Tackling human biases in science

by Judith Curry

Psychologist Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia says that the most common and problematic bias in science is “motivated reasoning”: We interpret observations to fit a particular idea.

Nautilus has published a very interesting article entitled The trouble with scientists:  How one psychologist is tackling human biases in sciences.  I thought this article would be a good antidote to the latest nonsense by Lewandowsky and Oreskes.  Excerpts:

Sometimes it seems surprising that science functions at all. In 2005, medical science was shaken by a paper with the provocative title “Why most published research findings are false.” As Ioannidis concluded more recently, “many published research findings are false or exaggerated, and an estimated 85 percent of research resources are wasted.”

It’s likely that some researchers are consciously cherry-picking data to get their work published. And some of the problems surely lie with journal publication policies. But the problems of false findings often begin with researchers unwittingly fooling themselves: they fall prey to cognitive biases, common modes of thinking that lure us toward wrong but convenient or attractive conclusions.

Psychologist Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia says that the most common and problematic bias in science is “motivated reasoning”: We interpret observations to fit a particular idea. Psychologists have shown that “most of our reasoning is in fact rationalization,” he says. In other words, we have already made the decision about what to do or to think, and our “explanation” of our reasoning is really a justification for doing what we wanted to do—or to believe—anyway. Science is of course meant to be more objective and skeptical than everyday thought—but how much is it, really?

Whereas the falsification model of the scientific method championed by philosopher Karl Popper posits that the scientist looks for ways to test and falsify her theories—to ask “How am I wrong?”—Nosek says that scientists usually ask instead “How am I right?” (or equally, to ask “How are you wrong?”). When facts come up that suggest we might, in fact, not be right after all, we are inclined to dismiss them as irrelevant, if not indeed mistaken.

Statistics may seem to offer respite from bias through strength in numbers, but they are just as fraught. Chris Hartgerink of Tilburg University in the Netherlands works on the influence of “human factors” in the collection of statistics. He points out that researchers often attribute false certainty to contingent statistics. “Researchers, like people generally, are bad at thinking about probabilities,” he says. While some results are sure to be false negatives—that is, results that appear incorrectly to rule something out—Hartgerink says he has never read a paper that concludes as much about its findings. His recent research shows that as many as two in three psychology papers reporting non-significant results may be overlooking false negatives.

Given that science has uncovered a dizzying variety of cognitive biases, the relative neglect of their consequences within science itself is peculiar. A common response to this situation is to argue that, even if individual scientists might fool themselves, others have no hesitation in critiquing their ideas or their results, and so it all comes out in the wash: Science as a communal activity is self-correcting. Sometimes this is true—but it doesn’t necessarily happen as quickly or smoothly as we might like to believe.

Nosek thinks that peer review might sometimes actively hinder clear and swift testing of scientific claims. He points out that, when in 2011 a team of physicists in Italy reported evidence of neutrinos that apparently moved faster than light (in violation of Einstein’s theory of special relativity), this astonishing claim was made, examined, and refuted very quickly thanks to high-energy physicists’ efficient system of distributing preprints of papers through an open-access repository. If that testing had relied on the usual peer-reviewed channels, it could have taken years.

Medical reporter Ivan Oransky  believes that, while all of the incentives in science reinforce confirmation biases, the exigencies of publication are among the most problematic. “To get tenure, grants, and recognition, scientists need to publish frequently in major journals,” he says. “That encourages positive and ‘breakthrough’ findings, since the latter are what earn citations and impact factor. So it’s not terribly surprising that scientists fool themselves into seeing perfect groundbreaking results among their experimental findings.”

Nosek agrees, saying one of the strongest distorting influences is the reward systems that confer kudos, tenure, and funding.  “I could be patient, or get lucky—or I could take the easiest way, making often unconscious decisions about which data I select and how I analyze them, so that a clean story emerges. But in that case, I am sure to be biased in my reasoning.”

Not only can poor data and wrong ideas survive, but good ideas can be suppressed through motivated reasoning and career pressures. Skepticism about bold claims is always warranted, but looking back we can see that sometimes it comes more from an inability to escape the biases of the prevailing picture than from genuine doubts about the quality of the evidence. Science does self-correct when the weight of the evidence demands it, says Nosek, but “we don’t know about the examples in which a similar insight was made but was dismissed outright and never pursued.”

Surprisingly, Nosek thinks that one of the most effective solutions to cognitive bias in science could come from the discipline that has weathered some of the heaviest criticism recently for its error-prone and self-deluding ways: pharmacology. It is precisely because these problems are so manifest in the pharmaceutical industry that this community is, in Nosek’s view, way ahead of the rest of science in dealing with them.

Nosek has instituted a similar pre-registration scheme for research called the Open Science Framework (OSF).  The idea, says Nosek, is that researchers “write down in advance what their study is for and what they think will happen.” It sounds utterly elementary, like the kind of thing we teach children about how to do science. And indeed it is—but it is rarely what happens. Instead, as Fiedler testifies, the analysis gets made on the basis of all kinds of unstated and usually unconscious assumptions about what would or wouldn’t be seen. Nosek says that researchers who have used the OSF have often been amazed at how, by the time they come to look at their results, the project has diverged from the original aims they’d stated.

Ultimately, Nosek has his eyes on a “scientific utopia,” in which science becomes a much more efficient means of knowledge accumulation. As Oransky says, “One of the larger issues is getting scientists to stop fooling themselves. This requires elimination of motivated reasoning and confirmation bias, and I haven’t seen any good solutions for that.” So along with OSF, Nosek believes the necessary restructuring includes open-access publication, and open and continuous peer review. We can’t get rid of our biases, perhaps, but we can soften their siren call. As Nosek and his colleague, psychologist Yoav Bar-Anan of Ben-Gurion University in Israel, have said, “The critical barriers to change are not technical or financial; they are social. Although scientists guard the status quo, they also have the power to change it.”

JC reflections

There are a number of things that I like about this article.  I think that the studying cognitive biases in science is an important topic, that has unfortunately been perverted by Stephan Lewandowsky, with respect to climate science anyways.

Lets face it:  would you expect Soon and Monckton to write a paper on ‘Why climate models run cold’.   Or Jim Hansen to write a paper saying that human caused climate change is not dangerous. People that have a dog in the fight (reputational, financial, ideological, political) interpret observations to fit a particular idea, that supports their particular ‘dog.’  The term ‘motivated reasoning’ is usually reserved for political motivations, but preserving your reputation or funding is probably more likely to be a motivator among scientists.

As scientists, it is our job to fight against biases (and its not easy).  One of the ways that I fight against bias is to question basic assumptions, and see if challenges to these assumptions are legitimate.  The recent carbon mass balance thread is a good example.  Until Salby’s argument came along, it never even occurred to me to question the attribution of the recent CO2 increase – I had never looked at this closely, and assumed that the IPCC et al. knew what they were talking about.  Once you start looking at the problem in some detail, it is clear that it is very complex with many uncertainties, and I have a nagging idea that we need to frame the analysis differently, in the context of dynamical systems.  So I threw this topic open to discussion, stimulated by Fred Haynie’s post.   I think that everyone who followed this lengthy and still ongoing discussion learned something (I know I did), although the discussants at both extremes haven’t come any closer to agreeing with each other.  But the process is key – to throw your assumptions open to challenge and see where it goes.  In this way we can fight our individual bias and the collective biases emerging from consensus building activities.

 

 

326 responses to “Tackling human biases in science

  1. Psychologist Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia says that the most common and problematic bias in science is “motivated reasoning”: We interpret observations to fit a particular idea.

    Let’s call this the Nosek effect.

  2. Curiosity kills bias, by the way. It’s a good trait to check for.

  3. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool. Richard Feynman

    • Steven Mosher

      I suspect he was fooling himself about first principles

    • Mike Flynn

      APA,

      Darn. Silly you. Who to believe about physics first principles? Nobel Pprize sharing brilliant physicist, lecturer, polymath, and practical joker, or Steven Mosher?

  4. Here’s a good list.

    The entry for Confirmation Bias reads:
    “We tend to listen only to the information that confirms our preconceptions — one of the many reasons it’s so hard to have an intelligent conversation about climate change.”

    Also for Observer-Expectancy Effect
    “A cousin of confirmation bias, here our expectations unconsciously influence how we perceive an outcome. Researchers looking for a certain result in an experiment, for example, may inadvertently manipulate or interpret the results to reveal their expectations. That’s why the “double-blind” experimental design was created for the field of scientific research”

    Could probably run through all the list with examples from global warming.

  5. The ‘pause’ is probably a good example.

    I plotted running twelve year trends which demonstrate the ( yes, insignificant ) cooling trend since 2001 ( now thirteen years old, actually ).
    I can say, look, there’s the pause:

    But I also know the thirty year trends look like:

    and others may say, look, there’s no pause.

    Both points are true.

    • How about the 4000 year trend.

      • Confirmation bias: Including only confirming evidence, ignoring contradictory evidence

        Observer-Expectancy Effect: Expectations lead investigator to inadvertently manipulate or interpret results

        Bias blind spots:Failing to recognize your cognitive biases is a bias in itself.

        Clustering illusion:Tendency to see patterns in random events.

        Conformity:Tendency of people to conform with other people.

        Availability Heuristic:When people overestimate the importance of information that is available to them.

        Herding:People tend to flock together, especially in difficult or uncertain times.

        Ideometer effect:Where an idea causes you to have an unconscious physical reaction, like a sad thought that makes your eyes tear up.

        Illusion of control:The tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events

        Information bias:More information is not always better. Indeed, with less information, people can often make more accurate predictions.

        Inter-group bias:We view people in our group differently from how see we someone in another group.

        Negativity bias:The tendency to put more emphasis on negative experiences rather than positive ones. People with this bias feel that “bad is stronger than good” and will perceive threats more than opportunities in a given situation. Psychologists argue it’s an evolutionary adaptation — it’s better to mistake a rock for a bear than a bear for a rock.

        Omission bias:The tendency to prefer inaction to action.

        Ostrich effect:The decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by “burying” one’s head in the sand, like an ostrich.

        Overconfidence:Some of us are too confident about our abilities, and this causes us to take greater risks in our daily lives.

        Reactance:The desire to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do, in order to prove your freedom of choice.

        Recency:The tendency to weigh the latest information more heavily than older data.

        Seersucker Illusion:Over-reliance on expert advice. This has to do with the avoidance or responsibility. We call in “experts” to forecast when typically they have no greater chance of predicting an outcome than the rest of the population. In other words, “for every seer there’s a sucker.”

        Tragedy of the commons: We overuse common resources because it’s not in any individual’s interest to conserve them.
        This explains the overuse of natural resources, opportunism, and any acts of self-interest over collective interest.

        Zero-risk bias: The preference to reduce a small risk to zero versus achieving a greater reduction in a greater risk. This plays to our desire to have complete control over a single, more minor outcome, over the desire for more — but not complete — control over a greater, more unpredictable outcome.

      • good list, thx

      • Turbulent Eddy

        I very helpful list, thanks (Cognitive biases).

      • Thanks Turbulent Eddie. That list of yours should be printed out, framed then hung in everyone’s house or school or business or wherever.
        It won’t be but it should be!

    • ulriclyons

      How about some AMO related trends of where temperatures don’t depend on the amount of precipitation:
      http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadsst3gl/from:1900/plot/hadsst3gl/from:1911/to:1976/trend/plot/hadsst3gl/from:1945/to:2010/trend

    • True, but, awg proponents argued from the beginning that co2 was the control knob – that is, as co2 increases, so will temps. Then along comes the pause, despite co2 levels continuing to increase. Now its aerosols causing the lack of warming, or the heat is hiding, or by some counts, 50 or more other explanations for why temps are not increasing, but still only one possible explanation for why temps are increasing. Seems a little dubious to me.

    • The problem is that the consensus has stated that rising CO2 levels must correlate to rising temperatures, absent such things as massive volcano eruptions.
      Thus the skeptic position only has to be that the pause invalidates the consensus because there have not been such natural perturbations as a Pinatubo, even as the alarmists search high (aerosol blocking the sun) and low (deep ocean) for where the missing energy went.
      Really, it is practically to the phlogiston stage for the alarmists at the moment.

    • “trends” suffer from similar distorting and data inverting effects that apply to running averages:
      https://climategrog.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/triple-running-mean-filters/
      This the frequency response of the sliding trend that you are using (15y trend in this case)

      The red lobes are where it INVERTS the data. If you want to look a rate of change and “smooth” the data by removing higher frequencies use a decent low pass filter ( for example gaussian ) on the first difference ( month to month difference ) of the data.

      Climatology seems obsessed with this idea the a “trend” over some arbitrary period.

      This is a perfect example of motivated reasoning. They “know” that there is a steady rise due to CO2 and that all other processes are “random” noise that will average out.

  6. I hope we have started something positive with respect to having open minds but not empty or bias minds.

  7. In poll after poll most of the public at large has had demonstrated accurate BS-detection skills when it comes to assessing the claims of climate change scientists and that seems to be playing out in the latest UK-elections.

    • We can only hope. I had the misperception that the elections in oz also signaled a change in direction, but the insanity there seems not to have changed much.

  8. Just finished Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Some apropos quotes from the book:

    “We are prone to overestimate how much we understand about the world and to underestimate the role of chance in events.”

    “We focus on our goal, anchor on our plan, and neglect relevant base rates, exposing ourselves to the planning fallacy. We focus on what we want to do and can do, neglecting the plans and skills of others. Both in explaining the past and in predicting the future, we focus on the causal role of skill and neglect the role of luck. We are therefore prone to an illusion of control. We focus on what we know and neglect what we do not know, which makes us overly confident in our beliefs.”

    “We are pattern seekers, believers in a coherent world, in which regularities appear not by accident but as a result of mechanical causality or of someone´s intention. We do not expect to see regularity produced by a random process, and when we detect what appears to be a rule, we quickly reject the idea that the process is truly random. Random processes produce many sequences that convince people that the process is not random after all.”

    “I call it theory-induced blindness: once you have accepted a theory and used it as a tool in your thinking, it is extraordinarily difficult to notice its flaws. If you come upon an observation that does not seem to fit the model, you assume that there must be a perfectly good explanation that you are somehow missing.”

    • Kahnemann raises so many issues of relevance to the climate debate. I need to reread and flag some things.

    • It’s been recognized for yonks that there’s no such thing
      as the innocent eye, Nietzsch etc.

      Says Karl Popper, ‘Objective Knowledge ; an evolutionary
      approach,’ not to worry, that’s how we learn, via guesses
      directed at nature, search-light deductive learning not
      bucket theory passive ‘taking in.’

      What’s important re Popper, Feinman, Einstein, is that we
      criticize / test our theories – if not us, someone else.That’s
      why gate-keeping, silencing other opinions, closing ranks
      is so obnoxious even pernicious to science.

      http://www.math.chalmers.se/~ulfp/Review/objective.pdf

    • I read it some time ago it read like a forensic examination of modern climate science. It’s a very very interesting and compelling book.

  9. Judith, fascinating post. I encountered the same ‘confirmation bias’ thing many times during my decades as a corporate strategy consultant. It seems an institutionalized fact of human ‘organizations’. Of which climate science is one. There are parallels in Madness of Crowds, and in Taversky and behavioral economics stuff. I go back to Kuhn’s seminal ‘scientific revolutions’ book on paradigm shifts as another fundamental explanation from a different perspective on the same basic issue..
    In the end, it is about ideological momentum, an analogy to Newton’s laws. Momentum is changed over time by application of opposing force. Never instantaneous.

  10. One consequence, Hartgerink says, is that it is common to present unexpected results as expected. “Ask anyone in the general public whether it is OK to do that, and they will say it is not. Yet this has been the common thing to do in science for a long time.”

    I suspect a good deal of “motivated reasoning” takes place below the level of explicit consciousness. I’ve seen people re-write history in a variety of contexts, and mostly they don’t seem to realize they’re doing it.

    Having to detail expected results, and hoped-for when those are different from the normal expectations, will certainly help keep them honest.

    Maybe requirements for something like this should be included in getting grants.

  11. Bias is at the core of it all. Just as China and Vietnam are role models for the Left in how to give away to economic benefits of capitalism without giving up power, Leftist-thinking academia is trying to figure out how to embrace the role of nature — nominally, changes in solar activity — as the dominant cause of all climate change, without also yielding power to a market-based economy that has begun to see government-funded academia as increasingly irrelevant to the common good.

  12. Dr Curry,
    I also thank you for the open issue of carbon cycles and attribution. Also lots of good points on both sides to open avenues of thinking.
    Scott

  13. I’m typical of most people, regardless of their level or kind of intelligence: I’m not observant.

    Observe hard enough for long enough and conclusions come…but who wants to wait? I want to make an impression on the world, on other people, get some control, right now, and observation is so bloody loooooong.

  14. I am going by present and past data to determine the validity of AGW theory.
    AGW fails based on the data.

  15. Don Monfort

    Two things:

    “The term ‘motivated reasoning’ is usually reserved for political motivations, but preserving your reputation or funding is probably more likely to be a motivator among scientists.”

    In the case of climate scientists, I assume that most are sincere in believing that humanity is in danger of some very bad consequences from ACO2. I have felt that kind of motivation and it is very powerful. It’s on the ‘by any means necessary’ level of motivation. Unless the scientist is a very shallow individual, that would be much more powerful than the motivations to preserve one’s reputation, or funding.

    “I think that everyone who followed this lengthy and still ongoing discussion learned something (I know I did), although the discussants at both extremes haven’t come any closer to agreeing with each other.”

    If you are counting those who find Ferdinand’s analysis to be comprehensive and very well supported as being on one extreme, there was nothing in the discussion to move us towards agreeing with Fred. There is no support for 50%, or for Bart’s foolishness. Are we supposed to meet them in the middle? We know that it’s a dynamical system. Didn’t you always know that? We know that we don’t know all the ins and outs. Don’t have to, in order to make an intelligent judgement based on what we do know.

    • Don, “Don’t have to, in order to make an intelligent judgement based on what we do know.”

      What is that intelligent decision? Decouple energy from wealth was one Key I saw. Improving land use, energy efficiency and reducing black carbon/real pollutants is one I think is intelligent. Perhaps a measly 0.7 percent of global GDP carbon tax to do some unspecified greater good.

      • Not a dime of carbon tax.
        Never, never, never allow government a new revenue stream.
        We could look at social security or the US income tax for what happens when they get a very small percentage of the people’s money to do some greater good.
        Look at California. They have lots of taxes.
        Cars get better gas mileage so tax revenue goes down.
        Government raises the tax rate or wants to monitor and tax your mileage.
        It never ends well because it never ends.

    • Don, “It’s on the ‘by any means necessary’ level of motivation.” Such motivation depends on false assumptions, e.g. that the person knows better than others, can see more clearly and is the best arbiter of what is best for mankind/nature/their group/whatever. This is always delusional, to adopt that attitude you have to have limited awareness of yourself and the broader world. Many climate scientists might be sincere in this; but they are wrong to adopt such a position.

      I’ve seen a couple of publicly-displayed quotes by Gandhi recently. In each, Gandhi (as was his wont) sought to impose his views on others through indoctrination etc; when his view changed, he insisted that those around him change too. He wasn’t interested in helping people to develop their own understanding, only to impose his own views. This attitude, seen in some climate scientists, is very dangerous.

      • Exactly. Whenever I hear someone say that some action is “for the greater good”, I have to ask who gets to decide what the greater good is and what set of values determines the greater good.

      • Don Monfort

        genghis, I can see that your experiences in life have been much different than mine. I had written more, but I said to myself, why get into that, with a gehghis, on a blog.

      • Don Monfort

        A lot of people get to decide that, Barnes. Read some history books. I can tell you that it happens every day in many places. The trick is to be the one who does it first.

      • Don – correct. I usually add that as long as I am the one making the determination, all will be fine.

      • In each, Gandhi (as was his wont) sought to impose his views on others through indoctrination etc; when his view changed, he insisted that those around him change too. He wasn’t interested in helping people to develop their own understanding, only to impose his own views. This attitude, seen in some climate scientists, is very dangerous.

        Perhaps because of my (hazy?!) recollection (and admiration) of Ben Kingsley in the movie Ghandi – no doubt long before the time of many here – I had always wondered about Pachauri’s (relatively) recent proclamations of adulation (and attempted emulation?!)

    • Don Monfort

      Capt., I was talking about making an intelligent judgement on what’s causing the rise in CO2. I would welcome being persuaded that we dindu nuffin, but it’s us.

      What should we do about it? Start shifting to nukes. Hope the pause that is killing the cause continues. What I would like to see is a re-examination of the climate science by professionals. When I was in the venture capital business, I had to sift through a lot of business plans from academic types seeking funding. I always hired scientists and engineers from the private sector to evaluate the more serious looking proposals, which were not numerous. We (Congress) should hire Boeing and Lockheed, to review the climate science. They report back in a couple of years and we go from there.

      Your suggestions: I don’t know what you mean by decouple energy from wealth. Is that like what they are doing in Venezuela? Anyway, doesn’t sound interesting. The other stuff fine, except for the carbon tax. I assume you mean global tax. I don’t think that is desirable, or feasible in the foreseeable future. Let’s wait till we hear back from the professionals.

      And the last few days have got me thinking this climate discussion is a big waste of time. There are many concerns that are known and have immediate consequences that need to be addressed. I think we should be spending more time figuring out how we stop the decline of Western Civilization.

  16. Scientists are, well, human and thus prone to biases that are human. But for the life of me I’m skeptical of Ioaniddis’ claim that It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false. Twice Nosek concedes that science is self-correcting.

    Science as a communal activity is self-correcting. Sometimes this is true—but it doesn’t necessarily happen as quickly or smoothly as we might like to believe.

    Poor research that is published is indeed bad and should be corrected as soon as possible. But the words “quickly” and “smoothly” are qualitative adjectives. “Quickly” and “smoothly” according to what measure? To say that science is self-correcting, but sometimes not as quickly or smoothly as we want it to be is like saying my antibiotic worked on my sinus infection, but it took ten days and I still have a lingering dry cough. The proper reaction to something like this is to remind oneself of what it was like before antibiotics.

    Science does self-correct when the weight of the evidence demands it… Yes. It does. I have no problem with this aspect of science. It is appropriate.

    So while I find it very hard to believe Ioaniddis’ above claim, my confidence isn’t shaken that sooner or later false findings will be corrected. That the way is neither quick nor smooth is something we can aspire to improve, but that aspiration surrounds just about every aspect of life, not just science.
    And most of the time, the slow, rough journey, whatever its faults, probably has value to those willing to look.

  17. “Psychologists have shown that “most of our reasoning is in fact rationalization,” he says. I’ve noted many times that the so-called conscious mind is a very small part of the whole, and that we are driven by the much larger part of the mind which is sometimes wrongly called “sub-conscious,” but which in fact is always conscious. So, yes, that observation is true, and has been known in some circles for thousands of years.

  18. I think it’s even harder for those of us who consume scientific information to remain unbiased. We don’t do scientific research and have to rely on what we’re being told. We can become biased by believing what we believe is the most convincing case that is presented.

    In the post about anthropogenic CO2 I initially thought Haynie was on to something. Then I was intimidated by Mosher and Company that it was nonsense. In reading how RC explained it I became convinced that Haynie was way off. I then became convinced that Englebeen had the best arguement but I was still reading what Bart had to say. At this point I threw up my arms but I was still more biased in favor of Englebeens case.

    I have finally decided it was uncertain. My reasoning (or perhaps bias) finally decided that the only way to know was to completely subtract anthro CO2 from the data and see what the temperature would be. Since coming out of the LIA was followed by rising temperatures as significant or more significant than the late 20th century rise there has to be a reason other than anthro CO2 that caused the rise. Since the solar minimum was over and the sun was back it would be the most logical explaination. The late 20th century experienced a solar maximum wouldn’t it be logical that it had something to do with temperature rise? If Englebeen is right and anthro CO2 was responsible for 96% of the rise in CO2 then with that alone would it account for the 0.85 rise in temperature? However that would exclude solar as a major culprit. I don’t believe solar can be excluded based on paleo history. That makes me a solar nut?

    Still, subtracting anthro CO2 from the data may or may not tell us anything about the contribution unless there is an exact formula for how much added CO2 causes a specific amount of temperature rise and somehow be able to determine if it comes short of explaining all the rise in temperature. So this is just a wild goose chase.

    I suppose that allows me to believe what Englebeen says but still think that anthro CO2 is only a partial reason for the temperature rise. But that is different from the main point that humans are responsible for the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere. I am fairly convinced that is the case.

    • Steven Mosher

      “I have finally decided it was uncertain.”

      “it” is not uncertain. you are uncertain.

      You basically have a simple explanation for the increase in C02. That simple explanation allows you to make a prediction. Next year, c02 ppm will go up by about 2ppm.

      On the other hand you have objections to the simple explanation. The objections amount to

      A) pointing at details that are unknown ( the exact sinks both natural and anthro)
      B) Speculations that something else might be the cause.

      You cannot weigh these two approaches and come up uncertain.

      One gives you a simple explanation and a prediction.
      the other gives you no understanding, no explanation, and no prediction.

      • You basically have a simple explanation for the increase in C02. That simple explanation allows you to make a prediction. Next year, c02 ppm will go up by about 2ppm.

        You basically have a simple explanation two simple explanations for the increase in C02. That simple explanation both those simple explanations allows you to make a the same prediction. Next year, c02 ppm will go up by about 2ppm.

        But which one is right?

      • Steven Mosher

        wrong AK. the second one isnt an explanation.

      • Yes, I was thinking outloud. I felt I was biased against Haynie and convinced by Englebeen and the great explaination by RC. I wondered how much CO2 could be increased by its lag in 200 years of solar strength. I decided it could be much. In the end, I relented and decided Englebeens work was correct. So you are right in your description of my thought process.

      • Correction: It COULDN’T be much.

      • Correction: explanation (I keep using an original mispelling … a foolish consistancy)

      • Arrgg: misspelling (digging deeper)

  19. Motivated reasoning is a universal human trait and explains why emotionally committed proponents of CAGW will not be dissuaded. That also explains why CAGW proponents started with the assumption that anthropogenic CO2 is causing serious climate change. Anthropogenic CO2 fit the bill as a cause that could be blamed on humans, as a cause that could be quantified and modeled, and as a cause that could be addressed through political action. It also fits nicely with the notions that global government solutions are required, and that those solutions will be effective.
    Imagine if independent research showed that natural variations are the main drivers of climate change, then where would the alarmists be? Would they be arguing we must try to control the sun? They couldn’t target industrial energy production, the fossil fuels industry, the livestock industry, etc, They would find that a lot harder to sell.
    People who desperately need to feel in control often invent problems and imagine solutions where they will be in control. You can’t expect to overcome their fear with reason. You can hope to minimize their ability to impose their control schemes. By discrediting their arguments, with facts and with logic.

    • Paul, I agree, there are people who have been pointing this out since the 1980s, and yet alleged CAGW has gained enormous traction and been a major driver of (bad) policy. This reinforces the evidence that we are less rational than we like to think we are. The only counter to that is getting a better understanding of the whole of the mind and mental processes by direct observation and experience of them. This can also reduce the biases, which are driven by reactions in the so-called subconscious.

  20. Until Salby’s argument came along, it never even occurred to me to question the attribution of the recent CO2 increase – I had never looked at this closely, and assumed that the IPCC et al. knew what they were talking about.

    My journey actually came from the other direction. When I first ran into the idea, my immediate reaction was that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the amounts of fossil carbon Mankind was dumping. CO2 in the atmosphere mediates among a variety of enzymatic processes, most of which are highly sensitive to input concentrations. My intuitive reaction was that, all else being equal, the entire human contribution might raise the atmospheric pCO2 by a few ppm, which would stop immediately if fossil burning stopped.

    It wasn’t until I’d done a lot of research into the dynamics of CO2 uptake that I realized how many of the limiting systems in plants could be “soft”, in the sense that they’d pass along only a small fraction of the change in pCO2 to the underlying RuBisCo. I still have to suspend a good deal of disbelief to imagine that the uptake response might actually follow the rise in pCO2 in a somewhat linear fashion.

    Whaling still seems like a much more plausible culprit to me.

    Unless Salby’s right, and the pCO2 has been wandering around sometimes to levels higher than today during the last few thousand years. Which can’t be ruled out at this point. Much more research into the ice compaction process in glaciers needs to be done, before cores from same can be relied on.

  21. Danny Thomas

    Going against a “consensus” must be a powerful unmotivational headwind making me personally request that this term be removed from the climate vocabulary. Instead of making the science stronger I realize it has actually made it weaker as it imputes bias.

    Side note, this post reminded me of this: http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_goldacre_what_doctors_don_t_know_about_the_drugs_they_prescribe#t-787899

    • Going against a “consensus” must be a powerful unmotivational headwind […]

      Maybe for some people. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself in life, it’s that I’m a natural contrarian. Whatever consensus exists, you’ll always find me there questioning it.

      Of course, the answers I get are often OK. But, often enough, not.

      And I doubt I’m the only one.

      • Danny Thomas

        AK,
        Apologies that I wasn’t as clear as intended. The headwind to which I referred pertains to those who publish and in fact study professionally specifically in the climate world. For some, (and I find myself in that boat at times) finding a consensus creates suspicion.
        Jim2 provided a link to a study some time back w/r/t peer reviewed work more often than not being found later to be inaccurate (cannot find the link at the moment). The TED link provided above makes me suspicious of pharma. Guess I’m more of a natural skeptic than I’d realized prior to entering the climate conversation.

  22. David Wojick

    Simple minded theories of human reasoning to the contrary, looking for evidence to support your hypothesis is not bias. Bias is a form of error. Pointing to evidence is not error, it is argument.

    Claiming that your opponent is biased, just because they do not see things the way you do, is a form of error.

    • However, looking only for evidence that supports your theory while disregarding evidence that contradicts your theory is not error, it is bias, or, motivated reasoning.

      • David Wojick

        Dismissing evidence as unimportant is different from disregarding or ignoring it. In Kuhn’s model of science anomalies are dismissed, not disregarded. Keep in mind that the weight of evidence is relative to the observer. This is not bias.

      • David Wojick

        If you do a Google Scholar search on “motivated reasoning” and look at the literature you will find that it is a controversial topic. I doubt it exists and I am not alone.

  23. Most commenters on this blog have too much skin in the game to back down from their POV. The loss of face would be hard to take. Even some top ranking scientists are very loath to admit that they had made an error, as for example when Brandon Shollenberger called out Richard Toll on this blog a couple of years ago.

    It follows that scientists may not be as detached as they should be when engaging in research and experimentation that has been funded with the implicit condition that the results will favour the funding organisation’s POV. Judith has also referred to obvious biases of Soon and Monckton and of Hansen as examples of strong reasons for preclusion of any research findings by them that would conflict with their memes.

    I seriously suggest that Judith puts up a post on Daniel Kahneman’s book on Thinking, Fast and Slow for the edification of everyone of us, because IMO Joshua has consistently reminded us that we need to be aware of bias when we engage in debate on climate science and policy preferences but he (and some others who comment here) need to disagree without being disagreeable.

    The lessons in the Kahneman book would make this forum a safer and more productive environment in which people may more often than not, reach consensus on matters of climate science and policy options and in so doing, advance the discussion to a higher plane.

    • Agree. We may all be too invested in our views to back off. The biggest problem I see in this entire debate is that on the AGW side, the focus is on developing alternative energy sources, primarily, if not exclusively, wind and solar as viable replacements for fossil fuels. AGW proponents seem not to understand that wind and solar solutions themselves can not exist without fossil fuels – for the mining of raw materials, transportation of same, manufacture, repair, and replacement, and as backup when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. On the skeptical side, too many seem to believe that fossil fuels are an infinite resource. Nuclear advocates to me make the best case for our energy future, but there is too much fear around nuclear and irrational regulatory hurdles with associated costs keep nuclear from being viable. If we don’t wake up soon and the predictions of peak oil are realized, we will be in serious trouble if we do not have an abundant, affordable, and reliable source of energy that does not rely on fossil fuels. No one will care about agw, but they will care about cold winters and hot summers when they can no longer simply turn a dial to heat or cool their home, or simply go to the store to buy food, or hop in their car to go visit friends and relatives hundreds of miles away. In other words, this entire debate is an enormous distraction from researching and developing viable long term energy solutions.

    • Don Monfort

      Wrong:”because IMO Joshua has consistently reminded us that we need to be aware of bias when we engage in debate on climate science and policy preferences..”

      What joshie does consistently is to ridicule alleged bias by skeptics, skeptics alleged motivated reasoning, skeptics needing their big boy pants, skeptics committing unintentional irony, skeptics tribalism, skeptics blah..blah..blah. His preferred target is Judith. He doesn’t incessantly point out the same defects in members his tribe. Anyone who has observed his foolishness for more than a day and thinks joshie is evenhanded and honest, is not very bright.

  24. Danny Thomas

    (Not climate, but) “It is the perfect system,” Dewar said. “But none of us would have ever dreamed any of it up.”
    http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-warm-blooded-fish-20150514-story.html
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6236/786.abstract?sid=45e1b463-055b-4144-bcd5-852ec28b3f18

  25. Perhaps colleges/universities could include in their curriculum
    ‘How to be a Spock or Data Scientist”

  26. It’s interesting to see repeated suggestions that some fields of science are better than others at working against consistent or predictable bias. There isn’t just one thing called “science” (don’t worry, it’s all self-correcting, we’re all more skeptical of the work of others than we are of our own, we’re the experts so you can trust us). Different fields or sub-fields have different cultures, so to speak. People who work with pharmaceuticals, having seen particularly bad examples of bias, have perhaps learned their lesson. Government-funded research on salt, fat, and cholesterol in the diet has been at least somewhat discredited. Mainstream climate science? Not exactly golden.

  27. I see confirmation bias all the time. It has become more and more of a problem as funding and jobs have become more and more short term. People feel that their work must support certain marketing memes. I don’t know what the answer is, but my efforts to change my field have met with considerable private approval (most really technically strong people are rather honest in private) and not very much public acknowledgement. Certainly, the public institutions are a big part of the problem.

  28. What an excellent post.

    I think the recent CO2 thread showed people’s bias in a stark light in various ways.

    A typical response from those who felt that they understood the issue was to denigrate even bringing it up. They considered the attribution to the rise in CO2 to be beyond question.

    A quality that follows from that is a sort of self-affirming skepticism which is more about confirming their “seriousness” as scientific skeptics, deriding and dismissing confronting ideas pretty much out of hand.

    In my view disbelieving everything is equivalent to believing everything. Overly confident pronouncements about how someone’s carefully considered work is nonsense or “not even wrong” etc etc is just not useful for the advancement of science.

    Here is how I respond best to views and comments from serious scientists: they seem to hold provisional beliefs or disbeliefs. They are prepared to suspend long accepted views long enough to examine a contrary argument fairly. It means that what they “believe” is on a sliding scale. If they encounter evidence going against what they currently believe, it does not mean they abandon the current view, but it means they have allowed room for some doubt. If over time more evidence supports the idea, then the slider may move over to the other side.

    Another thing I like are those that are able to include the doubts, or the ways they might be wrong within their argument. I’d love to see more commentators comment on the ways they might be convinced they are wrong the spending so much time “proving” they are right.

  29. As scientists, it is our job to fight against biases (and its not easy).

    Oh how we all want that to be true.
    But in any job, you will progress to the degree you please your paymaster. And so if a science paymaster actively wants bias, you either produce it or kiss your career goodbye.
    Just ask Lomborg.

  30. dikranmarsupial

    Oddly enough, when I heard about Prof. Essenhigh’s residence time argument, I didn’t dismiss it. I downloaded the paper, understood what it said, downloaded the data from http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ and investigated them, read the relevant section of the IPCC reports. At that point I understood Prof. Essenhigh’s error, so I had a pleasant discussion with him via email (although we didn’t ultimately agree) and later wrote a paper explaining the error. That is the way science is done.

    Later on, when I saw Prof. Salby’s Sydney Institute video, I didn’t dismiss it. I watched it, did some reading around and again saw that the mathematical error was fairly obvious (as it is one that has been made several times before) and I wrote a blog post for SkS.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/salby_correlation_conundrum.html

    However, before it was posted, I sent a draft to Prof. Salby for his comments, but received no reply. I had previously sent a couple of emails (and sent a pre-print of my paper) to Prof. Salby when I first saw the error in his Sydney Institute talk, again, no reply. However, I was willing to have a dialog on this, even if he wasn’t.

    Now both Prof. Essenhigh and Prof. Salby clearly have not taken the IPCC reports as seriously as I took their work as both misrepresent (I see no reason to suggest deliberately) the contents of the IPCC report. Prof. Salby seems completely unaware of the body of work that has been published on the inter-annual variability of the CO2 growth rate, beginning with the work of Bacastow, and which is discussed in the IPCC reports. The IPCC reports clearly distinguish between the residence time and adjustment time and caution against confusing the two (which was Prof. Essenhigh’s error).

    At the end of the day, what matters is the science, not the scientist and we should be able to discuss the science in a meaningful dialog. I would be happy to have a dialog with Prof. Curry on the attribution of the rise, or the hypothesis of Prof. Salby.

    • Thanks for your comment. I have been interested in Prof Salby’s work and why there are problems with it. It is unfortunate that you received no reply from him.

      While you received a reply from Prof. Essenhigh, you ultimately didn’t agree. Specifically, what was the point of disagreement?

      Most of the time, I am able to sort out the points of contention on issues. While I understand generally the disagreement here, I am curious about Prof Essenhigh’s reasoning for rejecting your points.

      Thanks

      • cerescokid,

        I had the same experience as dikran with Dr. Salby: I was in London last year, where he mas a speech in the Parliament for some commission. I was certainly interested in his stake on the alleged diffusion of CO2 in ice cores (which is practically unmeasurable), according to Salby a factor 10 attenuating the CO2 peaks during an interglacial.
        That simply is impossible, as that should be higher and higher for each interglacial each 100,000 year period back in time, while one measures the same levels again around the temperature peaks.
        Moreover that would mean that the original levels during glacial periods were even lower than measured, which would give problems for all C3 plants in the last glacial period and even sub-zero levels a few glacial periods back in time.

        When asked about that (and other points), he simply evaded the questions… He also doesn’t react on any open discussion like his latest speech in London this year, which was commented on WUWT.
        He didn’t publish his findings, methods or data anywhere for open discussion.

        Until the moment that he publishes even simply on line, I would take anything Dr. Salby says with a (large) grain of salt…

      • I was certainly interested in his stake [sic] on the alleged diffusion of CO2 in ice cores (which is practically unmeasurable), according to Salby a factor 10 attenuating the CO2 peaks during an interglacial.

        Take?

        That’s roughly what I got out of the videos I’ve seen.

        That simply is impossible, as that should be higher and higher for each interglacial each 100,000 year period back in time, […]

        Moreover that would mean that the original levels during glacial periods were even lower than measured, […]

        Seems to me you never even bothered to think about what he was saying. Seems to me you were just looking for something to “quote mine” in an attempt to smear him.

        No wonder he didn’t want to engage. Sorry to indulge in ad hominem, but the fact that you could say those things clearly demonstrates, to me, the worthlessness of any of your arguments here.

        He didn’t publish his findings, methods or data anywhere for open discussion.

        Yeah, you’re right about that. I admit to considerable skepticism until I see something with some meat in it.

        OTOH, according to him, much of his research material was “confiscated” due to bureaucratic hooliganism. It may be that it includes the original data necessary to proper publication, even in a non-peer-reviewed venue.

        The fact that that sabotage, which AFAIK has never been denied by those responsible, took place doesn’t prove he’s right. But it does go to show those responsible were afraid he is. It does give me to wonder.

      • Mike Flynn

        What is the difference to the human race if Dr Salby is right or wrong?

        Specifically, why should the subsistence farmer in Nepal, care one way or the other!

        Facts are facts. Opinions are opinions. No more, no less.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Mike Flynn “What is the difference to the human race if Dr Salby is right or wrong?”

        If he is right, there is no point in doing anything to restrict fossil fuel (and land use change) emissions as that is not what is causing the observed increase in atmospheric CO2. I wish he was right, as it would be one less problem for the world to worry about and we could concentrate on the other problems on the list. Sadly, he isn’t right (the reasons have been explained in detail elsewhere), so we don’t have that luxury.

      • I wish he was right, […]

        Color me unconvinced.

        Sadly, he isn’t right (the reasons have been explained in detail elsewhere), […]

        AFAIK all of those “explanations” are based on straw men; mis-representations of what Salby’s trying to say. Of course, given that he’s never published, I can’t be totally sure. But when I compare what I see in those “explanations” with what I got out of Salby’s presentations, my “straw man alarm” goes off very loudly.

      • AK,

        Indeed, “take”…

        I always start with the assumption that someone may be wrong or right on what he/she says, but that anyway that what is said was in good faith. Only when proven wrong and still insisting on what is wrong, I start to dismiss people as untrustworthy. Even then, I will look at new evidence by the same person as unbiased as possible.

        I have read a lot of things about CO2, that includes CO2 in ice cores and the possibility of an extremely small theoretical migration of CO2 in relative “warm” coastal ice cores.
        What Dr. Salby said was about CO2 migration in the extremely cold inland ice cores of Antarctica, which is extremely unlikely.

        Ice cores show peaks of ~300 ppmv for ~10,000 years and low values of ~180 ppmv over ~90,000 years.
        Migration redistributes the CO2 peaks over the low values, but that doesn’t change the average CXO2 level over the full period.

        According to Dr. Salby, the 300 ppmv measured during the previous interglacial was originally 3000 ppmv. Thus 2700 ppmv over ~10,000 years was (assuming evenly) spread over 90,000 years. That means that the measured ~180 ppmv was originally minus 120 ppmv, effectively killing almost all life on earth. That is only getting worse for each interglacial the further you go back in time…

        No matter how you torture the data, what Dr. Salby said is simply impossible. BTW, he didn’t repeat that in his last speech this year in London.

        Not only for ice cores, I still have a lot of unanswered questions for him.

        Further, that his former employer confiscated his data is no excuse to not discuss the critique on what he said: most data like ice core data or CO2 data are freely available on the net.

      • @Ferdinand Engelbeen…

        Let me start with this:

        Ice cores show peaks of ~300 ppmv for ~10,000 years and low values of ~180 ppmv over ~90,000 years.
        Migration redistributes the CO2 peaks over the low values, but that doesn’t change the average CXO2 level over the full period.

        Suppose that the “average CXO2 level over the full period” from 3000YA to 1900 is actually around 280ppm (or whatever precise figure you want). That means nothing for modern CO2 attribution if decadal-scale variation often took it over 500ppm. How much did “[m]igration redistribute[…] the CO2 peaks over the low values”? This is where I see dramatic failure to properly represent (what I got out of) Salby’s arguments.

        Let me lay it out for you, although IMO you failed by not thinking it through during his presentation:

        The rate of diffusion in snow will depend on the gradient and the state of the snow. As firn compacts, diffusion rates will go down. Therefore, the first century or two after the snow actually encloses air into bubbles is most important.

        Seems likely to me (but I didn’t get anything out of Salby on this) that by the time the record is a few thousand years old, it’s pretty much frozen. But there’s scope for enormous diffusional “peak-smoothing”, and variation in diffusional “peak-smoothing” between different sites, and different epochs at the same site. Most of the smoothing will be of decadal-scale variation.

        When I see arguments that ignore the above points, I apologize if I get a little hot under the collar at what seems (to me) at best carelessness.

        According to Dr. Salby, the 300 ppmv measured during the previous interglacial was originally 3000 ppmv.

        I certainly never got any such thing out of my viewing of his presentation(s). Are you sure he wasn’t trying to say that decadal-scale peaks were has high as 3000ppmv? Relative to nearby decades? That would make sense to me.

      • AK,

        My impression is that you have little knowledge of ice cores…
        – The close off of the high resolution ice cores of Law Dome is only 40 years from snow to firn to solid ice at full bubble closing depth. Enclosed air then is ~7 years older than in the above atmosphere.
        – Law Dome ice cores have an overlap of ~20 years with South Pole direct measurements.
        – There is no detectable migration in any ice core after full bubble closing (that would be visible for recent human contributions like the 14C bomb spike, CFC’s,…)
        – Ice cores of different locations have extreme differences of snow accumulation and temperature. That influences the resolution and maximum time span: 10 years for the past 150 years, 20 years for the past 1,000 years, 40 years for the past 70,000 years and ultimately 560 years for the past 800,000 years.
        – Repeatability of same parts of same core: 1.2 ppmv (1 sigma). Between different cores for the same gas age: within 5 ppmv.
        – The current increase of 110 ppmv over 160 years would be measured in all ice cores, be it with a lower peak and spread over more years, depending of the resolution.
        – A peak of 500 ppmv over a decade would be measured as a peak of 10 ppmv in the 800,000 years Dome C record, a peak of 250 ppmv within the past 1,000 years or as a 500 ppmv peak over the past 150 years.

        Some more info:
        http://courses.washington.edu/proxies/GHG.pdf

        About Salby, I wrote a comment on his Hamburg presentation via WUWT:
        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/21/nzclimate-truth-newsletter-no-313/
        About ice cores, after 25 minutes he starts his comment on the reliability of ice cores. My comment at that time:
        As example he gives that on a timescale of 10 kyr the ice core underestimates the variance of the atmosphere with a factor 2, making that a 20 ppmv peak and drop of CO2 in the atmosphere would only give a 4 ppmv variability in the ice core. Worse on a timescale of 100 kyr: a variance of 1000 ppmv in the atmosphere would only be seen as a 100 ppmv variance in the ice core.

        So my memory was for a tenfold peak: a 3000 ppmv peak for a 300 ppmv level, but he was talking about the variance.
        Doesn’t make much difference:
        The 120 ppmv rise during an interglacial thus was originally 1200 ppmv, of which 980 ppmv was spread over a nine times longer time span. Or the 180 ppmv during the glacial period was originally 70 ppmv. That is enough to kill all C3 plants…
        If you go one interglacial further back in time, you need a 4 times higher original peak to have the same end result: twice the speed and twice the time to migrate. Thus an original peak of 4800 ppmv, which gives negative values in the adjacent glacial period(s)…

      • @Ferdinand Engelbeen…

        My impression is that you have little knowledge of ice cores…

        I wouldn’t call myself an expert. But I can figure out the difference between diffusional smoothing of decadal-scale peaks, and ice-age scale.

        As far as I can tell, you’re still interpreting Salby’s discussion of decadal-scale smoothing as longer-scale effects. It’s my understanding that everything he’s talking about is decadal-century-scale variation, and smoothing of such. Thus, discussions of supposed diffusional changes to ice-age averages (for instance) are tantamount to straw men.

        OTOH, your arguments WRT “closing” are much more on-target. Perhaps a thread discussing these issues would be appropriate. With links to references, and experiments and models of diffusion rates.

      • AK,

        Salby did talk about the suppressing of short living peaks due to the resolution of the ice cores and separately about the suppressing of longer, slower peaks due to migration, which was a 2-fold after 10,000 years and a 10-fold for 100,000 years…

      • […] separately about the suppressing of longer, slower peaks due to migration, which was a 2-fold after 10,000 years and a 10-fold for 100,000 years…

        Well, 5-20 years would do for “resolution of the ice cores”, with periods up to 1-2 centuries for the “longer, slower peaks due to migration”. I simply don’t believe he referenced variation time-scales longer than that, but if you insist he did I’ll listen to his presentation(s) again.

      • @Ferdinand Engelbeen…

        Salby did talk […] separately about the suppressing of longer, slower peaks due to migration, which was a 2-fold after 10,000 years and a 10-fold for 100,000 years…

        Question: I would take this to mean that traces left by decadal to century-scale variations in atmospheric pCO2 were being “smoothed” by diffusion over time. By a factor of 2 over 10,000 years, by a factor of 10 by 100,000 years.

        So, for instance, a 2-decade bump reaching a peak of 300ppmv over an average of 280ppmv has an excess of 20ppmv. If it’s from 100,000 years ago, it’s actually an excess of 200ppmv, recording an actual atmospheric pCO2 of 480ppmv.

        Was this also your impression, or were you interpreting the 10,000 and 100,000-year intervals as applying to the interval of the variation?

    • Thx for the link. Not exactly sure when I will get to it, but i will include your post in eventual salby post

  31. How much bias is necessary for doing science?

    For centuries people thought about how to fly and it didn’t work.
    So flying was a settled science and anyone trying a biased lunatic.

    And then it worked because some biased lunatic kept trying.

    • Perhaps I should ad:
      There are two obvious mechanisms for self correction in science
      – unbiased evaluation of results by individual researchers
      – final selection between biases researchers

      It seems to me both have their merits. And it may be difficult to come up with generalizable rules.

  32. Settled science, say, how do yr make new discoveries
    unless lunatics step out of line with esoteric conjectures?
    Like Copernicus and Co and Newton and James Hutton
    the man who discovered deep time, contra the accepted
    religious consensus of earth’s much shorter year history.

    No new knowledge without the ‘refutable’ conjectures of
    heretics, like Freeman Dyson says. Yer can’t jest keep
    on inoculating theories, they have to stand or fall by
    observations and tests.
    .
    http://ncse.com/rncse/27/3-4/review-man-who-found-time

  33. Apart from the very first sentence, I can’t see another mention of the scientific method. Certainly in the physical sciences, you overcome individual biases by requiring an element of reproducibility. You don’t trust a result because the author is regarded as trustworthy, and you don’t immediately distrust a result because the authors is not trusted. You start to trust something when it has been repeated and reproduced by many people/groups in many different countries/ institutions. As much as I agree that there are biases and that there are incentives that may exaccerbate these biases and that there are some things we could do to improve this issue, my concern with focussing on individuals is that we might start to trust individual studies more than they deserve, rather than trusting the overall method (repeatability and reproducibility).

    • While we may interpret things somewhat differently as far AGW is concerned I agree with your above comment. Objectivity in science precludes individual biases. +10

    • The problem here is not the scientific method. You cannot work something out in the laboratory that is in the future. From your link to the article about falsifiability the first three ways suggested all require the future to play out. No one can be smug and rest on their laurals that everything is worked out and science has spoken. Only the future will determine what was correct and what wasn’t. I suspect it will be a mixed bag. In the meantime there is plenty of room for bias betting on the outcome.

    • Yes – reproducible results to testable hypotheses.

      But consider what that means for ‘climate change’.

      There is no controlled study – many degrees of freedom for unknown and uncertain other processes.

      And a forecast for the year 2100 is, by definition, not testable ( until 2100 ).

      Because of this, there are large voids of knowledge which, when confronted with a call for policy, get filled in with emotional biases.

      That’s one reason I keep looking back to Hansen’s 1988 testimony,
      because, that’s a 25 year old forecast that’s testable:

      We can say ( with Hindsight Bias ) that the forcing scenarios were off, and that is true, but:
      1.) that’s good news – forcing wasn’t as bad as thought, and,
      2.) ghg forcing was just one of the uncontrolled variables

      • Of course my use of ‘good news’ and ‘bad as thought’ are emotional value statements probably underlying some other unspoken bias ( of the popular narrative ) that I’ve succumbed to.

  34. repeatability and reproducibility: that’s what makes climate science different.

    You can’t run controlled experiments. It’s more like forecasting history.
    It’s impossible to falsify any forecast unless it’s extremely precise (and you are only making approximately one) (as far as I can see).(Which won’t be available for the foreseeable future.)

    So how can anyone who favors this or that not be regarded as biased in this case?

    To question some result or idea would be unbiased. Pure method. But there must be something to question in the first place. So no science without bias first.

    So someone calling someone who questions some proposition biased would run counter to scientific method (as long as he uses proper arguments (where the devil may enter the game again)). But bias is needed for science to start.

    • It’s impossible to falsify any forecast unless it’s extremely precise (and you are only making approximately one) (as far as I can see).(Which won’t be available for the foreseeable future.)

      The ‘consensus’ forecast is that as CO2 goes up, so will temperatures. There may be other factors as well, but the overall drift should still be upwards. CO2 will dominate; it, is the control-knob.

      “Up” seems pretty falsifiable to me.

      • “Up” seems pretty falsifiable to me.

        That’s been pointed out before.

      • To my understanding the discussion is not whether temperatures go up or down but by how much. If you make a forecast that temps go up 2.5°C until 2050 with a 10-6 probability of “no change” and we have “no change” then that won’t falsify the model in any way.
        Since you have only one observation you can’t assess the pdf.

        Making probabilistic model based predictions of a single event doesn’t make scientific sense. The only way to interpret them is subjective level of confidence.

        I see no other way to tackle the problem as bottom up research about what may influence climate in what way, deciding whether there may be a big enough risk and whether to take precautions. Hedging an unknown risk.
        Identify low cost precautions and implement them.
        High cost precautions will have considerable tradeoffs. Evaluate the tradeoffs and chose how much to invest in hedging which risk.

        So policy should focus on identifying low cost hedges and bringing the costs down. Not installing any imaginable technology in volume for the sake of it.

        A rational discussion would be another good idea. Currently climate change mitigation is sold together with the liberal policy package of abolishing all evils which will require near unlimited resources.
        That won’t work together. Better to be honest that some austerity will be needed so people are prepared.

      • The temperature rise is conditional on the CO2 rise. If someone made a prediction in 1950 using 2 C per doubling, they could have said that the temperature rise by the time it reached 400 ppm (whenever that was) would be about 0.7 C, and they would have been proved right. The CO2 rise itself depends on policy and global development and that can’t be predicted easily, so all you can do is predict consequences, known as scenarios, and these can be helpful to policy decisions too so there is a feeding back.

    • dikranmarsupial

      A forecast is “falsified” is the observations lie outside the range indicated by its stated uncertainty. If that range is very large, then you might criticize the forecast for being vague, but not for being unfalsifiable.

      • Mike Flynn

        Prett simple then. Tomorrow’s temperature is today’s plus or minus 100C.

        Stupid forecast. Pointless, useless, and all the rest. Very similar to climate forecasts, scenarios or whatever. Wouldn’t you agree?

      • dikranmarsupial

        of course, but then the stated uncertainty of climate/weather forecasts is unlikely to be \pm 100C! What you really want is for the predictive uncertainty to represent the actual uncertainty, so if you want to criticise the model for being vague, you need to show that the true uncertainty of the (possibly chaotic) system (given what is known about initial conditions) is substantially less than the stated predictive uncertainty of the forecast. Difficult to do without a model, and almost impossible if you only have one realisation of the chaotic process.

      • A forecast with a wide range of stated uncertainty isn’t a forecast. It is someone licking their finger, sticking in the air, and guessing.

        A precise and accurate prediction is a forecast, an imprecise forecast is a guess, an inaccurate forecast is a bad guess.

      • dikranmarsupial

        PA you are missing my point, whether the uncertainty of the prediction is too broad or not depends on how predictable something actually is. I would argue that it is better to have a model that is too uncertain than one were the stated uncertainty is *less* than the true physical uncertainty. If you want to claim that e.g. GCM ensemble have too broad a spread, then you need to show there are physical reasons to suggest that the system is substantially more predictable than stated. Currently our best method of assessing the predictability is the GCM ensemble itself. If there is a better method, write it up as a journal paper.

      • Don Monfort

        “Currently our best method of assessing the predictability is the GCM ensemble itself. If there is a better method, write it up as a journal paper.”

        All the geniuses who are building and managing the models get a paper napkin. We will standardize on McDonald’s napkin, so they don’t fight over the size. Each writes up his/her own little story about where they believe the climate is going and where it ends up in 2100, on said napkin. Everybody includes freehand drawing of their own little temperature projection chart. We get a pouched professor to ensemble all the stories on the napkins, and we save ourselves a lot of money that would have been spent on supporting models staff, computer time, the costs of traveling to and holding a lot of meetings, conferences, coffee and donuts etc. Prof. Pouch writes a journal paper.

      • dikranmarsupial | May 15, 2015 at 9:44 am |
        PA you are missing my point, whether the uncertainty of the prediction is too broad or not depends on how predictable something actually is.

        A prediction that isn’t falsifiable is too imprecise to have any value.

      • dikranmarsupial

        …and we have come full circle. In my initial comment I wrote

        “A forecast is “falsified” is the observations lie outside the range indicated by its stated uncertainty. If that range is very large, then you might criticize the forecast for being vague, but not for being unfalsifiable.”

      • Word games I see.

        An excessively wide range is essentially unverifiable because it encompasses all likely outcomes. .

        If I predict that the average global temperature in 2015 will be 14.6°C +/- 2°C, I’m going to be right (barring a Nibiru impact or supervolcano).

        Excessively wide range predictions are unskilled and essentially the same as guessing.

      • Mike Flynn

        dikranmarsupial,

        Either a forecast is useful to me, or it is not. A forecast that a coin has a 0.5 probability of coming up heads, with a very small uncertainty, is completely correct and completely useless to me. It may be useful to you.

        A forecast that the average global temperature will rise in response to an increase in CO2 concentrations at a rate of so and so with a stated uncertainty of anything at all, is completely useless.

        Antarctica was once ice free. Marine fossils can be found at heights above 6,000 m. Oil, presumably of organic origin, is found deeper than 9,000 m. beneath the surface. The marine fossil environment is much colder than it was, the oil’s environment is now much hotter.

        A few degrees warmer or colder in a particular area may be detrimental or beneficial, depending on circumstances. Averages are often the refuge of the scientific rascal, who refuses to be pinned down to a falsifiable hypothesis.

        Warmists have apparently given up forecasting thermageddon, and now resort to crying havoc about rising CO2 levels. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any detrimental effects of CO2 levels up to 1,000 ppm, at minimum.

        Have you a useful forecast relating to anything at all, or are you just having a bit of fun? If, as the IPCC has stated, the climate is chaotic, then it may be, by definition, unpredictable. We might find that events such as floods, droughts, tornados, hurricanes, heatwaves and so on, cannot be predicted in any useful sense.

        We might even discover that attempting to predict instantaneous wind speed and direction 30 seconds hence with any precision is beyond our grasp. You may think differently.

  35. Say, how fortunate am I that Judith allows open society
    imput at her e-salon, even serfs. So herewith. Humans
    are a subjective lot, let’s face it. Why someone happens
    ter ask a particular question of nay-chur in the first place
    prob’ly comes down ter their own socio-economic-religious
    -political-cultural-bi-asses in the first place.

    But if the guess/ hypothesis they ask of nay-chur is
    framedsuch that it is possible ter refute it, Einstein’s red
    shift ‘n such, :) then it can be real-world tested.

    The individual ain’t objective but the methodology that humans
    developed is objective, so long as we don’t allow utopianist
    control freaks to take over the management of what’s allowed
    in and what’s allowed out.

  36. Prolly a correlation between computing power and bias in papers.

  37. dikranmarsupial

    “As scientists, it is our job to fight against biases (and its not easy). One of the ways that I fight against bias is to question basic assumptions, and see if challenges to these assumptions are legitimate. ”

    another way is to take it seriously when somebody points out we have misunderstood something.

    curryja | May 13, 2015 at 3:45 pm |

    No it doesn’t, read it again.

    https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/06/quantifying-the-anthropogenic-contribution-to-atmospheric-co2/#comment-703029

    We are *all* subject to these biases, without exception.

    • @marsupial “We are *all* subject to these biases, without exception.”
      Indeed. +10

    • dikranmarsupial

      Another way is to to be polite to those who disagree with you, and not to describe their position or arguments in derogatory terms. Ferdinand Engelbeen (on the recent CO2 discussion) provides a great example of this, even though others are often quite rude and dismissive towards him. Being only human, we all (myself included) tend to fall short occasionally and are less polite than we ought to be, but I think Ferdinand’s approach is exactly right.

      • I apologized. But, in fact, his blatant mis-representation of Salby’s ideas shows, at best, a strong inability to think through the implications of issues highly relevant to his work.

        All communications depend partly on trust, that references are being used correctly, that huge defects in the communicator’s argument aren’t being swept under the rug, etc. IMO that trust has been violated.

        Given what Salby’s been through (admittedly according to himself), I’d say he’s entitled to a high level of suspicion when people come at him with such mis-representations of what he’s trying to say.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Apologizing for an ad-hominem and then repeating rather emphasizes my point. Being rude to those who disagree with you is likely to reinforce biases and prevent you from seeing there point and possibly admitting you are wrong.

        Ferdinand has not misrepresented Prof. Salby, at least not on the issue of the temperature -> CO2 hypothesis. I can’t comment on the ice-core issue as I haven’t looked into in detail as Ferdinand has, but I would be very surprised if that were any different, given how diligently he has researched the CO2 attribution question and how he conducts the discussion with patience and without rhetoric.

        I also think people shouldn’t give Prof. Salby a hard time; from what I have read he has clearly been through the wringer in the last few years (possibly self-inflicted). However that shouldn’t affect the discussion of his scientific hypothesis; it is wrong, but that has nothing to do with the personal qualities of the source. It would help if he would enter into a dialog on the science with those who are interested in discussing it with him, but other than that, best to stick to the science.

        I for one did not “come at him with such mis-representations of what he’s trying to say”. I sent him a copy of my paper and explained how it was relevant, but got no reply. The reason I sent him a copy of my SkS article was to ensure that it didn’t misrepresent his argument and so that if he could spot any errors, again with no reply.

      • dikranmarsupial:

        I agree completely. Being polite is the way to go.

        I have enjoyed our interactions think both you and Ferdinand have been very polite.

        I still politely ask – but for humans, emissions would not have gone up. However, but for humans, sinks would not have gone up.

        Why do we call the emissions side anthro, but not the sink side?

      • dikranmarsupial

        I have addressed that on the other thread, it is probably best not to discuss the science again on this thread, so as not to derail the discussion of bias (although the science is more interesting ;o).

      • I for one did not “come at him with such mis-representations of what he’s trying to say”. […] The reason I sent him a copy of my SkS article was to ensure that it didn’t misrepresent his argument and so that if he could spot any errors, again with no reply.

        I looked at your SkS article, and it seems to me you’ve answered a straw man, at the least, if not mis-represented his argument. But it’s been a long time since I watched his presentations, and I don’t intend to waste time on it.

        It certainly seems to me that both you and Ferdinand Engelbeen have missed his central point(s). Given the way he made those points (it certainly stood out to me), I’m highly skeptical of your rhetorical honesty. It’s perfectly possible to be completely polite, while engaging in the worst of intellectual dishonesty (or any other type).

        And I don’t regard ad hominem as necessarily “[b]eing rude”. When somebody has demonstrated extreme negligence in approaching one aspect of a subject, questioning the value of their approach to other aspects is fully warranted.

        IMO.

      • AK,

        And I don’t regard ad hominem as necessarily “[b]eing rude”. When somebody has demonstrated extreme negligence in approaching one aspect of a subject, questioning the value of their approach to other aspects is fully warranted.

        Well, I regard most of what you say as demonstrating extreme negligence in approaching almost all aspects of the subject. Therefore, I assume that you’re perfectly happy with me using ad homs etc when addressing you in future? You do – I assume – understand the importance of consistency, and – I assume – respect the notion that we each have the right to make up our own minds as to other people’s negligence or lack thereof.

    • dikranmarsupial,

      No matter how many times I’ve read that exchange, I can’t find that Dr Curry misread the paper. It seems to be an apples/oranges thing to me. On the one hand your saying 90% probable of 0.3% per year above natural is simply a confirmation of human cause. You apparently think she is reading too much into that by insisting that doesn’t mean it’s 100% certain it’s all human.
      As near as I can tell you all interpret that 90% probable has nothing to do with whether or not It’s 100% human. It’s in a different context and JC has misunderstood the context.

      Biased fruit:

      Apple, ‘by golly it’s highly certain there is a rise in CO2 and it’s caused by humans’

      Orange, ‘probable but not 100%, sorry no cigar’

      unless I hear a better explanation, I remain flummoxed that this is even an arguement.

      • dikranmarsupial

        A change in the airborne fraction is not the same thing as a change in the growth rate. That was the error.

      • You assumed she made that error, she didn’t explicitly say what she was alluding to either airborne part or growth rate. I understand where your coming from but try proving it in court. It’s all assumptions and interpretations. Do we really know what she’s talking about when she says: “This is very different from absolute certainty that 100% of the increase is caused by humans”. No where does she mention airborne fraction or growth rate.

      • dikranmarsupial

        Prof Curry wrote “Note, the article says 90% probability that CO2 increase is above natural variability. This is very different from absolute certainty that 100% of the increase is caused by humans”

        The airborne fraction cannot be sensibly described as “CO2 increase”, and it was the airborne fraction that the paper referred to. That was Prof. Curry’s error.

        If we emit 2GtC and the atmosphere retains 1GtC, then the airborne fraction is 0.5. If we emit 2,000,000 GtC and the atmosphere retains 1,000,000 GtC then the airborne fraction is still 0.5. The magnitude of the increase and the airborne fraction are not the same thing.

      • dikranmarsupial

        “No where does she mention airborne fraction”

        which is a problem as that is what that part of the paper was discussing, not the CO2 increase itself.

      • Oh, okay I finally understand. Since the paper is about airborne fraction she is in error by interpretating that airborne fraction and CO2 increase are the same thing. I’d still have a hard time convincing the other 11 jurors of that.

      • Don Monfort

        “I’d still have a hard time convincing the other 11 jurors of that.”

        What if the other 11 were impartial jurors, who weren’t also trying to serve as counsel for the defense?

  38. Pingback: These items caught my eye – 15 May 2015 | grumpydenier

  39. Mike Flynn

    Scientist is a relatively recent term.

    Natural philosopher is an older term, and more descriptive to my mind.

    A scientist does not have a job, as such. The systematic acquisition of knowledge describes the role of the scientist reasonably well. This description implies no certainty of reward, or any other object than the pursuit itself.

    Biases, or no biases? Irrelevant. Has knowledge been acquired? Irrelevant. Scientists have spent their entire life pursuing an idea which turned out to be but a figment, and an incorrect figment to boot. Sometimes, bad resulted. Sometimes good.

    It is quite understandable that a paid scientist will do the bidding of his employer, at least if he wishes to continue eating. Unless he has a foolish or irresponsibly carefree employer, possessing more money than sense, or incurably philanthropic, of course. Who but a fool would purposely waste money for no result?

    I am obviously biased, of course. In favour of fact. Produce new facts, I change my mind. Wouldn’t you? Or are you biased against novelty?

  40. Crucially important message and post, thanks.

    Instead of trying to radicalize school-children and students with AGW, it would be far more profitable to teach them basic epistemology – what is the structure and basis of knowledge.

  41. While some results are sure to be false negatives—that is, results that appear incorrectly to rule something out—Hartgerink says he has never read a paper that concludes as much about its findings.

    Our youngest daughter did encounter such a bias, about 20 years ago now: she made a Ph.D. work in Belgium and the UK commissioned by the UN for the detection of the small personal mines which were used in (too) many conflict areas and still years later hurt and kill a lot of people. These are small plastic mines, which are undetectable with metal detectors.
    The method she used was NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance), extreme high frequencies send down the ground and where -NO2 is present (in practically all explosives) that gets in vibration and sends its own frequency back. Maybe that method nowadays is used at airports to check the luggage.

    She did make a lot of tests with field “portable” equipment with a lot of failures and after many tests more solid successes.
    In her thesis she described all results: the failures and reasons for failure and the successes. Her prof from Belgium fully agreed. The UK prof didn’t agree: she should only mention the successes…
    She refused to remove the failures out of her thesis and after a few months of disagreement between the two professors she did stop here Ph.D. work and started a more practical job, she now is a professional helicopter pilot…

    • dikranmarsupial

      That is a great pity Ferdinand, she was quite right to include and explain the failures in her thesis.

  42. A sad story, as a Brit living in Belgium this embarrasses me on behalf of UK academia. It rings true unfortunately, UK academics are prone to politicization of their research which is always corrosive of standards. The research funding structure is such that media attention can be worth more than consensus of peers.

  43. An intrinsic part of human nature is the need to feel empowered, to have a sense of having control of the world around us. This need, this drive to find and manipulate the “control knobs” in our lives, creates a susceptibility towards bias which affects how we perceive everything around us.

    A feeling of empowerment can often enable the vast resources of energy and creativity which reside within each of us. These powers can take us, and our neighbors, on journeys of either deconstruction or construction.

    Sadly, history is littered with movements which are sparked by genius, either evil or well-intentioned, and then powered toward hellish ends by a host of empowered individuals bent to purposeful tasks. Successful completion of these tasks may be rewarded in a way which confirms a biased viewpoint, which empowers and encourages application of energy and creativity to the next task. Early and enthusiastic adapters often reap extra rewards, whether or not the new field ultimately proves beneficial to mankind.

    Any society which wishes to retain individual freedom and self-direction must encourage and train each citizen to understand bias and to recognize when human endeavor has fallen victim to such and taken a wrong turn. Every citizen must be unafraid to voice sincere concerns without fear of reprisal by government or fellow citizens. Because mistakes will be made, and initial feedback may encourage biased and invalid assumptions. Such is the nature of every person and every union of people.

    • sciguy, you can only control yourself. How the external world affects you depends on your reaction to it. As your last para notes, individuals matter.

  44. It’s too bad that the sciences aren’t like the stock market relative to the immediacy of pain for following a path of motivated reasoning. Human bias has led many technical stock market technicians to ruin who have figured out statistically how it works.

  45. The historical (steady state) equilibrium for the current temperature was 290 ppmv in the atmosphere. That is also what Henry’s law shows for the solubility of CO2 in seawater.

    That means that the current CO2 pressure in the atmosphere is about 110 ppmv above equilibrium, whatever the cause.
    Humans do add ~4.5 ppmv/year. That gives an increase in sink rate of about 4% or 0.08 ppmv of the 2.15 ppmv net sink rate of last year.

    My reply to Ferdinand.

    How did the equilibrium for the current temperature of 290 ppmv come about?

    Past history shows this did not hold up. For example during the Ordovician Period CO2 concentrations were 4000 ppmv and the temperature was lower . There are many more examples telling me this 290 ppmv for the current temperature seems to be not set in stone ,not even close.

    • dikranmarsupial

      “Past history shows this did not hold up. For example during the Ordovician Period CO2 concentrations were 4000 ppmv and the temperature was lower . ”

      and solar luminosity was substantially lower then; it is called the “feint young sun paradox”, and is largely resolved if you accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and rather more difficult to resolve if it isn’t.

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

      • You can make a case for 2.5°C between 4000 PPM and 280 PPM of CO2.

        That is 3.49ln(C/C0). And that is about it.

        Or 0.24°C of warming in the past century, and that is about it.

        Clouds, water vapor, and geography (and the occasional volcanic or asteroid disaster) have far more impact than CO2 CO2 isn’t an explanation for temperature – it is icing on a cake composed of some other more significant factors.

      • dikranmarsupial

        The Scotese temperature schematic (it isn’t actually data) is very out of date, see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2014/03/can-we-make-better-graphs-of-global-temperature-history/

      • The solar luminosity is a false argument which does not hold up. If one looks at the historical climate record around the Ordovician one will see prior to the Ordovician Period when solar luminosity was even less then during the Ordovician Period global temperatures were higher then today while CO2 concentrations were the same as they were during the Ordovician Ice Age.

        In other words just before and just after the Ordovician Ice Age when the sun was dimmer temperatures were higher then they are today with CO2 some 4000 ppm and then during the Ordovician , an Ice Age comes about with CO2 concentrations are still some 4000 ppm.

        This data shows CO2 concentrations were not at play and that the argument about solar luminosity is false for if this were true why were global temperatures prior to the Ordovician higher then today? I thought the sun was dimmer back then.

    • Salvatore, the 290 ppmv is the current equilibrium per Henry’s law for the current oceans and the current geological time. at least over the past 2 million years.

      Lots of the 4000 ppmv of ancient times can be found nowadays in the white cliffs of Dover and many other carbonate deposits worldwide…

      • That does not cut it in my opinion. All of a sudden current geological time dictates this relationship wile past geological time does not. Does not make sense..

        http://geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html

        The data shows 290 ppmv CO2 concentration for a given temperature does not hold up. Ferdinand explain it.

      • Ferdinand why do you disregard data which does not support what you are trying to convey? There is no relationship present the way you are trying to say there is according to the historical data.

        This is the problem I have with AGW theory in general if the data does not agree it is either ignored, wrong, or manipulated to make it agree with the theory. This is happening constantly.

      • See PA sent the same data. You can not ignore some data while embracing other data. Who are you to say which data should be used and which data should be ignored.?

      • How does one know if this balance is holding up presently? Maybe a new relationship is coming about as it has done many times in the past according to the data.

        I have no theory on this I am just gong by what the data is showing.

      • Salvatore,

        Henry’s law was established in 1803 by Henry. Since then it was confirmed by millions of laboratory and field measurements.
        For ocean surface measurements, that are over three million in the past decades alone.

        How many recent measurements do you need to be convinced that the current equilibrium at steady state for the current temperature is at 290 ppmv?

        In different geological times, it may have been completely different, as the carbonate levels in the oceans were much higher and pH, salt content, temperature, etc. all different than in the past 2 million years…

      • Mike Flynn

        Ferdinand,

        Who cares what your calculated equilibrium should be. It doesn’t accord with reality. Current CO2 levels are above your calculated figure. The Earth has never been in a state of equilibrium.

        Things change. The Earth was born hot, is cooling, and will eventually become even colder. No equilibrium there. 2 million years is no great percentage of the supposed four and a half thousand million years of the Earth’s existence, is it?

        The faint young Sun is no paradox. The Earth merely cooled a little more quickly than if the Sun had been hotter. Do you not agree?

        A bit more CO2 in the atmosphere would seem to be a good thing. Have you any reason for thinking otherwise?

        Thanks.

      • Ferdinand, I do not see why you should be so fixated on Henry’s Law. That would govern an equilibrium that is a component of a much larger system. Others have pointed this before. The metabolic rate of various biota within the carbon cycle system is likely to affect decomposition rates (resulting in methane and CO2) and growth rates unequally depending on the climate conditions.

        You have 2 arguments that I think weaken your point of view:

        – adherence to the mass balance argument. It may all come to the same thing in the end, but I think Bart and others who have said the same thing are dead right that that is NOT the way to approach it.

        – Henry’s Law/equilibrium/fixation on the ocean as sink and source. I don’t know where I read it, but my understanding is it is actually land based biota that contributes most to the carbon cycle, not the oceans. This will not be governed by Henry’s Law.

        Your best argument is with the extent of variability in the recent past on centennial scales. But there are problems with that as well: poor representation globally, uncertainty over diffusion, and high variability
        It’s supporting the temp leads CO2 argument over millennial time scales where diffusion (which acts as a smoother on shorter time scales) is possibly less of a problem.

  46. Seriously, if bias was ever acknowledged/detected in the AGW consensus crowd, what would that crowd do to correct it?

    Any takers?

    Andrew

    • Your question broaches the divide between the scientific debate and political drive, a divide that is not clear, but blurry. If one believes that the climate sciences are heavily influenced by political motivations, as I do, then the answer to your question is that the line would be redrawn so it doesn’t need correcting.

    • jungletrunks,

      They do enjoy drawing lines.

      Andrew

      • Yes indeed. There’s already precedence for my observation, the debate shifted from global warming to climate change (we’ve had a number of years of cooling). Also skeptics are now called deniers because skepticism involves reasoning skills.

    • Well…

      It all depends if you are dealing with moral relativists or not.

      A moral relativist will cheerfully stab his mother in the back if he thinks it is for the greater good.

      A moral relativist has to be assumed to be dishonest, immoral, unethical and unreliable since “greater good” might impede his judgment at any time.

      Moral relativists should be debarred from government science grants. There is no purpose in funding researcher whose bias influences their result.

      Most AGWers particularly members of Greenpeace/WWF/etc. should be debarred.

      The only way to reduce bias in climate science is to limit AGWers to less than 50% participation in the climate grant program. By law over half of the climate program should have to be awarded to people who don’t believe in AGW.

  47. Most bias is a bi-product of subjective reasoning, scientific research should be objective, and consider all the possibilities and try to determine the probabilities. In CAGW research,anthropogenic CO2 is the subject and the possibility that natural emissions contribute significantly to the rise in CO2 is not considered. Test the possibilities with the limited good data we have and be objective. Let the data tell us what is most likely the truth and not bend or hide the truth in order to accomplish some personal gain or overall “greater good”.

  48. Steven Mosher

    Confirmation bias.

    You think the ipcc is over confident.
    You read a crap analysis of c02.
    You decide it’s worthy of discussion.

    It gets demolished by a skeptic no less.
    You still can’t admit your bias.

    • “It gets demolished by a skeptic no less.”

      Confirmation bias is when you attempt use political labels to answer scientific questions.

      Andrew

      • dikranmarsupial

        FWIW I don’t think Ferdinand would object to being described as a skeptic (indeed it is a compliment), from his webpage:

        “As a responsible climate skeptic, …”

        http://www.ferdinand-engelbeen.be/klimaat/climate.html

      • dikranmarsupial,

        What Ferd prefers
        to be referred to (how’s that for poetry)
        has nothing to do with the process/method of science.

        Andrew

      • dikranmarsupial

        The point is that it isn’t a “political label” as Ferdinand clearly disagrees with some elements of the mainstream scientific position for scientific reasons. It appeared to me to be a statement of scientific, not political position. Not everybody involved in discussing climate has a political position on the issue, and there are many capable of making a distinction between their scientific and political position. While bias is pervasive, that doesn’t mean it is all-consuming.

      • “The point is that it isn’t a “political label”

        Of course it’s a political label. When you identify groups of people based on their opinion of any subject, it’s politics. When you talk about method, process and evidence, it’s science. Surely you comprehend that.

        Andrew

      • dikranmarsupial

        Can you point me to a definition of “political” that supports your argument. As far as I can see politics is generally concerned with governance, exercise of power, etc.

      • “politics is generally concerned with governance, exercise of power, etc”

        It’s is. But all issues of governance and power start with what groups of people think. I guess you haven’t thought about this very much.

        Andrew

      • dikranmarsupial

        O.K., so you are using a definition of “political” that is unique to yourself.

      • “O.K., so you are using a definition of “political” that is unique to yourself.”

        Not at all.

        Political parties = groups of people with a certain opinion
        Governments = groups of people structured to realize opinions
        Political Power = groups of people acting together according to strength in numbers

        See a pattern here?

        Andrew

      • dikranmarsupial

        “Political parties = groups of people with a certain opinion”

        no, political parties are groups of people with a certain opinion about government.

        There are some people who think that Kevin Pietersen should play in the Ashes test matches this summer and others who think England shouldn’t even think about considering selecting him. According to your definition that would be a political issue, which would clearly be ridiculous.

        It is a shame that so often discussions of interesting topic get derailed with pointless quibbling about the meaning of words (especially when the meanings are clearly absurd). Count me out.

      • Steven Mosher

        BA

        ” When you identify groups of people based on their opinion of any subject, it’s politics. ”

        so religion is politics.
        So differences in food tastes are politics
        rock and roll is politics.
        I like more cow bell, its politics.

        you just destroyed the meaning of the word

      • “So differences in food tastes are politics”

        I didn’t say that. If you start identifying groups of people based on their opinion of food, that’s politics. For instance, people who are of the opinion that “organic” is better, can behave in a political way cooperatively to advance their opinion about it. But you have to have the shared opinion, the group, first. If you don’t, you can’t proceed with the political behavior. A single person’s opinion, by itself, with no considerations to advance their opinion, is not what I’m talking about.

        You’ve heard of office politics, haven’t you? That’s when someone wants to advance their own opinions in the context of an office, a group of people. If it can be done in an business offices and gov’t buildings, it can be done in other venues, too.

        Andrew

      • Wow. You Warmers act so dense.

        Andrew

      • Steven Mosher

        BA

        “When you identify groups of people based on their opinion of any subject, it’s politics.”

        “For instance, people who are of the opinion that “organic” is better, can behave in a political way cooperatively to advance their opinion about it. ”

        your criteria.

        1. Identify a group of people.
        2. based on their opinion.
        3. of any topic.

        Then its politics.

        So are you part of the group of spicy food lovers? thats politics.
        Are you apart of the vanilla lovers? politics.
        are you a metalhead? politics.

        You have effectively destroyed the meaning of the term.
        the simple way to see this is to ask the difference between politics and religion.

        ordinarily we would say “politics” relates to people ideas or opinions about social governance. And religion, spiritual governance.

        when you jigger the meaning of terms to make a point, you are typically missing the better argument. Go back and try again.

      • If any group is attempting to advance their opinion in some way or you are trying to advance your group’s opinion over theirs, its political. It doesn’t matter what the opinion is.

        Are you suggesting that trying to advance the opinion of AGW is not political? If you were trying to advance the idea of organic gardening among the citizens of the USA what kind of action would you describe it as?

        Andrew

    • And for those slow on the uptake:

      Science is concerned with evidence, not what group of people say what.

      Andrew

      • Don Monfort

        This would be a good place for you to list and explain all the actual evidence that contradicts Ferdinand’s analysis on the CO2 thang. Just a friendly reminder: unicorns are not evidence.

      • Science is concerned with evidence, not what group of people say what.

        Science is also concerned with the interpretation of evidence. If anything, that is maybe the most important part of science.

      • Yes, this is the key issue, interpreting evidence, and how you reason about a collection of evidence. This was discussed in my paper reasoning about climate uncertainty
        http://www.climateaccess.org/sites/default/files/Curry_Reasoning%20about%20climate%20uncertainty.pdf

      • “This would be a good place for you to list and explain all the actual evidence that contradicts Ferdinand’s analysis”

        You are getting things out of order, WD. Ferd has to demonstrate his analysis employs a sound scientific method. In the C02 thread we illustrated that the mass balance argument is insufficient to explain the individual components of “C02 in the atmosphere”.

        Andrew

      • ATTP writes
        “Science is also concerned with the interpretation of evidence. If anything, that is maybe the most important part of science.”

        Social sciences are concerned about why people make decisions but in the hard sciences it is accuracy of information that matters. Examination of people’s “interpretation of evidence” is only important or even interesting as a part of a post facto analysis of where people made good or poor decisions based on available evidence.

      • “Science is also concerned with the interpretation of evidence”

        I think not so much, because so is politics. And religion.

        Andrew

      • Don Monfort

        baddie, baddie

        You are misrepresenting Ferdinand’s comprehensive and well reasoned argument that is supported by solid evidence and you are merely dismissing it as “insufficient”. You are not serious. Your comments are worse than useless.

      • Social sciences are concerned about why people make decisions but in the hard sciences it is accuracy of information that matters.

        You need to define what you mean by information. In the physical sciences you can produce the most accurate data that you can possibly get, but that – by itself – tells you virtually nothing. What allows you to understand the system you’re investigating is our understanding of the possible underlying physical processes. That’s a fundamental difference between the physical sciences and the social sciences. There are fundamental conservation laws in the physical sciences that do not exist in the social sciences. These conservation laws allow you to apply our understanding of physics to try and interpret the information you’ve collected.

      • Judy,
        Thanks for the paper.

        This is key to the issues of do we keep studying the climate or take drastic action now in the US and UK. Germany is leading down one path but hurting their industry. Some places in our US federal system will take action now like California with wind and solar. Some will hold back for coal plants like Kentucky. Some will move to nuclear like I think Georgia. US is rich and can afford to experiment.

        Big problems in the developing world that can’t eat or heat. Use dung fires for cooking inside huts. No clean water, sewage treatment or hospital care. However small solar, small wind and small desalination could be developed to help a lot in those poorer locals.

        Thanks again for the paper.
        Scott

      • Don,

        You don’t have to go far to find evidence that Englebeen is wrong. Just go read Dikran Marsupial on SKS. He shows how the anthro contribution to CO2 growth is 100%. Englebeen says 96% anthro 4% natural. So which one is wrong Englebeen or Marsupial?

      • Don Monfort

        ordie, I don’t recall much of what you have had to say around here. You are rather obscure. But I don’t recall you standing out as a clown.

      • Evidence is like beauty, it can sometimes only exist in the eye of the beholder.

    • “no, political parties are groups of people with a certain opinion about government”

      The formal ones yes. But you’ll find that political behavior exists unofficially, too, about other structures of people.

      You need to explore this issue and learn more.

      Andrew

  49. richardswarthout

    An important element in neutralizing scientific bias would be polite dialogue between scientists of opposing opinions. Consider the dialogue between Bjorn Stevens and Nic Lewis 24-26 April 2015.

    http://climateaudit.org/2015/04/24/scientific-american-article-how-to-misinterpret-climate-change-research/

    Richard

  50. Nice topic. This is why I went in to math. I couldn’t deal with the fuzziness of pretty much anything else. I process things depth first.
    That said, it has been an invaluable tool for me in my work life to bring in an independent (at least as much so as possible) set of eyes on projects. Once our neural pathways are established we a re literally blind to anything that lies outside them.

    • OT – the value is not so much in the fresh set of eyes, but the re-arrangement of data and thought processes required to explain the current situation and/or problem and bring an outsider “up to speed”.

  51. This is an interesting topic, but personally I see it as being rather pointless.
    The entire reason for the scientific method is that any one, or even a group, of scientists’ hypotheses and experiments must be repeatable by others. The reason for this is precisely to expose potential conscious or subconscious biases as well as outright errors of execution or thought.
    With climate science, the most basic principles of repeatability and validation vs. reality are impossible. While it is admirable to try and create the truly “objective” scientist, this is in reality not possible both due to the impossibility to quantify objectivity (that’s what repeatability and validation vs. real world is for) and due to deliberate deception by some.
    If you look at the history of science, to a great degree the level of “objectivity” was a function of the ability to measure – which is to say, science at different times was not able to achieve objectivity in different areas until either instrumentation, method, larger data sets and/or theoretical paradigm shift increased the ability to measure and therefore reintroduced real world “objectivity” into theoretical research.
    Climate science, sadly, falls far more into the Kremlinology branch than theoretical physics, at least theoretical physics prior to the present day multidimensional navel gazing.

    • “hypotheses and experiments must be repeatable ”

      As a skeptic this is the problem I have with the idea that the science is settled; it’s driven by the political side of the argument.

      There’s not adequate conclusions to the debate based on the evidence provided. Much of the evidence uses field data to populate models to simulate cause and effect. Even when raw field data is entirely accurate, as I’m sure much of it is (although there’s controversies to the veracity of some data); is it the complete data required to draw conclusions or are there other metrics not accounted for? Models have already been proven to be faulty, yet what else can you use to repeat an experiment for processes that can last hundreds of thousands, or millions of years? Alternatively when climate science specifically is coupled with demonstrable evidence of politics then the science needs to be at least nearly as conclusive as the science is that the Earth orbits the Sun. We’re not there yet, consequently it’s more logical to be a skeptic.

      • As I noted above, climate science is inherently unrepeatable.
        The history of science is replete with notable scientists using their positions of power and influence to crush dissent – it isn’t just politicians and demagogues.
        Equally, the notion that computers can correctly model climate isn’t inherently wrong, but it is in fact wrong when said models are unable to show skill. Prediction is the hallmark of potential model accuracy, and we aren’t even close to that.

      • Steven Mosher: future warming
        I have no issues with the concept of future warming, however, the problem is that the failure of models to provide either directionally or numerically accurate projections means that all of these future warming estimates are highly suspect.
        Of equal import is that the time scale of temperature increases – whatever they actually will be – matters a great deal. Fossil fuels at present consumption rates are problematic in terms of availability up to 2100; a lower rater of warming/less damage would mean a greater likelihood that we simply won’t be able to pump CO2 into the air via burning fossilized plant matter any more.
        Another important issue is relative damage. Climate mitigation cost vs. benefits have to be compared to what that same spending would produce in other avenues. The actual extent of future damages thus matter greatly since it affects this decision as well.
        Thus far, it seems far from clear to me that radical action is either warranted or even justifiable, but certainly many others disagree.

    • Well, the problem with climate science is there seem to be a number of commonly accepted postulates as a result of groupthink:

      1. Warming is bad (provably and obviously false based on the last 115 years).

      2. More CO2 is bad (provably and obviously false based on the last 115 years).

      3. Human emissions drive the CO2 level (this is complete bull).

      4. CO2 forcing is high (more bull – all indications forcing is 1/3 IPCC).

      If scientists approach climate science with a “the earth is flat and the center of the universe” attitude, like global warmers do, the scientists are going to produce incorrect results as they try to stuff real world data into their paradigm’s pigeon holes.

      • I don’t agree with all of your principles listed above.
        1. Warming is bad.
        You say this is wrong, to me this is far from clear. Yes, there are positive aspects to warming just as there are negative aspects. The sum is far from clear whether it is positive or negative – and the historical record of the past 115 years isn’t clear either. I say this because while there are definitely bad years due to extreme cold – we’re not talking about extreme cold (or heat), we’re talking about global average temperatures. Even if were were able to isolate a net plus or minus in the last 115 years from the effects of population growth, technological advancement, infrastructure building, etc – we’d still have the problem of isolating benefits/damages from CO2 increases vs. benefits/damages from temperature increases.
        The biggest sin of the IPCC is the unilateral statement that all net CO2 emissions is due to human activity, that this is causing warming and that it is bad – but that doesn’t mean an accurate statement is that there are no CO2 emissions, no warming, and all is good.
        2. More CO2 is bad.
        Agreed, this is a blanket statement at odds with known CO2 benefits.
        3. Human emissions drive CO2 level.
        I don’t see how you can argue that this is not true. I would agree if you said that the present CO2 level is not ALL due to humans, but to say that none of it is, seems implausible.
        4.CO2 forcing is high.
        I don’t know what you mean by this – presumably you refer to net feedbacks being highly positive. If so, I would agree as the evidence for this is far from clear – hence the failure to improve back of the envelope guesses from the ’80s.

      • Steven Mosher

        1. Warming is bad (provably and obviously false based on the last 115 years).

        Wrong. The prevailing position is that FUTURE WARMING will result in changes where the net damage will be positive.

        Warming per se is not judged to beneficial or detrimental.
        Warming from where we are now… which is a relative measure.. is judged to have more net harm.

        To show this is not the case you have to do work.
        you wont.

      • What complicates climate science is that it by default is based on multidisciplinary science; i.e. geology, astronomy, oceanography, etc. Can all these disciplines been adequately accounted for in models? Certain models can never be built and repeated because the data will never match the historical record again, they’re one-offs. For example, sea floor geology effects currents, the geology of the sea floor will never again match that of a few million years ago, undulating conditions would exponentially offset recurring patterns it seems even though reasonable facsimiles may recur over time. It’s unlikely that all variances possible can ever be accounted for to develop accurate recurring models.

      • Based upon the first 20 minutes lying in the sun on the beach, the sun is good, so let’s fall asleep.

      • Wrong. The prevailing position is that FUTURE WARMING will result in changes where the net damage will be positive.

        But what falsifiable evidence is there of this?

        Is it open ended?

        1K per century for a million centuries is 1,000,000K.

        1K per century for 100 years is 1K.

        And even 100 years isn’t tested or testable, so…

      • Steven Mosher | May 15, 2015 at 12:43 pm |

        Wrong. The prevailing position is that FUTURE WARMING will result in changes where the net damage will be positive.

        The likely CO2 related warming from the 460 PPM maximum CO2 level is around 0.13°C. 3.49 ln (460/400)/3.7 does not give a large result.

        But we will give you 7.7 times, 670% more than the expected 0.13°C, a full 1°C just for arguments sake. That is 2/3rds at night or a 2/3°C daytime increase.

        A 2/3°C daytime increase is a 60 mile drive further south. I’ve driven 60 miles further south and the weather is fine, in fact things look even better. They appear to have all kinds of net negative damage.

      • Steven Mosher: The prevailing position is that FUTURE WARMING will result in changes where the net damage will be positive.

        Everyone knows that simply extrapolating from the past into the future is unreliable. Where has it ever been shown that extrapolating the opposite of the past into the future is defensible at all? Past cold epochs (Little Ice Age, The Wasteland, etc) have been harsher on human life and other biota than the past warm episodes (Holocene Climate Optimum, etc), and the future “modeled” warming does not match previous highs for decades. The trends since 1880 include increased CO2, increased rainfall, increased global mean temperature, and increased net primary productivity; even increased agricultural yields but that is mostly do to persistent breeding.

        What supports a claim that the modeled warming over the next 100 years will result in changes where the net damage will be positive? I agree that is the “prevailing position”, the main point of the quote, but there isn’t any evidence to support it, is there?

      • Matthew, here’s a response I gave to Bill Hooke on his blog “Climate Change in the American Christian.” http://www.livingontherealworld.org/?p=1269

        If we are looking at moral imperatives, I don’t think that costly measures which might slightly reduce warming if it resumes are a high priority. What will happen to the climate in 100 years’ time or so is speculation, and the future always surprises us. What is fact is that through fossil fuel energy, freeish markets, freeish trade and capitalist enterprise, billions of people have gone from lives which were “nasty, brutish and short” to lives of comparative plenty, where they have clean water, sanitation, health and education services and don’t have to focus entirely on getting enough food for themselves and their dependents. Another fact is that billions are yet to make this transition, and that fossil fuel use is critical to their future well-being.

        When peoples’ lives are no longer dominated by daily survival, they have the time and resources both for spiritual development and for caring for their environment. To ignore that is not being “morally responsible.”

        As an economist, I think that the best way that we can prepare for whatever future emerges is by increasing our capacity to deal with an ever-changing world. This involves policies promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, flexibility, individual initiative and self-reliance. This is in stark contrast to the central direction and regulation favoured by those proposing GHG emissions reductions as an over-arching priority.

        Faustino

      • genghiscunn | May 15, 2015 at 6:23 pm |

        What is fact is that through fossil fuel energy, freeish markets, freeish trade and capitalist enterprise, billions of people have gone from lives which were “nasty, brutish and short” to lives of comparative plenty, where they have clean water, sanitation, health and education services and don’t have to focus entirely on getting enough food for themselves and their dependents…

        Reading the views of Earth Firsters and others in the global warming camp, it is patently obvious that many global warmers are evil despicable people who don’t mind sacrificing others to feel good about themselves.

        They view life as a zero sum game: if humans are living well they are harming the earth, the humans that are living the best are stealing from those who have the least.

        This stupid nihilistic philosophy can’t be reasoned with.

      • Steven Mosher

        Mathew
        The impact with the highest cost I believe is increase in sea level. It’s pretty simple. You can utterly ignore the past and still look at the potential damage.
        For example nobody had any past data to estimate that hiroshima would be a bad day. Not that climate change will be that bad but we project future damage all the time. Yes it is imprecise. Yes you can’t falsify it until it’s too late. These are the problems of operations research. Little historical data. Suspect models and the possibility that you may have to decide.. It’s far away from lab science. Pffft. Not for the faint of heart.

      • Steven Mosher:

        Yep – sea level rise is horrible.

        All one has to do is read the historical accounts of the carnage wreaked by the 119.5 meter sea level rise over the last 20,000 years.

      • Richard Arrett | May 15, 2015 at 8:45 pm |
        Steven Mosher:

        Yep – sea level rise is horrible.

        All one has to do is read the historical accounts of the carnage wreaked by the 119.5 meter sea level rise over the last 20,000 years.

        The current 1.7 mm/year (7 inches per century) sea level rise is only 34 meters for 20,000 years. This is much less than average for the last 20,000 years.

        Sewell’s Point for example is sinking 1.5 times the sea level rise for a net 2.5 times the 1.7 mm/year average. The local subsidence issues are usually because of groundwater extraction, unstable foundation (settling sediment) or other issues..

        People keep trying to formulate a doomsday where sea level rise is greater than subsidence but so far no luck. The current rise is mostly steric and when we run out of steric the sea will quit rising.

      • PA:

        I was actually just kidding.

        My point was that there are no historical accounts of how horrible it has been that the sea has risen 120 meters (119.5 of which is all natural).

        No one noticed.

        People just gradually moved to higher ground.

        Even in the last century, no one noticed the 8 inch sea level rise.

      • Richard Arrett | May 15, 2015 at 10:55 pm |

        People just gradually moved to higher ground.

        At some point it is very tempting to shake global warmers very hard and tell them to get a clue.

        7-14 inches a century is such a peanuts level problem it usually escapes notice.

        At some point the question becomes: why do global warmers have such twisted sense of reality and such lousy judgment?

    • > hypotheses and experiments must be repeatable

      Best of luck with the dinosaurs.

  52. > People that have a dog in the fight (reputational, financial, ideological, political) interpret observations to fit a particular idea, that supports their particular ‘dog.’

    Does it include you, Judy?

    • Willard

      That is a pertinent observation which presumably applies to Dr Mann, Dr Hansen and others?

      Tonyb

      • Steven Mosher

        the question is to Judy. and note Willard made no OBSERVATION.
        Judy made a claim. Willard asked a question.

        ‘?” = asking a question

      • tonyb
        Good point. Mann, Hanson and others claimed something for 25 years or so. Didn’t happen. So one may be skeptical.
        Scott

      • richardswarthout

        Mosher

        You are the English expert, but aren’t questions often used to make a point, or ridicule: bet Shakespeare did it!

        Richard

      • > That is a pertinent observation which presumably applies to Dr Mann, Dr Hansen and others?

        This rhetorical question clearly shows that you haven’t paid much attention to the commenter-we-can’t-name-unless-we-want-to-be-moderated’s main contribution over the last five years, TonyB.

      • Steven Mosher

        “Mosher

        You are the English expert, but aren’t questions often used to make a point, or ridicule: bet Shakespeare did it!

        Richard”

        I take Willard’s question to be real, primarily because of some of the positions that Judith has taken where she seems to set herself apart from or above the process.

        For example, she might well argue that she has a dog in the fight and that dog is integrity.

        Sadly there are not markings on sentences to indicate whether a question is rhetorical or not. Its not a black or white thing.

        regardless TonyB changed the topic. He likes doing that

      • Mosh

        Yes, I am asking a question. Whether anyone chooses to answer is up to them.
        Tonyb

      • richardswarthout

        Mosher

        Thank you for the lesson. I vote for you to be my granddaughter’s high school English teacher (with philosophy lessons thrown in). You’ll love ti; girls catholic high school, enlightening the young, summers off, a cottage on the lake in northern Michigan, and mushing (dog-sledding) in winter.

        Richard

      • Steven Mosher

        One could do worse than teaching. Especially in northern Michigan. I remember a cottage in Cadillac. On Lake Mitchell.
        Sold long ago.
        Some where there is an unfinished poem I will get back to.

    • Willard | May 15, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Reply
      > People that have a dog in the fight (reputational, financial, ideological, political) interpret observations to fit a particular idea, that supports their particular ‘dog.’

      People that don’t have a dog in the fight, do betting and socializing in cheap seats.

    • Pretty inane even compared with your normal submissions.
      Dr. Curry was once in the alarmist camp, but since changed her position due to evidence. That’s clear proof that reputation, finances, ideology, and politics don’t matter to her vs. scientific integrity.
      Try again, troll boy.

      • > That’s clear proof that reputation, finances, ideology, and politics don’t matter to her vs. scientific integrity.

        The INTEGRITY ™ platform also attracts reputational, financial, ideological, or political klout, ticketstopper.

        You seem to forget that there’s one bench that is thinner than all the others.

      • Hmm, the INTEGRITY platform – is that the one where you must always cleave to a concept even when you learn facts that show it is wrong?
        I think you’re actually referring to the DOGMA platform.
        Again, nice try but a 2nd fail, troll boy.

      • > is that the one where you must always cleave to a concept even when you learn facts that show it is wrong?

        No, it’s the one where the voting judge beats the ClimateBall dancer.

        ***

        > I think you’re actually referring to the DOGMA platform.

        Read harder.

      • Sadly, your ability to communicate is as poor as is your ability to coherently and cogently criticize.
        Willard, thou art a dullard.

      • That’s the ticket!

        Look. You must be new here. If all you have are cheap ad homs, you might need a mentor. Ask Don Don to teach you zest and gusto.

      • Don Monfort

        ticket, what you say about willy has some truth to it, but he ain’t a dullard. There is substance, maybe even brilliance, there but he is confused and misguided. I also want to make it clear that willy is not authorized to offer my services, unless there is the certainty of some sizable monetary reward in it for me.

      • Steven Mosher

        ticket.

        it’s best not to underestimate Willard.

        ‘Sadly, your ability to communicate is as poor as is your ability to coherently and cogently criticize.
        Willard, thou art a dullard.”

        The first thing you have to do when reading willard is to slow down.
        You won’t get it right away.
        he is both allusive and ellusive, so you wont get it unless you read the whole canon. That takes time.
        even then there are times it slips through your fingers.

        its a puzzle sometimes. have patience. My experience is that the time spent is always worth more than the time you will spend crafting a clever response.

        hmm its not a blitz game.
        more like a correspondence . I suggest you study more lines.

      • Some people are obscure because they simply operate at a different (not higher) level.
        Some people are obscure because they’re stupid but trying to seem intelligent.
        Some people are obscure because they’re deliberately trying to be obscure.
        Some people are obscure because in fact they are operating at a higher level.
        So far, I have yet to see any evidence that Willard is case 1 or 4 – but I have seen several pieces of evidence that Willard is operating in case 3.
        Mosher: I do still see Willard-isms, if for no other reason than they are so ubiquitous. However, ubiquity doesn’t equate to either comprehensibility or shared wisdom. In your case, you share many views and thus your sympathy with said individual’s views is understandable. Nonetheless, the bar which you have exceeded with the occasional gem interspersed among many short and pointless comments has not been exceeded in this other person’s case so far.

    • richardswarthout

      I believe Judy’s dog honesty. Take for example this dialogue at the APS Climate Change Workshop (page 486 of the transcript):

      DR. COLLINS: Well, but remember, the IPCC is an assessment of literature and of model runs. Our job is not to do research. We are not sitting in that room sort of guesstimating what those numbers were, Judy.
      DR. CURRY: More than half, more than half, more than half, that is an expert judgment. That’s not anything that popped out of any statistical analysis. It even says in there “expert judgment.”

      Richard

    • Willard | May 15, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Reply
      > People that have a dog in the fight (reputational, financial, ideological, political) interpret observations to fit a particular idea, that supports their particular ‘dog.’

      Does it include you, Judy?

      Apparently not. Dr. Curry appears to be supporting the best dog, not her dog, which invalidates your inference.

      • > Dr. Curry appears to be supporting the best dog,

        She can’t, since my dog is the best dog, PA.

        Once you agree that Judy has a dog, the only move left in your racehorse is to claim that her dog’s not in a fight.

        Speaking of which:

        Say you sue me because you say my dog bit you. Well, now this is my defense:

        My dog doesn’t bite.

        And second, in the alternative, my dog was tied up that night.

        And third, I don’t believe you really got bit.

        And fourth, I don’t have a dog.

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

      • Since you think Dr. Curry has a dog in the fight – please identify the dog.

        She hasn’t taken any position that isn’t factually supportable that I am aware of.

      • She hasn’t taken any position that isn’t factually supportable that I am aware of.

        How exactly would you know that? Are you a climate scientist?

      • > please identify the dog.

        How many do you give me for each dog I can provide you?

        I can give you a special bulk price.

        A sneak preview:

        Dog number one:

        I’m a fan of bottom up, e.g. adaptive governance http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/A/bo8917780.html

        […]

        The book is very readable, I highly recommend it

        https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/09/week-in-review-policy-and-politics-edition-5/#comment-701655

        Dog number two:

        I happen to like Lomborg – he doesn’t argue against IPCC WG1 findings, but questions the priority of focusing on mitigation and argues that we should be investing in research into new energy technologies.

        https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/09/week-in-review-policy-and-politics-edition-5/#comment-701648

        Number 3:

        thx for this link [Cristy’s testimony]

        https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/09/week-in-review-policy-and-politics-edition-5/#comment-702973

        ***

        That’s from one thread. All comments from “curryja” on the Policy and Politics thread.

      • Willard | May 15, 2015 at 5:59 pm |
        > please identify the dog.

        Dog number one:
        I’m a fan of bottom up, e.g. adaptive governance

        Dog number two:
        I happen to like Lomborg – he doesn’t argue against IPCC WG1 findings, but questions the priority of focusing on mitigation and argues that we should be investing in research into new energy technologies.

        Number 3:
        thx for this link [Cristy’s testimony]
        *
        That’s from one thread. All comments from “curryja” on the Policy and Politics thread.

        Dog 1 is a policy view that is widely shared. Top down governance in most cases looks like inefficient tyranny. No clear impact on her science views.

        Dog 2. Accept IPCC findings but question priorities. Again a sensible view. The job of science is to lay out the facts – not set policy. Particularly for an immediate “problem” that is taking far too long (decades) to arrive. Don’t see any bias to the science here either.

        Dog 3. Don’t see a dog here – Dr Curry just seemed interested in Christy’s testimony. The Christy testimony before congress was pretty dry and factual, the one thing that jumped out is that any US action on climate change is going to have a trivial impact on future warming.

      • > Dog 1 is a policy view that is widely shared.

        The dog doesn’t bite.

        ***

        > Dog 2. Accept IPCC findings but question priorities.

        My dog was tied up that night.

        ***

        > Dog 3. Don’t see a dog here

        Don’t see a dog here.

        ***

        Thanks for playing,

        W

      • Willard | May 15, 2015 at 8:28 pm |

        Thanks for playing,

        W

        You’re welcome.

        PA.

      • Steven Mosher

        PA,

        wow. you fell for it.

        lets start from the beginning:

        “People that have a dog in the fight (reputational, financial, ideological, political) interpret observations to fit a particular idea, that supports their particular ‘dog.’

        Now comes the question. is this trivially true? or is Judith trying to imply that she doesnt have a dog in the fight and that she by extension doesnt interpret observations to support her dog.

        My take is that it is trivially true. That is everyone has a tendency to interpret observations to support their view. How could it be otherwise.
        The question is do they try to control for this. Judith could answer this question.

        You and others might argue that she has no dog– no interests. That’s a tough position to maintain. In fact I don’t see how you could maintain that she is not a human with all sorts of interests and likes. Simply, this is week in review.. Things caught her eye. why these things? its clear that many of these things catch her eye because they are of interest to her. Some obviously catch her eye because they support her dogs

        we all have dogs. some dogs are house broken but they are still dogs.

        Its better to just say what your dogs are. disclosure dog is a dog I like.

        also, if you think judith has no dog, then obviously thats your dog in this fight. So, you will interpret willard’s comments to protect your dog.

        much easier to own the dog, house break it, keep it on lease, and rub its nose it the messes it will create time to time.

    • Sociobiology is relatively new study ( circa 1975 ).

      Evolutionary psychology is more recent, but everyone is subject to thought processes which evolved for a much different human experience. It is quite literally in our DNA.

      The mind is not a tabula raza – it develops according to genetic guidance that served our survival but can cloud understanding.

    • David Wojick

      Indeed, people interpret observations according to what they believe. There is no alternative, so this is not bias.

      • David Wojick: Indeed, people interpret observations according to what they believe. There is no alternative, so this is not bias.

        I think that is a peculiar notion of bias. There is at least one clear alternative: take a proposition that you believe, and replace it with a proposition that has a different, possibly opposite meaning, and then assiduously work out the consequences of the set of propositions that you are handed that way. For example, what if you assume, contrary to your prior belief, that in an atom there can only be 1 electron in each quantum state? What if you assume, contrary to prior belief, that the measured speed of light is a constant, independent of the relative motion of the source and the measuring instrument?

        Notice the importance of motive there: after making the discordant assumption, you may need the strength and motivation for work for years getting reliable results.

        But my question to you is, do people also interpret observations according to what they hope and fear?

      • David Wojick

        What you suggest would be nuts. Perhaps you should spend a few years working on the proposition that the sun goes around the earth. Do not expect to be paid for this. How about that the sun is a new thing every day? Better yet jump off a building to see if you can float, while entertaining the proposition that you can. Trying to believe what you do not believe is generally impossible and that is a good thing.

        Do people interpret observations according to what they hope or fear? I would say not. Hoping to win the lottery does not cause me to misread my ticket. Fearing spiders does not make me not see one, quite the contrary. I will look more carefully for them then someone who is indifferent. Of course if I see them frequently when they are not there then I am crazy, but few people are crazy.

      • David Wojick: Perhaps you should spend a few years working on the proposition that the sun goes around the earth.

        That work has already been done, and a serious debate has already been held. This does allow me to elaborate one point that I held in abeyance: you (or I, or anyone), can’t do that kind of intentional confrontation with alternate hypotheses with very many hypotheses.

      • David Wojick: Fearing spiders does not make me not see one, quite the contrary.

        If it is “the contrary” then that is a motivational effect. You might want to look into Signal Detection Theory and the role of changing the payoff matrix in perceptual acuity and vigilance studies.

        You seem to be arguing against Kahnemann and Tversky.

    • Does it include you, Judy?

      This kind of question got old back when I was in high school. It’s one of those “deep” questions that turn out to be meaningless. It’s effectively Zeno’s paradox in a different form.

      The fact that various midgets keep bringing it up doesn’t make it insightful.

    • Tonyb
      Thanks for continuing to nudge the activists toward straightforward writing. Hanson predicted something in 1988. No self awareness of how that came out? No snow in great Britain by 2010. How did that come out? Mann removed the Roman and Middle Age warm periods using one tree from Siberia and poor statistics. Thank goodness for McIntre. We are having trouble predicting El Nino starts next fall but can go out to 200 years?

      Judy seems to say this is difficult to model and predictions have not come true. Even existing temperatures are changed by 1/2 degree in the past for 1930 and we call the trend that results from that proof of model validity. Hers is a humble and yet scientific position that makes data and information available without name calling .

      Can’t wait for the next ice age , historic variations in sea level part II or more long slow thaw updates. Thanks for all your work and civil responses.
      Scott

      • Scott

        Bearing in mind the topic is human biases in science and both Mann and Hansen are human and in science, it beats me how I am supposed to Have changed the topic. Why is it that some people don’t like Questions and if they give any sort of answer seem to do it in such an opaque way?

        As regards the long slow thaw part 2 I am Looking at the period 1200 to 1450 in general but there is so much data to collect and papers to read that almost certainly I will need to concentrate on the period probably covering 1250 to 1350 as this includes the period that both Mann and Miller identified as the period we slid in to the LIA due to volcanic activity.

        However, it appears to be merely an interval of cold as there appear to be many decades at the start of the 14th century that are pretty warm?

        Tonyb

      • Tonyb
        Thanks for the response. Your were not off topic, that was just an insult.

        How about Sea level part II? Last I have is Holocene to Romans Part 1.

        With all the adjustments and increase in accelerations in the media that would be fun to look through.

        Thanks again.
        Scott

      • > Bearing in mind the topic is human biases in science and both Mann and Hansen are human and in science, it beats me how I am supposed to Have changed the topic.

        The topic of my question wasn’t Mike or Jim, TonyB. Nor was it Mr. T.

        You’re giving an whole new meaning of voluntary simplicity.

    • Of course, it applies to Judith too. I would say Judith has looked at a lot of points of view in the last 25 years compared to say a Mann, who is remarkably parochial in his thinking.

      The original post was about how to improve our thinking by becoming aware of confirmation bias, i.e., how we may unconsciously fit new information into our biases or belief system about the world.

      There are some simple rules to look for in any person’s corpus of work. Do they report negative results and evidence against their conclusions? Do they show the sensitivity of their results to model parameters and discuss how those parameters were tuned? Do they employ top notch statisticians or do their own home brewed methods?

      You can try this at home Willard. It’s not hard. One can think of a few in climate science, such as the use of uniform priors.

      • > Of course, it applies to Judith too.

        You’re not Judy, David, even if you’re Young.

        Please don’t put your words into her beautiful mind.

  53. Judith, this is a topic I’ve been fascinated with for a long time. (Impediments to rational thought). You might find the work of Keith Stanovich enlightening. He has written about this topic from a somewhat mechanical perspective, but it’s absolutely fascinating. From the janitor to loftiest of PhDs, we struggle daily with universal, fundamental impediments to rational thought in nearly everything we do from buying coffee to statistical modeling of complex multivariate problem spaces. Look for Rationality and the Reflective Mind.

  54. Steinar Midtskogen

    The hypothetico-deductive method invites confirmation bias and affirming the consequent, unfortunately, since it involves forming a possible answer before looking at the observations and possible contradictions. “Hypotheses non fingo”, wrote Newton, “et hypotheses .. in philosophia experimentali locum non habent”. There was a shift from deductive thinking to inductive thinking. Both methods have problems, and whilst Newton’s rejection of hypotheses and his arguments for his inductive method seem to address the problem of confirmation bias, I don’t think it’s possible in practice to do science purely inductively, and I do think there is a place in science for intuition. The hypothetico-deductive method is a compromise. Still, I have the feeling that the scientific method these days is becoming too deductive again approaching the mediaeval deductive thinking. It’s time for the pendulum make a turn again.

    • David Wojick

      Perhaps you should explain what this hypothetico-deductive method is, also the latin. In any case we have learned quite a lot about how science works since Newton’s day. Induction and deduction play small roles. It is mostly about explanation.

      • Steinar Midtskogen

        The modern scientific method is this hypothetico-deductive method, which basically is: make a guess or hypothesis about a problem based, deduce testable predictions assuming that your hypothesis is correct, and then make observations which could disprove your hypothesis. If all these observations confirm your hypothesis instead, your hypothesis is strengthened and might advance into a theory. A single observation in disagreement with your hypothesis, however, will overthrow it.

        Newton wrote, “I conjure no hypotheses”, “and hypotheses .. have no place in experimental philosophy” (i.e. science).

        Yes, science has advanced since Newton, but we must not think we’ve reached the apex of scientific method, that how we do it today is the golden standard of all future. The pendulum might shift towards more inductive methodology again, or something else. I think climate scientists could do well in reading Newton. I think Newton was wrong, though. It’s impossible not to make hypotheses consciously or not. But what Newton tells us is that observations, as free as possible from assumptions, is the key to science. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypotheses_non_fingo

      • David Wojick

        But this model of science is false. Few if any of the 2 million journal articles published each year report something like this. There is no single scientific method. Scientists mostly observe and explain, which are two very different things. The number of methods is large.

  55. It is precisely because these problems are so manifest in the pharmaceutical industry that this community is, in Nosek’s view, way ahead of the rest of science in dealing with them.

    Maybe that is because there are governmental regulatory agencies in most countries who control what counts as evidence and reporting standards. If you look at claims made for “nutriceuticals” and such, it is hard to see the advance of which he writes. In the US, all the seller has to do is put a notice on the box, in fine print, that claims have not been supported by the FDA.

  56. Most of the papers Hansen wrote ( except for the ‘Super El Nino’ one, anyway ) seemed reasonable enough.

    It’s only when he talked to the press, or Congress, or fellow protesters:

    Worse than we thought when temperature trends are all less than the low end.

    Half of all species could go extinct – way out of his field, contrary to evolution and climates of the past, and generally suspect.

    Death Trains channelling the Holocaust?

    that his strong biases shown through.

    • David Wojick

      Strong opinion is not bias.

      • Hee-hee: In my opinion, it is.

      • richardswarthout

        David

        I believe that the word bias can be misused, but that bias occurs and may be prevalent in thoughts and actions. I also believe that the source of bias is the soul, defined as “the quality that arouses emotion and sentiment”. The soul is a wicked problem.

        Richard

      • Bias happens all the time – in modern science, where the delta is often literally indistinguishable to the human eye, it is much easier for unconscious biases to creep in.
        Once again, that’s why the scientific method is supposed to check against this by allowing others to attempt to repeat your work as well as reconstruct your conclusions.
        I don’t have any problem with Hansen having strong views and/or being biased – what I have problems with is Hansen pretending to stand for science when in reality he was standing for his own beliefs.

  57. David Wojick

    I would like to point out that none of the 15 types of bias in my study are psychological. The bias occurs for good reasons. See https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/06/is-federal-funding-biasing-climate-research/.

    I think most of this psychological bias stuff is conceptually confused junk, mostly a form of rhetorical name calling against people one disagrees strongly with.

    • David –

      Do you think that confirmation bias simply doesn’t exist?

      Some people assume that “motivated reasoning” implies irrationality, but that is because they misunderstand the concept.

      • David Wojick

        Joshua, what are the scientific definitions of confirmation bias (CB) and motivated reasoning (MR)? (I assume they are different.) As for CB I have never seen a case where people did not know about the counter arguments to their position, but they often do not fully understand these arguments. Kuhn said that this kind talking past was characteristic of scientific revolutions, but I do not see it as a form of CB. (This was the starting point for my Ph.D. thesis.) Not understanding someone else because their beliefs are very different is not bias.

  58. That lack of quality control can be a real problem. Maybe some day science will wake up and realize it has no clothes.

  59. As scientists, it is our job to fight against biases (and its not easy). One of the ways that I fight against bias is to question basic assumptions, and see if challenges to these assumptions are legitimate.

    For advanced students and new graduates, and for policy-makers, the best approach is to have frequent public debates between people who have divergent evaluations of the science. Disputants are more likely than disinterested observers to find and pronounce flaws in other persons’ reasoning, and more likely than disinterested observers to find and propose solutions on their own sides. The audiences, especially advanced graduate students and new graduates who do not yet have dogs in the fight, are well placed to evaluate the contrasting claims of the disputants.

    It does not solve all problems, such as whom to invite to be the debaters.

  60. Geoff Sherrington

    Oransky: “One of the larger issues is getting scientists to stop fooling themselves.” Discuss.

    We are scientific products of our times and our places. The main papers I’ve read fom 100 years ago do not invoke authors fooling themselves, though that comment might reflect the scope of my reading.
    The place for our science has become much more diverse in that century. There used to be more time given to science with defined objectives, like a cure for diphtheria. These days we have proportionately more research about less-defined targets, for example, what lights up a nuclear magnetic resonanc sc n of a monkey brain when you show it erotic pictures. This is not a case to rebalance the mix of nd apylied research. It is an argument leading to the oft-noted desirability of more research being funded in a self-compounding way. If your research brings in your future funding, not from government grants but from commercial profits, one can often see the futility of trying to fool oneself. Don’ t even try unless you are of criminal bent. Then still don’t.
    Judith, I understand that you have a mix of incomes and that mix might make it easier to see the bones of my argument, which boil down to a need to overhaul the dominant research funding structures, not everywhere, but certainly where obvious problems show, as in much climate research.
    The difficulty in replicating many climate experiments must not be an excuse to continute with public funding models that are rotten to the core in places. Fancy inverting sediment signals for proxy temperatures! That’s fooling oneself – but for what aim?

  61. The individual biases of researchers actually play a functional role in surfacing new discoveries–when the institutional incentives around them are correct. Basically, you are much better at figuring out what might be wrong with something when you are motivated to prove it wrong. I wrote about this idea a while ago here:
    https://strategyprofs.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/individual-bias-and-collective-truth/

  62. Mike Flynn

    We humans are the sum of our biases, one could say. Fighting bias implies imposing your bias on another, on the basis that yours is superior for some reason based on your biases.

    You may be biased against cannibalism. The cannibal may be biased against you imposing your biases on him.

    And so with scientists. The truth is out there. Whether we like it or not, whether we think that’s not how it should be, it just is. No amount of bias is going to change a single fact – maybe just slow down its discovery. Or maybe speed it up – who knows?

  63. Reblogged this on This Got My Attention and commented:
    Great points!

  64. If everyone would accept the data instead of trying to change it , ignore it this would go a very long way in solving the problems.

    Ever since AGW theory became popular data is constantly being either changed or questioned because it does not support the theory.

    • David Wojick

      It is also being questioned where it does support AGW. The climate debate is science at work on a grand scale.

      • I have yet to come across data(not changed or manipulated) that supports AGW.

      • David Wojick

        Really? The rough correlation between the supposed rise in temperature and the CO2 concentration is the starting point for AGW. CO2 is a ghg and we are emitting it and it is going up and so are the temperatures (supposedly). It is very simple data, more or less. I assume you have seen it. There is a lot to argue about, hence the debate, but the data supposingly supporting AGW in the first instance is certainly there. If there were no data supporting AGW we would not be here. Warmers are not stupid.

  65. David Wojick

    Nosek may be suffering from funding induced bias. The article says he is selling a utopian vision of science and that is just how he sounds. In particular his wild claim that psychology has established that most human reasoning is rationalization is completely false. It sounds like my funding induced case of biased meta analysis. Two of my other funding induced bias types seem prominent, namely stating conjecture as fact and exaggerating the importance of findings.
    See https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/06/is-federal-funding-biasing-climate-research/. But his case is one of commercial funding (selling) not federal funding via research grants.

  66. The reality of CO2 versus temperature. I see no correlation.

    [Note 1: since 1880 the only one period where Global Mean Temperature and CO2 content of the air increased simultaneously has been 1978-1997. From 1910 to 1940, the Global Mean Temperature increased at about the same rate as over 1978-1997, while CO2 anthropic emissions were almost negligible. Over 1950-1978 while CO2 anthropic emissions increased rapidly the Global Mean Temperature dropped. From Vostok and other ice cores we know that it’s the increase of the temperature that drives the subsequent increase of the CO2 content of the air, thanks to ocean out-gassing, and not the opposite. The same process is still at work nowadays]

    • David Wojick

      I know the arguments by heart, Salvatore, but that is not the point. The evidence for AGW is there to be debated. Nor is it true that human emissions were negligible 1910-1940, far from it. The scientific debate is real.

      • David Wojick

        Time will tell what? That in 2015 there was no debate? Not likely. The debate is here to be seen, including evidence offered by both sides.

      • Huh? What evidence?

        A pitiful 0.24°C since 1900.

        There is AGW (anthropomorphic global warming) which means more CO2 makes things a little warmer.

        Then there is catastrophic anthropomorphic global warming with the group of advocates called the cult anthropomorphic global warming (CAGW) who believe that everything man does is evil, that warming is bad, that CO2 (a plant nutrient) is bad, and that fossil fuels are bad for … who knows what reason.

        Nobody sensible believes in CAGW or is a member of the cult anymore (unless they got brainwashed by the cult, or recaptured and reprogrammed).

  67. If the temperature trend goes down going forward(which I think it will) to the end of this decade then it will be time to concede AGW theory is wrong.

    • David Wojick

      I think the satellite record already falsifies AGW. That is not the issue between us. My point is just that there is evidence for AGW, not that it is true.

      • richardswarthout

        David

        If I understand, people always use evidence in making decisions, and those decisions as such are considered reasoned. What I don’t understand is the use of the term rational. Do you say that all decisions are both reasoned and rational?

        Regards,

        Richard

      • richardswarthout

        David

        Further expansion on my question:

        Not all evidence is equal; some is wrong, some is weak, and some is strong. How does that fit into your analysis?

        Thank you

        Richard

      • David Wojick

        Richard, in my view any decision that is reasoned is rational, generally speaking, and most are. What else can rational mean? Do you realize that each person makes hundreds of decisions every day?

        Of course if one’s beliefs are irrational then that is different matter. Descartes is said to have interviewed a lunatic who thought his head was made of glass. Descartes observed that he was very rational for a man with a glass head. He had only one false belief.

        As for evidence, you seem to suggest that there is a weight to evidence that is independent of the observer. Weak, strong, etc. I disagree. I know of no measure of the strength of evidence that is independent of the observer. If you have one I would love to see it.

      • richardswarthout

        David

        Thank you for the answer. It is a subject of interest to me also, not academically, and not framed in your approach; mine starts with a question, gained in old age. Why is it that smart people often think irrationally. I think you nailed our diagreement, and I anticipated your answer: the strength of evidence and the measure of rationality depends on who or what is doing the measuring, and the observer will always measure favorably on him or her self. I do believe there is a measure of the strength of evidence that is independent of the observer; the justice system rules of evidence.

        From my perch in the non-academic branch of learning it appears that this discourse, the observer based measure of evidence vs an external standard of evidence is related to relativism. And AFAIK, that discourse is far from settled.

        Thanks again (interesting),

        Richard

      • David Wojick

        Richard, I do not think that smart people often think irrationally, or not-smart people either. You may be confusing disagreement with irrationality. Many do. Irrationality is very rare.

      • richardswarthout

        David,

        You have studied this much more than I; my views come only from personal experiences, but those were profound. One last question:
        My class in logic discussed formal fallacies and material fallacies which can result in illogical or irrational conclusions. The determination that a conclusion is irrational could then be based on exploring the logic behind the conclusion. For instance, if an investigator discovered circular reasoning being used could not a determination be made that the conclusion was irrational?

        Special regards and thank you for the lesson professor,

        Richard

      • David Wojick

        Richard, fallacies are not irrational, they are just mistakes in reasoning. People often make mistakes. Irrationality is far more extreme, such as being afraid to go outside or washing your hands hundreds of times a day, so that you cannot hold a job. That is irrational.

      • richardswarthout

        David

        In rereading my old text I see that the author says only that fallacies lead to invalid conclusions. I also note that he distinguishes between arguments and explanations and wonder if many of the conversations that you and your students overheard are not the latter.

        Richard

    • Salvatore del Prete | May 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Reply
      If the temperature trend goes down going forward(which I think it will) to the end of this decade then it will be time to concede AGW theory is wrong.

      Well…. not exactly.

      The AGW theory is a fine theory. The TCR is about 2/3°C and the ECS (if the CO2 level stays high long enough might be about 1°C for doubled CO2.

      The CAGW (Cult of Anthropomorphic Global Warming) is where the lying starts. It should have been obvious to anyone perusing the data that CAGW (also known as the climate cultists) were lying through their teeth.

      The two non-scientific red flags were when the models veered off skyward by a factor of 3 starting in 2000. And then in 2000 when it looked like the temperatures were going into a cool phase the cultists panicked and started altering the historic temperatures year by year to resemble the model runs.

      Altering historic data is the same as lying. Plain and simple. The constant year-in-year-out increase in trend is prima facie evidence of deception and misconduct.

      The only question at this point is why we aren’t taking disciplinary actions against the data adjusters.

      • David Wojick

        PA, your rant is probably a good example of what some here are calling irrational, emotionally induced bias, but it is a perfectly ordinary rant. To me irrationality means literally without reason and your rant is actually well reasoned, as rants go. Thanks for the example.

        Note that rants like this occur with great frequency on all sides of the climate debate.

      • David Wojick | May 17, 2015 at 11:00 am |

        your rant is actually well reasoned, as rants go. Thanks for the example.

        Which goes to prove nothing is a complete failure – it can always be used as a bad example.

        I aim to please. A well reasoned rant is pretty satisfying.

  68. David Wojick

    My discovery of the issue tree was supreme, but the amazing thing was the discovery of the deep rationality of ordinary human discourse.

    • David Wojick

      My students and I would ride the trolleys in Pittsburgh, listening to ordinary people having ordinary conversations and noting the amazing rationality in what they said. People give examples, respond to arguments with counter arguments, explain meanings, provide evidence, etc., effortlessly.

      This is why my crude little issue analysis textbook begins with a superficially silly argument about why someone bought a Ford. To show that even the most mundane of discussions involves the deep dance of reasoning.
      http://www.stemed.info/reports/Wojick_Issue_Analysis_txt.pdf

  69. To keep science honest it must be scrutinised by the public. The most harmful dishonesty to humankind comes from trying to keep the public from scrutinising scientific work. The public are kept honest by things outside of their control, (e.g the powers of the universe against theirs), blunt trauma from such forces stop the public being dishonest with themselves. I don’t expect I’m right with this, but as a nobody I don’t want a somebody telling me what is and isn’t true, without proof and explanation, but only that he/she is a somebody.

  70. Judith, tackling human bias. I think the blog could have gained even more by some quotes from Richard Feynman from the cargo cult lecture at Caltech 1974:

    http://neurotheory.columbia.edu/~ken/cargo_cult.html

    Absolute mandatory reading.

    I see that “fooling yourself” quote has been in the comments here.

    • David Wojick

      I do not share the skeptic’s love of Feynman. Like Popper he took a reasonable idea to unreasonable lengths. Science is not about self doubt; it is about explaining how the world works. One needs a certain amount of confidence to do that, or even to attempt it. In fact scientists tend to be a stubborn lot, for good reason.

  71. David, Have you read the cargo cult address? Is there anything in there that you don’t agree with. Could you please quote that and explain why you think it is wrong?

    Thanks,

  72. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #180 | Watts Up With That?