If I hear that “97% of scientists agree…” nonsense number just one more time—why, I’ll laugh. And why not? It is comedy in its best democratic form. That screwy figure is one of those political fantasy numbers that every sensible person knows is wrong but which they use because they assume their audience will be just dumb or gullible enough to swallow it. It is the contempt politicians and activists have for their fellow citizens which is risible.
The 97% is similar to other political numbers, like the “rape culture” figure 5 out of every 4 women (or whatever) on college campuses are “sexually harassed”, or women “only” make 70 cents for every dollar a man makes, and so on and on. It never quits. Why? It’s part of democracy and its necessary over-fascination with quantification.
Debunking is the word, and every statistic like those above have been debunked time and again. Which proves the efficacy of correction efforts is low. Nevertheless, they are never wrong to try. So here is a reminder of peer-reviewed paper proving the 97% figure is of no use to any except bamboozlers, swindlers, con artists, and members of our political class. (I have seen the paper being linked to again in recent weeks.)
The peer-review, of course, makes the paper unassailable. You must believe. It’s Science. No: the Science. Incidentally, we did the paper on the site before, but it faded fast from memories.
The paper is “Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change” in Science & Education, but the non-so-esteemed quartet David R. Legates, Willie Soon, William M. Briggs, Christopher Monckton of Brenchley. You might recognize some of the names.
Abstract (with added paragraphifications):
Agnotology is the study of how ignorance arises via circulation of misinformation calculated to mislead. Legates et al. (Sci Educ 22:2007–2017, 2013) had questioned the applicability of agnotology to politically-charged debates.
In their reply, Bedford and Cook (Sci Educ 22:2019–2030, 2013), seeking to apply agnotology to climate science, asserted that fossil-fuel interests had promoted doubt about a climate consensus.
Their definition of climate ‘misinformation’ was contingent upon the post-modernist assumptions that scientific truth is discernible by measuring a consensus among experts, and that a near unanimous consensus exists.
However, inspection of a claim by Cook et al. (Environ Res Lett 8:024024, 2013) of 97.1 % consensus, heavily relied upon by Bedford and Cook, shows just 0.3 % endorsement of the standard definition of consensus: that most warming since 1950 is anthropogenic.
Agnotology, then, is a two-edged sword since either side in a debate may claim that general ignorance arises from misinformation allegedly circulated by the other. Significant questions about anthropogenic influences on climate remain. Therefore, Legates et al. appropriately asserted that partisan presentations of controversies stifle debate and have no place in education.
The “Legates et al.” mentioned in the last sentence is the peer-reviewed “Learning and teaching climate science: The perils of consensus knowledge using agnotology” in Science & Education by that hip trio David R. Legates, Willie Soon, and William M. Briggs (Christopher was probably prowling around in his castle in Scotland when we did that one, and so missed out on the fun; complete reference is in the link above).
So, there it is. The 97% is exaggerated a tad: it is only 300-some times too large. But, hey. The number might be comedic fiction, but it’s a fiction in a good cause, therefore it’s not wrong. Right?
In politics it’s not the Truth that counts, it’s the purity of your heart measured against the ideological standard of your party. Party is greater than Truth. Think of that next time you hear the 97%.
Incidentally, the correct number for the consensus that man influences the climate should be, based on elementary physics, 100%, not 97%. Just as the consensus that aardvarks influence the climate should be 100%. And so on. It was always a debate over how much, not whether.