Sunday, December 16, 2007

Some Nomenclature

Since people seem to want to discuss global warming climate change, I feel an obligation to make my position more lucid. To do so, however, requires a brief review of nomenclature as sometimes I talk like an engineer -- and I always tend to think like one.

First: data is data, theories are theories, and facts are facts. Truth is something else altogether.

Data cannot be true or not true; it simply is. There is good data and bad data, but this is a subjective measurement and usually has more to do with how the data is displayed, explained, and used than the actual numbers themselves. There is an entire field of mathematics devoted to the interpretation and use of large data samples. An overview would require defining accuracy vs. precision but I'll leave that to the reader.

Data is the one thing that is incontrovertible in the entire GCC argument. NASA has tons of it through the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) which has been attempting to compile the huge amount of data required to accurately quantify the temperature of the earth. The use of such data is what falls into the gray area of life.

Second on the list of what's what is theories. A theory is not a guess...not in science, anyway. A theory takes data (see, this is coming in handy already) to explain observed phenomena. Global warming is a theory because it explains the change in temperature as recorded by the various recording agencies.

A fact is something that doesn't really belong in a scientific discussion. One definition is a truth known by observation or recording, or something that is incontrovertible. However, "facts" are based on data which is never infallible. Thus in science, nothing is fact. Everything works more along the lines of it's working so far, and we expect it to continue to work in the future, but we can't make any promises.

Recently a blogger threw some data at me and said I was wrong for using a different data sample and making a point with it, only he called "his" data "facts". Now, perhaps, you can understand the dismay I felt upon reading

You, once again, do not do anything in the way of even attempting to challenge that fact. You simply ignore it, like 99% of the facts that I put on here.
or
I attack you on the merit of the facts that you present in your arguments.
How on Earth is anyone supposed to respond to something like that? I'll answer my own question: with a post like this.

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