Is doubt good?

Being fairly active on LinkedIn, I have had my share of agreements and disagreements. Let me show you the analytics page of three posts from last year; I selected them because they are in three different orders of magnitude when it comes to popularity.

It should be noted that I stick to a relatively narrow focus for my content: energy transition and electric mobility, seldom venturing outside the comfort zone of my expertise.

Wind power provides over 100% of electricity consumption in Denmark.

(June, 2022 Link)

Only a handful of my posts make the 100k+ category; this did, probably pushed by the unusually many likes it received, though nobody re-posted it.

Many of the comments were positive, but not all (say perhaps two-thirds).

The influence of Big Oil over selected world economies.

(September, 2022 – Link)

The “tens of thousands” group is much more numerous: in comparison to the previous one, it achieved a fifth of the readership with a tenth of likes and a 25th of the comments, but it was reposted 5 times.

It received no negative comments and it also had a more interesting visual, IMHO.

A new study over 88,000 Climate Science papers confirms over 99.9% of them think Climate Change is human-driven.

(January, 2023) – Link)

This post did not achieve a particularly wide reach (even though it might grow in the coming days), but it’s remarkable for its likes-to-comments ratio.

A large majority of comments were negative: as far as I can remember, I have never written a post that attracted so much negative commentary over so little views as this.

Yet the topic of the last post does not strike me as particularly controversial or new: in fact, it’s simply a confirmation (and reinforcement) of something we already knew, i.e. the overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed papers by Climate Science researchers and scholars agree that Climate Change is human-driven.

So what are all these negativa commenters taking issue at, and who are they?

Ignoring the simple ad hominem attacks and insults, and a small group of haters who simply dislike anything I say (for reasons unknown, I have never met any of them), none of the negative comments was from someone who had ANY credentials in Climate Science, and very few had anything to do professionally with the energy sector altogether.

They are therefore nothing more than your average Joe Sixpack doubting Science, probably in the same broad category as flat-earthers or moon-landing deniers: “I don’t understand this, but I am scared by the sound of it, so I’ll just refuse to believe it.”

A couple however raised an interesting, epistemological point worthy of some additional commentary, i.e. the value of doubt.

Human knowledge – they argue – advances because someone challenges the statu quo of scientific consensus.

This could be a valid argument, but it’s poorly applied: scientific breakthroughs happen, yes, because Albert Einstein challenges Isaac Newton, but he does so within the accepted frame of the scientific method, i.e. by stating a different theory with adequate mathematical backing and proposing an experimental verification which will either prove or disprove the new theory. Tycho Brahe’s planetary motion observations needed the backing of Kepler’s laws, before elliptical instead of circular orbits were accepted.

The theory and its mathematical foundation must be reviewable by peer scientists, until they are gradually accepted and become the new consensus. Sadly for foaming-at-the-mouth doubters (but luckily for humanity), this process is reserved to the initiated: no popular vote is ever cast to accept a new scientific theory.

The fact that the proposed experiment might not be possible at the time of proposal is irrelevant: Einstein suggested that gravity could bend the path of light back in his 1936 paper on General Relativity, yet the phenomenon was not directly observed until 2017.

In other words, no, simple doubt is not enough.

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