The arrogance of science?


This comment of Richard Feynman’s indicates to me the essential humility of science. Yet we often find that people who seem to subscribe to the support of “answers that can’t be questioned” willΒ accuse science and scientists of arrogance.



I suspect this is because they have put themselves in the position of being unable to support the claims they are making.

13 responses to “The arrogance of science?

  1. Wow Ken . . . does this mean you’re essentially not a true scientist?


  2. “I suspect this is because they have put themselves in the position of being unable to support the claims they are making.”

    How apt. Precisely the position the climate alarmist lobby finds itself in: unable to support the claims they are making.

    I’m glad you quoted Richard Feynman who also said, “It does not matter who you are, or how smart you are, or what title you have, or how many of you there are, and certainly not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period.”

    He also said, “If you thought that science was certain – well, that is just an error on your part.”

    So much for claims that “the science is settled” and the so-called “consensus”.


  3. What a strange reaction, scienge. You haven’t called me “arrogant” but you are calling me, or some undefined straw man, part of a “climate alarmist lobby.” You are claiming of me or this straw man that we think “science is settled” which any sensible reader here will know is just not true.

    Seems to me a radically dishonest tactic to take basic ideas of scientific method as expressed by someone like Feynman and then imply I am guilty of violating them, or your straw man is – all without any evidence or even a quote.

    Or perhaps you just have an obsession about something but are unable to put up any evidence-based argument for your obsession? Or even state your position clearly.


  4. Actually Ken, you are quite right and I apologise. My comments were aimed specifically at the climate alarmist group who haunt the sciblogs blog, from where I linked directly to your item on Feynman, hence the connection. So I accept your criticism. My comments were poorly placed, as you rightly pointed out, and not aimed at you or this particular blog. I was just struck by how appropriate your final remark was for the people who insist on the veracity of the AGW meme despite a mountain of growing evidence against it.


  5. Scienge, OK you have made a mistake in your enthusiasm for your position. But it still remains that you are presenting Uourself as someone who has the answers which cannot be questioned in your use of terms like “climate alarmist group” for science bloggers and your unsupported claim that there is mounting evidence against human inputs into climate change. All this said in the face if the mounting evidence for it as indicated by the regular summaries of scientific evidence reported but the IPCC.

    Instead of opportunistically attacking the scientific position by pretending you use the scientific approach presented by Feynman, what about actually using that approach and presenting evidence instead of attacking those who have already done so?


  6. “. . . what about actually using that approach and presenting evidence instead of attacking those who have already done so?”

    Good point. So ok, since you asked:

    As for your claim that there is mounting evidence for AGW, for which you cite “regular summaries” published by the IPCC, an entirely political entity of the UN no less, these are repetitions of a speculative mantra injected with unscientific terms like “likely” and highly dependent upon the speculative outputs of GCMs that they themselves term “scenarios”, ie., story lines. Yet the IPCC itself admits to the lack of GW for the past eighteen years and speculates further on its cause. It’s obviously a seriously problem for the AGW meme and its continued maintenance.

    So it seems to me your ‘scientific evidence’, such that it is, is at best a paper-thin veneer.

    So Feynman’s remark (about it not mattering who you are, or how many of you there are, or how many papers your side has published, “if your prediction is wrong, your hypothesis is wrong”) is entirely appropriate and deadly accurate. He was talking about exactly this sort of thing. The model predictions/scenarios/forecasts are obviously wrong. Therefore, as Feynman correctly said, the hypothesis upon which they are based is also wrong. Period. Or are you saying that this case is somehow an exception?

    Anyway, never mind. I’m sure you will find a way to rationalize the inconsistency.


  7. Oh dear.

    scienge links to an opinion blog, run by a lone retired scientist well known for contrarian views in regard to the total global scientific consensus on AGW.

    This particular blogger, Roy Spencer even attempts to bolster his credibility by appealing to the fact that he is an “former NASA” scientist.

    Except that NASA doesn’t agree with his conclusions. Not one little bit:

    So where is the epic fail?


  8. “contrarian views in regard to the total global scientific consensus on AGW.” HERESY! Off with his head! You sound like you’ve just stepped out of the sixteenth century.

    “So where is the epic fail?” So are you saying that the models are in complete agreement with the observations, despite the glaring reality that they aren’t? Good grief! What does it take?


  9. What does it take?

    If you are referring to what it takes to overturn the rock solid international scientific consensus that humans are modifying the climate and causing the Earth to warm, with probable adverse consequences for the ecosystem we currently inhabit then the answer is:

    More than opinion blogs and emotional rants.


  10. Scienge – you excuse for “evidence’ surely deserves this image.

    Feynman in no way suggested that one ignore the evidence presented by others as you do. To slander scientist who are reviewing that evidence is an unscientific copout.


  11. Scienge didn’t even cite a scientific paper.

    He linked to an opinion, in a blog, that reproduced a cherry picked graph, sans any body of accompanying text, from a cherry picked paper.

    This, he thought, would impress.

    These people are truly worthy of contempt.


  12. ” … than answers which can’t be questioned.”
    It would seem to me that the most avid of promoters of water fluoridation are the perfect demonstration of campaigners who are full of “answers which can’t be questioned”.
    Again and again in state health department booklets and leaflets we see this absurd claims like:
    “1000s of published papers support the safety and effectiveness of fluoriation”. Rarely do they cite more than a handful of these “1000s” and even then a closer look will reveal that they support no such thing.
    The claim which really alerted me to the “anwers which can’t be questioned” nature of fluoridation promoters was the oft repeated claim:
    “Over 60 countries enjoy the benefits of water fluoridation”.
    Several health professionals I know wrote to Australian heads of health departments, and heads of the ADA, seeking the list of 60 countries. No such list was ever forthcoming. Finally one health bureaucrat from the Victorian health department wrote stating: “it is hard to determine the actual number of countries due to differences in how widespread fluoridation is across countries. But we are bemused by your insistent focus upon the number of countries.”
    Wow! After these so-called health officials have used the claim repeatedly to indoctrinate members of the public unfortunate enough to read their promotional literature.
    An actual search for fluoridation status of countries reveals about 9 countries that practice very widespread fluoridation and nearly another 20 with some smaller degree (eg. one or two towns) of fluoridation in effect.
    Nevertheless these official health promoters seem greatly indignant when you seek any evidence for their pre-conceived answers and certainty.
    I dont know about the other issues that get debated on this site, but support for fluoridation seems to me to be conducted like an article of ‘religious’ faith for many.


  13. David, perhaps it is your “religious faith” that has got in the way but you seem to have forgotten to provide any citations for the quotes given and he claims made. Are these your answers which you don’t allow to be questioned? πŸ™‚ Or perhaps you don’t have any evidence for your claims.

    As for your concern about the low number of countries using community water fluoridation – perhaps you should consider the fact that most countries have difficulty providing water to their people, let alone clean water. Fluoridation is way down their list of priorities. Fortunately our standards of living. Are such where we can do sider such beneficial social health policies.

    Also consider the fact that many countries have problems with excess fluoride in their water supplies – which of course provides scope for anti-fluoride activists to pretend this is evidence for harm from optimum concentrations.

    Many countries, including some European ones, also have adequate concentrations, near optimum, so water fluoridation is not required.

    If you care to look around this blog you will find plenty of articles which are evidence-based. You are welcome to critique them, but please concentrate on the evidence. Don’t try to avoid this by making unsupported claims.


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