Scientific civility and the climate wars

Partly because I managed to get my laptop to stop working (by spilling coffee on the keyboard) and partly because I don’t have much to say (well, not much that would be constructive) I haven’t posted for a few days. Also, with guest posts from Steven Mosher and Richard Betts, I haven’t had to write anything and am getting rather used to that.

Both guest posts actually garnered quite a lot of attention, more so than my normal posts (no surprised there really 🙂 ). I thought that the response to Steven’s post was quite interesting, given that the post itself was written by someone who had previously been quite skeptical, but had done the work to convince themselves of the merits of the analysis, and partly because there was a similar guest post on Judith Curry’s blog, that also had Steven as an author. Made me think that progress is possible.

Richard Betts’s post also generated a lot of interest, not all of it positive, but I think I broadly agree with the sentiment in Richard’s post – if the goal is to encourage better dialogue about the science, then being less hostile would be of benefit and, given that we own our own behaviour, we can choose to be less hostile irrespective of how others choose to behave (that’s my view, at least). Richard Erskine has a similar post of his own that’s worth a read.

However, despite all these positive feelings, I can’t quite get rid of my natural cynicism, and so thought I would post this cartoon which I first saw on Stoat, but which originates from vvattsupwiththat?. In the midst of all these serious attempts to discuss the climate wars and how to improve dialogue, this may be the most apt description of all 😀

1000YEARS

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159 Responses to Scientific civility and the climate wars

  1. > previously been quite skeptical

    Ha, you’ve made exactly the same mistake that SM made. No, he wasn’t quite skeptical, he was quite “skeptical” aka fake-skeptical aka septic.

  2. WMC,
    Not that I want to have a debate about SM’s skepticism, given his actions is that quite true? Or do you think there was a period where he switched from “skepticism” to skepticism. Also I’m trying to be polite 🙂

  3. John Hartz says:

    Given that Richard Tol’s name inevitably pops up on the comment threads to all OPs posted on this website and given his general lack of civility in discussing climate change matters with ATTP, I post the foll0wing here…

    The new issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives includes a remarkable admission about a controversial academic paper that wrongly suggested moderate amounts of global warming would have an overall positive economic impact on the world.

    The paper by Richard Tol, who is now a professor of economics at the University of Sussex, has been widely promoted by climate change ‘sceptics’ who have attempted to argue that global warming is not a problem.

    But editors at the journal have now finally acknowledged that the original paper contained a number of significant errors that render invalid its conclusion about beneficial global warming.

    Significant Errors in Study Suggesting Global Warming is Good for the World by Bob Ward, The Huffington Post UK, Feb 9, 2015

  4. It’s a little difficult to find the link to the actual editorial from the post of Bob Ward. I recommend that you read this

    http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.29.1.217

    My own view is that the decision to leave out all fits to the data points is very well justified as I have considered the fits pointless all the time.

    The analyses that exist cannot tell on the sign of the influence of little warming. Tol’s positive values are not convincing, but the negative estimates are not a bit more convincing. There’s now way of telling, what is the optimal temperature, but it’s clear that strong warming creates significant risks and that rapid changes in climate are detrimental even in cases where the final state is not any worse than the staring state.

  5. Pekka,

    My own view is that the decision to leave out all fits to the data points is very well justified as I have considered the fits pointless all the time.

    I agree. I think this is especially true if some data points are simply earlier versions of the same model that has then been updated to generate a new data point. One might even argue that such datapoints should be highlighted in some way.

  6. Joshua says:

    Hmmm.

    ==> “No, he wasn’t quite skeptical, he was quite “skeptical” aka fake-skeptical aka septic.”

    Obviously one can be skeptical in some ways and “skeptical” in other ways. In fact, I’d say that we’re all skeptical in some ways and “skeptical”‘ in others. Applying these labels as uniformly applicable is a symptom of the larger problem.

    IMO, conducting empirical research to test a hypothesis qualifies as skepticism – at least on that issue.

    I love it when people argue with complete certainty about the applicability of labels that aren’t even defined.

    The labels become ink blots.

    One of the relatively few points of agreement between Mosher and myself is that the arguments about whether or not Muller is a “skeptic” are basically ink blot tests. People see what they want to see. What else could the result be if people are arguing about the applicability of undefined terms?

  7. Joshua,
    As far as I’m concerned, anyone who actually puts some effort in and try to really works things out and test their “skepticism”/skepticism is doing a damn site better than many others. In fact, I find all these examples of why people became skeptics quite annoying, because they seem to largely involve “I lost faith” and rarely involve “I delved into the data/models, determined how they worked, and found a genuine problem”.

  8. Joshua says:

    I’m not exactly a rose-colored glasses kind of person in general, and certainly not when it comes to the climate wars, but I do think that mosher and Richard Betts guest-posting here an interesting development. Two people who stand outside the prevailing “echo-chamber” nature of the prevailing view here, who diverge from the prevailing view in distinctly different ways….

    Might it be a signal of a shift away from existing patterns?

    Is it a different animal from Richard posting at W’UWT or Denning talking at Heartleand or Bob Inglis creating the Energy and Enterprise Institute?

    The signal is very faint, indeed, and the domain is by definition an outlier group of fanatics, but maybe it’s sameolsameo, as opposed to sameolsameol?

  9. Joshua,
    “echo-chamber” how dare you! 😀

    I agree, it is an interesting development. It might be nice to see it progress to something more. I have my reservationsmm, but it seems to have been positive and I’m all for more of that.

  10. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “In fact, I find all these examples of why people became skeptics quite annoying, because they seem to largely involve “I lost faith” and rarely involve “I delved into the data/models, determined how they worked, and found a genuine problem”.”

    Yeah. I’ve gotten into that discussion a lot. Here’s what’s funny.

    I don’t doubt that it might be true for any given individual (Charles Johnson, the proprietor of Little Green Footballs describes his trajectory from “skeptic” to “realist” – not the terms he uses – in exactly that fashion).

    But I see “skeptics” trying to apply that trajectory to “skeptics” as a group without any data other than their own anecdotal data – which ironically ignores some salient considerations: skeptics (but not “skeptics” don’t ignore anecdotal data but find it insufficient for drawing conclusions, they are failing to control for observer bias, they are trying to generalize from unrepresentative sampling, and they are ignoring existing, empirical data that don’t support their conclusions.

  11. Willard says:

    Russell hid the decline grafting Climateball ™ simulations imposed to his graph.

    Another alarmist.

  12. Brandon Gates says:

    ATTP,

    However, despite all these positive feelings, I can’t quite get rid of my natural cynicism …

    How could you when we get daily confirmation that bad faith debate is here to stay? Specifics are good. So, not 5 minutes ago I read Bob Tisdale’s latest over at WUWT commenting on Douville et al. (2015) The recent global warming hiatus: What is the role of Pacific variability? http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL062775/abstract

    He quotes the paper: Yet the observed global warming is still overestimated not only over the recent 1998–2012 hiatus period but also over former decades, thereby suggesting that the model might be too sensitive to the prescribed radiative forcings.

    And then comments: That’s something you don’t normally see from the climate science community.

    Does anyone here believe Bob meant that as a compliment? If so, yet-young comment thread is already NOT taking it that way:

    M Courtney
    February 11, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Hmm, “suggesting” and “might”. Not exactly a bold statement.
    If it’s not worth defending don’t say anything in the first place.

    I asked him what he’d think if I told him that the science is settled (TM).

    I’m going to cop to going well beyond cynical on this one and say that I’m unabashedly pessimistic about “tone” making a damn bit of difference to the entrenched opposition. The best argument for keeping things light is the undecided middle which is rough because those without passions either way on this subject tend to not be very vocal. At the same time, there are times when the best course of action is to call things what they are. And if nasty language is the thing which conveys the egregious nature of the situation, so be it. Part of the art, I suppose, is not being gratuitous about it and picking one’s battles carefully.

  13. Some people took the climategate revelations very seriously. I think that those people had probably unrealistic expectations about scientists. They didn’t think that the scientific process does not work because scientists are immaculate, but in spite of the fact many scientists are even strange or bas..rds.

    All of those were not “skeptics” to start with, but some moved to that direction.

    Another related issue is the freedom of information act. That has a long history in U.S., but as far as I have understood correctly was very recent in UK at the time of the requests for data from British scientists. Many other European countries are further behind in that development. Steve Mosher seems to put much weight to FOIA.

  14. Brandon Gates says:

    Pekka,

    There’s no way of telling, what is the optimal temperature, but it’s clear that strong warming creates significant risks and that rapid changes in climate are detrimental even in cases where the final state is not any worse than the staring state.

    My standard answer to, “what’s the optimal temperature” is: the one with the least amount of uncertainty, which is the range of temperatures we’ve already experienced. High uncertainty is a risk in and of itself. Such a simple concept in my mind.

    It constantly amazes me how the typcial risk aversion profiles flip-flop from their norms across the left/right political spectrum on this issue. Or even more ironic: your forward-looking physics model is dead wrong, but just in case it isn’t, my fortune-telling economic model says there’s nothing to worry about.

  15. Brandon Gates says:

    Pekka Pt II,

    Climategate caused me to reevaulate everything I thought I knew about the science at that point, and then some. I won’t go so far to say that I’m glad it happened. If I set my mind to it I could argue the position, but on balance I do not believe that.

    The issue of FOIA is one I have very mixed feelings about. I lean more toward the “skeptic” camp on wanting more research to be more transparent, but it is only a leaning, and an opinion I have formed in gross ignorance of how major research projects actually work. Certainly I get it that constant public scrutiny of research would be detrimental while it was in progress. My sympathies to the argument begin post-publication.

    Mostly though I recognize that the whole issue is not being raised in good faith by fake skeptics. Quite clearly many intend their requests to be a nuisance, and they’re absolutely looking to expose errors before the normal process of research and peer-review has had the opportunity to do its own policing.

  16. Brandon,
    A common view that I subscribe to is that the strongest argument for acting comes from the worst end of highly uncertain, but still clearly possible scenarios. There’s some cutoff in the probability that allows for dismissing some alternatives, but that is at a low value of probability. I hesitate to give a number, but say only that an estimated probability of less than 10% is not sufficient for dismissal, but less than 0.1% is.

  17. John Hartz says:

    Observations:

    Scientists are not particularly good at engaging in propaganda warfare, never have been and probably never well be. The reasons are obvious.

    Scientists are human beings and many times lose their cool when debating the fine points of science with each other.

    Sometimes the discourse that occurs in the peer-review process can get pretty darn heated and bloody.

  18. JH,
    Yes, I can certainly attest to the “losing your cool” problem.

  19. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    ==> “I think that those people had probably unrealistic expectations about scientists. They didn’t think that the scientific process does not work because scientists are immaculate, but in spite of the fact many scientists are even strange or bas..rds.

    All of those were not “skeptics” to start with, but some moved to that direction.”

    The evidence seems to indicate that relatively few people were particularly aware of “Climategate” to begin with. Of those who are, a relatively small percentage say they had their views altered from “Climategate.” Of those who say that, some have been influenced in either direction (i.e., for some it made them more concerned about AGW). Of those who say they’ve been influenced influenced, there is a strong association to ideology – raising the question as to whether they’re overstating the influence, and instead the mechanism of causality is that they were already aligned in a particular way and just use “Climategate” as evidence for justifying their preexisting view.

    The description you offer might be based on common sense, but the evidence suggests that the mechanism you describe is not very prevalent at all.

    I don’t think it had much to do with people coming into conflict with “unrealistic expectations” about scientists. While it might seem like common sense, I don’t think that the empirical evidence supports your conjecture: for example, there isn’t a solid basis in evidence to support an argument that views on expectations of scientists were significantly altered by “Climategate.”

  20. Requirements for full disclosure of the data and models have unwanted side effects, as most regulation has. In this case one sure consequence is that publishing research gets delayed in cases, where scientists know that they have unique data at their disposal and that based on that data they can do further interesting research with little risk of getting overtaken by other scientists.

    In that case they are likely to sit on the early part of their research to maintain the monopoly access to the data. Sitting on early results delays progress of science.

    Perhaps this effect is not serious, but I’m sure, it’s real.

  21. dhogaza says:

    ATTP:

    “Not that I want to have a debate about SM’s skepticism, given his actions is that quite true? Or do you think there was a period where he switched from “skepticism” to skepticism. Also I’m trying to be polite”

    It was SM who came up with the moniker “Michael ‘Piltdown’ Mann” to describe Mann, based on Mann’s “hockey stick” work, equating him with the perpetrator of the original Piltdown Man fraud.

    He also wrote a book, along with Tom Fuller, exploiting ClimateGate.

    His views towards mainstream climate science have become much more mainstream since then, obviously. I think that his involvement with BEST might be the reason why his thinking changed, but don’t know for sure. This certainly displays a level of intellectual honesty that you don’t see in, say, Watts, who after having said he’d accept the BEST results (because he was convinced they would match with his beliefs), reneged and threw BEST under the bus.

    He’s also shown a willingness to stand up to the hordes (posting at JC’s, oh my, talk about making himself a target…), and that’s a good thing.

  22. Joshua says:

    Brandon –

    ==> “I asked him what he’d think if I told him that the science is settled (TM). ”

    Yup. Climate scientists are either over-confident (a conclusion often reached by ignoring the error bars and CIs they provide) or “weasels” because they use conditional language.

  23. Joshua,
    I know the problem. Therefore my belief is based on a couple of cases that I believe to know well enough.

  24. Brandon Gates says:

    Pekka, we think alike though I would not have stated it as concisely. Your hesitation to put a hard threshold is something I respect as well, and something again I see poorly understood out in the wild. We can’t just pick a position and hold to it, new things are being learned all the time so we’re in a constant state of flux when it comes to learning the known unknowns. Who knows what the next one of those will be? The rational policy argument will always be to go on current best estimates, with full recognition that next week we might learn next week what a critically poor assumption we’ve made, never mind what we’ll learn next year or next decade.

    People who do not know how to be gracefully wrong don’t get that. And therefore they see such expressions of uncertainty as weakness in the underlying argument. Or speaking of lying, outright prevarication. Totally different mindset from that which honest truth-seekers who are mindful of human limitations exhibit. And very frustrating to deal with.

  25. Brandon Gates says:

    Joshua, exactly right. Damn irritating innit.

  26. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    ==> “Therefore my belief is based on a couple of cases that I believe to know well enough.”

    I don’t know that that means.

    Are you saying that you are drawing conclusion from your personal take on your anecdotal experiences and a very likely non-representative sampling? Ok. That’s fine.

    But there is relevant, related empirical evidence. Are you saying that you consider that couple of cases you know well-enough to be as predictive of the larger dynamic as that empirical evidence?

  27. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    In other words:

    ==>”I think that those people had probably unrealistic expectations about scientists. ”

    Who are “those” people that you’re referring to? Let’s look at the antecedent.

    ==> “Some people took the climategate revelations very seriously.”

    “Those” looks to me like “people who took the climategate ‘revalation’ very seriously.”

    Now “revalations” is an interesting word. It kind of creates a tautology.

    (1) Yes, those who say that “climategate” was “revelatory” might have had their expectations of scientists changed by “climategate.”

    (1) Or, they might only be claiming that “climategate” was revelatory – and in actuality, they just used the evidence of “climategate” to confirm biases.

    From what I can tell, there is a lot of empirical evidence to support 2, and very little to support 1, as a broader phenomenon beyond the individual level.

    Do you disagree? That’s kind of a yes or no question.

  28. Steven Mosher says:

    My Skepticism was kinda focused.
    From my early posts on realclimate and a few other places I had no doubt about the science of global warming. humans emit c02 by burning fossil fuels. C02 causes warming. It could get bad. Heck, while working on the YF-23 one of the things I had to do was modelling of IR signatures and IR sensors. One thing we played around with was the idea of injecting C02 into the exhaust to cut down the plume signatures. So how was I gunna be skeptical of physics I had to use at my prior job? duh.

    But looking at the temperature record I had the same reaction that Bill clinton had.
    It seemed like UHI should infect the record.
    ( if you want the audio tape I can probably find it.. its one where he says the muller is his hero )
    Well, if that made Clinton a fake skeptic, then write me down as one.

    Heck peterson thought that UHI might be a problem. he’s one too
    heck Hansen thought that. he’s on too.
    heck the science had studies of individual sites that show that. tell imhoff he’s a fake skeptic.
    Peterson even called his results showing no effect a MYSTERY, and he explained the mystery
    with the “cool park hypothesis”. Cool park hypothesis seemed like a thing I could test.
    test a hypothesis? that’s the mark of a ‘fake skeptic?”

    Then there were other things. Adjustments bothered me. Not the fact that one had to do them.
    That was clear. Not the fact that they had been done,
    but rather how the uncertainty do to correction was propagated or accounted for.
    ( one reason I like our top down approach )
    As I read through the papers a few things bothered me. Too many to detail here.

    As I view it a fake skeptic stops with the doubt. A fake skeptic just points at the doubt
    and says “there. doubt”
    A fake skeptic sits there with his doubt and pretends to be open to changing his mind.
    a fake skeptic refuses to state what it would take to change his mind.

    But a real skeptic understands that doubt is a tool. You start with doubt and then you try to remove that doubt. You try to remove it. you actually do work.

    So. I tried to remove that doubt. After doing the work, basically checking all the steps. I was in a position to say.. what looked like a good doubt ( heck the same doubt bill clinton had) was not a good doubt. The doubt was removed. Not by trusting a paper that I saw holes in. huh WTF?
    but by trying to figure out the answer. Not sitting in doubt, but taking some action.

    And still peterson’s mystery exists for me. I still want to solve it.

    The other funny thing was that early on Gavin told me on RC that I would not find anything of scientific interest in the temperature record. In other words, nothing that would change what we know about AGW. that’s largely been true ( with the exception of cowtan and Way ahem ).
    but i wasnt after doing anything paradigm changing. I accept the paradigm. I still am intrigued by petersons mystery. And I know my work on it wont change anything. that’s nice from one perspective.

    I guess the most important thing for me is what I use to separate “fake sceptics” from real skeptics. And it comes down to that distinction between those who just sit in doubt, and those who use doubt to do something to increase our knowledge. If a guy wont do any work I write him down as a fake. Its not so much the CONTENT of his doubt, but what he does about it.
    So lets say Connelly is a fake skeptic with regards to my ‘skepticism” Its just a doubt he holds.
    he’s unwilling to look at the question. unwilling to state what it would take to change his mind.
    his doubt is a weapon, not a tool. Its an end state, not the begining of a journey to finding out a more comprehensive view of things.

    Since I’ve had a foot in both camps, I probably have a different perspective. not better. not worse.
    different. hmm.. there are a few others with vaguely similar experiences that share this perspective. Kinda glad there arent more.

    All that said. If william wants to believe what he believes, what he believes is none of my business.
    he gets to do that.

  29. Joshua says:

    Brandon –

    ==> ” Damn irritating innit.”

    Yeah. It is.

  30. I refer to very few people I have met personally and to a few more that have told on their views on the net in some connection. None of these is active in the climate debate.

  31. Joshua says:

    ==> “So lets say Connelly is a fake skeptic with regards to my ‘skepticism””

    I’d go along with that. A “skeptic” draws conclusions without defining terms, IMO.

  32. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    Why are you referring to those few people? Is it instructive? How? As a comparison to the broader world of people who aren’t active in the climate debate?

    There is empirical evidence about what’s gone on for the broader world of people who aren’t active in the climate debate. It isn’t foolproof.

    Please keep in mind that your sampling, even of people who aren’t active in the climate debate, is likely not representative of anything in particular at all except perhaps the larger group of people you know who aren’t active in the climate debate.

  33. Brandon Gates says:

    Joshua,

    The evidence seems to indicate that relatively few people were particularly aware of “Climategate” to begin with. Of those who are, a relatively small percentage say they had their views altered from “Climategate.”

    I have not seen specific polls on that, if you know of some I’d love to see them. In the meantime, I was recently looking at poll data for purposes of a different discussion and found some pretty pictures:

    It’s very interesting to me that 2010 is the low point and most decidely so for those who say they understand the issues “very well”. Really really very interesting.

    2010-11, sharper downturn in understanding global warming “very well” among independents and Democrats, not so much abated among Republicans. Since then the Dems have been rising the fastest on claiming highest understanding.

    Again 2010 is the low point in belief that warming over the last century is mainly due to human activity. 2010 was a record hot year … or I should say was probably a record hot year within some margin of error, yes? Yes. It’s very interesting to me that since 2012, only the independents are declining in belief.

    The full poll results and writeup are here: http://www.gallup.com/poll/167972/steady-blame-humans-global-warming.aspx

  34. Steven Mosher says:

    “It was SM who came up with the moniker “Michael ‘Piltdown’ Mann” to describe Mann, based on Mann’s “hockey stick” work, equating him with the perpetrator of the original Piltdown Man fraud.”

    Yep.

    And as I explicitly stated I didnt think Mann was a fraud or hoax.
    Said that explicitly

    The point was people were trying to understand why it was so hard to get “bad science” out of the record, and they were trying to understand how bad science got there in the first place.

    So I did some research on how long it took a hoax to get out of the science. Piltdown.
    I have a whole manuscript on the different kinds of hoaxes there are, what areas of science they infest, and the sociology.

    There were some striking parallels between how bad science gets in and stays in and how hoaxs get in and stay in.

    in simple terms… the piltdown “science” played into a culture war.
    getting it out of the science when it was playing a role in the culture war was harder than normal.
    took 40 years.

    finish the thought.

    as for climategate, I’ll repeat what I said 100 times

    mails are not science.
    mails cant change science.
    the climategate mails change nothing in the science.
    period.

    as I said to andy revkin on day one. follow the FOIA.
    he didnt
    The ICO did.
    The ICO agreed with me. I’m happy.

  35. Steven Mosher says:

    Here is the real irony.

    Gavin says, rightly so, that one cant find anything of scientific interest ( to AGW) by revisited the temperature record.
    He also says the HS is not important to the case of AGW
    I said the mails were not about the science.

    So, [according to Dhogaza -W] I’m somehow in a different tribe ( however yuo want to name it )
    because I disagree with him on three issues.. NONE of which is important.

  36. Joseph says:

    Steven, If I am not mistaken, Dr. Curry thinks that ClimateGate was a big deal and was one of the primary drivers for moving to a more “skeptical” position on climate change. Do you disagree with here on this?

  37. Joshua says:

    Brandon –

    I’m about to strap on the snowshoes and head out to do something useful. I’ll dig out the link later – but primarily I’m referring to Kahan’s study that included a look, specifically at the impact of “climategate.” Mr. Google should be able to find it. It’s the one that Judith looked at and pointed to the insignificant finding (that “skeptics” are on average slightly more “scientifically literate” ) and ignored the more significant finding (that ideological orientation was associated with reaction to “Climategate”

    Those graphs are interesting.

    Of course, the data are only indirectly useful (?) for evaluating the impact of “climategate, “‘ but if we look at it year by year we might think that “Climategate” had a big impact. If we look at the longer time frame, we might say that it didn’t shape views on climate change much at all.

    Google for graphs from Tamino’s crib also, for data on Tea Partiers being most confident that they know all they need to know to understand climate change (compared to other Repubz, Demz, and indiez) – as well as being those most likely to under-evaluate the degree of “consensus”‘ among scientists. Interesting juxtaposition, IMO.

  38. BBD says:

    mails are not science.
    mails cant change science.
    the climategate mails change nothing in the science.
    period.

    So Steven Mosher led the charge to use the emails to undermine trust in the science. Brilliant!

    And never to this day has SM accepted a single iota of responsibility for the damage he did, nor even admit that he did it.

  39. BBD says:

    And as I explicitly stated I didnt think Mann was a fraud or hoax.
    Said that explicitly

    So SM called him “Michael ‘Piltdown’ Mann” anyway. Brilliant!

    The point was people were trying to understand why it was so hard to get “bad science” out of the record, and they were trying to understand how bad science got there in the first place.

    So I did some research on how long it took a hoax to get out of the science. Piltdown.

    And we are expected to sit here and accept the ‘I never said that or did that‘ crap for ever and ever amen? Do you take us for f***ing morons, Steven?

    Screwtape Letters.

  40. Brandon Gates says:

    Mosher,

    Since I’ve had a foot in both camps, I probably have a different perspective. there are a few others with vaguely similar experiences that share this perspective.

    I’m agnostic to the existence of Higher Being(s), and I’ve had my feet in both camps: religious in my youth, very much not for 10 years of my adult life. Both extreme views were bitter as I look back, not all of which has gone away. Calling me a stridently militant agnostic would not be a stretch. Damn straight I sit on the fence. All the better to hurl rocks at both sides from an elevated vantage point. Mostly though I find great peace in being able to say, “I don’t know.” Having no answer to defend is wonderfully liberating. More people should try it in my view.

    I know where I stand on the science of AGW. I cannot see how we are not having an effect on climate, the physical theory itself makes abundant sense to me and I believe the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor that the consensus view is several orders removed from sorcery. I’m more agnostic about what the future holds, which makes me somewhat more …. flexible …. about policy decisions. Perhaps heterodox. I’ll take fracking and natural gas over coal any day of the week. I’ll give you Keystone XL if you let me publicy fund building more fission reactors to replace ever more coal-powered plants, and in fact, I’d rather be running vehicles with LNG than generating electricity with it, so give me even more nukes for this trade.

    In short, I think the enviornmental left has been somewhat stubborn on these issues which frustrates me to no end. Which is not the say that the far right is any less intransigent in my view. As the vast majority of the policy issues are well above my pay grade, I will allow that my frustrations are based on naive thinking. However, from where I straddle the aisle on these issues I can tell you that it can be more than a bit painful at times.

    there are a few others with vaguely similar experiences that share this perspective. Kinda glad there arent more.

    I don’t understand why. Looking at both sides CAN be false balance and often is labeled just that. But when I do have a solid stake in one side of the debate or another, I know of no better way to understand the issues than to get very deep inside the thinking of the opposition, even to the point of agreeing with a number of their arguments and going on record with that. It’s foreign for me to do it any other way.

    What downside(s) are you thinking about?

  41. Brandon Gates says:

    Joshua, thanks for the tips. Sounds like just what I’m looking for. Stay warm.

  42. Willard says:

    > And as I explicitly stated I didnt think Mann was a fraud or hoax.

    Piltdown Man was a fraud.
    MM is like Piltdown, but I don’t think MM is a fraud.
    Piltdown Mann.

    Look! A metaphorical squirrel!

  43. Brandon Gates says:

    Pekka,

    In this case one sure consequence is that publishing research gets delayed in cases, where scientists know that they have unique data at their disposal and that based on that data they can do further interesting research with little risk of getting overtaken by other scientists.

    Which really should not be an issue to those who preach the infallibility of free markets in the more Randian sense of it. Sure, much research is publicly funded, but there is competition for those funds, let those best positioned to obtain them have their advantage in doing so.

    Sitting on early results delays progress of science. Perhaps this effect is not serious, but I’m sure, it’s real.

    I’ve no reason to doubt you on that either. Two sides of the coin here it seems, and feels like a real human process. Warts and all. So my view is that Climategate was a watershed moment in the public perception. Those working in the field, or any field, don’t see it as a clarion call for radical changes in the system for the sake of transparency, especially not when the rally cry is nonsense like “independent verification”.

  44. semyorka says:

    A bit of context. Many branches of science are under attack. Much of it less than polite.

    The following contains strong language.

    This is Elise Andrew who runs a popular science blog reading some of the emails she receives. It is not only the tone but the breadth of issues that inspires this level of anger in people. It is not a left right thing as GMOs, vaccines and vivisection inspire some very strong reactions on the left, as much as climate and evolution does on the right.

    Locked away in the climate wars bunkers people can forget that this is much wider than just climate change and that a large portion of the “ground troops” in this are no more reachable to reason than a creationist or antivaxxer.

    When choosing to engage one should have a clear idea of ones audience, it should only rarely be the person you are responding too but rather the readers. People lose sight and get drawn into personal battles.

    And consider that if something like the anti vaccine movement can spring up with no real economic interests pushing it, then it is little wonder there will be a large core of convinced “climate skeptics” when money, media space and political credibility is available to push it.

  45. Steve Bloom says:

    ‘rarely involve “I delved into the data/models, determined how they worked, and found a genuine problem”.’

    Right. The funny thing is such problems are rife. Consider e.g. the Amazon rainforest model results of several years co-authored by Richard Betts. These made a pretty big splash since they contradicted what had until then been a vague consensus that the Amazon was in trouble. Richard very strongly believed they were correct notwithstanding the obvious problems of local of any ground-truthing (what’s really happening to the trees?) and the questionable presumption that the very nasty 2005 and 2010 droughts might just be natural variation. I said I very much doubted they were right based on those issues even while pointing out that I’m a strong supporter of not just climate science but climate modeling (for the simple reason that models are our only tool for trying to understand the shape of the climate future we and our immediate descendants will be living in). Richard responded by asserting that if I was indeed a strong supporter of science and the models I should feel obligated to agree with his results. It was at that point I figured out that Richard has a poor grasp of political reality if not other aspects of it. I’ve mentioned the upshot before here, which is that subsequent ground-truthing sharply contradicted Richard’s results.

    There are much worse problems, my favorite being the inability of models to show the transition to a Pliocene-like climate state, but the fake skeptics don’t focus on stuff where the conclusion goes in the opposite direction from the one they cherish.

    As for Mosher in particular, obviously the arc of his behavior makes him a somewhat special case. Having interacted with him for ~ ten years, starting back in the early days of Climate Audit, my conclusion is that he places great value on being seen to have a scientific world-view. Back on CA, it seems to have been enough for a while for him to obtain validation of his incorrect views (more or less the standard libertarian denialism of the time) from the likes of McIntyre, but over time [… No mind probing, please.-W] But note that he didn’t look for or find it for several years, and indeed as BBD properly emphasizes went off on a propaganda exercise about “Climategate” first.

    Re Mosher’s questioning of Gavin’s comments about the surface, it’s odd that by now he has failed to understand that the surface record (indeed any single metric) is sort of a funhouse mirror reflection of what’s going on with the whole climate system. But you can’t lead someone with poor physical intuition to understand a complex system that fails to jibe with their world-view.

  46. Steve Bloom says:

    I generally agree, semyorka, but there are reasons why denialism is largely a phenomenon of the right. This recent column by Krugman is a good entry point to the ideas of Corey Robin, which I find persuasive.

  47. Everett F Sargent says:

    So now we’re down to defining moving targets?

    Great! 😦

    I did not know what I did not know before I was a fake septic before I was a real skeptic before I was a fake beliefer before I was a real believer before I was an orthodox warmunist. (reverse this sentence if you live in relative close proximity to the black hole also known as Judithville)

    People think, write, say or do stuff, those people own those thoughts, words and deeds.

    Except yours truly. 😉

    My irony meter does not go to tenteen, nor does it go to eleventeen or even twelveteen, my irony meter goes to beyond infinityteen. 🙂

  48. Steve Bloom says:

    Re the survey research noted above, unfortunately it’s just too sparse to be a basis for strong conclusions. For example, it doesn’t allow disentanglement of “Climategate,” the contemporaneous failure of the Copenhagen talks, and the subsequent reduction in media coverage of climate issues.

  49. T-rev says:

    ATTP: ” given that we own our own behaviour, ”

    I wonder why this never translates to emissions reductions ? People are always blaming others for their own profligate emissions… eg business or governments, or even Anthony Watts fault 🙂

    It would be nice if we did start to “own our behaviour…” and mitigate emissions drastically.

  50. deminthon says:

    “Damn straight I sit on the fence. All the better to hurl rocks at both sides from an elevated vantage point. Mostly though I find great peace in being able to say, “I don’t know.” Having no answer to defend is wonderfully liberating. More people should try it in my view.”

    I have tried it, and found it severely wanting, because the same can be said about leprechauns and Russell’s teapot. I don’t know that the historical record hasn’t been faked and that Booth didn’t shoot Lincoln after all. I don’t know that my brain isn’t in a vat and all my empirical beliefs are false. Most of the atheists that you throw rocks at are aware of this epistemological analysis so you should stop throwing those rocks that are propelled by ignorance and sloppy analysis. I go one further than Richard Dawkins, who has six feet in the atheist camp and one foot in the agnostic camp (see his scale in The God Delusion) — I’m an ignostic; I think truth claims about the existence of God are incoherent.

    And I would say something similar about “I think the enviornmental left has been somewhat stubborn on these issues” … your analysis is poor. “the environmental left” is not monolithic … and why overqualify it like that? The divide is between those who promote BAU (and even more so) and those see it as a problem, and there’s lots of diversity in the latter as to viable solutions.
    Most in the environmental movement would agree that natural gas is better than coal but would reject the dichotomy. Nuclear is also considered; the chair of of the local Sierra Club chapter thinks that we need to employ safe nuclear technologies, while the official position of the Sierra Club is currently no nukes at all … but that can change.

  51. deminthon says:

    ” People are always blaming others for their own profligate emissions… eg business or governments, or even Anthony Watts fault :)”

    It’s about proportion.

    “It would be nice if we did start to “own our behaviour…” and mitigate emissions drastically”

    What can I personally do that would mitigate emissions as drastically as a change in government or corporate policy would?

  52. izen says:

    I am all for civility and politeness.
    But the idea that such etiquette can avoid rudeness underestimates the possibilities of language.
    To indulge in an uncivil bit of egotistical self-aggrandisement here is a polite reply I made on another blog to a typical rejectionist challenge.
    Shirley no-one could take offense at that? -grin-

    “Izen
    I have a few issues with your “analysis”.
    a) There is not now, not yesterday, and not tomorrow any “warming”. The data is manipulated and you are placing your faith in fairy tales.
    b) There is no such thing as a “greenhouse effect”. It is a pure fabrication.”

    I am aware you share a view that rejects the conclusions reach by the overwhelming majority of those who have examined the evidence of the recent observational record. I also know you dispute the conclusions reached by the contemporaries of Darwin as they developed the explanation of the thermodynamics of the terrestrial atmosphere.
    I would suggest that the issues you have are less to do with my analysis and more closely linked to the dichotomy between your views and those of mainstream science.

  53. Brandon Gates says:

    deminthon,

    Most of the atheists that you throw rocks at are aware of this epistemological analysis so you should stop throwing those rocks that are propelled by ignorance and sloppy analysis.

    It’s that kind of comment I like throwing rocks at. So now you know.

    I’m an ignostic; I think truth claims about the existence of God are incoherent.

    I agree with that. Not only that, but only imaginitive enough to suit clearly mortal concerns.

    And I would say something similar about “I think the enviornmental left has been somewhat stubborn on these issues” … your analysis is poor. “the environmental left” is not monolithic … and why overqualify it like that?

    Perhaps I didn’t qualify enough. The unrealistically radical environmental left which to me is no better exemplified than by its long-standing staunch opposition to nuclear power despite all evidence to the contrary that it can be made to work. See France. As for safety, coal is far less healthy — 30-60k premature deaths per year in the US alone according to the NIH and WHO, compared to a risk of about 100 year for a complete coal to nuke replacement. Hesitance and concern I get. Flat out opposition I can no longer abide, though I do see that it is waning.

  54. deminthon says:

    It’s that kind of comment I like throwing rocks at. So now you know.

    I know what I think of people who throw rocks.

    The unrealistically radical environmental left

    And of people who move the goalposts to the tautology line.

  55. deminthon says:

    The unrealistically radical environmental left which to me is no better exemplified than by its long-standing staunch opposition to nuclear power despite all evidence to the contrary that it can be made to work.

    Given how few people have been exposed to any evidence that “it can be made to work” safely, this is not unrealistic. Most of my friends are run of the mill light liberals, not radicals or activists, who have very negative views of nukes and GMOs, for what seem to them to be good reasons. Most of them are also open to my gentle attempts to enlighten them. The first step is to have a *realistic* view of what evidence *is* and how it works in the formation of beliefs.

  56. deminthon says:

    I agree with that.

    Not if you’re an agnostic who considers atheists to be “extreme” and throws rocks at them.

    Not only that, but only imaginitive enough to suit clearly mortal concerns.

    That comment seems to me to be a non sequitur that is not consistent with understanding of the ignostic view.

  57. Willard says:

    > I think truth claims about the existence of God are incoherent.

    Try this one:

    Goedel’s ontological proof has been analysed for the first-time with an unprecedent degree of detail and formality with the help of higher-order theorem provers. The following has been done (and in this order): A detailed natural deduction proof. A formalization of the axioms, definitions and theorems in the TPTP THF syntax. Automatic verification of the consistency of the axioms and definitions with Nitpick. Automatic demonstration of the theorems with the provers LEO-II and Satallax. A step-by-step formalization using the Coq proof assistant. A formalization using the Isabelle proof assistant, where the theorems (and some additional lemmata) have been automated with Sledgehammer and Metis.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1308.4526

    More on Gödel’s proof:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/#GodOntArg

  58. Morbeau says:

    Semyorka, you make some good points, but I wonder about, And consider that if something like the anti vaccine movement can spring up with no real economic interests pushing it…

    I’d say the anti-vaccination movement is an offshoot of the US alternative medicine industry, which is profitable and growing. Here in Canada, where we’ve historically had much stronger regulation of alternative/herbal medicine, there was a huge outcry a couple of years ago when they tried to bring in stronger labeling rules for herbal supplements. The industry had CDN$11.3 billion in revenues in 2011, so there is serious money involved.

    Look at Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who claimed in BMJ that autism was caused by vaccinations. Wakefield had already set up two businesses to deliver his autism treatments to parents he was busy scaring in the press. “Wakefield had planned to launch a venture on the back of an MMR vaccination scare that would profit from new medical tests and “litigation driven testing”. Just to point out that money really is a driving force in most or all of these stories.

    So, here’s a new business model: identify or create your own “syndrome”, and control the patents on various treatments and medicines. Plus you’re disrupting a complacent industry, making you a Libertarian hero. Semi-topically, I see parallels between this MO and maybe not the A. Watts of the world, but certainly the Heartland Institute. They’re big enough that they attract all kinds of funding just by showing up in local US papers, wrapping themselves in the flag and waving a big sign that says, “AL GORE!”. It’s great work – you have very little overhead, and people send you money in the mail. You get to have a website and travel around meeting people who agree with everything you say. Where’s the problem?

  59. Brandon Gates says:

    deminthon,

    Not if you’re an agnostic who considers atheists to be “extreme” and throws rocks at them.

    Well let me scroll up and refresh myself on what I wrote, because that doesn’t sound like me … ah, Both extreme views were bitter as I look back, not all of which has gone away. Calling me a stridently militant agnostic would not be a stretch.

    That was me talking about MY positions when I practiced religion, and then decidedly and emphatically did not. “Militant agnostic” is a self-deprecating jibe with a hint of irony along the lines of I can’t even do neutrality without a bit of a chip on my own shoulder.

    I’ve got nothing against atheists in general. Why … some of my best friends claim no god(s) exist.

    That comment seems to me to be a non sequitur that is not consistent with understanding of the ignostic view.

    I don’t have to subsribe to an entire position, or even understand it, to agree with a single statement. And for darn sure I can express my own opinion about how I see things without that being a non sequitur. I don’t know where it’s written that all personal beliefs, or lack thereof, or suspension of belief, must fit into a given box conforming to some nice tidy label. Weren’t you the one just rapping my knuckles for having over-generalized about the non-monolithic nature of those who identify as environmentalists?

  60. deminthon says:

    refresh myself on what I wrote, because that doesn’t sound like me …

    It’s odd that you offer a quote that isn’t about throwing rocks. To refresh you, here’s what you sound like:

    Damn straight I sit on the fence. All the better to hurl rocks at both sides from an elevated vantage point.

    That isn’t about your positions and it isn’t a self-deprecating jibe.

    darn sure I can express my own opinion about how I see things without that being a non sequitur.

    Of course you can. That too is a non sequitur. Pardon me if I choose not to respond to any more of them.

    Try this one

    I’m quite familiar with it. It supports ignosticism, as even if the proof were sound, the God it refers to has no traits in common with the God that everyone else is talking about.

  61. izen says:

    @-deminthon RE:-
    -Damn straight I sit on the fence. All the better to hurl rocks at both sides from an elevated vantage point.-
    “That isn’t about your positions and it isn’t a self-deprecating jibe.”

    I think it is a colourful metaphor?

  62. russellseitz says:

    I commented on Bob Ward’s editorials being part of the civility problem, in an earlier epoch, before Murdoch gained the edotorial upper hand at the WSJ

  63. andrew adams says:

    Another related issue is the freedom of information act. That has a long history in U.S., but as far as I have understood correctly was very recent in UK at the time of the requests for data from British scientists. Many other European countries are further behind in that development.

    It’s clear from the Muir Russell report that UEA/CRU had neither put into place effective mechanisms for handling FoI requests nor developed a culture of openness in general. It’s true that the UK FoI laws were fairly new, but they had plenty of time to prepare for them so that’s not really an excuse. Having said that, the same could be said of a lot of other institutions, it’s not like UEA was unusual in that respect. It’s also worth pointing out that in the case of the station data the ICO ruled against UEA on the basis that the public interest in the data being released overrode UEA’s legitimate concerns about protecting the interests of the data owners, not because UEA had actually broken FoI laws.

    My own view is that I believe both strong FoI laws and openness in science are both necessary and desirable, but the one is not necessarily the best way of enforcing the other. I think that as far as possible (and I appreciate that as I’m not involved in science myself it may a slightly naiive view) the scientific community should be able to judge and enforce what is necessary to ensure published research is credible and reproducible – FoI may still have its uses in some cases, but the problem is that not everyone doing scientific research is subject to FoI laws.

  64. andrew,

    My own view is that I believe both strong FoI laws and openness in science are both necessary and desirable, but the one is not necessarily the best way of enforcing the other.

    Essentially, this is the issue. Openness in science and reproducibility is crucial, but that is not as well defined as some might think. I write lots of litte codes and generate lots of data when I write a paper. However, most of the data is generated using computer codes that are publicly available and most of the little computer codes are so simply that anyone who understands the topic should be able to to reproduce them.

    So, if someone emails me to ask for everything related to a paper I’ve written, should I give it them, or just say “do it yourself, it’s all out there”? The answer probably depends on what they want to do. People sometimes want some of my data files to analyse themselves for something else. Then I would normally just send it to them. Why should I make them rerun a code when all they want are some output files that I have. If someone said “can I have all the codes you used to analayse the data”, I might just say that they’re so easy to reproduce that it would be easier for them to do it themselves, than for me to go through them and comment them in a way that someone else could use.

    The key point is reproducibility and if that is possible, then how much someone is willing to give to another research should be largely up to them. If it isn’t, then they should be obliged to ensure that the other researcher has everything they need to reproduce the work. The problem comes in when people disagree about what this would entail, and I’m not sure how one resolves such disagreements.

  65. BBD says:

    ATTP

    The key point is reproducibility and if that is possible, then how much someone is willing to give to another research should be largely up to them. If it isn’t, then they should be obliged to ensure that the other researcher has everything they need to reproduce the work. The problem comes in when people disagree about what this would entail, and I’m not sure how one resolves such disagreements.

    So – if I understand this aright – an unscrupulous player *could* hypothetically, create a meme along the lines of, say ‘data and code!’ and use it to make scientists who he had already greatly antagonised look bad unless they gave him every last jot and tittle that he demanded?

    This hypothetical player could also make a sort of shield out of the ‘data and code!’ meme, saying that unless every bit of both is handed over then the (what shall I call it?) the ‘audit’ cannot proceed. The implication being that the scientist(s) concerned stopped the audit because they feared what it might discover.

    That’s nightmarish.

  66. BBD says:

    I’ve said a requiem mass and lit a candle for your notebook by the way. Always very sad when one passes unexpectedly from a surfeit of coffee. My condolences.

  67. So – if I understand this aright – an unscrupulous player *could* hypothetically, create a meme along the lines of, say ‘data and code!’ and use it to make scientists who he had already greatly antagonised look bad unless they gave him every last jot and tittle that he demanded?

    Well, yes, and that appears to be precisely what is happening. People may see some sense, and it might not happen. Essentially, it appears that some have made a strong claim about an obvious, and embarassing, error in a paper. When it becomes clear that if there is an error, it is nowehere near as trivial, or embarrassing, as first suggested, rather than backing down and apologising, they ask for all the data and codes. One of those involved even has the gall to say

    It baffles me that this should be an issue for the climate science community, particularly in light of the experience over the past few years. Let’s hope that it isn’t in the present case.

  68. BBD says:

    Sorry ATTP, I was being tongue-in-cheek about the audit – I understand that long game well. I should have slapped a smiley on that comment. My sympathies over the notebook were sincere though. That is a true and royal PITA. Try a thermal mug with a lid. The coffee stays hot throughout a multitude of interruptions (eg. blogging; tiresome work stuff) and when you knock it over, barely any liquid comes out at all. One day, you will thank me for this 🙂

  69. semyorka says:

    Those who favor Auditing over reproduction are the kind of people who think Einstein would have benefited more from an OFSTEAD inspection than Sir Arthur Eddington’s teams efforts to reproduce the effects predicted by the theory.
    Or to put it another way. Piltdown Man. Reproduction vs Auditing.
    Reproduction.
    I am looking at this skull and from what I have learnt from the morphology of Raymond Darts discoveries of Australopithecus, the Neanderthals skulls, the other intermediate skulls (Homo erectus) that have come to light together with how they aged, how incomplete they are and conclude that this is highly likely a forgery.

    Auditing.
    I know nothing about this science but I have the skull and the methodology.
    Step 1 does the top of the skull look human? Yes.
    Step 2 does the jaw look ape like? Yes.
    Step 3 If jaw looks apelike and skull looks human skull is human ancestor.
    McAuditor: Huzza, this is a valid piece of science.

  70. andrew adams says:

    Anders,

    Yes, that sounds reasonable from my outsider’s perspective. Making your data available so others can make their own analysis and compare results would seem to me to be a proper expectation, but then one would surely expect that they create their own code based on their own judgement of what is the best methodology. Someone being able to confirm that if they take your data and run it through your code they get the same result is not particularly interesting. I don’t doubt that, as you say, there can be disagreements in some cases about exactly what reproducibility entails, maybe it’s down to whoever is publishing the research to make that judgement, but I don’t think FoI is the instrument to resolve such questions.

  71. BBD,
    Yes, I realised you were being tongue-in-cheek, but a serious response seemed warranted 🙂

    Andrew,
    Indeed, I don’t think FoI solves this. Common decency would, but that would need to be practiced by both parties.

  72. Willard says:

    Turn it over to the publishers.

  73. Brandon Gates says:

    They’re in on it.

  74. Brandon Gates says:

    izen,

    I think it is a colourful metaphor?

    Indeed, one that is part of a larger point that one can walk the middle for purposes of stirring up the fecal matter or because it is inherently difficult to objectively know the correct answer by appeals to independently verifiable observation. In my experience, I find it is often difficult to know which of those two things I am actually doing. When I feel that confusion, I take it as a hint that I really should prepare myself to find out that I’m quite wrong about something.

    There are constructive ways to tell someone they’re wrong, and there are … other … ways which tend to elicit ever more colourful metaphors. When I myself choose the latter way, I don’t expect to be taken seriously.

  75. Guess who projected this?

    “Ultra-rich Green groups”

    Urgg …

  76. Brandon Gates says:

    Paul Driessen, but I didn’t have to guess. Marvelous case study in playing the martyr.

  77. Joshua says:

    Brandon –

    http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication/files/Climategate_Opinion_and_Loss_of_Trust_1.pdf

    I was wrong – Kahan wasn’t involved in this study.

    Relevant part starts on page 6: Bottom line: shortly after “Climategate,” some 12% of the American public (filtering out only those who had heard of the events, [29%] and of that group, followed the events very closely [14%]], somewhat closely [41%] and a little [16%]) said that “Climategate” made the somewhat or much more convinced that global warming is not happening. Keep in mind, that should be viewed in the context that: (1) 41% of those who had heard of the events and followed them at least somewhat reported that “Climategate” didn’t influence their views and, (2) some 11% of those who had heard of the events and followed them least somewhat closely reported that the events had made them somewhat or much more certain that global warming is happening.

    Notice – there is no control for whether “Climategate” deepened existing views as opposed to actually changing a viewpoint from one direction to the other — as described in many “skeptics” testimonials, testimonials that they like to claim are typical for “skeptics” more generally.

    Notice – They find that there is a strong association, between reports of “Climategate” leading to respondents becoming somewhat or more convinced that global warming is not happening, and “conservative” political ideology. Hmmmm.

    Notice – There is no control for self-report bias (e.g., “skeptics” claiming that “Climategate” had a significant impact on their views because they are “motivated” to use any information about climate change to strengthen their “skepticism”) – which is a common problem in this kind of polling more generally and I would say is particularly likely to be a problem with this polling given the degree of polarization/idetification with the issue.

    Notice – To really consider the meaningful impact of “Climategate,” some longitudinal data would be needed. Even if we accept the results that “Climategate” significantly increased “skepticism” among some 12% of the American public as reflected some 2 months later, we’d still need to evaluate whether there was any lasting effect. Polling on opinions related to trust in scientists conducted over long time frames would support a conclusion that there was no meaningful long-term impact.

  78. David Young says:

    The issue that is widely concerning is that replication is almost never funded or really done. The other issue is that negative results are filed in the desk drawer and only the positive results or computer runs published. The New York Times interviewed the editor of a top infectious disease journal who said there is also a cultural problem, namely, that you simply can’t afford to have your work proven wrong in any way because of the constant pressure of finding soft money funding.

    There is a wealth of published work on this in the medical literature and there is an editorial in the Economist and a lengthy article, an editorial in Nature, and the New York Times piece. It is not surprising that these issues meet resistance from those who are predisposed to put science on a pedestal, but so far there has not been much progress in addressing these problems.

  79. DY,
    I think you’re slightly confusing experimental sciences and observation sciences. In an experimental science you can define your experiment carefully and have some kind of control over your data collection. In an observation science, you can’t really do this. Climate science and Astronomy, are both examples of this. If you get time on a telescope and the weather is bad, so the observations are poor, do you publish knowing that it’s probably garbage, or do you just throw it away? So, in an experimental science, if your experiment worked as expected, but your results are not what you wanted, you should really publish. In an observation science, if your data turns out to be poor because something over which you had no control happened, what do you do? You have t o use some kind of judgement and if your conclusion is that there is no scientifically valid data, then why bother writing a paper to tell people that circumstances beyond your control messed up your research project?

  80. izen says:

    @-David Young
    “The issue that is widely concerning is that replication is almost never funded or really done. The other issue is that negative results are filed in the desk drawer and only the positive results or computer runs published. The New York Times interviewed the editor of a top infectious disease journal …. It is not surprising that these issues meet resistance from those who are predisposed to put science on a pedestal, but so far there has not been much progress in addressing these problems.”

    Yes.
    Medical research makes climate science look like a paradigm of transparency and integrity.
    Often there are large aspects of the materials or methods in medical research that are certainly NOT available for assessment and reproduction, never mind auditing. It is commercially sensitive. There is a large literature on the distortions and manipulation of data used to justify the clinical application of various treatments. With a history of industry getting at least part of the research funded by the taxpayer without the need for disclosure or a share in the income from any consequent product or service that derives from the research.

    When rejectionists complain about the data tricks to make the results fit the funding, or the avoidance of research that would refute the favoured hypothesis, it always indicates they have no grasp of how, by comparison, medical research is carried out.

  81. BBD says:

    What’s with this obsessive thing about medical research? What has this to do with climate science?

  82. BBD says:

    Sorry – that was @ David Young, who has now brought it up so often I’ve lost count. Please explain the connection as you see it, DY.

  83. deminthon says:

    I think it is a colourful metaphor?

    As does everyone else. Another non sequitur.

  84. Brandon Gates says:

    Joshua,

    Thanks for digging that up and sharing it, a very interesting read. In sum, your interpretation is that those who were already disposed to distrust scientists generally and reject the evidence of AGW found in Climategate what they needed to strengthen their disbelief. But the poll was not designed to control for whether people actually changed position on AGW because of it. Is that correct?

    I thought this was particularly noteworthy: Interestingly, however, a few liberals and egalitarians who followed the news story said they became more convinced that climate change is happening and more trusting of climate scientists as a result.

    The psychology of that is discussed in other literature, which I find both fascinating and unsettling because that finding very nearly describes the end result of Climategate for me personally.

  85. Brandon Gates says:

    izen,

    Food science is another example I know somewhat about via stories from my stepfather’s father who worked in the industry. Simplified version was, big Agra has something easy to produce at low cost in high quantities. Connect the dots.

  86. Joshua says:

    Brandon –

    ==> “Thanks for digging that up and sharing it, a very interesting read. In sum, your interpretation is that those who were already disposed to distrust scientists generally …”

    Gotta stop you there. I don’ think that there’s a lot of evidence that there are many people who distrust scientists generally. Distrust in scientists seems to be pretty context-specific. The baseline view for most people is trust in scientists (in balance, that doesn’t mean blind trust or absolute faith), and that seems to be something that’s pretty constant over time. I think that there is some evidence that might suggest increased distrust in scientists among a sub-sector of “conservatives’ (e.g., Tea Partiers), but it’s pretty difficult to disambiguate that from ideological orientation, religious belief, views on government, etc.

    ==> “… and reject the evidence of AGW found in Climategate what they needed to strengthen their disbelief.”

    Some of them,, at least. Couldn’t say for any particular individual. I think there’s a pretty strong body of literature that describes that phenomenon generally, as an attribute of how humans reason, and a fairly strong body of literature that applies to that phenomenon to the specific context of climate change

    ==> “But the poll was not designed to control for whether people actually changed position on AGW because of it. Is that correct?”

    Right. I think that the self-report bias aspect of the data is pretty problematic w/r/t some of the conclusions that some people might want to draw.

    ==> “The psychology of that is discussed in other literature, which I find both fascinating and unsettling because that finding very nearly describes the end result of Climategate for me personally.

    Why unsettling?

  87. izen says:

    @-BBD says:
    “What’s with this obsessive thing about medical research? What has this to do with climate science?”

    There are several reasons for making the comparison.
    When climate science is accused of homogenizing data, or hiding the decline or any of the other frauds and hoaxes that the auditors darkly warn of, they are holding climate science to a gold standard that is patently absent from other major areas of scientific research.
    I acknowledge there are significant differences in the type and aim of biological research with medical/agricultural goals, and Earth systems research.
    But the demands for transparency and accusations of dishonesty just look ludicrously misdirected if you want to audit results in a science because of the social implications of the work.

    Given the Manichean deal biomedical research often makes to get funding and the significant financial motivations that can distort results, the claim the climate scientists are riding the funding gravy-train is silly.

    Perhaps I should make clear that I am NOT suggesting that most medical research is not fit for purpose. The system we have, flawed as it undoubtedly is, works well enough.

    As evidence for this, while some of the climate science rejectionists may be anti-vax homeopathy types, most are far more willing to accept the conclusions from bio-medical science, than from climate science. There is a double mismatch, they trust and defend an area of scientific development (because of its utility?) which shows symptoms of the very morbidity they claim is rife in another field causing them to reject its findings despite the relative innocence of the that science of the sins committed by the other.

  88. Michael 2 says:

    izen says: “they are holding climate science to a gold standard that is patently absent from other major areas of scientific research.”

    Is the elephant in the room invisible? Nobody is asking for a trillion dollars and global massive change in lifestyle just to believe in the latest medical research, or believe in Dog for that matter. When the only sacrifice is to say “I believe” then it’s easy, maybe even necessary to belong to the herd. But you start taking people’s heat, light, food and transportation, now you’d better have a “Gold Standard”.

  89. Willard says:

    Q. Which data do we choose?

    A.

    To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you do the analysis with the data you have, not the data you might want or wish to have at a later time. This has been true for as long as humans have practiced science. We have vastly better physics data today than ever, but however incomplete or imperfect the data of centuries ago, physics made great strides century after century. Likewise for chemistry, likewise for medicine.

    Scientists who stop analysing the data available to them on the ground that better data may come along in five, ten, or twenty years time are doing no favours to science, since that excuse will always be available. Neither are the conspiracy theorists who by their criticisms of the data imply that there is a global conspiracy to corrupt the data to further the ends of a global political agenda, since the scientific community has never had and never will have time for those conspiracy theories for which they are unable to find convincing support.

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/110768855194

  90. Michael 2 says:

    Joshua says: “…that “Climategate” made the somewhat or much more convinced that global warming is not happening.”

    I believe Climategate challenges consensus, not AGW itself.

    Its effect on me was to cause me to think about it. Prior to that it wasn’t necessary to think about it; people paid to think about it were doing so and all was well. Now suddenly it appears that the great ship Titanic might be brittle, figuratively speaking, with problems in its engines and a few crewmen already boarding lifeboats. “Hide the decline” practically became a household word with John Cook scrambling to explain.

    I didn’t “change my mind”, rather I started making up my mind, a process still underway and it is inseparably connected to what is anyone going to do about it.

    Notice – They find that there is a strong association, between reports of Climategate leading to respondents becoming somewhat or more convinced that global warming is not happening, and conservative political ideology. Hmmmm.

    Yes; that is why I mentioned “what is anyone going to do about it”. Socialists will do one thing, conservatives something else and libertarians aren’t “organized” — one may do this, another may do that.

    So it isn’t about AGW, it is about consensus.

  91. Brandon Gates says:

    Joshua,

    I don’t think that there’s a lot of evidence that there are many people who distrust scientists generally.

    Personal experience likely overly-influences my perceptions on this point.

    I think there’s a pretty strong body of literature that describes that phenomenon generally, as an attribute of how humans reason, and a fairly strong body of literature that applies to that phenomenon to the specific context of climate change

    Yes, some of which I have read. Speaking of …

    Why unsettling?

    Next paragraph after the snippet I quoted: Both patterns are consistent with the concept of motivated reasoning. People are not dispassionate consumers of information. Instead, their motivational states — their values, wishes and preferences — influence what information they pay attention to, how they evaluate data, and the conclusions they draw (31-34).

    Which to me is academic, and is very easily consistent with: Our results demonstrate that climate change continues to be a sharply partisan issue and that much of the decline in public trust in scientists has come from drops among political conservatives and Americans with a strongly individualistic worldview.

    It’s not so easy to explain how information that is contrary to one’s pre-conceived beliefs would tend to strengthen belief in the same. The story I tell myself is that Climategate motivated me to study up, reevaluate everything I thought I knew, and learn more. An outsider looking in might say that Climategate caused massive dissonance about a belief that I did not wish to give up, so I set about reconfirming it by doing research, and stopped when I was sufficiently satisfied that abandoning the consensus view of AGW was unwarranted.

    Knowing both sides of that argument is unsettling, especially since I know that I often fill in the gaps by drawing from my own experience.

  92. JCH says:

    His brother is a doctor.

  93. Joshua says:

    M 2 –

    ==> “I believe Climategate challenges consensus, not AGW itself.”

    Well, there is the question of how it affects views on AGW, but there are other questions also.. There is some stuff in the study I linked that maybe looks at outcomes more closely related to the “consensus” as opposed to AGW itself. IOW, their investigation of the impact of “Climategate” on trust in climate scientists, beliefs in whether climate scientists manipulated data, suppress contradictory evidence, etc.

    ==> “Its effect on me was to cause me to think about it. Prior to that it wasn’t necessary to think about it; people paid to think about it were doing so and all was well.”

    Well, first there is the obvious question of whether we should consider you as a representative sample. Then we need to consider how your ideological orientation might have influences what you’re describing there.

    Keep in mind, that some 71% of the American public had not been following the story at all. So that brings up another issue with the study’s conclusions – since it’s likely that the 29% who had been following “Climategate” were likely self-selecting in some fashion. I’m going to guess that we could find solid evidence that you are an outlier in a number of respects. So while your story might be interesting – it probably isn’t very informative w/r/t the larger public. Of course, maybe your experiences would be useful to look at as they might help us to understand the trajectory of outliers. Or it might in fact be a useful example, because even though we could find measures to distinguish your experiences as perhaps those of an outlier, as a kind of coincidence your trajectory is matched by that of many people who aren’t outliers.

    The point is that we should avoid the very human tendency to try to draw conclusions from anecdotal data. There are empirical data. So outside of sharing war stories, we should probably bring that data into the discussion.

    ==> “I didn’t “change my mind”, rather I started making up my mind, a process still underway and it is inseparably connected to what is anyone going to do about it.”

    There are many people who not only have made up their mind, but who think that they don’t need any more information to evaluate the science – even though their actual knowledge about the science is quite low. People who tend to feel that way, tend to be at the more extreme ends of the ideological spectrum (e.g., Tea Partiers).

    ==> “Yes; that is why I mentioned “what is anyone going to do about it”. Socialists will do one thing, conservatives something else and libertarians aren’t “organized” — one may do this, another may do that.”

    Well, we might be getting down to a problem of definition of terminology here – but there’s quite a bit of data that show that people ideologically oriented along the lines of what “libertarian” refers to in the common vernacular, are pretty uniform in their views on climate change and its implications.

    ==> “So it isn’t about AGW, it is about consensus.”

    Honestly, after reading through what you wrote, and despite what I wrote earlier, I don’t know what you mean by that.

  94. Joshua says:

    Brandon –

    ==> “An outsider looking in might say that Climategate caused massive dissonance about a belief that I did not wish to give up, so I set about reconfirming it by doing research, and stopped when I was sufficiently satisfied that abandoning the consensus view of AGW was unwarranted.”

    That’s pretty much what Kahan describes….

    ==> “Knowing both sides of that argument is unsettling, especially since I know that I often fill in the gaps by drawing from my own experience.”

    Yeah – I guess it is. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

  95. Brandon Gates says:

    Joshua,

    It’s the gleefully ignorant who really get to me. Maybe I’m jealous.

  96. Ken Fabian says:

    There’s the ordinary citizen’s right to believe whatever they like and promote it and there are people with power and influence who hold positions of responsibility and trust – who have no such right and have an (often unstated) obligation to be well informed and take the expert advice they are given seriously. Media journalists and editors, politicians, PR firms, administrators, company directors and CEO’s and others seem to fit into the “power, influence, responsibility, trust” category.

    I think that distinction is passed over too often. If the ordinary citizens are confused and unwilling to commit to any policy course because people with influence have deliberately encouraged them then it’s not simply a matter of ‘freedom of opinion’ and reflecting (serving) the people. When the ongoing excessive use – and growth of use – of fossil fuels is the normal paradigm then stalled and deadlocked policy in the face of popular confusion is as good as a win for those advocating avoidance of climate responsibility; at some point successful efforts at inculcating such views, within a public incapable of checking the validity of scientific advice themselves, reach the point where their pre-decision to oppose action on climate can be post-justified as something a confused and unwilling public demands of them.

  97. David Young says:

    Most fields involve theory, models, test data, and statistical analysis. Medicine is not as dependent on the first two perhaps, but in medical device design for example, that’s not true.

    The parallels between Computational Fluid Dynamics and climate science are very direct. In both fields

    1. Complex numerical models of the Navier-Stokes equations with subgrid models are relied on very heavily.
    a. There are very complex issues involved here in using these models for turbulent vortex dominated flows.
    b. This area is just really starting to be explored in a convincing way.
    c. There is a huge literature on methods for addressing this modeling challenge. There are some genuine advances such as upwinding methods that have displaced artificial viscosity methods, finite element methods that are displacing finite difference methods, implicit time marching methods that have almost totally displaced explicit methods and except in climate models the notorious leapfrog scheme.
    d. There are some really tough theoretical issues about attractors and their dimension.
    2. The effects that are important are usually smaller than the typical truncation errors of the numerical schemes. This is a complex subject with its own massive literature in mathematics. Most climate scientists are rather unfamiliar with it, even though Schmidt is probably more knowledgeable than most. Paul Williams is another one who has a detailed knowledge.
    a. The drag force on an aircraft is on the order of 2 orders of magnitude smaller than the “forcing” terms. On typical grids, the truncation error is much larger than this.
    b. Similarly the energy in the temperature anomaly is very small compared to the overall energy in the climate system.
    3. The data is often pretty noisy. Certainly weather data is very noisy as Mosher and Hausfather just showed. Fluid dynamics testing is not as bad because it’s a controlled experiment usually. But flight data is actually much worse just because the atmosphere is so turbulent.
    4. In fluid dynamics, the literature on modeling is often unreliable or of little scientific value. It is often just running models until you get a result that looks good compared to your data without looking at sensitivities to the truly massive number of parameters the model requires. Just the computational grid generation has hundreds or thousands.
    5. There are lots of codes and models just as there are lots of climate models. There is little reliable literature on unbiased comparisons of methods and codes because its directly tied to soft money getting and technical marketing of codes. Climate science has actually done a better job here I think.

    The issue here is more consequential than in astronomy because for engineering products, there is a public process for certification that is set up to be adversarial. As CFD is gaining a foothold in this process, it will face dramatically increased scrutiny as it should. Thus, it is a matter of public safety, not to mention public trust, to be as unbiased as possible in exposing the weaknesses of the methods and codes. Climate science is also immensely consequential for public well being.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    The claim that climate science is somehow different can only result from technical ignorance. There may be a vested interest in not exposing problems to too wide an audience, or in falling back on arguments from authority or secret intuitive knowledge, but that is problematic in an area of such public importance.

  98. deminthon says:

    Calling me a stridently militant agnostic would not be a stretch. Damn straight I sit on the fence. All the better to hurl rocks at both sides from an elevated vantage point. Mostly though I find great peace in being able to say, “I don’t know.” Having no answer to defend is wonderfully liberating. More people should try it in my view.

    It’s the gleefully ignorant who really get to me. Maybe I’m jealous.

    Hmm. It’s intellectual dishonesty that really gets to me, but I don’t think I’m jealous.

  99. deminthon says:

    I believe Climategate challenges consensus, not AGW itself.

    The consensus among climate scientists hasn’t changed, and that’s the consensus that matters.

    Now suddenly it appears that the great ship Titanic might be brittle, figuratively speaking, with problems in its engines and a few crewmen already boarding lifeboats.

    There is no sign of that at all.

    “Hide the decline” practically became a household word with John Cook scrambling to explain.

    It was made a household term by the organized, well funded contrarians (and a group of those are most likely responsible for the theft) by trumpeting it, out of context, far and wide. They capitalized on it because its meaning is so easily represented … obviously. Any “scrambling” was simply a match to how fast the disinformation was spreading … obviously. (As Mark Twain didn’t say, “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on”.) John Cook was certainly not the only person explaining the phrase (Mann and Trenberth were among those who quickly responded), the meaning of which took understanding of context that was unfamiliar to most people … obviously. Many, if not most, people who have heard it still misunderstand what it refers to. It’s the responsibility of everyone who does understand what it means — including you if you are among them — to “scramble” to correct the disinformation.

    I didn’t “change my mind”, rather I started making up my mind, a process still underway and it is inseparably connected to what is anyone going to do about it.

    From what you have written here, you have made up your mind that “climate alarmists” are ” ‘wolves’ trying to fleece the sheep”. Making up your mind as to an empirical matter based on what anyone is going to do about it is a fallacy … one seems to be the biggest impetus behind rejectionism. I understand you concern that accepting the fact of AGW might require “representational governments to make huge social changes”, but a) you shouldn’t make you mind up about the latter and b) it has no bearing on the physics. The position is quite similar to deciding whether one’s doctor is telling the truth about having heart disease by making the acceptance of that “inseparably connected to” a belief that one would have to make drastic changes in their lifestyle if so.

    Socialists will do one thing, conservatives something else and libertarians aren’t “organized” — one may do this, another may do that.

    First, you have left out a lot of people. Second, what is done about AGW depends on policy; it’s too big for individual actions to make much difference. Third, that’s why so many conservatives are so focused on preventing anything from being done other than BAU on steroids. And one of their strategies is to attack the notion that there is a scientific consensus.

  100. russellseitz says:

    Two cheers for ‘Rejectionists’ – it curbs semantic agression without denying the impulse entirely.

  101. DY,
    None of that is really a response to what I was getting at in my comment. Also, if you continue to write comments containing a bunch of statements that are technically true, but then draw a conclusion with a claim that anyone who disagrees with you is “technically ignorant” I’ll simply delete it.

  102. Eli Rabett says:

    David Young asserts that the Earth is a wind tunnel. Who knew?

  103. Marco says:

    “There may be a vested interest in not exposing problems to too wide an audience, or in falling back on arguments from authority or secret intuitive knowledge, but that is problematic in an area of such public importance.”

    I think David Young has troubles differentiating between “there are problems” and “there are potential issues that require further study to determine their actual impact”.

    To take an example from David Young’s own beloved medicine world: there are at times issues with vaccine safety. I have seen examples of people pointing to MMR vaccines that have been withdrawn from the market because “they caused meningitis”. Indeed they did; this was a 1 in a 12,000 event or so and therefore not detected during clinical trials. However, if there had not been another vaccine that ultimately had a much lower risk of causing meningitis, withdrawing those “meningitis-causing” vaccines would have been much, much worse: mumps is so contagious that essentially every child would get ill, and meningitis would happen in about 10-15% of those infected with mumps. In other words, the “meningitis-causing” vaccines reduced mumps-associated meningitis by about a factor 1000. Was there a problem with the withdrawn vaccines? Yes and no. Compared to another vaccine, yes, compared to no vaccine, no.
    An important note: the meningitis caused by mumps is a viral meningitis, and not nearly as dangerous as bacterial meningitis.

    Now, imagine this “problem” of “meningitis-causing vaccines” would have been exposed to a wide audience…we all know what havoc Wakefield created.

  104. verytallguy says:

    David Young,

    Complex numerical models of the Navier-Stokes equations with subgrid models are relied on very heavily.

    You may be overplaying the significance of GCMs.

    Hansen et al, for instance, seem to feel that GCMs are not necessary for drawing strong conclusions on climate policy:

    We assess climate impacts of global warming using ongoing observations and paleoclimate data…

    …Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions, given current knowledge of the consequences, would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice…

    …climate models necessarily play an important role in assessing practical implications of climate change. Nevertheless, it is possible to draw important conclusions with transparent computations…

    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081648#abstract0

  105. Steve Bloom says:

    Thanks, vtg, I somehow lost track of that, but had intended to read it and now I will.

  106. BBD says:

    VTG

    DY has been told over and over again to put the GCM hobby horse down for exactly this reason. But to no avail.

    That’s hobby horses for you.

  107. verytallguy says:

    Steve,

    a warning, you may become increasingly alarmed as you go through the manuscript 😉

  108. matt says:

    “start taking people’s heat, light, food and transportation”

    Sounds a bit alarmist M2

  109. Brandon Gates says:

    It’s just prduent concern.

  110. Lucifer says:

    Hansen et al, for instance, seem to feel that GCMs are not necessary for drawing strong conclusions on climate policy

    1. There are ‘well mixed’ gasses ( CO2 ) that effect radiative emission to space.
    2. There are ‘non-well mixed’ gasses ( H2O ) and clouds that effect radiative emission to space.
    3. There are different temperature profiles that effect radiative emission to space.

    Changes of factor 1 are largely independent of the ‘general circulation’ of GCMs.
    Factors 2 & 3 are very dependent on the ‘general circulation’ of GCMs.

  111. KR says:

    Lucifer – Hansen et al in that reference estimate the total climate response primarily from paleoclimate data, which has no dependence whatsoever on GCMs. And they are quite correct; we don’t need GCMs for strong conclusions regarding climate policy, helpful though they are for intermediate term projections.

    Obsessing over model complaints while ignoring the overall physics is IMO something of a red herring fallacy.

  112. John Hartz says:

    Lucifer: Please document the source(s) of your statements about GCMs.

    Why did you list these three components of the climate system?

    Other than listing three factoids, what is the point you are attempting to make?

  113. Michael 2 says:

    deminthon says: “It was made a household term by the organized, well funded contrarians”

    Sounds a bit conspiratorial 😉

    But thanks for creating this opportunity for a Meme Correction Moment (MCM).

    “Lindzen has published work with the conservative think-tank, the Cato Institute, a think tank that has received $125,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.”
    http://www.desmogblog.com/richard-lindzen

    That’s quoting a leftwing blog (hence Authorized).

    If that pittance is “well funded”, what do you call Greenpeace?

    Budget €236.9 million (2011) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenpeace

    “As its funding grew, so did its radicalism, to the point where it now campaigns against all coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric power – together making up 95 percent of U.S. energy use.”

    Next up, the Tides Foundation (but I won’t quote; you can read if you wish).
    https://www.activistfacts.com/organizations/225-tides-foundation-tides-center/

  114. Michael 2 says:

    Joshua says: M 2 – “I believe Climategate challenges consensus, not AGW itself.” Well, there is the question of how it affects views on AGW

    Reviewing my journal it appears I had no views on AGW prior to Climategate. Not even a mention of how I came to learn of it, probably a story on hacking in “The Register” which is what I was reading daily.

    “Well, first there is the obvious question of whether we should consider you as a representative sample.”

    How representative are you of we? I am uncommon, but how uncommon is impossible to say since my kind doesn’t know how to find others of my kind, except maybe at Cisco networking seminars. But unlike others of my kind, I also have a Navy career, which strengthened the natural social weakness of my kind.

    “Then we need to consider how your ideological orientation might have influences what you’re describing there.”

    That works both ways. What I observe and describe helps align my ideological orientation. I believe high intelligence compels less extremism and greater adaptability to new evidence.

    “it’s likely that the 29% who had been following “Climategate” were likely self-selecting in some fashion.”

    Likely so. The major networks didn’t carry the story.

    “So while your story might be interesting – it probably isn’t very informative w/r/t the larger public.”

    Precisely. They are not here. You need someone intellectual enough to be here, but yet public enough to not be completely assimilated in the Bubble. You need national and geographic diversity since there is no “larger public” as a monolithic thing whose behavior can be described or predicted.

    “Of course, maybe your experiences would be useful to look at as they might help us to understand the trajectory of outliers.”

    Or just as a matter of human interest, the greatest gift of the Internet in my opinion.

    “Or it might in fact be a useful example, because even though we could find measures to distinguish your experiences as perhaps those of an outlier, as a kind of coincidence your trajectory is matched by that of many people who aren’t outliers.”

    The difference is that I choose my trajectory; where I think most people fall into it, or it upon them. You need an observer personality — ISTP (Willard) or INTP (me). Both are quite rare. Lewandowsky ought to have been able to do what he did with a lot more scholarship and accuracy in my opinion, but I think he had his goal in mind already.

    An INTP doesn’t work that way. INTP’s take their sweet, sweet time to arrive at a decision and are hardly ever “sure” of anything. That’s why I like Descartes; Cogito ergo sum. Finally something I can be absolutely sure of.

    “The point is that we should avoid the very human tendency to try to draw conclusions from anecdotal data. There are empirical data.”

    And yet, empirical data is not compelling — except maybe to an INTP like me. The handwritten handwringing letters from Australians is not empirical data. They are anecdotes. But it is indeed anecdotes that change the world. The Ant and the Grasshopper — its a fable, a parable, an anecdote. So is citing a single storm as proof of global warming. It seems to be effective.

    “There are many people who not only have made up their mind, but who think that they don’t need any more information to evaluate the science – even though their actual knowledge about the science is quite low.”

    Yes, my best friend is solidly in that category. He is completely certain that Dog will save the Earth so there’s nothing to worry about, no need to study anything, in fact, doing so is a demonstration of a lack of faith.

    ==> “So it isn’t about AGW, it is about consensus.” Honestly, after reading through what you wrote, and despite what I wrote earlier, I don’t know what you mean by that.

    It is not that complicated. The assertion by someone was that Climategate challenged AGW, his argument was that no it didn’t, which I agree with but likely for a different reason.

    Climategate challenged the prevailing view of unanimity among climate scientists, the prevailing belief that all science was rigorously tested and reviewed, and anyone with a desire could review the methods and data. It came as a surprise to many that, at least as of 2009, none of that was completely true. It wasn’t unanimous, the reviewers had conflicts of interest, governments contaminated it with their own goals, data was in some cases apparently no longer existing (raw data for UEA’s CRU).

    So, Climategate challenged only one small thing — but that little tiny hole in the dike of unanimity let loose an eventual flood of doubt.

  115. David Young says:

    ATTP, I don’t fully understand the distinction you are making. All sciences are to some extent observational. Real world flight testing is really observations of real world behavior. That of course is what really matters, real world performance. These experiments are simply not controlled very well by design, you want to encounter the full range of turbulence and atmospheric conditions and flight regimes. You sometimes get poor data in this arena too. Likewise, in all sciences one wants to try to control extraneous factors as much as possible to be able to separate effects. Sometimes that impossible, but it seems like a good idea to try.

    An important difference I see is just how important to public policy fields of science are. The more relevant it is, the more public and intense the scrutiny. That seems to me to be justified. And scientific scrutiny is all about rigorously establishing weaknesses, uncertainty bounds, and repeatability, and in the case of models the sensitivity to parameters and modeling choices. The Economist opines that there is no funding for replication and its seldom done. I believe this to be true.

    The distinguishing thing about medicine is it seems to me that its a very big field, there is a lot of diversity of opinion, and no effective gate keepers. The field is also I think pioneering some of the proposed checks and balances that perhaps science more generally needs. I believe that the process is more open there, at least according to my sources.

  116. toby52 says:

    An “eventual flood of doubt”? Among Fox News anchormen and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, apparently. Not a single piece of science changed because of the faux-scandal.

    And correct me if I am wrong, but the public rates doctors, scientists and engineers much more credible than they do politicians and journalists, the ones who banged the “scandal!” drum.

    I note you end up with a catchall, evidence-free escape hatch – the multiple independent enquiries by professionals were all contaminated, but Fox News, and the Wall Street Journal are not. How convenient.

  117. DY,
    I’m not sure why you’re finding this complicated. Yes, I realise that something like real world flight testing requires observations, but if the data is poor, you can do it again. If it doesn’t work as you expect, you can make an adjustment and try again. You can build a scale model and put it in a wind tunnel. You can, within reason, repeat these experiments as often as you like. In medicine you can do randomised control trials with large samples. In climate science, you can’t go back in time and get better data of the past. You can’t go forward in time and get new data for the future. We can’t run a second planet without increasing anthropogenic forcings. In astronomy, we can’t go and see what a galaxy looks like from a different angle. We can’t watch a star go from a ball of gas and dust, turn into a star, get older, and then explode as a supernova.

    Of course, in fields like Astronomy and climate science, we can make decisions to improve instruments so that we can do better observations in the future, but that doesn’t change that we can’t do anything about what we already have.

    So, as far as CFD goes, we could comit to trying to improve GCMs (and this is happening) but no amounts of improvements in GCMs will change that we have to work with the data we have, not the data we’d like to have.

  118. John Hartz says:

    Michael 2: Rigid adherence to a political and/or religious ideology is the bane of mankind…

    Scientific denialism has crept into other aspects of modern life, of course, manifesting itself as creationism, anti-vaccine ideology and the opposition to genetically modified crops, among other doctrines.

    To groups holding such views, “evidence just doesn’t matter any more,” said Riley E. Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University. “It becomes possible to create an alternate reality.”

    But Dr. Dunlap pointed out that the stakes with most of these issues are not as high as with climate-change denial, for the simple reason that the fate of the planet may hang in the balance.

    What to Call a Doubter of Climate Change?, By Degrees by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Feb 12, 2015

  119. John Hartz says:

    My most previous post quoted the final three paragraphs of the Justin Gillis article, What to Call a Doubter of Climate Change?. The article opens with:

    The words are hurled around like epithets.

    People who reject the findings of climate science are dismissed as “deniers” and “disinformers.” Those who accept the science are attacked as “alarmists” or “warmistas. ” The latter term, evoking the Sandinista revolutionaries of Nicaragua, is perhaps meant to suggest that the science is part of some socialist plot.

    In the long-running political battles over climate change, the fight about what to call the various factions has been going on for a long time. Recently, though, the issue has taken a new turn, with a public appeal that has garnered 22,000 signatures and counting.

    The petition asks the news media to abandon the most frequently used term for people who question climate science, “skeptic,” and call them “climate deniers” instead.

  120. Steve Bloom

    I find your sly spin quite sinister.

    I have worked with 2 Earth System Models to look at potential risks from climate change to the Amazon. One (HadCM3LC) simulated catastrophic die-back by the late 21st Century. The more recent (HadGEM2-ES) simulates more gradual responses. We don’t know which is correct, and say so in the latest paper (Good et al). Neither of these simulations can yet be validated, as they are not designed to represent near-term changes.

    Please desist from claiming you know what my ‘beliefs’ are. You don’t.

  121. Steve and Richard,

    Please desist from claiming you know what my ‘beliefs’ are. You don’t.

    I’m with Richard here. Whatever you may believe about someone else’s beliefs, I see no particular value in them being pointed out, especially here. I particularly dislike the “I disagree with someone, therefore they’re a ….” type of argument. Call it whatever you like, but I would at least like to try and avoid the comment threads here degenerating to the level of some other blogs that cover the same topic.

  122. Michael 2 says:

    John Hartz says: “Michael 2: Rigid adherence to a political and/or religious ideology is the bane of mankind…”

    Are you claiming immunity from this phenomenon?

  123. Michael 2 says:

    toby52 says: “Not a single piece of science changed because of the faux-scandal.”

    Of course. Most importantly the weight of a silicon kilogram did not change in the least.

    “And correct me if I am wrong, but the public rates doctors, scientists and engineers much more credible than they do politicians and journalists”

    A carefully chosen example for sure!

    “I note you end up with a catchall, evidence-free escape hatch”

    Yes, thank you for noticing. I blend argumentation and persuasion with an occasional memetic slogan.

  124. Michael 2 says:

    Correction for Toby: I should have written the mass of a silicon kilogram did not change. It is possible that additional CO2 will change atmospheric density and thus its weight could change slightly.

  125. David Young says:

    Another point here is I think that part of the diversity of opinion so necessary for science to advance is outsider auditors. i would argue that overall Mcintyre and Nic Lewis are serving a useful function as much as people here seem to intensely dislike them. The whole thought process that places climate science in a special position or falls back on arguments from authority is how nonscientists might argue with their friends at cocktail parties. It is not part of the scientific process. I still believe that climate science is rather unique in its seeming hostility to use of professional statisticians at all stages of studies. That is too bad as its so easy to correct and would improve the quality of the science.

  126. BBD says:

    David Young

    It is not part of the scientific process.

    Contrarian sniping by “outside auditors” is not part of the scientific process.

  127. DY,
    No, I don’t think climate science is hostile to professional statisticians. Some are already directly involved in climate science research. Some people who are physical scientists have strong backgrounds in mathematics and statistics already. What I think they are hostile towards are self-professed experts who claim to find major problems without ever apparently trying to understand the underlying science. If you don’t understand the assumptions being used when doing some kind of analysis and whether or not these are justified, you can’t really critique what is being done. I think the current discussion about Marotzke & Forster is an illustration why we shouldn’t simply drop statisticians into climate science, not an argument in favour of doing so.

  128. Willard says:

    > Likewise, in all sciences one wants to try to control extraneous factors as much as possible to be able to separate effects. Sometimes that impossible, but it seems like a good idea to try.

    Witness all the research groups who are trying to replicate the Earth.

  129. BBD says:

    I think the current discussion about Marotzke & Forster is an illustration why we shouldn’t simply drop statisticians into climate science, not an argument in favour of doing so.

    Let’s not forget McShane and Wyner (2010).

  130. John Hartz says:

    Michael 2: I am neither a religious or a political idealogue.

  131. Vinny Burgoo says:

    OT (probably): Here’s a slogan recently adopted by North Korea.

    Read the minds of producers first before measuring the quantity of their products!

    I have no idea what that means.

    Willard?

  132. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: If you are looking for a relatively tame topic for your next post,,,

    Every politician should tell us what they think about evolution and climate change by By Puneet Kollipara. Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Feb 13, 2015

  133. For Korean fu, ask the Mosh, Vinny.

  134. BBD says:

    It’s always not what you think.

  135. David Young says:

    An example of how this can work is the current controversy. Both Climate Audit and Climate Lab Book have excellent discussions that Pekka has played a large role in. James Annan seems to regard the issue as still unresolved. The question perhaps in my mind is how it is possible for the ocean heat uptake and feedback parameters to have very little impact on the warming rate. We know GCM’s can hind cast well as that is something people know before hand when they build the models, choose parameters, etc.

    Another example is drawn from my own experience. We have 2 papers now that touch on uncertainty in CFD and perhaps raise some doubts about the literature in the field. To have real credibility, however, we have involved two professional statisticians, who have devised some interesting methods we would never have thought of ourselves. This new work will have better credibility because of their co-authorship particularly if it appears in a journal such as Annals of Statistics. The literature in this field is huge and literally there is virtually nothing that involves rigorous statistical methods. There is a pervasive positive results bias present.

    Something else must be said about this idea that GCM’s and numerical PDE simulation is a hobby horse. Such a comment cannot be based on real technical knowledge as it is so obviously untrue. There is a vast literature on CFD and numerical PDE’s. These simulations are used to design virtually all modern engineering products and there is a multi billion dollar industry involving the writing of the simulation software, its use, the computers used to run them, etc. There is a new paper on this subject on Navier-Stokes simulations by some of my colleagues in the same journal issue that our paper on separated flow appeared, in fact it is literally the article right before ours. This presents some rather disturbing negative results about these simulations that cast doubt on 25 years of simulations. Basically, the best numerical methods are required to provide repeatable and reliable simulations. The phenomenon of multi- and pseudo-solutions really place an uncertainty band of between a few percent and 100% around these simulations. The problem is that it is virtually impossible to tell the value for a specific simulation based on current state of the art simulation runs. This paper is perhaps not accessible to people here. It is better appreciated by Annan and Williams. But the basic idea is very easy to understand. This is relevant for those who perhaps place undue importance on peer reviewed literature without knowing the background or having the knowledge to do replication of the results therein. The literature in this vast field is pretty unreliable and we are in the process of pointing it out in a hopefully convincing way. [… -W]

  136. ATTP: “DY, No, I don’t think climate science is hostile to professional statisticians.

    International Meetings on Statistical Climatology

    A highly recommended series of conferences. Climatologists love statistics and love good statistics.

    Someone coming from the outside and saying you are doing everything wrong, is never appreciated, no matter who is inside or outside. Outsiders with special skills who show some humility and are willing to learn before they voice their critique are always welcome. That can only improve science. Uninformed haughtiness does not.

  137. > James Annan seems to regard the issue as still unresolved.

    Which issue?

    If we are referring to what started all this, the unresolvedness seems to give the point to one of the parties:

    Lewis says their method is simply invalid, because the assumptions underlying the statistical theory are violated. In that respect, it is worth pointing out that probably just about all statistical analysis is simply invalid at some level, since the assumptions are rarely precisely correct. Exact linearity, independent errors, gaussian statistics? You’ve got to be joking. These are never more than approximations to the truth, but hopefully the approximations are good enough that the end result is useful.

    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2015/02/that-marotzkeforster-vs-lewis-thing.html

    Also note Pekka’s interpretation of what “the issue” is in the comments.

  138. Steve Bloom says:

    I missed this when it first came out a couple days ago, and maybe it’s already been mentioned, but here’s AAAS CEO Alan Leshner:

    Rather than blame the public for their unease over science, Leshner points to three factors that have driven a wedge between the thinking of mainstream scientists and that of the broader population. The first is that scientific advances, in fields as diverse as stem cells, genetics, evolution, and the origins of the universe, are encroaching ever more on people’s religious beliefs, common intuitions, and core values. The second is that science is moving so fast, people find it difficult to keep up. Third, more publicity is now given to cases of scientific misconduct and problems with reproducing research results, which together undermine public trust in science.

    The combined effect, according to Leshner, is greater public tension over scientific findings and their implications. The lack of confidence in the process plays into the hands of people who distort science to promote their own causes, he said.

    “When this happens, science becomes an easy target for deniers, whether that’s around GMOs, climate change, evolution or anything else. It gives them ammunition and fuel,” said Leshner, who said many anti-science voices often find a willing platform in media outlets. “People have been playing fast and loose with scientific information, especially in the past decade. Famous columnists are writing absurd columns that show a lack of understanding that frankly scares me.” (My emphasis.)

    Oh look, it’s that word! [… -W]

  139. Eli Rabett says:

    When David Young says that his working with statisticians had a benefit, he is, in fact conceding the argument. OK, what would happen if the same statisticians worked by themselves on the same problem. Garbage. Measuring the statistical behavior of a system requires knowing about the system.

  140. Eli,
    Exactly!

    DY,
    The problem I have with the M&F issue now is that people seem to be changing their criticism from “obvious and embarrassing statistical error” to “how can ocean heat uptake rate and feedback factors have so little impact on the warming rate”. Well, isn’t the latter answer fairly obvious? If you look at the CMIP5 model results and consider periods of around 60 years, the variation in the warming rate is quite small. Right? Therefore it doesn’t seem surprising that most of this variability can be explained by variations in the forcings? There could be some unaccounted for influence from variations in alpha and kappa but it can’t be all that big given that the variations in the trends is small in the first place. That’s how I see it at least.

  141. Alan Leshner: “The second is that science is moving so fast, people find it difficult to keep up.

    Is there any evidence that science is moving faster than in the past? We produce more articles, but do we produce more information?

    Is there any evidence that people try to keep up? Given that the mitigation sceptics mostly invent their own bogus problems, whereas the real caveats are spelled out in the IPCC reports, I get the feeling that even these highly politically motivated people do not even read these reports. Not exactly a sign of trying to keep up.

  142. John Hartz says:

    Steve Bloom: Muchas gracias for the Leshner quote and link. I will share it with the all-volunteer SkS author team. We engage in periodic discussions among ourselves about the use of the “d” word. Thanks to ATTP, we’re having another one now.

  143. BBD says:

    Victor Venema

    Is there any evidence that people try to keep up? Given that the mitigation sceptics mostly invent their own bogus problems

    If Leshner meant something along the lines of ‘scientific inquiry is now so diverse and multifaceted as to be incomprehensible to the individual mind’ then fair enough. But to your point – ‘sceptics’ *never* seem to read climate textbooks. The only people who appear to make a serious effort to ‘keep up’ (really, to understand the basics and get a general clue) are the rest of us. Aided, it needs to be said, by blogs such as this one and your own.

  144. Willard says:

    > When this happens, science becomes an easy target for deniers, whether that’s around GMOs, climate change, evolution or anything else.

    My emphasis:

    Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods have the potential to cause a variety of health problems.

    http://vault.sierraclub.org/biotech/intro.aspx

  145. Michael 2 says:

    John Hartz “Michael 2: I am neither a religious or a political idealogue.”

    Drat. It is so much easier to argue with someone that is both.

  146. John Hartz says:

    Michael 2: I prefer discussing to arguing.

  147. David Young says:

    @TP, I’m not sure even the statistical argument is settled. But the process seems to me to be working. And that’s that main point I was making. Auditing even by outsiders is I think valuable and that’s so commonly accepted in business and government for example I don’t understand how people can claim otherwise in something as important as climate science. You can choose who you trust of course and everyone will do that for themselves.

    Eli, its hard to know how to respond to your sarcastic and obviously unserious remark. In my case, it was also the case that the statisticians had been tasked by senior leadership with this task and they were having trouble getting people to share data with them. There are echoes of Phil Jones in that one. I have lots of data from high quality sources and am not afraid to share it. One point for you to consider in the bunny burrow is why leaders seem to regard statisticians so highly. Is it perhaps because they are not tied to the sources of their data? One would think that it would be in the interests of all involved to share data with these outsiders. When that doesn’t happen it should raise a red flag. In CFD, the answer of course is that people want to control their own data so their codes don’t look bad. That’s sad and is a problem, but its not something that can be defended when public safety is at stake. It is really shabby in fact.

    In any case, my point about the unreliability of the literature and its uninformative nature for non-scientists stands I think. Laymen sometimes for ideological reasons want to put some science on a pedestal and idealize as if it should be above criticism. That attitude is really based on lack of knowledge I think.

  148. David Young says:

    Willard, Do you never tire of quoting out of context? I would just say that Annan’s piece makes many interesting points beyond the snippet you quoted and people can read it for themselves without your help I think.

  149. dhogaza says:

    DY:

    “There are echoes of Phil Jones in that one. I have lots of data from high quality sources and am not afraid to share it.”

    You’re not afraid to share data you’ve gotten access to under a contract that essentially includes a NDA clause?

    Hell if I’ll ever do business with you.

  150. dhogaza says:

    DY:

    “James Annan seems to regard the issue as still unresolved.”

    Do you recognize the difference between “still unresolved” and the original accusations by Nic Lewis?

  151. Willard says:

    I thought you were the one who referred to James’ opinion out of context when you failed to properly identify “the issue”, David Young, which seems to be related to Nic’s accusations. I also thought you misrepresent James’ opinion on this very issue. Why then would readers settle for your paraphrases instead of quotes?

  152. toby52 says:

    Michael2,

    I notice you do not get mad, just get even.

    Even worse. 🙂

  153. Eli Rabett says:

    Now some, not Eli to be sure, might ask why today statisticians have taken the place of the third accountant

    Three candidates are short listed for the accountant’s job. They’re all equally excellent, experienced and personable, etc. So the chairman asks each the simple question “what is two and two?”

    The first replies ” Four”

    The second replies ” Statistically anything between 3.999 and 4.0111″

    The third replies ” Well what do you want it to be ?”

    The point being that unrestrained statistical analysis can give any answer you want.

  154. John Hartz says:

    David Young: You state:

    In any case, my point about the unreliability of the literature and its uninformative nature for non-scientists stands I think.

    1. What exactly do you mean by “the literature”?

    2. How much of it have you personally read?

    3. What metric(s) do you employ to determine whether a given piece of “the literature” is reliable or unreliable?

    Thanks.

  155. John Hartz says:

    The following excerpts from an Op-ed by Brian Schmidt directly bear on this discussion and the millions like it.

    As a Nobel Prize winner, I travel the world meeting all kinds of people.

    Most of the policy, business and political leaders I meet immediately apologise for their lack of knowledge of science.

    Except when it comes to climate science. Whenever this subject comes up, it never ceases to amaze me how each person I meet suddenly becomes an expert.

    Schmidt goes on to say,

    No single person knows everything about climate change. And for the average punter, it’s hard to keep up with all the latest research and what it means.

    More surprising is the supreme confidence that non-experts (scientists and non-scientists alike) have in their own understanding of the subject.

    Jury in on climate change, so stop using arguments of convenience and listen to experts, Op-ed by Brian Schmidt, Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 16, 2015

  156. David Young says:

    John Hartz, The literature I am referring to is the computational fluid dynamics literature. I have actually read a lot of it in 35 years. We are beginning to document these issues in the literature. The first two papers, one from my group, and one just before it from colleagues, came out in AIAA Journal, Vo. 52, #8. A second very long one is about to appear online. Another one is being written now. The scientific approach to these issues is really very simple. Compare high quality simulations from various codes, with various turbulence models, and study issues such as residual convergence, grid density, etc. In other words look at sensitivity of results to the parameters of the simulations, and there are a very large number, at least thousands and if you want to stretch it billions (every grid point can in principle be placed somewhere else). I have seen very few other papers on this and those that I have seen make no effort to attribute differences to the different sources of uncertainty. Many of our results are generated with codes that converge to machine precision and that are grid converged. In fairness to the field, such codes are not generally available.

    I have found it gratifying how many collaborators I have found for this project to document uncertainty. Generally, a lot of older researchers are beyond worrying too much about their careers and want to see the record corrected. Younger people are often very caught up in the constant struggle for soft money and the cherry picking that is seemingly required and are less interested.

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