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Settled? Salt In The Climate Wound

It looks like climatologists could learn some lessons from salt. A recently concluded massive study on the effects of salt in the human diet found that — contrary to public perception — in people at risk for heart disease, less salt was not always more beneficial. A moderate amount of salt, scientists now say, is better than high or low intake, contrary to longstanding belief.

The human body is a very complex system that constantly perplexes and challenges established assumptions and scientific hypotheses. Our understanding of health and nutrition is constantly changing as we find out more about our own anatomy and our biochemistry, but that is a good thing.

However, complicated systems are hard to understand.  In my lifetime there have been many dramatic reversals on questions of nutrition and health.  The scientific consensus of one decade is often the old wives’ tale of the next.

The world’s climate system is complex.  Global climate has varied tremendously over millions and billions of years, and our study of this system is still in its infancy.  It is likely (though nothing is certain) that there will be many shifts in the way we understand things as we gradually work our way toward a clearer and more detailed understanding.

This makes the hacktivists unhappy: they desperately need a clear and “settled” scientific consensus because the policy proposals they have are so sweeping and expensive that only overwhelming evidence can make a plausible case for them.  More than once, green advocates have given in to the temptation to be “clearer than truth” on climatology.  Over time, this has reduced public confidence in climatology itself as well as in the motives and wisdom of the green lobby.

While the science behind climate change has a stronger foundation than many skeptics accept, its conclusions and forecasts are less credible than the hactivists allege. But as the latest tweak to the salt and health consensus — to say nothing of the evidence now suggesting that CO2 may have less effect on temperature than many have thought — demonstrate, climate policy cannot depend on an over-rigorous insistence on the absolute nature of what will remain for some time a shifting scientific foundation.

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  • ms

    Remember the scares about a coming ice age and predictions of massive starvation by the year 2000? It seems to me the more certain scientists seem about the latest theory, the more inclined the rest of us should be to take it with a grain of salt–which is turns out is not so bad for us!

  • Otiose8

    Today’s WSJ has an article on front page that reinforces the need to take peer reviewed ‘scientific’ studies with a grain of salt:

    “When Bayer tried to replicate results of 67 studies published in academic journals, nearly two-thirds failed.”

  • Neo

    This is a great piece in the NYT about diet and fat which cover the notion of a “social cascade”

  • Scott

    This is one of those posts that really makes me pause. I pride myself on an ability to at least partially understand the views of people with whom I disagree. I know that my views change over time so it makes sense that I should be open to different views. However, the logic and clarity of your thoughts on this are such that I really find it hard to see how a reasonable person could disagree. That always worries me.

    You’re not claiming anything other than we don’t know what we don’t know and we need to consider that rather than demand that everyone follow us into extreme action. Thank you.

  • Stephen J.

    “Clearer than truth” may be the best and most powerful explanation for BS that I have ever heard.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Most published research is wrong.

  • Ken Marks

    This statement: “While the science behind climate change has a stronger foundation than many skeptics accept,” is completely and utterly false. Go to the following website to get an idea of how false it is:

  • a nissen

    To borrow a phrase from a past President: “there you go again,” marring a great discourse with name-calling. “Hactivist” drips with contempt, but what exactly do you mean: hacks that are activists, or activists that hack, e.g., those hacking into what the “certain” call science?

    For effective, unmarred discourse check out the WSJ Opinion today by Daniel Botkin “Absolute Certainty is Not Scientific”

    Already there are 338 comments— demonstrating why Via Meadia is such a treasure. A promising number hunger for the critical thinking that the elegance of the discourse inspires, but the majority go right on knee-jerking to the marketists’ divide.

    Botkin writes an very interesting but, alas, very inactive blog here:

  • Scott

    Malthus was amazingly wrong, but treated like a visionary in his day.

    Paul Ehrlich was so confident in his theory about the scarcity of natural resources that he lost one of the most famous bets in history.

    Massively re-distributing global wealth, or worse de-industrializing the planet and creating massive poverty while surrendering what little remains of our precious liberty to a global totalitarian cabal based on tree rings is the most brazen attempted power grab in history.

  • dearieme

    “contrary to public perception” … “contrary to longstanding belief”: but you are not referring to strange folk beliefs – they were deliberate constructs, the result of medical men lying to us, by claiming that there was good evidence for silly propositions about salt. It’s not so much that evidence has changed, but that there never was any decent evidence in the first place.

  • Hu Ngu

    Say yes to clean air, clean water and clean dirt.

    Say no to the transfer of wealth to cesspudlian

  • Scott Harris

    The assertion that the global warming alarmist have a scientifically solid foundation is fundamentally wrong. What they had was a firm basis for a “hypothesis.” Any decent scientist knows that a hypothesis is a far cry from a valid theory.

    The hypothesis was that since their was an observable correlation between the increase in man-made CO2 and an apparent increase in the global temperature of the earth since 1978, that CO2 might be a cause of it.

    But the hypothesis was proven to have no real scientific substance as early as 1995. But this did not allow the politically connected to use the alarmist premise to affect public policy and sieze control from citizens over the choices they would make concerning their own lives. Also, telling the truth would eliminate the scientists funding source from those who had a vested interest in having a crisis to use to influence public policy.

    I am a scientist. And I was open to the hypothesis of AGW when it was first proposed. But like any true scientist, I understood the difference between an intriguing hypothesis, and a valid theory. And given that my field is in the energy arena, I followed the studies fairly closely.

    Professor Mead is unfortunately a prisoner of his environment – the liberal based establishment of the academe. There was indeed a slight increase in mean global temperatures from 1976 – 1998, but there is zero credible evidence to suggest this is due to the activities of man.

    Unfortunately, if you repeat a lie long enough, even really smart people will begin to believe it. That Prof. Mead still gives any credence to the AGW hypothesis is evidence of this phenomenon.

  • Luke Lea

    Next up, fat. If it tastes good, it is good.

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