Saturday, February 26, 2011

Freeman Dyson Email Exchange.

I'm afraid there's only one reaction possible to this: Steve Connor is a complete dick head. He gets the opportunity to have an email exchange with Freeman Dyson, arguably the greatest living scientist on Earth, and seeks to lecture him on global warming. He seeks to sell his religion to a man who, intellectually, could have him for breakfast. I understand Dyson's exasperation and dismissiveness. It's rather like seeing a chicken trying to out-fly and eagle.

A few of Dyson's comments:

"My impression is that the experts are deluded because they have been studying the details of climate models for 30 years and they come to believe the models are real. After 30 years they lose the ability to think outside the models.

Unfortunately things are different in climate science because the arguments have become heavily politicised. To say that the dogmas are wrong has become politically incorrect. As a result, the media generally exaggerate the degree of consensus and also exaggerate the importance of the questions.

Of course I am not expecting you to agree with me. The most I expect is that you might listen to what I am saying. I am saying that all predictions concerning climate are highly uncertain. On the other hand, the remedies proposed by the experts are enormously costly and damaging, especially to China and other developing countries. On a smaller scale, we have seen great harm done to poor people around the world by the conversion of maize from a food crop to an energy crop. This harm resulted directly from the political alliance between American farmers and global-warming politicians. Unfortunately the global warming hysteria, as I see it, is driven by politics more than by science. If it happens that I am wrong and the climate experts are right, it is still true that the remedies are far worse than the disease that they claim to cure.

I wish that The Independent would live up to its name and present a less one-sided view of the issues.

With all due respect, I say good-bye and express the hope that you will one day join the sceptics. Scepticism is as important for a good journalist as it is for a good scientist."

Here at the end Dyson has realized he was talking to an idiot, but decided to conclude the interview politely. Go and read the whole thing if you can stomach it.

Oh, and let me just add this from the comments:

Freeman Dyson, B.A. Mathematics, Cambridge University (1945), Research Fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge University (1946–1947), Commonwealth Fellow, Cornell University, (1947–1948), Commonwealth Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University (1948–1949), Teaching Fellow, University of Birmingham (1949–1951), Professor of Physics, Cornell University (1951-1953), Fellow, Royal Society (1952), Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University (1953-1994), Chairman, Federation of American Scientists (1962-1963), Member, National Academy of Sciences (1964), Danny Heineman Prize, American Physical Society (1965), Lorentz Medal (1966), Hughes Medal (1968), Max Planck Medal (1969), Enrico Fermi Award, United States Department of Energy (1993), Professor Emeritus of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University (1994-Present)

Notable: Unification of Quantum Electrodynamics Theory.


Unknown said...

You can't argue against faith.

Bob Lock said...

You've missed the point though, Neal.

The Independent have proved the Infinite Monkey Theorem (in a way) that given enough monkeys and typewriters one is bound to write a Shakespearian play. They've discovered one that can write total total crap.

Neal Asher said...

No you can't, Paul. And the moment CAGW moved away from any possibility of falsifiability that's what it became.

Generally, Bob, the MSM seems to have employed them all.

Kirby Uber said...

oooh ooooh aaaah aaah?

Unknown said...

I'm surprised Dyson was so patient and polite with that guy. He shouldn't waste his time like that, his CPU time is invaluable to all of us.

Ben said...

And on what does Dyson base his 'opinion'? Where's his data? Where's his publications?

He's arguing against straw-man arguments that are easily dealt with in the literature and seems to be unable to distinguish the difference between what is printed in the media and what is actually happening in climate research.

Seems to me that he's suffering from "emeritus disease".

IMHO Spencer and Linzden are among the few contrarian's worth paying attention to because they actually DO science, actually make some valid points (i.e. climate sensitivity, cloud effects etc.) and don't just pontificate.

Being smart doesn't preclude you from being wrong.

Mr Maigo said...

I had though the 'pollution causes mutant babies' rhetoric was working, why did they change it to something as vague as 'durrr, heat make bad thing happens'

Global warming is a failure as a scare tactic. A warmer planet is too big of concept to pass along all the 'scary things' it will cause. As Dyson said "...the climate of the earth is an immensely complicated system and nobody is close to understanding it." It's just not scary in a way to FORCE Average Joe to do the 'right' thing.

Dead babies is something people can get a handle on. They can make the conceptual leap from 'dead babies' to 'I should really do something' and do something REAL about it.

As always, I'm way off topic. Also it really reminds me of Bill O'Reilly's interview Pres. Obama.

Andrew said...

I agree with him about the models. We do not have the capability of producing a model to mirror the complexity of the earth, and instead have to simplify the model and rationalise the input etc.

These are the same people that predict our weather using models. Look how good that is.

I have used computer modelling to design the structure (beams, columns, floors, bracing etc) of buildings. The simple stick models are ok because they can be quickly checked by hand to ensure they make sense.

When we use more complicated models like finite element analysis, the engineer puts the information into the computer, clicks on 'design' and then it plugs away and provides the results.

The final design is always 10 - 20% more economic in terms of less steel/concrete compared to conventional hand calculations and cannot always be justified by traditional methods.

I asked the software supplier how they recommend the output could be checked and they were stumped. They just said, 'well, it is'.

My point here is that the models are all very clever but they portray only one sequence of events and may be flawed. If you put crap into the model you will more than likely get crap out of it.

Neal Asher said...

More on this:

Anonymous said...

The whole point of a model is that it is predictive. A climate model ought to be no different; we should be able to plug in the numbers of what was happening, say, ten years ago on Earth, run the model and see it throw out numbers that correspond with what is happening right now.

The current climate models do not do this; they are not good predictors of climate. Since this is the case, we should not be relying on them to frame public policy since they are no better than astrology.

Having said this, excessive reliance on fuels that we know will run out, like fossil fuels, is not a smart move. Research into much longer life fuels such as Thorium cycle nuclear reactors (which are much safer than many other nuclear systems) is a much better idea, since it gives us breathing space to move onto something even better, such as nuclear fusion.

Unknown said...

Good link, that last one, Neal. Worth a careful look.

Neal Asher said...

Dr Dan, it seems to me that the Hubbert Peak seems to be another of those catastrophes that never comes. I cite the 250 years worth of shale gas now available. However, we should definitely be doing more with nuclear reactors. I wonder how many thorium reactors we could have now it the money already wasted on wind power had been spent on them?

Nuno, there's an awful lot on this subject on the Internet that bears careful reading. The problem is that the politicians know that fear can be used to generate taxes and slides more power into their hands, whilst the MSM generates fear because it sells news, and the general public generally sticks with and doesn't question the MSM. Not enough people are acquainted with the facts.