Do ya wanna bet?

Recently I had the opportunity to re-visit the 2007 film The Great Global Warming SwindleWell worth watching in and of itself, and in among all the important material for someone interested in investigating and propagating sound reasoning, was this section:

Narrator: In the late 1980s, solar physicist Piers Corbyn decided to try a radically new way of forecasting the weather. Despite the huge resources of the official Met Office, Corbyn’s new technique consistently produced more accurate results. He was hailed in the national press as a ‘super weatherman’. The secret of his success was the sun.

Dr Piers Corbyn: The origin of our solar weather technique of long-range weather forecasting came originally from the study of sun-spots and the desire to predict those. And then I realised it was much more interesting to use the sun to predict the weather …

Narrator: But how reliable are sun spots, as an indicator of the weather?

Dr Piers Corbyn: I decided to test it by gambling on the weather, through William Hill, against what the Met Office said was a normal expectation. And I won money, month after month after month, after month.

Last winter the Met Office said, it could be, or would be, an exceptionally cold winter. We said, ‘No, that is nonsense, it’s going to be very close to normal.’ And we specifically said when it would be cold, i.e., after Christmas, and February. We were right, they were wrong.

Yes, that’s right. You have a hypothesis, you test it against the evidence. And if your hypothesis is more accurate than those of others, and you can make money off your predictions, you do so.

Of course, it’s possible for ‘flukes’ to happen – for a wrong hypothesis to produce correct predictions purely by chance. But as a method for deciding between hypotheses, there is no better way than putting money behind the predictions.


About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
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