Science’s natural humility

unimportant shrub

A genuine scientist

I was talking to my scientist friend, Bob, earlier today. We were discussing recent developments in disproving the theory of CAGW and he described to me a summary paper he’s about to write, saying he’d get comments on it from competent scientists before offering it more widely to both AGW proponents and sceptics to see what they think of it.

Bob said he would distribute the paper because he wanted to know if he’d overlooked anything. He wasn’t pulling the wool over my eyes on that, he was perfectly genuine. It struck me that he welcomed the notion of criticism. If something in the paper was pulled apart he’d call it an improvement.

I had seen the natural humility of a genuine scientist. It is worth describing again and again because it’s becoming rarer with every IPCC assessment report.

Humility is nothing to do with washing someone’s feet or bowing one’s head in a public show of piety. Humility is simply standing quietly listening to the ignorant opinions of others, taking it all in and remaining open to learning all you can.

This doesn’t mean you must lack ambition, drive or determination to succeed; only that, when in touch with the knowledge, or the question, or the problem, then ego falls away, replaced with that innocent, clear-eyed curiosity that begins every childhood.

Bob could no more declare the debate over, the conversation ended, the science settled, than claim the ability to fly. He welcomes contrary opinions, thrives on them. They are a means to knowledge.

God bless him and all others like him (and I could name dozens) — they’re worth listening to.

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10 Thoughts on “Science’s natural humility

  1. Richard C (NZ) on 06/11/2010 at 11:21 pm said:

    Here’s one who is putting his analysis – “Determining the Correct Climate Sensitivity”
    on display for others to comment on (some as long as the post).

    John Kehr is a Chemical Engineer by schooling and Research and Development Process Engineer by profession.

  2. Ron on 07/11/2010 at 11:35 am said:

    Nice post and good John Kehr link, thanks to you both. It is interesting how it seems to be the engineers with their practical focus on empirical data and experience of feedbacks + modelling who are particularly critical of the “consensus”.
    Let’s hope that the establishment IPCC dogma is finally unravelling – the consternation being caused by Judy Curry discussing the uncertainties is fascinating to witness.

  3. Andy on 09/11/2010 at 9:30 am said:

    On the subject of humility, Matt Ridley’s letter to David Mackay is well worth a read

    h/t Bishop Hill

    • Richard C (NZ) on 09/11/2010 at 10:17 am said:

      “The remarkable thing about this exchange is that far from weakening my doubts about the IPCC case, it has strengthened them. The letter explains why. Essentially, I have realised that almost the only weapons left in the alarm locker are the retreat of the Arctic sea ice and an event that happened 55m years ago and was probably not caused by CO2 at all. Everything else — the CO2-temperature correlation in the Antarctic ice core, the hockey stick, storm frequency, phenology, etc etc — no longer supports the argument that something unprecedented in magnitude or rate is happening. Remarkable.”

  4. Hi Richard,
    bit OT, wasn’t sure if you’d heard Carbon Trading officially going to be canned. Check out story here, its all rather hush hush in American media (of course)…

    have a nice day

    • Thanks Lisa, glad to know you’re still around.

      Yes, I heard about this. It’s earth-shaking and needs to be written up for Kiwi readers. It’s unforgivable that our media have ignored it. I mean, we have an Emissions TRADING Scheme ourselves! Ordinary citizens would be concerned to hear that the trading part is dying off, for what does it mean for the costs we’re paying?

    • Hey Richard, yep I’m around… last couple months I was reading and following all the USA federal and state elections… and praying Americans would get out to vote.

      They DID … and I’m so proud of my peeps! 🙂 … get your popcorn for 2 years of Issa investigations, American “gridlock” (welcomed), state battles to get their power back and temper tantrums from Dems & TheWon… more fun for 2012 will ensue!


  5. val majkus on 09/11/2010 at 10:04 pm said:

    John O’Sullivan published on this a couple of days ago; here’s the link

  6. Pingback: Climate Conversation Group » Is Gore’s darling carbon exchange dead or what?

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