The real difference between alarmists and sceptics

There’s a post on a blog that is not any way connected to physics which when I asked for racist comments to be removed asked me not to comment. And that is something I am happy to comply with as I will not tolerate racists nor those who condone them.However, (as I wait for plaster to dry) I happened to read their article (no link) and had a few personal comments:-
Warmists v. Alarmists v. Sceptics
I might not have been the first to use “warmist”, but I certainly coined the term for my own use when commenting on posts at WUWT. I forget the terminology current at the time but there was nothing short of complete insults and I wanted a way to refer to those pushing global warming in a non pejorative way.
So what is the difference between “warmists” and “Sceptics”? Warmists are those on the “warm” side of the debate and generally believe the IPCC forecasts of warming. In contrast sceptics are sceptical of those forecasts. And Alarmists …. they are those who not only believe the forecasts but are alarmed. So, alarmists are extreme warmists.
And as sceptics invented the terms … I think we have a right to define them.
But perhaps a bigger divide concerns how sceptics and alarmists view science.
Sceptics tend to hold a traditional view and focus strongly on the “scientific method” and would strongly support Einstein’s view:

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. (Einstein)

And like Galileo they are not swayed by claims of authority:

“In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” (Galileo Galilei)

In contrast warmists view “science” as a membership association. Science is the work of “scientists” and scientists are academics who become “scientists” when other “scientists” accept them into the community of “science”. Or to be more blunt:

Sceptics view science as “evidence” and experiments.

Warmists view science as peer review and a means to a public sector pension.

But beyond that, the biggest division between warmists and sceptics is that most warmists are public sector and most sceptics have worked in the private sector. The key difference here, is that in the private sector real customers have specific demands and one of those demands is that whatever is supplied works and is on budget – not the strongest characteristics of the public sector.
In contrast, the philosophy of the public sector is epitomised by the Scottish parliament. A carbuncle of a design that cost some ten times the original estimate and which is so poor quality that it has been a hell to maintain – but the public were paying! So who cared? Not Sir Muir Russell. Who since overseeing that fiasco has had a charmed life with several prestigious jobs as Chancellor of Glasgow University head of the Scottish Judicial appointments and a climategate whitewash – someone had friends in very high places!
And here is where “risk” has a very different meaning to the public-sector warmist and the private sector sceptic. To a private sector sceptic “risk” means the simple probability of failure and the costs of that failure. So, e.g. the “risk” of a bridge falling down, is the probability of that event and the consequential loss of life and financial costs.
In contrast in the public sector “risk” has a very different meaning. It doesn’t mean the actual risk, but instead the political risk. It means “will my minister, my chancellor, my supervisor … get egg on their face if I get this wrong?”. Like the Scottish parliament, there’s no concept of “cost” or the impact on the economy. Instead, it’s some namby pamby airy fairy wishy washy interpretation like: “will a journalist pick this up and run with it?”
If the public sector think the press and/or public won’t crucify them – then fine – there’s no risk. But if the press/public might – then the risk suddenly looks “too high” and the “precautionary approach” means they “have to act”, etc. etc. etc.
And of course, shrewd business people know the public sector have plenty of money and very few braincells – so they prey on their fear of “risk” and can manipulate the scared rabbits to do anything if they shine the lights of publicity at them.
And so to  take a quote from an alarmist:
How our climate will respond to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations is determined by basic physics. No amount of wishful thinking will make climate sensitivity low, if it’s not.
My simply reply:

… and no amount of your wishful thinking will make climate sensitivity high, when it’s not, nor make the climate warm, when it is not, nor make the global ice melt, when it is not, will make the hurricanes blow, when they are not, etc. etc.

It might work in theory

But if there is one major difference between the public sector alarmist and the private sector sceptic it is in their demand from proof that things actually work in practice. Like so many alarmists I did a science degree. So, I too learnt the wonders of science and how science had the answer to every question if only the people who did not know science were not so ignorant that they did not know the question to ask.
Then I went to work in an engineering company and was asked to apply that science in real life. Suddenly from science being omniscient, it became an embarrassment as I constantly found that what should have worked “in theory” didn’t work “in practice”.  No matter how carefully I worked out the theory, I could never be sure it would work in practice until I had laid it out and tested it. And after a few years learning not to overstate the chances of the theory working in practice I too was able to join in the joke saying: “it should work in theory” before demonstrating anything I designed.
And eventually I too could join in the chiding of another group of raw behind the ears recruits taught by arrogant academics to be arrogant about the ability of science … until they in turn learnt to be humble before the evidence of what works in practice.
This however, is a lesson which no alarmist has so far learnt. They do not understand that no matter how much theorising and how many theories, nor however august those spouting the theories nor how many people believe them to be right, even if the theory says something “should” do something, that only testing it in practice will prove if it does.
So, here I think is the real difference between sceptics and alarmists.

Alarmist: the theory must be right, the academics (“scientists”) tell us the fossil fuel economy is bad, therefore “science” tells us we must …

Sceptics: I understand the theory, I understand you think the theory says it should … but so far the evidence does not support the theory and even contradicts it. So before further destroying the economy on which we all depend, perhaps you might allow us to see more evidence.


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12 Responses to The real difference between alarmists and sceptics

  1. TinyCO2 says:

    I think you’re being generous. With testing, I’ve concluded that they’re thick as two short planks.

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      I might suggest “differently abled”.

      • TinyCO2 says:

        Is adding ‘reliably’ to ‘thick’ make it an ability?

        • Scottish-Sceptic says:

          Some people can’t do maths, a huge number of “greens” have no moral compass (thinking of Connolley) in that they will fly to Japan one minute and then lecture the rest of us about saving the planet the next.
          Some people will never do advanced maths, Greens will never do “advanced morality”. They are the kind of people who cannot connect their own actions to to any moral perspective.
          For them the splinter in another’s eye really does appear much bigger than the log in their own.

  2. TinyCO2 says:

    More seriously – they don’t grasp that the higher the stakes, the more scrutiny you give the evidence. There’s rarely a point where you say ‘this is too important to question’ but they have that attitude to AGW. For them action is a completely separate issue so they don’t think ‘for X evidence I would spend/do Y’.
    I wonder how high up this mentality goes. Probably to the top given the UN and the EU are involved. Money has no direct connection to successfully completed goals for those organisations. If they lack success, they always have other people to blame and or bill.

    • To give you an example, when I was in the green party I was talking to some about windmills and I was talking about the balance between “saving planet” and local harm. After I got blank faces I eventually worked out that their concept of “wind power” was a small windmill about 1m across at the bottom of the garden.
      The reality is that they had absolutely no idea how much energy they were using. It was literally a perpetual motion mentality because they had no concept that doing anything took energy and so if they used 1TWH saving 1kWH that to them was worth doing.
      And the same thing is true of Connolley and my own MP Jo Swinson. They talk about “saving the planet” and then both of them fly off to foreign countries and/or commute weekly by airplane.
      It is as if you had a person who’s feet and mind were literally controlled by different intelligences and had no idea what the other was doing. They consume a vast fortune of energy and then preach to everyone else about saving the planet.
      And this I think is what makes people sceptics. It’s not that we use more energy – it’s that we know we use energy and we know we have to use energy to continue with anything like the prosperity we have at present.
      In contrast Greens – think you can have a perpetual motion society where energy comes out of nothing and we can all live on sawdust.

  3. Great article. It explains why the warmists (and alarmists – their fringe element) encountered the problems that they do. For instance, their computer models may suggest a catastrophe, yet in the real word that hasn’t happened. It seems like when most branches of science encounter the real world they revisions as necessary, until they produce something that works. But climate science on the other hand is stuck, firmly entrenched in an idea of a runaway greenhouse effect that will create enormous (and often contradictory) disasters. It is never able to move on from the theoretical to the practical. Perhaps it doesn’t want to.

  4. Scientist and proud.

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      But by that do you mean someone who works to the scientific method and believes evidence such as 18 years of pause proves the models of climate are invalid..
      Or do you mean someone who works in a University, who vaguely remembers being taught something about “method”, but who now know they are special and much better than us horrible sceptics, because all their fellow academics keep telling you you’re special and not to worry about the nonsense we sceptics talk about the evidence or “scientific method”.

      • It means I am truly sceptical. And no one needs to tell me how to judge you; I can figure that one out for myself (using the scientific method).
        By the way, your repeated and heavy-handed criticisms of academics, universities and scientists apparently doesn’t stop you contacting them for assistance when it suits you, does it?

        • Scottish-Sceptic says:

          I might ask – but none have offered to help – instead they have wilfully misconstrued and deliberately falsified evidence against sceptics.
          They have repeatedly libelled us on national TV & radio and nothing I have said can be compared to e.g. waking up to hear radio 4 calling me a paedophile.
          If you really accept the scientific method, then can you then tell me if the scientific method is basically this:
          You form a hypothesis, then you subject that hypothesis to test by e.g. checking to see what it predicts is correct … and if the data doesn’t support the hypothesis then it is deemed to be invalid?
          If so, how can all these idiots in academia claim to be scientists when they hypothesised the climate would warm – then before any evidence was in told us they were certain, it was unequivocal, the “science was settled, et.c” – and now we’ve had 18 years without the warming they predicted they deny science, deny the data contradicts their models and refuse to admit their models are invalid.
          Worse! Far from admitting the models are wrong – every single report by the IPCC has claimed to be “even more confident” that they are right.
          As the evidence mounts they are wrong, that the models are invaldi, that they cannot predict the climate — these delusional people say they are more confident they are right.
          And some claim to be sceptics?

  5. Pingback: The Academic Ape: Instinctive aggression and boundary enforcing behaviour in academia | Scottish Sceptic

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