Global warming research: whatever happened to the scientific method?
Global warming, and its euphemistic sibling “climate change”, remain much in the news. Specialist research groups around the world continue to produce an unending sequence of papers aimed at demonstrating a litany of problems which might arise should global warming resume. The authors’ prime expertise is often found to be not in atmospheric physics or aeronomy, as one might have anticipated. However, the topic of climate change itself provides for abundant research funding, from which they feed, more easily than other areas of research of greater interest and practical use. Most of these papers are, of course, based upon the output from speculative and largely experimental, atmospheric models representing exercises in virtual reality, rather than observed, real-world, measurements and phenomena. Which leads to the question “What scientific methodology is in operation here?”
Though much has been written concerning the scientific method, and the ill defined question as to what constitutes a correct scientific approach to a complex problem, comparatively little comment has been made about the strange mix of empirical and virtual reality reasoning that characterises contemporary climate change research. It is obvious that the many different disciplines described as being scientific, rather than social, economic, or of the arts, may apply somewhat different criteria to determine what fundamental processes should define the “scientific method” as applied for each discipline. Dismayingly, for many years now there has been a growing tendency for many formerly “pure” scientific disciplines to embody characteristics of many others, and in some cases that includes the adoption of research attitudes and methods that are more appropriately applied in the arts and social sciences. “Post-modernism”, if you like, has proved to be a contagious disease in academia generally.