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If The Skeptic Society Were Not Fast Asleep On AGW (Anecdotes Do Not Make A Science)

This is what the Skeptic Society would write regarding the constant barrage of reports, blog posts, news items, peer-reviewed articles about the current and future (lack of) catastrophes related to man-made CO2 emissions – they would write it, that is, if the Skeptic Society were not fast asleep on the topic, most of the time – but not always – seeing itself as Defender of the Orthodoxy of Established Science rather than, shock! horror!, a society of skeptics:

Anecdotes Do Not Make a Science:
The ThisShouldBeWhatSkepticsAreAbout Reply
by non-Michael Shermer, non-Arthur Benjamin & non-James Randi

We realize that hour-long “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) demonstrations” do not a scientific experiment make, but there is no question that you warmists present them as if it were a scientifically known fact that “we are experiencing or going to experience Catastrophic AGW” to some degree. In your blog posts and articles, in fact, you state that these “physical phenomenon” is “something that is happening to us all,” thus stating your support of the “fact” of the existence of catastrophical man-made global warming. But scientifically speaking, the “facts” of the matter are that there is no positive evidence whatsoever for the existence of any of the increase in exceptional weather you discuss, when records are compiled in controlled scientific conditions.

Even the pro-AGWers who do serious responsible research on the matter are now admitting that their entire research program, after over fifteen decades of data collection, has produced nothing statistically significant. The few “blips” in the data that appear, quickly disappear when conditions were instead expected to replicate. This is one of the beautiful components of the scientific method—its self-correcting nature. For those who are corrected, however, it may not seem so attractive.

(Of course, Mr. Warmist, if your arguments for the validity of CAGW claims are based upon religious, rather than logical, scientific reasoning, many of these arguments may not apply to your statements. In that case we are arguing about a preferred belief system rather than a provable—or disprovable—claim).

Our position is not meant to be scornful or condescending. We only want to make the point that under controlled measurements over many decades, there has never been a proper and statistically significant finding of catastrophic increase in exceptional weather events. What CAGW people have are anecdotes about hurricanes or Arctic sea ice, and anecdotes do not make a science. Anecdotes are stories related by participants: “I saw a tornado and thought ‘this is what CAGW is about’.” Or: “I spotted some maybe-dead polar bears and made a guess about how many more have died because of CAGW.” And so on.

The simple fact is that thousands and thousands of CAGW stories, as impressive as they may seem, do not make a science. Ten anecdotes are no better than one anecdote, and a hundred anecdotes are no better than ten. Actually, a hundred anecdotes are worse than ten, if you do not also have statistically significant data showing a worrisome change in weather patterns and events somewhere in the world. It is a fact, Mr. Warmist, that NO results shown so far have been adequately obvious and clear-cut. In the case of old data—and the reputation of CAGW rests almost entirely on old, dubious paleoclimate data—those requirements often cannot be applied, obviously. But if your CAGWers are able to NOW produce data, we can show you how standard statistics can be applied. We await, with interest, your response to this suggestion.

Anecdotes are only useful to illustrate a phenomenon that already has been proven scientifically, in this case, statistically. If you do not have this, and as far as we can tell you do not, then all those anecdotes indicate is that there is something else going on that has absolutely nothing to do with CO2 emissions. To repeat the six-word phrase that should be memorized by every CAGWer and skeptic (it is difficult for all of us to understand), and repeated every night before bed:


(freely inspired to the Skeptics Society reply to the Association for Research and Enlightenment, an ESP advocacy group)

  1. 2011/08/18 at 06:31

    Bought off for a half can of lard.

  2. Parma John
    2011/08/17 at 15:58

    Ueh, Maurizio, leave ’em alone. The Skeptical Society’s approach to CAGW only works against the new Religion. Here’s anecdotal evidence (smiley) of the fact.

    To wit: Michael Shermer is one of my all-time overall heroes in life. I met him through his book describing the vicissitudes of the first coast-to-coast bike races across America–what’s not to love about him? Then I discovered the Skeptical Society and his other genial writings, and fell in love head over heels. Hey, the guy’s my ideal of the whole Man.

    So, on the day in 2006 he announced his turn to accepting the CAGW theory as soundly proven (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-flipping-point) there was an alarm that went off in my head, too. Knowing the Man’s approach to scientific evidence I had to take notice of this phenomenon; by golly we must really be doing some harm to the planet if even Dr. Shermer is convinced. Of course, being skeptical by nature, I sat down to read everything I could get my keyboard on, and lo and behold, around about the beginning of the new year the Holy Bible (fourth revision), the IPCC’s 4AR WGI was published, putting all doubts to rest. Only problem was, I couldn’t get through the thousand-or-so pages without my skeptical barf bag!

    In the end, following Dr. Shermer’s general rules of engagement, summed up pretty succinctly by the Royal Society’s “Nullius in verba,” I was able to compellingly satisfy my doubts. The resounding conclusion was that the CAGW theory is a crock to be avoided at all costs by sentient beings.

    The Skeptical Society preaches the most marvelous of human capabilities–independent thought and logical reflection. Combined with personally acquired scientific knowledge and the Internet the lessons learned through the Society are powerful tools for arriving at the truth, whatever that is. It keeps one on one’s toes, intellectually speaking. Inevitably the skeptic reading Skeptic, if he understands what he’s reading, will come quite often to a conclusion which does not necessarily jibe with the Skeptic-al writer’s. And that’s powerful medicine.

    To Michael and the gang, keep up the good work. Hopefully nobody is taking your conclusions on your word alone. And please, try to avoid taking sides.

  3. 2011/08/17 at 11:56

    The FORMER believers of climate blame know BOTH sides of the CO2 mistake:
    Face it, there isn’t enough climate change believers left to vote YES at election time for taxing the air to make the weather colder. The former believer majority you see before you now is convinced the science was exploited and legally exaggerated. And besides, unfulfilled fear is never sustainable and it now leaves the CO2 mistake as another neocon-like Iraq War of lies. Climate Blame’s PR went all wrong when unstoppable warming was bandied about like it would be just an inconvenient little hot spell but as the catastrophic climate crisis failed to be materialized for any of the voters, the CO2 theory was doomed. Now the good news for REAL planet lovers; this comet hit of an emergency actually WAS exploited and exaggerated. Our kids our safe again and we have avoided the worst disaster imaginable; climate crisis. Outside of a comet hit, nothing could be worse than a climate crisis and the former climate change believers are happy for the planet and happy not to be burdened with living in a constant state of confusing panic and took 25 years to fall off the cliff in support. Meanwhile, the UN, the media, academia and progressivism and the entire SCIENCE world had allowed carbon trading stock markets run by corporations and politicians to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 25 years of climate CONTROL instead of the obviously needed POPULATION control. I suggest the lazy copy and paste journalists and leading lab coat consultants posing as saints, be prosecuted for leading the country to another false war. Climate change was treason.
    Climate change has done to progressivism what Bush did for the neocons and climate change has done to science what abusive priests did for the Catholic Church.

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