Friday, 8 August 2014

Vaust

(Neil's note: We interrupt our regular transmission for this piece of fun from the past - originally written in 2009. Enjoy).

Once upon a time, there was a scientist. His name was Dr. Vaust.

Vaust did science for a living. What is science? It is the way in which we human beings increase our knowledge of ourselves, our planet, our galaxy and our universe.

And what does “for a living” mean? It means he was paid. It means someone valued his contribution enough to give him money in exchange for it.

Now, how is science done? It’s very simple. You study some aspect of your surroundings. You try to work out patterns of cause and effect. When you’re ready, you make a theory, like: “Cause A implies effect B.” Then you test your theory, by observation or experiment.

Testing means trying to catch yourself out. Setting the hardest tests. If A happens in a situation, and B doesn’t, your theory is wrong. You have to extend it, modify it or discard it.

In a bid to keep scientists honest, there is something called “peer review.” When a scientist reaches a conclusion worth publishing, other scientists are called in. Their job is to try to tear apart the work, like a pack of Rottweilers. Peer review is the hygiene of science.

Another test of scientists’ honesty is called “replicability.” That is to say, what is published should be detailed enough to enable other scientists to repeat or “replicate” the work. By doing this, they can find any problems there might be in the work.

But Vaust lived in bad times. Government, the institution which ought to protect good people against violence and fraud, had been taken over by the fraudulent and their violent comrades. And they looked for ever more reasons to impose their illegitimate power on everyone.

A government official approached Vaust and said, “We want your help. We already tax people out of existence. But we need new excuses to take away even more of the wealth they earn, so we can rule over them ever harder.

“There is,” said the official, “a hypothesis that human emissions of the 'greenhouse gas' carbon dioxide are causing, and will cause in the future, runaway warming or “climate change” on a global scale. With consequent catastrophic effects, such as more droughts and tornadoes, and huge sea level rises.

We’d like your help to spread this idea. Whatever you can do to show that human emissions of carbon dioxide are damaging the planet, we will pay you very well for. And we’ll make sure your papers are waved straight through peer review, even if the work isn’t replicable. You’ll have the chance to make yourself famous.”

“That sounds cool,” said Vaust. The rest is legend.

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