Dear Rodney Hide,

By Grant Jacobs 12/05/2013

Seeing as my comment has not appeared in response to your opinion piece at the National Business Review and I am not familiar with the moderation approach used there,* I offer it verbatim below. As I do, I’ve left the climate science for others. Even without that your opinion piece has it’s problems, to be polite.

Well, it seems we shouldn’t listen to you – that’s for certain!

You are getting basics wrong.

Let’s start with your analogy that, “The best-ever scientific knowledge was Newtonian mechanics. And Einstein blew it to bits.”

That is incorrect.

If you can’t get right something that simple, that well understood, why should we expect anything you say on climate science to be right?

Einstein’s work did not ‘blow Newtonian mechanics to bits’. The latter is very widely used, very usefully. Einstein’s work relates to conditions outside of the sorts of speeds, time-frames and distances that are typical of our daily lives.

You’ll see Newtonian mechanics used by engineers and scientists everywhere. It’s perfectly good for that. In fact, Einstein’s alternatives are inappropriate and needlessly complex for most applications.

Heck even simulations of macromolecules, something I have some familiarity with, uses Newtonian mechanics. It’s not ‘perfect’, but it is science; it’s pragmatic, used, and gets useful results.

You do realise that in writing “That’s incontrovertible” you are presenting certitude, the very thing you claim to oppose?

You also get wrong a very important basic. You offer that people should not listen to groups, implying that members of groups are ‘speaking in concert’. What you don’t say is that’s not the case for science. In science the consensus is the consequence of criticism of each other’s findings. Scientists don’t ‘toe lines’ the way members of political parties are obliged to!


See also Ken’s take on the climate science aspects.

* I have no idea how long moderation typically takes, if comments are usually accepted immediately or not, or who moderates the comments there. There no message given that the comment is in moderation or whatnot. I’m too busy to do more than quickly put this up here. Now, back to work… (A pity on such a lovely autumn day…)

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Why (some) people don’t trust science

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Communicating complex and post-normal science to the policy maker and the public — lessons from New Zealand

0 Responses to “Dear Rodney Hide,”

  • One would have to say, taken in context (“science is never that certain”) Einstein did rather blow Newtonian mechanics to bits. Hide didn’t say “Newtonian mechanics is useless”, just that Einstein re-framed the scientific understanding.

    Do you disagree with that?

  • The only reference to Einstein and Newton relate to warnings that scientific theories can be over-turned by new ones.

    The subsequent argumentation by Hide seems to me relates to the issue of whether theories of climate change have been falsified or not. One can debate that, but I see nothing in Hide that relates to the utility of any theory over another.

    GCMs might be failing to forecast global temperatures, but they may well still be useful.

  • As you say, in addition there is a disconnect between his analogy/example and what he’s asking of climate change data, however you read his analogy/example.

    I’ll stand by what I wrote, though 🙂 — if it “blew it to bits” were correct no-one would be using Newtonian mechanics and clearly that’s not true.

    (Hide might have either written something more generalised with without naming particular theories and being more careful about how one might replace the other (which would still be disconnected from his main gripes as you say) or better dropped it entirely. It looks suspiciously like a bauble he’s picked up from somewhere that he thinks it sounds erudite/scientific/whatever.)

  • Newtonian mechanics is hardly over-turned by relativity. Qutie rightly Newtonian mechanics is still taught in schools and university and widely used in everyday life.

    This in no way undermines how wonderful relativity is, but clearly, it’s not a simple case of “we used to think x” and “now we think y”.

  • Grant, all Hide was saying is you can’t be absolute about theories, they change. Renwick was silly to say there was no other explanation for the droughts other than the increase in man made CO2 (Hide made two arguments by way of rebuttal – (1) theories are always open to review, and (2) the causal link between man made CO2 and warming was shaky).

    Andrea, we used to think the earth went around the sun, now we think it depends.

  • Taking the Newtonian mechanics analogy further, I think it is fair to say the theory is essentially unchanged at ordinary levels, to impose relativity on it. Einstein’s theories fully support Newtonian mechanics & are a refinement for special cases, rather than something new.

  • And Hide also destroyed his case. After claiming that scientists are guilty of religous zealoutry and asserting:

    “Only religious fundamentalists have certitude.”

    He then goes on to declare his own “certitude” in this:

    “The world stopped getting warmer 17 years ago. That’s incontrovertible.”

    He is declaring a “certitude” and “incontrivertability” of something for which he has not evidence. He is clearly not going to leave that assertion “open to review,” is he? He is the religious zealot.

    As for the role of greenhouse gases like CO2 in global temperature and warming – he may well claim the scientific understanding is shaky (he won’t be the first) – but he hardly qualifies as an authority on this. Particularly after declaring such an atttiude towards evidence.

    Surely the assessment resulting from the IPCC reviews has a lot more authority than Rodney has on such subjects.

  • Ken, you still haven’t worked out the difference between claiming certainty for an empirical statement vs claiming it for a statement of theory.

  • Simon, come on then. Tell me what the empirical fact is supporting the claim that “the world topped getting warmer 17 years ago.” What was the specific data relating to a point in 1997 supporting this statement? How can you support the argument that this claim is “incontrovertible.?”

    This is nothing to do with theories – it’s simply a statement Hide made which he cannot support.

    Neither can you.

  • Ken,you said it is inconsistent for Hide to claim an empirical observations is incontrovertible (or whatever) while claiming a theory can’t be.

    I simply observed there is no inconsistency, your mistake is to confuse the two, and Hide is right – theories are contingent but facts are decidable.

    And without wishing to pour fuel on the flames my last statement is a tautology derived from the definitions of “theories” and “facts”.

    Now I can easily define “getting warmer” in respect of the world to say it stopped 17 years ago. You clear prefer a different definition to Hide, but that is all that is going on on that score. You need to get together and agree a common definition and test that.

    On the other hand Renwick claiming it is incontrovertible (or whatever) that man made CO2 caused the recent drought is a different type of problem. Perhaps Renwick sees it as the same kind of problem, namely he defines droughts that occur after an increase in man made CO2 as caused by that, but his problem is that any reasonable person would fall about the floor laughing.

    And if this is really what he’s saying, so perhaps should you and Grant.

  • Simon, perhaps to clarify for you. Hide’s statement is not an empirical statement of fact – it is a conclusion. (I wouldn’t honour it as a theory or hypotheses as it has no structure – it’s simply a state of faith).

    I am asking for the empirical evidence so that we can draw our own conclusions. Hide did not produce any and you continue to refuse to.

    I agree one can have a lot more confidence in an empirical fact than in a conclusion, or even a theory. But neither you or Hide bother to produce the “incontrovertible” fact. You are just describing the conclusion as “incontrovertible” when it clearly isn’t.

    I strongly suspect you can’t produce he facts – or whatever fact you find will not support the conclusions Rodney made. I certainly can’t see how the current temperature record could.

    Perhaps your mistake has been to confuse an empirical observation or fact (in this case not even mentioned) with a conclusion – in this case an unwarranted conclusion.

    As for Renwicks claims – I have not referred to them, except to repeat the quotation Rodney used, because I don’t have access to the text of that particular discussion. All I can really say is that the quoted bit is not inconsistent with current understanding of the extremely likely role of Human generated CO2 (together with other factors) in current global temperature increases. I say that because it is impossible to actually model recent global temperatures if human inputs are ignored.

    Neither my blog article, or Grant’s, deals with Remwick’s claims – and it would be irresponsible to have done so without access to something he had actually said or written. (I realise that does not stop certain people who can’t help expressing hated for our climate scientists – they don’t need reliable text for that).

    So please leave Renwick out of this – it’s a red herring – and a pretty dishonest one when we only have Rodney’s article to go on.

    Please concentrate on the substance of the blog articles.

  • I read the Renwick comment as a reply to a CLIMATE question, not a DROUGHT query…..

  • Finally got to watch the interview, Ross. I agree that he was talking about scientific understanding of the role of greenhouse gases in global warmning. The specific quote of Rodneys was not realtaed to droughts in New Zealand.

    My conclusion – Hide has misrepresented Renwick – hardly suprising for a failed poltician with an agenda I suppose.

    But Simon has simply taken Hide’s argument on faith – he therefore got it worng. Renwick did not claim “it is incontrovertible (or whatever) that man made CO2 caused the recent drought.”

    I guess, Hide should apologise to Renwick – and Simon should take more care in taking the arguements of a failed politician with an agenda on faith. Especially when it comes to criticising other parties.

    Surtely in such situation we owe it 6to the people concerend to actually check what theya ctually said.

  • Uncertainties in parts (“when” and by “how much”) is not the same as uncertainties of the whole. The utilitarian reading of truth has been thoroughly trashed by philosophers of science. Science accepts fallibalistic, that’s why we have peer reviewing and ongoing critical scrutiny. The strength of the AGW thesis is the basic science which has been verified countless times, and the multiple lines of inquiry that confirms the general thesis.
    If Exxon, Shell and General Electric publicly concede the science, why should shamatuers like Ridney Hide or Barry Brill be taken seriously.
    Let them put their money where their mouths are rather than their mouths where the money is.

  • Ken, good to see you moving from the position that Hide can’t be incontrovertible about an empirical fact, and are now discussing whether he has the evidence to make that claim.

    It took a while but you got there.

  • Simon, I have asked from the beginning for the evidence. You couldn’t, or wouldn’t provide any. Nor did Hide. Yet he claimed his conclusion was “incontrovertible!”

    However, why try diverting away from the fact that you had taken Hide on faith, when you shouldn’t have? And consequently misrepresented Renwick.