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December 12, 2008 | 82 Comments

Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies

Since we had so much fun with the Military List. Plus, it’s Friday.

  1. Star Wars The original 1977 theatrical, error-filled release only. Han did shoot first. The storm troopers did want the blast doors to be closed only to then want them re-opened. Darth did do the wagging finger gesture for no apparent reason after his speech in the war room to Tarkin was over. When I saw the movie when it came out I wanted a light saber so bad it hurt. I was 13. I could still find a use for one.
  2. The Thing from Another World Original; the remake is excellent, too, but probably better classified as Horror; see below. If you have never seen this, you are in for a treat. I have seen this movie dozens of times, and each viewing I hear a new line I somehow missed before. This is one of those Rosalind Russell fast talking comedy dramas. It’s hard to keep up. Dr Carrington’s motivations are natural, believable, and consistent throughout. The only, very minor, jarring point is when Scotty faints at the end, when he had been on Okinawa during the end of World War II. Anybody who made it through that would not pass out when seeing a vegetable cook. This movie does not follow the now usual conventions and will surprise you. You also have to keep in mind that this came out at the height of the Great Saucer Scare.
  3. The Day the Earth Stood Still. The original! The scenes in the movie are as good or better than any today. The angle of the camera when Klaatu comes out of the ship and is shot is stunning. When suddenly we see—a non-computer generated—Gort immobile and menacing. Wow. That immobility was of a necessity, ok, because the moving robot looked a little clunky, but they made the best of what they had and it turned out to be better than they could have hoped. Sure, there’s the obligatory wild-hair scientist and precocious kid, but they are not so annoying. Thank God, no love story. The religious allegory you sometimes here of is there but it is sly and minimal. “Klaatu barada necktie.” Oops, wrong movie.
  4. Terminator All time travel plots are doomed to failure at some level, but this one is as perfect as can be. Nothing can beat Arnie is his prime. “I’ll be back.” Original in every way. Movies, especially sci-fi, should get right to the point and then move along. This does. Maybe it’s because I find Linda Hamilton so attractive, but she did a remarkable job. The number of special effects are kept to a bare minimum, and the movie benefits enormously from it. The ending at the gas station is chilling.
  5. Alien Mixed feelings here. First the bad. This was the movie that started the now cliche trend of killing a group off one by one, only to see the young, plucky girl triumphant in the end. Plus, it has what too many movies have: letters plotting across a computer monitor at a snail’s pace accompanied by bup-bup-bup sounds. Good grief! So it’s hard to watch now. But, boy, when it came out. It was new! Graphically stunning. Talk about surprise indigestion! Like Star Wars, this movie had the sense, where the movies from before that time did not, to make the equipment/space ships look used and lived in, like they were really there. You see it everywhere now, but it was innovative at the time.
  6. Planet of the Apes Original, natch. The best part of this movie is the interaction between Taylor (Heston) and Dr Zaius. To hear Zaius spin in the name of the faith is fascinating. “There is no conflict between science and religion. True science.” Of course, we’re now supposed to say how foolish this is. But given the ending (and the original intent of the book), it is not so clear that Zaius wasn’t doing exactly the right thing. “Take your dirty paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
  7. Blade Runner Theatrical version, please. Yes, with the P.I. voice over, dammit. Makes it more like a film noir, and gets us quicker through the boring parts. Yes, there are dull bits. Not when Batty is on the screen, though. There is an award-winning (yes, award-winning) professor at a place I know who uses this movie to demonstrate what it will be like when global warming takes over. You’re also supposed to root for the sophisticated interpretation of the ending, where Deckard realizes he’s a replicant, too. Oh my! If so, then the whole movie makes no sense, because every higher up would have known, thus invalidating the plot. This is one of the rarer instances where I will defer to the movie and not the original story. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” was all right, but not wonderful. You’re not supposed to say that about Dick nowadays.
  8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind Again—computers, damn them! I am repeating myself—but the original, theatrical version only. The one that shows Roy go to his job site at the beginning of the movie, and so on. This had a certain hopefulness, an eagerness. It was more than a little frightening, too. Spare use of technical effects made the aliens seem realer than if we had been bombarded with them. Remember that, Mr Director! Too many effects ruin a movie. We care about what happens to the people. In this case, I was as jealous as can be of Neary (Dreyfuss). When I see the pile of bills arrive daily, and think about facing another ride on that smelly F train, I still am.
  9. Highlander Utterly absurd, but just as emotionally compelling. Maybe it’s because it’s layered on so thick that you can’t help but be effected just a little. The ending—the very, very end as they lay in the grass—stinks. The chief cop is a cliche, Christopher Lambert—Connor of the clan MacLeod—is a bad actor, Sean Connery’s part is goofy. But you can’t take your eyes off of it. Clancy Brown as the very wisely left unexplained “Kurgan” was excellent as he always is. Yes, even the music by Queen was good (it was in Flash Gordon, too). Maybe this is one of the movies you watch at home in a group of people who have consumed as much beer as you have. Love the scene where MacLeod gets in a drunken duel. “There can be only one.”
  10. Soylent Green The original greenhouse gas, population bomb movie. Characteristic of all those early 70s, late 60s dystopian dramas, many starring Heston, this one is the best. It’s a mystery. The head of the Soylent corporation is found dead. Suicide? Detective Thorn (Heston) is on the case! He steals some jelly and some “furniture.” His roommate “goes home” to Beethoven. Actually, I’m not so sure how great this movie is, but it’s one everybody should see so that they get it when somebody shouts the last line at them. Solyent Orange is on special today. Yummy.
  11. When Worlds Collide The pacing of this movie is perfect. A distant object—a new solar system of one planet and sun—is moving towards Earth. It will hit us. The one hope is to build ships to move to the new planet. An isolated group, financed by a wealthy curmudgeon, begins to build; the rest of the population blows it off, assured by politicians that they can handle it. A PA system in the background occasionally announces “Work faster! Only seventeen days left!” When the world learns the truth, the compound of the group is stormed. The people who built the ships draw straws to see who can go. Those with the short ones realize their predicament. Does humanity make it?
  12. Escape from New York Kurt Russel as pirate eye-patch wearing Snake Plissken? Ernest Borgnine as a crazed cabby (who listens to good music)? Manhattan Island as a prison? What’s not to love! Strangely believable. The ending is fantastic. John Carpenter used to do a good job with suspense.

Yes, I can count. Close enough to 10.

Honourable mentions (in no particular order): Tron A must see; War Games “Would you like to play a game?”; War of the Worlds Original only, the remake featured a midget ego-maniac Scientologist and had an asinine plot; Galaxy Quest “I see you managed to get your shirt off!”; Trekkies I & II “This year we even had a girl come.”; The Last Starfighter Come, on. Admit it. You love it.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers This time—the only time—both the 1956 (crazy man) and 1978 (Spock wears a turtle neck) versions. Not the most recent one; It Came From Outer Space Surprisingly good paranoia flick.

I, Robot I wish they would have done more from the book and they could have had a franchise; Logan’s Run Ustinov was great. “Renew!”; Vibes a guilty pleasure; Mystery Men “The PMS avenger!”; The Philadelphia Experiment Much better than you would think.

Road Warrior (Mad Max II) I learned from this movie that Australians are just as crazy as Japanese people—I mean this as a compliment; Starship Troopers Supposedly, they didn’t harm any real bugs in the making of this movie; They Live! Silly plot, but best fight scene ever; Total Recall “We can remember it for you wholesale”; X-Men (I & II) Solid entertainment, but not much else.

Altered States Don’t remember this one? Plenty of weird religious allegory. Done when water/isolation tanks were big. Yes, they were; Back to the Future Goofy fun; Flash Gordon Awful in every way, but so awful that it’s worth watching; Forbidden Planet & Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Somehow these two seem a natural pair; Fifth Element But only because of Bruce Willis; Stargate Not too bad; Iron Man First part and last scene only; Alien Nation I even liked the TV show; Serenity Same thing, but you had to see the show else the movie made little sense. I saw this at a premiere where the audience was composed entirely of fans. A gasp ran through the crowd when one beloved character handed in his dinner pail.

I am sure I have left out honourable mentions that I have forgotten about. All animated movies have been purposely omitted.

More horror than sci fi?

Predator Jesse the Body: “I ain’t got time to bleed…”; The Thing from John Carpenter. “Why don’t we just wait here for a little while… see what happens…” ; Scanners Canadians on a rampage!; Godzilla Again, the original, and most of the Japanese continuations. Each is more ridiculous than the last. But, God help me, I do love them;

The original!

The obvious theme to this list is that most remakes suck. My official probabilistic estimate is that any remake has a 99.9% chance of sucking. I have seen the previews for The Day the Earth Stood Still and I fear the worst. Several other movies in the list above are slated for remakes. Even When Worlds Collide! This time, no doubt, some hero will save the day.

The unbearable wonderfulness of computer graphics

A word of caution: you cannot judge’s yesterday’s movies by today’s special effects standards! The older ones, especially since they didn’t have racks and racks of computers…were obviously better. The disadvantages of being burdened by computers are only too obvious. The temptation to add in an extra explosion or physics-defying stunt is just too much for most directors to resist. One more CGI space bug is just the thing! Poor, deluded souls. They deserve our sympathy. It’s really not their fault. The computer just makes things too easy.

What! You didn’t include X Y or Z?

No, no Star Trek movies. The best of them seem to be mere extensions of the TV show. No black mark against them, but somehow they don’t seem to be “real movies.” And I am a fan.

No, no Star Wars after the first. The second one was OK, the third one stunk, and the last three shows what happens when you pay nerds to play with computers but give them no moral guidance (“Love is like sand. It gets in your shorts and grates.”).

No 2001 either, though to not to include it is sign of unsophistication. I love the man-apes beating the crap out of one another, but the movie didn’t make any sense; the book did. It did do the physics right and deserves praise for that.

Sorry, but The Matrix was idiotic. The plot was ridiculous beyond even a small child’s ability to suspend disbelief. Pretty, sure. Yes, those computer graphics were innovative. But in the end, that’s all they are. Computer graphics. I remember when CGI first really took hold. Some group put out a VHS of various shiny-skinned human-like creatures interacting with ray-traced Greek-columned houses and such like. The kind of nerds who listened to Vangelis bought them. They have rightly disappeared without a trace.

Nope. Donnie Darko is theatrical version of pseudo-angst-filled Starbucks coffehouse imitation of deep, meaningful chatter.

You’re also supposed to list the original Solaris. I do not. Stick to the book. Also read Lem’s The Futurological Congress.

No Metropolis either. It’s boring. Being first does not mean being good (hear that, Beatles fans?).

Uh, uh. No Jurassic Park. Have you noticed that all CGI monsters do exactly the same thing? When the evil, man-eating creature comes upon somebody, does it snatch him up and swallow tout de suite as is within its ability? No! Instead, it stops cold, rears back, put it’s tentacles, arms, and other appendages to the back, strains its neck forward to its limit, then roars while shaking its head. Thus allowing the heroine plenty of time to escape or shoot. Every. Single. Monster now does this. It’s stupid. If you’ve ever seen a real predator go after real prey you know what there are no theatrics involved. It’s chomp city, baby, as fast as can be.

December 10, 2008 | 16 Comments

Hire me!

Just a friendly reminder that this site is in part mercenary and that I am for hire. See my Hire me! page for full details of all the wonderful things I can do.

For Christmas, I am running a special on numerological predictions, which are guaranteed to be 100% forecasts! I accept most forms of currency.

December 9, 2008 | 10 Comments

We made “noteworthy”

Which is one step below “honourable mention”, which itself is just under the actual winner. Or, in other words, we lost.

Several months ago Roger Kimball instituted a contest:

Name the silliest argument to be offered by a serious academic in the last 25 years and to be taken up and be gravely masticated by the larger world of intellectual debate.

Our entry was moral equivalence, particularly as manifested in the doctrine of diversity:

Diversity, as in “we value diversity in our student body.” One major ivy-league university, for example, states that it “is committed to extending its legacy recruiting a heterogeneous faculty, student body and staff; fostering a climate that doesn’t just tolerate differences but treasures them [etc.]” You cannot now find a university that isn’t constantly and loudly devoted to diversity.

However, we can be sure that by this they do not—and should not—mean intellectual diversity. This should be obvious. For if we merely wanted to increase intellectual diversity, we would create classes and recruit subject matter experts in “How to Murder”, “Advanced Pedophilia”, “Creative Robbery”, “Marxist Theory”, or similar idiocies.

Back when I joined, I predicted the outcome would be the same as the famous contest by (the late, great) philosopher David Stove to “Find the World’s Worst Argument.” Stove won the contest himself by entering first.

Kimball also entered before any other, and so had the same enormous advantage Stove did. We were in the contest, but rose no higher than “noteworthy” which, we can console ourselves, is still above the rabble.

Kimball’s winning entry:

I would like to thank all who participated for helping to populate this little menagerie of intellectual hubris and folly. Several of the contributions must come high on anyone’s list of stupid ideas that have had a pernicious influence. Nevertheless, I am going to award the palm to my own original contender: Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” thesis. Claiming to distinguish between “what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history,” Fukuyama wrote that

What we are witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or a passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

Fukuyama wrote this in 1989. He had noticed that the Soviet Union was imploding. But Fukuyama was drunk on the philosophy of Hegel. Hence he mistook the collapse of one tyranny for triumph of freedom. In fact, what we have been witnessing for the last quarter century is the accelerating retribalization of the world. What Fukuyama described as “mankind’s ideological evolution” has turned out (so far, anyway) to have given rather short-shrift to “the universalization of Western liberal democracy” in favor of other, more vivid alternatives, e.g., Islamic fundamentalism. The Bombay atrocity. The newly rampant Somali pirates. Even the anti-democratic march of the European Union. Western liberal democracy is a pleasant option. But only a fool would believe that its success was inevitable.

December 8, 2008 | 54 Comments

Just what are falling temperatures evidence of?

If increasing temperatures are consistent with or are evidence of global warming, what theory is consistent with or evidence of falling temperatures? Global warming, too?

We have to ask this complicated question because it was just reported that this year’s global average temperature is on track to be the coldest in the last eight years. In other words, the temperature has dropped, and has been dropping for a couple of years.

So, do these falling temperatures mean that global warming has stopped or is false?

“Absolutely not,” said Dr Peter Stott, the manager of understanding and attributing climate change at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre.

We also hear from “a team of climate scientists at Kiel University” who

predicted that natural variation would mask the 0.3C warming predicted by the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change over the next decade. They said that global temperatures would remain constant until 2015 but would then begin to accelerate.

This is going to be complicated, and there are not many ways to make this topic easy to understand, so hold on.

We have to explore what it means for evidence to be “consistent with” of “inconsistent with” a theory, what it means for a theory to be wrong or right, and what it means to be probably right or probably wrong.

Consistency

Suppose, then, that the theory of anthropogenic global warming claims, among other things, that the temperature will certainly rise year by year. The temperature did not rise and in fact fell. This evidence is inconsistent with the theory and so the theory is false because it made a prediction that said that falling temperatures were impossible. If you like, we can say that this theory has been falsified (Popper’s term of very little utility; a topic to explore in full another day).

Our cartoon theory has been proven false. It can thus be dumped, forgotten, ignored. Skeptics may rejoice! Indeed, any theory that makes a prediction that says “X will certainly occur (in such and such circumstances)” and in fact “not X” occurs, has been falsified, which in plain English means that it is wrong. (“not X” means “Any circumstance that is certainly not X.”)

However, the actual theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) makes no such claim like “The year-by-year temperature will certainly rise.” Instead, it makes claims like this: “The year-by-year temperature will probably increase.” We can go further and say that nearly all the claims of that theory are statements of this kind, that is, probability statements.

There is only one claim of certainly in the AGW theory and it is that “Mankind influences climate.” That statement is trivially true. It is impossible for mankind not to influence climate. Every action you take, every breath you make, changes the climate. In fact, we can broaden the claim and say that “All organisms influence the climate” and it remains true. Since this is trivially true, the only interesting questions are (1) “How much does this or that organism influence climate?”, (2) “In what part are these influences helpful or harmful?”, and (3) “Can the helpful aspects be magnified and can the harmful effects be mitigated?”

Climatologists spend most of their time with (1), the first part of (2) is usually ignored, and “activists” make their business the last part of (3), the first part also being ignored. But we are getting away from our original goal. What do falling temperatures mean to the theory of AGW?

Let’s examine the claim: “The year-by-year temperature will probably rise.” What observations, if any, are inconsistent with that statement? None. There are no set of circumstances that can arise which directly contradict it. Temperatures may rise and they may fall; they may fall for each year from now until the year 3000 and that statement remains standing.

Falsifiability

This is another way to state the the AGW theory is not falsifiable. But wait! I do not imply that this is a weakness of the theory. Any theory that makes probability statements cannot be falsified. Thus, it is a mistake—and one I often see—to attack the AGW theory by claiming it is not falsifiable. Of course it is not! How many theories are like this, that is, not falsifiable? Besides mathematical dictums, and not wanting to get to far into this, all theories that are of practical interest to mankind. Any theory that is forced to make probabilistic claims cannot ever be falsified. And, simply put, this is most theories that we ever work with (in real life). Since this is the case, we have to understand what a probability statement means, and what can we mean by data “consistent” and “inconsistent” with such statements.

Now, we are right to suspect a theory that makes a claim that “X will probably happen (in such and such circumstances)” and X does not in fact occur. We have not proven the theory is false, but we would be rational to give increased weight to the idea that it is false. Thus, it is not irrational to weaken our belief in the AGW theory in the face of falling temperatures. Further, Dr Stott is wrong—not probably mistaken, or likely wrong, but flatly wrong—if he says “Absolutely not” to the question “Given the falling temperature, is AGW less likely to be true?” But he would be right—exactly right—if he said “Absolutely not” to the question “Given the falling temperature, is AGW proven to be false?” Given the way newspapers report, we have no clear way of knowing which of these two questions Dr Stott was asked.

I told you this was going to be tricky! It’s now going to get worse, but stay with me.

What Claims Are Being Made?

It is very difficult to keep in mind the exact claims made by a complex theory, which is why when new evidence arises, we have so many different arguments about what this evidence implies. Proponents of controversial theories are usually happy to be vague about the claims they are making because of this. This way, no matter what evidence arises, arguments for the theory can be found within it. We discussed this the other day when we noted that precisely quantified predictions are hard to come by in global warming.

We might hear that “Temperatures will increase” but this is a vague statement because when temperatures do in fact fall in a location, the proponent can say “I meant it will go up elsewhere” or “I meant it will go up on average” or “I did not mean it will always go up.” This is how the Kiel University climatologists could claim that “natural variation would mask the 0.3C warming predicted by the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change over the next decade” and that temperatures will start increasing in 2015. Their explanatory statement is impossibly vague (saying what is “natural variation” at least means you can exactly quantify the amount of change caused by the existence of mankind), but they have at least made a semi-quantifiable prediction starting six years from now. The IPCC, too, has made quantifiable predictions of global average temperatures, though they seek to introduce vagueness by calling their predictions “scenarios”, a weak attempt at evasion. They also do not explicitly attach probability to their predictions, which makes it harder to say how wrong or right their predictions were.

To judge how likely a theory is to be true requires explicit predictions. For example, suppose the AGW made one of these two statements: (A) “The global average temperature will likely increase”, and (B) “The global average temperature will probably increase.” Our new evidence is that temperatures have fallen. For which of these claims, A or B, would you have less certainty that AGW is true?

A difficult question! Let’s try to understand it. You can see that A and B differ only in the words “likely” and “probably”. Suppose that, to you, “likely” means “at least 90%” and “probably” means “at least 50%”. It’s clear that claim B is thus weaker than claim A. So that when contradictory evidence arises you would suspect that the theory that gave rise to A was more suspect than the theory that gave rise to B. The terms “likely”, “probably”, “might” and so forth, do not mean the same thing to every person. For example, I might say “likely” means “at least 50%” and “probably” means “at least 90%”, and so I would come to the opposite conclusion about the truth of the underlying theory as you did.

All this means is that the more precise a prediction is, the easier it is to judge it. The vaguer a claim is, the harder it is to dismiss or accept the theory that gives rise to it. Not every claim can be exactly quantified, but any prediction of importance can be made clear in terms of decisions or actions we would have to make given the claim is true. So it is no excuse to say “The problem is too hard to give an exact prediction.” Because if that were true, then the theory has no practical consequences, and so can be ignored. To be clear, AGW theory does make claim to have practical consequences, and so its proponents should be able to give us more exact predictions.

Like I said, precise claims from AGW are not always to be had—though of course they sometimes are—but let us suppose that the theory makes the claim that “There is a 90% chance that the year-by-year global average temperature will increase.” For the last several years the temperature has fallen. The theory is not falsified because the claim only mentioned a probability, one which is consistent with falling temperatures. We are rational, however, to decrease our belief in the truth of the theory.

Now suppose that a group of climatologists offer a rival theory called “Business as usual” (BAU) which makes the claim “There is a 50% chance that the year-by-year global average temperature will increase.” For the last several years the temperature has fallen. The theory is not falsified because the claim only mentioned a probability, one which is consistent with falling temperatures. We are rational, when offered a choice between the two theories, to increase our belief in the truth of the BAU theory over the AGW theory because the BAU’s predictions were closer to what actually happened. The temperatures fell, but saying there is a 50% chance of this happening each year is closer than saying their is only a 10% chance of this happening (10% = 100% – 90%).

The best theory, which is not on offer, is the one which predicted that the temperatures would fall for the last couple of years. So let us offer that theory—call it the Baby, it’s cold outside (BICO) theory—which makes the claim “There is a 10% chance that the year-by-year global average temperature will increase.” This is the best of the three theories in the sense that its probability statements were closest to what actually happened. The BICO theory says there is a 90% ( = 100% – 10%) chance that temperatures will fall.

It’s about to get tricky once more. Be sure you understand everything so far before reading more.

Skill

We do not just judge theories about how well they predict future data, but also by how well they explain already observed data. The BICO theory does not explain all the previous data we have very well, as you might guess. Proponents of the AGW theory say that their theory does. The BAU theory does a reasonable but imperfect job explaining historical data. Now, it is true that just because a theory explains past data well it does not mean that it will explain future data well. This is because it is always possible to create a theory that explains past data perfectly or as close to perfect as we want to be. Memorize this (especially if you read any paper which uses statistical results). Of course, any theory that does well on future data will also do well explaining historical data. Thus, given reasonable performance explaining historical data, the real test is always on how well a theory predicts data we have not yet seen (which is defined as data that was not used in any way to create the theory).

Realistically, the BICO model is out of contention because of its exceedingly poor performance on historical data. The two competitors left are AGW and BAU (I do not mean to imply that these are the only competitors in real life, just the they are the only two we are considering here). The contest is how well each model does on predicting future data.

There is some math that says that if we have two (or more) competing theories, the one that is calibrated is better than the other in the sense that anybody who acts on information from the calibrated theory would do better than had he acted on information from the other theory. Calibration means that if a theory says “There is a Y% chance that X will occur”, then on Y% of the times X could have occurred, it actually did. Neither the AGW nor the BAU theories are calibrated in this sense.

But there is the sense that the BAU theory is simpler than the AGW theory. The BAU theory requires no advanced “degrees” to understand, nor does it require suites of multi-million dollar computers, nor does it need panels of bureaucrats to meet yearly to discuss it. The AGW theory needs all these things and more. It is a sophisticated theory (I am not using this word sarcastically).

We would hope, given all the time, effort, and money that goes into the sophisticated AGW theory that it could beat the BAU theory in its predictions. If not—if the BAU theory routinely beats the AGW theory—then we would be rational to give more weight to the truth of the BAU theory.

Right now—as far as I am able to see—the BAU theory does beat the AGW theory in predictive ability. Actually, a modification of the BAU is what routinely wins. That modification states something like “There is a 90% chance that the global average temperature will do what it did last year.” This is technically called persistence (BAU(P)). When a sophisticated theory cannot beat either the BAU or BAU(P) theory, it is said not to have skill. If a theory is not skillful, it should not be used; that is, one should not base any decisions with respect to that theory. So far as I am able to see, the AGW theory is not skillful.

My caveat is “so far as I am able to see.” I am constrained by the inexact nature of the AGW theory’s predictions. The BAU and BAU(P) theories are certainly precise enough. It might be the case, for example, that I have mis-quantified the AGW’s predictions, or misunderstood exactly what physical variables the predictions are referring to, or that I have mischaracterized what the AGW predictions imply. For example, I have been taking them to mean that “There is a 90% chance that the year-by-year global average temperature will increase.” I welcome correction on my characterization. In fact, we all would welcome the correction and look forward to the issuance of precise statements and predictions.

Just What Are Falling Temperatures Evidence Of?

So how about it? Since temperatures have fallen, what are we to believe? It is not true that the AGW theory has been falsified, but neither have the BAU or BAU(P) theories. Given our characterization of the AGW theory, it is rational to say that our belief in it, given the contradictory observations, should be lessened. The BAU theories remain as true as ever—that is, we do not really increase nor decrease our beliefs in them based on this new evidence.

It might be, as I have admitted, that our characterization of the theory’s statement is wrong. Another characterization was offered by the Kiel University group who are probably claiming that temperatures will likely fall or remain constant until 2015, after which they will likely increase. I say “probably” because it’s not clear what their exact claim is. However, this is likely a fair summary of it.

Now, since predictions of “likely falling or remaining constant until 2015” are the same as the predictions made by the BAU and BAU(P) theories, it is obvious that the Kiel University (and similar) theories do not yet have skill. It is true to say that it might—but we won’t know until after 2015.

I for one am happy to wait before doing anything until then.

(To anticipate the counter to this conclusion, which we’ll discuss more fully at a later date—meaning I don’t expect this short reply to answer fully the counter: since you haven’t proven skillful, why should I do anything? If you say the consequences are too horrible if we do not, I ask you why you also refute Pascal’s argument.)