Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion II: Return of the Science

Our first post on Crichton’s new novel “State of Fear” hits most of the key points, though there are a few more errors in the book that we hope to expand upon in future posts.

But for those of you uninterested in buying and reading the book, you can actually find a similar-minded opinion piece by Crichton criticizing climate science (and everything from SETI and the “Drake Equation” to Carl Sagan in the process) here in the public domain.

Among other odd comments in the piece, is this one (italics added for emphasis):

No longer are models judged by how well they reproduce data from the real world-increasingly, models provide the data. As if they were themselves a reality

Crichton should know that this assertion is false. He cites in the ‘bibliography’ at the end of his book, the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But he appears unaware, for example, of the 54 page chapter (chapter “8”) in that report on “Model Evaluation”, which describes in detail how observed data are used to evaluate the performance of climate models. He also appears unaware of the 44 page chapter (chapter “12”) on “Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes” which describes in detail how model-predicted changes are explicitly compared to the actual climate observations in determining the extent to which human influence on climate can be established. Finally, he appears unaware of the 56 page chapter (chapter “10”) on “Regional Climate Information – Evaluation and Projections” evaluating the success of model-based regional climate predictions as measured against actual instrumental data.

Crichton then goes on to make the classic error of confusing “weather” and “climate”:

Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we’re asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future?

As we in this line of research are fond of pointing out to students in our introductory classes, “Climate is what you expect; Weather is what you get”. Crichton would have been well served if he had read this tutorial on the distinction between the two, or perhaps this one and especially, this one.

And finally, we get this complaint from Crichton:

Certainly the increased use of computer models, such as GCMs, cries out for the separation of those who make the models from those who verify them

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