|Image: Jo Nova.|
Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley, FRSL, FMedSci, DL, is a British scientist, journalist, and a member of the House of Lords.
Matt has written an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal titled "Science Is About Evidence, Not Consensus."
Science does not respect consensus. There was once widespread agreement about phlogiston (a nonexistent element said to be a crucial part of combustion), eugenics, the impossibility of continental drift, the idea that genes were made of protein (not DNA) and stomach ulcers were caused by stress, and so forth—all of which proved false. Science, Richard Feyman once said, is "the belief in the ignorance of experts."After discussing Charles Darwin and the evidence for and against evolution, he goes on
A decade ago, I was persuaded by two pieces of data to drop my skepticism and accept that dangerous climate change was likely. The first, based on the Vostok ice core, was a graph showing carbon dioxide and temperature varying in lock step over the last half million years. The second, the famous "hockey stick" graph, showed recent temperatures shooting up faster and higher than at any time in the past millennium.
Within a few years, however, I discovered that the first of these graphs told the opposite story from what I had inferred. In the ice cores, it is now clear that temperature drives changes in the level of carbon dioxide, not vice versa.
As for the "hockey stick" graph, it was effectively critiqued by Steven McIntyre, a Canadian businessman with a mathematical interest in climatology. He showed that the graph depended heavily on unreliable data, especially samples of tree rings from bristlecone pine trees, the growth patterns of which were often not responding to temperature at all. It also depended on a type of statistical filter that overweighted any samples showing sharp rises in the 20th century.The column can be found at this link.
A sad ps to the column:
I have decided that this is my last Mind & Matter column, having written about 130 since September 2010. I am delighted to hand the torch to Alison Gopnik and others. Thanks, kind readers.
H/t Joe Bast Heartland Institute