Tim Ball: the Last Skeptic Standing

Mon, 2006-10-09 04:30Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Tim Ball: the Last Skeptic Standing

In an open letter to the Royal Society, reported here, Dr. Tim Ball says that ‘scientific inquiry is unique because it requires falsifiability’ and ‘The beauty of science is that no issue is ever “settled”, that no question is beyond being more fully understood, that no conclusion is immune to further experimentation. And yet for the first time in history, the Royal Society is shamelessly using the media to say emphatically: “case closed” on all issues related to climate change.’

No issue is settled? I don't know. Gravity is pretty compelling, as is the spherical nature of the earth or the straightness of the shortest line between two points. Of course, we used to believe that summer would always give way to fall and winter

Dr. Ball takes seriously this dictum that there is “no conclusion immune to further experimentation.” He has, for example, gone to great lengths to make his own credentials “more fully understood” through a thorough application of “falsifiability.”

For example, although Queen Mary College at the University of London thought that it granted Ball a Ph.D. in Geography in 1983, Ball has “experimented” with being “the first Canadian Ph.D. in Climatology” or even a “Dr. of Science.”

While the University of Winnipeg is firmly of the belief that Dr. Ball was a professor for just eight years (1988 to 1996), the tireless investigator has experimented with being a professor for 28 years or even 32 years.

In his campaign to “debunk” the science of global warming, Dr Ball complains that “For some reason (actually for many) the world is not listening.”

Ball sets out a long list of theories, but it might just be that Dr. Ball's understanding of scientific uncertainty extends well beyond the scope allowed by lesser scientists - certainly well beyond what lesser mortals would call “the truth.”


Tim Ball's use of Kuhnian philosphy to argue that nothing is ever settled is if nothing else novel, especially by a right wing funded think tank. This is perfect logic for the tobacco industry (tobacco doesn't cause cancer) and the nuclear energy industry (it's safe and inexpensive). We could also apply this logic to evolution (it's only a theory) and a host of other areas which neo-conservatives find invonvenient or unsettling. Hurray for Tim Ball! Thanks very much to DeSmogBlog for your tireless work...

What is settled is that denialists must talk about anything but the fact that they have no falsifiable theory on why the earth is warming due to some other mechanism other than the rising co2 fraction in the atm. 

 Their using 'stifling the debate' tactic is just blatant flimflam - whenever you see this you know they are losing. 






Climate change science does, of course, have testable hypotheses.  The same tactic is used by the creationists: "evolution is not falsifiable".  We can reject the whole thing, if we find a bone in Cambrian deposits (one that was not put there by a creationist with a flashlight and shovel).  The same goes for climate change.  So why do the criers-deniers not get to work falsifying some of the component hypotheses?  Take your pick: laziness, or an understanding that they would fail. I suspect that misquoting Kuhn etc. has more to do with some unfounded elitism that they felt during 1st-year science class, when they first heard that science had philosophy behind it.  It is clear that he doesn't even understand the word 'theory'.  "Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, published in 1857, remains a theory even now." 


"How science proceeds from theory to law." - or... "how my understanding of science came from old newspaper articles" 

Well, number theory might also mean that we don't know if there are numbers, right?   Gravitational theory might mean that we don't stick the ground.  Not.