Initiatives / Interventions
Back to previous selection / Retour à la sélection précédente

France : Schiller Institute Exposes the Trap of Mathematical Modeling at The Saint Dié International Geography Festival.

Printable version / Version imprimable

See Pierre Bonnefoy video-presentation in french

Paris, Oct. 9, 2020 — This year, the subject of the Festival was the climate and, as you might expect, many of the lectures had topics that dealt with "anthropogenic climate change" and its consequences. However, as soon as we spoke to people in this controlled environment, we had some very interesting surprises.

Pierre Bonnefoy from the Schiller Institute had been accepted as a speaker and the topic of his speech was "Limits and Abuses of Mathematical Modeling in Science." Pierre had applied as author of the book Non-Mathematical Principles of Science.

This book of epistemology and history of science, published by the Schiller Institute, presents a series of major scientists of the last 400 years, the first chapter being devoted to Kepler and the last to LaRouche. As its title indicates, it is an uncompromising attack on British empiricism and mathematical reductionism.

Non-Mathematical Principles of Science

The idea of Pierre’s speech was to use this book to "outflank" Malthusian ideology. Given that in the environment of this festival, launching a frontal attack against the climate models used by the IPCC would probably have provoked sterile polemics about figures, without touching on the axioms, Pierre began his meeting before 30 people in the audience, saying : "I am going to talk to you about a problem that concerns not only climate science, but also concerns all sciences of all eras : mathematical modeling." And after that, Pierre said nothing more about climate.

He began by presenting the different astronomical models of Ptolemy, Copernicus and Brahe, which Kepler had compared and refuted by opposing them with the method of the physical hypothesis. Then taking a leap of three centuries, he showed,
using the example of the first model of the Bohr atom, that quantum physics has regressed to an epistemological level as low as that before Kepler. Finally, he took some contemporary examples concerning artificial intelligence (deep learning) or
the modeling of ecosystems (by computer from one’s office, without the need to go into the field), to show that this problem is universal.

Pierre had deliberately refrained from talking about climate models, supposing that there would be an angry ecologist in the room who would bring up the subject during the Q&A period. He had prepared an answer in advance : a graph showing the Earth’s temperature predictions up to 2100 produced by 50 different models in the latest IPCC report. These models are in complete disagreement with each other, because climatologists are obliged to set a certain number of parameters arbitrarily in all cases, in order to make them work !

However, the audience seemed more passionate about the epistemological subject of the conference than about the climate, so much so that the expected question did not come up, and Karel, who was in the audience, decided to ask it himself in order to allow Pierre to give his answer. But this did not provoke any hostile reaction. People were happy to see that science could be viewed in a more optimistic way than usual.

When the meeting ended, 6 of the 30 people present rushed to the speaker to buy his book. One of them, a young accountant, asked Pierre what he thought of the Meadows report on growth.

Pierre simply replied, "It’s a huge scam." The young man seemed at first surprised by the answer, but added that he felt relieved to hear that, because he had previously felt trapped by the false opposition between the unnatural consumer society and the
anti-human collapsology. A retiree from the Ministry of Agriculture told Karel that the conference was exciting and when she added that she ran an astronomy club, Karel said, "Why don’t you invite my friend to your club for a meeting ?" She replied,
"Good idea, I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll call the president of the club tonight."

The day before, an ecologist working in "renewable energies" had also bought the book after discussing modeling with Karel and Pierre. As we can see, if we attack people’s axioms, rather than what they say, we can get some very surprising, and surprisingly productive answers. [pbo]