Oh for the Love of Science

This rant was brought to you by me checking Facebook before I got out of bed today.

Do you know who’s just as irritating to me as global warming deniers?  (Let’s be honest.  More irritating.)  All the people pointing at the weather this summer and snarkily/sneeringly/self-importantly going, “Take that, global warming deniers.”  You see, this is one group of wrong, ignorant people smugly teasing another group of wrong, ignorant people and expecting to be patted on the back for their virtue.  Uhm, sorry, you’re still wrong and ignorant.

Here’s the thing: you need at least three points to establish a trend.  This summer is one data point.  Yet everybody seems to be littering their (justified) complaining about the heat with assertions that this proves the existence of a warming trend.  You can’t do that.  If you could, then the deniers would be just as valid when they point to the abnormally cool spring and early summer we had last year as counter-evidence of global warming, and we’d all be in a screaming match over the cherry-picked data points that fit the case we want.  Science does not suffer screaming matches.  (Okay, it does, but it shouldn’t.)

If you want to make a case for global warming or, more accurately, climate change, you have to point at long term trends.  You have to use the data showing a warming trend that is both bigger and more sustained than normal fluctuations with a stable climate.  If you want to argue for anthropogenic climate change then you have to show that those trends both diverge from normal variations in climate cycles and correlate it to shifts in human activity.  Otherwise you are just as guilty of being ignorant and unscientific as the people you’re feeling superior to.

I don’t really expect you to lay out graphs and data anylses in your Facebook updates.  I just expect you to not spew stupid correlative arguments as if you’re some paragon of intellectual piety.

This week we may have found the Higgs-Boson.  Let’s all celebrate by not looking like a bunch of jack-ass morons on the internet, okay?

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