Science blog awards and bad logic

By Phil Plait | November 5, 2007 11:18 am

I wasn’t gonna dip my toes into this again, but I think I need to defend my honor here.

One of the blogs up for the best science blog award is Climate Audit. I don’t know much about it, though my perusal of it does indicate that it is on the side of global warming deniers. However, that’s not the point of this entry. What’s funny is that in an entry about the award, the author of Climate Audit, Steve McIntyre, makes two interesting claims. The first:

Both Pharyngula and Bad Astronomy have bad-mouthed Climate Audit.

He then goes on to put up a quotation by PZ from Pharyngula calling Climate Audit "junk science" (ironic, since Junk Science is the name of one of the blogs also up for the award, and that blog is really, really bad science; they might as well put Hoagland’s site up for the award).

However, curiously, McIntyre puts up no corresponding quotation from me. Why not?

I looked through my blog, and it turns out I have mentioned Mr. McIntyre once. In the comments to the post I wrote up about the foofooraw with temperature measurements in the US, a commenter pointed out to me that McIntyre was the one who recalibrated the measurements. I then said:

As far as thanking McIntyre, yes, it does appear he did a good thing — the folks at Real Climate say he was even thanked for his work.

I’m trying, but I don’t see how that is bad-mouthing him. Is that why he doesn’t show an actual quotation of me saying something bad? But that brings me to Point Number 2. McIntyre goes on to say:

This prompted a spirited defence of CA by Spence_UK and John A which seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Bad Astronomy’s attitude was similar.

"Spirited"? In the comments section of my post on the science blogs award, a commenter says that he learned in 9th grade that CO2 was a greenhouse gas. John A responds thusly:

Really? In the 9th Grade? Are you what, in the 11th by now?

"Spirited". Heh. If by spirited you mean churlish and insulting, then yeah.

What’s funny is that McIntyre seems to be confusing this blog with its comments, and me with my commenters. To be clear, his problem with this blog "bad-mouthing" him appears to be coming from the comments in this blog, and not from me my own self.

You know what? If I win the award, I will be happy, and I will use it to shill my book when it comes out next year and mock PZ and all that. If I lose and PZ wins again, then hey: he’s got a great blog, as do many of the other blogs nominated. Last year, the big fight between PZ and me was just a gag, and we had fun with it. But we know that while getting this award is nice, it’s not worth starting childish catfights.

So go ahead, read the blogs in question, and vote for the one you think is actually best. That’s the point.

Comments (67)

  1. Tom

    The confusion between quoting blogger or commenter is the reason some big bloggers don’t have a comment section.

    I’m not a big blogger, but my blog software doesn’t allow comments.

  2. sod

    confusion happens on climate audit now and then :)

  3. Rand

    Junk Science is the most appropriately named blog I know of. I know you dislike Hoagland, but how you can insult him so much by mentioning Milloy in the same sentence is beyond me. Corporate shill.

  4. I was wondering who CA was but hadn’t checked. I’ll not make any disparaging comments here but on my blog they might become fair game.

    After I get done shilling for the BABlog that is. :)

  5. papertiger

    I think it highly likely that a corporation built the equipment you are disparaging the capitalist system with. And then another corporation made a competeing product which made that equipment affordable, so that you and I could buy one.
    So why are you complaining? Is it to display an example of faulty logic for comparison’s sake?

  6. Justin

    Well CA has made the adjustments to clarify between commenter and blogger.

    I took a brief look at their site…couldn’t figure out what it’s all about though. There’s a lot of charts with no background at all, a lot of names that seem to be used as references, but without saying what he’s talking about them for…I don’t know how anyone would consider this scientific (unless it makes sense if you’ve read everything from the beginning.)

  7. Rob

    Surely one of the criteria for best science blog should be that it is a science blog, not an anti-science blog?

  8. > Surely one of the criteria for best science blog should be that it is a science blog, not an anti-science blog?

    Which is why I voted for the one that seemed to be the most science-oriented blog with the least amount of advocacy. No, I won’t tell you which one, because I’m one of those people who believe in the power of the secret ballot. ;)

  9. It took me a while to figure out what was going on at CA…I’m a little more familiar with some of the stuff they are doing now, so I can see the value of some of the work. But, I would agree with Justin that it would be nice if they better communicated what exactly they are doing and the significance of it. There seems to be thorough analysis of various climate-related data sets, but they do not communicate effectively what the impact of such work is within a broader context. And, when I’ve inquired about that in the past, commenters (but not Steve McIntyre) can get pretty defensive. But, if you remove some of the idiocy that is found on many popular blogs, there is some good stuff in there. And Steve McIntyre seems like a reasonable moderator most of the time.

  10. Che

    McIntye rundown:

    McIntyre uses metastatistics to try to argue that GW is just a statistical quark. He doesn’t really ever come to any conclusions but he subtly suggests some sort of fraud or suppression is going on. A common theme in his blog is whining about the difficulty he has getting the original data from climatologist’s papers. He also has a severe persecution complex.

    His followers believe he is a credible scientist (he has one paper, thoroughly refuted and discarded by climatologists, published in a credible journal), his work has destroyed the hockey stick (this allegation was caused by a bad report in the Wall Street Journal which falsely claimed the IPCC had dropped the hockey stick in their ’07 report), and he has never been refuted (several papers have been published doing just that, including some who actually redid calculations using McIntyre’s methods to show there is no significant difference).

  11. PK

    Perhaps Climate Audit included you in his slurs because you are the current front runner?

  12. PK

    … and CA has now an update on this BA post!

  13. Take the low road to bring attention to itself and claim credibility over the competition? Hmm, I’ve never seen that before….

  14. Quiet Desperation

    >”So why are you complaining?”

    Being a big anti-capitalist and anti-business is all trendy these days. It’s generally an ideology pursued by those who have benefitted the most from the it, and/or those who don’t know squat about authoritarian and aristocratic tapestry of misery that was human history before free markets.

    I recently toured the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. Even in those examples of “wretched excess” as some call them, it all still works if you look deeper. The Vanderbilts, for example, hired thousands of people either directly or indirectly because of those silly pseudo-palaces. Many great artists and architects and others got their starts because of comissions that arose from those structures. The in-house servants probably lived better than me.

    It doesn’t matter how much money one person has, because it’s not sitting in some giant vault a la Scrooge McDuck. It’s in investments and salaries and it’s constantly moving about and working. I try to explain such things to people on the left, and how the amount of wealth is not a fixed number, but I just get those glazed dumb cow looks so typical of the terminally political. People have been too programmed to class warfare style thinking. They think every dollar Bill Gates makes is a dollar somehow denied to them.

    > “global warming deniers”

    I am not a global warming “denier” but I really hate that term. It *does* smack of an attempt to equate them with Holocaust deniers. I just use GW “skeptics”.

  15. > Take the low road to bring attention to itself and claim credibility over the competition? Hmm, I’ve never seen that before….

    I know sarcasm is intended, but I tend to believe the adage of “don’t ascribe to malice what can be just as easily ascribed to stupidity.” Given that taking the low road to get attention and credibility is generally endemic, even amongst decent people, I prefer to offer the benefit of the doubt. Just this blog’s evidence enough that otherwise right-thinking individuals are quick to bite back when they feel threatened.

  16. Help me out here a bit Phil, when you dismiss off hand with the “Deniers” label anyone who asks questions or heavens forbid actually point out that there might be a few flaws in the data – that does not sound like science in action to me.

  17. Doc

    Except that by calling them skeptics you imply that they’re skeptically evaulating the evidence, which is generally not the case. The individuals I’ve encountered have either been presenting (and re-presenting) already refuted arguments, or don’t present anything at all.

    Aside from “denier”, I really can’t think of a more apropriate word. “Non-believer” doesn’t convey the deliberate, self-inflicted ignorance, and has too many religious overtones.

    On a side note, the CA site mentions that you can vote for the best blog once every 24 hours.

  18. Hmm, Doc – skeptically examining the evidence – lets take a quick peek at the evidence – lets start with Mann’s infamous “Hockey sick” graph – opps – guess it doesn’t matter what data you put in sooner or later you get the ramp up – or NASA warmest year on record (now, I’ll be the first to admit that a tenth of a degree is a big deal) changing a few weeks ago – or the stuff Anthony Watts and crew are doing documenting weather stations or when Hansen will disclose how much he has been paid by Sorros et al. so some of us are a tad skeptical

  19. It’s partly a language problem and partly a human psychology problem. “Denier” is a thought-terminating cliche, and so is “nonbeliever.” There are indeed a few true AGW skeptics whose views on the matter are based on their rational interpretation of their data, but “skeptic” itself has also become a thought-terminating cliche. Many skeptics who agree with the AGW theory do not want to confer the “skeptic” title to skeptics who disagree with the AGW theory, because “skeptic” has become a group identifier: “us” versus “them.” It’s a pretty standard historical trend, really.

    It applies to a/theism, as well. Many atheist skeptics do not want to call theist skeptics “skeptics” even though they may agree skeptically on everything other than the bare existence or non-existence of some sort of metanatural being, never mind said being doesn’t appear to interfere with anything whatsoever.

    The problem is that the debate has become not one of science but one of ideology, where ideas are no longer held in tension but as absolutes. Now, something can be held in essentially very loose tension, such as the theory of universal gravitation–highly unlikely to be disproven–but if that tension is not present, then it becomes dogma and intelligent debate between zealous camps becomes completely ineffectual.

  20. John A

    Phil,

    That’s the worst argumentation yet. I did say those things, but only to someone else who made an ill-considered contention that he learned something in the 9th Grade therefore it must be true and obvious for the rest of us.

    It isn’t obvious that changing the atmospheric chemistry very slightly in a trace gas like carbon dioxide will change the warming of the planet in any meaningful way. Carbon dioxide rise has never preceded temperature rise on the Earth, at least according to every ice core record.

    If we were to take the Greenhouse metaphor to a real greenhouse (which I know is inappropriate) it would be like claiming that the greenhouse will warm appreciably if the glass is made infinitesimally thicker. Oh really? Evidence please!

    I’m in my 40s but the first time I heard that carbon dioxide rise caused climate warming was in the mid 1990s, so when would children in the 9th Grade have learnt this “fact”? Only a few years ago – so I wasn’t being entirely flippant. Just a bit.

  21. Um Mock PZ?

    Look, I know you got that whole tongue-in-cheek friendly rivalry thing, but seriously the dude is anti-ID hardcore so I figure he’s fighting for the right team.

    On the other hand junk-science.com is on the list. Which it turns out is a pro-junk-science blog.

    Do you think maybe we can try to keep the infighting minimal enough to actually not forget who the real enemy is?

  22. >> who the real enemy is?

    See what I mean?

  23. mikep

    For those who find Climate Audit confusing, I suggest they follow the links at the side, eg “what is the hockeystick debate about” and other posts in the favorite posts section on the LHS. There is nothing at all vague about it.

  24. Julian Williams

    For those (e.g. Che) who believe that McIntyre’s work has been refuted by climatologists, perhaps they should take into account the opinion of the Chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics, Dr Wegman, who supported McIntyre’s criticisms of Mann’s statistics. I suggest that Dr Wegman (and by implication Steve McIntyre) has a better grasp of the application of statistics than any climatologist.

    For me, one of McIntyre’s most telling criticisms is that the paleoclimatalogists appear to think that they are better at statistics than professional statisticians, using stats in ways that have been never been used before, yet never submit these innovations to statistical journals.

    It is also worth pointing out, because it is not obvious from a perfunctory perusal of his site, that McIntyre is not a global warming denier in any sense, having several times stated that he accepts a lot of the consensus scientific opinion on AGW, given that he neither has the time nor the expertise to examine much of the science behind it. Nevertheless, he believes that it is a worthwhile endeavour to audit the science as far as he is able, given the very high stakes, both ecological and economic, involved.

  25. Stop making sense, BA, you’ll hurt his feelings!

  26. Brian

    John A,
    The remarks of mine to which you apparently reacted were flippant and insensitive. In my post of 04 November at 9:42 PM, I attempted to apologize. That post preceded any comment from you. I interpreted any abruptness in your comments to me to have resulted from my own lack of delicacy.

    I went to elementary school and what is now called middle school in the 1950s. I distinctly rememeber at least one discussion of the greenhouse effect. It never occurred to me that others might not have at some point had similar lessons. I say that not as a veiled criticism of anyone but merely as a sincere explanation of, perhaps, my ingenuousness about what was or was not taught in various curricula.

    Again, people are more important to me than any or all of my ideas, so I hope anyone I’ve offended just forgets it and enjoys.

  27. Doc

    OccamsEdge,

    Get some new arguments. Yours are getting moldy.

    1. Hockey Stick is broken – refuted
    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/12/14/01828/236

    2. Warmest year on record – refuted
    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/10/26/184932/56

    3. Urban Heat Island effect is cause for apparent global warming – refuted
    http://realclimate.org/index.php?p=454
    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/10/26/224634/48

    4. Hansen / Soros connection
    Ok, this is a new one for me, but it’s a complete substantive distraction (i.e. ad Hominem attact, guilt by association) and is completely irrelevant unless you want to also discuss the funding connection between anti-global warming “research” and the fossil fuel industries.

    Ok, unless and until you can refute the refutations linked above to the satisfaction of the general population of climate scientists, then any time you use them you are demonstrating your own self-inflicted ignorance. The phrase “in denial” would seem to fit your situation nicely.

  28. Doc

    OccamsEdge,

    A further note on CA’s fluff on the whole hockey stick thing. I just read through his paper on how “guess it doesn’t matter what data you put in sooner or later you get the ramp up” – it’s crap.

    I suppose it’s true for cases of “red noise” that the paper’s author(s) used as a data sample, but that doesn’t at all prove their point. “Red noise” is poorly defined, but the best definition I saw essentially said it’s the output of a “brownian walk”. This kind of random data will normally produce output that over time steadily gets farther from the starting value (either in a positive or negative direction). The paper itself noticed that half of the time they produced an inverted hockey stick from their red noise.

    So where are the 50% of climate studies that show an inverted hockey stick?

    I’m now convinced – the owner of climateaudit.org is either incompetent or malicious.

  29. Brian

    John Aon 05 Nov 2007 at 2:25 pm

    “It isn’t obvious that changing the atmospheric chemistry very slightly in a trace gas like carbon dioxide will change the warming of the planet in any meaningful way. Carbon dioxide rise has never preceded temperature rise on the Earth, at least according to every ice core record.”

    I have forsaken my presumption about was is or is not “obvious”, but I do see that the two greatest forcings (positive or negative) listed in the latest IPCC report are “cabon dioxide” listed at about 1.6 watts per square meter with an uncertainty that appears from their graph to be about +/- .15 and “methane, nitrous oxide” at about .95 watts per square meter with an error of about +/- .1.

  30. Keith Herbert

    Doc,
    You either didn’t read the links you posted or you misunderstood them. Gristmill author says he does not significantly understand the scientific language of the climate arguments to say who is correct.
    All he says is, if you question Mann’s hockey stick graph, go to another graph or study. Problem is there are many studies with many outcomes. So you cannot use your links as refutation of anything.
    And to post back to Real Climate is to merely point to one of the main proponents of the AGW due to carbon dioxide theory. So someone criticizes their work and Mann and all say, huh-uh we were right, and you accept that as an irrefutable argument.
    Also you fail to remember Mann and all issued a corregendum for their errors with the hockey stick. So you can’t say they were right, when they had to admit they erred.

    I’m not sure what you are accusing people of “denying” but climate is a very broad field with very broad studies and opinions. For people to disagree on different aspects would seem inevitable and even desirable from a scientific point of view. I think one could only be accused of self-inflicted ignorance when they stop questioning things.

    Since this thread is about Climate Audit, I will put in my two cents worth. It is a blog where commentors actually evaluate scientific studies, reviews, measuring, monitoring and the outcome of all these items. You will find proposals for how to approach a problem with equations and data. And you will find corrections, refutations and alternate proposals. It is an interesting site and you should try it.
    I also visit Real Climate but do not find as much flexibility to express new ideas there or question old ones.

  31. Doc, I’ve no desire to start yet another climate blog war or pick on you personally but you could do a bit better than a prolific blogger as a reference to refute the issues

    - as the Hansen – sorros connection is a counter to the other ad Hominem that all ‘deniers’ are funded by the evil ExxonMoble (don’t I wish)

    and by general population of climate scientests – you are refering to those who’s funding is dependent on promoting AGW? and all those other scientests that disagree with the AGW proposition must be funded by evil oil?

    I also note that you totally ignore the rather devastating results that http://www.surfacestations.org is turning up, but then actual factual measurments don’t count when you are on a mission I suppose

    sorry but the the fomer VeePs attemt at the old jedi mind trick of making a chopping motion and declairing “…the debate is over” is not the same as making a case

    And a few other inconvenient facts like that CO2 lags the temperature rise or that there have been times when the concentration of CO2 is ten times or more what it is today (and even then is still only a fraction of a percent of the atmosphere) – during an ice age?

    Sigh, I’m all in favor of reducing waste, emissions, pollution and bettering the environment but what monumental hubris is it that claims to know what the proper temperature is supposed to be (let alone that we could actually do something about it), promulgated by a person who has at best a very long distance relationship with the truth (or maybe you believe he invented the internet?) who wants us all to live in ‘eco friendly” housing using public transportation while he can consume what ever he can get the shumcks (us) to pay for?

  32. sorry Phil,

    taking my soapbox away…

  33. Quiet Desperation

    Doc, skeptical still works for me maybe because I’m a skeptic from the POV that I don’t think GW (anthro or otherwise) is the end of the world or some insurmountable problem. It may even make humanity develop cleaner tech decades before we would have otherwise, and anything else that encourages us to get off the black gold that lies under the feet bat**** insane people is a good thing. :)

    It may also stave off the next global cooling. :) You want a *real* threat to civilization? Start sliding into a new ice age. Yikes! :-o

  34. Michael Jankowski

    doc,

    Not wanting ot hijack this thread (my first and last appearance, I assure the host)…

    You’re only mentioning one of many issues McIntyre has exposed concerning the “hockey stick.” It would take many hours to go thru them all, but I invite you to go back to the start at CA and read more than you did. If you don’t have a fair statistical background, a lot of it will leave you out in the cold.

    You wouldn’t have to spend too much time on CA to see that McIntyre thinks it’s reasonable we are at an abnormally warm temperature relative to the last 1000-2000 yrs, that man has had a significant impact, etc. For some reason, people want to completely polarize the debate on climate change and label him a “denialist” just because he’s found holes in other peoples’ works and raised a number of issues.

    As far as your points go…

    #1 is far from settled. One issue raised by McIntyre and others is the use of specific tree ring proxies used in many temperature reconstructions – proxies which even the Nat’l Academy of Sciences said should not be used. If you take the same bad input and analyze it a different way than Mann et al, you are still likely to get bad output.

    #2…well, you missed the boat on this one. You pulled an article from 2006. The error McIntyre found in the GISS data for the US was in the last few months. You’re talking about something completely different entirely. Was it an earth-shattering discovery that would devastatingly alter the graph in the link you provided? No. But it still sent James Hansen off his rocker. And it does raise questions about how reputable the results outside the US are if such a mistake could be made with the most thorough and well-maintaned record there is. It’s also interesting how quietly NASA made their correction. All of their past bold proclamations and press releases about the “warmest years recorded in the US” occuring in in the 90s and since 2000 suddenly were replaced with the fact that many of the warmest years were in the 1930s instead. Maybe that’s one reason you weren’t aware of the issue OccamsEdge had mentioned.

    #3, few people believe the urban heat island is responsible for ALL warming of the 20th century and 21st century so far (and, obviously, the latter half of the 19th century). But some suggest it is more significant than currently estimated, and there are plenty of reasons why the issue needs further study. And even the IPCC doesn’t try to explain the warming up to about 1950 as man-made. Their conclusion about man-made greenhouse warming is limited to the claim that “likely (>90%)” that “most” of the warming of “the latter half of the 20th century” was caused by anthropogenic emissions of green house gases. So there’s a lot of warming from the 19th century to present that’s still unattributed, according to the IPCC.

  35. BillfromBowie

    Occam: Hear, hear!!! AGW is junk science at its worst.

  36. Brian

    # OccamsEdgeon 05 Nov 2007 at 4:35 pm

    “…and by general population of climate scientests – you are refering to those who’s funding is dependent on promoting AGW?”

    Hi OccamsEdge,
    If you are implying that most people are inherently dishonest, I would have to disagree with you.

  37. ks

    Climate Audit is in the wrong category. It is a statistics blog (a bad one at that), not a science blog. A good statistics blog is in the climate field is “Open Mind” http://tamino.wordpress.com/

    McIntyre meanwhile has tried to defend “The Great Global Warming Swindle”

    read more about the documentary here:
    http://tinyurl.com/yqp8dx

  38. Anthony

    I’m a little younger than most people around here, but I am amazed at how immaturely the community is reacting to things like this. I’m finding it hard to believe that my generation is supposed to follow by example from a generation that lashes out at everyone with a dissenting opinion or thought as if they were the scum of the earth. McIntyre made a mistake, and amended his statements. How is it so hard to move on as opposed to lashing out with every attack you can possibly think of against him?
    The other thing that amazes me is how closed minded some people can be. I haven’t been on here for more than a day and I’m already seeing people that are executing the cliche ad hominem attack on McIntyre, most frequently only for the fact that they posess an ego that is too big or just can’t be bothered to actually research and review McIntyre’s work before sounding out another preset statement that applies to everyone who disagrees with an opinion.
    Climate science is an anomaly to me. In no other discipline of science have I found scientists waging wars against those who question their actions, even when they refuse to share how they arrive at their conclusions. Nowhere else have I seen data be declared “false, but we can use it anyway.” No where else have I seen someone’s actions questioned, followed by a random article that doesn’t address the issue but announces the opposing claims “refuted” anyway, all the while hoping that the readers are too lazy or trustworthy to do the research themselves, but swallow and repeat the statements anyway.
    I can understand that you are skeptical of someone’s skepticism, but how is it acceptable to just throw a tantrum and declare yourself as opposed to helping them work through a misunderstanding? Something isn’t right about that.

  39. Steve Huntwork

    Anthony;

    Your last posting was well thought out and I appreciated reading your comments.

    People like Steve McIntyre and his Climate Audit website have earned my respect, because he simply seeks to verify the data. I for one could not care less one way or the other about “Global Warming”, but do expect that the scientific data presented to the public is honest and reproducible.

    Climate Audit has been able to obtain some very important software source code, and programmers like myself have enjoyed being able to explore the exact algorithms that were used for the analysis of our historical climate. If the methods that were used inside of the software can be verified as being valid, then the results of the software can be trusted as representing the real world.

    If I was a scientist placing my reputation upon the results of my software, I would love to have it audited and verified.

    Why anyone could be upset about this, is beyond my understanding.

    This is what science is all about!

  40. Steve Huntwork

    I only mention the climate subject on the Bad Astronomy website in an effort to get other astronomers to notice little things like this.

    My only problem with the software analysis of or historical climate is astronomical in origin.

    When you run NASA’s software with the GISS data set on daily or monthly data, the “global” temperatures peak during the summer in the northern hemisphere.

    We, as astronomers know that the Earth is closest to the Sun during the winter months for the northern hemisphere. Obviously, the northern hemisphere is being overly represented in the determination of “global” temperatures.

    Why is something so obvious to any astronomer being totally ignored?

  41. David Walton

    Re:”I don’t know much about it, though my perusal of it does indicate that it is on the side of global warming deniers.”

    You can’t be serious. Tying Climate Audit to “global warming deniers” not only presents an inaccurate view but is remarkably similar to a churlish insult. Not only does this comment tend to negate your complaint that McIntyre has confused you with people who comment on your blog, it demonstrates that you are, astonishingly and obliviously, guilty of precisely the same conflation you complain about.

    Re: “Junk Science … is really, really bad science; they might as well put Hoagland’s site up for the award”

    That seems a trifle hyperbolic, to say the least. Equating Milloy with Hoagland’s snake-oil is ridiculous, churlish and childish.

    I am honestly surprised, I never expected this sort of snide and back biting commentary from you. Is it really necessary or illuminating?

  42. Graham

    I love this blog, but I am upset that Phil would resort to the term “Global Warming Deniers” That is a most unscientific standpoint.

    I am a geophysicist and a skeptic living in Australia. From what I have observed, the reports coming from the IPCC have some very questionable assumptions, especially relating to the Southern Hemisphere. I do not work in the field of climate, but from what I have read, which is extensive, I am swayed to think that our understanding is so far insufficient to forecast future climate change with any degree of accuracy, nor is it sufficient to separate anthropogenic effects from natural effects at the present time. Most of the claims that I hear are absolutely outrageous, and have polarized the present political debate here in Australia as we are facing a federal election and have a booming coal industry. Our “Australian of the Year” award was given to a mammal palaeontologist who jets around the world claiming that Sydney will be uninhabitable by the year 2050!

    Of these outrageous claims, I am a skeptic, not a denier. To the more rational claims of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, I am equally skeptical and would like to see more supporting evidence than has so far been offered. Does that make me a bad person?

  43. Carl

    As an addendum to Mike J’s response to Doc re: the hockey stick… MBH and McIntyre/McKirtrik have been going back and forth on this topic for quite some time. What you (doc) have cited was in fact a gross misunderstanding of McIntyre’s intent. His method was never intended to be (and was specifically stated, repeatedly, to not be) a viable proxy evaluation technique; it was used merely to show that Mann’s technique was incorrect.

    It is appearing increasingly likely as of the past two months that Mann’s data itself (tree ring histories from trees with stripped bark), in addition to the statistical evaluation of it, is highly erroneous. This follows primary research by McIntyre and “Mr. Pete” that (preliminarily) show that such trees are absolutely unusable and unstable as climate records. Use of such trees has already been recommended against by the National Academy of Sciences. These trees are important because they show a hockey stick, their variance dominates the principal component(s) used to reconstruct the past 800-1200 year’s climate history, and without them the entire basis of the belief in unprecedented 20th century warming will likely be undermined. I say “likely” because caution and further audit are required before making sweeping statements.

  44. David Walton

    Re Graham’s “Does that make me a bad person?”

    No, it demonstrates you a reasoning and thoughtful person. But in the eyes of the global warming activists and alarmists you are Satan.

  45. Brian, by no means do I consider most people inherently dishonest, however when it comes to backing one claim against another there is (and I’m by no means the first to comment on this) a very tight circle of AGW supporters that circle the wagons whenever a challenge to the orthodoxy is mounted and do their best to out shout the critics.

    as Anthony and Centipede so eloquently state – this discussion has moved far beyond the mere debate stage to one where there are entrenched interests activity involved and they have expressed intentions of shaping the debate in their favor

    the only point I’m trying to make is “the debate is not over” and anyone who claims to have all the answers – (in my humble experience to date) does not, but then, I’m just an old fart with a ‘puter and half a brain – at least the neurons that still function indicate such

  46. PK

    Anthony, the field of climate change is by no means the only scientific discipline where the debate has been poisoned, although the alignment of the scientific positions with political colours has made things much worse (something very similar is going on with the evolution versus creationism debate). Notable examples of unhealthy situations are string theory vs LQG, dark matter vs MOND, and to a lesser extent the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics vs more “traditional” interpretations. From what I have seen in many comments on various blogs, there is a strong intuitive opposition to a specific idea, which inhibits the ability to either judge the theories on their merits, or accept the word of a recognized authority (in the likely case one does not have the skills to judge the theory).

    Which brings me to my next point: How many commenters here are climatologists? Reading lots of blog articles is not the same as being an expert on the subject, no matter how smart you (think you) are. The notion that we can “look at all the data, and make up our own minds” may have worked in the 17th century, but this is not how science functions anymore. Most scientific disciplines are far too large for one person to completely understand. Scientific consensus is reached via a complex social mechanism that relies as much on expertise as on recognized authority. Turning a scientific debate into an ideological debate (e.g., climate change, creationism) undermines the recognized authorities and thus inhibits the forming of a consensus.

    I am not a climatologist, so I have to rely on reputable sources. My recognized authorities are Nature and Science, and a friend who works in climate studies. They lead me to believe that AGW is a scientific fact.

  47. Mike M.

    2009 is going to be a tough year for some of you. No more engaging in Bush Derangement Syndrome and no more global warming. 2007 is nicely positioned to be the coolest year this century…
    http://ncwatch.typepad.com/media/2007/11/more-than-by-ba.html

  48. george h.

    The AGW scare will eventually be viewed as one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of science where advocacy, reliance on untested models, hiding and falsification of data, silly references to concensus, ad hominem attacks, scifi movies and leftist politics trumped reasoned scientific inquiry.

    Steve MacIntyre has done an admirable job at CA of standing up to this juggernaut of propaganda and exposing the garbage which too many in the climate field have attempted to pass off as settled science. Kudos to CA.

  49. Stuart

    Oh cool. While the AGWD are having a nice circle-jerk, the rest of us will be taking swimming lessons.

    To quote a Bill Cosby skit:

    GOD: HOW LONG CAN YOU TREAD WATER.

  50. Brian

    OccamsEdgeon 06 Nov 2007 at 1:48 am
    “Brian, by no means do I consider most people inherently dishonest, however when it comes to backing one claim against another there is (and I’m by no means the first to comment on this) a very tight circle of AGW supporters that circle the wagons whenever a challenge to the orthodoxy is mounted and do their best to out shout the critics.”

    Hi OccamsEdge,

    I guess I wasn’t clear who you were referring to when you asked,

    “…and by general population of climate scientests – you are refering to those who’s funding is dependent on promoting AGW?”

    I thought perhaps that you were implying that a large segment of the population of climate scientists would skew or bias their projects or results to, in your words, “promote AGW” – that they woud do so in order to maintain their funding. I would consider such activity to be highly unethical and also psychologically unrewarding for the person who engaged in it. It would be intellectually dishonest. If that is what you meant, then I think you underestimate people; if that is not what you meant, then perhaps I underestimated you.

  51. Brian

    Referring to my own comment of a few minutes ago, “…if that is not what you meant, then perhaps I underestimated you,” I need to stop confusing people with their ideas.

  52. Dunc

    I think it highly likely that a corporation built the equipment you are disparaging the capitalist system with. And then another corporation made a competeing product which made that equipment affordable, so that you and I could buy one.
    So why are you complaining? Is it to display an example of faulty logic for comparison’s sake?

    Well, that’s a remarkable bit of “reasoning”… Because some corporations have produced some useful tools, all corporations are always good, at all times, and in all places?

    IG Farben came up with some really good stuff. But they also made Zyklon B.

  53. play fair please

    I don’t know if it was someone who is reading this thread, but last night, in the best science blog poll, Bad Astronomy were only 90 votes ahead of Climate Audit, and then in like 15 minutes, Bad Astronomy were suddenly 600 votes ahead. Now it is “back” to 400. Clearly Climate Audit are getting the most votes steadily. This was the second time Bad Astronomy had this sudden avalanche of votes. Considering the total votes are 4,000 it is implausible you’d get hundreds of votes in mere minutes.

    Someone is rigging the vote, and whoever it is / they are, please take a look in the mirror, it’s not on.

  54. > Referring to my own comment of a few minutes ago, “…if that is not what you meant, then perhaps I underestimated you,” I need to stop confusing people with their ideas.

    So say we all. Not to single you out, mind–we really do have to disassociate ideas from persons in order to maintain the utility of debate and prevent ideological entrenchment.

    Do I think AGW is correct? Yes, based on people with authority in the field and my own limited understanding of how climate systems work. Even if it is not correct, whatever we’re doing isn’t helping, and it is better to err on the side of caution and try to minimize or reverse our impact, even if it is marginal (I’m an engineer, that’s how I think). Is it possible to interpret the data in other ways? Yes. Are opposing (scientific) viewpoints legitimate? Yes. Do I think opposing scientific viewpoints are probably wrong? Yes. Does that make them wrong? No. My skeptical ‘belief’ in AGW is held in tension; it is mildly uncertain and with sufficient evidence to the contrary could be overturned. Same with gravity, thermodynamics, and aerodynamics–highly unlikely, but still possible.

    Just because I disagree with AGW skeptics doesn’t mean I must hate the skeptics as if they were personally responsible for the death of the planet. Hate the sin, love the sinner; it is an ideal, yes, but a good one to aspire to. It’s certainly more productive than hating the sinner and simply causing him to entrench himself further in sin through his natural rebellion to antagonistic external pressure.

  55. Brian

    # The Centipedeon 06 Nov 2007 at 10:55 am
    “…we really do have to disassociate ideas from persons in order to maintain the utility of debate and prevent ideological entrenchment.”

    And also because people are infinitely precious and exquisitely gorgeous.

  56. Keith Herbert

    Brian,
    Would your argument only hold true for proponents of the AGW theory?Or would scientists with other theories be equally dissuaded from proposing something that is intellectualy dishonest. Your post seems condescending and I’m wondering if you are putting the ethics of AGW above the ethics of skeptics.

  57. Brian

    Keith Herberton 06 Nov 2007 at 12:10 pm
    Brian,
    “Would your argument only hold true for proponents of the AGW theory?Or would scientists with other theories be equally dissuaded from proposing something that is intellectualy dishonest. Your post seems condescending and I’m wondering if you are putting the ethics of AGW above the ethics of skeptics.”

    People are people. They are all filled with love and bliss. My comment of 5:57 was worded to say what I meant to say. It is a general statement about people in general .

  58. Heh, I was about to Detect Sarcasm before I realized it’s a fancy way of saying “people are ends, not means.” I wouldn’t go so far to say that everyone is a unique and beautiful snowflake, but I do hold that people can be good or ill regardless of their opinions and oftentimes in spite of their opinions. A person and the idea she espouses hold are two entirely different entities and should be judged separately.

    Does believing in Creationism make someone a bad person? No. Does a person’s zealous action to have Creation taught as science make them a bad person? In my view, when it comes to science education, yes. The difference being that the first is a belief the person holds, and the second being an action the person commits to as a moral agent.

  59. Brian

    The Centipedeon 06 Nov 2007 at 1:57 pm
    “Heh, I was about to Detect Sarcasm…”

    Understatement, perhaps: sarcasm, no.

  60. Like I said. I was, then I figured out where you were coming from. ;)

  61. Anthony

    I appreciate the thoughts, Steve. Thanks.

    I understand where you’re coming from, PK.
    I know subjects like evolution vs creationism are touchy subjects; I don’t see where that analogy gets its strength, though. To my knowledge, those who endorse theories such as string theory, evolution, or creationism usually seem more than happy to present their evidence, along with every detail about it (reinforcing the reply that I got from Steve earlier). The authorities on the subject of, say, dark matter, to my knowledge seem to be genuinely attached and believe in their premise.
    Climatology and anthropogenic warming just seems different to me. I can see an analogy to another field of science in that we can see climatologists “make up something on the spot” to bury their mistakes and divert attention elsewhere, as with Mann and the response to MM with Wahl and Amann 05. However, I’m at a loss of something comparable to the way climatologists will go as far as admitting that data does not support their premise, but continue to use it anyway knowing that pedestrian readers won’t know any better (NAS and IPCC on strip bark proxies). The only reason I can think of is that there is a substantial amount of credibility and money to be lost in climatology, but maybe that will end up being a naive statement.

    As a side note, I can understand someone feeling as though they should take the climatologists’ word for it because, hey, they’re specialists. However, as anyone following the debate closely will tell you, it seems that it is more of a war of statistics and ethics. For the most part, no immense specialty is needed to understand where people like McIntyre are coming from. The irony is that the alarmist side hopes that the general public will dismiss all of his findings because he isn’t a scientist, completely omitting that the science isn’t even what is in question.

  62. # Brian says: “I thought perhaps that you were implying that a large segment of the population of climate scientists would skew or bias their results to maintain their funding. I would consider such activity to be highly unethical.”

    I would agree with this, but it doesn’t stop them from “gaming” the system. A friend of mine is the chief aero engineer at NASA Dryden, and about 10 years ago they wanted to develop an airplane that could fly on Mars (this was originally going to happen in 2003 to celebrate the centennial of flight, but that obviously fell through). This would require developing aircraft that could fly autonomously at around 10 millibars of atmospheric pressure.

    Of course, such a proposal would never get funding, so they changed it to “exploring the ozone hole” since that region is at 110,000 feet (33,000 meters), right around 10 mB pressure.

    They got the funding.

    One of the contractors on the project Aurora Flight Sciences, actually produced some flight-testable hardware:

    http://www.aurora.aero/AdvancedConcepts/Index.aspx

    - Jack

  63. PK said:

    “I am not a climatologist, so I have to rely on reputable sources. My recognized authorities are Nature and Science, and a friend who works in climate studies. They lead me to believe that AGW is a scientific fact.”

    The trouble I have with the AGW scientific consensus is their supposed trump card that AGW is an established scientific fact that proves we’re in serious trouble.

    I disagree and offer some other facts to consider:

    Mann et al’s hockey stick that got the warmist’s rolling is broken. The NAS panel said Mann erred in (among other boo-boos) his use of statistics, so MBH’s comment that the current warm spell is the hottest in a millennium has been truncated to “hottest in 400 years” or since the Little Ice Age ended. By the way, it took McIntyre, not a climatologist, to find the errors because peer review failed utterly.

    Radiosonde and satellite data indicates we’re warming at 0.123 degree C per decade, hardly a runaway greenhouse effect!

    Over the last 600 million years, CO2 levels have gone from about 7000 ppm to the current 300 ppm while average temps have remained within a 72°F (22°C) to 54°F (12°C) range. So should we fear a tipping point at current CO2 concentrations? Obviously that’s not a problem.

    Finally, I’m a skeptic because the data is too equivocal and the AGW alarmists are too emotional. The settled science they trumpet is only a snapshot in accumulated knowledge. We’re always finding out that things we thought we understood weren’t so. For example:

    - Until the mid 1800s, it was a fact that bleeding a patient would cure his infection removing ill humors, and it wasn’t until Pasteur came up with the germ theory of disease in 1860 that a medico who disagreed with the bleeding “consensus” would have facts that proved his side.

    - More recently, scientists have realized that sailors’ tales of freak ocean waves hundreds of feet tall weren’t mass halucinations.

    According to all scientific knowledge of the sea, freak waves were practically impossible. Scientists have understood ocean waves for centuries, and in order to predict the biggest wave a ship will meet they use a set of mathematical equations called the Linear Model. Hence they refused to believe the eye-witness reports of freak wave survivors becaused that testimony went against the consensus. It wasn’t until long term radar observation proved that freak waves were common that nonlinear wave interactions have been explored.

    - Finally, the Sun. It’s a fusion reaction involving Hydrogen, the most common and simplest element working as a heat engine. By every fact we know, the center of the Sun where the fusion is most concentrated should be the hottest zone, with temps cooling the farther out you go. Ok so far, but it doesn’t work that way.

    One of the most puzzling features of the Sun is what has been dubbed “the solar corona problem.” There is a region around the Sun, extending more than one million kilometers from its surface, where the temperature can reach two million degrees.

    The problem is, no one can really explain how this corona exists. Even if the temperature in the core of the Sun does reach 15 million degrees, it drops to a mere 5000 degrees at the surface. The temperature should be even lower farther away from the sun. But the temperature of the corona is measured at more than a million degrees. This incredibly hot temperature requires a permanent heating mechanism, or the plasma would cool down in about an hour. There are many mechanisms which could heat some gas above the surface of the Sun, but none of those mechanisms could account for the large rate of heating necessary to heat the corona.

    ===================

    So give me a break with your settled science and the consensus, we’re nowhere near competent enough to rely on current models of our complicated atmosphere, and wasting billions today in hopes of managing what is probably a natural temperature swing (or at worst an engineering problem in irrigation, dam, and dike building) would be worse than useless.

  64. PK said:

    “I am not a climatologist, so I have to rely on reputable sources. My recognized authorities are Nature and Science, and a friend who works in climate studies. They lead me to believe that AGW is a scientific fact.”

    The trouble I have with the AGW scientific consensus is their supposed trump card that AGW is an established scientific fact that proves we’re in serious trouble.

    I disagree and offer some other facts to consider:

    The MBH hockey stick–which gave AGW warmists the perfect means of frightening people into paying attention–is officially broken. The NAS panel said Mann et al erred in (among other boo-boos) his use of statistics, so MBH’s premise that the current warm spell is the hottest in a millennium has been truncated by 60% to “hottest in 400 years.” That’s a “plausible” period of time considering the Little Ice Age ended 400 years ago and you’d expect it to be getting warmer. By the way, it took McIntyre of Climate Audit, not climatologists, to find the errors because peer review failed utterly.

    Radiosonde and satellite data indicates we’re warming at 0.123 degree C per decade, which hardly qualifies as a runaway greenhouse effect!

    Over the last 600 million years, atmospheric CO2 levels have gone from about 7000 ppm to the current 300 ppm while average global temps have remained within a 72°F (22°C) to 54°F (12°C) range. 19X the CO2 and yet we didn’t become Venus, so we certainly shouldn’t fear a tipping point at the current minuscule CO2 concentrations.

    Finally, I’m a skeptic because the data is too equivocal and the AGW alarmists are too emotional. The settled science they trumpet is only a snapshot of our accumulating knowledge. We’re always finding out that things we thought we understood just ain’t so. For example:

    - Until the mid 1800s, it was a fact that by bleeding a patient physicians could cure his infection by removing the ill humours. It wasn’t until Pasteur came up with the germ theory of disease in 1860 that a medico who disagreed with the bleeding consensus would have validation for bucking the status quo.

    - More recently, scientists have realized that sailors’ tales of freak ocean waves hundreds of feet tall weren’t mass halucinations.

    According to all scientific knowledge of the sea, such freak waves were practically impossible. Scientists have understood ocean waves for centuries, and in order to predict the biggest wave a ship will meet they use a set of mathematical equations called the Linear Model. Hence they refused to believe the eye-witness reports of freak wave survivors becaused that testimony went against the consensus. It wasn’t until long term radar observation proved that freak waves were common that nonlinear wave interactions have been explored.

    - Finally, there’s our Sun. It’s a fusion reaction involving Hydrogen, the most common and simplest element busily working as a heat engine. By every scientific fact we know, the center of the Sun where the fusion is most concentrated should be the hottest zone, with temps cooling the farther out you go. But it doesn’t work that way.

    One of the most puzzling features of the Sun is what has been dubbed “the solar corona problem.” There is a region around the Sun, extending more than one million kilometers from its surface, where the temperature can reach two million degrees.

    The problem is, no one can really explain how this corona exists. Even if the temperature in the core of the Sun does reach 15 million degrees, it drops to a mere 5000 degrees at the surface. The temperature should be even lower farther away from the sun. But the temperature of the corona is measured at more than a million degrees. This incredibly hot temperature requires a permanent heating mechanism, or the plasma would cool down in about an hour. There are many mechanisms which could heat some gas above the surface of the Sun, but none of those mechanisms could account for the large rate of heating necessary to heat the corona.

    ===================

    So give me a break with your settled science and the consensus, we’ve nowhere near enough knowledge to develop models of our complicated atmosphere, and wasting billions today in hopes of attenuating what is probably a natural temperature swing (or at worst an engineering problem in irrigation, dam, and dike building) would be worse than useless.

  65. Told ya they’d get to ya, Chris. ^_^ Glad to see that your hard work wasn’t in vain, at least.

  66. PK

    @ Chris Christner:

    If we’re “nowhere near enough [in our] knowledge to develop models of our complicated atmosphere”, do you think it is wise to dump these levels of CO2 in it? To me that seems incredibly irresponsible.

    I can shoot holes in the rest of your argumentation, but frankly I suspect that will be a waste of time. Commenters on blogs (including you and me) are not “recognized authorities”, so nothing I have to say will change your mind. This is a general problem with threads of this sort.

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