Two Scientific Approaches

This could easily be a business case:  Two managers.  One sits in his office, looking at spreadsheets, trying to figure out if the factory is doing OK.  The other spends most of his time on the factory floor, trying to see what is going on.  Both approaches have value, and both have shortcomings.

Shift the scene now to the physical sciences:  Two geologists.  One sits at his computer looking at measurement data sets, trying to see trends through regression, interpolation, and sometimes via manual adjustments and corrections.  The other is out in the field, looking at physical evidence.   Both are trying to figure out sea level changes in the Maldives.    The local geologist can’t see global patterns, and may have a tendency to extrapolate too broadly from a local finding.  The computer guy doesn’t know how his measurements may be lying to him, and tends to trust his computer output over physical evidence.

It strikes me that there would be incredible power from merging these two perspectives, but I sure don’t see much movement in this direction in climate.  Anthony Watts has been doing something similar with temperature measurement stations, trying to bring real physical evidence to improve computer modellers correction algorithms, but there is very little demand among the computer guys for this help.  We’ve reached an incredible level of statistical hubris, that somehow we can manipulate tiny signals from noisy and biased data without any knowledge of the physical realities on the ground  (“bias” used here in its scientific, not its political/cultural meaning)

23 thoughts on “Two Scientific Approaches”

  1. You’re right. Hubris, hubris, hubris. Can’t say it too often. It’s the bedrock of AGW science.

  2. Point well taken — there is value to being out on the field. I smile when Global Warming Pessimists in their offices tell me that my home area is the hottest (with drought)since record-keeping began. Quite an output from their computer gymanistics. Meanwhile, my children swim in lakes that were dry in the 1930s. There is also plenty of water-skiing and fishing.
    Nevertheless, here is a question to consider, should we commend the scientists and activists who try to venture to the North Pole but whose efforts are invariably frustrated by the cold?

  3. Yet again you demonstrate that you don’t know what science is or how to recognise it. The dichotomy you talk about exists only in your head.

  4. Hunter,

    wish you knew what you are talking about.

    Another excellent example is how a number of Climate papers use very poor statistical processes to reach their conclusions. No demand from the authors for professional statisticians to keep them on the straight and narrow.

    When you are only interested in supporting your theory you MIGHT ignore expert help!!

  5. I work in a field, Aerospace, that has one group of people who collect the data and another group of people who analyze that data.

    The people who collect the data pay scrupulous attention to the details of getting the data, recording in detail every step in the process. The people who analyze the data are provided all the information from the data gatherers and have access to them if questions arise.

    It has always puzzled me why NASA, who proscribes a lot of the procedures we have to adhere to, does not use the same procedures for their own work.

    What is needed in climate “science” is a dedicated group of people who work at verifying the underlying data, documenting sensors used, calibrations, etc, before the analysts, like Hansen, ever get the data.

  6. In reply to RocketMan: If NASA PROSCRIBES the procedures you have, that’s the reason they don’t use them. If they PRESCRIBED them, that would be a different story- A. McIntire

  7. My training is in econometrics. It’s more like the first instance described since no one can sit and watch the economy hum. One of my instructors used to emphasize that doing econometrics was equal parts of art and mathematics. If you have to use art to get an answer you’re looking for that’s not science.

  8. Alan D. McIntire:

    Hey, I am an Engineer and can’t spell without spell check, which unfortunately doesn’t catch boneheaded mistakes like that. Thanks for pointing out my error.

    If the errors in all the climate “science” data were errors like that I would cut them a lot more slack.

  9. Wow! I finally found someplace that understands the difference between Hypothesis and Theory. Someplace that doesn’t swallow the GW media hype hook line and sinker, but actually want the hypothesis verified before they call it a theory. I am in heaven.

  10. “We’ve reached an incredible level of statistical hubris, that somehow we can manipulate tiny signals from noisy and biased data”

    I assume you mean climatologists, I’ve never witnessed this type of data collection and processing before. I work in optics, if my data is noisy I go get better data. You are right that the imagination of the climatologist is beyond reality.

  11. Hunter, the dichotomy should not exist, but unfortunately, it does. I went to college with “lab rats” who hated the field, and “field rats” who really couldn’t stand lab work. I do not doubt that if you think back to your own classes in science, you will recall the lab notebook: kept in ink, all methods, materials, calculations documented; all data recorded along with type of instrument used to collect the data. Mapping data called for instrument, instrument height, atmospheric temperature and barometric pressure for high precision work, back shots to previous fixes when the instrument was moved to provide error estimates, and on and on. The near absence of this information in the “debate” over global warming is what drives sites like Climate Sceptic and Climate Audit.

    It is impossible to either assign reliability, estimate errors or replicate much of the work that purportedly underpins assertions of global warming when the scientists making the claims of AGW refuse to provide the necessary information on data collection, data sources, data “correction” and censoring, and calculation methods. This absence of a replicable analysis path is at the very heart of the original controversy over the “hockey stick” curve.

    The scientific method was framed in order to provide a grounding for such debates. It is designed to eliminate empirical “just-so” stories and philosophical and mathematical fantasy by demanding that work together.

  12. Just so everyone knows, the article that James is referencing is satirical. Al has not admitted any sort of error.

  13. I wished you’d written that sooner. Poor “Alarmist Hunter” hasn’t mastered the concept of satire yet, so no doubt he’s been in a panic over this all day.

  14. I just discovered this web site and was wondering if the data on it has been vetted and confirmed accurate. If it is, this is huge. It clearly illuminates at least two things:

    1. The ice core CO2 measurement is a highly smoothed measure of CO2. The chemical measurements display more variability and a higher absolute value than the ice core measurements.

    2. The correlation between CO2 and temperature is pointing to a third mover. My guess would be the ocean, but of course the Sun is another elephant in the room.


  15. Jim – it’s been vetted and confirmed bullshit. Stick to the scientific literature, you’ll find it more reliable than the misguided work of eccentric schoolteachers.

  16. As geologists we are taught to try extrapolate the universe from a rock sample. The results of our attempts must be tempered with judgment fed by new facts as they emerge. Anyone with a degree and access to science journals can publish anything and they have.

    Look at those that lay out the data, and not those that feature interpretation.

  17. Hunter: I have been reading the papers on that site. I realize there are calibration and sampling errors in some of the measurements, but that does not damn the entire lot of measurements. It seems uncanny that data from a wide variety of sources show CO2 rising and falling over the same time periods. How do you account for that?

  18. Hunter:

    Einstein was an f’ing patent clerk with little education. Smearing someone because of their occupation is a cheap shot. Confront facts, data or arguments – not people. Or you risk being ignored and understood as a hack with an agenda.

  19. It seems uncanny, Jim, that CO2 apparently wildly varied over very short timescales for much of the last several centuries, but stopped doing so in 1958 and has been slowly and steadily rising ever since then. It seems uncanny, because it’s physically impossible. Anyone who gives Beck even a moment’s credence is a fool, consciously allowing themselves to be taken for a ride.

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