Paths To Knowledge (dot Science)

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Living in the Shadow of [Climate] Soothsayers

Posted by pwl on February 23, 2009

“A soothsayer is a person who claims to speak sooth: specifically one who predicts the future based upon personal, political, spiritual, mental or religious beliefs rather than scientific facts.” – Wikepedia

We are of course “Living in the Shadows of Soothsayers”. Waiting till the future arrives is sometimes the only way to predict the future, especially with Natural Systems! Stephen Wolfram proved that in his book, “A New Kind of Science”, Chapter 2.

One of my favorite mythological characters, Asterix, has a entire book devoted to the wonderful topic of soothsayers: “Asterix and the Soothsayer“. The story is quite involved but here is a bit of it that relates to our current crisis in climate science.

If only politically we could learn, but then most political leaders accept the notion of, and take advice from people who have, invisible friends, so it really should come as no surprise that they are unequipped critically and rationally evaluate the organized “consensus”.

Heck, as someone who has been emerged in science for his whole life I’m finding it a challenge to understand let alone properly evaluate the extreme claims of “global warming alarmists”. The Carl Sagan Principle applies: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof by those making the claims”.

Asterix and the Soothsayer
One stormy day, the Gauls — with the exception of Getafix, who is at his annual druid meeting — are huddled in the chief’s hut, fearing for their lives. But then, a man enters the hut in a burst of lightning – it is a soothsayer, who promptly proceeds to see the future for our superstitious Gauls. He predicts that “when the storm is over, the weather will improve.” But not all are impressed; Asterix alone dares question the qualities of this soothsayer, who is in fact a fraud.

“Although Asterix can see this, not everyone is convinced, most notably Impedimenta, the chief’s wife. Partly out of superstition and partly out of personal ambition, she convinces the soothsayer (known also by the name “Prolix”) to remain in official hiding near the village, where she and the other villagers may question him at will. The only two whom she will not permit into the forest are Asterix and Obelix. Obelix in particular has a grudge against the soothsayer, who has threatened to kill Dogmatix in order to examine his guts for predictions of the future.”

Standing up to the Shadow of the Soothsayer

“Asterix has an idea; they might give the soothsayer a surprise, to prove that his predictions are not genuine. The surprise is quite simple: the Gaulish men and women will attack the Roman camp together. The plan is successful: the Gauls arrive at the camp and Prolix admits that he had no idea that they were coming. This convinces Impedimenta who beats the Centurion and the soothsayer with a rolling pin, causing her husband Vitalstatistix to look on her with an almost patronizing pride.”

The Feast in Peace

The Gaulish village, however, is soon at peace, enjoying themselves for the present and not worrying about the future – with the exception of Cacofonix, who still dreams about being a famous singer.

One Response to “Living in the Shadow of [Climate] Soothsayers”

  1. […] Soothsaying climate futures seems a lucrative business that has no regards for the known limits of predictability. It’s very interesting that Wolfram shows that Nostradamus had just as much chance at predicting the future as climate scientists have. The limits in Nature can be harsh indeed. “A soothsayer is a person who claims to speak sooth: specifically one who predicts the future based upon personal, political, spiritual, mental or religious beliefs rather than scientific facts.” – Living in the Shadow of [Climate] Soothsayers […]

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