Lies, damned lies, and science(?)

by Judith Curry

A fascinating article appeared in the November issue of the Atlantic, entitled “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science.”  The article is an absolute must read, about the prevalance of (unconscious) bias in medical science.

The New Yorker has a follow on article by Jonah Lehrer entitled “The Truth Wears Off:  Is There Something Wrong with the Scientific Method?” (see also this additional post by Lehrer at Wired)

These articles are receiving extensive discussion in the blogosphere, e.g.:

On the broader issue of bias in science, Daniel Sarewitz writes of the concern that most scientists in the U.S. affiliate themselves with Democratic political party.   Dotearth provides an overview of the blogospheric discussion on this article, and Pielke Jr has interesting comments.

What are we to make of these essays in the context of climate science?

199 responses to “Lies, damned lies, and science(?)

  1. The fact that most scientists are Democrats and most Democrats accept AGW, while most Republicans do not, may be sufficient to explain why most scientists accept AGW. Ideology is the dominant variable, not science.

    • Thanks, David, for information that I overlooked for the past four decades, while voting as a Democrat and complaining about NASA and the space science community for hiding or distorting unexpected experimental observations!

      I will be forever grateful to Al Gore and the UN’s IPCC for exposing the international alliance of scoundrels who were misusing science as a tool of propaganda.

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

      • Oliver,
        You may know this.
        Where does NASA measure for the accuracy from planet to sun? The carona? The core?

  2. cagw_skeptic99

    Most people who have taken the time to understand the physics agree with the minimalist statement that more CO2 in the air causes more deflection in the infra-red spectrum. Most Democrats seem to accept the belief that AGW means catastrophic warming caused by CO2, and that belief has more to do with politics, belief in big Government and Government funded programs and Government solutions to problems than science.

    Many Republicans are actually operating in business environments where their decisions make a difference in the survival and prosperity of their companies. Acting on CAGW beliefs has resulted in huge expenditures of public money which has almost all been wasted or worse. For all the money spent on windmills, solar panels, CO2 mitigation, Chinese refrigeration gas factories and the like, what is the return to the public? Waste, fraud, and not ever the slightest chance of a measurable difference in world climate is what they got for their money. And the waste goes on.

  3. Judith,

    So far science does NOT realize we live on a globe with different energies and sources as you go from the equator to the poles. 2 dimensional in rotation generates a flat plane in the solar system.

    Water has a fascinating system of interweaving to generate a strong bond together when generating ice. Water vapour in freezing air with no wind generates tiny hard balls that sting like hell when driving through at -16 C.
    Snowflakes are generated when the evaporation and wind rotate to generate a 2 dimensional spread.

  4. When you cut through all of the fog, it is not difficult to understand why Sarewitz ( a prominent democrat) got it half right. AAAS is primarily composed of academic and government scientists, who, being cerebrally left-lobe centric, are magnetically attracted to feed at the public trough (i.e. public-generated grants) and will do almost anything to keep the public coffers flowing. They are sometimes referred to as martini-Marxists or at least gucci-socialists. Right-lobe republican scientists are more programmed to find homes in more pragmatically orientated occupations. p<0.05.

    • Anyone who subscribes to Science magazine is a member of AAAS, so it is fairly representative. Other polls show Dems outnumbering Reps by 3 or 4 to one, which is the figure I accept. Thus Sarewitz’s number is probably a little high but the basic demographic bias is definitely there. I think it accounts for the widespread acceptance of AGW among scientists.

      • randomengineer

        And then again part of the problem is perception shift. Face it, most voters are fairly centrist. Scientists aren’t any different.

        The republican party has drifted somewhat to the point that the evangelical subset has a much louder voice/influence than their actual numbers. Rep evangelicals are well under 20% of the membership, but their view is that which is represented in the news as “typical.” (It’s as if the moderate, more centrist republican majority doesn’t even exist.)

        Given how things are painted and given the choice of democrat (centrist) or republican (evangelical) I’d self-identify as the former as well. This is especially true for the sciences: the nature of the work tends to preclude a lot of sympathy towards the party painted as largely composed of creationists.

      • I assume the population is equally divided between Dems and Reps, given that the Presidential elections have been very close.

      • randomengineer

        It could be we’re saying the same thing but seeing it from slightly different perspectives.

        As opposed to an equal division, the US population appears to be largely centrist (for want of a better term) which appears to be what allows the vote to swing at all. The recent midterm election of a number of republicans seems to make this point, sort of like a no-confidence vote taking place.

        Scientists in this view aren’t radically different than the general population (perhaps just to the left of center) as opposed to extreme left.

        My point was that self-identification of democrat isn’t the same thing as self-ID of being far left (i.e. “green,” socialist, etc.) any more than self-identification of republican equates to self-ID as far right or creationist. I tend to think the center of the bell curve is important, meaning that democrat/republican isn’t as important or divisive as it sounds at first blush.

      • It sounds to me like you are making the quite reasonable argument that there is not much difference between most Dems and Reps. But polls indicate very large differences in acceptance of AGW. Something like 70-80% of Dems accept it while only 20-30% of Reps do. This suggests a very significant difference between the two groups, the centroids of the two sides of the bell if you like, which may be quite far apart.

        Moreover, the percentage of scientists that accept AGW is roughly equal to the percentage one gets if you combine these number with the percentage of scientists who are Dems. Hence my argument that the acceptance within science is largely ideological in nature.

      • Step outside the boundaries of the United States and find out the proportion of scientists who hold to AGW or not.

  5. “What are we to make of these essays in the context of climate science? …”

    What in climate science is to it as patents are to medical research? The effective period of patent protection for a pharmaceutical is around 12 years. The incentives line up accordingly.

  6. I’ve always been of the opinion that this history of over-confident, under considered “science” publishing has been a greater contributor to public skepticism than any “shadowy big oil funded disinformation campaign”. After being barraged with claims and counter-claims (I forget, is salt deadly poison or just another ingredient this week?) and witnessing attempts to downplay politically incorrect findings (affect of moderate alcohol consumption on health) and outright warfare (Atkins, anyone) on challenges to the orthodoxy, the public has a rather jaded eye for the doom and gloom pronouncements.

  7. Lies:
    Concrete physic laws: These fall apart when brought back in time on this planet.
    Quantuum Physics/Time travel: These NEED an exact point to point even if the mechanics where possible to build. THERE IS NO POINT IN SPACE NOT MOVING. No possibility of triangulation.
    Global Warming: This planet is over pressurizing in the atmosphere. But too much focus on garbage science has missed this point.
    Climate Models: How can these be accurate when temperature is not a cause to ANY event? CLOUDS DO NOT CROSS THE EQUATOR.
    The Atmosphere follows in line with the planet:The Atmosphere is NOT attached to the planet and SOLID. It is pulled by the rotation of this planet.
    Water has no bearing to climate change: H2O is compressed gases that developed an alliance with salt. In the past it was much saltier than today as centrifugal force was faster and would have generated far more evaporation than today if not for the increased density. Salt changes on the surface of the oceans are directly caused by atmospheric pressure increase. With increased salt on the surface of the oceans, there is more solar reflection and less solar penetration in the oceans.

  8. People are corruptible, and no “fix” lasts long. Consider the history of tenure: originally a protection against arbitrary administrative or political dismissal, it has long since been co-opted into a bulwark for careerist and orthodox sinecures.

    Alfred Nobel specified his prizes were to go to young iconoclastic scientists to make them independent of the establishment long enough to prove or disprove their ideas. They have long since been directed to exactly the opposite kinds of recipients: proven contributors to the consensual view at time of election.

    Science was the playground of self-funded noble amateurs for a long time, but when public funding became a necessity, the real decisions about what got studied and what got “tabled” became political. There is no generic “fix” for this, as I said. But periodic revolutions which water the tree of scientific freedom with the blood of sceptics and mavericks are probably required.

    • I would point out that the Nobel Prizes in Science are given to pioneers in fields of work that are proven to be correct and of value before they get the prize. This won’t happen for the pioneering climate scientists until/unless their predictions are measured to be true and confirmed by the data, for which it is certainly too early yet.

  9. AnyColourYouLike

    Brian H,
    pointed out the Atlantic article a couple of months ago on the Air Vent.

    My then comment wasn’t particularly original, but I’ll stand by it…

    Brian H

    Wow! Thanks for posting that. I suppose we’ve all had our suspicions about the big drugs corporations, but it’s pretty scary to see how contaminated with confirmation bias and outright scientific (and moral) corruption the whole field may have become. When the big bucks (or just your present employer) want you to say something eye-catching and helpful, the consciences of many researchers must be tested to the limit, and I can empathise with that. But what we have then of course is a slow, creeping erosion of real science, and it’s replacement with a culture of advocacy based on half-truths, and sometimes outright fraud.

    My personal view is that climate scientists pretty much believe in what they say, though I think confirmation-bias is rife. And, as we saw from the emails, a sort of clubbish group-think inevitably led to the dubious rationalisation that it was ok (at least to threaten) to destroy data rather than let it be challenged by “outsiders”: a very slippery ethical slope indeed!

    Some lines from The Atlantic caught my eye in this regard, “Not surprisingly, the studies that tend to make the grade are those with eye-catching findings. But while coming up with eye-catching theories is relatively easy, getting reality to bear them out is another matter.” It strikes me that this might well serve as an epitaph to the careers of one or two well-known paleo-climatologists!

  10. What these articles really provide is further evidence that we’re in for a long, slow slog towards a base we can agree on, at least a base that’s a bit further along than accepting that CO2 causes a warming of the atmosphere.

    We will continue to use climate science to further political ends. We will continue to make human mistakes, and those mistakes will be confounded by human tendencies to advance careers and protect pet theories. We will continue to refuse to believe evidence that offends our sensibilities.

    30 years? Longer?

  11. randomengineer

    It’s simpler than you think. It’s also so overwhelmingly fundamental that solutions will not happen quickly.

    The left is convinced that the government solves problems, and the right is convinced that government IS the problem. When you take away all of the posturing, this is what’s at the core. It’s that simple. It’s that fundamental.

    Climate change as pitched by (leftist) advocates presumes government based solution(s) by definition. They’re surprised that this meets automatic rejection on principle by the right wing. Thinking that the right must be slightly deaf retards who can’t grasp “the narrative,” the AGU then hires Chris Mooney to speak …S.L.O.W.L.Y…and…L.O.U.D.L.Y.

    Oh yeah. That’s going to work real well.

    • Climate change as pitched by (leftist) advocates presumes government based solution(s) by definition.

      Given the global scale of the problem it is hard to envisage any meaningful solution which doesn’t involve government action to some extent.

      They’re surprised that this meets automatic rejection on principle by the right wing.

      I’m not sure why you think people are surprised by this – as far as I’m concerned this is exactly what I expect. Now personally I’m pretty open minded about possible solutions so if someone wants to convince me that policy x is misguided and policy y is better then I’m willing to listen regardless of their politics, but if they are just going to witter on about “big government” then I’m not interested. Also, ISTM that too many people on the right dismiss the science itself because they don’t like the proposed solutions.

      • Policy z is to start building Nuclear fusion plants now. No Carbon emissions for an economical, well tested and scientifically proven electrical generation solution.

        Would you not agree?

      • I have no principled objection to nuclear. I tink we would still have to look at renewables as well but I’m sure it can be part of the mix.

      • Kan – I think you meant fission rather than fusion? I don’t think we can build fusion plants yet as the technology does not yet exist for us to harness fusion power outside of the laboratory. As I understand it, we are at the stage where (H bombs aside) we can briefly cause fusion to occur, but we require more energy to get it going than we can get out of it. Few more years to go yet, but I agree it is the best hope for the future.

      • Yes – fission. I think the spell checker was too helpful.

      • Where are those fusion plant plans? I left them lying around and cannot find them.
        Or did you mean fission plants?

      • They are right with the hydrogen cell plans….

      • “…if someone wants to convince me that policy x is misguided and policy y is better then I’m willing to listen regardless of their politics, but if they are just going to witter on about “big government” then I’m not interested.”

        To many on the right, the first step should be to lay out a case that there needs to be a policy requiring governmental action. Once this is shown, then we can discuss policy x vs. policy y. Many voters (including me) are not convinced that that first step has been completed, so fairly naturally begin to wonder if the demands for ‘policy now!’ are not a political agenda thinly veiled as a scientific imperative.

        “Also, ISTM that too many people on the right dismiss the science itself because they don’t like the proposed solutions.”

        And, of course, ISTM that too many people on the left accept the science without criticism because they like the proposed solutions.

        It appears to me that confirmation bias exists for not just experimental results, but is even more pronounced for any political or financial implications of those results. This is why, for science that has major policy implications, I feel that the science should be reproducible, verified and audited, even if it seems insulting to the scientists to suggest that they might be misled by their own (non-science) beliefs.

      • randomengineer

        Given the global scale of the problem it is hard to envisage any meaningful solution which doesn’t involve government action to some extent.

        Automagical presumption that the government will need to be involved to provide the “solution” to something that’s not been clearly established as even being a “problem” is precisely the difference I’m talking about.

        (Please tell me you meant to do this.)

        Here’s what the republicans are asking for.

        1. Establish that there’s a problem.
        2. Define the nature of the problem.
        3. Establish that the problem can be solved.
        4. Lay out possible solutions from private -> government.
        5. Agree on the solution vector of choice.
        6. Solve.

        Here’s how republicans view advocacy —

        6. Bypass 1 – 5 and then try to solve a claimed problem; opine that republican complaints that steps 1-5 are missing proves they’re a) against science b) stupid c) both.

        Note that our host, Dr. Curry, recognizes the nature of these things in the thread re congressional testimony. Her calls for openness in data etc are designed specifically to address items 1 – 3.

        Any questions?

      • randomengineer

        Just to be perfectly clear — the difference between republicans and democrats re approach to government involvement is at step 5, the solution vector. Republicans aren’t against government. What they’re against is using government FIRST. In the republican view government is the LAST solution.

      • RE,

        I have no problem with your steps 1-6, except that I would probably use “addressed” instead of “solved” – I doubt that AGW can be solved.
        As far as I and many others (including most of those responsible for actually making policy decisions) are concerned steps 1 and 2 have already been completed to our satisfaction and we are in the process of considering steps 3 and 4.
        Obviously others have come to a diffenent conclusion, well they are entitiled to make their case, and in a democracy they can voice their objections through the political process.
        I think that measures to combat AGW will ultimately be a mixture of government and private action, but given that this is a global issue any meaningful action will involve an element of international co-operation and co-ordination, which almost certainly means through governments.
        On the point about advocacy I don’t doubt that’s how Republicans see it but I think it’s very far from the truth. Apart from maybe the more fundamentalist elements in the green movement I think that in general people who advocate action on AGW do so because they rightly or wrongly think there is genuine problem. I don’t think they have an agenda, nor do I see an obvious one for them to have – most of us have noting to gain from action on AGW and we have as much to lose as anyone else.
        As for Republicans being “anti-science”, well from here in the UK it seems they are more inclined than Democrats to favour creationism/ID over evolution for example but maybe that’s just my perception. It certainly appears that, say, Inhofe is anti-science and is driven by a political agenda, but I don’t suppose he he typical of all Republicans.

      • randomengineer

        I don’t think they have an agenda, nor do I see an obvious one for them to have – most of us have noting to gain from action on AGW and we have as much to lose as anyone else.

        I think perhaps there are things you don’t quite get regarding politics in the US.

        Here in the US the anti-nuclear “greens” are aligned with the political left, so at least *some* of the republican concern is that the democrats will go for high taxes and/or market manipulation of fossil fuels whilst simultaneously blocking the only rational alternative. Thus the gain for advocates, at least as many republicans voice it, is essentially unlimited top down federal power, which ends the republic, or at least puts the republic on that path.

        My guess is that *serious* effort on the part of the political left to bring nuclear energy to the table would put an end to much of the republican concern.

      • Except the issue is whether or not there is a problem at all. Talking about solutions implies taking the position that there is a problem.

      • Actually the issue in this particular discussion is whether people’s views on the desirability of particular solutions are unreasonably influencing their view of whether there is actually a problem.

      • Yes. Well said.

      • andrew adams | December 15, 2010 at 2:30 am | Reply

        “Given the global scale of the problem it is hard to envisage any meaningful solution which doesn’t involve government action to some extent”

        The price of a tonne of 5500kcal steam coal on international markets was $27/tonne in 2002. The price today is $120/tonne. That’s a 20%/yr price increase compounded annually. If the trend continues the price of a tonne of steam coal in international markets will be $600/tonne in 2020. The coal to feed a single 1GW coal fired plant will costs $1.8 BILLION/year.

        Why should the government intervene to distort the market price of something when the market is already distorting the price will beyond any proposed government intervention?

        Prior to 2002 the ‘inflation adjusted price’ of coal had declined steadily for 30 years. Based on that trend if one was concerned about carbon emissions then government intervention in the market in order to distort the price would have appeared to a reasonable person as a reasonably prudent action. That trend ended 8 years ago.

      • The case for governments “distorting” the fossil fuel markets is based on externalities which are currently not reflected in prices. As I see it the only fair way to do it is to apply it to oil, coal, gas and whatever according to the amount of CO2 and other pollution they produce. If coal is being made uncompetitive anyway due to other factors then so be it, I don’t see that it should get an exemption because of this, or that governments should base policy on second guessing the markets.

      • The funny thing about externalities is that you only see people calling for pricing on the negative ones. Without due consideration for the postive externalities of abundant, relatively cheap power, it’s hardly “fair”. Another consideration is the use that a CO2 tax would be put to – smart money would be on anything but climate and energy concerns.

  12. David L. Hagen

    Is Climate Science any more “unbiased” than Medical research?
    If so, could a similar 80% of popular beliefs in climate science and policy based scientific research be as distorted as medical research?

    How are we to distinguish/test/validate to find out what is true/not?

    This suggests that Climate Science may need to develop the “double blind” methods required in medical research to separate perception from objective facts. This may require transparent open coding, independent objective verification and validation etc

    Pew Poll: Belief in global warming as a serious problem continues to decline
    From 49% in 2006 to 34% in 2010.
    See Conservatives’ Doubts About Global Warming Grow”>the Gallup poll
    The exposures of Climategate in 2009 appear to have contributed.

    I sympathize with Daniel Sarewitz’s comment:

    Or could it be that disagreements over climate change are essentially political—and that science is just carried along for the ride? For 20 years, evidence about global warming has been directly and explicitly linked to a set of policy responses demanding international governance regimes, large-scale social engineering, and the redistribution of wealth. These are the sort of things that most Democrats welcome, and most Republicans hate. No wonder the Republicans are suspicious of the science.

    Could the “scientists” political persuasion could relate to university vs industry. I have seen polls showing most university professors were ver liberal and voted democrat.

    In the early ’90s I thought it important to support solar energy for to mitigate global warming and wrote a > 300 pg report on ways to do that. The more I learn about climate the more I see natural causes having greater impacts than modeled. Conversely, there is a very rapidly looming problem of rapid decline of net oil exports. The severe consequences will swamp all climate change concerns.
    See Robert Hirsch etc.

    So now the challenge is how to make solar energy cost effective enough to make renewable liquid fuels?

    • Sarewitz and others are confusing the science per se with the interpretation of that science. Reps are skeptical of the Dem’s interpretation, especially the IPCC, as they should be. Unfortunately thanks to Climategate and the hockey stick fiasco this has translated into a distrust of individual scientific results as well. Knowing that most of the work is being carried out by Democrats will only increase this distrust.

  13. We must never forget human nature is what I make of it.
    Human nature has not changed since humans became humans.

    There will always be someone who breaks into a house, or someone who breaks the speed limit, we can never fully eliminate these activities, but we can minimise them and minimise their impact.

    Regards climate science, as with all activities, as soon as there is a vast influx of funds, human nature will prevail. To pretend that it doesn’t, to pretend that those working in the field are beyond reproach, only results in incomplete, shoddy and inaccurate science. Hence we have climate science.

    • Richard S Courtney

      Baa Humbug:

      I completely agree with your view that science is like all other human activities in that it is affected by human behaviour(s).

      The problem with climate science is that it has no auditing and, therefore, is more prone to confirmation bias than pharmaceutical research.

      Additionally, and importantly, most climate research is funded by governments (i.e. politicians) and, therefore, is directly encouraged to obtain the information that governments want (he who pays the piper calls the tune).

      This political direction (that climate science is payed to deliver) provides the seeming political bias of present climate research. Indeed, how could that not be?

      Hence, I think it is an error to equate the political views of climate scientists with the present political bias of the bulk of climate science. I strongly suspect that if the funding priorities changed (e.g. from support of the UNFCCC to finding uncertainties in ‘projections’ of AGW) then the balance of obtained research results would change. And the political views of climate scientists would have little – if any – affect on this change.

      It is a very American view that consideration of AGW is a left-right political issue. For example, all the main political parties here in the UK support AGW, and there are persons of all political views who support or doubt AGW. Indeed, I am a left-wing socialist who doubts AGW.


      • David L. Hagen

        The two extremes are
        Climate has always been changing.

        The political bias is shown particularly in the difference between “mitigation” and “adaptation”.

        Apparently very few “climate scientists” and politicians have any experience in control engineering. e.g. see control expert Pierre Latour:

        Exchange of Letters between Dr Pierre Latour and Jeff Temple in the “Letters to the Editor” section of the Hydrocarbon Processing Journal

        Engineering Earth’s thermostat with CO2?
        Climate alarmists plead chicken little and persuade politicians to impose cap and trade to “mitigate” climate.

        On reading LaTour’s critique, control engineers immediately see that “Adaptation” is the only practical approach.

        Control engineers would split a gut laughing and the impossibility of it, if the consequences of wasting public funds were not so devastating to our economy, our pensions, and to the poor.

        So why is climate science and politics dominated by those bent on “mitigation”?

        PS Judy
        Recommend “Climate control?!” as a future blog, and invite Pierre Latour or similar climate control expert to post it.

      • One of the great tells that climate scientists calling for the apocalypse are full of it is that they also have the answer.

      • randomengineer


        In the US the difference re AGW between left and right is primarily concerned with the proper role of government. The right sees government more in the vein of “necessary evil” whereas the left sees it as a good thing.

        You can get a better perspective here:

        Do be careful enough to read the text to be able to grasp what the axis labels mean.

        When left leaning AGW activists in the US speak, they generally start in on how well understood the science is, and “therefore, the correct government response is…” and, unsurprisingly, the US right wing goes into convulsions. They do so because as they see it the proper approach for a solution to a problem is NEVER to start with the premise of the government doing anything at all.

        In short, it’s top down (left) vs bottom up (right.)

      • Richard S Courtney


        Thankyou for that link. I ‘get’ that.

        But I think it sad that political views of any kind should dominate the science instead of the findings of science being considered by people of all political views.

        In my opinion it is good that there are many political views because variety leads to development but uniformity leads to totalitarianism. But I suppose that opinion is because I come from a UK perspective where we have a House of Commons where HM Government and HM Loyal Opposition are deliberately positioned facing each other and seperated by two swords’ lengths.


  14. The Republican/democrat stats in science show why Republicans should not feel badly at all when the time comes to stop writing what has been in effect blank checks to the massively funded, self-aggrandizing, arrogant bureaucracy that has eaten science and academia.
    Over at Dot Earth the sneering demeaning insults offered about Republicans tells much more about the posters than they do about Republicans.
    I have noted for few years that academia has in effect set up a series of Duchies in our country, with Universities being permitted to accumulate huge endowments that are tax free, control large tracts of prime real estate that are ruled largely outside of the local towns and cities in which they reside, have their police forces, have their own hiring firing promotion, and with almost zero exceptions, expect huge subsidies from the government at all levels. Wealthy people compete to give larger and larger sums to the Universities- for which the Universities pay no taxes. University Administrators make salaries far above average, and University employees even have two special methods of accumulating tax deferred wealth- the 403b and 457. And for this we get told how stupid, ignorant and unworthy many of us are to even have opinions members of the Academy do not approve of.
    There is a larger point than just the increasingly obvious lack of reality supporting the climate hysteria of the past 20 or so years.
    While science and research and scholarship is good, biting the hand that has generously made it possible for these things to flourish is at the least bad manners, and is very likely over time to prove self-destructive.
    The articles showing how confirmation bias has infected big science is showing that the claims about the magisterium of science is so much eye wash. If the AGW was serious about the future of science, they would keep the Mooneys of the world far away. They would instead bring in people who have documented what group think and confirmation bias, when combined with power and money, did to Wall St. and other large groupings of institutions.

    • One of my favorite stupid comments, form Huffington Post, is that 80% of Republicans are morons. But yours is perhaps equally partisan the other way. For the purposes of this blog we must rise above all this and look at the demographics scientifically. It is called the science of science policy.

      • No golden age lasts forever. Every golden age sows its own destruction.
        Big science and big academia have enjoyed a long golden age.
        There will be a time when the public largesse to academia with basically no questions asked gets critically reviewed.
        I would, if I were in academia, go out of my way to show how I respect those who are actually footing the bill and tolerating a legal cliamte that grants such financial power to Universities and so much credibility to scientists.
        The sicenice of policy is political science, and that is even more free-for-all than climate scinece.

  15. Alexander Harvey

    I am not sure why the Planck feedback or its associated no-feedback sensitivity is so contentious.

    How does it affect the equations?

    The calculation of the temperature change in a small model approximation

    T = F/L

    T is the change in temperature, F the change in forcing and L (lambda) has the form of a thermal conductance.

    Now we could partition L into a number of parallel conductances, in particular Lf and Ls.

    T = F/(Lf+Ls)

    Lf for fast (water vapour, clouds, etc.) and Ls for slow (things delayed by thermal inerta, ice albedo, tundra emissions,etc.)

    Now Lf determines a real flux that one might measure. But we can go further and divide Lf into some abstract parts.

    Lf = Lp+Ll+Lw+Lc (Planck, lapse rate, water vapour and clouds).

    Now one of these has to be dependent, the one chosen might be the one we have no idea how to calculate e.g. Lc (clouds) so

    Lc = Lf -(Lp+Ll+Lw) but more of that later.

    Given this abstract decomposition we get

    T = F/(Lp+Ll+Lw+Lc+Ls)

    Now we have a fondness for Lp so we couch the equation thus by dividing top and bottom by it.

    T = (F/Lp) / (1 + Ll/Lp + Lw/Lp + Lc/Lp + Lf/Lp)

    we select the CO2 doubling forcing for F and so rename F/Lp as the no-feedback climate sensitivity (CS0) and rename the terms in the denominator as feedbacks factors, (note the minus signs):

    fl = -Ll/pLp, fw = -Lw/Lp, etc.


    T = CS0/(1 – (fl + fw + fc +fs))

    sum the feedback factors to get one over all f factor and hey presto

    T = CSo/(1-f)

    We have manipulated a lot of symbols but we haven’t actually done anything. It is the same problem we started with.

    All we have done is divide the top and bottom by the same value.Interestingly we can pick any value for Lp and the equation still holds, it is in that sense arbitary (although it is a good idea to try and get a sensible value).

    Now what would happen if we got the value of Lp wrong?

    Well remember that we had a dependent value Lc = Lf -(Lp+Ll+Lw)

    Get Lp wrong and in this case Lc takes up the slack.

    My point is that it is Lf and Ls that along with the thermal inertia determine the short and long run development of the system in the small model approximation.

    Transforming L = F/(Lf+Ls) into L = CS0/(1-f) doesn’t solve the problem it merely restates it in another guise.

    I apologise in advance for any typos as I rarely do so many equations without a mistake or two.

    Now this is one of those moments when either I am nuts or most of you are nuts. Whatever my sanity, I fail to see how the strange abstraction that is the no-feedback sensitivity managed to create such a fuss.


  16. Dr. Curry,
    I am a retired medical scientist who was part of the academic medical research community for more than 30 years albeit in Canada. For twenty years I sat on a committee dealing with the ethics of research on humans. The most difficult issue we dealt with in that committee was conflict of interest. All of the projects had varying degrees of it because each was based on a grant from some group: a voluntary agency such as The heart Foundation, Pharmaceutical companies or government agencies. No matter what the source of funds, the investigator-applicant’s career depended on a successful grant application and positive research results. In order to get results some applications were for work already done pretending that the research was to be done in the future. In my opinion, the grant application system badly distorts the doing of science. It creates a “group think”. A successful career depends on being part of the “in” group. The pretense of applying for work already done is tantamount to lying and this combined with the need for peer approval of a particular grant create a system ripe for abuse. I believe these pressures operate in both the medical and climatological sphere. The people caught up in this system are not bad people but there is a great temptation to do bad or sloppy science.

    • Dr. Sutter,
      You are witness to how science has degenerated by just following grants for one outcome. It generated a peer-review of like minded and closed minded scientists to actual physical phenomina.
      Temperatures in climate science are not events or predictors of events on a global surface that rotates(no one included).

  17. I think one similarity is the perceived need to be alarming enough to provoke public action. My best example is relative risk. I work on my kids to be intelligent consumers of information, but as I tell them, if you don’t understand math it will be used against you. They are bombarded with ‘70% higher risk of this’ or ‘ an increased risk of that.’ And usually accompanied by a toll free number or website for more information on one drug or another, or an opportunity to contribute to a group. When I explain to them that the 70% increase changes their risk from 1 in 10,000 to 1.7 in 10,000 it really puts it in perspective and they are relieved.
    The similarity to me lies in my perception of the marketing of the science in both spheres and an instinctive salesman’s hair-raising when confronted by it. I believe a lot of medical science now is science by press release, often even before a study has even been released, and I see a close connection in this way with AGW materials.

  18. Judith,

    Here are some earlier articles that should also be of interest:

    Most Science Studies Appear to Be Tainted By Sloppy Analysis

    Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

    Why Current Publication Practices May Distort Science

    • Brent, thanks for these additional references

    • Either The Lancet or The New England Journal of Medicine or both in collaboration (can’t remember any more and don’t know how to find such an old reference) published many years or a couple or decennia ago an article where the statistical methods of medical research articles were analyzed. The conclusion was that most articles gave too little information for judging the validity of methods applied. Of those, which gave, most had serious mythological faults. One complaint was also that when many groups studied the effectiveness of a medicine, usually only the group published that had positive results.

      This is indeed a well-known problem in medicine. Most MD’s must know about the problem, but that doesn’t help very much in making practical decisions.

      Similar problems are present in all sciences, but the problems of medicine have their own unique features.

  19. ” The prevalance of (unconscious) bias ” is very prominent in climate science. Perhaps most climate scientists don’t see it, because they are so immersed in it, but to objective scientists from other disciplines looking in, reading the IPCC report or papers by the mainstream climate scientists, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Here is a relevant quote from the rejoinder by statisticians McShane and Wyner, following comments on their hockey-stick-debunking paper:
    “We fault many of our predecessors for assiduously collecting and presenting all the facts that confirm their theories while failing to seek facts that contradict them. For science to work properly, it is vital to stress one’s model to its fullest capacity (Feynman, 1974).”

    • Yes here’s a couple of quotes from the essay in the main title post that struck me as important and, dare I say, a little familiar:

      “Simply put, if you’re attracted to ideas that have a good chance of being wrong, and if you’re motivated to prove them right, and if you have a little wiggle room in how you assemble the evidence, you’ll probably succeed in proving wrong theories right.”


      “The article spelled out his belief that researchers were frequently manipulating data analyses, chasing career-advancing findings rather than good science, and even using the peer-review process—in which journals ask researchers to help decide which studies to publish—to suppress opposing views”

      Oh dear.

  20. There is a climate scientist who shall remain nameless, because his name creates numerous comments that would not be relevant. He (that narrows it) is regularly interviewed by the press, and he has expressed his alignment with the Democratic party. In one interview, he stated, in effect, that his lifelong goal was to prove the existence of AGW so that his work could influence policy. My thought on reading that was that his lifelong goal, driven by his beliefs, biased everything about his science, and that it really wasn’t science any longer; it was more a belief confirmation.

    • Bob,
      I have seen this many times. People are loosing faith in science when news releases state “scientists say” or “researchers have confirmed” with usually no names as to who that person is. Frustrates the hell out of me when I cannot look into this.
      When you pin all research science and grants to one theory and that theory fall apart, where are all theses researchers and scientists going to go?
      Not looking into pressure build-up in the atmosphere certainly was a big mstake.

  21. Dear Judith,

    Dr. Hansen recently gave evidence in support of environmental activists in the UK who planned to “invade” and shut down a coal-fired power station for a week. Dr. Hansen’s evidence was (presumably) intended to support a defence of “reasonable excuse”. Whilst his testimony in earlier cases has been successful, in this case, the activists were convicted.

    Now, a copy of Dr. Hansen’s 22 page witness statement can be seen here:

    In England and Wales, expert witnesses (and Dr. Hansen was being called as an expert witness) are required to declare that they understand, in short, that their primary duty is to the court, not to their “client”, and that they must give objective evidence. This means that where there is information which might weaken or cast doubt upon their stated position, they must share this with the court. Thus, an expert witness must be unbiased and impartial.

    People can read Dr. Hansen’s statement and form their own opinions. However, it does not seem to me to be fair and objective, and may well be an example of the kind of unconscious bias of which you speak.

  22. I am not sure how relevant this is, but what I have observed is a lack of discussion of the nitty-gritty issues that are the real basis of any science, but particularly the science of CAGW. One would expect serious scientists to relish these sorts of discussions. But with respect to CAGW we see the opposite.

    On WUWT, Willis Eschenbach had a discussion started with Walt Meier, but before the discussion got really interesting, Walt disappeared. On this blog we have seen Andrew Lacis walk away from another discussion with Willis.

    Now on the very recent discussion on no-feedback sensitivity, we have seen Tomas Milanovic put up some detailed science, and no-one has even discussed it at all.

    It seems to me that the proponents of CAGW are simply reluctant to discuss the details that really matter. This seems to be related to a desire to ensure that nothing denigrates the science behind CAGW. As long one pretends that there is no science to support the skeptics, then the impression can remain that, with respect to CAGW, “the science is settled”.

    This may or may not be good politics, but it seems to me that it is very bad science.

    • Jim,
      Current climate science really is worse than you think.
      How can climate science even consider predictions when they do NOT know ALL the factors into how this planet operates?
      At least in medical science we have the knowledge of the motor skills, chemical compositions to make a diagnosis. In climate science, there is very little knowledge in planetary rotation or the energies it generates. We do know the chemical composition of this planet. We lack looking into the past changes that has generated this time for our civilization. So, current physics is incorrect for not being able to adjust to changes.

    • I’m sure that part of the problem that the climatologists are having is that they have only been playing ‘home games’ for the last fifteen years.

      By the deliberate exclusion of all opposition (heavily moderated pro-AGW blogs for example, pal-review another, FOI avoidance a third), they have only been playing to their own supporters (and placemen) who give them a bit of an easy ride.

      Judith herself alluded to this tendency in one of her earlier essays where she said (I paraphrase) ‘The IPCC was always there and we always assumed that if it was in IPCC it had been rigorously examined and found to be unquestionably true’. Which of course is very far from the true state of affairs.

      But if you only ever play to your own supporters, you can get a nasty surprise when the other side eventually gets a chance to play. A fine example from soccer history. Way back when in the 1950s, England deigned to play a friendly match against Hungary. There was a ‘consensus’ among the English FA that we were sure to was at our own stadium, we had invented the game after all and Hungary were just a pesky little nation with no traditions and no players and should think themselves jolly lucky to be allowed to play us. According to the England captain, the Hungarians didn’t even have proper football kit. And England hadn’t been beaten at home for 52 years.

      It wasn’t like that. History shows that Hungary won 6-3. They had 35 shots on goal, compared with England’s 5.

      Fluke! called the critics. ‘Hungary just got lucky once’. ‘We’d win 9 out of 10’. ‘Let’s have a replay and we’ll show them’

      England were invited back to Budapest six months later for avenge their humiliation. Hungary won 7-1. And nothing in English football was the same again.

  23. Judith,
    Have you noticed weather events slowing?
    Exceptionally longer hurricanes?
    So far, my area has recieved close to 4 feet of snow in the past 2 weeks and it still coming down. This is 1/2 of what we would recieve all winter. Earlier snow reflects the sunlight that would have normally been absorbed then released by the ground surface.

    If you think climate science is in trouble now?
    Wait until spring with this extra snow, we will have a much longer winter and melting season. Also a far shorter summer.

  24. “What are we to make of these essays in the context of climate science?”

    Not much!

    Politics is ‘Human Climate’! The current alignment of scientists to a specific party in the US (or anywhere else) has more to do with the availability of $ than to the ‘politics’ of the scientists themselves. The individual observations that are made about this or that relative to publications, universtites, businesses, or individuals are merely “temperature’ and/or “humidity” and/or “cloud density”. They are an attempt to quantify and are a very simple over-simplification of things that seem to be part of the mix being discussed.

    Just as we know that all Democrats are not communists and few Republicans are rich, we know that the driver in science is not political but monitary.

    Nope! Not much! Politics is like climate. It doesn’t mean much at all.

    • This is why so much climate science is garbage science.
      Politics or religion influences rather than looking at the purity of the research.
      You have no idea of the high of making discoveries and underatanding new areas no one has ever been before(in pure truth without influences).

  25. Let’s not talk Republicans vs. Democrats. Instead we’ll start with a continuum of political and social points of view. On the classical right we have government as a necessary evil (keep it small), responsible for national defense, public safety and enforcement of contracts. The left prefers big government adding social change and re-distribution of wealth to its remit.

    Viewed this way, the threat of climate change becomes a lever that can be used to force social change (social engineering) and re-distribution of wealth (reduce income disparity). For example …
    o Money from industrialized nations to the third world
    o Ending “urban sprawl” by moving people from suburbs into cities
    o Replacing freedom granting personal automobiles with mass transit
    In each case above, the Elite (what my high school English teacher called “the educated cultivated people”) decide among themselves what is best for the non- or less-elite.

    A scientist who believes in social change/engineering and re-distribution of wealth (and who survives on government grants) tends to look for or be biased toward finding a climate change lever. Those favoring small government and not living on government grants are not.

    • Well said! We are, all of us, ‘inclined’ toward one ‘pole’ or the other. Weeeeeeel almost all of us, there are also the ‘neutrons’ among us too; though they are few, and far between — and I hear they are usually quite happy.

  26. This is what happens when bad policies are implemented by corrupt and inept politicians:

    Death of 27 asylum seekers highlights Australia’s immigration problems

    And the world still wants to believe in this the global warming crap?

  27. Judith,
    It’s worth noting that Jonah Lehrer has elaborated somewhat on his New Yorker article as his blog:

    It’s notable what Lehrer felt compelled to say what the article is NOT implying.

    Also, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne has a nice take at his site:

  28. I’m curious whether this population bias towards democrats among scientists is a recent trend or something that has existed a long time. If the former, then it probably has more to do with current Republican ideology than Democratic Party ideology.

    If the latter, then it probably has more to do with Republican/conservative preferences towards careers. There are numerous departments of academia that lean one way or the other in these kinds of biases.

    And while it certainly can affect what policies scientists might favor in responding, I think it is less clear what impact it has an attitudes towards the science.

  29. My guess is it is quite old. I think most research most scientists are academics and most academics have always been liberals. My conjecture is that conservative minded people with an interest in how the world works tend to become engineers instead of scientists, so yes it is a career choice result. (I happen to be both, a civil engineer and a cognitive scientist.)

    But as typically happens when new data arrives, we are in the speculative stage of this interesting science of science issue, just like climate science itself.

    • randomengineer

      My conjecture is that conservative minded people with an interest in how the world works tend to become engineers instead of scientists, so yes it is a career choice result.

      Chicken / egg?

      Maybe there’s something about engineering that tends to inform worldview as opposed to the other way around? Most of the engineers I work with trend to a very slight (moderate) republican view; very few are “radical” left (i.e. ranging from organic food beliefs, vegetarianism, etc.) On the other hand this doesn’t appear to be deep seated ideology so much as pragmatism at work.

      Can you elaborate on your conjecture please? This is interesting.

      • Pragmatism is supposed to be a trait of conservatives, while idealism is a trait of liberals. The kind of abstraction that science deals in may be a form of idealism. Engineering is certainty pragmatic. But we are already way past my scientific sphere. One hopes that the psychologists, sociologists and political scientists have looked into the issue of how ideology, traits and careers are intertwined. As far a the science of science policy goes the issue is what difference this ideological demography makes?

        I do agree that most people are moderates but I am not sure what difference that makes. The political spectrum is quite wide so even moderates on both sides can be pretty far apart.

      • Yet another consideration is that people can hold opinions that very widely across that spectrum. Someone may have a “far right” opinion on one subject while simultaneously holding a “far left” opinion on another.

      • I would suggest that conservatives are much more committed to a set of ideals than are lefties. It is Conservatives who are pushing that we hold to the original intent of our framers.
        And looking at this execrable lame duck session, the agenda set by the lefties running it is completely alien to the idea of anything like a worthy ideal.
        As to anti-science, it was Obama and Holdren who ignored the science review after the BP leak in favor of their political alliances with enviro-extremists.

  30. When I was doing research – up to post doctoral level – in chemistry, there were groups that were notorious for being below par. I finally gave up science because the head of our group actually acknowledged two catastrophic faults in our equipment, but didn’t want to do anything for some months while his students went on collecting data!

    After moving into scientific software development, I encountered a number of other instances of behaviour, as bad or worse. In all cases the man responsible had good contacts and brought in lots of grant money – so he was untouchable.

    I would guess that nobody who has had any serious involvement in university research can be unaware of similar issues. Presumably, as time has gone by, bad science has got more and more embedded in the system. Clearly, within the CRU, the rot extends beyond those caught writing those revealing emails, and extends (at least) to those who facilitated multiple inquiries into the affair that all managed to avert their gaze from the key issues!

    I recently gave a donation to WikiLeaks, because (among other things) it seems to offer one way for some of this corruption to be exposed – at least when it really matters.

    I don’t live in the US, but if I did, I think I would still vote Democrat, because that party seems to be a lot less belligerent, but clearly they have been fooled by AGW, along with many other politicians and environmental organisations. It is time everyone became a lot more wary of scientific pronouncements!

    • I see no evidence to support your conjecture that “as time has gone by, bad science has got more and more embedded in the system.” Dishonesty is not a new invention.

      • cagw_skeptic99

        Evidence will be hard to come by unless there are criminal grand juries convened to investigate our most prestigious universities, and that simply isn’t going to happen (except maybe in Virginia). There seems to be very little question that Penn State had no interest at all in finding anything unethical or wrong with what Dr. Mann was doing there. Penn State gets a big piece of each grant. Proving that their “investigation” was not interested in finding wrongdoing, other than by observing that they really didn’t do much investigating, would accomplish what? The good Dr. is still bringing home the bacon and boasting about his hockey stick research.

        More federal grant money was made available for these AGW studies because the EPA and the Government believe, and free money does have a corrupting influence.

        Am I the only one who sees a new study recommending, for example, that I change my toothbrush every few weeks, who looks reflexively at the source of funding for the study? The results of many studies can be predicted before they even start. Witness the hundreds of papers on everything from genetic changes in snails to birds flying into cliffs due to ‘global warming’.

      • But how is this new? I didn’t say there was no corruption, just that corruption is nothing new.

      • Clearly the question as to whether corruption has increased can only be guesswork, but it seems likely to me that as science became diluted with less able individuals who still wanted a career, this was inevitable. Money brings corruption, and money has poured into science in recent decades.

      • But with the billions$ pouring in, corruption will inevitably increase.
        I say bring Mann and Hansen and the rest in front of aggresssive Congressional reviews and grand juries and let’s see where the chips fall.
        They wanted to impose their policies and have refused normal checks and balances.

      • Do you really want politicians evaluating scientists? Are they somehow more connected to honesty and the truth than a university review committee?

        As to seeing where the chips fall, if a grand jury found no wrong-doing, would you accept that result (keeping in mind that most of the time, their internal workings are not made public)?

        Is subjecting a science to a Congressional committee more “normal checks and balances” than a university review committee?

      • Do we really want scientists ruling us?
        If scientists are getting public money- and they are receiving vast sums of it- then they should be accountable for that money just like any other government fund recipient.
        Since University review committees are generally rubber stamps for their friends and allies, yet are unaccountable to those who pay the bills, I would say that Congressional or accountable transparent third party over sight is much better than the status quo.
        What we have now is not working.

      • to finish and and answer your interesting question about grand juries.
        Let’s see where the chips fall is the answer: If the Grand Jury does a credible job, then it is satisfactory.
        Grand Juries are not perfect. They are made up of fallible people.
        I live in a state where certain DA’s can indict a ham sandwich, but yet more frequently the GJ proves to be a good developer of fact.

      • David Wojick | December 15, 2010 at 1:14 pm
        I see no evidence to support your conjecture that “as time has gone by, bad science has got more and more embedded in the system.” Dishonesty is not a new invention.

        Maybe a simple transposition wold make the sentence a truism:
        “as time has gone by, more and more bad science has got embedded in the system.”

        Duff outputs become assumed truth as time passes. Error compounds upon error, until the need for a spring clean becomes so painfully obvious it can no longer be resisted. That time is nigh for climate science.

  31. I like the quote at the end of the Wired piece (

    Richard Rorty said it best: “To say that we should drop the idea of truth as out there waiting to be discovered is not to say that we have discovered that, out there, there is no truth.” Of course, the very fact that the facts aren’t obvious, that the truth isn’t “waiting to be discovered,” means that science is intensely human. It requires us to look, to search, to plead with nature for an answer.

    And it’s important to remember that nature isn’t all that scientists are pleading with. They plead with each other, their funding bodies, drug companies and their consumers, the public etc.
    I think Lehrer is trying to exclude climate science from his discussion because he’s afraid of the arguments being hijacked for views he doesn’t condone.
    Well tough, climate science is a human enterprise just like all the others. These problems are universal, though admittedly worse in some fields than others (replication is especially poor in the disciplines that don’t depend on it for practical reasons, and there’s added pressure for bias when products go to market with scientific backing).
    Overall, these pieces are of great value for those casting doubt on established scientific opinion or the latest fact, but it’s worth remembering that skeptics are just as human as the rest. There is certainly no shortage of selection bias or correspondence bias among skeptics. If the scientific method(s) is/are so prone to flaws, just think of what happens with less rigorous procedures of arriving at truth.

  32. Michael Larkin

    From: and h/t Neal Asher at Bishop Hill

    Mark Twain, On the Damned Human Race:

    “[I]n the drift of years I by and by found that a Consensus examines a new thing by its feelings rather oftener than with its mind. You know, yourself, that this is so.…
    “Do you know of a case where a Consensus won a game? You can go back as far as you want to and you will find history furnishing you this (until now) unwritten maxim for your guidance and profit: Whatever new thing a Consensus [bets against], bet your money on that very card and do not be afraid.
    “There was that primitive steam engine— ages back, in Greek times: a consensus made fun of it. There was the Marquis of Worcester’s steam engine, 250 years ago: a Consensus made fun of it. There was Fulton’s steamboat of a century ago: a French Consensus, including the Great Napoleon, made fun of it. There was Priestly, with his oxygen: a consensus scoffed at him, mobbed him, burned him out, banished him. While a Consensus was proving, by statistics and things, that a steamship could not cross the Atlantic, a steamship did it.
    “A Consensus consisting of all the medical experts in Great Britain made fun of Jenner and inoculation. A Consensus consisting of all the medical experts in France made fun of the stethoscope. A Consensus of all the medical experts in Germany made fun of that young doctor (his name? forgotten by all but doctors, now, revered by doctors alone) who discovered and abolished the cause of that awful disease, puerperal fever; made fun of him, reviled him, hunted him, persecuted him, broke his heart, killed him.
    “Electric telegraph, Atlantic cable, telephone, all ‘toys,’ of no practical value-verdict of the Consensuses. Geology, paleontology, evolution—all brushed into space by a Consensus of theological experts, comprising all the preachers in Christendom, assisted by the Duke of Argyle and (at first) the other scientists
    “And do look at Pasteur and his majestic honor rolll of prodigious benefactions! Damned—each and every one of them in its turn—by frenzied and ferocious consensuses of medical and chemical experts comprising, for years, every member of the tribe in Europe; damned without even a casual look at what he was doing—and he pathetically imploring them to come and take at least one little look before making the damnation eternal.
    “They shortened his life by their malignities and persecution; and thus robbed the world of the further and priceless services of a man who—along certain lines and within certain limits—had done more for the human race than any other one man in all its long history; a man whom it had taken the Expert brotherhood ten thousand years to produce, and whose mate and match the brotherhood may possibly not be able to bring forth and assassinate in another ten thousand.
    “The preacher has an old and tough reputation for bullheaded and unreasoning hostility to new light; why, he is not ‘in it’ with the doctor! Nor, perhaps, with some of the other breeds of experts that sit around and get up the consensuses and squelch the new things as fast as they come from the hands of the plodders, the searchers, the inspired dreamers, the Pasteurs that come bearing pearls to scatter in the Consensus sty.
    “These sorrows have made me suspicious of Consensuses. Do you know, I tremble and the gose flesh rises on my skin every time I encounter one, now.”

    • History makes note of the times when consensus is incorrect, but often fails to note the times that it isn’t. In this instance, Mark Twain is cherry picking anecdotes to prove a point that isn’t necessarily true. For example there is currently a consensus that the 9/11 attacks were the result of Al Queda (rather than the US government), and I doubt that one will prove to be incorrect.

      • Richard S Courtney


        With respect, I think you miss the point.

        Consensus may be right or wrong, but the existence of the consensus says nothing about whether it is right or wrong.


      • With that statement, I could not agree more.

      • Brad,
        You almost sounded like a rational person.

      • Brad,
        I hit submit too fast. Sorry about that. Please ignore what I said.
        It has been a long long day.

      • I am certainly not a fan of science by consensus and I’m skeptical of the AGW case as well. However I think the rhetoric got a little too far away from the facts in Michael’s post so I just wanted to chime in and remind us that the consensus isn’t *always* wrong.

      • Michael Larkin

        I guess one point in posting this quote from MT was to demonstrate that consensus in science, and using statistics to support that, have a long history of impeding progress. It isn’t the case that it’s a new phenomenon applicable to medical science or climate science, or any other science.

        I don’t deny that consensus is sometimes right… at least for a period until the next paradigm shift.

      • I would argue that it’s very difficult to fully understand the pros and cons of consensus behavior. People are social creatures; we like to agree with each other and build communities, and that aspect of our behavior is responsible for a much of our progress.

        And even in the scientific community, consensus is what allows us to agree on common terminology for the same concept, to form theoretical frameworks, and band together to pull off amazing feats of cooperation like the LHC or the Apollo program.

        So I think consensus is a hugely positive behavioral trait, usually. But like everything else, it has its bad days.

  33. OT: I’ve been looking for the 2 links to papers not behind a pay wall that someone posted a week or two ago. I believe one was a govt. site. Does anyone have those or remember where they were? Thx in advance.

  34. Most Republicans are into making money, while most Democrats are into spending money.

  35. AnyColourYouLike

    The discussion of the questionable peer review process as related to McKitrick and Nierenberg 2010, currently going on at Steve McIntyre’s place seems rather relevant to the original article at the top of this thread.

  36. Dr. Curry, a bit OT but I thought you might like to see this article in press by Ross McKitrick. He suggests that about 1/3 of warming is due to socioeconomic development.

  37. Judy, a recent big news item in this vein has been Darly Bem of Cornell’s parapsychology, Feeling The Future research “proving” or “strongly suggesting” pre-cognition. Research psychologyists say Bem’s designs statistical methods and interpretations are more or less standard fare and this aricle is on its way to the presses of a flagship journal. He gets p-values far stronger than climate science (well below 1e-9 for some metanalysis) for psi powers — a result 99% of climate scientists would likely reject as nonsense. There is a highly instructive rebuttal: Why Psychologists Must Change the Way They Analyze Their Data: The Case of Psi.

    I believe there is a good deal of presentation in climate science leading to similarly inflated confidence in results, but without a “collision of theories” to call them into question. Pre-cognition would seem to imply *major* revisions for physics and neurobiology. The battlefield of theories has more the shape of “plausible alternatives” like very little impact to destablization of a complex system. A great deal of the medical results alluded to in the primary articles of your posts and others are of that character as well. With such situations, the over interpretation of the evidence can be very time wasting, distracting, counter-productive and even result in quite misguided regulation, sometimes indeed in the name of a precautionary principle.

    There are many references for various Neyman-Pearson vs. Fisher vs. Bayes data analysis, Richard Royall’s short monograph being among the better written. One even shorter reference that I think really adds some practical value is Berger’s work which connects Fisherian p-values to a more naturally scientifically interpretable probabilities (technically bounds on them) under fairly general conditions. This work by Berger is really worth a read for anyone unfamiliar with the issues who wants a way to “sanity check” different interpretations in the way the rebuttal to psi powers does for Bem’s work. There are surely places where it is relevant in the climate debate in terms issues with uncertainty analysis.

  38. At Chris Mooney’s blog, Rob Knop writes the following in a comment (#7):
    ( )

    “I *used* to be a Republican. (…) it’s difficult for scientists to remain in it [the republican party]. It’d be like an evolutionary biologist trying to remain a fundamentalist; sooner or later, you gotta find another church, even if there are things about it you don’t like. (…)”

    Indeed I think it most likely that because the republican party has by and large been more antagonistic towards scientific conlusions deemed inconvenient than the democratic party has, more scientists turned towards the democratic party. Which is an unfortunate tendency, as there is nothing intrinsically political about science (be it medical or climate or whatever science).

    Mooney’s post title is also spot on:
    “Is the problem that too few scientists are republican or is the problem that too few republicans accept science?”

    Though Nisbet makes a good pragmatic point as well: Hammering on the “republican war” narrative (as Mooney does in his opinion) increases the polarization and hence makes this problem (however one sees it) only worse.

    • Of course this is written from the Dem perspective where the Dem interpretation of policy relevant science is called simply science. It is a nice rhetorical trick.

      • For example, consider this rephrasing, with the additions in all caps:

        the republican party has by and large been more antagonistic towards DEMOCRATIC scientific conlusions deemed inconvenient than the democratic party has (put this way it is no surprise)

        “Is the problem that too few scientists are republican or is the problem that too few republicans accept DEMOCRATIC science?” (put this way there is no problem, just a policy debate)

        Equating Reps with fundamentalists, creationists, etc., is also a rhetorical trick (as is equating Dems with greens, socialists, etc.). In a two party system with close elections Reps are roughly half the population.

      • How on earth can science be either democratic or republican?

        Of course some perceived consequences of science can be harder or easier to swallow for either party, but that doesn’t seem to be what you’re saying.

      • It is the interpretation, as in the IPCC reports, that is political.

      • No, it’s your (and mine, and everyone else’s) interpretation of what it means we should or should not do that is political. The science itself is not.

      • The science is what is described in tens or hundreds of thousands of journal articles. Most of it is politically neutral. The exception is that genre of research that assumes CAGW, mostly to consider possible adverse impacts. This research is politically motivated.

        Republicans are not rejecting this literature (except the part that assumes CAGW). Reps are disagreeing with Dem claims that it all adds up to confirm CAGW, so drastic action must be taken. It is the proper interpretation of the science that is in dispute, not the science itself. The political dispute includes the interpretation of the science. That is why we are all here on this science blog.

        So when people like Mooney claim that Reps reject the science he is wrong. It is a rhetorical trick to make skeptics look anti-science, which they are not.

      • > How on earth can science be either democratic or republican?

        Reality has a well-known liberal bias.


      • Reality has a well-known liberal bias.

        I’ve always thought of it as “Reality is liberal conspiracy!” :)

      • Yet liberals are the delusional ones, statistically.

      • You mean like how one party seeks out to sell the idea that there is a climate crisis to justify crazy levels of subsidy for useless windmills and deliberate destruction of productive industries?

      • I think it is academics who tend to be democrats. Teachers from first grade to college are dominantly liberal and scientists are just a subset of this group. Industrial scientists may be more conservative than their academic counterparts.

      • randomengineer

        How on earth can science be either democratic or republican?

        Is this a trick question? It’s clear that all too often science and/or other claims are accepted or not based on one’s political beliefs.

        Consider, for example, the claims re organic foods. It’s interesting to note that the same people who tend to believe that corporations are bad (democrats in the US) tend to reject “corporate food” and believe that organic is better. Do republicans eat organic vegetables? Why sure, but nowhere near as much. Go into a Whole Foods store. You can’t swing a dead cat and not hit a democrat voter. You’re hard pressed to find a republican.

        Surely this is explainable by noting that republicans are stupid and reject the scientific “evidence” proving that organic food is better for you. One more thing showing they’re anti-science, right?

        Locate a demonstration, anywhere in the US, that’s against nuclear energy. There aren’t any republican demonstrators.

        Republicans meanwhile view democrats as anti-science panty wetters who are unreasonably afraid of pesticides, antibiotics, atoms, and as of late, CO2 molecules. The democrats in the media in turn label republicans as corporate stooges, and since republicans are saddled with a small smattering of creationist nutbars, it’s not that difficult to manipulate imagery or wording to make it sound like the nutbars are representative.

        Republicans are agog: if any party promotes irrational fear and is anti-scientific, it’s the green wing of the democrats. And yet the media paints republicans as anti-scientific… WTF?

        Recently there’s a scare re cell phones; apparently the claim is that they cause cancer. OK, for a control experiment lets look at who is behind this and their political affiliation. I got 1000:1 that says it’s democrats/leftists/greens and NOT republicans.

        With a track record like this, is it any wonder that republicans are suspicious?

      • randomengineer,

        Most of your examples concern people’s *opinion* about a topic where science is relevant, but hardly the only factor that goes into forming one’s opinion.

        E.g. most of your examples relate to someone’s risk aversion/use of the precautionary principle, and to what extent people feel responsible for other people’s problems.

        But the radiative properties of CO2 couldn’t care less about your or my worldviews or level of risk aversion or relative importance of freedom vs responsibility.
        ( ) I trust the scientific process that these scientific issues are over time converging on what’s most likely true.

        I’m glad to see that David W. agrees:
        “The science is what is described in tens or hundreds of thousands of journal articles. Most of it is politically neutral. “

      • I think that should be personal freedom and personal responsibility vs very limited freedom and very little personal responsibility.

  39. aaaand you’re back in the room.

    It’s an interesting topic for discussion, but again i think it’s slightly missing the point- the science isn’t the issue- it’s those who are (prominently) practicing it.

    There have been and will continue to be issues regarding medical medicine because of, and i don’t think I’m going out on a limb here, the significant amounts of money involved.

    It is inordinately difficult to get a drug to market. The failure rates are staggering (along the lines of only 5% get to trials, only 2% of that get to second stage and only a further 1% pass-examine the number of Novel drug candidates released in the last year as an illustration) and the failure of a drug can often sink the company trying to market it.

    There are therefore very high stakes involved and corruption/dishonesty inevitably creep in- but and it’s VERY important to note this, it’s not always the Scientists who are responsible for this dishonesty- but those ‘higher up’. The temptation for dishonesty given the potential money involved is large (in some rare cases), but the punishment is also, significantly large; prison, fines and company dissolution.

    As a result the medical industry had built-in SIGNIFICANT checks, balances and criteria to minimise, catch and punish (exceptionally harshly) anyone who tries to pull something in this context. Issues still occur, of course, but the safety record of drug substances (and I’m including biological’s here) speaks for itself.

    How does this apply to climate science?

    Well, the parallels are disturbing; the money involved is staggering- we’re approaching the ‘trillions’ level here and many careers/companies/institutes/political careers are built on, or have capitalised (heavily) upon the cAGW ‘theory’.

    The potential for dishonesty then is also large (I’d wager it was MUCH larger- especially given the political and ideological issues at play), but what are the checks, the balances and the punishments to curb this ‘potential’ for dishonesty?

    Well there are none that I’m aware of.

    Take, for example, the perennial climategate (why the ‘gate’ suffix- why!!). There was direct evidence of FOI avoidance. Lawyers showed that they had indeed broken the law, wilfully and knowingly- yet they escaped any sort prosecution (the loophole they used was incorrect, yet it’s been ignored since).
    Further point; the loss of, or the intent to delete data (whether carried out or not):
    This alone in my field (biotech), would be grounds for prosecution. Had there been proof of this deletion- I would, in all likelihood be sent to prison. Yet the three, independent inquiries, did not examine this fact, or even check the data for any inconsistencies. There is a complete lack of accountability in climate science, which I think- given the ‘youth’ of the field is exceptionally dangerous.
    But where do we go from here? Well the answer is painfully simple- full disclosure and public AUDITS of the critical data/institutes/aspects of the theory. And by Audit, I do not mean an inquiry by parties with a direct interest in furthering the theory (I’m looking at you Russel/Oxbridge) I mean an external specialised auditing company who routinely deal with the biotech industry- i.e. professional auditors of scientific matters that are paid by disconnected individuals with no political backing.
    It’s good enough for the biotech industry which has a direct and significant impact on peoples lives, so it should be good enough for the climate science ‘industry’, which (they argue) will have an even larger effect on the populace.
    Unfortunately, you will be more likely to see a squadron of pigs flying over the freshly pink-painted cliffs of dover than see a climate scientist/institution submit to an audit, which in itself speaks volumes, but one can always hope.

    • Labmunkey,
      As long as climate science relies on its political prowess in this age of political absorption, noting much will be done regarding the climategate scam.
      In my distant past on Wall St., what the e-mails outlined would have had SEC and criminal investigations all over it.
      Investors would have been organized into class action lawsuits against the institutions and individuals.
      But here we are, in bizarre-o world where even the heretics do not want to be seen pressing the point that the leaders of AGW are, not put too fine a point on it, corrupt.
      And the media- alas, Babylon. They been measured and found wanting.
      And now the next information vision- the internet and blogosphere- is even now coming in through the gates.

      • I agree, however i feel that by highlighting the reason for this- i.e. the political NOT scientific reasons for the theories survival can only help.

        The more people for whom the ‘penny drops’, the better.

        I’m in the process of lambasting Chris huhne and one of his aides after they had the temerity to write to me to say my concerns over the CRU were not founded as the three independant inquiries fully exonerated them, and the science. Which should prove interesting, i’ll post any response i get.

  40. Lehrer’s article in The New Yorker is more interesting in my judgment. The problems studied by Ioannidis are certainly in many ways present in all science but still largely specific to medicine. To the extent that they are common in all sciences their mechanisms are not discussed as deeply in Freedman’s article as in Lehrer’s.

    It is important for the progress in science that new and exciting results get published, but that leads to wrong conclusions and misconceptions unless the overemphasis of unconfirmed and sometimes very speculative articles is understood. The accumulation of scientific knowledge is a slow process, often painstakingly slow, but that is the only way for real scientific knowledge. The process involves innumerous errors and wrong ideas which are only gradually corrected or forgotten. Replication is usually given as the way the results get confirmed, but it is seldom direct replication, but rather extension and improvement on the earlier work where the correct parts are retained and the erroneous ones replaced.

    • Pekka, Pekka, Pekka, your innocence is showing.
      Through the years of theories upon theories, we generated tradition teaching and a like minded science community that has generated massive barriers to anything that may disrupt the current theories.
      You need actual physical mechanics or exact measuring and current theories desolve into being an incorrect programming of our current thought processes.
      This planet is/was though to be simple to understand. Now we are slowly realizing it is just as complex as the human body it created.

      Can you prove through simple mechanics that the moon rotated backwards to the planet? It has been proven millions of times yet no one put any thought or connection to it as to what the mechanics is. A chisel or plane to a piece of wood will curl the molecules back as it is pushed across the surface into a round shaving. This is opposite to wood rotating on a lathe.
      See, no connection to processed thought.
      The saame connections can be made in othe areas but start to be far more complex to this simple example.

      • Perhaps you didn’t interprete my words “painstakingly slow” as strongly as I had in mind. Typical delays from early observations to proper scientific knowledge are at least many years, often decennia and sometimes even longer. A couple of years or less is rather an exception than rule. Over these long periods even strong barriers get broken.

        Comparing early publications on climate change from 1970’s and before with the most recent research, you can see how uncertainties of the 70’s are still uncertainties, only a little less. The complexity of the climate, oceans and other earth systems was known in the 70’s and it is known now.

        The Lehrer article was about the tendency of science to get temporarlily – i.e. for years – locked in wrong paths and finding the right track only later, and about the internal mechanisms leading to this tendency.

      • Pekka,
        I doubt very much science will change with any significance. Simple measurements would decimate the current science from physics to quantuum theories…wrong.
        Law of relativity fails in the past when the planet rotated faster. Instead of objects falling at 9.8 m/sec/sec, they would fall slower at 10.2 m/sec/sec due to faster centrifugal force a couple billion years ago. Laws are unbreakable in current science.

  41. Lehrer offers a reply to some FAQ’s based on his NewYorker piece:

    Question #1: “Does this mean I don’t have to believe in climate change?”
    “I’m afraid not. One of the sad ironies of scientific denialism is that we tend to be skeptical of precisely the wrong kind of scientific claims. In poll after poll, Americans have dismissed two of the most robust and widely tested theories of modern science: evolution by natural selection and climate change. These are theories that have been verified in thousands of different ways by thousands of different scientists working in many different fields. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that such theories won’t change or get modified – the strength of science is that nothing is settled.)
    The larger point is that we need to be a better job of considering the context behind every claim. In 1952, the Harvard philosopher Willard Von Orman published “The Two Dogmas of Empiricism.” In the essay, Quine compared the truths of science to a spider’s web, in which the strength of the lattice depends upon its interconnectedness. (Quine: “The unit of empirical significance is the whole of science.”) One of the implications of Quine’s paper is that, when evaluating the power of a given study, we need to also consider the other studies and untested assumptions that it depends upon. Don’t just fixate on the effect size – look at the web. Unfortunately for the denialists, climate change and natural selection have very sturdy webs.”

    My paraphrasing of the second paragraph:
    The multiple independent lines of evidence, accummulated by many individuals from many different disciplines over a long period of time (based on which -dare I say it- a scientific consensus has formed) shows the robustness of the theory.

    • Evolution and CAGW (not “climate change”, same old trick) are actually opposite when it comes to robustness.

      • Seconded.

        Evolution is a very well defined theory with reams of supporting evidence, both experimental (drosophilla) and historical (fossil). It can be tested (again poor old drosophilla) and as far as we know, is pretty much what happens.

        Climate science is at best, a poorly defined theory- with a HELL of a lot of political backing.

        Comparing the two is a not disimilar tactic as the one used when labelling ‘skeptics’ as ‘deniers’. It is a deliberate attempt to marginalise through ‘slight’.

        Anyone who thinks this is actually a decent comparison should leave the debate now :-)

      • And of course there are multiple lines of evidence against CAGW as well as for it. That is why the issue is a draw.

    • Bart, thanks for spotting Lehrer’s FAQ, I’ve added to the main post.

    • Michael Larkin

      I’m a Brit and don’t know who this Lehrer guy is, but his pronouncement seems supercilious and smug to me. Evolution has certainly happened (I can’t see how anyone who has truly examined the fossil record can have much doubt).

      However, that natural selection is the *prime* driver of evolution is, IMO, legitimately open to question – I have a zoology degree and have long questioned that; it wouldn’t surprise me if some other mechanism is discovered to be more important.

      Similarly, IMO, CO2 being the prime driver for any global warming that might have occurred recently, is open to question. But as a general point, I think the whole global warming issue simply isn’t in the same league as evolution, and it’s ridiculous to compare them.

      I don’t think unreflective acceptance of this or that can be linked exclusively with left or right. It might make more sense to say that left and right could have different things they tend to be gullible about, but even that seems rather speculative.

      Billions of people aren’t Americans and don’t have the same concerns. The USA is a big country: the UK is only about the size of Wyoming, but it does have well over a hundred times its population; and France is about the size of Texas but with approx 2.5 times its population.

      Europe as a whole (i.e. East and West) is about the size of the USA, with around 2.5 times its population. China is around the same size again, with about 4 times its population. And so on – there’s enormous cultural and political diversity outside the USA, and Creationism as a worrying tendency of the right, or AGW of the left, seem to be mainly America’s internal preoccupations.

      The “lies, damned lies, and science” motif is inevitably being viewed through cultural lenses. I think the main thing may be that science has become Big Science, whether it’s government- or business-funded.

      One could argue that that’s politicised science in and of itself, independently of politics qua politics, though of course the two things may overlap and intereact in different ways in different countries.

      I see the picture as very complex, and many of the arguments here seem a tad parochial. That’s understandable as Americans are in the majority, but I do think we need to try to take a wider and more nuanced view.

      How about some “small” science? Is it possible to infuse science with the spirit of earlier, more free-wheeling times when lone and brilliant types could come up with new ideas? Was it one of Parkinson’s laws that the bigger and more ostentatious an organisation becomes, the less effective it is?

  42. The irony of Lehrer, who is not a climate scientist, telling us to do what he tells us not to do irt the science he does know, is rich indeed.
    The only multiple lines of evidence that have been collected that hold up about the climate is that it changes for reasons dimly understood.
    The theory that we are facing a climate crisis caused by CO2 is one that is failing based on multiple lines of evidence but is hardly a consensus.
    Until climate science stops, on balance, confusing apocalyptic clap trap with climate science, you guys are going to be relying on buffoons like Craven to sell your story.

    • Hunter,
      Current climate science treats this planet as a cylinder and not a globe with different energies at different points. Simple measurement can tell you that. Temperature measurements really do not show anything. This planet changes due to the process of slowing down over billions of years.
      Science is expecting an Ice Age to show with the growth of the Arctic when in fact the Arctic is only the last place to melt.
      Our understanding of science is so backwards, it is very laughable. Too much early influence by religion put science on the wrong track right off the bat and it has been going down hill since.

  43. The New Yorker article by Lehrer is here: (please remove this post if this is inappropriate)

  44. Lead us not away
    From the evidence based stuff.
    Cochrane, Cochrane crow.

  45. “A Real Van Gogh” is the sequel to an untranslated 1999 study by Mr. Tromp and Amsterdam University Prof. André J. F. Köbben titled “Unwelcome Tidings.” Employing anecdotal and statistical evidence, they demonstrated how laboratory science can be undermined by a researcher’s unconscious desire to please superiors or confirm the expectations of funders.

    Book Review: A Real Van Gogh

    Ultimately I suspect that this is the fate of climate change.

  46. I gave up on the guy when I read the followup piece and came on the characterization of people who doubt AGW as ‘denialists’. Ridiculous and stupid really. You know when you meet that expression you are dealing with idiots, there’s no point bothering with them any more.

    It is entirely possible that CO2 emissions may be dangerous, it may be warming dangerously due to them. We really need to know. But to refuse to consider that there is any possible good faith and informed doubt about it, well, like I say, you don’t have to take people who think that seriously.

    I am on a trip to the UK writing this, looking out at a frozen landscape, the second winter in a row which the devout fools at the Met Office have wrongly forecast to be, as it should be if the theory was right, warmer than usual. And telling us this is the warmest year since whenever. I’ll be lucky to get back home by Christmas thanks to all the global warming lying around in the roads and freezing the airports.

    And some equally devout idiot in Wired thinks I’m a denialist? Its weather not climate? Be serious.

  47. Lehrer’s article in the New yorker begins and continues as an excellent read on scientific paradigms and how human they are. The entire article seems to imply that we should not be so quick to embrace CAGW hypothesis as beyond doubt. The conclusion of the article however is a good example of a waffling non-commitment.

    Yet, in his reply to a question about Climate Change, Lehrer falls into precisely the same mistake that he cautions us against in the body of the original piece:

    One of the sad ironies of scientific denialism is that we tend to be skeptical of precisely the wrong kind of scientific claims. In poll after poll, Americans have dismissed two of the most robust and widely tested theories of modern science: evolution by natural selection and climate change. These are theories that have been verified in thousands of different ways by thousands of different scientists working in many different fields. [Italics added]

    Of course, Americans, like every other poll subject around the world, may properly be called “scientific denialists” when they object to the Theory of Evolution on religious grounds. The best ‘scientific’ explanation that these religious objectionists could produce was Intelligent Design. It is a theory without any scientific merit, of course. But it was good enough to confirm long held belief in an all-knowing, all-powerful deity mentioned in sacred, ancient texts. That was the original purpose of Intelligent Design: to confirm what was already known.

    Those poll subjects who are skeptical of the CAGW hypothesis base their objections not on religious but scientific grounds. They are not “scientific denialists” because they don’t object to scientific method as the most sophisticated tool to acquire knowledge. Rather, climate skeptics have fully embraced scientific method, despite all its faults. I have not seen a single instance whereby a CAGW skeptic has brandished Bible as a source of authority in order to challenge the climate science orthodoxy. It is false and misleading to put CAGW skepticism and Evolutionary skepticism in the same category because the origins are not the same.

    Lehrer’s “Climate Change” postscript in the Wired profoundly contradict the main theme of the article in The New Yorker. In the article, he shows us how, despite repeated falsifications, some scientifically acquired knowledge continue to remain influential in the community. He discusses as cases in point the prescription medication, verbal overshadowing, fluctuating asymmetry and even, rather briefly, the laws of gravity. Yet, in the post-script, Climate Change (one assumes he is talking about CAGW, not ‘change’ per se) is a claim that has been “verified in thousands of different ways by thousands of different scientists working in many different fields.” Well, what-happened to confirmation bias? To thousands of careers that depend on the validation of a hypothesis? Does that not apply to the vast majority of climate scientists? How about other researchers who would like to study the “impact of anthropogenic climate change” on birds and bees?

    Lehrer’s conclusion, that “Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it is true”, is an irrelevant, quasi-religious, post modernist distraction to the substance and tenor of the New Yorker article. And his Wired PS on Climate change, a betrayal. He cites an experiment, albeit briefly, that questions the laws of gravity, without calling anyone a “scientific denialist.”

    It seems in the minds of some faithful the CAGW hypothesis has far greater scientific merit than the laws of gravity. Johan Lehrer is a human after all.

    • Apologies for the number of mistakes in HTML tags which may confuse the reader as to who said what. Those who have read what Lehrer said will be more fortunate in decoding it.

    • An old thread, indeed, but I have a lot of catching up to do.

      Do you not see an overlap in that many of those (certainly not all) who categorically reject theories that GW is A also rejection the theory of evolution?

      Do you not see a similarity in that many of those (certainly not all) who categorically reject theories that GW is A do so based on an argument tantamount to “irreducible complexity,” i.e., the idea that the Earth’s temperature dynamics are too complicated to be explained by a unified theory?

      • Umm, actually, I don’t. Nice try though. Read a bit more.

      • Latimer Alder

        Nope. Never seen overlap 1. They may exist elsewhere, but I have certainly not seen them here, Try a religion website

        Nor have I seen anybody here promote the theory you describe.

        Perhaps you should float your balloon elsewhere.

      • Apparently you think I asked whether there is overlap at this website. That wasn’t my question. My response was to sHx – and sHx’s comment was concerning the American public. If the best you can do is that those phenomena “may exist somewhere,” then I suspect you need to get out more.

        I have a guiding principle for my comments at this site. I will maintain a default attitude of respect to anyone who treats me respectfully.

        As far as anyone who treats me with disrespect, they can kiss off.

      • Latimer Alder


        If you want to restrict your question to a specific individual only, you can do so by using the ‘@’ symbol at the beginning of your post. This is a reasonably well known blog convention.

        Otherwise by posting on a public website where any Joe Soap is welcome, it is generally accepted that anybody can comment without fear of wasting their valuable time on considering the question posed.

      • Latimer Alder

        PS – the chances of sHx seeing your new post two and a half months after his, and hence your getting a reply from him are pretty low I think.

      • I welcome responses from anyone else also, as long as the response has something to do with my comment, not some bizarre desire to vent irrational anger for some unexplainable reason.

        My comment in response to sHx was related to opinions of the American public, not strictly folks who post on this blog.

        Anyway, I’ve had it with you. If you want to engage me in some dialogue, treat me with respect. If you just want to vent your misplaced anger, have at it, but I won’t bother responding in that case in the future. Have a nice day.

      • Latimer Alder

        I leave others to judge which of the two of us is venting ‘irrational anger’.

        Even on very careful rereading of my posts, I can see little sign of it.

        and if I have indeed misunderstood the intention of your question, it would take little to point that out politely (example ‘Thanks Latimer but my question was directed to ShX and referred to Americans in particular) rather than take off into a rant.

      • I see overlap between people who believe the Earth is facing a CO2 caused climate tipping point with runaway greenhouse effect, and those who believe in alien UFO abductions.

      • Sure, there is an overlap, no doubt. But do you think that it’s any larger than the overlap between those who believe in alien abduction and who think that AGW is a hoax? Maybe, but I see no evidence of such.

        Clearly, however, there is a relatively large overlap between those who believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old and those who think that AGW is a hoax. As there is with those who think that it’s a hoax that second-hand smoke is harmful. As there is with those who reject the theory of evolution. And we could go further. There is probably also a larger correlation between those who think that Obama is the anti-Christ and those who thing that AGW is a “hoax” than there is with those who believe in CAGW and those who believe in alien abductions. Probably same with correlation between those who think that Obama is a sekret Muzllim, as well.

        Look – I can play the political game also. The fact is, though, that there is an overlap of significance between segments of the public who think that CAGW is a “hoax” and those who think that it’s hurbis to think that man could something that god created. There is a clear linkage between those who think that CAGW is a “hoax” and those who think that evolution is disproven by theories of “irreducible complexity.”

        An with that, Hunter, welcome to my kiss off list. You have excellent company there. Have a nice day.

      • Sorry – I should have said:

        There is a clear linkage between some of those who think that CAGW is a “hoax” and some of those who think that evolution is disproven by theories of “irreducible complexity.”

      • Latimer Alder

        At the rate you’re going, you’ll have no friends left.

        Just think what your blood pressure will get up to if you meet somebody you actually dislike!

  48. What OUGHT to have happened with Climategate is that there ought to have been, from the very outset, the attitude of, “Even though WE know this is not a real problem, let’s make certain the public doesn’t mistakenly think there’s something fundamentally wrong with climate science.”

    The author also speaks of the emails having been ‘stolen’, they were in fact leaked.

    This is the problem in a nutshell. This is exactly what ought not to have happened. What ought to have happened is that scientists and scientific organizations should have looked at ‘climate science’ and owned up to it. We have, they should have said, a profound cultural problem here. We have people trying to hide the decline and manipulate what gets published. There are real uncertainties and real quality problems that are being revealed. These guys have got to be made to recover their objectivity.

    You notice that nothing is said about the programmers notes, in many ways the most revealing parts of the leaked files.

    The funny thing about this is that this sort of line is probably doing more to destroy the credibility of climate science and the AGW hypothesis than any amount of skeptical posts on blogs. You hear people talking like this, and using words like ‘denialism’ and you know there is something rotten in there. Comparisons to evolution and tobacco, the whole silly pattern of ad hominem argument and argument by analogy.

    If it gets any hotter here I may not be able to fly till the new year….

  49. Judith,

    While incomplete, the Sarewiyz article brings up a valid point. Political dogma can help shape groupthink. In the context of climate science, this can lead to certain policy ideas (taxes, energy policy mandates, etc) that coincide with a DNC based belief. Whereas some groups that are more heavily represented by Republicans have a different bent.

    I would have to sag that political bent of an association is a critical piece of information as it most definitely colors that argument.

  50. Thank you, thank you, Professor Curry, for having the courage and the integrity to maintain this public blog on climatology.

    Here’s wishing you and yours All the Best for the Holidays and for the New Year !

    As the universe unfolds and more facts are revealed, especially in emotional outbursts like those of high school teacher Greg Craven in his speech on 15 December 2010 at the AGU Meeting in San Francisco and his “Mea Mega Culpa Open Letter” on your blog

    I am increasingly convinced that you have helped to correct and lessen the corruption that has plagued government science and prevented the public from information provided by the 1969 fall of the Allende meteorite, the 1969 Apollo Mission to the Moon, and the 1995 Galileo Probe of Jupiter.

    If the editors of Nature, Science, PNAS, etc. and leaders of the US National Academy of Sciences and the UK Royal Society will now try to correct past misdeeds, the era of lies-damned-lies-and-science can peacefully end without dragging these folks and former VP Al Gore before a Congressional Committee to be cross-examined under oath about their roles in abusing science and misusing public funds.

    Again, Professor Curry, I deeply appreciate your assistance in getting us to this point!

    Best wishes for the Holidays,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Emeritus Professor of
    Nuclear & Space Science
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  51. BishopHill cites a relevant article on peer review from the former editor of the British Medical Journal

    Reiterating my strong support for online discussion journals and open review.

    • Seems to me that if by historical chance the internet and blogosphere had been invented before paper and printed journals, the idea of conventional peer review by a very small number of co-workers followed up by a lengthy publication process would never have been adopted.

      And it is remarkable that those who claim to be at the ‘cutting edge’ of climate science use ‘peer review’ as a rallying cry are wedded to what is essentially a Victorian technology model.

      While the most enthusiastic adopters of the dynamic immediate barely controlled blog review and critiques are those so eloquently described elsewhere as ‘the last vestiges of the old guard grimly hanging on’

      Who are the true conservatives now?

      PS – The article that Judith links to shows that there is no evidence at all that the peer review process improves either the quality or applicability of the articles so reviewed. It merely adds cost and delay for no meaningful benefits.

    • Judy, how many blog posts meet the standards of a peer-review article?

      • First standard….reviewers are NOT anonymous

      • in terms of “peer review”, blogospheric peer review at the technical blogs often has much higher standards than many peer reviewed journals.

      • That’s a rather vague claim. Do you have any specific examples of blog posts (at a “technical” blog, whatever that is) that would very easily meet the standards of “many peer reviewed journals”? Let’s keep the subject to climate science.

        A URL would be great. Thanks.

      • with regards to the level of peer review, see about 4 or 5 threads related to Makarieva’s paper, we had a thread on water vapor mischief over here, there were several threads over at the air vent, and at the blackboard (which included input from Gavin Schmidt, among others). with regards to posts made primarily in the blogosphere, there have been about half dozen that I have made at Climate Etc. that could have submitted to peer reviewed journals instead. There have also been a number of papers that originated from blogospheric discussions and were submitted to journals by bloggers. No time to give you a list but there are a very large number of examples.

      • I’m wondering if you could quantify the term “often.” In terms of net gain, peer review plus blogopheric review should be positive (assuming that there isn’t an outsized “negative feedback” from either peer review or blogospheric peer review – which, I guess, is a subject open to question) – but are you suggesting that if there were an either/or choice, you think that blogospheric peer review would lead to better results?

        Keep in mind, that is essentially the argument that one finds quite frequently at “denialist sites,” (the flip side of the counter-arguments found at “warmist” sites) – so this is not really just an “academic” question.

    • I agree with you, Judith, and also with Latimer.

      Anonymous peer review caused many of the current problems in climatology and other disciplines.

      See: Marvin Herndon’s report on “American Science Decline: The Cause and Cure.”

    • The weaknesses of peer review process should be obvious to everybody, who has been repeatedly the subject of peer review and even more clear to everybody who has himself been a reviewer. Most obvious are the weaknesses to those, who have been involved in lengthy argumentation between authors and reviewers of differing opinions.

      The process is definitely not ideal. Good papers are often rejected and bad ones published, well known authors and institutes may be favored to an unknown from some obscure institute, etc. This is all unavoidable. The peer review acts as a filter that gives a higher probability of passing to good papers than to poor ones, but it is perfect only in this statistical sense. It acts, however, effectively against really bad papers. Often it leads also to significant improvements in the papers.

      In absence of peer review, the new entrants might have even lesser possibilities in attracting attention to their important results as they would be lost in the excessive mass of contributions from unknown authors. We need some filtering to help us separate potentially interesting work from complete crap. This is perhaps less critical with the internet, where publishing is almost costless and where Google and other tools help in searching for relevant information, but it is still very important in my mind.

  52. Here is another very relevant article on WUWT by Terence Kealy, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, on “What does Climategate say about science?”

    • I read in that link:
      In both cases, the scientists and advocates see their prime responsibility as being the putting forward of the best arguments to support their case/client, and they delegate the adjudication over impartial ‘truth’ to the jury of peers.
      There is the problem. If a crook is being judged, his peers are crooks. He will most likely get a judgement in his favor.

  53. Terence is forgetting that he is a public servant the behavior he defines as ok would be so if it were privately funded. Alas though most of the climate scientists are taxpayer funded and do not get the luxury of deciding how they should behave or what standards they adopt. Perhaps if they want to behave like spoiled school children they should seek alternative employment in the private sector.

    • He did.

      The University of Buckingham is a Private University and is not funded by the government.

      Your case fails within the first sentence.

      • You are correct Latimer. However Dr Kealy was talikng about science in general.
        I think most people would agree with him viz private research but certainly not public research.

      • My apologies to Terence about being a public servant. I did not however charge him of behaving like a spoiled child merely condoning it of climate scientists

    • And whatever his employment status do you have any better critique of his views than that he is behaving like a spoiled child? Hardly an in-depth analysis is it?

    • Here is the sentence of this longuish essay:

      > Climategate tells us no more than the philosophers of science have long told us about research, and the public should be less naive.

      Perhaps Kealy should be less naive by considering that naiveté might not be the main driver of this hurly burly.

    • @John –
      Doesn’t work that way. Private sector either buries you in the basement so you never see the light of day or hands you a final paycheck. At least where I’ve been employed.

  54. I’m preparing a new thread on this general topic, should be up tonite.

  55. Just to add fuel to the fire –

    If peer review was a drug it would never be allowed onto the market,’ says Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of the Journal Of the American Medical Association

    Medical rather than climate – but definitely related.