Wednesday, February 02, 2005

At last, some good news

Of course, there's the amazing success of the Iraqi elections. It says something about the negativity of the media coverage of Iraq that the success does amaze us: no-one was amazed that black South Africans went out and voted in the first democratic elections fifteen years ago. Mark Steyn looks at some of the reasons why, as only he can. (Unfortunately not everyone is sufficiently mentally healthy to enjoy this good news: this is now only on the Free Republic site because it has for some reason disappeared from both the Democratic Underground website and the Google cache.)

And then there is this. If you're as tired as I am with all the nonsense about global warming (sorry, it's climate change now, isn't it - sounds silly to blame the snow storms in North America on warming now, doesn't it) you may enjoy this speech by Michael Crichton (he of Jurassic Park fame) on the dangers of the "scientific consensus" that proponents of global warming theory are fond of saying is in favour of their theory:

Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

He goes on to provide plenty of examples of a consensus that was upheld by the scientific community for years, even decades, despite being completely wrong. This includes puerperal fever, the mythical "pellagra germ", continental drift, and the cause of stomach ulcers.

Regarding global warming, Crichton makes some very valid criticism of the over-reliance on computer models:

This fascination with computer models is something I understand very well. Richard Feynmann called it a disease. I fear he is right. Because only if you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen can you arrive at the complex point where the global warming debate now stands.

Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?

That would certainly seem to be the case. Read the full speech here.


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