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Re: The Scientific Ability Paradox

In reply to Orde I'd say what you're calling the 'scientific ability paradox' is just a re-statement of the 'decline of the polymath' or 'death of the polymath' observation which somebody writes an article about in science magazines and other intellectual-type magazines every now and again. The argument goes that science is increasingly specialised, with people knowing little outside their main field of expertise. It does beg the question though, if there are no longer any polymaths around, as to what is the point of government chief science advisers, or having a President of the Royal Society (other than for ceremonial purposes), or having a single individual review BBC science coverage.

In reply to Disputin and his assertion "Look closely into a True Believer and I'll bet you find a computer modeller", I think the situation is more complicated than that. I would agree that any science academic who is pro-AGW is very likely to have an uncritical attitude towards computer modelling. However I doubt that any of the four scientists Jones, Nurse, King and Beddington are actually computer modellers themselves, but it is possible they may all have been nominally in charge of research which involved computer modelling. King certainly was in charge of a computer modelling exercise for the UK Foot and Mouth disease outbreak in the early 00s as described in this link:

King even claimed that a computer model resulted in the setting of the date of the UK General Election in 2001 as being June 6th rather than May 5th.

But in contradiction to the 'true believers are computer modellers' claim, quite a significant number of AGW sceptics do have some experience of computer modelling, particularly people with an engineering background, and one of the driving forces for their scepticism is that climate science doesn't seem to have the same 'verification and validation culture' as engineering computer modelling. Climate scientists don't seem to have to build the test rigs that engineers do to give confidence that the modelling software works satisfactorily or demonstrate that they can handle a simpler problem before moving to a very complicated problem.

There's even an argument that climate scientists are under a delusion that they think they're writing physics programs when in reality what they're doing is more akin to writing engineering codes (programs). This article by Roger Peilke Sr expresses this view:


An extract from the Peilke article:

"This text seeks to equate climate modeling with the development of fundamental concepts in basic physics. However, these are not the same. Whereas fundamental physical constants such as the speed of light were the focus of the Michelson and Morley study, climate modeling relies on tunable parameters and functions in their parameterizations of clouds, precipitation, vegetation dynamics, etc in the construction of the models. Climate models are engineering code not basic physics. Only advection, the pressure gradient force and gravity provide the fundamental physics in climate model. The combination of a fundamental component of the model with an engineering component (in which the physics is tuned) results in engineering code, not basic physics."

I think one of the main problems with climate modelling is that, in addition to all the Greenies that seem to work in it, the discipline seems to be full of people with maths degrees and also joint physics/maths degrees, and I wonder whether these people know the difference between physics and engineering or even when the subject is more approximate than engineering.

Re: The Scientific Ability Paradox - by Disputin - Jul 31, 2011 10:22am
Re: The Scientific Ability Paradox - by R McGeddon - Aug 3, 2011 2:33pm
Re: The Scientific Ability Paradox - by Dave Gardner - Aug 4, 2011 2:25pm
Re: The Scientific Ability Paradox - by JMW - Sep 15, 2011 1:48pm