Ignorance: the true engine of science

by Judith Curry

Ignorance is the true engine of science, according to a new book by Stuart Firestein, Chair of the Department of Biology at Columbia University.

Firestein’s new book is entitled Ignorance: How it Drives Science.  From the summary at amazon.com:

Most of us have a false impression of science as a surefire, deliberate, step-by-step method for finding things out and getting things done. In fact, says Firestein, more often than not, science is like looking for a black cat in a dark room, and there may not be a cat in the room. The process is more hit-or-miss than you might imagine, with much stumbling and groping after phantoms. But it is exactly this “not knowing,” this puzzling over thorny questions or inexplicable data, that gets researchers into the lab early and keeps them there late, the thing that propels them, the very driving force of science. Firestein shows how scientists use ignorance to program their work, to identify what should be done, what the next steps are, and where they should concentrate their energies. And he includes a catalog of how scientists use ignorance, consciously or unconsciously–a remarkable range of approaches that includes looking for connections to other research, revisiting apparently settled questions, using small questions to get at big ones, and tackling a problem simply out of curiosity. The book concludes with four case histories–in cognitive psychology, theoretical physics, astronomy, and neuroscience–that provide a feel for the nuts and bolts of ignorance, the day-to-day battle that goes on in scientific laboratories and in scientific minds with questions that range from the quotidian to the profound. 

Turning the conventional idea about science on its head, Ignorance opens a new window on the true nature of research. It is a must-read for anyone curious about science.


A post at brainpickings.org provides some quotes from the book:

Are we too enthralled with the answers these days? Are we afraid of questions, especially those that linger too long? We seem to have come to a phase in civilization marked by a voracious appetite for knowledge, in which the growth of information is exponential and, perhaps more important, its availability easier and faster than ever.

There are a lot of facts to be known in order to be a professional anything — lawyer, doctor, engineer, accountant, teacher. But with science there is one important difference. The facts serve mainly to access the ignorance… Scientists don’t concentrate on what they know, which is considerable but minuscule, but rather on what they don’t know…. Science traffics in ignorance, cultivates it, and is driven by it. Mucking about in the unknown is an adventure; doing it for a living is something most scientists consider a privilege.

Working scientists don’t get bogged down in the factual swamp because they don’t care all that much for facts. It’s not that they discount or ignore them, but rather that they don’t see them as an end in themselves. They don’t stop at the facts; they begin there, right beyond the facts, where the facts run out. Facts are selected, by a process that is a kind of controlled neglect, for the questions they create, for the ignorance they point to.

Real science is a revision in progress, always. It proceeds in fits and starts of ignorance.

Being a scientist requires having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt. There is no surer way to screw up an experiment than to be certain of its outcome.

Science, then, is not like the onion in the often used analogy of stripping away layer after layer to get at some core, central, fundamental truth. Rather it’s like the magic well: no matter how many buckets of water you remove, there’s always another one to be had. Or even better, it’s like the widening ripples on the surface of a pond, the ever larger circumference in touch with more and more of what’s outside the circle, the unknown. This growing forefront is where science occurs… It is a mistake to bob around in the circle of facts instead of riding the wave to the great expanse lying outside the circle.

Instead of a system where the collection of facts is an end, where knowledge is equated with accumulation, where ignorance is rarely discussed, we will have to provide the Wiki-raised student with a taste of and for boundaries, the edge of the widening circle of ignorance, how the data, which are not unimportant, frames the unknown. We must teach students how to think in questions, how to manage ignorance. W. B. Yeats admonished that ‘education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’

Science produces ignorance, and ignorance fuels science. We have a quality scale for ignorance. We judge the value of science by the ignorance it defines. Ignorance can be big or small, tractable or challenging. Ignorance can be thought about in detail. Success in science, either doing it or understanding it, depends on developing comfort with the ignorance, something akin to Keats’ negative capability.

I encourage you to read the entire brainpickings post, it puts Firestein’s book into a broad scholarly context.

The Daily Beast

The Daily Beast has an interview with Firestein.  Some excerpts from the interview:

The Daily Beast: So, the most obvious question first—ignorance: how did you get into this and decide it was worth writing a whole book about?
Stuart Firestein: I came to the book because I seemed to be being paid for just the opposite: for vomiting out facts all over the place, for just letting out as many facts as possible. Which I guess is what the university’s business model has been for the last thousand years or so. Somehow or other, we know the facts and then we dole them out for some cash in return. That’s how we make it work.
But it occurs to me that in science, that’s not what we really care about. I worked in the lab on neuroscience questions, and I taught a course on neuroscience. And both of them were interesting things to do, but working in the lab was a lot more exciting. So I tried to imagine what it was that was exciting in the lab that wasn’t exciting in the course.
And in my course, I would use one of these neuroscience textbooks—this one that weighs seven and a half pounds, which is twice the weight of the human brain, by the way—to go along with 25 lectures, also chock full of facts, because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. And I came to the realization at some point several years ago that these kids must actually think we know all there is to know about neuroscience. And that’s the difference. That’s not what we think in the lab. What we think in the lab is, we don’t know bupkis. So I thought well, we should be talking about what we don’t know, not what we know.

As I began to think about it, I realized that, contrary to popular view, scientists don’t really care that much about facts. We recognize that facts are the most unreliable part of the whole operation. They don’t last, they’re always under revision. Whatever fact you seemed to have uncovered is likely to be revised by the next generation. That’s the difference between science and many other endeavors.  Science revels in revision. For science, revision is a victory. In religion, or astrology, or any other belief system, revision is a kind of defeat. You were supposed to have known the answer to this. But the joy of science is that it’s about revision.

So what gets lost in translation between the joy of the process in the field and the way that people look at science from the outside?

I wish I knew the exact answer to it. But part of it is that people don’t like ambiguity. They don’t like to hear “We don’t know.” And scientists pick up on that, and don’t like to say “We don’t know.” . . . And how many times are they going to come back and interview you if every time you just say, “Yeah, that’s a great question. I wish I knew the answer.”

JC comment:  Another book that I haven’t read, but I am ordering this one.  I find what I’ve read so far to be absolutely exhilarating.  How and why did climate science stop having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt? When did climate science go off the rails, and start talking about facts and consensus (with anyone disagreeing with their “facts” and consensus as deniers)?  Sounds like it might have been Madrid, 1995.

345 responses to “Ignorance: the true engine of science

  1. This neuroscientist clearly needs his head examining.

    The Science is Settled! We are all going to fry in the Hell of Thermageddon.

    Lots and lots of Very Important People with private jets and sinecures at NASA and Nobel Peace Prizes have told us so. So it must be true. The author is a heretic.


    • “Being a scientist requires having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt. There is no surer way to screw up an experiment than to be certain of its outcome.

      I agree completely! That is why we must not let self-appointed opponents of the Climategate investigation – leaders of the scientific community, the UN’s IPCC, the US NAS, the UK’s RS, and the publishers and editors of leading research journals – destroy that joyful path through life for future generations!

      Instead of trying to hide information on the powerful source of energy that sustains life and controls Earth’s climate, these leaders of science need to join leaders of religions in facing East at daybreak to rejoice in the giver of another quantum of life – another day.

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      PhD Nuclear Chemistry
      Postdoc Space Physics
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

    • Ignorance (Lack of information) is used by opposing political forces in their battle to control people.

      Much to the surprise of some, the Climategate documents and emails released in Nov 2009 were simply part of this worldwide conflict.

      Two Other Examples:
      1. The books, “The Naked Ape”and “1984″ are promoted by opposing sides in the world-wide attempt to control people by controlling access to information.

      _a). George Orwell’s 1948 book, “1984″

      _b.) Desmond Morris’s 1967 book “The Naked Ape”

      2. Two opinions on the nature of Earth’s heat source are promoted by opposing political forces since Hiroshima was consumed by “nuclear fires” on 6 Aug 1945.

      According to Hoyle, those differences of opinion did not exist seventy-two years ago, in the Spring of 1940, when “We both believed that the Sun was made mostly of iron, . . .The high-iron solution continued to reign supreme . . . (at any rate, in the astronomical circles to which I was privy) until after the Second World War, . . .” (last paragraph, p 153)
      Sir Fred Hoyle, “Home Is Where the Wind Blows” (University Science Books, 1994) 443 pp.

      In Oct 1957, Fred Hoyle co-authored the “Bible” on synthesis of the elements in stars [B2FH (Burbidge, Burbidge, Fowler and Hoyle), “Synthesis of elements in stars”, Reviews of Modern Physics, 29, 547-654 (1957).

      He or another author surreptitiously exposed the “Big Lie”by slyly drawing in a line on Fig. VI,3 (page 586) to illustrate the effects of mass fractionation across abundances of s-products (A = 63-209 amu) in the solar photosphere.

      In 2005, we combined all 72 data points for s-only isotopes from Fig. VI,3 (page 586) and Fig. VI,1 (page 584) of B2FH to illustrate the effects of mass fractionation across abundances of s-products (A = 22-209 amu) in the solar photosphere.

      O. Manuel, William A. Myers, Yasmet Singh and Marcel Pleess, “Solar abundance of elements from neutron-capture cross sections,” 36th Lunar & Planetary Science Conference, 1033 (2005).

      The results leave no doubt who is promoting misinformation about Earth’s heat source – the Sun.

      With kind regards,
      – Oliver

    • The gatekeepers of knowledge seem to be in full retreat tonight!

      The UK’s Royal Society published Professor Henrik Svensmark’s paper, “Evidence of nearby supernovae affecting life on Earth” and this news item: “Did exploding stars help life on Earth to thrive?”


      Here’s Nigel Calder’s report:


      Last year Dr. Michaelian and I showed how the evolution of life has been guided by the evolution of the Sun from the pulsar remains of a supernova that made our elements and then exploded here five billion years (5 Gyr) ago:

      “Origin and evolution of life . . .”, J. Modern Physics 2, 587‐594 (2011). http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10640850/JMP20112600007_31445079.pdf

      By working together, climate skeptics worldwide have shown Earth’s climate cannot be controlled by those who ignore reality in favor of computer models of reality !

      Tonight all is well,
      Oliver K. Manuel

    • Thanks omanuel,
      I appreciate your frequent comments and some day I’ll have time to spend more time here and even study up on the iron sun thesis. Also, don’t give up on liberals and environmentalists. It’s the ideologues of all stripes (and those who put self-interest above common interest), not liberals or conservatives that are the problem.

    • I completely agree, Doug.

      “It’s the ideologues of all stripes (and those who put self-interest above common interest), not liberals or conservatives that are the problem.”

      I will remain a left-wing environmentalist, committed to the basic ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence, although I am annoyed with those who use environmentalism, racism or nationalism to reduce the constitutional rights of American citizens.

      With kind regards,
      – Oliver K. Manuel

    • Latimer,

      You are not far off in the distant future when our water loss to space has reached a point of not being able to keep our planet cooler. That is when the rest of the water boils off and we become another Mars.
      But again water loss to space is not a consideration as it is so minor yearly.

    • You should live so long.

    • Darn, I thought the Rabett scheduled a runaway greenhouse for the November, 2012…so tricky

    • Which day?

    • Eli Rabett,
      April 24th, 2012

      Now, Mr. Lovelock, admits he was wrong. How about the rest of your crowd?

    • Scientists “recognize that facts are the most unreliable part of the whole operation. They don’t last, they’re always under revision. . . . Science revels in revision. For science, revision is a victory. In religion, or astrology, or any other belief system, revision is a kind of defeat.”

      The either/or part in bold can be used to sort leaders of the scientific community, the UN’s IPCC, the US NAS, the UK’s RS, and editors and of leading research journals to see if there are any scientists there.

      Among the current crop of leaders, those that view revision as victory are as rare as nuggets of gold in a creek bed!

      Many government scientists secretly agree that revision is victory, but they know better than express that opinion openly.

      “So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense.”
      - Malcolm Muggeridge

      Oliver K. Manuel
      PhD Nuclear Chemistry
      Postdoc Space Physics
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

    • Start the presses, headline coming…



      Scientists wait for public reactions, Extra edition possible.

    • This guy says the same thing, only better…


      everybody loves moving pictures.

  2. Doesn’t this make Oreskes’ work look like ‘anti-science’?

  3. Of course much of the climate wars is not about science at all. Simply a narrative delivered with absolute confidence superficially in the language of science but with both sides claiming the imprimatur of objective science.

    • Chief,

      When you are in a powerful position, you have control to ignore and hence stay ignorant to anything that is not of the consensus.
      But that has generated an ignorant society that has put faith in our scientists to be correct in their best interest.
      “Little do they know……ha…ha…ha(Mad scientist laugh)”

    • Chief,
      For me, AGW is social mania with a “sciencey veneer”.

    • …”How and why did climate science stop having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt?”…

      ‘Evolution’ has negated the need for a creator in the ‘world of science’. Take a poll and see how many ‘climate scientists’ have accepted Christ? Hazard a guess? This is just an obvious question from an old POE.) Who then needs the truth when you have already bought a lie? A simplistic viewpoint that has some merit, based upon the facts. The Ages of God, go on with or without you. I prefer finding the pleasure of the mystery.

  4. Geoff Sherrington

    There are branches of science where a hypothesis can be mounted and the scientific method conducted in age-old style. It’s a pity that the distortions so beloved of climate change workers cause people to think that it sets the standard. it does not. Most of the time, it’s way below standard. That’s why people like me write things like this. We’ve seen the better way.

    • Latimer Alder

      It is also very apparent that few scientists working outside the weird and wacky world of climatology have looked at it from the outside and written approvingly of the high standard of work that they find. Nor of the towering intellects and devotion to the scientific method of its chief proponents.

      Indeed the only guys who seem to think that climatologists are really good scientists are other climatologists and/or the ‘great and good’ of the scientific political establishment who look approvingly upon their grant cheques.

    • You say that Geoff, but I venture to suggest that in a field you know a lot about there is some question as to whether alternative ideas can actually be discussed in a dispassionate, evidence based manner. For example, what about the Expanding Earth Hypothesis, the idea that the Big Bang never happened, John Elliston’s ideas on the formation of crystalline rocks, abiotic oil etc. In my experience, those who explore such ideas are pilloried by the geology establishment..

    • Daniel Suggs

      mondo- Don’t forget dark matter. Even when it can’t be found: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/340170/title/Dark_matter_search_turns_up_empty
      It must be there. They just somehow missed it. Other theories need not be mentioned.

  5. Judith,

    A few of us are trying to clear away the ignorance.
    But the massive brainwashing of the consensuses has seriously undermined how far you can go. Even NASA ignores everything not bound in their world of science.
    I would have had the velocity mapping published but the consensus feel threatened by anything that undermines the current system.

  6. Judith

    Not sure I agree with Madrid 1995 as your climate watershed. I will instead put forward the establishment of the Hadley centre five years previously which saw the culmination of a sequence of events cited here by the Met office-perhaps also establishing the pre-eminence of politics over the always dubious and incomplete science. To the three events here I would add the Hansen 1988 paper identifying sties for global temperatures.

    “Three events occurred in 1988 that assisted greatly in bringing the issue of man-made climate change to the notice of politicians:

    1.A World Ministerial Conference on Climate Change in June hosted by the government of Canada.
    2.A speech in September by Margaret Thatcher where she mentioned the science of anthropogenic climate change and the importance of action to combat climate change.
    3.The first meeting of the IPCC in Geneva in November 1988. Delegates from many countries agreed to set up an international assessment of the science of climate change, together with its likely impacts and the policy options.

    In December 1988 the UK Government announced it was committed to extending its influence internationally to provide information about climate science and to supporting appropriate research. Discussions were held with the Department of the Environment to strengthen climate research at the Met Office. This led, in November 1989, to an announcement of a new centre for climate science research in the Met Office – then called the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.”



    • Tony,

      Many times I have received e-mails from politicians which quote the consensus of the IPCC which each country has paid for, for their decisions.

    • Is it possible that governments are pushing “climate change” because increasing tax is not popular?

    • Girma,

      Australia is an excellent example.

    • Stirling English

      ‘The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary’

      Seems like Mencken had the same thought a long while ago. ‘Climate change’ is just the hobgoblin du jour for our times.

      Never underestimate politicians’ desire to find new things to tax and regulate. (even if imaginary). Since most of them are incapable of actual work it helps to give a point to their otherwise meaningless lives.

    • Either of these? Or both?

      “For every complex problem there is a solution which is simple, neat and wrong”. Or “elegant, easy to understand and wrong”. –H. L. Mencken

      “It is difficult to believe that even idiots ever succumbed to such transparent contradictions, to such gaudy processions of mere counter-words, to so vast and obvious nonsensicality [sic]…” –H.L. Mencken

    • Girma | April 23, 2012 at 8:12 am |

      Mr. Orssengo, politicians are men of little brain, but some cunning. They know some things better than the rest of us. Among those things are that more frightened people want to pay tax less, and are less easy to stay in power over, unless you’re a merciless dictator with a large, loyal and unfrightened army. Even then, you want people frightened of you, or something you can save them from, and not something you neither acknowledge is real nor control.

      The carbon tax in Australia is enormously unpopular, as are carbon tax and ETS proposals in the USA, as was the Canadian federal carbon tax proposal.. however, the British Columbia carbon tax was so popular that the government that introduced it was re-elected with an even larger majority in the very next election (which was fought almost solely on the issue of the carbon tax).. and then promptly went and fiddled with taxes again and suffered crushing reversals in popularity and a voter uprising.

      The carbon tax, in this case, was populist and popular, supported by business large and small, and gave money taken out of the hands of carbon consumers like a fee directly to taxpayers per capita as a dividend.

    • As most other things, the morphing of climate science into something different cannot be pinpointed at a certain date or certain specific event. It is something that evolved over a more extended period, and is indeed still evolving. As David Hull put it in the title of his fascinating book on the internal debates of zoologists, “Science as Process”, science is, well, a process.

    • Yes, CAGW has been ‘an extraordinary popular delusion, and madness of the crowd’, but there are those who urged the herd, and evidence is gathering that they knew what they were doing.

    • kim,
      Those that “urge the herd” nearly always seem to have a very good idea of what they are doing.
      It is when those they urge find out as well that we see the true test of character.

  7. Still no word on what happend to the written records that PJ @ UEA collected & threw into the trash? The Met Office should know, they had a state-right to it; right? The whole world wants to know now.
    Where did it all go? How much was collected in tons? From the whole world.
    Thank you.

  8. It’s a dark alley Ben Santer has led us down.

  9. When did climate science go off the rails, … – JC

    One would think the person making the w-a’d accusation would know the timeline.

    Me, I would look for the date where the field, as a whole, stopped doing research. You know, when they determined they had all the facts and were screaming in unison that all climate science is settled.

    • BIG :-)

    • JCH, I would have to say that the day that they threw out the origional records will be close enough. What day would that be?

    • wtf are you talking about? you don’t have a clue about any of the details do you? I bet you don’t even know what “original records” you are talking about, just repeating a talking-point and pretending you therefore have some grasp of history.

  10. It’s a good idea to reflect upon Richard Feynman’s balanced opinion:

    “Each generation that discovers something from experience must pass that on, but it must pass that on with a delicate balance of respect and disrespect, so that the race (not that it is aware of the disease to which it is liable) does not inflict its errors too rigidly on its youth, but it does pass on the accumulated wisdom, including the wisdom that it may not be wisdom.

    It is necessary to teach both to accept and reject the past with a kind of balance that takes considerable skill.”

    In recent decades, both the Righteous Left and the Righteous Right have embraced an unskilled, uncritical, unthinking and imbalanced rejection of the “inconvenient truths” that are associated to climate change … inconvenient truths that research programs like ARGO, JASON-2, GRACE (etc.) nowadays show us with steadily improving clarity.

    Almost certainly, today’s imbalanced pundits of the Righteous Left and the Righteous Right both will be discomfited by the coming decade of high-precision climate-change data.

    Good. Because as Feynman himself reminds us: “Nature cannot be fooled.” In particular, if CAGW is real, then Nature *WON’T* allow us to hide from it.

    • Joy Black,
      Anyone still claiming that the “climate is changing” as if that were a new and unique situation is already on the losing side of the issue.
      Only for AGW true believers is the idea of “climate change” something unusual.
      The question is if the fear mongering, apocalypse promoting that the AGW movement engages in is based on anything reasonable.

    • If sea-level rise accelerates, then Nature’s answer is “yes”, and so the spin of righteous pundits (both rightie and leftie) won’t matter, precisely as Feynman says.

    • Joy

      It depends upon how much it accelerates doesn’t it?

    • Yes, and also, how far into the future we plan. Because as with individuals, and as with political parties, some cultures are foresighted, other cultures not so much.

      Either way, supposing that sea-level rise rates *do* increase, then it’s plain that humanity will have some mighty hard thinking to do, and some mighty tough choices to make.

      There’s no sense pretending otherwise.

    • Latimer Alder

      ‘Either way, supposing that sea-level rise rates *do* increase, then it’s plain that humanity will have some mighty hard thinking to do, and some mighty tough choices to make.’

      It is not plain to me. We have been adapting to rising sea levels for centuries. Please explain.

    • Again, it really matters the rate of increase and the specific location impacted. Humans can build a great deal of infrastructure protection in 20 years. If the rate of sea level rise doubled (which there is no evidence of at present) to 2 feet per 100 years is it a problem or merely another issue to be dealt with?

      I question who you mean when you write “we”. Building coastal infrastructure will be up to which of the 200 independent nation’s coastline is at risk. There is no worldwide “we”, only independent nations with different interests

    • Florida = Doggerland? Plain-as-day evidence that “Nature can’t be fooled.”

    • Latimer Alder


      ‘Nature can’t be fooled’.

      OK. Nice phrase, but what is the relevance to this discussion?

    • The full quotation is Feynman’s “Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled“. As the inhabitants of Doggerland discovered, when their priests and prayers could not hold back the rising sea.

    • gregschiller

      “Sea level”

      About that…

      I was stunned to learn that much of the drop in sea-level is attributed to increased rain-fall in Australia and South America – which got me thinking. If enough rain could fall on land to substantially lower sea-level what about all the water we have pumped off the land?

      A quick query of “Aquifer depletion” yielded this study Global groundwater depletion leads to sea level rise

      From the study: “Because most of the groundwater released from the aquifers ultimately ends up in the world’s oceans, it is possible to calculate the contribution of groundwater depletion to sea level rise. This turned out to be 0.8 mm per year, which is a surprisingly large amount when compared to the current sea level rise of 3.3 mm per years as estimated by the IPCC. It thus turns out that almost half of the current sea level rise can be explained by expansion of warming sea water, just over one quarter by the melting of glaciers and ice caps and slightly less than one quarter by groundwater depletion. Previous studies have identified groundwater depletion as a possible contribution to sea level rise. However, due to the high uncertainty about the size of its contribution, groundwater depletion is not included in the latest IPCC report. This study confirms with higher certainty that groundwater depletion is indeed a significant factor.”

      Could it be that almost all the “acceleration” in sea-level rise over the last half century is attributable to aquifer depletion rather than accelerated glacial melt and thermal expansion?

      Now that would be something, wouldn’t it?

    • Joy,
      Frankly it sounds like you are going through a Kubler Ross process here.
      Look, Venice, the Netherlands, New Orleans, and people in countless other areas cope, some well and some poorly, with sea level changes. you might recall that Troy was once a thriving port and is now far fromthe sea. The fact is that the AGW community is the one pushing a proposition about catastrophe. Skeptics have pointed out rather well that this proposition is wrong. Deal with that instead of vague claims about either way.

    • forgot my link to the KR process. You might find this of interest:

    • Latimer Alder


      Thanks. I knew where the quote came from.

      But I’m still wondering why you think that sealevel rise will be such a problem? We live with sealevel rising and falling ten or more feet every six hours…we call it ‘tides’. We know about them We build cities in tidal areas. My office overlooks the tidal Thames. They are not a problem.
      And any change in the overall sealevel will be very very gradual and we will have plenty of time to adapt to it. It will not be like the tsunamis you see on the TV where it is the suddenness and unexpectedness that cause the problem, not the absolute sealevel rise.

      And, being a Brit whose sole knowledge of Florida is watching Horatio Caine fool about with his sunglasses, I can’t see that the slow inundation of Miami over a hundred or more years would be such a great loss to humanity.

      I lost much faith in seal level predictions and stuff from the US when I discovered that the Sea Level Research Group is located in Boulder Colorado (one mile high on my last visit) and about as far from both the Atlantic and Pacific as it is possible to get.

      In next week’s exciting issue: The Vegan Society and its guide to choosing the tastiest cuts of beef to get that real meaty flavour on your BBQ.

    • Defending lands while elevation is below the mean high tide-level is relatively easy—seawalls and dikes and gates suffice. Defending lands whose elevation is below the mean low tide-level is orders of magnitude more difficult, because the sea’s desire to drown these lands is utterly relentless. There are soberingly few successful examples of this tougher, more dangerous, and immensely more costly, variety of coastline defense.

    • Joy

      I wrote at great length about sea level rise and Doggerland in my article carried here last year.


      I am not sure what relevance Doggerland has to the circumstances surrounding todays extremely modest sea level rise.

    • Climatereason, your Doggerland post is *TERRIFIC*! Thank you!

      With regard to sea-level rise, the common-sense level-of-concern and the rate-of-rise are pretty tightly coupled:

      • ~1mm/year == business as usual
      • ~3mm/year == moderate concern
      • ~5mm/year == deep concern
      • ~1cm/year == grave concern
      • ~2cm/year == full-bore real-estate panic

      That is why much depends upon recent predictions of a marked acceleration in sea-level rise in the coming decade.

    • Joy

      Since it has been rising at 3 mm per year since reliable measures have been available, isn’t that the business as usual no worries number?

    • Rob, the present sea-level rise of 3mm/year is already very bad news.

    • sea level is actually a bit of a diversion when it’s taken as the *sole* impact of climate change. It is but one of thousands. While everyone is staring at the sea something else stabs us in the back.

    • Yes, but sea level is an excellent good proxy for other climate-change parameters, because:

      • sea level is a global measure,
      • that is easy to measure (relatively),
      • folks can see its effects,
      • millions of property-owners care passionately, and
      • the CAGW folks predict that it will accelerate.

      In particular, if sea-level rise accelerates to 5+mm/year in the coming decade or two — which will seriously perturb tens of millions of property-owners — then Hansen’s longer-term CAGW predictions are (rightly) going to be regarded very seriously.

    • Latimer Alder


      ‘Defending lands while elevation is below the mean high tide-level is relatively easy—seawalls and dikes and gates suffice. Defending lands whose elevation is below the mean low tide-level is orders of magnitude more difficult’

      OK -you may be right.

      But why should we embark on such a futile task? Maybe we decide to sacrifice a few lowlying bits. Like Florida.

      Nut we’ll have a few generations to manage a retreat. I still don’t see the big problem. Nor do I see why today’s poor folk of India and China should be restricted in their use of energy -and hence a chance of a better life – to (possibly) preserve Miami Beach for rich retired American climate alarmists.

    • Joy,
      Thanks for the science fiction link.
      I love SF. Ken McLeod is one of my favorites, by the way.

    • andrew adams


      Yes you’re right, a possible threat to Miami Beach is not really the problem. .

      What about places which are both poor and vulnerable to sea level rises, such as Bangladesh?

    • It isn’t rising sea levels we need to be concerned about.

      It’s when the levee(s) break.

    • Latimer Alder

      New Orleans was a great party city, but even after a good night on the town, I was still sober enough to figure out that having to walk up a hill to reach the Mississippi River was not a good idea.

    • I was there for the first time last March, attending a conference. My first thought walking down Bourbon St was “Why did I wait so long.” My second thought was “Probably lucky I did, as I’m less likely to get in trouble these days.”

      Oh, it was 80 degreesmost of the week. Warm even for NO. And I loved every degree of it. We are just now starting to see some decent spring weather up here in the PNW.

    • Hunter: “Only for AGW true believers is the idea of ‘climate change’ something unusual.”
      Recall that the UNFCCC defined climate change that way. Further, it is warming. Lastly, it is caused by green house gasses emitted by human beings.
      IPCC, R. Alley, and J. Arblaster. A Report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (SPM). Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis: Summary for Policymakers. IPCC, 2007

      Footnote 1: “Climate change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This usage differs from that in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC], where climate change refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.”

    • Joy

      If cAGW is real, some nations will be harmed while others will benefit. The human species will continue. Is the goal in your mind to populate the planet with as many people as possible?

  11. “Most of us have a false impression of science as a surefire, deliberate, step-by-step method for finding things out and getting things done. In fact, says Firestein, more often than not, science is like looking for a black cat in a dark room, and there may not be a cat in the room.”
    Or something in the the dark room could some kind animal or something else.
    This is why there is a connection between exploration and science. Exploration is a gold mine of unknowns. Unknowns few could begin to imagine without exploration.
    And is why space exploration is important. But living in space having settlements in space is probably more significant. We should explore space so we get to point of humans living in this different environment.
    Climate science hasn’t made much progress, but most of progress is related to climate science is because we got to point of going into space and using satellites. And continuation and improvement in satellites will cause more significant advances in the future.
    Space environment is our New World- only far more vast than the Americas and more exotic.
    If we move into space, rather send just sent probes into space, if we settle space, we taking exponential leaps in terms of exploration.
    Having a lunar base with say 4 scientists living there might be significant, but it’s not I am talking about, I mean thousands if not millions of people going into space before year 2100- opening space up as the final frontier. leading, of course, to much better satellites looking at Earth. And massive telescope looking at the stellar neighborhood, reading the history of the Sun in lunar regolith, etc. But mainly as for topic, finding out what we currently have not a clue about- or maybe well before say 2100 we could discover the +90% of mass of universe which thought to be *dark matter/energy* [that being something we have some clue about: "More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the Universe's expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 70% of the Universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 25%."
    Or so, some have imagined. And millions planets fairly near us in our galaxy, and doubt exotic fragments of star cores and probably take 1000 years to get a fairly decent map of our galaxy.]

  12. Norm Kalmanovitch

    When did climate science go off the rails, and start talking about facts and consensus (with anyone disagreeing with their “facts” and consensus as deniers)?
    Climate science never went off the rails as demonstrated by over 31,000 true scientists who signed the Oregon Petition which stated:

    We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

    There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.
    What did go off the rails was public perception of climate science thanks to the IPCC which is a UN body run by politicians and bureaucrats who have a political and ideological agenda and have falsely used the good name of 2,500 scientists to provide what the public has been led to believe to be scientific evidence in support of this self serving agenda. This entire body of so called scientific evidence is based entirely on GCM models which are driven by a fabricated CO2 forcing parameter and fabricated climate sensitivith factor both purposly designed to create the illusion of catastrophic global warming when all real scientific evidence demonstrates this to be a physical impossibility!
    Honest statements by scientists were edited out of the IPCC reports but in their ignorance the politicans bureaucrats and those scientists who abandoned scientific ethics in pursuit of their ideological agenda against energy did not catch everything and missed editing out this from the IPCC 2001 Third Assesment Report:
    “The fact that global mean temperature has increased since the 19th Century and that other trends have been observed does not necessarily mean that an anthropogenic effect on the climate system has been identified. Climate has always varied on all time scales, so the observed changes may be natural.”
    Scientific Report, IPCC Scientific Assessment, 2001a Chapter 1, p.97

    Culprits like Al Gore demonstrate the politically driven misinformation that has resulted in the public misconception about climate change and more importantly about science itself. One must remember that all five global temperature datasets demonstrate that global warming officially ended by 1998 but Al Gore’s movie came out in 2006; four years after the IPCC’s key HadCRUT3 temperature dataset shows that the world had already started cooling in spite of the continued and rapid increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.
    We also must remember that Al Gore demonstrated ignorance by declaring the “science was settled” with climate science still in its infancy and anything but settled if it properly adhered to scientific principles and the scientific method which are driven by this “ignorance engine” and not by ignorant people!

    • “Climate science never went off the rails as demonstrated by over 31,000 true scientists who signed the Oregon Petition which stated:”

      In what fantasy world are medical doctors and veterinary surgeons “true scientists” with expertize on climate?

      The Oregon Petition is an example of denier propaganda. You would be better off asking why, if deniers have such a good case, they resort to tricks like the Oregon Petition?

    • lolwot,
      If the Oregon petition is ‘denier propaganda’, to quote your ignorant bigotry, what about the the IPCC, filled with phony papers, suppressing context, written by people with conflicts of interest and gray literature? Oh, yeah: the climate bible for true believers.

    • The nipcc report is plagued with errors, omissions and spin. Deniers think its great tho and only have a problem with the far far superior ipcc report. Funny that.

      the Oregon petition polls non-experts and pretends they are real experts. deniers don’t want the public to know the true position of climate experts.

    • Back to the Zodiac…

    • lolwot,

      The “expert” drum beating is getting rather worn and out of tune. Anybody who has followed the issue knows that there are qualified people on both sides of the issue. If someone like Peter Gleick can be called an “expert” on the issue, then there are an abundant number of people who do not blindly accept every statement from a select group of scientists as the gospael.

    • “The “expert” drum beating is getting rather worn and out of tune. ”

      Hmm, climate deniers beating a fake drum and then crying about drum beating when they are out-drummed.

      “Anybody who has followed the issue knows that there are qualified people on both sides of the issue.”

      There are just far more qualified on the relevant subject area on the alarmist side.

    • There are just far more qualified on the relevant subject area on the alarmist side.

      Why do you imagine that is? (and was the ‘alarmist’ bit intentional on your part?)
      How many career climatologists and other ‘experts’ do you imagine there would be if the AGW theory had never raised its head?

    • lolwot does not seem to realize the lack of experts who get to control IPCC publications,and how many non-climate scientists, who happen to also be alarmists, have input and control on the IPCC products.
      Not to mention of course the use of promotional pieces from WWF and Greenpeace, and other big green fear mongers. But by all means let’s focus on the Oregon petition and any problems with it, as if those problems somehow erase the AGW mania’s errors.
      Frankly the believers have to do this in order to pretend Gleick did not happen, that climategate is not important, that Mann is actually a good ethical scientist, that Hansen is not deranged and that Lovelock did not just disavow the alarmism he helped to start. What I do like is how the partisan believers, when cornered on the apocalypse they have been pushing, mostly deny they had anything like that in mind. This is a really entertaining period of time.

    • “Why do you imagine that is? (and was the ‘alarmist’ bit intentional on your part?)
      How many career climatologists and other ‘experts’ do you imagine there would be if the AGW theory had never raised its head?”

      From my point of view it looks like this.

      1) Climate skeptics know there is a consensus of experts, and know it matters, but they want to neutralize that.

      2) Normally they try to neutralize consensus the same way evolution skeptics do, by pretending it doesn’t matter. By a) claiming the consensus only exists because scientists need it for funding and b) dismissing consensus as an appeal to authority, as if numbers of experts don’t matter*

      3) But a couple of times a year climate skeptics will try something different. They do a complete 180. They appeal to a number of experts they have got to sign some list or petition and use that to claim there is no consensus.

      4) When critics invariably point out that the expertize of the signers are lacking and that a like to like comparison of experts shows there is a consensus, skeptics fall back to position #2 and even have the gal to accuse their critics of appealing to authority and numbers of experts pretending that’s exactly what the skeptics did in #3.

      The question really is whether the jump from #2 to #3 and back so conveniently is evidence of a systematic and widespread dishonesty and propaganda pushing among climate skeptics. I think it is.

      Invariably all the skeptic blogs get involved when a #3 happens.

      *there’s a slight contradiction between 2a) and 2b) too. If someone believes consensus is irrelevant then it shouldn’t matter why it exists, so why are they insisting it’s because of funding? As if it would be a different matter if it existed because the scientists actually believed the theory….

    • Lolwot, are you suggesting that, because some sceptics sometimes say x, and some other sceptics sometimes say y, that all sceptics must be confused between x and y?
      That doesn’t follow, besides one could equally level similar charges at alarmists.
      Also, you appear to be confusing petitions and consensus, which are political constructs, with science, which definitely isn’t. A scientific theory is either right or wrong – if it’s wrong then it doesn’t matter how many people say it’s right, it’s still wrong – or vice versa.
      But back to my original point – why would so many people make their careers in climatology if they didn’t believe in the AGW theory from the outset?

    • It takes a certain type to accept the existence of a human-controlled radiation heater made from, cold, thin air just because someone told them it exists.

    • lolwot,

      Part of the problem with determining which side of the debate the “experts” support is in defining exactly what aspect of the debate you are referring to.

      If the debate is on whether or not we are warmer than a hundred years ago, you will likely find most of the experts on the yes side.

      If you are arguing that it is the result of human impact or that there is at least a human fingerprint involved, you will still have a lot of the experts.

      If you want to say that it is primarily due to CO2, well the numbers start to drop, but I’ll give them to the yes side, but the overwhelming majority is gone.

      Start to debate the impacts and/or the measures being adopted or propose and you go from being in the majority to what is now appearing to be an ever dwindling minority.

    • It takes a certain type to accept the existence of a human-controlled radiation heater made from, cold, thin air just because someone told them it exists.

      Ken, stop referring to it as being a ‘heater’ and you might find more people willing to listen to you.

    • When we’re told the Earth’s surface is an average of 33C hotter due to the “GHE”, doesn’t that require a heating mechanism? I’m not sure how you increase the temperature of something, but I generally reach for a heater. I know the story: restricting OLR increases the surface temperature. As I said, it takes a certain type of person to believe something like that…the type of person attracted to soft topics like climatology, astrology and political science. If you want to believe in increasing the average temperature of something without a heating mechanism, then have at it. Just don’t expect any credence from anyone with an engineering background, that’s all.

    • Ken,

      Where’s the heating mechanism in a thermos flask?
      If there isn’t one then how come your coffee is hotter than the surroundings?

    • “It takes a certain type to accept the existence of a human-controlled radiation heater made from, cold, thin air just because someone told them it exists.”

      Ken, that’s a strawman fallacy. The CO2GW “hypothesis” is about the reduction of the Earth’s cooling rate to space – not about the enhancement of the heating rate.

      When you close an open window in the winter, does the room get warmer? Of course, I assume a constant heating rate.

    • Hotter than it would have been is not heating, that’s modulating the cooling rate. When you’re told the average Earth’s surface temperature is an average 33C hotter due to the GHE, that requires a heating mechanism. When you’re told that adding CO2 to the atmospheric mix increases the Earth’s average surface temperature, that requires a heating mechanism. To create higher and higher record temperatures, that requires a heating mechanism. Passive radiation is a dissipative agent of entropy, not a heating mechanism.
      If we wanted to heat a gallon of water and increase its temperature by an average of 33C, let’s see what we could do. We could extract heat from a fission or fusion process. We could use an exothermic chemical reaction. We could get heat from a low temperature (but still greater than 33C hotter), large-mass source or we could get heat from a high temperature, low mass source (much hotter than 33C). We could use a laser. we could use a plasma (fire). We could use a microwave oven. What did I miss?
      Which of these mechanisms is at work in our atmosphere? Delaying OLR by a few milliseconds in a cold, thin atmosphere is not going to do it.

    • For those of you who are puzzled by radiation…how it is generated and how it can be used, how about a free seminar? You can watch very carefully for any evidence of heating via backradiation or heating via diffuse, cold and low-density bodies like parcels of air. I have no vested interest in this, it’s simply something that popped up in my email inbox.

    • When you’re told the average Earth’s surface temperature is an average 33C hotter due to the GHE, that requires a heating mechanism.

      The heating mechanism is that bright yellow ball in the sky – which is perfectly capable of heating the surface to at least a comfortable temperature.
      But without greenhouse gases a good part of that heat energy would simply disappear into space come nightfall and/or winter.

    • Ah, so the atmosphere, which has small thermal capacity (compared to earth and ocean) and can only integrate (smear) temperature differences via conveyance–can increase the Earth’s average temperature by 10%. Excellent thinking.
      This magnificent 33C of GHE heating, what is its distribution? Is it Gaussian? What are the -3db shoulder temps? Is it 33C at the poles? Is it 33C at the equator?
      In addition, I would love to see the evidence that CO2 can store thermal energy long enough to hold it through the long, cold night. The only reason the morning air has any residual heat at all is because it was convected from somewhere warmer or stimulated by emission from something that does have a large thermal mass, like dense black rocks or water.

      Pour 67C water into a Thermos. Now, your assignment is to make its average temperature 33C higher. How will you do it? By restricting OLR? I want to see you do it. You can pour in more 67C water in the morning. Does that help with your assignment?

    • Ken, any competent engineer can meet your water-warming challenge easily.

      Moreover, the mathematical analysis, the physical mechanisms, and the observed engineering performance associated to the heat transport in these devices all match-up perfectly.

      The reason that skeptical theories of heat-transport receive little respect from practicing scientists and engineers isn’t complicated: the alternative skeptical theories of heat transport just plain don’t work.

    • Joy, you think the average temperature of that system will increase over its initial condition?

      How do the constituent parts translate to the GHE? What is the big thermal mass on Earth that sacrifices thermal energy to heat the gas?

      Are you saying the infamous GHE does not work at night?

      Sorry, Joy, that’s an interesting heat transfer machine, but it has nothing to do with the WV/CO2 GHE and heating via ‘backradiation’.

    • Ken, of course the atmosphere doesn’t heat the surface – what do you think I’ve been saying all along.

      Read my lips – heat isn’t energy and energy isn’t heat.

      The crux of the matter is, the earth’s surface is, on average, radiating approx. 150W/m2 more than it’s receiving from the sun.
      Now, unless something is inhibiting that from simply shooting off into space, the surface would be a lot colder than it is.
      What do you think is stopping that 150W/m2 from radiating straight out into space? Give me a good answer and I might listen.

    • Thank you, Peter, for a perfect encapsulation.

      The crux of the matter is, the earth’s surface is, on average, radiating approx. 150W/m2 more than it’s receiving from the sun.

      Where does this 150W per square meter come from? Oh, it comes from assuming the Earth is a gray body and SB applies. We calculate how cold the Earth must be via SB and we locate the height of the effective outgoing radiation and work backwards via the lapse rate. Voila, 150W/m2 pops out and we assume there is a GHE heat engine working for us. No competent engineer would design a heat engine that way. An engineer would say: where convection dominates energy transfer, SB does not apply to the Earth’s surface and it’s dumb to claim it does.

      Can we get back to using the GHE to heat water in a Thermos? Show me how the mechanism that drives GHE heating can be used to heat water in a vacuum flask and we’re getting somewhere. Good luck.

    • Right, Ken, how about countering with a perfect encapsulation of your thinking, instead of conjuring up a great big nonsensical thermos flask strawman which has no answer?
      If the surface doesn’t radiate according to SB, then what actually does happen? By what mechanism? Quantify it – plug in some numbers so we can see with our own eyes. Explain how an excited molecule on the surface has any knowledge of the convection going on above it, when it decides whether or not to emit a photon.

    • Here’s my encapsulation:

      The variable sun directly heats water (the average tropical SST is >20C) and land and to a smaller extent directly heats the atmosphere.
      The atmosphere, working hard to integrate temperature differences, globally distributes heat via convection (creating a horizontal lapse rate).
      Ocean water, with its large thermal mass, acts as a damper against fast temperature changes and restricts daily/seasonal variations.

      I think that’s enough to explain most of your daily experience. CO2 does nothing measurable to our climate.

    • Yet more hand-waving.
      Why can’t you just answer the question?

  13. Science: the joy of exploring for the laws of nature.

    Francis Bacon, founder of the scientific method wrote:

    “God . . .created heaven and earth, and all their armies and generations, and gave unto them constant and everlasting laws, which we call nature; which is nothing but the laws of creation;”

    Confess. Of Faith, Works, vol. iv. P 413.

    This recognition that God had established laws of nature launched the scientific revolution. Rodney Stark documented how 50 of 52 most important pioneers of the scientific revolution were Christians. For the Glory of God Only Edmund Halley was a skeptic and Paracelsus a pantheist.

    See Vishal Mangalwadi The Book that made your world. Ch. 13, Science, What is its source?

    • Lots of superstitions out there to rely upon

    • Latimer Alder

      Nothing to do with the general idea at the time that if you didn’t go along with the teachings of the Church they were very likely to burn you to death in a very unpleasant way then? Or the Inquisition and its torturers?

      Glad we’ve got that established.

    • Or the scientific enlightened socieites based on eugenics and dialectic materialism and Lysenko’s great discoveries.

    • There was always a difference between suppressing heresy and suppressing scientific inquiry. Christianity routinely did the former, but not the latter. The myth of antagonism between science and religion pretty much arose in the late nineteenth century and is based upon misinformation. Cf. Galileo Goes to Jail ed. Ronald Numbers for a debunking.

    • Rob Starkey
      Perhaps you could study the facts of how the scientific method was established by scientists who believed in laws of nature established by a Creator, vs “superstitions”. e.g. see Francis Bacon, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

      Already in his early text Cogitata et Visa (1607) Bacon dealt with his scientific method, which became famous under the name of induction. He repudiates the syllogistic method and defines his alternative procedure as one “which by slow and faithful toil gathers information from things and brings it into understanding” (Farrington, 1964, 89). . . .Bacon’s method appears as his conceptual plot, “applied to all stages of knowledge, and at every phase the whole process has to be kept in mind” (Malherbe, 1996, 76). Induction implies ascending to axioms, as well as a descending to works, so that from axioms new particulars are gained and from these new axioms. The inductive method starts from sensible experience and moves via natural history (providing sense-data as guarantees) to lower axioms or propositions, which are derived from the tables of presentation or from the abstraction of notions.

      Similarly, see Henry F. Schaeffer III Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence

      For actual evidence, see The New Testament Documents, Are they Reliable? F.F. Bruce

    • David
      I support your right to believe in any superstition that you wish to as long as you are not interfering with the rights of others. I also agree that many individuals can believe in various superstitions and still contribute positively in unrelated areas.

      Regarding your defense of your particular superstition, you have a VERY tough case to make. Take your new testament as an example. Analyze each of the individual books that form your new testament and determine the date of the oldest written record of each of the books. How many years after the time of Jesus are the oldest written records? For how long were the stories transmitted orally?

      Isn’t it true that it was very common during that period to exaggerate stories and make claims to be interesting to those whom the tellers wished to listen to their stories? I could provide you with various other “stories” from the period where people would perform miracles. Do you think people used to be able to fly or turn sticks into snakes?

    • Latimer Alder

      ‘Isn’t it true that it was very common during that period to exaggerate stories and make claims to be interesting to those whom the tellers wished to listen to their stories?’

      Not much changes over the years, does it? The only difference is that the stories now come from climatologists predicting the eternal damnation and the end of the world through fire and brimstone rather than from preachers predicting eternal damnation and the end of the world through fire and brimstone.

    • Latimer- I see many similarities between the faith in cAGW and many who believe in various religions. It makes it uncomfortable for many people to examine openly and honestly.

    • Latimer Alder

      @rob starkey

      You and I are not alone. I have long thought that fervent belief in (C)AGW is just the same as fervent belief in any other religion.

      You may not have seen this recent article which summarises some of the ideas quite well.


      I find the parallels he draws with many aspects: Original Sin, Atonement and Repentance, Rituals, Indulgences, Faith and Prophecy…to be very telling. I’d add a few more…belief in the Truth of the Big Black Book and a hot and unpleasant end for those who do not find their way to salvation.At the very least when two movements share so many characteristics, it is certainly worth seriously considering that they are just different manifestations of the same irrational idea.

      A while back we had a contributor here who had recently converted from fervent evangelical christianity to fervent CAGWism. All he seemed to change in his posts was the higher power that he believed in. All the rest was unchanged, The commonality was very striking. Sadly – but perhaps unsurprisingly – he chose to withdraw to his own blog rather than argue his case here. The lone prophet crying in the wilderness may be his rle model.

    • Rob,
      confusing established religions with supersition only makes you look like a jingoistic bigoted idiot.
      Do you have a point hidden away in there someplace, or are you just going to strut your stuff and impress us withyour idiocratic thinking?

    • hunter

      David is the person who originated the comments about god. I don’t see the difference between mainstream religions and superstitions. Both require acceptance based upon faith. Neither is factually supportable. I never have written that they are wrong.

    • Rob,
      You are the one tossing gasoline on this. Not anyone else.
      It is ignorant on many levels to confuse superstition and religion, and if you are as clever as you would like to appear, you should know that.
      We basically agree on many points, but you are not getting where I believe you would like to go if you needlessly alienate people who have much to offer.

    • Hunter

      I take your comment as constructive criticism.

    • Rob
      I base my beliefs on historical facts, not imaginations. See above.

      Re: “How many years after the time of Jesus are the oldest written records? Manuscript evidence for superior New Testament reliability The earliest manuscripts were written within the memory of the eye witnesses.

      Only cultures with an understanding that the universe was established on natural laws launched scientific revolution – not those believing in chaos sourced on nothingness. See Mangalwadi etc.

    • David

      Your link gives an excellent example of the reasonableness of your “analysis” and your ability to separate facts from opinion. The 1st 15 books were each analyzed individually, but the writer chose to “analyze” the new testament wrongly as a single document and not a collection of individual documents; each to be evaluated based upon the supportable evidence. Try looking up the oldest evidence of each complete book of the new testament.

    • +1.
      Rob, for what it’s worth, I used to share your view of religion. I was raised with no religion and grew into a sort of evangelical atheist like Richard Dawkins. Then I decided to look at the evidence; was forced to change my mind. Please calm down.

    • Rob,
      It is meant as constructive criticism. Thank you for seeing that.
      For the record, I am extremely liberal theologically.

    • Re the religion thingy:

      I converted to the Catholic Church in HS. Nothing inspires believe better than Catholic school girls in those short plaid uniform skirts.

    • Rob
      On manuscripts, even if you took all the non-biblical manuscripts you still only have 1006 compared to the 5600 extant copies of the entire New Testament. The time between the earliest manuscripts is about an order of magnitude better for the New Testament. Overall, the accuracy of transmission is probably an order of magnitude better for the New Testament over the other manuscripts.

    • Rob Starkey
      Atheist Robert G. Ingersoll gave an anti-religious oration to lawyer and General Lewis “Lew” Wallace. Challenged, Wallace researched the issues and wrote Ben Hur. Atheist CS Lewis similarly ended up writing Surprised by Joy

      Re “Religion . . .Neither is factually supportable. I never have written that they are wrong.”
      Perhaps you have not read either or seriously looked at the objective eyewitness evidence. You are claiming that the eyewitness accounts in the Bible are false. What evidence do you have to support your accusation? Is it just that you disbelieve based on a priori philosophical presuppositions of materialism? Would that not be illogical and without evidence? Can you understand the founders of modern science without examining the presuppositions and motivations on which they sought, test and founded their respective branch of science?

    • David hagan

      First I will point out that I have not written that your beliefs in god are wrong. I would not do that because I cannot prove that they are wrong and I am therefore open to the possibility that they are correct, although I find it highly unlikely.

      Regarding your BELIEF in the accuracy of the bible and the new testament specifically; there is very little evidence to support your belief. The stories written in the various books of the new testament were all written many years (in fact generations) after the time of jesus. Stories were told orally and spread throughout the region for decades before ever being written down. Believers like to think that these stories were actual 1st hand accounts of events that were written down as they were happening, but that is simply not true. It was a wildly accepted practice at the time to embellish stories being told in order to make listeners more appreciative of the story. There are many examples of accounts from the period where other people were described as having performed miracle like feats.

      Now what we know to be true is that these stories became the basis for a popular movement in the 4th century and that the Roman government used that popularity to unite the citizens behind a cause. What we don’t know is how events actually transpired. You believe, I look at the evidence. Events may have transpired as you believe, but it seems very unlikely.

      I do agree with Hunter that this is not an appropriate topic for here and that examining the topic is almost never possible without making those who believe angry because it points out how we sometimes accept basic premises with little actual evidence.

    • Rob Starkey
      Re: “very little evidence to support your belief.”
      While you dismiss my “beliefs” with little support, I provided quantifiable evidence to measure the impact of worldview on the launch of the scientific revolution and current breakthroughs in science. e.g. see books on scientific revolution Christianity

      I further pointed you to the factual objective basis of historical evidence and eyewitness accounts. There is substantial archeological evidence supporting the New Testament Record, especially physician Luke’s records in Luke/Acts. e.g. There are numerous compilation and evaluations if you will look at the actual evidence.

      See books on bible & archaeology
      Books on Luke Acts Archaeology

      Archeological Evidence
      There were numerous claims from “higher criticism” of the inaccuracy of the biblical records that were subsequently refuted. e.g.,
      Higher Criticism Archaeology Bible
      Can you address the evidence either on the scientific revolution/worldview, or for the biblical accounts?

    • David

      Pointing out that christians have made scientific accomplishments is meaningless. You should understand that.

      You have not pointed out “eyewitness accounts of historical events” as described in the new testament, since there is no such evidence. Who do you believe wrote the document you describe as Luke? When do you believe the oldest complete version that has been discovered was actually written?

      I accept that you have a very strong belief based upon your faith. It is only real evidence of the events as described that is lacking.

    • Mr. Rob Starkey,
      I would suggest to you that you could take the owners manual for a Piper Cub and the Eairplane, give it a little time and you could be flying.
      If you read your Bible from cover to cover, comprehending what it says & following the examples given. Apply your human input as directed and see where you end up. Ephesians, would be a good place to start.
      You’ll be flying.)

    • Rob,
      Well stated.
      Church history, like the compilation of the Bible itself, is very maculate. Which from my view makes the work the Church has done and its longevity, along with the durability of the Bible all the more Providential.

    • This is supposed to be a blog on climate, with an emphasis on critical thinking.
      There are too many inconsistancies in the new testament for it to be logically an eyewitness account.

      Tell me, was the stone in front of Jesus’s tomb rolled away by human or supernatural means? Did Judas hang himself or fall to his death? There are many more where those came from. Well, they come from a careful reading of the Bible, now lets get back to climate.

    • Rob Starkey
      Re who wrote Luke and when
      Most probably Luke the physician and traveling companion of Paul. His training in observation is shown by greater detail. On dates see: The Dating of the New Testament Norman Geisler

      The Gospel of Luke was written by the same author as the Acts of the Apostles, who refers to Luke as the ‘former account’ of ‘all that Jesus began to do and teach’ (Acts 1:1). The destiny (‘Theophilus’), style, and vocabulary of the two books betray a common author. Roman historian Colin Hemer has provided powerful evidence that Acts was written between AD 60 and 62.

      Bob Droege
      Re: Did Judas hang himself or fall to his death?
      Yes. Most people who hang themselves fall to their death (as also for those who are hanged.)
      Re: Stone rolled away
      The women did not. Stated to be by an
      angel Matt. 28:2. The other references are passive and not definitive.

    • David, all I am saying is that the new testament accounts are too inconsistent to be considered eyewitness testimony. The 4 accounts of what happened and who was at the tomb indicate that all four accounts can not be true. As for the stone, one says it was already rolled away, one says men rolled it away and one says an angel rolled it away.

      As for Judas, who cares how he died, did he buy the potter’s field or did someone else buy it afterward. The two accounts of his death still disagree.

      And Luke, if he was with Paul, then he probably was not an eyewitness, as Paul definately was not an eyewitness.

    • David

      I am sorry, but your lack of knowledge of the historical facts is showing. Here is a link if you wish to learn a bit more on the topic.

    • Hah, ‘Ignorance, the true engine of religion’. Is that just words or is there an analogy in there? Methinks the latter, but then me gets ignorant.

    • oops, I meant +1 to hunter, not Rob.
      Rob, I have studied the things you are talking about deeply. You don’t seem to have done the same. If you think your mind is really open to evidence, I’m willing to engage in private communication with you.

    • Tom

      Your conclusion would be incorrect. I am quite familar with the supporting data

    • Rob,
      That’s wonderful.

    • Rob,
      If you were really familiar with the evidence, you would be neither as opinionated nor as frequently wrong on the details. Again, I used to believe as you do, but looking at the evidence with an open mind changed my mind. Alas, this is not the forum for this discussion. If you really have confidence in the openness of your mind to reason and evidence, contact me privately booboo8tigger9att7. (Replace 8 with .; 9 with @ and 7 with .net)

    • Rob Starkey
      Re: “you have a VERY tough case to make”
      I assume the null hypothesis is that no worldview has any advantage in science. I presented a case for Judeo-Christian worldview with belief in a Creator establishing laws of nature as providing the foundations of the scientific method. I provided evidence of > 95% of the founders of science (50/52) being Christians.

      Further evidence is see from the proportion of Nobel prizes awarded to those of Jewish ancestry.

      At least 185 Jews and people of half- or three-quarters-Jewish ancestry have been awarded the Nobel Prize, accounting for 22% of all individual recipients worldwide between 1901 and 2011, and constituting 36% of all US recipients during the same period. In the research fields of Chemistry, Economics, Physics, and Physiology/ Medicine, the corresponding world and US percentages are 27% and 39%, respectively.

      The Jewish population in the USA is 2.1%. The ratio of Jewish hard science Noble prize recipients to the US population is 18.8.
      Globally the Jewish population is 0.18% to give a ratio of Jewish hard science Noble prize recipients to the global population of 150.
      Genesis 12:2 NIV

      “I will make you into a great nation,
      and I will bless you;
      I will make your name great,
      and you will be a blessing.

      To rebut that argument, you have to provide statistically greater evidence that belief in chaos and the absence of God provides greater inspiration for scientific discoveries than the null hypothesis. So far, I have not seen you provide any evidence to support this counter hypothesis.

      PS Logically, you cannot disprove the existence of God without exhaustive information over all the universe over all time. Rhetorical arguments, distractions, and logical errors do not make your case.

    • Descriptive work like coming up with scientific laws was easy enough for God believers to do hundreds of years ago, especially when there was such a dearth of knowledge about the world. All Newton did is observe the natural world and built a model to describe those relationships, eg like how force = mass x acceleration. He didn’t explain gravity, or motion, just described it. Much as geologists back then were describing the layers of the Earth and the fossils without explaining them.

      It’s the harder and more advanced explanatory work where superstition and religion obstructed science for centuries, because when people believe in the supernatural they entertain supernatural explanations, and when they are fervent believers in their gods of choice, as a lot of them tend to be, they just sit on dogmatic supernatural myth explanations for phenomenon and close their minds to even looking for natural explanations.

      Look at Creationism for example. It was rife 300 years ago even among scientists. Why? Why would any rational minded person assume God just magiced all the animals on Earth without any evidence? Why were they content with that explanation? Because they weren’t rational. They had all been indoctrinated from a young age by desert-tribe myths written in a thousands of year old book. Dogma, scuppering their minds. It’s sad that even as the enlightenment was taking off, many geologists still assumed the world was only thousands of years old.

      Only atheism releases people from that kind of trap. Well more than atheism – not believing superstitions either. Any form of supernatural. Once people require evidence before they believe anything the evidence-less supernatural explanations go out of the window and then that fuels the search for the true – invariably natural – explanation.

      Of course religious scientists can and do do this too – but it takes a bizarre form of a double-life. They effectively become atheists during their working hours by forcing themselves not to even consider supernatural explanations. Then they go home and think a god man in the sky has infinite powers.

    • When I see atheists doing the works of charity, opening up schools (instead of hijacking them later), and owning up to Stalin, PolPot, Mao, etc. we can talk about atheists and enlightenment. Until then, “enlightened atheism” is not-funny oxymoron.

    • Brandon Shollenberger


      Of course religious scientists can and do do this too – but it takes a bizarre form of a double-life. They effectively become atheists during their working hours by forcing themselves not to even consider supernatural explanations. Then they go home and think a god man in the sky has infinite powers.

      If you truly believe this, you don’t understand religious people at all. Which is fitting for you.

    • lolwot
      I again see rhetorical diatribe with no evidence submitted against the hypothesis. Score 2:0 for the proponent.

      Since you so firmly believe in blind stochastic processes based on the four laws of nature, perhaps you could examine the statistical probability of harmful vs beneficial mutations using realistic parameters and explain how “beneficial” mutations can accumulate. See Mendel’s Accountant, a quantitative forward modeling of mutations. Any scientist who can quantitatively demonstrate this would be sure to gain a Nobel Prize. After that you might take on the “minor” obvious case of abiogenic Origin of Life!

      For background, see Michael Behe summary The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism
      Remember, we are looking for quantitative reproducible scientific evidence. Set aside the hand waving and try quantitative modeling.

      This would be a wonderful example of applying the principle of this post of working from ignorance and searching based on a firm belief that everything came out of nothing, was caused by nothing, and for which there is no information that any laws of nature exist or could be found.

      PS Such unguided searches have severe limitations and astronomically remote probabilities. See Evolutionary Informatics.

      Providing quantitative predictions in global climate modeling for centuries with coupled non-linear chaotic fluids with varying external forcing and unknown future anthropogenic contributions, given unknown boundary conditions, incomplete physics, small signals and very large uncertainties (especially clouds), has similar challenges! Good luck!

      I see geological evidence that climate has robust stability varying between glacial and inter-glacial periods. See Don Easterbrook, Evidence-Based Climate Science

    • David L. Hagen: “Since you so firmly believe in blind stochastic processes based on the four laws of nature”

      I believe in them because they exist and as such explanations based on them are founded on evidence.

      On the other-hand explanations based on God, the paranormal or other superstitions are evidence-less and hinder science.

      Which comes to the topic of this post. Ignorance drives the search for answers sure, but religion destroys that search by providing fake answers. Geologists and biologists hundreds of years ago might have figured things out a lot sooner if they weren’t chained by the fake answers religion had provided them with. If Darwin was more religious he would have ignored where the evidence led him.

      Religion tends to cripple science, because in a religious population large numbers of people become unable to contribute as they become prone to settling on supernatural explanations and then giving up.

      “perhaps you could examine the statistical probability of harmful vs beneficial mutations using realistic parameters and explain how “beneficial” mutations can accumulate.”

      Species on Earth are related by common descent. Over millions of years humans descended from ape-like species and whales have descended from legged mammals, etc. There was no single point of creation. There is a mechanism of imperfectly replicating DNA which can explain this gradual creation process. Just because all the details are not known does not justify an appeal to fake-answers from superstition. Time and time again superstition holders have made staunch conclusions about phenomenon only for us to later find thoser phenomenon only have a natural explanation. And it’s never the superstition holders who uncover the truth. Intelligent Design is just the latest manifestation of this.

    • Hunter: “When I see atheists doing the works of charity, opening up schools (instead of hijacking them later), and owning up to Stalin, PolPot, Mao, etc. we can talk about atheists and enlightenment. Until then, “enlightened atheism” is not-funny oxymoron.”

      maybe you should look up what the enlightenment was (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment) it has nothing to do with charity or stalin.

      Rational and objective thinking leads to atheism because belief in god is just one of many forms of superstition. Atheism is more of an effect of a rational mind than a cause. Belief in any evidence-less phenomenon whether it be ghosts, UFOs, gods, spirits, superstitions or astrology, etc is irrational. These things have no part in science. They have historically hindered science. Those who don’t believe in evidence-less superstitions have a much better chance of not falling into that trap.

    • lowot
      Re: “explanations based on God . . .are evidence-less and hinder science”
      That is fact free rhetorical denigration – directly contrary to the evidence given in numerous books that I linked to.

      The issue of stochastic processes and the four laws is that quantitative origin models appear astronomically improbable using only those.

      Re: “Religion tends to cripple science”
      Address the facts, not perceptions. You have not provided any data to support your statement which is directly contradicted by the actual evidence of the scientific revolution only arising in a Judeo-Christian worldview and being best nourished. See references above.
      Contrast the atheistic driven Lysenkoism under Stalin to find the real science stopper. Atheist Pol Pot “only” killed off 40% of his population. Atheistic regimes were responsible for the greatest slaughter in history – over 100 million during the 20th century. See The Black Book of Communism. Stéphane Courtois

      “claims that a death toll totals 94 million[4], not counting the “excess deaths” (decrease of the population due to lower than-expected birth rates).”

      This suggests that in general science is harmed by an atheistic worldview.

      I am still waiting for you to provide any evidence to counter the proposition that modern science was launched and thrives under a Judeo-Christian worldview and vice versa.

    • “Contrast the atheistic driven Lysenkoism under Stalin”

      Lysenkoism was driven by Stalinism, not atheism. Religion is but one type of irrational ideology that cripples science. Stalinism is another. Any ideology which promotes, let alone forces, evidence-less explanations for the world seeds a population with nonsense thinking and lowers that population’s ability to do science.

      “You have not provided any data to support your statement which is directly contradicted by the actual evidence of the scientific revolution only arising in a Judeo-Christian worldview and being best nourished. See references above.”

      The scientific revolution in the West happened long after the heyday of religious influence. It happened during a period of decline of influence of religion and the church and the rise of democracy and free thinking. In fact the last 50 years of advances have probably covered the most secular period of the West’s history.

    • Further evidence is see from the proportion of Nobel prizes awarded to those of Jewish ancestry.

      Wow! As a member of the tribe, I must say that your concept of “evidence” – used to draw conclusions without the slightest attempt to control for myriad variables – is truly bizarre.

      BTW – do you have any idea what % of those Jewish Nobel Prize winners have been atheists?

    • lolwot, Speaking of Newton…


      what’s in a name?

    • I don’t know the number Joshua, what is it?

      “BTW – do you have any idea what % of those Jewish Nobel Prize winners have been atheists?”

      Thanks for asking.

    • The God particle? The Oh my God particle? The expansion of the universe is accelerating? Dark matter in the universe is increasing? Dark matter is..? Black holes have near infinite mass, so massive light cannot escape, but their mass is so large they emit mass?

      In the beginning there was nothing… then it blew up.” In the beginning there was nothing, then God said let there be light.” Lots of progress there, ya betcha :)

    • Brandon Shollenberger

      A couple corrections. Dark matter in the universe isn’t increasing, and black holes don’t have “near infinite mass.” For the latter, you were probably thinking density, not mass. Black holes of any size (and consequently, mass) can exist. The key is the singularity at their core, which does have (basically) infinite density.

      Also, black holes don’t emit mass because they are “so large.” They emit (energy, not mass) for the same reason anything else does. It’s basically just black body radiation.

    • The increase in dark matter is debatable.

      With a black hole having near infinite mass, “basically black body radiation” becomes more interesting. Hawking radiation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawking_radiation reduces the mass and energy of the black hole. So is the source of the “black body radiation” fragments of mass or low energy photons, or are mass and energy indistinguishable at near infinite pressure? Kind of a chicken or egg situation :)

    • blueice2hotsea

      capt. dallas 0.8 +/-0.2

      You raise interesting points. But, you are repeating a needlessly confusing statement that Brandon Shollenberger pointed out to you earlier.

      As you are likely well aware, it is the density of matter in Black Holes which is thought to approach infinity, not the total mass.

    • Brandon Shollenberger

      The increase in dark matter is debatable.

      I’ve never seen anything to indicate such. It’s not my field of expertise or anything, so maybe I’ve just missed something, but I’ve never heard any argument to indicate the amount of dark matter is increasing, and it doesn’t make sense to me as an idea. The amount of matter and energy in the universe is conserved, so the only way the amount of dark matter could increase is if something was being converted to it.

      With a black hole having near infinite mass,

      As blueice2hotsea points out, and as I pointed out before, black holes do not have infinite mass. A black hole can have less mass than my body has (though microscopic black holes won’t last long). It’s only density that can be considered infinite.

      “basically black body radiation” becomes more interesting. Hawking radiation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawking_radiation reduces the mass and energy of the black hole. So is the source of the “black body radiation” fragments of mass or low energy photons, or are mass and energy indistinguishable at near infinite pressure? Kind of a chicken or egg situation

      I misspoke before. I shouldn’t have said, “energy, not mass.” In reality, energy and mass are indistinguishable at any pressure. Energy and mass are properties of each other (hence E=mc^2). My mistake came from mixing up matter and mass while making a hasty response, and I apologize for it.

      Of course, we can switch “mass” for “matter” in your comment, and the basic idea stays the same. At that point, the answer is simple. At extremely high pressures, matter is converted to energy. That’s just one of the many ways matter can be converted into energy, and there’s nothing particularly special about it.

    • Joshua, I am going to go with—93%.

    • David.. FWIW may be of interest

      The New Divinity
      By Julian Huxley
      I believe that an equally drastic reorganization of our pattern of religious thought is now becoming necessary, from a god-centered to an evolutionary-centered pattern
      Today the god hypothesis has ceased to be scientifically tenable, has lost its explanatory value and is becoming an intellectual and moral burden to our thought. It no longer convinces or comforts, and its abandonment often brings a deep sence of relief. Many people assert that this abandonment of the god hypothesis means the abandonment of all religion and all moral sanctions. This is simply not true. But it does mean, once our relief at jettisoning an outdated piece of ideological furniture is over, that we must construct some thing to take its place.
      Though gods and God in any meaningful sence seem destined to disappear, the stuff of divinity out of which they have grown and developed remains. This religious raw material consists of those aspects of nature and those experiences which are usually described as divine. Let me remind my readers that the term divine did not originally imply the existence of gods: on the contrary, gods were constructed to interprete man’s experiences of this quality.
      Some events and some phenomena of outer nature transcend ordinary explanation and ordinary experience. They inspire awe and seem mysterious, explicable only in terms of something beyond or above ordinary nature.

      Religion Without Revelation (Julian Huxley )

      Sir Julian Huxley (1887-1975)
      He saw Humanism as a replacement ‘religion’, and as such represented an important strand in post-war humanist thought. In a speech given to a conference in 1965 he spoke of the need for “a religiously and socially effective system of humanism.” And in his book Religion Without Revelation, he wrote:

      “What the sciences discover about the natural world and about the origins, nature and destiny of man is the truth for religion. There is no other kind of valid knowledge. This natural knowledge, organized and applied to human fulfilment, is the basis of the new and permanent religion.” The book ends with the concept of “transhumanism”– “man remaining man, but transcending himself by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature”.

      Crispin Tickell

      Huxley family tree (partial)

      Climatic Change & World Affairs
      This website now contains the entire text of Climate Change and World Affairs, first published in 1977, revised 1986. This seminal book did much to arouse interest in the then little-known problem of ‘global warming’ in response to human emissions of greenhouse gases.

      Crispin Tickell (Belief)
      Now you come from an Anglo-Irish family. Your great, great grandfather was T H Huxley – Aldous Huxley was in your background too. Now this is a legacy of seriously thoughtful, intellectual address, isn’t it?

      Well T H Huxley was in many respects one of my heroes. Aldous was as well. In fact I think if anybody had any influence on me during my adolescence, it was Aldous Huxley. And I remember going to lunch with him and he asked me what essay I was writing that day for my history teacher. And I replied it was about the relations between the Pope and the Emperor. And he sort of took a deep breath, and for about 15 minutes he spoke about the secular versus the spiritual power. And I really sat back, staggered by what I heard, because he illuminated every aspect of this immensely complicated and still continuing problem, and I found it fascinating. When I sat down afterwards to try and write my essay, I was hardly able to write a word

      Aldous Huxley 1962 U.C. Berkeley Speech on “The Ultimate Revolution

      Nigel Lawson: Global warming has turned into religion
      Lawson was Chancellor when Crispin Tickell, then British Ambassador to the UN, convinced Prime Minister Thatcher that man-made global warming was a problem. Despite Tickell lacking any scientific background (he read history at university) Mrs Thatcher took the population campaigner’s views seriously enough to make a landmark speech on global warming. This led to the foundation of a branch of the Met Office, the Hadley Centre at Exeter, to study the issue. It remains one of the three leading climate institutes.

      Richard Lindzen: The Perversion Of Science
      Andrew Montford provides a straightforward and unembellished chronology of the perversion not only of The Royal Society but of science itself, wherein the legitimate role of science as a powerful mode of inquiry is replaced by the pretence of science to a position of political authority.

      Religion and the Environment
      Environment is the stuff of religion, and religion is the stuff of the environment. Their relationship once went without saying. Yet we live at a time when they are being prised apart
      This may be enough for some people. It was not enough for T. H. Huxley’s grandson Julian, who embarked on a search for religion without revelation, or E. O. Wilson who has since developed the concepts of scientific materialism and the evolutionary epic as substitutes for religion. Others have made similar efforts in the same direction. But none has reached anywhere near the human core. Some people may not believe in God, but most people want to believe in something.
      The present collectivity of life on earth cannot be distinguished from the present collectivity of its physical surroundings. The animate and the inanimate shade into each other. This is the environment. As I have suggested, it was – and in some cases still is – the stuff of religion. But it has also been the stuff of science. James Hutton, the geologist, recognized it as long ago as 1785. T. H. Huxley did likewise in 1877. Almost a century later James Lovelock developed ideas on the same subject which, on the advice of the novelist William Golding, he called Gaia. In a paper written with Lynn Margulis in 1974, he wrote
      “Gaia theory is about the evolution of a tightly coupled system whose constituents are the biota and their natural environment, which comprises the atmosphere, the oceans and the surface rocks”.

      Priests in lab coats

      Philosopher Michael Ruse is an ardent evolutionist who thinks creationism is claptrap. So why is he accusing atheistic scientists like Richard Dawkins of being as religious as born-again Bible thumpers?

      Michael Ruse

      An interview with Michael Ruse
      In the 20th century we have people like Julian Huxley and, today, Edward O. Wilson, who I would say treat evolution as a secular religion. Not just this—they were/are professional scientists—but at least in part they are secular humanists with evolution at the center of their theology. It gives a world picture, it gives moral directives, and so forth.
      Then we have Christians like Dobzhansky and Teilhard de Chardin, for whom evolution is part and parcel of their Christianity—today we have someone like Jack Haught, the theologian at Georgetown University.
      Dawkins is an interesting case. If being deeply interested in and committed to these various issues counts as religious—as well as having strong moral feelings (especially about the wickedness of existing religion)—then I would say he is religious. He reminds me a bit of Calvin. More than this, he clearly thinks that his Darwinism is incompatible with Christianity, so it does have theological implications. On the other hand, he does not want to tie in the course of nature with morality—as did Julian Huxley and as does Ed Wilson—so I would be hesitant to call him a secular humanist or whatever, as I would them.

      Double-Dealing in Darwin
      Are intellectuals allowing dogma in science but not in religion?

      The history of evolutionary thought shows that it has long been more than just a scientific hypothesis. For Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandfather, it was an upward march through the animal kingdom, leading to humankind: a progressive vision, endorsing and justifying the British success in the Industrial Revolution, and rivaling the then-prevalent Christian Providentialism. Far from needing God’s grace, Erasmus Darwin believed, the forward arrow of evolution proved that humans can go it alone. It wasn’t just that natural selection theory had to be proven; theology had to be disproven, too
      Similar views were held by “Darwin’s bulldog,” the late 19th century biologist and science-popularizer Thomas Huxley. Seeking a secular alternative to the Anglican establishment that he and others saw as opposing the social reforms required by mid-Victorian Britain, Huxley actively promoted evolution as the new religion for the new age. In a deliberate echo of Biblical language, he implored us to sit down before facts as a little child, and be guided by our senses. He was known in the contemporary press as “Pope Huxley.”
      Today, likewise, we see that evolutionism has its priests and devotees. Entomologist and sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University tells us that the “evolutionary epic is mythology,” depending on laws that are “believed but can never be definitively proved,” taking us “backward through time to the beginning of the universe.” Wilson knows that any good religion must have its moral dimension, and so he urges us to promote biodiversity, to amend our original sin of despoiling the earth. There is an apocalyptic ring to Wilson’s writings, and in true dispensationalist style, he warns that there is but a short time before all collapses into an ecological Armageddon. Repent! The time is near!

      Richard Dawkins Renounces Darwinism As Religion

      Atheist evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins spoke to a packed auditorium at Manhattan’s Ethical Culture Society Saturday night about his best-selling book, The God Delusion , admitting in a Q&A that followed being “guilty” of viewing Darwinism as a kind of religion and vowing to “reform” (no one was allowed to tape Dawkins’ confession, however, with organizers of the event threatening to march offenders around the corner to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).

    • This is a most interesting discussion, reaching into the deep core of climate and sustainability issues. Some of our commentators question the relevance of scripture, but it, at minimum, has some worthwhile observations about the nature of humankind. (Some are favorable; some are not). As to “catastrophic anthropogenic climate change” and “sustainability”:

      To be used: Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

      With stewardship: Genesis 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. :16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but ….”

      But: with a promise (warning?) from an adversary (Genesis 3:5):
      From Gage, Lawrence. “Real Physics: ‘You Shall Be as Gods’?” Real Physics, February 15, 2008, with photo credits to Angela Davis. http://realphysics.blogspot.com/2008/02/you-shall-be-as-gods.html

      The lessons of the Bible are acquired through the body, recognized by the mind (soul) but understood through the spirit. (The last step is a lifetime exercise, and I am not finished yet.)

  14. I put it down to the team wanting bigger offices….

    • Latimer Alder

      And/or Nobel prizes, fame, fortune, their own website, opportunity to get their work reviewed only by their pals..and the fun of vilifying well-funded Big Oil deniers whenever you choose to.

      No ‘scientist’ with a big ego was ever going to be satisfied with being yet another in a long line of researchers who couldn’t pin down AGW. The big prize was to be one who ‘found’ it first. And the silver medals for his faithful support team. If that meant ‘stretching the truth’ a little, it is all justified in the noble cause of saving the planet and reviving one’s career,

  15. Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science

    Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival
    The Conversation Continues
    This is about the idiocy and the idiots at the La Jolla meeting, “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival.” The idiots of science were in attendance: Steven Weinberg, Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carolyn Porco, Richard P. Sloan, and Sam Harris. I thought some of them were intelligent, until now.

    Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions

    Sam Harris – The End of Faith (Part 1-8)

    Can fMRI Predict Who Believes In Santa Claus? Or God? Part I

    Did you know that “regions” of your brain light up when you think about Santa Claus or God? And that these “regions” are thought to be “associated” with various behaviors like excess emotion, schizophrenia, and other, gentler forms of nuttiness?
    It’s all true. Scientists regularly stick people’s heads inside machines, ask the people to think of this or that, and then watch as the machines show “regions” of the brain glowing orange. The scientists then employ statistical methods guaranteed to generate over-confidence, but which allow the scientists to write papers which contain broad, even bracing, claims about all of humanity and of how everybody’s brain functions.
    This sort of thing is all the rage, so much so that hardly a week passes without new headlines about what secrets the Whitecoat Brigade have uncovered in the brain (this week: Study shows how scientists can now ‘read your mind’).
    It is therefore of great interest to us to examine this phenomena and see what it means. I have chosen one paper which I believe is representative of the worst excesses of the field. My goal is to show you that the conclusion, as stated by the authors, and one the authors believe they have proved, is actually far from proved, is in fact scarcely more likely to be true given the experiment than it was before the experiment, and that what was actually proved was how likely scientist’s are to find in their data their own preconceptions.
    Warning: I mean this critique to be exhaustive, at least in major theme, so while I run the risk of exhausting your patience, my excuse is that the length of this piece is necessary to do a full job (it will be spread across Parts, and not all on one day). I especially want to hear from those who support the paper’s position, and who claim that the criticisms I advance are not as damning as I believe they are.

    fMRIs and God

    The paper is “The neural correlates of religious and nonreligious belief,” published in PLoS One by Sam Harris and others in association with UCLA’s Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

    Can fMRI Predict Who Believes In Santa Claus? Or God? Part II
    Can fMRI Predict Who Believes In Santa Claus? Or God? Part III
    Can fMRI Predict Who Believes In Santa Claus? Or God? Part IV
    Can fMRI Predict Who Believes In Santa Claus? Or God? Part VI
    WRAP UP: Can fMRI Predict Who Believes In Santa Claus? Or God? Part VII

    Scanning Dead Salmon in fMRI Machine Highlights Risk of Red Herrings

  16. The surest way to turn off a bright student is to tell them…the science is settled… They will turn and go find something else, something challenging.

    The surest way to turn off a teacher is for the student to ask…. what do I need to know for the exam?…

    The surest way to climb any social ladder, be it corporate, or academia is via politics. The most successful politicians are at the top, not necessarily the brightest minds.

    The surest way to nurture an inquisitive mind: explore the wonders of nature. Location per se is largely irrelevant; sea shore, mountain top, private or university lab. Just bring your mind, eyes, some recording and measuring equipment, and you are good to go.

    I am not sure if there are substantive differences in any of the sciences; maybe the individuals’ tolerance for uncertainty distinguishes one scientist or scientific field from one another.

    • RiHo08 | April 23, 2012 at 9:51 am |

      I find myself stopping whenever I see I’ve written the word “surest” to reevaluate my premise and everything else, as once I’m sure, I’m no longer doing science, or even thinking critically.

      However, when I am sure, I’m operating equipment, and moving on to the next thing I’m unsure about to explore and challenge myself on.

      Science does settle. At which point, it becomes technology, and no longer the domain of a scientist.

      If GCMs do get to the point any competent technician can run one, can obtain whatever useful output GCMs will at that time be generally accepted to produce, then they’ll become the domain of meteorologists, actuaries and bureaucrats. Some next generation beyond GCMs will be the science then.

      And if in some far off day after that possible development, some scientist revisits parts of the problem space with a refinement or revolution, then that technology might be swept away as tube radios are swept away by some long ago transistor ancestor of the iPod, or might be revoked like phrenology, candling and bloodletting.

      Being sure of a thing is appropriate to the time. Like any fad.

    • Bart R

      I agree with you that being sure of anything is either false self assurance or a signal to move onto something more challenging.

      My stream of conscious writing is impressionistic; hence, my literary license with “surest.” Critical thinking goes on in the background of which I am hardly aware.

      Observational analysis, processing what you see, touch, feel and think continuously as applied to most experiences keeps the juices flowing. When applied to probing the wonders of nature, I would call it science.

    • Norm Kalmanovitch

      GCM’s are already at the point where competent can run them as evidenced by our weather forecasts several days in advance which are based on GCM model output because this is what GCM’s are designed to do. GCM’s take an initial set of conditions for millions of cells and project the interacion between cells based on sound physical theory to predict movement of weather patterns which become our forcasts.
      The predictions of global warming from CO2 are based on inputting initial conditions which already attribute prescribed forcing to CO2 increases which the models incorporate into the calculations and produce output with a range of values centred on the input CO2 forcing.
      For a doubling of CO2 the models input forcing of 5.35ln(2)= 3.71W/m^2 and output a range of forcing which averages around 3.71W/m^2.
      All that the models do is create the statistical range for the forcing but in no way make change the mean value from what was originally input as the CO2 forcing parameter. Essentially all the models do is consume a lot of electricity in the process of giving the illusion that they are defining thye effect from increased CO2.
      The output from the models is converted from flux in W/m^2 to temperature in degrees C by means of an arbitrary “climate sensitivity factor” typically in the range of 0.75°C for each W/m^2.
      3.71W/m^2 x 0.75°C/W/m^2 = 2.78°C
      In his 1981 Paper:
      Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
      J. Hansen, D. Johnson, A. Lacis, S. Lebedeff P. Lee, D. Rind, G. Russell

      Hansen states: The most sophisticated models suggest a mean warming of 2° to 3.5°C for doubling of the CO2 concentration from 300 to 600 ppm
      SCIENCE, VOL. 213, 28 AUGUST 1981
      The average between 2°C and 3.5°C is 2.75°C which is awful darn close to 2.78°C.
      The real proof of mischief is the model # 4 in this 1981 paper which protrays the output for a doubling of CO2 at exactly the same 2.78°C value calculated by the combination of CO2 forcing parameter and climate sensitivity factor identified in 2001 by the IPCC attributed to Mehre 1997 which is 16 years after the 1981 paper by Hansen!!
      You are very accurate when you state: “Science does settle. At which point, it becomes technology, and no longer the domain of a scientist.” but in this case it is unfounded conjecture and not technology that is not in the domain of a scientist; nor should it ever be!

    • “For a doubling of CO2 the models input forcing of 5.35ln(2)= 3.71W/m^2 and output a range of forcing which averages around 3.71W/m^2″

      As far as I am aware the big models have their own radiation modules which calculate the CO2 forcing. The input is the concentration. The forcing is calculated through physics.

    • Norm Kalmanovitch

      You are obviously not very far aware!
      The input is concentration but it is input into a CO2 forcing parameter based on 5.35ln(C/Cref) because the models work on forcing and not on concentration!

    • Did you know you made a mistake when you said the models input forcing? They don’t. Judith’s efforts at educating skeptics about the science seem to have failed. Maybe some other skeptics or Judith can correct you on this point because you might listen to them.

    • I recall from my undergrad days listening to students ask questions about an upcoming exam. They would keep on and on. On one occasion I spoke up and said why don’t they simply ask for a copy of the exam questions in advance instead of wasting everyone’s time with their stupid f…ing questions. Being a few years older and a vet, I wasn’t too concerned about their opinions.

  17. When students begin doing research, whether they are undergrads doing an honors thesis, or PhD students working on dissertations, I sometimes tell them that they are entering into the world of “live economics,” where answers to questions are disputed, as opposed to the “dead economics” they read in their textbooks.

    I also have come to the conclusion that teaching a canon of dead economics is the surest way to bore students. When teaching introductory economics, I prefer to teach some current controversy that I research, in a way that doesn’t overwhelm with technical stuff, but communicates the controversy with simple comparisons of data from relatively simple experiments. Students warm better to that “live economics.” The other thing is that if you are a researcher at heart, and you teach dead ideas, you will usually be bored yourself, and the students can tell that… and so they won’t catch your infectious excitement because you don’t have any (for dead ideas).

  18. Tony b @23/4 7.45 am:
    Tony, I tend to agree with you that the AGW die was cast well before Madrid. At what point was the issue given public hearing? Margaret Thatcher, James Hansen …

    At what point did disgruntled Marxists see the opportunity through green politics to strike a blow at capitalism? Hansen, Wigley… At what point, (as a poster at WUWT asked, did non-scientific thinking enter the lexicon of climate science? (cgh 23/4)

    Issue/aims/means, sooner rather than later lead to action ….We present to the world, the canon of AGW climate science, behold, a hockey stick!

    We’ve been telling animal stories recently :) think opportunism. If there’s a suitable hollow in a tree, cavern in a hill, a fallen log, sooner or later, some bird, mammal, snake or spider will take over that niche.
    Sooner rather than later ..

    • There is more energy available than we can yet imagine; we’re nowhere near filling our niche.

    • Beth

      Unfortunately, the British have always been the ring leaders on Climate change. I wrote here how Tony Blair saw Climate as the opportunity to project his authority onto the World stage thereby giving the subject an extra political twist


    • David Wojick

      The climate scare needs to be seen as part of the sequence that defines environmentalism. The IPCC grew out of Robert Watson’s successful massive report supporting the Montreal Protocol banning CFCs, so the ozone hole came before. Likewise acid rain and the 1990 Clean air Act amendments. The basic hyperbolic scare method was perfected in Carson’s Silent Spring, but I have smog scare books from the 1950s. This is a massive political movement that is well over a half century old. The climate issue is just a small piece of it, albeit the biggest one. The big push that failed, so far anyway.

      As McCauley (sp?) said, every political movement ultimately expires from an excess of its own principles. Let’s hope so with climate change.

    • And in every case, there was a rush to deny uncertainty and ignorance. A truly unscientific attitude, Firestein seems to argue.

    • David Wojick

      Advocacy and science are two different domains. Both are legitimate. The confusion is the problem.

    • Yes. It is difficult to do advocacy and maintain ones scientific objectivity. The closest I am came was a few brushes with forensic practice as a consulting actuary. I found myself rereading my professional code of ethics before testifying.

  19. If “science is like looking for a black cat in a dark room, and there may not be a cat in the room”

    then “Climate Science is like looking for a black cat in a dark room and it turns out the black cat was a plush toy that was fabricated in China and purchased with funds from Greenpeace, the WWF and Al Gore.”

  20. MattStat/MatthewRMarler

    Working scientists don’t get bogged down in the factual swamp because they don’t care all that much for facts. It’s not that they discount or ignore them, but rather that they don’t see them as an end in themselves.

    Is that really true? Most scientists do get bogged down persistently in the factual swamp: think of all the scientists investigating the details of the Balmer series, or amassing the treasure of facts displayed in the Chemical Rubber Tables, or the vast compilations of astronomical details, or the protein data bank. Only a few scientists are not “bogged down” in the factual swamp, and the examples that we know of, like the winners of the Nobel prizes, are thoroughly knowledgeble of the facts.

  21. MattStat/MatthewRMarler

    Science produces ignorance, and ignorance fuels science.

    The first clause is a very peculiar claim, like “farmers produce hunger”, or “doctors produce disease”.

    As to the second clause, neither ignorance nor the recognition of ignorance fuels science; the desire to learn how things work is what fuels science.

    • I think the first part is better put in this quote which Gavin Schmidt posted a few months ago:

      “We have not succeeded in answering all our problems. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level and about more important things.”

    • And until there is greater fidelity about what future conditions will be as a result of additional CO2 there will be no consensus about what should be done by individual nations

    • That sounds like a vicious circle of justification given that the question of what actions people & governments will take is the largest source of uncertainty in predictions of future conditions.

    • David Wojick

      Actually what actions are taken is not the largest uncertainty, Paul. The largest uncertainty is whether these actions will have any effect whatever, other than their obvious cost. This is the core question.

    • David Wojick

      I like the statement but Gavin and I probably have two different concepts of a higher level. I think we now know that we do not understand why climate changes, nor what role if any humans have in these changes. That is indeed a higher, more important level than before. But I think Gavin thinks that both AGW and CAGW are well confirmed, which would mean that only detailed confusions remain.

      If so then this is a good example of the talking past that infects the debate. Gavin’s idea of climate ignorance and mine are fundamentally different, yet we use the same words. That is the problem with words, isn’t it? Or as my wife likes to put it, “You call this a language?”

    • MattStat/MatthewRMarler

      Paul S: I think the first part is better put in this quote

      I thought of lots of things that could have been written instead, such as “Scientists recognize ignorance where others don’t”, or “Scientists formulate answerable questions where others feel wonderment”. My guess was that the author liked it as it was, and as it is. And that I thought was peculiar.

    • Brandon Shollenberger

      I think it’s fair to say science produces ignorance, but it is unclear. It’s like the saying, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Science gives us categories and levels of knowledge, and it shows us our ignorance in each. Through science, new areas of ignorance are “created.”

      Of course, it’s not technically true since that ignorance existed in the first place. Instead of producing ignorance, science actually highlights it. The distinction does matter, but I don’t think it’s important enough to make their rhetorical usage improper.

    • David Wojick

      I dislike this kind of mind teasing rhetoric, but it sells. The fact is that every research result raises several new questions that could not have been asked before. The result is an issue tree, such that the number of unanswered questions actually grows exponentially, but usually at an increasing level of detail. The questions become smaller, as it were.
      See my little model: http://www.osti.gov/ostiblog/home/entry/sharing_results_is_the_engine

      So if unanswered questions are called ignorance then yes science produces ignorance in ever increasing quantities. But knowledge increases as well, so overall ignorance decreases because we know more. It is a word game, a seeming paradox.

      The climate change case is quite different. Here the new questions that have arisen from the research are quite deep. We now know that we do not understand why climate changes. This is something we did not know nearly so well 20 years ago. Science is like that; sometimes the questions get bigger, not smaller.

    • Like MattStat, I reacted to this set of claims too. In particular, I puzzled over this one:

      ‘There are a lot of facts to be known in order to be a professional anything — lawyer, doctor, engineer, accountant, teacher. But with science there is one important difference. The facts serve mainly to access the ignorance…’

      Is there really much difference between ‘science’ and the learned professions mentioned? Anyone with a chronic condition will know the point at which a doctor will say something like, ‘Look, medicine simply hasn’t got very far into this … we don’t know [ = we can't help you any further]‘. I have been a teacher, and the most illuminating moments, both for me and my students, have been when I had to say, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll do my best to find out.’ Sometimes, after I had done so, we still didn’t know.

      My take on this area is that climate science is new, undisciplined, and full of ignorance and uncertainty. Because the evangelists have been at work on the electorate, governments need policies, and climate science has provided them. That the policies rest on shaky foundations doesn’t matter to governments, because they’re doing something ‘to combat climate change’, which has been electorally popular. To disagree with them is akin to opposing a just war. And the longer the policies survive the worse it gets: the policies become ‘settled’ even if the science is not, and ordinary people begin to adapt their lives to them — buying different light globes, installing PV cells subsidised by those who don’t, accepting wind turbines that don’t do much one way or the other except change the landscape, in short, try to be good people and still carry on their lives as they would have done before.

      I’m sure Joy Black, and others, are right in telling us that Nature will win in the end. At the moment the data seem so dubious to me that I think BAU is the way to go.

    • “Science produces ignorance, and ignorance fuels science.”
      Perhaps better as: Science identifies ignorance, and ignorance fuels science.

  22. Uncertainty and consensus are entirely compatible. Indeed, consensus implies uncertainty.

    If we had an ultimate final equation for everything we could just plug in our conditions and get the answer. There wouldn’t be any need for consensus: the result of the equation would simply be fact. Since we don’t have such a thing what we have is a world and thousands of people attempting to interpret what happens in it. If a common picture emerges through all these independent investigations then there is a consensus, in climate science or any other field of science. If there isn’t a common picture then there isn’t a consensus.

    Understanding and communicating where there is and isn’t consensus is important in all fields of science because onlookers, whether other scientists, policymakers or the general public, won’t generally want to sift through decades worth of literature on a given subject. Consensus can be viewed as the “knowledge” accrued from study of a particular phenomenon, with the understanding that what is known could be different in the future.

    • David Wojick

      True enough. The problem is that one side of the scientific climate debate is claiming consensus when none exists, for political reasons.

      Obviously the accumulation of knowledge, which is what makes science valuable, implies the function of consensus. Each year many things become accepted as noncontroversial. Questions are answered and science moves on to new questions. That simply has not happened with AGW. On the contrary, climate science exhibits that fascinating phase of science where the questions and conjectures multiply. This too is perfectly normal.

    • Paul

      Imo, you ignore the fact that in order to form a concensus on the amount of any warming it would be necessary to have an unacceptably large margin of error in the number. Short of that, there is no concensus on the amount of warming. There is also no consensus on what will happen as a result of any warming that will impact the lives of humanity overall and especially no consensus about the impact on any particular nation.

    • David Wojick

      Rob, Paul made no claim regarding a consensus about warming in the comment you are replying to. He merely pointed out, quite correctly, that consensus plays a major role in science. Without consensus progress would be impossible.

    • David

      You point about my response to Paul is reasonable. I do not necessarily agree with you regarding the importance of reaching a consensus in order to make progress. Imo, it seems more important to convince key “decision makers” of the validity of a position than it is to reach a consensus in the “scientific community”.

      In 1492 it didn’t matter if most “scientists” thought the world was flat or not. It mattered that the queen financing the expedition trusted Columbus’s conclusion and that he turned out to be correct and that his conclusion could be verified by others.

    • David Wojick

      Not sure what your point is, Rob. I hope you agree that it is useful that we no longer spend vast sums trying to determine if the world is or is not flat. That is scientific progress. You do believe in scientific progress, right? Science is a complex critter, which we barely understand. (I derive great pleasure from this ignorance.) As I like to put it, we are in somebody’s Middle Ages: http://www.craigellachie.us/powervision/Mathematics_Philosophy_Science/PVPAGE12.html

      BTW when you put a word in quotes you are signalling a new meaning, which you should then explain. Otherwise it is meaningless.

    • In 1492 it didn’t matter if most “scientists” thought the world was flat or not.
      Actually, all educated people had known the world was round for a couple of thousand years. Columbus went against the scientific consensus, arguing for a larger Eurasia and a smaller globe than actually exists. Sheer luck that he didn’t starve to death in the middle of the Pacific.

  23. My issue tree model of science may be useful here. See for example this:

    The frontier of science is indeed the realm of ignorance, but expert ignorance. At the opposite end, science generates a repository of knowledge about how the world works. It is this knowledge that is taught in schools, before grad school, not the blooming, buzzing confusion of the frontier. At the master’s level one meets the frontier and at the doctoral level one joins it.

    The problem with climate science is just that the frontier is being sold as the repository.

  24. Glad they mentioned keats. Also glad they mentioned curiosity.

  25. JC asked:

    “How and why did climate science stop having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt?”
    As a long-time student of multiple sciences and a firm believer in both the scientific method as well as the true pleasure of mystery and discovery in science, I think this is a fair question that Judith asked, and I think the answer is as complex as climate science itself and has mutliple, interrelated causes that can feedback upon themselves in complex ways.

    Here are a few of the essential causes:
    1. Unlike the study and research of some things in science, the study of cliimate, and specifically, the study of potential anthropogenic influences on climate could have (note use of the word could) significant implications for humanity’s future. This possibility alone begins to make this particular branch of scientific iquiry emotionally charged with many non-specialists beginning to take sides. We’ve seen this kind of emotional element in scientific study before, for example with the debate last century over evolution, DDT, and ozone layer destruction. We don’t typically see this kind of wider spread emotional element in say, the study of fossilized elephant dung, or the classification of galaxies. If, as some scientists claim, human future could be at stake, then naturally, there is going to be a high-degree of emotion.
    2) There are large financial implications in this issue. This financial element was not present in some other past scientific issues, such as the
    theory of evolution, and thus, it adds to the mix of emotions.
    3) There are religious implications. There are those (including some scientists) who, based on their religious beliefs, don’t believe that humans are capable of altering Earth’s climate. This belief has multiple reasonings behind it. It can be because they don’t believe that God would allow humans to have such a power over the Earth, or they believe that God will intervene directly, or even that God put fossil fuels on Earth for humans to use at the right time, and this will prevent the next glacial advance so that human civilization can continue, etc. This religious component was present in past scientific controversies, such as the debate over the theory of evolution.
    4) There is a high degree of political polarization already present, and the climate debate has been pulled into this already polarized atmosphere, with tendencies of each side to be aligned with a respective political perspective.

    These 4 primary reasons have combined to form the circumstances we find ourselves in. Most disappointingly, the degree of mistrust from both ssides has grown to such levels that real dialog seems to often break down. In this regard, Judith’s blog serves a very important role.

    • David Wojick

      This got posted below, not as a reply, so I am reposting it.

      Dear Gates, I agree with your analysis, except for #3. There is no significant religious component to the debate. The issue is politicized because it was raised by a political movement: environmentalism. Climate science is really being funded by the policy community, not the scientific community. The pure scientific question of climate change is not worth the money we are spending on it. Climate research has been the policy compromise.

      On the other hand, I think that JC’s characterization is highly inaccurate. Science does not cultivate doubt, it overcomes doubt. Science does not find pleasure in mystery, but in overcoming mystery. There are no journal articles reporting what we do not know.

    • David,
      I think doubt is essential to science. I am strongly in sympathy with Karl Popper regarding the importance of falsifiability to the scientific method. If we are not willing to subject our own theories to rigorous attempts to refute them, in a word, to doubt them, then the progress of knowledge stops.
      It seems to me that AGW climate science threw this baby out with the bath water.

    • Steven Mosher

      Of course the dogma of falsifiability is beyond question

    • Indeed, of the hundreds of thousands of science journal articles published each year, none reports a falsification. How then is falsification the aim of science? Science is about explanation, not falsification. Falsification is an unfortunate necessity, not a desireable end. But none of this has anything to do with the climate change debate. All this crap about violating the scientific method is just name calling noise.

    • Steven,
      Not beyond question, just a good scientific habit, part of the method.
      1) Not sure you’re responding to Popper’s point. The goal is not falsification, but that theories be formulated in such a way that they are refutable by evidence. This is essential to science; it’s why we talk about replication of results. It’s the reason for peer review: We’re supposed to be always looking for our own mistakes.
      2) I’m mostly in agreement about attempts to label things ‘unscientific.’ I believe philosophers of science call this the ‘boundary problem’ and have found a meaningful solution almost impossible. Nonetheless, falsifiability is an important objective in doing science. Sort of like the goal of ‘elegance’ in mathematics. It has a unexplained tendency to produce profound results. Popper considered it a part of how science progresses.

    • David,
      I don’t know the etiquette of commenting late, but I just reread your post and was stunned. ‘none reports a falsification’. Are you sure you want to stand by that statement? What were the McIntyre & McKitrick papers re the hockey stick? I suspect that every issue of every scientific journal contains at least one piece that casts doubt on or revises previous results. This is falsification. Name a scientific journal that routinely publishes articles that are incapable of being falsified by further evidence. What are you really trying to say?

    • David,

      While it may be only a minor part, I do think that religion does play a role in the climate change debate. Take a look, for example, over at Roy Spencer’s blog and note the comments of Douglas Cotton, where he see’s “all the climate under God’s control”. I do not think it is just a coincidence that religion played a role in the heated debate about evolution last century, and while the influence of religion is far more subtle in the climate change debate, it is, in my opinion still present and provides one more factor to the complicated mix. It provides, at the very least, a subtle background perspective of what is and isn’t possible in the universe. Could the puny human species, for example, actually so alter “God’s creation” is such a dramatic way as to induce climate change? Would “God” allow this to happen? This contextual perspective can influence perceptions, even among the otherwise very scientific minded.

    • David: “There is no significant religious component to the debate. The issue is politicized because it was raised by a political movement: environmentalism.”

      Agreed that the issue is politicized, but there is a significant aspect that is founded upon a religious worldview: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
      “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

      Bureaucracies tend to be inimical to these principles.

    • R. Gates,
      Sorry, but climate science is one of the least important sciences regarding humanity’s future. People can thrive in amazing range of climates. People have adapted to, or adapted the environment, or changed both themselves and the environment worldwide. Climate science has been hijacked by a social mania and turned into a money hunt and power play.
      Your posts reflect an extremist point of view that at the least enables catastrophism and leads to expensive useless policies that hurt people and do nothing for the ‘climate’ you claim to care about.

    • Hunter,

      Where did I claim I care about the climate? Please be specific or retract your comment.

    • R. Gates,
      If you do not care about the climate, why in the heck are you posting here?
      Are you too cowardly to admit you are an AGW true believer?
      Pointing out that you support climate extremism is nothing I will retract.

    • So you equate a belief that we are in the Anthropocene with someone “caring about the climate”, eh? One can’t just observe, as a true scientist, without taking an emotional slant to the observation…i.e. “caring” about the climate?

      Rather loose with your definitions I’d say, or perhaps don’t quite know how to classify someone more complex than your simple definitions will allow? So, by extension, if someone thinks that humans have, and will continue to alter the climate by our activities, that person is an “extremist”, eh?

      Oh, what a simple, and simply inaccurate world view you have. This black and white world view you have reminds me more of a political or religious conviction rather than an objective assessment.

      Has it occurred to you that someone could post here because they find the topic truly interesting and enjoy lively conversation about it, or must only “extremists” post here?

    • R. Gates,
      The term “anthropocene”, as has been pointed out, is a contrived term used by AGW believers. But setting that aside, the fact that you are here, that you are attracted to that contrived name, and that you are posting long winded rationalizations to explain away the failures of AGW promoter’s predictions, along with your attempts to to ignore skeptical critiques show that yes, you are a committed true believer in AGW. Embrace it. Be a fanatic. Learn that your secular religion permits you to be just as big a fundie extremist as any snake handler or young earth creationist or eugenicist.

    • R. Gates,
      Sorry to have hit the reply button too soon. As to the religious stuff you post: It is a strawman that really only makes you look deeply uninformed. When you find a sermon, book or article by a religious leader anywhere close to mainstream of any religion in the American or Western public sqaure taht says God will not let us hurt Earth and to not worry about pollution or enviro destruction, please feel free to offer proof.
      But since you have brought up religious fervor as a contributing factor to the AGW issue, I would suggest that the need for apocalyptic claptrap dressed up as a solution to the world’s problems, or punishment for the wicked is an important part of any extremist faith based movement. And it is your side that is chock full of fevered true believers fervent in their belief that not only is a climate catastrophe happening, but that denialist scum are responsible for it and need to be punished. Some climate profiteer named Zwick just posted a nice blog about how, since not enough people are buying his carbon credits, the deniers “broke the climate” and deserve to be punished- outed at home, attacked in public, etc. He even talks of a final solution for dealing with the problem of denialist scum.
      You, sir, should look to your own religious problems before you start confabulating religious problems iwht the skeptical community.
      You, sir, are the fundamentalis extremist in this social disaster we call AGW.

    • oh I don’t know about religous aspects.. ;-)

      Dr Tim Mitchell (formery of CRU/Tyndall – Jones, Mitchell co-author)

      “Although I have yet to see any evidence that climate change is a sign of Christ’s imminent return, human pollution is clearly another of the birth pangs of creation, as it eagerly awaits being delivered from the bondage of corruption (Romans. 19-22).”

      Tim Mitchell works at the Climactic Research Unit, UEA, Norwich, and is a member of South Park Evangelical Church.”


      “However, we feel in awe of its destructive potential, seen in such things as hurricanes and floods, which are part of the CURSE (my caps) inflicted upon the earth following the Fall (Genesis 3.17). “

  26. James Lovelock has rethought his climate alarmism; I would have thought James Hansen or Mike Mann would have seen the light before Lovelock. That 92 year old gentleman should stay out of dark alleys when Ben Santer is nearby.


    • Don B,
      That is fascinating.
      For Lovelock to back down from the extremism of which he was a founder is amazing.

  27. I agree with your analysis, except for #3. There is no significant religious component to the debate. The issue is politicized because it was raised by a political movement: environmentalism. Climate science is really being funded by the policy community, not the scientific community. The pure scientific question of climate change is not worth the money we are spending on it. Climate research has been the policy compromise.

    On the other hand, I think that JC’s characterization is highly inaccurate. Science does not cultivate doubt, it overcomes doubt. Science does not find pleasure in mystery, but in overcoming mystery. There are no journal articles reporting what we do not know.

    • David,
      1.Prepare and use (land) for crops or gardening.
      2.Break up (soil) in preparation for sowing or planting.

      Makes things eaiser to grow.

    • There are no journal articles reporting what we do not know.
      True, but the journals overflow with articles and letters casting doubt on previous articles and letters. It’s called post-publication peer review, and it’s how science progresses. When we censor this, as Mann
      et al. tried to do, progress stops.
      I suspect that a readiness to, when appropriate, subject almost everything to doubt is the very soul of the scientific endeavor.

  28. I am objecting not so much to censoring to this blog but the absence of reasonable moderation. I am tired of being abused and insulted – when I warn this is a problem I am ignored – when I respond in kind I am censored. Goodbye.

    • Chief,

      I hope you’ll reconsider. I, for one, and I know I’m not alone, hold your powerful commentary on this blog in the highest regard. And I don’t think there’s the slightest doubt in anyone’s mind that you more than hold your own–and then some–whenever some fool-hardy dolt dares to screw with you (whether with a moderation advantage or no moderation advantage).

      So, again, I earnestly and respectfully request that you remain a valued participant in this blog’s discussions.

    • For me, CH’s absence is a loss, intellectually, and in the spirit of challenges. He adds to my science and political background & critical thinking. I look for his comments as I have now. He is welcome to my email.

    • Chief, if you see objectionable comments let me know. I did delete one of your comments that I felt was in violation of blog rules (note I am being threatened with litigation over some one else’s comments, so I am being rather vigilant about not violating blog rules at the moment, esp with regards to statements about individual participants in the blog).

    • The “Chief Hydrologist Fan Club” has me for an enthusiastic member too—thoughtful voices (like CH’s) are essential on *ALL* sides of the climate-change debate.

    • Chief

      Enough of this nonsense. Of course you must stay. That’s it settled then.


    • I for one make a point of reading your contributions.

      Don’t let the bastards get you down. Name calling only serves to demean the people doing it, not those they direct it against. (Although I occasionally can’t help myself.)

    • I think you’re a bit thin-skinned. As a liberal, I find that you and many others on this blog continually engage in stereotyping of liberals. I find that offensive, but it comes with the territory. Although I’m a liberal, I’m a lukewarmer, fiscaly conservative in some ways, and neither a fan of big government nor a fan of lots of deregulation. Because you conservatives have successfully made liberal a perjoritive in the minds of many (what a tragedy for understanding political philosophy and history), I prefer the term center left. I find much of the conservative rant here just as mindless, insulting and unhelpful as the climate consensus rant.
      I do appreciate your scientific insights and contributions.

    • I prefer the term pissant progressive.

      I don’t mind strong words – I don’t even mind clever and funny insults – just the vacuous school boy taunting that passes for debate with some. Only then because it is a waste of my time and a distraction.

    • I am tired of being abused and insulted –

      I see that chief’s sense of irony hasn’t diminished in my absence. Good thing I’ve been stocking up on tissues while I’ve been away. Chief’s “abuse” must be positively tragic.

    • Damn – I read it before I remembered why I don’t.

    • Stick with us, friend. You offer valuable insights.
      “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” (King Henry V)
      And thanks to Dr. Curry for giving perspective to the incident.

  29. ‘Gaia’ scientist James Lovelock: I was ‘alarmist’ about climate change

    This should be interesting (is he going to be labelled an old misguided fool now, by the scince advocates/environmentalists?

    Why can’t scientists in the climate community say they were wrong, ie the silence of the community (publically) on ‘Hide the decline’ – Hockey stick, etc,etc

    I’m very tired of the ‘climate dance’ and the ‘silence of the scientists’ as Andrew Montford just made the Desmogblog, Deniers ‘Disinformation Database’ where are the silent scientists saying that is unacceptable, Freeman Dyson, Happer, Harrison Schmitt, Lomborg, David Bellamy, Christy,(or anybody!) all tagged and labelled as climate denier, disinformation, and part of the denial industry..

    I now know half a dozen people in that database and think it is shameful poiticised junk, yet some in the climate community positively endorse the rhetoric of denier, denial industry, worst of all ‘disinformation’ (mann, etc)

    even Steve Mcintyre seems tired of ‘the community’ and the silence:

    Steve: “but, for whatever reason, one day I woke up and I was sick and tired both of the Team and the broader “climate community” that enables them and in which they thrive. I sense that the wider public has a similar attitude.

    I’m starting to feel a little better now that spring is coming. I’ll start posting again in a couple of weeks, but doubt that I’ll ever post as much as I have in the past.”

    On a brighter note..

    THIS should cheer a few people up…


    If only to watch the reaction from climate scientists (many more moderate ones I think will be relieved) and the environmentalists some who will just tear into him.

    fun quotes from James Lovelock:

    ‘Gaia’ scientist James Lovelock: I was ‘alarmist’ about climate change

    “The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said.

    “The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said.

    “The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.

    He pointed to Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers” as other examples of “alarmist” forecasts of the future.

    Asked if he was now a climate skeptic, Lovelock told msnbc.com: “It depends what you mean by a skeptic. I’m not a denier.”

    He said human-caused carbon dioxide emissions were driving an increase in the global temperature, but added that the effect of the oceans was not well enough understood and could have a key role.

    “It (the sea) could make all the difference between a hot age and an ice age,” he said.

    He said he still thought that climate change was happening, but that its effects would be felt farther in the future than he previously thought.

    “We will have global warming, but it’s been deferred a bit,” Lovelock said.

    ‘I made a mistake’
    As “an independent and a loner,” he said he did not mind saying “All right, I made a mistake.” He claimed a university or government scientist might fear an admission of a mistake would lead to the loss of funding.

  30. So, it’s not good science to FIRST start with fear of global warming and THEN look for ‘facts’ that confirm your fears?

  31. We again have ‘settled science’ when it comes to global warming only now it is not based on fear of humanity engaged in the business of living:

    “…In addition, even though the sun is brighter now than at any time in the past 8,000 years, the increase in direct solar input is not calculated to be sufficient to cause the past century’s modest warming on its own. There had to be an amplifier of some sort for the sun to be a primary driver of climate change.

    “Indeed, that is precisely what has been discovered. In a series of groundbreaking scientific papers starting in 2002, Veizer, Shaviv, Carslaw, and most recently Svensmark et al., have collectively demonstrated that as the output of the sun varies, and with it, our star’s protective solar wind, varying amounts of galactic cosmic rays from deep space are able to enter our solar system and penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. These cosmic rays enhance cloud formation which, overall, has a cooling effect on the planet. When the sun’s energy output is greater, not only does the Earth warm slightly due to direct solar heating, but the stronger solar wind generated during these “high sun” periods blocks many of the cosmic rays from entering our atmosphere. Cloud cover decreases and the Earth warms still more.

    “The opposite occurs when the sun is less bright. More cosmic rays are able to get through to Earth’s atmosphere, more clouds form, and the planet cools more than would otherwise be the case due to direct solar effects alone. This is precisely what happened from the middle of the 17th century into the early 18th century, when the solar energy input to our atmosphere, as indicated by the number of sunspots, was at a minimum and the planet was stuck in the Little Ice Age. These new findings suggest that changes in the output of the sun caused the most recent climate change. By comparison, CO2 variations show little correlation with our planet’s climate on long, medium and even short time scales.”

    ~R. Timothy Patterson, “Read the sunspots (prepare now for dangerous global cooling),” Financial Post, Jun 24, 2007

    • The biggest flaw is that cosmic rays don’t show the necessary trend since 1950 to explain the warming. Often overlooked.

    • A cosmic ray trend? An active Sun means fewer cosmic rays, ipso facto, Capiche? Now the sun is less active. Why are the oceans cooling?

      ■1410-1500 cold – Low Solar Activity (LSA) – i.e., Sporer minimum
      ■1510-1600 warm – High Solar Activity (HSA)
      ■1610-1700 cold – (LSA) – i.e., Maunder minimum
      ■1710-1800 warm – (HSA)
      ■1810-1900 cold – (LSA) i.e., Dalton minimum
      ■1910-2000 warm – (HSA)
      ■2010+ Possibly 3-7 decades of global cooling

    • The oceans are warming, not cooling.

      As for cosmic rays, have a read, the correlation isn’t there with the recent warming:

    • Wagathon,

      Uh, the oceans are at or near their highest heat content in at least 40 years. Hardly what any reasonable person would call “cooling”.

    • Is this a setup. I thought everyone knew the very moment we actually able to accurately measure ocean temperature global warming stopped. Coincidence? The sun was very active throughout the 20th century and this led to global warming. It’s happened before. Now the sun is anomalously quiet and it has been quiet for a while now. It is not surprising to many scientists that the combined satellite and radiosonde temperature data now indicate that there has been a cooling trend for years corresponding with this observed change in solar activity. The technology has been explained very well by Dick Thoenes (‘The stabilising effect of the oceans on climate’):

      “High quality subsurface ocean temperature, salinity and density data are now available from a fleet of 3000 submersible floats that are distributed throughout the world’s oceans.18 The floats are designed to sink to a depth of 1000 or 2000 m, drift at that depth for ten days, then return to the surface, acquiring data during the ascent. At the surface, the data are transmitted via satellite to a series of ground monitoring stations. The floats then repeat the descent/ascent cycle. The floats are not tethered and drift with the ocean currents. The principal features of the solar heating of the ocean at various latitudes through the year may be understood by examining the results from selected Argo floats. Figure 1 summarizes a year of data from 5 Argo floats covering a range of latitudes from the equator to the Antarctic Circle in the southern central Pacific Ocean. The temperatures at 5 depths, 5, 25, 50, 75 and 100 m are shown as a time series for the year. The latitude drift of the floats is also shown. Because of variability in the float actuators, the depths are averages for each float with a standard deviation of approximately 0.2 m. The average latitude, longitude, depths and temperatures for each float are given in Table 1. The average temperatures show the expected decrease in temperature at higher latitudes.”

    • Incorrect sir. During this past decade, when we’ve had the most consistent measurement of ocean heat content (and a quiet sun and “cool” phase of the PDO) the oceans overall have continued to gain heat. This would make even more sense when we realize the tropospheric temps have been flat. Less heat has been flowing from ocean to atmosphere over the past decade, and the fact that we still saw 9 of the 10 warmest atmospheric temps on instrument record even without the extra heat coming from the ocean tells you a great deal.

    • What when the real world refuses to conform to the superstitious beliefs of global warming alarmists. What we see is that Observational evidence in the real world simply does not support the data and the adjustments to the data and all of the variables and parameters that are used to capture ‘reality’ in the GCM world.

      “The observed ocean heat content trends were calculated by Josh K. Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Craig Leohle of the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. Loehle’s calculations have a smaller margin for error than Willis, because Willis only uses annual average data. The heat deficit shows that from 2003-2008 there was no positive radiative imbalance caused by anthropogenic forcing, despite increasing levels of CO2. Indeed, the radiative imbalance was negative, meaning the earth was losing slightly more energy than it absorbed.

      “Since the oceans are the primary reservoir of atmospheric heat, there is no need to account for lag time involved with heat transfer. By using ocean heat as a metric, we can quantify nearly all of the energy that drives the climate system at any given moment. So, if there is still heat ‘in the pipeline’, where is it? The deficit of heat after nearly 6 years of cooling is now enormous. Heat can be transferred, but it cannot hide.”(William DiPuccio)

    • Wagathon said:

      “The heat deficit shows that from 2003-2008 there was no positive radiative imbalance caused by anthropogenic forcing,”
      This is a completely untrue statement. (see http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/).

      Despite your attempts at cherrying picking, even for the cherry picked time period in question (2003-2008), the global ocean gained approximately 4 x 10^22 Joules of energy down to the deepest level we are measuring with ARGO…2000m.

      It the past 4 decades we have seen a consistent rise in ocean heat content. If you’d like to cherry pick the data, try using a shorter time frame just before the start of an El Nino and ending before the start of the following La Nina. Typically the oceans store heat even more rapidly during La Nina’s, and release a bit of it during an El Nino. As the last decade has been dominated more by La Nina’s then El Ninos, we’ve seen the ocean store about 10 x 10^22 Joules of energy (down to 2000m) over the course of the decade, with approximately 40% of that occurring between 2003-2008.

    • R Gates

      Thanks for the link. Its interesting to scoll dwn that page then look at the section with error bars.

      I’m not impressed with 40 years and not impressed with the terrible coverage that Argo gives us, let alone the adjustments made to produce the warming that I have written about in my article. Believing that the warming (should it exist) is down to co2 is another leap of faith.

      As you know I view our knowlege of historic water temperatures (surface or sub surface) with a jaundiced eye, especially as the IPCC denied me the abyssal research they use in the draft of AR5.

    • Wow, that’s about 1 watt per square meter going directly into the ocean heat sink over the last 10 years.

      Hardly any of that leads to a measurable temperature rise as ithe heat gets dispersed through much of its volume.

      Hansen was right on when he wrote about this effect almost 30 years ago.

    • Tony,

      It is indeed a “travesty” that our monitoring of ocean heat content is not better, considering it is the #1 solar energy and planetary energy storage vessel. In though there is of course error in the exact amount of energy being stored in the ocean, I have a high degree of confidence in the general short and long term trends. For example, during most El Nino events, we see the total ocean heat content fall, and it often rises during a La Nina.

      One little note as well. I find it most interesting that people like Bob Tisdale look at and monitor SST’s so closely as an indication of whether or not the oceans are warming. In fact, all SST’s tell us is the heat flux out of the ocean. If it is being measured from a satellite, it is heat on the way out of the ocean as it moves from ocean to atmosphere! It would be more instructive to compare what Hansen claims is the current energy imbalance of the Planet (somewhere aroiund 0.56 wm^2), versus how much heat is measured leaving the ocean through SST’s, and then compare all that to the estimated ocean heat content gain over some given period of time.

    • R Gates

      I agree that ocean heat content is very important, hence it is disappointing that it has been measured so inadequately throughout its depth, and even more disappointing that we can’t admit it and try to construct a worthwhile and independent system. Being able to measure it and attributing the cause of the warmth is however another matter.

    • But Dr. Gates, predicting is lots more fun the postdicting :)

      For example, that noisy satellite data you dislike so much may contain some useful information.

      Like comparing the mid troposphere global to the oceans could give some indication of ocean heat uptake. Using a 1979 to 1995 common baseline, around 1998 the global temperature increase surpassed the ocean temperature increase. Personally, I think the shift was in 1994 to 95, but 1998 seems to be popular. If I subtract the Ocean from the global and compare it to the PMOD TSI, there is an interesting correlation.


      Not perfect by any means, but interesting.

      Another fun accident is if you compare the mid-troposphere land only to the natural log change in CO2 forcing, you get a pretty nice fit.

      That is probably be cause the thermal mass of land is lower than the oceans so the radiant impact of CO2 is somewhat amplified. Of course the fits to the surface station data and the sea surface temperature data from Hadley are not that great. That may be because of the instrumentation change near the end of the 1980s.


      It is an interesting puzzle.

    • Captn. Dallas said:

      “Using a 1979 to 1995 common baseline, around 1998 the global temperature increase surpassed the ocean temperature increase.”

      Please sir, let us get our terms straight and a firm understanding of what the dynamics are and what it is we are measuring.

      1998 was of course an El Nino year…in fact, a very strong El Nino year. In such years, there is a larger flow (when compared to a La Nina year or ENSO neutral year) of energy from ocean to atmosphere. This energy flow or heat flux is of course measured as heat in higher than normal SST’s. So of course 1998 saw a higher increase in atmospheric temperatures than the ocean saw. That energy was coming from the oceans! Despite this net flow of energy from ocean to atmosphere in 1998, the ocean heat content rapidly rebounded after that year and is now some 10 x 10^22 Joules higher (in just the first 2000 meters alone) than in 1998.

      What we are seeing is a long-term process whereby, even though the ocean heat content can fluctuate somewhat with the ENSO cycle, over the longer term (40+ years and perhaps longer) the oceans have been storing far more energy than releasing. This is precisely why it is accurate to say the oceans have been buffering the planet (i.e. the troposphere) from the bulk of warming caused by increased greenhouse gases.

    • Yes indeed, much of the heat is going in to the ocean. If you look at the actual data, you can obviously note how temperature changes correlate 500 meters down. The reach is like all diffusive processes, fast and slow at the same time. Fast in that nature abhors high concentrations while a gradient exists; slow in that nature doesn’t actually know which way the gradient is. That’s how a random walk works.

      The science itself is always the most interesting piece of the discussion.

  32. David Springer

    “Being a scientist requires having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt. There is no surer way to screw up an experiment than to be certain of its outcome.”

    Being an engineer requires having confidence in safety margins, find pleasure in predictible outcomes, and learning to cultivate validation. There is no surer way to lose blood and/or treasure than not being certain of an outcome.

    Murphy’s Law. If something can go wrong it will go wrong. How many ways can the CAGW hypothesis be wrong? Too many.

    • Murphy’s Three Laws:
      1) “If something can go wrong it will go wrong.”
      2) “It will go wrong at the worst possible time.”
      3) “When it goes wrong it will cause the maximum possible damage.” :-)

  33. Compare what Judith posted with the religious ‘science writers’ festival at UW-Madison.

    Where is the science, one wonders?

  34. I’m reminded of a great quote by Don Miguel de Unamuno:

    “La fe – la sudada fe – se alimenta, se apoya en la duda; la fe que no duda es fe muerte. Fe es dudar. La fe que aparece inquebrantable, inconmovible, rectilinea, es hija de ignorancia o es hija de fingimiento. El que no duda, no cree.”

    Faith – half faith – feeds, relies on the question; the faith that does not doubt is dead faith. Faith is doubt. The faith that is unshakable and immutable, rectilinear, is born of ignorance or pretense. He who does not doubt, does not believe.

    While Unamuno was speaking about religious faith, this is equally applicable to blind faith in science, or rather, the generally accepted current prevailing theories in science.

  35. Bring back Captain Kangaroo,
    You mustn’t abandon the battleground of debate for integrity of science and democratic freedom, Chief.. you are an important contributor.

    • And, there are more rattlers in Souther California than you can shake a stick at. You can catch’m bare-handed but it’s not a smart thing to do. Capiche?

  36. Chief Capt. K,
    Your work is not done. The heathen extremists are losing on all fronts. Damn the torpedos; full steam ahead.

  37. Joy Black above says 3 mm sea rise per year is of moderate concern. Not really for 99% of the Earth’s inhabitants, just more of the same and probably a sign of continued warming as we come out of the LIA. Then Joy goes bonkers by saying this, “That is why much depends upon recent predictions of a marked acceleration in sea-level rise in the coming decade.” Yeh right, recent predictions from the same soothsayers who predicted NYC would be partly submerged by 2010 and there would be 50,000 climate refugees because of rising sea levels. Those who cry wolf often enough create disrespect for their predictions, so we’re in the unhappy state of not having an adequate warning system even if models became a lot more skilful! Climate model disrespect caused by climate modelers.

  38. “How and why did climate science stop having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt?” Consensus climate science is like fundamentalist revealed religion with its priests and scripture and doctines, and its theat of excommunication. The duality of CO2 and heat is the omnipotent prime forcer, and its IPCC scripture is inerrant . When observation finds anything that conflicts with scripture, it must be the observation that is wrong. Just substitute CO2 for God and you get the idea. Like the God hypothesis, the CO2 hypothesis is not falsifiable. God is in heaven and the heat from CO2 is deep down in the oceans. Heat not revealed now will be revealed in the future for scripture tells us so.
    There’s another form of science and religion or spirituality which celebrates the unfolding mystery and finds pleasure in that mystery and is open to doubt, uncertainty, ambiguity, and new ways of understanding.

    • Latimer Alder


      Ain’t that the Truth, Brother!

      But I think you need to substitute CO2 for The Devil, not God. It is supposedly the reason that we will all be expelled from the Garden of Eden.

  39. I’d like to know how his thinking transferred to his university lecturing; I assume he began introducing statements about some of the most interesting “known unknowns”, at least! And suggesting students go looking for more, eating into the “unknown unknowns”, which are potentially infinite!

  40. Hmm. I’d say that the human desire to understand the world is evidenced in lots of disciplines that we don’t these days think of as “science”. History is scientific, for example. And I agree that science in this broader sense begins with the awareness of ignorance.

    When we realise we don’t know, it’s human nature to want to come to know. IOW, the realisation of ignorance acts as a trigger for curiosity. If we think we already know, why be curious and try to come to know?

    So we try to come to know, and at some point, it’s quite likely that we will imagine we *do* know. However, as history amply demonstrates, at any given point we do not yet fully know much, if anything at all.

    And so we cycle between imagined knowledge, some bright spark realising that that “knowledge” is suspect, and the possible battle between the status quo and a paradigm shift a la Kuhn. The paradigms have never stopped shifting. To some extent, it’s not bad to have the hiatuses in progress during which we try to establish, for want of a better word, “consensus”. But that’s downright dangerous if anyone tries to start with consensus and then goes out to gather confirmatory evidence whilst ignoring the possibility of ignorance.

    I’d also like to add that “having knowledge” isn’t the point at which we can abandon further investigation and launch into mere technological exploitation. For a start, there are many examples of technological exploitation when we didn’t have a clue as to the underlying causal mechanisms involved. Steel was around and in use for centuries before anyone had an idea what steel was and why it behaved as it did. Empiricism often preceeds understanding, though true enough, when the latter improves, great strides may be made, technologically speaking.

    Few scientists are bright or independent-minded enough to be able to realise what they don’t know and to start investigating so that they can come to know. For those in the UK, I recommend the current BBC TV series about “beautiful minds”, which recently covered the work of the paleontologist Jenny Clack and the uncategorisable Russian-born scientist, Andre Geim, Nobel prize recipient, he of Graphene and levitating frogs. The latter in particular is a splendid example of a scientist able to recognise his own ignorance, ask simple and even possibly silly questions, and revolutionise scientific thinking.

    If you can access the BBC iplayer site in your country, check out the beautiful minds series here:


    • John Carpenter

      “For a start, there are many examples of technological exploitation when we didn’t have a clue as to the underlying causal mechanisms involved.”

      I would take it a little further and say this is the norm in technological advancement. Most of the time we exploit new technologies and the science and understanding have to catch up some time later. It goes all the way back to man conquering fire. We learned to use it way before we knew what it was.

  41. Judith Curry

    Thanks for tip and sneak preview – looks like Stuart Firestein’s book is a must read.

    You conclude that “climate science” (as we know it today) has “gone off the rails” by replacing “having faith in uncertainty” with a forced “consensus” to a party line.

    From the comments here, it appears that many of your denizens agree fully.

    Let me add my name to the list.


  42. To me it remains a wellspring of wonder, that some so completely object to the idea of their own humility, that they would rather seek praise for their ignorance instead.

    I think we’re forgetting which of those is the virtue, and which the vice.

  43. Aw gee – I am afraid that Capt. K has taken a dive. I still have my blue pony though. ‘I’m tired of the war – I wan’t the kind of life I had before’. Speaking of which tomorrow is ANZECC day. So I will don a suit and tie for the dawn service to remember with tears a battle that happened almost a hundred years ago – and all the young men who have fought and died in battles since. Not to mention the hapless civilians. Then we will drink beer and play tow-up.

    ‘ Lockwood & Fröhlich (2007) demonstrated that since 1987 the long-term changes in solar outputs, which have been postulated as drivers of climate change, have been in the direction opposite to that required to explain, or even contribute to, the observed rise in Earth’s global mean air surface temperature (GMAST). Since then, the solar trends noted by these authors have continued. By the end of solar cycle 23, the annual mean of the open solar magnetic flux (deduced from geomagnetic activity) had fallen to a value last seen in 1924, in the minimum between sunspot cycles 15 and 16 (Lockwood et al. 2009). Other aspects of this decline in solar activity are reviewed by Russell et al. (in press). In this paper, we study the implications.’

    Here are the relevant factors now augmented by satellite data.
    sourced from – http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/5/3/034008/fulltext/

    1987? 1992? Whatever. Can we expect exact correspondences as energies slosh around the planet? That would be too easy.
    But what happened after 1987, 1992 whatever?

    Here is a Fig 7 from Wong et al 2006 – showing ocean heat content calculated by Willis et al 2004 from in situ measurement and satellite altimeter data compared to ERBS TOAS fluxes. There is agreement with ERBS, ISCCP-FD and ocean heat content.

    ‘The overall slight rise (relative heating) of global total net flux at TOA between the 1980′s and 1990′s is confirmed in the tropics by the ERBS measurements and exceeds the estimated climate forcing changes (greenhouse gases and aerosols) for this period. The most obvious explanation is the associated changes in cloudiness during this period.’

    Cooling in the IR.


    Warming in the SW – at least to the end of the century.


    You can see El Chichón after 1982 and Mt Pinatubo in 1992. This seems about right. How can think we know the future if the immediate past is so problematical?

    • Thanks so much for the post, Chief. Climate etc. would not be the same blog without your inimitable contributions.

      As it happened, I was once a part of an ANZAC day observance, myself, and was even honored to be one of those to lay a wreath. I also got an education, at that time, that has stayed with me, as to place Gallipoli holds in the hearts of Australians and New Zealanders and the battle’s contribution to the the formation of their national identities. So if it’s not too presumptuous of a Yank, Chief, I’ll share a tear and beer with you.

    • Thank you

  44. Chief @1.22:
    Glad to hear the blue pony is ok. So go and git that *^%#> unicorn back!

    For denizens not of our GREAT SOUTHERN LAND,
    25th April, ANZAC Day, is taken very seriously.

    Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
    Shovel them under and let me work-
    I am the grass, I cover all.

    And pile them high at Gettysurg
    And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
    Shovel them under and let me work.
    Two years, ten years and passengers ask the conductor;
    What place is this?
    Where are we now?

    I am the grass.
    Let me work.

    Carl Sandburg.

    • That Unicorn has several bad habits – not unlike myself. Is my face red thinking water quality (ANZECC) as I do every day instead of the one day of the year (ANZAC) – and of course the game is two-up.


      The dawn service in Yeppoon was endearingly amateurish. The President of the Yeppoon Returned Servicemen’s League sub-branch spoke not too eloquently but from the heart of battlefields from Gallipoli to Oruzgan. The local politician sang badly a few bars of ‘Advance Australia Fair’ – and rather crassly I thought reminded us to vote early and vote often on Saturday. The ‘girls’ of the Country Women’s Association prepared a ‘Gunfire Breakfast’ following. The ‘Last Post’, however, rang out each note clear, crisp and pure, the flags dipped flawlessly, the prayers for peace and for the souls of our lost ones were despatched with an earnest amen, the murmured ‘we will remember them’ emphatic and the pause for silent contemplation profound.

      Loved your poem. But the point of course is to remember even if obscured by time.

      ‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
      Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
      At the going down of the sun and in the morning
      We will remember them.’


  45. Judith,

    I see many examples of scientists suffering from the “forever and ever syndrome”. The parameters of their experiments NEVER changes and projections of the future are based on a few years data out of 4.5 billion years.
    Technology changes but the science laws and theories are protected at all costs no matter what new technology or new areas of science are discovered.
    It is the choice of staying ignorant and not the wonder of new areas of science to be explored.

  46. Judith,

    I am probably one of the very few that questions science to the core.
    From the impossibility of time travel to mistakes in the models of axis shifts, errors were made due to the inability of incorporating other parameters that were NEVER in consideration.
    Hence, this then makes science and society ignorant to the mistakes made. The scientists or researchers of these areas will protect their “babies” to the bitter end no matter the simple errors that they neglected to include.
    Most errors in science is the lack of the mechanical understanding and incorporation of motion on a sphere. Models generated today mistakenly used averaging which misses vast areas of other parameters.

    • Joe’s World, I am one of the very many that does *NOT* question science to the core. For example, I board a Boeing 777 with strong confidence that we understand Navier-Stokes airflows sufficiently to take-off and land that airplane safely — even though in plain sobering fact, our understanding of the Navier-Stokes equations is minimal. In partial consequence of which, sometimes airplanes *DO* crash.

      Similarly, if scientists predict that sea-level rise rates will accelerate to alarming levels in the coming decade or two, and if in fact that acceleration comes to pass, then by a similar process of judgment I am going to conclude that CAGW scenarios should be regarded seriously.

      In Feynman’s words, these practical judgments reflect the “delicate balance of respect and disrespect” for science, by which we “accept and reject the past with a kind of balance that takes considerable skill.”

    • Hmmm …hopefully this link to the Clay Institute’s Navier-Stokes million-dollar Millennium Prize will work! :)

      The point being, that in practice neither science, nor medicine, nor engineering, nor even mathematics requires perfect understanding.

    • Joy Black | April 24, 2012 at 9:26 am |

      But is it the coming decade or two?

      And if current rates are not for some reason alarming at some level, I understand from seeing another post of yours the table of thresholds you do consider more alarming, but please remind what the reasoning behind those thresholds.

      There are hypotheses for changes due increasing CO2 levels (in turn due human activity plus feedbacks). There is good evidence supporting severally and distinctly such hypotheses. What distinguishes the sea level evidence from the habitat displacement evidence, the sea ice evidence, the global warming evidence, the ocean chemical change evidence, the extreme events evidence, the botanical evidence?

      While I don’t think you’re wrong, I think you’re unduly optimistic, given the evidence that some will not heed any evidence whatsoever; indeed that there is little correlation between how perfected a scientific understanding and the attitudes and beliefs of a wider world. More people today in the most advanced countries in the world believe in travel beyond the speed of light today than did fifty years ago.

  47. …”While I don’t think you’re wrong, I think you’re unduly optimistic, given the evidence that some will not heed any evidence whatsoever;…”

    Bart, do you ever get dizzy?

  48. In defense of mediocrity, Joy Black offers the following:

    The point being, that in practice neither science, nor medicine, nor engineering, nor even mathematics requires perfect understanding.

    If fact, they do require it – humans, some, are accepting of less. Nobody remembers them or notes their passing. For them I offer this epitaph: “This is hard – let’s do it wrong.”

    More emotives of mediocrity:
    “I came, I saw, I failed. What ever.”
    “Birth – the last perfect day.”
    “In pursuit of excellence one must be prepared to say ‘enough!’.”
    “Nobody remembers the best written declaration of surrender”
    “In science, mediocrity is an acceptable parameter.”
    “Uncertainty is over-rated.”
    “Climate Science – a consensus willing to do the wrong thing.”

    One does not expect to see a brass placard placed on a structure such as Boulder Dam that says “Close enough for government work”. That is the domain of climate science.

    Thank you for inspiring me to respond.

    • dp | April 24, 2012 at 10:38 am |

      What a thoroughly mediocre response.

      Hoover Dam? It was barely close enough even for government work. Over a hundred people died building it. It was a mess of controversy in law and politics at the state, federal and international level for decades before it was built, and is a constant concern to engineers even now. Heck, it even got the name of the imperfect government guy behind it slapped on it. Unless you’re saying Hoover was perfect?

      A defense of the marketing definition of perfection is hardly a very perfect challenge to the observation that you imperfectly interpret to suit your own purposes.

      Oh, and begging the question? Tch. What a perfect example of embracing the wrong result as a premise to a wrong argument.

    • “Those persons who love sausage, and those persons who love justice, should never watch either being made” (attributed to Bismark).
      This applies especially to mathematics, science, engineering, and medicine… those who expect uniform perfection of results, that is achieved by uniformly saintly behavior, inevitably will be disappointed.

      We can hope that many practitioners in these disciplines (teachers especially) will persistently strive toward perfection … and that the overall result will be more nearly perfect than the individual efforts that contribute to it … this sustained striving toward excellence, and the resulting slow improvement of the results, is the utmost that can be expected.

    • After being the focus of a scary but thankfully relatively minor medical mystery recently, I have a new perspective on knwledge and uncertainty. Medical science is generally pretty good at telling you if something signficantly bad is going on: Tumors, bleeds, blockages, heart issues, etc.
      When those diagnoses are delivered, they are generally done so with a lot of confidence. But there is a whole world of medical issues that are transient, ischemic, isolated, etc. And for those issues, the big poewrful tests that can find the dangerous problems quickly generally have negative results.
      And that is not really a bad thing. I have concluded that one of the best bits of news one can get from a doctor after a good series of tests are made is one I call NFI. “NFI” means “No F*cking Idea”. And if you don’t have a tumor or lump or bleed and the problem is not expected to return, NFI is actually good news. And it is honest. How different that is from what we have seen “the team” act over the years.

  49. Yesterday’s microscopes were blinded by El Niño.
    Is there an easy workaround?

    “Pólya notes that ‘human superiority consists in going around an obstacle that cannot be overcome directly’”

    “Pólya advises that this requires that the student have the patience to wait until the bright idea appears (subconsciously).”


    3 of Pólya’s problem solving suggestions are KEY at this stage in the evolution of Climatology:
    1. “Use symmetry.”
    2. “Solve a simpler problem.”
    3. “Eliminate possibilities.”

    The solar-terrestrial double-helix of equator-pole gradients:

    The focus CAN be sharpened. I’m refining tools.

    At the global scale, nuances of the simple symmetry encoded in Earth Orientation Parameters constrain (via the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum) the set of permissible climate model states.

    Background primers:
    1. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/03/30/open-thread-weekend-9/#comment-940636
    2. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/04/10/solar-terrestrial-lunisolar-components-of-rate-of-change-of-length-of-day/ (Serious parties eying today’s cutting edge: Devote lucid attention to the nuances of cross-scale aggregation.)

    Conjecture: The nature of solar-terrestrial relations can be generalized across a wide range of geophysical variables.

  50. “How and why did climate science stop having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt?”

    To be honest, scientists enjoy the uncertainty, mystery, and skepticism. Its the solution work groups that have highjacked the science in support of their proposals. Put the UN solution work groups on a “time-out” and his debate is focused on positive strides to settle the science.

    Here’s a look at some of the current backlash:

    • John from CA, watching that video with the sound off — because I was riding the bus — was purely inspirational: amber fields of grain were waving, with spacious skies above, flags flying everwhere, earnest young people talking … the production values were 100% professional.

      Will the missing math, science, and engineering be supplied by the sound-track?

    • John from CA

      LOL — No math, science, and engineering just the consequence of poor policy decision making and its potential impact on a free market economy.

    • John from CA

      … and an extremist environmental agenda that seeks a rush to judgement without proper due diligence.

    • Joy Black,
      How did it compare with that great AGW promotional work, “10:10″?

      was the math and science supporting that call for a final solution offered in a seperate download?

    • John from CA

      Hi hunter,
      Based on your prior comment, glad to hear it wasn’t serious. I liked your take on NFI.

      If you click the “More info” down arrow on each video you’ll see response percentages and the general intent of each vid.

      If policy decision makers were capable of using math, science, and engineering they would not be making such poor decisions. So, Joy has a point.

    • John from CA,
      Thanks. Glad yo liked it. My question regarding the 10:10 video was rhetorical, by the way.
      As to the innumeracy and historical illiteracy of our decision makers- we get the government we deserve. We have tolerated a lack of critical thinking, problem solving, math and historical literacy for quite awhile.

    • Real Estate speculator Howard Rich has so much more money than morals it’s hard to imagine a more obscene abuse of the flag than to see it wrapped around his naked polemicism.

      Seriously, if he wanted America to fail, he’d sit on the boards of as many tax free crackpot ‘think tanks’ as possible and use the immense influence of his cash and contacts to warp the democrati.. Oh? What’s that? Howard Rich does sit on the boards of Cat..?

      Boy, is my face red.

    • John from CA

      The “If I Wanted America to Fail” clip seems to hit a lot of USA sore points outside the climate debate as well as inside. For example, I think the message on bloated and misguided bureaucracy is quite compelling.

      It is a sad footnote – almost an obituary – to the place that was once thought of around the world as the land of unlimited opportunities.


    • manacker | April 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm |

      Obituary? Really?

      So quick to give up on America, because of a bit of paranoid propaganda from a real estate speculator and his cronies?

      Just because some con men wrap themselves in the flag doesn’t make what they say true, or right.

      Levels of bureaucracy in the USA were much higher, for example, under Ronald Reagan than now. Are you calling Ronald Reagan un-American?

      How many people do you hear of around the world talking about moving to China or Russia for the unlimited opportunities there?

      And if you’d been listening to what people around the world have been saying about the USA for a century now, you’d likely have heard some pretty nasty things by any measure, in any case.

      The clip gives aid and comfort to America’s enemies abroad and at home, and it seems real patriots ought recognise it for the attack on their homeland and their security that it is.

  51. Bart R | April 24, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply

    dp | April 24, 2012 at 10:38 am |

    What a thoroughly mediocre response.

    You are talking about dams and governments and private sector and I am talking about people’s expectations. To make sense your comments should also discuss people’s expectations, or you should start your own thread.

    • dp | April 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm |

      A requirement for impossible perfection is a logical fallacy.

      Anyone who hasn’t been disabused of the notion of perfection in science, medicine, engineering or mathematics isn’t very good at any of those.

      In a laboratory, measurements are accompanied by estimates of precision, to account for uncertainty in observation, and of accuracy to reflect limits of equipment. Pretending to greater perfection than this is rabidly unscientific.

      In medicine, patients expecting perfection are due for disappointment, and likely to obtain poorer results than if they expected professionalism.

      An engineer who tells me they’re perfect, I know is deluded.

      Even in mathematics, the nearest we come to the perfection of the abstract, we know that no system is perfectible, through Russell’s Paradox.

      Perfect doesn’t happen. It’s arrogant to claim, and delusional to demand. We can hope for honesty, good efforts, the best obtainable precision and accuracy, sincerity and pragmatism. We’re foolish to pretend to more.

    • Bart, why did PJ dump the origional weather records collected over the past 150 years? How much of it was there at the UEA/HC center? What did they do with it all? You know a lot about this stuff, Who, what, when, where, why & how?… What is the truth of these series of events?

      What is your take on this?

    • Tom | April 25, 2012 at 12:45 pm |

      By “PJ” one takes it you mean Phil Jones; and you want a rehashing of Climategate 1.0. Which I think you’d be better to ask Mr. Mosher about, as one of the principles in the original string of incidents.

      I cannot answer for Dr. Jones motivations; he’s given his version himself, and with no less than eight full inquiries into the matter, what more need be added?

      The truth of the series of events is they’re unimportant, and overly belabored by people with better things to do with their time.

      My take on it is to advise: move on.

      Even in the most heroically pro-oil jurisdiction on the planet outside of the USA, the home of the Fraser Institute, Alberta Canada, the democratic exercise has shown there is zero appetite in the general population for the old science isn’t settled rhetoric. The leading right wing ultraconservative party in a place that has had four uninterrupted decades of ultraconservative rule trotted out the climate ‘debate’ motto (http://thechronicleherald.ca/canada/88574-wildrose-booed-for-climate-views) in the heart of its support, and was booed by its own supporters, and went from an expected election landslide to losing, pretty much on this one issue alone.

      Give up the illusion that there is much support for continuing old tired lines about “PJ” and UEA misdemeanors. It’s so over. Find something new.

    • ‘eight full inquiries’. ::grin::

    • “The truth of the series of events is they’re unimportant, and overly belabored by people with better things to do with their time.”

      Bart, do you believe the above? I have read the emails of PJ’s, and he does not give any indication of a time line or tells us where the records ended up (landfill, incinerator, or sea). When you say: ‘Which I think you’d be better to ask Mr. Mosher about, as one of the principles in the original string of incidents.’ if you, or anyone who knows, would provide us a link that would give a full account of these past events a UEA, I for one would find the information of great interest.

      Also, I disagree with you about the importance of these records, Why do you all hang your college degrees on a wall? Just throw them in the trash too. Educated, does not mean what it once meant. Any help in getting answers to these questions will be much appreciated.

      Remember to save & show, your work!

    • How can someone that bright be so dim? ‘Eight full inquiries’. Pretend I’m from Missouri, and show me.

    • Tom | April 26, 2012 at 9:03 am |

      Come, come, Tom. Why all the ad hominem attacks, slurs or personal insults against Dr. Jones?

      Why Kim’s snarkiness?

      There are ways to ask what you are saying without being nasty, and the repetition of the nasty (and skewed) speech in the form of a question appears excessively rude, given how much of it has gone before.

      How even is the question relevant to the topic at hand, or even interesting, rather than as it appears the grinding of a personal axe?

      I’ve said what I have to say about research and data elsewhere, that I believe all data ought be open from cradle to grave, along with all notes and records, code and metadata. Present practices seem inefficient and built out of motivations that are contrary to the best spirit of science; the UEA case is no different as an example of practices induced by the oddities of the publication practices, bad information management, lax and contrary attitudes toward data that pervade almost all of science.

      Dr. Jones, I don’t know personally. His testimony’s a matter of record, you’re far better by the principles I express above to seek the open record of his statements, compare them to what others have said for yourself, and come to some conclusion for yourself, than to ask me, if at so late a date as this you have yet to.

      And really, are you saying that somehow Dr. Jones personally went out, grabbed every original source file in the world, and deleted all of those everywhere, electronic and physical? This is what your question seems to be saying, when we know that must be an absurdity.

      Rather, the man apparently got into a hissy fit when he felt his people and his work were being attacked by strange Canadians. If you ever were attacked by strange Canadians, you too might say regrettable things. That he had a responsibility to conduct himself better in the name of science by unpublished rules is different in what way from the obligation yourself and Kim have as posters on this blog to rise above, by the blog rules?

    • Mr. Bart R, You would throw these records out? To save ‘space’?…
      That is scientific SOP? Sound check, testing 1 2 3 4, testing.)

    • You are simply deluded, Bart. You can say ‘eight full inquiries’ and call criticism of that remark ‘snark’?

    • kim | April 26, 2012 at 11:13 am |

      You are simply deluded, Bart. You can say ‘eight full inquiries’ and call criticism of that remark ‘snark’?

      Ah, kim. But you misunderstand, and it is my fault.

      I do not call anything you’ve said ‘snark’, as that would be attributing motivation to you. I allude to the snarkiness I expect many would perceive in “How can someone that bright be so dim? ‘Eight full inquiries’. Pretend I’m from Missouri, and show me.”

      The Internet is full of flame wars begun because of perception of slights never intended. I accept that you meant what you said in good earnest, and perhaps with generosity of spirit (which you are notable for).

      I’m not going to try to defend ‘full’, as different people mean different things by full. I meant that each inquiry fully covered (and in some cases exceeded) its terms of reference and jurisdiction. All handed down judgments and recommendations that by objective standards fully completed each inquiry’s terms of reference. They were so far as I can say held by fully competent and reputable persons in appropriate forums for what they were.

      There is on the other hand always going to be room to complain that there was something no inquiry touched. Partly, this was the fault of the hacker, for releasing their files in pieces over time and not coming forward to explain their actions as an honest whistle-blower ought. Mostly, it was what the laws allowed, even for the Imhofe inquiry. No one suspects, I think, Imhofe is secretly supporting anyone even remotely associated with the CRU or its work.

      Keeping in mind, I have no sympathy with the laws or lawmakers who defined what whistle-blowers ought, nor do I think laws or lawmakers seriously protect whistle-blowers. So I can understand why almost any outcome might be plausible to the hacker and the hacker’s fans. And, I recognize I’m flagrantly begging the question about six ways here, which is likely snarky-sounding.

      It’s not intended, it’s just inevitable, when you come down to the pragmatic upshot: the inquiry route is done. It has no credibility. Those who argue for it, or rehash it, or belabor it, or try it out for themselves online as they wish it would have gone merely make themselves look absurd, with little hope of payoff.

      It’s as absurd as arguing _for_ the conduct of the CRU as uncovered by the Climategate emails and testimonies. As scientists, the people involved were frequently acting not in the spirit of science. As public servants, at least one person was found to have contravened the rules and was dealt a reassignment of duties as a result.

      But this making a show of it Tom’s doing?

      Considering my own view of the standards of conduct of data handling — which it appears Tom is unaware of or cannot grasp — so far exceed what Mosher or McIntyre or any of the inquiries have called for, in that I want cradle-to-grave open data and open code and open methods in an online forum with full metadata for all research public or private, plus a fully integrated and radically realigned publication system, I don’t see the point of Tom’s by comparison feeble ‘why did PJ do it?’

  52. But the joy of science is that it’s about revision.

    How can that be?

    Once you found a natural law, how can it be revised.

    For example, in calculus once it was found that for y = x^2, dy/dx = 2x, do we need to revise this?

    My be they are talking about tentative scientific conclusions not physical laws.

    • Except that Climatology is at a maturity that compares to 5th century BC Pythagoreans who rowed poor Hippasus out to sea and drowned him because he understood there really was something between “1” and “2” even if the science authoritarians of his day lacked the courage to challenge the consensus and admit the existence of √2.

    • Science went downhill after the Bronze Age.

    • Girma | April 24, 2012 at 6:10 pm |

      Mr. Orssengo, overlooking the question of whether WebHub is demanding too much of you, citing a proposition of calculus as a natural law is pretty silly.

      Wouldn’t it be better to cite something else from Newton, pertaining to Physics (or ‘Natural Science’) rather than Mathematics?

      For instance, the Newtonian Mechanics. Those are natural laws of science, no?

      Oh. Yeah. Einstein revised those.

    • Steven Mosher

      Let me see if I can explain for you.
      Mathematical Truth: You cannot imagine it to be otherwise. It is not possible to be otherwise. 2+2=4. Not subject to revision. true always and forever.
      True in all possible universes.
      “scientific truth, physical law “: E=MC^2
      a) could be otherwise
      b) E !=MC^2 makes conceptual sense.

      You see the difference?

      Question: could I Possibly show you ANY physical evidence that would make you question 2+2=4?
      Question: If I told you there was experimental evidence that showed E=Mc^3
      would you be curious? Can you imagine E=Mc^2 being wrong.

      “truths” of science are conditional and contingent. They could turn out to be wrong.

    • I can’t imagine E=MC^2 being wrong – it derives mathematically from the 2nd law off motion. Yes the one that Bart said was superceded by relativity. – http://www.btinternet.com/~j.doyle/SR/Emc2/Deriving.htm – You would tend to question the experimental results instead.

      2 + 2 I can imagine being wrong if the math is nonlinear.

      A hand is five.
      the other is five.
      So what do you get when
      you add five plus five?
      A butterfly.

      Do you get the distinction? One is a universal physical law – the other is dependent on ititial conditions.

    • Initial – I knew it didn’t look right but didn’t figure out why.

    • At which point, the reason editors have jobs and peer reviewers exist becomes plentifully apparent.

      We’ve wandered from Orssengo’s ‘natural law’, by which we might hope he means something conventionally referred to by that phrase (yet based on past experience, may doubt) through a derivation (hence, not ‘law’) of calculus drawn from pure abstraction (hence, not ‘natural’) through Newton’s other work, the stuff _he_ called natural laws, his Mechanics, through again a derivation (this time of Peano) in Mathematics (where there _can_ be Truth, but alas Mosher doesn’t quite define himself into that particular corner of the mathematical world), to whatever it is Robert I Ellison is attempting with his hands in front of a candle casting shadows on the wall of something that Plato never pictured in his cave, arriving at a True mess.

    • How about a little less 45 on that LP?

    • Bart, brilliant. Have you heard of the trial lawyer strategy called ” can’t know”?

      By making a mess of things scientifically, that is we can’t know, it paves the way for poisoning, pollution, and arbitrary decisions based on ignorance.

      Yet ignorance is not a legal defense for the common man should he break the law.

    • The value of Mathematical Untruth: http://xkcd.com/1047/

  53. Couldn’t help but think o’ my Climate Etc. buddies when I saw this interview:


  54. ohn from CA, regarding that FreeMarketAmerica video you posted … it would be seriously interesting to hear your thoughts regarding free market incentivization of Wendell Berry’s Golden Rule:

    “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”

    What has always puzzled me is this: in FreeMarketAmerica’s version of America, how exactly is that Golden Rule going to work?

    Hmmmm … maybe we’re going to simply drop the Golden Rule? … `cuz heck, that rule *never* has been a profit center … we can replace it with:

    “Do unto those downstream whatever maximizes profits upstream … and justify this policy with content-free flag-waving videos.”

    Whaddya think? Time to dismantle that pesky EPA?

    Note that the Righteous Left’s moronic videos are any better than those of the Righteous Right … there is no shortage of ideology-first zealots on *both* sides.

    Wendell Berry, though, is a unique case: a plain-speaking life-long farmer who personally talks-the-talk and personally walks-the-walk … the more all-American originals like *him* we keep around, the better off we are as a nation.

    • John from CA

      Wendell is basically restating Industrial Design Rule 1:
      Meet the true needs of end users in an insightful way. I completely agree and public solutions also need to be definitive to eliminate waste.

      The “pesky” EPA needs to be governed by Congress not the President. Congress has avoided legislation related to the EPA until recently which has left the EPA in control. The EPA is not acting on behalf of the People in an insightful way and in may cases is encroaching on State Rights.

      Example: EPA intends to hire 100k people in the future to enforce the CO2 nonsense. Why, because they don’t trust the States to enforce Federal regulations. Another example, the EPA Farm Dust regulation borders on the absurd.

      EPA doesn’t need to be eliminated but it does need to be fixed.

    • John from CA

      The Righteous Left and Righteous Right are very similar to the Affirmers and Deniers who haven’t done the research necessary to form an intelligent climate science opinion. These uninformed individual views should be discarded from consideration during governmental policy decision making.

      No one cares what Green Peace, 10:10, 350, or any other NGO has to say unless its insightful and addresses the true needs of US taxpayers in their States in an insightful way.

      IMO, Insightful starts with tax savings not more taxation.

  55. Chief@24/4 7.20pm:
    Yes, that’s the poem we all remember.
    It’s raining heavily on our parade but the crowd’s there. Still some WW11 diggers limping along, heads high – very moving.

  56. Is it my imagination or has this thread set a new record for wandering away in all rhetorical directions?

  57. DW, It is your imagination. lol (Apology.).

  58. Bart R | April 24, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply

    dp | April 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm |

    A requirement for impossible perfection is a logical fallacy.

    If you champion for mediocrity as you are and you achieve it, you are satisfied that you have accomplished your goal. No one else will notice. You will have tried hard to fail.

    The rest of us soldier on seeking the larger goal you have shirked. We may never achieve it, but we will have failed while trying very hard. I trust we can at least agree on this part.

  59. dp | April 24, 2012 at 10:32 pm |

    The athlete or soldier, worker or craftsman who tries hardest, fails most. I’d prefer if on a team, trusting a fellow combatant, doing a job or creating a work of skill to be on the side of those who prefer success in excellence over defeat in impossible perfection.

    Doing it right means brains over brawn, skill over enthusiasm, not wishing over reality.

    I’ll be glad to sail smoothly to success, and to celebrate the excellence of the great and accomplished, but I won’t be demanding perfection of them, or thinking that the highest mark hit to date is the perfect one.

    You’ve confused mediocrity with ‘disagrees with dp’, which we can agree, I think, is simply arrogant.

    • Bart R – Is it that you are unable to defend the noble glory of mediocrity that you stammer on so? Mediocrity is difficult to confuse with anything, as it happens. What I think of it does not affect its worth. It is what it is. Like success, it is its own reward, except paltry and unfulfilling. I wish you great success in your doggerel filled world where mediocrity rules the day and lofty thoughts die with the dawn. As will this conversation.

    • Geeze Louise,

      Do you have a reading comprehension problem too. I was complaining about being censored for being too personal and insulting. I am quite willing to play nice but it needs to be a 2 way process.

      ‘The following will not be tolerated here:

      1.Comments using offensive words will be flagged by the spam filter.
      2.No ad hominem attacks, slurs or personal insults. Do not attribute motives to another participant.
      3.Snarkiness is not appreciated here; nastiness and excessive rudeness are not allowed.
      4.Don’t grind your personal axes by filling up the comments with extensive posts that are not deemed relevant or interesting in the context of blog objectives.’

      I have successfully to date ignored each and every one of your inane utterances. Hell of a way to start with me. Why don’t you quote me in the full context? The whole sentence would be a good start.

      Judith has a light hand and she needs to get a lot tougher with recalcitrants and bullies. Civilised eSalon discourse is possible but not in this environment.

      Robert I Ellison
      Chief Hydrologist

  60. It’s a fascinating topic, so why is most of the discussion off on tangents? When did climate science go off the rails? When it became the place to be for fame and glory and big grants? When it switched to science-by-press-release? Much of the blame is with the funding agencies, at least the ones which reward research into topics popular with the public. Some of the blame is with universities which base rewards on paper counts. And many seem to have lost track of what it means to be a scientist. In other fields, an expert is a person who knows a lot. A scientist must also be obsessed with finding things out. I suspect that the reasons people became climate scientists are somewhat different than those of other scientists (allowing that there is no doubt much variation), since it is such a young field.

  61. Judith,

    E=MC2 is a good example of how scientists can generate fiction into our society. This equation does not take into account of a planet with many velocities, many different densities from the atmosphere to the core. Stored energy of compression, solar absorption/deflection, distance differences, planetary tilting, density differences with pressure, rotation, size differences, particle differences of material, etc., etc., etc.
    Man made science on a flat plane with a single speed.
    But who looks for errors?
    And who defends bad science practices?
    Who is qualified to properly review science to show the errors of their ways?

  62. R. Gates said, “That energy was coming from the oceans!”

    Possibly. More likely it is a combination of factors, less mixing in the upper ocean mixing layer so the heat did not penetrate as deeply, so it could be released more quickly. The sea level change indicates that the oceans gained and lost heat as did the atmosphere during the 1998 El Nino with a net near zero impact. Sea levels would indicated that the oceans gained less and lost more heat in 2010 El Nino, a net cooling impact. I will try to detrend the sea level data and compare the two events. Pity ARGO wasn’t around for the 1998 El Nino.

  63. R. Gates, I doubt you will find this, but this plot is UAH oceans versus a crudely detrended mean sea level. Not a great correlation, but interesting.


    • Capt. Dallas,

      Very interesting chart, showing (crudely) the associated between thermal expansion of the oceans and temperature. Certainly confirming the general validity of the ocean heat content gain over this period.

    • R. Gates, yes it does, but if you look closely you can see the shift around 1995 to 1996 where the ocean heat uptake changes relative to the atmospheric temperature. In the satellite data, using the mid troposphere land only, you can see a good correlation to CO2 forcing. That to me indicates that the Satellite data is fairly accurate.

      If you do the same comparisons with the surface temperature data you see a lower correlation before 1990, an indication that the adjustments to the surface temperature are overly aggressive. Which data sets best fit the physics? It ain’t the GISS or HADCRU, it is the satellites.


      Here is an interesting chart using the AQUA data for the short period I could get daily data. The seasonal short wave warming of the oceans followed by warming of the atmosphere.

      There needs to be a less biased assessment of the long term surface temperatures in my opinion, since all indications are that the Antarctic has been cooling, not warming, and that also matches the physics.

    • I take it we are talking tropospheric temperature over oceans? It seems to show that ocean and atmosphere warmth rises and falls in synch. That is that the ocean heat content rises with the atmospheric temperature?

      Very interesting approach indeed.

    • The mid troposphere should help with two things; remove some of the cloud forcing uncertainty and amplify the CO2 forcing signal. Over the oceans, the average surface temperature is around 294K which would have and S-B perfect flux of 425Wm-2. That would be about 20% less CO2 impact under ideal conditions with about 20% amplification, so the CO2 forcing should be obvious over the oceans. It is not.

      Over land, which has an average temperature of a 273K with the mid-troposphere amplification, the 5.35ln(Cf/Ci) is nearly a perfect match. That indicates a strong dependence on temperature (S-B limits) and that water vapor, not clouds, is a negative feedback over the oceans. Hence my 0.8 +/- 0.2 estimate for a doubling.

      Once the poorly consider surface temperature adjustments are removed, it should be pretty obvious. On that point, did you know that reading a liquid in glass max/min thermometer in the morning instead of the afternoon just means that the minimum temperature leads the maximum instead of following? The time of observation adjustment should have been made on the new equipment not the old.

    • Flipped that, morning reading would mean the current day minimum with the previous day maximum. The temperatures don’t need adjusting, just the dates.

    • Hey Chief,


      This is a crude estimate, but about 40% of the warming appears to be operator error. The last little adjustments to “enHansen” the warming by shifting to more Arctic stations is producing enough divergence to maybe prove it. With the UAH mid troposphere matching well with both the mean sea level and the CO2 forcing; GISS, HADCRU both diverging, the fat lady maybe close to singing :)

  64. Tonight I’m going to listen to James Delingpole speaking in Melbourne.If I get the chance I will present him with Kim’s message t shirt,
    ‘CO2′s cool.
    Wage, wage war
    Against the lying
    and the fright. ( A witty reprasing of Dylan Thomas’ famous line.)

    With evidence based argument and humour truth will win the day:
    ‘I think I’ve never heard so loud
    The quiet message in a cloud.’ H/T Kim again.
    In Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose,’ Brother Jorgo claims that ‘Christ never laughed.’
    ‘Nothing inhis human nature forbade it,’ William of baskerville replied, ‘because laughter, as the theologians teach us, is proper to man.’

    The film was good too. Sean Connery… and wonderful lighting, streaks of yellow light in the night sky beyond the dark mountains. The coming of the Enlightenment.

  65. Chief, thanks for the reminder of blog rules. It took me 20 minutes to clean up the thread, which is time not spent embellishing my next post. Cleaning up nested threads is especially challenging and time consuming.

    If you find something objectionable in the comments, best to email me to make sure I spot it.

    • Judith

      Embelish? We shall all be looking out for any rough edges now :)

    • peterdavies252

      If the content gets offensive I for one will usually switch off and do something else. Nonetheless I will take you up on this Judith but feel that you will be too busy to fix anything on a timely basis.

      It may seem too simplistic but I assure people that if you respond to snark with non snark and just address the topic, then you will soon get the debate back on track. It works!

  66. Regarding the ref’d book.
    Ignorance is a technical term when it comes to making scientific inferences., and in particular when it comes to uncertainty quantification. If one does not know the exact probability distribution, then one uses a standard deviation, Thus, the distribution is ignored in favor of something one knows. Likewise, if you do not have a standard deviation, then you apply a mean. Again, you ignore the more detailed and replace it with the more general. This is described by E.T.Jaynes in his writings on probability and entropy, and the maximum entropy principle, which ties together subjective ignorance and statistical physics.

    One of the emerging application areas for maximum entropy is biology and especially biological diversity. Yet, Fierstein, even though he is in the biological sciences field, doesn’t mention entropy,

    Page 133 … “Models do this by using statistics and it gets frankly complicated mathematically, so it’s best to leave this part to the professionals.”

    That is the extent and depth of Firestein’s argument. How weak can you get.

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