Days of Change

Day 405 – Peer Review with Bernie Madoff

December 14, 2009

Jackass was on TV today scolding the banks. I guess he’s checking the naughty and nice list for financial institutions this Christmas season. Claims of predatory lending have given way to calls for mandatory lending. By way of excuse, Congress has pulled out the TARP card. Legally, there’s not a whole lot they can do because TARP was essentially a giveaway. Still, Congress can pass a number of regulations, like the ones that made banks give loans to low-income (otherwise known as bad credit risk) borrowers.

As a separate matter, banks could use more outside watching. It’s another case where existing law was not enforced in exchange for self-regulation. We certainly don’t want Bernie Madoff or Enron being the authority on their area of business such that any sins could be hidden. Then I wonder, why are we doing that for climate change?

Climategate was entertaining for bringing global warming supporters out in the open to defend themselves with indignation. Phrases like “the science is settled” and “peer-reviewed research” were thrown about like campaign slogans. Al Gore, in another misinterpretation said that climate change was a fact, like gravity.

Scientific fact is something not given to grand declarations by political has-beens. That planetary weather patterns change is an observable fact. The tendency of objects without a contrary upward force falling toward a larger object (like the earth) is an observable fact. Alone, these facts provide little context.

For example, Newton’s apple was not bound to the earth by an invisible string. The earth was not pulling the apple to it with gravity, either. Gravity is a fundamental attractive force based on the mass and distance of two objects. The earth and the apple were drawn to each other. Even as the apple “fell” to earth, the earth was moving toward the apple. In that case, however, the earth is about a trillion trillion times more massive and the apple does all the real moving.

Newtonian physics involves math, which is about as objective as you can get in science. Climate science uses computers that “interpret” data. This data is sampled, often normalized, adjusted with “tricks” and then presented in easy to read hockey stick shaped graphs that were proven to be false. Assuming that the collection of climate data is comprehensive, (a big assumption) the resulting patterns are prone to complex systems involving plants, animals, land masses, ocean currents, atmospheric gases, gravitational variations, solar activity and cosmic events.

To avoid scientists with crazy theories concocting ludicrous proofs, the scientific community relies on the peer-review process. Who are the peers? We see a lot of spokespeople for climate science, (celebrities and liberals) a few other scientists (paid guests who spend their time on TV or former engineers like Bill Nye) but very few of the actual climatologists who published. The ones in Climategate have gone into hiding. What about their peers? There are supposedly scientists who reviewed the data as peers, asked the tough questions, double checked their data and gave them a seal of approval. Do any of them want to go on CNN?

Back in the good Michael Moriarty days of Law and Order, an episode called “Big Bang” featured a scientific “peer” who turned down a research proposal so that said peer could steal it and publish the results as his own. Had a murder not been involved, he would have gotten away with it. Peers are human beings. They have superior knowledge in one area, not superior intellect. I really wonder where that knowledge lies when they let Al Gore defend them without being reviewed.

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