Pseudo-science versus skepticism

by Judith Curry

John Beddington, Chief Science Advisor to the UK government, goes to war against bad science (h/t BishopHill, dated Feb 14):

We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality… We are not—and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this—grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method.

One way is to be completely intolerant of this nonsense. That we don’t kind of shrug it off. We don’t say: ‘oh, it’s the media’ or ‘oh they would say that wouldn’t they?’ I think we really need, as a scientific community—and this is a very important scientific community—to think about how we do it.

John Stirling responds to Beddington’s statement (h/t Roger Pielke Jr) in an essay dated Feb 18:

T]he basic aspirational principles of science offer the best means to challenge the ubiquitously human distorting pressures of self-serving privilege, hubris, prejudice and power. Among these principles are exactly the scepticism and tolerance against which Beddington is railing (ironically) so emotionally! Of course, scientific practices like peer review, open publication and acknowledgement of uncertainty all help reinforce the positive impacts of these underlying qualities. But, in the real world, any rational observer has to note that these practices are themselves imperfect. Although rarely achieved, it is inspirational ideals of universal, communitarian scepticism—guided by progressive principles of reasoned argument, integrity, pluralism, openness and, of course, empirical experiment—that best embody the great civilising potential of science itself. As the motto of none other than the Royal Society loosely enjoins (also sometimes somewhat ironically) “take nothing on authority”. In this colourful instance of straight talking then, John Beddington is himself coming uncomfortably close to a particularly unsettling form of unscientific—even (in a deep sense) anti-scientific—’double speak’.

Anyone who really values the progressive civilising potential of science should argue (in a qualified way as here) against Beddington’s intemperate call for “complete intolerance” of scepticism. It is the social and human realities shared by politicians, non-government organisations, journalists and scientists themselves, that make tolerance of scepticism so important. The priorities pursued in scientific research and the directions taken by technology are all as fundamentally political as other areas of policy. No matter how uncomfortable and messy the resulting debates may sometimes become, we should never be cowed by any special interest—including that of scientific institutions—away from debating these issues in open, rational, democratic ways. To allow this to happen would be to undermine science itself in the most profound sense. It is the upholding of an often imperfect pursuit of scepticism and tolerance that offer the best way to respect and promote science. Such a position is, indeed, much more in keeping with the otherwise-exemplary work of John Beddington himself.

An article by Beddington in the New Scientist (h/t BishopHill) also dated Feb 18 reflects a substantially different tone, entitled “We need both skepticism and consensus:”

What concerns me is not that uncertainties are scrutinised, for uncertainties will always exist. What concerns me is our inability, and often, fear of communicating, and admitting, this fact. Indeed, as scientists we must be more transparent, more open to describing the gaps in our knowledge. Scepticism is the driving force for further discovery and better evidence. But often there is a thin line between healthy scepticism and a cynical approach which ignores or distorts inconvenient evidence.

It is human nature to find evidence more convincing when it backs up our own preconceptions, but when we allow that impulse to influence how society acts on important issues, it is irresponsible and dangerous.

Let’s return to what science actually is: the testing and retesting of hypotheses by experiment and scrutiny to create an evidence base. Where the evidence falls primarily on one side of an argument, a consensus is formed. Whether in policy advice, news reports or documentaries, to misrepresent the balance of evidence, whether explicitly or implicitly, is a dereliction of duty.

So I would issue the following challenges:

It is time the scientific community became proactive in challenging misuse of scientific evidence. We must make evidence, and associated uncertainties, accessible and explicable. In a world of global communication, we cannot afford to only speak to ourselves. We must also be confident in challenging the misrepresentation or exaggeration of evidence and the conclusions it leads to. Where significant consensus exists, it must be made obvious.

In the Civil Service and other organisations with a stake in policy, we must guard against ideology, and consider the whole body of evidence, not just that which supports our own views. I will continue to carry this message across government in my role as chief scientific adviser. Scientific evidence is only one factor in politicians’ decisions but its integrity must be preserved if poor decisions are to be avoided.

We all have a stake in this. The pursuit of truth is not just for the scientific elite, nor Fleet Street, nor the corridors of Whitehall. This is a call to all of us – follow the evidence, and challenge those who seek to distort it.

I wonder exactly what Beddington regards as misuse of scientific evidence, and where he draws the line between pseudoscience and skepticism.  The problem even with Beddington’s more moderate statement is that there is an assumption that evidence about a topic like climate change is unambiguous and ignorance doesn’t own a big part of the evidence space.

Bishop Hill particularly likes this statement:

It is time the scientific community became proactive in challenging misuse of scientific evidence. We must make evidence, and associated uncertainties, accessible and explicable. In a world of global communication, we cannot afford to only speak to ourselves. We must also be confident in challenging the misrepresentation or exaggeration of evidence and the conclusions it leads to. Where significant consensus exists, it must be made obvious.

From BishopHill: I have left a comment challenging him to condemn “hide the decline” in unequivocal terms. I’m not holding my breath though.

Wikipedia on pseudoscience

The wikipedia page on pseudoscience is very good:

3 Identifying pseudoscience
3.1 Use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims
3.2 Over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation
3.3 Lack of openness to testing by other experts
3.4 Absence of progress
3.5 Personalization of issues
3.6 Use of misleading language

The boundary lines between the science and pseudoscience are disputed and difficult to determine analytically, even after more than a century of dialogue among philosophers of science and scientists in varied fields, and despite some basic agreements on the fundaments of scientific methodology.[22][60] The concept of pseudoscience rests on an understanding that scientific methodology has been misrepresented or misapplied with respect to a given theory, but many philosophers of science maintain that different kinds of methods are held as appropriate across different fields and different eras of human history. Paul Feyerabend, for example, disputes whether any meaningful boundaries can be drawn between pseudoscience, “real” science, and what he calls “protoscience”, especially where there is a significant cultural or historical distance.

There are well-known cases of fields that were originally considered pseudoscientific but which are now accepted scientific effects or valid hypotheses, for example, continental drift, cosmology, ball lightning, and radiation hormesis. As another example, osteopathy has, according to Kimball Atwood, “for the most part, repudiated its pseudoscientific beginnings and joined the world of rational healthcare” for lower back pain although it is not particularly effective.

Larry Laudan has suggested that pseudoscience has no scientific meaning and is mostly used to describe our emotions: “If we would stand up and be counted on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like ‘pseudo-science’ and ‘unscientific’ from our vocabulary; they are just hollow phrases which do only emotive work for us”. Likewise, Richard McNally states that “The term ‘pseudoscience’ has become little more than an inflammatory buzzword for quickly dismissing one’s opponents in media sound-bites” and that “When therapeutic entrepreneurs make claims on behalf of their interventions, we should not waste our time trying to determine whether their interventions qualify as pseudoscientific. Rather, we should ask them: How do you know that your intervention works? What is your evidence?”

The term pseudoscience can also have political implications that eclipse any scientific issues. Imre Lakatos, for instance, points out that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at one point declared that Mendelian genetics was pseudoscientific and had its advocates, including well-established scientists such as Nikolai Vavilov, sent to Gulag,and that the “liberal Establishment of the West” denies freedom of speech to topics it regards as pseudoscience, particularly where they run up against social mores.

JC’s summary: I agree with Laudan and McNally that pseudoscience is not a useful term.  However, for anyone using this word in the context of the climate science debate, I would ask them to look in the mirror while reading that list of identifying characteristics of pseudoscience, before declaring the other “side” to be pseudoscience.

233 responses to “Pseudo-science versus skepticism

  1. Psst.

    Pseudo-science, Dr. Curry.

    Psuedo-science is a Bartism, donchaknow? ;)

  2. Scientists, no less than others, are inclined to see what they expect to see, and an erroneous conclusion by a respected colleague often carries other scientists along on the road to ignominy. This is pathological science, in which scientists manage to fool themselves.

    If scientists can fool themselves, how much easier is it to craft arguments deliberately intended to befuddle jurists or lawmakers with little or no scientific background? This is junk science. It consists of tortured theories of what “could” be so, with little supporting evidence to prove that it “is” so.

    Sometimes there is no evidence at all. Ancient beliefs in demons and magic still sweep across the modern landscape, but now they are dressed in the language and symbols of modern science. This is pseudoscience. It’s practitioners may believe it to be science, just as witches and faith healers may truly believe they can call forth supernatural powers.

    What may begin as honest error, however, has a way of evolving through almost imperceptible steps from self-delusion to fraud. The line between foolishness and fraud is thin. Because it is not easy to tell when that line has been crossed, I use the term “voodoo” science to cover them all: pathological science, junk science, pseudoscience and fraudulent science.
    From – “Voodoo Science” by Robert Park

  3. We should raise standards.

    Of course it’s right to raise standards.

    Why would we lower them?

    *You’ll want to look for the rather excellent source for this quote very recently made elsewhere at Climate Etc. for context.

  4. The operative words are “cynical approach.” Assumption of the negative. Attribution in this case is: “the other side won’t listen.” And so, de facto, the argument is framed: “I’m right and you are wrong. now we can proceed.” These words are from a talking head on TV selling….soap? Personal testimony; anecdotal, almost always, “I” and “you.” Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, the skeptics came to bury Caesar and they appear to doing a pretty good job of it. It always has been an issue of emphasis and the science that has been put forth needs the predictive element to carry the day. Regional weather/climate predictions are not in the cards. Predictions of what will happen in one year, two years, five, ten? No, predictions for a 100 years out are the mantra. Well, no wonder fewer and fewer people are listening; the people of Missouri, the “show me” state have a voice, and now a vote. Beddington seems to believe a better stance or exposure will trump the skeptical audience; no way Jose.

  5. Beddington obviously had some particular examples of pseudo-scientific nonsense in mind when he said this. I wish we knew what they were. His only clues are cherry-picking and failure to use scientific evidence and method. Reasonable to criticize those who do that, for sure, and particularly the ones that succeed in influencing politicians, which I think is his main concern.

  6. Sometimes after 1870, Uk Establishment came to the conclusion that surely the world couldn’t be enough for the Great Unwashed to enjoy a life of comfort and class. Everything else has been just a consequence : eugenetics, colonial wars, World Wars, vital-space-obsessed Nazis, M.A.D., and ultimately forty years of environmental scares. There’s no sign any optimism will be allowed through so I can’t blame Beddington for being but a pawn in this long history .

  7. I do not fathom the breathless rush to end debate. Every day brings a new outburst trying to do exactly that. STOP! STOP! The vote is in. It’s as if we are on a schedule to accomplish what?
    Why can we not get the science andmodeling of climate to the point where we do not have to lower (or make excuses for the lack of) traditional standards.

  8. In 1633, the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo Galilei, one of the founders of modern science, to recant his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun. Under threat of torture, Galileo … recanted.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg13618460.600-vatican-admits-galileo-was-right-.html

    • Speed,

      Is it no wonder science has advanced very little in our knowledge of this planet and solar system since then?
      The closed minded scientists have really hurt what could be brilliant knowledge coming forth. Putting conditions on how science MUST be categorized to the exclusion of any science that does not fit the parameters.

      I follow where the science takes me and not where someone says what science should be!

      • Joe Lalonde, you say …
        Is it no wonder science has advanced very little in our knowledge of this planet and solar system since then?

        An Amazon search for “Astronomy textbook” returns 2,338 items; Wikipedia lists 67 astronomy journals; man has walked on the moon; Mars has been “rovered” and Voyager has travelled more than 16 million kilometers from Earth.

        There is good evidence that science has advanced a great deal since 1633.

      • Speed,
        That is man’s accomplishments and not man’s understanding of science.

      • Without humanity’s understanding of science, none of those accomplishments would have been possible.

      • One might think that “science” is necessary for those accomplishments. But keep in mind that “science” isn’t what makes them happen – engineering does that.

        More – “science” is the younger sibling. Engineering existed as a sophisticated activity long before the advent of “science” as we know it today. And, in fact, even before the “science” of Plato and Aristotle.

  9. The sweet suffering oppression of climate deniers. Careful, you’ll come down with diabetes.

  10. We must make evidence, and associated uncertainties, accessible and explicable.

    okay, good.

    We must also be confident in challenging the misrepresentation or exaggeration of evidence and the conclusions it leads to.

    At what point does disagreement over analyses become misrepresentation or exaggeration? And confidently challenging is, IMO, somewhat different than engaging in “intolerance”. The Dragon Slayer post struck me as confidently challenging error. Refusing to engage strikes me as fear.

    • Gene,

      Evidence is already misrepresented when theory trumps physical evidence. When science suppresses knowledge for the sake of theories puts science into it’s own class of pseudo-science.
      Past science theories are not allowed to be questioned as papers and books say they are true due to experimentation that we are not allowed to question the parameters these were held in. New technology is ignored for the traditional theory.

  11. As I recall, once upon a time the “consensus science” was satisfied that race was an independent variable for explaining human behavior, and the sun revolves around the earth. It’s hard to hide an entire race or the sun’s decline. There does seem to be a peculiar trial and error debunking aspect to the scientific process, even when it comes to “settled science.” Of course, the whole independent verification process is lost when the basic data is sandbagged, hidden, by the “scientists.” What were they thinking?

  12. There is a very dangerous tendency to declare certain areas of science off limits because there are implications people don’t like. Lawrence Summers lost his job for merely asking why women don’t like to enter math and physics. Conversely, total lunacy can be published if it supports afrocentric theories or organic living (with nary a peep from people like Beddington that it is pseudoscience) because it is politically correct. And this political correctness (including climate change) comes before the science. If you come up with results that are “bad” your science is bad, and vice versa. Tolerance and democracy demand that we tolerate nut cases, the ignorant, and people you don’t like. To try to shut up one’s opponents rather than presenting your case clearly shows either laziness or that your case isn’t as strong as you think it is.

    • Craig,

      The person who does his homework into science can withstand any criticism and questioning with answers that cannot be confused or generalized. Accuracy should be what is being achieved at all costs no matter if it is against the funding scientists received in that area.
      Boarders and wall in science are man made creations to keep everything in it’s place no matter if it is against science.

  13. “Beddington’s intemperate call for “complete intolerance” of scepticism”

    This is not at all what Beddington says, as anyone can plainly see. He is discussing ‘pseudoscience’, not skepticism in science, in the passage on which this fictitious description of his comments pretends to be based.

    “Beddington … also dated Feb 18 reflects a substantially different tone, entitled “We need both skepticism and consensus:””

    Except there is no inconsistency or change of tone. In the one case he is speaking of pseudoscience. In the other, of skepticism. These are two different topics. About skepticism, he says “Scepticism is the driving force for further discovery and better evidence. But often there is a thin line between healthy scepticism and a cynical approach which ignores or distorts inconvenient evidence.”

    “I wonder exactly what Beddington regards as misuse of scientific evidence”.

    No need to wonder. He says, and you can read, it is “the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method.”

    Did you want him to write a book on what is the scientific method? There is no need. He has clearly read, and understood, many books already written.

    “there is an assumption that evidence about a topic like climate change is unambiguous and ignorance doesn’t own a big part of the evidence space”.

    On the contrary, he clearly makes no such assumption. You yourself can read that he says “uncertainties will always exist. What concerns me is our inability, and often, fear of communicating, and admitting, this fact. Indeed, as scientists we must be more transparent, more open to describing the gaps in our knowledge insists scientists” and insists that scientists “guard against ideology, and consider the whole body of evidence, not just that which supports our own views”.

    “where he draws the line between pseudoscience and skepticism”

    Actually, he says a lot that tells you where he draws the line. He tells you that skepticism is critical reflection, and is part of scientific thought and method. On the other hand, he clarifies what pseudoscience does not do: it does not rely on the scientific method or promote scientific understanding or use reason and evidence to draw conclusions.

    In the context of climate science, pseudoscience activity would include the extensive cherrypicking, exaggeration and misrepresentation of research findings and evidence, put together with minimal scientific and intellectual thought, frequently circulated by e.g. Morano, Heartland, Watts, McIntyre. And you.

    So I can appreciate that you would find Beddington’s comments upsetting and feel defensive. Pseudoscience is a pejorative term.

    • Something like this for example.

      http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/12/david-archibald-on-climate-and-energy-security/

      Or one of Monckton’s presentations. Or Heaven and Earth.

      • Would you care to tell us what you think is wrong with Archibald’s presentation?

        Or is your implicit opinion good enough to condemn it forever to fiery damnation?

      • Andrew, exactly what do you find disagreeable in the presentation?

        I’m not baiting or out to start a fight. One problem I find in climate discussions is that the thread wanders off into all sorts of areas and points don’t really get made, they get lost in the maze, so to speak.

        The nice thing is that the presentation has a large series of illustrations that would allow for a guided conversation. Deal with one and then the next, then the next.

        If you feel that cherry picking is going on, then pick a page and state why. I’m willing to listen. (BTW, there are some pages in the presentation that I have reservations about too.)

        Without some sort of definitive objections, all there is is hand waving.

      • Warmist Borg troll warning! “Dialog is futile! You will be dissimulated!”

    • Has it ever occurred to you that merely repeating a lexicon of unpleasant unevidenced allegations about our hostess is unlikely to persuade anybody to your point of view?

      Can you give a concrete example of Judith having indulged in:

      ‘the extensive cherrypicking, exaggeration and misrepresentation of research findings and evidence, put together with minimal scientific and intellectual thought, frequently circulated by e.g. Morano, Heartland, Watts, McIntyre. And you’?

      Or are you just spewing bile because that is your nature?

      Don’t apply for a job in Sales or PR.

    • That’s funny. What I see in this statement is pure politics – he’s specifically not saying which side of the climate debate is doing the cherrypicking etc.

      But what you see is unconditional support for your side of the debate, and unconditional condemnation of the other side.

      As for your final para (which is rather mean, really – not civilized to talk to the blog host that way, is it?) – please compare/contrast your reception and investigation of the Hockey Stick paper with McIntyre’s. Which of you was the better skeptic in that case? Or do you think Mann’s lame/incompetent application of PCA should have been left unexamined?

    • ““the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method.”

      As in:
      bristlecones.
      the divergence.
      failing to bring the proxies up to date.

      And in case your wondering, I believe in AGW, GHGs are the cause, and we should take action now.

      • Sort of sounds like pseudoscience to me.

        One person’s science is another person’s pseudoscience. Yet another person’s skepticism is someone else’s pseudoscience. Pseudoscience is a meaningless word, especially when it is used as an excuse to dismiss skepticism.

      • Is ‘bunk’ better?

        Personally, I could care less if someone is offended by me stating that astrology or Intelligent Design or alchemy are psuedo-science.

        Psuedo-science is as meaningless a word as science, or scepticism. That is, not at all, as long as we have some generally agreed upon meaning, which, as you’ve linked to the Wikipedia entry on it, seems to be the case.

        What is clearly true, is that the boundary between science and psuedo-science can be a little blurry.

      • Judith,

        Wikipedia’s definition:
        “Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific methodology, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.[1] Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.”

    • Martha,

      I appreciate your bold comments that often receive a very strong negative reaction on this blog. Personally, I admire your scrappiness and challenge to any incipient group-think. So I hope you continue your comments.

      But let me ask you to consider on the following statement:

      Martha’s continuing pseudo-science is intolerable and she must be dealt with as we would deal with racists and homophobes–blacklist Martha!

      Your response? (And please don’t say that you offer real science, not pseudo-science, because I’ll immediately denounce you as a denier, cherry-picker, flat-earther, and a tobacco-science loving, colonial-racist, homophobe–in other words, you’ve been anathematized.)

      • Just so that there is no misunderstanding, Martha, my above comment is for “thought experiment” purposes only. I most certainly don’t want to blacklist you or anyone else (not even ianash, though I have strong reservations about his planned ego-trip to Sri Lanka).

      • Steve Milesworthy

        I would say that Beddington did not say “compare them with homophobes and racists” he said “challenge them as you would challenge homophobes and racists”.

        As with most UK civil servants, Beddington has probably recently been sent on a “Diversity course” where people are encouraged to “challenge inappropriate behaviour” (which includes bullying – Orkneygal please note). The “unscripted” nature of his comment suggests to me that he means nothing more than this.

      • I don’t know, Steve. And until the estimable John Beddington clarifies his comments (he’s had quite an opportunity that he’s so far failed to exploit), I’ll not entertain a charitable interpretation of his well-publicized comment (which seems to me more like a clarion call for Lysenko-science than an over-enthusiastic response to a “diversity course”).

        Yr. comment: ” …he did not say ‘compare them with homophobes and racists’ he said ‘challenge them as you would challenge homophobes and racists.'”

        Steve, my reaction to your comment is that you’ve introduced a distinction without a difference. Challenging someone as one challenges a homophobe or racist is to implicitly associate and compare that category of person with homophobes and racists. Not to be unpleasant about it–but your distinction seems to me to be too-clever-by-half.

        Finally, let me ask. Just how do we “challenge” homophobes and racists? Aren’t such creatures shunned, denied access to serious journals, deprived of employment (especially in academia, big-business, the media, and government), branded with epithets, and generally dismissed out of hand? Isn’t that how we “challenge” homophobes and racists and isn’t that, more likely, what the well-connected John Beddington is proposing with respect to critics of the CAGW orthodoxy but is too genteel to say outright?

      • Steve Milesworthy

        “And until the estimable John Beddington clarifies his comments (he’s had quite an opportunity that he’s so far failed to exploit), I’ll not entertain a charitable interpretation of his well-publicized comment”

        So Beddington is condemned unless he clarifies himself. This sounds like gross intolerance from you. The full quote and the full context of the quote is surely important here. And I doubt you have it as lots of people have taken different meaning from it (including a few of the anti-complementary medicine people).

        “We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who are anti-homosexual or are anti-gay in the vernacular…”

        The last bit makes (“in the vernacular”) me think about diversity courses. Many people say homophobic or racist things without really being homophobic or racist, and diversity course teachers demand that such statements are not tolerated (whether or not the person is racist etc.)

        Second, he is reported finishing off:

        “In closing, Beddington said: “I’d urge you, and this is a kind of strange message to go out, but go out and be much more intolerant.” He asked his audience to forgive him for what appear to have been unscripted remarks, adding: “But it is a thing that has been very much at the forefront of my mind over the last few months and I think we need to do it.”

        So it’s an expression of frustration, not the planned start of a pogrom against “deniers”.

      • Again, Steve, I’d rather judge John Beddington by his own words and those you choose to put in his mouth. And I’m fully satisfied with my “read” of the context of his comments, until he clarifies the matter explicitly. Please don’t take offense, I also am “skeptical” of your powers as a mind-reader. But I may be way off base with that doubt.

      • Let me add, Steve, that what is really needed, at this point, is for “Big Bad John” to crawl out from under his desk and explain what he actually meant by his comments. Until then, the speculations of useless-eaters like you and me are mere good fun. I’ve offered up my little “read” of the good John Beddington’s esteemed comments and you’ve offered yours. And I’ll leave it to the interested reader to judge our competing speculations. In the meantime, resolution of our competing views, of course, awaits John Beddington’s inexplicably reticent clarification.

    • Steve Milesworthy

      Who said “Spirited discourse is sometimes not pretty for those holding differing views” just before asking someone else (another woman as it happens) to leave!

      http://judithcurry.com/2011/01/22/a-disastrous-truth/#comment-34180

      • Martha’s choice though, isn’t it?

      • @Steve, that’s not quite right.

        OG didn’t ask Martha to leave. She asked her to *either* put up with the spirited discourse, or to leave. Martha made her choice to stay.

        And for the life of me I can’t see how the discussion is affected by the gender involved in this case.

    • Martha,

      Interesting that you mention McIntyre as being a ‘pseudoscientist’, in terms of ‘cherrypicking, exaggeration and misrepresentation of research findings’. As you must surely know, McIntyre’s sole interest in this process has been specifically to expose cherrypicking, exaggeration and misrepresentation. Along the way he also uncovered obfuscation, sloppy code, absurd PC parameters and ‘research findings’ based, in the end, on little more than tortured noise.

      Whilst I would agree that the likes of Morano and Romm are both guilty of not letting science get in the way of a good political message, to lump Watts and Mcyntyre in the same bracket is really doing the same thing, ie: political advocacy, nothing more.

      If Beddington would specifically include MBH98, Wahl & Amann and S09 as examples of the ‘pseudo-science’ he purports to despise so much, then I think his message would reach a far broader audience.

    • Martha, was this sentence directed at me?

      “So I can appreciate that you would find Beddington’s comments upsetting and feel defensive. Pseudoscience is a pejorative term.”

      Takes more than an essay like this to get me upset and feel defensive. I mainly found Beddington’s essays entertaining. I like Stirling’s essay tho.

      Mostly I think pseudoscience is a meaningless term. The Wikipedia defines it this way:

      “Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific methodology, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status. Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.”

      Please provide some relevant examples in climate science. The one that leaps immediately to mind is associated with “hide the decline” and bristlecones. By contrast, I regard Claes Johnson’s essay in the Sky Dragon to be incorrect, not pseudoscience. Please clarify with some relevant examples. WIth regards to an “over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation,” well i would say this of the entire IPCC effort.

      As I stated in a response to Steve Mosher, one person’s science is another person’s pseudoscience. And yet another person’s skepticism is someone else’s pseudoscience.

      • Martha is the same person who accused me of breaching IPCC copyright because I summed up the numbers from one diagram. I guess she has the right attitude to “teach” others what pseudoscience is…

    • Martha,

      Can you prove that K&T’s 324W/m2 (1997) as non pseudo-science?

      • Sam,
        I’m honestly not sure how to understand your question. I am familiar with this paper. Can you clarify for me, exactly what you want to discuss? Thanks.

      • Martha,

        I was just redirect your attention to Kiehl & Trenberth’s 1997 Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget. That budget has a GHG 324 W/m2 back radiation which apparently comes out of nowhere. Here a lot of Climate expert unable to quantify that 324 W/m2, with modeling results Modtran 3 and contradicting satellite cabration results. To me, that 324W/m2 is come from K&T’s pseudo-science because according to the Energy Budget the atmosphere absorbed 67W/m2 and the Earth surface absorbed 168 W/m2 – 78 W/m2 water evaporation. The maximum that IR radiation from the Earth surface is only 90W/m2. If you account for 67 W/m2 (Atmospheric absorption)+ 78W/m2 (latent heat from H2O)+ 90W/m2 (IR radiation from the Earth’s surface, the maxiumum back radiation will be no more than 235W/m2. However, K&T’s energy budget suddenly come out magically with an imaginery GHG’s back radiation of 324 W/m2. I am waiting to be corrected if you can proof that 324W/m2 back radiation account is scientific or non pseudo-science.

      • “imaginery GHG’s back radiation of 324 W/m2”.

        Hi, sorry Sam, I didn’t see this earlier. Thank you for your clarification.

        This kind of ‘re-‘calculation’ was circulated a lot on denier sites.

        I am guessing it got your attention because it goes with the claim that they just made up that the difference was due to GHG.

        Realistically, the primary assumptions of climate modeling are not addressed without appeal to very technical concepts in the literature on modeling. It’s not a trivial matter. But concepts such as diffusion and other basic properties of the greenhouse effect, are not imaginary. ;-)

        You are seeing the application of the principles of science – not pseudoscience. Science is a critical activity and knowledge progresses through the mechanism of peer review for the highest level of accountability, and rational discussion and response to both confirmation,and weakness or error. The advancement of modeling in the peer-reviewed literature (advancing so quickly that 2007 is old) is representative of how science moves forward.

        It is in everyone’s interest to follow the science and scientists’ communication about the science, to the best of our ability; and along with that, discuss increased sustainability.

        Let’s both continue to do that. :-)
        Nice to talk with you.

      • Martha,

        Thank you for clarifying your knowledge about the “imaginery GHG’s back radiation of 324 W/m2”.

        I would contiue to seek clarifications from the experts of the Climate Community about this “imaginery GHG’s back radiation of 324 W/m2”.

        I really want to see any calculations or any accounts of this 324W/m2 scientifically. Since no experts here can account for the 324W/m2 back radiation, if anyone knows K&T personally, please forward their contacts. I would like to contact them for a direct answer, thanks.

      • Sam,

        Starting from the 168 absorbed by the surface, subtract 24 for thermals and 78 for evapotranspiration. That leaves 66 which must be accounted for by the difference between LWIR emission and absorption. Since emission is measurable (both in theory and practice) the 390 surface emission looks like a solid scientific number to me. Back radiation must therefore be 390 – 66 = 324. Where’s the psuedoscience here?

      • KAP,

        ” Since emission is measurable (both in theory and practice) the 390 surface emission looks like a solid scientific number to me.”

        It will be nice if you can show me that 390W/m2 radiation measurement documentations.

        In theory, assuming the Earth absorbs 168W/m2 direct sun radiation is correct, how is it possible that the Earth can radiate 390W/m2. This is a grade 2 mathematical error.

      • KAP,

        As alternative to K&T’s 97 budget, here is a version on the radiation budget:

        http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/library/coursefiles/04_rad_budget.pdf

        See Fig 4.1 and compare between the 2 annual radiation budgets. No feedback in Fig 4.1 which is more reasonable than with 324W/m2 GHG back radiation which is pseudoscience unless you can account for it at least something hypothetical, none so far.

      • KAP,

        I bet you cannot find any documentation about that 390W/m2 measurements because it is a fititious number invented by K&T in:

        http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/Trenberth/trenberth.papers/KiehlTrenbBAMS97.pdf

        If you read the above document in details, K&T were making up both 390W/m2 total Earth surface long wave radiation and 324W/m2 – see their Table 2. AMS did not check the data or purposely did not check them before publication.

    • “Scepticism is the driving force for further discovery and better evidence. But often there is a thin line between healthy scepticism and a cynical approach which ignores or distorts inconvenient evidence.”

      The word “But” is one of the most powerful in the english language. It means “diregard everything I’ve said to this point, here is what I really mean”.

      That color is nice, but …
      I really like you, but …

      It is the outliers in science that are often the most important. They are the inconvenient evidence that gives rise to skepticism, that leads to new discoveries. The cynical approach recognizes this and tries to minimize the importance of outliers to maintain the status quo in the name of “”.

      • hmm. everything you put in gt, lt gets removed. correction:
        The cynical approach recognizes this and tries to minimize the importance of outliers to maintain the status quo in the name of “fill in this space with whatever your audience thinks is important”.

      • fred,
        The cynical approach is to say
        ‘That is settled’
        ‘The consensus says’
        ‘You are evil for disagreeing’
        ‘You are not a true skeptic’
        ‘you are part of a paid plot to stop the good’
        etc.

  14. Dr. Curry,
    A problematic part of this discussion in my mind is an assumption that only people who are classified as climate scientists are qualified to make statements about climate science. Perhaps some climate scientists would like it to be that way. However, they are Climate Scientists.

    It is an error to ignore people who work in technical fields that are used as a basis for climate analysis. An instrument technician can look at descriptions of climate monitoring equipment, their installations, and the data recorded and tell whether the data supplies sufficient accuracy to justify specific climate profile claims. A degree in climate science is not necessary for a statistician to understand whether analysis calculations match the claimed processing of data. Likewise there are other sub-specialties used by climate scientists. While none of those non-climate scientists may be able to provide a sane or coherent explanation of this planet’s climate, they may have had a lifetime of experience in their own fields, making them far more qualified on those subjects than climate scientists.

    The problem I am trying to articulate here is that the reason some of these pseudo-science theories pop up is that folks are trying to make sense of what they see is wrong with what is presented as fact and provide an alternative. Not always, of course. There really are some nuts in this world. Present company excepted of course.

    To many times there are complaints to the effect “it is easy to throw stones, don’t you have a theory of your own?” In the real world, you listen to specialists when they are talking about their own specialty.

    When the heart specialist tells you you are having a heart attack, it makes good sense to listen to her. Taking an antacid instead because your general practice family doctor thought you might have heartburn is probably not a smart choice. In climate studies, the climate scientists are the general practice doctors, not the specialists. They are relying on technology and techniques that are not their focus of study.

    • Considering that there was no such field or discipline until these Jackasses of All Sciences, Masters of None decided to anoint themselves, the “standards” are, in their opinion, whatever they say they are.

      The fraud is so deep and total that beggars description.

      • Arg. “.. that it beggars description.”

        Preview is my friend. Preview is my friend. Preview is my friend. etc.

        (It’s available, BTW, if you have Firefox Greasemonkey add-in installed.)

      • Sorry this is O/T. But I have Greasemonkey. How do I get preview to work here?

      • Do you see a yellow set of controls/links in the far upper right of the page? That’s for a WordPress script from CA. Open them up and activate. Only a few work on this site, but one is the installation of formatting buttons and a Preview option in the Comments box title bar.

        Good. I see the image insertion option works!

      • Oops. Correction. I tried to insert a wee pic of Senor GreaseMonkey, and it shows in Preview, but not in the actual post. Oh, well.

      • Brian, many thanks, but I see no controls of any sort in the upper right. I have a nice coloured picture of a happy GM in the status bar. I guess I’m missing an essential part of the jigsaw.

        (Oh for the days when I just told my tekkies to fix things for me while got on with IT strategy and contracts and recruitment and stuff….)

      • The upper right of which I speak is above the Climate Etc. logo/masthead.

        It’s been a while since I installed. Forgot you need to get the script first!
        Go here:

        http://www.climateaudit.info/ca-assist/ca-assist.user.js

      • I’ve long wondered exactly what one has to do to qualify as a ‘Climate Scientist’, sufficient to be received into the Church of Global Warming and be given the Keys to Unchallengeable Knowledge and Wisdom.

        According to Colose, its to have a PhD in Radiative Physics as a minimum requirement. Others say that you should be good at looking at tree rings through the lens of a a faulty statistical microscope. A third view is that neither of these matter and it is Faith in AGW alone that will gain you access. Some facility in computer games/virtual reality/alternative universes seems to be a fourth way.

        But just in case I wanted to make it my life’s work to become One of the Chosen, how would I actually go about it? I don’t particularly like rolling up my trouser legs in public, but if it’s really necessary……

      • Latimer,

        I take your message partically as a joke, but really – is this kind of thinking that alien to any other field of expertise? I see that all the time, everywhere – you know, the ‘you don’t know zip as you don’t have the basics’-kind of attitude.

        While I’m probably as sceptical as you about the doomsday stuff, I do understand the frustration among the people long involved in research and knowing very lot about the issue, no matter how much you or I might doubt the certainty of the results. Baseless claims that have been explained very well and several times to be false are being tossed wildly, your life’s work is questioned by people who quite often seemingly don’t have a glue (I don’t refer to you by this at all), you are accused of fraud or scientific misconduct based on some blog writings on the Internet – and this all over and over again. I’m not to defend the obvious wrongdoings and/or questionable practices, but it helps to see the sentiments on other side of the debate, too. Yes, it has been discussed to death why the debate ended up like this, but imho this was inevitable – after all, nobody (perhaps with exception of some activists who seem to) likes doomsday predictions, especially if you are asked to make changes in your lifestyle.

      • Except that the field they are so expert in is a figment of their imaginations. There is no academic history, nor degree program, nor core structure. They made it up out of whole cloth, and proceeded to further concoct DIY versions of established practices and standards in fields all over the map, most fatally statistics, modeling, and programming. At which they suck.

      • Is it really so Brian, and what makes so sure about it? Surely there are perfectly competent people working on various fields often boxed in something rather vague called Climate Science, which in a traditional meaning doesn’t exists as such. It is more like a diverse collection of discliplines. As for the DIY stuff: I’ve seen that my self (academic software development), yes, what I saw was horrible, but to some degree I understand it — it is just a tool, and if it serves the purpose (calculates what it is supposed to do), who cares. They are not going to sell it.

        Yes, I’ve also read about overuse and misuse and misinterpretation of statistics, too, but I would speculate that you (or perhaps likes like McIntyre) would find similar errors or practices on any ‘science’ dressed like hard science but being rather soft on the inside. As the saying goes, quick lie, big lie, statistics (I don’t remember the exact English equivalent for the saying, but you know, the good-better-best like thing…)

      • “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

        And no other “soft on the inside” sciences are offering up conclusions and justifications which threaten to “roll back the industrial age”, thereby committing mass murder on a scale which would make Mao and Stalin look like pikers. With those stakes, they get cut no slack, no benefit of the doubt, no fudging and no 5% confidence levels and no 90% expert opinion certainties.

      • Exactly. Just like a prosecutor in a criminal case. If you are going to impose massive restrictions on the lives, liberties, and property of billions of people, you damn sure better have every i dotted and every t crossed. Fudging around with kludges, estimates, statistical novelties, and unchecked assertions won’t get it.

        Start screwing around with peoples lives and you better strap it on tight and bring your A game. The hockey team simply doesn’t get it.

      • Anander-

        “what I saw was horrible, but to some degree I understand it — it is just a tool, and if it serves the purpose (calculates what it is supposed to do), who cares. They are not going to sell it.”

        No, they’re going to sell the output. Output quality is a function of sofware quality. The bigger concern is it reflects on the attitudes of the researchers (Who cares if we got something wrong, it doesn’t change our conclusions materially). Except they do get material things wrong as well.

        Personally, I’m not going to take the time do do what McIntyre and others do. My first hurdle is indicated quality of the process, which tends to be not that great. I’ll just point out as a note here that everyone talks about global average temperature, but I have never seen that measured experimentally. There are assertions that what is being done is a good proxy for GAT, but I’ve never seen experimental confirmation. Until there is experimental correlation between the two, nobody can make any experimental conclusions about GAT and have a sound scientific basis.

      • Harold, almost agree. But there are temperature records, perhaps patchy, perhaps with errors. So the direct measurement is there, but perhaps it creates very large error bars. That causes a problem for the scientific / political purposes of the consensus keepers.

      • Deebee

        Harold’s point is that you can’t measure ‘global average temperature’ directly.

        Yiu can measure local temperatures, do some statistical manipulation and adjustments and come up with number that you call GAT. But you haven;t actually measured it.

        Many people, myself included, think that the current implementation of the process to reveal the GAT number stinks to high heaven. And that divining from sheep’s entrails while dancing widdershins round a totem pole would be of more use. And certainly less prone to systematic error.

      • Latimer Alder

        I think it’s possible to measure global average temperature if additional satellite coverage were available. I don’t see that there have been any direct measurements yet (here I’ll cheat a little, and allow that since the average is defined as the integral over all areas at a given instant divided by the total area, satellite data would count, even though technically it isn’t a “direct” measurement).

        One of the bigger points is nobody knows how good the proxies are if the direct measurement isn’t done. In keeping with my earlier posts, I consider this point as a limitation on the work.

      • Global Averge Temperature is at best misleading because regional hot/cold spots can cause a misleading result.

        For example, consider the case where the entire globe except for the poles was getting cooler and growing seasons we getting shorter. However, the poles were warming a lot, so that on average the globe was warming. Would this be a good thing or a bad thing? For most people this would be a bad thing, because it could lead to reduced food supplies. However, if you averaged out the temperatures it might look like the earth is globally warming and you would miss the disasterous effects of shorter growing seasons.

        If I have one foot in the oven and the other in the freezer I’m on average comfortable.

      • Deebee-

        If someone wants to measure global average temperature, they need to have an instrument capable of capturing temperature in a spatially continuous fashion over the entire globe simultaneously. This doesn’t exist. Alternatively, they can have an instrument which captures average temperature over multiple small fixed size areas (for instance, pixel in a larger image) over the entire globe simultaneously. Satellite data seems to me to come closest to measuring global average temperature, but it still isn’t an instantaneous measurement across the globe.

        It’s pretty common to not be able to measure (or only with great difficulty) what you’d like to measure. So one or more proxies are used instead (temperature stations, satellite coverage, etc). These are still proxies, and without correlation to a true global average measurement it’s improper to generalize the experimental results to global average temperature.

      • One should not generalize on these issues. Scientific software is often badly written and the correctness of its details may be poorly verified, but the final outputs may have been verified by several tests which give a sufficient basis to trust the software within the range, where it is being used. The uncertainties are often larger in the details of the model itself than in its computer implementation. Then one extensive set of overall tests may really satisfy all needs of testing.

        There are other situations, where sufficient overall testing is not possible. Then there is more need to check the details. Even then the software may remain obscure for outsiders without reduction in its reliability in the hands of its developers.

        It all depends on the intended use and on the expected longevity of the software.


      • the final outputs may have been verified by several tests which give a sufficient basis to trust the software within the range, where it is being used

        Or maybe not trust. As a practical matter, I define “throwaway code” as no more than~100 lines, preferably less than 50. These programs and scripts are typically for a dedicated purpose, and the length of the program and techniques used short enough and obvious enough that it’s easily understood.

        As for validation for intended use, I haven’t seen sloppy code with excellent validation come out of a programming group. My experience(s) causes me to not trust output from sloppy code, since it indicates a lack of discipline.

      • From http://eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=490&filename=1107454306.txt :

        “Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it – thought people could ask him for his model code.”

        Now why on earth should Tom Wigley be worried about people asking for his model code?

      • No idea really, but it would be easy to speculate:
        – It is not runnable outside the researches own working directory
        – The quality of code (naming, structure) might rise some eyebrows and also rise unjustified critisism towards the results that have been obtained.
        – The exact revision of sources codes and data might not be easy to locate, if even possible
        – There might some steps in calculations which are not covered in the paper and would require quite a bit of explaining if published

        No, I don’t believe you’d find anything like T(t+1) = a * T(t), where a>0.

      • “The quality of code (naming, structure) might rise some eyebrows and also rise unjustified critisism towards the results that have been obtained.”

        Unjustified in your eyes, justified in mine. Just like I could fail a supplier of goods and not use them as a supplier if they did not have and enforce quality standards in all aspects of their operation, I can fail research suppliers for the same reason once the discussion moves into the public arena or I’m interested in using their product.

        A lot of academics would criticize this position as being too burdensome. In reality, there is little extra effort to have a high quality research operation.

      • Well, I should have added word “possibly” before the unjustified to better reflect my personal feeling about the issue.

        Point being that yes, for a person doing professional software development the academic standard is probably in many place poor. It is an entirely different matter, whether this affect the output of a program. This is just my theory, but IMHO the reason not to share to code might be just that: they (some) are concerned that the code would be ripped to pieces by arguments like hey, this guy has everything in single function that is 10000 lines long, or hey, the naming of variables sucks etc.

        One thing I missed from the speculative list: competition. For instance, a researches perhapss has some ideas how to publish more on the topic. Giving out the code which reveal them and somebody might get there first. From this point of view it might be preferable (for the career perspective of the original author) that others take the hard way and code the program from the start.

      • “Giving out the code which reveal them and somebody might get there first.”

        What a crock!
        You people keep on telling us that climate change is singularly the most grave problem mankind has ever had to face – but that apparently doesn’t stop researchers from playing silly little one-upmanship games??????

        Fiddling while Rome burns doesn’t even come close!!!

      • Look Peter317, I am most certainly not a climate scientist, I was just enumerating reasons why I see they don’t appreciate openess as the many would like them to do. I was not justifying this in anyway, perhaps I didn’t express myself as clearly as I should. I’m quite sceptic about the doomsdays stuff, but don’t really see this topic of open source climate modelling all that useful. And concerning secrecy, I’m quite sure the researcher collaborate over research group boundaries also outside normal publishing activities, probably even share code.

        The climate science is unique in this sense (demands for absolute openess) in most other fields of research, like Pekka stated above, public (and often even fellow researchers) have little or no interest in the programs itself, only the results. I’d like to see it more open, and believe it will eventually be. Whether this new openess, should it ever emerge adds any value to scientific understanding – well, I don’t really believe that, do you?

        So just to stress this once again, in my opinion they should be more open, even open up their code (like setting tar balls/whatever on the internet along with small readme for setup, if that’s feasible). Also I would be very interested to see the inner workings of a GCM; not because I would or could run it, let alone to interpret its output of course, but just from pure academic technical interest.

      • Sorry, Anunder, it’s just the way your post came over, I took you for yet another apologist.

      • The problem is that climate scientist have to eat also.

      • Anander

        I agree competition could come into play, both from a criticism point of view and slowing down the competition.

        Back when much was written in C, and there weren’t development environments on Unix boxes, I had to establish a set of canonical programming rules to keep the naming / coding / commenting consistent between programmers (and avoid certain things). Sometimes something that was written as “throwaway code” would wind up having a longer term use, so it would be brought up to standards.

      • All those could be true, but I assume the people perusing the criticism should be able to make the distinction. Why take actions to stop the conversation. That would be like refusing to post at a blog because someone like MARTHA could play JAI-LAI with your comments. One can refuse to care about the criticism or take it and tighten up. Either one of those IMO is a better alternative than the “shrinking violet-ness” that stops the conversation, dialog, diatribe, harangue or whatever.

      • Well, besides the fact that it’s simply not acceptable to have poor-quality code when the output of said code can possibly affect far-reaching decisions costing the world trillions.
        Besides that, why would he be worried? So he could end up having a bit of extra work to do – well that’s hardly likely to kill anyone.

      • H’mmm

        I had a boss once who had a good phrase when asking someone to do something they found uncongenial

        ‘If you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined’.

        Though I can have a limited amount of sympathy with the minor annoyances of having to deal with trolls again (help desk workers get them all the time too), nobody forced the climatologists to become so at gunpoint. Since the ‘profession’ didn’t exist thirty years ago, we can assume that most are under 50 and joined of their own free will.

        The inconveniences you state came with the territory. As do the (until recently) security of employment. excellent working conditions, political influence and career opportunities. So not a bad little number all round. I shed few tears for the hardship of their lives.

        But I think there are two more serious points here worth another twirl around the maypole.

        The first is that the constant questions, claims and counter claims are a consequence of the weakness of the alarmists case.

        Once Newton had finally formulated his gravity equation and it had been shown experimentally to work across a wide range of circumstances, the debate about planetary mechanics and the place of the Sun was effectively over for three hundred years.

        Climatology ain’t like that. There are huge holes in the evidential chain about AGW. And climatologits seem to be unwilling or incapable of understanding that such holes exist, let alone take action to fix them. Its like a jigsaw where each individual is working only on two or three little pieces round the edges, perhaps doing a good job at it, more likely struggling. But they refuse to acknowledge that nobody at all has a clue about the big bit in the middle. Nor that nobody is working on it. Producing IPCC reports which are no ore than progress reports form working around the edges achieves nothing.

        So the ground is made fertile for all the sorts of behaviour that you describe. And for sceptics to point out where the science has been done badly or not at all. Where conclusions have been overstated, where data gathering has been ‘suspect, where statistical methods have been ‘inappropriate’…… The list is a long one.

        And it is exactly right that for ‘the most important problem humanity has ever faced’, such a list should be long and rigorous. Sure there a few kooks in there, but that’s called life. Not a good reason to ignore the whole ‘community’.

        And secondly there is the internet. For a climatologist this is a double edged sword. It gives him a quicker way to distribute his message. He might even have set up a blog specifically to do so. Where people can flock to hear the word and go away knowing all there is to know about the chosen ‘subject du jour’ and spread the word among the unwashed masses.

        But the unwashed masses may start to ask difficult or awkward questions. They may show up holes in the message. They might have a some pretty good relevant knowledge and experience themselves and see that the Emperor has no clothes. They may wonder why all the scientific mumbo jumbo seems to bear no correspondence with their everyday experience of weather and climate. And they might wonder why the outcome of all of this is inevitably higher taxes for them. They might just be ‘people’ acting as people.

        Climatology as a science (and to an extent your post in mitigation for it) has just failed to adapt to this new paradigm (hateful word, but right in this context). It is stuck in the old ideas of Scientists working ceaselessly in Labs seeking Eternal Truths with objectivity and integrity. And some of them have been gaming this trust-based system for all its worth (climategate showed this in spades).

        The days when they would speak without challenge (like Deep Thought revealing the Ultimate Answer in H2G2) are gone forever. They will have to persuade and convince, not hector and denigrate. If they can’t manage to adapt to these changes, they should ship out.

        Like the lady said ‘if they can’t take a joke they shouldn’t have joined’

      • “… PhD in Radiative Physics as a minimum requirement.”

        Apparently necessary but not sufficient; both Dr. Singer and Dr. Lindzen have degrees in Atmospheric Physics and were publishing on the subject while Dr. Hansen, the astrophysicist, was still studying Venus through a radiotelescope.

    • Gary W: “In climate studies, the climate scientists are the general practice doctors, not the specialists. They are relying on technology and techniques that are not their focus of study.”
      That’s not quite the impression I have re mainstream climate scientists. I see most of them as distributed among a number of specialist fields, some of which are almost mutually exclusive. What understanding does a climate data geographer like Phil Jones have of radiation physics? Or an atmospheric physicist like John Houghton have of ocean currents? I’m trying to think of a credible generalist – there are generalists, such as Jim Hansen, but are they credible? As it see it, virtually all of them rely on a range of other specialists to support their own position. That’s not to mention the fields where it’s questionable whether any mainstream climate scientists have sufficient expertise to provide backing for the orthodox paradigm: I’m thinking, for example, of the Team’s amateurish application of statistical methods to proxy temperature data (a failing well identified by Steve McIntyre and co-workers), and the general lack of understanding of the temperature feedback role of clouds.

  15. How interesting to read this immediately after Ravetz, because of course they are talking about the same thing. . . but extolling opposites.

    And, in my opinion, Ravetz has the better of it. Anyone who wants to follow the “justified intolerance” methodology has to explain convincingly how a minority opinion grows to become a majority opinion without having been unduly and unfairly delayed in its growth by what is seen at the time as “justified intolerance”.

  16. HOW THE IPCC INVENTED A NEW CALCULUS

    http://bit.ly/ejcwAo

    • Thanks, Girma. If what you write is correct it looks suspiciously like scientific malpractice and some heads should roll. The co-chairs of IPCC AR4 WG1 were Susan Solomon and Dahe Qin (both of whom were also among the drafting authors of the Summary for Policymakers), while, as you have pointed out, the co-ordinating lead authors responsible for Chapter 3 ‘Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change’ were Kevin Trenberth and Phil Jones. All honourable men and women, of course. But if any of them told you it was raining you’ld be wise to glance out of the window to check for yourself.

      • I’d ring my broker sharpish and get a quick position on suncream futures, big floppy hats and barbecues.

    • What is the problem? They tell exactly what they are doing, and tell you their interpretation of it. I see no reason for criticism at this. (Although a do wonder why you do not use a set of full periods in your example? As it is, it is more positive than negative, and will have a positive slope, even though it looks like it could be evenly balanced.)

  17. Phillip Bratby

    Beddington is a serial adviser to UK government departments. You don’t ascend to the top of the greasy pole of adviser unless you regularly give out all the messages the government wants to hear (and the EU and the UN of course). By toeing the party line you get amply rewarded with a fat salary, super pension, knightood, (baronetcy next?) and fame. It’s a corrupt system that the last government was adept at using. The political system is full of the beneficiaries of this political patronage.

    • Yes , that about sums it up.
      He will see his role as a kind of civil service head of department.
      His job is to manage change.
      He does this by issuing carefully calibrated statements which are suitably ambiguous.

  18. It’s an interesting subject- partially muddied by the issues with climate science itself. There does seem to be, to my eyes at least, a different standard of science required and/or encouraged for climate science which is unlike other scientific fields like biotech (my own industry). This is partially down to the complexity of the issue- the study of climate is a vast, complicated and difficult area to study- especially given the current gaps in our knowledge, but I fear it is also partially down to the vested self-interest of some parties (be them individuals or political bodies).

    Personally, I find engaging in and dissecting the many, interwoven arguments, theories and evidence to be quite hard work. One could hardly class the cAGW theory as elegant (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and the way in which the theory is presented seems to negate simple evaluation. Hence I, and others from a similar background follow our scientific training and go straight to the data (which probably annoys the hell out of most people I debate with as it can seem like nit-picking) which is where a lot of the issues/conflicts stem from.

    As with any political debate (and it is far beyond a scientific one now- which is to all our detriment) you will always get sides. Additionally, you will get hard-liners on both sides who seek to obfuscate, detract and confuse to promote a particular viewpoint. Ironically, a purely scientific debate should be immune from ‘pseudoscientific’ attack as each claim is evaluated on its merits and discarded/promoted as appropriate (though how this will work in the blogosphere is anyone’s guess). Luckily, it is generally quite easy to spot a hardliner and they can be dismissed as such and ignored until they bring something of substance to the table.

    One of my main concerns however is down the accidental application of pseudoscience (or rather poorly interpreted evidence) where someone who is genuinely just trying to get to the bottom of something- picks something up- repeats it and is then attacked (usually mercilessly) by those on the opposing side. This then forces the person in to the opposing hard-liner camp and reduces the debate further. I think it would benefit all if we all followed a golden rule when debating the issue; “assume the comment is innocent unless proven otherwise”- i.e. if someone’s made a mistake point it out to them civilly, don’t attack.

    This will prevent people’s backs been ‘got-up’ (mmm grammar) and help prevent entrenched views on the more questionable aspects of the debate from staying unresolved, thus allowing that particular pseudoscientific point to remain unresolved.

    The ideal solution would be to have a resource, accessible to all, where the issues can be debated, examined and then presented as the current ‘best representation of the fact’ ( as it were). The IPCC is advertised as such an entity, though given it’s starting mission and complete, repeated and public failings (including deliberately misleading the public) it is actually anything but.

    The blogosphere would be an ideal place to set up an independent entity looking at such an issue, however again, we have the problems of moderation and the ultimate decision on which line of argument on which point is more likely at any given time, an unenviable task.

    Which brings us back to peer-review, the shining beacon of scientific progress that would appear (in climate science at least- though I am by NO means discounting other fields in this) to be wholly compromised by pal-review (as climategate and the steig/o’donnel debacle have demonstrated).

    To remove the pseudoscience on BOTH sides the peer review process must be repaired and some of the points I and others have made should be implemented (across the board):
    -reviewers names printed on paper
    -make conflict of interests (I’m looking at you steig) punishable as it is in industry (i.e. by fines/jail)
    -have all data/methods pertaining to a paper logged online (by the journal) and freely accessible to those who purchase the paper or the paper doesn’t get published.

    Then, we can hopefully weed out the pseudoscience and repair the debate. What we should not do is outlaw scepticism or close off the debate. That’s a political tactic, not a scientific one.

  19. When an issue has become highly controversial in the public attempts to resolve it through recourse to authority does usually not work. The consequence is rather the loss of authority of the bodies than a change in opinions. In the case of science this leads also to practices that are damaging for the science itself.

    The erroneous ideas can be fought best by expanding the discussion, not by trying to force it to conclusion. If the scientists want to influence the outcome better they must spend a larger part of their efforts in explaining their work, what they have really found out, why they have trust in their results and where uncertainties are seen to persist. They must attack wrong claims and misinterpretations patiently and going in more details than they would care, as all this takes time. But there is no other way of doing it right, attempts to make shortcuts backfire.

    In many fields of research little is needed as the issues are not important in short term for outsiders of the science community. Within the community the scientific papers can be shorter and leave much of the effort of understanding to the reader (this is good, because that may increase the likelihood of avoiding the risk of erring to the same wrong paths of thought), but for everybody not specialist in that particular field a more comprehensive presentation is needed, and one where the uncertainties are not skipped over without warning.

    It must be a common experience that a presentation on controversial issues is much more convincing, when the speaker tells honestly also the arguments of those who disagree, not only what he believes to be the correct conclusion.

    Of course there are limits in the above approach. Everything cannot be covered and repeated over and over again. Much more can, however, be done and should be done, if scientists wish to give the best objective view on what the science has found out about climate. I find the full report of IPCC AR4 WG1 quite good in, what it tries to be, but it is not the answer to the present problem and the summaries do not go in the right direction to solve it.

    • Pekka,

      That is a problem as well. Complacency of shedding some science as all should know it. When striving for absolute accuracy it all needs to be included.
      You start developing lazy habits for lazy students then.

  20. One of the greatest problems faced by any scientist, and the Chief Scientist (Incidentally a Biologist I believe) faces in a Post-Blair Whitehall is that it is now run by Ideologues who believe they have the right to interpret the science for the Minister. I have some experience of this, some years ago I attended a two day meeting discussing some very important and far reaching findings. The science was sound, we had empirical proof to back us up, but the Civil Servants had come to the meeting with a particular solution in their briefcases and the evidence was not what they wanted to hear. What the relevant Ministers were told by the Civil Servants wasn’t exactly wrong, but it wasn’t exactly right either and then the ideology kicked in and the science, still available in extensive reports now gathering dust in Whitehall archives, was ignored or at best, very selectively cherry-picked …

    I would suspect that this is what has happened to the Climate Science as well, Whitehall’s bureaucrats have had their dirty fingers in it and as a result have steered and corrupted it to the point of uselessness.

    In my profession – investigation of fires and explosions – we are often warned against “Expectation Bias” which tends to lead one in a particular direction. Sadly the whole discussion surrounding the ‘science’ of Climate Change has been slewed by that very serious flaw – expectation bias… And the Chief Scientist seems to have become its latest victim.

    • Monk,

      At least you had solid research to back your claim. 90% of climate science is theory and lord help anyone who follows physical evidence in uncharted areas.
      The science laws and theories were created and traditionally passed down faithfully to many generations.

  21. In the 1970s, the scare being warned against was global cooling; we were supposed to be entering a new ice age. I can only presume at some point, a few dissenting scientists decides to push an alternative viewpoint. Would Beddington have had their opinion suppressed too? What a hypocrite.

    Pointman

  22. Actually, the wikipedia page on pseudoscience is great, maybe I like this term afterall: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience

    3 Identifying pseudoscience
    3.1 Use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims
    3.2 Over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation
    3.3 Lack of openness to testing by other experts
    3.4 Absence of progress
    3.5 Personalization of issues
    3.6 Use of misleading language

    The boundary lines between the science and pseudoscience are disputed and difficult to determine analytically, even after more than a century of dialogue among philosophers of science and scientists in varied fields, and despite some basic agreements on the fundaments of scientific methodology.[22][60] The concept of pseudoscience rests on an understanding that scientific methodology has been misrepresented or misapplied with respect to a given theory, but many philosophers of science maintain that different kinds of methods are held as appropriate across different fields and different eras of human history. Paul Feyerabend, for example, disputes whether any meaningful boundaries can be drawn between pseudoscience, “real” science, and what he calls “protoscience”, especially where there is a significant cultural or historical distance.
    There are well-known cases of fields that were originally considered pseudoscientific but which are now accepted scientific effects or valid hypotheses, for example, continental drift,[61] cosmology,[62] ball lightning,[63] and radiation hormesis.[64][65][66][67] As another example, osteopathy has, according to Kimball Atwood, “for the most part, repudiated its pseudoscientific beginnings and joined the world of rational healthcare” for lower back pain although it is not particularly effective.[68]

    Larry Laudan has suggested that pseudoscience has no scientific meaning and is mostly used to describe our emotions: “If we would stand up and be counted on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like ‘pseudo-science’ and ‘unscientific’ from our vocabulary; they are just hollow phrases which do only emotive work for us”.[69] Likewise, Richard McNally states that “The term ‘pseudoscience’ has become little more than an inflammatory buzzword for quickly dismissing one’s opponents in media sound-bites” and that “When therapeutic entrepreneurs make claims on behalf of their interventions, we should not waste our time trying to determine whether their interventions qualify as pseudoscientific. Rather, we should ask them: How do you know that your intervention works? What is your evidence?”[70]

    The term pseudoscience can also have political implications that eclipse any scientific issues. Imre Lakatos, for instance, points out that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at one point declared that Mendelian genetics was pseudoscientific and had its advocates, including well-established scientists such as Nikolai Vavilov, sent to Gulag,[71] and that the “liberal Establishment of the West” denies freedom of speech to topics it regards as pseudoscience, particularly where they run up against social mores.[72]

    • On climate change I agree with Laudan (who was a mentor of mine). The term is used rhetorically for the most part, unless you are talking about the cranks.

    • The following passage from the Wikipedia pseudoscience article seems a appropriate description of Kevin Trenberth’s recent attempt to reverse the ‘null hypothesis’, thus shifting the burden of proof onto climate skeptics.
      “Reversed burden of proof. In science, the burden of proof rests on those making a claim, not on the critic. Pseudoscientific arguments may neglect this principle and demand that skeptics demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that a claim (e.g. an assertion regarding the efficacy of a novel therapeutic technique) is false. It is essentially impossible to prove a universal negative, so this tactic incorrectly places the burden of proof on the skeptic rather than the claimant.”
      By their claim that skeptics should in future be obliged to prove that the anthropogenic CO2-induced catastrophic climate disruption hypothesis is false, Trenberth and his like are promoting pseudoscience.
      Thanks for the instructive link, Dr Curry.

      • Bingo, this pretty much nails Trenberth’s reversing the null hypothesis stuff

      • Both sides are making claims and the claims are different. All these claims concern the climate, which exists and is only one. There is no reason to say that one null hypothesis is any more valid than another, the choice depends on the issue being considered.

        The proposal of Trenberth is perfectly valid for certain purposes and related questions, while it is totally worthless for some other questions.

      • Please provide an example of where Trenberth’s proposal is ‘perfectly valid’.

        I am struggling to think of one.

      • There is no reason, why the question could not be formulated:

        “How certain are we that the warming is not stronger than some specified level?”

        To me this is a much more relevant question than the other:

        “How certain are we that the warming exceed some specified level?”

      • Now please explain to me how that has much to do with Trenberth’s proposal that the burden of proof should no longer lie with him to show that AGW theory is right.

        He was not just talking about any old common or garden ‘warming’ he was talking about Anthropogenic Global Warming induced by Carbon Dioxide emissions. Which is a much sharper focus.

      • In the broader context of that statement (with “deniers” etc) it seems to me that Trenberth was attempting to quell debate and put the burden of proof on skeptics to prove the IPCC was wrong, whereas I agree that the burden of proof belongs with the IPCC, since they chose to present only one side of the “case.”

      • Is the issue a burden of proof, or finding the best knowledge?

      • The scientific issue is finding the best knowledge. That does not seem to be what the IPCC is up to, which is the issue of my concern. The IPCC has presented a legal brief designed to persuade, giving evidence for one side of the “case.” So for the IPCC reports to be a scientifically honest contribution to the debate, they can do one of two things: provide resources for the other side to either refute their case, or make an alternative case; or make a really strong case themselves that leaves no room for reasonable doubt. They attempt the latter and claim there are no grounds for reasonable doubt because there is “consensus.” And when people aren’t convinced, they call them deniers or talk about pseduoscience.

      • I agree that there are problems, but discussing alternative null hypotheses is not one of them although all arguments can be misused in various ways.

        Concerning policy decisions one is finally facing the need to choose between concrete alternatives. The settings of this situation determines, how the hypotheses should be formulated. The right way is certainly neither of the two proposals discussed here.

        Both sides are equally guilty in locking the discussion in a wrong place and wrong mode.

      • agreed, but there is an asymmetry in the sense that the IPCC is the one putting forth the the thesis, whereas the skeptics are saying they aren’t convinced.

      • The huge difference is that the IPCC side has thousands of published studies backing it up, the ‘skeptics’, mostly just ramblings on blogs.

        Trenberth’s statement was entirely reasonable from this point-of view. Essentially, he was just pointing out that the ‘skeptics’ are all hat and no cattle.

      • Your claim is simply false. There are thousands of studies that support the skeptical position. For example, virtually everything that points to natural variability. Plus there are many studies that document weaknesses in the models, etc. The IPCC simply ignores these studies, or interprets them away. I suggest you look at the NIPCC reports, or CO2Science, for a small sampling.

      • Michael your appeal to thousands of published studies is a dog that just won’t hunt. Not in the face of (mis)behavior on the part of IPCC participants that is properly categorized as social/political not scientific.

        Proper science includes the idea that one experimental finding of fact that disproves a theory fondly held for many years must be tossed and we start over with new hypotheses. Thousands of articles is arguing from authority and it’s NOT science as I was taught it. It’s the quality of those papers and the ability of the scientists publishing them to defend them that tells me if it’s good science or something else.

        IPCC is something else. That’s a travesty wrapped in an enigma considering the stakes involved.

      • David,

        I’d be pleased to see these ‘thousands’ of papers you refer to.

      • Hmnnn … I posted simply as David but I can see where that won’t work well so I’m changing my nic to dYp. Took me a bit to sort out that you (Michael) were addressing David Wojick not me.

        I too would like to see the ‘thousands of papers’ David W. referred to. NIPCC and CO2Science were worth looking at but …

        And is it really accurate to refer to ‘the skeptical position’ or more properly skeptical positions?

      • Michael,

        Trenberth’s Energy Budget GHG back radiation of 324W/m2 (1997) was pseudo-science. No one in the climate community can account for this 324W/m2 back radiation. I would suspect anything from him is pseudo science. Accordingly, he is a man of advocacy of pseudo-science.

      • Also, the policy choices have been framed as an “either the UNFCCC” or “nothing.” There is a whole range of possible policy options that aren’t seriously on the table because of the IPCC’s insistence that they are “right” (and their opponents “deniers”) and the focus has been on an optimal policy based on stabilization targets derived from the IPCC findings. Robust and flexible policy options would have avoided this either or problem and could have reframed the entire debate (policy and science) in a different way; i discussed this in the Uncertainty and the IPCC AR5: Part II thread. The IPCC/UNFCCC is stuck in a bad frame.

      • Here is the relevant text from the previous thread that i posted in the comments somewhere:

        http://judithcurry.com/2011/02/13/uncertainty-and-the-ar5-part-ii/

        Framing of the climate change problem

        An underappreciated aspect of uncertainty in climate change is associated with the questions that do not even get asked because of the way the climate change problem has been framed. Frames are organizing principles that enable a particular interpretation of a phenomenon (e.g. de Boerg et al. 2010). De Boerg et al. (2010) state that: “Frames act as organizing principles that shape in a “hidden” and taken-for-granted way how people conceptualize an issue.” Risbey et al. (2005) state that decisions on problem framing influence the choice of models and what knowledge is considered relevant to include in the analysis. De Boerg et al. (2010) further state that frames can express how a problem is stated, who is expected to make a statement about it, what questions are relevant, and what range of answers might be appropriate.

        The decision making framework provided by the UNFCCC Treaty provides the rationale for framing the IPCC assessment of climate change and its uncertainties, in terms of identifying dangerous climate change and providing input for decision making regarding CO2 stabilization targets. In the context of this framing, certain key scientific questions receive little attention. In the detection and attribution of 20th century climate change, Chapter 9 of the AR4 WG1 Report all but dismisses natural internal modes of multidecadal variability in the attribution. Further, the impacts of the low level of understanding of solar variability and its potential indirect effects on the climate are not explored in any meaningful way in terms of its impact on the confidence level expressed in the attribution statement. In the WG II Report, the focus is on attributing possible dangerous impacts to AGW, with little focus in the summary statements on how warming might actually be beneficial to certain regions.

        Further, the decision analytic framework associated with setting a CO2 stabilization target focuses research and analysis on using expert judgment to identify a most likely value of sensitivity/ warming and narrowing the range of expected values, rather than fully exploring the uncertainty and the possibility for black swans (Taleb 20xx), dragon kings (Sornette 20xx), and wild cards (jvds). The concept of imaginable surprise was discussed in the Moss-Schneider uncertainty guidance documentation, but consideration of such possibilities seems largely to have been ignored by the AR4 report. The AR4 focused on what was known to a significant confidence level. The most visible failing of this strategy was neglect of the possibility of rapid melting of ice sheets on sea level rise in the Summary for Policy Makers (e.g. Oppenheimer et al. 2007; Betz 2009). Black swan define An important question to ask is what is the black swan risk of climate variation under no human influence, on time scales of one to two centuries? Without even asking this question, there seems little to base a judgment upon regarding the relative risk of anthropogenic climate change.

        The presence of sharp conflicts with regards to both the science and policy reflects an overly narrow framing of the problem. Until the problem is reframed or multiple frames are considered by the IPCC, the scientific and policy debate will continue to ignore crucial elements of the problem.

      • Judith,

        These problems related to decision making are the most important. It is essential to think, how the climate science enters the process and how the process is made capable of using correctly knowledge created by the climate science, but this is not enough as we have all the other uncertainties related to the consequences of the policy decisions.

        The ultimate goal is not either clear. It is something like sustainable development or human well-being with intergenerational solidarity. Mitigating climate change is only one part of these ultimate issues. Trying to be too general and trying to reach too far in making decisions doesn’t work in practice, the practical goals must be chosen to be more concrete. On the other hand deciding without wider analysis the goals of actions, which anyway are meant to produce their results in distant future, is likely to fail by being too one-sided and by causing more losses somewhere else than gain in the single overemphasized issue.

        I do not expect that perfect solutions can be found and even less that they can be implemented, but both the single line of UNFCCC and the doing nothing choice appear to me wrong in their own ways. Something better is needed.

        I am presently writing something on these lines in a form that I am willing to put in my own blog, but it takes time, and the discussions here on your site add continuously something worthwhile in my thinking.

      • Pekka,

        If the basic science behind climate science is incorrect, how can any of the theories even be looked at?
        Science has settled itself as knowing all when in fact they know extremely little and build walls around it a facts.

      • It is not an if but a fact. When guessing at the mechanics of how this planet was created and operates is the basis of theories. Mechanically I can recreate centrifugal force and show how it can compress gases into a liquid and have stored energy. I can show how slicing the planet into individual layers up the latitude has different interactions of complexity due to two dimensional rotation.
        Now then why is science so stubborn in holding onto mathematical theories in a planet that is slowing down and the mathematics always needs to be adjusted.

    • Judith,

      I have claims that can be tested.
      Who do I go to?
      Certainly not pal…ops…peer-reviewed.

  23. Dr Curry,

    If someone has already pointed this out, forgive me. There’s a wonderful rebuttal to this, Beddington et al, by Frank Furedi on spiked online. To quote from his final paragraph:

    The principal driver of the re-emergence of intolerance as a moral virtue is Western culture’s aversion to engaging with uncertainty. This is best captured by that unattractive term ‘zero tolerance’ – a concept which presents the world in the language of black-and-white and either/or. It spares the intolerant the trouble of having to fight for their views. It is far easier to resolve disagreement and confusion through shutting down discussion than to practise true tolerance. Tolerance demands courage – intolerance, the outlook of the intellectual coward, merely requires a censor’s pen.

    He references John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, no less, an essay that should be written in our DNA and, if not, should be learnt of by heart by our children!

      • Lewis, thanks much for the link, good article.

      • What is more than ironic, is that ‘Edzard Ernst, professor of the study of complementary medicine at Exeter University, exclaim that ‘for too long we have been tolerant of these postmodern ideas that more than one truth is valid’’. ‘Complimentary medicine’? A hot bed of ‘irrationality’ itself! I will refer you to a wonderful site that I’ve been reading of late (I love biology!), that fights it’s own rearguard action against ‘irrationality’ and ‘pseudo-science’, of which Edzard Ernst is one of the ‘actors’!:

        http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/

      • I would like to add to this a kind of ‘gut’ feeling I have always had – ‘error’, ‘untruth’ is always a symptom of cowardice, of weakness – not because truth has been ‘found’, but, rather, because it has not been found and never can be. What does ‘courage’ mean? To explore and, therefore, embrace the ‘uncertain’, the ‘undiscovered’, that tightrope of sanity over an ‘abyss’ one must acknowledge and affirm? What does ‘cowardice’ mean? To live in ones narrow ‘certainties’, however delusional, rather than open the ‘door’? ‘The way out is via the door; how come nobody knows this?’, Kung-fu-tse said. ‘Untruth’ is cowardice.

      • Lewis,

        When a claim cannot be backed up by pure knowledge that answers any and all questions, it should be looked on with skepticism. Not the wait a sec until I look it up or answer with a quote from someones peer-reviewed paper. If you know it, it will be no problem to answer the question.

      • Anyone who uses such a phrase as ‘pure knowledge’ cannot be addressing me? Moi? As Miss Piggy (my favourite character, as a child, she and Kermit) used to say ‘lamb cop!’ to that. Or speak coherently?

      • Sorry, that should read (Dr Curry, are you able to eliminate posts?):

        Anyone who uses such a phrase as ‘pure knowledge’ cannot be addressing me? Moi? As Miss Piggy (my favourite character, as a child, she and Kermit) used to say ‘lamb chop!’ to that. Or speak coherently?

      • Whew. I was wondering ‘lame cop’? ‘Course, video….not much there, was there there?
        ========

      • Love you, Kim!

      • Sorry, I was just being mischievous – I think your agreeing with me but if not I didn’t quite understand. Sorry!

      • I am agreeing with you.
        The current problem is that science put up theories based on knowledge in the past. Never incorporating or updating to the current technology. So, past down bad science is encouraged by a strict discipline of methods science must follow.
        Planetary mechanics has never been considered as theories have taken away this area of research.

      • ‘pure knowledge that answers any and all questions’

        Wow, Joe.

        This is possibly the most non-analytic statement I have ever read.

        Tell me… do you do any earthly tasks, during the day? :-)

        Tip: Maybe you were trying to talk about math as an intellectual expression of a non-empirical form of knowledge. Keep at it, you might get there.

      • Martha,

        Trying to use solid formulas and a slowing planet is insanity at it’s best. :-)

      • Furedi, a sociologist, has written on a number of topics which have relevance to the climate debate. The contemporary ‘climate alarmism’ phenomenon can be interpreted as an aspect of the ‘Culture of Fear’, which Furedi discussed in his 2002 book of that name.
        Here (also from ‘www.spiked-online.com’) is Furedi’s take on the IPPC:
        “…the IPCC attacks its critics for relying on ‘grey literature’ – that is, non-peer-reviewed literature – and yet it has relied on anecdotes and speculation in its reports. We shouldn’t be too surprised about this double standard, because, fundamentally, the IPCC is not simply concerned with presenting the facts but with interpreting them, giving them meaning, giving them momentum. It continually makes conceptual leaps from facts to meaning, from findings to politics. Of course there is nothing wrong with being in the meaning business, just so long as you are honest about it and do not present yourself as the pure, impartial voice of science.”

      • Bravo!

      • But, Coldfish, I believe (and hope beyond hope) that what is happening in the Middle East is the ‘people’ unlearning fear and shaking off ‘the culture of fear’ – you should see how ‘irrational’ the government ‘Universities’ were like in those countries – very much parallel to the old Soviet nonsense! – towards being free and, therefore, rational. The two are the same. Ie ‘Man’ isn’t of the Devil nor God, but of himself, when free.

      • Coldish,
        Now that is an interesting choice of expert appeal. Frank Furedi (a.k.a Frank Richards) is founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party in Britain. He is now a Left-libertarian, active in the anti-environmental lobby, and popular with many right-wing people and media because they think he shares their views in important ways. I can’t tell you how much that amuses me.

        Anyway, could you have selected a more politicized opinion?

        I don’t disagree that Frank has some interesting things to say about Western imperialism and he has many superior analyses of culture. However, there’s a significant problem when you cite him for your knowledge of climate change. His political analysis is very specific to his political beliefs, and he doesn’t actually read any science (other than social science, of course). Instead, he rejects the ‘tyranny’ of science in Western society, in general. So I’m wondering how you would go about convincing someone that there is no climate change, using science and general critical reflection, rather than just Frank’s Leftist ideology — insightful as that is, at times.

      • O dear! Instead of addressing someone argument, lets talk about them! Such a beautiful argument for which there no words!

      • And anyway, Martha (I like the name so I’ll refrain from being nasty!), in this context, who is talking about ‘climate science’ (a subject, that if not ‘politicized’ you wouldn’t be interested in?), we’re talking about ‘dogmatism’ and the exclusion and ‘judgement’ of the so called ‘irrational’ and ‘pseudo-scientific’? Are you drowned and catching your breath when you think of this? Courage! Swim.

      • And, anyway, this is so much ‘funk’ it’s laughable – what does it mean to ‘reject climate change’? And your attempt to patronise Frank Furedi is woefully off target. ‘He doesn’t actually read any science (other than social science, of course)’ – how do you know this?

        ‘Anyway, could you have selected a more politicized opinion?’

        Than whose? Are you unpoliticized? Are the people you support? If, for instance, ‘your’s is the neutral ground’, neutral about what? What is neutral, and what sways this way and that, into the ‘political’? If you say that something is true, isn’t that ‘political’? Do you know what the word means? Have you read Aristotle? ‘Science’, itself, is political? Was not Oppenheimer political? Van Buren? V-Rockets? Was not the ‘final solution’ very scientific? Think. Think.

      • Sorry. I lost it. Never bring your pain to a rational argument! (What if I was not only the man in the room staring out at a car crash but the person in the street, not only the person in the street, but the man in the car (a lucky man who made the grade), not only the man in the car, but the car itself! What then?)

      • Lewis,
        I was suggesting a consideration of Frank’s limitations as an expert on climate science. He writes exclusively from a Left-libertarian perspective that is informed by Marxism. In case you were so excited that you missed it, I think Frank, and quite a few others on the Left, can contribute a superior analysis of the interests at play in Western capitalism and social relations (and that includes looking at the interests at play in the context of the activity of science).

        However, I am concerned that he doesn’t actually capture the dominant interests at play in the social-political context of climate change. You see, in a sense, it is an argument between Leftists. You didn’t get that part of it, I guess?

        “He doesn’t actually read any science (other than social science, of course)’ – how do you know this”

        Fair enough. I should have said he does not actually cite the science.

        “Do you know what the word means?”

        Yes.

        “Have you read Aristotle?”

        Yes. In a graduate department of Philosophy, with an Aristotelian scholar. You?

        “ ‘Science’, itself, is political”

        I don’t disagree, since I see all social activity as political.

        Was not the ‘final solution’ very scientific?

        I assume you miss the irony of your question, which highlights how scientific judgment that rejects climate change and the impacts on the poorest in the world, may only be disguised as science, and might involve arbitrary goals of repression and racism, and could result in passive genocide.

      • Thanks, Lewis for continuing this discussion with Martha. I’d like to have taken more part myself, but have limited time. Martha, who suggested that Frank Furedi was an expert on the science of climate ? Or Beddington? Climate science has become a highly politicised issue with deep divisions between opposing political factions, accusations of pseudoscience being all part of the game. Not surprisingly an academic sociologist sees the issue differently from a government bureaucrat. But whatever background the protagonists have, it’s good to see both opinions published.
        Thanks to Judith for providing a forum.

      • What I meant was fear gives rise to the irrational – not ‘bad thinking’ or mere ‘oppossitionistness’ as they accused Trotsky – an argument they won and you know how!

      • Great article! Thanks.

        ‘scepticism is the highest of duties’

  24. Can we really trust chief scientific officers?

    There was a time when, if you read a scientific scare story, you tended to put it down to the over-active imagination of a redtop journalist. No longer: nowadays it is outwardly sober government scientists who spin the biggest scares. They know they can get away with it because laymen have an irrational respect for words uttered by scientists.
    That much was proved by the 1963 Milgram experiment in which the Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram persuaded volunteers to administer a — simulated — potentially fatal electric shock to another human being when instructed to do so by a man in a white lab coat.

    http://tinyurl.com/y9kbzpj

    Carnage from a computer

    http://tinyurl.com/28z67y

    Regrettably CAGW is not the only example of PNS, but merely the tip of the iceberg

    • An interesting coda to that is the report, blazoned from the red tops but also News 24 (they have an abysmal record when it comes to reporting science) Sky and Channel 4, in the UK, that ‘poor alcohol regulation could cause 250, 000 deaths in the next 20 years’! This was from a report in the Lancet! How does one distinguish between this and the temperance movement of the early 20 century? Where is the science? A complete abuse of rational thinking!

    • Agreed, merely the tip of the iceberg. The paradigm of paradigms.

  25. No one has mentioned what I feel is the most important aspect of this discussion. There are a number of brilliant scientists, like Sir John Beddington, who seem to sincerely and honestly believe that what they say is correct.

    I find this to be absolutely terrifying.

    • Jim,

      Because of this damage of the past and present, evidence researched science has not been incorporated. This has left science into the fiction category as the basic mechanics of the planet were never understood.

    • I’m curious, Jim. What is so scary, for you, about this scientist asking other scientists to ensure principles of good science, and good science pedagogy?

      Booh.

      • I keep Inn.
        ======

      • O come on, Martha, this isn’t about ‘ensuring principles of good science’ but about an attempt at dogmatic dictation. Are you afraid of the ‘irrational’? You shouldn’t be.

      • Actually, do you know what ‘good science pedagogy’ or even pedagogy means? I hope you do.

      • Martha writes “I’m curious, Jim. What is so scary, for you, about this scientist asking other scientists to ensure principles of good science, and good science pedagogy?”

        Absolutely nothing. But that is not my interpretation of what Sir John Beddington is doing. We skeptics/deniers are simply not guilty of what he accuses us of. If Sir John would produce the evidence that we skeptics/deniers are not practicing ” good science, and good science pedagogy”, then this would be an entirely different matter.

  26. Consensus Scientists are grossly intolerant of anyone who disagrees and considers anyone who disagrees to be a pseudo-scientist. It makes it really difficult to arrive at the truth if you don’t already have it. Once the science is settled, you are stuck.
    Real Scientists are grossly intolerant of that viewpoint. Real Scientists listen to those who disagree and try to prove their own theories and models to be wrong. You cannot prove anything is right unless you consider how it could be wrong.

    • i’ve never really understood the reluctance to accept ones theory or position could be wrong. I may be an oddity in this regard, but if i’m proven wrong i still learn something- which is my ultimate goal, so i’m happy either way.

      bizarre.

    • Alex,

      I am my own worst critic as I’ll rip apart my research in every way possible as not to get blindsided by a question I cannot answer.
      In that if I do find a fault, I have to start over again until it is as correct as I can possibly find.

      • Joe Lalonde,

        “I am my own worst critic as I’ll rip apart my research in every way possible as not to get blindsided by a question I cannot answer.
        In that if I do find a fault, I have to start over again until it is as correct as I can possibly find.”

        Bravo! A real scientist’s attitude. K&T’s 324W/m2 (1997) back radiation puzzuled me. Have you ever tried to understand how the 324W/m2 arrived? Will you help to verify that 324W/m2 is not from pseudo-science?

      • Sam,

        I am not a scientist. Just a researcher.
        I have absolutely no confidence in formulas or mathematical equations until they can incorporate many factors not included in generalizing and equation that is suppose to represent the whole planet.
        90% of science is unexplored and the understanding of the mechanical process has to be understood first. Solid equations do not take into account planets evolution as it slows and keeps changing.

      • Joe,
        “I have absolutely no confidence in formulas or mathematical equations until they can incorporate many factors not included in generalizing and equation that is suppose to represent the whole planet.”
        Yes and I agree and I have no confidence in climate formula and mathematical equations. Thats why I query KT’s 324W/m2 back radiation. I was hoping you can provide something for me to believe in this 324W/m2 back radiation. I would ask anyone that can give an account of the 324W/m2 back radiation. Thanks for the reply.

  27. I worked at NASA from 1963 to 2007. We went to the moon by taking input from many disciplines. Many critical contributions came from people who were not trained Rocket Scientists. There was no one Consensus Group in the World that could have accomplished those trips to the moon and back. When you exclude the contributions of anyone who is not specifically trained in your field, you will most likely fail. Climate Theories and Climate Models must be Tested and Verified by scientists, engineers, people, with diverse backgrounds. Climate Scientists are not the world’s best computer programmers or even the best Computer modelers. Climate models must be picked apart and verified by people outside the Consensus Climate Clique. Climate Theories must be picked apart and verified by people outside the Consensus Climate Clique.

    • Herman –
      I was at GSFC, 1964-2006. And I agree with you. There IS no one Consensus Group in the World that can even build an automobile, much less a Space Program – or a comprehensive theory of the climate.

  28. Another way of seeing if something is psuedo-sience is to assess if it contains the 3 major elements of science – naturalism, empiricism, and theory.

  29. Can someone help me with this?

    Using Wikipedia’s description of pseudoscience as a guide, I can think of several instances in which proponents of global warming theory have used the methods of pseudoscience – lack of openness, failure to archive data, refusal to share data, methods and code, etc.

    Can anyone point me to any examples of skeptical scientists who have practiced any of the descriptions of pseudoscience? This would be helpful to me, because as far as I know the only pseudoscience has been on the side of the proponents of the theory. There may be bad science on the side of the skeptics, but that is not the same thing. Anyone?

    • “Refusal to share data” does not equate to psuedo-science.

      Straw men however, may be considered psuedo-debate.

      • Michael,

        Climate data on public funding needed to be hidden from the public assess? Unless the data were wrong that needed to be hidden. Hiding raw climate data alone is not trustworthy of any conclusions made by the hiding people.

      • LOL, we disagree on much, Michael, but I do enjoy your banter!

      • Wikipedia includes in its definition of pseudo science:

        3.3 Lack of openness to testing by other experts

      • Which is not the same thing as “refusing to share data”, a common ‘skeptic’ claim which has been shown to not tally closely with reality.

        The degree of public availability of data and code in relation to climate is very very high, I’d suggest almost unprecedented in science.

        I’m reminded of a post by a certain bete noire of the ‘skeptics’ where all the code and data was directly linked to for everyone’s convenience and instruction given on how to use it – near total silence from the usual army of skeptical commenters.

        Moaning and whining isn’t science.

        Spewing out personal opinion on blogs isn’t science.

        It isn’t psuedo-science either – it’s nothing much at all.

      • Refusal to share data is worse then psuedo-science.

        The only way science moves forward is based on the trust that the basic ‘facts’ have been endlessly exposed to extreme scrutiny and haven’t yet been proven false.

        Claiming ‘Colonel Sanders Secret Recipe’ isn’t science, it’s marketing.

    • Perhaps attempts to claim that CO2 can not warm the earth would be pseudoscience. Claims that AGW advocacy is a fraud is bad debating, not pseudoscience and is mostly false since most advocates believe their claims.

      • Craig Loehle,

        It equally applys: attempts to claim that CO2 can warm the earth would be pseudoscience. Claims that AGW denying is a fraud is bad debating, not pseudoscience and is mostly false since most advocates believe their claims.

        Ron Cram,

        You get that? Or you are more confused after these examples. So, you are on your own, don’t trust any AGW promoters or deniers’ data published.

  30. Why should scientists “Refusal to share data” on public funding? Because they are not scientists and need to hide in order to avoid they are wrong under public’s scrutiny, hence pseudo-science.

    • Or because the data is under embargo and license, i.e. the researchers do not have the freedom to release it without the consent of the organisations that recorded the data. And the latter wont let them, as they would rather sell the data one more time and earn more money.

  31. We are awash in pseudoscience every time science gets filtered through the media. People are convinced that vaccines cause autism or that we are being poisoned by our food or that cell phones cause brain cancer and on and on. Is Beddington going to confront these people like homophobes or racists? (and by the way, intolerance of “racists” makes it impossible in for example Europe to even discuss the fact that some mosques openly teach revolution, or that certain neighborhoods in France are off-limits to the police).

    • Craig, forget the EDL nonsense, which is misdirected political anger and concentrate on the rational. And with that, I agree with you and, this is interesting, that medical science was invaded by the ‘irrational’ long before ‘climate science’. Indeed, both are a ‘correlation’ expressive of something much deeper. Maybe, in a sense, human beings cannot bare too much reality? But it isn’t human beings is it, as seen on the Arab Streets and their thirst for real knowledge, it is us and the decadent West, our middle class idiots, that are to much surfeited with ‘rationality’? Beddington et al wants to return, Pol Pot fashion (analogically and not analogically speaking), to a time when ‘certainty’ could be dictated, much like the weather (another interesting analogy – if and because you can predict the weather, you believe you have ‘control’ over it, n’est pas?) Irrationality, even within ourselves, is what must be fought. To keep the Barbarians at the gate?

      • Actually, Craig, I don’t understand people – when you show them 2+2=4, they seem to wish to believe an irrational metaphysics that says 2+2=6 or any number you wish. It’s pointless getting angry with them (which, I must admit, I do) or, worse, arguing with them, for that will give you a headache but merely, let us acknowledge this, that they exist?

      • Lewis, the best teacher I ever had proved once proved to my dad (a highly respected research scientist) that 2+2=5. It all depends on the assumptions you make. Unfortunately I never did ask to see the syllogism. I do however know from experience that my assumptions can badly skew my results no matter how critical and accurate the work built on those assumptions.

  32. “there is an assumption that evidence about a topic like climate change is unambiguous and ignorance doesn’t own a big part of the evidence space.”

    Oh what a wonderful summation of the current state of affairs!

  33. Harold Pierce Jr

    Latimer Alder on February 22, 2011 at 2:59 am say:

    I’ve long wondered exactly what one has to do to qualify as a ‘Climate Scientist’, sufficient to be received into the Church of Global Warming and be given the Keys to Unchallengeable Knowledge and Wisdom.”

    In my view, climatology (i.e., climate science) is a sub-discipline (or branch) of meterology as, for example, organic chemistry is a sub-discipline of chemistry.
    Organic chemistry is one of the main division of chemistry has a great many areas of investigation.

    All climate scientists should have a B.Sc. in meterology. In graduate school the student could then specialize in climatology which deals with the theoretical principles of meterology.

    Many of the so-called climate scientists have no formal training in meterology so what do they really know about about climate? Many climate scientists claim that CO2 causes “global warming” and “climate change”. That claim is just flat out wrong.

    Let us suppose the earth’s atmosphere is “squeaky clean” and contains no aerosols and in particular no cloud condensing nuclei. What then would be the earth’s atmosphere most noticeable feature? The answer is, of course, no clouds.

    Clouds regulate then earth’s energy budget. They control how much energy get in and out of the earth’s climate system. Since the water droplets of clouds are saturated with CO2 they also regulate to some extent the amount of CO2 in the climate system. How much CO2 is held in the clouds? I don’t know but I know it is not insignificant.

    Meterologist Roy Spencer has proposed for quite somtime that slight changes in cloud cover can result in warming or cooling of the earth.

    • “Many of the so-called climate scientists have no formal training in meterology so what do they really know about about climate?”

      If we want to know about the degree to which oceans absorb CO2 its best to ask an oceanographer. If you want to know about the cost of decarbonising the economy using a carbon tax as opposed to cap and trade instruments, best to ask an economist who studies these policy instruments in detail. I would say that both are working in climatology.

      As for the general question, what is the difference between science and psudoscience, I agree that there is no simple definition that enables us to stipulate where to draw the line BUT there is no simple definition of racism for us to draw the line. There is a family resemblance of actions and methods that science share, but not all practices are exclusive to science (crystal healing or astrology might have similar practices) nor any science which has them all (indeed anatomy and theoretical physics need have little in common).

      http://mitigatingapathy.blogspot.com/

    • BlueIce2HotSea

      All climate scientists should have a B.Sc. in meterology.

      NO!

      Sorry for shouting, but that would disqualify Dr. Tim Palmer who “only” had a PhD in general relativity (from Oxford) prior to becoming a climate scientist.

      • BlueIce2HotSea

        BTW, I count one PhD in Geophysical Sciences (combined meteorology and geology) as more than fair trade for one Bsc in Meteorology. I hope you do also. Otherwise you exclude our host, Dr. Curry, from climate science.

      • Harold Pierce Jr

        Tim Plimer is despicable low life who has betrayed physics, sold his scientific soul to the Church of Climatology and is now a ranking official with the title “Climate Scientist” and who passes plate for research fund donations.

        You people just don’t get the goal of the Church of Climatology. Now pay attention.

        RE: The BC Climate Action Plan, The New Communist Manifesto

        You can download the flashy Manifesto ( pdf, 5 mb) from this site:

        http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cas/cap.html#cap

        After reading the Manifesto you will learn the BC government has the “legistive authority” to:
        1. Levy and collect carbon taxes on fossil fuels.
        2. Control the emission of green house gases.
        3. Control every activity and aspect of the lives of people of BC.
        4. Redistribute wealth to low income earners.

        Here are carbon taxes on fosssil fuel based $20 per tonne of CO2 equivalent as of July 1 ,2010:

        Gasoline 4.45 ¢/litre
        Diesel 5.11 ¢/litre
        Jet Fuel 5.22 ¢/litre
        Propane 3.08 ¢/litre
        Natural Gas 3.80 ¢/cubic metre
        Coal, high heat value 41.54 $/tonne
        Coal, low heat value 35.54 $/tonne

        The actual tax on nat gas is $1 per gigajoule of nat gas which costs $5 per gigajoule. On July 1, 2012 the cabon taxes will increase by 50%. I will then pay a tax of $1.50 on a gigajoule nat gas which I use for space and water heating.
        This is outrageous! I’m being heavily taxed to take a shower, wash clothes and dishes, and to heat my house. Fortunately, Metro Vancouver has a mild climate. There are no free passes on these taxes for thiose who live in the cold regions of the province. Indeed, there are no free passes at all on carbon taxes.

        RE: Item 3
        The province banned the sale of certain incandescent light bulbs on Jan 1, 2012. It didn’t occur to these the guys that CFL’s can not be used out of doors like in my carport or porch light. I had a CFL expire well before its rated service life of 10,000 hours. I took it a part and found a resistor had cracked in half and two other resistors with severe heat damage like these were grey back. I also recovered 5 g of copper from the inductance coils and transformer and the leads of the resistor, diodes and transistors. This bulb also contains lead-tin soldet, brass and aliminium. These CFL’s are not at all enviromentally friendly
        The copper in 1,000,000 bulbs is worth $50,000 and most are just thrown away in the trash.

        I’m declaring war on these phony climate scientists. The first battle will take place a in few weeks when the climate Kauna Kevin T comes to SFU to give a seminar. Stay tuned for “The Showndown at SFU.”

  34. I don’t know who, historically, introduced the term ‘pseudo-science’ but it is really quite meaningless. There is that which is scientifically cogent, that stands up to ‘testing’, first by ‘thought’, to test if it has a rational meaning, and is worth testing, and then by and against reality. Science is science and need not bother with ‘pseudo’.

    • Lewis Deane

      Do you recommend a deflation to ‘non-science’ or ‘blog’?

      • Have no idea what you mean?

      • We differ in definitions of what makes something science, but on a blog the distinction is unlikely to be meaningfully noticed.

        To you, a thing gets to be science from the get-go, as “scientifically cogent” and in your ‘permissive’ or ‘inclusive’ model, remains science until finally tested against reality.

        Which is fine, even sounds really great, for a blog.

        Or non-science.

        Or pseudo-science.

        To me, science is any branch of knowledge dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws gained through observation and experimentation realizing the precise application of rational principles to data.

        People on a blog can float semi-sciencey ideas outside of fact and without regard to truth, using no choate system to arrange or correspond to the operation of any demonstrable general laws, without detailed and careful observation (either of experiment or phenomena) and in complete absence of rationality test the heck out of their ideas to fit their reality, and voila, they’re scientists doing science too. In a blog.

        That’s why the term pseudo-science is needed.

        Because people can ape and mimic, sham and forge, imitate and approximate the appearance of the genuine article, and it takes a real skeptic arduous, persistent, repeated, careful inquiry to establish whether the case they present is a new Newton or Einstein or Lagrange or Feynman, or the case they present is yet another Claes Johnson or Terry Oldberg or Paul Dunmore in love with their own pseudology and arguing against the genuine article.

        It passes their tests.

        It works for their narrow reality.

        It must be science.

        Those other strange ideas someone’s selling for strange reasons the pseudo-scientist cannot delve must be wrong.

        Those other guy’s “establishment” ideas must be part of the “insider” network.

  35. Steve Milesworthy

    John Beddington at his more nuanced level agreeing that scepticism is good and criticising lack of transparency:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7003622.ece

    He said: “I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper scepticism. Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed.”

    “I think, wherever possible, we should try to ensure there is openness and that source material is available for the whole scientific community.”

    • So what is proper scepticism?

      We had someone here 2 days ago for whom anyone who doesn’t have at least a PhD wouldn’t qualify. That’s arrogance.

      “I think, wherever possible, we should try to ensure there is openness and that source material is available for the whole scientific community.”

      For the whole scientific community means …. what? Only those who are member of AMS or AAAS or the Team?

      The Devil is always in the details.

    • I think this is par his sophistry and just makes him more disgusting – what is sauce for the goose etc. Completely obscene.

    • I wonder if Professor Beddington what would think of a video,( endorsed by Sir john Houghton), that as part of its ethos. shows graphics of plants withering and dying, at CO2 levels of 385 – 390 ppm. ie Levels Now..

      Is that just wrong, pseudo-science, or just plain old alarmism.

      Thoughts please ( I would be interested in Judith’s thoughts)

      It also has a graphic of people wearing gas masks against CO2 pollution, at CO2levels of 400ppm.

      It also has a cute kid, stating extreme weather events are due to man-made climate change – NOW.

      Sir John Houghton, also gave a speech, and the launch of a local group of this CAGW movement. (They believe in the double headed threat of peak oil and climate change) Also stating that the safe level of CO2 is 350ppm

      David Cameron, Prime Mister, Deputy PM Clegg publically endorsed this group, as does Ed Milliband (former Minister of State Energy and Climate Change) now Labour party leader.

      Is the UK’s Chief scientist thinking about this…
      What sort of advice are the UK politicians getting?

      The Carbon Brief, think he is talking about sceptics as well..

      AGW consensus response in contrast to Bishop Hill

      http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/02/was-government-chief-scientist-thinking-about-climate-when-he-said-%27we-should-be-grossly-intolerant-of-pseudo-science%27

      seriously any scientific thoughts on plants withering at 385 390 ppm co2?

      I’m thinking of writing this up, somewhere else ;)

  36. Girma et al. please take this discussion to the thread on mid 20th century global warming, where it is on topic. I will delete this exchange in about an hour, so it does not detract further from this thread.

    http://judithcurry.com/2011/01/21/mid-20th-century-global-warming/

  37. Is pseudo-science the use of the Law of Large Numbers for temperature measurements for “greater accuracy” without meeting the requirements to use the Law of Large Numbers?

  38. The trends are irrefutable evidence that the IPCC is cherry picking the evidence and that this is largely been unrecognized by mainstream climate science. The problem is that it is making scientists look bad. However the problem lies not with those that are speaking out.

  39. “The are trying to study the universe by using a proxy of molecules. The problem is that molecules rotate completely differently from a planet or sun.” As somewhat familiar with the CERN experiments, I can make no sense of this comment whatsoever. Could I please ask you to elaborate?

  40. Why not apply the skepticism net widely?

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/11/16/replication-and-due-diligence-wegman-style/

    Pay attention particularly to 2 items: the pre-selection code in the M&M study and the difference in magnitude of the Y-axes in M&M’s graph and Michael Mann’s graph.

  41. I think history will show that consensus AGW, like eugenics of about 100 years ago, are both tragic examples of pseudo science.

  42. Beddington has marked his place in history. As someone who was far over the line and distant from ethics, reason or reality.

  43. When Imre Lakatos considered the boundaries between science and pseudoscience, he suggested that systems which claimed to be scientific could not be judged simply on their capacity to cope with simple refutations, as theories often survived quite happily with problem areas – Newtonian celestial mechanics, for instance, would have required an extra planet to account for the orbital fluctuations of Mercury, and yet none appeared to be present. No one though that they should therefore write off the whole of Newtonian mechanics because of the anomaly. Differing models of light as particle or wave both had their own distinct successes in predicting and explaining some facets of the behaviour of light; but scientists were quite happy to live with the anomaly. He suggested that there was a “protective belt” which was at the centre of a scientific theory, while the fringes could throw up exceptions which were problematic, and needed a solution, but did not suffice to refute or falsify the entire theory.

    Lakatos suggested that a more sophisticated and nuanced idea was needed of science, and – based on his own study of mathematical heuristic – developed the idea of progressive and degenerative research programmes. He notes:

    “Newton’s theory of gravitation, Einstein’s relativity theory, quantum mechanics, Marxism, Freudism, are all research programmes, each with a characteristic hard core stubbornly defended, each with its more flexible protective belt and each with its elaborate problem-solving machinery. Each of them, at any stage of its development, has unsolved problems and undigested anomalies…Contrary to Popper, the difference cannot be that some are still unrefuted, while others are already refuted. But all the research programmes I admire have one characteristic in common. They all predict novel facts, facts which had been either undreamt of, or have indeed been contradicted by previous or rival programmes”

    He went on to criticise Marxism:

    “In degenerating programmes, however, theories are fabricated only in order to accommodate known facts. Has, for instance, Marxism ever predicted a stunning novel fact successfully? Never! It has some famous unsuccessful predictions. It predicted the absolute impoverishment of the working class. It predicted that the first socialist revolution would take place in the industrially most developed society. It predicted that socialist societies would be free of revolutions. It predicted that there will be no conflict of interests between socialist countries. Thus the early predictions of Marxism were bold and stunning, but they failed. Marxism ‘explained’ all its failures. It ‘explained’ the rising living standards of the working class by devising a theory of imperialism; it ‘explained’ even why the first socialist revolution occurred in industrially backward Russia. It ‘explained’ Berlin 1953, Budapest 1956, Prague 1968. It ‘explained’ the Russian-Chinese conflict. But their auxiliary hypotheses were all cooked up after the event to protect Marxian theory from the facts. The Newtonian programme led to novel facts; the Marxian programme lagged behind the facts and has been running fast to catch up with them.”

    The really big question is: are climate models being accommodated to known facts in such a way as to protect them completely from refutation? Is it lagging behind the facts, and adjusting the models to fit the data, but making very little in the way of predictions which can be refuted? All recent weather events – climate extremes such as extremes of cold weather – are described as being “consistent” with climate change models. But is there anything which models predict which would not be “consistent”? Part of the problem is the nature of predictions, which are probabilistic. For instance, looking ahead, The UK Met Office expects ‘half the years between 2010 and 2015 to be hotter than the hottest year on record’. (BBC News). But in fact in the last 11 years, 10 of the global forecasts issued by the Met Office have been too warm, but this has been “explained” – after the event. How can one get a handle on how well the model is performing when it is so flexible as to be impervious to refutation?

  44. Tomas Milanovic

    Judith

    I fully agree with what you wrote : :

    I wonder exactly what Beddington regards as misuse of scientific evidence, and where he draws the line between pseudoscience and skepticism. The problem even with Beddington’s more moderate statement is that there is an assumption that evidence about a topic like climate change is unambiguous and ignorance doesn’t own a big part of the evidence space.

    Actually this is almost literally what I thought after having read the Beddington’s text.
    It is the first reflex everyone has or should have :
    “How does the guy know that his beliefs are not pseudo-science based on misuse and manipulation of evidence?”
    Actually he doesn’t know that and that’s why this kind of argument belongs to non scientific (not pseudo scientific!) musings – philosophy, sociology, politics.
    What you wrote could be used as mantra that one could copy and paste as answer to thousands of posts and papers.

    The pseudo science and its evil cousin thousands of papers presenting unconvertible evidence (the latter nicely dissected in http://motls.blogspot.com/2011/02/why-dana1981-hasnt-proved-climate.html) are just rhetorical distraction which waste our time and attention.

    One could also paraphrase the famous Einstein’s statement and say :
    Why should one need thousands of papers and opinions suggesting a theory when a single correct one would be enough?”

    Btw I wonder why you dedicate a such a large percentage of bandwidth and of your time to similar themes which, in my view, largely overlapp and always lead to the same conclusion which is pretty much a variation of the quote above.
    I freely admit that I may be biased and there is no reason that I represent a “typical” reader on your blog but I’d prefer to have at last a discussion about this “initial value” vs “boundary value” problem with its corollaries as far as stochastical interpretations of the system are concerned.
    There is a lot of pseudo science out there :)

    On the other hand I understand that on a popular blog there must be a bit of something for everybody, the question is merely one of the dose.

  45. So Larry Laudan says “pseudoscience” has no scientific meaning, and urges that we rather just ask people for the evidence supporting their purported science.

    And if there is none, or none that withstands basic scrutiny? Would Laudan still have us refer to any old tripe as “science” ?

    • There is no science in climate community, just spot observations and spurious non-sense like 324W/m2 back radiation which should be ruled out by any real science standard.

  46. Ok, so some of you have been defending Mr. Mann’s apparent act of fraud.

    UVA has wasted half a million dollars fighting court battles to continue to hide these things.

    The supreme court has ordered UVA to release the requested for information pursuant to Attorney General Ken Cuccinellis’ fraud investigation. If he could not prove reason to investigate a fraud the court would not have ordered said release.

    http://www.climateaudit.info/pdf/foi/PWC%20Order%20and%20Protective%20Order%20May%2024%2020110001.pdf

    Mr. Tim Ball, may very well have been correct. Mr. Mann may very well go from Penn State to the State Pen.

    I would strongly suggest further conversation on this subject be delayed until we know the outcome of said investigation. Anyone pulling any triggers should be sure to check the gun is not pointing at their own foot.

    Cheers.

  47. Also I suppose I should have looked at the date on the previous reply before posting my comment.