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Quote of the day, ditch the scientific method edition

You’re allowed to say, well I think we should do nothing. That’s a policy choice. But what you’re not allowed to do is to claim there’s a better estimate of the way that the climate will change, other than the one that comes out of the computer models. It’s nonsensical to say ‘we know better’, you can’t know better.

Professor Brian Cox appears averse to the idea that data trumps hypothesis.

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Reader Comments (99)

If it is the "best we've got" does that assuredly mean that it's any good or useful?

Sep 3, 2014 at 4:49 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Whenever I feel the urge to be scathing, withering, condescending, aggressive, etc. about an opinion like this, I read the comments that follow, especially in the Comment is Free, and think to myself, you don't want to make an arse of yourself like them, do you.

Sep 3, 2014 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

I doubt Professor Brian Cox has any clue about the scientitfic method. He does not do research he just presents fairly naff BBC "science" programmes

Sep 3, 2014 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

I feel a bit sorry for scientists like Professor Cox. He clearly thinks that climate science is solid science in the same say that the work done by the LHM team is solid science.

I have never seen anything from him that indicates that he has personally ever looked into the detail - he is naively assuming that climate science is performed in exactly the same manner as other 'hard' sciences, and so the results should automagically be trusted.

Sep 3, 2014 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Oops - should have logged in so I could correct the errors above - "doen by the LHM team" should read "done by the LHC team"
[corrected BH]

Sep 3, 2014 at 4:54 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

My god! The man cannot be that much of an idiot!

First, he conflates the statistical 95% confidence interval with the completely subjective 95% "extremely likely" assessment of the IPCC grandees.

Then he implies that the scientists at CERN use the 95% (2 sigma) confidence interval, when in reality they demand a 6-sigma (99.99966%) confidence interval before they announce results.

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurt

He has a valid point that policy should be informed by science. He would appear less naive if so many climate scientivists hadn't so hopelessly commingled policy with their research activities.

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterdcardno

It is quite standard fare for the politically-motivated to assume that anybody who questions any aspect of their ideology is also motivated politically. It never crosses their conscious that the questions maybe based on actual observational data.

Cox, BBC and the Guardian accusing their opponents of being politically-motivated? Nothing to see, move on.

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:15 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Every sentence uttered by Cox in this article is utterly bonkers, nonsense on stilts. Try this:

“The scientific view at the time is the best, there’s nothing you can do that’s better than that. So there’s an absolutism. It’s absolutely the best advice,” he said.
Cox, a physicist who works on the Large Hadron Collider where the Higgs boson was discovered, said that 95% certainty in science is effectively total.
or this:
“I always regret it when knowledge becomes controversial. It’s clearly a bad thing, for knowledge to be controversial. We can trace back through history the times when knowledge was considered to be controversial. And that’s what we are actually saying when we talk about climate change. We’re saying that there’s something inherently problematic with knowledge.
Will anyone with some reputation in scientific circles dare to come out and say that Cox is a dangerously ignorant person?

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:17 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

'... other than the one that comes out of the computer models'
Which one? Why many if it's settled?

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterVftS

I don't think I ever posted this 'Coxian view' cartoon from 2010.

Well at least he is consistent ;-)

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:28 PM | Registered CommenterJosh

One of Blairs boys...

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

Geoff is right. The entire article is muddled, incoherent gibberish. It's hard to see what he is trying to say. At first it seems that he may be criticising climate scientists - presumably the IPCC - for making a 95% certainty claim. Then he seems to be criticising sceptics for 'manipulating' this - what his he on about? Who 'manipulated' the 95% figure?
Then he goes completely bonkers with

scientists could say with total confidence that climate science was uncontroversial.

Why is it that these people feel that they can just barge in to the climate debate from a position of total ignorance?

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:33 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Brian Cox has a fairly attractive denim clad bottom which is frequently displayed on his ''science'' travelogues but his voice grates on the ear and his opinions grate on the intelligence.

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Sydney
Sep 3, 2014 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

After wading through that prose it is impossible to discern whether Brian Cox is scientifically illiterate, or just simply illiterate.

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Pretty boy, but clueless. Yet another AGW shill favoured by the Guardian, and , of course, the BBC. On message, lefty, and a poster child. No hope, really, is there.

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

I was formulating my proposed comment whilst reading the comments of others
only to find that your very appropriate remarks reflected my reactions to this article,perfectly.
Biased, blinkered and mind boggling unscientific balderdash, in spades.

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Cox needs to stop sucking up to the BBC and get back to his scientific principles.

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

'Qualification' ≠ 'intelligence'

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Using the scientific method and a simply computer model, I am 99% certain that, according to Richard Betts, Brian Cox has no idea what he's talking about, climatically and scientifically.

Sep 3, 2014 at 5:57 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

No professional scientist or engineer taught standard physics accepts the crazy IPCC radiative and IR physics. Therefore Cox is either being unprofessional or has been taught incorrect physics.

Sep 3, 2014 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

A call to the competent scientists out there, when are you going to take back your profession?

Sep 3, 2014 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

What is the probability that a 95% "certainty" will be wrong for more that 15 years running?

Sep 3, 2014 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterSC-Slywolf

Don't worry. Richard Betts won't let Cox get away with this patent nonsense. Just have a quiet word in his ear, Richard. No need to embarrass him in public.

Sep 3, 2014 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

I think his phrasing is very carefully (though very clumsily) constructed; perhaps he is trying to cover all bases, though few intelligent people will forget: “But what you’re not allowed to do is to claim there’s a better estimate of the way that the climate will change, other than the one that comes out of the computer models. It’s nonsensical to say ‘we know better’, you can’t know better.” as it is patently absurd, especially when he then goes on to defend knowledge.

However, the last two paragraphs could be open to considerable interpretation, and could be applied both ways:

“I always regret it when knowledge becomes controversial. It’s clearly a bad thing, for knowledge to be controversial. We can trace back through history the times when knowledge was considered to be controversial. And that’s what we are actually saying when we talk about climate change. We’re saying that there’s something inherently problematic with knowledge.”
Cleverly, [sic] he does not specify what knowledge is controversial. Mind you, didn’t Einstein once say that knowledge does not necessarily mean intelligence? Also, surely, as a scientist, he should not be arguing in defence of “knowledge” but in defence of facts – historically, there has been a lot of “knowledge” that has, in reality, been a misinterpretation of facts. Very clumsy wording; he is trying to do a verbal pas de bourée in oral wellington boots

“Don’t undermine the science just because you don’t like the economics. That’s a dangerous slope, because the problem of course is you’re not undermining just that, you’re undermining the basis of rational decision-making in society.”
Who could argue with any of that (other than them being such clumsy sentences)? Like Mike Fowle, I do not want to suffer guilt by association by commenting on that site, though “zorastes” is not such a chicken (sorry – the pun was just toooo tempting!).

Sep 3, 2014 at 6:12 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

RR, the wording you quote is so clumsy that I wonder if he ever got to see it before it was published.

Perhaps this is just extracts from a telephone interview which the Professor would not have endorsed had he seen it first.

Sep 3, 2014 at 6:15 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

He is a broadcaster and used to be a musician and fizzisist.
His opinions are worth no more than Brian Cox, the excellent actor, even though he appears to have more hair

Sep 3, 2014 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterWJohn

There's only one Brian - Cock! (What? There's two of 'em?)

Sep 3, 2014 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

I met one of Cox's colleagues from CERN in Glasgow recently. He ridiculed a 'mystical' statement about the double slits experiment, unaware it came from Richard Feynman, the least mystical of physicists. It is some kind of trade protection system. We are all decent, sensible chaps kind of thing.

Notwithstanding the fact the British higher education system is now a cheating factory.

Sep 3, 2014 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Observations are denialist propaganda.

Sep 3, 2014 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterclovis man

> What is the probability that a 95% "certainty" will be wrong for more that 15 years running?


Sep 3, 2014 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterac1

Sounds like Mosher. In fact Mosher was on his soapbox about it again today at Judy Curry's. If you don't have your own computer model for climate, you have to accept the ones that exist. Except that skeptics have a perfectly good model. And the ones that exist that we are supposed to accept don't agree with each other.

Sep 3, 2014 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

So what he is saying is that AGW is now the null hypothesis and it cannot be falsified by data. ???

He also refers to "debate" - when and where did this happen?

Sep 3, 2014 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterseedy

Dark matter unicorn for sale, as ridden by Professor Cox. Must go. No reasonable offer refused.

Sep 3, 2014 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuther Bl't

I saw D:Ream play once. They were S:Hit. (Copyright Reeves and Mortimer.) But really, they were. I said so during the gig, and became very unpopular. The rest of the audience were 95% certain that D:Ream were brilliant and would have great careers in the music biz.

Sep 3, 2014 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

So Richard Betts says the models are not good for policy making and Prof. Cox says we have to use them becuase nothing else will do.
This raises the questino:
Western governments have spent billions over the last few decades to develop science based climate policy. Yet it turns out there is still no actual consensus even among those who believein a climate catastrophe that it is reliably measured. This means we are spending billions to pursue a policy that is based on something not actually measurable.
Where did our money go?

Sep 3, 2014 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

"......the ONE that comes out of the computer models." ??? How mystical.

Sep 3, 2014 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

If 95% certainty is "effectively total", then why is it the standard for evidence for a discovery in particle physics (y'know, like they do at LHC) is 5-sigma, or 99.99997% certainty?

Sep 3, 2014 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

So he is saying that "You can't know better" about a subject – to wit the future – about which precisely no one knows anything except him? The man is barking. He would not have been out of place as a priest in Egypt in c. 3,000 BC, where, slaves groaning, he could have had lots and lots of special hats to decorate his obviously special brain.

Is anyone in our supposedly rational world expected to take this lunatic seriously?

And he calls himself a scientist?

Sep 3, 2014 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

Another "established" scientist gone to seed.* Never mind, the establishment likes them that way. He'll die rich one day.

*No biologically inaccurate apple pun intended.

Sep 3, 2014 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

Brian Cox has a well funded and happy co-existance with the BBC. He knows very well what the scientific method is. He knows also that co² global warming is a scam. On several occasions he has let slip these facts. On one particular occasion a plonker presenter asked him if global warming was real. His reply was telling. (sic) The consensus says it is '. That is not an answer from convistion for me.

Sep 3, 2014 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

If he wasn't kinda cute and had previously been in a band, would anyone be publishing his thought bubbles?

He may have some ability in dealing with abstract problems, but when it comes to the real world, my postman or checkout person has a firmer grip.

Sep 3, 2014 at 8:15 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Just found this story Wind Turbine company having to pay East Anglia fisherman for loss of earnings

Sep 3, 2014 at 8:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Your Grace

I have no doubt you will be somewhat upset to learn that Richard Betts has made a guest post somewhere that is not here!

but here -

Sep 3, 2014 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

I'll second Singleton: "A call to the competent scientists out there, when are you going to take back your profession?"

Go for it, ask your scientist friends why they are silent. Insist they are amoral in their silence.

Sep 3, 2014 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterNiels

If Cox was half the scientists he thinks he is, he would look objectively at the facts , use his scientific back ground and see that the 95% claim has no empirical valid basis . And if he had any common sense he realise that has your claims get more inaccurate compared to reality its dum to claim your more certain that your right , in the way the IPCC have .

The best thing we can hope for is that he does not take the same approach in his own area or if he does he is kept away from anything important or sharp objectives, for his and everyone else's good.

Sep 3, 2014 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

Not exactly Richard Feynman is he.

Yet another academic 'professional' whose real expertise is in cashing paychecks.

Sep 3, 2014 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

Not exactly Richard Feynman is he.
(h/t Jake)

Says it all.

Sep 3, 2014 at 9:17 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna


Sep 3, 2014 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

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