How might intellectual humility lead to scientific insight?

by Judith Curry

Philosophers known as “virtue epistemologists” claim that the goods of the intellectual life—knowledge, wisdom, understanding, etc.—are more easily obtained by persons possessing mature traits of intellectual character, such as open-mindedness, teachability, and intellectual courage, than by persons who lack these virtues or who are marked by their opposing vices.  - Jay Wood

I just came across a blog titled Big Questions Online, which features posts by two philosophers:  Jack Copeland and Jay Wood.  Excerpts from Jay Wood’s post entitled How might intellectual humility led to scientific insight?:

I argue that intellectually humble scientists have a stronger likelihood of winning knowledge and other intellectual goods than those lacking this virtue. Intellectual humility leads indirectly to scientific insight. It does not super-charge our cognitive powers or improve scientific techniques, so much as it changes scientists themselves in ways that allow them to direct their abilities and practices in more effective ways.

Humility is a deeply anchored disposition that marks persons remarkably free from pride, or inordinate self-love in its many forms—selfish ambition, snobbishness, conceit, arrogance, and presumption, to name just a few. This is often because excessive self-regard is swamped by a more virtuous concern for knowledge, wisdom, or the well being of others. Humility also works to detect and check the stirrings of pride, where persons might yet be tempted by pride, though in its most mature form, humility does not need to overcome contrary inclinations.

What makes humility intellectual humility, in contrast to the moral humility that suppresses our everyday desires to seek the spotlight? Intellectual virtues, including intellectual humility, are so designated because they are most obviously at work in our intellectual endeavors, in our research, writing, academic conferences, and in everyday forms of intellectual exchange, so that we might obtain intellectual goods—knowledge, understanding, warrant, etc. Intellectual humility opposes forms of pride such as undue concern to dominate others, or excessive resistance to criticism, which often frustrate our quest for the various intellectual goods.

Conceit is a form of pride that moves people to form an unwarranted high opinion of their merits and excellences. It is easy to imagine that a conceited scientist suffering from an exaggerated sense of his own brilliance would resist criticism more readily than a scientist whose humility protected him from this form of pride. Paradigmatically, all scientific results must be reproducible, and the system of checks and balances constitutive of good scientific practice frequently corrects earlier results. Articles must be refereed, data assessed for accuracy, and experimental results reproduced.  So it is integral to science, as a self-correcting discipline, to receive criticism, and to be prepared to admit that some particular theory or practice is incomplete or incorrect.

Suitably humble scientists are alive to the possibility that their expectations about how nature should behave may be wrong. Philosopher of science Israel Scheffler dubs this openness to correction “a capacity for surprise,” to which intellectual humility surely contributes.

For lack of a better word, there seems to be a certain arrogance toward nature which people develop. These people have had great insights and made profound discoveries. They imagine afterwards that that fact that they succeeded so triumphantly in one area means they have a special way of looking at science which must therefore be right. But science doesn’t permit that. Nature has shown over and over again that the kinds of truth which underlie nature transcend the most powerful minds.

Nature has a way of dispelling the great conceit that all her ways can be captured within the frame of a single scientist’s perspective. Humility makes scientists receptive to this lesson.

Intellectually virtuous scientists are concerned to impart knowledge as well as to obtain it.

The comments and discussion are well worth reading.  Some further insights from Woods in the comments:

I think you’re on target to note the connection between fear, or insecurity, and pride. Fear and insecurity prompt us to shrink from public attention.  We commonly overcompensate for fear by erring in the opposite direction, thus risking pride, the chief opposing trait to humility. Persons who think their status is threatened work all the harder to retain it. Humble scientists direct their attention to work well done, and let status take care of itself. 

You make the assessment of “merits and abilities” central to your account of humility. I have suggested in my brief essay that accurately assessing one’s merits and abilities is the work of honesty. Of course, when we clamor after acclaim, status, and the praise of others, honesty is made more difficult, and conceit, the exaggeration of our merits and abilities, is more likely. Knowing that our data will be checked for accuracy may make us more intellectually cautious (still another intellectual virtue), but it may not make us more humble. I can imagine a scientist seeking status being very cautious with data, for she knows that only good results will win her the status she seeks. 

Not every dispute is easily settled by checking the data, as you point out. Whether, in the face or intelligent disagreement by an intellectual peer, sticking to one’s guns is epistemically unjustified or dogmatic is the subject of a lively debate in contemporary epistemology. I tend toward the view that retaining a belief in the face of peer disagreement is not necessarily unjustified or unhumble.

You describe intellectual humility as “believing with the firmness the given belief merits,” where firmness is determined by “the reliability of the cognitive faculties that produced it.” I think your account actually names another intellectual virtue: “intellectual firmness,” where persons have the appropriate level of “hold” with respect to their beliefs. Dogmatists embrace their beliefs too firmly and, I would argue, Pyrrhonian skeptics too lightly. Sometimes people become set in their ways, calcified in their beliefs. We can imagine someone saying, “I’ve always believed that thus and such is the case, and I’m not about to change my mind at this stage of life.” Here we have a person who has calcified intellectually, and whose firmness of belief is not a function of its reliability, but born out of a desire to avoid the difficulty of re-thinking some issue. I agree that this is intellectually subpar, but it’s not clear that this person’s reluctance to rethink some belief is owing to vanity, arrogance, conceit, or some other species of pride. Nor would someone necessarily lack humility who, untutored in statistics and probability, formed a belief with greater firmness than probabilistic reasoning strictly allows. In fact, we can also imagine this same person being quite willing to reassess her level of firmness upon being corrected. In sum, I don’t think it will do to analyze intellectual humility as a function of one’s beliefs conforming to the reliability of the faculties that produced it. But I do think you’ve put your finger on another important intellectual virtue. 

JC comment:  Wood’s essay provides much food for thought.   In the 1980′s when I first entered into the field of science professionally,  to me it seemed that humility was ingrained in the culture of science and the few scientists that were self promoting and engaged with the media were viewed with some suspicion.  In the 21st century, scientists are under pressure from their funding agencies and their institutions to  communicate the broader aspects of their science.  Scientists engaging with the public is a good thing; but the incentives in place don’t seem to reward humility in a scientist.

The policy relevance of climate science has created a caste of ‘rock star’ scientists who are frequently in the media and have established themselves in position of power (within the scientific field and to some extent in the policy arena).  The career awards going to these rock star scientists are substantial; not just research awards from professional societies, but often cash awards in six or even seven figures.   By the 1980′s standards, some of these rock star scientists would not necessarily have been particularly noteworthy or remarkable.

In the wake of ClimateGate, a common criticism of the scientists and those who defended them was arrogance.   The value of science is not judged by whether or not the scientists are arrogant or humble; however arrogance and defensive behavior can blind a scientist to the idea that they might be wrong and lead to unjustified dismissal of skeptical arguments.  When arrogance is institutionalized (e.g. the IPCC and AAAS have been criticized in this way), then the self correcting methods of science are put at risk.

What motivates an individual scientist can be complex; somewhere all research scientists started with a passionate curiosity about a scientific question.  Over the course of trying to succeed in a scientific career, issues of promotion, salary increases,  research funding and peer recognition can become substantial motivators, often at the expense of intellectual courage and other traits that made them a good research scientist in the first place.  When conducting research on a politically controversial topic such as climate change, the potential for conflicts and challenges to intellectual integrity increases.

The scientists, universities, funding agencies, and professional societies seem to have a social contract whereby scientists with ‘flash’ are unduly rewarded. Unfortunately, this motivates scientists to work on the flashy low-hanging fruit topics (e.g. climate change impacts), rather than doing the deep, difficult, painstaking work to make progress on the fundamental challenges.

That is how I view it anyways.  While establishment climate science seems to have lost its capacity for surprise, I suspect that nature has some surprises in store for us.

404 responses to “How might intellectual humility lead to scientific insight?

  1. And yet, th eaxact opposite of humility is required in some measure if one is consider that you may may have better insights into a problem than others ( hey Judith!).

    And Isaac Newton was a self-promoting, arrogant, conceited, arse-hole, by all accounts.

    • Indeed he was, and we’re still stuck with the heuristics he developed which are revered and treated as if they were fundamental ‘from first principles’ laws, which they are not. Such is the nature of faux hero worship.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Yeah, it’s a great tragedy that we’re “still stuck” with Newton’s idea that an object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it. That’s been the cause of much grief and scientific misunderstanding throughout history, I think we should get rid of that heuristic at the first opportunity …

        Tallbloke, which of Newtons Laws are you claiming to be a “heuristic”? The first law, which I described above? The second law, that force is equal to mass times acceleration?

        F = M A

        Or perhaps you are saying that the Third Law, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, is somehow flawed?

        I fear I don’t understand your objection, Rog.

        w.

      • Do you understands Einstein’s objections to Newton’s heuristics Willis?

      • “Do you understands Einstein’s objections to Newton’s heuristics Willis?”

        All things are moving, nothing is at rest. Though things are rest, relative to other things.
        Newton view is practical, but it could give you the wrong idea. In term of an absolute law, velocity is relative.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        So your objection to Newton is that his rules are only accurate for objects moving at a small fraction of the speed of light. Which is … well … 100 percent of everything we deal with in our lives, unless we’re nuclear physicists.

        But, since they need a correction factor if you just happen to find yourself moving 186,000 miles an hour at the moment you happen to whip out your slide rule, yes, I guess you could say they are a heuristic.

        So yeah, we’re still “stuck with the heuristics he developed” … or to put it another way, we’ve stuck with the heuristics he developed because they work so well.

        w.

      • The trend is still down.

      • I must say that it is difficult not to end up using utility as the criteria with which to assess models of the real world (aka scientific theories). Newton’s useful for the scale at which he operated, but not so much so at the scales of molecules or the universe.

        Which comes back to the theories of climate.

        I personally doubt the relative utility of climate theories as embodied in climate models when compared with potentially simpler theories (models). What is useful as a model for weather might well not be useful for climate, even on the multi-decade scale, just as quantum mechanics aint that useful when trying to work out what might happen to that billiard ball.

      • willis

        Based on his dizzy comments here, tallbloke probably is moving at 186,000 miles per hour (in ever decreasing spiral motion – like the “wellima bird”)

        But 186,000 miles per second would be a stretch even for tallbloke.

        Max

      • Willis Eschenbach | December 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
        So your objection to Newton is that his rules are only accurate for objects moving at a small fraction of the speed of light.

        Read what I wrote, or even better, quote what I wrote. That’s something you vociferously insist on when others try to put words in your mouth isn’t it Willis?.

        My objection is that others have taken Newton’s heuristics and elevated them to the status of ‘derived from first principles’ laws, which they are not.

        That then leads to all sorts of confusions, including Svalgaards misapprehensions of how extended bodies in ‘freefall’ behave.

      • Yeah. Now we’re stuck with relativity. Who’d ever think that equations with “divide by zero” errors would ever be useful.

      • Tallbloke,
        At the time of Newton and for long thereafter Newton’s laws were the best First Principle Laws thus they could not be derived from anything. Now we know that QM and Special Relativity are both better in their own way, but both still deficient.

        There are no perfect First Principle laws that are likely to remain the most fundamental. It may well be that Newton’s were in sense a closer to that than any present or future laws will be for long to come.

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        Pekka said:

        ” It may well be that Newton’s were in sense a closer to that than any present or future laws will be for long to come.”

        _____
        Each successive iteration is a successively more accurate paradigm or allegory for what is “really” happening in “reality” with accuracy being measured only in terms of what is useful for society at the time. It is all descriptions of what is casting the shadows on the wall of the cave. We will never know reality in itself but will be locked in verbal/mathematical models that point to the things causing the shadows.

    • Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 essay on Nature seems to exemplify firm intellectual humility:

      “Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?”

      http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/emerson/nature-contents.html

  2. Sun and the Earth’s entwined symphony of oscillations creates natural climate undulations, sometimes as agreeable as the most melodic of the Mozart, sometime as dissonant as harshest of the Wagner. Sit back and enjoy it, the humans are too feeble to do anything about it.

    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/EMFspectrum.htm

  3. “scientists with ‘flash’ are unduly rewarded. Unfortunately, this motivates scientists to work on the flashy low-hanging fruit topics (e.g. climate change impacts), rather than doing the deep, difficult, painstaking work to make progress”

    …..like blogging and doing media interviews!

    LOL.

    • Having met Judith in person a couple of times, I doubt she’ll mind me saying that ‘flashy’ is not her style. It’s not a question of whether you ‘do’ media interviews, but the substance of what you say in them, and the manner in which you present your words.

      Judith is clear, concise, humble in the face of the massive uncertainty her field faces, and forthright in her assessment of the way it has been falsely represented to the public.

      • she also smacks down those idiots who question the greenhouse effect

      • The greenhouse effect involves many more processes than the properties of radiatively active gases in the atmosphere.
        Here are half a dozen of them:

        http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/why-earths-surface-is-so-much-warmer-than-the-moons-part-1/

      • tallbloke

        Your last statement is spot on:

        Judith is clear, concise, humble in the face of the massive uncertainty her field faces, and forthright in her assessment of the way it has been falsely represented to the public.

        An excellent example of this was her testimony a couple of years ago to the “Baird congressional committee”.

        Chairman Brian Baird was trying to get a group of experts on various climate-related subjects, including Judith, to give him the statement that the “consensus” science is OK and sufficiently robust to tell the “policymakers” that they should act now, but she just stuck to the facts.

        The three excerpts from her testimony that tell it all IMO were:

        Anthropogenic climate change is a theory whose basic mechanism is well understood, but whose magnitude is highly uncertain.

        She stated that there is ignorance about what is known about natural climate variability, what is not known about natural climate variability and the feedback processes.

        A few sentences later she added:

        The threat from global climate change does not seem to be an existential one on the time scale of the 21st century even in its most alarming incarnation.

        This is definitely not in line with the “mainstream consensus” or IPCC, and is NOT what Baird wanted to hear. She then added:

        It seems more important that robust policy responses be formulated rather than to respond urgently with policies that may fail to address the problem and whose unintended consequences have not been adequately explored.

        So, yes, much to the apparent dismay of the politicians on the committee, Judith was “clear, concise, humble in the face of the massive uncertainty her field faces, and forthright in her assessment of the way it has been falsely represented to the public”

        Max

      • Agree, Judith simply rocks!

    • Good to see that mike’s blood vessels are withstanding the rigours of his angry-old-man rants.

      Though I must admit, I didn’t laugh out loud when i read this;
      “work on the flashy low-hanging fruit topics (e.g. climate change impacts), rather than doing the deep, difficult, painstaking work”

      It was more a snort of derision at the fact that it was written by Judith ‘ superficial-blogging-on-pop-psycho-babble-misunderstood-sociology’ Curry.

      Is there a short from for snort of derision? SOD??

      Can I coin that?

      • Of course you can, it suits you perfectly.

      • argghhh nesting

      • How old by the way…

      • I can’t help it—Snort of Derision, Second Order Draft.
        ==============

      • I remember you. You are the one who asked why alarmists hate plants?

        I hate mistletoe plants. Ever time I walk under mistletoe some sweaty fat floozie wants to swap spit with me, and slobbers all over my face. Then I end up being alarmed about STD’s.

      • My previous post was for Kim, and I should add it was not meant to imply Kim is overweight, a floozie, and can’t kiss right, or has a social disease.

      • Been all of those, but fortunately never all at once, so your high standards keep you safe from me.
        ===============

      • Now THAT”S humility for you, being able to see oneself without blinkers on but still deserving of a high level of respect for what she has accomplished on the blogosphere.

      • Nesting gone again. I was referring to Kim’s post of Dec 26 at 6.26 am.

      • Why do you feel that is?

      • Life is hard and then you die.

        If this is an example of the difficulties in life you face Max, then you have it good.

      • timg56, yes, I have it good, but the truth is I attribute that as much to luck as to what I’ve done. I don’t know if being truthful makes me humble.

        BTW, when I see “Max” I don’t immediately know which Max is being addressed, since I am one of two by that name who frequently post here. I am Max_OK, born and raised in Oklahoma. The other Max (aka Mannacker) is from Switzerland, so I call him ” Max_CH,” a name he also sometimes uses.

      • Reared, Son.
        =========

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        For some mysterious reason, the folks at WUWT prefer to rake obscure (but humble!) musicologists over the coals rather than tackle real moral criticism:

        Hansen and colleagues assert:

        “The most basic matter [relating to climate-change] is not one of economics, however. It is a matter of morality – a matter of intergenerational justice. As with the earlier great moral issue of slavery, an injustice done by one race of humans to another, so the injustice of one generation to others must stir the public’s conscience to the point of action.” …

        “What we have shown in this paper is that time is rapidly running out. The era of doubts, delays and denial, of ineffectual half-measures, must end. The period of consequences is beginning. If we fail to stand up now and demand a change of course, the blame will fall on us, the current generation of adults.”

        “Our parents did not know that their actions could harm future generations. We will only be able to pretend that we did not know. And that is unforgiveable.”

        So, what answers does WUWT provide to *tough* moral issues? The world wonders, eh? \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\frown}\,\diamondsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries???}}\,\diamondsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\frown}}\rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN), Gag me, the “it’s for the children” gambit, the first and last refuge of the politician whose argument has no foundation. The post above is about humility and scientific insight, not politics.

      • Leftists blaming their parents for living and the fix is the children will perform a sort of moral aboration. Reality really is stranger than fiction.How is what the Left does as any different than walking into a church and spraying bullets in every direction?

      • John Carpenter

        Learn to hit the ‘reply’ key….. SOD

    • Speaking of people who lack the virtue of humility … look who comes braying into the discussion.

      Well, consistency my be considered a virtue, so you at least have that Michael.

  4. There is no science without honor. No one can know everything. Everything we believe we know is based on acceptance of the truthfulness of those who came before us. Even so, science does not affect the weather and by extension the climate that we only know–by definition–after the fact.

  5. I found these discussions to be interesting, but also think that Michael (see above) may have a point. In my own field, I am seeking to dismantle a well accepted theory. It is hard going (reviewers are typically ‘supporters’ of the theory). What keeps me going is bloody mindedness combined with a good measure of certainty and arrogance. Indeed, somewhat surprisingly, one editor suggested that I come accross as an ‘arrogant asshole’. He was nevertheless supportive of my work in the face of hostile reviews.

    I have had some success so far, despite the hostility my work generates. That hostility is a major barrier, and I think that it is not really possible to proceed in the face of this kind of hostility if being humble. Interestingly, another person within my field actually suggested that all the best researchers and theorists were (I forget the exact words) arrogant and difficult people. He, like myself, has also gone against the flow of established theory.

    • Skeptic: might I suggest that your problem might be one of tone as opposed to content? I think that is where the virtue of humility that Judith has written about here comes into play.

      Science is best conducted in a dispassionate but openly honest environment. How you present yourself and your arguments plays an important role in furthering progress. If someone who is supportive of your work tells you that you “come across like an arrogant asshole,” it’s logical to assume that people who do not support your work are even more antagonistic, if that is possible.

      I think an attitude adjustment might be in order here.

      • Thanks, for a constructive comment. I have tried a more moderate tone in other articles, but it makes no real difference. I have a collaborator on some of my work, and he acts as a ‘diplomacy’ editor and is also surprised at the hostility. In the paper in question, I was given no reason for the final rejection by one reviewer, who only gave ‘candid’ feedback to the editor. In another recent review, the editor informed me that in addition to the reviews returned to me, far more ‘candid’ feedback was given to him. Odd, don’t you think? Private and restricted feedback being given to the editors, and not to myself.

        The arrogant asshole bit which prompted the comment was my pointing out that a phenomenon reported in support of a theory was only found by people who endorsed the theory, but it should have been found independently by other researchers in a related area, but never had been. Two of the three reviewers were outraged (the third was very positive about the paper). The point about the lack of corroboration cited a peer reviewed conference paper I had presented, and had therefore been peer reviewed and accepted. Fortunately, the conference paper reviewers on this rare occasion were not supporters of the theory, and apparently my paper answered questions that they had both been wondering about.

        Also, the reviewers complained about self-citation in the paper. However, as I am the only one currently critically examining the area in question, who else might I cite (I do also heavily cite other critiques from when the theory was first posited, and which have simply been ignored as if they were never written)? I have to build an argument over a series of papers, piece-by-piece, and as I am building the argument, I absolutely have to cite my own work, in order to progress the argument.

        As it is, I have a paper under review where I have demonstrated that the research method was itself creating the phenomena in question. It is, of course highly controversial, has been rejected at third revision in one journal, but the first round of reviews at a new journal are more positive. I think the paper may get through.

        However, the way the review system is working in my area is very, very worrying. It does not serve its purpose. Having critical work sent to those whose theory is being critiqued is an odd approach. Unsurprisingly, such reviewers do not appreciate the critique. Quite frankly, it takes a considerable amount of determination and arrogance to persist.

    • I think skeptic has a fair point. Tone is a fine mitigator to a certain extent, but if ones ideas/observations/views are met with outright hostility, there may be a point where the gloves have to come off.

    • I am derided at work with the same type of characterizations. My underlying problem is a lack of patience. I start out humble then if I am ignored, prematurely dismissed, or end up having to explain away an endless stream of ignorant or completely stupid objections I get frustrated and I can be fairly aggressive. I am happy to entertain objective reasonable debate but I have no patience for political self serving office politics. Some may say that I lack emotional intelligence or communication skills, maybe they are right.

      • No one is perfect Eric.

        I for one can understand the frustration and resultant aggressive response (though I tend to become sarcastic rather than aggressive). Example, I was recently asked for a series of cost estimates for decommissioning work. The requestee provided a table listing a street address and a town name. My co-worker replied back asking for the Site ID number. The response was “The (wireless carrier) ID number?”

        My response was not exactly nice. I pointed out the idiocy of the question, the fact that our processes and expected level of information was both basic and had not changed much in a decade and that I had previously sent the information being requested 3 months earlier. I also included that information in the email, so he didn’t have to go searching for it.

        I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to people who are being well paid to be at least competent at their job yet are not. Which might explain my being told by others that a considerable number of people are afraid of me. Then again, the people telling me this are big fans of my special email responses and think it hilarious that others find me scary. But I do worry about sounding or acting arrogant.

    • “Indeed, somewhat surprisingly, one editor suggested that I come accross as an ‘arrogant asshole’. He was nevertheless supportive of my work in the face of hostile reviews. ”

      It sounds like this editor has a fair degree of humility.
      And therefore does allow him/herself to be influenced by
      groupthink.

    • Before attempting to expose an erroneous theory, for instance that isotopes in precipitation do not represent source temperature but rather source humidity, one best reads up on Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of scientific revolutions,

      http://turkpsikiyatri.org/arsiv/kuhn-ssr-2nded.pdf (huge)

      useful summary: http://stripe.colorado.edu/~yulsman/paradigms.pdf

      An important observation:
      “In responding to these crises, scientists generally do not renounce the paradigm that has led them into crisis. Rather, they usually devise numerous articulations and ad hoc modifications of their theory in order to eliminate any apparent conflict.”

      ie realclimate, sketical science, etc

  6. David Springer

    Science is becoming effeminate. So much for role models like Bernard Quartermain, Reed Richards, Buckaroo Bonzai, Artemus Gordon, and Indiana Jones.

    • Well, that’s probably because more women are becoming scientists. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

      • Max_OK,

        Yr: “…women becoming scientists is not such a bad thing…”

        Certainly, we all can be thankful that increasing numbers of women, of Dr. Curry’s caliber, have chosen to commit their stellar intellect, dedication to higher purpose, superb abilities, exemplary ethics, and professional courage to the advancement of scientific knowledge. And we can all hope that many more women (and men) will continue to follow in the inspiring footsteps of scientists like Dr. Curry.

        But women “scientists” are not such a good idea, I think you’ll agree, Max_OK, when they are PC-protected air-heads who arrive aboard a “gender equity” gravy-train and whose point of debarkation is a crony-pit, perverted “science” run by recently empowered man-haters with jumped-up, marginal-at-best scientific “chops”, whose mission in life is to rip the suck-up snouts of high-performing, quisling, whiteboy scientists from their current, privileged place at the greenshirt-trough and replace them with the lipsticked-snouts of their lefty-hack, fast-track-fluffhead, party-line-parasite gal-pals.

        But don’t take my word for it, Max_OK. There’s at least one scientist who seems to share my views–Kevin Trenbreth! (at least to some degree). In a 14 December 2012 post by a former New York Times reporter, Tom Zeller, Jr., appearing at the Huffington Post blog, the following discussion appears:

        “Trenbreth, too, has criticized the bureaucratic nature of the IPCC process, suggesting it may have outgrown its usefulness…’There are too many scientists involved who are not leading researchers–owing to the the demands for new people, and geographic, national, and gender equity.’…’The IPCC process…is not the way to improve and develop models.’”

        So what do you think of them apples, Max_OK?

      • mike,

        There are times you drive your points straight up the middle. Then there are times like this where you take the ball, run around in circles and then go dashing off the field, leaving everyone wondering who let you into the game.

        I’m sure most of us have come across an example or two of people who owe, at least in part, their position to some sort of affirmative action or devotion to a politically correct view of the world at work. But to use a broad brush, as you do, is insulting to the majority of people who have worked hard to get to where they are.

        I am personally of the opinion that Max makes some of the dumbest statements here, even though I don’t get the impression he is dumb. In this instance he makes what I consider a reasonable statement and one I agree with. Why it triggered one of your rants is ….. ??

      • Re mike’s post on Dec. 27, 2012 at 2:31 am

        Mike I think I see your point. If the IPCC were a woman, you would prefer it be like June Cleaver from TV’s Leave It to Beaver, an innocuous traditional housewife who is no threat to old white guy supremacy, rather than an aggressive feminist like Gloria Steinem, who you fear wants to destroy your manhood.

        I will offer you some advice. If powerful women make you feel insecure, ignore them. If the IPCC makes you feel insecure, ignore it. I try to ignore what I don’t like, and it usually works.

      • tmg56,

        Yr: “Why it triggered one of your rants is…”

        Hey, guy, I’m just quoting Kevin Trenbreth–he’s the guy in the know who thinks the demands for diversity in terms of nationality, geography, and gender equity has placed the IPCC process in the hands of individuals who are “not leading researchers”. And that situation has sufficiently impaired the functioning of the organization so that Kevin Trenbreth–repeat, Kevin Trenbreth, not moi–doubts the current “usefulness of the IPCC.

        So, timg56, I don’t think Kevin Trenbreth shares your opinion that the adverse impact of “gender equity” and the like, in the case of the IPCC, is as innocuous as you so breezily suggest, but rather one that has wrecked the very “usefulness” of the IPCC. And what could the problem with “gender equity” be, in Kevin Trenbreth’s opinion, other than a concern, on his part, that a bunch of “not leading researchers” (don’t you love the artful language?) have played a nationality/geography/gender card to displace more capable scientists, disqualified from the process by their Western, whiteboy liabilities. Again, got a problem with that, take it up with Kevin, timg56.

        Otherwise, you know, timg56, you are normally a more or less reasonable guy on this blog. However, you have shown, from time to time, a rather irksome tendency to go all prissy and launch yourself into an I-want-to-be-everyone’s-friend, see-I’m-PC-too!, why-can’t-everyone-be-reasonable-like-me! act. Kinda thing you see now-a-days in second-string Navy careerists running scared of the Naval Service gal-pals and putting “discretion” and slicko skills in picking one’s way through the Navy’s PC mine-field above getting the mission accomplished and maintaining fair-minded, no-fear-or-favor, even-handed, good order and discipline. And this time you’ve pulled one of those little stunts of yours at my expense, timg56, and I don’t appreciate that sort of thing–even a little bit.

        As you will note in the first paragraph of my comment, I am an unfettered admirer of excellence and solid achievement regardless of gender and, let me add, regardless of race, creed, or color. And if you had read that first paragraph of my comment, in a fair-minded way, then you could not have concluded otherwise about my views in the matter. But at the same time, a fair-minded reading of my comment would have deprived you of an opportunity to fire-off one of one of your little, “big-moment”, goody-goody, Mr. Lookout-for-of-the-Ladies, holier-than-thou, ex-Squid-workin’-the-cheap-shot routines. You opted for the latter route, timg56 and I can well imagine you pulled that sort of point-scoring, make-myself-look-good-in-front-of-the-Skipper, weasel trick in the wardroom more than once in your sea-faring days–right, timg56?

        You got on the wrong horse, timg56!

        P. S. And oh by the way I also agree with Max_OK (as you will note in the first para of my comment).

      • I wanna thank Mike for further publicizing Kevin’s revelatory quote. The elite coterie’s wall of resistance is being encroached upon, and Caesar Trenberth blames diversity.

        I love it.
        ======

      • Max_OK,

        Yr: “If powerful women make you feel insecure…”

        Pretty bold shot across my bow there Max_OK. Let’s just pick things apart in your last comment and see how they stack up.

        First off, Max_OK, I am not made insecure by powerful women as such. On the contrary, in the first para of my original comment I even singled out powerful, accomplished, courageous, ethical women (and men) of merit, in the model of Dr. Curry, for my unqualified admiration and approbation. Again, the example cited was Dr. Curry not June Cleaver.

        At the same time, Max_OK, I don’t hold homemakers in contempt, either, and your idea that women who choose a traditional homemaker role are somehow obsequious doormats reveals more about your own, tawdry misogyny and most likely a projection of the over-bearing, abusive manner in which you conduct or have conducted your own family relationships rather than anything else.

        But you are onto something, Max_OK. That is, there is an element in society that is “insecure” with powerful women–especially those who do not toe the lefty line. Google: “greenfyre sciency spice etc” and see just what sort of repellant abuse powerful women of merit, independence of mind, ethical backbone, courage, and achievement have to put up with from those “insecure” with their good character and self-made success. Please do read the greenfyre post, Max_OK.

        On the other hand, I take exception with crony-networks whether in politics, the work-place, academia, or business, especially when individuals of merit are passed over in one way or another in favor of some sort of non-meritorious co-religionist, gender, identity-politics, and/or boyfriend/girlfriend special preference. And I especially take exception with that sort of thing when the ostensible purpose of an institution is to provide policy makers, at my taxpayer expense, with the best of “science” for their consideration. Hence my disdain for , not insecurity with, the gal-pal, trough-frenzy gravy-train direction the IPCC is taking–not that the whiteboy “team” was any better. Just one group of politically useful, compliant, lefty hacks, providing sell-out toady, “right-answer services to their betters replacing another. So I guess I would never fit in to your crowd, Max_OK.

        All that said, Max_OK, I most marvel at your hayseed chutzpah. Here, you play the PC-card with me on the one hand while indirectly tossing innuendos kim’s way–all just loutish, garbage-mouth hick-slob joking around, I’m sure–of the “floozie”, “can’t kiss right”, “overweight”, and “has a social disease”, down-home folks variety.

        On the other hand, Max_OK, what you say is of little matter since you are a self-evident, doofus, creep-out clown and no one takes you seriously, although you did manage to get under my skin enough with your last to prompt me to waste a grossly inordinate amount of my valuable time on inconsequential you. An achievement of sorts, I guess.

  7. Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Great post from Judith Curry at Climate Etc

  8. I seem to recall the problem being everyone else was too stubborn or too stupid to accept the brilliance of the “Italian Flag” model of probability, that nobody else had the courage to stand upto the Uncertainty Monster and indeed to commit heresy before the entire cabal of rock star scientists. Then of course there were the Sky Dragons, creatures of legend since their defeat and destruction at Climate Etc.

    Has Saint Judith now cornered the market on humility too?

    • Beware, she might turn to ‘the hunting of the snark’ next.

    • Sometimes I think sharperoo is really Joshua after knocking back a few drinks.

    • It is amusing that the actual Sky Dragons were/are the theories of evil atmospheric gasses, and the book using the label was/is written to slay them. Somehow, superficial thought has relabelled the Slayers as Dragons. Which hardly inspires confidence in the quality of their critiques …

      • Indeed Brian, I call this the fallacy of confused dismissal. It often accompanies radical ideas good and bad.

  9. It seems to me that “humility” may be the wrong term for the necessary quality of allowing oneself to be surprised. If you read Erwin Chargaff’s memoir Heracletian Fire, you will hear a very successful scientist (discovered base-pair complementarity in DNA) with obnoxiously high self-regard go on and on about the importance of being humble before nature. His best example of scientists lacking in such humility are Watson and Crick, who visited his lab during their quest to unravel the structure of the DNA molecule. Chargaff had contempt for them (I believe he intimated that he thought at the time that one or the other might be mentally retarded) and described the kind of model-building they were engaged in as an arrogant and declasse way of forcing nature into a conceptual scheme. Humility just seems orthogonal to the issues of honesty and fruitfulness that drive science.

    A deeper question than humility is unbiasedness or partisanship in science. I have a short item at

    http://strategyprofs.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/individual-bias-and-collective-truth/

    that tries to address this question. My bottom line is that partisanship or bias toward ideas can be a very good thing in the correct institutional environment, but under conditions where policy-relevant answers are the main motivation (or in any case where extra-science constituencies are the ones whose favor is sought) more unbiasedness is desirable. Otherwise, we get pathologies like the rock-star phenomenon.

  10. Dr. Curry,

    I’m about a decade ahead of you. I am indeed grateful to have experienced the science of the 60′s, 70′s, and into the 80′s. It has been interesting, but it is just good to be out. Regarding the best scientists…

    I’ve worked in several fields–in academia, DOE labs, industry, consulting. This is anecdotal feedback, realistically a small sample sample size, but no doubt the best scientists I’ve worked were humble, quiet, decent people, and did they ever command respect, responsibility, and loyalty. (Maybe it is because they accorded the same to those who worked with them.)

  11. JC “the incentives in place don’t seem to reward humility in a scientist.”
    I agree wholeheartedly with this. The current practice of science is slanted more toward policy and politics rather than to ferret out the truth.

  12. Arrogant ideologues – which is what too many of the more prominent climate “scientists” (i.e., those who have forsaken science for fascistic politics) are, just don’t listen to anyone else – and are not above profiteering from speading disinformation and fear.

  13. Humility is a good, but I doubt it advances science. IMO, climate scientists Mann, Jones, and Hansen are as humble as scientists in general. I’m not sure I would say the same about their critics.

    • Too true.

      The ‘critics’ are full of self-assurance, bravado and an over-inflated sense of their own importance.

      • Michael,

        LOL.

      • ow, zinger!

      • Michael said on DEC 26 at 7:38 pm
        The ‘critics’ are full of self-assurance, bravado and an over-inflated sense of their own importance.
        ______

        Michael, I suspect National Review (NR) writer Mark Steyn is one of those critics who is full of bravado.

        Re Mann’s lawsuit, on Aug. 22, 2012 Steyn writes:
        “Actually, I’ll bet Michael Mann had never heard of me when he blew his gasket, and I’ll wager his high-priced counsel never bothered doing two minutes of Googling. If they had, they’d have known that once they start this thing they’d better be prepared to go the distance.”

        http://www.steynonline.com/5118/stick-it-where-the-global-warming-dont-shine

        NR recently filed a motion asking the court to dismiss Mann’s law suit. Isn’t Steyn a defendant along with NR this case? If so, it looks like Steyn doesn’t want to “go the distance.” It looks like he just wants the law suit to go away.

      • Max, you misunderstand what a motion to dismiss a suit implies. You have to get a judge to agree that the plaintiff’s case, even if everything the plaintiff claims is true, is not valid to bring to trial. If you can get the judge to agree to this, it is the most crushing victory you can achieve — a total slam dunk.

        This is very different from settling the lawsuit in advance of a trial with some negotiated agreement. This is what the defendants said they would not do.

    • I agree with you Max_OK because IMO most scientists would not be models of humility and climate scientists such as Mann, Jones and Hansen would be no exception. Our hostess is one of the few exceptioms but this, again only my opinion. Likewise for many critics of mainstream climate science, their opinions remain just that, until they can do the science and do the hard yards. Humans, including myself, need to do humility exercises every morning! ;)

      • I don’t if JC is more humble or less humble than scientists in general, but I suspect she is less certain, and may even be uncertain about her uncertainty, which is about as uncertain as a person can get.

      • Max_OK

        “Envy” is not my bag, Okie.

        Not even of a guy who was awarded a “Nobel” (of sorts).

        I’m real happy in my humble skin even without the “Nobel” sitting on my mantelpiece.

        But thanks for the mirror tip – is it working for you?

        Max_CH

      • Max

        You do not have a Nobel as Switzerland is only an associate member of the EU.

        I have a Nobel of course as I am a proud citizen of the eu who were awarded the honour for reasons that totally escape me. Hmm lots of similarities between the eu and the ipcc then.

        By ‘proud’ I do of course mean ‘extremely reluctant but no one will let us have a vote on it because they know what the result would be.’
        Tonyb

      • tony b

        Just a thought: if the UK decides (by popular vote?) to leave the EU, do you have to return your Nobel?

        [If so, this might swing the vote in favor of remaining.]

        Max

      • Max

        If I sell the Nobel first they can’t ask me to return it can they?
        Tonyb

      • tony b

        Ya gotta find a buyer first.

        The net resale value of these babies plummeted when (president-elect) Obama, (president-unelect) Al Gore, plus Pachauri and his 2,500 “merry men” were all awarded them

        Max

    • Yes of course. Right you are. Humble people are generally angry, litigious loons as per Michael Mann.

      • What would you know about being humble? I’m more humble than you ever dreamed of being.

        Michael Mann is tired of turning the other cheek. I hope his law suit against Steyn humbles that mud-slingger. Steyn

      • Max_OK

        Lawsuits keep lawyers at work.

        Michael Mann’s problem is real simple: he cheated and was caught, after first fooling the world (including IPCC) with his bogus work.

        Anything this guy does or achieves in the future will always be prefaced by the broken hockey “shtick”.

        Had he not fought so arrogantly to defend it as it was being demolished scientifically, his image would probably not have become so tarnished.

        No matter how many lawsuits he files (and even wins), the tarnish will never go away.

        Too bad for him.

        Max_not from OK

      • I love these guys who assert their own beliefs as if it’s everyone elses reality – and then they whine about others ‘arrogance’.

      • manacker said on December 27, 2012 at 10:06 am

        “Michael Mann’s problem is real simple: he cheated and was caught, after first fooling the world (including IPCC) with his bogus work.”
        ________

        Michael Mann has more honesty in the tip of his nose than you have in your entire head.

        You just envy Mann’s awards and prizes. Envy is sinful. Maybe if you had ever won anything, you wouldn’t be so envious. I suggest you buy a box of Cracker Jacks. There’s a prize in every box.

      • Oh, so that’s why the tip of his nose is so long. I was wondering what was so elongatory.
        ===================================

      • Max_OK, by the way, did you view the Richard Muller link on Mann I sent you? Time to stand up you testosterone challenged pipsqueak.

      • Max_OK

        If you think I ENVY Michael Mann, then you are even loonier than your posts here indicate.

        The guy cheated.

        He got caught.

        It was doubly embarrassing because he was caught by outsiders.

        His work was subsequently comprehensively discredited.

        The whole story is all there in black on white in Montford’s book.

        There is absolutely nothing to ENVY about this guy. He’s simply a loser that got carried away with his own importance.

        Max_not from OK

      • manacker said on December 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm

        Max_OK

        If you think I ENVY Michael Mann, then you are even loonier than your posts here indicate.
        ______

        Yes, I think you envy Michael Mann. He has won awards for his science, awards you probably would like to have. He gets far more attention than you, and you crave attention or you wouldn’t be posting here.

        Instead of envying Mann, you might try being humble. A good exercise for you would be spending a minute each day in front of a mirror and repeating to yourself ” I am nothing” over and over. It works best if you say it out loud.

      • [this response ended up in the wrong place so am reposting]

        Max_OK

        “Envy” is not my bag, Okie.

        Not even of a guy who was awarded a “Nobel” (of sorts).

        I’m real happy in my humble skin even without the “Nobel” sitting on my mantelpiece.

        But thanks for the mirror tip – is it working for you?

        Max_CH

      • MOK

        “Mooning” the world is NOT the same as “turning the other cheek”.

        Max_CH

    • Max,

      I just knew you couldn’t do “non-dumb” two posts in a row.

      Anyone who believes Dr Mann is a humble person hasn’t been paying attention.

      Does a humble person incorrectly lay claim to being a Noble Peace prize winner?

      Does a humble person equate himself to be a brave warrior, fighting on the front line, just a humble grunt in the trenches?

      Does a humble person get agitated over receiving a $15 cartoon calendar and complain in a tweet about it?

      For that matter, does anyone who regularly tweets have a claim to humbleness?

      • I’m afraid you confuse being humble with being a punching bag. I see no evidence Mann is less humble than scientists in general.

      • Max,

        I’m hesitant to comment on Dr Mann being as humble as “most” scientists for a couple of reasons. 1) I’ve never met him, therefore I don’t have a lot to go on. That I have doubt he is humble is based on his public statements. He does not come across as a humble individual. 2) I can’t claim that I know how most scientists act. I have worked with a large number of people with science PhD’s to their name and for the most part I have not witnessed a lack of humility. But then I have come in contaxct with most of these people as volunteer mentors working with students in the field and classroom. I suppose that might pre-screen for a bit of humility.

        As for the punching bag comment – not sure of your point. Are you saying Dr Mann has been used as a punching bag and his actions are simply those of a counter puncher?

        I see more of a guy who walks into a room, stating he’s the smartest, best dressed person there, only to get huffy and defensive when someone points out he’s not wearing pants. The fact he’s wearing boxers does not a mean he’s a boxer. But who knows, maybe it is true that Big Oil paid everyone in the room to pretend that the good Doctor was not wearing pants, when if fact he was.

      • MAX_OK says ” I see no evidence Mann is less humble than scientists in general.” Then you are blind Max. Also I see you seem to defend Mann the person, but never his science. How bout you give us a one paragraph defending MBH’s use of inverted PCs and upside down Tiljander. Let’s see what you got, Max. Defend it or leave. Why you are at it, look here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BQpciw8suk)

      • Re Bob’s post on Dec. 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

        Bob, you first imply Mann is less humble than scientists in general, yet you have no measure of how humble scientists in general are. Then you switch to nitpicking Mann’s work and find some little fly speck, an insignificant flaw, which you demand I defend or stop posting here at Climate, Etc. What the hell is wrong with you?

      • Gather ’round, children,
        Hear the measure of his pride.
        Twas insig. flaw speck.
        ==========

      • Kim, Michel Mann’s enemies don’t see his little flaw as a fly speck. They magnify it into a big pile of doo doo, which they like to roll around in.

        My grandpa had some coon hounds that liked to roll around in cow manure. He said the dogs did it to cover up their own odor.

        Mann’s enemies, like grandpa’s hounds, try to hide their odor by rolling around in poo. But crap can’t cover had bad they smell.

      • Re timg56′s post on December 27, 2012 at 2:42 pm

        We don’t have a measure of humbleness for scientists in general. However, compared to the population in general, I think it would be safe to say scientists believe they know more about science, and believe they are superior to non-scientists when it comes to science. Humbleness is not believing you are superior.

      • Max, you are an intellectual midget. I asked you to defend Mann on two simple errors he made in MBH. You are nothing but a pusillanimous pipsqueak. Answer the question or go away.

      • Bob said on December 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm
        “Max, you are an intellectual midget.”
        _____

        But tall enough to see you are green with Mann envy, and want to smear the man because you will never measure up to him and his achievements.

        Like my grandpa’s coon hounds, you like to roll around in doo doo, and want me to join you. Thanks for the invitation, but I’ll pass.

      • If you are “humble”, you express “humility”

        If you “bumble” (ex. a broken “shtick”), is this “bumility”

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        Max_OK:

        Then you switch to nitpicking Mann’s work and find some little fly speck, an insignificant flaw, which you demand I defend or stop posting here at Climate, Etc. What the hell is wrong with you?

        Kim, Michel Mann’s enemies don’t see his little flaw as a fly speck. They magnify it into a big pile of doo doo, which they like to roll around in.

        Mann’s central conclusions depended entirely upon giving a small amount of data undue weight via stupidly wrong methodological choices. Max_OK claims this point is a “little fly speck,” presumably because he has no idea what the discussion is actually about (as the only alternative is he’s is intentionally lying). As our hostess says:

        In the wake of ClimateGate, a common criticism of the scientists and those who defended them was arrogance.

        People like Max_OK have no idea what they’re talking about yet they think they’re qualified to dismiss serious criticism and insult people because… I don’t know. Maybe they just think they’re that awesome? It sure has nothing to do with what they actually know or can do.

    • Curt said on December 27, 2012 at 9:24 pm
      Max, you misunderstand what a motion to dismiss a suit implies.
      ________
      Curt, it’s not what filing a motion for dismissal implies, it’s what it means. It obviously means NR would prefer not going to trial, which is rational preference, since in a trial there is a risk of losing.

      NR writer Steyn’s bravado in his “they’d better be prepared to go the distance” implies he’s eager for his day in court. In filing a motion for dismissal, NR’s lawyers are trying to prevent that day from ever happening.

      • Steyn doesn’t want to “go the distance” because he wants to win quickly therefore he is lying when he says Mann needs to be ready to “go the distance” for the suit.

        #MakesSense

  14. Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}

    Woods essay has excellent Insight!

    Not like trying to screw anyone for promotion, funding or recognition.
    Business skills of financial grants greatly get in the way of following research to the paths greater knowledge.
    This hinders our knowledge with needless religious followings to stay with the group…at ALL costs.

  15. Who is Richard Windsor?

    This is a new insight? Feynman was talking about exactly this 50 years ago.

    • I believe that Judith’s point is that what Feynman was talking about fifty years ago has been either forgotten or dismissed as irrelevant.

    • 50 years ago? Genesis was written 3,000+ years ago.

      “…God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

      The desire to “be like God,” has always tempted man. We live in an age which has turned vanity into a virtue, and humility into a vice. And we are paying an ever steeper price.

      Vanity – it’s the original sin.

  16. Why are Jews the most successful scientists?
    JInfo.org reports on JEWISH NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS

    At least 187 Jews and people of half- or three-quarters-Jewish ancestry have been awarded the Nobel Prize,1 accounting for 22% of all individual recipients worldwide between 1901 and 2012, and constituting 36% of all US recipients2 during the same period.3 In the research fields of Chemistry, Economics, Physics, and Physiology/Medicine, the corresponding world and US percentages are 27% and 39%, respectively. Among women laureates in the four research fields, the Jewish percentages (world and US) are 38% and 50%, respectively. Of organizations awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 24% were founded principally by Jews or by people of half-Jewish descent. (Jews currently make up approximately 0.2% of the world’s population and 2% of the US population.)

    Why are Jews proportionally 100 times more likely to receive Nobel and other prizes?
    Could it be related to habits exemplified by Yom Kippur – a day of repentance, fasting and humiliation?

    • thisisnotgoodtogo

      Or to good story-telling?

    • Personally, I think it’s because Jews tend to be more attractive, witty, and charming.

    • Who is Richard Windsor?

      Look a little deeper. The “Jews” you refer to are all Ashkenazi Jews. The answer lies in the history of that branch.

      • David L. Hagen

        The null hypothesis would include similarly occupied persons. Can you support your hypothesis?

      • While genetics can be partly the reason for this, I am inclined to believe that high achievement is more a function of environment and upbringing. High IQ people measure well on standard IQ tests due to generally much higher verbal and written reasoning ability than the average.

        Discrimination by the majority against Jewish communities would tend to have the effect of making Jews generally more hard working and persistent than average, in order to survive. Success in science seems also more likely due to the possession of these qualities rather than just humility.

    • David H. -

      As for your reasoning that the high concentration of Nobel winners among Jews can be explained by humility (the rituals of Yom Kuppur)…

      We also need to consider the tribe’s high concentration of successful comedians (Milton Berle, Jon Stewart, Groucho Marx,, Billy Crystal, Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, etc.).

      And then there is the high concentration of successful movie stars (Sean Penn, Natalie Portman, Ben Stiller, John Landis, Steven Seagal, James Caan, Joan Collins, Kirk Douglass, Sammy David Jr., etc.)

      Or tribe-members notable in the business world (Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, George Soros, Andrew Fastow – oops, Bernie Madoff – oops, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Eisner, etc.)

      Or beautiful people (Bridgette Bardot, Raquel Welch, Rock Hudson, Brad Pitt, etc.)

      Or famous athletes (Sandy Koufax, Sandy Koufax, Sandy Koufax, etc.)

      Can Yom Kippur and humility explain all of that?

  17. “C’est moi C’est moi I’m forced to admit there’s no one better than I…” as with Lancelot, we tend to pay attention to braggarts; challenging them to show their stuff. However, if I want to get a measure of a person and more important what they have to say, I look first at two qualities: does this person care about me or what I have to say? And second: how well does this person entertain uncertainty? in other avenues of life, do they demonstrate openness or flexibility?

    The braggarts of climate science have our attention. The uncertain climate scientists are likely able to teach us something, and, I’m listening.

  18. Willis Eschenbach

    Humility is good. Let me start with that. We all have an excess of self-importance. Humility is generally a plus in any situation, scientific or otherwise. However, very few people that I have known are actually humble to the core. Sure, I’ve known folks that were more humble than others. I’ve also met a lot of folks that talk humble, all “who, me” and po-mouth, but are actually no more humble than … well, than I am myself.

    For me, science requires something more than humility. Humility is a lack of self-importance, and that’s a good thing in any field from cooking to marriage. But it’s not enough. Science requires more than that.

    First, it requires a willingness to expose your ideas to the scientific public for judgement and possible falsification. I can testify that this is a painful and bruising process. To engage in the process, you have to put a high value on your own ideas, logic, math, and research ability.

    Unfortunately, in some senses putting a high value on my own abilities is the very antithesis of humility … yet I have to have a fairly high opinion of myself to challenge the guys who wrote the textbooks.

    Now, there is definitely a connection between humility and science, which is that science makes you humble. If you put enough ideas out there, some of them are going to be shot down, and you will be brought low. I can testify that my scientific idea being shown to be wrong, on the web, in front of thousands and thousands of people, is definitely a very humbling experience … heck, I even have a post called Wrong Again. It’s no fun.

    However, in that humility/science connection, the causality is going the other way from that in the title of this thread. It wasn’t that humility led me to good science. Instead, being a bad scientist made me more humble …

    My point in this is that what is required to put your ideas out there is not mainly humility. It also requires a willingness to have someone else publicly demonstrate that your ideas are wrong. This quality is related to, but different from, humility.

    A willingness to be shown wrong in public, in turn, requires a couple of other qualities. It requires a certain amount of courage—you try being wrong in the full harsh light of public inquiry.

    And it requires that the scientist not identify with the ideas that they put forward. Scientists have to be willing to discard their most cherished ideas. It’s another contradiction: they must defend their ideas, but they cannot be prepared to defend them to the death as it were.

    Next, putting my scientific ideas on the anvil and handing around the sledgehammers requires a certain blind belief that my ideas are right, that they will withstand anyone’s hammering, even though they are in disagreement with the current scientific paradigm or the current experts.

    Finally, science is odd in that you can’t prove anything, you can only support things and falsify things. Almost inevitably, this means that if my ideas are right, someone else’s ideas are wrong … and since I can’t prove mine right, as part of supporting my scientific interpretation of the world, I have to show where and how his ideas are incorrect. Much of science is involved with showing that another scientists idea’s, and perhaps even their entire life’s work, have a fatal flaw … and that’s not a pretty process.

    This requires a certain aggressive nature that is not entirely compatible with “humility”. I have described this oddity for years by saying that science is a blood sport. People are doing their best to show that other people’s ideas are wrong, wrong, wrong.

    I would say that the qualities that make a good scientist are, in no particular order:

    • An undying curiosity about how the world works in all of its aspects.
    • A broad scientific education, formal and/or informal, covering a range of fields.
    • A willingness to be shown to be one hundred percent wrong in the full glare of the scientific public eye.
    • A trust in your own gut scientific instincts, even (particularly?) when they do not agree with revealed scientific wisdom.
    • What I can only describe as a “nose for bad numbers”.
    • A willingness to render another person’s life work entirely worthless.
    • A mistrust of anyone’s calculations, particularly your own, combined with a willingness to do the grunt work necessary to replicate or falsify anyone’s calculations.
    • The ability to quickly research and assimilate new data, facts, and evidence, particularly when they are contrary to your own cherished ideas.
    • A willingness to be surprised, whether in public or not.
    • A mistrust of the established experts and the consensus view.
    • An ability to infer unsuspected connections between what seem to be unconnected facts.
    • A certain blind stubbornness and perseverance that gets you through the inevitable errors, bad roads, and barren periods.

    Now, some of that is related to humility, as it should be … but as a whole, the list doesn’t exactly scream “Mahatma Gandhi” to me.

    I started this by saying that humility is good. If you are a humble player of the scientific game, generally it will be to your advantage. However, you’ll need those other qualities listed above, qualities that a truly humble person might not have.

    Finally, humility is not a requirement in science. It’s good, it helps, but it’s not required. There have been some brilliant scientists that were insufferable, egotistical, unbearable pricks, particularly when they were younger and were the “enfant terrible” of their group. Self-importance is the common enemy of mankind, scientists are by no means immune.

    But doing science, that is to say doing true, transparent, verifiable science, is a humbling experience. I’ve been wrong more than I have been right. I’ve been down more dead ends in the scientific maze than down paths that prove to contain cheese. I have later marveled at my earlier blindnesses.

    So that works out with a lovely symmetry. Being humble tends to make you a better scientist, and being a scientist tends to make you more humble.

    w.

    … reminds me of the swami who went around claiming to be the most humble man in the world …

    • Willis, being humble doesn’t men much unless you are important, which you aren’t. You are like the janitor in the following joke.

      Walking into the empty sanctuary of his synagogue, a rabbi was suddenly possessed by a wave of mystical rapture, and threw himself onto the ground before the Ark proclaiming, “Lord, I’m Nothing!”
      Seeing the rabbi in such a state, the cantor felt profoundly moved by similar emotions. He too, threw himself down in front of the Ark, proclaiming, “Lord, I’m Nothing!”
      Then, way in the back of the synagogue, the janitor threw himself to the ground, and he too shouted, “Lord, “I’m Nothing.”
      Whereupon, the rabbi turned to the cantor and whispered, “Look who thinks he’s Nothing!”

      A joke from the Hall of Famous Jokes, a good joke site.

      http://www.realnothings.com/famous%20jokes/nothingjoke.htm

      • Max – you have raised Willis up in my mind.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Max_OK | December 26, 2012 at 10:57 pm

        Willis, being humble doesn’t men much unless you are important, which you aren’t.

        Max, that’s great, it’s the perfect self-referential storm. Being humble doesn’t mean much unless you are important? That’s hilarious.

        My friend, we are all self-important, even the janitor. That’s the problem, and that’s what humility is about, not whether other people thing you are important.

        w.

      • Lord says to Janitor:
        You are most important human being, as you keep my altar clean. It was disgraceful for you to mock my rabbis. Though, it was hilarious.

      • Not unless you have a lot to be humble for! As for importance, this seems to be a matter of perception and, more often than not, a delusion of fools.

      • Willis, when you get to be as humble as me, you will have something to brag about. I doubt you even know how to be humble, but it’s never too late to try.

      • MOK, as an empirical matter Willis is in fact important in the skeptical community. Go Wills.

      • Max_OK

        Now I would fully agree with you that Willis does not come across as a particularly “humble” man.

        He is often quite aggressive and forceful.

        And he appears to me to be very knowledgeable and curious – with an extremely sensitive “BS meter”.

        However, he is not “arrogant”.

        There is a big difference.

        Max_CH

      • Yeah, only the designated enemy are arrogant, by conveneint definition.

      • David Wojick | December 27, 2012 at 8:54 am |
        MOK, as an empirical matter Willis is in fact important in the skeptical community. Go Wills.
        ——-
        So Willis is a big fish in a small pond.

        Nah! More like a tadpole in a mud puddle.

      • tim -

        Good call. I only started reading it, and couldn’t finish because the notion of Willis pontificating on humility was too absurd to take seriously.

        It would be akin to me writing a long post on what it would be like to be unattractive, un-witty, or un-charming.

      • From one fat, tongue-tied, infectious floozie to another.
        ======================

      • Many thanks, gbaikie, probably the best joke I’ve heard this year, and that includes my own.
        ==============

      • Michael, your ability to post here is a clear example of Judith’s lack of arrogance. Your views are allowed. Now go visit Skeptical Science and see how many skeptical comments are allowed. Not many, if any. Why? Because the editors of Skeptical Science are arrogant enough to believe that nobody needs to hear dissenting views. Same goes for most of the warmist sites.

    • David Springer

      I’m waiting for you to write an article “Right For Once” which would be a lot more challenging than “Wrong Again” and not just for lack of experience.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        David Springer | December 27, 2012 at 6:58 am | Reply

        I’m waiting for you to write an article “Right For Once” which would be a lot more challenging than “Wrong Again” and not just for lack of experience.

        Thanks, David. I have written more than once about positions that I have taken which have subsequently been verified by later work.

        For example, I published a piece in Energy and Environment in 2004 pointing out that coral atolls grow up when the ocean rises. Because of that, I said that the idea that atolls like Tuvalu and Kiribati would be drowned by rising seas was absolute nonsense. I held that the same was true for river deltas such as Bangladesh. I also wrote some of this up as a post called “Floating Islands”.

        This was later borne out by a photogrammetric study of the Pacific atolls and the Bangladesh river delta. Bangladesh has more land area now than it did twenty years ago, and a number of the Pacific atolls have either stayed the same size or, in a number of cases, actually grown larger. I wrote this up in a post called “The Irony … It Burns.”

        Or to take another example, there was a scientific article claiming that we only have half the plankton now that were in the ocean in 1950. I called that study total BS in my post Walking the Plank-ton. Six months later, two scientific articles called the study BS, as I detailed in The Ocean Wins Again.

        Finally, David, you always want to attack my science, even going so far as claiming above that I’ve never been right. I had a peer-reviewed piece of mine published in Nature magazine, not a major piece, but I have had my work published there … and you?

        Seriously, David, have you published on climate in Nature, as I have? I also have three other peer-reviewed pieces on climate published in the journals as well. Not much, to be sure, but not bad for a self-educated amateur scientist with a day job, not many of us have published in Nature lately, the myth of the value of a PhD has swept the nation …

        So, could you maybe cut back on the snark and the unprovoked attacks? I do find it kind of flattering that you and Joshua seem to be trailing me around, always popping up whenever I post with the latest unsubstantiated and unsupported attack, or the newest ad hominem … but after while it gets to feel like some creepy stalker. Don’t you have something better to do than to follow my sorry okole around the web and make snide remarks totally free of original thought or scientific content?

        The crazy part is, I suspect you’re a smart guy. If you put that effort into getting the climate data and running the numbers and investigating the relationships and graphing the results and studying those graphs and researching the historical studies and understanding their methods and inventing new ways to understand and illustrate the relationships you find … well, do that steadily as an obsessive avocation for a decade and a half, and then you’d be a climate scientist too, and you wouldn’t bother attacking guys like me.

        Finally, this thread is about humility. I make no claim to any special humility, I don’t even usually think in those terms. Instead, I think of it in terms of fighting self-importance. I find that to be a much more practical definition. The problem is self-importance, and humility is one among many weapons that we need in order to fight self-importance.

        It is also a more practical definition because humility, as someone said, doesn’t matter until you’ve achieved something to be appropriately humble about. But when you frame the same issue as a fight against self-importance, it is clear that it applies to each and every one of us, regardless of our accomplishments.

        I couldn’t say I’m all that good at fighting self-importance. However, I strive to do so. I recognize that it is crucial that I do so, because maintaining my self-importance is immensely costly in both time and energy.

        In short, my plan all along has been to emulate Steve McIntyre by becoming more Canadian … the problem is, come to find out, becoming Canadian is a 12-Step deal, and I do real well going up the first half-dozen steps, but I keep slipping on the third or forth step from the top, someone calls me a liar and I get all offended and advance speculation on the private habits of his antecedents and zoom! I slide back down to the 1st step at the bottom, which from memory (don’t quote me) is “I admit I have a problem with self-importance” … it’s a work in progress.

        Anyhow, regarding self-importance, as the man said (emphasis mine):

        Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it–what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellow men. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.
        Every effort should be made to eradicate self-importance from the lives of warriors. Without self-importance we are invulnerable.
        * * *
        Self-importance can’t be fought with niceties.
        * * *
        Seers are divided into two categories. Those who are willing to exercise self-restraint and can channel their activities toward pragmatic goals, which would benefit other seers and man in general, and those who don’t care about self-restraint or about any pragmatic goals. The latter have failed to resolve the problem of self-importance.
        Self-importance is not something simple and naive. On the one hand, it is the core of everything that is good in us, and on the other hand, the core of everything that is rotten. To get rid of the self-importance that is rotten requires a masterpiece of strategy.

        It is that duality that I was speaking to above. The answer to the problem of self-importance is not humility, or at least it is only partly humility.

        All the best,

        w.

      • So, could you maybe cut back on the snark and the unprovoked attacks? I do find it kind of flattering that you and Joshua seem to be trailing me around, always popping up whenever I post with the latest unsubstantiated and unsupported attack, or the newest ad hominem …

        Back to step one, Willis. Pretty ironic that you couldn’t even get through that one comment without backsliding.

        Drop by and give an update when you’ve managed to sustain step two for more than a post or two. What’s that they say…one post at a time?

    • Heh. A treatise from Willis on the importance of humility.

      Funny.

    • Willis

      I believe the key point is not so much that “humility” per se is an essential quality for a successful scientist, but that “humility” is better than “arrogance”.

      It is not so much “lack of humility”, but “arrogance”, which is a poor quality for any scientist, especially when it closes his/her mind to opinions that dissent from the own views.

      As Einstein is quoted as saying:

      “The only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance”

      The forced “consensus process” of IPCC is based upon this arrogance.

      Climategate revealed the dark side of this “arrogance” at work.

      Max
      .

      • Arrogance is also the quality that pushes a single scientist to overturn long-held theories – oh well, mustn’t upset the arrogance of tunnel vision that has a talking point to push.

        Max is in the grip of a meme here – every post has to mention the key themes of ‘arrogance’ and forced consensus.

        Empty-headed babble, but, hey, a meme is meme.

      • Michael

        You are babbling nonsense again.

        If you do not see the “arrogance” in the Climategate e-mails, then you are beyond help.

        If you cannot read the “arrogance” in the IPCC reports (especially the SPM reports), you are blind.

        Or possibly you, yourself, are “arrogant”.

        Who knows?

        Who cares?

        Max

      • Hey Max,

        If you can’t see the arrogance of Judith Curry……..you know the rest.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        manacker | December 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

        Willis

        I believe the key point is not so much that “humility” per se is an essential quality for a successful scientist, but that “humility” is better than “arrogance”.

        But … but … the implicit claim that is made in the title of the post is exactly that, the idea that “humility” per say leads to scientific insight. Heck, the author sez:

        I argue that intellectually humble scientists have a stronger likelihood of winning knowledge and other intellectual goods than those lacking this virtue.

        Call me crazy, but that doesn’t say “humility is better than arrogance” to me. It says humility in science is of value in and of itself.

        w.

      • Willis

        I was referring to this paragraph by Judith, which covers pretty accurately a problem directly attributable to IPCC’s “consensus process”, and which became apparent in the Climategate e-mails:

        In the wake of ClimateGate, a common criticism of the scientists and those who defended them was arrogance. The value of science is not judged by whether or not the scientists are arrogant or humble; however arrogance and defensive behavior can blind a scientist to the idea that they might be wrong and lead to unjustified dismissal of skeptical arguments. When arrogance is institutionalized (e.g. the IPCC and AAAS have been criticized in this way), then the self correcting methods of science are put at risk.

        Max

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Thanks, Manacker. I agree, and can testify from my own experience, that arrogance is an obstacle to scientific insight. My own arrogance and pride and self-importance have cost me more times than I care to think about. My mom used to always tell us kids “Pride goeth before the fall” … but in honesty I’d have to report that I was too proud to pay attention.

        w.

  19. I thought the 18th helped us get over moralism.

  20. Why not, Caesar did the same sort of thing..

  21. Whenever I see the PBS series NOVA, I’ve always been struck by the awe of astronomers and physicists discovering new planets and stars in other galaxies. They always stress how little knowledge they had before they made these discoveries.
    Comparing this to all the emails and the confirmation bias I’ve read in Climategate 1 and 2, I just shake my head in disbelief. Is it too much to ask for some level of burning curiosity among these climate scientists when conducting their research?

    • The Skeptical Warmist

      “Is it too much to ask for some level of burning curiosity among these climate scientists when conducting their research?”
      _____
      The vast majority of climate scientists have a very high degree of “burning curiosity” that drives them in their research. One must not extrapolate from a few to the many, and even then, to extrapolate from a few selected emails to a general assumption about a person’s overall motivation. The lesson in humility to be learned cuts both ways– check your assumptions at the door and let curiosity be your guiding motivation. Once you assume you know something, then rational skepticism would guide you to look for every bit of evidence that would disprove that assumption, keeping you away from both the narrative fallacy and confirmation bias.

  22. Romantic notions of science are goofy.

    What’s needed in climate exploration (why pretend it’s at the stage of “science” when basic exploration has barely begun?) is a sense of expedience.

  23. Oh good, nesting broken already.

  24. A couple of people have commented that the government grant system is what fuels the fundamental problem of rewarding attention getters rather than achievers. Jerry Pournelle’s suggestion is to spend less on grants in favour of prizes.

    • Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}

      NASA is the perfect example of a system that is totally enclosed onto itself.
      Many times, it is not the best they are after but good old American patriotic positions that exclude all others.
      You cannot apply to any programs without being involved with an approved association and HAVE to have a government grant.

      The individual that wants to contribute cannot no matter how important the research to our knowledge base.

    • Aggressive Drive for Expedience …

      Romantic notions of “science” are goofy. Exploration simply needs to be done. (Why pretend it’s “science”?)

      A more aggressive sense of vital expedience is needed. Get the job done. Stop wasting time philosophizing. Have it done by yesterday or be replaced by someone capable.

      Drive this thing the way a sales manager drives sales. Drive it the way a project manager drives to deliver on budget and on schedule. Push hard and to h*ll with style points. Only results matter.

      Imagine we’re in a life & death situation and our survival depends on making discoveries RIGHT NOW. Something like that might happen at some point in human history.

      Let’s viciously get into the efficient exploration groove and expediently slice & dice every exploratory challenge that ever comes our way. Let’s get some practice for the future days when our survival will depend on driving quick breakthroughs on limited resources.

      In contrast,
      what we get:

      Lazy overbudget rudderless snail-paced delay-ridden attention-getting false-assumption-based useless formality incrementally leading nowhere.

      (Someone aware & quick is going to step on that fat slow-moving slug and it’s life will simply & irreversibly be over.)

  25. John Vonderlin

    I think robots are more prone to shorts “from” snorting then extremely humble people like myself. However, many years ago, when neighborhood kids asked me repeatedly the name of my pig, whose appellation was an extended snort, I burst a blood vessel in my palate while answering.
    “Snort for short,” became his nickname after that. I guess I should have learned my lesson earlier when I had to create the nickname of “Whistle” for my dog. It seems chemically-induced xerostomia would often make questioners think either its name was something strange or I was having an asthma attack..
    For those of you who find their exceptional humility problematic, take solace, that unlike me, the hoi polloi at least don’t hate you for being beautiful too,
    In closing I’d like to offer a “HAPPY NEW YEAR’S SHOUT OUT,” to our truth-seeking hostess and the many posters I’ve read here during this year. That includes even those whose passion far out weighs their scientific knowledge, logic or ability to spell or punctuate.

  26. A while ago we had a post titled What Exactly Is Critical Thinking?

    The reasons progressive denizens had such difficulty with understanding that process is that it requires humility, a foreign concept to the left.

    Elitism, among progressives, “moderates,” and faux conservatives alike, is at its core an expression of vanity. And that vanity makes critical analysis virtually impossible. This is why, while virtually all conservatives have at some point held more progressive views, progressives have always been progressives.

    • +100

    • The Skeptical Warmist

      Then you admit that you stay away from watching Faux News as it is so intellectually dishonest?

    • Hilarious.

      This is why, while virtually all conservatives have at some point held more progressive views,

      Really? Evidence? Or perhaps this is an overstatement, suggesting arrogance? Perhaps it shows lack of humility about not only in views, but the prevalence of your own personal experiences?

      Show me one shred of validated and serious evidence that any particular character trait, such as humility, is more prevalent among liberals than among conservatives. At some point, you might want to consider checking your views against available evidence.

      If you had done that before promoting your ridiculous theory about the systematic liberal bias among pollsters (for the paranoid notion that they were rigging their results to influence the outcome of the election), you might have saved yourself some embarrassment.

      But I must admit, as is true of many “skeptics” who post here, you do have a flair for unintentional irony. Your comments about the “elitism” of all those progressives “moderates,” faux conservatives who are mistaken in their belief that they’re conservatives, etc., is pegging the irony meter. If only they had your understanding of critical thinking, your humility, your breadth of experience, your humility, your lack of vanity, your lack of elitism, etc….

      If only… just think how much better off we’d all be!!!

  27. “Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure — the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; to summarize it — the humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics — the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual — the humility of the spirit.”

    - Richard Feynman

  28. Willis Eschenbach

    I’m reminded of the quote ascribed to Winston Churchill:

    He is a humble man … with much to be humble for.

    w.

  29. I could not agree more. I am quite proud of my humility. What a crock. What humble meek monk has moved the earth? Buddha? Jesus? No. The prideful hucksters who came after selling incense and timeshares to salvation, they made $hit happen, reaped billions and slaughtered countries wholesale.

    What is needed in science is self doubt, which is not humility. Only a self-important, marginal competent putz would ever think humility drives scientific discovery.

    When I entered science professionally in the early 1980′s, most scientists and people were pleasers who did not want to rock the boat. Nowadays, most scientists and people are pleasers who do not want to rock the boat. People don’t change, just the boat changes that all of the lemmings climb on for comfort and safety please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle until the ride comes to a full and complete stop. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200

    • I agree. Most scientists simply do not want to rock the boat and that’s OK. What’s destructive is that the public is not aware of this. They ask, how could all the scientists be wrong? I ask, how could they be right, if they don’t want to rock the boat?

  30. I’ll take plain old honesty anyday over humility!

    • Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}

      A BIG +1

    • Agree.
      There’s something to be said for simplicity & common sense. More specifically:

      Honest integrity coupled with raw awareness of truth is all that matters.

      Arrogant person says: 1+1=2
      Humble person says: 1+1=2
      Exceedingly Rude person says: 1+1=2
      Informal person Casually says: 1+1=2
      Publishing person Formally says: 1+1=2
      Grease-oiled disgustingly-sleazy marketing person says: 1+1=2
      Plain nice common person says: 1+1=2

      I’ll take 1+1=2 from any of them …and reject 2+2=5 from all of them …including the one behaving with humility.

      Behavior style points can’t take precedence over raw awareness & honest integrity.

      Let’s face it:
      The article’s about what kind of person the author would prefer to hear from.

      …And it doesn’t solve the problem that 99% of climate discussion receivers are so scrambled they can’t or won’t recognize 1+1=2.

      • But 2+2=5 if the 2s are large. It’s a rounding thing.

      • clever Dennis

      • Paul Vaughan said:

        Behavior style points can’t take precedence over raw awareness & honest integrity.

        … 99% of climate discussion receivers are so scrambled they can’t or won’t recognize 1+1=2.

        I don’t know the source of the 99% (perhaps it’s from IPCC), but I do know the author of the comment, Vaughan Pratt, is an example of a person who is not humble and lacks “honest integrity”. In fact he is pompous, arrogant and habitually dishonest.

        His frequently demonstrated lack of honesty and integrity, displayed in his comments and responses on energy matters – e.g. denying or obfuscating around the facts – provide irrefutable evidence.

      • @Peter Lang | December 27, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
        You’re confusing 2 different Vaughans.

  31. I’d just make the point that some so-called sceptics whose lack of understanding of basic Physics leads them to argue that that the GH effect can’t exist because it would contravene the second law of thermodynamics, or that it can’t exist because CO2 and other GH gases exist in only tiny concentrations, or that there is no evidence that a doubling of these tiny concentrations is likely to cause dangerous warming, and even if there were it would be a good thing etc etc, have more reason than most to display an increased level of humility.

    • “so-called sceptics whose lack of understanding of basic Physics leads them to argue that that the GH effect can’t exist because it would contravene the second law of thermodynamics”

      Here is a really crappy explanation of the second law of thermodynamics presented on a NASA website -

      http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/k-12/airplane/thermo2.html

      For example, if we bring a hot object into contact with a cold object, we observe that the hot object cools down and the cold object heats up until an equilibrium is reached. The transfer of heat goes from the hot object to the cold object.

      They left out the word ‘net’ in the last sentence didn’t they? It should say ‘The net transfer of heat goes from the hot object to cold object’.

      Their little diagram is misleading as well…it needs two arrowed pipes showing the flow of heat….A Big pipe showing the flow of heat from the hot object to the cold object and a small pipe showing the flow of heat from the cold object to the hot object.

      So now that we are both clear that NASA either doesn’t understand thermodynamics or can’t explain it clearly why would anyone put any weight in their various ‘climate prognostications’?

      Some days I wonder if the nutters that think the moon landing was faked might have a point.

  32. Michael Larkin

    IMO, humility begins with striving to identify what you don’t know. For every 1 thing you know, there are at least 99 you don’t (and that may be a severe underestimate).

    Pride involves thinking you know some of the 99 things you don’t. The more of them you think you know (but don’t), the less humble you are.

    The reason humility is a good thing in a scientist is that the object is to get to understand better the things you know you don’t know. There’s no incentive to do that if you already think you know them.

    The genuine movers and shakers in any field–the real paradigm shifters as opposed to those who just have loud voices–are those who know something they don’t know and set out to understand more about it. They may not be paragons of virtue or even particularly pleasant human beings to be around. Newton certainly wasn’t.

    Humility is a *practical* virtue that enables us to learn more and better than we would otherwise. Let’s not confuse it with being meek or self-effacing, which is often a ploy to get people to like and admire us.

    • Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}

      Michael,

      Having to be absolutely truthful and open to constructive criticism helps motivates to prove HOW and WHY many areas of science was manipulated forward rather than following the paths of evidence left behind.
      To protect bad science rather than embrace new areas NEVER contemplated or explored.
      Ignorant is far easier than actually the vast amount of work to actually understand the many areas that are integrated into a complex system.

    • Michael,

      Perfect!

      “Pride involves thinking you know some of the 99 things you don’t. The more of them you think you know (but don’t), the less humble you are.

      The reason humility is a good thing in a scientist is that the object is to get to understand better the things you know you don’t know. There’s no incentive to do that if you already think you know them”.

      Hubris is not a virtue. The history of medicine, science and social discourse have proven that man has reasons to be humble and infinitely more to learn. Leadership is not to be confused with being able to say that a subject is complex beyond imagination. There never seems to be of shortage of people prepared to say, “the science is settled”.

      “Humility is a *practical* virtue that enables us to learn more and better than we would otherwise”. Judith likely smiled.

      GarryD

  33. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Judith Curry notes “I just came across a blog titled Big Questions Online, which features posts by two philosophers: Jack Copeland and Jay Wood.”

    Uhhh … who? It seems to me that these two philosophers have *PLENTY* to be humble about! \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\frown}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries???}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\frown}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    It’s more fruitful to study what practicing scientists, mathematicians, and engineers have written. And in this regard an essay that *REALLY* asks (and answers!) the tough questions is Richard Hamming‘s essay:

    YOU AND RESEARCH
    Richard Hamming, Bell Communications Research Seminar (1986)

    The Tough Question  Why do so few scientists make significant contributions and so many are forgotten in the long run?

    One of the characteristics of successful scientists is having courage. Once you get your courage up and believe that you can do important problems, then you can. If you think you can’t, almost surely you are not going to.

    Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest. Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity – it is very much like compound interest. I don’t want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate.

    There’s another trait on the side which I want to talk about; that trait is ambiguity. It took me a while to discover its importance. Most people like to believe something is or is not true. Great scientists tolerate ambiguity very well. They believe the theory enough to go ahead; they doubt it enough to notice the errors and faults so they can step forward and create the new replacement theory. If you believe too much you’ll never notice the flaws; if you doubt too much you won’t get started. It requires a lovely balance. But most great scientists are well aware of why their theories are true and they are also well aware of some slight misfits which don’t quite fit and they don’t forget it.

    The great scientists, when an opportunity opens up, get after it and they pursue it. They drop all other things. They get rid of other things and they get after an idea because they had already thought the thing through. Their minds are prepared; they see the opportunity and they go after it. Now of course lots of times it doesn’t work out, but you don’t have to hit many of them to do some great science. It’s kind of easy. One of the chief tricks is to live a long time!

    It is so easy, so why do so many people, with all their talents, fail? One of the reasons is drive and commitment. The people who do great work with less ability but who are committed to it, get more done that those who have great skill and dabble in it, who work during the
    day and go home and do other things and come back and work the next day. They don’t have the deep commitment that is apparently necessary for really first-class work.

    By Hamming’s criteria, James Hansen is a great scientist. His critics aren’t.

    It’s not complicated, being a great scientist. Neither is it easy, eh? A sincere “Happy New Year” to everyone on Climate Etc! \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • Great comment Fan.

      Judith should junk that drivel in the main post and replace it with this.

    • Fan

      Hansen was a good scientist but a GREAT one?

      His most interesting work (using data largely copied from GS Callendars 1938 paper) was this 1987 one;

      http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha00700d.html

      With the benefit of such studies as BEST we can put this work into its proper perspective as demonstrating that GISS is merely a staging post on the 350 year long temperature incline and not the starting post.

      http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/14/little-ice-age-thermometers-historic-variations-in-temperatures-part-3-best-confirms-extended-period-of-warming/

      We can also wonder why Hansen started it at the time he did, when a database commencing thirty years later would have included many more stations that were more on a level playing field as regards with methodology.

      Perhaps Hansen would concur that the world has many different climates as observed by Marcel Leroux? Which might help to explain the one third of the world that appears to be cooling, according to what criteria is applied to the local stations that make up the composite of BEST. We await a definitive study from Mosh on this.

      A very happy New year to you, in which your talent for creating a new generation of smilies might be developed at the expense of your ‘Fan’ worship of Dr Hansen.
      tonyb

      • tony b

        You start off with the statement:

        “Hansen was a good scientist…”

        This may well have been true until he became an advocate for a cause.

        The two just don’t mix very well.

        Max

      • Max

        That is why I used the word ‘was’. I mean no disrespect to Dr Hansen by suggesting that his best work is probably behind him, possibly because of his advocacy.

        tonyb

      • cr,

        does Judith’s advocacy have the same effect??

      • Michael

        You cite “Judith’s advocacy”.

        Hmmm…

        “Advocacy” for what?

        Where did you see this “advocacy” by Judith expressed?

        Please cite specific examples or viewers will conclude that you are just making stuff up.

        Max

      • Judith has said so herself – she wants to be influential in policy debate.

        What’s that if it’s not advocacy????

        Sorry to be rational. I know it gets in the way of beatification.

      • Remind me where/when I said that? I have stated that I am willing to engage in the policy process, at the science-policy interface.

      • Peculiar, Michael, how irrational you can get being rational.
        ===========

      • Oh, so deep!………and so contrived!!

        Oh dear.

      • Michael

        Being “influential” has nothing to do with being an “advocate” for a specific cause.

        Big difference.

        Max

      • Alright, alright, alright. Funny, Michael, how irrational you can get being rational.
        =========

      • Judith,

        ” I have arguably actively engaged in the climate policy process through my congressional testimonies on climate science”

        That’s not the quote I’m referring to, but it will do for starters (for Max). I’ll keep digging….

      • Yes keep digging. Providing invited congressional testimony is very different from actively trying to influence policy decisions, especially when you read what I actually wrote in my testimony.

      • Michael

        You say you will “keep digging”

        Let me give you some friendly advice.

        When you are in a deep hole (as you are with your argumentation) it’s better to stop “digging”.

        Max

      • Michael,

        No need to dig, all is out in the open:

        http://judithcurry.com/2010/12/09/testimony-followup-part-ii/

        There are even categories like policy and ethics, which should not be conflated with moralism.

        Also, please remind Judy that once one accepts an invitation and takes advantage of it, one has to own it, humbly or not.

      • Willard, thanks for reminding me of this, i wouldn’t change a word of what I wrote. My statements are about institutional problems at the science policy interface.

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        Tony said:

        “I mean no disrespect to Dr Hansen by suggesting that his best work is probably behind him, possibly because of his advocacy.”

        _____
        Trying to be objective, one must admit that for many scientists, their best work occurs earlier rather than later in their careers, regardless of whatever “advocacy” they might adopt along the way. In the case of Hansen, one must look at his fixation with catastrophic AGW as being an additional factor. Certainly, if one is in a theatre with their grandchildren and thinks they smell smoke, it is hard to continue to be objective about the overall experience. All one can do is focus on the smoke they think they smell.

      • Fresh from his performance as the donkey in the manger scene, Michael is back, braying as usual.

        Welcome back. And congrats on the rave reviews you received for authenticism in the role.

      • It’s not exactly how i remembered it, but here you go;

        ” The most rewarding (and possibly influential) aspect of the traffic that I do have is the quality of the comments (from say 30-40% of the commenters) and the influential positions of many of the people that do read it.” – JC

        Judith wants to discuss policy, Judith wants to be influential, but it’s everyone else who engages in that nasty ‘advocacy’.

        Judith – just forget the word games. There is nothing wrong with advocacy.

        Your attempts to tar others with the brush that you’ve coated yourself with, are increasingly silly.

      • Say Judith -

        Just out of curiosity – given your focus on quantifying uncertainty….

        While free market fundamentalism and “big oil” may have been a major source of skepticism in the past, the current dominant group of skeptics, enabled by the blogosphere, seeks accountability.

        Do you have any data to validate that statement, or is it just a feeling that you have? If you don’t have those data, have you considered how your own orientation in the debate might influence your feeling?

        Judith – perhaps if you could give us some way to understand what provokes the uncertainty monster to get up and leave the room, we might be able to better encourage him/her to stick around all the time?

    • Hamming rediscovered ancient wisdom, whereby courage was considered the necessary condition for all the virtues.

      Something about the fortitude to act against uncertainty.

      Wink wink.

      • well since we are always uncertain, whether we know it or not, and always acting, whether we choose to or not, we are always courageous. The definition needs some tightening. the fortitude to act “against uncertainity” needs to discriminate between types of actions and causes of uncertainty, otherwise it’s a rather hollow definition.

      • The fortitude to act entails volition, Mosh.

        Courage is the volition to act, not some kind of lukewarm doing by not doing.

        But you’re right: courage is less rare than Hamming presumes.

        Climate blog land shows a strong case for teaching humanities.

        At the very least, bloggers would be able to distinguish ethics from morals.

        Is talking about humility humble?

        Is it courageous?

        Moralism stinks.

      • steven mosher

        Your point is correct.

        But the problem we are facing here is not so much the “uncertainty” itself, but the fact that this “uncertainty” is being downplayed or ignored in order to “sell” a concept.

        Whether this is “uncertainty” on the side effects of a pharmaceutical product one wants to “sell” or “uncertainty” in the warming estimates supporting a carbon tax one wants to “sell” really doesn’t make much difference, does it?

        Caveat emptor.

        Max

      • Doing nothing sometimes requires the most courage. Take one for the team willard. I’m guessing you never took a hit for the greater good.
        Some days when I work with frightened people, I have to explain to them that the most courageous thing they can do is pause and not react. Take the hit. Or, stop struggling, and let go. Another example of where courage is defined not by doing, but simply by not doing. You would have to work with tough cases to see this. In my experience some of the bravest people I know did nothing, when their fear told them they had to act. Ah, yes, fight or flight would be doing something, let’s not forget that.

        On topic, of course their are things we shoudl have the courage to do immediately to fight global warming. That’s part of the lukewarmer message

      • Sure, Mosh. But in that case, refraining from doing something is not letting nature runs its course. Think Confucius, not Lao Tzu.

        Besides, thinking is certainly not doing nothing. Thinking burns lots of sugar. In fact, after playing in tournaments, chess grandmasters lose weight.

        Your example rightfully underlines that the situations where courage is needed usually trigger fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courage

        But to speak of courage, even in an epistemic setting, we also need to specify the **intention** it seeks to accomplish, starting with something like a generous will, or, as Comte-Sponville puts it:

        > Courage as a virtue always presupposes some form of selflessness, altruism or generosity. Virtuous courage certainly does not rule out a certain insensitivity to fear or even relish for it. But it does not presuppose them. This kind of courage is not the absence of fear but the capacity to overcome it by a stronger and more generous will.

        http://www.watershedonline.ca/roots/Courage/Courage.html

        The object of that will can be generalized to God, the Good, or Truth There’s not much difference between God and Good, at least if we trust Iris Murdoch. As long it’s something that comes from the heart and seeks the heart of the World (perhaps by way of Charity, if only to respect the Rule of Three) is fine by me.

        If the virtuous path starts with courage, we can surmise that all humble servants of Truth are nobly corrupted, in a way.

        ***

        Courage is even more important in the epistemological setting Judy’s promoting here, because the less our epistemic means are reliable, the more courage we need.

        Think of our cognitive apparatus as a car and prudence as its break. The less you trust your breaks, the more you rely on it to break at the last minute.

        Beware that below this image lies a logical point, even though the image itself should suffice to demonstrate why readers should be lukewarm about your brand.

      • The logical point seems to make more sense had I wrote:

        > The less you trust your breaks, the **less** you rely on it to break at the last minute.

        But then, mileage varies, I suppose.

      • Dont forget the wisdom of cliches.
        he who hesitates is lost
        look before you leap.
        dont go off half cocked
        dont just stand there do something
        go with the flow.

        why all the cliche’s around the nexus of knowledge and action. If knowledge or uncertainty entailed action or in action we wouldnt need cliches now would we?

        Is talking about humility humble?

        Of course. But no one would accept a humility award.
        can an atheist be humble is perhaps a more wicked question if we want to un hinge the conversation. let’s not.

        Is talking about humility humble?

      • If we were looking for entailments, Mosh, we’d use quantifiers. This is not impossible. For instance, Japanese subways systems make use of fuzzy logic to adjust the speed of its trains. There already exists control agents that can be humble enough to recognize that less precision entails more prudence.

        And no, Mosh, talking about humility is never humble, if only as a matter of courtesy. Not that it should concern you, as you already told Eli.

        Moralism stinks.

  34. I don’t see much humility in the comments by the Loony Left – the ideologues responsible for keeping CO2 emissions as high as they are!

    Global GDP increased 89.0% from 1990 to 2010.

    Isn’t this a wonderful result, nearly 100% increase in wealth in 2 decades. A real cause for celebration in terms of what it can translate to in terms of food & shelter, education, medical care, justice delivery, entertainment, and quality of life generally, especially since population has only increased by 30% in the same time. (The free market policies that give the peoples of the world these wonderful benefits are bitterly opposed by the Left ideologues of course)

    And isn’t it wonderful what 18 climate summits have achieved – a 44.5% increase in emissions, and just -0.8%. change in carbon intensity of energy over that 20 year period (this is not 0.8% per year, it’s just 0.8% change in 20 years). What do they call it when you keep doing the same thing while expecting a different result?

    Imagine how much better off we could be if the ‘Progressives’ and doomsayers had not been blocking progress for the past 50 years

    • I’d intended to post this comment at the end of this thread (after all the trashy, bitter comments)

  35. Judith Curry

    Thanks for an excellent essay on the virtue of “intellectual humility in science” and, conversely, the pitfalls of “arrogance” in science, as practiced by the IPCC through its consensus process.

    Three statements stuck out in my mind:

    When arrogance is institutionalized (e.g. the IPCC and AAAS have been criticized in this way), then the self correcting methods of science are put at risk.

    The wording, especially in the AR4 “Summary for Policymakers” report, is arrogant. It exaggerates certainty regarding the “consensus views” on AGW. It spends too much time referring to “scientific progress” or “large amounts of new and comprehensive data, more sophisticated analyses of data, improvements in understanding of processes and their simulation in models and more extensive exploration of uncertainty ranges”. Far too little mention is made of the large uncertainties inherent in climate science today, in particular relating to the attribution of climate changes to anthropogenic factors.

    The forced “consensus process” of IPCC has, indeed, put the “self correcting methods of science at risk”, by ignoring any scientific views and findings, which are contradictory to the “consensus” view.

    The scientists, universities, funding agencies, and professional societies seem to have a social contract whereby scientists with ‘flash’ are unduly rewarded. Unfortunately, this motivates scientists to work on the flashy low-hanging fruit topics (e.g. climate change impacts), rather than doing the deep, difficult, painstaking work to make progress on the fundamental challenges.

    A shining example here is all the effort and hoopla that has been put into showing that extreme weather events are a result of AGW (all to no real avail, as can be seen from the AR5 draft, which has been forced to back down on many of these claims made in AR4), while for years there was no real effort to constrain the “equilibrium climate sensitivity” (arguably the single most important concept behind the AGW premise) based on actual physical empirical observations. (Again, it appears that the recent Nic Lewis review comments to AR5 and the Schlesinger et al. 2012 study may have finally addressed this issue – after over 20 years – resulting in a much lower and narrower range, but it still remains to be seen how IPCC will handle this new information).

    While establishment climate science seems to have lost its capacity for surprise, I suspect that nature has some surprises in store for us.

    Amen! Hold on to your hat!

    Max

    • “arrogance is institutionalized”….says Judith humbly, pointing to those who dare to not agree with her.

      Irony black-hole.

      • Michael

        “arrogance is institutionalized”

        This statement makes perfect sense when applied to the IPCC and its forced “consensus process”.

        It does not make any sense when applied to our hostess here.

        She allows statements from all sorts of people who do not agree with her (including myself occasionally), but the IPCC “consensus process” arrogantly blocks out any dissenting scientific findings or views.

        That’s the difference, Michael, whether you are able to see it or not.

        Max

      • The IPCC reports details the evidence.

        No, ‘views’ sans evidence, don’t get much of a look in.

      • Michael

        Again, you miss the point. It’s not about “evidence”.

        There has been a lot of discussion of the IPCC forced “consensus process” and how it has corrupted climate science.

        This process results in studies, which dissent from the “consensus” view or conclusions, being rejected or simply ignored by IPCC, even if these dissenting studies are well-backed by “evidence”.

        I will cite a specific example.

        In AR4 SPM IPCC claims that the Antarctic Ice Sheet lost mass over the period 1993-2003 and that this mass loss very likely contributed to sea level rise of 0.21+/-0.35 mm/year over this time period. This corresponds to a claimed mass loss of 71 Gt/year.

        A report by Wingham et al. based on continuous satellite altimetry measurements over this entire time period showed that the AIS gained mass over the period. In the study, Wingham calculated a mass balance for the time period mid-April 1992 to mid-April 2003 and extended this to the whole AIS by adding estimates for the areas that were not measurable by satellite altimetry (near the coast line and polar regions). The study concluded that the AIS had gained 27 Gt/year mass over the time period.

        Wingham’s conclusion of 27 Gt/year mass gain is clearly not compatible with the IPCC claim of 71 Gt/year mass loss over the same time period.

        Yet IPCC ignored the Wingham study, which was well-backed by empirical data, and stuck with its contradictory claim, which was not.

        There are several other examples of the same rejection of dissenting views and studies by IPCC.

        Max

      • Max,

        Could you be humble enough to even consider that you don’t understand the process of weighing of evidence and that not every single study is correct?

      • Michael

        Would you be humble enough to agree that in this specific case you were wrong, and that IPCC ignored compelling scientific “evidence” that was out there, because it dissented from its “consensus” opinion?

        Max

      • Oh yes, it is absolutely possible – but at least I understand the process of evaluating and weighing evidence.

        The existence of one paper saying something different to many others, does make it automatically right (or wrong), something the, ahem, ‘sceptics’ don’t, or won’t, get.

  36. Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}

    Judith,

    Society puts their TRUST into our scientists that they are looking out for the best interest of humanity(society?).
    What will happen if that TRUST is proven NOT to be the best interest of society BUT of the individual?

  37. Socrates … or Michael Mann?

    Beth Cooper.

  38. Maybe I caused the nesting problem by replying to Michaels first SOD comment while it was at the bottom of the comments section.

    If so, I humbly apologise

  39. Is humility a slave moral, a noble moral, or both?

  40. Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}

    Judith,

    Interesting Paradox…

    You cannot go to an institution with any updated or new science unless you have a government grant and you cannot get a government grant unless you belong to an approved institution.

  41. Hi Judy – Your comment at the end of the post is right on the mark. I recommend you consider submitting to EOS so that it can have an even wieder readership.

    Roger

  42. Judith, you write “I suspect that nature has some surprises in store for us.”

    I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Herman Kahn, of the Hudson Institute. WWTE.

    “Nothing would be more surprising than that nothing surprising is going to happen”.

  43. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    ClimateReason claims “[James Hansen]‘s most interesting work work (using data largely copied from GS Callendars 1938 paper) was this 1987 one [Global trends of measured surface air temperature];”

    LOL … ClimateReason, why is *that* article the most interesting of Hansen’s articles?

    Aren’t folks who focus solely upon pure-data climate-models articles as “most interesting” functioning as lame-duck skeptics who assign a Bayesian prior weight of zero to the thermodynamical analyses of Hansen’s most-cited articles, of which the top five are:

    • Charlson, Hansen et al, 1992, Climate forcing by anthropogenic aerosols

    • Hansen and Travis, 1974: Light scattering in planetary atmospheres

    • Lacis and Hansen, 1974: A parameterization for the absorption of solar radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere.

    • Hansen, Sato, and Ruedy, 1997: Radiative forcing and climate response.

    • Hansen et al. 1983: Efficient three-dimensional global models for climate studies: Models I and II.

    By the way, of GISS top-50 articles (by citation), James Hansen has far more articles (16), spanning a far broader range of topics, than any other single author.

    Pretty obviously, by the objective weight of evidence, and by Richard Hamming’s criteria, James Hansen is a d*mn influential scientist. And if it should happen, that Hansen’s prediction of “acceleration of sea-level rise this decade” comes true, then the harsh-yet-righteous verdict of scientific history will be that Hansen is a great one … largely for Hansen’s judicially positive Bayesian weighting of the predictions of radiation transport theory.

    Isn’t that correct, ClimateReason? \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • Fan

      I said it was the most interesting, but it was also the most influential as it brought to the fore Giss/global temperatures.

      However it becomes more interesting but less influential if you accept that the evidence seems to be accumulating that the Hansen 1880 commencement date was merely a ‘staging post’ marking an upward trend already at least some 150 years old by 1880, rather than the ‘starting post’ that demonstrated the upwards trend started around that time and was precipiated by increasing co2 levels. Which do you want to agree with Fan, a staging post or starting post?
      tonyb

      • I sometimes wonder what ‘sceptics’ actually think their comments look like when read by others. This dismal squeak in ‘response’ to FOMD is painful to behold and you should simply have held it in. It does no good at all to engage a serious commenter with blatant tripe. In fact it is hugely counter-productive.

        Now that’s been said – and it needed saying – I think you should be very careful assigning causality for modern warming to ‘recovery from the LIA’. Absent sufficient forcing change across the entire period (and it is absent) this reasoning implies a previous, ‘ideal’ state to which the climate is ‘recovering’. There isn’t one. The ‘recovery’ meme is another nonsense claim.

      • Error:

        Should be:

        “Absent sufficient change in natural forcing across the entire period (and it is absent)…”

      • BBD, first you don’t know the net natural forcing. You (and the consensus) can pretend that you do, but it’s still pretending and not real. Second, it doesn’t take a continuous forcing change to cause warming – a constant positive forcing ‘anomaly’ will suffice.

      • BBD

        Sorry, what was your point? Hansen created an interesting paper that I referenced. It is seen as marking the begiuning of the global temperature rise and as such is also highly influential. That no longer appears to be the case so it remains interesting but would no longer be as influential.

        BBD said;

        “I think you should be very careful assigning causality for modern warming to ‘recovery from the LIA’. Absent sufficient forcing change across the entire period (and it is absent) this reasoning implies a previous, ‘ideal’ state to which the climate is ‘recovering’. There isn’t one. The ‘recovery’ meme is another nonsense claim.”

        These are your comments not mine. By placing marks round ‘recovery from the LIA’ and mentioning an ‘ideal’ state and ‘recovering’ you are implying they are my direct quotes. I said nothing of the sort. Perhaps we should have enough humility to contemplate that we are as yet unaware of all ‘the forcing changes’ that cause considerable natural variabilty?

        I observe. I will leave it to you and others to come up with theories but please quote me accurately and do not try to put words in my mouth. Thank you.
        tonyb
        .

      • tonyb

        Sorry, what was your point? Hansen created an interesting paper that I referenced. It is seen as marking the begiuning of the global temperature rise and as such is also highly influential. That no longer appears to be the case so it remains interesting but would no longer be as influential.

        My point is that you are attempting to conflate warming prior to 1880 with warming post-1880 which is scientifically incoherent.

        Now you are pretending that you aren’t, which is tiresome and feeble in equal measure.

      • BBD

        Sorry, I have lost track of what you are claiming. You try to put words into my mouth then back off and start down another road.

        You say

        ‘My point is that you are attempting to conflate warming prior to 1880 with warming post-1880 which is scientifically incoherent.’

        Do I understand from this that you believe 1880 to be the point which marked when a different type of warming commenced that was somehow different to the pre 1880 period? All I am pointing out is that 1880 was merely one point along the warming road. I make no claim that pre and post 1880 had different types of warming.
        tonyb

      • BBD

        The “recovery from the LIA claim” (as you put it) simply states that we were in a period of harsher climate, which lasted several centuries, and was apparently triggered by a prolonged period of very low solar activity, and our climate began to recover from this colder period some time during the 19th century, when the modern temperature record started.

        Since the early part of this recovery occurred before there were any significant human GHG emissions, it can very likely be attributed to natural forcing factors.

        That’s pretty much it in a nutshell, BBD.

        Sounds logical to me.

        Do you have a problem with it?

        Max

      • tonyb

        Do I understand from this that you believe 1880 to be the point which marked when a different type of warming commenced that was somehow different to the pre 1880 period?

        If we avoid the specific date 1880, then yes. I would be happier to say that ‘C20th climate change’ is increasingly influenced by anthropogenic GHG emissions as the century progresses.

        All I am pointing out is that 1880 was merely one point along the warming road. I make no claim that pre and post 1880 had different types of warming.

        Exactly what I said: you are attempting to *conflate* the two periods into a single ‘warming road’ stretching back to the mid-1700s. This is the foundation for the specious argument that climate change in the second half of the C20th is part of a long-term phenomenon. Remember that this requires that the laws of physics underpinning the greenhouse effect must be ignored or suspended when we consider the most likely cause of modern warming.

        For some reason Manacker cannot see this. Perhaps he doesn’t know what ‘conflate’ means.

      • BBD

        So ‘around’ 1880 is the so called tipping point, as from then on the climate is increasingly affected by mans co2 emissions, whereas before that date it wasn’t to any noticeable extent. Is that a fair summary?

        Do you not think it would be helpful in framing the wider debate if the climate was more regularly seen in its historic context and to show that the rise in temperatures started hundreds of years earlier and didnt shoot up ‘around’ 1880 as demonstrated in Dr Manns work?

        I am perfectly happy for you to argue that the physics of co2 started to become important around 1880 and wish that more people would do that instead of trying to insist that todays circumstances are unprecedented.

        tonyb

      • tonyb

        Do you not think it would be helpful in framing the wider debate if the climate was more regularly seen in its historic context and to show that the rise in temperatures started hundreds of years earlier and didnt shoot up ‘around’ 1880 as demonstrated in Dr Manns work?

        It’s always good to provide context. Millennial climate variability is an essential part of the ‘framing’. As is the concept of radiative balance. The understanding that different things have caused climate to change at different times is also essential context.

        We just need to avoiding misleading *conflations*.

        I am perfectly happy for you to argue that the physics of co2 started to become important around 1880 and wish that more people would do that instead of trying to insist that todays circumstances are unprecedented.

        Many people do argue that the radiative properties of CO2 started to become important around 1880 and that current circumstances are unprecedented. Only consider this pretty picture and its source.

      • BBD

        The humbling fact for any true “warmisto” (like you?) is that there were significant periods of warming and cooling of our climate BEFORE there were any appreciable human GHG emissions.

        Oh horrors!

        Natural climate forcing factors?

        How distressing!

        It relegates AGW to the “just another cause” category and not the alpha and omega of climatology. Very humbling, indeed.

        Even more humbling is the fact that the GCMs cannot explain all the natural forcing factors that are at work.

        Ouch!

        Max

        PS I am truly sorry for you that this causes you pain. Try a couple of glasses of good red wine – they should calm you down.

      • manacker

        The humbling fact for any true “warmisto” (like you?) is that there were significant periods of warming and cooling of our climate BEFORE there were any appreciable human GHG emissions.

        Oh horrors!

        Natural climate forcing factors?

        How distressing!

        It relegates AGW to the “just another cause” category and not the alpha and omega of climatology. Very humbling, indeed.

        CO2 isn’t the alpha and omega of climatology. That’s a particularly crude strawman. Especially as a key point I made to tonyb is that CO2 forcing is one among many, and different forcings were responsible for different things at different times. Please, go back and read what I said in my previous comment.

        The unusual thing about the recent period is that GHG forcing is rapidly increasing, is unprecedented during the Holocene (see previous comment), and is emerging (slowly, discontinuously, interrupted by natural variability) as the dominant climate forcing. This is why it is very likely to result in significant warming by the end of this century.

        I’ve noticed that your commentary is getting sloppier and more confused. In fact it is frequently virtually indistinguishable from trolling. It is not always better to say something than to say nothing. Your apparent need to ‘answer back’ does you exactly no favours, so think carefully before responding. Preferably don’t. Wait for a more opportune moment to contribute something of interest.

      • BBD

        Thanks for your last contribution (although I’m not sure it would qualify as contributing “something of interest”).

        You seemed to berate tony b for saying that a part of the warming observed since 1850 has been a natural recovery from a well-documented previous colder period, called the Little Ice Age.

        A natural recovery implies that natural forcing factors are at play, even if the mechanisms for all these factors may not yet be fully known.

        You are right when you say that climate forcing from human GHG emissions are only one factor among others.

        This is essentially what tony b was saying all along, by the way.

        You now say, however,

        The unusual thing about the recent period is that GHG forcing is rapidly increasing, is unprecedented during the Holocene (see previous comment), and is emerging (slowly, discontinuously, interrupted by natural variability) as the dominant climate forcing.

        Whether AGW is “the dominant climate forcing” today is a matter of conjecture (it certainly has not been so over the past 15 years or so). That this forcing is “rapidly increasing” is not at all evident when looking at the climate record.

        But I think we have beaten this dog to death, unless you have “something of interest” to add.

        Max

      • manacker

        Three possibilities:

        - You haven’t read this thread properly

        - You have, but didn’t understand what I wrote

        - You are trolling me.

  44. Who is Richard Windsor?

    Here’s a clue: serious scientists don’t do Twitter.

  45. “Flock of Dodos” – still available thru Netflix.

  46. The Skeptical Warmist

    This general topic of humility for scientists leading to scientific insight is the exact reason that I keep the word skeptical in front of “warmist”. Yes, I think it highly likely that humans are warming the Earth system but I am always open to other possibilities, and in fact, as a skeptic, actively seek out other plausible explanations.

    Curiosity is the underlying force behind scientific advancement, and once someone believes they know the answer to a question (and must communicate that answer to non-scientists), they can tend to stop being curious about it, and fall into the storytelling and even confirmation bias traps. At that point the science ends and the chance for true advancement.

    • Hi Gates
      Hope you had a good Xmas.
      Curiosity killed the Catastrophic AGW idea

      http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/EMFspectrum.htm

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        Vuk,

        Hope you had a great holiday as well. I don’t currently ascribe to the idea of anthropogenic catastrophic global warming but I also don’t think that you can claim the idea is “killed” (in as much as ideas can ever be killed). I think it depends also on how you want to define “catastrophic”. Is is the death of all life on Earth? Is it the death of 60% 70% 80% of all species (i.e. such as PETM extinction event). Is it simply the disruption of the primary functions of human civilization? The point is- let’s define what we mean by “catastrophic”. But again, however you define it, I don’t currently see any of those as likely, but neither do I think that they are “killed” as being possible either for certainly humans do have the capacity to disrupt the global ecosystems and the primary functions of civilization.

      • Skeptical

        Sorry for cutting in on your exchange with Vuc about the “meaning” of “catastrophic” in “CAGW”.

        Let’s say it is exactly that which IPCC has predicted in its AR4 report – no more, no less.

        IOW let’s leave aside any of the more far fetched “catastrophes” predicted by the likes of James E. Hansen or other extremists, i.e. “tipping points” possibly leading to “Venus runaway conditions”, “sea level rising by several meters in this century”, “extinction of species”, etc. and just use the less extreme IPCC definition of “CAGW”.

        “CAGW” is the IPCC premise that:

        1. human GHGs have been the cause of most of the observed warming since ~1950 [AR4 WGI SPM, p.10]

        2. this reflects a model-predicted 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 3.2°C±0.7°C [AR4 WGI Ch.8, p.633]

        3. this represents a serious potential threat to humanity and our environment from anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the range of 1.8°C to 6.4°C by the end of this century with increase in global sea level of up to 0.59 meters [AR4 WGI SPM, p.13]

        4. resulting in increased severity and/or intensity of heat waves, heavy precipitation events, droughts, tropical cyclones and extreme high sea levels [AR4 WGI SPM, p.8],

        5. with resulting flooding of several coastal cities and regions, crop failures and famines, loss of drinking water for millions from disappearing glaciers, intensification and expansion of wildfires, severe loss of Amazon forests, decline of corals, extinction of fish species, increase in malnutrition, increase in vector borne and diarrheal diseases, etc. [AR4 WGII]

        6. unless world-wide actions are undertaken to dramatically curtail human GHG emissions (principally CO2) [AR4 WGIII]

        That’s pretty much “CAGW” in a nutshell, as IPCC has defined it in AR4, Skeptical.

        Max

        )

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        Max,

        That’s useful to remind us of the AR4 definitions of “catastrophic”. The term gets thrown around so much that sometimes I think some might assume it means the Hansen run-away GH exclusively, without regard to other positions. I could accept several of those as likely without it being “catastrophic”.

  47. Intellectual humility and a tendency towards climate alarmism are mutually exclusive.

    • The Skeptical Warmist

      J Martin:

      This is true only if there is not a set of true reasons for alarmism. If you’re in a crowded theatre and you think you smell smoke, you owe it to your fellow theatre goers to warn them. In this regard, many really don’t get the fact that scientists like Hansen truly believe we face a catastrophe ahead unless we promptly reverse course. As a grandfather, he is concerned for future generations and the world we leave him. Hansen has very little to gain, (and in his mind, much to lose for his grandchildren’s future) by not warning of catastrophe. Hansen may or may not be actually “smelling smoke”, but he believes he is, and is trying his best to warn people and living authentically in this regard.

      • I had Mann and Santer primarily in mind, though there is no shortage of others such a description would apply to.

        Hansen certainly gives the impression of being sincere, getting arrested etc. But pursuing a simplistic magic bullet (co2) in such a complex system can only end in disappointment and even runs a risk of turning out to be the very opposite of what he might at first have expected.

        Sincere and well motivated or not Hansen should retire and spend more time with his grandchildren, he can’t have many years left now.

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        J Martin,

        I can agree with your point to a point, but I must look also at other success stories where scientists became advocates and it was a good thing they did. Specifically, the story of the discovery of the destruction of ozone by CFC’s comes to mind. It seems clear that is was a good thing that the CFC/ozone link was dicovered and that those who discovered it became advocates for doing something about it. This fixation might have caused them to become less effective at discovering other things, but perhaps that is the price that scientists might have to pay if they end up discovering something that could potentially be very harmful (or beneficial?) to humanity. Their careers become defined by this discovery and they may, willingly or unwillingly be sucked into advocacy roles based on this discovery. Hansen’s story is still being written, and though he may no longer be considered “objective” because of his advocacy role, along with other scientists who are similarly positioned on the issue, whether this turns out to be a foolish sacrifice of their scientific objectivity or not wil be for the future to decide.

  48. which climate scientists are right now complaining that Judith just wrote a post about them?

    • It’s just not the same without Jagger. Mick Jagger singing back up about someone else’s vanity. Always loved the irony of that.

  49. I am surprised to learn that epistemology is now about how much humility a scientist should have? What is offered seems like a Goldilocks version, or just enough to fight for the truth but not enough to miss the truth, or some such. This is arguably not useful. I suggest that when it comes to science humility in the face of nature is very different from humility in the face of other people. These are two very different processes.

    • Matthew R Marler

      David Wojick: This is arguably not useful.

      Can “humility” even be measured independently of other traits? With such a measure, has any body shown a relationship between measured “humility” and measured “greatness”? Can scientific greatness be measured, aside from the selection of a few geniuses in incommensurable fields (astronomy, microbiology)?

      Unless someone has shown that the answers to the questions are “Yes”, I would argue even more that this is completely empty.

  50. On a slightly different theme (but closely related to “humility”), it is valuable be aware of the Dunning-Kruger Effect:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

    The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes….
    This pattern was seen in studies of skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis.

    I would suggest the same applies to science. The physics behind “the greenhouse effect” (eg 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, thermal radiation, the adiabatic lapse rate, or quantization of molecular vibrations) are not simple concepts. It is easy for someone to THINK they understand when indeed they don’t. This applies to pretty much anyone — from the researcher sure that their model is sufficient to make predictions, down to the random internet commenter claiming that IR from the atmosphere to the the ground violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

    Of course, the very lack of metacognition that leads to the Dunning-Kruger Effect means that those suffering from it are not likely to realize they might be suffering from it! :-)

    • Dang! I missed the end of the blockquote tag after

      “This pattern was seen in studies of skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis.”

    • Instead of the adiabatic lapse rate, it would be better to say that the environmental lapse rate is part of the physics behind “the greenhouse effect”. The adiabatic lapse rate doesn’t appear to actually exist anywhere in nature, not even in the lab.

      The physics of how the adiabatic lapse rate relates to the environmental lapse rate is a weakness when prognosticating the extent of “the greenhouse effect”.

  51. Willis Eschenbach

    tallbloke | December 27, 2012 at 8:09 am |

    Willis Eschenbach | December 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm |

    So your objection to Newton is that his rules are only accurate for objects moving at a small fraction of the speed of light.

    Read what I wrote, or even better, quote what I wrote. That’s something you vociferously insist on when others try to put words in your mouth isn’t it Willis?.

    My bad, tallbloke … but I don’t know any other meaning for “heuristic” other than “approximate” or “not valid at all times”. Rather than put words in your mouth, I am trying to understand your words. So when you say “we’re still stuck with the heuristics he developed”, it certainly sounds like you are objecting to the fact that they are heuristics, that they are not applicable at relativistic speeds, or that they give answers that are wrong by a quintillionth of a percent at normal speeds.

    My objection is that others have taken Newton’s heuristics and elevated them to the status of ‘derived from first principles’ laws, which they are not.

    OK, that makes your objection clear … wrong, but at least clear.

    Certainly they are Laws, why would they not be? Like all laws, you have to apply them in the region where they apply. For example, you can’t apply American highway laws to Germany, and you can’t apply Newton’s Laws to relativistic speeds … but that doesn’t mean that American laws are somehow heuristics.

    That then leads to all sorts of confusions, including Svalgaards misapprehensions of how extended bodies in ‘freefall’ behave.

    Wouldn’t know … but when you butt heads with Leif, I know who I’ll bet on. However, claiming that Leif is wrong because he has elevated Newton’s Laws to the status of Laws, well, you’re gonna have to show the axles and sprockets driving that chain of logic …

    However, next time I see Leif, I’ll tell him that you think that Newton’s Laws should be called “Newton’s Heurisitics” or “Isaac’s Really Close Approximations” or “Ike’s Awesome Ideas That Apply Almost Everywhere”, or something like that.

    Seriously … you’re claiming that Leif is wrong because he thinks Newton’s Law is a law that applies everywhere except at relativistic speeds? How did that lead him wrong?

    w.

    • Hi Willis.
      A heuristic formula give results which approximate to observation, but which are not in themselves compounded of terms which relate in any idetic way to the underlying reality. Case in point, Newton’s (and everyone else’s since) tidal equations.

      They kinda sorta nearly work for Earth’s oceans, at Earth’s distances from Moon and Sun, but applying them to other astronomical bodies is risky, because we don’t know how much further wrong they’ll be compared to how wrong they are for Earth.

      Newton himself knew that his equations of motion only apply well to hard, elastic point like bodies. These qualities do not characterise the highly mobile, plasticly deformng plasma in the surface layers of the Sun. Nonetheless Leif insist on applying them there as a way of discounting the possibilty of planet-Sun interaction.

      Leif shows little humility in the face of a tremendous lack of human knowledge, and applys ‘laws’ which work OK on Earth in situations we can’t accurately define. Consequently, he has failed to appreciate the insights of those others who are humbly approaching the study of planet-Sun interactions with an open mind and a better suited toolkit.

      His bombastic dismissal of other peoples research puts me in mind of another person with similar traits. You.

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Ya know, tallbloke, I was actually going to engage in a perhaps pleasant scientific discussion with you about Newton and heuristics, until I got to the end of your post and you reverted to type and couldn’t resist going miles out of your way to slime me in the last sentence.

        After that charming descent of yours into unprovoked nastiness, you won’t be playing the scientific discussion game with me, so I guess you’ll have to go back to your usual behavior … playing with yourself …

        Anyhow, I wish you well with that, and the only thing I might advise are regular visits to the optometrist, just to be on the safe side.

        w.

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        Willis Eschenbach  posts: “After that charming descent of yours into unprovoked nastiness …

        Uhhh … pot, meet kettle, Willis? \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries???}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

        Gee, is skeptic-land running short of rational discourse, maybe? \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries???}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • Willis Eschenbach

        A fan of *MORE* discourse | December 28, 2012 at 9:15 pm |

        Willis Eschenbach posts: “After that charming descent of yours into unprovoked nastiness …“

        Uhhh … pot, meet kettle, Willis?

        Let me get this straight. I hadn’t said a single thing to provoke tallbloke. He attacked me. That’s called “unprovoked nastiness”, Fan.

        So I respond to him, and you want to jump into the middle of someone else’s discussion to attack me? Man, your chutzpah is only matched by your lack of politeness and your inappropriate behavior.

        Fan, tallbloke attacked me without provocation when I had not said a single word to him. Since you haven’t commented on that, and it is quite obvious, I have to conclude that the reason you haven’t commented is that you haven’t noticed it … which means in turn that your cranium still must not have emerged from your fundamental orifice after that last tragic episode involving the midget prostitute and the circus elephant … or wasn’t I supposed to mention that?

        Or maybe you have pulled your head out since then, but it all still seems blindingly bright out here to you after all that darkness.

        In any case, piss off. Go away. You are neither wanted, needed, or welcome in my conversation with Roger. If tallbloke wants to answer my post, or if he chooses not to answer, he’s a grown man, and a smart one, he’s fully capable of defending himself, and that’s between him and me. Rog and I have been carrying on this conversation for a while, and your big nose in the middle of someone else’s business is just gonna get in the way.

        w.

      • Yet Newton’s laws work well for tides in the not-so-hard oceans and are employed by [as invoked by you] Wolff-Patrone and Abrey et al. Perhaps you throw them under the bus too for applying ‘laws’ they shouldn’t. Go figure.

  52. Humility of the consensus climate scientists is inversely proportional to global temperature anomaly indices.

  53. The selectivity of Judith’s observations are always quite interesting.

    The scientists, universities, funding agencies, and professional societies seem to have a social contract whereby scientists with ‘flash’ are unduly rewarded. Unfortunately, this motivates scientists to work on the flashy low-hanging fruit topics (e.g. climate change impacts), rather than doing the deep, difficult, painstaking work to make progress on the fundamental challenges.

    So not only does she select out some elevation of “flash” among scientists, university, funding agencies, and professional societies, but further, particularly with some scientists as opposed to others. The fact that she finds that trait disproportionately among those who disagree with her scientific analysis is coincidental, of course.

    It is at the point where you only need to read the first couple of sentences of many of Judith’s post. If her topic is about some undesirable phenomenon: arrogance, lack of humility, exaggeration, over-certainty, appeal to authority, hyperbole, intolerance, inappropriate activism, politicization of science, etc., it is inevitably going to be disproportionately present amongst those who disagree with her on the science.

    Good guys vs. bad guys. Anything negative is only seen amongst the bad guys. Reminds me of the comic books I read as a kid.

    • The Skeptical Warmist

      True it is that the teeth of the uncertainty monster can cut both ways, yet at least Judith is willing to speak about it and the importance of its existence in terms of policy. As a result, there is a lot more balanced conversation here then you’ll get at some other blogs.

      • A comparison of the partisanship of Judy and of Joshua is useful and instructive. Maybe that’s why he’s so bitter.
        ==============

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        Could be. Don’t ever try to guess why people are the way they are as I can barely even fathom my own true motivations. The unconscious mind is a tricky thing…

      • My guess as to why you are the way you are is that you contemplate your own true motivations.

        Heh, gnothi seauton.

        ps, you seem a most credible warmista.
        =================

      • True it is that the teeth of the uncertainty monster can cut both ways, yet at least Judith is willing to speak about it and the importance of its existence in terms of policy.

        I will never criticize Judith for exploring the boundaries of uncertainty. It is fundamental to valid reasoning, IMO. Kudos to Judith.

        I will criticize her for her inconsistent attitude towards uncertainty, and her blind eye to “skeptics” when they distort the uncertainty acknowledged by “realists.” In that way does not building bridges lie, IMO.

      • Joshua,

        You’re too kind.

        This blog is little more than an attention seeking device.

        Hey, look at me! Listen to me!

        How else to explain the vapid, superficial topics like this post??

      • Michael -

        How else to explain the vapid, superficial topics like this post?

        I don’t have enough information to attribute motivation. This goes back to the difference between motivation and motivated reasoning.

        I think that sometimes Judith’s reasoning, at least as she presents it on this blog and in her advocacy within the scientific and political communities – particularly when she moves away from the more technical aspects of the scientific debate – reflects motivated reasoning. The evidence, IMO, is the selectivity of her criticisms, her willingness to assert conclusions without validated supporting data, her willingness to disproportionately assign very human attributes – that very obviously affect us all – to those who disagree with her about the science, etc. I have no reason to believe (without knowing her personally) that her motivations are any different than those of anyone else in the debate; a motivation to find valid answers, motivation to reach valid scientific conclusions, a motivation to accurately quantify uncertainty, a motivation to root out science that is invalidated by partisan loyalties, a motivation to be “right.” The underlying mechanisms of motivated reasoning are not more prevalent on one side of the debate than the other, IMO.

      • While I never allude to anyone’s motives, the use of fuzzy topics such as humility is one reason why Judith’s blog is so phenomenally successful. If she had just stuck to pure science, the number of commenters and comments would be just a fraction of what she currently enjoys.

      • the use of fuzzy topics such as humility is one reason why Judith’s blog is so phenomenally successful.

        I agree. These types of topics are interesting – and it isn’t as if they aren’t already part of the dialog; certainly we have seen charges flying back and forth w/r/t arrogance and lack of humility. An attempt to take a scientific approach to examining these issues is certainly worthwhile.

        But I think there is a problem when the science of the approach is superficial. I’m reminded of Judith’s selectivity in examining the fallacy of “appeal to authority,” or her alternate application and then derision of the concepts of motivated reasoning and confirmation bias. (As we saw when Judith posted about Kahan’s examination of motivated reasoning in the climate debate, and focused on a minor and insignificant finding of his study (that “skeptics” were found to be insignificantly more scientifically “literate”) while ignoring the major and significant finding (that political, cultural, ideological predisposition predicts orientation in the climate debate, and that more knowledge about the subject seems to only lead to deeper confirmation bias).

    • The selectivity of Judith’s observations are always quite interesting

      the selectivity of Joshua’s observations tend to be boring and predictable.

      He is Mr. “yes but’ in the extreme. Guess what, you get to be narrow and pedestrian in your evaluation of Judith. She too has a right to her selectivity. It happens to be more interesting to see someone inside the science community take her peers to task than it is to see those outside the community take them to task. Put another way, gavin criticising Judith is way more interesting than you criticizing her. Just as Willis criticizing skeptics would be way more interesting than me criticizing skeptics. Housecleaning is way more interesting than throwing rocks at other peoples windows.

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        Steven Mosher said:

        “It happens to be more interesting to see someone inside the science community take her peers to task than it is to see those outside the community take them to task.”

        ____
        Yes, well put, and way more productive as well if accurate science with accurate uncertainty ranges and effective Primum non nocere policies are the desired goals.

      • Actually, Mosher, what first attracted me to Climate Etc. was my interest in Judith’s criticism of those “inside the science community.”

        After hanging here a while, and given what I came to understand as Judith’s orientation, what I would find more interesting at this point is to see is her criticism of the “skeptic” community, or the “lukewarmer” community, with some form of specificity.

        I’m a nothing. Judith is a playa. But the true measure of a playa is the quality of her game. Indeed, just as my comments are predictable, so are Judith’s. Admit it – as soon as I saw the title of her post, could you have not predicted the gist of her editorial comment?

        I don’t expect you to find my comments interesting, although it is curious how much focus you seem to put on the comments of someone you find so boring.

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        There is some useful role in checking those who are the “checkers”, and thus Joshua and others who question Judith’s fairness and balance act as a sort of quality control to the overall balance and appeal toward uncertainty that Judith provides. That Climate Etc. maintains a nice balance of denizens is testimony to the overall success of Judith’s strategy. So long as he keeps it professional, Judith should appreciate the services that Joshua and others provide. It would have been useful if the IPCC had such a feedback process.

      • I agree with R Gates that Joshua and others have a legitimate role to play in keeping commenters on their toes. I would prefer, however, that only key points need to be clarified and that many minor errors of logic should just go through to the keeper.

      • Peter – how should I evaluate the significance of errors?. Keep in mind, that the criterion used, ideally, should be consistent on both sides and applied evenly within reason (i.e., with reasonable consideration of mitigating factors such as degree of influence).

        As one example, should i distinguish one under-evaluation of uncertainty from another? When a “skeptic” treats “skeptics” as monolithic, less of a logical error than when a “warmist” does so? When Judith generalizes about “skeptics” without any attempt to validate her assertion, is it less of an error than when a “warmist” does so? When Judith extolls the value of blog commentary, and doesn’t even examine whether there might be any downside, let alone put forth a comprehensive argument why there is no downside, is that an insignificant logical error?

      • Joshua, the issue of uncertainty is to my mind an important one and worthy of our attention. What are “minor” errors and how much significance we should attach to them you ask? I am not sure how to answer that question except to say that I just recognise them to be of no importance when I see them.

        Let me suggest that many commenters here should learn to keep their posts succinct, certainly less frequent, never repetitive and strictly to the point of the head post. IMO there are too many commenters here that over expose themselves and their views and as a result fill this blog with too much puffery.

        I leave to each reader to reflect whether the foregoing paragraph applies to them or not because I will never cast the first stone by naming names and in view of the fact that I too, would have been guilty of some of the misdemeanors that have been mentioned above.

      • I don’t think your suggestion would be good for business, Peter, and you have to admit having fun watching some of it from time to time.

      • Willard I must confess that I am easily distracted and indeed find some of the exchanges fun to watch. I perhaps could have mentioned another trait that I dislike in blogging: that of butting into ongoing exchanges. I find this to be rude.

      • BTW Willard, the above comment in no way suggests that you have been rude, just sayin’…

      • Joshua,

        Sadly you engage in the same behavior at keith kloors and at rogers.
        on the one hand, I think Judith, Keith, and roger do benefit from good criticism. So, I would not want to deny them that benefit. However, you are a bore. Predictable. Shallow ,with a limited range. If you were clever and incisive like willard, that would be one thing. But you are whiny and bitchy, a kibitzing nag. Tell me your relatives havent mentioned this

      • Steven -

        However, you are a bore. Predictable. Shallow ,with a limited range. …you are whiny and bitchy, a kibitzing nag.

        If that is how you feel, then why do you respond to my posts so often? And in particular, why the constant focus on my personal attributes (animosity)?

        Tell me your relatives havent mentioned this

        Not even remotely true. Yet another example of misplaced confidence in a flawed analysis. Reminds me of your blather about how you could see through a “window into [my] soul.”

        The point is, steven, your judgement about me personally matters not a whit to me. I post what I post because I choose to do so. Your attacks have no limiting effect. It’s rather like Peter Lang’s criticisms. More amusing than anything else.

        So tell me, why do you bother? I decipher any logical reason. Very curious. Is it somehow to score brownie points with Judith or “skeptics?”

      • Dear lord, Mosher has lost his mind:

        If you were clever and incisive like willard, that would be one thing.

      • Joshua

        “If that is how you feel, then why do you respond to my posts so often? And in particular, why the constant focus on my personal attributes (animosity)?

        1. I respond to your posts because I hold out hope that you might correct your ways.
        2. I respond to your posts because you are wrong, the same way i respond to jim cripwell, and manaker, and springer.

        3. I focus on your personal failings because unlike other people here who
        A) try to understand the science
        B) stay on topic
        C) say interesting things,

        You,
        A) are proud of your scientific ignorance
        B) always attack the host, REGARDLESS of the topic (see keith and roger)
        C) leave us nothing to talk about except your personal failings.

        is that clear enough. you are a bore and a nag. Once or twice and we get it. boring. predictable. Dear jesus your as predictable as the iron sun guy. you need a new schtick. kapeesh, boobie

        C)

      • steven -

        1. I respond to your posts because I hold out hope that you might correct your ways.

        I disagree with your perspective. I don’t agree that there is something for me to “correct.” I think that the argument that you present to me on this, that you have presented over and over, is wrong.

        You think that repeating that argument to me, along with insulting me (as you have done consistently and from the very start), is the way to convince me of something? You are wrong. And your approach is highly illogical.

        A) are proud of your scientific ignorance
        B) always attack the host, REGARDLESS of the topic (see keith and roger)

        I disagree with quite a few of Judith’s arguments. I don’t engage with her arguments about the science. I engage her with arguments about her reasoning, and usually with respect to her reasoning about issues not directly related to the science. As was the case in this post. Her logic about a topic basically unrelated to the science, IMO, was weak. It is not a personal attack on her. It never has been. There have been times with her, as with Keith, and as with Roger, where I have expressed agreement with or applauded her personally. I have never attacked any of them personally.

        is that clear enough. you are a bore and a nag.

        Yes, it is clear to me that is your opinion, and that for some reason (the logic of which I can’t figure out), you seem to think there is some benefit in repeating that to me.

        I don’t care about your opinion about me personally, steven, because you don’t know me personally. You have never met me. For you to offer an opinion about me personally is meaningless, and only an expression that like our friend Peter Lang, your opinion of your own importance is inflated. You have taken an approach to insulting me personally from when I first appeared in these pages. I am quite confident that even you know that your personal judgements are not based in any valid assessment of who I am, but because you disagree with my perspective on Judith’s reasoning.

        IMO, you feel some need to reflexively defend Judith’s reasoning even when it is weak. I have seen you do that over and over. This thread is a good example. It is a curious phenomenon.

      • Hi joshua

        Sorry you are being given a hard time. You seem to be an endless source of fascination to Mosh. Have a happy new year
        tonyb

      • Hey tony -

        Thanks for the sentiment. It’s curious about steven. Not quite sure what it’s about. I think it’s the sense of loyalty he has to Judith. Admirable is a way, I guess, even if it manifests illogically and ineffectively.

      • Having to defend Judy’s a small price to pay to have the word “traceability” placed in a Congressional testimony, Joshua.

        In my opinion, you should stop asking the same questions over and over again. Unless they’re asking for evidence (e.g. “citation needed”), they become rhetorical and lose their edge. Your observation basis is wide enough for you to start declaring and describing.

        ***

        And please stop responding to personal commentaries. The discussion becomes about you and that’s a trick to put you in the role of the troll. Strategically speaking, a good rule of thumb is that if the last word does not compromise your position, you keep the upper hand by remaining silent. As Mosh already observed, it sometimes takes courage to refrain from doing something.

        Nobody’s that interesting anyway, and I believe you can tell when these comments are sincere or not.

      • Joshua,

        I don’t know how to make this any clearer.

        Judith post an article about humility and puts her spin on it.
        I don’t care what the article is, she will always have a spin. You have many choices.
        1. Ignore the spin and address the article
        2. Address the article and weave in a discussion of the spin.
        3. Whine about Judiths spin and hypocrisy etc etc etc.

        Most of us would consider 1 & 2 to be on topic. If on occasion you did 1&2, folks would forgive you some 3. But when you do 3 exclusively we view you as a thread jacking hobby horse riding troll. So, we will do to you what you try to do to do to judith. We will troll on your trolling. When you respond to our attacks your secure yourself the role of troll. It’s pretty damn simple. MIX IT UP and stop being a bore. Tell us what you think about humility then rip judith a new one. you know show something other than a predestined response to everything she writes. Of COURSE she has a spin. like duh. Of course she sees herself as spin free. like duh

      • My ‘spin’ is largely in the selection of topics I choose. In my own comments, I try to pull people out of their comfort zone to promote thinking and discussion.

      • @Willis “In my opinion, you should stop asking the same questions over and over again. Unless they’re asking for evidence (e.g. “citation needed”), they become rhetorical and lose their edge. Your observation basis is wide enough for you to start declaring and describing.”

        This is excellent advice, not only for Joshua but for every commenter. There is far too much repetition and there also seems to be too many “single issue” people who endeavour to twist every topic so as to posit their same messages, again and again.

      • Sorry, Willard not Willis.

    • So let’s go back to my earlier point.

      IMO, the prioritization of “flash” is a fairly strong characteristic of American culture. We certainly see it as a trait widely exploited by capitalists of all stripes – quite lucratively. We see it well-represented in any number of professions. Whole industries exist to both create and exploit the appeal of “flash.”

      Yet in this post, Judith singles out “scientists, universities, funding agencies, and professional societies ” as “unduly reward[ing]” flash. Is there anything resembling a logical argument in her selective attribution? Has she stated any sort of objective criteria by which she establishes her attribution? Has she even bothered to conceptualize one? Is there any attempt to actually measure the “reward[ing]” of “flash” in those segments of our society relative to any others?

      But not content to merely make that facile argument – she goes further. It isn’t enough to single out those groups in an unsubstantiated way – she goes further to narrow-down her target even further, to those members of those segments who just happen to disagree with her scientific analysis. Is it not true of other members of those segments of society who happen to agree with her scientific analysis? Would it not possibly be true of “skeptics” or “lukewarmers.”

      Should we assume it merely coincidence that Judith just happens to associate these nefarious attributes in a way that directly correlates with her stance on scientific issues? Are those who disagree with her on the science monolithic in the way that she suggests? Are those who disagree with her monolithic as suggested by the selectivity of her argument (not finding those attributes in those whose analysis she agrees with)?

      Perhaps so. Perhaps Judith has such an outstanding character that she can make such assertions without the need of validating evidence, without the need to identify uncertainties, without the need to discuss exceptions of caveats. Without ever having me her personally, I certainly can’t rule out that possibility.

      But what I do find curious is that so many here, who presumably haven’t met her, seem willing to excuse her from the demands of scientific rigor. Even more curious is that they seem to all agree with her scientific analysis.

      Must be coincidence.

      Eh?

      • Joshua.

        you cannot make an argument by merely asking questions.

        also;

        “IMO, the prioritization of “flash” is a fairly strong characteristic of American culture. ”

        Evidence. why do you single out american culture, and capitalists to boot.
        If i want to see flash in SF, I dont go to the capitalist parts of town ( the marina and pacific heights ) there I see no style, homonegnized white bread crap. If i want some flash I hit the parts of town where flash is valued over substance.

        In other words, before you start your rant on Judiths “selectivity” see the beam in your own eye.

      • If i want to see flash in SF, I dont go to the capitalist parts of town ( the marina and pacific heights ) there I see no style, homonegnized white bread crap.

        “Flash,” or as you seem to be defining it as a lack of style, is in the eye of the beholder. Certainly, the elaborate aesthetic of Pacific Heights is considered by many to be style. The residents of that area spend a great deal of money to create that style. Consider the expensive yachts in the Marina, the fancy houses with a view of the bay, the elaborate costumes of the roller-bladers, or the flash of the kite-surfers and their equipment. Any particular part of town you choose (the Mission? Balboa Park? Bernal Heights? Cole Valley? The Haight? The Castro? Telegraph Hill?), and some will see a predominance of flash over substance. Now you might think any of those neighborhoods to represent substance over style, so then how do we reconcile this difference of views?

        So now you start to discuss the merits of Judith’s assessment, and whether it is scientific. That’s good, steven. You are learning. You are starting to engage in a definition of terms, to unpack whether there is actually any meaning in Judith’s post other than to basically say, “I don’t like the scientists in the IPCC, nah, nah, nah.”

      • Joshua,

        Mosh’s right about the questions.

        Compare:

        > Is there anything resembling a logical argument in her selective attribution? Has she stated any sort of objective criteria by which she establishes her attribution? Has she even bothered to conceptualize one? Is there any attempt to actually measure the “reward[ing]” of “flash” in those segments of our society relative to any others?

        and contrast:

        > Judy’s mainly throwing red meat.

        Omit needless questions, Joshua: concision, concision!

        ;-)

      • Josh,
        Your words have been irrelevant since your first post and continue to be as the post at Joshua | December 28, 2012 at 8:03 am shows.

      • willard –

        If the list of questions are not effective, neither is, IMO, an unsupported assertion.

        So instead, I offer this:

        Judith has not presented anything resembling a logical argument in her selective attribution: She has not stated any sort of objective criteria by which she establishes her attribution. She has not even bothered to conceptualize one. She has made no attempt to actually measure the “reward[ing]” of “flash” in those segments of our society relative to any others.

      • Brian -

        Thank you for adding your highly relevant opinion to note how you find my opinions to be irrelevant. Where would we be without such logic?

      • I tot I taw a puddy tat.
        ===============

      • Joshua,

        You’re right: only saying that Judy’s throwing red meat would be an unsubstantiated claim. But you do have to admit that it would not prevent you from substantiating that claim as you just did: Judy’s not doing this, is doing that, etc, therefore is throwing red meat.

        But please think in terms of conversations. By throwing red meat yourself, you’d set a trap to all those who’d react to your red meat by saying: “You’re throwing red meat, Joshua!” You could ask them why they think you’re throwing red meat. If they offer you a criterium, you could ask **them** to apply the criteria to Judy’s blog post.

        In any case, what matters is that you insert the word “red meat”.

        Word placement, Joshua, word placement!

      • Red meat, heads up…

      • ““Flash,” or as you seem to be defining it as a lack of style, is in the eye of the beholder”

        I’m not defining flash as a lack of style. Just the opposite.

      • Rats willard, I wanted you to meet Red.

        http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1948150,00.html

        Do you still remember him?
        Many can’t.

  54. Science by force of personality produces pseudo-science more often than knowledge. Science is a method to knowledge, that’s all, period, nada. To many science believers use the word science when they mean knowledge, sort of like some other fundamentalism’s constantly throwing around their prophets/profits name constantly.

  55. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Musicology (?) professor Richard Parncutt, of the University of Graz, shows us all what *real* climate-change humility looks like:

    Global warming

    I wish to apologize publicly to all those who were offended by texts that were previously posted at this address. I made claims and comparisons that were completely inappropriate, which I deeply regret. I would also like to thank all those who took the time and trouble to share their thoughts in emails.

    *That* is humility, plain and simple! Now if Chris Monckton, Willis Eschenbach, and Anthony Watts were to show similar humility, and henceforth embrace (for example) James Hansen’s scrupulous respect for rational discourse, the quality of climate-change discourse would be be substantially improved! \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

    • thisisnotgoodtogo

      Indeed, AFOMD!
      I see James Hansen and the Professor as cut from the same cloth.
      Hence I fully expect to one day see James to take down his rants, and humbly apologize to all.

    • Well, does he say he is sorry or that he won’t do it again.
      ==============

    • Parncutt’s was faux humility. The proof is in his following paragraph when he stands upon his tenure in Amesty International.

      “I have always been opposed to the death penalty in all cases, and I have always supported the clear and consistent stand of Amnesty International on this issue.

      Had he then followed up with an examination how he failed to live up to his opposition to a death penalty and suddenly advocate it’s use on people who disagree with him —- THAT would have been an act of humility.

  56. …often at the expense of intellectual courage and other traits that made them a good research scientist in the first place.

    And what if they never were good research scientists in the first place, but rather exceptional opportunists?

  57. You say “raised” in Oklahoma. If you say “I was reared,” Okies think you mean someone ran into the back of your car.

  58. When particles become waves and waves become particles, you have to suspend conventional wisdom. Like what happened to climate in 1940 can only be explained by quantum thermodynamics. We scientists have to follow these bitter trails to the very end, all the time hoping that there is an end.
    I am not sure that being humble helps much in this pursuit of knowledge. There are times to be humble and times to be assertive: that is the question.

  59. I suspect that nature has some surprises in store for us.
    Which may have the not unwelcome side effect of bringing some humility to the current crop of low-hanging fruit picking glitterati.

    • The Skeptical Warmist

      As a scientist, you live on the expectation that nature does have surprises in store– else why bother?

      But again, in certain fields, sometimes you discover (or think you do) something that could have a big impact on society. At that point, do you cash in your objectivity and take an advocacy role, or do you maintain your neutral skeptical position? If Hansen really believes we are fuc&*ed unless we take drastic action, can you blame him for no longer being “humble” but taking up an activist position? Exactly was the case in terms of the discovery of CFC’s and the ozone layer. Sometimes you’ve got to put humility aside (cashing in your scientific objectivity in the process).. The future will determine if Hansen acted properly or not as it is way too early to tell just yet.

  60. It would take some intellectual humility indeed for an indoctrinated Warmer to admit that their entire worldview hinges on the way a line squiggles.

    Andrew

    • The Skeptical Warmist

      Bad Andrew,

      This drastic oversimplification for why we “warmers” have our “world view” is something you ought to explore for yourself. What motivates you to cast “warmers” in such simplistic terms?

      • The Skeptical Warmist,

        If the line squggles down there is no Global Warming. That means you Warmers have to find something else to do all day other than devote yourselves to promoting Warmerism in blog comments. I think that would be a significant change for you.

        Andrew

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        Andrew,

        What “line” is it that we warmers are supposed to be looking at as it squiggles down or up? There are so many parameters to looking at the total energy content of the Earth system, that one single line is hardly adequate.

      • Skeptical,

        So I take it you don’t think the line on a graph that illustrates The Global Average Temperature Anomaly give us adequate information to form a judgement about Global Warming?

        We are in agreement.

        Andrew

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        Near surface tropospheric temperature anomalies averaged over the whole planet over short-term time frames have very little value in telling us much about planetary energy imbalance. As you extend the time frame and extend the temperature anomaly to include more and more “spheres” beyond the troposphere, such as the hydrosphere and cryosphere, covering longer and longer time frames, you can start to draw some useful conclusions regarding any energy imbalance (i.e. as to whether or not the Earth system is or is not accumulating energy).

      • Gates said, “As you extend the time frame and extend the temperature anomaly to include more and more “spheres” beyond the troposphere, such as the hydrosphere and cryosphere, covering longer and longer time frames, you can start to draw some useful conclusions regarding any energy imbalance (i.e. as to whether or not the Earth system is or is not accumulating energy).”

        True, still what is a realistic time frame and “normal” imbalance are the issues. Improved paleo will reduce some of the issues, but a 400 to 1700 year lag between deep ocean and SST temperatures makes it difficult to have much confidence in any “short term” i.e. less than a century, of “accurate” data.

        It is a humbling puzzle.

      • The Skeptical Warmist

        captdallas insightfully said: (regarding climate science)

        “It is a humbling puzzle.”
        ________

        Nicely put, and certainly well done science requires a combination of humility, insight, intuition, determination, hard work, preparation, and a bit of luck– oddly, just like every other human endeavor worthy of pursuit.

      • Gates, “certainly well done science requires a combination of humility, insight, intuition, determination, hard work, preparation, and a bit of luck– oddly, just like every other human endeavor worthy of pursuit.”

        An awareness of Murphy’s Law is also helpful :).

  61. Wiki. Meaning of virtue, Humility:
    “Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. It is a spirit of self-examination; a hermeneutic of suspicion toward yourself and charity toward people you disagree with. The courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. Reverence for those who have wisdom and those who selflessly teach in love. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one’s own self. Being faithful to promises, no matter how big or small they may be. Refraining from despair and the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_virtues

  62. Pingback: Awe, shucks … | Watts Up With That?

  63. Extended bodies are in free fall to the same approximation as the rest of Newton’s laws, that is: for the Sun and planets and all other bodies in the solar system. Pseudo-scientists [the ones that say [lacking a bit a humility there] themselves that they are ‘in the know’] invoke concepts they don’t know anything about to try to make their illiterate ideas at least sound ‘scientific’. This lack of humility and belief of making break-through findings every day of the week is so obvious and painful when one follows blogs like this [and perhaps even more starkly: WUWT]. Another silly notion is that of ‘an open mind’. This one is completely off the mark as if the mind is just a receptacle for a flood of hare-brained input. What is needed instead is knowledge of the fundamentals, to have the ability of making ‘back of the envelope’ estimates of energy and power requirements, and a healthy respect for the science that has gone before.

    • Get a clue about geometry & circulation buddy.

      • PV, That you draw pretty graphics with no units on the axis makes it impossible for anyone to take you seriously.

        I noticed you were asking for some help from the RealClimate audience the other day.

        Are you seeing patterns that no one else can pick up? Sounds like Coast2Coast AM.

      • @WebHubTelescope | December 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm |

        For the 2nd time and in the clearest terms:

        Do not ever address me again.

  64. From my own experience of working in biochemistry for 25 years, I would say that humility before nature has to be learned. When starting out, I was quite confident that my theoretical ideas would work out in practical experiments, and was not only surprised but even upset when they didn’t. Today, I am more surprised when they do work out as I envisioned. I find that this experience has been the single most valuable and transformative one in all of my education, and it has changed not only my approach to science but my outlook in general. For the sake of this experience alone, everyone who has the chance would do well spend some time in experimental science, even if they really mean to do something else altogether in their lives.

    One simply will not learn humility before nature by engaging in theoretical science only, and it is my impression that intellectual humility is indeed more common among experimentalists than theoreticians. In this context, it is pertinent to note that climate science is full of people with training in computation but little experience in experimentation and observation.

  65. I’m not sure humility by itself is necessary and certainly not sufficient for a scientist. Honesty is I think more necessary. This will lead scientists to question even their own cherished theories and look in places noone has looked before for the truth. Honesty also will lead one to realize ones own limitations and strengths.

  66. Wonderful post.

    I’m currently reading a book called the Epigenetics Revolution by Nessa Carey. The concept of epigenetics, like the thing we call climate science, is a fairly young field of study. As a study of science, they have probably existed for about the same length of time.

    But the difference in attitudes of the scientists couldn’t seem be starker. In epigenetics, they also use models to make predictions and figure things out. But, unlike climate science, the models are not presented as absolute proof of a correct hypotheses without outside independent validation by observation. Observation trumps models. There are no “hide the declines” or “nature trick” or “missing heat” type workarounds. Either the epigenetic mechanics are confirmed, or not. Or the results look promising but the hypothesis is not confirmed because there are still too many unknowns, and the genetics scientists have no problem admitting where the unknowns make confirming any kind of certainty impossible.

    The scientists also seem to be quite laid back and friendly. Humble. But then, they are only concerned with how traits are altered from one generation to the next without the genes actually changing, whereas climate science and climate scientists must bare the weight of the world on their shoulders.

    PS. There also seems to be quite a few women exploring the epigenetics field… at least there are a lot noted for exemplary work in this book.

  67. Jest when yer think yr getting a handle
    on humility before nature,
    humility versus complaisancy,
    hypotheses tentative and
    provisional, uh huh … yer think,
    Copernicus ! Newton! then Einstein
    re-examining the fndamental
    laws of physics, scientists daring
    to oppose the considered view,
    asking bold, heretical questions
    of nature, not too much humility
    in that. So what’s the bottom line
    in science if it ain’t humility?
    In my humble opinion it’s probably
    honesty.

    BethCooper.

    • Asking bold questions is humility before nature, which is the opposite of humility before other people. It means believing that everyone else is either wrong or ignorant. Mind you this seldom works and should only be done with caution unless the new idea forces itself upon you. (Ideas have a life of their own.) Most scientific activity is not revolutionary, nor could it be, so it is very much a team sport. Finding the gold and digging it out are two different occupations and so it is with science.

      BTW Einstein did not re-examine physics. He re-examined first length then geometry, finding in both cases that the universal belief was wrong. Length is not a property of objects but of object-observer systems. Euclidean geometry is not the sole geometry of our world, rather we have a complex of mostly non-Euclidean geometries depending on how much mass is around.

      • David Wojick BTW Einstein did not re-examine physics. He re-examined first length then geometry, finding in both cases that the universal belief was wrong. Length is not a property of objects but of object-observer systems. Euclidean geometry is not the sole geometry of our world, rather we have a complex of mostly non-Euclidean geometries depending on how much mass is around.

        Which created the gobbledegook of his relativity – that a person rushing around the kitchen preparing a meal for his partner will get to tomorrow later than his partner sitting at the table patiently waiting to be served..

        No wonder so many think the “Greenhouse Effect” is real when his method of substituting his own subjective reality for the object physical world around us is taken as a blue print for the science method.

    • “Copernicus ! Newton! then Einstein…”

      Beth,
      I see those three names and I also think of Galileo…and his fate. It’s a messy business. I like Brecht, so maybe that, as much as the history itself, shapes how I see Galileo. Regardless his fate, his contributions survived.

      David,
      “BTW Einstein did not re-examine physics. He re-examined …”

      That looks like a chicken or egg trap to me; lots of room for interpretation. With Einstein sources are primary after the fact recollections, second-hand, steeped in ‘mythology’ and cultural notions. Take for example the ubiquitous, ” in his youth, he wondered what light would look like…”

      I suspect that even in science the victor writes the history–here thinking of the how and why–pretty much applies. It seems almost inevitable. But that doesn’t take away from the victory, it adds to it. For me, a re-read of “The Double Helix” is probably long, long overdue.

      “And on the outside, coming up fast is…Feynman!!…this is going to the wire!”

      • “primary after the fact” should be “primarily after the fact”

        also
        Thinking of the ‘Helix’ reminded my of my failed attempt to get through MM’s war story.

  68. jeez

    Even better than the “it’s for the children” gambit is the “it’s for the grandchildren” ruse, used by James E. Hansen, for example.

    Gives you more time to forget the failed prediction.

    But even JEH had to learn this the hard way.

    After first falling into the trap (1988) of making a prediction that was proven exaggerated by a factor of two in his time, he now concentrates on longer-term predictions of doom.

    Of course, the “grandchildren” gambit was a stroke of genius (they appear so cute and innocent – how could the grandfatherly message be contrived?)

    When small children are used as bait, “caveat emptor”.

    Max

    • …except that children don’t stay cute, cuddly children for long – after which they spend the rest of their lives battling to eke out a living in a world impoverished by the policies of their grandparents.

  69. Oh, it’s a good deal more visceral than that. He objects to the glorification, nay reification, by narrative of the shadows on the wall.
    =============

  70. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    jeez posts “Gag me, the “it’s for the children” gambit, the first and last refuge of the politician whose argument has no foundation.”

    Thank you Jeez, for fulfilling Climate Etc prophecy! Your fulfillment is classified per the “☒” marks below:

    A fan of *MORE* discourse asserted:

    Prediction  Within the climate-change denier community, the following rates will accelerate in the coming decade:
    ☐ cherry-picking,
    ☐ slogan-shouting, semantic quibbling,
    ☐ short-sighted economics, backed by
    ☒ amoral market-first reasoning,
    ☒ “outsider” physics,
    ☐ personalization,
    ☐ abuse,
    ☐ paranoia, and
    ☐ conspiracy theories.

    Who will be the next Climate Etc poster to fulfill prophecy? The world wonders! \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

  71. In other words, Sagan-science isn’t real science but Western academia is silent in the face of its abuse of the truth for the self-serving purpose of maintaining the government education complex irrespective of the harm it is doing to the country and the futures of all Americans.

    • This really does not have anything at all to do with Carl Sagan. These are the fundamental principles about science we was taught at the start of our scientific education – at least where I come from.
      To have proper communication about science we really need to adhere to some guidelines about how to communicate, and guidelines about the processes which are required to arrive at solid scientific theories.
      I have always thought that all scientific educations also include scientific theory about the fundamental principles for science? It would be nice to know if anybody know about scientific educations which do not include lessons on scientific theory?

  72. I read this in Lawrence Krauss’s ‘A Universe From Nothing’:

    “Science has been effective at furthering our understanding of nature because the scientific ethos is based on three key principles: (1) follow the evidence wherever it leads; (2) if one has a theory, one needs to be willing to try to prove it wrong as much as one tries to prove it right; (3) the ultimate arbiter of truth is experiment, not the comfort one takes from one’s a priori beliefs, nor the beauty or elegance one ascribes to one’s theoretical models.”

    Could climate warmists get it more wrong? (1) follow the evidence that supports our position; (2) if you’ve gotten the right results, stop looking and defend our flanks and cast aspersions on our detractors; (3) don’t look at the climate or the data, it’s the models that count.

  73. Pingback: Can we avoid fooling ourselves? | Climate Etc.

  74. Climatologists and modelers, take note:

    “In an honest search for knowledge you quite often have to abide by ignorance for an indefinite period. Instead of filling a gap by guesswork, genuine science prefers to put up with it; and this, not so much from conscientious scruples about telling lies, as from the consideration that, however irksome the gap may be, its obliteration by a fake removes the urge to seek after a tenable answer. So efficiently may attention be diverted that the answer is missed even when, by good luck, it comes close at hand.”
    - -Erwin Schrodinger – 1954

  75. Lauri Heimonen

    Judith Curry; How might intellectual humility lead to scientific insight? http://judithcurry.com/2012/12/26/how-might-intellectual-humility-lead-to-scientific-insight :

    ”Philosophers known as “virtue epistemologists” claim that the goods of the intellectual life—knowledge, wisdom, understanding, etc.—are more easily obtained by persons possessing mature traits of intellectual character, such as open-mindedness, teachability, and intellectual courage, than by persons who lack these virtues or who are marked by their opposing vices. – Jay Wood”

    The kind of intellectual humility is needed especially to accept a proper cross-disciplinary approach to solve multidisciplinary problems like the cause of climate warming. Otherwise it can be only coincidental to reach a working solution to problem.

    A proper cross-disciplinary approach helps you to understand what essential you have to do when trying to find dominating causes (or a cause) of the problem. And the result can be very easy to understand as I have stated in my comment http://judithcurry.com/2012/12/19/climate-sensitivity-in-the-ar5-sod/#comment-280032 :

    ‘The truth on the natural cause of the recent global warming has to be proven to politicians as decision makers simply enough, that even they themselves can it understand. That demands a sufficiently proper cross-disciplinary approach of the complicate climate problem in order to find sufficiently understandable explanation concerning the essential reasons. For instance, what I have said in my comment above should be clear enough to make politicians, too, to understand that the recent increase of CO2 content in atmosphere is dominated by natural factors and not antropogenic CO2 emissions:
    ”The CO2 content in the atmosphere is controlled together by both all CO2 emissions from sources to atmosphere and by all CO2 absorptions from atmosphere to sinks. Nowadays when the yearly total CO2 emissions are little over 200 GtC (CO2 as carbon) and the yearly human CO2 emissions are about 8 GtC, the influence of the human CO2 emissions on the CO2 content in atmosphere is approaching 4 % at the most. For instance, when the CO2 content in the atmosphere is 390 ppm, the manmade share of it is only about 16 ppm at the most; in the reports of IPCC the human share of recent CO2 content in atmosphere is assessed to be about 100 ppm without any proper evidence.”’

  76. Well, there’s humility and there is faux humility. Western Christianity’s paradigm is faux humility which filters everything though the Augustinian distortion of his Original Sin dogma, as exemplified by a comment above which degrades mankind in relationship to God by accepting Augustine’s misreading of Genesis II which also contradicts Genesis I that mankind, male and female both, are created in the image and likeness of God, to have the knowlege as God has knowledge…

    Jesus is much misunderstood in this branch of Christianity particularly.

    The faux humbleness attributed to Jesus and set up as the great virtue of true Christian spirituality has done much damage to his message, he who said we were gods.., achieving the promotion of degradation as a good which his stories taught against.

    What was Jesus actually saying in his admonition to turn the other cheek when struck across the face? The bully strikes to show his superiority and his disdain with a backhand slap and by his victim turning the other cheek this becomes impossible to repeat. Jesus is making a point in the stand against tyranny, promoting self-worth and not the opposite of the ugly distortion of “humility” Western Christianity has made of this.

    And as has already been mentioned, the Jewish sense of humour. The scene: a subjugated nation under Roman occupation under laws which permitted a soldier to commandeer any native to carry his gear, his load, precisely one roman mile and no further, and punishment would be meted out to a soldier who flouted the law because a subjugated nation was kept subjugated by such pretences to rights. Extrapolate from this.

  77. barn E. rubble

    I can’t believe no one has linked to Mac Davis yet . . . (maybe I just missed it ) but it does seem appropriate here:

  78. In my experience, most great scientists lack humility – though it doesn’t always show on the surface. Human beings don’t undertake groundbreaking research without having a sizable ego and a generous serving of self-confidence. Or, as they said said on StarTrek, to boldly go where no man [or woman] has gone before. Some scientists present the results from groundbreaking research with superficial humility and some don’t, but the humble usually stick to well-explored territory. Our host may claim intellectual humility, but there is nothing humble about sticking one’s neck out by confronting the IPCC consensus. I’m sure Judith’s critics feel that her audacity prevents her from recognizing how she’s “fooling herself”.

    In most scientific fields, we can easily separate the wheat from the chaff. When results can be repeated by others under carefully controlled conditions in the laboratory, the truth emerges relatively quickly. Unfortunately, climate science doesn’t work this way. Many experiments can’t be repeated. Experimental variability is large and systematic errors may be larger. Projections by GCMs can’t be validated. WIthout a Steve McIntyre, no one would have ever realized how bad the research leading to the Hockey Stick was. Despite all of the Hockey Team’s mistakes, the current warm period could be much hotter than the MWP! It’s no wonder the world seems to be divided into True Believers and Deniers.

    It took roughly a century for the consensus to recognize the economic theories of Karl Marx were bogus. A scary thought.