Libertarian meat eater, right wing in the sense of conservative with a small c.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Spanky lesbian pixie wenches

I was having a think today about the joyfully untired subject of science vs religion. Now so far as I understand the two they can be described like this:

Science: Observation - theory - test of hypothesis - if it seems to work, keep testing and if it lasts a while regard theory as proven - if you have results that don't fit there is either something wrong with the theory or your test - check test and if it works you have something wrong with your theory and it needs to be altered / scrapped - observation - ......repeat ad nauseam.

Religion: We have all the answers because our book says so and that came from God - we know there is a God and that ours is the only one because our book says so - what do you mean that's circular logic? - La la la I can't hear you nasty logic people.

Of course this is not the whole story, to prevent accusations of bias I should point out that I am an atheist and that several religions tend to instruct believers to visit violence on non members because of shit in a book. Most of my exposure to religion has been in the form of Christianity which gets around the "for fucks sake this is bollocks" argument by creating a deity that one cannot argue for or against, (in the sense of existing), because it is neither rational nor irrational.
The Christian God is considered to be nonrational which is to say that you cannot, by evidence or argument show existence or lack of such. To illustrate this is where the "spanky lesbian pixie wenches", (note to self: there must be a manga in this somewhere), come in:

If I were to assert that every aspect of our lives was lived under the watchful eye of such pixies and that the reason you couldn't tell was because they were invisible and intangible but I knew what they wanted you to do so you'd better do it........well, if you were charitable you would see me off to the funny farm. However, bar the weight of tradition this is all the religions have to offer and while we're on it ATHEISM IS NOT A RELIGIOUS POSITION YOU CUNTS it is the denial of such. To say otherwise makes no more sense than that denying the existence of the far more interesting "spanky lesbian pixie wenches" would give you a religious position.

So now that we have destroyed religion, (but not the pixie wenches I hope), let's move back to science. When I was kid we knew science was cool because it was going to give us flying cars, hasn't happened yet but I'm still hopeful. Still, science as a discipline has taken a few knocks over the years what with "THE ICE AGE IS COMING" and "MMMR WILL FUCK UP YOUR CHILD" making great headlines but not very good science. We used to view scientists as being the ones with the answers, years of declaring dodgy theories as fact lost us that illusion.

The scientific method is still alive and well, the problem is that that is no longer enough, (if it ever was), to get by. If you want serious funding then you have to do one of two things; come up with a new horror story; or support a prevailing view that has lots of research going on. The above examples show the first very clearly and there's an obvious example of the second, Anthropogenic Climate Change, (ACC). With all the claims and counterclaims from "we're all going to boil to death at half past two" to "it's getting colder really" what can we say for certain?

I believe that all we can say is: We've put a lot of stuff into that atmosphere and it may well have an effect.

That's all we can do. The percentage concentrations of gasses in the atmosphere are not affected measurably because we are dealing with such a vast system and even if we were able to measure the Carbon Dioxide levels accurately over time that wouldn't help. This is for several reasons regarding other possible causes from solar activity to water vapour to sulphur compounds but they all boil down to one thing. The planet is far too complex for us to be able to model it with our current level of technology. There are positive and negative feedbacks that we cannot predict with particular accuracy and those are only the ones we know about. The "unknown unknowns" mean that any relationships we can show in this case are, at best, highly suspect.

So we can see that we cannot make sensible predictions about the future of the climate based on the science we have. All we can do is study a few aspects that we are unable to tell whether they will be important to the issue. Theories of man made climate change are therefore, whatever they are, not scientific. We have the observation and theory but no way, at present, to test these theories. ACC is not proven and to say that "there is a consensus" on the issue simply falls back into the nonrational category, it can't be falsified or verified. To take severe actions on this basis is no better than blindly following God's word.

What to do then? Well take my advice and start praying hard to the spanky lesbian pixie wenches, it will no less good and a lot less harm.


View from the Solent said...

2 comments for the price of 1, Falco.
"if it seems to work, keep testing and if it lasts a while regard theory as proven" - a common misconception.
Absence of disproof isn't proof. A theory, no matter how good, only lasts until someone finds a counter-example. Which so far has always happened. That's why they're called theories.

Your 'spanky lesbian pixie wenches theory' is similar to, but at odds in the detail with, the widely held 'goblin theory'. I think yours will gain much support if you published a paper on it. Peer-reviewed of course. But you might have difficulty finding expert reviewers; depending on the nature of your evidence I'd be prepared to make myself available.

dearieme said...

"Observation - theory - test of hypothesis": up to a point. But for the Royal Road to Truth - albeit provisional truth - your test has to be a controlled experiment, preferably with maximal defences against human weakness - randomisation, double-blind or whatnot.

Anonymous said...

It made me laugh, thank you...

Falco said...

View from the solent - I should have been clearer on the nature of the test. I did mention that the theory should be "regarded" as proven. This is simply a matter of convenience. As to the search for "spanky lesbian pixie wenches", I'll keep looking and if you see any let me know.

dearieme - I did include the coveat of "check your test" but again I should have clarified that point.

Thank you for your comments

Anonymous said...


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