I’ve noticed a bit more discussion recently about how to improve the quality of the climate debate; in the blogosphere at least. It’s certainly my view that it would benefit from being more civil and less adversarial. Having said that, I’m not claiming some kind of moral high ground. There are certainly things I’ve said that I’ve later regretted, and occasions when I’ve let my frustration show more easily than I should have. Although I have no idea how to improve the dialogue, or if it’s even worth trying, here are some thoughts that you can take with as big, or as small, a pinch of salt as you would like.
A big issue that I encounter are those who completely mix up science and policy. I find it incredibly frustrating to be involved in what I think is a discussion about science, that suddenly veers into a discussion about policy. Clearly science can inform policy, but policy really shouldn’t inform science. If you think it’s perfectly fine to use your objection to certain policy options to argue against some scientific views, then you’re doing it wrong. It would really help if people would make it clearer as to whether they’re discussing policy or science and try and stick to one or the other.
There also seem to be some who see scientific discussions as something that you try to win. If so, then you’re showing a real lack of understanding of how most scientists would undertake such discussions. You don’t try to win or challenge your “opponent” to defeat your argument. The goal is to learn and – possibly – inform. In a scientific discussion, it’s your job to clarify the caveats and uncertainties in your theory/model. You don’t hide them and declare victory if your “opponent” doesn’t work them out. If you think a scientific discussion is something to be won or lost, then you’re doing it wrong. Recognising that scientific discussions are more than simply debates, would help the dialogue greatly.
Those are some of aspects of this debate that I’ve noticed. There are also a few other thoughts that I’ve had about this issue. If you’re genuinely interested in better dialogue, but typically find yourself accusing others of lying or similarly unacceptable behaviour, maybe you should stop doing this. You may believe it to be true, but doing so is certainly not going to help. Similarly, if you’re interested in better dialogue and find yourself on a metaphorical pedestal criticising the behaviour/biases of others, then you should probably stop doing this. None of us are free of biases, and pretending that you’re purer than everyone else is unlikely to be helpful. Alternatively, if you do these things and your goal is to prevent better dialogue, then carry on; it’s working beautifully.
To be clear, these are just some thoughts and I’m certainly not suggesting that I’m some kind of exemplar. I’m also not particularly confident that there is much chance (in the immediate future at least) of better dialogue. What I would say, though, is that if you’re interested in better dialogue, then why not just try to behave appropriately yourself. Even if noone else follows along, you’ll probably feel better for it, and – you never know – maybe you’ll start a trend. I’m certainly going to try. I don’t promise that I’ll succeed or manage it at all times, though 🙂
Very good ideas! I don’t know how many times I’ve seen climate science comments, where people let policy (and sometimes religion) get in the way of science. People do seem to try to “win” in those debates. It gets annoying over time, and it can be easy to just speak your mind and end up trying to “win” yourself, which doesn’t get any problems solved. I like this idea. Though things probably won’t change in a hurry, it could be personally enriching to change our own behavior. What’s that one quote? “The only person you can control is yourself.” Indeed. You’re on the right track.
Reblogged this on Perse Show and commented:
As for the never-ending debate on climate science, this blogger posted some good ideas on keeping discussion civil. I found this to be an interesting bull’s-eye hit on the subject.
Doctor : You have Cancer (AFFIRMATION OF REALITY= SCIENCE)
Patient: (AFFIRMATION OF WHAT THEY WANT= POLITICS) You say that because my race
will sue for discrimination (Completely OFF)
The mix up is because most people use an “All general account” for building the representation of what happens in the world. Very sad situation that people DENY to raise up to the level of knowledge that the situation demands. Instead they force the DEBATE to their level of knowledge (ignorance/stupidity) and they demand Strawberrry Chemoterapy solutions
Only people with a LIFE of (SCIENCE ) CONDUCT can SHAPE UP themselves to deal with the problem instead of just taking whatever MENTAL ESCAPE avenue they can find to AVOID facing the music. But most people do not have that. It is just to expensive !
==> “If you’re genuinely interested in better dialogue, but typically find yourself accusing others of lying or similarly unacceptable behaviour, ”
You can’t have good discussion with people who aren’t interacting in good faith. It stands to reason (IMO), that if someone thinks that you’re lying or engaging in other similarly unacceptable behaviors, they won’t interact with you in good faith. How could anyone interact in good faith with a liar?
As for the mixing of discussing the science with discussing the policy implications – I wonder if that might be inevitable?
The way that I envision better dialog is when the direct objective is one of policy formation, and the science is used in that context as supporting information to help define the range of policy implications. I think it may actually be impossible to productively go in the other direction – from a discussion of the science into a discussion of policy – as science is only one of a variety of lines information that inform policy.
I think that the policy discussion needs to take place between a non-hierarchical framework of stakeholders, where it isn’t a discussion of differing positions but one of shared interests. If the discussion is focused on positions -related to the science or to policy – then a zero sum game/scorched earth paradigm will prevail.
Joshua, I think I understand what you mean about the direct objective being one of policy formation. It’s important for science to get something done in the community, maybe even at official levels like state or federal; after all, science defines much of what we are. However, I wonder if perhaps it would help policy decisions if science was seen as a more friendly subject, something everyone can enjoy, not just argue with. It seems to me that whenever policy and science mix, we end up with sides forming, one attacking the other. I don’t doubt that the policy discussions need to take place, but there could be less controversy and warring if science was thought of as a more peaceful, accepting subject. After all, that’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s no different that mathematics or literature, it just happens to be defined by subjects people from different backgrounds have more trouble agreeing with.
I agree with the writer of this post mainly because his/her ideas seem like a breath of fresh air to me, and I don’t know of any better solutions. But if you or anyone else have ideas that could work better, I’d love to hear them.
Thanks for the comments.
I think it’s inevitable when it comes to discussions of policy, but not if you simply want to have a discussion about science. Also – in my view at least – when discussing policy there’s a fine line between discussing the strength of the evidence, and actually arguing about the evidence itself. If you’re going to argue about the evidence itself, then that would seem to be a science discussion that shouldn’t be influenced by policy. However, I can see that the distinction between arguing about the strength of the evidence and arguing about the evidence itself may not be all that clear.
I couldn’t have said it better! You know your topic, @And Then There’s Physics.
Thanks, but have to be wary of getting onto a metaphorical pedestal 🙂
Ah, that’s right. Sorry. Perhaps it would be best to unapprove my last comment (and this one)?
I agree with most of what you say. But I do have a little nitpick with the following:
Part of scientific scepticism is addressing biases and certain types of behaviour (basically any behaviour that makes you resistant to accepting valid evidence/arguments). Without that you cannot have a good and productive exchange as you won’t be able to call people out on it.
However, it does matter how you do it. Show what is wrong and how it’s wrong, but don’t make it about the person. You also should hold yourself to the standards you expect from others. If you don’t do that you’re just as bad as the people you’re going after.
Oh, I think they’re fine. I’ll do something particularly stupid soon enough, which will remind me that there’s lots about this topic that I really don’t know 🙂
That’s part of scientific skepticism, yes. But many people end up attacking biases, not having productive exchanges over correcting them. As for your second paragraph, I agree.
Maybe you misunderstand what I was getting at in that paragraph (or I didn’t explain it particularly well). I meant getting on a metaphorical pedestal to criticise the behaviour/biases of others without also acknowledging your own biases. I was referring to those who somehow think that they’re free from such biases and problems and can consequently criticise/comment on those of others. “Getting on your high horse” would be a relevant English idiom.
So, yes, I agree with you about skepticism but you have to also be skeptical about your own position, not just about the position of others.
If you think a scientific discussion is something to be won or lost, then you’re doing it wrong.
Well formulated. I would almost tattoo that sentence on my forehead. It is a joint “fight” against nature.
Anders, your rules are great for discussions among scientists. They may be a bit too optimistic for the climate “debate”. We seem to be thinking about similar things, I just wrote a much too long post with a similar topic. The recommendations for scientists playing climate ball at the end are as follows.
1. Do not expect to be able to convince the people that have being a climate sceptics as their identity. Explain the science and explain why the climate “sceptics” are wrong for the lurkers. Explain why science is fun and why it produces reliable knowledge. Show you are open and interested in a better understanding.
2. Stay on topic to be able to go in depth like scientists would if they have a dispute. Pseudo-sceptics like to change topics before acknowledging that they were wrong on this first one. Make this strategy clear to the lurkers and explain that this suggests that the pseudo-sceptics are not really interested in understanding the problem. If necessary “answer” new topics with links (e.g. to the Skeptical Science list of Global Warming & Climate Change Myths).
3. Be friendly to people you do not know and might be honestly interested in the answer. There is no need to accept any kind of abuse, but try to make sure that there is a clear difference in tone between science and non-science.
4. Search for the name of your discussion partner and the topic. Very often he has discussed the topic before somewhere else and already knows all the answers. In this case, point out to the lurkers that your discussion partner is not interested in the answer, but just wants to create doubt.
5. Be fairly strict with moderation on your own blog, if you have one. The ugly language at WUWT we started this post with is great for stroking tribal feeling and very effective in reducing people’s ability to think rationally. Not something you would like to see at a science blog. Personally, I also remove a large part of the comments without arguments, they waste the time of the reader looking for a real discussion.
6. Another function of the ugly language may be to discourage scientists from taking part. Try to ignore the misconduct and not to take it personally. These people do not know you and are only demonstrating their own problems. This is clearly illustrated by the all the hilarious puns on my last name. If those people would know me only a little bit, they would at least write something about homogenization or my fixation with WUWT.
Try to have fun playing climate ball and keep your eye on the WUWT ball.
ATTP: Your opening sentence plays right into the hands of the Climate Denial Spin Machine because it states there is a “climate debate.” There is no such thing. All there is a continuous assault on climate science and climate scientiests by the “Forces of Evi”.
When you or I engages in a discussion with a climate denier, we are generally debunking their fallse assertions.
We must stop using the word “debate” because every time that we do so, we we feed the deniers’ central meme that the “science is not settled”.
Yes and no. About the science, I agree. Debate is the wrong word to use, for many reasons. For policy, however, I think “debate” is okay. I take your point, though.
ATTP, then my bias is that you didn’t properly explain it. 😉 So we actually are in agreement on this subject.
Good to understand and acknowledge our own biases 🙂
Well said, Victor. When you say to be strict about comment moderation, do you mean that comments like “Well said” or “I agree” should be dropped, or just useless ones like ” 🙂 “?
A problem is that ‘debate’ is the wrong word for what I want to see, and it sounds like (most of) you. Debates _are_ about winning and losing. They _are_ about fixed positions defended endlessly.
Discussions, on the other hand, can involve all participants learning things, and leaving with new positions. Much more interesting and valuable, imnsho.
Longer form version at http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2008/08/discussion-vs-debate.html
Discussion (comments) still open there.
Yes, John Hartz’s pointed that out. When it comes to the science, then debate is the wrong word and I should probably have pointed that out. When it comes to policy, then it’s less clear. Would be nice if even policy discussions could be less about defending fixed positions, but that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Robert has made a good point. One of my own biases is that the word “debate” has become like the word “awesome” for me: No one knows what it means anymore. What I mean by that is: “awesome” used to mean something full of awe, and now it can be equated with “great” or “nice.” I seem to have forgotten what the word “debate” as opposed to “discussion” really means.
Perse and Robert,
One issue I have is that when I write about this topic I get to what should follow the word “climate” and even though I know debate isn’t ideal, I can’t think of a better term and so just give up and use it. You’re right though, people have rather lost sight of what the whole point of a debate/discussion is.
Perse Show, Is’t “Well said” or “I agree” just as useless as ” 🙂 “? Not only being scientist, but also a human, I must admit that I am more lenient with argument-free tokens of appreciation as with argument-free destructive comments.
Perhaps. My point there was that sometimes a writer wants to know their writing is appreciated, no matter the usefulness of discussions. Discussions and even accusations provide learning experiences, but sometimes, being human, a writer just wants approval.
When, to take a random example, And Then There’s Physics comments: “Good post. I see we’re largely thinking along the same lines.”, then it seems unkind to just delete it.
ATTP — well, discussion is discussion. One _can_ have discussion about anything, including policy. That was really the whole point in those days (now long gone in the US, but I remember some of them) when politics could be called “The art of the possible.” with a straight face. I’ve managed to have some policy discussions with people. This is helped by the fact that I don’t think I have all the answer(s) already.
As to what to put after ‘climate’, I’ll vote for debate if you’re describing most of what _is_ out there, discussion if you’re describing what I’d like to see. (I think we agree, but I’m only positive about my own sentiments.)
Indeed 🙂 Certainly, here, the moderation mainly hinges around civility. There are side effects to this, though, so it’s not that straightforward, but generally trying to be pleasant and civil is encouraged. Talking about moderation is discouraged, but since the post is about dialogue and how to improve that, we can probably let that pass 🙂
Okay, thanks for clarifying.
Wait, I’m a little confused. What do you mean by “Talking about moderation is discouraged”?
You can talk about moderation but if you think one of your comments has been unfairly moderated, then a discussion about this in the thread is discouraged. You can email one of us about it instead.
Oh, okay. I understand now.
I don’t think you’ll have to worry about this Perse as I can’t imagine one of your comments being moderated. 🙂
Good to know. Yes, I try to keep my comments fairly civil and on-topic.
ATTP “It’s certainly my view that it would benefit from being more civil and less adversarial.”
How many climate science related blogs would exist without the policy relevance of the issues?
Very few or none.
How many of the blogs have discussion that’s almost fully restricted to science?
A few more, but not many. That requires constant digging into details at level rarely met.
In some cases the role of politics is not recognized even by those, who write comments strongly affected by their policy preferences. It seems also to be common that comments that are written from policy perspective are misinterpreted as statements about science as the same expressions have different meanings to people of differing backgrounds. The scientist may see a statement within science while other sees comparison with something familiar and important to her or him.
A riff with some (somewhat random) thoughts:
==> “Part of scientific scepticism is addressing biases and certain types of behaviour (basically any behaviour that makes you resistant to accepting valid evidence/arguments). Without that you cannot have a good and productive exchange as you won’t be able to call people out on it.”
This is one of the reasons why I think it helps to ground a discussion of the science within a policy framework. As a matter of identifying common interests related to policy – with shared investment in the outcomes of those policies – behavior is not very relevant. And because of that, you can avoid getting bogged down in endless exchanges about whose behavior is worse. Identity as “skeptic” and “realist” are likewise not relevant. Victimization and demonizing become irrelevant. What becomes relevant is how individuals can visualize policy outcomes that are mutually beneficial. If participants understand that their interests won’t get met if the interests of others aren’t met also, then the science serves as vehicle to support policy development, and not a cudgel to us for identity protection and identity aggression.
==> ‘1. Do not expect to be able to convince the people that have being a climate sceptics as their identity.”
The problem is, IMO, if you exclude that group, it isn’t realistic to think that you can achieve much of an outcome that is different than what has already been achieved. Lurkers, IMO, tend to seek an identification when watching the “debate.”
Better to make identity, as a “skeptic” or as a “realist,” secondary to the discussion. If science is the point of focus within a discussion of the impact of ACO2, making identity secondary is impossible – because the public is so locked into looking at the science within an identification framework. If policy development is the desired outcome, with a understanding that without a shared framework of policies then no policies will be developed, then identity becomes secondary. Of course, there are those for whom policy development is not a desired outcome (because they are content with the status quo)…
You can say that there will be no policy outcome if there isn’t any agreement (whether by consensus or by vote) – but you can’t say that there won’t be a scientific outcome of their isn’t any agreement – because people will just walk away as fully convinced as when they walked in that their view of the science is correct and yours is wrong.
==> “Explain the science and explain why the climate “sceptics” are wrong for the lurkers. Explain why science is fun and why it produces reliable knowledge. ”
I guess there’s no point in rehashing the “knowledge deficit” reasoning of how to create policies related to climate change – but I disagree with your suggested strategy. I suppose it is theoretically possible (although in my judgement not likely) that if more “lurkers” heard more “explanations” from climate scientists (and thus their knowledge deficit would be addressed) sufficient numbers would align toward particular policies, but I think that the communication network for getting the ideas across in the way that you suggest (without a corresponding message getting delivered by “skeptics” through rightwing media outlets) simply doesn’t exist. You can’t control the message in the way that you’re suggesting.
–> “Show you are open and interested in a better understanding.””
This seems to me to assume a role where the scientists are the leaders and the non-scientists are the followers. Otherwise, why does the scientists attitude become so important?
I think that a non-hierarchical framework is more likely to be successful. IMO, when you place information from scientists at the top of the hierarchy, the public will necessarily battle it out about whether “our” scientists or “their” scientists are the one who reign supreme. They will see “their” scientists as close-minded and “ours” as open.
I think that your other suggestions, in a similar way, assume that you are the one who sets the rules. You aren’t. So, then, how will you be able to maximize your effectiveness given that you don’t get to determine whether someone else changes the subject, whether a friendly environment, is created, etc?
Look at what happens at this blog. If you start out with a focus on keeping on topic and “keeping it civil,” you will either soon be (1) pulled off track from your desired strategy or, (2) be forced to exclude those who oppose you from the discussion (moderation). That’s why discussions on blogs can’t work (on the whole), because you have no way of enforcing that those you engage will engage in good faith except by excluding them from the discussion.
==>”I think it’s inevitable when it comes to discussions of policy, but not if you simply want to have a discussion about science.
But how do you limit the discussion in such a framework. How do you enforce a rule that only the science can be discussed? And how do you draw some lines between science and policy. I’m not sure that’s possible.
==> “Also – in my view at least – when discussing policy there’s a fine line between discussing the strength of the evidence, and actually arguing about the evidence itself. If you’re going to argue about the evidence itself, then that would seem to be a science discussion that shouldn’t be influenced by policy.”
Again, how to you enforce that rule?
==> “However, I can see that the distinction between arguing about the strength of the evidence and arguing about the evidence itself may not be all that clear.”
Yes. My earlier point.
I think that the whole point of this is that we wish people had more open minds. Discussion is good because it reaches out and connects with the community, and whether or not the feedback is civil is irrelevant to my current point. We have to remember that the only person one can control is oneself. We can’t expect to control other people or keep discussions from getting out of hand on our own, but–while admitting to our own biases and trying our best to improve where we’re lacking–we can serve as examples of what we think is best. I’ve seen from this discussion that there really isn’t one single, workable, correct answer. Everyone will have their disagreements. And some people will be a lot more supportive. The point is that discussion isn’t bad, and it’s almost inevitable. All we can do is stay as true as we can to what we agree with.
A variation on Perse’s thought. A different aspect of ‘you can only control your own actions’ (well, moderators can control what actions of other people see the light of day in their limited realm) is a phrase a friend liked and I’ve adopted more as time has passed:
“What you feed, grows.”
If you give attention to the trolls, the people with concrete minds*, the ones who have no coherent argument to make — just a list of talking points they’ll hop through rather than engage in discussion, etc., then you’ll get more of that — it will grow. If you emulate their methods, they’ll grow.
Unfortunately, there are enough trolls, etc.. that even if you ignore them and don’t copy their methods, they’ll still be around. But it’s a start.
For moderators, an observation of mine, partly from moderating my own blog, more from observations elsewhere after I noticed the pattern on my blog. Namely, the least constructive people are amazingly incapable of staying on topic, regardless of topic. Even if a whole topic thread is created just for them. Their lack of constructiveness including the name-calling, laundry-list recitation, imperviousness to evidence. But those are perhaps a little hard to draw a line regarding. ‘On topic’ is usually a pretty straightforward decision, and even giving generous leeway in the decision eliminates a fair chunk of the useless to detrimental commentary. e.g., no matter what the topic, there’s a person (or was, last I looked) at Climate Etc who will _always_ comment about how the sun is made of iron. He’s also quick with name-calling, etc.. It might be hard to bounce his comments for their name-calling (I’m not sure why, but apparently JC finds it so), but it’s pretty easy to tell that they’re off-topic.
* concrete-minded: Their mind is like concrete — all mixed up and permanently set. I stole that from a poster I saw ages ago.
I firmly believe that all of the participants in this comment thread grossly overestimate the number of people who are “lurking about” reading the thread. Until ways are found to get some hard data on this topic, we are all speculating. My guess is that the number of “lurkers” is but a tiny fraction of the people who read/skim the OP and do not comment. In other words, at the comment thread micro-level, climate ball is not a spectator sport.
Comment threads are, however, a good place to get training for how to properly engage in face-to-face discussions about climate change with other people. They are also a good training ground for those people who make public presentations on climate change followed by a Q&A sesssion. .Politicans and their staffs would slo benefit from particpating in comment threads
I don’t know. Just seems that it would be better.
I’m not thinking of new rules. All I was suggesting is things that people could consider if they were seriously interested in better dialogue. Recognising the difference between a discussion about the science and one about policy would – IMO – help.
I will say that I started this blog because I couldn’t believe what I was reading elsewhere about the science, not what I was reading about policy. Maybe I’m coming at this from a different angle than most, then.
Robert and Perse,
Yes, those are valid point.
You’re right, we don’t know how many are reading but not commenting.
I would agree with Joshua that ‘PURE’ science discussions are an absolute ideal that is never approached in practise. The science is discussed only because it has a policy implication. If it has none, it does not warrant discussion. In Climateball(TM) the only reason to discuss the science is because it has implications for economic/political action.
“There also seem to be some who see scientific discussions as something that you try to win. If so, then you’re showing a real lack of understanding of how most scientists would undertake such discussions. ”
It is unrealistic to expect discourse in a context far removed from scientists discussing their work to be carried out in the same way. I am not even sure that the detached, open and diverse discussion you present as the paradigm of scientists discussing science is often approached in practise. As was discussed in a previous thread one way of looking at science is as an evolutionary process. The development of policy that derives from scientificknowledge is perhaps even more dominated by a struggle between different forces and interests for the survival of their favoured position.
Climate discussion blogs are just one ecology in a wide range of arenas within which the competing creatures of science-informed policy fight, or cooperate, for survival. Scientific integrity and consistency with the established understanding of the material world are very powerful weapons in this Darwinian process of finding the fittest knowledge and the most successful policy.
Yes, I can see this being true. I would still argue that if people are seriously interested in better dialogue then they could still try to be clearer about whether they’re specifically discussing science, or policy (which is informed by science) – and they could avoid using an inconvenient policy option to justify their scientific views.
Yes, again probably true. However, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything quite as far from the ideal as I’ve encountered when discussing climate science. I’m much more used to people who will acknowledge the caveats and simplifications with their work, than I am with people who will defend it to the hilt. To be fair, there are some serious academics involved in this debate who’s behaviour is less than ideal, so maybe I shouldn’t expect interested lay-people to behave any better.
Is this the debate debate, the debate discussion, the discussion debate or the discussion discussion? Eli only aks.
“Is this the debate debate, the debate discussion, the discussion debate or the discussion discussion? Eli only aks.”
It exists in a state of quantum indeterminacy, heavily entangled with the wider ecology of conflicts over both the science and the policy. Until macroscopic physical events, (climate or political) collapse the wave function into history.
Just a heads up, we have added some moderation words which if used, will send comments to the moderation queue. The words are fraud, liar, troll, and idiot (this list may evolve over time). Comments containing one or more of these words may still get approved – it depends how the word is used – but they will be held for moderation first.
I don’t think that trying to make the debate/discussion less polarised or adversarial is realistic. A large proportion of people involved in the debate on climate blogs, twitter etc. either consider that urgent and wide reaching action to address climate change is necessary or they are opposed to such action and determined to prevent it if at all possible. Those positions are fundamentally opposed and strongly held, the chances of persuading people to change their minds or even find some middle ground are slim.
As I’m sure I’ve said before, compared with online debates on other issues where people have strongly held opposing views I don’t think that arguments about climate change are generally worse than most, and they are better than some. Look at arguments on Israel/Palestine for example, and I got far worse abuse from Labour loyalists on a supposedly left-leaning political blog for admitting to voting LibDem at the last election than I’ve ever got from any climate skeptic (maybe some people here will say “serves you right”).
Now of course “no worse than most arguments on the internet” is a pretty low bar to set, and I’m not saying we should be content with that – given the amount of time many of us spend engaging in these discussion I do think it’s worth trying to raise the standard as much as possible, but equally we have to be realistic about what we are likely to actually achieve.
Ultimately whether we get meaningful action on climate change will largely depend on whether either the broad community of those who see the need for action or the skeptics (at least those who self identify as ‘climate skeptics’) are more successful in persuading the wider public and so giving policy makers the political space they need to take such action. We’re not going to get it by persuading the skeptics they are wrong.
I agree. This post wasn’t really an attempt to do that. If anything, it was just an attempt to highlight what I’ve observed and to indicate why it’s polarised. Those with some self-awareness may identify with some of this. Those without any self-awareness, won’t.
It would seem rather hypocritical if I did.
ATTP: I hate to burst your bubble, but it should be noted that (at least in the U.S.) discussions of scientific matters among and between scientists can get quite ugly depending on the personalities and the baggage of the people involved. This applies to the interchanges that occur behind closed doors during the peer review process as well.
The bottom-line: Scientists are people too.
Yes, I’m sure my view is idealistic and naive and, as you say, scientists are people too.
Izen: It is unrealistic to expect discourse in a context far removed from scientists discussing their work to be carried out in the same way. I am not even sure that the detached, open and diverse discussion you present as the paradigm of scientists discussing science is often approached in practise.
Also in science the ideal is never reached. Although, the worst digressions from the ideal I would see in retrospect as intrusions of the climate “debate” into science (long memory, hiatus).
But they are still two completely different worlds. When I am discussing with another scientist, we both try to understand the problem and why we disagree. Already by jumping from one challenge to the next before any conclusion is reached, many participants of the climate “debate” show that they are not interested in such an understanding.
That is also partially my answer to Joshua (I wonder if we wrote/read the same post). If I would go into a discussion with a pseudo-sceptic with the same expectations as I would in science, I would be horribly disappointed. Over and over again, almost without exception. There is no comparison. It was not about excluding people, it was about the mindset with which you go into such a “debate”.
I think that a missing point in many conversations about Climate Change is that there is a real difference between doing theoretical science (a quest for some basic truth, perhaps) and engineering.
Both are based on science, but theoretical science is often a search for “truth” while engineering is usually just a search for “what works”
It seems like many climatologists on either side of this debate are really just climate engineers. Most climatologists honestly believe they see a real problem ahead (global warming), and they are trying to engineer a solution (reducing CO2) to solve that problem. To do this, they have created many different climate models to reverse-engineer a chaotic system that often doesn’t behave as expected.
Then they try to use the best of these models to try to predict the future. Often, the models don’t seem to work. That’s not surprising. Most don’t. For example, I am a pilot. Trying to model turbulent airflow conditions as a plane approaches a stall is VERY hard. But this is engineering folks – not pure science.
Perhaps it’s true that pure research scientists do not “debate” first principles. I don’t know, since I am not a research scientist.
But I can tell you with 100% certainly that engineers debate, fight and argue all of the time. Engineers look at performance data, crash data, or whatever and often come up with very conflicting theories what was going on and what to do about it. The best “Skeptics” are just engineers looking at current data that doesn’t fit the models and asking reasonable questions….
Skeptics are NOT challenging pure Science or the search for Truth. They’re just engineers scratching their heads and saying – “hey, something here doesn’t look right….”
It’s a healthy debate……
Personally, I think you’re wrong that climate scientists are really doing a form of engineering. In my opinion, what they’re doing is science. It may not quite satisfy your ideal of everything satisfying falsifiability, but it’s still science. It seems to me that you’re trying to redefine what climate science is so as to make your criticism more valid.
“The best “Skeptics” are just engineers looking at current data that doesn’t fit the models and asking reasonable questions….”
A couple of examples here would help illustrate your point
If anything, it was just an attempt to highlight what I’ve observed and to indicate why it’s polarised. Those with some self-awareness may identify with some of this. Those without any self-awareness, won’t.
Indeed. I’m sure you remember this gem
David Rose (@DavidRoseUK) tweeted at 5:02 PM on Tue, May 20, 2014:
@flimsin @WarrenPearce @ImaBannedd The whole climate issue could be so much more grown up and less nasty… really it could.
Now this is from someone who has a platform in one our biggest selling and most influential newspapers and uses it to push the view that the threat of climate change is being deliberately and systematically overstated. His work however often contains basic factual errors, he has been repeatedly found to misrepresent his sources and oganisations such as the Met Office and IPCC routinely have to publish corrections to the stories he writes concerning them.
People might wonder whether David Rose’s contribution to the climate debate has made it more grown up and less nasty, or the opposite.
People asking questions is fine, the problem is when they refuse to accept the answers.
Indeed, I do remember that and when I see such things from people like David Rose, the first thing that springs into my mind is that they think it’s nasty if people point out to them that they’re wrong. I suspect that the debate would benefit from people understanding the terms “irony”, “self-awareness”, “hypocrisy”, “constructive criticism”, “attack”, “ad hominem”.
“Skeptics are NOT challenging pure Science or the search for Truth. They’re just engineers scratching their heads and saying – “hey, something here doesn’t look right….””
Apparently you don’t think that many of us have actually read much of what passes for climate science “skepticism”, because that’s the only possible explanation for your thinking such an obviously wrong statement would be believed by anyone reading it.
And if the denialism expressed by many engineers represent “the best skepticism”, then climate science skepticism is in very, very bad shape indeed.
But then again, those of us who pay attention know this to be true already.
“Trying to model turbulent airflow conditions as a plane approaches a stall is VERY hard. But this is engineering folks – not pure science.”
No, this is science. Applying the science to the design and understanding of a particular airfoil for a new airplane is engineering. It’s a bit scary that you don’t understand the difference …
The best “Skeptics” are just engineers looking at current data that doesn’t fit the models and asking reasonable questions….
That’s true insofar as the models are always wrong and can always be improved, but that doesn’t change the fundamental results, of which there is now little need for any more ‘debate’. And your comments about ‘scientific truth’ are so far off the mark that there is little need to comment on it, other than to say that science is a search for ‘results’ that can be used in further investigations or can be used immediately to solve some engineering ‘problems’ so that solutions may be achieved and problems solved..
Maybe Mike Fayette can point out a few of those “best skeptics” he considers “asking reasonable questions”. In most cases I have seen, any supposed “reasonable question” is packaged in language that makes no attempt to hide that the person asking the question is not in need of an answer, he/she already ‘knows’ what it is.
Usually the one question that makes me trust the person asking a supposed “reasonable question” is “can you point me to some relevant literature to read”.
@Mike Fayette: It would be helpful if you’d also provide some examples of climatologists concluding first that CO2 should be reduced and then engineering models to support their conclusion.
From where I sit — with engineering background and with science background (background meaning degrees, not just taking some classes) — there’s really too much science and not enough engineering going on regarding climate. One of the most heavily researched numbers in climatology is the Charney sensitivity to 2xCO2. This is scientifically useful, in that it provides a way to intercompare models and see if they’re converging, and it can be researched independently by way of paleoclimate observations. But it’s a meaningless number for engineering, as it applies only in a highly idealized situation which will _never_ be approached in reality even briefly.
Some of the idealizations are: only ‘fast processes’ are considered (ice sheets, glaciers, land cover + ecosystems, … all are ignored), CO2 rises to exactly 2xPre-industrial and stops there _forever_. In reality, ice sheets and such _will_ respond (are responding), there’s no reason to believe CO2 will stop at merely 2x Pre-industrial, and there’s good reason to believe that whatever level it approaches eventually will not hold fixed.
In science, one can take advantage of such idealizations — they help you improve your understanding of the universe. In engineering, you have to deal with the fact that the people assembling your bridge are not all doing perfect work, and that the materials they’re using aren’t perfect either.
ATTP: In my book, you not naive. Rather, you are a “gentleman” in the truest sense of the word.
Good post ATTP. I have to say, one of the aspects of climate arguments that irritates me the most is the ‘point scoring’ (this is probably “Climateball”), where one person will nitpick some irrelevant word choice or something similar to ‘score points’ against another person. I won’t name any specific names, but there are certain contrarians and so-called ‘lukewarmers’ who do this all the time, and it irritates me to no end. It’s just a waste of time.
While climate science is a fascinating topic, frankly climate policy is a more important subject at this point. But a problem arises when peoples’ opposition to climate policy leads to science denial. I wish those people would just engage in the policy debate. I’m sure we could come up with policy solutions that they’d be willing to accept, if they were to join the discussion. Unfortunately it tends to be more of an ideological block than a specific policy objection.
ATTP: This particular OP and others like it, do not seem to fit under the heading “And Then There’s Physics.” Are you contemplating changing the name of the website in order to better reflect the scope of the OPs you are posting?
Dana is a prime example of a “climotologist” who has had an impact on the public discourse about both climate science and climate policy. He did not accomplish this by engaging climate deniers on comment threads.
Dana1981.. I’ve been wanting to create a scoring system for ClimateBall(tm) along the lines of Willard’s concerns. Essentially it would be negative point scoring, and trolling behavior would score big.
As much as I feel for your comment, I tend to think that the real issue is forum chaff from trolls. WIllard has been very even handed about pointing out the fact that both sides engage in, frankly, crappy behavior. ATTP is exceptionally polite in dealing with people I’d happily fling poo at. Of course scoring would (hopefully ?) shift behavior quite likely to what you are annoyed with now.
I find it funny that these people can’t go the route of talking about policy. There’s is plenty of room in the morals department to do nothing. I’d disagree, but I couldn’t stand on facts about policy. Some people really truly don’t care. Some men just want to watch the world burn. And that is an awful fact.
Here’s a paid troll (she works for Friends Of Science in Calgary);
(If you look at the stats.. no one is reading that stuff, So I tend to think that they are loosing.)
John Hartz – you do know that ATTP has changed their name and blog once already? A second time would be even more confusing.
Obama on Climate Change policy;
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Yes, that irritates me immensely too.
Agreed, that’s why I find much of the criticism of things like the consensus project odd. The result is almost certainly roughly correct. Why not accept it and move on, rather than continuing to argue about something that we probably all agree is right.
No, now I can write a post that starts with “And then there’s physics” 🙂
Great video, thanks.
Confusing people is part of the charm 🙂
I think you underestimate Willard at your peril 🙂
Andrew and Anders, upon viewing that Rose twitter thread the first thing that came to my mind is that Tamsin Edwards is up to her old tricks.
I don’t doubt for a moment that some senior scientist told Tamsin that s/he prefers not to criticize other scientists in public, indeed Anders just a few days ago actualized that POV with regard to the reticent glaciologist Bethan Davies, and broadly speaking lots of scientists think that’s what the scientific literature is for (and fair enough), but noting it out of context like that is just a dog whistle for the likes of Rose.
Rose himself won’t change so long as boffin-bashing and telling people what they want to hear continue to sell papers, but if by chance he were to, he’d just be replaced.
Thomas Lee Elifritz: Willard plays the role of Court Jester to the hilt. Some peole get a kich out his antics, others don’t. I, myself, no longer pay much attention to what he posts.
Thomas Lee Elifritz:
I’m talking about this Willard;
And this Climate Ball;
(There is a very lively discussion about scoring at the end. Willard points out that us technical folks have an understood method of arguing, and it stands in contrast to the crap in the public sphere. i.e. even if we obey reasonable laws of behavior, how do we handle it when they do an illegal side tackle?)
I am not talking about the high schooler;
(What I usually say about that guy winds up with something like [Snip by Moderator] all over it.)
I think they’re all referring to the same Willard. I think some, though, may not have thought enough about what it is that Willard is trying to illustrate. I’ll say no more 🙂
This is a common view, but I think it neglects the culture war aspect of things.
For those who haven’t seen them, two columns from Sunday’s NY Times are worth a read. First, Paul Krugman:
I’d ask what took him so long, but that would be ungenerous. Second, Charles M. Blow:
I understand willard to be a advocate and defender of the necessity of the status quo, when in fact, science has shown that the game is over. Civilization (you can debate what that is all you want) has two stark choices here, either stand down gracefully, or break out into the cosmos (or at least the inner solar system) Either way, we are looking at a another major geological upheaval and extinction event, as neither choice seems to be acceptable to the powers that be. Given the sociological evidence I am looking at, I don’t see how anything along the lines of policy is going to be able to fix this thing, at most it might give us some more time to work out those two choices.
If we’re talking of the same Willard (I.e., not Anthony Watts) then I don’t think you understand him. I do not believe he is a defender of the status quo.
Willard, Willard think of himself as Le Gros Bill. Elegance is his thing.
I too believe you have seriously misread Willard, here and elsewhere. Please, consider a pause for reassessment.
ICYMI, Krugman takes down Tim Johnson’s misunderstanding of Krugman’s take-down of RP Jr..
That sounds the beginning of recursive take-downs. People will not be happy 🙂
> Willard think of himself as Le Gros Bill.
Thank you for the kind words, Eli, but I can only aspire to emulate Le Capitaine.
Watching the Kings dominate made me think of Puissance au Centre, though:
This sentence from Krugman rather sums up my views of much of the climate “debate”
Talking about things that are obvious, there is a recent paper out about the impact of geothermal flux on the Thwaite Glacier on the West Antractic Ice Sheet. Judith Curry – I think – mentions it in one of her recent posts. If you’d like a broader perspective on this paper (which I’m lead to understand is a very good piece of work) I recommend reading Mark Brandon’s post.
I do not believe he is a defender of the status quo.
You’ve got to be kidding. I’m not talking about Tony, I’m talking about willard. His websites and internet prose are one giant tribute to misdirection. It doesn’t matter that he criticizes his own, he’s basically arguing for the continued (indeed sustainable) argument of argumentation, which I believe is his own personal interest. That’s quite a distance from … actually doing something.
It’s an exercise in narcissism. I admit I’m obsessive, but I know when to move on.
Yesterday (Mon, June 9}, Michael Mann posted “Interests, Ideology and the Climate Denial Machine” in The Huffington Post in response to Krugman’s Op-ed cited .by Steve Bloom.
Again, I don’t think you quite understand what Willard is doing. Each of us has their own way of contributing to this topic. I think you shouldn’t assume that others who aren’t behaving as you might hope, don’t have the same long-term goal.
> That’s quite a distance from … actually doing something.
And Thomas is showing the way. Soon enough, the Red Sea will reopen. No need to bring your tablet, Thomas has enough for us all.
Please continue at Eli’s, dear Thomas.
Readers of the thread will also want to check out Chris Mooney’s New Scientist article, “Making science cool won’t win over the denialists”
Iin fact, ATTP may want to create a new OP based on Mooney’s article.
Perhaps some background may be of help to see where our dear Thomas is coming from:
However unfair it might seem to some, one nice thing about this kerfuffle is that Krugman is guaranteed of victory.
Re the Johnson piece, it’s interesting how easily he conflated implementation of existing technologies with a requirement for new ones, that being an odd error for a mathematician to make.
The rest of the “reasoning” in Johnson’s piece gets pretty scurrilous, looking to me like just a polite, academic version of a pretty standard right-wing rant. I mean, jeez:
Summing up: Johnson dislikes him some lefties.
Yes, I’d seen the new paper Mark blogged about. The reflexive lying about its implications by Watts and others is par for the course.
As with the earlier paper by the same group finding the outlet channels to begin with, these results are further evidence that the ice sheet models have a lot of catching up to do.
I’ll be interested to see the extent to which this effect also exists under the GIS and EAIS marine-based ice sheets, and beyond that how it might change as the ice sheets unload (noting Peter Huybers’ proposal that the last deglaciation triggered a significant surge in Antarctic volcanism).
A bit of nostalgia, lest we forget..
Finally, in related news, something or another seems to have lit a fire under Jakobshavn Isbrae.
Thomas, do not taunt the Willard.
I’m guessing you know these studies already, but for the thread:
Morlighem et al. (2014) Deeply incised submarine glacial valleys beneath the Greenland ice sheet
Discussion at Climatecrocks
Cook et al. (2013) Dynamic behaviour of the East Antarctic ice sheet during Pliocene warmth
Discussion at SkS
To willard, it’s all about style, not substance. He’s still talking about some guy named Tommy who said something or other in a discussion about debate in another thread on another blog that is long over, thus misdirecting another thread into unproductive nonsense on his favorite topic, which is – the philosophy of debate. Good luck with that. This is astroturf of the highest order, it’s like straight out of a shill shop.
You are being ridiculous. For your own benefit, I once again urge you to stop.
Yes, maybe we could avoid letting this spiral out of control.
Ok, if you want to fall for it, go ahead. It’s your science policy discussion debate. Not that it’s doing any good as far as I can tell. Carbon fueled agriculture, commerce and reproduction still seems to be marching on, unabated. In fact, I still hear calls for continued drilling, fracking and growth. Seems kind of contrary to what the science is telling me, but that’s just me. YMMV.
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Willard come and goes, you can choose to ignore him if you like. In my experience he doesn’t disrupt whatever other discussion is going on.
> He’s still talking about some guy named Tommy who said something or other in a discussion about debate in another thread on another blog that is long over, […]
I have no idea who that “Tommy” is, but what I know is that for our dear Thomas, “long over” means something like “since yesterday at 7:14 PM”. A little less than 24 hours ago, I believe. The time it took for our dear Thomas to find this blog and voice his concerns about me, which of course has nothing to do with our exchange at Eli’s, and thus I’m the one who brings another thread here.
Thomas’ mix of messianic techno-pop and clumsy dismissiveness is a rare thing of beauty.
Indeed, I do remember that and when I such things from people like David Rose, the first thing that springs into my mind is that they think it’s nasty if people point out to them that they’re wrong.
Yes, that’s exactly it. I think it’s entirely right to condemn personal attacks (although can’t say I’ve never been guilty myself) – what Victor was subjected to at WUWT was outrageous, as was the comment about Mann and Connolley. I studiously avoid WUWT as it’s just a cesspit (and BH is not much better).
But sometimes people do behave in a way that deserves to be called out in strong terms. It’s not a crime for journalists to occasionally write a duff story and it’s better in the first instance to concentrate criticism on the substance of the article, but when they do it repeatedly and clearly abandon basic journalistic integrity and objectivity then they can’t complain if they are on the receiving end of some strong words (I toned down my own previous comment on Rose’s behaviour somewhat before posting it). This is especially true of someone like Rose who is in a position of influence, but it really applies to an extent to any of us who have a presence in the debate – we all have to own our own behaviour. Saying we shouldn’t use harsh words against people in the interests of polite discussion, and just concentrate on their arguments, risks giving people a pass for bad behaviour. Of course when we do condemn people for their behaviour we should be able to back it up with evidence – legitimate, even if bluntly expressed, criticism is fine, there is also a level of acceptable invective in heated debates, then there is outright abuse and baseless accusations which are generally unacceptable. This is a distinction that Judith Curry completely missed in the recent exchange you and Victor had with her on Twitter.
Yeah, I was a bit surprised (maybe you weren’t) when Tamsin favourite Rose’s comment – I mean one might well consider it an admirable sentiment, but coming from that source? It’s like giving Bernie Madoff the thumbs up for advocating financial probity.
messianic techno-pop and clumsy dismissiveness
Ah yes, Fairchild Semiconductor and the good old days. Who would have thunk that condensed matter physics would change the world. We all know that will never happen again, because … there is no new physics. Is that on topic enough for you? Willard is dismissive of techno-pop. So are a lot of other people here. I’m here to help. I’m from the private sector.
There is no clearer way the “sceptics” could show that they have no valid arguments than by behaving this way.
The problem is, however, that in such a tribal atmosphere, people are less able to think critically. If Curry really want to communicate with other scientists at her blog, she should try to improve the atmosphere. Because otherwise, it is useless for those scientists to go there and present the evidence. If she wants to create a tribal echo chamber as stepping stone for a future political function, she is doing everything right by only removing the worst digressions as a token.
The “Nasty Effect:” Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies by Anderson et al., in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
This comment thread seems to have splintered into multiple threads. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to move on to bigger and better things?
I cannot blame people for being nasty and antagonistic towards people who smear climate scientists and completely distort the truth in climate science related matters. Some of them (actually most of them) are just nasty people.
I will give some examples of what I have endured over the past 9 or 10 years I have been commenting on climate blogs.
The first nasty e-mail was from an associate of Fiends of Science after I had a letter published in the Calgary Herald (it was in the same issue that was involved with Tim Ball’s lawsuit). This nasty character threatened to “separate me from my worldly wealth” if I wrote another letter criticizing the “skeptics”. What bothered me most about that episode was that someone in the Calgary Herald leaked my e-mail address since his e-mail had the Calgary Herald logo still attached, he hadn’t bothered to remove it.
Secondly, I spent lots of time at DeSmogBlog when it was infested by nasties who continually smeared climate scientists.
Thirdly, p o p tek didn’t like what I wrote about him so he disclosed a whole lot of personal information he got from trawling the internet. He listed my home phone number, business number, Company I worked for (that was bit pointless since I owned the company), my home address, a map of how to get to my house and a picture of it. My wife was not a happy camper when I told her that.
Fourthly, a blog owner (the blog was called “smoking gun” or something similar, based in Edmonton) used to edit my comments so they said the opposite of what I wrote.
Fifthly, our friend Mike at ScSk used to leave my rants but deleted all the links and information backing up my comments so that all his readers saw were my rants. Not very honest or ethical of him.
I cannot be the only one who has suffered the nastiness of the “skeptics” so I am not surprised when people respond the way they do. I have always used my real name when commenting and I will not let the nasties win by going anonymous. Maybe if I was starting now, knowing what I now know, I might do it differently.
Ian, why I am not surprised?
Anthony Watts recently published the email address I use to comment to intimidate me.
Those are the people that call themselves skeptical and claim to want to “debate” scientists.
Yes, there does seem to be a fair amount of intimidation. Victor, I noticed some of your Twitter exchanges yesterday, in which you were accused of mis-representing AW. I couldn’t quite work out how, but this seems to be standard practice too. When someone like AW says something objectionable, there’s always some loophole. Either it wasn’t meant the way it’s been interpreted or whoever complains makes some kind of “mistake” in how they’ve represented the exchange and somehow that is more unacceptable than the original exchange.
Oh well, I guess I’m concluding that better dialogue is unlikely. Sad, but maybe unavoidable given the context of this topic.
Yes, that comment of Curry’s shows she really doesn’t get it. She says she wants researchers and academics to get involved in discussions on her blog but then tells them they have to put up with whatever crap her “denizens” want to throw at them. It’s like inviting someone for dinner and then saying “I’ll probably piss in your drinks so I hope you’re not the sensitive type”. The fact is that scientists may well want to engage with the blogosphere, but they have a choice of venues where they can participate so why should they bother doing so in a forum where their honesty and integrity are regularly traduced, not least by the host herself.
They are bullies, and they do not wish to ‘debate’ because they will lose, but rather to force their oddball views into prominence by any means possible.
This is why they should be shut out of public discourse.
You cannot improve a dialogue when one side is not engaged in dialogue.
I agree and I find it very odd. If you really believe that colleagues are being dishonest and you can prove it, then highlighting this and challenging those who are being dishonest is commendable. But, you’d better be right. Your colleagues are not going to thank you if you’re not and they’re certainly not going to ignore that you’ve made such accusations while it’s still unproven. It seems remarkably naive. It’s almost as if some think “I just said what I thought was true, why is everyone cross with me?”
I took one of my rare trips over to WUWT just now to look up some history, and while I was there decided to check on the comments to the post on Gavin Schmidt’s appointment. As of now, 98 comments, only one of them not nasty in some way.
Re Judy, that stance is entirely insincere, *not* naive. I hope no one imagines otherwise.
Perhaps that illustrates my point that better dialogue is impossible when one side – the pseudosceptics, not SB – is not engaged in dialogue but in a propagandising monologue. SB simply points this out, which is the only response possible to a propagandising monologue.
– “simply poinst this out is not what Steve does – he ascribes the malign motive of insincerity
– there *are* other possible responses. For example, ATTP suggests
I agree with ATTP, but often fail personally in following this wise advice.
If you think that JC is sincere, plays a straight game in good faith etc, that is your right.
If you think that she isn’t any of the above, and wish to point this out, that is your right.
I have a cold, and my brain (was ‘brian’) isn’t working properly. What I’m trying to say is that yes, I agree that we should try to avoid incivility as ATTP suggests, and yes, we may fail and that is sometimes regrettable. However, when faced with an unrelenting barrage of bad faith monologue it is counter-productive to turn the other f*cking cheek.
i offer no opinion either way
If you think that she isn’t any of the above, and wish to point this out, that is your right.
― G.K. Chesterton
I don’t think pointing out that someone’s behaviour is insincere is quite the same as saying someone is lying or being dishonest. I don’t think being insincere is quite as pejorative and it has a broader scope of meaning.
There can be an element of truthfulness in insincerity. For instance, say you tell your wife her dress looks lovely when you only think the dress is ok. You’re being insincere but not lying because you do like her dress, just not that much.
I disagree that refusing to ascribe malign motives is turning the other cheek.
I disagree that an aggressive response (this sentence of yours reads aggressively to me) helps your case.
Let’s look at two examples.
1) Gelman’s evisceration of Tol. Entirely without question of Tol’s motivations.
Note “There’s no reason to think that Tol, Reinhart, and Rogoff made these errors on purpose”.
2) Judith’s attack on SKS. Petty insults and a personal sideswipe
“I have long thought that the name of the blog Skeptical Science is a joke… …a litmus test for SkS skepticism: can you find any critical statements on SkS about Michael Mann’s research?”
Which was more effective?
Yes, there is nothing wrong in highlighting genuinely bad behaviour if you can back it up with evidence, although there are proper channels for doing this. Making vague insinuations and then refusing to back them up or provide specific examples when asked is pretty shoddy behaviour and it’s not surprising that it might go down badly with some of her colleagues. The “I’m being treated like a heretic for speaking truth to power” argument is the sort of thing you expect from a student activist not someone in her position.
You cannot have it both ways.
> If you think that she isn’t any of the above, and wish to point this out, that is your right.
You’re reversing the burden of proof, BBD.
> there is nothing wrong in highlighting genuinely bad behaviour if you can back it up with evidence
I think there is. If you can back up your claim, why not simply present the evidence and let people judge?
Okay, then I will revert to my std position: when a commenter makes statements at odds with the evidence, point to the error.
If they refuse to concede the error or change topic, point to the bad faith.
If they refuse to concede the bad faith, you can ascribe bad faith because it is self-evidently true, there is nothing left to lose and you are wasting time.
IMO third parties observing this process are unlikely to be persuaded that *you* are the bad actor.
I think there is. If you can back up your claim, why not simply present the evidence and let people judge?
Firstly in order to make clear the actual argument I’m trying to make. Secondly in order to take responsibility for that argument. Inviting others to make a judgement about someone without actually making it myself may give the appearance of trying to smear someone and avoid responsibility. Think about McIntyre and Yamal – of course he didn’t actually say that Briffa cherry picked the data, he can’t help it if his readers looked at the evidence he provided and drew that conclusion.
It’s not an either/or, BBD. Constantly implying bad faith may not provide ClimateBall ™ klout. If you wish to constantly repeat something, you might as well emulate the advertizing industry and make it fun to hear.
There are moments when it may be warranted to speak of honesty. Perhaps it may even be necessary when you have to deal with people who wish to put the honesty card on the table, e.g.:
Whatever policy one adopts, it seems to me that it’s easier to provide evidence first. It is also safer to keep that evidence handy. Think of it as some kind of trunk test for arguments:
To help clarify – I do not believe offering an opinion on this point helps anyone other than the supporters of Judith Curry’s position.
to further clarify
There *are* things left to lose.
Also note Anders point.
You seem to be arguing you should do precisely the opposite of Anders.
We appear to be talking past each other.
Perhaps we too, are talking past each other. See above, and:
As in demonstrated by the other party, not implied by me.
> Think about McIntyre and Yamal – of course he didn’t actually say that Briffa cherry picked the data, he can’t help it if his readers looked at the evidence he provided and drew that conclusion.
Of course providing evidence can be exploited to dogwhistle, Andrew. I don’t condone dogwhistling. Perhaps I should say instead that ClimateBall ™ players ought to ,em>emphasize evidence.
Compare these two types of exchange.
Climateballer C1 editorializes about someone else in ClimateBall ™. If it is contested, then C1 needs to offer evidence, and we get a discussion. If nobody contests it, all there is on the table is an editorial. Now, what happens when people uses that to editorialize in return? We get an arms’ race of editorials. A food fight.
Climateballer C2 puts evidence on the table. If nobody contests it, it stays on the table, and there’s no need to editorialize. If somebody contests it, you can add more evidence on the table. If people wonder what to conclude from that conclusion (e.g. “what are you trying to insinuate”), then of course you can provide your own judgment. By putting evidence first, you also increase your chances of providing a judgment that is commensurate with the evidence you presented.
The best attribute of the second scenario is that if someone tries to make it about you, it’s too late: you already have your evidence basis and a conclusion you backed up. In other words, if you put evidence on the table first, you’re protecting yourself against dirty tricks.
It may be better than that. You use use these tricks to move the ball forward. But that’s another story.
My guess is that Judith is “sincere” in her beliefs. I’d guess that she really does think that researchers (that disagree with her views) should be thin-skinned even as she focuses often on how upset she is that she has been called a “denier,” and how much damage she thinks is done by incivility on the other side of the great climate divide.
One can be sincere and logically inconsistent at the same time.
But in reality I have no was of assessing the veracity of my guess.
If you don’t know her, you aren’t in a position to judge her sincerity. So for me, anyway, when someone draws a conclusion about her state of mind when in fact they lack the evidence to do so, it suggests motivated reasoning (IMO, to their detriment).
This discussion about how 3rd parties and lurkers are likely to assess antagonistic interactions also seems to me to be largely evidence free. And while we might speculate about winning strategies in Climateball or rhetorical contests, that is all pretty immaterial to the real world and the climate war doesn’t follow non-partisan rules. I don’t think that you can use reason to develop rational strategies because the bad faith of the participants skews reasoning.
People view the interactions in such a way as to confirm their biases.
I think that not only is there not anything to lose, there is also nothing to win as you don’t gain anything (in any significant sense) by saying she’s insincere and you don’t lose anything by saying she’s insincere. Nothing changes here, folks.
sorry….she thinks researchers shouldn’t be thin-skinned….
I don’t think so.
Allow me to paraphrase. You believe that calling out others for bad faith is an effective strategy, once you are personally convinced of their bad faith.
I believe that behaving on the presumption that they are in good faith enables you to better get your own point across, both directly to them and to third parties. It also results in feeling better about yourself.
Please correct me if I’ve mischaracterised your position.
I think this is actually a fundamental disagreement.
==> “I believe that behaving on the presumption that they are in good faith enables you to better get your own point across, both directly to them and to third parties. It also results in feeling better about yourself.”
In a non-corrosive environment where people are open to good faith exchange, I would agree with you. The blogospheric climate war is a corrosive engagement between people who lack good faith in each other.
Calling Judith “insincere” serves no benefit, IMO – but do you really think that presuming good faith on the part of a Willis or a Mosher, or Judith – will change make them more open to opinions they are in disagreement with?
As for feeling better about yourself – sure, that may be true, but it would depend on the individual. I’d guess that BBD and Steve Bloom feel better about themselves after calling someone insincere – because they believe that they are standing up for what’s right and not coddling bad science or people who have bad intent.
Travelling again, but just have a few free moments. As far Judith is concerned, I’m a little uncomfortable in discussing her here but since I think I was discussed on her blog, I think it’s fine 🙂 . I disagree with much of Judith says, but I have no reason to think she isn’t sincere. I am sometimes, however, truly amazed by what she says and what she presents on her blog (decades of cooling, and promoting the Thwaite glacier paper without comment, are two things that spring to mind).
As far as the discussion between BBD and VTG is concerned, I can see what VTG’s issue is and I have some sympathy with that. We who comment here understand the available evidence quite well. We who comment here would probably agree at what point someone is no longer engaging in good faith. Those who read it might not and may perceive calling this person out as a form of bullying. It could be the right thing to do in an objective sense, but ineffective if it is perceived poorly.
That is a good point. Given that there doesn’t seem to be a best way to engage in this topic, maybe we should all just do what what we feel is right and what makes us feel best. Nothing else seems to be working particularly well 🙂
I think BBD emphasizes the “pointing out” bit, Very Tall. His formulation presumes what he wants to point out. That may be all.
Perhaps an example would be in order. Let a contrarian C* claims “the Auditor never said that Briffa cherry-picked.” I would reply by saying that the Auditor indeed does not use the word “cherry pick” in the following quote:
I would add something like “my emphasis”.
If C* asks me to clarify what I mean, I could reply that perhaps the Auditor never said “cherry-pick”, but he did imply it at least once. Now, if C* disputes that this example suffices to warrant my conclusion, I could present another example. Then, if he disputes it, I could present another example. Than another. An another.
(Incidentally, the Auditor once admitted of being “of the same mind” as bender, who explicitly mentions cherrypicking. But there’s always the “but that was in a statistical sense” defense. Anyway.)
Playing Climateball, in my opinion, has a tremendous opportunity cost for anyone wanting to move the dial of pulbic opnion in the direction of accepting what the sceitnific community is telling us about manmade climate change and in engaging the public in an honest and open discussion of the policy options for mitigating and adapting to manmade climate change.
Climateball is a game played in the blogosphere and has very little impact on what’s happening in the real world where most of human race lives. When your strip away all of the veneer, Climateball is a game of egos, nothing more and nothing less.
If you truely care about the habitability of planet Earth for your children, grandchildren, and furture generations, you need to get your hands dirty in the real world.
But I think it’s hard to avoid. The Consensus Project is a classic example. Published paper, high impact, Obama tweets about it : cue a round of ClimateballTM. That’s why you need to understand the rules whether you play in the blogosphere or the real world, because you’re always in the game.
==> “Nothing else seems to be working particularly well”
What’s the goal?
If it is to keep the discussion civil (among people who have differing views about climate change), you have a problem because you can’t control the civility of others. So you can’t quite control the discussion. To have a civil discussion, you have to have all parties dedicated to exchanging in good faith and complying with agreed upon parameters for discourse.
So keeping the discussion civil is a heavy lift, probably impossible.
But you can control the tone of your own discourse and I think you do a pretty good job of remaining civil (no one’s perfect :-).
I agree with your point about “loss” in the sense of opportunity cost.
Most of your comments amount to cheer leading or boohooing. Cheer leading or boohooing is more than obnoxious: it’s how echo chambers get created. Don’t you think these should be reserved to the jejune portions of our populations like parliament representatives?
You may never solve any first, second, or third world problem by commenting on a climate blog, you know. Cheer leading or boohooing does not improve your chances.
How will you be able to persist in cheer leading or boohooing if there are no more ClimateBall ™ players on the field anyway?
In reading your “no” and looking at my comment that produced it, I am seeing that I might have created a straw man.
Your point was not that presuming good faith would elicit good faith exchange with everyone (like Willis or mosher or Judith) – but that it might open up productive dialog with some folks who are in disagreement, and potentially have an effect on third parties. Apologies.
I can think of a few folks, say who hang at Judith’s crib, for whom there might be a benefit from presuming good faith in comparison to accusing them of bad faith…but those aren’t the folks who would likely to be accused of bad faith. John Carpenter is my go to example. Accusing him of bad faith would likely not elicit any constructive exchange whereas presuming good faith might. But, IMO, he’s not the sort for whom I’d presume bad faith to begin with.
And then there’s the question of what is the measurable benefit of good faith exchange, in the blogosphere, with the comparatively few who are like John Carpenter? Such exchanges are dwarfed in number by the bad faith exchanges – and I don’t think that would be changed by a different approach to the discourse because people go to places like Judith’s crib looking for a food fight.
I think Curry is entirely sincere, I just think she has some serious shortcomings that have pushed her towards climate contrarianism (for starters, she doesn’t understand a lot of basic climate science anywhere near as well as a climate scientist should). She’s also allowed her blog comments to become a cesspool of denialist vitriol. There’s no way for a reasonable person to participate in a discussion there without skin made of Adamantium.
Climate scientists have other avenues to participate in the blogosphere though. For example, Skeptical Science has a very interesting guest post from John Fasullo today on climate sensitivity and its lower bound.
That’s modified from his submission to Climate Dialogue, which is another potential avenue for climate scientists, although unfortunately one that’s succumbed to false balance. Still a much better alternative than Curry’s, although that’s a low bar. But there’s also RealClimate and several other good climate blogs that they could make use of. We’ve done several guest posts from folks like Andrew Dessler at our Guardian blog as well.
Dana1981: I don’t think Curry is sincere at all.
Remember that before she started getting pay checks from the GWPF she was an entirely functional member of the scientific community. “Our involvement in the issue of hurricanes and global warming began when we published an article in Science shortly before the landfall of Hurricane Rita, where we reported a doubling of the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes globally since 1970.”
Whether her views changed with her new pay check I don’t know. But I bet John Mashey has quantified it…
willard (@nevaudit): “Cheer leading or boohooing is more than obnoxious: it’s how echo chambers get created.”
You tell ‘m Willard! 🙂
But its important to do it with style. “If you wish to constantly repeat something, you might as well emulate the advertizing industry and make it fun to hear.”
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I do take your point regarding the first case.
I’m not quite so sure about the second case – I’m not sure what is lost by making the point and providing the evidence to support it at the same time. I can see that your approach would be fine in some cases, but sometimes it’s right and necessary to actually make clear the point you are making. Maybe the point is not merely that a person has behaved badly, maybe there is a wider context or you want to draw further conclusions, or you just feel it necessary to avoid any doubt.
I’m sure we agree on the principle – provide evidence for any accusations you make. I think the appropriate rhetorical tactics can vary according to circumstances.
In my view, impugning her motives in this way deflects attention from the accuracy of her views on to the collegiality of your behaviour, Further it, doubtless unintentionally, implies an unwillingness to address the substance of her claims and therefore suggests your own arguments are weak,
In the same way that her casual denigrating of her fellow scientists weakens her own arguments.
OK, I’ve done enough threadjacking here and will only get even more boring and pompous repeating myself if I continue. The reason I like this blog is because of the “trying to keep the discussion civil”. Beware of using others uncivil approaches to justify doing the same back.
Keep up the good work.
now BBD and I have been having a long running disagreement on viable integration of renewables at high penetration rates. in the interest of keeping things civil I invite the reader to imagine me sticking my tongue out and waiving my private parts at his aunties 😉
AOM, do you have any evidence she receives paychecks from the GWPF? If not, that’s just unsubstantiated and unnecessary.
However much that someone suggests that “you’re doing it wrong”, compare that to the Climate Etc blog where she allows the classic multiple-identity sockpuppets free reign. For as long as I have been on the net, the multiple-identity sockpuppets have never been tolerated and usually banned with prejudice, as they foster fake grass-roots backing of agendas. She apparently doesn’t get that, even though with a WordPress blog you know exactly who the sockpuppets are.
=>> “In the same way that her casual denigrating of her fellow scientists weakens her own arguments.”
Repeated for emphasis.
verytallguy: Thanks… I can see that. I can see its not fair to prepaint someone just because they have established views.
I’m of the opinion that when you work for a political organization with clear motivations, that its pretty much predefined what will come out. i.e. I don’t need to know what she says, I already know what she will say. If she left GWPF, then someone else would come along and say the same things. That is what advertising is isn’t it? That is what think tanks do, isn’t it?
The other thing is that if she thinks the science is somehow unclear why isn’t she pushing it and trying to prove it. The cold hard reality is that this stuff is hard, and really does not belong in the public sphere. It belongs in the journals. I find it entertaining to see how misrepresenting things like uncertainty happens. Does Joe average really know what 1 standard deviation is? Should he be concerned if temperatures are borderline 1 standard deviation out? Should Joe public trust Judith when she ignores error to support her position?
Its also a bit disingenuous to claim to be a scientist when not really doing the work. All the scientists I know live and die by the quality of work they do within their fields of work. Its not just about getting published, its about getting read, and really contributing to the world’s body of knowledge. In general, one does not appeal to the public before one’s peers.
I do not see that from Judith Curry. All I see is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt), which sounds like a big uncertainty monster to me.
I agree that mileage varies with I’m saying. It varies first and foremost according to the kind of exchange you expect. We need to distinguish ClimateBall ™ playing style here.
There are players who are at their best in open games, like you or Joshua. To play open, all you need is to assume a collegial desire to reach a mutual understanding. From there, you simply say what you think and talk about just whatever you fancy, in whatever order you choose.
There are players who prefer closed games, like me and Eli. To play closed, all you need to assume is that whatever you say will be questioned, parsed to death, or ridiculed. From there, you need to play one move at a time. That way, you reduce points of contact and focus on your ball, i.e. your communication objective.
In other words, an open game is deliberative (is it true?), while a closed game is judicial or forensic (who did it?). (Climate Audit is not called Climate Audit for nothing.) Both kinds of games need to manage the way they include an epideictic (is it wrong?) mode. As long as we agree that blaming games are boring, we agree on the essential.
ClimateBall ™ players that are more at ease in closed games should immediately recognize why I insist in presenting evidence first. Otherwise, the evidence never goes through a parsomatic defense. I discovered all this out of necessity: it’s the only way I found to be able to held my own on contrarian fields.
Marco.. I am incorrect… She’s merely backed hem a few times. But I did come across this;
In an interview with Curry for a October 2010 Scientific American profile, Michael Lemonick reports (pers. comm.) that he asked Curry about potential conflicts of interest, and she responded,
“I do receive some funding from the fossil fuel industry. My company…does [short-term] hurricane forecasting…for an oil company, since 2007. During this period I have been both a strong advocate for the IPCC, and more recently a critic of the IPCC, there is no correlation of this funding with my public statements.”
Who in their right mind would go to her for short term weather data? There are services you know.
I don’t think Dr Curry is a member of GWPF – she has been quite critical of them.
Yes, I don’t think she has any formal association with the GWPF, although she may have written the forward to one of their recent reports – may be my faulty memory though.
This bears repeating since not everyone here may be aware of it:
Curry’s flip to the dark side, exemplified at an early date by things like calling the IPCC “corrupt,” was closely timed with the establishment of the private weather forecasting operation (CFAN) she set up with husband Peter Webster (also at GTech). Climate Etc. is very much part of the marketing for CFAN, as can be seen here. The only other thing one really needs to know to put 2 and 2 together is that the sort of customer base one might get through networking from GTech will tend to have some viciously reactionary views when it comes to climate change. These are the sort of people who would not be offended by Climate Etc., indeed quite the opposite. Bear in mind also that Judy and Peter are not native Southerners and so had a need to establish bona fides for potential customers. Whether Judy and Peter have internalized the sort of views Judy promotes on Climate Etc. is beside the point.
I think scientists should assume good faith, especially when debating other scientists. That is the scientific culture and we should try to keep the uncivil political climate “debate” as far away from science as possible.
What other people should do? I have no idea. By character I like assuming good faith. But if assuming bad faith was a bad strategy, the climate “sceptics” would have lost the political debate decades ago. The WUWT posts that do not (implicitly) assume bad faith by scientists are rare.
Assuming bad faith should at least not lead to uncivil language, as that makes people stop thinking critically. Critical thinking is something the science side needs.
It might also matter how you call out bad faith. If you can show that someone already had the same discussion over and over again and was presented the refuting evidence time and time again, then I think it is not a bad strategy to present this evidence. You can leave it up to the reader to interpret that as bad faith.
Curry recently testified before Congress, and in the Q&A session she sincerely seemed to believe that other climate scientists wouldn’t consider her outside the mainstream. I think she’s divorced from reality, but sincere. I think she views herself as the contrarian caretaker. She feels that ‘skeptical’ views aren’t given sufficient consideration by mainstream climate scientists, and she wants that to change. She’s wrong, but I don’t see any evidence she’s insincere.
I believe she wrote a foreward to the Lewis & Crok GWPF climate sensitivity report, but I’m not aware of any other associations she’s had with that group.
dana1981: I’m of the opinion that if contrarian work was sufficiently correct, other scientists would jump on the band wagon. Frankly you don’t get ahead in this world by being a sheep and following. That goes double for scientists who are always on the lookout for something to propel their career forward. “I cured cancer.” “I threw trillions of dollars of climate science out the window.”
The fact that nothing to refute the serious issue of climate change has appeared in 20 years speaks volumes to me.
As you said, nit picking hardly counts.
Well, sincere about what? I’m sure she thinks her broad views on climate change at least *should* be mainstream, but note that my original comment that started this whole sincerity discussion off had to do with a characterization of her as naive, which certainly shows generosity of spirit but IMO has less evidence going for it than one of insincerity.
But as “naive” and “insincere” and “naive” perhaps be grouped together under “divorced from reality,” perhaps in future we can just agree to go with that? 🙂
Willard’s obnoxious response to my criticism of ClimateBall proves my point about it being a haven for ego trips.
@ Marlowe Johnson
Good news despite the delivery system 😉
Look MJ, this is an argument I actually want to lose. On top of that, I recently heard a fascinating disquisition on near-future and ongoing deployment of old EV batteries to millions of households to create distributed demand smoothing/load balancing as renewables generation increases its share of the energy mix.
Perhaps there is room for a little techno-optimism after all. Just not the self-serving utopian nonsense variety emitted by BAU-ers.
* * *
Apologies for OT. Back to thread.
Actually BBD i figure this is very much on topic since it demonstrates that you can have a genuine disagreement/discussion as long as both parties assume good faith. Frankly I think civility is overrated, as I hope the monty python reference demonstrates. I would go further and suggest that a little incivility can go a long way to taking bad faith internet blowhards down a peg or two.
BBD/Marlow I’ve been following Liquid Metal Batteries for some time and I’m hoping they start to get used.
I’m curious to know what your arguements are about. Color of batteries we should be deploying?
Back in the days when I (as Badgersouth) patrolled MSM (US) comment threads on a fairly regular basis, i took great pride in “taking bad faith internet blowhards down a peg or two.,” After engaging in this form of Climateball for a few years, i asked myself what i was accomplishing by expending so much of my time and energy on the comment threads. Eventually i concluded that what i was doing had very little impact on what was happening in the real world. That is why i believe that playing Climateball is pretty much a waste of my time and enrgy..
Back in the days when I (as Badgersouth) patrolled US MSM comment threads on a fairly regular basis, i took great pride in “taking bad faith internet blowhards down a peg or two.,” After engaging in this form of Climateball for a few years, I asked myself what I was accomplishing by expending so much of my time and energy on the comment threads. Eventually I concluded that what I was doing had very little impact on what was happening in the real world. That is why I believe that playing Climateball is pretty much a waste of my time and enrgy..
no. it’s that dead horse otherwise known as ‘nuclear vs. renewables’. BBD has long been sceptical (in the proper sense) that renewables can make a cost effective contribution once you get to higher penetration levels, i.e. >30%. therefore, support nuclear or cook the planet. I’ve disagreed, which is why i flung that particular piece of pie in his face. Care to guess whose tweet alerted me to the article BBD ;)?
Who was it, MJ?
As I recall, Judith at one point not that long ago said something on the order of that she hesitated to be affiliate with GWPF, but more recently indicated that she had reconsidered affiliating with think thanks and that she felt that GWPF handled the Bengtsson situation admirably.
Assuming that scientists determine their scientific analysis, and opinions about climate change, on the basis of their financial interests is the kind of weak logic that I often see from “skeptics.” Just sayin’
Further, as I’ve said before, FWIW, when I see people arguing that Judith is insincere and/or naive and/or divorced from reality, it is a signal to me of poor analysis on the part of those judging her – and then I have to wonder if the poor process of analysis is generalizable to technical issues.
I can’t evaluate Judith’s scientific analysis because I don’t have the brains or the skills – so I have to go on more of a common sense approach. Along those lines, I see that her opinions are in a distinct minority among people who are similarly credentialed. That’s information. I see her making what I consider to be logical errors (of the sort I described above) in aspects of the climate wars outside of technical arguments. That’s information. I see her as often being closed to what I consider to be legitimate criticism. That’s information. She is clearly a climate combatant, who plays identity politics on the climate wars battlefield. That’s information.
Again, I agree very much with what you’ve been saying these past couple of comments. Perhaps then, you should reconsider your viewpoint? 🙂
Eli has a question that may go to the core of all this.
“Assuming that scientists determine their scientific analysis, and opinions about climate change, on the basis of their financial interests is the kind of weak logic that I often see from “skeptics.” Just sayin’”
Of course I make no such assumption. Why say I do? The task with Judy is to explain a pretty radical change in stance and public interaction, coincident with the establishment of her for-profit side business. Now, taking those things into account, start over.
“I have to wonder if the poor process of analysis is generalizable to technical issues.”
Oooh, an out-and-out ad hominem. Keep up the good work, Joshua.
This sort of thing, combined with your apparent lack of relevant real-world experience, is why I decided to ignore you. So perhaps it’s best if you don’t address me again.
Thanks, MJ, I hadn’t known the other MJ was on twitter!
==> ” So perhaps it’s best if you don’t address me again.”
I see no particular reason to not address you. You are obviously free to respond or not.
==> ” Why say I do? The task with Judy is to explain a pretty radical change in stance and public interaction, coincident with the establishment of her for-profit side business. Now, taking those things into account, start over.”
I think it is pretty logical to assume that repeatedly pointing to Judith’s financial interest concurrent with changes in her views on the science suggest some causal relationship. If you weren’t intending to do so, then I apologize for the misinterpretation – but I doubt that I’d be the only one to make that mistake, so you might consider being more explicit about the the point that you were actually trying to make (one which I guess I still don’t understand).
==> “Oooh, an out-and-out ad hominem. Keep up the good work, Joshua. ”
Perhaps. But it is also just an honest explanation of my process. It’s information for you to do with as you wish.
When, as someone who can’t evaluate the science on my own, I see you write on technical subjects, I often find your arguments quite informative, and sometimes quite convincing. Your input on technical subjects helps to serve as a backdrop for me when reading what “skeptics” say that also, sometimes seems informed and convincing. When Judith and other “skeptics” make (or often imply) conclusions based on what I consider to be weak logic (as an example, when “skeptics” or Judith state or imply that climate scientists’ results are motivated by their financial interests) – I lose confidence in their technical assessment. I know that weak logic in one area doesn’t necessarily mean weak logic in other areas, but it is informative about probabilities, IMO.
But I’m just a T-word (one of the dirty four Rachel has put into moderation). I can certainly understand why you might be inclined to dismiss my opinions as irrelevant – and it is certainly your right to do so.
Joshua, I do not want to go into the Casus Curry, but it does make a huge difference whether you are talking about the results of climate scientists or about a climate scientist.
Single scientists make lots of errors and can easily be biased. (The better ones make less errors and know and fight their biases best; these biases are more typically scientific or philosophical ones as political ones, but that is another topic). On the other hand, you would not expect to see much errors and bias anymore in the core of a science (in the results of many scientists) after a longer time.
Eli’s question is a hard one.
Agreed, but for me the answer is generally ‘no’. One way or another, the luminaries of contrarianism have all done things that make it difficult or impossible to accord them respect.
I agree that what you described is informative as to probabilities. IMO, “overwhelming support” (h/t tip to Richard Tol) among published experts for a particular perspective is far less likely to be the product of financial incentive or faulty reasoning than the views of a small minority.
A couple cents, which are not based on as much recent reading as might be. Namely, when Judy talks about being ‘mainstream’, it’s not so indefensible as some here are talking. The catch is that you have to consider only the work she’s published in the peer-reviewed literature. She hasn’t been down the middle of consensus-land, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I hope not, as neither have I! Most of us, particularly if we’re writing in our own areas of expertise, disagree with the consensus to some degree or other.
Of course, it’s a different matter if one reads her testimony to Congress or her articles at her blog. And if you focus on the comments she allows at her blog, it’s even worse.
Irrespective of that, looking to the fact that she’s at Georgia Tech (and a chair there) probably does, per some prior comments, shed some light. Remember:
a) It’s a state school
b) It’s in Georgia
c) Georgia doesn’t take kindly to science like evolution and climate (see the files at http://ncse.com)
d) It’s entirely possible that she’s also living in Cobb County, one of the foci in the state of opposition to science education (and former district of New Gingrich).
Between what is necessary politically to sustain her department, and the degree of shifting in the Overton window associated with living in that area as opposed to Boulder, CO (her prior university), much could happen. Or, for all I know, her sentiments changed and that’s _why_ she left Boulder for GA.
To get back on to topic … regardless of the psychology involved, which none of us are in a position to say anything terribly meaningful about, for the sake of discussion types, the question is not what’s in her mind, or anybody’s. The question is what they say and do. When last I looked, the Climate Etc. comments were fully on par with WUWT. Science level was so poor that Christopher Monckton (!!) criticized its low level and the high inaccuracy there, and was correct!!
So, if I ever comment at either place (or any of a number of others) I do so under a pseudonym, and using a throw-away email address. As Victor can attest from recent experience, the throw-away email address is not a trivial point as the bad faith crowd will ignore the ‘we will never release your address’ that is displayed on comment forms. They will do so any time you’re being particularly annoying — which also means particularly effective at disagreeing with them. In that vein, congratulations Victor.
IMO, “overwhelming support” (h/t tip to Richard Tol) among published experts for a particular perspective is far less likely to be the product of financial incentive or faulty reasoning than the views of a small minority.
That was exactly my point.
My Mom was a climate skeptic. WUWT was her favorite blog, and she’d forward me articles. After a few years (literally) of pointing out errors, I made an impassioned plea that if she wanted to argue policy, she should actually argue policy. Her response: “but I am arguing policy”. She didn’t believe in the distinction I was asking her to make–it was all policy to her.
As a scientist, I have a hard time understanding that view of the world. But observation tells me it is a very common view.
In that vein, congratulations Victor.
Robert, thanks. Yes, I would see their nastiness as a sign of effectiveness. A clear sign they lost the discussion. And my skin is also thick enough.
The most important problem with the vitriol is thus that it makes it harder to think critically for many people. That is strategically the main reason to avoid it. As long as the comments at CE are so horrible, it is useless to comment there, we will not see a real debate that would improve our understanding of the climate system. That is not a question of skin thickness, but of critical thinking.
A philosopher of science friend pointed to an argument from David Hull. Namely a) yes scientists are human and b) therefore have biases. Somehow, over the longer term, on average, the biases don’t get reflected in the consensus. How? Hull’s argument is to look at the fact that scientists have _different_ biases. While Victor and I have biases, they’re different. The worst of our excesses get curbed by the presence of the other. (Not that we work in the same area, etc etc, but you get the idea.)
The ‘tribalism effect’ of having a slime pit comment section is indeed a significant point. It shuts down any real thought and helps re-inforce, and re-insulate, the participants from anything outside (as Victor has given links to research, at least in twitter-land).
Regardless of where we comment, a question (I think) to ask, is “what are we hoping to accomplish”. Some environments entirely prevent some goals. They don’t prevent all possible goals.
One item which keeps showing up, and which I think is actually partly a matter of incorrect experiment design, is the issue of “knowledge deficit”. If you read, e.g. Kahan, you’ll see experiments which show that “knowledge deficit” is not “the problem’, and that attempts to address it are pointless. Insofar as you accept the experimental constraints, I don’t doubt that the conclusion is (more or less) correct. But the constraints are profound (imho). Namely, they look at responses measured before and after (reading/viewing/listening to something), in a matter of minutes. I’m entirely unsurprised that people don’t shift their view much, if at all, in a few minutes. Nor am I surprised that the first response to conflicting information (i.e., in the first few minutes after exposure to conflicting information) is to retrench — to hold even more strongly to the initial position.
But, unlike the easily-conducted lab experiment, reality plays out over days, weeks, months, and years. Not minutes. As a long time member of the NCSE (among other things, again, http://ncse.com/), I’ve seen quite a few people who have had fundamental changes of opinion — from young earth biblical-literalist creationist to old earth, old life, atheist, and switches less extreme. In _no_ case did someone say that they saw _1_ argument/article/comment and _in minutes_ changed their mind. All of them were matters of a long term exploration, with a long-term consideration of _many_ different sources and facts. The thing we (people who’d like to see our best understandings of science play a significant role in deciding policy) have to do is pay attention to our relevant time-scale, and what scale of goals we can have. Not everyone will have major changes of opinion/position. But the only way to accomplish them is persistence and patience. One bonus we have is, things that are true have staying power. It may get tedious to repeat that humans emit more CO2 than volcanoes, but it was true 20 years ago, and is even more true now.
ATTP: Do you believe that the delegates particpating in the ongoing UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany are playing “Climateball”?
Willard: Do you believe that Bill McKibben and 360.org have been successful in mobilizing students throughout the U.S. and other countires because they are good at playing Climateball? Do you believe that the young people who have been mobilized are playing Climateball when they get insitutitons of higher learning to divest of investments in the fossil fuel industry?
Do you think that arguing by rhetorical questions ain’t ClimateBall ™, John Hartz?
Willard: Do you believe that I was playing Climateball when I went to DC last year to potest the construction of the proposed XL Pipeline? Was James Hansen playing Cimateball when he was arrested for chaining himself to a fence on the Wheite House lawn in an act of civil disobedience to protest the construction of the proposed XL Pipeline.
I have a feeling you’re mis-understanding the ClimateballeTM illustrating. It’s late, so I should probably wait till tomorrow to elaborate further. All I’ll say is that if what someone is doing is proving successful, then they’re playing it well, whether they know it or not.
ATTP: I look forward to reading your response tomorrow and continuing our civil discourse about what Climateball is and is not.
I do need to try and get some sleep, but let me just add that I think you should consider that those who refer to ClimateballTM are not trying to be flippant or trivialise this situation. I probably can’t articulate this – at the moment at least – as well as I should but it’s not intended to be an attempt to suggest that we should all see this as a game; it’s an attempt to illustrate how we can maybe do a better job of “playing the game” even though we’d all, probably, rather that it wasn’t.
Robert Grumbine: How do you take into account that “time is not on our side?”
Do you think that pussyfooting about what is or is not ClimateBall ™ on this very blog is not ClimateBall ™, John?
Do you think that showing that, yes, ClimateBall ™ ain’t the God-like entity that permeates every Goddamn human activity, proves anything, John?
Do you think that bragging about what you do besides cheer leading or boohooing on blogs will make your cheer leading or boohooing less obnoxious, John?
Do you think that all you’re the first to rip off your shirt like that in the middle of yet another episode of ClimateBall ™, John?
Do you have an idea why this I call this “ripping off your shirt,” John?
Do you think that ripping your shirt like that will bring you any sympathy, John?
Do you think that ripping your shirt like that justifies your cheer leading and your boohooing, John?
Do you think your deeds are of any relevance at all for what you say in our current ClimateBall ™ episode, John?
Does this comment make you understand why rhetorical questions are forbidden (at least those she dislikes) at Lucia’s, John?
Robert, the article is: The “Nasty Effect:” Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies by Anderson et al., in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.
I should probably read more, but I am also not yet convinced by Dan Kahan, for similar reasons. He also has a study where people make a numerical mistake that fits to their political bias. Again this is a short experiment and I even have the feeling he is demonstrating that these people did not start thinking. If you did get them to think, for example by showing the right answer, I would expect much smaller biases. Until that experiment is also made, I am not sure whether you can conclude that informing people makes no sense.
“I think it is pretty logical to assume that repeatedly pointing to Judith’s financial interest concurrent with changes in her views on the science suggest some causal relationship.”
To be entirely clear, I was suggesting nothing. It’s a circumstantial case, but strong enough for a conviction IMO.
Thanks to Bob and Victor for their responses.
Willard: Is everyone playing Climateball allowed to label an opponent’s question to be “rhetorical” when he/she does not want to answer it?
Have you ever read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22?
Willard: Is overkill a legitimate tactic in ClimateBall? What about loosing one’s cool?
Ok, let’s leave it there thanks! Things are beginning to degenerate so let’s make this constructive or I’ll have to start deleting comments.
Rachel: Fine by me. I’m going to wqtch the movie, “The High Country.” It came out in 1962 and was directed by Sam Peckinpagh.
Victor, Robert, most biases will be removed through averaging of different perspectives. To that end the bigger the differences in biases (culture, wealth, background), the better. Indeed bigger differences can often bring out more useful and productive results.
That, by the way, is why the consensus is so valuable. Work verified by thousands of scientists and engineers working on the problem, encompassing all backgrounds, culturally biases and wealth, best exemplifies how solid the work is. The fact that no credible salient dissenting fact to derail our understanding of climate change has been found over the last 20 years speaks volumes to me.
The fact that the few (loud) dissenting opinions can trace their pay checks to oil and gas also speaks volumes to me.
Exactly, a mix of scientific backgrounds, cultures and so on is enriching and speeds up scientific progress. Although I would add that the bias removal of the long term scientific result is much more than just averaging away of biases. First of all scientists make an effort not to let their bias influence the results, the evidence provides feedback for the best solution and the culture prefers the best solution.
Time hasn’t been on our side for 20 years. Paying too much attention to that, imnsho, has not helped. The old saying which comes to mind is “More speed, less haste.” I think we can get more speed — actual progress — by invoking less haste (extreme, even if defensible, statements, and trying to leap to full-blown solutions from the present standing (or regressing) start).
A different aspect is to consider that in a democracy, one only needs 51% agreement (well, 60 in the Senate, which is a problem of a different category). There are still ~10% in the US who think businesses should be allowed to discriminate against black customers. But it is indeed illegal and has been for decades. The 10% or so dismissives on climate will never change their position (or at least awfully few will). Don’t worry about them. Depending on the exact question, 30-70% of the population is in favor of actions regarding climate change. Insofar as the more agressive actions are the ones with the ~30% support, it is ‘only’ 20% or so in the undecided/unsure realm whose opinions need to be nudged. The last decade has shown on marriage equality that such shifts can be quite rapid.
Since Congress is rejecting even things which 70% of the country is in favor of, I think the main issue is more one of making the democracy be representative, not one of discussing, or debating, climate science. Citizen’s United, poll taxes, partisan purging of voting lists, partisan distribution of voting booths, in-auditable voting machines, partisan changing of voting periods, partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, and so forth are roots of many problems — not public understanding of climatology. imnsho. (My wife and I have started to be active on such things. Minor activity, some pavement pounding and observing voting areas.)
You folks all have too much time on your hands…… WAY too much inside ball being playing here.
Robert Grumbine: You are correct. Unless we can transform the socio-poitical system (Oligarchy) that now exists in most of the “advanced” country’s of the world, we will never be able to implement the global actions that are required to succesfully mitigate against and adapt to manmade climate change. Noami Klein and others have written extensively on this topic.
Mike Fayette: You may be right, but there is benefit to sifting and winnowing through complex issues with one’s peers. By design or by luck, ATTP has created a comfy English pub atmosphere with this website. It even has a dart game called Climateball – to which some patrons are addicted to.
John Hartz, I don’t really agree with the need to change our political system. It is what it is, but I kinda doubt we can change anything. You should read George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia”. Orwell was a socialist before he went to fight in the Spanish Revolution.
Robert Grumbine, I believe that the current PR war being waged is over the undecided votes of Joe Average in the middle of the political spectrum Its having an unfortunate side effect IMO of radicalizing right wing politics (in North America, but I hear its happening everywhere). I believe that extreme weather will eventually bring Joe Average around.
When I see really crazy statements from the opposition I know they aren’t going to convince Joe Average of anything. So by all means, I hope they keep it up. That’s why I pointed to this site (its viewership is incredibly low if you check);
Its run by Michelle Stirling, and she is the communications manager for the Fiends of Science;
John Hartz, I’m not sure what your problem with ClimateBall is exactly. I feel that if the opposition can’t take themselves seriously, so why should I? Willard, by the way, has a very detailed understanding of why arguments go so far sideways all the time.
I guess I’ve always been a bit irreverent, but the fact is that I think people might trust what I say if I’m easier to read and like. That is what ATTP does, and its in her personality to do that.
You may also want to look at a psychology book about how people deal with difficult issues. Some literally laugh in the face death. Not a popular thing to do unless you’re a Python;
On that note, I’d just like to leave you with this message;
The reasons why I agree with much of what John Hartz wrote above about Climateball.
(1) I fail to see any material benefits from “winning” strategies in Climateball. What difference, in the real world, does it make if someone has won or lost? What is the evidence that shows such an outcome? Keep in mind that the exchanges between teams playing Climateball are a focus of attention for a tiny % of the public – and people who are outliers in terms of their views and beliefs about climate change.
(2) The definition of who “wins” or who “loses” is arbitrary. “Skeptics” always think they’ve won, no matter what, and “realists” always think they’ve “won,” no matter what. Further, as we can read on so many climate blogospheric threads, players on each side are absolutely convinced not only that they’ve won, but that their opponents moves inevitably amount to “own goals.”
IMO, this is like the definition of who is or isn’t a “T-word” (one of the dirty four put into moderation), or what amounts to an “appeal to authority” or an “ad hom” or “media bias” – phenomena, all of which, are defined in diametrically opposed ways by the players on each team, respectively.
I also agree with John’s concept of “opportunity cost,” although from a slightly different angle. I don’t know that the alternative energy investment he describes is necessarily more valuable. My point is that there is probably opportunity cost for the majority of Climateball players in that they could likely find ways to spend their time more productively; participating in climate change-related activities might be one of those more productive activities, but they aren’t the only ones.
I think my interpretation of Climateball is somewhat different to yours and elaborating may help John to understand where I’m coming from. I agree – in general – with your first paragraph (in fact, I agree with most of what you’re saying). However, as I see it, it’s hard to not be influenced by others who are explicitly playing Climateball. Therefore, ideally, one should understand what moves others could make if you were to do something. That way you can avoid defending something you hadn’t anticipated having to defend and hopefully focus on the point you were trying to make. So, in some sense, if you’re sensible, you don’t play Climateball to win or lose. You play Climateball so as to minimise how much you have to actually play Climateball. You’re, essentially, trying to spend as little time as possible in the game.
Good point, Anders. I see the logic. Need to think about it more.
ATTP: You stated:::
So, in some sense, if you’re sensible, you don’t play Climateball to win or lose. You play Climateball so as to minimise how much you have to actually play Climateball. You’re, essentially, trying to spend as little time as possible in the game.
I wholeheartedly agree and recommend that you display your statement in a prominent position on the Homepage of this website.
Robert Grumbine: You state:
Time hasn’t been on our side for 20 years.
I would posit that time has not been on our side since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
Regardless, people like Wally Boecker and James Hansen were soudning the alarm about the need to curtail greenhouse gas emiisisons much earlier than 1994.
ATTP & Rachel: My apologies for getting into a peeing match with Willard yesterday. By now, i should know better.
Joshua: Thank you for agreeing (at least temporarily) with me about Climateball.In conformance with ATTP’s sage advice, I will not use the word “C*********l” in any of my future comments. There’s simply no point in waving a red cape in Willard’s direction.
> There’s simply no point in waving a red cape in Willard’s direction.
ClimateBall ™ got over your soul, John. It’s OK. Or is it your bladder?
> I wholeheartedly agree and recommend that you display your statement in a prominent position on the Homepage of this website.
There you go:
Willard: At 71 years of age, my bladder is no where as big as it used to be. Nor is my range. Peace.
For what it’s worth, and to somewhat return to the topic of the thread, there was a mention of Philip Maymin the other day at Judy’s by Fan:
The paper “Markets are Efficient If and Only If P=NP” was a good read. I can’t be a fan of Maymin, e.g.:
but it’s always nice to find something worthwhile to read.
To me, that’s what blogs are good for.
Was that really worthwhile to read for anything more than the comedic value, Willard?
Some useful context from Krugman. I’ll leave it at that since this is quite OT for the blog.
Yes, Steve, it was, since it provides a non-trivial constraint on invisible hands.
This other piece was also good:
> Hermione ached with desire for the both of them to master her, but nobody paid her any attention. They had empires to build.
To each their own. 🙂
Ahhhh… this is so cute.
I agree with what ATTP said.
Here’s some “light reading” for everyone:
Fossil Fuels’ ‘Easy Money’ and the Need for a New Economic System by David Suzuki, Common Dreams, June 12, 2014
More “light reading”: for everyone:
Why dread, not dollar losses, decrees how we react to climate risks by Ros Donald, The Carbon Brief, June 6, 2014
Thanks for those links, John.
This comment thread degenerates to Twitter. And so, good night.
About the “You’re doing it wrong” topic, this quote was attributed to Thomas Edison:
“There ain’t no rules around here! We’re trying to accomplish something! ”
This would apply to science blogs that actually want to advance the yardsticks.
Are folks intending to purchae Dale Jamieson’s new.book, Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed — and What It Means for Our Future (Oxford University Press).?
Jamieson teaches Environmental Studies, Philosophy, and Law at New York University, and was formerly affiliated with the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2014/06/climate-change-evolutionary-weaknesses/#sthash.WC5qGKtU.dpuf
So, in some sense, if you’re sensible, you don’t play Climateball to win or lose. You play Climateball so as to minimise how much you have to actually play Climateball. You’re, essentially, trying to spend as little time as possible in the game.
I’m getting a tattoo of this.
WRT speculations on Curry’s motivations, what stands out to me is that I practically never heard of her before she started casting vague aspersions, and now she’s giving testimony to Congress, advising an APS board, and getting hundreds of comments per blog post. That has to count for something.
Curry actually testified before Congress prior to becoming a contrarion. if I recall correctly she and Kerry Emannual got into major a disagreement in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This dispute may have percipitated her journey to her extreme contraryism.
> I practically never heard of her before
I think that might have been the incident that supplied the “practically”.
When would her “turn” be dated? To go by Curryquotes, it would be no later than April 2010.
Gotta say – I still don’t support speculating about Judith’s motivations, but the current thread up at her crib is really quite interesting. It seems that she has decided to be more explicitly vocal about her views, and she’s pretty much walking the line of hard core “skeptic,” complete with an embrace of vitriol and name-calling.
No more pussy-footing around, I guess.
Joshua, ’cause getting shrill about it will help? I’d suggest she should publish some work in her field, rather than work harder on her oil contracts.
willard, an interesting discussion at Climate Audit from 2006.
No arguments, although hurricanes is a topic she has expertise on. And a lot of unnecessary bad language towards the climate “sceptics”: ‘Gray has “brain fossilization”‘. And a lot of arguments from authority aka consensus, a scientific conference did not find Gray convincing, nor her students.
It would be very difficult to play climate ball in a worse way. One almost asks if she was a climate “sceptic” a the time faking to be a scientist to put science in a bad light.
Victor Venema: i suspect that we can all agree about one thing about Judith Curry – she’s a very opinionated person..
> When would her “turn” be dated?
Look at the top three: Heresy and the creation of monsters. Reversing the direction of the positive feedback loop. Confidence in radiative transfer models. Here’s Judy’s take-home:
How much time did it take Judy to pull together the cultists post?
I’d say not much more time than it took AT.
Sorry, for being such a contrarian, but no. She suggests a lot, but has few clear opinions. (In case of a scientist I also expect evidence rather than opinion.) Now and in 2006.
Was that Climate Audit post typical for her behaviour in 2006?
> Summary: No confidence in the analysis of LC.
This post may have taken more than 30 minutes to pull together. It takes lots of time to read all these links and quote back all this handbook stuff.
I think we can move back Judy’s turn almost one year earlier than 2010-10:
An entertaining trackback at Judy’s from Shub’s:
An entertaining comment to that trackback:
I find all this very entertaining.
Shub seems to have gone to a lot of effort on me. Hope he learned along the way, though his comments on NCSE suggest not.
Judy was my post-doc advisor for 1990-1991 when we were both at Penn State. She then went to Boulder, and I went elsewhere.
The Judy Curry of climate-etc. bears little resemblance to the person I knew then, or when we were both at the University of Chicago in the 1980s.
I have a feeling that Shub has a particular dislike for me and this blog, so you may have been tainted by that. Of course, I don’t think this make me or this blog special in any way, as I think that doing something to annoy Shub is relatively easy.
🙂 No, I doubt you can claim any special connection. I’ve seen Shub’s name before, so have no doubt have given it prior annoyance. But, given that it merely does some namecalling at me and the NCSE, well, we’re in the midst of a thread about name calling here and at Curry’s.
Shub rather just proves the point that his crowd has no substance to present.
If you want to know where Shub comes from re: NCSE, start here:
Shub gets a Gordie Howe hat trick in that thread.
An entertaining development:
So we now know that Shub would not have known Judy replied.
As a bonus, we get a counterfactual about a counterfactual.
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