THE scientific sceptic* is defined by rational inquiry and is prepared to consider the possibility, probability or certainty of different propositions. Furthermore, the scientific sceptic investigates with a disposition to be persuaded.
The following example, from physicist Peter Ridd, considers the ability to predict (the probability that a prediction will be correct) as a guide to whether we should be sceptical of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) as a theory – or not:
“THE big difference between our understanding of gravity and the atmosphere is that we can use gravity to produce brilliant predictions of the future, i.e. positions of projectiles, satellites, planets, tides etc. We can predict the position of Jupiter or the earth with remarkable accuracy 50 years (or 5000 years) into the future.
“Obviously the same cannot be said of the weather, or the climate, partly because of its intrinsic non-linear nature and partly because so many of the processes are not understood. Newtonian gravity also has only one unconstrained parameter, G, and we know that to 5 or 6 significant figures. Of the effectively hundreds of unconstrained parameters in Greenhouse theory, many would not even be known to the second significant figure.”
There is nothing in this comment from Professor Ridd suggesting AGW theory has been proven wrong, but rather, perhaps, that there is reason to be sceptical of the theory?
Notes and Links
*The word ‘scientific’ has been added to the title for this series so we can focus on ‘rational inquiry’ as opposed to philosophical scepticism which Raymond Harvey explained in part 5 is something all together different.
Part 6 is a long comment by Raymond Harvey in the thread following part 5 of this series: http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2009/06/defining-the-sceptics-part-5/ [And the thread is well worth reading.]
Parts 1-4 of this series can be found here http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/tag/philosophy/
Read more about Peter Ridd, picture above, here: http://www.jcu.edu.au/school/mathphys/staff/physics/Ridd.shtml