Prof Richard Lindzen: Fear based science

Posted: November 12, 2012 by tallbloke in books, climate, Gravity, Incompetence, Philosophy, Politics, propaganda

My thanks to Ned Nikolov, who has sent me a paper by Richard Lindzen, recently retired professor of Meorology at MIT. This work is of prime importance to those interested in the issues surrounding the development of science in society, and the outcome in climate science. Names are named, and some dirty washing hung out to air.

Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions?
Richard Lindzen 2012


For a variety of inter-related cultural, organizational, and political reasons, progress in climate science and the actual solution of scientific problems in this field have moved at a much slower rate than would normally be possible. Not all these factors are unique to climate science, but the heavy influence of politics has served to amplify the role of the other factors. By cultural factors, I primarily refer to the change in the scientific paradigm from a dialectic opposition  between theory and observation to an emphasis on simulation and observational programs. The latter serves to almost eliminate the dialectical focus of the former. Whereas the former had the potential for convergence, the latter is much less effective. The institutional factor has many components. One is the inordinate growth of administration in universities and the consequent increase in importance of grant overhead. This leads to an emphasis on large programs that never end. Another is the hierarchical nature of formal scientific organizations whereby a small executive council can speak on behalf of thousands of scientists as well as govern the distribution of ‘carrots and sticks’ whereby reputations are made and broken. The above factors are all amplified by the need for government funding. When an issue becomes a vital part of a political agenda, as is the case with climate, then the politically desired position becomes a goal rather than a consequence of scientific research. This paper will deal with the origin of the cultural changes and with specific examples of the operation and interaction of these factors. In particular, we will show how political bodies act to control scientific institutions, how scientists adjust both data and even theory to accommodate politically correct positions, and how opposition to these positions is disposed of.

1. Introduction
Although the focus of this paper is on climate science, some of the problems pertain to
science more generally. Science has traditionally been held to involve the creative opposition
of theory and observation wherein each tests the other in such a manner as to converge on
a better understanding of the natural world. Success was rewarded by recognition, though
the degree of recognition was weighted according to both the practical consequences of
the success and the philosophical and aesthetic power of the success. As science undertook
more ambitious problems, and the cost and scale of operations increased, the need for funds
undoubtedly shifted emphasis to practical relevance though numerous examples from the
past assured a strong base level of confidence in the utility of science. Moreover, the many
success stories established science as a source of authority and integrity. Thus, almost all
modern movements claimed scientific foundations for their aims. Early on, this fostered a
profound misuse of science, since science is primarily a successful mode of inquiry rather
than a source of authority.

Until the post World War II period, little in the way of structure existed for the formal support
of science by government (at least in the US which is where my own observations are most
relevant). In the aftermath of the Second World War, the major contributions of science to
the war effort (radar, the A-bomb), to health (penicillin), etc. were evident. Vannevar Bush
[1] noted the many practical roles that validated the importance of science to the nation,
and argued that the government need only adequately support basic science in order for
further benefits to emerge. The scientific community felt this paradigm to be an entirely
appropriate response by a grateful nation. The next 20 years witnessed truly impressive
scientific productivity which firmly established the United States as the creative center
of the scientific world. The Bush paradigm seemed amply justified1. However, something
changed in the late 60’s. In a variety of fields it has been suggested that the rate of new
discoveries and achievements slowed appreciably (despite increasing publications)2, and it is
being suggested that either the Bush paradigm ceased to be valid or that it may never have
been valid in the first place. I believe that the former is correct. What then happened in the
1960’s to produce this change?


A personal memoir from Al Grable sent to Sherwood Idso in 1993 is interesting in this regard. Grable served as a Department of Agriculture observer to the National Research Council’s National Climate Board. Such observers are generally posted by agencies to boards that they are funding. In any event, Grable describes a motion presented at a Board meeting in 1980 by Walter Orr Roberts, the director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and by Joseph Smagorinsky, director of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton, to censure Sherwood Idso for criticizing climate models with high sensitivities due to water vapor feedbacks (in the models), because of their inadequate handling of cooling due to surface evaporation. A member of that board, Sylvan Wittwer, noted that it was not the role of such boards to censure specific scientific positions since the appropriate procedure would be to let science decide in the fullness of time, and the matter was dropped. In point of fact, there is evidence that models do significantly understate the increase of evaporative cooling with temperature [3]. Moreover, this memoir makes clear that the water vapor feedback was considered central to the whole global warming issue from the very beginning.

Data that challenges the hypothesis are simply changed. In some instances, data that was thought to support the hypothesis is found not to, and is then changed. The changes are sometimes quite blatant, but more often are somewhat more subtle. The crucial point is that geophysical data is almost always at least somewhat uncertain, and methodological errors are constantly being discovered. Bias can be introduced by simply considering only those errors that change answers in the desired direction. The desired direction in the case of climate is to bring the data into agreement with models, even though the models have displayed minimal skill in explaining or predicting climate. Model projections, it should be recalled, are the basis for our greenhouse concerns.
That corrections to climate data should be called for, is not at all surprising, but that such corrections should always be in the ‘needed’ direction is exceedingly unlikely. Although the situation suggests overt dishonesty, it is entirely possible, in today’s scientific environment, that many scientists feel that it is the role of science to vindicate the greenhouse paradigm for climate change as well as the credibility of models. Comparisons of models with data are, for example, referred to as model validation studies rather than model tests.

Read the rest of this lucid and important paper.

  1. Entropic man says:

    It’s not just climate science that feels political pressure.

    Senator Coburn proposed an amendment forbidding funding for political science because the scientists were saying things Coburn disliked.

  2. Brian H says:

    So much sense, that hasn’t been noticed or absorbed. I hope Lindzen stays very active despite having retired from MIT. But I worry that MIT will cave under the very financial pressure to hype “fear” that Lindzen deplores.

  3. […] Consequently, in her appeal to the authority of “science”, Figueres (and the “governments” she claims agree with her transformational whatevers) clearly fails to recognize that, as real scientist Richard Lindzen has noted [h/t Tallbloke]: […]