Return to Website

Number Watch Web Forum

This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.

Number Watch Web Forum
Start a New Topic 
Author
Comment
View Entire Thread
Re: The Scientific Ability Paradox

Good reply, Dave, but if you don't mind me saying there are a few logical howlers there. For instance, I only said that most TBs are computer modellers, not that all TBs are computer modellers, much less "all computer modellers are TBs".
Your pointing out the essential difference between engineering models (modelling a well-understood system and rigorously validated against the real world) and GCMs, which can only attempt to make predictions and then compare their output post facto goes to the heart of the whole argument.

Re: The Scientific Ability Paradox

As Will Rogers pointed out, all of us are ignorant, only on different subjects. The temptation is perhaps to think that because you know a great deal about X, you also know a great deal about X±δ, as though a tennis champin considered that he or she must also be a star at badminton.

Re: The Scientific Ability Paradox

In reply to Disputin, I'll admit I did interpret myself what you said as being most TBs rather than all TBs, as I was pretty sure you were aware that JEB is a former computer modeller, albeit from about 50 years ago in the days when computer runs often failed due to a valve in the computer blowing. However I thought that the casual reader of the forum might interpret it as all TBs as you didn't specifically use the word 'most'.

Your post reminded me of a thread I started in 2010 called "Why politicians like computer models", where I launched into a diatribe against computer models. One of the reactions to that post was that it should be made clear that engineering computer models had to be regarded a bit differently, which I thought was a valid point, and thought it was worth introducing into this "Scientific ability paradox" thread, as casual readers of the forum might not be aware that there are "two cultures" when it comes to computer models, one bunch that puts some effort into proving that their computer model 'does what it says on the tin' and another bunch that doesn't.

But if the statement "Look closely into a True Believer and I'll bet you find a computer modeller" is clarified to "Look closely into a True Believer and I'll bet you find most are fans of computer modelling", there are still some complications. True believers, to me, consist of three important groups - 1) climate scientists and their supporters in the wider scientific community (like jones, King, Beddington, Nurse), 2) politicians (in the UK this seems to be virtually all politicians judging by their attitude to the Climate Change Act), and 3) the Green movement.

Out of these three groups, I'd say 1 and 2 are fans of computer modelling but the attitude of the Greenies (who to me are the most important of the three groups, without them on board the AGW cause would collapse in my opinion) to computer modelling is highly variable. If computer modelling supports the Green political agenda, they are keen on computer models, but if the model goes against their agenda they don't believe it or just ignore it. So the Greenies are pretty keen on computer modelling related to AGw, but the computer models used to claim the safety of nuclear power are disbelieved. Another example would be badger culling in the UK. The decision to cull is I believe based on a computer model, but in a case like that Greenies don't accept the idea of computer modelling.

Re: The Scientific Ability Paradox

As a professional engineer of long standing (1967) I deplore computer modeling.

When did it come to be that scientists began to believe that the future could be foretold? Projecting forward into time from past data, no matter how accurate the past data is, will not and can not foretell what will happen at any future time.

All this is but a modern crystal ball, with the monitor being what is seen, and perhaps printed.

This planet rotates about its axis, and the world continues to change. In reality, in random ways.

Ego has often produced the most curious fantasies.

Re: The Scientific Ability Paradox

It is the celebrity culture we live in.
For some reason, people at large seem willing to believe that a celebrity is an authority. Hence they are willing to listen to some film star telling them how to vote.
A scientist is a form of celebrity within that context and once they step outside their own field they are no longer to be relied upon as being any more reliable or insightful than, yes, the man in the pub.
Perhaps they only associate the scientific method and ethos with their own field.
They can, outside that field, be as inclined to inspiration and intuition and plain silly thinking as anyone else.
There ought to be an embargo on anyone with the least taint of celebrity from speaking about anything other than their own speciality and even then, perhaps silence is golden.

The reality is that angst ridden Hollywood stars believe their Prius car is saving the planet (they don't worry where the electricity comes from and they don't belief studies which show that on an ashes to ashes basis a 4x4 comes top of the environmentally friendly list and Prius about 63rd) but their eco-sensitivity lets them create dangerously influential and misguided ill informed public declaration fully aware that it is their celebrity status that ensures "belief", and not any inherent truth in what they say.
Worse still, some of them become activists of the worst sort e.g. Ted Dansen with oceana.com

Scientists have vanity too.