I’ve not used this blog for politics in the past, but I’m going to start making some exceptions where I think there is a technology tie-in. George Will’s piece on the Copenhagen summit was very interesting. I recommend that you read it. I am not a climatologist but I am a skeptic of all science based on computer models, especially models that cannot accurately predict the present observable state of a system.
The recently hacked emails of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) in Britain reveal a pattern of behavior that would be more consistent with the corrupt leaders of a cult whose proclaimed tomes of divinely inspired scripture cannot withstand scrutiny should certain facts be revealed. In the minds of the true believing disciples or the corrupt leadership of the cult, the ends justify the means. And truth is not a consideration.
The software models and data upon which all climate change disciples rely are written by flawed human beings. Whether a software engineer expertly writes the software to implement his best understanding of the requirements of the scientist or the real scientist writes the software with a less than perfect knowledge of software engineering and design, the outcome is the same. (Hey, not even a PhD can know everything.) All software is flawed. It is the nature of our art.
Can computer models be a good thing? Sure. Especially when they work. Can they be a bad thing? Well, consider that a climate model must model the entire earth and its atmosphere. That’s a few million data points (colossal understatement). These models must have historical data. And there’s the rub. It’s not there. Not really. So we extrapolate the data using tree cores and ice cores and, wait for it, more computer models.
Any software engineer knows that such a model will be inherently complex and that complex systems are inherently flawed and that very complex systems are inherently very flawed. No software engineer will declare her (or his) faith in such a model or its output, but more importantly, they would never bet a week’s salary on it’s accuracy without full testing and confirmation against known observable data and repeatable tests. Yet, we are preparing to bet trillions of tax payer dollars on these flawed models. “Hey, Sam, keep your hands out of my pocket!”
The problem we have is that scientists have put their faith in software models and data produced by software models as the magical source of all truth and knowledge. They are either the corrupt leaders of a cult (see the CRU emails) or its blind disciples insisting on the truth of their models even when observable facts contradict and invalidate those assertions.
The climate change models and extrapolated data have become scripture. The scientists who preach daily from the pages of that holy writ are held in prophetic awe and reverence by the ignorant masses of well intentioned politicians and citizens of the earth. Except for software engineers and the “deniers” of course.
So back to the question. Can computer models be a bad thing? Yes, when the ignorant or the corrupt use them as an unquestionable, magical affirmation of their own political agenda or emotional response to the idea that man is killing the planet and that unless we do something about it, we will all die. Well nobody wants that.
Oddly, we ridicule and persecute religious nuts who do the same thing. I guess they just weren’t smart enough to get a PhD and call themselves scientists rather than prophets. Stupid nuts.