Will Science Save Us?

By Keith Kloor | May 18, 2012 11:17 am

Wired magazine has an interesting interview with biologist and science entrepreneur Craig Venter, who, as Wikipedia describes, is

most famous for his role in being one of the first to sequence the human genome and for his role in creating the first cell with a synthetic genome in 2010.

The discussion is wide-ranging. At one point, Venter talks about his work on the synthetic life front, and how he’s now involved in trying to create a cell to “harness photosynthesis.” Here’s the idea:

We’re trying to coax our synthetic cells to do what’s happened to middle America, which is store far more fat than they actually were designed to do, so that we can harness it all as an energy source and use it to create gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel straight from carbon dioxide and sunlight. This would shift the carbon equation so we’re recycling CO2 instead of taking new carbon out of the ground and creating still more CO2. But it has to be done on a massive scale to have any real impact on the amount of CO2 we’re putting into the atmosphere, let alone recovering from the atmosphere.

Hence the headline for the Wired interview, “Craig Venter wants to solve the world’s energy crisis.”

What’s interesting to me is Venter’s mindset, which views science as the primary means to solve the world’s greatest challenges. No doubt this perspective is widely shared, but it is also at odds with those (including many scientists) who instead emphasize social change. For example, on the issue of global sustainability, technological solutions don’t seem to have much of a place in the tool box that’s featured in major scientific reports and at conferences. Rather, what we often hear is the need to reduce consumption, population, and economic growth.

I’m not suggesting that one approach should be chosen over the other, but it does seem that our conversations on energy and climate-related issues minimize (and often caution against) the use of technology to better humanity and the environment.  On that note, I’ll conclude with the final exchange in the Wired interview.

Wired: I want to end with a big question: In 1990, Carl Sagan wrote that “we live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” That seems even more true today. Do you think we respect science enough as a society?

Venter: I think the new anti-intellectualism that’s showing up in politics today is a symptom of our not discussing these issues enough. We don’t discuss how our society is now 100 percent dependent on science for its future. We need new scientific breakthroughs””sometimes to overcome the scientific breakthroughs of the past. A hundred years ago oil sounded like a great discovery. You could burn it and run engines off it. I don’t think anybody anticipated that it would actually change the atmosphere of our planet. Because of that we have to come up with new approaches. We just passed the 7 billion population mark. In 12 years, we’re going to reach 8 billion. If we let things run their natural course, we’ll have massive pandemics, people starving. Without science I don’t see much hope for humanity.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Energy, science
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  • http://sallan.org Sallan Foundation

    Impossible to argue with Venter’s closer, “Without science I don’t see much hope for humanity.”, but that doesn’t do much to advance the argument about the role of economics, politics or culture to control climate change and its impacts.  Collide-a-scape is great at pushing readers to get past their usual assumptions & intellectual default positions, so take the Venter interview and run somewhere with it

  • Eric

    “…Venter’s mindset, which views science as the primary means to solve the world’s greatest challenges. No doubt this perspective is widely shared, but it is also at odds with those (including many scientists) who instead emphasize social change.”I see this as a long-overdue shift in focus which the traditional environmental movement has been slow to adopt. The scientists studying the mechanisms of global environmental change have been the heroes of the environmental movement for a long time. This is all based on the presumption that once the message coming from these scientists is widely adopted, change will be forthcoming. It is now clearly evident that that will not happen. Simply studying how and why the global environment is changing will not be enough. It remains to be seen whether the growing momentum to develop scalable and affordable non-fossil energy will tip the balance. But I think we would be in a more comfortable place if the Venters of the world had gotten started 30 years ago.

  • BBD

    Will science save us? Dunno, but if it does, it will be a close-run thing :-)

    Those who snarl at the ‘techo-fix’ mentality have a point. The return snarl of ‘luddites’ is not always without basis. Neither is wholly correct. It’s rather like ignoring the multiple proposed planetary boundaries in favour of focus on only one or two of them.

  • Mary

    In my field (genomics) we often crack jokes about Venter, and there are many cases of eye-rolling when he has interviews. But I like him, I like people who shake things up and push boundaries–and he certainly does.

    And what he is doing is really pissing off some people outside of science. I have seen Venter conspiracy theories, and he claims he’s had to have physical protection. There’s a hilarious interview in a men’s magazine a while ago that talks about that: “Work in creating synthetic life attracts some of the kooks of the world, and so, on occasion, I have a security detail composed of Navy SEALs.”

    You don’t have to agree with Venter. But I’d like to see where his work goes.

  • BBD

    Mary

    He’s a big swinging double helix. But I suspect if we took the testosterone away we wouldn’t have the results. It’s a boy thing, as  you know ;-)

    Although I dread to think what Venter is like after a night out with the special forces chaps.

  • grypo

    ” For example, on the issue of global sustainability, technological solutions don’t seem to have much of a place in the tool box that’s featured in major scientific reports and at conferences. Rather, what we often hear is the need to reduce consumption, population, and economic growth.’

    This is likely because technology is a useless thing unless is already in the market and economical. So, not only are we counting on the technology to be as fast as problems approach, we are also counting on the marketability and economics to work out. There are also unforeseen side effects of all technologies that need to be addressed before putting them into use on any large scale. I’m saying all this as someone who sees GM’s Nukes biofuels renewables and few other technologies as being helpful inn our march into an uncertain future. but if our mantra is “tech will save us, don’t worry about consumption, population, mitigation, adaption, etc” then we are in real trouble.

    BTW, the report that Keith uses for his example doesn’t seem to be to correctly described as “technological solutions don’t seem to have much of a place in the tool box”

  • David in Cal

    When someone as smart as Craig Venter talks, I listen.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    The conundrum carries over–in healthcare for example, should we spend our resources persuading people not to start smoking or to stop–or should we pursue scientific research to find a cure or treatment that is more than palliative? Obviously you’re going to spend money on both, but what’s the right mix? Equally importantly, who decides?

  • BBD

    Call me a one-note droner, but smoking doesn’t exactly equate with planetary impacts…

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    There are tens of billions spent on the impacts of smoking. 

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    BBD, if it were just smoking you might be justified in yawning. But this carries over into widely spread chronic conditions–should we change behaviour for people at risk for AIDS or invest heavily in vaccines? Should we change people’s eating habits or look for cures for diabetes? What works better in the fight against malaria? Bed nets or genetic engineering on mosquitoes?And again, the answer is never going to be 100% of one vs another. But what should the mix be and who makes the decisions?

  • BBD

    I didn’t yawn Tom.

    There are tens of billions spent on the impacts of smoking.

    And the tax revenues on tobacco? A microcosm?

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Do you really think they should be balanced against each other?

  • kdk33

    The real question is:  Can science be saved.

    BTW, anybody know the fat to water to hetero-atom ratio in one of these miracle cells.  It’s just damn hard to beat punching a hole in the ground. Something to think about.

  • BBD

    Tom @ 13

    Well, it does make a kind of sense.

  • BBD

    What do you think?

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    I don’t really know. The people paying the tax might reasonably be asked to help target how it’s spent. Some economists might add the two totals together. Some might play them off against each other. I don’t really know.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    FWIW I see the technology/planetary boundaries problem this way:-technology can provide humanity with extra breathing room if deployed appropriately, but unless you’re think we’re approaching singularity, we still will run up against hard limits sooner rather than later. There are real limits to growth. Surely, we can agree on this much?

  • BBD

    Yes, of course. I’m not a cornutopian. I’m a pragmatist.

  • Jarmo

     If we let things run their natural course, we’ll have massive pandemics, people starving. Without science I don’t see much hope for humanity.

    The other angle is economics, poverty and the reasons for poverty. As all are aware, the population growth is fastest in poorest countries and actually neagative in many of the richest countries. The threshold seems to be around 4000$ annual income. 

    Africa could be rich. It is hobbled by poor institutions and corruption. The greatest problem is capital flight. When Africans get wealthy, they usually transfer their money out of the country. Businessmen, dictators and corrupt officials alike – nobody wants to invest in Africa. 

    Science is necessary but without good institutions even science struggles in vain. Take a look at the green revolution in Asia. It has largely bypassed Africa for the lack of good government.  

  • Nullius in Verba

    #8,

    “The conundrum carries over”“in healthcare for example, should we spend our resources persuading people not to start smoking or to stop”“or should we pursue scientific research to find a cure or treatment that is more than palliative?”

    On the former, you spend your resources on informing people of the health risks of smoking – accurately to the best of your knowledge and without exaggeration or underplaying it. It’s up to them whether they start/stop smoking. If people know the risks but keep on smoking, that’s still a successful programme.

    The distinction is important – the goal is not to ‘persuade people’, it is to give them accurate and reliable information to make their decisions. The more serious the disease, the more care you must put into checking the quality of the science; and the more effort you must expend presenting all the evidence so people can understand it.

    Finding a cure is still necessary, though. Non-smokers still get lung cancer as well – it’s a part of the natural background of mortality that has always been with us, and indeed was far worse in the past before science.

    Science is a long way from fixing all our problems, and is certainly not going to do so within the next hundred years. But always its priority is not future catastrophes, but the present catastrophe. Poverty, disease, malnutrition, pestilence, and totalitarian government – it’s still here; it’s still an emergency. The question is not “do we spend resources on solving the world’s problems?” but “which problem do we spend our resources on first?” Spending resources on the problems of 2050 takes resources away from the problems of 2012, which means people are going to die, in the here and now, because of that decision. It might be the right decision, it may be that the problem in 2050 is the more urgent one – but you had better be very sure you’re right.

    People have predicted impending doom unless we repent our sinful way before. It’s a crowded field now with a very high bar for standards of evidence.

  • Matt B

    Why try to stop smoking? It’s a money-saver in the long run:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/health/05iht-obese.1.9748884.html

  • harrywr2

    #18,we still will run up against hard limits sooner rather than later. There are real limits to growth

    Please explain where those limits are.

    I figure the hard limits without science are in the neighborhood of 2 billion people. How many people live within ‘walking distance’ of clean water? How much of our food wouldn’t exist without pump driven irrigation?

    If we all had to live within walking distance of clean water then most of us would be living in flood plains…and nature would regularly cull the population in floods. If not through the flooding then surely through the outbreaks of cholera that would follow.

    The history of humanity is overcoming ‘natural culling’ mechanisms. With global air travel we are never more then one vaccine away from a pandemic.

  • kdk33

    #18,we still will run up against hard limits sooner rather than later. There are real limits to growth

    Some things are worth worrying about, other aren’t.  This isn’t.  It is a problem for future generations.   

  • kdk33

    Venter’s story teaches something quite interesting about government funded science.  I’m waiting for someone to notice.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > Non-smokers still get lung cancer as well [...]

    Some numbers might be needed here.

    And let’s note that the “non-smoker” category does not exclude second-hand smoke.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Scratching my own itch:

    In most people, lung cancer is related to cigarette smoking. Although some people who have never smoked get lung cancer, smoking causes more than 8 out of 10 cases (83%).

    http://cancerhelp.cancerresearchuk.org/type/lung-cancer/about/lung-cancer-risks-and-causes

  • kdk33

    How does one know if the cancer was caused by smoking?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    How one does know that one knows that the cancer was caused by smoking?

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    kdk33, the correlation between smoking and cancer is very, very strong, so strong as to be dispositive. It’s fire alarm strong.The correlation between passive smoking and cancer is weak to non-existent.  So weak as to make clear that it is a distraction used for political purposes. Pity some can’t learn the lessons provided by science.

  • kdk33

    Tom, 

    You miss my point; it was a bit subtle.  I suspect Willard gets it, but he is playing coy - or he’s been at the mushrooms tea again, hard to say.

    I agree with you #30 in it’s entirety.  But, I challanege Williards quantification.  He’s unlikely to provide a meaningful response.  But for any interested readers I’ll repose the questions:  If a smoker get’s lung cancer, was it caused by smoking?  How do you know?

    It’s actually an interesting point.

  • BBD

    Smokers get non-small cell lung cancer. Non-smokers (unless exposed to asbestos or radon or other known causes of NSCLC) get small cell lung cancer. Yes, of course I just googled this. Doubtless you could have too.

  • BBD

    NIV @ 21

    Science is a long way from fixing all our problems, and is certainly not going to do so within the next hundred years. But always its priority is not future catastrophes, but the present catastrophe.

    Where climate is concerned, you cannot draw a dividing line. So this argument falls on its arse.

  • kdk33

    You should google again.

  • kdk33

     SCLC is rare in people who have never smoked.

  • kdk33

    Anyone besides BBD, care to give it a go?

  • grypo

    Why does a passive smoking always revolve around cancer? What about heart disease/cardiac arrest or COPD/Emphysema /pulmonary disease or low birth weight/premature births or childhood asthma/increased attacks? Or all the other less deadly problems other people are forced to deal with? Should it not be on the smokers to prove why they should expose people to these risks? Do we need a totalitarian regime to collectively tell people to smoke somewhere else? Not really. Smokers should really just go do it themselves, unless they are inundated with BS information and relieve themselves of that responsibility.

  • harrywr2

    #30 Tom,There appears to be a genetic predisposition to smoke. Also some evidence that the same genetic predisposition results in faster metabolism of the carcinogens.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17454707

    Smokers having CYP2A6 variants resulting in low activity metabolize
    nicotine more slowly, and convert procarcinogen nitrosamines to
    carcinogens more slowly, than do normal metabolizers. The results from
    this study also suggest a behavioral mechanism that may account for
    reduced cancer risk in slow metabolizers.

    There is an interesting cultural war brewing. If we have socialized medicine and various subsets of people are genetically predisposed to activities with adverse medical side effects do we have sufficient justification to ban those activities based on ‘socialized costs’. Smokers are the currently politically popular kicking horse. I can think of dozens of groups that are more susceptible to various diseases based on activities related to genetic predisposition.

    Scary stuff…I’m glad I won’t be around for it.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #31,

    The lifetime risk of lung cancer in smokers is around 17% for men and 11% for women, while the lifetime risk in non-smokers is around 1.3% for men and 1.4% for women. Because of the different life expectancies of men and women you have to be a bit careful interpreting that.

    Taking men, of the 17% who get it, around 1.3/17 = 7.6% would have got it anyway (and 12% of the women smokers who get it), so in any individual case you don’t know that smoking caused it.

    It’s not exact because there are other correlated factors. For example, poverty is related to both smoking (more poor people smoke) and shorter life expectancies (poor people whether they smoke or not tend to be more susceptible to many conditions). It’s probably not the case that a low bank balance is toxic, but more likely something to do with the combination of diet, stress, working environment, health care quality, poor housing, etc. So even as a smoker with lung cancer, it might have been one of these other factors and it might be more (or less) than the 7.6%/12% probability of that being the case when compared to the typical non-smoker.

    My understanding is that they took the figures above, controlled for all the other factors they could find that had a correlation with either lung cancer or smoking, to isolate the proportion that was due to smoking and nothing else. They also did controlled trials on animals (dogs, I think) and in culture to show the tar was carcinogenic. I understand the end result was that even the tobacco companies had to acknowledge the effect.

    It’s difficult generally to assign cause in complex non-linear systems. The contributions can’t be simply added together – sometimes they multiply, or there are threshold effects. You can never tell the cause for sure in any individual case; you can get some idea of the total number caused by smoking overall, with some residual uncertainty and a bit of fuzziness over what ’cause’ even means here.

    I don’t know the actual final number. I do know that most smokers won’t get lung cancer, that they only tend to get it when they’re older, and they seem to take some considerable pleasure from the habit. So I don’t regard it as a straightforward decision for them.

    But my main point was that it’s none of my business what people do with their own lives. If they want to heli-ski down a vertical mountainside before an afternoon spent cave diving, that’s their affair. People can choose to do dangerous things if they want.

  • BBD

    kdk33 @ 35

    Yes, that was my point.

  • BBD

    I sense confusion. Lung cancer is rare in non-smokers. When they do get it, it’s SCLC unless other known environmental factors are involved. Smokers are more prone to LC and they get NSCLC. There’s nothing worth arguing about here.

  • BBD

    NIV

    People can take risks if they want, of course. The only argument that might arise is if their risk-taking imposed a cost on everyone else. The UK tax on tobacco is supposed to offset that although to be honest I have no idea if it does, or even if the levy raises more money than the NHS spends treating all smoking-related illness.

  • kdk33

    BBD, you are too confused for me to even bother.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #42,

    The argument does arise, of course. But the answer is that everyone else has chosen to pay it, by choosing a system of socialised medicine in which people’s health care is paid regardless. Their care is paid for whether they’re good people or bad, rich or poor, irrespective of age, politics, religion, sex, sexuality, or lifestyle. That’s the justification for forcing people to pay for it through taxes – if you’re not going to get treated, you shouldn’t be made to pay for it. No taxation without representation, and all that stuff. And if people really don’t want to pay for the treatment of smokers (although apparently perfectly happy to pay for sports injury clinics) then smokers should have the right to opt out of paying for it, and purchase their own care.

    But it’s a dangerous argument for socialists, because once you raise the issue of people paying for other people’s bad habits being unfair, we have to face the fact that most of the costs are borne by the rich. Do they get to decide who they want treating with their money?

  • kdk33

    So taking the incidence rates per NiV, assuming a population 50/50 male female, 22% of men smoke, 18% of women.  It turns out that….

    About 65% of lung cancers are caused by smoking (give or take, kinda).

    Math is a wonderful thing.

  • BBD

    kdk33 @ 43

    Okay, let me restate, having read your link. Lung cancer is rare. Most cases are NSCLC are are predominantly associated with smoking and other environmental causes. SCLC is less common, and strongly associated with smoking. Lung cancers of both types are very strongly associated with smoking. Where are we going here?

  • BBD

    NIV @ 44

    This is moot if the tax revenue on tobacco pays for the cost to the NHS for treating smoking-related illness. The self-polluter pays :-)

    The subtext is obvious, so I won’t labour the point.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > I do know that most smokers won’t get lung cancer, that they only tend to get it when they’re older, and they seem to take some considerable pleasure from the habit.

    And how does one know all these things? [NB]

    Notice how that last clause (“considerable pleasure”) introduces a nice “distraction”, perhaps even for “political purposes.” We’ll soon see that.

    [NB.] Asking “and how do you know X” is not that coy, kdk33. It’s the same old “distraction” all over again. Besides, it was not my quantification.

  • kdk33

    BBD,

    The words you are looking for are these:  Sorry, I was wrong.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #48,

    Willard, what on Earth are you talking about?

    We know because the mortality statistics are checked by people with a vested interest in criticising them. Scientific hypotheses are provisionally accepted if the evidence is strong, consistent, plausible, and survives well-motivated attack in circumstances where one would expect errors and problems to be detected.

  • kdk33

    It is an interesting question whether smoking actually imposes a cost on any national health care system.  IIRC different studies yeild different answers, though I suspect they tend towards the politically correct. 

    That question highlights one of the many opportunities for abuse, once government runs this large part of the economy.

    So, nobody sees the lesson about government funded science that Venter’s story teaches?  I’m disapointed. 

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Nullius,

    Thank you for your answer:

    We know because the mortality statistics are checked by people with a vested interest in criticising them. Scientific hypotheses are provisionally accepted if the evidence is strong, consistent, plausible, and survives well-motivated attack in circumstances where one would expect errors and problems to be detected.

    Notwithstanding the grandiosity of contrarianism, it’s quite good.

    I’m quite sure kdk33 agrees.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    And why not:

    If we’re to plug the answer to my question, we get:

    I do know that most smokers seem to take some considerable pleasure from the habit because the mortality statistics are checked by people with a vested interest in criticising them.

    Logic is a wonderful thing.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #53,

    I thought you had excluded that one as a “distraction”. Although I’ve still no idea what you meant by that. Distraction from what?

  • BBD

    kdk33 @ 49

    Sorry, I was wrong in the detail. This is the link I used.

    LC is strongly associated with smoking, so where are we going here?

  • BBD

    kdk33

    It is an interesting question whether smoking actually imposes a cost on any national health care system.

    Unless smoking does not cause illness, this is unlikely to be true.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    BBD, it is an interesting question as several studies (don’t have links–sorry) indicate that smokers tend to die younger and quicker, imposing a lower societal cost in pensions and health care.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Nullius,

    I’m the last person in the world to discount the importance of any kind of distraction. Even waiting for Godot can be fun.

    I was simply alluding to this:

    he correlation between passive smoking and cancer is weak to non-existent. So weak as to make clear that it is a distraction used for political purposes . Pity some can’t learn the lessons provided by science.

    I surmise that the mechanism of this “distraction” deserves due diligence. Don’t you agree?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > Sorry, I was wrong in the detail.

    Thank you, BBD.

  • kdk33

    BBD:  We’ve already been there.   

    Tom:  Exactly.

    Willard:  On which planet do you spend the majority of your free time?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    kdk33,

    These kinds of cheap shots are a big “tell” to players than can play your game. This worsens your position. Please indulge.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    kdk33, DFTT

  • Nullius in Verba

    #58,

    Are you suggesting that the evidence that smokers like smoking is weak to non-existent, and offered for political purposes? That would seem to be the consequence of following the analogy.

  • kdk33

    Willard, 

    On the day you choose to engage me in a meaningful discussion we can talk.  Until then, I don’t take anything you say seriously – your comments to me deserve nothing more – and I feel free to indulge in cheap shots for my own amusement. 

    Perhaps you could parse your #29 in regular english.  That would be a nice start.  Otherwise, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  • BBD

    Tom @ 57

    Fair point.

  • BBD

    So because we don’t agree that passive smoking is a proven health risk, we know that there is a governmental /scientific illiberal conspiracy that falsifies temperature data. Or am I going a wee bit too far here?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    kdk33,

    As far as I’m concerned, you were simply rehearsing Meno’s paradox:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meno#Meno.27s_paradox

    In return, I was simply pointing out that your question can be applied to itself.

    Skeptiks also have some knowledge paradoxes to solve, at least those who do not feel free to indulge into anything they want, but feel constrained by some minimal standards of rationality. Any search engine can be your friend.

    If you prefer, you could also take a bite into Nullius’ answer.

    Or as you are wont to say, whateva.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > Are you suggesting that the evidence that smokers like smoking is weak to non-existent, and offered for political purposes?

    No, I’m suggesting that the switching the focus on passive smoking is a political distraction.

    Cf. Lindzen’s testimony offered the other thread:

    I have always noted, having read the literature on the matter, that there was a reasonable case for the role of cigarette smoking in lung cancer, but that the case was not so strong that one should rule that any questions were out of order.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2012/05/04/climate-wars-reach-new-low/comment-page-4/#comment-108189

    We could return to this topic, if need be. What Dick said about Hansen deserves due diligence.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Here’s the end of the quote:

    I think that the precedent of establishing a complex statistical finding as dogma is a bad one. Among other things, it has led to the much, much weaker case against second hand smoke also being treated as dogma. Similarly, in the case of alleged dangerous anthropogenic warming, the status of dogma is being sought without any verifiable evidence.

    http://www.climateconversation.wordshine.co.nz/2011/05/lindzen-dismisses-hansens-defamations/

  • Nullius in Verba

    #68,

    You said:”Notice how that last clause (“considerable pleasure”) introduces a nice
    “distraction”, perhaps even for “political purposes.” We’ll soon see that.”

    This you say was an allusion to a weak correlation introduced for political purposes. If I follow your analogy, the claim that smokers like smoking is being compared to this weak correlation, and therefore a political distraction. But I don’t get the analogy, I don’t see why it would be a political distraction to say smokers enjoy smoking, and I don’t understand why you said what you said.

    I think your due diligence deserves due diligence, following your Meno. Are you trying to be a torpedo fish?

  • BBD

    To cut through the distractions. Lindzen:

    Similarly, in the case of alleged dangerous anthropogenic warming, the status of dogma is being sought without any verifiable evidence.

    This is not true.

  • kdk33

    Willard,

    I asked a simple question.  It was, I thought, a rather interesting question.  The answer to which challenges your quantification of cancer causes – or, at a minimum, provides some interesting nuance for the science minded.  Your failure to understand that is your problem – not an excuse for you to indulge in your peculiar “distractions”. 

    Moreover, BBD provides a perfect example of why search engines aren’t necessarily friendly – he is not wrong in detail.  he is simply wrong.

    Funnily, NiV understood the point and provided a meaningful answer.  An answer I digested and completed in #45. It would be a much more interesting conversation if you participated instead of being a “distraction”. The choice is yours.

    In the meantime: if you can’t take it.  don’t dish it out.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    kdk33,

    That Nullius’ answer satisfies you shows how “interesting” your interpretation of the question was.

    As far as I was concerned, you simply asked Meno’s question. This interpretation of the question leads to interesting debates, but perhaps not for reasons you suspect.

    I asked you many times what was science because you were talking as if you knew what it was. You have yet to answer. And to some other questions, like the one about a comparison between Donna Laframboise and Ross McKitrick’s reactions to the Heartland Institute smear campaign, you simply replied “whatever”. Besides, this:

    > your quantification of cancer [...]

    reiterates a presupposition I refuse: it’s just not my quantification.

    You’re the quant. Teach us.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Nullius,

    Read the quote again:

    I have always noted, having read the literature on the matter, that there was a reasonable case for the role of cigarette smoking in lung cancer, but that the case was not so strong that one should rule that any questions were out of order. I think that the precedent of establishing a complex statistical finding as dogma is a bad one. Among other things, it has led to the much, much weaker case against second hand smoke also being treated as dogma. Similarly, in the case of alleged dangerous anthropogenic warming, the status of dogma is being sought without any verifiable evidence.

    Look at the subjects of each sentences: it goes from smoking to CAGW. What’s in between?

    Dogma.

    Second-hand smoke.

    This is what a political distraction looks like.

    ***

    As for your “pleasure” remark, you have to admit that it’s quite indirectly related to cancer mortality. So we can only only hypothesize why you inject this into your remark.

    A possible association of ideas: personal rights, freedom, liberty, big government, bureaucrats. In a nutshell, black helicopters.

    These kinds of political distractions are double-edge swords.

  • BBD

    kdk33

    Moreover, BBD provides a perfect example of why search engines aren’t necessarily friendly ““ he is not wrong in detail.  he is simply wrong.

    Eh? Smoking is strongly correlated with lung cancer. True/False?

  • BBD

    Willard mentions black helicopters. I have to agree. Although NIV hides it better than kdk33.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #74,

    With regard to Lindzen, it wasn’t a distraction, it was the entire basis of the argument. The point is that Lindzen is objecting to dogma – beliefs that it becomes unacceptable to question. His agrees that based on the evidence smoking is connected to cancer, but in science it should never become unacceptable to question things like that, and the basis of Hansen’s attack is that it is. The accusation that Lindzen doubts the smoking/cancer connection, and indeed any suggestion that his adherence to the dogma is less than wholehearted is widely seen as damaging to his reputation. That’s why his enemies so persistently bring it up.

    The issue is exactly the same with dangerous global warming, and the attacks on Lindzen’s reputation for his scepticism. People are trying to make it a dogma, a belief that it is inconceivable that anyone should question, and evidence of corruption or conspiracy theorising or idiocy to doubt. It is a straightforward smear campaign. It seeks to connect climate sceptics – anyone who dares to disagree – to Holocaust deniers and the black helicopter brigade.

    It’s a pretty standard tactic in politics, which frankly I’m not that bothered about any more, but it has no place in science, and scientists should stand against its use there.

    kdk33′s point about politics is slightly different. The anti-smoking lobby wanted to ban smoking, but were unable to do so because of the Enlightenment liberalism designed to prevent people doing exactly that sort of thing. It contradict’s Mill’s Harm Principle. So to get round that, they dredged up ‘evidence’ that smoking harmed others to justify their assault on individual liberty. The weakness of their evidence and the means they use to promote it reveal their essentially political purpose – to bypass liberal safeguards. And of course, having set the precedent with smoking, they can now use the template to ban and regulate all sorts of other things.

    The conversation was not originally about mortality statistics, but about adaptation versus mitigation. Tom in #8 had made it a choice between persuading people to change their ways and treating the consequences. My point was that seeing the role of science as being to persuade rather than inform was where society had gone wrong, and it was up to the people themselves to weigh the clear benefits of fossil fuel use against the possibility of dangerous consequences. In analogy, the aim of science on smoking is not to persuade people to give up, but to give them accurate information with which to weigh the perceptible benefits of smoking with the risks. In such a decision, the benefits of smoking to smokers are clearly relevant to the point. Quibbling with the statistics was a distraction.

  • steven mosher

    kdk33
    “kdk33 Says:
    May 19th, 2012 at 11:51 am

    How does one know if the cancer was caused by smoking?

    We can start with some basics. One doesnt know. I’ll assume that you use the term in the way I do.
    Of course ’causes” are never observed. They are inferred from observations or posited to make sense of observations. One never knows that smoking causes cancer in the same way that one knows “2+2=4″ or “here is a hand”. However, one does have a rational warrented belief that smoking causes cancer. It is the best explanation of the evidence at hand and until one has a better explanation it is unwarranted to claim that smoking does not cause cancer or more generally it is unwarrented to claim that smoking is safe. it is trivially TRUE that we don’t know.
    The question is why do you think knowledge is even possible in the field of empirical matters?
    That is why do you think your question is even meaningful? Its not. Science doesnt produce knowledge it produces explanations which are always conditional always subject to revision and never true in an absolute sense of the word.
    Something else may cause cancer in smokers. Some combination of factors may be required. But the best explanation is that smoking causes cancer.
    When you have a better explanation that still wont be knowledge.

  • BBD

    NIV

    anyone who dares to disagree

    All they have to do is make a coherent, robust case.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #79,

    No, all they have to do is show that you haven’t.

  • BBD

    Well they’d best get on with it.

  • BBD

    You’re b*ggered. And smart enough to know it, which makes this so interesting.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Thank you for your #78, Moshpit.

    See you tomorrow, Nullius.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > kdk33, DFTT.

    Ahem.

  • kdk33

    Yes Mosher, Thank you for revealing that you too fail to understand my rather simple point.  I am not now, nor have I ever questioned that cigarette smoking causes cancer,  In fact, you will see that in my #31 I agree wholeheartedly with Fuller’s #30 (perhaps you failed to read carefully).  I am constantly amazed at how very little science, the “science” tribe actually understands.  To whit:My question was intended to challenge Willard’s quantification that more than 83% of cancer is caused by smoking (as I also explained in my #31 that folks apparently refuse to read)..  That seemed to me a rather fantastic attribution claim (and where have we seen these before).  I was also struck that he did not say ’statistics imply’ or ‘the data suggests’. No, Willard was quite certain that smoking causes more than 83%.  So I asked, how does one know if the cancer was caused by smoking.  I clarified in #31 “if a smoker gets lung cancer how do we know it was caused by smoking”.  It is, in fact, a rather interesting question, but requries a bit of a nuanced understanding.  Apparently some readers were overly challenged.  Anyway, non-smokers get lung cancer, so there must be causes other than cigarettes.  Most smokers don’t get lung cancer.  Therefore it must be possible for a smoker to get lung cancer that wasn’t caused by smoking.  Mosher at least seems to know the correct answer which is: we can’t know in any individual case we can only infer more generally from the statistics.BBD then chimes in that smoking caused cancer is different from non-smoking caused cancer.  Which is just silly.  I still don’t think he understands his error.  And his claim was rather easy to refute.Finally, NiV replies properly:  one cannot attribute individual cases to smoking – even if the patient smokes, the cause could be something else.  We can only infer using data that can actually be measured, like incidence rates.  Which he kindly supplies.Given NiV’s data and some assumptions about smoking in men and women I then calculate, using a simplified, but basically correct, methodology that the data implies that about 65% of cancers are actually caused by smoking (any reader is free to check my math).  Far less than Willards claim of more than 83% and also presented with correct caveat: that statistics suggest.Anyway, it was an interesting exchange.  The believers exaggerating data, making unwarranted attribution claims, and sometimes just making stuff up.  Knee jerk reaction that anyhone might quesiton the dogma…It was fun, and it was real.  I’m not sure it was real fun, though.. ps.  I have no idea what DFTT means.  I’m a republican. 

  • kdk33

    Yes Mosher, Thank you for revealing that you too fail to understand my rather simple point. 

    I am not now, nor have I ever questioned that cigarette smoking causes cancer,  In fact, you will see that in my #31 I agree wholeheartedly with Fuller’s #30 (perhaps you failed to read carefully). 

    I am constantly amazed at how very little science, the “science” tribe actually understands. 

    To whit: My question was intended to challenge Willard’s quantification that more than 83% of cancer is caused by smoking (as I also explained in my #31 that folks apparently refuse to read)..  That seemed to me a rather fantastic attribution claim (and where have we seen these before).  I was also struck that he did not say ’statistics imply’ or “˜the data suggests’. No, Willard was quite certain that smoking causes more than 83%. 

    So I asked, how does one know if the cancer was caused by smoking.  I clarified in #31 “if a smoker gets lung cancer how do we know it was caused by smoking”.  It is, in fact, a rather interesting question, but requries a bit of a nuanced understanding.  Apparently some readers were overly challenged. 

    Anyway, non-smokers get lung cancer, so there must be causes other than cigarettes.  Most smokers don’t get lung cancer.  Therefore it must be possible for a smoker to get lung cancer that wasn’t caused by smoking.  Mosher at least seems to know the correct answer which is: we can’t know in any individual case we can only infer more generally from the statistics.

    BBD then chimes in that smoking caused cancer is different from non-smoking caused cancer.  Which is just silly.  I still don’t think he understands his error.  And his claim was rather easy to refute.

    Finally, NiV replies properly:  one cannot attribute individual cases to smoking ““ even if the patient smokes, the cause could be something else.  We can only infer using data that can actually be measured, like incidence rates.  Which he kindly supplies.

    Given NiV’s data and some assumptions about smoking in men and women I then calculate, using a simplified, but basically correct, methodology that the data implies that about 65% of cancers are actually caused by smoking (any reader is free to check my math).  Far less than Willards claim of more than 83% and also presented with the correct basis: implied by the that statistics.

    Anyway, it was an interesting exchange.  The believers exaggerating data, making unwarranted attribution claims, and sometimes just making stuff up.  Knee jerk reaction that anyhone might quesiton the dogma”¦

    It was fun, and it was real.  I’m not sure it was real fun, though.. 

    ps.  I have no idea what DFTT means.  I’m a republican. 

  • Tom Scharf

    What are the relevant statistics with regard to linkage for second hand smoke causing lung cancer?

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Pretty much non-existent.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > Far less than Willards claim of more than 83% [...]

    For the third time, this is not my claim.

    No wonder kdk33 has problems with detection and attribution.

  • BBD

    kdk33 @ 85

    It’s amazing how much mileage ‘contrarians’ can get out of nothing. In summary, you misread willard and apparently didn’t read my comments from #46 onwards. And yet you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve ‘won’ a point. But what is your answer to the question at # 66? That’s the heart of the matter, isn’t it?

    ;-)

  • kdk33

    Thank you BBD.  Your #90 is an excellent closing to this thread.  The astute reader can now compare the evolution of your thinking on this thread with the evolution of alarmists thnking on other topics – for example, the hockey stick.

  • BBD

    Sorry, your # 91 makes exactly no sense. Also note that I explicitly made no claim to expertise on the smoking stuff – I just googled it, remember? So you can’t make argumentative capital out of this. Which is a small part of what I meant by contrarians making mileage out of nothing.

  • kdk33

    The title of the thread was “will science save us”.  My original comment was “can science be saved”.  I stick with that assessment.

    It doesn’t matter that Willards can’t support his “more than 83%”, nor does it matter that your claim about cancer types was wrong – because your on the “right” side of the issue. 

    It’s the right answer / wrong method argument.  Or, I’m only wrong in detail.  See, this kind of thinking words in politics.  It is not proper thinking for science. 

    It’s interesting how easy it was to illustrate.

    Carry on.

  • BBD

    kdk33

    can science be saved

    This reminds me of earlier remarks about ‘magazines’. It’s strangely unconvincing.

    Next, if I claimed any knowledge of the LC stuff, your sally might carry more weight. But as I don’t, it doesn’t. So that’s a headpiece filled with straw. Alas!  :-)

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Nullius,

    Thank you for comment #77.

    I am not sure we agree about what is or is not a distraction. Lindzen’s association between CAGW and second-hand smoke is his main argument. This association helps him hide the fact that objecting to dogma might very well be a strawman. Yes, but Climategate, of course, of course. If we can agree that the “dogma” argument is a political distraction, we can leave YesButClimategate aside for the moment.

    I am not sure if we can track the evolution of Lindzen’s belief states regarding the relationship between smoking and cancer. It certainly would be interesting to document. For instance, here is what Hansen said in his book (courtesy of grypo):

    I considered asking Lindzen if he still believed there was no connection between smoking and lung cancer. He had been a witness for tobacco companies decades earlier, questioning the reliability of statistical connections between smoking and health problems. But I decided that would be too confrontational. When I met him at a later conference, I did ask that question, and was surprised by his response: He began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data.

    Oof, I thought””if I had asked him about the relation between smoking and cancer during the Task Force meeting, his response might have been revealing, almost like Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth!” in A Few Good Men. Or maybe not. It is not likely to be that easy.

    So Lindzen was a witness for tobacco companies decades earlier. Do we have a written deposition of his testimonies?

    In any case, to try to damage Lindzen’s reputation to smear someone with untrue claims would be quite suboptimal. I suggest we use approved auditing and brokering techniques and use truthful claims instead. What would be a truthful claim regarding Lindzen?

    Here is one idea: Lindzen endorses the contrarian stance. I’m sure we can agree that Lindzen walks and quacks like a contrarian. And to prove this, we certainly could recall his testimonies on behalf of the tobacco industry.

    If you agree with this, we can then dismiss the ad hominem at the end of your first paragraph:

    [A]ny suggestion that his adherence to the dogma is less than wholehearted is widely seen as damaging to his reputation. That’s why his enemies so persistently bring it up.

    I agree that this is a standard tactic in politics. And his point is essentially a political point. I’m quite confident that we can claim that as a very mundane observation. Lindzen is a contrarian. There is no smearing there. This is the reputation he has because, well, because he walks and quacks like one. We just see how he uses the “dogma” card, which I would be tempted to call the Curry gambit.

    Your connection between AGW and dogma and your historical narrative speak by themselves. But I will note that the stringency of the statistical testing you are promoting strakly contrast with these overinterpretations.

    Quibbling about statistics is oftentimes a distraction. Sometimes, it’s even a political one.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Oops. Here’s the Hansen quote:

    I considered asking Lindzen if he still believed there was no connection between smoking and lung cancer. He had been a witness for tobacco companies decades earlier, questioning the reliability of statistical connections between smoking and health problems. But I decided that would be too confrontational. When I met him at a later conference, I did ask that question, and was surprised by his response: He began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data.

    Oof, I thought””if I had asked him about the relation between smoking and cancer during the Task Force meeting, his response might have been revealing, almost like Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth!” in A Few Good Men. Or maybe not. It is not likely to be that easy.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > It doesn’t matter that Willards can’t support his “more than 83%” [...]

    For the fourth time, this is not my “more than 83%”.

    This is the fourth times now he tries to insinuate commitments I never held and don’t need to hold.

    Like I said at the first time, I simply “scratched an itch”. I search and found a number. That’s about it.

    I’m not the quant here, kdk33 is, and he says 65%. I don’t mind much, since he’s free to say whatever he cares to say. It would be interesting to know if he tried to delve into the 83%, though.

    What we should notice, though, was the absence of any statistics related to lung cancer in this thread.

    This kind of detail is quite revealing to me.

    That we’re again into statistical quibbling might also be revealing.

  • kdk33

    What we should notice, though, was the absence of any statistics related to lung cancer in this thread.

    This wins. Congratulations!

  • BBD

    It’s like an old-fashioned joke. Two men get into a taxi…

    This is Hansen, immediately before the quote above:

    After the second Task Force meeting, I shared a taxi with Richard Lindzen. We had always been cordial with each other, but not much was said during this ride. I was feeling down, realizing that my optimism at the end of the first meeting had been a mistake. A draw in a global warming “debate” is a loss, because policy inaction is the aim of those who dispute global warming. As we pulled up alongside a Chrysler PT Cruiser, I broke the silence by commenting that it seemed to be an interesting throwback. He said that it was cute, but did not have enough trunk space.

    (Storms of my grandchildren, p15)

  • kdk33

    …and I’m out for the week.  So have fun!  And the last word, if you’d like.

  • BBD

    kdk33

    We’re all agreed that smoking is strongly correlated with lung cancer. Let’s talk about the best way to caramelise onions.

  • BBD

    We crossed!

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    FWIW, having looked through the Tobacco Legacy Archives a while ago on this matter, Eli doesn’t think that Lindzen ever testified on tobacco.  What he did do is give a quote to Newsweek that was repeated endlessly.Tobacco related deaths are a significant contributor to overall mortality ~20+% .  If you want data on tobacco mortality than oxford is your destination.  Among other things for the US the tables show that out of 88K deaths from lung cancer in the US in 2007, 79 K of them were from smoking, e.g. 89%.  You can do the digging for world wide or whatever you want.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #95,

    I am sure that we don’t agree about what is or is not a distraction – reading the same words we see different arguments. It’s a worldview thing, I’m sure. And since exposure to different worldviews is one of the reasons I do this, I’m interested.

    Lindzen had been asked about the claims that he denies the connection between smoking and lung cancer. He first explains that the specific accusations are untrue, but then goes on to how his actual opinions could have been ‘creatively misinterpreted’ to give that impression – and this is that as a scientist he has said in the past that he is opposed to the dogma that the political anti-smoking lobby has built up on smoking.

    Dogmatists of course find this stance unacceptable – to suggest that it is legitimate to even question the smoking/cancer link, whether or not you even know anything about the subject, puts you in “black helicopter” territory, as you so charmingly put it.

    And this is of course why Hansen did it. He knows that linking anyone to opponents of the smoking dogma instantly discredits the subject. The same goes for the constant attempts to link climate scepticism with Holocaust denial, Creationism, and tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists. Dogma is an essential tool in political activism.

    The anti-smoking activists have taken genuine scientific evidence for a link between smoking and cancer and turned it into dogma, and then leveraged this into a similar dogma on passive smoking, for which there is no such evidence. It’s very clever. If anyone objects to the latter, they present it as if they had objected to the former, and so destroy their opponent’s reputation.

    Lindzen is saying that the exact same technique is used in the debate on dangerous AGW. Genuine scientific evidence for AGW first becomes dogma, and then the dogma is extended to dangerous AGW, and thereby anyone who doubts that the world will be destroyed by a Biblical flood and we’re all going to die or become cannibals hunted across dried up lake beds by vampire moths (or whatever) can be presented as a physics ignoramus who denies that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation. That’s the power of dogma.

    For an ethical scientist, it’s one of those “have you stopped beating your wife?” questions. Do you affirm the dogma and so keep your reputation intact? Or do you risk becoming a Cassandra who always tells the truth but is never believed?

    That was Hansen’s challenge at the conference. And of course Hansen, who is a firm believer in following dogma, was (genuinely I think) surprised that anyone would pick the second option. Hansen, too, noted the close analogy with Lindzen’s attitude on climate data.

    If opposing dogma on principle is what you call the ‘contrarian stance’, then I agree that Lindzen is one. (And so am I.) Where I suspect we differ is that you would take it for granted that the dogma is the scientific position (and presumably therefore not a dogma), and that you would thus interpret opposing dogma as always opposing the generally accepted position unconditionally, which is another definition of ‘contrarianism’. Under such an interpretation it would be untrue, but not because of the falsity of any claims about Lindzen, but because of the falsity of beliefs about the dogma. In the context within which you operate, it’s a smear, but only because that’s how dogma works.

    Of course, I’m going to find it difficult to explain it to you because from your point of view the dogma is not a dogma. It’s only unacceptable to question it because it’s unquestionably true.

    It’s an interesting point of epistemological terminology. A belief system is not a belief system when seen from the inside – it’s simple truth. Such reflection is a tricky mental manoeuvre.

  • Keith Kloor

     NiV (104)

    There is something to what you say here. However, both sides prefer a narrowing of the debate, for political and rhetorical purposes. 

    And that’s why the climate debate is a battle of the extremes. One side yells hoax and says beware of one–world fascistic/socialist government. The other side yells fire! fire! (at extreme weather events and disasters) and says to beware of a runaway climate that will end civilization.

    These representative camps feed off each other. They gleefully exploit each other’s missteps. And they set the tone and terms of the debate. That’s where this is at.

    The only way out is for people not at the extremes (in both camps) to take back the debate. Speak out. Don’t be tribal. 

     

  • BBD

    Or you could just take the rational view that smoking causes lung cancer, CO2 causes warming and Lindzen is an isolated contrarian.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    But then, BBD, that’s because of your dogmatic worldview.

    ***

    Eli,

    My search results are about the same, as reported on a previous thread in the same Keith-Channel. But I just found **Madlands**, by Anna Rose, and there is a nice interview with Dick. My favorite quote:

    Cautiously and slowly, I start to walk in [Dick's house] anyway. But then I halt. Stale cigarette smokes hit me like a wave. The stench is so overpowering that I start coughing and have to retreat back to the front steps. I’d read the profiles of Lindzen that mentioned is chain-smoking, of course, but I hadn’t imagined this challenge when preparing for a meeting.

    Alas, the stench has not been quantified. So we don’t know how Anna Rose knows that. So we just can’t be sure. And it’s obvious that she’s certainly being alarmist. She’s only smearing Lindzen with this description. Must be her worldview.

    ***

    Keith,

    I believe your last comment could become your About page.

    ***

    Nullius,

    A deadline to meet here, and I’ve extended it long enough. If all goes well, wee you tomorrow.

  • ul

    @Keithyou are talking about the blogworld here. In (mainstream)media, there is no hoax. There is just “Fire ! Run for your lifes”. That´s it. At least here in Germany. And I have never seen a debate either. Once you ask, your a oil paid evil guy. That´s it. Unfortunately. keep up the good work,thanks, Ul

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Don’t think you want to go there with passive smoke either.  It’s about like the previous stuff here about lung cancer and smoking.As to dogma, what dogma about smoking.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Trying to stand in between the two extremes can feel like standing in no man’s land between the trenches.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    BBD, I can (and do) believe all of your statements in #106. I also think that passive smoking does not cause cancer, we don’t know what atmospheric sensitivity to a doubling of concentrations of CO2 is, and that Dick Lindzen is right about dogma. And I think those three statements are a) rational and b) not in any conflict with your three statements.

  • Tom C

    Well, now that we have beaten the smoking topic into the ground, I’d like to address the topic of the post, namely “Will science save us”.  My question is: what does it mean to be “saved”?  I assume we are not referring to religious salvation.  What are we trying to be saved from?  Problems, various and sundry?  Unhappiness? accidents? murders?  How would we know when and if we had been saved?  No matter how purely science is practiced humanity will always be subject to some degree of suffering.  Does anyone disagree?

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Tom C, at the risk of delaying an answer to your very legitimate question I’d like to ask one of my own: Will we save science?

  • Nullius in Verba

    #105,

    Keith,

    I agree with what you say. The struggle to win the debate gets in the way of holding the debate. Believers need to take questions more seriously, and use sceptics to improve the science. Sceptics generally need to study the detailed science more, and understand the reasons for belief better before leaping to superficial conclusions. And believers need to help them do that. We all have our blind spots, sceptics and believers both. And while I think it’s ok to take sides, I agree that tribalism – where taking sides overrides respect for the truth – is a problem. Part of that is the nastiness – people are less likely to admit error if they know they’re going to get a kicking as a result. Respectful disagreement helps.

    #112,

    My second to last paragraph in #21 was an attempt to address that. What do you think?

    #113,

    Eventually, yes. This sort of thing has happened before, and eventually the science corrects itself. But it can be slow. As Max Planck said: “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

  • BBD

    Eventually, yes. This sort of thing has happened before, and eventually the science corrects itself.

    What ‘sort of thing’ would that be, I wonder?

    I’m sick, sick to death, of this endless, seeping insinuation that climate science is broken, ‘dogma’, fraud, conspiracy etc. It’s complete and utter bollocks. All of it.

    Contrarians one and all: you have *nothing*. All the evidence contradicts claims such as Lindzen’s for a low sensitivity. It’s not the sun. It’s not caramelised onions floating in the stratosphere. It’s CO2. ECS is most likely just under 3C, TCR is most likely just under 2C, this is plenty bad enough news and sane people the world over now accept that. This is reality as perceived by *realists*. As opposed to dogmatic contrarians.

    All ‘sceptical’ arguments have been show to be flawed. No coherent, robust sceptical scientific case has ever emerged. Nothing. All we get, in buckets, is smear, innuendo, misrepresentation and downright lies. What’s the difference between HI’s ‘murderers, tyrants and madmen’ and  NIV’s ‘this sort of thing has happened before’ and ‘science is dogma’? Presentation. That’s what.

    Respectful debate my arse. ‘Sceptics’ spend their days insinuating falsehoods about science and scientists on the most serious matter imaginable. See NIV above, repeatedly. Pretending to be reasonable all the while. ‘Use sceptics to improve the science’. Oh FFS spare us.

    And doubtless someone will complain that I’m being rude. As opposed to justifiably furious. Save your breath. ‘Sceptics’ deserve everything they get and more besides. The endless, self-serving bleating about being bullied by nasty tribal alarmists is risible.

    Oh, and one more thing. The reason that smoking in public places is being curtailed is because seeing it everywhere normalises the behaviour for children. Sane people don’t want children to start smoking. It’s really that f*cking simple.

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Ok, you went there.  The best indication of the dangers of passive smoking and when it was known and in particular, when it was known to the tobacco companies is Philip Morris toxicological experiments with fresh sidestream smoke:  More toxic than mainstream smoke by Schick and Glantz (the Acrobat file is open and available) One experiment indicated that sidestream condensate is more tumourigenic than mainstream condensate,78 and another that, when injected, sidestream condensate induces more cell proliferation in the bone marrow.79 Exposure to sidestream smoke results in higher concentrations of carboxyhaemoglobin, nicotine, and cotinine in blood of research animals than exposure to equal quantities of mainstream smoke.80 However, there are no inhalation experiments in the open literature comparing the effects of mainstream smoke to sidestream smoke or sidestream smoke constituents that are comparable to the work Philip Morris did at INBIFO from 1981 to 1989.alsoPhilip Morris did an extensive series of studies of the toxicity of sidestream cigarette smoke (sidestream smoke comprises approximately 85% of SHS) at the laboratory it owned in Germany during the 1980s. Their studies of freshly generated sidestream smoke show that it is approximately four times more toxic per gram total particulate matter (TPM) than mainstream smoke by inhalation. In 21 day exposures, fresh sidestream smoke can cause damage to the epithelium lining the respiratory tract at doses as low as 2 mg/l TPM and this damage increases with longer exposures. Sidestream tar also causes two to six times more tumours per gram, when painted on the skin of mice. None of the studies comparing sidestream and mainstream smoke were ever published.More toxic, more tumourgenic but some still claim that it tastes great

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Oh well the advantages of moderation when the WYSINWYG editor bites.  Pls kill the first oneOk, you went there.  An excellent indicator of the dangers of passive smoking and when it was known and in particular, when it was known to
    the tobacco companies is Philip Morris toxicological experiments with fresh sidestream smoke:  More toxic than mainstream smoke by Schick and Glantz (the Acrobat file is open and available) One experiment indicated that sidestream condensate is more tumourigenic
    than mainstream condensate,78 and another that, when injected, sidestream condensate induces more cell proliferation in the bone marrow.79 Exposure to sidestream smoke results in higher concentrations of carboxyhaemoglobin, nicotine, and cotinine in blood of research animals than exposure to equal quantities of mainstream smoke.80 However, there are no inhalation experiments in the open literature comparing the effects of mainstream smoke to sidestream smoke or sidestream smoke constituents that are comparable to the work Philip Morris did at INBIFO from 1981 to 1989.

    also
    Philip Morris did an extensive series of studies of the toxicity of sidestream cigarette smoke (sidestream smoke comprises approximately 85% of SHS) at the laboratory it owned in Germany during the 1980s. Their studies of freshly generated sidestream smoke show that it is approximately four times more toxic per gram total particulate matter (TPM) than mainstream smoke by inhalation. In 21 day exposures, fresh sidestream smoke can
    cause damage to the epithelium lining the respiratory tract at doses as low as 2 mg/l TPM and this damage increases with longer exposures.
    Sidestream tar also causes two to six times more tumours per gram, when painted on the skin of mice. None of the studies comparing sidestream and mainstream smoke were ever published.

    More toxic, more tumourgenic but some still claim that it tastes greatHope this holds

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Oh well the advantages of moderation when the WYSINWYG editor bites.  Pls kill the first and second one
    Ok, you went there.  An excellent indicator of the dangers of passive smoking and when it was known and in particular, when it was known to the tobacco companies is Philip Morris toxicological experiments with fresh sidestream smoke:  More toxic than mainstream smoke by Schick and Glantz (the Acrobat file is open and available)

    ———————

    One experiment indicated that sidestream condensate is more tumourigenic than mainstream condensate,78 and another that, when injected, sidestream condensate induces more cell proliferation in the bone marrow.79 Exposure to sidestream smoke results in higher concentrations of carboxyhaemoglobin, nicotine, and cotinine in blood of research animals than exposure to equal quantities of mainstream smoke.80 However, there are no inhalation experiments in the open literature comparing the effects of mainstream smoke to sidestream smoke or sidestream smoke constituents that are comparable to the work Philip Morris did at INBIFO from 1981 to 1989.

    also
    Philip Morris did an extensive series of studies of the toxicity of sidestream cigarette smoke (sidestream smoke comprises approximately 85% of SHS) at the laboratory it owned in Germany during the 1980s. Their studies of freshly generated sidestream smoke show that it is approximately four times more toxic per gram total particulate matter (TPM) than mainstream smoke by inhalation. In 21 day exposures, fresh sidestream smoke can cause damage to the epithelium lining the respiratory tract at doses as low as 2 mg/l TPM and this damage increases with longer exposures. Sidestream tar also causes two to six times more tumours per gram, when painted on the skin of mice. None of the studies comparing sidestream and mainstream smoke were ever published.

    ————————–

    More toxic, more tumourgenic but some still claim that it tastes great

  • Matt B

    @ 116 Eli – I’m glad you went there! By citing the Schick-Glanz report in support of the dangers of second hand smoke you clearly endorse the idea of auditors (Schick & Glanz) having access to raw data from researchers  and by using that data, making a solid case for different conclusions than the original investigators. Bravo! 

  • BBD

    Eli Rabett

    If you type your comment, then switch to html view with the blue < > button and hit Enter twice after each </p> tag you can force paragraph breaks.

    The editor here has been broken for so long I suspect it is going to stay that way.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Your #115 was your best comment to date, BBD:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/23479194400

    An Ed Begley Jr. moment.

    Simply recalling that Nullius’ begs his point (“this sort of thing”) by injecting it into another one, this other one being (almost) true by definition, science being the self-correcting process par excellence might be more correct, but it has no tangible effect.

    Incidentally, The Benshi said that these kinds of comment were feared by Moranean gish gallopers.

    The only problem is that it will used to more shirt ripping.

    A comment for a comment, a post for a post, a shirt for a shirt.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    I forgot: please don’t do this in every comment, BBD. There’s only one Groundskeeper Willie.

  • BBD

    willard

    I wasn’t planning to, have no fear.

    But fame at last! On NEA for the right reasons! Mrs BBD will be so proud.

  • harrywr2

    #118,Still some say it ‘tastes’ great.That’s because there is substantial genetic variation in nicotine metabolism and receptors within the human genome.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22046326

    But what the heck…there has always been at least one group of genetically similar individuals that declares itself superior and is quite happy to relegate those with a different genetic makeup to an inferior or even ‘sub human’ status….and use ‘science’ as the justification

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    BBD, healthy science doesn’t accuse Richard Lindzen of saying smoking doesn’t cause cancer when he does not. Healthy science doesn’t bury the largest study on effects of passive smoking and turn to torturing the data.

    The state of science is not healthy. False research findings, appeals to consensus as authority, etc., etc. 

    The fact that this is doubly true for climate science is sad. But it is true. Healthy science doesn’t excuse or even praise Peter Gleick. Healthy science doesn’t publish Anderegg, Prall et al in PNAS. Healthy science neither wants nor needs pseudonymous and anonymous defenders, or self-appointed defenders in Superman suits.

    As for buckets of smears and outright lies, I’ve been the victim of enough of that to know that the climate consensus was first and proudest to move in the dirty politics direction.

    You refuse to learn the lesson even when drawn from outside the field. Of course sane people don’t want their children to smoke. Of course passive smoke is an irritant. But burying legitimate research that shows no link to cancer from passive smoking and trumpeting twisted data to suggest a potential link is evidence of the unhealthy state of science.

    When Richard Lindzen points that out he is doing a service to science. When science tries then to discredit him by falsely saying he asserts no link between active smoking and cancer it is evidence of unhealthy science.

    Very much like what is shown by the practice of labeling people deniers if they accept climate science but question sensitivity.

  • BBD

    The state of science is not healthy.

    The fact that this is doubly true for climate science is sad. But it is true.

    Climate science is under assault. It is the victim engaging in self-defence, not as you miscast it, the perpetrator.

    More of the same tripe. Face the facts. Face the scientific best estimate of ECS/TCR. Stop being a denier. 

    When Richard Lindzen points that out he is doing a service to science.

    Lindzen is doing no such thing. Face the facts. Stop being a denier.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    What do you assert that I am denying and why would you class me with people who denied the Holocaust occurred? Please be specific on both counts.

  • BBD

    Don’t get huffy Tom. You’ve had more than enough information shown to you about CS and the most likely value for ECS etc. Your refusal to accept same is denial. Face the facts.

  • BBD

    Respond on Lindzen’s recent disgraceful behaviour in the UK

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Sure Matt and Eli is waiting for Roy Spencer to release the software for his TLS series.  Harry, Eli once heard that the reason it was hard to find animal models for smoking was that no one could find one that could be addicted to nicotene.  However, as bad as the stuff is, it is not the primary mutagen and problem causer in tobacco smoke, it is just the addictive part that keeps you sucking

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Why do you think I would respond to someone who insults me? Bugger off. 

  • RickA

    #128:BBD doesn’t understand that calling someone a denier is name calling.Apparently if you disagree with BBD’s numberon CS or ECS, you are not merely disagreeing, but if you don’t accept his version of what he thinks this number will turn out to be (we don’t know it yet), you are in denial.What a joke.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    RickA, BBD understands.

  • Bobito

    @BDDI’m beginning to think you are on Heartland Institute’s payroll.  I can think of no more effective method to solidify a “denier’s”  position than having you actively posting on blogs…

  • BBD

    Denial is denial. It’s refusing to accept the evidence. As Tom has been doing over the matter of ECS.

    How do we square known paleoclimate variability with an insensitive climate system under only minor changes in forcing Tom?

    Eh?

    See the problem, other readers?

    It’s hilarious the way you lot react to having your denial pointed out to you. But then it goes with the territory, doesn’t it?

  • BBD

    RickA

    For the nth time (NB other readers) its not *my* value or *my* version. It is the best scientific estimate. The most likely value. We *do* know. But you are denying the knowledge.

    You aren’t arguing with me – I’m just pointing out the denial where it exists. You are arguing with the entire field of climatology on this. I’m also pointing out how ridiculous it makes you look. Face the facts. 

    What makes you think you deserve so much tolerance and intellectual respect anyway? I’m damned if I can see any reason for it.

  • Jarmo

    About Peter Gleick:

    The Guardian claims that Gleick has been cleared of forgery. By whom? The story does not say.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/may/21/peter-gleick-cleared-heartland

  • Sashka

    @104

    Presumably, one should be able to go back and re-analyse himself as to why (and to what extent) what one believes to be true is actually supported by evidence. And to understand what actually constitutes evidence.
    Presumably one should understand that majority vote by multiple National Academies doesn’t amount to a scientific argument.
    Presumably your point in 80 should be trivial and not elicit uncontrollable anger.

    But in climate debate none of this works. What’s so special about climate debate?

  • Nullius in Verba

    #115,

    Marvellous BBD! I’ve been wondering how long you’d be able to stick to the civilised approach!

    Yes, it’s totally unfair of me to use a reasonable tone, and quite right that everyone should accept that your opinion on the matter is infallibly correct, without question. If only the debate could be restricted to people who agree with you, we’d all get along much better. It just completely spoils the debate to have people disagreeing with one another, doesn’t it?

    There are, of course, people on the other side who are just as certain that the science is corrupt, and just as furious at the people who support it, and just as concerned at the seriously dangerous potential consequences for the world of going down this road. It’s why Dr Mann has bodyguards. But you won’t make an inch of progress by shouting at each other, each demanding the other shuts up and backs down. That just hardens and polarises attitudes.

    Your only chance of making progress, and bear in mind that I don’t care if you don’t take it, is to take the concerns of the people who disagree with you seriously. You’ve got to stop giving them a stick to beat you with by constantly and uncritically defending what is obviously bad science. In fact, if you really take the threat of planetary climate doom seriously, you should be even more furious than the sceptics over sloppy work in this area. Every scrap of data and line of code should be checked and triple checked, every anomaly chased down, every uncertainty documented and quantified. It’s the most important piece of science in the world. It ought to be of the highest quality, and it ought to be you guys demanding that it be so.

    Keith here, and many others, are trying to depolarise the debate and open up lines of communication, so we can sort this out. You are standing in the way, with this insistence that nobody who doesn’t agree can get a word in without being constantly harassed and insulted and shouted at, and their every comment contradicted because it is intolerable to you that anyone should hold a different opinion and get away with it. You’re the guy at the last ditch peace talks who won’t let anyone from the other side into the room.

    I honestly don’t know if Keith’s approach in #105 can work. I think it’s a worthy effort, though. And while it wouldn’t particularly concern me if it doesn’t work out, I’m willing to play along on the principle that I might be wrong, and it’s only by persuading your side that it’s worth taking the time to satisfy our side on things like software quality and openness that we’ll ever find out.

    I can play the game either way. Is this important to you?

  • Nullius in Verba

    #138,

    “Presumably one should understand that majority vote by multiple National Academies doesn’t amount to a scientific argument.”

    Do they actually have all their members vote on it, do you think?

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Generation of policy statements by the NAS and learned societies is governed by formal procedures.  If you really care what they are, go ask otherwise you risk looking foolish by assuming things which are not true.  That has already happened several times here.

  • Sashka

    @140

    I know they are not but it won’t make any difference for them. I know it’s because they know the TRUTH so all the unconforming arguments are ignored. I’m really curious how they got themselves into this state.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #141,

    OK, I’ll bite. What percentage of NAS members voted ‘yes’ on the statement? Genuinely curious.

  • BBD

    NIV

    Your only chance of making progress, and bear in mind that I don’t care if you don’t take it, is to take the concerns of the people who disagree
    with you seriously. You’ve got to stop giving them a stick to beat you with by constantly and uncritically defending what is
    obviously bad science.

    Typical distortion from a man who would misrepresent his own grandmother.

    What obviously bad science do I ‘constantly and uncritically defend’?

    The problem here is you total inability to play a straight game. It’s sickening to behold.

    Let’s be clear about something NIV. I don’t care about you. I just care about the people you so enthusiastically, continuously and artfully seek to deceive. I just want to help them see you for what you really are.

    Hence # 115.

  • BBD

    Let me say it again, NIV: you have *nothing*. There is no sceptical position. There is no debate in the sense that sceptics claim. It’s all rubbish peddled by self-aggrandising buffoons, retired physics teachers who don’t quite get it, superannuated Thatcherites and the like. People whose time has passed.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #144,

    “The IPCC uncertainty guidance provides a good starting point for characterizing uncertainty in the assessment reports. However, the guidance was not consistently followed in the fourth assessment, leading to unnecessary errors. For example, authors reported high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence, such as the widely-quoted statement that agricultural yields in Africa might decline by up to 50 percent by 2020. Moreover, the guidance was often applied to statements that are so vague they cannot be falsified. In these cases the impression was often left, quite incorrectly, that a substantive finding was being presented.”

    “The IPCC uncertainty guidance urges authors to provide a traceable account of how authors determined what ratings to use to describe the level of scientific understanding (Table 3.1) and the likelihood that a particular outcome will occur (Table 3.3). However, it is unclear exactly whose judgments are reflected in the ratings that appear in the Fourth Assessment Report or how the judgments were determined. How, exactly, a consensus was reached regarding subjective probability distributions needs to be documented. The uncertainty guidance for the Third Assessment Report required authors to indicate the basis for assigning a probability to an outcome or event (Moss and Schneider, 2000), and this requirement is consistent with the guidance for the Fourth Assessment Report.”

    “The Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers in the Fourth Assessment Report contains many vague statements of “high confidence” that are not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective, or are difficult to refute. The Committee believes that it is not appropriate to assign probabilities to such statements. There is, moreover, a danger that the confidence scale may be misinterpreted as indicating a statistical level of confidence in an outcome. Subjective probabilities may be assigned legitimately to well-defined outcomes using the likelihood scale. The presentation of results in the Fifth Assessment Report would be strengthened by assigning subjective probabilities only to well-defined conclusions.”

    “IPCC’s guidance for addressing uncertainties in the Fourth Assessment Report urge authors to consider the amount of evidence and level of agreement about all conclusions and to apply subjective probabilities of confidence to conclusions when there was “high agreement, much evidence.” However, such guidance was not always followed, as exemplified by the many statements in the Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers that are assigned high confidence, but are based on little evidence. Moreover, the apparent need to include statements of “high confidence” (i.e., an 8 out of 10 chance of being correct) in the Summary for Policy Makers led authors to make many vaguely defined statements that are difficult to refute, making them therefore of “high confidence.” Such statements have little value.”

  • BBD

    This is all about WGII, not WG1. Waffle and obfuscation which does not answer my question. Try again:

    What obviously bad science do I “˜constantly and uncritically defend’?

    Thats obviously bad science that I constantly and uncritically defend.

    Try harder. You made the statement. Let’s see you back it up. Hopefully people are watching.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #147,

    “This is all about WGII, not WG1.”

    Ah. The usual defence.

    Why aren’t you angry that the IPCC are coming out with junk science?

  • BBD

    The IPCC is a summary. WG1 is the important bit.

    Now, please immediately provide examples of the obviously bad *science* that I constantly and uncritically defend.

  • BBD

    obviously bad

  • BBD

    *science*

  • BBD

    Silence. Oh my surprise is total.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Sigh.

    WGII is supposed to be science. It’s the science that talks about impact, and says not only is this happening, but it’s dangerous and worth doing something about.

    Now, if you’re telling me that you reject the IPCC’s science claiming that global warming is dangerous, then maybe I’ll take your point and move on to something else. You defending Harry’s ‘read me’ should be good for a laugh. That’s in WGI. But of course if we admit there’s no science behind the IPCC’s claim that global warming is at all dangerous, we’re already halfway there.

    I know how this will go. Every obvious and unarguable flaw I point out, you’ll just shift the subject to something else. The flaws in WGII “don’t matter” because there’s some OK stuff in WGI. The flaws in MBH98 “don’t matter” because you’ve still got Yamal, and upside-down Tiljander. The flaws in the modelling of precipitation or local climate or El Nino or clouds “don’t matter” because the global temperature series is “close enough”. Whichever cup I point to, the ball is always under some other cup.

    Is it acceptable to you for the IPCC to have “reported high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence”? Yes or no?

  • RickA

    #136 BBD:Because I am more polite than you.

  • BobN

    BBD – Why is WG1 the  important bit.  Isn’t it the impacts and potential impacts that are important.  If everyone predicted that things would be more amenable in a 2-3 deg warmer world, would we even be spending time talking about it?  Now clearly, seal levels will rise with global warming and the average ocean pH will become slightly less basic due to additional uptake of CO2.  Models suggest, but don’t prove, there could be an acceleration of the hydrologic cycle, but beyond that, most of the projected dire consequences are informed speculation.  Yes, CO2 is a GHG, yes, the current best estimate of climate sensitivity is a little under 3 degC (“best estimate” it the key word here) but it is the impacts that will be the most important thing.

  • BBD

    But of course if we admit there’s no science behind the IPCC’s claim that global warming is at all dangerous, we’re already halfway there.

    No, NIV, you aren’t going to get away with this. Unless you have something concrete to say about ECS and TCR, then you have *nothing* to say.

    You have yet again dodged the question about *science* as I knew you would. Instead, you are reduced to ‘harry read me’ and an utterly ridiculous attempt to pretend that AGW isn’t going to be a problem ‘there no science behind the IPCC’s claim that global warming is at all dangerous’. This is a twofer: a lie *and* denial.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Are you telling me that you reject the IPCC’s science claiming that global warming is dangerous?

    Is it acceptable to you for the IPCC to have “reported high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence”? Yes or no?

  • BBD

    BobN

    There is a growing list of topics I will no longer argue about. The dangerous consequences of a 2C – 3C increase in global *average* temperature is one of them. Do please bear NH polar amplification in mind as well as the potential non-linear response from the WAIS and the consequent burst of SLR.

    WRT the hydrological cycle you might find this interesting. You’ve read Hansen’s latest, I know. If you want to pretend that it’s all fine, then go ahead. I’m not going to bother arguing the toss with you.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #158,

    Are you telling me that you reject the IPCC’s science claiming that global warming is dangerous?

    Is it acceptable to you for the IPCC to have “reported high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence”? Yes or no?

  • BBD

    In desperation, NIV starts to gibber:

    Are you telling me that you reject the IPCC’s science claiming that global warming is dangerous?

    Er no. Nothing even remotely like that.

    Climate science is not the IPCC. You need to get your head around this, right now. So whether its high confidence in bits of WGII was misplaced or not is of no relevance to your original statement. It’s just a distraction tactic.

    Give me a list of obviously bad *science* that I constantly and uncritically defend. Now.

  • BBD

    Or you can admit that there is no obviously bad *science* that I constantly and uncritically defend. You can admit that you were making things up, have your cocoa and to bed.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Give me a list of obviously bad *science* that I constantly and uncritically defend. Now.”

    Oooooh!

    Well, the most obvious example is this business of ECS being 3 C. But we did that at length recently – that was the one where it became apparent you evidently didn’t know the difference between probability density and probability – and it would be boring to do it again.

    So. You don’t reject the IPCC’s science in WGII claiming global warming is dangerous. So you presumably find it acceptable for the IPCC to have “reported high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence”? That’s perfectly fine with you, yes?

  • RickA

    BBD:You are so certain about the estimates of ECS and TCR.   Yet the models are consistently wrong when compared to actual data, and overshoot the projected warming.  I will wait until we hit 560 ppm of CO2 and then we can actually measure TCR!  No more estimates, actual hard data.   I bet it will be much lower than 3C – more like 1.5C or 1.3C.  All we have to do is wait and see.

  • BBD

    NIV

    So the generally accepted best estimate for ECS is obviously bad *science* is it? Of course it isn’t. That’s you twisting things in your special little way again. As you do continuously.

    But since you have nothing, you are reduced to this kind of grubby nonsense instead.

  • BBD

    So, you have once again failed to answer the question. Try again:

    Give me a list of obviously bad *science* that I constantly and uncritically defend. Now.

  • BBD

    So you presumably find it acceptable for the IPCC to have “reported
    high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence”?
    That’s perfectly fine with you, yes?
    A few errors in a 3000 word report do not invalidate it. Dump the tired old, denialist anti-IPCC distraction tactic. You need to answer a question.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #164,

    Oh, this is fun!

    “Section 9.6. Unfortunately, there are still many problems with your discussion of climate sensitivity. Of course, this is substantially due to problems in the underlying literature, but nevertheless it will be a shame if you cannot provide a better assessment of the state of play.”

    “There are some serious problems in the way that the so-called “observationally constrained estimates” of climate sensitivity have been presented and interpreted in the literature. It seems likely that those on the outside of this field will have been misled into assigning more credibility to this work than it deserves. It is clear that the standard ansatz for generating the so-called “observationally constrained estimates of climate sensitivity” is fundamentally flawed in a way as to automatically assign unrealistically high probability to extremely high sensitivities. There really is no support for such a belief to be rationally held.”

    “The use of a highly restricted subset of available data must result in exaggerated uncertainties, which in the current context implies an unrealistic probability assigned to high sensitivities. Obviously our recent GRL paper (Annan and Hargreaves, GRL 2006) addresses this point in a rather simplistic manner – the manuscript was written in little more than a weekend after our shock at reading the first draft of the AR4 – but the point still appears incontestable. The vague waffle about how the assumptions of different studies may not be compatible hardly justifies completely discarding huge reams of data. Justifying this would require the argument (which is nowhere made  in the literature, let alone credibly so)  that the evidence which was not considered in the particular study is quite literally worthless.  The Forster and Gregory paper (which we were unaware of at the time of writing Annan and Hargreaves 2006) is in our view particularly valuable as it does not rely on any numerical modelling at all, and so strongly enhances the growing mountain of evidence in favour of a mid-range climate sensitivity.”

    That was the Forster and Gregory paper of course where the IPCC altered the results without justification, by changing the assumption about priors. Conveniently, that resulted in more weight on higher sensitivities. Inconveniently, it was inconsistent with the methodology by which it had been derived. But never mind that. What do you think about the quote above?And since you haven’t disagreed you presumably do find it acceptable for the IPCC to have “reported high
    confidence in statements for which there is little evidence”? That’s
    perfectly fine with you, yes? Yes?

  • BBD

    NIV

    You are in trouble, and it shows. All this is about *high* values for ECS. Values above 3C. Do you know what value A&H think to me most likely? Shall I link you to a discussion?

  • BBD

    Where do I constantly and uncritically argue for a most likely value for ECS *greater than ~3C*?

    Now, have another try at backing up your lie:

    Give me a list of obviously bad *science* that I constantly and uncritically defend.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “All this is about *high* values for ECS.”

    No it isn’t.

    “Do you know what value A&H think to me most likely?”

    Do you know what the probability of that most likely value is?

  • BBD

    Oh yes it is. Read it again.

    And note this, in passing:

    The Forster and Gregory paper (which we were unaware of at the time of writing Annan and Hargreaves 2006) is in our view particularly valuable as it does not rely on any numerical modelling at all, and so strongly enhances the growing mountain of evidence in favour of a mid-range climate sensitivity.”

    IPCC: most likely value (AR4 WG1) ~3C.

  • BBD

    Annan & Hargreaves say ‘climate sensitivity is about 3C’

  • BBD

    fundamentally flawed in a way as to automatically assign unrealistically
    high probability to extremely high sensitivities. There really is no support for such a belief to be rationally held.

    (I agree) and:The use of a highly restricted subset of available data must result in exaggerated uncertainties, which in the current context implies an unrealistic probability assigned to high sensitivities.

  • Nullius in Verba

    No it isn’t. First, it’s about the quality of the science. Second, any error in the probability of high sensitivities automatically implies a corresponding error in the probability of medium and low sensitivities, since the probabilities have to add up to 1.

    As usual, you are reading without understanding – just picking up the odd keyword here and there – and you’re grabbing onto anything that supports your prejudices and ignoring whole paragraphs saying the science is rubbish. And the one bit you did seize on I already pointed out was one of the IPCC’s mistakes. They altered the result in the paper using an erroneous assumption.

    We could go round in circles all night, but I’m not going to. Talk to you again tomorrow…

  • BBD

    Give me a list of obviously bad *science* that I constantly and uncritically defend.

  • BBD

    NIV

    Why don’t you just read the text you grabbed on to which you thought was going to support your argument but which didn’t? A number of different approaches are employed: observation; paleoclimate; modelling. The stuff you quote is about using a short observational data set to constrain ECS.

  • BBD

    So, after all that, we see that *you have nothing.

    Night night

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    #143, do your own googling.  There are procedures, ask the NAS information office what they are.  Report back, otherwise you are simply blowing smoke and smoke kills.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @177

    Dano would be proud :)

  • BBD

    In case anyone found that hard to follow, all the bullshit in the world doesn’t change the fact that the reviled, incompetent and corrupt IPCC somehow managed to defeat itself and ended up endorsing ~3C as the most likely value for ECS. Exactly as stern critics such as Annan and Hargreaves suggest.

    Gosh. Wow. Eeevil IPCC.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    BBD, you lost me way up thread–and I don’t know how many are still here to watch you. Pretty dismal performance, I’d say. For my money you can stay and natter with Rabett and willard all you want. I’m done with you.

  • Sashka

    @ NiV

    The problem is not just that the probabilities are mangled. The problem is that there are no probabilities at all, big or small. Because there is no probability space.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > healthy science doesn’t accuse Richard Lindzen of saying smoking doesn’t cause cancer when he does not.

    Whatever it can be, “healthy science” does not accuse.

    Only the auditing sciences make accusations.

    If we are talking about Jim Hansen, let’s recall once again what he says, since it’s seems to be forgotten with all these accusations:

    I considered asking Lindzen if he still believed there was no connection between smoking and lung cancer. He had been a witness for tobacco companies decades earlier, questioning the reliability of statistical connections between smoking and health problems. But I decided that would be too confrontational. When I met him at a later conference, I did ask that question, and was surprised by his response: He began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data .

    Oof, I thought””if I had asked him about the relation between smoking and cancer during the Task Force meeting, his response might have been revealing, almost like Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth!” in A Few Good Men. Or maybe not. It is not likely to be that easy.

    It would be interesting to know how to reconstruct this testimony as “Richard Lindzen says smoking doesn’t cause cancer”

    If that’s not possible, a quote amounting to an accusation of “Richard Lindzen says smoking doesn’t cause cancer” would be nice.

    In fact, it would be interesting to know how one can accuse someone of saying something. On the face of it, this makes little sense.

    In any case, it would make more sense to say that Jim heard Dick rattle off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data. In fact, reading his interview with Anna Rose relates similar rattling about both smoking and climate.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    RickA,

    > BD doesn’t understand that calling someone a denier is name calling

    This sentence amounts to mindreading.

    And not a very effective one, if we consider that his whole #115 shows how he much cares being tone trolled.

    That does not mean I condone labeling. Far from it. I believe that it’s self-defeating:

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/dilemmas-in-science-communication/#comment-16378

    But that said, name-calling is here to stay. We could list all the namecalling in this very thread, not by starting with your #154, but with Dick’s smear.

    Accusing a whole community of being dogmatic does sound like name calling to me.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Oh, and speaking of the Holocaust:

    Whenever someone has said in the realms of policy “science demands,” you know mischief going on. I mean Hitler took the Jews and said “Science demands that we get rid of them”.

    .

    http://www.abc.net.au/tv/changeyourmind/webextras/richardlindzen_transcript.pdf

  • Nullius in Verba

    #178,

    You surely wouldn’t have lectured me about making assumptions and looking foolish if you hadn’t already checked yourself – so you must already know what percentage of the NAS membership voted on the statement. So why don’t you just tell us the number?

    #181,

    “For my money you can stay and natter with Rabett and willard all you want. I’m done with you.”

    I think that’s the idea. The aim of this sort of aggressiveness is not really to convince anybody, but simply to shut down channels of communication. The idea is to be so frustrating and unpleasant that nobody wants to participate.

    It’s partly my fault, too. Sometimes I find it amusing to play with them. But it still gets in the way of communication.

    #183,

    Willard, why do you keep bringing this up? It’s simply false – Lindzen has never believed there was no connection, and he wasn’t a witness decades earlier, and Hansen’s purpose in saying this is transparent and very, very ugly.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with the data. Only believers in dogma would find it shocking that someone pointed them out.

    #184,

    BBD doesn’t care. He just can’t tolerate being reasonable.

    Dick isn’t here. You’re the one who keeps on bringing it up.

  • BBD

    NIV

    So. Let’s return to your lie at #139:

    You’ve got to stop giving them a stick to beat you with by constantly and uncritically defending what is obviously bad science.

    This is obviously a lie as you have been unable to substantiate it over a span of dozens of comments despite being asked again and again and again. The reason I’m hammering this is that this lie is the absolute core of your pseudo-sceptical ‘argument’. You rely on the falsehood that climate science as a whole is broken:

    Eventually, yes. This sort of thing has happened before, and eventually the science corrects itself.

    But that’s a lie. So it needs to be exposed. And it has been. The science isn’t broken at all.

    The evil, incompetent and corrupt IPCC arrived at the same most likely ~3C value for ECS as its sternest critics advised. So it’s apparently self-correcting and not broken nor corrupt.

    I have always said that the most likely value for ECS is ~3C. This is demonstrably NOT ‘obviously bad’ science nor was my endorsement ‘uncritical’. It is clear from the above that your understanding of CS is weak.

    So *all* of this this is a self-serving falsehood you have used to attack me and the science as a whole:

    You’ve got to stop giving them a stick to beat you with by constantly and uncritically defending what is obviously bad science.

    And this is pitiful:

    It’s partly my fault, too. Sometimes I find it amusing to play with them.

    Bang goes the core of your ‘argument’. It’s been fun being played with. Let’s do it again some time.

  • BBD

    @ 181

    Well, we were talking about CS, so I wouldn’t expect you to follow. Best go back to being wrong about the amount of US renewables subsidies in 2009. You being an energy expert and all.

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    FWIW, James’ problem was not with the central estimate of ~3 C for doubling CO2, but rather the long tail beyond 4 C which he believes should be chopped off based on his analysis.  This pretty much looks like a boat that has sailed, and is pretty much accepted now by everyone.  OTOH, he is just as scathing about very small estimates below 2 C (1.8 to be more precise as Eli recalls)

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Nullius,

    Thank you for your concern.

    Please tell me what you mean by:

    > Hansen’s purpose in saying this is transparent and very, very ugly.

    And if possible, please provide a quote where Hansen accuses Lindzen of believing anything.

    As far as I can see, the “Hansen accused Lindzen” is a drive-by meme. Let’s not wonder who can find this drive-by meme amusing.

    Please don’t close down our communication channels.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    If BBD “just can’t tolerate being reasonable”, I wonder on what basis we would to hypothesize BBD wouldn’t lecture without checking first, at the risk of looking foolish.

    Would you say that the “lecturing” accusation sounds a bit aggressive, BBD?.

  • BBD

    Willard

    If I had to hazard a guess (and I know we must not mind-read), I’d guess that NIV is a bit upset because I pointed out that his paper mask of fake reasonableness is a paper mask of fake reasonableness. And beneath it is some very unreasonable nonsense indeed. Because he’s so very, very clever, he doesn’t like the underlings getting uppity.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    BBD,

    I see that you do not follow the most important principle of the auditing sciences:

    Let your audience hazard guesses.

    Hazarding guesses could compromise the seriousness by which you take the concerns of the people who disagree with you.

    This would be against the very idea of the auditing sciences.

    Let’s not forget that all the sciences are mere collections of lucky conjectures, conjectures that are very, very, very, very, very incomplete.

    And when I say very, very, very, very, very incomplete, I really mean very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, incomplete.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    And when I maintain that science is that incomplete, I still have doubts about that claim.

    A practionner of the auditing sciences should not dismiss the possibility that science was just dogma all along.

    Even about that we just can’t be sure.

    And that includes the auditing sciences themselves, of course.

  • Sashka

    What a troll-fest.

  • http://reclaimreality.blogspot.com Jonas N

    I would say the thread makes an entertaining read. After couple of these threads the pattern is very obvious, and the troll becomes very predictable … and when its faith isn’t accepted and shared, when contradicted and the holes in the argument are pointed out and exposed, it reverts to shouting: ‘Liar liar! You are lying … ‘, as you would expect quarreling kids to do before they learn how to reason. I think it has its value. And the practice most certainly is not only restricted to this particular case … It’s all quite fascinating, I think.

  • Lazar

    willard,

    “seriousness”

    If auditors emulated the level of rigor and vigor of those they criticize, which is well below the level they demand of those they criticize, I could take their seriousness more seriously.

    But Yamal.

    Scientists are children playing with stones on the beach. Auditors are throwing stones at them. No one forced me to choose a side. We need better auditors.

    Yours seriously.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Lazar,

    I do agree, but don’t you find it tempting to publicly reassess one’s position and alliances from time to time? I’ve heard that stating your alliances kept you out of tribes.

    Since I recall you intervened in another thread about the relationship between smoking and cancer, here is another bit from the interview of Dick and Anna:

    With first-hand smoke it’s a more interesting issue. There’s clearly an issue and, you know, one looks at the statistics and it was done by meta-analysis. That’s usually the case when you don’t have great studies and you have to combine them. The case for lung cancer is very good — but it ignores the fact that there are differences in people’s susceptibilities, which the Japanese studies have pointed to.

    Lung cancer. Yes, but.

    Dick’s not saying anything. He’s just reminding us that “science requires you look at it”.

    Now, let’s try Nullius’ sentence:

    Lindzen’s purpose in saying this is transparent and very, very ugly.

    Do you think that Nullius would ever say that of Dick, Lazar?

  • BBD

    lazar @ 197

    Scientists are children playing with stones on the beach. Auditors are throwing stones at them. No one forced me to choose a side. We need
    better auditors.

    A splendid complement to willard’s comments @ 193 – 194.

    +10

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Had your team chosen to audit themselves, think how sweet life could have been.

  • BBD

    Eli @ 189

    Sorry – I missed your comment somehow. Yes, this is exactly what I was trying to communicate to NIV at # 168 ff. Apologies for not being much clearer about this. NIV simply rejected the attempted clarification out of hand, which didn’t help.

  • BBD

    Remind me Tom. What is Lindzen’s estimated value for climate sensitivity?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > Had your team chosen to audit themselves [...]

    BBD,

    I believe the “team” might refer to the Kyoto Flames:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/13252709871

    But perhaps it’s just the tribe.

    It’s tough to keep track of all these labels.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    “Hey, Mike–check it out. I think your Tiljander proxies are inverted.” “Oh–thanks–dammit, more work, I guess.”"Whoops! Those trees aren’t supposed to be used for temperature proxies! Call Rewrite…” “Dammit. More work again.”"Not enough proxies, Eric. You’re spreading temperatures like peanut butter…” “Dammit. Back to the drawing board.”"Excuse, me. Mr. Jones? You know those Chinese weather stations with stable histories you wrote about? Well, umm…” “Oh, wonderful. How do you spell Corrigendum?”"Mr. Pachauri? Those Himalayan glaciers are not melting at anything like the rate that magazine said. It might be a thousand years before they disappear, if they disappear at all. And that’s if nothing at all changes.” “Hey, look–I’m just an engineer. Document it and put it up on the website.”"Umm, folks, it looks like the polar bear survived the last ice-free period in the Arctic. They can swim hundreds of miles. Their population is growing–and it would be growing more if we didn’t kill 1,000 of them a year.” “Oops. My bad.”"Hey, look–we gotta quit using malaria as an example of diseases that might spread. I know it’s sexier than rinderpest, but the fact is, malaria gets defeated by money, not cold weather. Get a picture of a cute little cow somewhere..” “Can I use my iPhone?”"Well, will you look at that? Sea level rise is slowing down. I wonder why?” “You wonder why–I wonder how?” “More research… who’s got the grant template?”"Hey–this dude on the internet just published a bunch of stories and diary entries from Russians about heatwaves. Some of ‘em go back hundreds of years and they sound exactly like what happened last year.” “Might be a study in that–call someone in Anthropology and someone in Russian studies.”"Looks like we’re getting FOIA’d again. Just a quick reminder–do not delete any emails regarding AR4. And tell Keith, okay? He’s out sick and may not be checking emails.” “Okay.”

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard
  • Lazar

    Hi Tom,

    “Had your team chosen to audit themselves, think how sweet life could have been.”

    ‘Stone yourself or others will stone you’ does not conjure up sweet images for me.

    My problem, well one of them, with this auditing thing is… I can dig up enough dirt on almost anyone to portray them as a biased liar and a fool. I can do that to you. I can do that to me. I can do that to the auditors too. There are enough failings and blunders in probably every human life and endeavor, and enough fragments of information. Creating a biased measure of health says more about the auditor than the audited.

    I hope we can agree that science is the process of building knowledge.

    I hope we can agree that climate science is building knowledge prodigiously.

    Raising political issues, or the fact that nonsense gets published sometimes, doesn’t change that — at all.

    Here’s a challenge for the auditors. Pick a journal at random. Pick a date at random, and retrieve the previous 10 publications. Audit them all. Report every result, both positive and negative. State the good and bad points for each paper. Say for each paper whether it adds to human knowledge or not and how much, and whether it should have been published. Rinse and repeat 100 times. This way auditors may find the authority to speak to the health of science.Here’s a start. JGR Atmospheres, last few days of April 2012:

    “Probabilistic projections of agro-climate indices in North America”

    “Interhemispheric dynamical coupling to the southern mesosphere and lower thermosphere”

    “Parameterizations of some important characteristics of turbulent fluctuations and gusty wind disturbances in the atmospheric boundary
    layer”

    “Total water storage dynamics in response to climate variability and extremes: Inference from long-term terrestrial gravity measurement”

    “Summertime formaldehyde observations in New York City: Ambient levels, sources and its contribution to HOx radicals”

    “PM2.5 source apportionment in the southeastern U.S.: Spatial and seasonal variations during 2001″“2005″

    “Comparing results from a physical model with satellite and in situ observations to determine whether biomass burning aerosols over the
    Amazon brighten or burn off clouds”

    “A comparison of ISCCP land surface temperature with other satellite and in situ observations”

    “In situ observations of volcanic ash clouds from the FAAM aircraft during the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010″

    “Nitrous acid at Concordia (inland site) and Dumont d’Urville (coastal site), East Antarctica”

    Flogging dead horses doesn’t cut it.
    Reporting flaws doesn’t cut it.
    Scientifically incurious political hacks doesn’t cut it.

    Auditing is failing.

    We need better auditors.

  • Lazar

    willard,

    “but don’t you find it tempting to publicly reassess one’s position and
    alliances from time to time?”

    If those bonds weigh much… yeah, sure. If the facts change, more so. Willard, you like to dance, right? But sometimes, maybe you feel like throwing your lot in.

    Maybe you recall John V (Vliet I think), who reassessed his auditing position.

    “I’ve heard that stating your alliances
    kept you out of tribes.”

    Sounds kinda superstitious to me.

    “Do you think that Nullius would ever say that of Dick, Lazar?”

    I think, as you put it recently, what’s good for the goose…

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Lazar,

    Your sketch in #206 of how to conduct an empirical audit deserves to be promoted (in a technical sense):

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/23635036794

    If you are interested by the concept of auditing, you can click on the tag AboutAuditing and follow the posts. You could see that the Auditor General of Canada looks like and that those who paid 3 trillions for Occupy Irak still have to wait for the audit reports.

    I share you opinion about stating one’s alliances. Uttering “tribe” entails that utterer is beyond “tribes”. Even Robinson Crusoe had his tribe, and I don’t think I need to cast myself away to show I can think by myself.

    There are many things one can say about this idea. There is too much uninspiring stupidity in the world to care. Leaders don’t punish, but lead by example. Greenline tests leave everyone lukewarm. Scientists vote with their citations. Et cetera.

    Thanks again for your sketch, which is more than statistically significant to me.

  • Lazar

    Thank you willard.

    There is a lot to inspire auditors. I like the quote from Edward Tufte on images.

    US GAAS


    The auditor must have adequate technical training & proficiency to perform the audit.

    The auditor must maintain independence (in fact and appearance) in mental attitude in all matters related to the audit.

    The auditor must exercise due professional care during the
    performance of the audit and the preparation of the report. The auditor
    must diligently perform the audit and report any misleading statements
    in the report.

    google “audit sampling” is also productive.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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