When I started this blog, it was mainly to address the – mostly – scientific nonsense presented on Anthony Watts’ blog, Watts Up With That (WUWT). After a while this became a little too stressful, and the association with such nonsense became a bit too hard to take. So, I changed the name of the blog and have largely ignored WUWT since then. However, I do still sometimes comment on “skeptic” nonsense when it comes to my attention and when it seems appropriate to do so. However, even this is getting a little hard to take.
In the last week we’ve had David Rose in the Telegraph discussing the significance of the increase in Antarctic sea ice (well, it is interesting, but not in the way that he thinks it is). This article also included Judith Curry largely contradicting her own research, and included a lengthy section by Andrew Montford, possibly the person with the greatest difference between how much some think he understands this topic, and how much he actually understands it.
We’ve also had Matt Ridley (the Rational Optimist?) arguing in the Times that The BBC has lost its balance over climate change, because it has decided that inviting non-experts to talk about climate science is probably a bad idea. Today we had Ben Webster in the Times suggesting that Voices of dissent drowned out by climate change scientists, because a reviewer of a paper published 4 years ago suggested removing some comments that were not supported by the analysis in the paper. This is despite the author commenting
the reviewers who objected to the questions were technically correct because they “were not explicitly based on our results”.
The author rather spoiled it by then saying
However, he said: “We had a right to discuss it . . . If your opinion is outside the broad consensus then you have more problems with publishing your results.”
No, I think that one role of peer-review is to prevent authors from simply presenting their opinions in their papers, especially if these opinions are not actually based on the work they’re presenting. In this regard, I particularly liked this tweet from John Kennedy
Intro. Data. Methods. Results. Conclusions. Just-throwing-this-out-there. Getting-things-off-your-chest. Acknowledgements. References.
— John Kennedy (@micefearboggis) July 8, 2014
Also, if the Times thinks this is newsworthy, then they really must be scraping the bottom of the barrel.
I’ve also spent the last few days playing yes, but random walk with Andrew Montford and Doug Keenan. Well, not really playing since they both largely ignored me as – apparently – I’m a troll. Today I actually read Doug Keenan’s Statistical Analyses of Surface Temperatures in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, which is a beautiful example of utter balderdash and includes a a discussion of Doug Keenan challenging Phil Jones to pass a statistics exam. Doug Keenan even offers to pay :
I then offered to pay £500/minute to have Jones write the examination. My offer was not accepted.
How old is Doug? Twelve? It also includes this somewhat ironic quote
People are not honest, they don’t admit their ignorance, and that is why they write such nonsense.
Words to live by, Doug, words to live by!
So, the problem I’m having is that this is all getting so nonsensical that I’d really rather not be associated with it in any way. In some sense, one could argue that it’s brave of these people to have the courage to look ignorant and foolish. I, however, do enough by myself to look ignorant and foolish, without looking even more ignorant and foolish by associating with them. That’s why it would be nice if there were a better class of climate “skeptics”. People who it would be worth having a serious discussion with, rather than people who resort to some form of conspiracy ideation whenever they get challenged (or, sometimes, even without being challenged).
The problem, I think, is that there is actually no sensible middle ground. If you have sufficient knowledge to understand the science and how science works, and have a sufficiently open mind, you end up largely agreeing with the mainstream position. The alternative is to simply look like a crackpot; sometimes with enough knowledge to make a fool of yourself, but not enough to know that you’re doing it. Clearly not everyone who agrees with the mainstream position agrees about everything or about all the details, but they agree about the basics and broadly agree with the IPCC projections. There are some who are seen as being on the more skeptical side of the spectrum, but most of this is healthy skepticism, rather than yes, but conspiracy theory.
So, that’s the problem I’m facing at the moment. There are certainly people with whom I can have interesting and worthwhile discussions about the science, but when it comes to people like Rose, Ridley, Montford, Keenan, Webster, it all seems rather pointless. They either don’t know enough to know that they’re wrong, or they’re being dishonest. In either case, it’s really not worth taking a discussion with them seriously. Of course, one could choose to not take it seriously, but I’m not sure I can really be bothered or have the stomach for that. All I can say is that I’m looking forward to the end of this week, when I start a two week holiday.