Value-free science?

Reiner Grundmann has a new post on Die Klimazwiebel discussing whether or not philosophy can enlighten climate science. Reiner also has an earlier post about the same topic.

As far as I can tell, the basic argument seems to be that scientists should be value-free. In other words, you shouldn’t let your beliefs influence your science. Fair enough, that seems fundamentally reasonable, but also just seems rather obvious. To a certain extent, I’m not quite sure what’s motivating this theme of value-free science. Reiner isn’t the only one who seems to be discussing this. This also seems related to what Tamsin Edwards was suggesting in her Guardian article. One possible motivation is that if scientists were seen to be value-free (objective) then they’d find it easier to convince the public of the strength of their scientific evidence. They would seem un-biased. An alternative is that science itself requires that researchers be value-free.

I largely have issues with both of these possibilities, or at least with the importance of these two interpretations. As far as convincing the public goes, I’m not even sure it’s true. Whenever I’m involved in public engagement, what the public seem to really appreciate is the enthusiasm. Research often requires some passion and drive. How do you turn that off? Researchers aren’t simply machines that follow a set of rules so as to carry out some research. They typically do something that they’ve found fascinating and have some kind of connection with. Expecting scientists to be dis-passionate would be disastrous, in my opinion.

You could argue that there’s a difference between being passionate about your research, and publicly advocating for certain policies. This may be true, but where do you draw the line and who decides? Also, would this really be of benefit to the public? If we’re funding research and that research indicates a problem, wouldn’t we expect the researchers to at least make this very clear? How would it be a good spend of public money if we expected researchers to remain completely dispassionate, even when their research clearly indicates something serious and indicates that we should probably act to do something about it. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that simply because scientists advocate something, that we should immediately do as they say. Policy decisions must come from our policy makers. I’m just unconvinced that we should be discouraging scientists from publicly expressing views about their interpretation of the implications of their research. The implication, I think, is that if they’re advocating for policies, then this could be driving their research. We should, however, at least consider the alternative; that their advocacy is driven by their research and not the other way around.

The issue of whether or not science requires that scientists be value-free is maybe subtler. It’s patently obvious that your belief system shouldn’t influence your research. However, the suggestion that scientists should be dis-passionate is just a little absurd. That’s kind of why most of us do what we do. We’re passionate about doing interesting research. It’s not a belief system, it’s just a passion for discovery. Consequently, it is difficult for scientists to remain dis-passionate about their results. There are clearly many examples of scientists who have stuck to pet theories even when the evidence is against them. However, this doesn’t really matter because the beauty of science is that you collect evidence. Eventually, the evidence will indicate which theories/ideas have merit and which don’t. That some individuals might be blinded by some “belief” in their pet ideas, doesn’t really matter. It would be a problem if everyone was blinded by a belief system, but that would be tending towards conspiracy ideation and would, in my opinion at least, be the least likely of all possibilities.

To finish on a slightly more controversial point though, is that one issue I have is that most who seem to be pushing this kind of value-free science idea seem to have their own biases. Of course, I can’t read their minds, but it does seem to be coming from those who seem to have concluded that there is some basic problem with climate science. For example, why does Reiner title his post can philosophy enlighten climate science? Why not just science, or even just research? It would seem to me that this may be more relevant to the social sciences than to the physical sciences. In the physical sciences you typically collect evidence to test theories/hypotheses. It seems that personal interpretation is a much bigger part of the social sciences, than the physical sciences. I know this isn’t always true, but it would seem that personal biases are much more likely to be important in the social sciences than in the physical sciences.

If some are suggesting that science should be value-free, shouldn’t they be at least trying to appear to be value-free themselves? Also, if you wanted to consider the implications of how prior beliefs might influence one’s research, an obvious place to start might be to consider those scientists who’ve signed the Cornwall Alliance’s evangelical declaration on global warming. If this isn’t an example of scientists who have rejected value-free science, I don’t know what is. Why imply a problem with mainstream climate science, when a number of leading dissenters have signed a declaration stating that God will ensure that our climate is self-correcting?

This entry was posted in Climate change, Global warming, Roy Spencer and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

161 Responses to Value-free science?

  1. I should probably add that this is a complicated topic and so this post is really just my thoughts at this time. I’m happy to be convinced that there are subtleties to this that I have overlooked. I should also add that I’m away this weekend and so may not be available for moderation. Bearing the basic moderation policy in mind would therefore be appreciated.

  2. BBD says:

    The subtext here – as ever – is that “climate science” is unduly influenced by an underlying “agenda” (values/ideology) which has distorted it. As you say above, this is essentially *projection* by those advancing such claims.

  3. BBD says:

    I should add that since this ideological bias in climate science is never actually demonstrated we are presented with argument from assertion, which is of course a logical fallacy.

  4. Rachel says:

    I definitely agree that scientists should be passionate about what they do and free to express this. I also don’t have a problem at all with scientists expressing opinions on policy, especially when it is related to their area of research. If I had cancer and was given a few alternative treatments by my doctor, I would want his/her professional *opinion* as to which would be the best option.

    Did you see that cartoon by Josh of Tamsin and Sou with Sou covering her mouth so that she could not speak? It was a bit ridiculous I thought because the only one covering Tamsin’s mouth is Tamsin herself since she has muted her own voice on opinions of policy. The contrarian blogs no doubt agree with her and encourage this muting of scientists yet they themselves are allowed to express their opinions.

    I don’t want to harp on about earthquakes all the time but there’s a nice parallel here with what I saw in Christchurch after the earthquakes. Everyone, including politicians, looked to geologists and seismologists for information about the sequence of events. No-one said, sorry, you can’t give us your views here because you’re a scientist. For example, geologists went to great lengths to assess the stability of the some of the hill suburbs in Christchurch and from their assessments, decisions were made as to which homes to permanently evacuate. They provided their opinions, based on their observations and knowledge, as to what course of action to take. This is very reasonable to me and the only explanation I have for people thinking it a bad idea for climate scientists to do something similar is that those people don’t like the conclusions the scientists are making.

  5. Marco says:

    As soon as someone says “scientists should behave value-free”, they ignore that the consideration of what is “value-free” depends on what someone’s values are. It’s a circular argumentation.

  6. Rachel says:

    I should add that I’m going away for the weekend too.

  7. OPatrick says:

    If climate scientists choose to fly to climate conferences will they now be praised for being value-free?

  8. Marco, that’s a good point that I hadn’t really considered. In a sense maybe that does illustrate my confusion on this topic because I can’t understand how one would define value-free. It does, indeed, some circular.

    OPatrick, a nice illustration of the circularity. They’re being hypocritical if they fly, but if they choose not to because of what their research is telling them, then they’re no longer objective.

  9. Rachel says:

    One other thought, is a scientist who performs experiments on animals not required to adhere to a code of ethics that requires the proper treatment of those animals? Doesn’t this then exclude the idea of value-free science? I wonder how the values of Robert Oppenheimer fitted in with his work on the atomic bomb. The more I think about it the less I like the idea of value-free science and I don’t think we should be demanding this of anyone.

  10. KR says:

    Passion is a requirement – nobody will good work if they don’t have an interest in what they are doing. And that includes being passionate about the conclusions your work points to. Note that a truly skeptical scientist has the ability to change their mind based on the evidence, to drop old beliefs, and values, if they are not supported. [Side note – those in denial rarely demonstrate such an ability]

    “Value-free” is a red herring, an attempt to push back against publicizing results, and in my opinion would be a huge error – if for no other reason that paying attention to reality, doing good science, is itself a “value”.

    If the evidence supports a conclusion, including policy recommendations, and those are really supported by the evidence, scientists should by all means say so.

  11. John Mashey says:

    I think it is always a good caution that extra-science viewpoints not skew the scientific results, and that scientists must be careful to use science to inform policy, not the reverse. (Steve Schneider was good at discussing this.) On the other hand, who else is going to publicize and explain relevant results. Here’s a retroactive comparison that shows the silliness of value-free:

    1) Suppose in the 1940s onward, medical researchers had decided that smoking was immoral, and had been skewing their research to make it look bad. That would have been a bad idea.

    2) But suppose they did study after study and the evidence kept building up that smoking caused disease and death. (The best estimates of smoking-related deaths in 20th century are ~100M people, i.e.., more than the big wars put together.) The 1964 Surgeon General Report was in some sense an analog of the IPCC (TAR or AR4 perhaps).

    Would anyone want researchers NOT to talk about that and advocate something be done? (A: absolutely, the tobacco companies certainly wanted researchers to be ignored.)

  12. Wotts,

    The debate about facts and values seems of little practical relevance to me, except perhaps if we look at from the communication end. Arguments from neutrality, objectivity or else fulfill a rhetorical function, which is to build trust. Trust is an essential ingredient of public life of everyone, including scientists. Here’s an episode that I think nails that point:

    It does not talk about scientists, but about perception of products, companies, and professions.We should beware that scientists not only ideas, but they sell themselves. When I speak of “selling”, I’m not sure I’m being metaphorical. See for instance Dana’s latest post, which may explain the contrarians’ personality cult and vilification.

  13. Doug Bostrom says:

    Exploring John’s point:

    — The most important medical research is done because– leaving aside other motivations– we find pain and death to be repugnant in ways that transcend material considerations. While it would be cheaper and easier to euthanize Grandma when she’s lost her mind and turned into a vegetable, we don’t do that because our values don’t permit this as an option.

    — It’s safe to say that moral considerations (“values”) are a powerful motivation for at least some medical researchers; for some researchers, their chosen topic would be of less interest if they could not picture their work relieving suffering.

    — If medical research were conducted only by psychopaths with no facility for empathy and no moral stance, would medical research results be more trustworthy or useful?

    — Why should geophysical research that touches on human suffering be any different?

  14. Marco says:

    Willard, I guess you meant John Abraham’s latest post?

  15. You’re right, Marco. This one:

    > Celebrities in scientists’ lab coats have played a role in the public discourse on climate change that far outweighs their scientific credibility.

    ClimateBall is more a race than a boxing match. It a race to acquire more credibility. This conclusion applies to everyone, including Tamsin and Wotts.

    David Suzuki is one if the most trusted Canadian, while Tom Hanks is the most trusted American. Do not trust Tom’s eating habits, folks. A cookie is a cookie, vegetarian or not.

  16. Doug Bostrom says:

    I might add, it would be “value free” for a doctor to mention to a patient or a patient’s family that the subject is running a 44.5 degree temperature, while keeping mum on any conclusions about whether that is good or bad, whether anything should be done about it, what might be done.

    Good advice? Oh, that’s right, no advice is better. ??

  17. toby52 says:

    Arn’t there echoes here of the Post-modernist “science wars”?

    The po-mos attacked science for its pretensions to be “value free”, proclaiming it instead to be permeated with male, euro-centric, and imperialist ideologies. Again, this latest criticism seems to be against climate science alone, though it is not clear what values are objectionable.

    Another po-mo criticism was that “observations are theory laden”, but that is in many ways a truism. I remember a quote from Darwin to the effect that he never made an observation without awareness of its relevance to a particular theory. Beyond a generalised aspiration, it is hard to see what this particular criticism has to offer.

    Incidentally, I do think that the philosophy of science can help scientists understand their work better and communicate it better. But Grundmann’s suggestions are not the way.

  18. Rachel says:

    I can’t help but smile at the mention of a vegetarian cookie. 😉

    I found this interesting essay on values in science -

    I won’t summarise it because I’m finger typing on a phone but I got from it that values are a good thing to have in science.

    Something I want to add, and maybe this is stretching the topic a bit, but one thing I feel as a parent that is more important above all else is to teach my kids ethics. I suppose what I mean by ethics at a basic level is kindness and compassion. This to me is more important than teaching them trigonometry or how to play the violin or soccer. This kindness and compassion is not something that I would expect they abandon when they go off to work each day. It should be there all the time in all aspects of life – work and play.

  19. Rachel says:

    Doug, a doctor who gives a value-less diagnosis looks pretty heartless in my view. Good example.

  20. Doug Bostrom says:

    I don’t think it’s a far stretch to analogize this situation as clinical medical practice on a planetary scale.

    Diagnose, treat. The people doing the diagnostics are trained to understand how the patient functions and malfunctions. They’re better able to prescribe, or point to specialists with skills to deal with the pathology.

    Or would it be better to have an accountant do the treatment, once diagnosis was complete, without advice from a clinician?

    Where the analogy fails is that here prescription necessarily treads on values more than it typically does in medicine. In a medical situation it’s usually the case that even if somebody stands to inherit if treatment isn’t given, our values don’t allow them to groundlessly call the attending physician a liar and thereby arrest treatment.

    If people stand to gain from the production of a corpse from an otherwise treatable patient, they’d better be able to make a very persuasive and hermetically complete argument over why treatment shouldn’t have included the advice of people qualified to help.

    The curious exception of climate science stands in stark contrast to the more typical scenario, wherein an industrial concern such as Monsanto wraps their profit-seeking in high-minded talk of of intervention by science and caring, motivated scientists for the public welfare.

    We’re trained to a different formality when it comes to talk of climate science.

  21. BBD says:

    Well put, Doug.

  22. DocMartyn says:

    “This may be true, but where do you draw the line and who decides?”
    As a scientist communicating with ones fellows and other you have to have three types of statements
    I know, that is one can show experimental evidence to support a statement.
    I believe, on the basis of observation of known data, proven by empirical research, one can conclude or model a particular process.
    I suspect, based on meta-analysis of known knowns one can speculate as to what unkowns are and their range.

    Mixing these three types of statements devalues the former and discredits science.

  23. David Young says:

    There is an extensive discussion at James’ on this.

    In a cynical age of politization of virtually everything, people are very cynical about politics and politicians. Scientists who appear to descend to that plane will have some of that cynicism rub off on them. In an earlier age, scientists did not get involved very much in these things. That’s why when they rarely did get involved, people listened more carefully.

    The smart doctor who has credibility does what my doctor does. He gives always both sides of the story on any treatment or diagnosis and usually errs on the side of doing nothing. Treat your patient with respect and as the decision maker. Good doctors don’t pressure patients to make certain decisions or make exaggerated promises or claims or try to shield patients from disagreeing opinions. In reality, medicine is almost always not a black and white thing. I always find it humorous when I am told that any scientist is a “doctor for the planet.” If so, then behave like a good doctor would.

    And this is perhaps the core of the problem. Many people want to treat climate like smoking and in reality its not that black and white. It’s more akin to deciding if you should take statins. There are pluses and minuses. The problem here is that abundant energy dramatically improves human well being as every thinking human being knows full well.

  24. Doug Bostrom says:

    Further to David’s thoughts and likening medications and their downsides to climate mitigation approaches, a specialist is indicated (stretching the whole medical affair to the snapping point). An economist would be a good specialist to consult.

    How about William Nordhaus? I’ve just obtained a copy of his latest book and will be interested to see what he says.

  25. Jim Balter says:

    The whole thrust is deeply intellectually dishonest, and the worst offender is Edwards because she fuels an argument from authority that, because she’s a climate scientist accusing other climate scientists of injecting their views, that she must be right. But her basic premise, that “trust in science” has been damaged by scientists offering opinions of policy is not only false, it blames the victim and ignores the elephantine industry propaganda campaign.

    If we look at scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, they largely eschew value judgments and policy recommendations. They same cannot be said of most of what “skeptics” present as science, such as articles by Bob Tisdale at WUWT.

    If it is valid that X should not inject values into scientific discussions, then X should be … everyone; there is no basis for the assertion that it only applies to scientists, the very people who are best informed . But of course it is the “skeptics” who are most guilty of injecting their values into the discussion, values that are inappropriate because they are irrelevant to and independent of the evidence and that clearly skew their views of what the science does or doesn’t say. OTOH, the values that scientists bring are a respect for truth, honesty, and objectivity, and concern for the well-being of humans of current and future generations. It is a bad idea to free oneself of such values.

  26. Joshua says:

    ==]] As soon as someone says “scientists should behave value-free”, they ignore that the consideration of what is “value-free” depends on what someone’s values are. It’s a circular argumentation. [[==

    I agree. This is why I think that Tamsin’s rationale (assuming I understand it) is not based on evidence. As Dan Kahan’s careful, empirical analysis shows, for the most part, trust in experts is based on how one is biased to assess the opinion of the expert. Where is the evidence that trust in experts is based on the degree to which they are “activist.” Do “skeptics” trust Roy Spencer any less because he has explicitly stated that he believes that he has a role as an advocate? Was the hatred directed towards MLK from the religious community because, as they said, they felt his advocacy was not appropriate from a church leader – or because they were closed to the content of his advocacy? Of course, there is an element of people not trusting someone who seems like they are trying to hard to sell them something, but it is very difficult to identify how that dynamic might or might not be playing out in the climate wars.

    I would be open to evidence that would substantiate (what seems to be) Tamsin’s perspective – as there is a common sense logic to the notion that activism might be counterproductive. There was recently an article that “skeptics” over at Judith’s felt supported their “anti-activist” line of argumentation – an article which indicated that activists were unpopular and off-putting. But again, there were many leaps being made across gaps between the specifics of the study’s findings and the “skeptics'” application of the study’s findings to the reality of the climate wars

    And, of course, the “skeptics” at Judith’s, rather typically, were unwilling to deal with questions about whether their determination of who is and isn’t an “activist” is based on arbitrary (meaning subjective) distinctions – essentially translating to: “Someone I agree with isn’t an ‘activist,’ but someone I disagree with is an ‘activist”

  27. David Young says:

    Even the smoking issue is often described in terms that ignore history, not surprising when its being pressed into service for political purposes. In fact, there were always many people who considered smoking a moral issue. Certainly Mormons always did and a lot of christians too. In fact, Russell goes to great lengths to flout his fondness for tobacco and to equate moral objections to it as an example of misplaced asceticism even going so far as to say that if St. Paul had know about tobacco, he surely would have condemned it.

    Even smoking is a choice issue in most countries with strong civil liberties and in fact in a rather strange turn of events many states are legalizing medical marijuana. And the political left is quite friendly to this turn of events.

  28. Steve Bloom says:

    Oddly, when my doctor told me I had high blood pressure, we didn’t discuss options at all. Instead he said we have to get that BP down into the safe range and gave me a prescription, and added that if that weren’t enough we would go to other steps, including increasing dosage or some combination of medicines, until something did the job.

    Of course when it comes to climate change, the DYs of the world are perfectly happy to sacrifice any number of Filipinos (today’s example) to the higher cause of maintaining choice for privileged First Worlders.

    And oh jeez, now it’s the smoking bit too. Libertarianism, tedious and often just plain stupid.

  29. Steve Bloom says:

    Returning to the subject of the post, we should bear in mind that Grundmann’s piece appears on a blog created by Storch in order to promote his distaste for Schellnhuber (for those who don’t know him, chief climate adviser to the German government). That context explains much.

  30. David Young says:

    Steve, It’s a little odd that your doctor didn’t discuss options with you. Perhaps your doctor was not as good as mine. There is an old school of thought that expects doctors to be absolute authorities and to dictate to their patients. That attitude should be changing in an era of clearer recognition of people’s rights to choose, but choice is sometimes a doctrine upheld only when it fits your prejudices.

    You know I suspect that in fact tropical cyclone activity has been decreasing and that the IPCC says there is not a clear link between warming and extreme weather. In any case, this is a controversial subject and I’m not sure emotional and science free blame games will help anyone in this debate.

  31. John Mashey says:

    I strongly recommend the book “Golden Holocaust” by Robert Proctor, probably the US’s leading historian on the tobacco industry, which led in the creation of the tactics now employed in climate anti-science. See PDF @ Fakey 2, p.13. It even has a section on climate-related issues. Tobacco companies only stay in business by addicting 12-18-year-olds, nothing else really matters, pp.37-.

  32. andrew adams says:

    There will be some cases where there are a variety of options with advantages and disadvantages, there will be others where there is an accepted method of treatment which is proven to be effective. Climate change is more akin to the former in that there are obviously a lot of different policy options, and merely saying “this a serious problem we need to do something about it” is not to prescribe particular policies.
    In the former case it would be still be somewhat surprising if the doctor said something like “you’ve got cancer, you may think this is a bad thing, it would be inappropriate for me to make that value judgement”.

  33. Lars Karlsson says:

    A cry for value-free sience in the Tobacco lobbyist document “Bad Science — A Resource Book.” (1993)
    “Too often science is manipulated to fulfill a political agenda.

    Science that is used to guide public policy must be based on sound science — not on emotions or beliefs that are viewed by some as “politically correct .””

    “Proposals that seek to improve indoor air quality by singling out tobacco smoke only enable bad science to become a poor excuse for enacting new laws and jeopardizing individual liberties.”

  34. andrew adams says:

    I haven’t see any convincing evidence that scientists expressing values or engaging in “advocacy” has actually reduced trust. OK, you will see “skeptic” bloggers and commenters saying that their views have been influenced or changed altogether by scientists’ actions but frankly I don’t believe them – based on a wider reading of their views it seems to be largely a post hoc justification for dismissing scientific evidence on climate change (which is not to say they are all being deliberately dishonest, it can be a natural instinct to distrust those who tell us something we don’t want to hear).

    I guess it may be more true in the case of “non-committed” skeptics amongst the wider public, but is that due to the scientists actions per se, or because they have been fed a distorted and misleading picture of those actions? And it seems to me that if scientists stop expressing their views publicly so as to avoid any impression of “advocacy” ISTM that the bigger effect is likely to be to lower the profile of the issue in the public mind and reduce the prospect of meaningful action being take. Which I guess is what some people want to achieve.

  35. OPatrick says:

    “You know I suspect that in fact tropical cyclone activity has been decreasing and that the IPCC says there is not a clear link between warming and extreme weather.

    This looks like an example of value-influenced understanding of ‘facts’. In ‘fact’ the IPCC have shown there is clear evidence of links between warming and some forms of extreme weather, but less evidence, either due to lack of data or because the data does not show clear trends, for other links.

    I suspect also that your complaints about ’emotional blame games’ are misdirected. There is an interesting example in the Guradian, where John Vidal writes that what the Filipinos are most alarmed about is the rich world ignoring climate change. This may seem an easy target for people who want to suggest that emotive arguments are being used, but in the comments the most emotive language seems to be coming from those who object to the article. It seems we should ignore the wider picture, which we might potentially be able to do something about if we accept changes in our behaviour, and focus on the suffering of those hit by the storm.

  36. Rachel says:


    I think sometimes people want their doctor to dictate the best option/s to them. When confronted with something as important as problems with our health, it can be stressful to the point that we want to pass some of the decision-making onto to someone else. That’s not to say that I think doctor’s should ignore the wishes of their patients, just that every case is different and some people may prefer someone else make the tough decisions for them.

    I personally like to know the opinions of experts when I’m trying to decide what to do whether it be the opinion of a doctor/plumber/vet etc. This doesn’t mean that I’ll do what they recommend, just that I want to know what they think. I get frustrated when experts give vague airy-fairy answers because they’re afraid to express a definitive point of view. Are they afraid they’re going to be wrong? Who cares.

    I love listening to those radio programs where a group of people talk and discuss their views. I especially like it when they’ve got clear views on things otherwise it’s just boring. This doesn’t mean that their views don’t change. Sometimes, over the course of discussing what other people think, we change our minds.

    I agree that if climate scientists are not currently considered trustworthy by the general public then this has nothing to do with the behaviour of climate scientists themselves, but is a result of special interest groups intent on discrediting them.

  37. Marco says:

    Andrew, next time some pseudoskeptic makes this claim, ask them who they *do* trust. It’s often not that difficult to find statements from these scientists that are obviously value-laden. You can also regularly point out the direct association of many of these scientists with ideological thinktanks and similar organizations (e.g. the Cornwall Alliance).

    Not that such evidence makes the pseudoskeptic reconsider their claim…

  38. Brigitte says:

    This might be of interest to some, as it relates to science, politics, norms, contestation, rhetoric etc. Bit long, but still interesting I hope.

  39. BBD says:

    There really isn’t anything to discuss. Vested interests are spinning against climate science. No bias has been demonstrated, so we are presented with the logical fallacy of argument from assertion. Talking around this changed absolutely nothing.

    Let’s deal in facts. This is a serious matter.

  40. BBD says:

    To be clear: no ideological/values-driven bias in climate science has been demonstrated.

    That would be the other lot.

  41. andrew adams says:


    This is something that comes up regularly on Curry’s blog – she’ll criticise other scientists for supposed advocacy or activism but when it’s pointed out that she is as much if not more guilty of these things the answer from her or her supporters is just “yes but that’s different because reasons” or they claim with a straight face that she is merely advocating for integrity in science. It’s just impossible to engage with that kind of reasoning.

  42. Louise says:

    Andrew and Marco – I tried pointing out that she is just as much an activist as those she criticises but her white knights tripped over themselves in their rush to her defence. Mosher with a classic reference to McCarthy.

  43. Marco says:

    Louise, why am I not surprised? 🙂

  44. Doug Bostrom says:

    What erodes trust in scientists? It’s not scientists leaking their values in the public square.

    What erodes trust in scientists is the chorus of op-ed authors, politicians, “think tank” propagandists and PR flaks repeatedly calling scientists liars, in the public square, as loudly as possible. Kangaroo courts in legislatures, witch hunts in universities, all the rest. These will have an effect even though they’re rubbish.


    All this precious talk of scientists needing to walk on eggs and behave like palace eunuchs is simply part of the bizarre formalism governing discussion of climate science and climate policy. We’ve become accustomed to rules of engagement that are quite different.

    Grundmann’s choice of venue and topic is itself an expression of the twisted rules pertaining to the topic of climate science and policy.

  45. David Young says:

    Rachel, Thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree that sometimes experts waffle instead of presenting choices. But often the conclusion is fuzzy. That’s called risk and is a critical element of any decision. The data on cholestrol is fuzzy and we still don’t understand why some people like me have high cholestrol and a calcium score of 0 while my Dad whose cholestrol was very low had quadroople bypass surgery. Cholestrol levels are just one of a huge numbers of factors and in fact as my brother explains to me the marginal benefit of taking statins is usually quite small. It’s the difference between a 2% chance of a heart attack in the next 10 years and a 3% chance. I’m more likely to be run over by a truck.

    An insight that my brother tells me often is that people tend to try to view these things in black and white terms so they can internally reconcile their choices. That’s why I say that in reality these choices are usually not black and white. Climate is clearly one with all shades of grey and that does bother me about the debate. It’s so polarized that the shades of grey are usually ignored in favor of propaganda.

  46. Doug Bostrom says:

    It’s so polarized that the shades of grey are usually ignored in favor of propaganda.

    There’s that odd formality again.

    How is the debate on climate different from that on vaccination?

  47. David Young says:

    Doug, Is your question serious? Vaccination has beneficial effects and negligible negative effects, even though for the flu, its not as effective as we would like. Fossil fuels have dramatic beneficial effects and a future effect that may be negative that is at the moment very uncertain at least if you believe AR5. The disasterous scenarios that are endlessly repeated are not based on science and lots of mainstream scientists are saying so. For example methane hydrates outgassing, worse storms, Greenland ice cap melting, etc. Hymalyan glaciers melting by 2035. All this is grey green literature that has no scientific standing.

    Rational responses require admitting the grey areas and making value judgments.

  48. Doug Bostrom says:

    …a future effect that may be negative that is at the moment very uncertain at least if you believe AR5.

    What a puzzling remark, especially coupled with the endorsement of climate scientists as trustworthy shortly found in association with a list of shopworn canards and straw man hyperbole.

    The difference with vaccination versus climate change research and policy outcomes is that we don’t tacitly accord synthetic, unearned respect to anti-vaccination cranks. We don’t allow anti-vaccination cranks to paralyze vaccination as a means of preventing epidemics. The reason why we treat the two situations differently is that the formality we’ve adopted in dealing with anti-vaccination cranks is different to that we employ in dealing with the cranks disagreeing with radiative physics and knock-on effects.

    Thank you for asking.

  49. David Young says:

    Doug, This is going nowhere. I said nothing that is disputable and you didn’t dispute it. “Cranks” are not the issue. Insulting them makes you feel virtuous perhaps but really accomplishes nothing. But that says more about you than them.

  50. Rachel says:

    I would say you’ve said a few things that are disputable. Doug highlighted “propaganda” first which, if you’re referring to the crank side of the debate, then I actually agree with you. But somehow I doubt that was what you were referring to. If propaganda means misleading information to promote a political cause then I’d say that describes James Delingpole’s stuff and The Daily Mail through and through. I haven’t seen this from any climate scientists.

    I also agree with Doug on the comparison between vaccination and climate science. There are shades of grey in vaccination – some people do react badly, some vaccinations don’t last very long, and for some of them, there is a very small but finite risk of brain damage. But these risks a minuscule when compared with the overall benefits of vaccination and by and large we don’t provide a platform for anti-vaccination compaigners to elevate these negatives more than they are worth.

    You also say that the future effect of global warming *may* be negative as though there is some doubt. Really? The millions of people who will lose their homes due to rising sea waters is an uncertain negative in your view? The lost of coral reefs due to ocean acidification is an uncertain negative too? Not to mention the increase in heat waves, the effects of changing rainfall patterns on crop yields and the loss of biodiversity.

    But back to the topic. Thank you for your earlier response to mine. I caught up with a couple of doctor friends of mine yesterday and discussed this topic with them at length. They agreed that in the past the role of the doctor was much more authoritative and prescriptive than today and that this probably wasn’t such a good thing. But it was their view that this has swung too much in the opposite direction. Patients have to sometimes make tough decisions for themselves that they don’t necessarily understand. In some more extreme cases, patients are incapable of making any decisions and the doctor must make it for them.

    On the topic of values in medicine. It is recognized that doctors have values and they are allowed to have them. The example is that if a doctor, for religious or other reasons, objects to abortion then the doctor doesn’t have to participate in this in any way. They have to pass the patient onto another doctor, but they don’t have to be a part of something that clashes with their values.

    Back to climate science. If we ask the question, “what should we do about climate change?”, then where should we look for answers? I can’t understand why anyone would think we should’t ask climate scientists what they think the answer is. This is the first point of call for me when seeking an answer to this question. Why anyone would think a politician, journalist or ex-tv-weatherman is likely to have a better answer is something I find very, very strange. Not only are we asking for answers in the wrong place but we are trying to mute the very people who have the best knowledge and background for answering this question. They get criticised for it and I find this odd to say the least.

  51. > I said nothing that is disputable and you [Doug] didn’t dispute it.

    Both claims are false.


    > Rational responses require admitting the grey areas and making value judgments.

    A sense of realism requires stopping pussyfooting about how to name the colors of the darkest areas or demanding another clair-obscur theory

  52. Thanks for all the comments. Apologies for not being more involved. As I mentioned in the first comment, I’ve been away for the weekend with the family and didn’t have particularly good internet access (apart from sitting in the hotel’s hallway).

    Brigitte, I can’t seem to access the paper you’ve linked to, but shall try and do so from work tomorrow. It does look interesting.

  53. Ian Forrester says:

    Doug Young is wrong when he claims:

    and a future effect that may be negative that is at the moment very uncertain at least if you believe AR5

    WGII SPM has recently been leaked. It does not say what DY claims.

    Bad things are happening now, not just in the future. Agricultural yields are at risk, rice yields have been decreasing in areas where there is increased night time temperatures, something which AGW theory predicted.

    Quality of wheat deteriorates under high CO2 concentrations:

    So lets stop proclaiming this nonsense that increased temperature and CO2 will be beneficial. Nothing could be further from the truth. Doug Young, these scenarios are based on science not the nonsense found at denier sites.

  54. BBD says:

    Notice that David Young incessantly insinuates that there are issues and problems and lack of trust etc but never, ever demonstrates anything. Indeed, when challenged, his claims are invariably shown to be either completely false or misrepresentations.

    David is providing a running demonstration of value-laden bias. One wonders if he is aware that he is doing it.

  55. Ian, I presume you mean David Young, rather than Doug Young 🙂

  56. Ian Forrester says:

    Oops, yes, my mistake.

  57. David Young says:

    Ian, I think part of the problem here is that some of your sources are simply not going to be credible for me. Think Progress and the infamous Joe Romm are in my book simply propagandists. Romm has been unmasked recently by the discovery institute and their case looks convincing to me. Have you seen it?

    The Guardian is also not the final word on anything any more than the Wall Street Journal is. The problem here is that this issue is politicized and so there are lots of sources on both sides that are simply biased and unreliable. You must look at the entire story and what I see here is a pattern of reading only one side of this debate and calling the other side names, which is a classical symptom of partisanship.

    The range of possible outcomes given the IPCC ECS range is indeed very large. And of course emission scenarios are another source of uncertainty.

    I saw the treatment Richard Betts received here from some and I’m afraid the pattern may be repeating itself. Betts is a genuinely nice person and one of integrity and probity who takes his civil servant responsibility to remain neutral on policy seriously. As a result I take him seriously. You do yourself a disservice by falling into Romm’s pattern of name calling.

    Unless people can admit that there are legitimate positions that disagree with them, there is little point in trying to have a constructive discussion.

  58. David Young, I’ll pull you up on something. Maybe I’ve missed some comments, but I’m unaware of Richard Betts’s name being mentioned other than in passing. Since I agree with you that Richard Betts is likely a genuinely nice person of integrity, I would request that you either show where he’s received some kind of “treatment” here (by inference, unfair I assume), or withdraw that claim.

  59. Doug Bostrom says:

    David is providing a running demonstration of value-laden bias.

    Yeah, the confusion between “greenies” and research results that happen to have policy implications coincident with the “green agenda” is pretty conspicuous. This is a problem shared by a lot of people.

    If your mechanic says your car has a mixture problem and is exhausting fuel that hasn’t been burnt, it doesn’t mean the mechanic is a “greenie” even if the outcome means you’re contributing to photochemical smog. Not complicated.


  60. Ian Forrester says:

    Dave Young, if you had even bothered to read the cite I gave you you would have discovered that there was a link to the leaked SPM for WGII. How can anyone ever have a intelligent discussion with some body so blinded by ideology as you?

    Please read the link to the SPM then make your comments.

    And please refrain from ad hominem comments. Why would I ever believe or even look into anything put out by an anti-science group such as the Discovery Institute. i am a scientist and hate people who support anti-science.

    Why do you mention the Guardian and Wall Street Journal, did I even mention them in my post? No, I referred you to real science, some thing you seem oddly poorly acquainted with.

    You state:

    what I see here is a pattern of reading only one side of this debate and calling the other side names, which is a classical symptom of partisanship.

    There is only one side, that side is the peer reviewed scientific literature. If you kept to that instead of your biased anti-AGW side you would realize that you are completely wrong. Somehow I doubt that you will be convinced since I doubt you have the intellectual ability to understand the science.

  61. Doug Bostrom says:

    BTW, The Discovery Institute? Really?

    Last I heard, The Discovery Institute was all about “creation science,” and “teaching the controversy.”

    Talk about values bleeding into science. I can’t think of a better example.

  62. Ian,

    David pushes buttons. The way you react can only make you a future target of David’s button pushing. Notice how he ignores my comments: which buttons could he push?

    Let us be thankful for David’s concerns, if only for our own sake.

  63. Doug, indeed – especially given the last paragraph of my post.

  64. BBD says:

    He ignores my comments too, Willard.

  65. David Young says:

    Sorry, It’s the Breakthrough Institute. The series of posts is well worth reading. The reaction here is interesting. You didn’t say “Discovery Institute makes no sense in this context” and instead saw this as evidence confirming your prejudices about me.

    Ian, All I can say is you must surely be nicer in person. I did follow the link and saw some of the impacts discussed. There are 2 sides to this story of course.

  66. David Young, I don’t know much about Joe Romm and superfreakonomics and don’t have time to learn about it now. To me, articles comparing one person to another (supposedly unpleasant) person is just a variant of Godwin’s law. Also, a lot of these types of things seem to always have alternative explanations so that you can find two sides to the argument and often the one you take most seriously is the one written in a media outlet you trust. There may be occasions when clearly someone has behaved badly, but sometimes it’s in the interpretation and I don’t really have much interest in going in circles about whether or not someone was mis-represented.

    I note you have ignore my request that you either indicate where Richard Betts suffered some “treatment” here, or retract the claim that he has. I would take this reminder as a second request.

  67. BBD says:

    Linking to irrelevancies again, David. Whether Romm is good, bad or indifferent on any given day makes exactly no difference to climate science. Which leaves me wondering why you link to this stuff.

  68. David Young says:

    BTW, I am not now nor have I ever been a member, supporter, or follower of the Discovery Institute. I’ve never read anything they wrote nor would I be likely to do so. But Ian has a list of those who are “anti-science” or at least are fellow travelers.

  69. David Young says:

    Wotts, I am not accomplished with blog searches. He was refering to Steve Bloom and I’m almost certain it was here where he and Tamsin showed up when the topic of policy advocacy came up. It was surely within the last 3 weeks since I have only been following you that long. I could be wrong, but I can’t think of where else this would have been discussed.

    The reason Romm came up was that Ian linked to a Think Progress article about WGII. I was making the point that I don’t consider that an unbiased source. There will be lots of thoughts about WGII that are worth reading. Think Progress is not one of them.

  70. David Young, the point I’m making is that I have no memory of Richard Betts being “treated” in any way on this blog. Hence, you can either find where it happened, or you can retract the suggestion that he was “treated” in some way. Suggesting that you are not accomplished in blog searches is neither.

    If you are not accomplished with Blog searches maybe you should take more care when making suggestions/claims about what may or may not have happened.

  71. David Young says:

    Romm is also relevant to illustrate the toxicity of the debate on this issue. Scientists do I’m sure need strength of character to be unaffected by assaults from both sides. The reason Romm sticks out is his prominence and his iconic status with many of the powerful. Is it a reasonable expectation that science has been unaffected by this atmosphere?

  72. David Young says:

    Richard was complaining about Steve Bloom. He was not ill-treated by “your blog.”

  73. David Young, my brief reading of the Joe Romm affair leads me to conclude that some have actually been critical of his behaviour in this particular instance (William Connelly for example). If, however, you want to start discussing who has had a toxic influence on this debate there are many others whose names spring to mind.

  74. David Young, you said

    I saw the treatment Richard Betts received here from some and I’m afraid the pattern may be repeating itself.

    That is not consistent with what you have just said. Just because Steve Bloom has had run-ins with Richard Betts and also happens to have commented here does not imply treatment Richard Betts received here. I ask again, make it clear that you have made a claim that is incorrect.

  75. Ian Forrester says:

    Joe Romm didn’t even write the article I cited. Just shows that he refuses to read anything which is against is beliefs and actually talks about science. I find it ironic the David Young posts on a thread about “value free science” when he doesn’t read anything about science at all but continually refers to ant-AGW sites.

  76. Ian, indeed. A classic example of mis-direction. Don’t actually answer the question posed or directly address the issue at hand – change to something different and suggest that it is somehow relevant and illustrates something important when it likely does not.

  77. David Young says:

    Yes, I know, there is more than enough blame to go around. The problem here I think is failure to admit that there is a scientific debate as illustrated by Betts and others who are anathema here and then there is the partisan spin which often leaks into the discussion. Think Progress is not an unbiased source of information. Any more than the Heartland Institute. Both are partisan. I don’t want to argue the minutae of who is more to blame or worse, that’s not productive. A way needs to be found to get the debate back to the calmer voices.

  78. BBD says:

    as illustrated by Betts and others who are anathema here

    You are doing it again, David.

  79. David Young, maybe the reason it’s hard to get the debate back to the calmer voices is because some keep making misleading claims. I’ve no idea why you think Richard Betts is an anathema here. I don’t think he has been mentioned much, if at all. Once again, would you retract your statement about the “treatment” he received here?

    Maybe one way to get the debate back to calmer voices is for people to ensure that they can back up what they say with actual evidence. That’s why, in my opinion, your comparison between Climate Progress and the Heartland Institute is flawed. They may both be partisan, in some sense, but being “partisan” while also being consistent with the scientific evidence is not the same as being “partisan” while largely making things up.

  80. David Young says:

    I did not say Betts was anathema here. Your blog is quite civil compared to most. I said others who are anathema here, such as McIntyre whose blog Betts frequents. I’ trying to have a conversation here and trying to see if people here can see the other side of the issue.

  81. BBD says:

    Romm isn’t “climate science”. Romm’s values are not relevant to claims made about values influencing “climate science”.

  82. BBD says:

    I did not say Betts was anathema here. Your blog is quite civil compared to most. I said others who are anathema here

    You said:

    as illustrated by Betts and others who are anathema here

  83. David Young, then you have to be more careful what you say

    Betts and others who are anathema here

    is easily interpreted as I did. I note you still have not retracted your claim about his treatment here – your previous explanation was not sufficient.

  84. Marco says:

    David Young, you appear confused, and this is not the first time. You actually refer to a comment at Hot Whopper where Richard Betts made a false claim about what Steve Bloom said about Tamsin Edwards, and then was corrected by Steve Bloom (nope, he didn’t call Tamsin a denier). Maybe you find people pointing out that a false claim is a false claim to be some kind of nefarious behavior? And where did anyone show any behavior that fits your claim that Richard Betts is “anathema” here?

    It’s also noteworthy that you took one comment from one commenter and painted a whole blog a certain colour – and ignore Wotts requests to apologize for that.

    Further, you confused the Breakthrough Institute with the Discovery Institute. You don’t get much more crazy anti-science than the Discovery Institute, so that was a really silly mistake and you should have expected (and accepted) that people here reacted to that. However, all that is rather small stuff considering that Ian also pointed out that you could get the leaked WGII from Think Progress and that Joe Romm didn’t even write that piece. Immediately the goalposts were shifted: Think Progress is not trustworthy!


  85. BBD says:

    Moving the goalposts is another logical fallacy. Like arguing from assertion, eg that “climate science” is influenced by “values” but never actually demonstrating this.

  86. BBD says:

    Argument from false equivalence is another logical fallacy, eg by conflating the term “scientific debate” with the implication “doubt and uncertainty sufficient to invalidate the scientific consensus”.

  87. David Young says:

    Marco is right about the Betts exchange and I was wrong. Hot whopper is in a different league than you Wotts. In fact after I discovered that Sou was mostly about name calling I tried your blog. So the confusion is easy to explain.

  88. Tom Curtis says:

    David Young provides an inadvertent example of the toxicity of the debate by linking to an article on “Climate McCarthyism”, in which somebody is accused of being the “Climate McCarthyite-in-Chief”. Neither he, nor the authors, apparently recognize the irony.

  89. David Young says:

    Romm is a very powerful individual and deserves a high level of scrutiny. Think of it as investigative journalism.

  90. Ian Forrester says:

    It appears as if David Young has “science-free values”.

  91. Tom, I tend to agree, hence my suggestion that this was simply a variant of Godwin’s Law.

    David, that may be true but there’s a big difference between calling someone out when they say something extreme or that isn’t correct, and using them as some kind of yard-stick for one side of the debate. However, it’s certainly my view – as suggested by Tom – that if you’re going to call them out, doing so by comparing them to someone like McCarthy is not going to be terribly convincing to many (i.e., you can call out their mistake without having to also suggest that they are the same as some awful historical figure).

  92. BBD says:

    It would be false equivalence.

  93. Tom Curtis says:

    David Young, given the current state of the US Congress, I think Anthony Watts would have to be considered a significantly more powerful person than Joe Romm. Curiously, the Breakthrough Institute has no criticism for Watts. Nor, come to that, of Steve McIntyre. Indeed, in one of only two comments on Steve McIntyre, they refer the reader to Bishop Hill (!?!) as a reliable source of the history of the dispute.

    That alone strongly suggests to me that their purpose is not to deal with the problem of global warming, but to delay effective action. Of course, that is your purpose as well, so it will not trouble you.

    Regardless of that point, their entirely one sided criticism (ie, their criticism only of those who suggest doing more than they recommend in dealing with GHG emissions) shows them to not be honest brokers. Given that the side they avoid criticizing are actively anti-science, that makes them enemies of reason.

  94. David Young says:

    Tom, “Enemies of reason” is a pretty strong characterization. Do you have an “enemies list” too? I think your charge about “delaying” is probably false. I think Pilke Jr. is associated with Breakthrough and despite Romm’s slander of him, he is not a delayer so far as I can tell. I also find McIntyre’s blog thoughtful, sometimes wrong and sometimes right. Richard Betts also likes to comment there. I was unaware that Watts had much of a following in powerful circles. If you have evidence of it, it would be interesting. Watts mostly draws name calling and sarcasm on the internet, which is fine with me. He is often wrong and what I read of his stuff leaves me wondering what’s the other side is.

    In any case, I personally, despite your ability to read my mind, have not really taken a strong position on policy except that its a matter of trade offs and a grey area. I fervently hope and fondly pray that that is still an acceptable position in this debate.

    This all started, and I am partially responsible for getting it off topic, with an assertion that there were immediate benefits of fossil fuels and only a far in the future negative consequence. That’s a pretty benign statement, I think.

  95. BBD says:

    Feedstock for lapidarists:

    He [Anthony Watts] is often wrong and what I read of his stuff leaves me wondering what’s the other side is.


    there were immediate benefits of fossil fuels and only a far in the future negative consequence. That’s a pretty benign statement, I think.

  96. David Young says:

    On the topic of this thread, the position that there are no problems in climate science with objectivity depends on accepting a very one sided version of the controversies of the last 20 years. Wotts, if you want to understand this, try some of McIntyre or Lucia’s posts. You will not be distracted by “deniers.” McIntyre is sometimes wrong and sometimes right and so is Mann, but the former is indeed serious and careful. The fact that this controversy was blown up into a “war on science” is the best evidence that there is a problem in the field. I note that in the last 2 weeks, there is strong evidence that this is still not “settled science.”

    There are other examples. The tropospheric hot spot is one where there is a lot of contradictory data and theory. Despite 20 years of arguing, there is still a need for better clarity. And this is one that is important because its a quantifiable and measurable consequence of the theory.

    Another one is GCM’s and their role in projections. What I have said on this is really pretty uncontroversial, and the literature is rife with assertions such as the one I quoted about turbulence models. No one here has really taken any substantive issue with what I said and the topic has been dropped with “even if there are problems, it doesn’t matter that much.” Perhaps, but perhaps not.

    I know I have now revealed myself to be a “denier” or at least a “delayer.” 🙂 But its pretty obvious I think what some of the issues are. I don’t have a stake in this debate really and just see another example of the fact that reason and objectivity are taking a back seat to politics and polemic, something Russell predicted. He attributed it to the rise of romanticism. At least it is possible to argue with St. Thomas who recognizes the primacy of reason. In fact, Russell says he prefers St. Thomas to Rousseau. Even the long war between science and religion is not all black and white. One has only to look at social darwinism to see that.

  97. BBD says:


  98. Doug Bostrom says:

    [McIntyre] is indeed serious and careful.

    Here’s McIntyre, in his own words:

    Most readers are aware of the picture of Scott Mandia of the “Climate Rapid Response Team” in spandex Superman uniform, though, as a costumed vigilante, Mandia would arguably be more the hapless Defendor than the aspirational Superman.
    CA readers are aware that John Cook (picture below left), proprietor of SKS and Psychology groupie to Stephan Lewandowsky, is an occasional cartoonist. Part of his private cache of images was recently exposed, a cache that ranged from images of Cook himself in Nazi uniform to what appear to be Cook’s (hopefully merely metaphoric) male-GILF fantasies of Monckton, Watts and Delingpole as heavily muscled fantasy Spartans.
    On the right below is a cartoon of a round-faced costumed vigilante, apparently affiliated with a Psychology (PSY) department, in Mandia’s favorite outfit. Readers are invited to speculate on whether this is from a new cache of private Cook images, perhaps featuring Cook himself as a sort of Psychology defendor of Lewandowsky and Mann, or otherwise identify Cook’s doppelganger.
    Update: Cook’s doppelganger is of course from Gangnam Style . One day, it struck me that the Team were a sort of science parody – doing it Gangnam style. It increasingly seems to me that the right response to unhinged articles like the most recent Lewandowsky et al is to listen to the chorus of Gangnam Style.

    Serious, substantive analysis of climate science.

    Here’s reason and objectivity taking a back seat to politics and polemic, over 20 years ago:

    “The remarkable centrality of carbon dioxide means that dealing with the threat of warming fits in with a great variety of preexisting agendas some legitimate, some less so: energy efficiency, reduced dependence on Middle Eastern oil, dissatisfaction with industrial society (neopastoralism), international competition, governmental desires for enhanced revenues (carbon taxes), and bureaucratic desires for enhanced power.”

    Who said it?

  99. deminthon says:

    “I said nothing that is disputable”

    Another thing that David Young is in denial about.

    “Think Progress and the infamous Joe Romm are in my book simply propagandists”


    Too much attention paid to David Young, methinks.

    [Rachel: a tiny modification made here, sorry, just to keep the peace]

  100. deminthon says:

    “I’ trying to have a conversation here and trying to see if people here can see the other side of the issue.”

    A nice bit of ad hominem slander.

  101. Ian Forrester says:

    Good grief, I’ve never heard such a load of denier drivel as that contained in David Young’s last post. He is at least being honest in one thing he says:

    I know I have now revealed myself to be a “denier”

    Yes, he revealed that startling finding in just about everything he posts. The only question is his motive for being a denier. My own thoughts on this is that he is just one of these arrogant and selfish people who does not give a thought for future generations (just see his comments on AR5 WGII SPM for that) and wants as much as possible for himself right now. That sort of behaviour is despicable.

  102. David Young says:

    Ian, Are you that literal minded? And I guess name calling is now OK despite Wotts policy as are personal attacks on my motives and character. What about it Wotts?

  103. Ian Forrester says:

    Why do you find it so impossible for some one to easily identify an AGW denier? You try and pretend that you are not but the very fact that all of your posts are completely devoid of any science content puts you straight into the denier camp. Too bad if you do not like the word but it describes people like you perfectly. If you do not like the word describing you self then I suggest you start being honest in your posts, dishonesty is one thing that shows you are neither a scientist nor have any respect for science.

    Just in case you didn’t notice, you were the one who labelled your self a denier, I was only agreeing with one of the first honest statements you have made.

  104. David Young says:

    Ian, I was just predicting the personal attacks I knew would come from you. Do you have a substantive comment on turbulence models or GCM’s? The thrust of my comments here has been technical in nature. I’ve seen nothing substantive in response, par for the course perhaps, but Wotts comment policy I had thought would preclude the nastiest slanders. “Keeping the discussion civil” may still be enforced as Wotts is probably asleep at the moment. My other statements have been mild. Any substantive response? Exactly what do I deny? I’ve been quite clear about my views on the main qualitative conclusions of climate science. Did you not read that?

  105. Ian Forrester says:

    See what I mean about him being dishonest:

    The thrust of my comments here has been technical in nature.

    Are you playing the court jester? I’m afraid you haven’t a clue what “technical” means. What on earth does “turbulence models” have to do with what is being discussed in this thread. I know that is one of your favourite topics but you got dismissed on Real Climate when you tried discussing it there and accused experts in the field of not knowing what they were doing.

    I gave two (of many I might add) papers showing how wrong you are in saying that the only ill effects of global warming will occur in the future. How wrong you are on that front, these effects are happening now.

    And please read up on what slander is, telling the truth about some one is not slanderous, it may be insulting, it may be nasty but it is the truth and not slander.

  106. Doug Bostrom says:

    In fairness, I believe David was referring to earlier discussion concerning conservation in GCMs, not on this thread.

    That said, David has said nothing here to substantiate his fears concerning the practice and results of climate science being warped by ideology. This is a fairly common situation. Like others in his position, I think David has spent too much time elsewhere absorbing the same vague allusions he repeats here and has thoroughly incorporated those ideas into his mental model.

    In short, David’s time has been wasted by somebody. That’s where values seem to come into play.

  107. Rachel says:

    I’m not really sure what to say here other than we seem to be straying into dangerous territory so perhaps we can return to the discussion at hand which is value-free science. Play nicely, please.

  108. I have indeed missed most of this by simply being asleep. The discussion has become somewhat heated so can I ask that everyone try to restrain themselves a little. Can I also remind people that the topic was really about the issue of value-free science and whether or not such a situation would be beneficial or even actually possible.

  109. Steve Bloom says:

    Just to note that in addition to striking out at Real Climate, DY was unable to get any traction for his ideas with James Annan and Julia Hargreaves, probably the two climate scientists most likely to be receptive. After a while they just started ignoring him.

    “Can I also remind people that the topic was really about the issue of value-free science and whether or not such a situation would be beneficial or even actually possible.” To sum up, no to both.

    Wotts, I’d like to suggest this very interesting new paper as a subject for a post.

  110. Marco says:

    Funny, Grundmann now put up another post referring to Merton’s norms. It’s funny because von Storch’s name is on it, too, and they refer amongst others to unwillingness to share data. *That* is funny because von Storch declined to share data with the people at PIK because the request was supposedly just political. In reality the people at PIK believed von Storch and Zorita had not properly initialised the GCM they used and wanted to check. Some time later again this improper initialisation was admitted by von Storch and Zorita in an obscure paper (most of that part of the sad story is narrated on Realclimate). Note that the paper with the improper initialisation led von Storch to call MBH98/99 “Quatsch”….


  111. Steve, I’ve had a quick look at the paper that you mention. Is there something specific about it that drew your attention?

  112. Tom Curtis says:

    David Young:

    Roger Pielke Jnr has made a career out of arguing that damage from hurricanes have not been increasing when adjusted for wealth and population while very carefully not adjusting damage for improvements in building materials and construction. Thus on his preferred adjusted index of hurricane damage, it is assumed that reinforced concrete structures are as vulnerable to damage as are tile and brick, or even wooden houses. Implementation of explicit measures to make dwellings more resistant to hurricane damage are also assumed to be ineffective. It is very clear that studies that show no trend in hurricane damage when not allowing for these factors are bad new when we allow for them, so Pielke more or less ignores the issue.

    This appears to be standard operating procedure for Pielke. Following the Jan 2011 floods in Brisbane, he was quick to point out the fact that higher floods had occurred in Brisbane in the past. What he neglected to mention was the dredging of the Brisbane bar in the 1860s, the further dredging, widening and removal of some islands in the late 1800s, the ongoing extensive dredging of the entire length of the Brisbane river as flood mitigation in the twentieth century, and the construction of two major dams, one around 1950, and the other around 1980 – both explicitly designed with flood mitigation roles. Again, ignoring the effects of mitigation on data is what Pielke does.

    In this case, he was pulled up on this point in comments, are responded:

    “Wivenhoe was built after the 1974 floods so it is likely that it has eliminated minor floods since that time. Once the reservoir is full it has little effect, so I would also venture that it had little effect on the current flood peak. But these are just hypotheses.”

    By this glib comment, he merely shows his ignorance on the topic. Even a “full” reservoir will reduce flood peaks by smoothing the flow. That is because as the level of water rises above the spillway, the lake surface area increases, thereby absorbing some of the flood. More importantly, the Wivenhoe dam is designed with a “full” storage capacity which is just half of its total capacity, the remainder of the capacity being reserved for flood mitigation. Ignorance, in this case, however, did not stop him immediately coming out with a message that there could be no evidence from the flood of the impacts of global warming.

    So, contrary to your claim, Pielke is (at least) a delayer. Indeed, his preferred policy option is in fact that we delay any policy to reduce greenhouse emissions – so it is difficult to argue that he is not a “delayer”.

  113. David Young says:

    One small correction, Steve, the ideas about GCM’s are mostly the ideas of others. They are well known facts about nonlinear multi-scale systems. I quoted from a review paper on turbulent flow. The ideas about conservative finite element methods are indeed settled science and there is a massive literature documenting that they make a difference in field after field. I know no one here is likely to have the background to verify these facts and quite frankly, the people who comment most here seem to be largely interested in the rhetoric of these issues and only incidently in deeply understanding the science. The usual response to saying what I have said is what happened here. There are 4 responses:

    1. That may be true, but its secondary to the main conclusions of climate science.
    2. Modelers aren’t dishonest so I’m sure they’ve thought about it.
    3. The more sophisticated deploy the infamous doctrine of “converting an initial value problem into a boundary value problem” which so far as I can tell is really just saying as Gavin did “everytime I run the model I get a reasonable climate.” That’s not a scientific statement.
    4. You are a bad person and I’m going to call you names and insult you.

    No one really offers scientific or mathematical arguments. And that I think is the most disturbing thing about it and does not inspire confidence. It could be that Paul Williams will gradually accomplish what needs to be done here, but he seems not so confident that modelers are listening.

  114. David Young says:

    It seems to me that like all virtues, value free science is something to at least strive for. My own interpretation is that value free is really saying being honest with yourself about both the data and yourself. There are endless examples of a problem in modern science. I’ll stick to medicine. Motivated reasoning is very common as are conflicts of interest, both financial and ideological.

    Saying that an ideal is impossible is reductionist thinking. All people are dishonest, but some are a lot more honest than others. What science I think should focus on is improving the formal structure of science to encourage a higher level of honesty. The Economist talks about some of these ways. The first and most obvious is simply to dramatically raise the level of rigor and start rejecting most papers.

  115. David Young says:

    I actually have some experience with correcting the scientific record in the refereed literature. I had to do it about 5 years ago because there was a geometry design method that had 4 or 5 papers out there and a lot of people were just assuming it must be right. The inventor and advocate of the method was very effective at talking about it, especially with people who were on the edge of the field. The author of these papers had been vigorously lobbying me personally and I didn’t want to dismiss it out of hand. Finally, I decided the issue needed to be settled rigorously and was able to show in a weekend that the method had a serious flaw and that another method that was 100 years old was better and just as simple. I was actually gratified that the Journal published it very quickly. The note seemed to have the desired effect and the flawed method has dropped off the radar screen.

  116. Ian Forrester says:

    David Young, do you think making grandiose statements about what you may have or not done in the past without any reference is being honest? I certainly don’t think it is being honest. A bit like many AGW deniers inflating their CV’s. And please stop your scurrilous comments about scientists being dishonest, it is most objectionable to us who are in fact scientists.

  117. Steve Bloom says:

    David, your challenge remains to convince someone who actually matters. I am obviously no such person, but have become highly prejudiced against your (not just yours, of course) ideas by your utter failure to consider the models within the larger context of, on the one hand, what they are able to do and, per Gavin’s entirely scientific reasoning, the extent to which those successes suggest that there isn’t that much wrong with them on a fundamental level, and what they can’t do relative to both current climate (see example I linked above) and more importantly paleoclimate (primarily polar amplification but plenty of other things). I can only conclude that you avoid those issues because your starting point is opposition to the needed strong action on climate (the case for which, as I and others have repeatedly emphasized to you, doesn’t require climate models at all) and you quite literally refuse to consider things contradicting that view. And with that I set you to ignore until such time as I see some sign of relevant change on your part.

  118. OPatrick says:

    “the people who comment most here seem to be largely interested in the rhetoric of these issues”

    But you give so much material to work with David, it’s difficult not to be fascinated by it.

    For example we could spend hours looking at this statement alone:
    It seems to me that like all virtues, value free science is something to at least strive for. My own interpretation is that value free is really saying being honest with yourself about both the data and yourself.

    How many sly inuendos can be squeezed into two brief sentences?

  119. David Young says:

    Ian, I am not here to justify myself to you, who have insulted me in a nasty way and have not backtracked. The references are readily available with simple use of google scholar. The technical details are pretty simple but do require some familiarity with approximation theory. But you seem to have a prejudice against me, an irrational belief that because you don’t like some mild statement I made, I can’t be right about anything else. BTW, Wotts, is your comment policy really serious or not? Ian seems to be a serial violator and to be more interested in trying to discredit me than contributing to a civil discussion.

  120. David Young says:

    O, The statement you quote is not intended to be ironic or rhetorical but an honest attempt to interpret what value free science might be. Substantive response? If you don’t think this is a problem in the medical literature, you are not very open minded.

  121. David Young says:

    Yes, Steve, you seem to be intent on trying to discredit what you do not understand with an appeal to some authority who also did not give a substantive response. Paul Williams is already convinced and is working on it. My point is that these issues do impact the broad issues typically discussed here.

  122. David Young says:

    What Paul Williams said to me was that he was trying to get the modelers attention. He is doing some good work but its really rather limited in scope. I do fervently hope that more people will find him convincing. He has some references on finite element methods and I think understands the issues.

  123. David Young, an issue that one should at least be willing to consider is that in academia/research when one academic is trying to make a point to others about a method, they’re not always (in fact, rarely) suggesting that there’s something fundamentally wrong/flawed with what the others are doing. It’s often just someone who thinks it could be better. I don’t know if that’s the case with Paul Williams but it does seem that many interpret criticisms of models (for example) as implying something significant when it may just be an attempt to improve them, rather than to suggest that they need fundamental changes. Do you at least accept that possibility?

  124. Marco says:

    Yes, David, “your point is” – but in my part of the scientific world you show that point to be true when you draw large conclusions from it, not just claim it is true. It appears strongly to me that you are imposing your own values here – you claim these issues do impact the broad issues, but don’t show it (nor have those who you refer to). So we can get back to your own statement about value-free science: have you taken a good look at yourself lately? How sure are you you are not using motivated reasoning yourself?

  125. OPatrick says:

    David, how can you expect a substantive response to such an unsubstantive statement? What do you expect me to say – ‘oh, no, I don’t think that value free science should involve being honest’?

    Your ‘interpretation’ of what value-free science might be serves no purpose except to carry an implication that someone, somewhere (can’t think who you might be tilting at) hasn’t been honest with themselves or their data.

  126. Rachel says:

    David says, “It seems to me that like all virtues, value free science is something to at least strive for. My own interpretation is that value free is really saying being honest with yourself about both the data and yourself.”

    I disagree with this, David. I think you have misunderstood what value-free science means. Or perhaps I have misunderstood? I think we should strive for bias-free science but this is different from value-free science.

    I linked to an essay earlier which I felt made some good points but I’ve just noticed that my link didn’t work. It discusses values in science in detail. Here’s an excerpt.

    The common characterization of science as value-free or value-neutral can be misleading. Scientists strongly disvalue fraud, error and “pseudoscience”, for example. At the same time, scientists typically value reliability, testability, accuracy, precision, generality, simplicity of concepts and heuristic power. Scientists also value novelty, exemplified in the professional credit given for significant new discoveries (prestige among peers, eponymous laws, Nobel Prizes, etc.).

    From the same essay, an example about where contrasting values can benefit science:

    Indeed, variations in cognitive resources can be critical to isolating and correcting error. For example, in the 1860s through 90s anthropologists had developed numerous ways to measure skulls and calculate ratios to describe their shapes. In what Fee (1979) described as “a Baconian orgy of quantification”, they developed over 600 instruments and made over 5,000 kinds of measurements. Despite three decades of shifting theories, falsified hypotheses and other unsolved paradoxes, the conclusions of the craniologists–all men–remained the same: women were less intelligent. At the turn of the century, however, two women began work in the field. They showed, among other things, that specific women had larger cranial capacity that even some scientists in the field, and that the margin of error in measurement far exceeded the proposed sex differences–and they strengthened their work with statistical rigor. Here, the women’s perspective may have been no less biased or guided by values, but their complementary cognitive resources, with the interests of women, were critical to exposing the deficits in the men’s studies. This example illustrates that if science is “self-correcting”, it does not do so automatically. Identifying and remedying error takes work–and often requires applying contrasting cognitive resources or values. The possibly paradoxical conclusion is that one should not eliminate personal values from science–if indeed this were possible. Instead, the moral is: “the more values, the better”. Contrasting values can work like a system of epistemic checks and balances

  127. BBD says:

    Oh for goodness’s sake David Young. Enough.

    You do not have a point. Models are not the central plank of our understanding of climate. Your emphasis is a tedious, shopworn contrarian rhetorical device and everybody here is sick of hearing it.

    See James Hansen:

    TH: A lot of these metrics that we develop come from computer models. How should people treat the kind of info that comes from computer climate models?

    Hansen: I think you would have to treat it with a great deal of skepticism. Because if computer models were in fact the principal basis for our concern, then you have to admit that there are still substantial uncertainties as to whether we have all the physics in there, and how accurate we have it. But, in fact, that’s not the principal basis for our concern. It’s the Earth’s history-how the Earth responded in the past to changes in boundary conditions, such as atmospheric composition. Climate models are helpful in interpreting that data, but they’re not the primary source of our understanding.

    TH: Do you think that gets misinterpreted in the media?

    Hansen: Oh, yeah, that’s intentional. The contrarians, the deniers who prefer to continue business as usual, easily recognize that the computer models are our weak point. So they jump all over them and they try to make the people, the public, believe that that’s the source of our knowledge. But, in fact, it’s supplementary. It’s not the basic source of knowledge. We know, for example, from looking at the Earth’s history, that the last time the planet was two degrees Celsius warmer, sea level was 25 meters higher.

    And we have a lot of different examples in the Earth’s history of how climate has changed as the atmospheric composition has changed. So it’s misleading to claim that the climate models are the primary basis of understanding.

    See Hansen & Sato (2012) Paleoclimate implications for human-made climate change (emphasis added):

    The empirical fast-feedback climate sensitivity that we infer from the LGM-Holocene comparison is thus 5°C/6.5 W/m2 ~ ¾ ± ¼ °C per W/m2 or 3 ± 1°C for doubled CO2. The fact that ice sheet and GHG boundary conditions are actually slow climate feedbacks is irrelevant for the purpose of evaluating the fast-feedback climate sensitivity.

    This empirical climate sensitivity incorporates all fast response feedbacks in the real-world climate system, including changes of water vapor, clouds, aerosols, aerosol effects on clouds, and sea ice. In contrast to climate models, which can only approximate the physical processes and may exclude important processes, the empirical result includes all processes that exist in the real world – and the physics is exact.

    See also Rohling et al. (2013) Making sense of paleoclimate sensitivity:

    Many palaeoclimate studies have quantified pre-anthropogenic climate change to calculate climate sensitivity (equilibrium temperature change in response to radiative forcing change), but a lack of consistent methodologies produces a wide range of estimates and hinders comparability of results. Here we present a stricter approach, to improve intercomparison of palaeoclimate sensitivity estimates in a manner compatible with equilibrium projections for future climate change. Over the past 65 million years, this reveals a climate sensitivity (in K W−1 m2) of 0.3–1.9 or 0.6–1.3 at 95% or 68% probability, respectively. The latter implies a warming of 2.2–4.8 K per doubling of atmospheric CO2, which agrees with IPCC estimates.

    All this has been drawn to your attention, here and elsewhere, over and over again yet you continue to ignore it and indulge in distorted, polemical misdirection. This is the very definition of intellectual dishonesty.

    Now watch DY confirm this by once again ignoring what I have said.

  128. David Young says:

    Wotts, Yes, Williams is saying things could be done better. He defends climate science generally, but also needs to show dramatically that there is a problem for people to take him seriously, so I understand what he is doing. GCM’s seem to be skillful at some things. It’s pretty well documented in the literature that they are not skillful at regional climate for example. And they disagree with each other by factors of 2 to 3 even in average global temperature anomaly changes. The MET office model seems to be pretty bad in its forecasts. Working to improve models is good, but the question is where is the best scientific bang for the buck. I am just not sure GCM’s are the best return on investment. At the NASA 2030 future vision workshop a turbulence modeler said that turbulence models at the present time were postdictive and not predictive. That doesn’t mean we stop working on them. The problem here is that progress has been nil for about 20 years. So are there other technologies we should invest in? There are plenty of other things to invest in. I strongly suspect that some models could be retired right now based on lack of skill and the resources directly elsewhere.

    The problem here in my view is that GCM’s play a large role in projections because they are all we have. Well we need to develop something better.

    I’m still curious about your comment policy. It seems like every other comment is an attack on my character or my honesty.

  129. David Young, as far as comment policy goes, maybe I haven’t quite got this one right. So, I will ask that others tone down their rhetoric a little.

    Having said that, I do think that you’ve skirted the policy yourself to a certain extent. You do seem quite comfortable making fairly sweeping statements without evidence and then tending to, sometimes, ignore people’s responses to your comments. I, hence, somewhat share other people’s frustrations. There is a big difference between there being known problems with complicated models and inferring that this implies something significant with respect to climate science (for example). I’m sure GCMs can be improved. That’s probably true for all complex models. That simple fact does not mean that they aren’t about as good as they can be and does not mean that they provide no information about the future climate. Not that you’ve actually said that, but your comments do tend to imply that.

    You also say

    The MET office model seems to be pretty bad in its forecasts.

    That’s not my understanding. As far as I’m aware their forecasting today is significantly better than it was only a few years ago.

    You also say

    The problem here in my view is that GCM’s play a large role in projections because they are all we have. Well we need to develop something better.

    What does this mean? By inference you seem to be suggesting that climate modellers are not doing as well as they could do. Really? Some other group could do better? Who? Also, what else could we use? Time machines? Any form of prediction will require some kind of modelling. There is no alternative to some kind of model. Maybe someone will suddenly develop some new method/technique and that would be fantastic if it were to happen. That person would, most likely, be a climate modeller though. Inferring that climate modellers are somehow not up to the task is, in my view, unfounded and unhelpful.

  130. BBD says:

    There you go. Ignored, as predicted.

    Because I am pointing straight at the heart of the issue: David Young has no argument only partisan, value-ridden polemic. Of which we have heard more than enough.

  131. BBD says:

    Inferring that climate modellers are somehow not up to the task is, in my view, unfounded and unhelpful.

    Wotts, doing so incessantly in the face of correction and supplied context (eg paleoclimate) isn’t merely unfounded and unhelpful, it is dishonest.

  132. David Young, BBD does have a point. You seem to continually imply that we rely heavily on GCMs when in fact much of what we expect for the future depends on paleo-climatological studies. Maybe you could try to actually address this issue.

  133. Marco says:

    David, may I ask you again for some introspection? Every other comment you have made has focused on some perceived lack of honesty of others, or some vague, undescribed problem that you have been unwilling to substantiate.

    And no, the Met Office is not “pretty bad in its forecasts”. That’s a value-laden claim by Andrew Montford, based in turn on comments from Nic Lewis, which the Met Office called unsubstantiated.
    The scientific evidence for the Met Office claim is here:

    Click to access 1748-9326_8_1_014024.pdf

    See in particular Figure 2.

  134. Ian Forrester says:

    I got my early morning laugh in early this morning:

    Ian seems to be a serial violator and to be more interested in trying to discredit me than contributing to a civil discussion.

    It seems to me that DY is dong a good job of discrediting himself with all his unsubstantiated nonsense. I merely pointed it out to others.

  135. David Young says:

    The problem here Wotts is that what I “inferred” is in your mind. What I said is observable and I think true.

    Sometimes simple models well constrained by data are much better. I know this from first hand experience and can send you a paper on it.

    I listed 3 areas of climate where the science is “incomplete” if that’s a neutral term for you.

    Paleoclimate is an area of controversy and incompleteness.

    I generally have found that responding directly to name callers is not productive, even if they are good at hiding their insults.

  136. David Young says:

    Marco, The paper you referenced is indeed interesting. Is this where the IPCC got its 10% reduction in its projection? Or perhaps where they got that some GCM’s are too sensitive to GHG forcings? Unless I misread it however, all their projections are based on GCM’s but some are “constrained by past temperature data.” I’m not sure what that means exactly.

  137. Marco says:

    David, I’d prefer you start your comment with “Oh, so I held an incorrect belief again. I am so sorry. Let me explain how I got that incorrect belief”, followed by some explanation of where you got the idea that the Met Office model was so bad.

    For your first few questions you can go to the IPCC report – the references are all there.

    Your last question is answered here:
    Funny thing that, you have been frequenting Ed Hawkins’ blog, but failed to notice that he’s written about this before.

  138. Bobby says:

    Wotts, please stop this David Youngathon. He is Gish Galloping his way through BS, leaving many points unanswered. Also, answering BBD’s point with “Paleoclimate is an area of controversy and incompleteness” doesn’t count. He is not the victim, he’s the cause.

  139. Rachel says:

    David, I have to say that I have a bit of sympathy with the people who are getting frustrated here because reading your comments sometimes gives me a feeling of déjà vu. Perhaps you can backtrack a little and address BBD’s comment in response to yours about climate models being central to our understanding of climate.

  140. David, you’ve done it again though

    Paleoclimate is an area of controversy and incompleteness.

    What? Where’s the evidence? What does this actually mean? What are the implications? I’ve actually had paleo-climatologists comment here who’ve explained that there are indeed uncertainties but the general picture is quite robust. How does one respond to your comment and how does it contribute positively to the discussion? It just seems like a throw-away comment that you seem to expect people to acknowledge but that you can’t back up if challenged.

  141. David Young says:

    Wotts, I am done here I think. Your comment policy seems to be enforced selectively. If you are too ignorant to understand the controversy around paleoclimate, you are not very informed. In fact, there are widely varying estimates of paleoclimate responses including a recent one by James and Jules. There is a controversy raging right now over the Mideval Warm Period. Did you miss that? The modus operendi here is to never give any statement credance or the benefit of the doubt but to assume the worst about any statement that is not in line with a particular dogma about climate. And of course sarcasm is tolerated as long as its from one of the apologists. I wish you the best in your search for a cartoon explanation of multiscale nonlinear systems. Real science is going on in other disciplines. Here its not about science or discussion, its about the usual political crap.

  142. David Young, I can’t say that I’m all that disappointed. All the best in your search for a blog that satisfies your needs.

  143. Marco says:

    I think David Young still fails to do some introspection, failing to realise that his choice of words is not value-free (controversy! Raging!), and then complain when others pick up on that and react in kind.

  144. BBD says:

    Here its not about science or discussion, its about the usual political crap.

    From the man refusing to engage at all with paleoclimate evidence. This conversation has been over for a long time. Let’s leave the dead to bury the dead.

  145. David Young might have found the blog for his needs:

    > You will have to forgive Webby. He blogs from his Mom’s basement and is fond of irrelevancies. There is a hilarious comment from his mother on a previous threads explaining the complex Freudian origins of Webby’s diatribes. Judith thought it was quite humorous. The best humor reflects reality and that’s the case here. Basically, Webby’s Mom begs us to be understanding of his foibles and explains them in terms of his early childhood experiences.

    Note the timestamp. Also note the modus operandi.

  146. verytallguy says:


    the posts there are a reminder of the toxicity of the “debate”, and to be honest, make my skin crawl. I find it genuinely incomprehensible why Judith allows and encourages such. Impossible to positively engage with and therefore best left well alone IMHO, although you seem to enjoy it.

  147. I too find it a little strange that Judith seems to have a number of posts about credibility in the climate debate and about improving dialogue and how people shouldn’t call others deniers, and yet seems quite comfortable with some fairly toxic comments on her blog.

    I should add that I can’t really imagine commenting there in a way any different to the approach taken by Willard. I just don’t think I have the skill to do so 🙂

  148. Marco says:

    Wotts, there is nothing strange about it, and behaviour you will find many places. Those on the same side of your fence will get different treatment from those on the other side. It is extremely difficult to maintain a perfect symmetric approach – those on your side simply will be more sympathetic. Curry just hasn’t quite admitted to herself yet that she has left the realm of climate science.

  149. Marco, indeed – you’re probably quite right. I certainly can’t claim to have been perfectly balanced here, but then I don’t think I pretend that I am in the first place.

  150. BBD says:

    You are commendably tolerant of what I would unhesitatingly describe as bad faith. Possibly more so than strictly necessary. You mustn’t feel that you are too hard on the “other side”. Far from it.

  151. Rachel says:

    I definitely agree with BBD.

  152. BBD says:

    Well, that’s that then.


  153. Who would possibly argue with you two 🙂

  154. Marco says:

    I could, if you want me to… 😉

  155. BBD says:


  156. Rachel says:

    Why not denier, BBD? I’m sure Marco can handle it. 🙂

  157. BBD says:

    Don’t want to provoke him. Might be bigger than me.

  158. Rachel says:

    And he’s probably politically motivated anyway so not worth the trouble.

  159. Pingback: A poignant essay | …and Then There's Physics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.