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AGW’s Logical Impossibility: The ‘Argument Ad Providentiam’

(slightly expanded version of this)

UPDATED with #9 from Dick K, plus #10, 11 and 12 (this inspired also by a blog by Steven Goddard)

UPDATED with #13. And #14.

UPDATED for the last time As the list keeps growing, it has now become a page on its own.

Only the most careful readers of my quasi-live blogging about President Vaclav Klaus’s GWPF Inaugural Annual Lecture in London on Oct 19 will have noticed a quick remark I wrote, inspired by what Pres. Klaus was saying at the moment: argument ad providentiam.

That’s a concept I have mentioned sometimes in the past in some part of the web, not under that name of course. Very briefly, it goes like this: philosophically speaking, an interpretation of the world is fallacious when it implies the existence of divine, or divine-like intervention.

And so for example, AGW is logically fallacious as it has providential undertones.

Why? Because for (catastrophic) AGW to be happening right now, several amazing coincidences must have recently happened:

  1. Relatively widespread availability of computer power just enough strong to simulate the right climate projections on a multi-decadal scale
  2. Climate science developed just beyond the minimal level needed to understand how to simulate the right climate projections on a decadal scale
  3. Novel statistical approaches devised just in time, and correct from the get-go, for Mann’s Hockey Stick to emerge from the jumble of dendro- and other proxy data
  4. Governmental willingness to co-operate together all over the world (after the end of the Cold War) just in time for a worldwide problem like AGW to happen
  5. AGW recognized as an issue just as heavily-populated places such as India and China start getting their living standards on track to reach the Western world’s
  6. Western Governments discovering that there’s no money to be made out of making poverty history, just when poverty is discovered to be caused by taxable carbon (*)
  7. Invention of satellites capable of photographing the poles, just at the moment they start to melt (*)
  8. Data homogenization adjustments invariably the more negative the older the data
  9. Suddenly, actions previously known to be good are now coincidentally necessary to fight climate change (**)
  10. Climate change materializes as a worldwide emergency to be solved by typically-leftist social order interventions, immediately after the Soviet Union collapses and Communism with it
  11. A great number of scientists of various repute goes ga-ga upon reaching pension age, and speak openly of their skepticism just because they’re too old to understand a thing
  12. AGW mechanisms are such that the vast majority of warming happens in remote, very cold places where there’s a dearth of actual data and people that would notice any change, and where changes are hard to tell anyway as average temps go from hyperfreezing cold to slighly-less-than-hyperfreezing-cold (***)
  13. As the world gets warmer, plenty of Bad Things proliferate whilst plenty of Good Things dwindle in number or occurrence
  14. Just like controlled nuclear fusion, AGW catastrophes are firmly placed decades in the future, often beyond the AGWer’s own lifetime

I am sure one could continue a lot longer.

So in a sense, belief in AGW implies belief in a highly-improbable series of lucky discoveries and developments to happen just at the right time. That is called “Providence” and it is strong evidence for the existence of a Divine Being. But since such “evidence” is a contradiction in terms, then for catastrophic AGW to be happening right now, that’s a logical impossibility.

(h/t Geoff Chambers (*), Dick K (**) for the suggestions, and Steven Goddard for the inspiration to number 12 (***))

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  1. Sleepalot
    2010/11/02 at 05:29

    I’m sorry, but the logic fails for me, too.

    If it were a _natural_ “disaster”[1], then our advancing to the point of being able to
    discover it at the critical time would be an amazing coincidence.

    [1]ie, doom-mongers claiming “the Earth will melt soon from natural causes.”

    But as it’s (claimed to be) a man-made “disaster”[2], then it’s more in the realm
    of self-fulfilling prophecy: we destroy ourselves at the point where we have the
    capability so to do.

    [2] Of course CO2 and warmth make for a lovely, green, biodiverse planet: a
    veritable “New Eden”. Perhaps that’s what they’re afraid of.

    bicbw Logic isn’t my strong point.

    • 2010/11/02 at 06:49

      Sleepalot – if there were just the one coincidence, say, between our advances in computational power and CO2 emissions, then your objection would be valid. But as yet, there are 28 different “coincidences”. That’s what makes AGW appear preternatural/supernatural.

  2. 2010/10/31 at 23:49

    All – As the list keeps growing, it has now become a page on its own.

  3. 2010/10/24 at 22:54

    FYI: we have now 12 entries. Keep them coming 😎

  4. Mike M.
    2010/10/23 at 11:00

    Where is Keith Briffa?

  5. Malcolm Shykles
    2010/10/21 at 16:03

    The sole reason the democratic governments of this world take AGW on board is the strength of the Green Lobby due to the growing strength of the Protestor Movement which is nowadays enhanced by immediate media cover.
    The Government has to bend to the Green lobby merely because the majority of people have been persuaded that CO2 enhancement is going to lead to climate run away.

    Scientists, like Phil Jones who knowingly promote this scam should have their degrees annulled when the forthcoming Global Cooling will prove to all that the subject was all a hoax.

    • 2010/10/21 at 21:12

      Malcolm – Global Cooling will prove AGW, not disprove it. If you think about it, anything will prove AGW. Whatever is going to happen, warmer, cooler, wetter, drier, they will always claim it’s a sign of AGW. Sad isn’t it?

  6. 2010/10/21 at 11:59

    Maurizio, I agree; the close timing of these things does indeed resemble a miracle. (NB. could climate change be powered by Douglas Adams’s incredible Infinite Improbability Drive?)

    hro001’s mentioning of biodiversity provides a very good example of a similar and parallel process occurring re species extinctions. Just as soon as we become able to keep track of plant and animal species (due mostly to modern communications, organised record-keeping and computerisation) it is discovered that extinctions are at an almost unprecedented level.

    However, due again to modern communications, organised record-keeping and computerisation, it is also apparent that a) we are continually discovering new species, which would probably have escaped the notice of most people before modern times – except those living on the same patch of land – and b) we are becoming aware of recently-extinct species (e.g. the golden toad of Costa Rica) that we would have not have known about before. How many on-the-brink species like the golden toad existed before modern times and died out due to all sorts of causes and without leaving a trace? We simply don’t know.

    The bottom line is: we have no real idea exactly how many species there are in the world now, or how many species there were in the past before we started to log them.

    The parallels between the AGW and biodiversity “crises” are striking; they reinforce one another and go hand in hand (I believe hro001, Ozboy and James Delingpole have covered this subject very well in their respective blogs.)

    Here’s an article from last year in Microsoft’s European site that illustrates the point:
    http://www.microsoft.eu/Default.aspx?TabId=64&articleType=ArticleView&articleId=289

    It starts: “As concerns about global warming grow, scientists are turning to sophisticated computational models to better understand and ultimately predict the impact of climate change and human activity on biodiversity.”

    Biologist Jorge Soberon explains: “We will fit the species into the current and very recent past climates, and extrapolate given the future of climates that people like the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) provide you with.”

  7. 2010/10/20 at 23:57

    And let us not forget the coincidental impending ascendance of the new kid on the alarmist block: “unprecedented biodiversity loss compounded by global warming”.

    I kid you not! It’s coming soon to a monitor near you … thanks to the efforts of the UNEP (dedicated to serving up increasingly scary stories since 1972). It comes with it’s very own “gold standard” scientific panel (“mirroring” the IPCC) and the requisite “offsets or other schemes to mitigate and/or compensate”.

    Read all about it at:

    http://hro001.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/move-over-ipcc-here-comes-ipbes/

    • DirkH
      2010/10/30 at 15:24

      “(“mirroring” the IPCC) ”

      Copy&paste alarmism. A lot of the wording is the same; they have recycled “tipping point”, for instance. The Deutsche Bank is behind it, so the offset-trading is probably set up and good to go.

      Probably Deutsche Bank and Munich Re already have departments for regularly rolling out new scare stories. Product development or something like that.

  8. 2010/10/20 at 22:50

    Just to play warmists’ advocate here, it might be argued that there are two more highly improbable but undoubtedly true developments which underpin and will exacerbate CAGW; these are a) the unprecedented and widespread burning of fossil fuels and b) the rapid rise of Earth’s human population into the several billions, again unprecedented.

    A warmist counter-argument might be that all (or most) of the converging improbabilities you have listed stem from the Industrial Revolution, with its wholesale burning of coal and oil – computer and satellite technology, modern communications, the possibility of a Cold War, also the medical and agricultural advances causing the world population to rise, etc., all would flow logically, uniquely (and they might say inevitably) from industrialisation.

    Hence the same industrial civilisation which caused the polar ice to melt also inevitably created the satellite able to observe the ice melting.

    Actually I do agree with you, but I can also imagine how an AGW proponent might attempt to account for these convergences and coincidences.

    • 2010/10/20 at 23:41

      Now, Alex, even if they stem from the same root, how can it be but a miracle that they matured all at the same identical time? It’s not like we’ve had 60 years of computer models of the atmosphere, with AGW popping only in the last few decades. The fact is, AGW is being recognised as soon as the satellites went up, and as soon as the computers became powerful enough, and as soon as Mann et al found a novel way to deal with statistics, and as soon as the Cold War had ended, and as soon as… (etc etc)

      The answer to all this improbability is of course that maybe, just maybe, computers are not powerful enough, and satellites haven’t been looking long enough, and Mann’s statistics are not robust enough, and there’s been too much politics into global warming since the very beginning

      • AhmNee
        2010/10/21 at 02:59

        From what I’ve been reading, the atmospheric models are based largely on the modeling that was used in the late 80s for oceanic pollution. These computer models had a poor track record when it came to their ability to make predictions.

        I agree wholly that the fortuitous concordance of improbable events you list is much more likely an illusion than a miracle.

  1. 2011/01/11 at 00:43
  2. 2010/11/01 at 11:53
  3. 2010/10/28 at 09:02
  4. 2010/10/20 at 21:14

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