More Fun With Jo Nova

I love her poor graphics – especially in the second, more hysterical handbook – which brings me back to her writing time and time again. Occasional, something stands out to me which is clearly wrong, such as her Decarbonised planet image I’ve discussed previously.

Such errors stand as illustrations of her own hopes, misconceptions and outright delusions and so are worth sharing. Here’s a couple more from the same handbook;

” Real deniers claim something needs to be peer reviewed in order to be discussed. (Bad luck for Galileo and Einstein eh?) At the very least this slows down debate for up to a year, instead of discussing results that are right in front of us now.” (pg 14)

Committed sceptics love this theme. They see the peer review process something like a bunch of old crabby men, sitting around a large mahogany table scoffing down printed articles that challenge their world view. It’s used as buoyancy to hold up their favoured papers when critical analysis leaves them in tatters. It’s also the theme used when individuals, such as Christopher Monckton, publish material outside of peer review or in recorded lecturing. Ultimately, if the evidence being presented to support a hypothesis was strong enough, it would be repeatable and undeniable (ie. peer review, thus the strength to the scientific method).

The constant attraction to Galileo and Einstein is understandable, both men were revolutionary and faced hardship for what evidence their investigations returned. However, did both men really avoid peer review? Did they simply publish their ideas and, while they faced a strong backlash, these conclusions were otherwise embraced?

Of course not!

Their studies may have been published without peer review, but their studies were debated and tested time and time again. Their research was peer reviewed. It’s only in recent times that we have began to have the technological advancements required to physically test some of Einstein’s mathematics. Apollo 15 Astronaut Dave Scott’s hammer verses feather test was itself further confirmation of Galileo. Amazing stuff!

What did the committed sceptic really think would happen when Chris Monckton drew strong, contrary conclusions about climate change? The world would take a brief look over his world, leap out of their chairs with a cry of “hallelujah!” and hold a street party in his honour?

No; they tested his reasoning, critically and thoroughly… It didn’t turn out to be that strong – don’t lose sleep over it!

Yes, the results are in front of us right now, but science is about independent retesting and alternate lines of investigation (ie. you don’t just look at the elephant from 3 inches from it’s trunk and claim to have done an intense physiological investigation). Confirmation, or at least increased certainty, comes from critical review.

“A Scientist: Gives out all their data, all their methods, everything other people need to repeat their experiment; Is helpful; Is polite…” (pg 13)

The first point here is a lot of fun – it contradicts the indignation the committed sceptic expresses when others repeat their logic (ie. peer review) and find it wanting… hmmm… It isn’t sensible to give raw data (eg. some errors are known only to the technical staff, thus validation is imperative), but otherwise, yes, data and methods tend to be given for review. More important is to independently repeat the study to test the methods themselves.

Helpful? Polite? I don’t remember undergoing finishing classes as part of my degree – perhaps that’s part of post graduate courses?

Scientists are humans too. I’ve known a lot and I’ve found them to be everything from warm and inviting to demonstrating incredibly poor social awareness, just as I have the general public. Newton was a genius, but he was also rude, grouchy and secretive.

Personally, I find Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins to both be thoughtful, patient and polite public speakers, especially when debating with contrarians, however, I know their critics would disagree with me. I think their critics, like Nova, don’t like it when they’re informed, in no uncertain terms, that their favoured hypotheses are blatantly wrong. That’s not being rude, it’s being honest.

“A Non Scientist: Uses circular reasoning; Uses argument from authority; Uses argument from ignorance; Uses ad hominem attacks; Hides or loses their data; Adjusts the data to fit the theory; Won’t debate or answer questions; Bullies, threatens, name-calls [repeating herself here]; Idolises human institutions. (Hail the IPCC!); Has “faith” in systems, committees, or authorities” (pg 13)

I don’t know which scientist she has been speaking to, but the only circular reasoning, arguments from ignorance, ad hominem attacks and refraining from genuine debate or answering questions I’ve witnessed have been online, in blog threads, from committed sceptics (have a look under the alfoil hat or George from this post from WtD for example). No good scientist, indeed no respected scientist, gets to such accolades and maintains them for long by playing such games. Same with dodgy data – the truth has nasty habit of popping up time and time again. Bad ideas fall down under critical investigation – both methodology and data (what science is all about).

Key words “idolise” “faith”: the terrible religion of science she doesn’t like. Of course, if scientists are generally convinced that the evidence is very strong for a given idea that is contrary to something one knows must be true, it must be the scientists who have falling from the perch of reason and entered the sand box of dogma… okay.

Again; present the evidence for a contrary hypothesis and have it critically reviewed. Don’t be upset if it is actually looked at – Monckton, as a “non scientist” should have been grateful that scientists took him seriously enough to spend their time evaluating his research. That it didn’t stand up to such evaluation is just as good; it means one less potential hypothesis we can rule out – meaning we are more certain than we were!

The only conclusion I can draw is that her writing exposes a poor understanding of science and scientific method. She seems to be openly offended by critical  investigation and honesty; both of which, I assume, must not leave her with much grounds to stand her hypotheses upon. She seems to want anthropogenic climate change to be false. That science cannot draw the same conclusions as her must mean science is wrong, or so her book reads to me. That not all scientists are personable tends to be inflated; that critical review finds her ideas (and those favoured ideas produced by others) wanting; it’s all inflated to the level of conspiracy. How else to explain such a fork in the road without seriously analysing her hopes and expectations?

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