The Latest on the "SwiftHack"

By Chris Mooney | November 27, 2009 10:50 am

Forget “ClimateGate,” this is a far better name.

Michael Mann responds to critics here.

Josh Nelson comprehensively rounds up posts here.

Absolutely hilarious post here about how reading the nasty private correspondence of Isaac Newton calls into question the “calculus myth.” And that doesn’t even take into account Newton’s hidden alchemy writings….

We’ll be continuing to follow this story at the Intersection as it develops.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Energy, Environment, Global Warming

Comments (26)

  1. bilbo

    That Newton past is CLASSIC!!! It won’t take any time before the Silly Little Denialists begin demanding inquisitions into Calculus because of this. Those mathematicians just use big numbers and fancy terminology to confuse the innocent public and hide their secret motives, after all…

  2. Thomas

    “Climategate” is a rather funny name. In Watergate it is generally considered that the burglars and those who protected them were the villains so why do people who support this recent theft want to associate themselves with that affair?

  3. Guy

    I think it’s all much ado about nothing. It does seem to have stirred up the deniers into a fervor but it’s hardly a game changer. Have you read the most recent IPCC report? If anything there is more reason be concerned about climate change than previously thought.

  4. The one e-mail which truly seemed questionable is the one most media outlets have been picking up – the, “redefine what peer review literature is!” e-mail. I have not seen a response to this one yet, even though it is the most damning piece of the bunch. Can any of you guys point me to one?

  5. SLC

    Issac Newton was a thoroughly unpleasant individual who feuded with many of his scientific contemporaries, including Hooke, the Bernoulllis, Huygens, and Liebnitz. In addition, when he became director of the Mint, he advocated the death penelty for counterfeiting. This in no way, shape, form, or regard detracts from his being the most important scientist who ever lived.

  6. Gaythia

    I suggest that commenter #4 read item #4 in the Michael Mann comment that is linked to in the post above.

    “An editor of the journal, with rather contrarian views on climate change, appeared to several of us to be gaming the system to let through papers that clearly did not meet the standards of quality for the journal. The chief editor (Hans von Storch), and half of the editorial board, resigned in protest of the publication of the paper, after the publisher refused to allow von Storch the opportunity to write an editorial about how the peer review process had failed in this instance.”

    There has to be a mechanisms that keep the standards of peer review journals high. This defines what “peer review literature” is, it doesn’t redefine it.

    Michael Mann explains his statements and provides links to others for further evaluation.

  7. EDK

    Spin it baby spin it!

  8. Read the Code

    It is sad to see you go down with the ship.

  9. Hey Mooney you ignorant hack, now that Michael Mann’s code and the data he used for it are being picked apart with a fine tooth comb, are you going to bail out or go down with the ship because so much of your credibility stems from your feality to these hicksters?

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1447

  10. Caleb

    Hi everyone. I think I have made sense of this whole episode :)

    At fist this situation was terrifying to me. On the one hand, if the AGW skeptics were right, then billions of dollars have been wasted & a lot of greedy people have been making a lot of money off this monolithic lie (etc. etc.). On the other hand, if AGW is true to the extent that we can control our future climate, “climategate” is a significant setback, a HUGE step backwards in terms of taking immediate action.

    But, as the “hackers” pointed out, the global warming situation is way too important to be under wraps in terms of human survival and continuation. I have no doubt that equally damning information would have been uncovered if the major AGW skeptic’s emails had been hacked. BUT, it would not have made nearly as big an impact. So unfortunately this is what has to happen in order to secure future transparent information on the current climate research. From now on, it will be much harder to hide information, and that is the most important progression we are witnessing. I (personally) still feel that humans, to some extent, have a role to play in global warming.. but the issue is far too important for us to be messing around in the political/emotional domain. It is clear from these e-mails that the true scientific process has been sidelined. I am not a scientist so I’ll leave it up to the climate scientists to clarify the arguments for us.

    My point is that this needed to happen, and that NEITHER side is innocent. It was unfortunate that only the one side was hacked, but let us hope that this will lead to a new era in transparency.

    Caleb
    (@ bilbo, I’m sorry I attacked you, your arguments are strong.. I just don’t agree with your aggression.. It does not strengthen your argument)

  11. MartinM

    Hey Mooney you ignorant hack, now that Michael Mann’s code and the data he used for it are being picked apart with a fine tooth comb, are you going to bail out or go down with the ship because so much of your credibility stems from your feality to these hicksters?

    1) That’s Keith Briffa’s code. You can tell because it has ‘Briffa’ in the title.
    2) All it actually appears to do is apply an artificial correction to remove a non-climatic signal, and then plot the corrected series. Next to the uncorrected one. With the corrected version cunningly labelled ‘corrected for decline.’ Oh, and the part of the code which actually applies the correction is commented out.

    Other than that, good catch.

  12. bilbo

    You just brought up the point I’ve been arguing the whole time, MartinM: the denialists/skeptics/ignorants are pretending like this whole “code” issue is something that was hidden in the original publication.

    It wasn’t.

    I’m simply astounded at the amount of denialists/skeptics/ignorants who are talking on and on and on and on and on and…. about this code but who have also never even seen the paper in which the code was used. If they had, then they would know that this is a non-issue.

    Or maybe not. These guys are so eager for something to whine about that it probably wouldn’t make much difference.

  13. Sean McCorkle

    Naomi Wolf’s discussion of press control and propaganda efforts in “The End of America” raises a point that’s relevant here: Opponents of the truth don’t necessarily have to get the public to buy their fabricated story 100%. Its only necessary to confuse the public to the point where they don’t know what to believe, and so begin to distrust everything.

    Seems like the global warming deniers are succeeding along these lines.

  14. Wil

    I just read that the East Anglia University CRU will be releasing all of their climate data, and that a criminal investigation against Dr. Phil Jones has commenced regarding his flouting of the UK’s Freedom of Information Act.

    It is a shame that it has taken heavy international pressure as well as criminal investigators to make this happen, when the traditional scientific method and national law have both required that the raw data and the processed data be released to the public and to other researchers, all along.

    I also just read that the British government is supervising the formation of a committee to investigate the East Anglia University CRU, and that Prime Minister Brown is currently considering a petition to stop the CRU from all involvement in climate research work until the investigation has been completed, and corrective actions (if any) have been completed.

    It is nice to see them addressing this issue promptly and with level heads.

  15. wagdog

    My take is that SwiftHack has the potential to do the AGW denialists a heap of damage because now the New World Order conspiracy theorists are running with it in a very big way. A similar thing happened to the geologically based theory of peak oil when it was adopted as the motivation for a government conspiracy theory explaining the 9/11 attacks. There is a very real risk that the public will end up lumping the denialists with the rest of the conspiracy believing underworld — not exactly the result that the anti-science lobby had in mind.

  16. Cynicus Maximus

    Much as I appreciate the efforts of Mr. Mooney and others to instruct the boobs; I fear it is a lost cause. There has been a fateful confluence of factors (that Mr. Mooney himself has noted elsewhere) including:

    + widespread collapse of educational standards (not just science–but also history, literature, and indeed anything requiring abstract thought)

    + the perfection of corporate and political advertising/marketing/PR/propaganda to a degree that would have left George Orwell speechless

    + the decay of humane, informed and intelligent religion; and its supercession by simple-witted literalism, magical thinking, and authoritarianism

    + the demise of old-fashioned print media, and the collapse of all media into pure entertainment, including of course, ‘infotainment’.

    and perhaps most crucially:

    + the deliberate encouragement, cultivation, and exploitation of the above by the politically interested and/or the extremely wealthy.

    The scientifically-literate are not fooled of course, nor are the scientists themselves, but what are so few against so many? The herd has been beguiled before to swallow a senseless war–incompetently fought and sold with demonstrable falsehoods–along with economic and tax policies that harm them. Occasional lucid moments are only that. Trying to teach climate science (or anything else) to people who are not merely ignorant, but proudly so is the essence of futility.

    If humanity survives, then there will be at least some to bear witness to the follies of the stupid and the selfish. If it does not, perhaps intelligent life will arise again on this world or another (if it hasn’t already). Perhaps they can avoid the same mistake(s) (only perhaps to make others).

    During a bull session with colleagues at Los Alamos in (I think) 1944, physicist Enrico Fermi asked an interesting question: Given the extent of the universe, and the time since it came into being; if there are intelligent extraterrestrials, why haven’t they arrived yet? (The universe is now known to be larger in both extent and duration then was postulated in 1944.) The spooky answer is that not only may we be alone; it may also be that intelligence beyond a certain level (but perhaps below another level) does not confer a survival value upon a species. In other words, an intelligent species may reach a certain level of technology only to fall prey to that technology due to violence, environmental destruction, loss of control, or even voluntary return to a more primitive level of cognitive development (We’re tired of thinking: devolution, not evolution!) Perhaps we are moving towards this even now

  17. SLC

    The attached link describes the situation in the polar region relative to the opening of the Northwest Passage to shipping. Of course, Mark Marano and the global warming deniers who have infested this thread as well as the two others on the subject of Climategate will insist that the disappearance of ice in the polar sea is evidence of global cooling. George Orwell would be most proud.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/25/AR2009112503413.html

  18. Ron Cram

    Wow, evidently a good many of the commenters here do not get to read much. It’s too bad. The evidence indicates the CRU computers were not hacked at all. No, this looks to be a the act of a whistleblower inside CRU who was disappointed with his organization for illegally withholding emails and documents which were responsive to a CRU request. So, he took things into his own hands and did an unauthorized release.

    If you had bothered to read the emails and documents you would know none of them contain any personal information. None talk about the love lives of the people or their family problems or financial problems or emotional problems. No, all of the emails talk about science and how they can fudge the data, stifle dissent, get journal editors fired who publish skeptical papers and generally ruin the lives of scientists who disagree with the accepted wisdom.

    If you don’t want to read the emails for yourselves, perhaps you will want to read some news stories like this one from CBS News. http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/11/24/taking_liberties/entry5761180.shtml

    Or you might read this one from the NY Times (be sure to read Comment #5 too since I wrote it) http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/more-on-the-climate-files-and-climate-trends/#bozoanchor

  19. Ron Cram

    I see two typos in my previous post. It should be “responsive to an FOI request” and I wrote “comment #3″ on the dot earth blog.

  20. Gaythia

    I think that we need to consider those people that are not active conspiracy theorists themselves, and who also are not, or at least not necessarily always, quite as gullible as Cynicus Maximus fears.

    There are people who can be initially appealed to by fear mongers, distortionists or denialists who then can be educated and reassured by rational explanations. Scientists and those who support science can work to build and rebuild trust.

    In that regard, I believe that the posts at Real Climate, here, and elsewhere have real value.

    Joshua Rosenau’s post: http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2009/11/stolen_emails_climate_change_a.php

    has a nice bit in it about how a certain science reporter helps in this process of building public understanding of the the process of science: “In short, the emails prove that scientists are human. Anyone who didn’t know that should look at some of Newton’s correspondence, or should check out Chris Mooney’s excellent Storm World – which book I previously wrote “deserves special praise for capturing the dynamic of scientific debate, humanizing the scientific process and inviting the public in to see how things work in a field they care about desperately.””

  21. bilbo

    Cynicus Maximus: preach it, brother!

    Here’s something to add to your comments. When I have discussions with people who are “on the fence” about climate change/evolution/vaccinations/etc. etc. etc., all they can offer when asked about what they know of the issue are the main talking points of science denialists (e.g. twisted statements about what science does know; they’ve “heard about” different conspiracies that are afoot, and so on).

    It appears the denialists are extraordinarily effective at getting the message out to the public, while scientists are content to publish the REAL info in journals and hope with all their heart that the public takes enough incentive to find its way to them.

    Is that doing enough?

  22. Gaythia

    Bilbo asks a retorical question I presume, in “Is that doing enough?”

    or, as Cynicus Maximus puts it:

    “If humanity survives, then there will be at least some to bear witness to the follies of the stupid and the selfish.”

    We are good at outlining the problem, and find some emotional satisfaction in banging heads with the opposition, but what is the process for the education of those who Bilbo describes as “on the fence”?

    History demonstrates that human civilization is tenuous, and frequently collapses in the face of the environmental destruction of “the world” as those peoples knew it.

  23. The Pundit

    How many of you clowns actually know what amount of the atmosphere is CO2.

    How many of you know what percentage of the CO2 and CH4 that is put into the atmosphere each year comes from Man?

    You are the programmed mindless droids of the new eugenics movement.

    Agenda 21, SVCP, AGW, RAND

    Answers 0.038% or 380ppm and 0.7% FOOLS
    Because I know your programming has taught you to not look for the truth just believe what the TV and Rothschild media empire tells you.

    Why did the founder of Greenpeace resign after the Global Warming fools took over?

    Of all the names on the IPCC report that it claims are scientists that agree “consensus” Are actually scientists? How many of them agree with the report? If a scientists does not agree will they remove his name?

    When you know these answers you can come back and comment.
    Oh also please read the text comments in the source code that was LEAKED out of the CRU.
    The emails are the tip of the iceberg.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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