An Invalid Analogy

In our paper, a professor from our university claimed our congressional representative was ignoring the science on climate change.

He first makes the tired 97% agreement claim. Yes, 97% of the 79 people who wrote the most peer-reviewed articles in peer-reviewed journals. Translation: 97% of 79 people who’s fellow climate scientists agreed with what they wrote think climate science is true. Of course, consensus does not determine truth in science, so even if 99% of 3000 scientists agreed, it would not make the hypothesis or theory true. Only evidence and testing and open review can do that.

Then came the now standard “If you had cancer, you would go to an oncologist, right?” The clear implication is you must have a specialist or appropriate authority for scientific decisions. Thus, you need the IPCC (which is not science organization, but rather a political one that decides what the whole world needs to do) and James Hansen to tell you about climate change.

There is a serious flaw in this claim—or maybe it’s a deliberate slight. Yes, you do go to an oncologist for treatment of cancer, but very often a family doctor or even a dentist makes the referral. This means a non-specialist can recognize cancer or potential cancer. The understanding of what cancer is is present in these “non-specialists”, unlike climate science where anyone outside the elite peer-reviewed are often ignored or downright vilified. Can you imagine an oncologist refusing to see you because your lowly GP thinks you have cancer? Who is your GP to make a diagnosis like that? If the oncologist said you did not have cancer but your GP did, would you seek a second opinion or just go with the specialist who is the authority and ignore the non-authority GP?

There are many different ways of treating cancer and a recognition that there is much more to be learned. There is no consensus in what will work because consensus is not important—results are. Money is always being raised for new studies on cancer and treatments for it. It is not “settled” science.

The second problem with the comparison is oncologists success is measured by remission and cure rates. No one checks for how many articles the oncologist has published or is his cure rate is peer-reviewed. This is because there are concrete, testable practices in oncology. If a treatment fails, it is evident in a short period of time. Contrast this to climate change which is mostly mathematics and computer modeling. There is no immediate, concrete verification of the theory. Much of the damage is forecast decades out. How can a person have any idea if a theory that cannot be verified for 50 years is even close to accurate? To be science, the theory has to be testable and falsifiable. Climate change theory is neither. Oncology is.

If oncology worked like climate change, an oncologist would do a few tests of how you are feeling and feed the information into a computer program to produce a graph that show possible outcomes. He cannot use any empirical information outside of a biopsy to diagnose the cancer. Everything else is a CI or probability graph. If the graph says “treat now and agressively” and that translates to “cut the limb off or the cancer COULD spread”, you would have to amputate the limb because it COULD save your life.

In reality, an oncologist would do empirical tests, then give the patient choices for treatment. The patient may opt to go for amputating the limb to avoid the possibility that he could die if he does not. In oncology, that is a choice. In climate science, it is not. The treatment is prescribed for the world and there is NO discussion in any of it.
If your oncologist treated your cancer using computer models and decided FOR you the treatment, then and only then could going to an oncologist for treatment be somewhat comparable to going to an expert in climate science to get the diagnoses and treatment for the planet.

Empirical science is not the same as theoretical. Biopsies are not the same as inputting “average” temperatures from various places around the globe and manipulating the data, the declaring the earth is warming. The comparison is invalid and climate scientists should be looking for something that is similar if they want to get climate science questioners to consider their behaviour and analogies to be scientific.