Climate and Conventional Wisdom

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
The Source of Europe's Mild Climate - The notion that the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping Europe anomalously warm turns out to be a myth (American Scientist, Jul-Aug 2006, by Richard Seager). (ht: Arts & Letters Daily)

A myth I have long subscribed to. Everyone I know who is aware of the differences in European climate vs. Eastern North American climate at similar lattitudes believes this myth. I would doubt the article - it relies heavily on climate models - except that the author finally gets around to mentioning that no model was necessary to determine what they determined. It had all been measured and demonstrated for many decades. Yet the myth persists. We humans are fond of our myths.


Luther McLeod said...

Thanks for that Knuck. I think we can guess how much attention that article will receive. Very little.

If we can ever rid ourselves of the socialist influence in science, there may yet be hope for this world.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Not only are we fond of our myths, but in fact I would argue that we know almost nothing else. It is a myth that we reason from facts; in fact we rationalize to support our myths.

Luther McLeod said...

Jeez MHA, I thought I was cynical :-)

"It is a myth that we reason from facts; in fact we rationalize to support our myths"

If taken as true, what are the alternatives? Other than merely acknowledging such, which may prove a slippery slope.

MeaninglessHotAir said...


It's not cynicism, actually it's backed up by good modern cognitive science. The two halves of the brain function in very different ways. One hemisphere (the seat of consciousness) basically spends all day creating a "narrative" to explain what it sees; the other half continually prods the first half with facts to keep it back on track.

I don't deny the reality of facts or that we can reason with them; but I strongly believe that often when we think we are starting with facts we are actually starting with narratives—either our own or somebody else's. And that in a nutshell is the source of 9 tenths of political arguments.

Consider how often you have read something like "most scientists agree that global warming is the most significant problem humanity faces". That is a narrative but it is clothed as fact and repeated so frequently that it sinks deeper and deeper into the "known fact trove" of most people's minds. Whether there really is global warming at all is still very much in doubt, although probable to my mind. Whether we can or should do something about it seems highly improbable to me, but those are now established facts in most people's minds.