In 1906, the North American Review published Mark Twain’s “Chapters from my autobiography”. Therein, he ascribed the phrase “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” to the British statesman Benjamin Disraeli.
The phrase has come to be a prime example of the persuasive power of numbers and statistics. Especially when used to amplify weak arguments.
Yet, if it was only amplification that was sought with numbers, figures, and statistics, things would not be so bad. Those who want it would still be able to comb through the morass to determine the true picture. Provided they have the requisite knowledge of course.
Getting through to the bedrock of solid facts and data is more important than ever. And we won’t get there by deductive reasoning. Every figure must be consumed with a boatload of salt.
We like to believe in technological and scientific progress. We marvel about our capabilities. And yet, when push comes to shove, many turn to occult and dogmatic belief systems.
Now, those who know me will also know that I am quite apatheistic when it comes to belief systems. This means that in normal times, I accept them all as long as they do not impinge upon my autonomy as an individual. A boundary that the vast majority of the traditional belief systems never impede upon.
But, a new cult of unseen proportions raises its head now. Its guiding principle is that mankind is supposed to be bad. It needs to be delivered from its unsavory desires and the original sin of its very existence. Through the emission of CO2, the planet is on a path towards disaster. To avert this calamity, any countermeasure no matter how oppressive is justified. This cult has overstepped any limits of acceptability for me. This means that my apathy towards this one cult wanes and I take a stance.
There is a number attached to this faith. It’s the often-cited 97% of scientists agreeing that humans cause catastrophic climate change. This one number has been elevated to constitute the Holy Grail of all Climate Alarmists. There are very few that would dare to doubt its scientific value. Yet, it’s as false as were the teeth of my great grandmother.
The 97%-story started out in 2004 with the Oreskes paper. Not a quality paper. Not well researched or written. In the end its impact was close to nil. It was John Cook and some other authors who have tried to prove anthropomorphic climate change. They produced a series of papers of their own. In their last paper from 2013, they tried to bring the numbers home.
They had collected a little more than 12.000 articles from a host of journals. Somehow (we don’t know how) they had whittled this number down to 11.944 abstracts. Those articles have then been submitted to the attention of 24 citizens for classification. Those citizens are anonymous and they were given categories to classify all those abstracts. It was hoped that those citizens would actually understand what they were working on. They are anonymous so in the end, there is no way for us to know what prejudices those 24 came with. They sure would not belong only to the Climate Alarmist camp? Would they?
Only half of those 24 have actually classified more than 90% of the abstracts with the other 12 doing about 600.
We don’t know the intentions of those 24 anonymous heroes. Cook and friends are silent here. The numbers don’t add up on many occasions. We can also not be sure that those categories were used by each person independent from the author’s influence. After the publication of the results, many of the original authors were vexed on seeing how their opinions had been so distorted and misused. Their works were often miscategorized.
Many scientists were also irritated about only the total lack of transparency when it came to select the criteria for this exercise. 5 out of 10 articles were categorized as supporting the thesis of anthropogenic climate change (ACC). When in fact their articles said the exact opposite. Here we are not dealing with interpretation but rather a big, bold-faced lie.
And now comes the kicker. Cook classed the articles as follows:
- 64 supported ACC (a later check found that 23 of them miscategorized)
- in 2910 articles, the authors detected something they interpreted as supporting the idea of ACC
- in 7930 articles there was no reference to ACC
- in 40 articles the author expressed strong doubts about ACC
- in 54 articles, the idea of ACC refuted by those who never said so
- in 24 articles the refutation of ACC was explicit
To get 97%, 7930 articles were ignored from further calculations and hence they found 3896 pro ACC and 118 against which is 97,06%. In truth, only 32,6% supported ACC somehow. But the classification of Cook was arbitrary. So when all articles were re-classified, 64 articles supported ACC which brings support for ACC down to 1,6%. This time transparent criteria were applied by David Henderson and Alex Epstein.
But politicians had their number and they jumped on it like a male dog onto a bitch in heat. Here is our famous consensus, very few scientists actually support ACC. There are more people who support the theory that aliens operate a secret base on the moon. Or that dark powers control the world’s population through chemtrails.
But whats consensus anyhow? It makes us sentimental, lazy and leads to the establishment of the status quo as the one and unalterable truth. Consensus only helps ideologues who want to further their aims as Climate Alarmists always do.
People should heed the Royal Societies motto “nullius in verba” or in other words “see for yourself”.
This leads us to the overused and overstated concept of “peer review”. Because as soon as anyone dares to question the dogma, he/she is confronted with the assertion that this has not been peer-reviewed. Few concepts are more discredited though. “Letting blood” against fevers was once the peer-reviewed cure. Today we know that this practice led to suffering and often death as it actually weakens the body. The Earth as the center of the universe was once considered the final state of science peer-reviewed of course. So was the idea that “heavier than air” flying was impossible and that space was filled by the ether controlling planetary motions.
History is chock-full of erroneous theories that have been backed up by tons of peer review. And today, its all backed up by endless rows of data that can easily be cooked (pun intended) to show whatever one wants it to show.
And if those doctored numbers hit the spirit of the age, they become a relic. Something that’s above question and that MUST be venerated on penalty of being labeled a heretic. In today’s academic world, being a heretic carries a quite severe penalty as one risks his job, his income, his reputation, and his legacy.
During WW2 we fought an oppressive regime that sought to put its stamp into everyone’s life just to get another one that finally broke down in 1989. We like to think we learned the lesson but in the absence of an external threat, the useful idiot in us is rollicking.
Let me close with the words of Valeri Alexejewitsch Legassow. He was the Soviet scientist who brought light to the real causes of the Chernobyl disaster:
“Because of our secrets and our lies, they are practically what defines us. When the truth offends we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it is even there. But it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid.”