Science Wars

I’ve finished reading Shawn Otto’s book The War on Science. It was a bit US-centric, but I still found it interesting, and it covered a lot of ground. What I found of particular interest, was the discussion of the role of postmodernism. Eli discussed this in a recent post, and I’ve discussed it in a few posts.

The basic idea behind post-modernism is that scientific theories are somehow social constructs. As I understand it, this is essentially a suggestion that there isn’t really an objective reality; somehow our understanding of reality is strongly affected by societal/political influences. Shawn Otto’s book suggests that this basic idea has now made its way from academia into the media, society, and also into politics. Essentially, if there is no objective reality, then any representation of reality has validity. Typically this manifests itself as people arguing that if there is some evidence that supports their position that that then makes their position as valid as anyone else’s.

The obvious problem is that this then means that people can simply look for evidence that supports their position, rather than using all the available evidence to inform the position that they hold. Of course, I should stress that I’m not suggesting that the evidence defines what positions one should hold; simply that – ideally – evidence should inform how we view the world. There may, of course, be situations where we still chose to hold certain views despite the evidence, or where other factors, that are hard to quantify, play an important role in defining our views. It’s, of course, also entirely acceptable to hold views that appear to be completely at odds with the evidence; this doesn’t, however, mean that there isn’t some kind of objective reality.

My own view is partly similar to that expressed during the Science Wars; some of those discussing science have limited understanding. On the other hand, some of it also seems to simply be a lack of clarity. For almost every field, there will be details that we still don’t understand. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a good understanding of the fundamentals associated with that field, and that we couldn’t present a coherent description of our basic understanding. It’s also clear that our understanding does change with time, but that doesn’t mean that we would expect radical changes, or that our future understanding will be completely different to what it is today. Clearly there are also examples of bias influencing research, but there is a difference between a single study (or a small collection of work) and our overall understanding of a topic that may have been developed over many, many years. Clearly societal/political influences also play a role in deciding what’s of interest and what to research, but this doesn’t mean that the results of that research are somehow interpreted through a societal/political lens.

However, the key point as far as I’m concerned, is that we live in a world in which we believe that what we observe is real, that we can make observations of this real world, and that we can develop an understanding of what we observe. Given this, it’s certainly my view, that we should be using our understanding to inform our views of the world and to inform the decisions that we might make. Of course, this does not mean that our understanding defines our view or the decisions that we might make, or that those who develop this understanding have any kind of special place in society. I’m simply suggesting that society benefits from being informed.

If it is indeed the case (as it seems) that this postmodernistic thinking has influenced views within society, is there anything we can do to change this? My impression is that it’s not simply that people don’t always understand science all that well, they also don’t really understand how it is undertaken, or the basics of the scientific method. One issue might be that when scientists engage publicly, they tend to see their role as explaining their own research. This is clearly important, but maybe we also need more people who just discuss science in general, rather than simply focusing on the specifics of their own work.

Of course, that would probably lead to accusations that they were speaking outside their area of expertise and, potentially, that they were engaging in advocacy and – hence – destroying their objectivity. My cynical view is that some of this is intentional attempts to prevent more researchers/scientists from speaking publicly as that might highlight views that are based on the slimsiest of evidence, if any evidence at all. I do think, however, that researchers/scientists have an obligation to communicate with the public and that the public would benefit from a better understanding of how science works and the basics of the scientific method. That’s only my view, though. Others may think differently.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in ClimateBall, Politics, Research, Science and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

85 Responses to Science Wars

  1. I think reality and Nature, like the stock market, eventually get around to correcting whatever silliness and fiction people collectively believe. No doubt in the face of that some would continue to believe that the correction is an illusion.

    Ergo, Jackson Browne’s “Before the Deluge”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SX-HFcSIoU

  2. I think reality and Nature, like the stock market, eventually get around to correcting whatever silliness and fiction people collectively believe.

    Indeed, but ideally they don’t take us too much by surprise.

  3. maybe we also need more people who just discuss science in general

    Not sure if I understand what you would like these scientists to say? Should I explain evolution and a biologist climate? Or should we talk about the scientific method?

  4. Victor,
    I was think more about the scientific method and scientific practices. For example, it seems obvious to me that complex climate models need to be tuned, and yet that seems to be something that many regard as suspicious. If more scientists were simply saying “oh, sure, of course you need to tune complex models; you can’t model everything from first principles” these kind of controversies would be less prevalent – or, it would be more difficult to promote them as controversies. Of course, that’s not to say that scientists couldn’t also add “but it would be good if more information was available about how this tuning is undertaken”.

  5. That will be hard because no one is interested in the scientific method and scientific practices and especially not in details like the existence of natural variability, tuning or homogenization until someone spins a controversy about it.

    But an outsider with expertise confirming that everything is okay likely does help. Although I often have to smile when the mitigation sceptics again and again claim that you as astronomer are lying about climate change to keep the funding going.

    Just this week on WUWT the neuro-scientist of University College London is desperate to keep his climate change funding flowing and that was the reason why he did not want to host a “climate conference” of extremists organized by UKIP politicians. People who are so extreme that not even Anthony Watts wanted to support the conference. Those people are unbelievable.

    For what it is worth, I had started my blog post on the model spread of historical runs and model tuning weeks ago, well before I knew about the BAMS article on tuning. That was just the reason to finish it more quickly. And when it comes to modelling I am an outsider.

  6. Victor,
    Indeed, I think it would be hard. I don’t even know if it would work, or be a good suggestion. I just think that more engagement with the public would ultimately be a good thing.

    For what it is worth, I had started my blog post on the model spread of historical runs and model tuning weeks ago

    I should probably spend weeks writing my posts 🙂

  7. A few weeks is quite good. I have a backlog of 239 drafts. (And 174 published posts! 🙂 ) There is so much to write about, but so little time to get posts to a quality that you can publish them.

    More engagement is good. Question is whether it is better than doing science. I see it as hobby, if I would see it as work, I am not sure if I could justify my time.

    When it comes to solving the problems in Anglo-America, I would say the main thing is to get money out of politics and the media. Relative to that, our influence is small. It looks as if Bernie Sanders helped make fighting this travesty a powerful popular movement. With a little luck it will become better the coming years.

  8. There is so much to write about, but so little time to get posts to a quality that you can publish them.

    You just have to lower your standards 🙂

    Question is whether it is better than doing science. I see it as hobby, if I would see it as work, I am not sure if I could justify my time.

    I think the problem is that this is the standard view and that it is clear that engaging publicly doesn’t really benefit many of those who choose to do so. I think is not a good thing, but it won’t change until there is a general recognition that there is a net benefit to doing so and those who do choose to do so don’t suffer as a result.

  9. Magma says:

    That will be hard because no one is interested in the scientific method and scientific practices and especially not in details like the existence of natural variability, tuning or homogenization until someone spins a controversy about it. — Victor Venema

    If you’re a working scientist you’re probably immersed in the first two. (Are fish interested in water?) And if you aren’t, maybe you’re not interested for other reasons. With respect to the details, unless you’re a specialist you probably assume they’re being handled correctly and focus on the big picture. So many things to learn/read/do, so little time.

  10. Tom Curtis says:

    Anders, IMO (as a modernist and realist) it is better to gloss post modernism as saying that all representations of ‘reality’ are social constructs, and incorporate (at minimum) implicit social values. If that is correct, then there can never be a true correspondence between ‘reality’ and any given theory. Taken to one logical conclusion, it follows that appeals to ‘reality’ are empty of epistemic content. They serve a purely normative or persuasive role, by giving authority to particular theories. The authority is empty, however, because the appeal assumes we can in fact accurately represent reality (contrary to hypothesis). In itself, this theory is no more radical than Kuhn’s notion of incommensurable paradigms, or Feyerabend related idea that there is no scientific method.

    Understood in these terms, post modernism has brought some valuable insights to science – most notably by identifying the gender bias in medical science. Nor is it essentially inimical to science. We just need to replace appeals to ‘reality’ with appeals to replicability to explain why science converges towards consensus, with the provisio that we understand that what counts as a replication is itself a social construct.

    Many applications of postmodernism to science are far more critical and/or destructive of the fabric of science than the above applies, but that is because they are either naive forms of post modernism (ie, equivalent to a naive falsificationism in modern terms) or ill informed about the extent of replicability within science and how strongly that constrains the definition of terms.

    Having said that, naive versions of post modernism proliferate, even in academia, because used uncritically it is a great means of confirming prejudices and protecting yourself from contrary data. And I have no doubt that it is the naive versions which figure most prominently in the attacks on science and defense of pseudo-science that Otto discusses.

  11. T-rev says:

    @Magma
    >So many things to learn/read/do, so little time

    Pfft.. I retired at 42 (I am now 50) when I realised this (had a near death experience) and have been immersed ever since as my ‘full time job’. I still get further behind every day 🙂

    As to the article, there’s a plethora of reading on this, I have read Spectre’s book on Denialism for example but none of this is new. Professors’ Asimov and Sagan (as two larger than life scientists from recent history) both made observations on the same thing. Is it getting worse (ie things done in the past to address the issue, if any, haven’t worked), is it just ‘louder’, or am I just paying more attention ? Anecdoatally, I think worse

    However as hypergemometric points out, eventually nature will self correct. Feynman also famously pointed this out with his ‘nature cannot be fooled’ quote.

    On from that there seems to be also be cognitive dissonance (and/or Tragedy of the Commons) where we often do what’s ‘good’ for us at the expense of others and nature (eg buy a shirt made from slave labour, food processed under slave labour, emit vast quantities knowing the consequences etc.) Those that struggle with cognitive dissonance perhaps just use denial to justify their actions ? I think we’ve fundamentally run into a human behavioural problem that scientist cannot solve, a ‘wicked problem’ if you will.

    We also have the ‘experts’ issue, where people equate say ‘Physics’ with (shudder) ‘Economics’ and they see the debacles of one associated with all.

    “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.”
    -E. O. Wilson

  12. Dikran Marsupial says:

    “that they were engaging in advocacy and – hence – destroying their objectivity.”

    This seems to me a non-sequitur. It seems to me to be perfectly objective to advocate a particular course of action because common sense dictates that what we should do in response to what the science tells us is likely to happen if we don’t. Advocacy driving science not perhaps so good; science driving advocacy seems pretty rational.

    VV wrote “More engagement is good. Question is whether it is better than doing science. I see it as hobby, if I would see it as work, I am not sure if I could justify my time.”

    I’d say public communication of science is a valid aspect of the work of any scientists that has an aptitude for it (such as ATTP and VV). There is nothing wrong with it being a hobby as well ;o)

    WRT post-modernism, I suspect the real problem is that it isn’t an all-or-nothing issue and there is some truth to both ends of the spectrum. G.E.P. Box apparently said “Statisticians, like artists, have the bad habit of falling in love with their models.”, but I think most academics are like that, if post-modernism is your thing, you will tend to see everything through that lens. Similarly some scientists view science is 100% rational and objective, which again is overstating things IMHO.

  13. Tom and Dikran,
    Sounds like you’re both saying something similar; there are aspects of postmodernism that have had a positive impact, and I agree. There is clearly some value in people studying science and how it works. However, as Tom says, some of what has been presented has done more harm than good and does seem to have legitimised a dismissal of science on very naive grounds.

  14. Dikran Marsupial says:

    ATTP indeed, part of the problem is that as a scientist, I feel the need to be open about the possibility of their being some value in the post-modernist perspective, or the problems with scientific method (which will never be fully solved while human beings are involved* ;o) which of course is a bad move in a rhetorical debate.

    * but that doesn’t mean that they are not self-repairing on a sufficiently long timescale.

  15. Dikran,
    I probably won’t articulate this very well, but I think there is a difference between social science researchers studying the scientific method, how it works, how scientists interact, understanding when things work well and when they don’t, etc, and social scientists starting to suggest things about the scientific results themselves. The latter typically requires some understanding of the details of that scientific topic – which most social scientists won’t have – while the former can be done without needing to understand the details of the science itself. The problem with postmodernism (or what I’ve seen of it) is that it seems to imply things about our actual scientific understanding, rather than simply presenting ideas about the process of undertaking scientific research.

  16. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Fully agree, and articulated pretty clearly!

  17. neilrieck says:

    The book you recommended looks like a good read (anything containing a forward by Lawrence Kraus is usually worth investigating). Perhaps my comment is slightly off topic but “distrust of science” is listed as one of the symptoms which usually accompany the collapse of an empire (or perhaps a culture). Check out this chart published by a British military analyst in 2003:
    http://www3.sympatico.ca/n.rieck/docs/dark_age.html
    IMHO, a philosophical effort to separate “science” from “the scientific method” is the same as rejecting science outright.

  18. neil,

    IMHO, a philosophical effort to separate “science” from “the scientific method” is the same as rejecting science outright.

    Maybe you can elaborate on what you mean by the above. I can see an argument for the term “science” referring to the act of carrying out research, and the term “the scientific method” referring to the overall method in which we collectively develop understanding. They’re clearly intricately linked, but there may well be people who have a good understanding of the overall method without necessarily having a good understanding of the details of a specific scientific topic.

  19. > Maybe you can elaborate […]

    Beware your wishes, AT.

    Have you looked at the link before asking?

  20. Dikran Marsupial says:

    I wish I hadn’t. ;o)

  21. izen says:

    The problem with post-modern social science is that it is hoist by its own petard.
    Granting it some good points, like the curates egg, disguises that fact it is intrinsically vapid.

    Post-modernism is caught in its own analysis that all epistemic legitimacy is socially determined. Therefore post-modernism is epistemically valid only within its own social context.
    Personally I regard social science as having the same relationship to science as pigeons to statues.

    The cyclic theory of civilisation all collapse in the link cited earlier has a noticeable lack of consideration of the biggest and longest lasting human society on the planet. Where are the Chinese?

  22. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Many people are old-fashioned Platonists, whether they know it or not.

    Post-modernism is just the newest clever way of claiming that universals are real and that the senses lie. It is The Word made flesh. The world is made of propositions, not of things.

    You know: “There must be a “pause” because here we are talking about it.”

    The logic does have a certain appeal.

  23. Tom Curtis says:

    The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse, my analysis of post modernism in general, and of semiotic deconstruction in particular is that, at least in philosophy, it has been deployed as a critique of Platonism. If anything, post modernists assume that the western philosophical tradition and science are wedded to Platonism, and fail to notice the lively critique of Platonism from within that philosophical tradition. Further, the notion that post modernism appeals to universals is, on its face, absurd. Rather, it is the denial that universals exist, along with the supposition that universals must exist for human knowledge to directly grapple with an external reality.

  24. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Tom Curtis:

    Further, the notion that post modernism appeals to universals is, on its face, absurd. Rather, it is the denial that universals exist, along with the supposition that universals must exist for human knowledge to directly grapple with an external reality.

    Ontological arguments can be funny that way.

    Aristotle classified animals by observing living ones and dissected dead ones.
    No wonder he started his own school.

  25. Canman says:

    Maybe the US should have a war on (bad) science:

    There’s strong evidence that the prevalence of bad science and “cut corners” is increasing.

    University of Montreal’s Daniele Fanelli examined over 5,000 published papers from around the world, and over many disciplines. His stunning 2012 finding was titled “Negative Results are Disappearing from Most Disciplines and Countries,” and it documented a systematic increase in the frequency of “positive” findings being published.

    All the incentives push science in the direction of positive results, and there is every disincentive (such as loss of funding and therefore your job) to not report when your research hypothesis isn’t borne out by the data.

    Fanelli also found, in separate work, that the addition of a single American author to a multi-authored international paper greatly raises the probability that it will report a positive result.

    http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/global-warming-money-nexus-corrupts-real-climate-research

  26. Canman says:

    Pat Michaels also writes about Randy Schekman, who after winning a Nobel prize, says he will no longer submit articles to journals like Nature, Cell and Science:

    On Dec. 10, Randy Schekman, a UC Berkeley professor, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The day before, he published an op-ed in London’s Guardian, titled “How journals like Nature, Cell, and Science are damaging science,” in which he announced that he will henceforth refuse to send manuscripts for peer-reviewed consideration to these prestigious science journals.

    Schekman’s accusation is that these journals are distorting science by being biased towards the “flashiest” research, i.e. papers that generate headlines such as “Global Warming Will Kill Billions, Scientist Finds,” rather than the best research.

    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/science-595696-research-journals.html

  27. izen says:

    @-Tom Curtis
    “Understood in these terms, post modernism has brought some valuable insights to science – most notably by identifying the gender bias in medical science.”

    Could you clarify?
    The advances in female engagement and involvement in medicine have an evolving historical arc that is linked to gender emancipation throughout society. I do not see post-modernism as a strong influence on this progress(?)

    @-“my analysis of post modernism in general, and of semiotic deconstruction in particular is that, at least in philosophy, it has been deployed as a critique of Platonism.”

    It seems to accept the duality, but replace Platonic universal absolutes with social constructs, that incorporate (at minimum) implicit social values.

    @-“Rather, it is the denial that universals exist, along with the supposition that universals must exist for human knowledge to directly grapple with an external reality.”

    Perhaps it is convenient for post-modernists to reach the conclusion that it is only possible to talk about science, not do it. Their meta-analysis becomes the only valid commentary that apparently escapes its own critique.

    @-Rev-“Aristotle classified animals by observing living ones and dissected dead ones.”

    Dissecting living ones is difficult and dangerous.

  28. Magma says:

    @ Canman: You are linking to Cato Institute shill Pat Michaels’ January 2014 distorted spin of Dr. Schekman’s remarks of December 2013. I’d ask why, but the reason is perfectly clear. Schekman, of course, never wrote anything resembling the example that Michaels imputes to him.

  29. Canman’s comment reminds me of post I wrote a while ago. There are lots of things that we could do to improve academia, how we conduct research, and what we value; the system does have flaws. There is some truth to the issues that are highlighted. However, that doesn’t mean that there is some kind of massive crisis and that the whole system is completely and utterly flawer.

  30. izen says:

    @-Canman

    The Fanelli paper indicates that the rise in positive result reports in scientific papers is not evenly spread. Space science, Physics and environmental science show little increase in positive results. The skewed bias in increased positives is predominately in biomedical associated fields, economics and the ‘social’ sciences. And disproportionately an American phenomena.

    Positive results in environment and ecological science have actually reduced over the study period. Any claim that AGW is backed by increasing positive results from science papers, and therefore the science is biased or suspect is contradicted by the Fanelli research.

    I am unconvinced there was a ‘Golden age’ when all research was neutral and negative results were published without fear or favour. In any field.
    However the Fanelli research does indicate that the US may have a particular local problem, compared to the rest of the world, much of which shows no consistent change in positive results, the US has a clear trend in a shift to significantly more positive research results.
    Although this shift is predominately in the 3 fields of bio-medicine, economics and social science.

  31. izen says:

    Of course, as a piece of social science, (and possibly post-modern!) the Fanelli research may have fallen prey to the tendency to find positive results. Here is a link for those who want to check…

    http://eloquentscience.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Fanelli12-NegativeResults.pdf

  32. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Canman says:

    Maybe the US should have a war on (bad) science:

    Don’t worry, Canman.

    Lamar Smith is going to war with the science you have, not the science you might want, or wish to have.

  33. Kestrel27 says:

    Well I dunno. I started off understanding ATTP’s post and the first few comments and largely agreeing with them but the longer the thread has gone on the more it appears, if I may put it crudely, to be vanishing up its own fundament. As a non scientist it seems to me that science is about establishing, so far as they can be established, absolute truths about how things are and causes and effects. Reasoning that because some people have a particular view that of itself gives the view a degree of validity ought it seems to me to be heresy to scientists of the hard as opposed to social variety. Indeed I would suggest that the notion of ‘social science’ is close to being a contradiction in terms; the word ‘science’ is used here to give unmerited gravitas to a subject which involves hardly any science at all.
    My interest in this thread was sparked by the contrast between ATTP’s post and his willingness a while ago to defend, on the Cliscep blog, a paper titled ‘Glaciers, gender, and science: A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research’. Now it seems to me that as a glacier, like most things in the universe, simply is, it has no opinions or views on anything including the genital identity of the humans who happen to be studying it. It is accordingly no more sensible to suggest that there is a connection between feminism and glaciology than it is to maintain, to cite an old warhorse, that the sun goes round the earth. I do rather wonder whether, with the benefit of hindsight, ATTP thinks it was worthwhile to intervene in defence of the paper. Admittedly, Cliscep’s dismissal of the paper was forceful and sarcastic but it was clear that they really couldn’t decide whether the paper was intended seriously. Neither could I; I hoped it wasn’t intended seriously but unfortunately it appears that it was.

  34. willingness a while ago to defend, on the Cliscep blog, a paper titled ‘Glaciers, gender, and science: A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research’.

    I don’t recall defending it. IIRC my comment there was pointing out that their criticism was not based on an actual reading of the paper.

  35. Out of your timezone, but just watching the Olympics opening ceremonies, surprising and in many cases surprisingly good.

    But imagine my shock when they just had a vital, on-point, presenting on global warming, using all the best graphics, and in fact the theme of growing new plants appears to be related. Partly greenwashing, but every bit helps. Remarkable! Short but excellent. This is international prime time TV, and I am grateful for whoever designed it in! I was tempted to skip it, but glad I didn’t.

    Speaking of communication, if any of you have a chance to see Time to Choose, do it.

  36. > Many people are old-fashioned Platonists, whether they know it or not.

    Indeed, the statue/pigeon analogy echoes Plato’s cave.

    Many platonists are scientists, btw.

  37. Frank says:

    ATTP wrote: “The basic idea behind post-modernism is that scientific theories are somehow social constructs. As I understand it, this is essentially a suggestion that there isn’t really an objective reality; somehow our understanding of reality is strongly affected by societal/political influences. Shawn Otto’s book suggests that this basic idea has now made its way from academia into the media, society, and also into politics. Essentially, if there is no objective reality, then any representation of reality has validity. Typically this manifests itself as people arguing that if there is some evidence that supports their position that that then makes their position as valid as anyone else’s.”

    Hurrah! This is the problem with both sides of the debate on climate change. But you don’t go far enough in this post. You continue:

    “The obvious problem is that this then means that people can simply look for evidence that supports their position, rather than using all the available evidence to inform the position that they hold. Of course, I should stress that I’m not suggesting that the evidence defines what positions one should hold; simply that – ideally – evidence should inform how we view the world.”

    For anyone who is a scientist or who claims to behave in a scientific manner (WUWT or this blog, for example), it is ESSENTIAL – not merely an ideal that one pays attention to when convenient – that our view of the world is defined – not merely “informed” – only by evidence. Instead, you say:

    “There may, of course, be situations where we still chose to hold certain views despite the evidence, or where other factors, that are hard to quantify, play an important role in defining our views. It’s, of course, also entirely acceptable to hold views that appear to be completely at odds with the evidence; this doesn’t, however, mean that there isn’t some kind of objective reality.”

    As a scientist, I believe that an objective reality exists and that the fundamental purpose of science to to find it. Those who hold views that appear to be” completely at odds with the evidence” should not call themselves scientists, or at least be willing to admit that on some subjects they are choosing not to behave as a scientist. (Like when Schneider advocates telling scary stories!) Technically one could call all such behavior “anti-science”.

    Now there are many areas where the scientific method can’t contribute much to the identification of an objective reality. What is ethical behavior? What does the phrase from the Declaration of Independence “All men are created equal” mean in today’s world (where education is so important)? Is there a Creator? Should we apply the Precautionary Principle to climate change?

    There is also the problem of weighing conflicting evidence – about climate sensitivity, for example. Climate sensitivity is an objective reality of our planet. The “conflict” between energy balance models and AOGCMs depends on the confidence interval one applies, but the amount of overlap of their pdfs is low. (Actually, the IPCC has warned against interpreting the spread of model output probabilistically.) As a scientist, my position on climate sensitivity shouldn’t be informed by anything besides the scientific evidence – not whether I favor government control vs the free market, nor my views on the practicality of renewable energy, nor the enforceability of treaties to control emissions, nor my disgust with the lack of rigor in paleoclimatology, nor responsibility to future generations, today’s poor or polar bears, etc.

    Alice Dreger’s book “Galileo’s Middle Finger” is an passionate book that may cover the same issues as Science Wars. The subtitle is “Heretics, Activists and One Scholars Search for Justice”

    “Justice can not be advanced by letting ‘truth’ be determined by political goals. Only people like us [academic scholars], with insane amounts of privilege could ever think it was a good idea to decide what is right before we know what is true. Only insanely privileged people like us, who never fear the knock of a corrupt police [like her relatives in Poland], could think guilt or innocence should be determined by identity rather than facts. Science – the quest for evidence – is not just another way of knowing.”

  38. izen says:

    @-Frank
    “Climate sensitivity is an objective reality of our planet. ”

    Or a reified metric that summerises a complex process.

    http://wp.me/a59pJw-8f

  39. izen says:

    The last link was meant to show as a graphic, one more try…

  40. Canman says:

    @ Magma, Here’s Schekman’s actual quote from The Gaurdian:

    Funders and universities, too, have a role to play. They must tell the committees that decide on grants and positions not to judge papers by where they are published. It is the quality of the science, not the journal’s brand, that matters. Most importantly of all, we scientists need to take action. Like many successful researchers, I have published in the big brands, including the papers that won me the Nobel prize for medicine, which I will be honoured to collect tomorrow.. But no longer. I have now committed my lab to avoiding luxury journals, and I encourage others to do likewise.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/09/how-journals-nature-science-cell-damage-science

    Michaels may have spun it, but nowhere near beyond resemblance.

  41. izen says:

    @-canman

    Schekman’s argument might be more convincing if it could be shown that the rate of retractions, corrections and refutation were greater in the prestige Journals. That would indicate they enable or encourage hype or the needlessly controversial.

    However he does have a point (I suspect it is one Pat Micheals spun away from) that the commercial incentives for the publisher distort what they will publish. This is a problem that should be solved by the death of print media and making all research open source.
    But I suspect that like the record companies, Elsevier, Springer et al will zealously guard ‘their’ copyright and continue to try and commodify and moniterise a digital product.

  42. Marco says:

    “(Like when Schneider advocates telling scary stories!) Technically one could call all such behavior “anti-science”. ”

    Frank, I do not even know how many times I have seen this myth being thrown around. Read the following link, and either apologize for misrepresenting what Schneider said, or double down, allowing me to disregard you as a valid discussion partner:
    http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Mediarology/Mediarology.html#TheDoubleEthicalBindPitfall

  43. Chris says:

    Canman, there is nothing particularly remarkable or even necessarily specifically critical about Scheckman’s comments. And one needs to remember that he has a particular vested interest in downplaying the roles of Nature, Science and Cell et al. since he’s the top guy (Editor in Chief) at a new competing journal (eLife), which, however one wishes to dress it up in terms of wonderful ideas of open access, special review procedures, indifference to impact factor, and so on is a commercial enterprise (it’s so-far funded by charitable donations from the likes of the Wellcome Trust, HHMI, Max Planck) which, incidentally, seems to have a very large per-article cost.

    One of the aims of eLife, to be more “egalitarian” in its selection of articles, seems to be slipping too..their article acceptance rate started around 26%, but is now down to around 15%, so it’s actually becoming about as elitist as the “nasty” Nature, Science, Cell journals..and it has an impact factor..

    None of this is that big a deal…good work will be published, and if it doesn’t make it into Nat/Sci/Cell it will still make it’s mark according to its value – that’s the nature of science.

    I personally don’t believe that the Nat/Sci/Cell journals distort science at all. One could trace the history of the major developments in (my field), Mol-Cell-Biol by inspecting papers and commentaries in these journals, because that’s where the key foundational papers were generally (but not always) published. Yes they’re a little elitist/selective – but then so is Wimbledon – it’s so elitist that you have to be good at tennis to play there!

    Scientific publishing is changing largely due to electronic technology and the potential for everyone to potentially access any published research. So there is a drive to make this happen through open access etc. But this still has to be paid for. Note btw that the Nat/Sci/Cell journals also have open access journals (Nature Communications; Nature Scientific Reports; Science Advances etc.).

    The creepy attempt by Pat Michaels to link Scheckman’s rather prosaic comments into a wider attempted trashing of climate science is pretty par for the course – I’m surprised that you align yourself with that sort of rubbish…

  44. Chris says:

    However he does have a point …….. that the commercial incentives for the publisher distort what they will publish. This is a problem that should be solved by the death of print media and making all research open source.
    But I suspect that like the record companies, Elsevier, Springer et al will zealously guard ‘their’ copyright and continue to try and commodify and moniterise a digital product.

    Actually this is all rather debatable, and there are lots of vested interest (with often quite honourable aims) which has resulted in much heated discussions of these points especially in the blogosphere. Yes Nature and Science have always had an aim of attempting to identify and select the most important work. In my field (covering all of Biomed Sci, Mol-Cell-Biol) it’s really pretty silly to say that this distorts science. If you don’t get your paper accepted in Nat/Sci then you send it to PNAS or J MolBiol or a another good journal. If your work is any good it will make its mark.

    No question though that where one’s work is published does influence academic job selection committees and research assessment procedures, but it should be up to the recruitment panels etc. to see beyond the journal sources, impact factors etc. – it’s not Nature or Science’s fault that they have very high impact factors or that there is an impact factor metric in the first place or that people use it in ways that might not be ideal

    Science publishing has costs and open access doesn’t eliminate that – it simply means that the cost burden is shifted (from the “consumer” aka reader to the “provider” aka authors although the latter is usually covered by the author’s funder). Notice that in relation to Scheckman comments, his new competing journal “charges” around $4500 per article (in fact the costs are borne by donations as in my previous post) which is rather astonishingly high considering that one can publish open access in the “nasty” Nature open access Scientific Reports at a cost of $1500..

  45. Chris says:

    However he does have a point …….. that the commercial incentives for the publisher distort what they will publish. This is a problem that should be solved by the death of print media and making all research open source

    I might add that the “commercial incentives for the publisher to distort what they publish” (I think you really mean “commercial incentives for the publisher to distort what they select to publish” unless you really do mean that they promote distortion of scientific results) in reality is more of a problem with the new avalanche of open access journals. Now any junk can be published if you’re willing to pay the publishing fee – much of this stuff is eminently ignorable, but it means there is a ready repository for (for example) anti-science rubbish that is published to support vested interests.

    One might also wonder whether the person who wanders into a charity shop to support, e.g. the efforts of Cancer Research UK, would be particularly pleased to know that there donation isn’t being used to support basic cancer research, but is actually being given to an on line publisher to pay for open access publishing fees…

  46. Chris wrote “Science publishing has costs and open access doesn’t eliminate that – it simply means that the cost burden is shifted (from the “consumer” aka reader to the “provider” aka authors although the latter is usually covered by the author’s funder).

    This is not necessarily correct, there are top quality open access journals that are free of charge for both the reader and the author, such as the Journal of Machine Learning Research.. Most of the work in publishing a paper is already done by the academics, and the additional web hosting etc. doesn’t cost that much (and in JMLRs case is IIRC provided by MIT). With “print-on-demand” services it isn’t difficult to provide an archival paper version (I don’t know if anyone actually buys it these days). For disciplines where the ability to typeset a paper in LaTeX is a reasonable expectation, it is hard to see why we need anyone to make money out of publishing. It would be more efficient for funding councils to set up journals along the same lines and save some tax-payers money.

  47. “Funders and universities, too, have a role to play. They must tell the committees that decide on grants and positions not to judge papers by where they are published. It is the quality of the science, not the journal’s brand, that matters.”

    The problem with that is that the reviewers of the journal paper were experts on the particular subtopic. The people on the committee are not likely to be experts on the sub topic, so it isn’t clear to me that their assessment of the quality of the science is neccessarily going to be more skillfull than just looking at the journal where it was published (or its citations or other metrics).

  48. Chris says:

    Yes that’s true Dikran and the Biomed/Life Sci/Biol arenas haven’t significantly gone down the route of physical sci especially in terms of pre-publication – e.g. there’s only recently a biomed equivalent ArXiv – bioRxiv – and it’s not obvious that this will catch on – one of the concerns is that pre-publishing medically-relevant science might impact the public poorly if unassessed pre-publication results are trumped in the media (not that this doesn’t happen with normally-published medical research!).

    It may simply be that there’s lots of money in Biomed Sci – while one can wander down the high street and find Alzheimer’s Research UK; Brit. Heart Foundation; Cancer Reseach UK; Menengitis Trust etc .etc. shops that channel money into relevant research areas – it’s rather rare to find equivalent “Computer Science Research” charity shops! And Scheckman’s eLife publishing effort (free for authors and readers) is supported by vast amounts of what is ultimately to a significant extent public money. Spending $4500 per article may not be so difficult when it’s someone else’s money…

    Who knows what the future will bring – one could imagine that we could go back to having local house journals (each University/Institution publishes its research at marginal cost on their own servers etc). I still think that some element of quality control is required (some disagree!) and this adds to cost.

  49. Chris, there is a big difference between JMLR and ArXiv, which is that JMLR is a fully peer reviewed.journal (and a very well respected one at that, despite having published a few papers with my name on them ;o). rather than being a preprint repository. The point is that the commercial publishers actually provide very little added value beyond the existing reputation of the journal, so it is basically only inertia that keeps them in the market. Publishing fees are just as much of a waste of charity money as they are taxpayers money. I don’t think there is any need to have local house journals, when JMLR shows that setting up a proper open access journal is not much more work, provided you have the support of the research community.

    The question is not whether we need open access journals, but whether we need commercial publishers.

  50. An open access “Journal of the British Heart Foundation”, operated by the research community, with the web hosting/administrative support funded by the BHF might actually be extremely good value for charity money, given that it would free up the money on their other grants allocated for publication fees.

  51. snarkrates says:

    I notice that above Canman cites a typical Cato blurb, distorting the conclusions of the already overstretched conclusions of a narrowly focused meta-study. How post-modern of him.

  52. Lionel Smith says:

    Richard Dawkins in his excellent collection of essay’s entitled ‘A Devil’s Chaplain’ included one that touched on the topic of post modernism in a chapter by that name of Postmodernism disrobed, also published in Nature.

    This video clip is Dawkins presenting one example from the above.

  53. Willard says:

    > Or a reified metric that summerises a complex process.

    To my knowledge, none of the technical concepts in that claim have been reduced to physics yet.

    Even reducing climate sciences to laws like “e=mc2” is far from clear.

  54. Lionel,
    According to that Dawkins chapter, there is a postmodernism generator; it apparently generates a random postmodernist article every time it is loaded.

  55. Lionel Smith says:

    Dawkins refers to this concept in his later book ‘An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist’.

    I first met the concept during a course in the early 1980s under the guise of ‘buzz phrase generators’.

  56. izen says:

    @-Willard
    “Even reducing climate sciences to laws like “e=mc2” is far from clear.”

    Which parts of climate science have been ‘reduced’ to physics?

    MODTRAN could be a candidate, or is that physics reduced to Fortran.
    (grin)

  57. Frank says:

    Frank wrote: “Climate sensitivity is an objective reality of our planet. ”

    izen replied: “Or a reified metric that summerises a complex process.”

    If you want to view climate sensitivity from the simplest possible perspective, consider its reciprocal, the climate feedback parameter (lambda). This tells us how much more heat the planet emits (as OLR or reflected SWR) when the planet warms 1 K. Planck, WV, LR and seasonal snow cover feedbacks are fast, so radiative cooling to space lags surface temperature by a few months at most. We track large seasonal changes in OLR and reflected SWR from space every year (but those are responses to warming in one hemisphere and cooling in the other, not global warming). So the climate feedback parameter is a fairly tangible quantity described in terms of W/m2/K. These changes that we observe from space are what makes climate sensitivity an “objective reality” for me. FWIW, AOGCMs reproduce these seasonal changes poorly and in mutually-contradictory ways.

    IIRC, the reciprocal of the climate feedback parameter is “effective climate sensitivity”, which doesn’t include slow feedbacks from the melting of ice caps, changes in vegetation etc. We can’t easily observe these changes. We will have to wait centuries for heat to stop flowing into the deep ocean and ice caps before equilibrium is reached (ECS). TCR is missing “committed warming”. These aspects of climate sensitivity aren’t are illuminated poorly by the scientific method and therefore less tangible to me.

  58. Frank,

    IIRC, the reciprocal of the climate feedback parameter is “effective climate sensitivity”,

    Not necessarily. Effective climate sensitivity is what we get from empirical estimates (or observationally-based estimates) because we have to assume that the feedbacks are linear and that the climate state we’ve experienced is a good representation of what we will face over a doubling of CO2. If you determine the climate feedback parameter from a model run in which you double atmospheric CO2 and let it run to equilibrium, then you get the full ECS – which, by definition, does not include the slow feebacks. If you include the slow feedbacks, you get the ESS – the Earth System Sensitivity.

  59. Frank says:

    [Mod: Sorry, I’m not really keen to have another discussion about Steven Schneider. I think he is one of the most unfairly maligned scientists on climate blogs and since he can’t defend himself, I don’t really have any great interest in allowing it here.]

  60. Willard says:

    > Which parts of climate science have been ‘reduced’ to physics?

    Every theorical concept of climatology, which comprises many fields:

    Climatology (from Greek κλίμα, klima, “place, zone”; and -λογία, -logia) or climate science is the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time. This modern field of study is regarded as a branch of the atmospheric sciences and a subfield of physical geography, which is one of the Earth sciences. Climatology now includes aspects of oceanography and biogeochemistry.

    “‘Reduce'” doesn’t need scare quotes, as it’s a standard term in epistemology.

    ***

    Speaking of generators, there’s a Dawkins Apology Generator too.

  61. Marco says:

    I guess, based on the moderator response, that Frank doubled down. Sad.

  62. Marco,
    To be fair, he did acknowledge some things, but I didn’t really want another discussion about what Steve Schneider said.

  63. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    >>> “‘Reduce’” doesn’t need scare quotes, as it’s a standard term in epistemology.

    I was a reducing agent once, but eventually I gained so many simple basic entities that I was charged.

    My case was dismissed by judge Occam.
    He was too busy shaving constructionist paradigms to explain why.

  64. Frank says:

    ATTP wrote: “Not necessarily. Effective climate sensitivity is what we get from empirical estimates (or observationally-based estimates) because we have to assume that the feedbacks are linear and that the climate state we’ve experienced is a good representation of what we will face over a doubling of CO2. If you determine the climate feedback parameter from a model run in which you double atmospheric CO2 and let it run to EQUILIBRIUM, then you get the full ECS – which, by definition, does not include the slow feebacks. If you include the slow feedbacks, you get the ESS – the Earth System Sensitivity.”

    What does the word “EQUILIBRIUM” mean in this context? (Sorry about needing caps for clarity.) Heat is no longer flowing into the deep ocean? Ice caps are no longer melting? (The latter seems like ESS.) It seems to me that the ice caps will be melting before heat stops flowing into the ocean, especially if scary rates of SLR develop.

    Is ice-albedo feedback a fast feedback that only involves seasonal snow (and ice) cover? Or does it include some loss of ice, ice which can typically last centuries or millennia, such as glaciers and the edges of ice caps. IIRC, most glaciers are not leftover from the last ice age. Most of those melted during the Holocene Climate Optimum and regrew as it became cooler.

  65. Frank,
    In this context, EQUILIBRIUM simply means that – on average – the amount of energy coming in matchs the amount going out. Of course, it’s unlikely that they’ll match exactly at all times, but over some time interval (say a few years) there is no net increase in the total energy in the system.

    Ice albedo is – I think – a slow feedback. The fast feedbacks are water vapour, lapse rate, and clouds.

  66. Frank says:

    Moderator: He who must not be named is extremely important because he provided us with the clearest explanation of the difference between being an ethical scientist and an effective advocate. By spelling out this difference and talking about it, I suspect that he was able to separate these two roles better than most. He certainly showed admirable candor about the dilemma that confronts scientists who want to make the world a better place. He who must not be named isn’t the problem; he defined the problem. He has come to symbolize the problem, which is unfair.

    The biggest problem with the ethical double bind arises from the scientist’s audience. Is that scientist speaking to ME talking as a scientist would to other scientists or is he talking like a politician or attorney. No one expects politicians and attorneys to tell the whole truth; we are lucky when we get even part of the truth. We get scary stories, over-simplified generalities, over-confidence, and deception. In politics and law, we rely on the adversarial system and equal opportunity for both sides to present their arguments to solve this problem. Scientists don’t rely on an adversarial system to arrive at “the truth”. We generally don’t have the time and money to waste double-checking everything another scientist has done or written. Peer reviewers don’t check every detail and calculation in a paper; they assume such details are correct and triple-checked and focus on the big issues: Is the methodology appropriate? Are the caveats and implications properly presented? Are the conclusions stated appropriately? I (we?) expect more candor from scientists than politicians and attorneys, because scientists hold themselves to a high standard of honesty professionally. Don’t we expect a different level of candor from a climate scientist appearing before a Congressional committee or being interviewed by the press than we expect from the head of the coal miner’s union, or the representative from the coal mine operators association, or a professional lobbyist for the WWF? (Scientists from other fields appearing before Congress or being interviewed by the press certainty want to be treated as if they didn’t behave like politicians and lobbyists!) Neither consensus nor skeptical climate scientists who have testified live up to my expectations for candor. Most of all, I (we?) expect a scientist to be able to accurately explain a rival scientist’s reasoning and respond fairly (without bobbing-and-weaving, straw men, answering a different question, ignoring data) to his arguments.

    There is no effective adversarial system within the IPCC (minority reports) or in public. A small, self-perpetuating group of insiders control the content of the SPM and dominate the press. When climate scientists don’t behave as ethical scientists when writing the SPM, all of the ifs ands buts and caveats can disappear, along with some of the whole truth. Since the reliability of AOGCMs isn’t candidly discussed in the SPM, every statement derived from them might begin: “If our climate models are correct, we project …”

    The second problem arises from a scientist’s need to approach one’s work from a skeptical position. As Feynman says in Cargo Cult Science, the scientist doing the work is the easiest person to be fooled (by confirmation bias and other factors). At the same time, the scientist doing the work is the one who understands it best. Only rarely will someone repeat your work and know as much as you do about its limitations and weaknesses. As Feynman says, you must bend over backwards to look for and publicize these problems. It is difficult to subject your work to needed scrutiny when one is deeply engaged in being an advocate.

    I think the solution to the ethical double bind is to figuratively take off the scientist’s lab coat and warn your audience that you are choosing to speak (or answer a particular question) as an advocate, not a scientist who is expected to tell the whole truth with all of the caveats. Unfortunately, such a warning is disastrous for your effectiveness as an advocate. Then you need to figuratively put the scientist’s lab coat back on every time you return to your professional responsibilities, which means you must abandon being an advocate.

    Please feel free to delete this too, if you feel it is unfair to the man. I’m not interested in offending. With luck, I might be enlightening.

  67. Frank,

    he provided us with the clearest explanation of the difference between being an ethical scientist and an effective advocate.

    No, I don’t think he did. I think you’re viewing this from a very specific perspective and not considering alternative viewpoints. Science communication is difficult. Your audiences can vary wildly; the amount of time you have can vary wildly; how much preparation you have can vary wildly. So, what you present, what you stress, what you include, depends on many factors, including your own judgement. If your audience has relevant expertise you can present more details than if it is not. If you have lots of time, you can delve more into the details. If you’re forewarmed, you can prepare more thoroughly than if it is live.

    Also, what message do you want your audience to take away? We communicate science so that people can learn something about the topic. It’s pretty pointless if the manner in which you present your results leads people to conclude that we don’t understand anything. Similarly, it would be wrong to present it in a way that lead people to conclude that we understood it perfectly. How you get this balance is up to the person doing the presenting.

    The point being made – in my view – was simply that any form of science communication requires judgements as to what you say, what you stress, and what message you would like to take away from what you’ve said. It’s especially complicated when the topic is as controversial as climate science. If continuing to emit CO2 into the atmosphere does – in the future – produce serious negative consequences, scientists will probably be blamed for not speaking out more. If we do all sorts of things that turn out to be unnecessary, scientists will be blamed for speaking out too much. The balance is for them to decide, which is the point that I think was being made.

    I think the solution to the ethical double bind is to figuratively take off the scientist’s lab coat and warn your audience that you are choosing to speak (or answer a particular question) as an advocate, not a scientist who is expected to tell the whole truth with all of the caveats.

    Of course people should be honest about what they’re presenting and whether or not they’re speaking in some kind of professional, or private, capacity. However, “the whole truth” doesn’t always make sense in a science communication setting. How can I present everything about a topic that I’ve worked on for decades to an audience of non-experts, in 20 minutes? This isn’t an argument against being completely honest; it is simple pragmatism. You can’t possibly tell an audience of non-experts everything in a limited amount of time; therefore you have to make a judgement, and sometimes that judgement can be difficult, and sometimes others might disagree with your decision. In fact, it seems that science communication is one area where there is often substantial disagreement.

    Please feel free to delete this too, if you feel it is unfair to the man. I’m not interested in offending.

    I think you are being unfair. I think he was really just highlighting the complexity of trying to communicate a complex, and controversial, topic to the public and what he has said has been used against him, by those who have agendas of their own, ever since.

  68. lerpo says:

    Hi Frank,

    You said: I think the solution to the ethical double bind is to figuratively take off the scientist’s lab coat and warn your audience that you are choosing to speak (or answer a particular question) as an advocate, not a scientist who is expected to tell the whole truth with all of the caveats.

    Schneider advocates being both an honest and effective communicator. He suggests that those who pretend to speak only as a scientist are not being honest.
    “1) You have to make your values conscious. I get very frustrated and annoyed by people who are assertively value free because their values remain unconscious.
    2) You have to make them explicit.
    3) Don’t let your values distort your subjective priors on issues of “fact”. That is not a trivial thing to do, but I will assert that unconscious advocacy is worse on this point than conscious.

    Schmidt builds on Schneider’s ideas here: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/12/agu-talk-on-science-and-advocacy/

  69. Frank, imagine you got an invitation by a German radio station to talk about the climate debate in the US. Your audience does not know anything about the US cottage industry to misinform the public, only a few percent knows what blogs are, only a few percent have heard of that “hiatus” thingy, nearly everyone accepts climate change, but simply because that is what science tells them, most do not know the difference between global warming and the thinning of the ozone layer.

    You have 1 minute. That is about 160 words. Please give us a summary of the climate debate in the USA you would give to the listeners of this German radio station. Follow the guidance of Steven Schneider. GO!!

  70. Joshua says:

    Frank –

    =>> I think the solution to the ethical double bind is to figuratively take off the scientist’s lab coat and warn your audience that you are choosing to speak (or answer a particular question) as an advocate, not a scientist who is expected to tell the whole truth with all of the caveats. ==>

    As others have indicated, perhaps you are assuming a dichotomy that is hard to identify. For example, we could point to scientists who claim they are not advocates where that determination is entirely subjective.

    Do you think it is coincidence that discussants in the discourse on climate change invariably, disproportionately locate “scientist/advocates” on the other side of the battle line?

  71. Willard says:

    > Your audiences can vary wildly; the amount of time you have can vary wildly; how much preparation you have can vary wildly.

    In one word: rhetoric.

    ***

    > Please give us a summary of the climate debate in the USA you would give to the listeners of this German radio station.

    In one word: ClimateBall.

  72. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    As Joshua has pointed out – the dichotomy between scientists and advocates is false.

    Mostly, the dichotomy seems to be used (rhetorically!) by scientists who believe that they are honest brokers, to inform (eristically!) other scientists that they are not honest brokers.

    Do we think badly of Pasteur’s discoveries because he vigorously promoted vaccination?

    Do we dismiss the science of Einstein because he argued for the rapid development of atomic weapons?

    Do we reject the work of Rowland and Molina because they stepped into politics and fought for the Montreal Protocol?

    There is no “ethical double bind” unless you say one thing while actually believing another.

  73. Magma says:

    @ Frank

    IPCC reports and summaries are already drowning in jargon and hedged to within an inch of their lives. It’s common to find key statements opaque and poorly constructed to the point they are almost unreadable.

    There is nothing — nothing — wrong with a scientist giving a simplified but technically accurate/defensible synopsis or conclusion to a non-specialist audience. And this can be as blunt as “We are definitely causing global warming and this will lead to major adverse consequences for humanity and the environment unless stopped very soon.”

  74. Marco says:

    Attentive readers may note that Frank is advocating, but failing to tell us he has taken off his lab coat. The evidence is right in this sentence: “Since the reliability of AOGCMs isn’t candidly discussed in the SPM” – where Frank posits this as fact, when it is in reality his opinion.

    Also, “A small, self-perpetuating group of insiders control the content of the SPM and dominate the press” skirts dangerously close to ignorance about the SPM writing process, as well as the authors of the SPM. Apparently, to Frank, well over 200 delegates from various governments are “a small, self-perpetuating group of insiders”, and somehow they “dominate the press”.

    I really wonder who of those people Frank thinks “dominate the press”. So I have a request to Frank: list 10 of those people you claim are among the insiders that control the content of the SPM and dominate the press.

    To end on a positive note, I am happy to see Frank has not doubled down about Schneider, but realized that Schneider was not advocating making up scary stories.

  75. Willard says:

    As far as I can tell, Frank’s moves belong to one of the levels of the Contrarian Matrix.

    For instance, the “but self-perpetuating group of insiders” is a level 5 move, and the “but stealth advocacy” is a level 2 move.

  76. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I may be the worst in the universe, but you are making an alarmist out of reasonable, non-partisan, calm, and even-tempered people like Ron Graf.

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2016/population-ii/#comment-149844

    If you’re going to scare him so much, the least you could do is chip in to help him pay for building his bunker.

  77. Joshua,
    Oh dear, I didn’t realise I was scaring Ron quite as much as that. I guess that is marginally better than the “God have mercy on the students such parasites indoctrinate” that I got on WUWT yesterday.

  78. Joshua says:

    hmmm. Indoctrinating parasite. Not exactly sure how that compares to worst person in the universe, but I think I still have you beat.

  79. I sometimes get the impression that many mitigation sceptics are more alarmed by climate change, with all their talk of catastrophes, which is why they have to deny climate change to cope with the fear.

  80. Joshua,
    Yes, I think that beats “indoctrinating parasite”.

    Victor,
    Generalising wildly, but I get the impression that some really are concerned (alarmed) at the possibility of some kind of global attempt to solve this problem as it makes some think that it risks their right to freedom and liberty, etc.

  81. Joshua says:

    ==> but I get the impression that some really are concerned (alarmed) at the possibility of some kind of global attempt to solve this problem as it makes some think that it risks their right to freedom and liberty, etc. ==>

    It’s always a mistake to generalize from the climate-o-sphere, but I think that within that circumscribed context, there is little doubt that there are many, many comments written expressing great alarm about many issues, many of which are only tangentially related to climate change.

    The example from Ron and Anders’ buddy at WUWT are a dime a dozen. All part of the beautiful irony in that those same “skeptics” often use the epithet of “alarmist” to describe those week are more concerned than they about continued BAU ACO2.

    What adds the the irony is that mixed in with the comments about the great societal progress attributable to fossil fuels, we have comments about how society is doomed, doomed I say, because of Obama, environmentalists, activist scientists, left-wing teachers, blah, blah, blah.

  82. It’s always a mistake to generalize from the climate-o-sphere,

    Abdolutely, hence the caveat to my comment 🙂

  83. Magma says:

    I was surprised to see the number of commenters on rankexploits referring to Bob Carter in the present tense.

    sic transit mediocritas mundi

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s