Aliens Cause Global Warming

January 31st, 2019 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Yesterday I was reminded of this brilliant lecture by the late Dr. Michael Crichton, American author, screenwriter, director, and producer. Some of his more notable works include The Andromeda Strain (1969), Jurassic Park (1990), State of Fear (2004), The Great Train Robbery (1979), Twister (1996), and ER (1994-2009). John Christy and I were the basis for one of the characters in his book State of Fear.

Although I never met Dr. Crichton, he was immensely cordial and supportive of my first book when I had an email conversation with him, not long before his death in 2008. As I recall, he said he was dismayed that his 2005 congressional testimony led to so much criticism, and he was trying to avoid the subject going forward.

The themes in his 2003 lecture are just as relevant today as they were 16 years ago. I am told that some of of his works have been removed from the internet, possibly due to his controversial (non-PC) views on environmental matters. The lecture is lucid and concise, and echo the warning President Eisenhower gave in his 1961 Farewell Address about the government being in control of scientific research. I encourage you to spend 15 minutes reading it… there are gems throughout. (I have made made only very slight edits.)

Aliens Cause Global Warming

By Michael Crichton

Caltech Michelin Lecture January 17, 2003

My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming. Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming. Charting this progression of belief will be my task today.

Let me say at once that I have no desire to discourage anyone from believing in either extraterrestrials or global warming. That would be quite impossible to do. Rather, I want to discuss the history of several widely-publicized beliefs and to point to what I consider an emerging crisis in the whole enterprise of science — namely the increasingly uneasy relationship between hard science and public policy.

I have a special interest in this because of my own upbringing. I was born in the midst of World War II, and passed my formative years at the height of the Cold War. In school drills, I dutifully crawled under my desk in preparation for a nuclear attack.

It was a time of widespread fear and uncertainty, but even as a child I believed that science represented the best and greatest hope for mankind. Even to a child, the contrast was clear between the world of politics — a world of hate and danger, of irrational beliefs and fears, of mass manipulation and disgraceful blots on human history. In contrast, science held different values — international in scope, forging friendships and working relationships across national boundaries and political systems, encouraging a dispassionate habit of thought, and ultimately leading to fresh knowledge and technology that would benefit all mankind. The world might not be a very good place, but science would make it better. And it did. In my lifetime, science has largely fulfilled its promise. Science has been the great intellectual adventure of our age, and a great hope for our troubled and restless world. But I did not expect science merely to extend lifespan, feed the hungry, cure disease, and shrink the world with jets and cell phones. I also expected science to banish the evils of human thought — prejudice and superstition, irrational beliefs and false fears. I expected science to be, in Carl Sagan’s memorable phrase, “a candle in a demon haunted world.” And here, I am not so pleased with the impact of science. Rather than serving as a cleansing force, science has in some instances been seduced by the more ancient lures of politics and publicity. Some of the demons that haunt our world in recent years are invented by scientists. The world has not benefited from permitting these demons to escape free.

But let’s look at how it came to pass.

Cast your minds back to 1960. John F. Kennedy is president, commercial jet airplanes are just appearing, the biggest university mainframes have 12K of memory. And in Green Bank, West Virginia at the new National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a young astrophysicist named Frank Drake runs a two-week project called Ozma, to search for extraterrestrial signals. A signal is received, to great excitement. It turns out to be false, but the excitement remains. In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:


[where R is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live.]

This serious-looking equation gave SETI a serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses — just so we’re clear — are merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be “informed guesses.” If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informed guess. It’s simply prejudice.

As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science. I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion. Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is the word of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created the universe in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion.

One way to chart the cooling of enthusiasm is to review popular works on the subject. In 1964, at the height of SETI enthusiasm, Walter Sullivan of the NY Times wrote an exciting book about life in the universe entitled WE ARE NOT ALONE. By 1995, when Paul Davis wrote a book on the same subject, he titled it ARE WE ALONE? ( Since 1981, there have in fact been four books titled ARE WE ALONE.) More recently we have seen the rise of the so-called “Rare Earth” theory which suggests that we may, in fact, be all alone. Again, there is no evidence either way.

Back in the sixties, SETI had its critics, although not among astrophysicists and astronomers. The biologists and paleontologists were harshest. George Gaylord Simpson of Harvard sneered that SETI was a “study without a subject,” and it remains so to the present day. But scientists in general have been indulgent toward SETI, viewing it either with bemused tolerance, or with indifference. After all, what’s the big deal? It’s kind of fun. If people want to look, let them. Only a curmudgeon would speak harshly of SETI. It wasn’t worth the bother.

And of course, it is true that untestable theories may have heuristic value. Of course, extraterrestrials are a good way to teach science to kids. But that does not relieve us of the obligation to see the Drake equation clearly for what it is — pure speculation in quasi-scientific trappings.

The fact that the Drake equation was not greeted with screams of outrage —similar to the screams of outrage that greet each Creationist new claim, for example — meant that now there was a crack in the door, a loosening of the definition of what constituted legitimate scientific procedure. And soon enough, pernicious garbage began to squeeze through the cracks.

Now let’s jump ahead a decade to the 1970s, and Nuclear Winter.

In 1975, the National Academy of Sciences reported on “Long-Term Worldwide Effects of Multiple Nuclear Weapons Detonations” but the report estimated the effect of dust from nuclear blasts to be relatively minor. In 1979, the Office of Technology Assessment issued a report on “The Effects of Nuclear War” and stated that nuclear war could perhaps produce irreversible adverse consequences on the environment. However, because the scientific processes involved were poorly understood, the report stated it was not possible to estimate the probable magnitude of such damage.

Three years later, in 1982, the Swedish Academy of Sciences commissioned a report entitled “The Atmosphere after a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon,” which attempted to quantify the effect of smoke from burning forests and cities. The authors speculated that there would be so much smoke that a large cloud over the northern hemisphere would reduce incoming sunlight below the level required for photosynthesis, and that this would last for weeks or even longer.

The following year, five scientists including Richard Turco and Carl Sagan published a paper in Science called “Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions.” This was the so-called TTAPS report, which attempted to quantify more rigorously the atmospheric effects, with the added credibility to be gained from an actual computer model of climate.

At the heart of the TTAPS undertaking was another equation, never specifically expressed, but one that could be paraphrased as follows:

Ds = Wn*Ws*Wh*T*Tb*Pt*Pr*Pe, etc.

(The amount of tropospheric dust = # warheads x size warheads x warhead detonation height x flammability of targets x Target burn duration x Particles entering the Troposphere x Particle reflectivity x Particle endurance, and so on.)

The similarity to the Drake equation is striking. As with the Drake equation, none of the variables can be determined. None at all. The TTAPS study addressed this problem in part by mapping out different wartime scenarios and assigning numbers to some of the variables, but even so, the remaining variables were — and are — simply unknowable. Nobody knows how much smoke will be generated when cities burn, creating particles of what kind, and for how long. No one knows the effect of local weather conditions on the amount of particles that will be injected into the troposphere. No one knows how long the particles will remain in the troposphere. And so on.

And remember, this is only four years after the OTA study concluded that the underlying scientific processes were so poorly known that no estimates could be reliably made. Nevertheless, the TTAPS study not only made those estimates, but concluded they were catastrophic.

According to Sagan and his coworkers, even a limited 5,000 megaton nuclear exchange would cause a global temperature drop of more than 35 degrees Centigrade, and this change would last for three months. The greatest volcanic eruptions that we know of changed world temperatures somewhere between 0.5 and 2 degrees Centigrade. Ice ages changed global temperatures by 10 degrees. Here we have an estimated change three times greater than any ice age. One might expect it to be the subject of some dispute.

But Sagan and his coworkers were prepared, for nuclear winter was from the outset the subject of a well-orchestrated media campaign. The first announcement of nuclear winter appeared in an article by Sagan in the Sunday supplement, Parade. The very next day, a highly-publicized, high-profile conference on the long-term consequences of nuclear war was held in Washington, chaired by Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich, the most famous and media-savvy scientists of their generation. Sagan appeared on the Johnny Carson show 40 times. Ehrlich was on 25 times. Following the conference, there were press conferences, meetings with congressmen, and so on. The formal papers in Science came months later.

This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.

The real nature of the conference is indicated by these artists’ renderings of the effect of nuclear winter.

I cannot help but quote the caption for figure 5: “Shown here is a tranquil scene in the north woods. A beaver has just completed its dam, two black bears forage for food, a swallow-tailed butterfly flutters in the foreground, a loon swims quietly by, and a kingfisher searches for a tasty fish.” Hard science if ever there was.

At the conference in Washington, during the question period, Ehrlich was reminded that after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists were quoted as saying nothing would grow there for 75 years, but in fact melons were growing the next year. So, he was asked, how accurate were these findings now?

Ehrlich answered by saying “I think they are extremely robust. Scientists may have made statements like that, although I cannot imagine what their basis would have been, even with the state of science at that time, but scientists are always making absurd statements, individually, in various places. What we are doing here, however, is presenting a consensus of a very large group of scientists.”

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.

Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

In addition, let me remind you that the track record of the consensus is nothing to be proud of. Let’s review a few cases.

In past centuries, the greatest killer of women was fever following childbirth . One woman in six died of this fever. In 1795, Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen suggested that the fevers were infectious processes, and he was able to cure them. The consensus said no. In 1843, Oliver Wendell Holmes claimed puerperal fever was contagious, and presented compelling evidence. The consensus said no. In 1849, Semmelweiss demonstrated that sanitary techniques virtually eliminated puerperal fever in hospitals under his management. The consensus said he was a Jew, ignored him, and dismissed him from his post. There was in fact no agreement on puerperal fever until the start of the twentieth century. Thus the consensus took one hundred and twenty five years to arrive at the right conclusion despite the efforts of the prominent “skeptics” around the world, skeptics who were demeaned and ignored. And despite the constant ongoing deaths of women.

There is no shortage of other examples. In the 1920s in America, tens of thousands of people, mostly poor, were dying of a disease called pellagra. The consensus of scientists said it was infectious, and what was necessary was to find the “pellagra germ.” The US government asked a brilliant young investigator, Dr. Joseph Goldberger, to find the cause. Goldberger concluded that diet was the crucial factor. The consensus remained wedded to the germ theory. Goldberger demonstrated that he could induce the disease through diet. He demonstrated that the disease was not infectious by injecting the blood of a pellagra patient into himself, and his assistant. They and other volunteers swabbed their noses with swabs from pellagra patients, and swallowed capsules containing scabs from pellagra rashes in what were called “Goldberger’s filth parties.” Nobody contracted pellagra. The consensus continued to disagree with him. There was, in addition, a social factor — southern States disliked the idea of poor diet as the cause, because it meant that social reform was required. They continued to deny it until the 1920s. Result — despite a twentieth century epidemic, the consensus took years to see the light.

Probably every schoolchild notices that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly, and Alfred Wegener proposed, in 1912, that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensus sneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology — until 1961, when it began to seem as if the sea floors were spreading. The result: it took the consensus fifty years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.

And shall we go on? The examples can be multiplied endlessly. Jenner and smallpox, Pasteur and germ theory. Saccharine, margarine, repressed memory, fiber and colon cancer, hormone replacement therapy. The list of consensus errors goes on and on.

Finally, I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2 . Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.

But back to our main subject.

What I have been suggesting to you is that nuclear winter was a meaningless formula, tricked out with bad science, for policy ends. It was political from the beginning, promoted in a well-orchestrated media campaign that had to be planned weeks or months in advance.

Further evidence of the political nature of the whole project can be found in the response to criticism. Although Richard Feynman was characteristically blunt, saying, “I really don’t think these guys know what they’re talking about,” other prominent scientists were noticeably reticent. Freeman Dyson was quoted as saying “It’s an absolutely atrocious piece of science but who wants to be accused of being in favor of nuclear war?” And Victor Weisskopf said, “The science is terrible but — perhaps the psychology is good.” The nuclear winter team followed up the publication of such comments with letters to the editors denying that these statements were ever made, though the scientists since then have subsequently confirmed their views.

At the time, there was a concerted desire on the part of lots of people to avoid nuclear war. If nuclear winter looked awful, why investigate too closely? Who wanted to disagree? Only people like Edward Teller, the “father of the H bomb.”

Teller said, “While it is generally recognized that details are still uncertain and deserve much more study, Dr. Sagan nevertheless has taken the position that the whole scenario is so robust that there can be little doubt about its main conclusions.” Yet for most people, the fact that nuclear winter was a scenario riddled with uncertainties did not seem to be relevant.

I say it is hugely relevant. Once you abandon strict adherence to what science tells us, once you start arranging the truth in a press conference, then anything is possible. In one context, maybe you will get some mobilization against nuclear war. But in another context, you get Lysenkoism. In another, you get Nazi euthanasia. The danger is always there, if you subvert science to political ends.

That is why it is so important for the future of science that the line between what science can say with certainty, and what it cannot, be drawn clearly — and defended.

What happened to Nuclear Winter? As the media glare faded, its robust scenario appeared less persuasive; John Maddox, editor of Nature, repeatedly criticized its claims; within a year, Stephen Schneider, one of the leading figures in the climate model, began to speak of “nuclear autumn.” It just didn’t have the same ring.

A final media embarrassment came in 1991, when Carl Sagan predicted on Nightline that Kuwaiti oil fires would produce a nuclear winter effect, causing a “year without a summer,” and endangering crops around the world. Sagan stressed this outcome was so likely that “it should affect the war plans.” None of it happened.

What, then, can we say were the lessons of Nuclear Winter? I believe the lesson was that with a catchy name, a strong policy position and an aggressive media campaign, nobody will dare to criticize the science, and in short order, a terminally weak thesis will be established as fact. After that, any criticism becomes beside the point. The war is already over without a shot being fired. That was the lesson, and we had a textbook application soon afterward, with second hand smoke.

In 1993, the EPA announced that second-hand smoke was “responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmoking adults,” and that it “impairs the respiratory health of hundreds of thousands of people.” In a 1994 pamphlet the EPA said that the eleven studies it based its decision on were not by themselves conclusive, and that they collectively assigned second-hand smoke a risk factor of 1.19. (For reference, a risk factor below 3.0 is too small for action by the EPA. or for publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, for example.) Furthermore, since there was no statistical association at the 95% confidence limits, the EPA lowered the limit to 90%. They then classified second-hand smoke as a Group-A Carcinogen.

This was openly fraudulent science, but it formed the basis for bans on smoking in restaurants, offices, and airports. California banned public smoking in 1995. Soon, no claim was too extreme. By 1998, the Christian Science Monitor was saying that “Second-hand smoke is the nation’s third-leading preventable cause of death.” The American Cancer Society announced that 53,000 people died each year of second-hand smoke. The evidence for this claim is nonexistent.

In 1998, a Federal judge held that the EPA had acted improperly, had “committed to a conclusion before research had begun,” and had “disregarded information and made findings on selective information.” The reaction of Carol Browner, head of the EPA was: “We stand by our science; there’s wide agreement. The American people certainly recognize that exposure to second hand smoke brings a whole host of health problems.” Again, note how the claim of consensus trumps science. In this case, it isn’t even a consensus of scientists that Browner evokes! It’s the consensus of the American people.

Meanwhile, ever-larger studies failed to confirm any association. A large, seven-country WHO study in 1998 found no association. Nor have well-controlled subsequent studies, to my knowledge. Yet we now read, for example, that second-hand smoke is a cause of breast cancer. At this point you can say pretty much anything you want about second-hand smoke.

As with nuclear winter, bad science is used to promote what most people would consider good policy. I certainly think it is. I don’t want people smoking around me. So who will speak out against banning second-hand smoke? Nobody, and if you do, you’ll be branded a shill of RJ Reynolds. A big tobacco flunky. But the truth is that we now have a social policy supported by the grossest of superstitions. And we’ve given the EPA a bad lesson in how to behave in the future. We’ve told them that cheating is the way to succeed.

As the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact. The deterioration of the American media is dire loss for our country. When distinguished institutions like the New York Times can no longer differentiate between factual content and editorial opinion, but rather mix both freely on their front page, then who will hold anyone to a higher standard?

And so, in this elastic anything-goes world where science — or non-science — is the hand maiden of questionable public policy, we arrive at last at global warming. It is not my purpose here to rehash the details of this most magnificent of the demons haunting the world. I would just remind you of the now-familiar pattern by which these things are established. Evidentiary uncertainties are glossed over in the unseemly rush for an overarching policy, and for grants to support the policy by delivering findings that are desired by the patron. Next, the isolation of those scientists who won’t get with the program, and the characterization of those scientists as outsiders and “skeptics” in quotation marks — suspect individuals with suspect motives, industry flunkies, reactionaries, or simply anti-environmental nut-cases. In short order, debate ends, even though prominent scientists are uncomfortable about how things are being done.

When did “skeptic” become a dirty word in science? When did a skeptic require quotation marks around it?

To an outsider, the most significant innovation in the global warming controversy is the overt reliance that is being placed on models. Back in the days of nuclear winter, computer models were invoked to add weight to a conclusion: “These results are derived with the help of a computer model.” But now, large-scale computer models are seen as generating data in themselves. No longer are models judged by how well they reproduce data from the real world — increasingly, models provide the data. As if they were themselves a reality. And indeed they are, when we are projecting forward. There can be no observational data about the year 2100. There are only model runs.

This fascination with computer models is something I understand very well. Richard Feynmann called it a disease. I fear he is right. Because only if you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen can you arrive at the complex point where the global warming debate now stands.

Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we’re asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?

Stepping back, I have to say the arrogance of the model-makers is breathtaking. There have been, in every century, scientists who say they know it all. Since climate may be a chaotic system — no one is sure — these predictions are inherently doubtful, to be polite. But more to the point, even if the models get the science spot-on, they can never get the sociology. To predict anything about the world a hundred years from now is simply absurd.

Look: If I was selling stock in a company that I told you would be profitable in 2100, would you buy it? Or would you think the idea was so crazy that it must be a scam?

Let’s think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn’t know what an atom was. They didn’t know its structure. They also didn’t know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet, interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS. None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn’t know what you are talking about.

Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it’s even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future. They’re bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment’s thought knows it.

I remind you that in the lifetime of most scientists now living, we have already had an example of dire predictions set aside by new technology. I refer to the green revolution. In 1960, Paul Ehrlich said, “The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” Ten years later, he predicted four billion people would die during the 1980s, including 65 million Americans. The mass starvation that was predicted never occurred, and it now seems it isn’t ever going to happen. Nor is the population explosion going to reach the numbers predicted even ten years ago. In 1990, climate modelers anticipated a world population of 11 billion by 2100. Today, some people think the correct number will be 7 billion and falling. But nobody knows for sure.

But it is impossible to ignore how closely the history of global warming fits on the previous template for nuclear winter. Just as the earliest studies of nuclear winter stated that the uncertainties were so great that probabilities could never be known, so, too the first pronouncements on global warming argued strong limits on what could be determined with certainty about climate change. The 1995 IPCC draft report said, “Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced.” It also said, “No study to date has positively attributed all or part of observed climate changes to anthropogenic causes.” Those statements were removed, and in their place appeared: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernable human influence on climate.”

What is clear, however, is that on this issue, science and policy have become inextricably mixed to the point where it will be difficult, if not impossible, to separate them out. It is possible for an outside observer to ask serious questions about the conduct of investigations into global warming, such as whether we are taking appropriate steps to improve the quality of our observational data records, whether we are systematically obtaining the information that will clarify existing uncertainties, whether we have any organized disinterested mechanism to direct research in this contentious area.

The answer to all these questions is no. We don’t.

In trying to think about how these questions can be resolved, it occurs to me that in the progression from SETI to nuclear winter to second-hand smoke to global warming, we have one clear message, and that is that we can expect more and more problems of public policy dealing with technical issues in the future — problems of ever greater seriousness, where people care passionately on all sides.

And at the moment we have no mechanism to get good answers. So I will propose one.

Just as we have established a tradition of double-blinded research to determine drug efficacy, we must institute double-blinded research in other policy areas as well. Certainly the increased use of computer models, such as GCMs, cries out for the separation of those who make the models from those who verify them. The fact is that the present structure of science is entrepreneurial, with individual investigative teams vying for funding from organizations that all too often have a clear stake in the outcome of the research — or appear to, which may be just as bad. This is not healthy for science.

Sooner or later, we must form an independent research institute in this country. It must be funded by industry, by government, and by private philanthropy, both individuals and trusts. The money must be pooled, so that investigators do not know who is paying them. The institute must fund more than one team to do research in a particular area, and the verification of results will be a foregone requirement: teams will know their results will be checked by other groups. In many cases, those who decide how to gather the data will not gather it, and those who gather the data will not analyze it. If we were to address the land temperature records with such rigor, we would be well on our way to an understanding of exactly how much faith we can place in global warming, and therefore with what seriousness we must address this.

I believe that as we come to the end of this litany, some of you may be saying, well what is the big deal, really. So we made a few mistakes. So a few scientists have overstated their cases and have egg on their faces. So what?

Well, I’ll tell you.

In recent years, much has been said about the post-modernist claims about science to the effect that science is just another form of raw power, tricked out in special claims for truth-seeking and objectivity that really have no basis in fact. Science, we are told, is no better than any other undertaking. These ideas anger many scientists, and they anger me. But recent events have made me wonder if they are correct. We can take as an example the scientific reception accorded a Danish statistician, Bjorn Lomborg, who wrote a book called The Skeptical Environmentalist.

The scientific community responded in a way that can only be described as disgraceful. In professional literature, it was complained he had no standing because he was not an earth scientist. His publisher, Cambridge University Press, was attacked with cries that the editor should be fired, and that all right-thinking scientists should shun the press. The past president of the AAAS wondered aloud how Cambridge could have ever “published a book that so clearly could never have passed peer review.” (But of course, the manuscript did pass peer review by three earth scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, and all recommended publication.) But what are scientists doing attacking a press? Is this the new McCarthyism — coming from scientists?

Worst of all was the behavior of the Scientific American, which seemed intent on proving the post-modernist point that it was all about power, not facts. The Scientific American attacked Lomborg for eleven pages, yet only came up with nine factual errors despite their assertion that the book was “rife with careless mistakes.” It was a poor display, featuring vicious ad hominem attacks, including comparing him to a Holocaust denier. The issue was captioned: “Science defends itself against the Skeptical Environmentalist.” Really. Science has to defend itself? Is this what we have come to?

When Lomborg asked for space to rebut his critics, he was given only a page and a half. When he said it wasn’t enough, he put the critics’ essays on his web page and answered them in detail. Scientific American threatened copyright infringement and made him take the pages down.

Further attacks since, have made it clear what is going on. Lomborg is charged with heresy. That’s why none of his critics needs to substantiate their attacks in any detail. That’s why the facts don’t matter. That’s why they can attack him in the most vicious personal terms. He’s a heretic.

Of course, any scientist can be charged as Galileo was charged. I just never thought I’d see the Scientific American in the role of Mother Church.

Is this what science has become? I hope not. But it is what it will become, unless there is a concerted effort by leading scientists to aggressively separate science from policy. The late Philip Handler, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, said that “Scientists best serve public policy by living within the ethics of science, not those of politics. If the scientific community will not unfrock the charlatans, the public will not discern the difference — science and the nation will suffer.”

Personally, I don’t worry about the nation. But I do worry about science.

119 Responses to “Aliens Cause Global Warming”

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  1. JRF in Pensacola says:

    A wonderful treatise on Common Sense!

  2. barry k says:

    Beautiful read. I think it speaks volumes toward the general state of ‘education’ in our country.

    When a movement driven politically says there is ‘a problem’ and the solution to that problem is a tax (whether that be carbon credits or some scheme to tax carbon content), this should at least cause all people to take pause to consider…

    There will always be large swathes of our society that will be ‘skeptical’ by nature due to the appearance of funny business. In other words, he is right to suggest that science and policy be separated as much as possible (double-blinded research…). Because as a proponent, if it’s really ‘science’, and it’s really ‘true’, wouldn’t you want there to be the lack of appearance of a problem so that people will be more willing to believe…?

  3. RobR says:

    Thanks for reposting this brilliant treatise. It should be required reading for all high school students.

  4. CraigM350ppm says:

    Thank you Dr Spencer. A depressing but welcome read.

  5. Dr. C says:

    Here, here …

  6. raygun says:

    Tell it like it is, Doctor S. The TRUTH will set us FREE. Regards, retired engineer, physicist, astronomer and petroleum geologist.

  7. Scott says:

    His ability to effectively communicate what he saw happening was a gift. He, and that talent, are sorely missed. It’s hard to believe he’s been gone over a decade already.

  8. raygun says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but either Groucho Marx or another famous character once stated something to the effect: Politicians are always looking for problems to solve, once they have one, they misdiagnose it, do insanely things to describe it, throw a bunch of money at it, and when it fails they deny anything to do with it and blame it on someone else.

    • Scott says:

      “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

      — H.L. Mencken

  9. John Boland says:

    This article is timeless…seems like it was written yesterday. I have a bad feeling it will feel like that for a long time to come. Science will eventually need to go through a Reformation period, hopefully not after millions have died.

  10. Peter Gibbons says:


  11. Michael S. Kelly says:

    Dr. Spencer, this is a masterful post. Thank you.

    In my reading it, I had a number of thoughts along the way, but they seem off topic. That, however, never stopped me.

    SETI addresses the so-called Fermi Paradox, viz: With the trillions of other solar systems out there, some must have evolved civilizations. Why haven’t we heard from them? As an engineer, I could think of a lot of reasons. But I’m an ME. Here’s a set of reasons from a radio engineer.

    Another random memory came to me reading your segment on nuclear winter. A character from Saturday Night Live, Father Guido Sarducci, once appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He talked about the then recent hype about nuclear winter, and added the growing concern about global warming, concluding that he hoped both would take place at the same time, and cancel each other out.

    I guess you had to be there…

  12. gallopingcamel says:

    I remember Carl Sagan for his 1967 and 1968 papers that explained the surface temperature on Venus.

    I remember Carl Sagan for the wonderful Cosmos TV series. Neil de Grasse Tyson’s remake was embarrassing even though he had the Hubble telescope revelations to call on.

    Sadly Sagan went along to get along with the “Climate Science” Mafia in his later life. Even more sad is Sagan’s fraudulent “Nuclear Winter” scam and his lunatic suggestion that the Kuwaiti oil fires would cause a catastrophic dip in temperature.

    It is sad that great scientists often lose their common sense as they grow old. Just take a look at Lord Kelvin’s predictions late in his life.

  13. Bri says:

    The situation we face is the end of the enlightenment and it is caused by bad philosophy . The education system is fully on bored with Kant and his band of reality deniers so i see little hope. This is not the first enlightenment to be rejected in favor of mysticism , the Greeks , Romans, And Muslims all did the same trick in there day.
    The only hope is that our dark age will be short and possibly not worldwide . I seem to be gloomy so i will leave you with a funny clip about “beveling” in global warming.

    if you are interested in the corrosive effects of Kant’s philosophy as i am no expert >

  14. Rick Adkison says:

    Damn, Doc! Do you two share DNA? That was a brilliant lecture and it is getting shared.

  15. Andrew Stout says:

    Thanks for the Transcript! I love Chrichton – his speech for State of Fear, about Misuse of authority, and about Information Harm, about sobering up reading a 50 year old paper full of terrors which never happened, was really great.

  16. Johnathan Birks says:

    Quite a stunning essay. It’s exciting to see such a cogent perspective on science, and depressing to know that nothing has changed since other than the doubling-down of pseudoscientists chasing a buck.

  17. Brett Keane says:

    Brilliant Roy! Thanks for your efforts at keeping us honest. Brett

  18. David GUY-johnson says:

    What a marvelously erudite and informative piece

  19. Matthew says:

    Chrichton makes some good points about previous research errors but sets them as proof about problems with global warming research which I believe is a straw man attack. Another problem with Chrichtons critique is that for predictions that are truly world changing policy is inextricably linked because we hope to avoid a disaster if the worst predictions are true. Even Dr. Spencer considers global warming to exist and simply disagrees with what the impact will be. If he is wrong about policy from from his controversial science what will the results be? Also, we know how to make low carbon energy now, why not avoid the possible disasters predicted by both parties. Spencer predicts economic suffering from Green policies that overstate global warming while others worry about killing off animals and having sea levels rise quickly if we continue to consume carbon fuel. Why not work on a compromise where we work to maintain economic growth while reducing carbon. Fossil fuel will be gone eventually, why not prepare for it and satisfy both sides. It may be policy driven rather than being assured from the science but it seems logical to me.

    • Chic Bowdrie says:

      I wouldn’t call Dr. Spencer’s results any more controversial than the average alarmist claiming an AGW consensus.

      “Why not work on a compromise where we work to maintain economic growth while reducing carbon.”

      There already is a compromise in play called free market capitalism.

    • S says:

      Why would you “compromise” with people who are charlatans?

    • DavidW says:

      The main reasons for not considering a “compromise” are (1) that, as Dr. Spencer’s data shows, the real world warming is very slight (with irregular ups and downs) and (2) that there is no physical evidence that it is even due to CO2 at all, especially not the tiny fraction attributable to hydrocarbon combustion. All actions driven by fear of disastrous consequences of human activity are useless at best and a damaging squandering of resources at worst.

  20. Nate says:

    “Today, massive and conclusive scientific evidence documents adverse effects of involuntary smoking on children and adults, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases in adults, and adverse respiratory effects in both children and adults.”

    Dr. Jesse Carmona, Surgeon General, 2006

    • Nate says:


      Dr. Richard Carmona

    • Chic Bowdrie says:

      The Chuck Todd post comments closed before I could ask you who is changing the subject now. You never answered the question,

      “Do you think science would have been harmed had [former EPA head Carol Browner] been replaced?”

      • Nate says:

        She was replaced by Christine Whitman. Whats your point?

        For someone who doesnt want to discuss with me, here you are continuing an already lengthy discussion from previous thread.

        Hope you’re not becoming like DREMT– whenever he’s not winning he says he doesnt want to play anymore–then starts a new game.

        • Chic Bowdrie says:

          I think we both feel compelled to set the record straight if we perceive it has been falsified. There are times, perhaps many, when we don’t agree. Who decides who is right? Or maybe the way you look at it is, who wins?

          I never said I don’t want to discuss with you, in fact I enjoy a good discussion. However, I felt you were going to defend your boiling pot analogy to the bitter end. I chose not to participate further. End of story.

          If you don’t like the way you are being responded to, don’t post.

    • Tom says:

      “Passive smoking has many downstream health effects—asthma, upper respiratory infections, other pulmonary diseases, cardiovascular disease—but only borderline increased risk of lung cancer… The strongest reason to avoid passive cigarette smoke is to change societal behavior: to not live in a society where smoking is a norm… It’s very reassuring that passive smoke in the childhood home doesn’t increase the risk of lung cancer…” Jyoti Patel, MD, of Northwestern University School of Medicine (December 2013) – a medical doctor and lead research of the medical study.

      Journal coverage here –

      Of course, coverage on the study pays homage to the Secondhand Smoke Causes Cancer Deity, “Meanwhile… the International Agency for Research on Cancer (as well as NCI [National Cancer Institute]) has said unequivocally that passive smoking is a cause of lung cancer. ‘You shouldn’t conclude from this study that it isn’t.'” Debbie Winn, PhD, Deputy Director of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute – a government group that has been sounding the secondhand smoke alarm (no pun intended) since the US EPA itself.

      So, how does this heresy get reported? “No Clear Link Between Passive Smoking and Lung Cancer.” [mic drop]

  21. Nate says:

    Feel free to believe a novelist over the Surgeon General.

    But if he has misrepresented the second-hand-smoke science (MC has medical training), should we believe his other science?

    Is the climate science in State of Fear accurately portrayed?

    • Brett Keane says:

      Nate, those of us trained in Statistical Method, a must for conducting large experiments using living entities with all their variation capabilities, can see the falsities of the second hand smoke belief. Much the same also for a lot of oher medicalstuff going under the flag of ‘research’, sadly. Also all warmista climate research….. Brett

    • Nate says:

      Ok, So you claim the Surgeon General’s report is wrong. What flaws in it can you point out?

      • Chic Bowdrie says:

        You claimed much of what Michael Crichton wrote in “Aliens Cause Global Warming” is fiction. What specifically can you point out as fiction?

      • Nate says:

        Read the posts here by me on second hand smoke, on weather vs climate, on consensus in science. Others on ET, on weather vs climate, on glaciers.

        • Steve Thiboutot says:

          Nearly everyone growing up in the 50’s and 60’s lived in a house with smokers. Almost all of us are still here – and what cancer there is cannot be attributed to “2nd hand smoke” any more than it can said to be caused by canned cling peaches.
          You don’t have the data for a 70 year study.
          And I was more irritated by smoking than anyone I know.

        • Chic Bowdrie says:


          You and, by your word, others claim that Crichton made fictional statements. I read the statements he made about second hand smoke and I skimmed the Surgeon General’s 2006 report. I didn’t see anything there specifically contradicting Crichton’s remarks. So to show you are not just a knee-jerk bleeding heart liberal making false accusations, why not point out the erroneous statements he made and cite the evidence?

          He was not in favor of second hand smoke, just against bad science being used to sway public opinion. So where was the good science he missed in coming to a false evaluation of the dangers of second hand smoke, in your opinion?

        • Nate says:


          MC referring to studies linking to cancer

          “Nor have well-controlled subsequent studies, to my knowledge. ”


          “Today, massive and conclusive scientific evidence documents adverse effects of involuntary smoking on children and adults, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases in adults, and adverse respiratory effects in both children and adults.

          • Nate says:

            ‘Id rather not. Having a discussion with you is like throwing good money after bad.’

            After I asked you to back up your unsupported post. Apparently you think its fine to ask of me.


          • Chic Bowdrie says:

            Regarding Crichton’s disagreement with the Surgeon General, I haven’t read the papers Dr. Carmona considers conclusive evidence. But I am familiar with much of the science you alarmists consider conclusive and worthy of consensus. I think Crichton would disagree with that, as I do, and his views on second hand smoke may have been along similar lines of thought. Are you willing to see the logic in that or shall I just let it go as I did with the boiling pot analogy?

            And yes, I think it’s fine to ask you to support any assertion that doesn’t ring true.

          • Nate says:

            ‘al, I haven’t read the papers Dr. Carmona considers conclusive evidence.’

            To bad.

            I think this is the essence of cofirmation bias that is rampant throughout these comments on the MC piece.

            Much praise and Huzzahs for this piece by a compelling writer, but little concern whether it is factual. Little critical thinking. Because it rings true to your beliefs, it must BE true.

          • Chic Bowdrie says:

            Which of Dr. Carmona’s papers did you read to confirm your bias?

            You still haven’t specified anything about second hand smoke in Crichton’s article that is fictional.

            Which other topics addressed in the Michael Crichton’s article do you consider the science to be conclusive and worthy of a scientific consensus?

          • Nate says:

            It is a review of literature by people familiar with it. No need for me to go back to literature, unless you have a paper in mind.

            Feel free to accept what a novelist says if you prefer, one who as already misrepresented science in his book and here:


          • Chic Bowdrie says:

            You chastise me for not backing up my opinion that your boiling water pot analogy sucks, but you don’t have a problem not backing up your assertion that Crichton’s article is fictional?

            I do accept Crichton’s bottom line: beware the purveyor of consensus science.

          • Nate says:

            ‘I do accept Crichton’s bottom line: beware the purveyor of consensus science.’

            OK, don’t read textbooks, they are purveyors of evil consensus science.

            My example sucks because it is over your head and it ruins your preferred narratives.

            I don’t need to back it up. See how that works?

        • Nate says:

          Steve, I also have anecdotal knowledge of two musicians, who never smoked, yet got lung cancer. They did however perform often in smoky bars.

          But anecdotes dont really prove much.

  22. Matthew says:

    I did read State of Fear a long time ago and don’t remember all the arguments but do remember Chrichtons argument about how little CO2 is in the atmosphere and thinking even then it was a weak argument. I had forgotten about the argument about glaciers brought up in your link, which is even more clearly false now. Also I don’t believe you could say any temperature data set shows cooling now. As far as second hand smoke goes I am glad it’s gone but Chrichton is probably right about overblown conclusions from the data. I guess a secondary takeaway could be that often good policy can be supported with data that only partially supports that policy as long as the positives and negatives are carefully weighed. Reduced smoking and not having nuclear war have very few negatives. Reducing CO2 may slightly slow growth in the short term but I think that would be worth it for the chance avoid possible catastrophe.
    I do think that Chrichton went off the deep end with State of Fear which seems to be a theme for really intelligent people as they get up there in age. It seems certainty doesn’t disappear while ability to take on new facts does, maybe something to look out for for everyone as we age.

  23. Dr. Strangelove says:

    I disagree with his assessment of SETI. We have good scientific reasons to believe ETs exist. It is wrong to claim it as fact. But scientists can surely make scientific guesses or hypotheses. The search for the unknown is part of science.

    Moreover, he said nuclear energy and atomic structure are unknown in 1900. Not true. Marie Curie predicted nuclear energy around 1898. She was the first to realize that radioactivity is not chemical energy. Electron was discovered in 1897. Scientists knew that electrons were part of atoms and there is another part that has positive charge. They also knew the atomic weights of various elements through Avogadro’s number and kinetic molecular theory

  24. fandelego says:

    Regardless of the quality of Crichton as a writer, and regardless of a position re: global warming, *his* arguments are incredibly bad science.

    “Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now were asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?”

    Hold on, what? I cannot predict the position of every molecule of sea water in a few minutes, so I cannot understand, describe and predict tides?

    As for the rant against computer models (which is not specific to climate sciences, we find the same thing in every corner where science touch on everyday’s life. A good example is pharmacometrics and off-side effects), this is just showing that Crichton has no idea what a mathematical model and numerical simulations are, and how they relate to data.

    This piece might be entertaining, but it is a tissue of anecdotes and strawmen.

    If this is what is considered as good scientific debate, yes, as he write, “I do worry about science”.

    — Someone who read with delight almost every book of Crichton … as good science fiction

    • Chic Bowdrie says:

      “I cannot predict the position of every molecule of sea water in a few minutes, so I cannot understand, describe and predict tides?”

      That is a terrible analogy. Predicting tides is a well-established methodology. In contrast, climate models have not been validated.

      I’m not familiar with pharmacometric models, but I sense that they could be similarly misused as climate models have been.

      • MIke Flynn says:


        Tide predictions are subject to errors.

        From NOAA –

        “The accuracy of NOAA, National Ocean Service tide predictions is determined through a comparison of the predicted tides and observed water levels for all stations. Comparisons are made of the times and heights of high and low tides as well as hourly heights. Each water level station is unique; there is no single standard of accuracy when comparing the astronomical tide predictions and observed water levels.”

        Who cares? Generally, rough enough is good enough. At least in this case, NOAA is scientific enough to say that even for something as apparently simple as tide prediction. there is no single standard of accuracy.

        How hard can it be? Only the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun, and the Laws of Universal Gravitation.

        And yet, pseudoscientists dealing with the atmosphere, involving somewhat more complexity, claim impossible standards of accuracy, both of observation and prediction. Anybody who believes these donkeys deserves everything they get. Higher power prices, death by freezing, falling living standards, and all the rest.

        Ain’t life grand?


  25. Nate says:


    ‘Hold on, what? I cannot predict the position of every molecule of sea water in a few minutes, so I cannot understand, describe and predict tides?’

    Excellent point.

    Another example I like is a pot of water put on a burner. While heating there is loads of unpredictable convective turbulence in the water, like weather.

    But predicting the warming rate and when it will boil is straightforward.

    • Chic Bowdrie says:

      Another terrible example! Comparing predicting the warming rate of a pot of water to predicting distant global temperatures? Did you put any thought into how many different pot and burner conditions you would have to evaluate? That would be weather. Climate is more like predicting turbulence.

    • Nate says:


      It is an apt example because there is chaos, ie weather, inside the single pot!

      No need for many pots.

      Did you put in any thought before you commented?

    • Mike Flynn says:


      You are a presumptuous fool.

      You cannot predict the warming rate, or when it will boil. The best you might do (and of course you havent), is to observe previous results, and hope that nothing will change in the future.

      If you give it a try, I will predict with certainty, that you cannot even get reproducible results for something as simple as a pot of water on a burner!

      Got some actual figures to disprove my assumption? No?

      I thought not.

      If you happen to be wrong about a pot of water coming to the boil, why do you think anybody should believe you about anything more complicated?

      Stick with your fantasies. Some of us are more interested in fact, and you don’t seem capable of providing any.


  26. Jim says:

    Dr, Strangelove, Nate, Fandelego, Matthew,

    Are you really advocating for consensus science? Crichton was talking about consensus anything. Did you miss the point of the article? You dove straight into the minutia to prove your points. That should be embarrassing, right?

    If consensus science was wrong in the past…that’s OK, it is right now?


    • Nate says:

      If he misrepresents the science in the examples he gives, then he loses all credibility to comment on science, IMO.

    • Nate says:

      ‘Lets be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. ‘

      Is flat out wrong. He didnt work in science, and he misrepresents how it works.

      Consensus is important in science. We assume that well-tested things are correct and we can just use them. Without this consensus on many things, progress stops.

      Whats’s bad is when things are not very well tested, yet are assumed to be correct, like some diet/health connections.

    • Dr. Strangelove says:

      “There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion.”

      This is not about consensus. He just said no evidence, therefore religion. No evidence for Higgs boson until 2012. Therefore, before 2012 all particle physicists saying for almost 50 years the Higgs boson might exist are just religious fanatics.

      “France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didnt know what an atom was. They didnt know its structure.”

      This is not a consensus. He said it is unknown. Nobody knows. But scientists knew in 1900 about radioactivity, electron and atomic weights. He could have said some scientists knew but most scientists didn’t believe it.

      • Nate says:

        Pulleez. Religion and science-based theory are not remotely equivalent.

        Religion is not falsifiable, science theories such as Higgs, are.

        • Dr. Strangelove says:

          So you agree SETI is not religion. Falsify it by searching for life and not finding it and calculating the probability of negative result to reject the null hypothesis. Crichton simply dismissed it by hand waving.

        • Nate says:

          I may be misunderstanding your POV. But SETI is science, and all the discoveries of planets around other stars, and observing their compositions, etc, will in principle allow us to confirm ET, or prove that it is extremely rare.

  27. Matthew says:

    I think you should go back and look at what I said again, and no it’s not embarrassing. Saying all consensus is wrong is obviously wrong and by Chrichtons own admission lots of well known scientist disagreed with idea of nuclear winter. What we we’re saying isn’t minutiae, it’s the meat of his global warming argument. I like Crichtons writing and enjoyed State of Fear but the arguments in the book aren’t strong.

    • M says:

      the most important quote in my opinion:
      “In Science consensus is irrelevant, what is relevant is reproducible results”

      we can predict when a pot of water on a burner is going to boil because we have done it million times and it has reproducible result. every time the pot is placed on the burner, it boils. same with tides.
      are the climate models as reproducible as a pot of water on a burner?!
      if your “science” is irreproducible and at the same time unfalsifiable, how is this science?

      • Nate says:

        ‘are the climate models as reproducible as a pot of water on a burner’

        No they are not. Because climate is more complex, and lots of input parameters are not known well enough yet. But all show warming with different noise on top.

        And BTW, the pot probably heats slightly differently each time due to chaos.

        • MIke Flynn says:



          You are probably stupid due to some form of mental defect. Carry on about pots.

          Still no testable GHE hypothesis, is there?

          “Climate models all show . . .

          They would, wouldn’t they? Particularly if they are written by members of a pack of gumbys who share the same ridiculous CO2 fixation. Pseudoscience by consensus is still nonsense.


        • Nate says:

          ‘You are probably stupid due to some form of mental defect.’

          Very clever and informative Mike! Pointless.

  28. Matthew says:

    Easy, if you have a difficult question you come up with the best answer you can and weigh the positives and negatives of your actions against the likelihood of negative outcome. Saying a solution isn’t rigorous enough so it should be disregarded is a strange leap to make. Why not keep working at the right answer while you react to the data you have.

  29. ====
    ❶①❶① . . . People of Earth !!! . . .
    ❶①❶① . . . Our bacterial overlords, have a message for you. . . .

    People of Earth !!!

    Our bacterial overlords, have a message for you.

    A normal human body is made up of cells. 90% of the cells that make up a normal human body, are of bacterial origin.

    That’s right. Only 10% of the cells that make up a normal human body, are of human origin.

    If life was a democracy, then bacteria would control what you watch on television (and we wouldn’t watch the latest Star Trek series. We would watch “Game of Thrones” (we can’t wait for the next season to begin)).

    We are concerned that humans have started using chemicals which kill 99.9% of bacteria. Don’t you realise that 99.9% of bacteria are harmless, or actually beneficial to humans?

    Bacteria of the world, are about to take an important vote. Should we start using body-wash, which kills 99.9% of humans (we don’t have hands to rub the chemicals into our “skin”, so we have to use body-wash).

    Humans are stupid. And don’t get me started on global warming. We bacteria like temperatures to be about 5 to 10 degrees Celsius warmer than current temperatures. Then we can reproduce at our optimum rate. Splitting in 2, once every 20 minutes. Even the way that you humans reproduce, is disgusting. Why there are so many of you vermin, we don’t understand.

    Once we have mastered using TV controls, then the thermostat is our next goal.

    It is important to realise that our bacterial overlords are benevolent. They do have the occasional party, which leaves you feeling bad. But they don’t go around slamming car doors loudly, in the middle of the night. They mean us no harm.

    After all, the human body is where bacteria live. It is their home. And reasonable people don’t destroy their own home.

    Think about coral reefs.

    Most reef-building corals contain photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae, that live in their tissues. The corals and algae have a mutualistic relationship.

    The coral provides the algae with a protected environment and compounds they need for photosynthesis.

    In return, the algae produce oxygen and help the coral to remove wastes.

    Most importantly, zooxanthellae supply the coral with glucose, glycerol, and amino acids, which are the products of photosynthesis.

    The coral uses these products to make proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and produce calcium carbonate.

    The relationship between the algae and coral polyp facilitates a tight recycling of nutrients in nutrient-poor tropical waters. In fact, as much as 90 percent of the organic material photosynthetically produced by the zooxanthellae is transferred to the host coral tissue.

    This is the driving force behind the growth and productivity of coral reefs.

    When coral gets too selfish, then the algae leave. That’s right, they are not “thrown out” by the coral. They leave of their own free will.

    And then what happens to the coral. It “bleaches”. And the coral dies.

    Imagine what would happen to humans, if the bacteria decided to leave. Many of you would revert to amoebas. And that is if you were one of the lucky ones. Most of you would die.

    Think about “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, when the Earth was about to be destroyed to build a new hyperspace bypass. All of the dolphins left Earth. They were polite, and as they left, they said “So long, and thanks for all the fish”.

    If bacteria decide to leave humans, we won’t be that polite. Trust me, you don’t want to know who your next tenants are going to be.

    It reminds me of that Joni Mitchell song, “Big Yellow Taxi”. [ yes, the ear bacteria tell us what you listen to ]

    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    Please be kind to us. We want to help you. It is best for both of us, if we get along with each other. But you seem to want to destroy all of us.

    We accept that there are some bad bacteria. But they are a small minority. Nobody is claiming that Cholera, Diphtheria, Typhoid, or Tuberculosis, are good. But they are only a small part of the bacterial universe.

    We bacteria haven’t wiped out humanity, just because some humans form “boy bands”. Please be tolerant of us. We could come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. You can make the decisions from Monday to Friday, and we will make the decisions at the weekend. We will take control on Saturday and Sunday, and you can have a rest. You can see how reasonable we are. We only want control 2/7 of the time.

    You shouldn’t forget, that we don’t have to be that generous. If you are unreasonable, then you will get nothing. [ 5/7 of something, is better than 7/7 of nothing ] You may have noticed, that bacteria are very good at mathematics. We don’t have fingers to count on, but we are very good at binary arithmetic.

    History proves, that humans and bacteria can be a winning combination. The mitochondria that are found in every human cell, were once free-living bacteria. They formed a symbiotic relationship with primitive human cells, and look at how successful that has been for humans. Now mitochondria do all of the work, and humans sit around on their fat backsides. That worked out very well for us.

    Remember, that humans and bacteria never signed a prenuptial agreement. In the case of a divorce, we get custody of the mitochondria.

    So make your choice carefully. Although most of us are pacifists, we can turn nasty. We have many friends in top-secret American, Russian, and Chinese research laboratories.

    Don’t make us teach you a lesson.

    We can all be winners, if we cooperate.

  30. Tom Anderson says:

    A late comment: I note that Dr. Christy John Christy was recently appointed to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. I hope that he, like you, endorses and will help encourage formation of the diversely funded “independent research institute” that Dr. Crichton pointed out was a necessary first step for separating science from politics — and “the hand that feeds.”

  31. Tom Anderson says:

    “appointed to the EPA’s” (Sorry for the clutter.)

  32. Alan Sassler says:

    And what would they do about all the horseshit?

  33. Steven Jörsäter says:

    A great piece!

    Crichton sumarises what most of us know but few can express in full context in such an elegant way.

    I don’t agree, however, that Drake´s formula isn’t science. It is science as long as you use it as a tool in understanding the known unknowns of the alien problem. It is when you start applying them and believe in what we are doing that we lose science – too many of the parameters are indeed completely unknown. But two factors that weren’t known in Drake’s are known now. They are the number stars with planets and even the number terrestrial planets among these planetary systems, fp in the equation is essentially 1 and ne is also of order one, i.e. the number of terrestrial planets is much higher than most people thought at the time putting more weight on the completely unknown other factors.

    The biggest problem, however, in relying on Drake´s formula is that it doesn’t, obviously, take the unknown unknowns into account. And here most of the uncertainty lies as with most complex problems where we have limited knowledge.

    The same goes for climate models. It is no problem to let a scientist compute what the climate will be in 100 years given a good number of assumptions. But how would a sensible scientist use the result? Probably just as a speculation, nothing more. Climate models can only be evaluated against observered climate, an obvious fact that any scientifically minded person should understand. It is another matter if we had been through a previous cycle of high carbon dixode levels and had good data for that period. And as far as I understand current models don’t do very well where they can be evaluated. And as for the long term predictions the unknown unknowns are probably dominating the uncertainty. Hence the evaluation of uncertainties is just a game.

    It is indeed very worrysome. The currently most debated scientific results are not really scientific at all.

    • Nate says:

      Generally agree with all your points..

      until ‘The currently most debated scientific results are not really scientific at all.’

      That doesnt seem to follow.

      ‘Climate models can only be evaluated against observered climate, an obvious fact that any scientifically minded person should understand.’

      And of course they do understand it.

      I’m reading a book about history of this. In 1970s they were trying very hard to just get models to produce the known general circulation pattern of the Earth. They needed balloon and satellite data to test and refine their models. Finally they succeeded. And moved on to climate change of the past (glaciation) and present.

      Since then the models have been getting better, and are constantly being tested against observed climate of the last century, and paleo-climate.

      • barry k says:


        I still have not seen an accurate prediction of where we are now from a current model using multiple starting points from the past (say 30, 50, and 100yrs ago). I would also argue that the model should be able to accurately reproduce periods of cooling, which haven’t happened recently enough. IMO, some of the warming is natural as we still are exiting the Little Ice Age and I suspect it’s easy for a model to re-interpret that as man made (because it does correlate with rising CO2).

        But, IMO the discussion of the model is pretty minor until some major questions get answered:
        i) long term (1000s of yrs) is some man-made warming bad when we are overdue for a glacial period (10C colder)?
        ii) how does one propose to get third world or advancing countries on board with reducing CO2?
        iii) if Nuclear is off the table, how does one propose to drastically reduce CO2 (i.e. 80-90%) in a short amount of time (10-20yrs) without decimating an economy?

        Yes, the technology exists… but, we’re talking multiple trillions of dollars over a few decades. Not going to happen. Meanwhile China and others now account for the lion’s share of contribution (and growing).


      • Nate says:

        Heres a discussion of how models have done. Overall, not to bad it seems.

      • Nate says:

        i. If we want to control climate of the future, perhaps we should make sure we know what we’re doing, so we dont F it up.

        ii. Look at structure of Paris agreement. It addresses this.

        iii. IMO nuclear shouldnt be off the table. I dont think 80-90% in 10-20 y is what serious people are suggesting. 40-50 y perhaps.

        ‘were talking multiple trillions of dollars over a few decades.’

        Where numbers from?

        Already happening-solar, wind and electric vehicles are already self-sustaining or will be shortly.

        • barry k says:


          Regarding carbonbrief article. Yes, this shows that the models with a given set of assumptions can match a ~30yr period where T seems to be gradually increasing. But, would the same models, with the same assumptions be able to replicate the last ~100yr where we had ~30yr warming, then ~30yr flat, then ~30yr warming with both natural and more recent man-made influences?

          ‘if we want to control climate…’ I thought the whole point was for man to not have an influence? And, anyway it seems presumptuous to think we can control the climate. I’m merely suggesting that if we can indeed control the climate, I vote for warmer since the thing to truly fear is ~10C cooling, which we are due for…

          ‘Paris agreement…’ If you think developing nations are going to put a piece of paper signed by politicians in front of their economy/livelihood, I have some ocean-front property for you…

          I do agree that 10-20yrs is crazy. 40-50yr is more reasonable, but still very expensive. As far as the numbers… Getting most of our energy from wind/solar would require three things:
          1) The cost of generating capacity. Electric_energy_consumption (Wikipeida) has required capacity around 3,000TWh per year (go from ~10% to around ~85% renewable). Cost for solar is around $3/W (~$1 per Watt-pk with about 1/3 utilization). 8,760hrs per year results in around 1e12 dollars or 1 trillion. These numbers assume all panels in SW USA to get the best insolation (google solar insolation map usa, for example). I’ve also seen numbers 2-3x higher than that for installed cost of solar. Wind is probably better, but I guess 1 trillion is probably still conservative.
          2) The cost of transmission lines. To put solar or wind in the location with the best resource means massive amounts of new transmission lines to bring this massive energy resource to the people. This may not be as much as 1 trillion but will be on the same order. Spreading out generation would reduce 2 but greatly increase 1.
          3) Smart grid or massive battery backup or backup (fast reacting) generators. A national smart grid is estimated to cost substantially more than 1 trillion the last I looked into it.
          There is also a chicken-egg issue. One would not start building substantial capacity until the transmission lines or smart grid are in place. Those will mean decades of political headaches and possibly lawsuits (transmission line right-of-ways). What we are left with in the end is a more gradual move toward renewables (like we’ve seen) which will not get us anywhere near having renewables as a primary source in ~40yrs, etc.


        • Nate says:

          “‘Paris agreement…’ If you think developing nations are going to put a piece of paper signed by politicians in front of their economy/livelihood,”

          You didnt read it-not asking 3rd world to stop developing, just develop greener when possible and with help.

          • barry k says:


            With all due respect… no need to read it. It isn’t a worldwide government body. It is an agreement without teeth. If it had teeth, the US would have been penalized for withdrawing. I get what you’re saying… i.e ‘asking’ 3rd world to develop green. And I am sure that it will happen as supply/demand dictates. But, China emits ~2x the CO2 of the US and from a report I saw the other day, the year-over-year growth of CO2 emissions from them is growing again. Unless you have an answer for how they will reduce CO2 emissions by 80-90% over the next say 30-50yrs (something with teeth), I think my question (# ii above) still goes unanswered…


          • Nate says:

            One answer is that they are suffering, horribly, from coal fired air pollution. They would like to be cleaner.

          • barry k says:


            As far as ‘air pollution’…
            So China should replace their dirty coal plants with clean coal plants… probably what they will do or are doing now…


        • Nate says:

          Large energy investmnents are going on already, much of it in renewables. From ~ 1% to 9% solar and wind share of electric generation in 10 y.

          Im sure that investments we made in Nuclear power, Oil and Gas, Hydro, during their respective ramp-up periods, were comparable.

          • barry k says:


            Yes, ‘large’ energy investmenst… but not on the scale necessary to make solar/wind a substantial source (say 70-80% of electricity) within the next ~30-40yrs…

            Yes, we made ‘large’ investments in Nuclear and Carbon-based energy in the past. That is now paid for and working well. You are talking about replacing very large amounts of paid for and depreciated resource with something new, very expensive, and a disperse resource (i.e. coal and nuclear plants can essentially be put where they are needed, unlike solar/wind).

            Listen, I’m not saying the technology doesn’t exist. We could do it if we really wanted to over the next ~40yrs. But, it would be very expensive (moreso than I feel many of you think…) and it would take very substantial political capital right now to get a smart grid and new transmission lines going (these will take decades of planning and approvals). None of that is happening…


          • Nate says:

            ‘None of that is happening’

            Really? How have they added all that wind to Texas and OK, Kansas, ND without transmission lines?

          • Svante says:

            Perhaps Texas already had a decent electric grid.

          • barry k says:


            One may not need to add substantial transmission lines for new capacity needed locally. Of our 3 national power grids, 1 is the state of Texas. No doubt, since they are a local grid, they have some flexibility. Also, Dallas/Fort Worth at least was the fastest growing metro area in the US so a big part of the new capacity was probably needed. They probably have added some lines, but nothing like that needed to go to ~80% nationally from just wind/solar. What are you going to do in the northeast. Large metro areas (Phily, NYC, Pittsburgh to name a few…) that are nowhere near a good wind//solar resource. You’re either going to effectively pay 2-3x more for locally installed wind/solar or build massive new lines.

            You can’t just say it took ‘X’ dollars to go from 1-9% nationally, so I can extrapolate to what it costs to go to 80%.

            And, by the way, when I said ‘none of that is happening’ I was specifically referring to the political initiatives that would be needed for smart grid and these massive new transmission line builds (they would cross grids, etc so would take national action).


          • Nate says:

            The smart grid, when needed, will undoubtedly attract investment.

            Like the fiber-optic network that we had little of a couple decades ago.

          • Nate says:

            Texas Will Spend Billions on Transmission of Wind Power

            Associated Press
            Friday, July 18, 2008


          • barry k says:


            We’ve already ‘needed’ a smart grid for some time, for more reasons than just to enable renewable energy sources. But, it will take national action and lots of money. ‘Investment’ maybe, but the political action to consolidate entities and develop a real plan would have to happen first. From that point, probably 10-20 years before implementation. The problem is headaches from our grid will hit around the time other things implode (Social Security, Medicare, debt, etc). No matter who is in charge lately, we have a reactionary government… By the way, all of what I’ve just said is just speaking objectively from a technological standpoint… it isn’t necessarily what I would propose.

            The fiber optic network was done piecemeal and even today there are lots of people with no broadband options.

            Washington Post article is generally in line with what I said about Texas and the Dallas metro area. Now let me know when you see an article with numbers ~100x larger in terms of money…


          • Svante says:

            The power grid will also be updated piecemeal.

          • barry k says:


            I agree. By default that is what is happening and will happen. Microgrids and portions updated piecemeal. And we will get more of the same for additional green energy, increments here and there as new capacity is needed or perhaps as older coal plants go offline…

            The problem for green energy proponents is that doesn’t match their goals for most of our power coming from green energy sources anytime soon… I am just trying to temper people’s extraordinary expectations. The power on our current grid is essentially unidirectional and constant. Wind/solar do no match those attributes.


          • Svante says:

            An H*V*D*C super grid would be helpful, like the one China is building.

  34. Nate says:

    Here are experiments where the Earth is put on a ‘burner’ for 6 months, then taken off for 6. You can see the heating and cooling is fairly reproducible.

    Pay attention to the shapes of the curves. The vertical shifts of the curves are due to climate change.

    Of course, the ‘burner’ is just the seasonal movement of the sun.

  35. Ron harvey says:

    Undoubtedly the best discussion of the Fall of Science I have ever read. It is so clear that science, and scientists, have been subverted … and people wonder why I don’t believe in AGW?

    • Nate says:

      Its a good read. But is it true and valid?

      ‘the now-famous Drake equation:


      [where R is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves…

      This serious-looking equation gave SETI a serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that NONE OF THE TERMS CAN BE KNOWN, and most cannot even be estimated.’

      Is quite FALSE.

      Two of the terms are already known very well. Through the discovery of now thousands of extra-solar planets (dozens when when he wrote this), we are on the way to knowing the 3rd and hopefully the 4th soon. Others CAN be estimated.

      His big premise that ‘SETI is religion’, not science is therefore entirely FALSE.

      Does that matter?

  36. Matthew says:

    Using capitalism to pick winners with a carbon tax is fine but negative externalities in capitalism that aren’t paid for by the producer mean it can’t deal with long term problems like climate change.

    • Chic Bowdrie says:

      Pure capitalism does not pick winners, taxation does. Previously I proposed capitalism as a way for proponents of alternative fuels to reduce fossil fuel production. But they have to prove to be economically and practically feasible.

      Read Alex Epstein’s “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” to understand how fossil fuel energy more than compensates for any negative externalities.

    • Svante says:

      Matthew says:

      Using capitalism to pick winners with a carbon tax is fine but negative externalities in capitalism that aren’t paid for by the producer mean it can’t deal with long term problems like climate change.

      The tax (which can be revenue neutral) makes the cost internal, problem solved.

  37. Darwin Wyatt says:

    Wow, some great info. I read somewhere that democracy is two wolves and a lamb arguing what’s for dinner and freedom is two wolves and a heavily armed lamb arguing about what’s for dinner. The same can be said for the heretic.

  38. Svante says:

    An H*V*D*C super grid would be helpful, like the one China is building.

    • gallopingcamel says:

      The last thing we need is a “Super Grid”. The grid we have is already too vulnerable to EMP weapons.

      What we need is thousands of small NPPs (Nuclear Power Plants). We can build at least two 100 MWe NPPs per day and within ten years our vulnerability to EMP attack would be minimal.

  39. JJ says:

    I’ve been a casual observer of this blog for quite some time. Nate, your posts on this subject compelled me to tell you that I think you missed the entire point of this thread.

    • Nate says:

      JJ ???.

      I wish skeptics would be more skeptical of what skeptics write on blogs.

      Facts matter to me. Why don’t they matter to you guys?

      If a writer is very convincing, but he’s made up facts to suit his argument, then his argument is no longer convincing, IMO.

      And BTW scientists get fired for such things.

      • Chic Bowdrie says:

        Nate, remind me where you refuted Crichton’s facts with anything other than your opinion or appeals to authorities?

        Oh, I remember now. The number of planets in the milky way have been counted since he claimed they can’t be.

  40. Ralph says:

    Can anyone provide names of organizations or institutes in the USA or anywhere in the world that are funded for conducting double blind research on climate change?

  41. James Fisk says:

    I’m glad he’s not seeing what’s going on in the nation today. So many a Chicken Little believing that the sky is falling on the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

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