The Discovery Institute Gets Personal

By Chris Mooney | November 30, 2009 11:28 am

Michael Egnor is likening me to a prostitute for defending good science in the face of the Swifthack controversy. He says my approach to journalism is equivalent to turning “tricks.” Or to quote:

3) “Trick”: a work-related act performed by a prostitute.

A spot-on description of Mooney’s science journalism.

Egnor doesn’t appear to understand that when a scientist uses the word “trick” in a non-public email, as Phil Jones did in the now exposed CRU correspondence, it isn’t necessarily meant as either prostitution or deception. There are far more innocent possibilities–“trick” can be a cool new method or technique, for instance. That makes the particular email being referred to much less than a smoking gun. Michael Mann has more on that. So does Phil Plait:

These files are not evidence of fraud. I am a scientist myself, and I’m familiar with the lingo. When we say we used a “trick” to plot data (as one of the hacked emails says), that doesn’t mean we’re doing something to fool people. It means we used a method that may not be obvious, or a step that does something specific. Plotting data logarithmically instead of linearly is a “trick”, and it’s a valid and useful method of displaying data (your senses of sight and hearing are logarithmic, for example, so it’s even a natural way to do things).

And even if the particular email in question was a smoking gun, as I have explained, such proof of wrongdoing on the part of one scientist–or a small group–would not change the science of climate change, or the policy outlook, or what we have to do in Copenhagen.

Meanwhile, I continue to marvel at how the anti-evolutionist Discovery Institute seems to be following exactly the same anti-science line on global warming.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Energy, Environment, Global Warming

Comments (60)

  1. Very old line from mathematics:
    If it works once, it’s a trick.
    If it works twice, it’s a technique.
    If it always works, it’s a method.

  2. Scott B

    The “trick” is that they cut off a tree ring proxy when the data diverged from the current temperature record. The problem is that instead of seeing this divergence and questioning the validity of the proxy as a valid representation of past temperatures, they just cut off the data where it didn’t match. It doesn’t blow up current AGW theory like some would like to jump through. How anyone can just blow off bad techniques like that is beyond me though.

  3. Considering that the CSU “lost” (ahem) all the data that went into their historical climate reconstruction, this being the same reconstruction that the IPCC uses, should it even be considered science since it is no longer reproducible? And given the shadyness seen in the emails as well as the notes in the code, should we have ever viewed these results as credible?

    As far as Egnor’s comments go, he right, you are a complete whore for these people, doing your own special kind of “tricks” for them.

  4. Jon

    The Discovery Institute calling someone a “whore” looks like a Rove tactic. Attack using your opponent’s strong argument–namely, that the scholars at DI whore for whatever the conservative movement donors want at the moment: intelligent design, climate change, whatever. Next, Discovery Institute will hold a festival of Grover Norquist scholars, then they can really get at some Scaife money and they’ll be set for life.

  5. AntiDI

    Tch tch. The IDiots at the DI have attained the pinnacle of whoredom so perfectly that they are seeing whores everywhere. Methinks they are just sexually frustrated.

  6. John Kwok

    The Discovery Institute has always opted for “personal attacks” when they couldn’t address their critics in more sensible, reasonable fashion (For example, I was referred to in third person by DI mendacious intellectual pornographer David Klinghoffer as an “obsessed Darwin lover” in a column posted at the DI website back in the late summer of 2009.).

  7. Rmoen

    The purloined emails that many now call ‘Climategate’ underscore the need for the United States to convene our own objective, transparent Climate Truth Commission.

    The Climate Research Unit’s emails show small-minded, embattled thinking that reeks of zealotry, not science. It appears the researchers weren’t beyond drawing conclusions that were relatively unsupported. Two of the authors, Phil Jones and Kevin Trenberth, were the lead authors of one of the most important chapters in the United Nations Fourth Assessment Report. This is no small matter since the EPA, in its recent move to boost regulation of greenhouse gases, based its conclusions on the UN reports.

    – Robert Moen, http://www.energyplanUSA.com

  8. Ian

    I cannot condone the language used, but you again the DI is misrepresented as anti-evolutionary. They are anti-Darwinism, which is a theory of evolution.

  9. CW

    What other kind of scientifically-valid theory of evolution is there besides Darwin-based evolution, Ian?

  10. Jinchi

    when a scientist uses the word “trick” in a non-public email, as Phil Jones did in the now exposed CRU correspondence, it isn’t necessarily meant as either prostitution or deception.

    It’s not just scientists who use the word this way. This is standard English usage. Like having a trick for baking a pie crust or a trick for whitening teeth.

    Interesting that Egnor picked that definition, though.

  11. toasterhead

    2. Scott B Says:
    November 30th, 2009 at 11:55 am

    The “trick” is that they cut off a tree ring proxy when the data diverged from the current temperature record. The problem is that instead of seeing this divergence and questioning the validity of the proxy as a valid representation of past temperatures, they just cut off the data where it didn’t match.
    __________

    I don’t see what’s bad about the trick – they just used the most accurate information available at the points in the graph where it was available. This graph is included in the Copenhagen Diagnosis report, and is clearly labeled to indicate where the data for each portion of the graph came from.

    And while there is certainly reason to question how accurate the past proxy measurements are given their recent divergence from reality, it’s not a very useful digression. Proxy measurements are exactly that – a proxy. Short of inventing time travel and installing state-of-the-art monitoring equipment everywhere and everywhen over the last two millennia to obtain accurate temperature data, there is no alternative to using the proxy.

  12. Vindrisi

    Ian,

    Actually, the Discovery Institute is just outright anti-science. As evolutionary theory is science, they are anti-evolutionary theory. Indeed, their entire reason for attacking evolutionary theory is to provide a way to bring down methodologically naturalistic science (or, as we call it, just science). This has been covered many times before. Google “Wedge Document”, and then go and read “Creationism’s Trojan Horse”. You might also want to delve into the writings of senior DI fellow Nancy Pearcey. She advocates a position that any science that in any way contradicts any position of Christianity (and she means her version of Christianity) must be rejected out of hand. Thus, if quantum theory violates any part of Christian doctrine, then a person who wishes to be a Christian must utterly and completely reject quantum theory. It is harder to formulate a more anti-science position than that. Needless to say, Pearcey is a prominent ID-proponent, though one that the Discovery Institute tends to not put before secular audiences.

  13. Paul W.

    toasterhead,

    I don’t see what’s bad about the trick – they just used the most accurate information available at the points in the graph where it was available. This graph is included in the Copenhagen Diagnosis report, and is clearly labeled to indicate where the data for each portion of the graph came from.

    If Scott B’s description of the selection of the data is fair—is it?—it’s illegitimate cherry picking.

    It’s not scientifically cool to take data from an unreliable source, picking the range of data that supports your thesis, and silently omitting the other data that cast doubt on your source.
    Without an argument that the data you use are more reliable than the data you choose not to, it’s just not valid.

    If I’m reviewing a paper and notice that it’s doing something like that, I strenuously urge the rejection of the paper, or at the very least least addressing the issue and its implications for the particular claims and the confidence in those claims. (Generally the former, because people should not simply get away with even trying to use cherry-picked data.)

  14. Paul W.

    BTW, in case anybody jumps to the opposite conclusion, I’m generally with Mooney on climate change, and specifically the mootness of this paper for current purposes. We have better data now.

  15. Paul W.

    Actually, the Discovery Institute is just outright anti-science.

    Yes. Unfortunately the accommodationists are not as consistently pro-science as they might be. They’ve been known to do some illegitimate cherry-picking, too.

  16. Vindrisi

    Ian,

    You might also want to read Chapter 11, “Creation Science 2.0″ in Chris’ book, “The Republican War on Science”. It is perhaps the best concise description of the history, mission, and tactics of the Discovery Institute, as well as the political considerations and motives behind it all.

  17. John Kwok

    @ Vindrisi –

    Both biologist Paul R. Gross (who is incidentally, a fellow political conservative) and philosopher Barbara Forrest have been keeping track of the Dishonesty Institute’s nefarious activities for years, summarized in their book “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design” which is a must read for anyone wishing to understand just how dangerous the Dishonesty Institute is to not only American science education, but also, more broadly, both American intellectual and political life.

  18. Vindrisi

    John,

    Good point on Forrest and Gross’ book, which is why I recommended it in my above post :-P

  19. John Kwok

    @ Paul W. –

    I would submit that accomodationists like planetary scientist Guy Consolmagno, (Jesuit brother and Vatican Astronomer), invertebrate paleontologist Keith Miller (an Evangelical Protestant Christian), vertebrate paleontologist Peter Dodson, ecologist Michael Rosenzweig, and, of course, cell biologist Ken Miller (no relation to Keith), have done substantially far more good in emphasizing the positive virtues of science than you are willing to admit. Your latest example of breathtaking inanity is merely what I would expect from someone posting at Bill Dembski’s Uncommon Dissent…. er, I mean, Uncommonly Dense…. nope, really Uncommon Descent website.

  20. Jinchi

    If Scott B’s description of the selection of the data is fair—is it?—it’s illegitimate cherry picking.

    It’s not scientifically cool to take data from an unreliable source, picking the range of data that supports your thesis, and silently omitting the other data that cast doubt on your source.

    That’s not what they did. Here’s Mann’s nature “trick” from the caption of Figure 7 in Mann, Bradley and Hughes (Nature, 1998):

    reconstructed Northern Hemisphere temperature series from 1610–1980, updated with instrumental data from 1981–95.

    Basically, they plot actual temperature data at the end of their reconstruction (and they use a different line type in the plot.

    The reconstructed temperatures are “a combination of collection of annual resolution
    dendroclimatic, ice core, ice melt, and long historical records used by Bradley and Jones combined with other coral, ice core, dendroclimatic, and long instrumental records”.

    And here’s why they only used proxy data to 1980: “the training interval is terminated at 1980 because many of the proxy series terminate at or shortly after 1980″

  21. Jim H.

    I’m confused by how tongue-in-cheek Chris Mooney is about the use of “trick” in the CRU email, but just in case, he should understand that everyone realizes that Phil Jones was referring to a method or technique when he used the word “trick.” It’s the other part of the sentence that sparks the controversy: “…to hide the decline.”

    “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

    The obvious question, of course, is why is he trying to hide a decline in temperatures?

  22. Vindrisi

    The obvious question, of course, is why is he trying to hide a decline in temperatures?

    Michael Mann answered this, as covered by Steven Andrew last week (http://www.examiner.com/x-10722-Austin-Science-Policy-Examiner~y2009m11d25-Climatolgist-Michael-Mann-responds-to-CRU-hack). The mentioned “decline” doesn’t refer to a decline in temperature:

    DS: When Phil Jones wrote in 1999, “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i. e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline,” what did he mean?

    Michael Mann: Phil Jones has publicly gone on record indicating that he was using the term “trick” in the sense often used by people, as in “bag of tricks”, or “a trick to solving this problem …”, or “trick of the trade”. In referring to our 1998 Nature article, he was pointing out simply the following: our proxy record ended in 1980 (when the proxy data set we were using terminates) so, it didn’t include the warming of the past two decades. In our Nature article we therefore also showed the post-1980 instrumental data that was then available through 1995, so that the reconstruction could be viewed in the context of recent instrumental temperatures. The separate curves for the reconstructed temperature series and for the instrumental data were clearly labeled.

    The reference to “hide the decline” is referring to work that I am not directly associated with, but instead work by Keith Briffa and colleagues. The “decline” refers to a well-known decline in the response of only a certain type of tree-ring data (high-latitude tree-ring density measurements collected by Briffa and colleagues) to temperatures after about 1960. In their original article in Nature in 1998, Briffa and colleagues are very clear that the post-1960 data in their tree-ring dataset should not be used in reconstructing temperatures due to a problem known as the “divergence problem” where their tree-ring data decline in their response to warming temperatures after about 1960. “Hide” was therefore a poor word choice, since the existence of this decline, and the reason not to use the post 1960 data because of it, was not only known, but was indeed the point emphasized in the original Briffa et al Nature article. There is a summary of that article available on this NOAA site.

  23. Steve H

    Re to Jim H:
    Because the authors of the paper that presented the data they were hiding specifically stated that the data should not be used because it was divergent from other data. This data was from one group of trees living at high elevation, does not agree with data from other forests of trees of the same age, and should not be used until the underlying reason for the divergence is known.

  24. Paul W.

    John Kwok,

    I suspect that I’d give those guys more credit than you assume.

    You seem to assume that I’m against Christians being scientists, or pimping science. I’m not. I’m for it.

    I’m even for holding those guys up as good examples of the brute-force kind of compatibility, up to a point.

    You’re a little bit too focused on making my comments out to be inane to notice that they’re not, and that your own comments are therefore inane, to the point of kooky.

    What I’m actually against is the chronic misrepresentations by Forrest, Nisbet, Mooney, and Kirschenbaum, about the New Atheists.

    1) They constantly misrepresent the New Atheist position on conflicts between science and religion, and use a bait-and-switch argument that doesn’t actually address what the New Atheists are saying. Instead it makes an irrelevant point—one which the New Atheists conceded all along, and have themselves reiterated for years. None of them/us have ever doubted that a religious person can be a good scientist. Not for a second.

    That’s not what the controversy has ever been about, but it is what the accommodationists want to make it about, so that they can score cheap rhetorical points against a straw man—and so that they can avoid the sticky fact that the New Atheists have very good arguments for what they’re actually saying.

    Science really does say things that conflict with at least one of popular religions’ central tenets. (Namely, traditional substance dualism, and the orthodox conception of the soul.)

    If the accommodationists would stop lying about this, I for one would be a whole lot less inclined to make an issue of it.

    2) The accommodationists also make it sound like the new atheists are oblivious to issues of rhetorical and political strategy. They’re not. They have counterexamples to the framing guy’s simplistic model of political rhetoric, and counterarguments to the admittely intiuitive argument that the accommodationists keep beating on.

    It is not the New Atheists that have a simplistic understanding of the relationship between science and religion, or epistemic vs. philosophical naturalism. It is the accommodationists.

    (Not that I think for one second that they sincerely believe that it’s as simple as they say, or that the New Atheists are as naive as the accommodationists always try to make them seem.)

    Likewise, it’s not the New Atheists that have a simplistic understanding of rhetoric and politics—they understand more than the accommodationists are willing to acknowledge, because the accommodationists don’t want to let on that the New Atheists do understand the accommodationist arguments, and always have, but have counterarguments that they take very seriously. (Especially about Overton Windows.)

    This has all gotten really old, of course—it was old a year ago—but Sheril just trotted out the same old canards in her podcast with Ginger Campbell, so it bears repeating.

    As long as she’s still riding the same dead horse, we’ll continue to beat it.

  25. SLC

    Re Ian

    The Dishonesty Institute, in addition to denying Darwinian evolution and global warming also deny the connection between HIV and AIDS and include a Holocaust denier in their director John West.

  26. Paul W.

    Jinchi:

    And here’s why they only used proxy data to 1980: “the training interval is terminated at 1980 because many of the proxy series terminate at or shortly after 1980.”

    Thanks very much for that clarification.

    Is there a plot somewhere of all that data (including the 1980-and-beyond data) that I could look at online?

  27. Never Smarten Up a Chump

    The antiscience vigilantes of the Dishonesty Institute may want to do an Inquisition of the U.S. National Climatic Data Center next. If one proceed to:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/2008/dec/glob-jan-dec-pg.gif

    they will find the NCDC’s own graph of “Jan-Dec Global Surface Mean Temp Anomalies”. If it looks like the CRU’s graphs, then no wonder, the datasets for both come from thousands of recording stations and hundreds of scientific personnel throughout the world. Of course, to the cuckoos at the Discovery Institute, this is simply proof positive that the world’s scientists are all in cahoots against good Christians everywhere.

    The proper answer to the DI is an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service of its abuse of their 501(c)3 certification. Trying to respond to their prevarications with the truth is a bit like trying to respond to Soviet propaganda: you only end up doing their work for them by diseminating it further. Evidently the DI feels that since they are (literally) God’s work; falsehoods and coarse invective are perfectly in order. “What Would Jesus Do” indeed!

    “To be dispraised by them is high prasie indeed.”

  28. Never Smarten Up a Chump

    Whoops! The word ‘doing’ was accidently omitted from the next-to-last sentence of the previous post. The sentence should readas follows:

    –Evidently the DI feels that since they are (literally) doing God’s work; falsehoods and coarse invective are perfectly in order.

  29. bilbo

    Important question for any climate skeptics still trolling here: have any of you read Briffa et al.’s paper in conjunction with the hacked emails? When you do, the language in the emails becomes quite clear, as Mann pointed out in a quote from a ocmment above.

    Just curious.

  30. Jon

    Paul W: Unfortunately the accommodationists are not as consistently pro-science as they might be. They’ve been known to do some illegitimate cherry-picking, too.

    Kind of off topic, no? Creationists/IDists *and* New Atheists want to import the culture wars into everything. The priorities are misplaced in both cases. Not everything is about religion. To paraphrase William Temple, even God is not primarily interested in religion.

    Also, cherry-picking applies to data. Not everything is data.

  31. SLC

    Re Ian

    I would also point out that many at the Dishonesty Institute do not accept evolution. For instance, Jonathan Wells rejects common descent and the aforementioned Nancy Pearcy is a YEC. William Dumbski also rejects common descent when he addresses born again audiences while appearing to accept it when addressing secular audiences.

    Re Mike H.

    One of the most notorious “tricks” that scientists use is the use of renormalization in quantum electrodynamics to get around the occurrence of divergent integrals. Mathematically, the process is total nonsense. However, when a computation agrees with a measured quantity to 10 significant digits (i.e. comparison of the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron from measurements and quantum electrodynamic calculations) , mathematical niceties are brushed aside. As Richard Feynman puit it, an agreement to 10 significant digits is equivalent to measuring the distance between the top of the television tower on the Empire State Building in New York City to the top of the pyramid on City Hall in downtown Los Angeles to the nearest inch!

    Re John Kwok

    One should not forget that the clowns at the Dishonesty Institute are shills for their main backer, the Christian Reconstructionist whackjob Howard Ahmanson. David Klinghoffer, who professes to be an Orthodox Jew, should be ashamed of himself for associating with Ahmanson shills.

  32. Paul W.

    Jon,

    Kind of off topic, no?

    So long as the accommodationists pull out the straw men at every opportunity, I figure turnabout is fair play—especially when they take the moral high ground about cherry-picking.

    Also, cherry-picking applies to data. Not everything is data.

    Cherry-picking also applies to arguments about strategy. If you present a good argument for one strategy—and Mooney and Kirshenbaum do, up to a point—it’s not legitimate to ignore counterarguments and arguments for competing strategies. Especially if you proceed to act as though your critics are simply being unreasonable for disagreeing with you, and sometimes express faux mystification as to why anybody would disagree with you, when you know full well why and simply choose to misrepresent the conflict.

  33. bilbo

    Paul W., you said:

    It’s not legitimate…if you proceed to act as though your critics are simply being unreasonable for disagreeing with you, and sometimes express faux mystification as to why anybody would disagree with you.

    You don’t read much of the new atheist blogosphere, do you?

    That kind of illegitimacy is not confined to accommodationism, I’m afraid.

    Isn’t it hypocritical to call out one side for this kind of illegitimacy while not doing so to the other? I hope you’ve been active with this scolding elsewhere in the blogopshere….

  34. Jon

    This subject is off topic. I suppose I shouldn’t have brought it up. But the only substantive argument I’ve heard is “Overton Window!” and “we made nice before!” Neither works well in the face of common sense, in my view, especially in light of the fact that the arguments are often poorly informed about religion, and disputants know next to nothing about the workings of culture wars. I’d claim that for people claiming to defend the Enlightenment, aggressive ignorance is a strange tactic. But again, off topic. That’s all I’ll say.

  35. bilbo

    the arguments are often poorly informed about religion

    I guess I’m stoking the off-topic flames, Jon, but I agree with you on the italicized point. Most people I argue with about accommodation seem wildly (and I think willfully) ignorant of religion, pretending that it’s this strange homogenous group with zero variation in belief and unbelief (yes, new atheists: i just said the religious can hold unbelief).

    I think this ignorance is a clever arguing tactic, because it turns a complex subject like religion into a wonnderfully simplistic (but ultimately unrealistic) one.

  36. Vindrisi

    I think this ignorance is a clever arguing tactic, because it turns a complex subject like religion into a wonnderfully simplistic (but ultimately unrealistic) one.

    Kinda like how creationists talk about evolution when they attack it. Or how right-wingers talk about liberals. Yes, it is a clever debating tactic, but it is so because such simplifications are often sticky ideas that seem so correct for their effectiveness in debate that there is no re-examination or further digging. They quickly become easy excuses for ignorance.

    But the only substantive argument I’ve heard is “Overton Window!” and “we made nice before!” Neither works well in the face of common sense…

    Because they aren’t substantive. They are post-hoc rationalizations for obnoxious behavior that gives a thrill and, I expect, a sense of catharsis for bad experiences with religion (I know that was the case with me back in my obnoxious atheist days), and would thus be engaged in regardless.

  37. Richard Stein

    I am a retired professor of chemistry from the same university as Ray Bradley who I know personally and with whom I have discussed the deniers of global warming. His comment, with which I agree, is that 90 – 95% of scientists believe in it, but the deniers get more than 50% of the publicity. I am a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Engineering, and have read many of their reports on this subject. I have served on their committees preparing and reviewing such reports for which we are required to sign “Conflict of Interest” statements. I find these reports to be good science and written by highly qualified experts in the field. While the deniers have raised loud and emotional voices, my experience with many of them is they are often not very familiar with the underlying science and have not read such reports. Some who pose as scientists are people like TV weather commentators whose skill is in their presentation rather the views of climate science. I find the same to be true of the views of the Discovery Institute in their contesting belief in evolution and their support of intelligent design. The media have not done a good job in filtering the material that they present and are often not capable of determining the validity of what they present nor the qualifications of the presenters. This frequently results in a gullible public being deceived. Who are we to trust, well recognized organizations like the National Academies or a group of vocal and emotional, but often not well-informed deniers?

  38. Paul W.

    That kind of illegitimacy is not confined to accommodationism, I’m afraid.

    Tu quoque much?

    Seriously, your best response is a blatant fallacy? You could at least explicitly grant the point before calling me hypocritical for making it…

    Isn’t it hypocritical to call out one side for this kind of illegitimacy while not doing so to the other? I hope you’ve been active with this scolding elsewhere in the blogopshere….

    You bet I have, including on Pharyngula.

    It’s not going to be a popular sentiment around here, and I’m guessing it’ll get me ad hommed as a P.Z. fanboy, but I have to say that the environment at Pharyngula is in some important ways more conducive to serious argument—rather than just trolling and flaming—than the environment here.

    At least at Pharyngula, people don’t just get labeled trolls for simply for disagreeing with the blogger or the main stream of opinion of the like-minded commenters.

    Sometimes that does happen, but if you’re seriously discussing issues, even people who disagree with you will pipe up and say that you’re not just a troll, and that the reflexive, dismissively insulting troll-stompers should pipe down and let interested people have an actual discussion.

    You can also ask straight questions there and get straight answers, rather than being consistently stonewalled or getting nothing but ad hominems and arguments from authority. Many people at Pharyngula like to make actual arguments for their positions, and to elicit actual arguments from people that they disagree with.

    Sure, it’s a very tough room for theists—they’re likely to dogpiled because there are so many people who disagree—but there is also a substantial contingent of Pharynguloids who make it a point of honor to defend non-trolls and give real answers to real questions.

    That comparison may be a bit unfair, because Pharyngula’s commenter community is so much larger than the Intersection’s. Maybe it’s easier to have somebody stand up against false accusations of trolling, or ask a clarifying question, or give a clarifying explanation, because there are so many willing people there, and they can take turns, without it being a big burden on anybody.

    Here it seems to be more of a circle-the-wagons drive-the-New-Atheists-away bunker mentality, but that may be largely because the local main stream is pretty small, and the number of potential interlopers is pretty big.

    Even so, I don’t think it’s pretty. The regular more-or-less loyalist commenters here seem to exemplify the kind of insulting non-argument they often accuse the people at Pharyngula of. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more concerted display of stonewalling about actual issues and ad hominem dismissals of dissenting views, no matter how sincerely and carefully argued.

    When the New Atheism comes up, The Intersection often seems like the Hate On PZ Myers club.

  39. Is there a plot somewhere of all that data (including the 1980-and-beyond data) that I could look at online?

    The original articles by Mann, Bradley and Hughes is online at the Nature site, but I don’t know if you need access to a library with a subscription for the full article.

    The abstract is here:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v392/n6678/abs/392779a0.html

    And the full article is here:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v392/n6678/pdf/392779a0.pdf

    Briffa’s paper on tree rings titled Reduced sensitivity of recent tree-growth to temperature at high northern latitudes which bilbo, Vindrisi and Steve H. mentioned is also online. Note that it was published just 2 months before the Mann et al article.

    The abstract is here:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v391/n6668/abs/391678a0.html

    And the full paper is here:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v391/n6668/pdf/391678a0.pdf

    This is the decline

    The regional correlations for the decadally smoothed densities and temperatures are, in general, higher than the interannual values, with per cent common variances ranging from 34 (NW North America) to 85 (Northern Europe) and averaging ,60%: but only for the period 1881–1960. When the decadal correlations are calculated over the longer 1881–1981 period, consistent falls in the common variances are apparent in all areas. The falls are relatively small in the southern regions (from 67% to 62% in Southern Europe; and from 52% to 40% in SW North America) but much greater in the northern areas with a maximum fall in Eastern Siberia of .30% (from 61% to 27%).

    and this is the takeaway paragraph

    Although we emphasize that our results apply generally only to the high-latitude temperature sensitive forest regions of the Northern Hemisphere, the degradation in thermal response of this significant area of the world’s biosphere suggests that we should be cautious in assuming, in carbon-cycle-model experiments, a constant temperature-dependent biospheric CO2 uptake during different halves of the present century, and in any future warmer world. Such an assumption may lead to underestimates of future atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and conservative estimates of future warming.

  40. Paul W.

    Jon,

    But the only substantive argument I’ve heard is “Overton Window!” and “we made nice before!” Neither works well in the face of common sense, in my view, especially in light of the fact that the arguments are often poorly informed about religion, and disputants know next to nothing about the workings of culture wars. I’d claim that for people claiming to defend the Enlightenment, aggressive ignorance is a strange tactic.

    You know, it seems to me that you’re just saying more vague dismissive stuff, with even less substance than what you’re dismissing.

    There’s more to Overton arguments than you’re letting on, and I think that even if Overton is wrong, Mooney and Kirshenbaum are wrong too. Their simplistic model of politics and rhetoric can’t account for things like the rise of the religious right—which did not play nice—or the recent successes of the gay rights movement. In both cases, more “extreme” activists went ahead and got stuff done over the objections of the moderates “on their side.” The backlash was real, but not generally as severe as the nervous nellies feared, and the frontlash was more effective than their critics predicted.

    If there’s a better explanation than shifting Overton windows, by all means, let’s hear it. And let’s not avoid discussing the strengths and weaknesses of accommodationism, Overton windows, or whatever more sophisticated model of political discourse is more realistic.

    As for being “poorly informed about religion,” I’m sorry, but there’s a whole lot of Courtier’s Responses around here—and that is a veiled form of ad hominem argument, which suggests that you don’t really have a lot of knowledge and wisdom to impart, yourself. If religion or theology is so all-fired wonderful and valid, and the New Atheists are insufficiently appreciative, pick some valid and wonderful stuff and defend it, rather than just dismissively asserting that people who disagree with you are ignorant.

    If that’s the best you can do, you appear at least as ignorant.

  41. Paul W.

    Jinchi,

    Thanks very much!

  42. Paul W.

    Jon & bilbo,

    I’d be happy to continue the New Atheism vs. accommodationism discussion in today’s “My Latest Podcast […]” thread, where it’s on topic, rather than here.

  43. RedRat

    Er, here is a little “trick”, check out the data that was dumped:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6936328.ece

    Seems that all that original raw temperature data collected over 150 years has been trashed. So, we are only left with the data that has been “tricked” out so to speak. Hmm. Wonder what tricks were used to bring it into line?

  44. bilbo

    When the New Atheism comes up, The Intersection often seems like the Hate On PZ Myers club.

    Who brought up PZ, Paul?

    You did.

    Actually, I wasn’t talking about PZ at all. He’s just loud, and is quite honest about criticism. Some of the other NA bloggers, however, are the ones that feign disbelief when they’re crticized.

  45. bilbo

    Their simplistic model of politics and rhetoric can’t account for things like the rise of the religious right—which did not play nice—or the recent successes of the gay rights movement

    Kind of like how the NAs’ “simplistic model” of religion and their absolutist rhetoric can’t account for things like the value of religious moderates who want to fight creationism and fundamentalism just like we do, Paul?

    Oh, wait – I forgot. A goal of NA is to eliminate those moderates. So they do account for them, but just wish they didn’t exist.

  46. Paul W.

    Bilbo,

    Who brought up PZ?

    Did you mean to exclude Pharyngula when you disparaged “the New Atheist blogosphere”?

    I wouldn’t have thought so, but if so, and Pharyngula—the most popular New Atheist blog, and the one most frequently mentioned by regulars here—is exempt from your criticisms, do let me know.

    Seriously, maybe I did mention PZ first in this thread. But people do frequently try to change the subject from whatever I’m actually saying to what a counterproductive meanie PZ is, as though I’m PZ? There’s a bit of a fixation on PZ and Pharyngula around here.

    I was making a general observation about how things go around here, not specific to this thread.

    Did you not notice that Kwok even suggested that maybe I literally am PZ Myers, and repeatedly tried to send me “back to Pharyngula,” like sending a demon back to Hell? Wow. Kooky.

  47. John Kwok

    @ SLC –

    You may have missed my comment (@ 6) regarding my fellow Brunonian, David Klinghoffer, who dubbed me an “obsessed Darwin lover” in one of his Dishonesty Institute posts over a year ago (September 2009). I suppose he could have called me something worse, since I have referred to him often as a Dishonesty Institute mendacious intellectual pornographer, beginning with some online comments on an essay replete with his breathtaking inanity that was published nearly two years ago in our college alumni magazine.

    @ Paul W. –

    See you like painting with a broad brush, again, but what more can I expect when I know the one “painting” is you. I have the utmost respect for Barbara Forrest, especially since she has been in the vanguard keeping watch over the Dishonesty Institute’s nefarious activities.
    Moreover, her comments critical of Militant Atheists like yourself have been well-reasoned and well-stated.

    Again, if you don’t like the political stance taken by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum towards your fellow Militant Atheists, why do you insist on participating here at virtually every discussion thread? Just go home ASAP please to more friendly “terrain” over at Pharyngula and stay there.

  48. Paul W.

    Actually, I wasn’t talking about PZ at all. He’s just loud, and is quite honest about criticism. Some of the other NA bloggers, however, are the ones that feign disbelief when they’re crticized.

    Hmmm… interesting. Care to elaborate, preferably over on the other thread, so we’re not so OT?

  49. tresmal

    RedRat @43:”Er, here is a little “trick”, check out the data that was dumped:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6936328.ece
    Something you missed from that article you linked to: “Jones was not in charge of the CRU when the data were thrown away in the 1980s, a time when climate change was seen as a less pressing issue. “(emphasis mine)
    “Wonder what tricks were used to bring it into line?”
    The ones described in the relevant papers?

  50. “Meanwhile, I continue to marvel at how the anti-evolutionist Discovery Institute seems to be following exactly the same anti-science line on global warming.”

    No reason for surprise. The logic of naysayers is remarkably stable & consistent. The subject of opposition is not the issue; the fact of opposition is. While the (il-) logic methods have been described nicely, the only one I recall at the moment is that, “if one thing is demonstrated false, then all of the opponent’s claims must be false.”

    I would like to dismiss all such naysayers, but the problem is that they vote, and voting does not require sound, logical support for a position.

  51. Gaythia

    I think that some of Paul W’s points and questions are worthy of consideration and polite response, even if I do disagree with him. What I believe those of us who comment here should aim for is a lively, intellectual discussion, encouraging the contributions of many commenters and many differing viewpoints. We should be welcoming to all who wish to participate in a well reasoned exchange. If this were my blog, I would recommend to Paul W. that his comments could be refined, more focused and sometimes less frequent. However, too much agreeableness would be boring and also not educate us as to how to hone our own positions and arguments with respect to the opinions of others.

    Besides,we are guests here, this is not our blog. We don’t set the ground rules.

  52. Neuro-conservative

    Chris — You have fully earned the epithet, my friend. You have sold out your intellectual honesty and journalistic integrity for your blind ideology.

    If you truly cared about science, you would express outrage at the behavior of the mountebanks at CRU.

    But this has never really been about science for you, has it?

  53. If you truly cared about science, you would express outrage at the behavior of the mountebanks at CRU.

    And what, Neuro, would that outrage be directed at? The fact that scientists carried out spirited debates behind what they assumed (wrongly) were closed doors? That Scientists have a tin ear to the political ramifications of thier words (they do; chris has been writing about that for years)? That scientists trying to understand the greatest ecological threat to humans would remove unreliable data from their data set to replace it with more reliable data, thus improving thier science and strengthening their conclusions? We should be outraged at all that?

  54. But this has never really been about science for you, has it?

    Correct! The whole CRU email hack affair has never really been about science. It is a big quote-mining exercise in apophenia to feed confirmation bias.

    It is no more about science than Intelligent Design is.

    There is about as much science in the the charges of climate fraud and hoax, as there is constitutional law in the arguments of the birthers, as there is structural engineering theory in the 9/11 truthers, or there is physics in the moon-landing hoax.

    No. When dealing with denial it is almost never about science.

  55. Paul W.

    John,

    Nice ad hominems, both explicit and veiled (from authority).

    No actual argument, though, I noticed.

    As usual. Pretty lame.

    And no, I’m not going “back to Pharyngula.” I don’t live there, and never have.

    You’re not the intellectual police here, so stop telling me to move along. It’s kooky.

    How about we continue this in the “My Latest Podcast […]” thread, where it’s on topic?

    Sorry for the off-topicness folks. I was peeved about the podcast, which I was listening to when I clicked on this thread, and I shouldn’t have gone there, here.

    Mea culpa.

  56. Paul W.

    Heads up to bilbo, Jon, and John:

    I’ve posted replies at the podcast thread. Here’s the link, for your convenience in Taking This Outside:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/11/30/my-latest-podcast-at-books-and-ideas/comment-page-1/#comment-39672

  57. RedRat

    tresmal Says:
    November 30th, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    RedRat @43:”Er, here is a little “trick”, check out the data that was dumped:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6936328.ece”
    Something you missed from that article you linked to: “Jones was not in charge of the CRU when the data were thrown away in the 1980s, a time when climate change was seen as a less pressing issue. “(emphasis mine)
    “Wonder what tricks were used to bring it into line?”
    The ones described in the relevant papers?
    —————————
    I was well aware that Jones was not in charge, my intent was not to hold him responsible. My real point was the destruction of the raw data. A scientist(s) are not supposed to destroy any of their raw data. Raw data is sacrosanct and always should be. I was a research scientist for over 45 years and my notebooks and data are still there.

    The point of the scientific method, at least classically, has been that you put your data out there for everyone to see. In modern terms, I guess, we call that transparency. Everyone has a chance to look at it. The final scientific papers ought to report raw data but depending on the journals, you summarize and interpret the raw data. Consider a scientific paper “metadata”.

  58. RedRat

    I would like to point out the following article:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6936328.ece

    Here are my edited comments that I blogged over at:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2009/11/30/the-discovery-institute-gets-personalgno/comment-page-2/#comment-39711

    Seems that all that original raw temperature data collected over 150 years has been trashed. So, we are only left with the data that has been “tricked” out so to speak. Hmm. Wonder what tricks were used to bring it into line?

    Now my point is not to blame Jones, who is mentioned in the article, but to point out something that scientists are NOT supposed to do: destroy raw data. In science, raw data is sacrosanct and always should be. I was a research scientist for over 45 years and my notebooks and data are still there.

    The point of the scientific method, at least classically, has been that you put your data out there for everyone to see. In modern terms, I guess, we call that transparency. Everyone has a chance to look at it. The final scientific papers ought to report raw data but depending on the journals, you summarize and interpret the raw data. Consider a scientific paper “metadata”.

    BTW, in science we do not “vote” on what the data says, we may argue and interpret, but science unfortunately is not run in democratic mode. That is why we still argue about evolution, string theory, and a myriad of other things. Scientists disagree and that comes from being skeptical of any statement. Because of this, science is always evolving in trying to describe how nature works. That is what makes it fun.

  59. RedRat

    Please excuse the above post, I inadvertently posted it here and it was intended for the Washington Post.

  60. MartinM

    Seems that all that original raw temperature data collected over 150 years has been trashed.

    Nonsense. CRU have not maintained a copy of the raw data. That’s quite a different thing.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »