In 1906, the North American Review published Mark Twain’s “Chapters from my autobiography” in which 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 for the persuasive power of numbers and statistics in order to amplify weak arguments.
However, if it was only amplification that was sought with numbers, figures, and statistics, things would not be so bad. Those who want it – and provided they possess the requisite knowledge – would still be able to comb through the morass in order to determine the true picture. Today, we must attach a huge question mark to our perceived (or imagined) capability of quickly getting to the bedrock of solid facts and data through our powers of deductive reasoning.
Because as much as we like to believe in our technological and scientific progress, as we marvel about our capabilities, many of us turn towards the occult and dogmatic belief systems.
Now, those who know me will also know that I am quite apatheistic towards the common belief systems. This means that normally, I accept all of them as long as they do not impinge upon my autonomy as an individual. A boundary which, luckily, the vast majority of the more traditional belief systems never impede upon.
However, a new cult of unseen proportions raises its head now. Its guiding principle is that mankind is supposed to be inherently bad and needs to be freed from its unsavory desires and the original sin of it’s very existence. Through the emission of CO2, the planet supposedly is on a path towards disaster, and in order to avert this all measures, no matter how oppressive, are justified.
This cult has clearly overstepped any limits of acceptability for me which means that my apathy towards this one cult wanes and I take a stance.
There is a number attached to this faith – its the frequently cited 97% of scientists that apparently agree on the principle that humans cause catastrophic climate change.
This one number has been elevated to constitute the Holy Grail of all Climate Alarmists and 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. That did not matter much as it was John Cook and some other authors who have tried to prove anthropomorphic climate change in 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, which those authors have then submitted to the attention of 24 citizens for classification. Those citizens are anonymous and they were given categories in order 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 exclusively 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 just about 600.
Anyhow, we don’t know how objective those 24 anonymous heroes are (Cook and friends are silent here) and as the numbers don’t add up on multiple occasions, we can also not be sure that those categories were used by each classifier in a manner that was independent of any influence from the authors. It’s telling that after publication, many of the original authors of those underlying articles were quite vexed, that their works were miscategorized.
Then there was a number of scientists irritated about not only the total lack of transparency when it came to select the criteria for this exercise, but that 5 out of 10 articles were miscategorized, always as supporting the thesis of anthropogenic climate change (ACC) although their articles said the exact opposite.
And now comes the kicker. Cook classed the articles as follows:
- 64 supported ACC (a subsequent check found that 23 of them were miscategorized)
- in 2910 articles, the authors could detect something that they interpreted as supporting 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 was implicitly refuted
- in 24 articles the refutation of ACC was explicit
In order to get 97%, the 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 (this time with transparent criteria by David Henderson and Alex Epstein) 64 articles supported ACC which brings support for ACC down to 1,6%
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 explicitly 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”.
Which ultimately 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 duly 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) in order 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 in order 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, 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.”