Here’s the abstract from the peer-reviewed (so you know everything in it must be true and sworn to by every rational human being now and forever) paper “A volatile discourse — reviewing aspects of ammonia emissions, models and atmospheric concentrations in The Netherlands” by Jaap Hanekamp, WM Briggs, and Marcel Crok in Soil Use & Management.
In the Netherlands, there is a vigorous debate on ammonia emissions, atmospheric concentrations and deposition between stakeholders and research institutions. In this article, we scrutinise some aspects of the ammonia discourse. In particular, we want to improve the understanding of the methodology for handling experimentally determined ammonia emissions. We show that uncertainty in published results is substantial. This uncertainty is under- or even unreported, and as a result, data in national emission inventories are overconfident by a wide margin. Next, we demonstrate that the statistical handling of data on atmospheric ammonia concentrations to produce national yearly atmospheric averages is oversimplified and consequently atmospheric concentrations are substantially overestimated. Finally, we show that the much-discussed ‘ammonia gap’ — either the discrepancy between calculated and measured atmospheric ammonia concentrations or the difference observed between estimated NH3 emission levels and those indicated by atmospheric measurements — is an expression of the widespread overconfidence placed in atmospheric modelling.
Since that might be obscure to some of you, Hanekamp has written a popular article “The logic of scientific discourse and the ammonia debate in the Netherlands“. The article has a large header in Dutch; be sure to scroll down (if you are like me and your Dutch is sketchy) for the English. Hanekamp, incidentally, speaks better English than I.
My heart soared like a hawk when I read the following:
Empiricism and logic
Conversely, scientific arguments start from empirical premises and draw probabilistic conclusions prone to correction. What the empirical sciences produce are contingent propositions, not necessarily true or false: “chemical A interacts with protein X resulting in effect Y”; “the element thallium has the atomic weight of 204.38”; “the lethal dose of X for rats is Y”; “the consumption of this food adds to our health and longevity”.
These and many other propositions generated by the empirical sciences are all (as in all) conditionally true, given various facts and evidence. None of the four propositions above are logically necessary. It is logically possible for these statements to be false, say, due to measurement errors, mistakes in experimental setups, incorrect starting materials, the limitations of available facts, and so on.
Already well into the upper reaches of the troposphere, I ascended to the outer reaches with this:
The use of mathematics thus unearthed quite the errors in this discourse. And only one such paper is needed to do so. Obviously, mistakes can be made in mathematics, but such mistakes have nothing to do with e.g. contrasting empirical results that outnumber our paper. Reducing the former to the latter is a serious, yet much-practiced, category mistake.
Another issue that should be addressed is the reification fallacy, found in many environmental debates that rely heav-ily on modelling. Reification is a widespread and classical fallacy dubbed by Alfred North Whitehead (1925) as the ‘fallacy of misplaced concreteness’. Reification is making something that is hypothetical or abstract physically real. The ammonia gap is one such reification, where models to calculate national ammonia emissions or atmospheric concentrations, as if by magic, denote the concrete reality of actual emissions or actual concentrations that do not fall in line with physical measurements.
Not only that, but he tackles “Unquantifiability leads to begging the question”, “Wholesome skepticism”, “Scientism” and even “Epic scientism”.
Go there to read the rest.