Thursday, April 12, 2018

Bryan Leyland: “Things you know that ain't so" - the Royal Society

As the American humorist Will Rogers said: “It’s not what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.” 

Things that you know that ain't so: The Royal Society of New Zealand is committed to science and open debate.

When the UK Royal Society was founded in 1660 its motto was “Nullius in verba”: take nobody's word for it. This committed it to open debate based on the weight of evidence, not opinions and, most certainly not “consensus” (a.k.a. “appeal to authority”). It also resolved never to have an opinion on any scientific matter.

When the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) was formed in 1867 I am sure it had similar objectives. Since then it has gone into a downhill slide. 

First, it brought “humanities” under its wing even though humanities and science are fundamentally different. 

Humanities is the study of people and cultures and, in most cases, one opinion is as good as another and the opinion favoured by the majority wins. None of it can be resolved by observing the natural world. 

Science relies on open debate that strives to better understand the world around us by developing theories, testing them against observations and discarding the theories that don’t fit. 

The degree to which RSNZ has abandoned its scientific roots is dramatically illustrated by their strong promotion of “climate change” (a.k.a. dangerous man-made global warming). Three recent reports and public statements by the Chief Executive and the President are based on the assumption that man-made global warming is undoubtedly real and dangerous.

For several decades climate scientists associated with the RSNZ have claimed that global temperatures are increasing, sea level rise is accelerating, extreme weather events are more frequent and intense and that these and other dangerous effects are caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide. But they did not provide supporting evidence.

In mid-2017 the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (NZCSC) asked the RSNZ for convincing evidence of dangerous man-made global warming. The RSNZ first cited sources that didn’t address the mechanism of anthropogenic warming, then advised us to search on the Internet, then to “find the evidence yourself” in the hundreds of pages in the IPCC reports. None of these provided the evidence we needed so RSNZ asked Prof James Renwick who is closely associated with the IPCC. We were then directed to a couple of reports that, as far as we could see, did not contain the evidence. When we pointed this out, the RSNZ terminated communications. 

The NZCSC then laid a formal complaint against the Chief Executive of the RSNZ for breaches of the Society’s Code of Ethics by claiming that man-made global warming was real and dangerous without  also explaining the uncertainties. The RSNZ dismissed our complaint because, they said, it was,“insufficiently grave.” If they had simply produced the evidence we had requested that would have been the end of our complaint. Nothing in their response refuted any of our claims. They did acknowledge that “contention on all aspects of climate change, including its existence and causes, is notorious.” Yet the RSNZ refuse to allow open debate on the subject. “Nullius in verba” is dead! 

The RSNZ has made great efforts to persuade the government to embark on a costly and uncertain path to economic disruption by recommending emissions reductions that cannot make the slightest difference to the world’s climate but will be ruinous to farming, industry and our way of life. Without clear evidence that warming is man-made and dangerous and that New Zealand’s efforts could make a difference, that expense and disruption is a criminal waste of resources. 

We do note that 84% of RSNZ’s funding comes from a government that is committed to climate change. As they say, “follow the money”.

The NZCSC don’t believe that the evidence exists. If RSNZ don’t have it, they should say so. It is inconceivable that they do have the evidence and have chosen not to disclose it.

To make matters worse the RSNZ now propose a new code of ethics. If it is accepted, open debate will be suppressed (it might upset some communities), consensus will rule (must respect decision making authorities) and, in effect, iwi and hapu would be put in a position where they could veto or control almost any research.

From a strictly legal point of view the code is unenforceable because it relies on interpretations of many vague requirements such as “the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi” that have never been defined. So it can be used to disallow a legitimate complaint or to enforce one that, under the existing code of ethics, would not be upheld. It will all depend on how the ethics committee interpret the vague and undefined requirements.

“Lord, how the mighty have fallen”!

Bryan Leyland is a Consulting Engineer with wide interests in modern technology."Things you know that ain’t so" is a column in which he exposes the truth behind popular misconceptions. 


Brian said...

Climate Change.
An excellent coverage Bryan on what is happening to such Institutions which once were independent and worthy of recognition. Now they have become merely mouthpieces of the Green/Leftist propaganda.
Just why has this jargon on the effects of “Human activities on our Climate” become such a rallying cry and gained so much traction? Why then have most Governments accepted that CO2 pollution sounds the death knell of civilisation. In the late Barbara Tuchman’s book “The March of Folly” poses the question “Why do the holders of High Office often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?
That pollution is a clear and present danger in our society is over estimated and has become a rallying cry and accounts for the success of the Greens; by which the Left also, has become embroiled to retain electoral power.
The pollution in our day and age is a good deal less (with the exception of the developing Nations of course such as China, India etc refer Paris Agreement) is a shadow of what was thrown into the atmosphere during the height of the Industrial Revolution. Yet we are still here courtesy of our ancestors!
So what is behind all this rhetoric? I suggest that it all boils down to one very simple word or sentence “The ability to get more TAX , and what better way to achieve it than by the use of FEAR?

Unknown said...

Brian - THANK YOU !