 and global warming were even worse. I know a great deal about the chemistry and physics of CO2. The climatologists know nothing. They don't realize that the greenhouse model cannot be applied to the open, dynamic system that is our planet. They did not account for the buffering effects of water (that can hold or release tremendous amounts of dissolved gases). They did not account for the fact that plant growth will increase if atmospheric CO2 concentrations rise, and that the plants will convert CO2 to O2. They did not mention the correlations between temperature and CO2: as temperature rises, water releases CO2 into the air. That's why previous periods of warming had increased CO2: It's cause and effect, not effect and cause.

    I could go on (the report was very long), but my summary statement is that almost none of the science in the IPCC report was good, and all of the conclusions were biased towards a theory of anthropomorphic global warming.

  • Dr. T

    The last phrase should be 'anthropogenic global warming.' (I don't know why I used anthropomorphic!)

  • JohnF

    Didn't this approach do wonders for the study of genetics in the Soviet Union?

  • decon

    I'm not a new reader, just newly visible in the peanut gallery.

    But what do you make of my inclusion of neoclassical economics in the "Fake but Accurate" category?

  • rxc

    Dr. T,

    It is unfortunate that our first exchange of views was so combative, because I agree with your comments in this matter, entirely. I used to evaluate thermal-hydraulic models for nuclear power plants, and I can tell you that that is relatively trivial, compared to trying to model the atmosphere of a planet for a hundred years or so. The climate people do not understand the fundamental drivers (e.g., the sun) or the feedback/control mechanisms (e.g., clouds), but they are sure that the concentration of one trace gas controls the temperature. I went to the RealClimate web site to look at the physics, and it is just filled with gobbledygook about how CO2 insulates the planet. Convincing if you don't have a technical background, but still gobbledygook.

    I greatly fear that the first comment from anonymous is truly descriptive of what is going on - a move to depopulate the planet by creating a social/legal structure that causes western societies to crash. I don't think, however, that the Chinese or the Indians will go for it, though, so we will likely end up working for them, at some point in the future. It is too bad that our financial people have set up a system that is so non-robust, and will help the greens move towards their goals much faster.

  • The other coyote

    From today's Chicago Trib.

    sigh:

    With the presidential election less than a month away and the economy reeling, House Democratic leaders unveiled a proposal to reduce the gases blamed for global warming from power plants, transportation and factories by 80 percent come 2050.

    The draft legislation, which was unveiled Tuesday and will be refined in coming months for introduction next year, would begin slowly, capping emissions of heat-trapping gases released by transportation and power plants first, then moving to other sectors of the economy. The money earned from auctioning off some of the permits would be redirected to energy efficiency and clean technologies. In later years, all permits would be sold with the proceeds going back to the taxpayer, unless Congress reauthorizes the bill.

    "Politically, scientifically, legally, and morally, the question has been settled: regulation of greenhouse gases in the United States is coming," wrote House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., and energy and air quality subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va. in a letter explaining the 461-page draft, which has been in the works for two years and was the subject of more than two dozen hearings.

    The only questions are when, and how.

  • http://herdgadfly.blogspot.com/ gadfly

    John Dingell had some good teachers:

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    Joseph Goebbels.

    “A lie told often enough becomes truth”
    Vladimir Lenin.

  • http://herdgadfly.blogspot.com/ gadfly

    John Dingell had some good teachers:

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    Joseph Goebbels.

    “A lie told often enough becomes truth”
    Vladimir Lenin.

  • http://www.quietthethunder.com Milena Thomas

    Oh how sad and frightening.

  • Will

    I have noted over the years that politics, especially during the Bush administration is already postmodern. They seem to believe that it doesn't matter what the truth is, only what you can sell to the media and whomever sells best wins. So if truth doesn't matter in political policy making, where the policies affect the lives of people, what difference should it make in science? I'm not suggesting it's not important, but I don't think people care as much as they claim to. Everyone thinks they are right, but everyone can't be right if we believe there is some truth to the matter.

  • Papertiger

    Decon - have you noticed the drop in the Japanese Nikki index? How about the drop in Britain, France, and Germany? China? All of those places have strictly regulated financial markets - much more so that the USA, and yet their stock markets are tanking.
    How could that happen with all that government oversite?
    I'll tell you how. It was the oversite itself which caused the crisis.
    You have Chris Dodd demanding "equal" access to home loans irrespective of niggling little details like annual income.
    You have mushmouth Barney Frank demanding home loans regardless of immigration status.

    That's the sort of regulation we had.