Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Science or just opinion?

In a recent column, Paul Krugman repeated the usual canard that Republicans are "anti-science," which is another way of saying that Only Stupid People Believe in God or Disagree with Krugman. Given that the Republicans are known as the Stupid Party, perhaps there is some truth to Krugman's view that Republicans (or at least a lot of Republicans) really are stupid.

Whether or not some Republicans are stupid, I contend that Krugman still did not make the case, and that is because he confuses science with opinion. Thus, if someone disagrees with him -- and everyone knows that Krugman claims to base his opinions solely on science -- then that person is an ignorant know-nothing.

I will go further. Krugman is not speaking so much of science here, but rather opinions from people who are employed as scientists. What he is claiming is a non sequitur: if one disagrees with his views, then one rejects the ENTIRETY of the Scientific Method.

The two subjects he identifies are the Theory of Evolution and whether or not humans are destroying the planet by causing global warming. It is Krugman's belief that if one does not hold to exactly the same viewpoints he holds, then one is beyond reproach and is utterly ignorant and should be banished from polite or at least intelligent company. He writes:
Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples’ attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

That’s a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is “vile.”
Now, I don't want to get into the deeper arguments on evolution or climate change, but want to point out that when Krugman speaks of evolution, he is saying that all present and complex life forms all evolved from a simple form of life, the amoebae. (Krugman does not tell us how the amoebae found its way to existence, and since there can't possibly be a God -- such thoughts are not permissible at places like Princeton -- well, the cell just must have appeared on its own.)

There is plenty of scientific debate on the evolution of cells, but what Krugman is saying is that one must accept EVERYTHING on one side, proven or not, or one is an ignorant know-nothing. And God help any scientist who might use something like probabilities in the discussion, as the use of the scientific method is acceptable ONLY if one first accepts the view that all things complex evolved out of things simple.

As for global warming, Krugman is saying that unless one believes that a trace gas (carbon dioxide occupies about 0.037 percent of the atmosphere) is responsible for all changes in climage, one is an ignorant know-nothing. Furthermore, Krugman does not argue the science, but rather says that because the National Academy of Sciences is on the CO2 bandwagon, we should be, too.

You will have to excuse my skepticism here, as I wrote part of my doctoral dissertation on acid rain, including the predictions and what actually happened. Yes, the National Academy of Science in the early 1980s made a wild prediction (there would be a ten-fold increase in the number of acidified lakes in the USA because of acid rain) which did not come true, not even close.

In fact, it turned out that as the scientific theories of lake acidification evolved, so-called acid rain played no role at all. The composition of the watersheds and land-use patterns turned out to be the key predictor, something the Environmental Protection Agency tried to suppress by threatening scientists who came up with conclusions the EPA didn't like.

However, the politically-correct viewpoint (one that I am sure Krugman would defend to the death) was that acid rain was doing a number of terrible things, and if a scientist, after engaging in legitimate research, found out things that veered from the politically-acceptable view, then that person was not engaging in real science. Like it or not, with most scientific research on climate and the environment funded by governments, the political pressures are going to be there for people to reach conclusions of the Krugmans of this world.

Keep in mind that climate change has occurred for millenia. Interestingly, the so-called hockey stick managed to eliminate both the Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age through mathematical manipulation. (But, if one's manipulations fit the politically-correct zeitgeist, then that is OK.) Of course, any view that the sun might play a role cannot be accepted because not even Paul Krugman is going to advocate that Congress pass laws to deal with the sun.

A world-class soil scientist once told me that the heart of the scientific method is "skepticism." Unfortunately, skepticism no longer is allowed once politics becomes the norm, and anyone who might employ the scientific method and reach conclusions that disagree with viewpoints that Krugman holds is "anti-science."


Major_Freedom said...

Irrational ideologues like Krugman are constantly afraid of reality because they lack a coherent and consistent philosophy, and so at any moment they are capable of snapping and letting their emotions get the best of them.

Evolution and climate change are two such issues.

wobbles said...

Evolution seems entirely logical and perfectly plausible to me. What I don't understand is creationist's overwhelming desire to come up with another theory to validate their idea of Intelligent Design, thus "proving" a creator. I thought the point of faith was not to prove it?

Anyway, in spite of all that I think anyone engaging in scientific discourse should welcome dissenting theories and views. It's much more healthy in the scientific community to assess things objectively, rather than with PC dogma.

Some of these issues are elevated to the status of religion, and skeptics are blasphemers. I can't even fathom how anyone thinks that's a healthy way for science to operate.

William L. Anderson said...

You are correct. I'm not a natural scientist, but nonetheless I do understand the scientific method and have a lot of formal training in it.

What Krugman does is to take a position on something in which he has no expertise and then bases his belief in those things because "everyone else who I think is important" does, too. In other words, it is another version of the ad populam informal fallacy.

In fact, I notice that Krugman often uses informal fallacies to make his case, with the caveat that if one does not agree with him, it always is because the other person is evil. As I see it, that is behavior that I never have observed in other Nobel winners I have met over the past 30 years.

AP Lerner said...

I had to reread the first paragraph of this post because I thought it was written by a guest author. I honestly thought it was written by a 3rd grader

"What Krugman does is to take a position on something in which he has no expertise and then bases his belief in those things because "everyone else who I think is important" does, too. In other words, it is another version of the ad populam informal fallacy."

So explain to us how you and Krugman are different? I mean, the vast majority of what you have written on this blog has been disproven. Its pretty clear you and the people you hold in high regard have little clue about monetary and banking operations and yet you continue to peddle the inflation and bankruptcy snake oil. Do I need to remind people of that blog post on interest rates again? Or have you just removed that nonsense post from memory

Mike M said...

I had to reread your post because I thought it was written by an idiot.

Mike M said...

-- well, the cell just must have appeared on its own.

This is consistent. Ask him where all the stuff is going to come from to repay the debt. Same answer

Mike Cheel said...

"Its pretty clear you and the people you hold in high regard have little clue about monetary and banking operations and yet you continue to peddle the inflation and bankruptcy snake oil."

Talk about disconnect...

Anonymous said...

As another person who exists in academia, I feel that I must post anonymously because of the inherent disdain for conservative minded academics. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in computer science, specifically in the Artificial Intelligence arena. While my area of study does not concentrate the "neo-progressive-stupid" with such intensity as the church of climatology does, I'm forced to withhold my identity in the event I wish to pursue a career in academia. My colleagues are left leaning, and many of the career decision makers are left leaning. Until I secure tenure or obtain a ginormous grant, I feel compelled to make pretend that I agree with their philosophy in any public setting, and "come out of the closet" once I feel that I've established myself in my career. Kind of ironic that left leaners espouse homosexual rights, but deny that conservative or libertarian academic career seekers might be discriminated in a similar fashion.

But here we have more observational evidence that Paul Krugman is Holiday Inn Express's best customer. :-)

Bob Roddis said...

As we all seen over the past year, AP "Hut Tax" Lerner knows nothing of Austrian ideas. He claims that the study of human exchange (catallactics) has somehow become inapplicable since Nixon closed the gold window. How scientific is that?

Hey APL, where's all of that stuff supposed to come from to satisfy all of the unpayable debt?

Major_Freedom said...


I had to reread your post to make sure it wasn't written by a 2nd grade crack child.

I mean, the vast majority of what you have written on this blog has been disproven.

Hahahaha, not even close. The vast majority of what YOU have spewed has been disproven.

Your MMT nonsense gets refuted every time you utter it.

Bob Roddis said...

Speaking of MMT, didn't Canada have 10 years of surpluses until recently and isn't Canada in relatively better shape economically than most other western countries?

Bob Roddis said...

More from the Top 50 most scientific statements of all time:

Deficit spending creates surpluses in the private sector. Net new financial assets can only be created via deficit spending.

Anonymous said...

Yes and Canada has higher taxes, higher government spending (% GDP of course), a single payer health care system and a strong regulatory hand in banking. These are all things Austrians seem to oppose and I'm sure there are others. I'm not quite sure why it's espoused as some virtuous example for the US.

David Lee's recent article on Mises about Canada's lack of stimulus spending is silent on these items and amusingly concludes Canada's problems are smaller because their government is smaller. Other than in absolute terms, in what way is Canada's government smaller?

American Patriot said...

AP and his fellow progressive travellers live in an alternate universe populated with all sorts of "realities" they have created.
His site even has an article on Boehner and, according to AP, his ridiculous claim that we are broke.

Of course we are not broke, right AP?
If the U.S. was a household which owed 10x its annual income with even the most conservative estimates putting its future expenditures at a sharply higher trajectory, would it be technically insolvent?

Nah, not in the progressive make believe universe!
Just like all their other darling theories like idle resources being put to work by artificially stimulating demand. Darn those corporations and small investors who have not got the message for the past three years! How dare they disobey the progressive laws of economics!

Regarding AGW, it is the same story. The professor is spot on.
Just last week CERN put another gaping hole in the AGW crowds non-argument.
It is all smoke and mirrors. Outright lies and Alinskyite mischief.
But, but...there is consensus among scientists! Dont'you say...
Lets see, starting with likes of Prof. Lindzen of MIT and going on to over 1000 climate scientists documented by the Senate committee (including very prominent scientists studying this exclusively) who either disagree or express serious reservations regarding AGW.

But who the hell are they, right? How many signed the IPCC doc in Poland? All of 52 scientists whereas 400+ in the same conference refused to. And that is called a consensus in the scientific community?

Here AP, put this in your crack pipe and smoke it:
The most prominent ice core - Vostok - clearly indicated that over a 600,000 year period we've had more prominent heating and cooling periods than the current one. More importantly, the finding of the scientists was clear that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere trailed the temperatures by about 800 years. Conclusion: It is not the CO2 that causes the temperatures to rise.

Desides it all, as the prof says, 0.03% of the greenhouse gasses being man made, anyone to even think AGW is a man made phenomena id height of absurdity.
That is progressivism for you - whether scientific, economic, cultural, or whatever.

Bob Roddis said...

1. Does Canada really have higher corporate taxes than the US?

2. I would agree that higher taxes and spending without debt is probably less harmful in the long run than lots of funny money loans and "stimulus" debt because you can better account for resources in the short run for the long run. It does not disrupt economic calculation as badly as Keynesian policies.

nimrod said...

Global warming.
The overwhelming majority of scientists say something is happening. I’d think any skepticism regarding what, why, how... and any mandated solutions are good things. Yet popular conservative opinion is that it’s all a hoax – screw rational skepticism.

The overwhelming majority of scientists say natural selection is happening. I’d think any skepticism regarding what, why, how... and any mandated solutions are good things. Yet popular conservative opinion is that it’s all a hoax – screw rational skepticism.

There are lots of Republican scientists who bring up highly rational arguments. But they’re nowhere near being in the majority.

The majority of voting Republicans are coming across as anti-science.

Isn't this Krugmans point?

Bob Roddis said...

If "progressives" are so pro-science, how can they conceivably be Keynesians? There is no logical or evidentiary basis for their central concept that the free market inherently suffers from a lack of "aggregate demand".

Anonymous said...

Canada's corporate taxation doesn't seem to be as unwieldy as in the US, though their income tax is more weighted toward the rich.

Also notable is there are federal VATs which are often criticized (conceptually; not Canada specifically) by Democrats in their being regressive. However, the anti-Austrian once pointed out the strong correlation of sales taxes/VATs in countries with large safety net programs. Ever since then I've thought those advocating keeping or expanding such programs should sell it with the regressive tax, but obviously they'll never do that.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, Professor Anderson, it's a huge leap from acknowledging that we don't know how life (and the universe) originated to concluding that this constitutes evidence for an anthropomorphic God, let alone any of the Gods people have prayed to over the course of history.

I love your blog, by the way, as well as your contributions to and Mises :-)

nimrod said...

Bob Roddis brings up an excellent point. Global warming and creationism are still consensus theories - not laws per se - as is AD.

What percentage of economists are Keynesian vs Austrian anyways?

And come to think of it, the most times I’ve seen/heard the term “aggregate demand” routinely discussed was here at this fine blog, at Krugmans, and amongst a few anti-war libertarian types.

People like Rockwell and Raimondo routinely condemned the Iraq war as a future boondoggle – which in hindsight was an accurate prediction. Yet the overwhelming number of conservatives was pro-Iraq war. I tried to tell my conservative friends that some of the loudest and most rational anti-war activists were themselves, conservatives. But they lumped the whole lot in with the "looney liberals". What’s up with that?

Maybe Krugman is making a similar mistake?

American Patriot said...


before sounding stupid, do some research. I practically live on AGW developments. Re-read my post. There is no consensus at all. If you even check Wiki for anti AGW scientists, you will see that they are not only many in number but all very impressive.
Plus they have not been caught falsifying data, making a mockery of the peer review system, etc.
You tell me who is more credible?

Anyone who understands science and reads about AGW would know it is a hoax. All the motivation is there as well as the evidence of shenanigans.
How come you write crap but do not dispute my post on its merits such as the Vostok ice core data, last weeks findings at CERN, or the new report that came out couple of weeks ago?

Because like all progressives, you are an empty suit.
If I were you, I'd be embarassed for repeating the talking points like "Reps are anti-science"

nimrod said...

My apologies AP.

I was misinformed, and shall now be coming to you from now on for all my global warming info needs.

I blame Wikipedia:

and George Bush:.

My bad. I shoulda remembered that Wikipedia’s sinister objectivist founder and dumb Dubya have both been discredited in the most horrible ways.

Perhaps as part of your AGW project, you'll kindly inform those two misinformational fools about your findings?


Anonymous said...

For AP's ice core argument:

‘CO2 doesn’t lead, it lags’—Turns out CO2 rise is both a cause and an effect of warming - examination of the CH4, CO2, and temperature fluctuations recorded in the Antarctic ice core records reveals that, yes, temperature moved first

Yes, the article is looking at the Vostok data.

And regarding the "gaping hole" CERN allegedly put in AGW arguments:

Cloud formation may be linked to cosmic rays - "People are far too polarized, and in my opinion there are huge, important areas where our understanding is poor at the moment," says Jasper Kirkby, a physicist at CERN.
Early results seem to indicate that cosmic rays do cause a change. The high-energy protons seemed to enhance the production of nanometre-sized particles from the gaseous atmosphere by more than a factor of ten. But, Kirkby adds, those particles are far too small to serve as seeds for clouds. "At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it's a very important first step," he says.
(emphasis mine)

I'd like a link to the "new report that came out couple of weeks ago", please.

Here, you might want to catch up on the AGW talking points. Let us know if you find one that's not answered by this compilation of responses.

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: Responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming

American Patriot said...

The article you quote accepts the premise that CO2 responds to temperature; then goes on to say it happens both ways. It is a pathetic attempt to cloud the evidence. How very typical of the warmist crowd.

The CERN findings were just the latest. Just about a month ago Hanson's NASA itself said there is more heat loss through the upper atmosphere than previously thought (just summarizing here).

Just a few weeks earlier, Academy of Sciences reported that the reason global temperatures have plateaued over the pas 11 years is because China's increased burning of fossil fuels (mainly coal)-- the cooling effects of sulphate particles overpower the warming effects of the CO2 as it turns out. No shit Sherlock!

How about all the predictions about the snow cap in Kilimanjaro or sea level increases that were predicted by now that have not come true? How about the Hadley e-mails? What about the severe criticism of IPCC for their unacceptable peer review system? How about almost all the warmist scientists using secondary sources in arriving at their claims? How about NASA data on ocean temperatures having to be corrected several times? How about utilizing only a selective few of the ground stations that are near heat islands for collecting surface temp. data? How about Hansen as a scientist (and he is not the only so-called scientist doing this), in his own words, writing about importance of global wealth redistriburtion? How about the side that has to politicize what should be science by using school children as peons?

Do you want me to go on, because I have a lot more to point out.

Which side is trying to gloss over the scientific debate by saying that consensus is there and debate is over?

Can you add it all up and reach a rational conclusion from what I wrote?

I don't think so because you are the same people who still refuse to admit to Obama's quasi-Marxist ideology despite tons of direct evidence from his childhood, to his mentors, to his associations with Marxists, to his own account of his history through his two books (that he had a Marxist write) and finally his words and deeds as President.

By the way, I do not read politicized sites like the one you link to by a former MUSICIAN. That is enough said for anyone with intellectual integrity!

You progressives are a waste of time to engage!

The Grumpy Buddha said...

There are "deeper arguments" on evolution? Please share!

nimrod said...

I'm open to an intelligent design done concurrently thru space and time vis a vis higher dimensionality, which might negate any time dependant/relevant argument – a cross between extrapolations from Einsteinian physics and Langanian cosmology... but I’ll have to get permission from my man AP first.

Anonymous said...

As a scientist, I'm just sort of curious what all of you conservative skeptics think happens to the billions of pounds of CO2 we have oxidized into the atmosphere?

Dr Mohammed Ali Khan said...

I think that Evolution, AGW and Economics are 3 separate fields and I think that Professor Anderson has done a disservice my mixing them up.

As a medical doctor, I can say that the evidence for evolution is pretty solid.
On the contrary, the evidence for " Intelligent design" is pretty flimsy outside of the "revealed" texts of the major religions.

As for AGW, I feel that the field is highly politicized. Moreover, even collection and recording of any evidence in climatology is highly suspect and highly subjective and can be "bent" to suit any agenda. In other words the AGW scientists are "not even wrong" .

As for Keynesianism and Central- planning is concerned, they have been conclusively proved to be wrong in countless countries and still being proved wrong, but the powers-that-be love it, because it at least gives them an "illusion" of control.

So, my position as a science-minded person is this
1. Evolution- Mostly correct
2. AGW - HIGHLY debatable
3. Keynesianism - Wrong

TCarlson said...

Nimrod is entirely correct, and your criticism of Krugman is WAY over the top. You expressed the view that evolutionary theory implies one doesn't believe in God... Krugman said or implied no such thing. What he did say is Perry's implication, that there is significant scientific doubt about evolution as a meritorious theory, is untrue. And, it is in fact untrue.

Similarly, Perry's statement that global warming science is a deliberate hoax is also demonstrably untrue. You are defending the indefensible here, and frankly doing a poor job of it to boot.

Tel said...

I would completely agree with Dr Mohammed Ali Khan.

As for "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: Responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming" well I only checked one article as follows:

What I notice is that Coby Beck makes a claim that "the conclusion has become unassailable" with no backing for this claim other than some sort of review process (not described in any detail) and lots of time and effort spent.

Most importantly, time and effort spent don't prove anything. People can still be wrong after "trying real hard". What's more, Coby Beck does not even mention the fact that the homogenization process involves adjustments injected into the temperature data, and the majority of the trend actually comes from those adjustments. Coby Beck completely skips the controversy over the Darwin surface temperature record (probably never even heard of it) and completely ignores the many, many efforts that skeptics such as Steve McIntyre and Bishop Hill have gone through in attempts to get hold of raw data through FOI and all sorts of other means.

Finally Coby Beck just gives a list of other things to look at (e.g. Artcic Sea ice extent, but he ignores Antarctic Sea ice which is trending the other way). Oh! Look over there! Not what I would call the most convincing argument.

Seriously, this was the first one I looked at, I totally can't imagine why I should suffer through all of the list.

Tel said...

As a scientist, I'm just sort of curious what all of you conservative skeptics think happens to the billions of pounds of CO2 we have oxidized into the atmosphere?

As a bit of an amateur chemist, I'm a bit curious how you oxidize CO2? Does it make CO3?

Seriously though, the majority of change in CO2 is seasonal back-and-forth moving into plants and then leaving when plants die. The balance of this organic cycle ends up in things like plantaion timber being used for houses, paper, furniture, etc, also cotton and wool used for clothing, and you can add to that all the organic goods that people tend to keep for long periods.

Then there's the inorganic cycle which currently involves calcium ions in the ocean turning into calcium carbonate (seashells, limestone, etc) which is a long term carbon storage mechanism. People claim the ocean is turning to acid, that's quite simply a load of crap, the ocean is not turning into acid, nor is it able to do while ever there are sufficient calcium ions available to bind the carbonates. The ocean may be running short of calcium, but that remains to be seen. Calcium is very abundant, and no evidence of global calcium shortage has been forthcoming.

Dr Mohammed Ali Khan said...

Got this from Coyote blog
Great words...

"So here is this week’s message for the Left: Economics is a science. Willful ignorance or emotional rejection of the well-known precepts of this science is at least as bad as a fundamentalist Christian’s willful ignorance of evolution science (for which the Left so often criticizes their opposition). In fact, economic ignorance is much worse, since most people can come to perfectly valid conclusions about most public policy issues with a flawed knowledge of the origin of the species but no one can with a flawed understanding of economics.

Postscript: In fact, the more I think about it, the more economics and evolution are very similar. Both are sciences that are trying to describe the operation of very complex, bottom-up, self-organizing systems. And, in both cases, there exist many people who refuse to believe such complex and beautiful systems can really operate without top-down control. "

Sad that Prof Andersen in his enthusiasm to criticize Krugman, should write an article in support of creationism.