Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Failed Predictions Never Stop Champions Of Truth

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-George Santayana

Science proceeds by making predictions based on hypotheses, and determining whether those predictions accord with observed reality. Agreement in prediction and observation doesn't necessarily indicate you're correct (perhaps you missed something else, perhaps it was coincidence), but failure in agreement indicates that your hypothesis is flawed. In other words, it is a fantasy.

For example, in 2009, David Archibald devised his own method of assessing climate and, based on his new model, predicted

2009 is the eleventh anniversary of the recent peak on global temperature in 1998. The world has been cooling at 0.06 degrees per annum since then. My prediction is that this rate of cooling will accelerate to 0.2 degrees per annum following the month of solar minimum sometime in 2009.

Not only was he wrong, he was grossly wrong, and his 'prediction' was so incorrect that it didn't even correlate with the continuing positive trend in climate.

In the world of science this would be considered a failure. In the world of ideology, it is a mark of distinction. David Archibald made a repeat appearance at the WA Skeptics recently, continuing to tout his failed hypothesis via a 91(!) slide Powerpoint presentation (which also indicates his failure to understand how to effectively use Powerpoint, EoR notes in passing). Most of the presentation consisted of cherry picked facts, data sets with no references to their source, graphs often missing indications of what the axes represented, and political diatribe, though one (and only one) contained what might be considered a prediction based on Archibald's contrarian views.

Global Warming Alarmists (you get the idea from his emotive use of language that Archibald is here making a political presentation, not a scientific argument) are not just Wrong, but 'Exactly Wrong'. EoR isn't sure of the distinction, but he's sure it's a subtle and important one.

Prediction 1:

The Earth is getting colder and this will accelerate.

This is clearly a lot vaguer than Archibald's previous prediction. He doesn't appear prepared anymore to state a range for his studies as to how much colder Earth is getting. It's a nice phrase. It's one the deniers like to parrot in the belief that repetition will make it magically true. It was wrong in 2009. It is still (and increasingly so) wrong now.

The other statements that Archibald makes in that slide appear bizarre taken out of context until you learn that the last forty of so slides of his presentation are a political argument that burning more coal and using nuclear power are the only sensible ways to save the planet.

For another example of science in action, in 2008, "one of Australia's leading air pollution experts", Dr Peter Dingle, hypothesized

The "noxious cocktail" of athletes pushing themselves to the limit and the Games' city's dirty atmosphere could trigger a serious - and potentially lethal - asthma attack, Murdoch University Associate Professor Peter Dingle said.

"Without a doubt you are going to see an increase in asthma incidents,'' Prof Dingle told Beijing Now.

"And while it is unikely, because of the number of officials and medical specialists on hand, you could have a death during these Olympics.''

EoR believes Dr Peter Dingle's specialty is indoor air quality, not 'air pollution', though the incorrect description may be an error on the reporter's part (it still doesn't excuse using Dr Dingle outside his area of expertise). The article notes that, according to the Australian Olympic Team's head doctor, Peter Baquie (who, unlike Dr Peter Dingle, EoR assumes actually has a qualification in medical health)

The performance drop is no longer considered to be a concern as the treatment of asthma ensures no symptoms are brought on by the pollution.

"We haven't had any concerns about the pollution affecting respiratory problems," said Baquie.

"It is not a danger, we are not seeing that sort of risk."

Nonetheless, the reporter feels compelled to return to yet another dire prediction from Dr Peter Dingle:

But Prof Dingle said the risks were undeniable.

"When you are an athlete you are pushing the barriers of your body,'' he said.

"So those people are already under stress and more likely to have an asthma attack.

"Add that to the stress of air pollution- and Beijing is unique in that regard - and you have a pretty noxious cocktail.

We all, of course, remember the terrible tragedy that was the epidemic of asthma at the Beijing Olympics, and the pollution caused deaths that so marred the Games.

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
-George Santayana

1 comment:

  1. At least that time Dingle was closer to his area of expertise.


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