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John Reid: A Physicist Ponders The Pause

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John Reid, Quadrant

After surviving a storm-tossed voyage, King James I concluded that witches must have conjured tempests to do him ill because nothing ever happens by chance. In promoting the notion that climate trends are shaped by an industrialised world’s CO2 emissions, warmists are in the same boat.

What bothers me, in the light of the continued denial by some of The Pause — the global climate’s prolonged refusal to grow warmer as the “settled science” predicted — is how this whole climate issue reflects a deeper malaise. It suggests a sort of Calvinistic determinism in which the future is cast in concrete and all that remains for us to do is to remove the form-work. This is in sharp contrast to Eastern philosophy, such as Taoism and the I Ching, which are based on the idea of continuous change. As Heraclitus noted quite some time ago, we may never step twice into the same river.

Determinism has long been there, underlying Western Christian thought, but it has recently come to dominate (or perhaps replace) scientific thinking. I believe that this is an unintended consequence of numerical modeling which is now widespread in science. Computers have, in general, been such a boon to science that no-one any longer questions the validity of some applications, particularly those numerical models which are based on differential equations. All such models rest on certain assumptions — assumptions which are very rarely questioned or even acknowledged. These include assumptions about the complete absence of discontinuities — cliffs and fronts and shocks — which are, in reality, widespread in nature.

However, by far the most subtle and far-reaching hidden assumption is that of determinism, the ideaput forward by Pierre-Simon Laplace that if une intelligence knows the precise state of the universe at one instant it can predict the state of the universe at any future time. This idea underlies computer modeling and, in my view, is the root cause of much of the vitriol expressed by warmists. It goes hand-in-hand with ideas of omniscience and perfectability.

The other edge of this deterministic sword is the idea of the Malevolent Force. Under this mentality nothing ever happens by chance and so, when things go wrong and our predictions fail, then there must be a reason. The reason is usually human. If a divinely appointed king is threatened by a storm at sea then it must be the fault of witches, as  James I concluded after a pair of tempest-tossed voyages. If a Communist utopia fails, then it must be the fault of recidivists. If a climate model is called into question, it must be the mischief of deniers.

This is not science. This is not physics.

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