The adversarial method versus Feynman integrity

by Judith Curry

If you think about the costs I’ll pay for raising these concerns, including the cost of damaged relationships with people that I like, I think you will conclude that a personal commitment to science is the only thing that could be big enough to offset these costs. – Paul Romer

Ed Dolan pointed me to a series of remarkable posts  from economist Paul Romer’s blog:

Romer starts with  a story about freshwater economists, the details of which are not particularly germane to what I find interesting in this.  My excerpts focus on issues raised by Romer that are of broader relevance to the climate debate. Excerpts:

Together, the evidence I summarize in these three posts suggests that freshwater economists differ sharply from other economists. This evidence strengthens my belief that the fundamental divide here is between the norms of political discourse and the norms of scientific discourse. Lawyers and politicians both engage in a version of the adversarial method, but they differ in another crucial way. In the suggestive terminology introduced by Jon Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind, lawyers are selfish, but politicians are groupish. What is distinctive about the freshwater economists is that their groupishness depends on a narrow definition of group that sharply separates them from all other economists. One unfortunate result of this narrow groupishness may be that the freshwater economists do not know the facts about how most economists actually behave.

JC comment:  ‘groupishness’ seems like the ‘tribalism’ among some climate scientists that I wrote about in the aftermath of Climategate, and how this led to behavior that put them outside the norms of science.

In my informal conversations, no one from the freshwater camp has articulated exactly what they mean by the adversarial method, so I’ll try to fill in the blanks here. In an equilibrium where everyone follows the adversarial method, each side tries to make the best possible case for its position. What we might call the rules of evidence are that an advocate cannot make statements that are false, but it is to be expected that an advocate will withhold information that does not support the advocate’s position.

The freshwater sympathizers agreed, for example, that Lucas and Moll strategically refrained from verbal disclosures about some of the properties of the underlying mathematical formalism. Where we disagreed was whether this was a sign of behavior by the authors that is wrong. In effect, their response was caveat emptor; this is what all economists do.

One way to characterize the underlying disagreement about what is wrong is to say that we are both commenting on strategic interaction between economists that takes the form of a repeated, multi-player prisoner’s dilemma. In this game, following the scientific method corresponds to cooperation; following the adversarial method corresponds to defection. My claim is that economics is characterized by a trigger strategy/reputational equilibrium that sustains the scientific method. In calling attention to defection by the freshwater economists, I am following a strategy that is equilibrium play in this reputational equilibrium.

In contrast, the freshwater economists believe that we are already in the noncooperative adversarial equilibrium, so it is wrong to express disapproval of economists who are simply engaging in the type of behavior that is rational in that equilibrium. The freshwater economists might agree that in some first-best sense, an equilibrium based on the scientific method would be preferable, but they apparently believe that we are not in such an equilibrium; that it is not possible to get back to such an equilibrium; and that even if we did, it would not be possible to sustain it.

If so, what looks superficially like a deep and intractable disagreement about values or morality may simply reflect disagreement over the facts about what most economists do. When the freshwater types say “everybody is following the adversarial method,” what they may honestly be saying is that “everybody I know is following the adversarial method and they all believe that everyone else is doing this too.” But because freshwater economists have so sharply isolated themselves from the rest of the profession, they may be generalizing from an unrepresentative set of observations.

JC comment:  I find Romer’s articulation of ‘adversarial science’ to be quite insightful and clearly describes what is going on in certain sectors of climate science.  It seems that the motivations for adversarial science may be to support policy advocacy, prop  up professional egos, and/or careerism.

Feynman integrity

In a previous post, I said that my claim about mathiness could be reduced to two assertions:

  1. Economist N did X.
  2. X is wrong because it undermines the scientific method.

I reported that in conversations with economists I referred to loosely as freshwater sympathizers, I found agreement on 1 but disagreement on 2. Specifically, I heard two things:

  1. a) Yes, but everybody does X; that is how the adversarial method works.
  2. b) By selectively expressing disapproval of this behavior by the freshwater economists that you name, you, Paul, are doing something wrong because you are helping “those guys.”

JC comment: ‘helping those guys’ is an unpardonable ‘sin’, as Lennart Bengtsson and others have discovered.

If you know me and think about the costs and benefits I’m facing, I think you will conclude that the most likely explanation for my decision to raise these issues is that I am genuinely trying to come to grips with what has gone wrong in macro-economics and that I am truly committed to science as the noblest human achievement. If you think about the costs I’ll pay for raising these concerns, including the cost of damaged relationships with people that I like, I think you will conclude that a personal commitment to science is the only thing that could be big enough to offset these costs.

JC comment:  WOW.  What a statement.  I wish I had said this.

From a commencement address by Richard Feynman that described what this type of integrity entails:

It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can–if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong–to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

Call this Feynman integrity.

JC Comment: Always delighted to have an excuse to post a Feynman quote (and this one is his best, IMO).  In my  Uncertainty Monster paper, I included parts of this particular quote.

Stigler conviction

In a previous post, I referred to Feynman Integrity as one possible guide to a life in science. An alternative is what I’ll call Stigler Conviction (Stigler 1955, “The Nature and Role of Originality in Scientific Progress,” [link]).

The techniques of persuasion also in the realm of ideas are generally repetition, inflated claims, and disproportionate emphases, and they have preceded and accompanied the adoption on a large scale of almost every new idea in economic theory. Almost, but not quite, every new idea. A few men have such unusual powers that their contemporaries recognize their claims without the usual exaggerations: Smith and Marshall are the only economists who seem to me indisputably to belong in this supreme class.

The rest have employed in varying degrees the techniques of the huckster.  Although the new economic theories are introduced by the technique of the huckster, I should add that they are not the work of mere hucksters. Indeed I do not believe that any important economist has ever deliberately contrived ideas in which he did not believe in order to achieve prominence: men of the requisite intellectual power and morality can get bigger prizes elsewhere. Instead, the successful inventor is a one-sided man. He is utterly persuaded of the significance and correctness of his ideas and he subordinates all other truths because they seem to him less important than the general acceptance of his truth. He is more a warrior against ignorance than a scholar among ideas.

Nor do I argue that a strong conviction of the validity of one’s ideas and energetic dissemination are sufficient to alter significantly a science’s work. It is possible by mere skill of presentation to create a fad, but a deep and lasting impression on the science will be achieved only if the idea meets the more durable standards of the science. Among these standards is truth, but of course it is not the only one.

JC comment:  Hucksterism is a great word to describe what goes on in the communication of climate science in service of policy advocacy.  The complicity of many climate scientists and professional societies in this hucksterism is a cause of great concern.

The path that led Lucas and his followers to increasingly implausible positions defended using increasingly adversarial arguments starts with Stigler conviction and a commitment to an initial conjecture that turned out to be false. Why did Lucas, who as far as I can tell was originally guided by Feynman integrity, switch to the mode of Stigler conviction?  My conjecture is economists let small accidents of intellectual history matter too much. If we had behaved like scientists, things could have turned out very differently. 

JC comment: The year 2000, the publication of the IPCC TAR, and the elevation by IPCC Chair John Houghton of the hockey stick to icon status.  A small accident in the history of the IPCC has had serious adverse consequences for climate science.

It is worth paying attention to these accidents because doing so might let us take more control over the process of scientific inquiry that we are engaged in. At the very least, we should try to reduce the odds that that personal frictions and simple misunderstandings could once again cause us to veer off on some damaging trajectory. I suspect that it was personal friction and a misunderstanding that encouraged a turn toward isolation (or if you prefer, epistemic closure) by Lucas and colleagues. They circled the wagons because they thought that this was the only way to keep the rational expectations revolution alive.

JC comment:  The tragic case in point for climate science is Mann versus McIntyre, as revealed by Andrew Montford and the Climategate emails.  ‘Circling the wagons’, even.  I’ve written previously of how we managed to quickly get back on track on the hurricane and global warming wars, whereas Mann continues to fight the hockey wars not just by hucksterism but by attacking his opponents.  This kind of behavior does not help keep the dangerous human caused climate change narrative alive, and at some point simply becomes pathological.

The misunderstanding is that Lucas and his colleagues interpreted the hostile reaction they received from such economists as Robert Solow to mean that they were facing implacable, unreasoning resistance from such departments as MIT. In fact, in a remarkably short period of time, rational expectations completely conquered the PhD program at MIT.

JC comment:  Climategate and Gleick-gate are cases in point here (and far more pointless than Romer’s example), with perceived exaggerated threats from the likes of Heartland and Warwick Hughes.  Why trash their integrity when the IPCC had received the Nobel Peace Prize and they were claiming 97% consensus?

JC reflections

I find Romer’s posts to be very insightful, and to be an important contribution to the discussion on advocacy by scientists (for previous CE posts, see [link].  The issue is NOT that scientists have values, or even express them.  Rather the problem is engaging in adversarial science in support of these values, whereby their public communications focus on  repetition, inflated claims, and disproportionate emphases.

How we can bring Feynman integrity back to policy relevant climate science is a considerable challenge.  Climategate was a watershed moment in that it turned the tide slightly in the direction of discussing uncertainty in the public debate on climate change.  Given the extremely high policy relevance of climate science, this transition to Feynman integrity will require a better decision analytic model than the linear model that ‘speaks consensus to power’ – examples of such strategies are provided in these previous CE posts.

p.s.  I’ve tried to keep the Mann references to a minimum, although it wasn’t easy given that I have just finished reading Mark Steyn’s new book A disgrace to his profession:  The world’s scientists on Michael E. Mann, his hockey stick and their damage to science.  Stay tuned for a post on this.  In the long run, I don’t think adversarial science and hucksterism will ‘pay’.


168 responses to “The adversarial method versus Feynman integrity

  1. Arthur Smith

    Um, no, I read Romer’s posts last week. I’m rather astonished at your misrepresentation/misinterpretation here though maybe I shouldn’t be given past experience. The problem is not public advocacy (Romer doesn’t use those words), it is a style of argumentation – particularly in published research articles – in which the words may strictly be true, but they are designed to conceal flaws rather than make any caveats plain. He has a very specific example on the topic of boundedness that seems quite damning to me. If you are asserting the same applies to any scientist in the field of climate, I strongly suggest you point to a published research article that does anything of the sort Romer points out.

    • But Michael Mann….

    • I’m not sure what your objection is Arthur. Romer does use ‘advocate’ 3 times, as quoted in the post.
      Here are some excerpts from Romer’s Feynman-integrity post, which seem to fit the climate science scenario perfectly:

      “I am trying hard to keep lines of communication open with economist friends who are supporters of … It would be very useful if some of them were willing to respond publicly. As I will note below, even silence is a form of response.”

      “My conjecture is that the fundamental problem … is that a type of siege mentality encouraged people in this group to ignore criticism from the outside and fostered a definition of in-group loyalty that delegitimized the open criticism that is an essential part of the scientific method. Once this mentality got established, it fed on itself.”

      • I see no lack of open criticism in climate science. Read the IPCC reports or some actual papers and it’s clear they hue very closely to the Feynman standard. If there’s a case where it hasn’t happened, like the boundedness example Romer points out in economics (and I’m aware of some others involving people like Richard Tol) please point it out. And the minor errors in early hockey stick papers is not anywhere close to what Romer is talking about, for the record.

      • Arthur Smith, your assertions about the IPCC are false. The climate chapter of Arts of Truth documents several large and important examples in AR4 WG1. The exact opposite of Feynman integrity. Previous Guest post here No Bodies did the same for AR4 WG2. Essay Hiding the Hiatus in Blowing Smoke exposes the same lack of Feynman integrity in AR5. Your statement shows either lack of knowledge or lack of integrity.

      • .rednajliT

      • Here’s another quote from Feynman’s ‘Cargo Cult’ speech that fits perfectly with the current state of climate science.

        “So I have just one wish for you – the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.”

        one can wish!

      • Arthur’s response reminds me of another famous Feynman quote,
        “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are the easiest person to fool.”
        Has he forgotten
        “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !”
        “Getting people we know and trust is vital”
        and the IPCC’s ignoring of research that doesn’t fit the agenda, such as the non-hockeystick of the Finnish LUSTIA group?
        And journal editors abusing their position by writing to reviewers saying things like
        “I believe I gave you one some time ago … which I think will be a rejection but I need hard justification”?

      • Arthur Smith

        beththeserf refers to “Tiljander” – this appears to be a reference to “Proxy-based reconstructions of hemispheric and global surface temperature variations over the past two millennia” by Michael E. Mann,, Zhihua Zhang, Malcolm K. Hughes, Raymond S. Bradley, Sonya K. Miller, Scott Rutherford, and Fenbiao Ni, published in 2008 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (US).

        So did this paper do something like what Romer talks about regarding the “Tiljander” proxy? In fact quite the reverse – an exemplary case of Feynman integrity is found in the supplemental information published with this paper – the problematic issues were examined in detail: “Potential data quality problems. In addition to checking whether or not potential problems specific to tree-ring data have any significant impact on our reconstructions in earlier centuries (see Fig. S7), we also examined whether or not potential problems noted for several records (see Dataset S1 for details) might compromise the reconstructions. These records include the four Tijander et al. (12) series used (see Fig. S9) for which the original authors note that human effects over the past few centuries unrelated to climate might impact records (the original paper states ”Natural variability in the sediment record was disrupted by increased human impact in the catchment area at A.D. 1720.” and later, ”In the case of Lake Korttajarvi it is a demanding task to calibrate the physical varve data we have collected against meteorological data, because human impacts have distorted the natural signal to varying extents”). These issues are particularly significant because there are few proxy records, particularly in the temperature-screened dataset (see Fig. S9), available back through the 9th century. The Tijander et al. series constitute 4 of the 15 available Northern Hemisphere records before that point.

        In addition there are three other records in our database with potential data quality problems, as noted in the database notes: Benson et al. (13) (Mono Lake): ”Data after 1940 no good– water exported to CA;” Isdale (14) (fluorescence): ”anthropogenic influence after 1870;” and McCulloch (15) (Ba/Ca): ”anthropogenic influence after 1870”. We therefore performed additional analyses as in Fig. S7, but instead compared the reconstructions both with and without the above seven potentially problematic series, as shown in Fig. S8.”

        You can see the nonissue yourself by going to the published article, or see this Connolley post on the subject:

    • Arthur,

      I understand that it is often the case that the higher up you go in educational level, the narrower the focus, but in your case it sounds like you earned your PhD in nit picking.

    • @all
      Arthur is right that Romer primarily refers to a debate within theoretical economics (a debate that he started, by the way) and a particular style of theorizing.

      Judy is not wrong, though, to draw parallels to climate research. Economics as a model for climate research is, like all models, wrong — but it can be useful.

      • “Economics as a model for climate research is, like all models, wrong — but it can be useful.”

        Can be useful or can be detrimental depending on the specific use of the model under consideration. The truth is GCMs are very poor models for helping determine government policy because there is insufficient information to determine how inaccurate they are likely to be at any point in the future.

  2. for those who are unaware of the pecking order in economics, Paul Romer is one of the greatest in his generation — and a candidate to be counted among the greatest of all times

    • Is economics a science? I don’t think so. So the debate whether it adheres to the scientific method is moot.

      • how do you define science?

      • For example: recently Paul Krugman wrote in the NY times about the MIT school of economists (of which he is a proud disciple) supplanting the previously dominant Chicago school.

        Do you have a “MIT school” vs. a “Chicago school” in physics or mathematics?

      • in math, there are the Bourbakists
        in stats, you have Bayesians
        in physics, there is string theory
        all three schools have their discontents

        Krugman’s schools disagree about policy, by the way, rather than about economic theory or method

      • Richard,

        “Krugman’s schools disagree about policy, rather than about economic theory”

        The “freshwater” and “saltwater” schools of economics — or, from a different perspective, the Keynesian and Austrian schools — have profound differences in their economic theories.

      • @Fabius
        had, not have

      • Krugman’s policy disagrees with his own economic theory:

        This is the same problem we have with climate scientists. Surely most of them know that the CAGW theory has got some gaping holes in it, but their ideology and noble cause corruption compels them to pretend that the science is settled.

      • Richard,

        “had, not have” {differences about economic theory?}

        Can you provide some — or even one — cites showing that the schools of economics no longer disagree, if that’s what you mean.

      • @Fabius
        There is lots of disagreement in economics about lots of things, but the schools of the past have largely disappeared. There’s styles and traditions and fads and cliques.

      • Richard,

        “the schools {of economics} of the past have largely disappeared}”

        Write up your theory, since nobody else appears to have noticed. I didn’t, a finance professional who for for 37 years has watched the schools of economics fight.

        It will be front page news in the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal. Your photo will be on the cover of The Economist. Fame beyond that of any living climate scientist awaits!

        By the way, which school won?

      • @Fabius
        Maybe the perception is different from the outside, but from the inside there is nothing like the schools of old. There are individuals who strongly disagree, but most would see this as a hypothesis to be tested or an intractable problem not worth getting excited over.

      • richardswarthout

        Richard and Editor

        Didn’t Milton Friedman, decades ago, largely defeat Keynesian, when classrooms and boardrooms lost favor with the theory?


        Richard Swarthout

      • in the days of yore, economists formed schools and battled it out

        nowadays, we study the data to see which hypotheses hold

        mind you, there are still plenty of hypotheses in economic theory that cannot be tested with any data — but today’s economist responds to that by finding better data

        (there’s also data still that reject all hypotheses, but that’s for another day)

    • “Paul Romer is one of the greatest in his generation”

      By what scale? Did he agree with you on something?

      • Rob Starkey, I was taught by and worked with some great economists, such as Lord Robbins and Dick (R G) Lipsey. As I comment below, Romer’s 1986 paper was seminal, and he’s continued to do first-rate work since. Yes, he is one of the greatest, while he has been primarily a theoretical economist, his work and that which sprang from it was of great use to me as an economic policy adviser, and underpins much understanding of what drives economic growth. You are criticising from a position of ignorance. Faustino

    • Now, if you consider the “soft” sciences, like, say, sociology as “science” then, sure, economics qualifies too.
      The term “science” itself is much abused.

    • I am with Karl Poper on this. A scientific statement is something that is falsifiable. It is something that cannot be both true and un-true – depending on what “school” you belong to.

  3. “JC comment: The year 2000, the publication of the IPCC TAR, and the elevation by IPCC Chair John Houghton of the hockey stick to icon status. A small accident in the history of the IPCC has had serious adverse consequences for climate science.”

    To me 2000 was a watershed year for science, the year when speculation, particularly with regards to cataclysmic events, became legitimate.

    We recall the Y2K potential disaster that gripped the White House and Congress, the military, business and air flights and trains and cars and everything that goes, suddenly, and terribly stopping or going haywire. Executives of sensitive infrastructure stayed the night with their IT people at ready. Not a blip.

    2000 was also the time of the peak and bust of the Dot-Com bubble. Speculative value rising and falling in a blink of an eye.

    Prior to 2000, on the societal side, there was great social euphoria buoyed by apparent wealth and rising expectations. Restraints on personal expression were decried and demonized; the pointing out of doing things the old way as being ancient and wrong. And then there was the crash, as into buildings on September 11, 2001.

    My proposition is: at a time of great speculative expectations along with a general naivete about what were the dark forces operating in the world around us, there was a collapse in individualism and a waning of self-assurance. This has led us as a society, to becoming more dependent on authority sources and allowing the rise of demagogues and ideologists.

    Here today, science like most other human endeavors is reflective of the social realm in which it operates, and, science, as it had once been known, i.e. a Feynman integrity model, has devolved to the Mann model: relativistic, authoritarian, stifling progress.

    Insight alone is not sufficient to recover from this stumble. Dogged articulation of the evolving facts as we know them can and will lead to science integrity and back onto a road of human social and scientific progress.

    • “To me 2000 was a watershed year for science, the year when speculation, particularly with regards to cataclysmic events, became legitimate.”

      That’s when it became apparent to me that there is little defense against “speculation” as regards POTENTIAL cataclysmic events. There was no way to counter the doomsayers. No way a rational person can say “no way”. Could there have been such a thing as a Y2K expert who believed the problem was small? Or by definition were such people considered uninformed or at least non-experts. I was as convinced as a person could be that our modeling software would be fine, but did test after test under outside pressure because we couldn’t be “sure”.

      So much time was put into checking and cross checking, because there was no way to “prove” that a digit shift to 2000 wouldn’t trigger major problems. In the end the damage was so minimal across the board that it was clear that the preparation for Y2K was far more costly than the impacts of non preparation. But you can’t tell that to a Y2K expert beforehand.

      • “In the end the damage was so minimal across the board that it was clear that the preparation for Y2K was far more costly than the impacts of non preparation.”

        I am a Y2K expert that worked on corporate business systems. The damage was minimal only because of the massive remediation efforts that took place. We were able to prove that serious issues existed in corporate systems by running the software in sandbox tests. We used these same sandbox tests to validate the remediated software before rolling it into production. There were still blips afterwards because it was humanly impossible (or too expensive) to test every single business function of every piece of code.

        I agree that Y2K contributed to the tech bubble. It was more expensive than it needed to be because corporate America waited until the last minute to work on it and wound up hiring expensive consultants. I knew many IT people who came out of retirement to take advantage of the demand. I also knew of a consultancy that couldn’t find enough staff so they hired an IT shop in Mexico to help. After 1/1/2000 these expensive projects went away, many IT consultants were out of work, and IT budgets went back to normal.

        Climate change is headed towards a bubble as well. The longer we wait to take action, the more expensive it will be to minimize the damage. On the other hand we might all just be frogs sitting in a pot of water that is about to boil.

      • planning engineer, petwir, I was involved in Y2K in 199 as an economic policy officer who was closely connected with the IT industry. Everyone I knew in IT was perplexed at the weight and credence given to Y2K by the Australian and Queensland governments, and the costs they incurred and imposed to deal with it. They didn’t share your view, petwir. I accept, given your role in dealing with it, that you might be right – you are far more qialified to comment than I am – but that didn’t seem to be the case in Oz.

      • “On the other hand we might all just be frogs sitting in a pot of water that is about to boil.”
        No, we are just frogs.

    • Y2K played a big part in the inflation of the tech bubble that became known as the bubble. Companies, governments, and institutions moved forward all their tech budgets for the early 2000s and spent them in 1998 and 1999 to upgrade and deal with Y2K. Tech stocks already riding the mania blew sky high. Then the spending dried up in the early 2000s and the Nasdaq crashed.

    • 2000 was an inflection point for sure, but I’m not sure I agree on the cause. IMO The internet finally hit the big time, so full of promise. But stocks for companies that weren’t much more than ideas were valued more than big companies, it was expectations of a bright future.
      Then problems with WorldCom, and many others, in the fall the DOJ announced MS couldn’t add what it wanted into it’s products mainly because jealous competitors were getting their behinds kicked, by Dec we were still counting chads, and the economy was classified as being in a recession, then Global Crossings filed for bankruptcy, Tyco had a financial scandal, then 9/11.
      The bright future got rained out, it was still there but tarnished a bit, the internet didn’t go away, but the youthful exuberance of it took a beating.

  4. Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  5. Climate Science has no institutional system to require hucksters and advocates of all stripes to debate directly and openly. The public doesn’t see “point – counterpoint”. When most research funding comes from government agencies that have “taken a position” scientists are coerced to avoid a Feynman approach to their work. Until that changes, we will simply have to wait till the climate itself reveals the truth. Man is playing small ball here.

  6. There is no policy relevance to climate or any other science. Politics and science are immiscible.

  7. Hi Judy,

    “How we can bring Feynman integrity back to policy relevant climate science is a considerable challenge.”

    Judy, it is an impossible dream. In the years after the CRU emails were released I gave many seminars on energy supplies to groups of climate scientists, and I always included a group of slides analyzing and criticizing different aspects of the emails. Friends told me they could see the audiences bristle when I did that. I cannot recall receiving the slightest acknowledgement, publicly or privately, from a single climate scientist in those audiences that there was any bad behavior in the emails. I did get attacks from the climate scientists, publicly and privately, stating that their opponents were bad people doing bad science and that they should be kept from publishing. This is the same attitude that was apparent in the emails.

    At Caltech, Feynman’s ghost is still with us, and in my classes I show his videos on the nature of physical law and pseudoscience. Climate science today is classic pseudoscience. There are enough adjustable parameters for climate science to explain, in the statistical sense, past behavior to some extent. However, I have not seen the successful predictions that I expect from physical laws and validated engineering models. It is also classic junk science. The adjustable parameters allow the projections of catastrophe and the calculation of policy impacts that are required for climate scientists to maintain their prestige, their power, and their funding.


    • Dr. Rutledge,

      How much of the problem do you think is due to the lack of any quality control process in science (or academia)? A growing number of stats experts and others are pointing out that the majority of studies are flawed (see Amgen and Bayer replication efforts, talk to venture capitalists about their inability to replicate, see John Ioannides’ work, Matt Briggs, et al).

      Yet, even knowing that studies are likely flawed, scientists read the abstract of published studies and cite the supposed “findings” as if they are established facts. Not only that, they specifically demand that the public defer to their ‘expertise’, even though their own personal knowledge is limited to nothing more than having read the abstracts of studies that are likely flawed. The hubris is mind-boggling.

      My point — if scientists embraced a little humility, admitted that many studies are flawed, reserved judgment until studies with policy implications have been replicated (assumptions examined, etc.), and admitted that far less is known than is presently claimed, would science be less adversarial? After all, if everyone acknowledges how ignorant we all are, how flawed we can be, and how uncertain our knowledge, there simply is less to be confrontational about.

      • For an excellent example of scientists afflicted with hubris, see the letter of 29 scientists backing the Iran deal. From their letter it is obvious that they have no expertise on the critical issues involved because those issues are not scientific issues. Yet they prostitute themselves for left-wing political purposes. In the end, they won’t manage to do much to salvage public opinion for their left-wing president, but they will damage the reputation of science and demonstrate their own lack of judgment as thinkers.

        At least Richard Rich got Wales.

    • Dave –

      How meaningful do you consider attacks from climate scientists saying that their “opponents” are bad people doing bad science?

      “Roger A. Pielke Sr ‏@RogerAPielkeSr 1h
      Gavin Schmidt -, a climate huckster sells something or serves biased interests, using pushy or showy tactics. Fits my experience with him.”

      • “How meaningful do you consider attacks from climate scientists saying that their “opponents” are bad people doing bad science?”

        Meaningful in regards to what?

        Insults do not impact the science or the economics of potential choices.

      • Joshua – I never said Gavin is a “bad” person or even doing “bad science”. What he (and others) are doing is pushing their agendas without properly debating/discussing other viewpoints. In his case, he is using his pulpit as Director of GISS to enforce an orthodoxy rather than permit honest, open assessments of the diversity of viewpoints on the climate issue.

        I have tried to interact with Gavin for over a decade. Search my weblog and you will see many attempts and a few modest successes in the past.

        However, over the past several years (including during my service on the AGU Committee on Climate Change), he has become even more intolerant of alternative views. He finds my questions at WUWT “dull” which is an odd response from a scientist.

        Try answering them yourself and present your views on them if you are, yourself, open to discussion.

        He is certainly not the only one who is using their positions to enforce a particular viewpoint on the climate issue. The term “climate huckster” fits with Gavin Schmidt’s role. He

        “serves biased interests, using pushy or showy tactics.”

        In my view this is sad, as if he would engage everyone might learn something.

        My recent experience interacting with Ken Rice at ATTP is an example of how positive, constructive outcomes can be achieved.

        Clearly, and unfortunately, Gavin Schmidt is not interested in constructive debate/discussion who those who differ in the viewpoints on the climate issue from his perspective.

        Roger Sr.

      • “Clearly, and unfortunately, Gavin Schmidt is not interested in constructive debate/discussion”

        Neither is Joshua.


      • Rpielke

        The Oxford Dictionary has rather a good definition of the increasing intolerance we are seeing in many forms of life and especially in climate related subjects where hatred and zealotry is often thrown in;

        ‘intolerance of dissent’


      • My tweets with Gavin Schmidt today illustrate how the term climate huckster fits. He claims that despite being a Director of a federal lab GISS [] he has no responsibility to respond to a request for information (either answering himself or delegating to his staff). A disappointing and amazing admission of a lack of accountability in a USA federal lab.

        This is an example of why the climate discussion has become so polarized when an individual uses his senior management level position to avoid answering questions about the work being undertaken at his Lab.

        It is clear from my years of interaction with Gavin Schmidt, as further solidified in my most recent interactions, that he is running GISS as an advocacy think tank that will only engage on climate science issues that he chooses, This top control of the science of climate is what I wrote about in my post on the IPCC process

        “This small community of climate scientists is controlling the agenda with respect to the assessment of climate change. This is an oligarchy”

        Other posts on this “oligarchy include

        Gavin clearly fits into the oligarchy.

        Judy Curry’s weblog, fortunately, provides a very visible and effective forum to document such abuses of power.

      • Roger still doesn’t get it, which I find extraordinary. It’s frankly scary that a professional scientist can not work out these things in his mind:

        Roger is convinced that Gavin, or the staff at NASA GISS owes him something. What they owe is science output, data/model accessibility, publications/documentation, etc.

        If Roger has specific questions about model diagnostics- e.g., the energy imbalance in ModelE2-R at some time, Gavin (or anyone else) is not actually under any obligation to do the work for him. If Roger was as serious about his interest in these answers as he was blogging how inconvenient the questions were and how everyone is scared to answer them, he’d actually have the answers himself and maybe he could actually engage in real discourse. The truth is that he does not want to. As it is, his questions and the manner in which he decided to present them are pretty lame.

        I could just as well pose 100 random questions about Earthquakes or star formation on a blog to geologists or astrophysicists, or perhaps demand that the NASA Kepler team analyze my questions about exoplanet mass-radius relationships for me. But that’s not how this works.

        More generally, Gavin, or anyone else is entirely within their right to selectively engage in social media. You do not have a right to bother everyone in the name of science with things that you could do on your own.

        The fact is that Roger (or his questions) are not as interesting as he thinks.

      • Gavin is a public employee. He works for the citizens who pay his salary — like Roger. Perhaps, absent FOIA requests, Roger may have no avenue to force Gavin to respond. After all, it is the government which gets to use force. But if Gavin thinks his duties include convincing the public of the risks from global warming (and he surely seems to spend an inordinate amount of work time making that effort), and he refuses to engage with a well-known, professional climate scientist, he loses all his credibility.

        I’m really shocked that anyone can fail to understand something as simple as that (although we are talking about climate scientists, so maybe I’m not so shocked). The question isn’t what Roger can force Gavin to do. The question is whether Gavin wishes to be effective at his job or prefers to continue to bleed credibility and hurt his cause.

    • “Climate science today is classic pseudoscience. ”
      Same as economics.
      There is absolutely no proposition in economics that can’t be proven by some economists and dis-proven in equally convincing terms by others.

    • Dave Rutledge,

      Thanks for doing your part and having integrity.

      Mark Steyn quotes you on several occasions in his new book “A Disgrace to The Profession”.

  8. As a senior well respected professional the costs of supporting scientific integrity are not that significant. The loss of peers who are irritated by the response to the choice of issues will subside with time. The real costs are to the young professionals who may be discarded from assignments or potential promotions if they dare exhibit non tribe behavior in support of a Feynman issue. But this is a slippery slope that moves from climate temperature impacts of carbon over to false cost estimates of potential electrical cost savings in 20 years to coverup of design flaws that eventually cost lives. It goes on in many professions. Lots of ethics problems in the world more serious and dangerous to young practitioners. But very nice for an acclaimed economists to bring up the ethics issues.

  9. In his Econ Talk interview with Russ Roberts, Matt Ridley talks about confirmation bias about 30 minutes in. He thinks it’s unrealistic to expect professor Jones to be his own worst enemy. So professor Smith should be his worst enemy.

  10. Dr. Curry. I think you short yourself with this:
    “If you know me and think about the costs and benefits I’m facing, I think you will conclude that the most likely explanation for my decision to raise these issues is that I am genuinely trying to come to grips with what has gone wrong in macro-economics and that I am truly committed to science as the noblest human achievement. If you think about the costs I’ll pay for raising these concerns, including the cost of damaged relationships with people that I like, I think you will conclude that a personal commitment to science is the only thing that could be big enough to offset these costs.

    JC comment: WOW. What a statement. I wish I had said this.”

    I perceive much angst on the part of those courageous (silly?) enough to stand up as a voice of moderation against such a strong tide of alarmism. I’ve wondered to myself A) who’s right? & B) for those who are not at what cost must one feel that if wrong what will be the consequences?

    I have to believe that it takes a strong constitution to be willing to be involved in the fray at all from a personal stand point leaving the professional concerns to the side. For this, you (and others) have my admiration.

    Questioning should be the accepted norm, yet comes with many undesirables. I’ve faced them personally and cannot even imagine what others willing to do so have to deal with in such public formats.

  11. Roger Pielke on twitter:

    Roger A. Pielke Sr ‏@RogerAPielkeSr 36m36 minutes ago
    Just concluded a failed attempt to engage with Gavin Schmidt – see twitter exchange. He fits the def of huckster in

  12. Karl Popper vs Paul Feyerabend in the 1960’s was this same debate.

  13. Judith before:

    the climate wars, those that use pejorative names for people that they disagree with  are the equivalents of racists and anti-semites, and deserve opprobrium and disrespect.  It is very sad, not to mention bad for science,  to see scientists engaging in this behavior.

    Judith now:

    Hucksterism is a great word to describe what goes on in the communication of climate science in service of policy advocacy


    • That is entirely consistent, verytrollguy:

      “It is very sad, not to mention bad for science, to see scientists engaging in hucksterism.”

      • Are you suggesting “huckster” is not a pejorative name, especially in the United States, Don Don?

      • It’s a description of the activity and an expression of disapproval, willy. But you can call it pejorative. No reason for you to miss an opportunity to troll Judith. No harm will be done. We are used to your foolishness.

      • > [Y]ou can call it pejorative.

        Tell that to the Wiki, Don Don:

        Particularly in the United States, a huckster is a pejorative for a person who sells something or serves biased interests, using pushy or showy tactics.

        Compare and contrast this description with Senior’s tweet, a bit below on the thread.

      • ==> “But you can call it pejorative.”

        Certainly, it isn’t always a pejorative. Consider the following usage:

        I am going to vote for The Donald, because he’s such a huckster..

      • We could do this all day, willy:

        But that is all the time I have for your silly butt.

      • Danny Thomas

        And just to expand a bit on the original term:
        “huckster”: noun
        a person who sells small items, either door-to-door or from a stall or small store.
        synonyms: trader, dealer, seller, purveyor, vendor, salesman, salesperson, peddler, hawker; informalpusher
        “the hucksters along the boardwalk”

      • Willard,

        That definition you reference is dead on for Michael Mann. Can’t say about Gavin Schmidt.

        Extra peanut for you.

    • John Carpenter

      But huckster

      • Hey John –

        Do you think that name-calling from climate scientists is a problem?

      • John Carpenter

        Hey Joshua,

        Not really a problem that is worth focusing a lot of attention on. Do you think name calling between lawyers or doctors or professors or pro athletes or anybody for that matter is a problem? I think you would agree that name calling does not move dialogue forward in typically a meaningful way, well except for maybe comedians or politicians. Some people look for the name calling, to change the argument to something they are more comfortable with discussing, like taking offense of being slighted in some way. Scientists, including climate scientists, are mere humans like everyone else and fall prey to the same frailties as everyone else and behave like everyone else. The notion that scientists should play above all that is silly. They play with the best of them all the time.

        VTG got it wrong about Judy, IMO. Judy has not singled anyone out in particular as a ‘huckster’. She compares ‘hucksterism’ to ‘communication of climate science in service of policy advocacy’. Oh my… how terrible of her. Judy finds the use of ‘pejorative names for people they disagree with…’ sad and bad for science. I agree. Just like its sad and bad for pro sports when name calling between athletes ensues. I interpret what Judy means as when one particular scientist calls another particular scientist a pejorative name. Calling them out personally. This did not happen here. Who did Judy call a huckster? Maybe VTG felt she was calling him a huckster, IDK. When VTG can give a direct example of Judy calling another peer a pejorative name directly to them personally, he would have an argument.

        On another note, I’m always happy to engage with you and am glad to see you commenting.

      • John,

        After that quality reply lets see if numbnuts can dig himself out of the hole you put him in or do his usual double down.

      • > Judy has not singled anyone out in particular as a ‘huckster’. She compares ‘hucksterism’ to ‘communication of climate science in service of policy advocacy’.

        Your first point is irrelevant and your second point is incorrect, JohnC.

        First, namecalling not only applies to “anyone in particular”:

        Name calling is abusive or insulting language referring to a person or group, a verbal abuse. This phenomenon is studied by a variety of academic disciplines from anthropology, to child psychology, to politics. It is also studied by rhetoricians, and a variety of other disciplines that study propaganda techniques and their causes and effects. The technique is most frequently employed within political discourse and school systems, in an attempt to negatively impact their opponent.

        Second, here’s what Judy said:

        Hucksterism is a great word to describe what goes on in the communication of climate science in service of policy advocacy. The complicity of many climate scientists and professional societies in this hucksterism is a cause of great concern.

        This is not a comparison, but an attempt at description. Also note the second sentence: there’s no need for Judy to be very specific for the Internet dogs to hear the whistle she’s blowing there.

        It’s not that complicated.

      • Hey John –

        I don’t think that name-calling among climate scientists is a problem. I think it is just juvenile and tribalistic behavior (consistent with the identity-aggressive and identity-defensive behaviors that we see in so much public discourse). When I see someone name-calling, I just see someone failing to exchange in good faith.

        I do think that there should be a different standard for name-calling among scientists, as name-calling usually reflects poor analysis and poor control for bias. I like to think that by virtue of their training and day-to-day activities, scientists could be expected to conduct higher quality analysis with better control for biases. Certainly, we can see a lot of name-calling among scientists engaged in public discourse (and private discussions also, no doubt). But I wonder if that just isn’t an artifact of skewed sampling. It would be interesting to see whether name-calling might be less prevalent among scientists than among the general public. Seems like a pretty difficult study to conduct…

        I do think, however, that name-calling is symptomatic of a problem. It’s symptomatic of problem whereby many people tend towards poor-faith exchange rather than good-faith exchange. It is what it is, but I have to think that the world would be a better place if more people controlled for that tendency.

        As for VTG’s criticism of Judith, and your criticism of VTG’s criticism…

        I’m not sure that whether Judith singles out people and calls them hucksters is a sufficient response. Judith uses a fairly wide array of pejoratives to describe, as a group, those who disagree with her about climate change. I think that while that might be different in some sense than singling out individuals, it’s still symptomatic of a larger-scale identity-protective dynamic that problematizes dialogue on climate change.

        As you and I have discussed before, I think that her assignation of labels like “huckster” (or “advocate” or “activist” or McCarthyist or extreme weather denier, etc.) reflect an arbitrary (in the sense of subjective, not in the sense of random) application of criteria. I don’t think that’s “terrible.” It’s just commonplace and unfortunate.

      • Says willy, as he almost strangles himself clutching at his pearls. They took her chair, willy. Do you expect her to go quietly? Please try to reduce your silliness level a bit.

      • For those who justify Judith’s perjorative name-calling by claiming it didn’t count because no individuals were named, as well as having a weak argument I fear you didn’t read the article carefully enough:

        Mann continues to fight the hockey wars not just by hucksterism but by attacking his opponents.

        As amazing as Judith’s inconsistency are the lines of defence mustered such as these.

        Remember, Judith condemned name-callers in the strongest possible terms – the “equivalent of racists and anti-semites” no less.

        And here you are, defending not just her explicit name-calling, but her advocating its use: “Hucksterism is a great word to describe what goes on”

        Remarkable indeed.

      • It will be interesting to see how long verytrollguy will carry on with his little hissy fit. They defamed her with that serial dis-informer BS and took her chair. She correctly observed that some of that crowd are engaging in huckersterism. OMG! The inconsistency is freaking amazing and even stupendous, freaking unprecedented and worserer than we ever thought. EEEEEK! We are collapsing now. Our jewelry is rolling lose all over the place. Especially the pearls.

        Get over it.

      • Don,

        I’ll let others decide whose comments look more like hissy fits.

        I note you’ve now tried “huckster isn’t perjorative” and “other people were nasty to her so it’s OK” as defences.

        They’re flimsy at best. Which is why you’re resorting to bluster and name calling.

        Fact is, Judith frequently constructs very high ethical bars for climate scientists, then ignores them for her own contributions to the debate. This is another example.

      • I am mocking your hissy fit, verytroll guy. I am not the one who is hysterical about Judith telling the truth about climate scientists’ hucksterism. The guilty ones know who they are. Maybe they will all get together and sue her. Who cares?

        You misquoted me:”I note you’ve now tried “huckster isn’t perjorative” and “other people were nasty to her so it’s OK” as defences.”

        I didn’t say that “huckster” isn’t a pejorative. I presented a legitimate definition of pejorative, and gave willy my permission to call what Judy said “pejorative”. Who freaking cares what willy says? I just hope he doesn’t put an “r” in it:

        “It’s a description of the activity and an expression of disapproval, willy. But you can call it pejorative.”

        If it will calm you down I will call it pejorative, or even perjorative. Who the freak cares?

        I didn’t say that what Judith said is OK. I get why she said it. It’s OK with me. You are free to hyperventilate. Who the freak cares other than hysterical little warmists, is my point.

        Now carry on with your faux outrage and your little childish hissy fit. You just come here to troll Judith. Not a very honorable or productive activity for a grown well-educated man like yourself.

      • Don,

        thanks for your reply. Once more, I’ll let others decide whose comments look more like hissy fits, or are hysterical. Please carry on.

      • Huckster is a word describing what some people DO, with particular reference to the tactics they use, and NOT what or who they ARE.

        There’s a BIG difference.

      • Peter,

        Ah. That’s entirely different from “disinformer” then, and therefore OK. Perfectly clear now, thank you.

      • VTG, being accused of doing something and actually doing it are often two different things as well.

      • Peter.

        OK, so let’s see if I’ve got this right. Name calling is fine as long as it’s accurate. Judith is the only person who is accurate with her name-calling, and everyone else is equivalent to a racist or anti-semite.

        Do I have it now?

      • It’s not name-calling, end of!

      • Really don’t understand the problem with pejoratives coming from the side who hide their data, secretly seek to change peer-review processes, adjust historical temps down while adjusting current temps up and at the same time calls anyone pointing out these nefarious practices “serial climate misinformers”.

      • Actually harkin, she was called “serial disinformer”. That very nasty and libelous pejorative labels her as being dishonest, rather than just wrong. That’s called a libel per se and she should have sued that little snake. Judith has been persecuted by the climate science establishment for not toeing the party line. Not surprising that she vents, occasionally. Don’t think anyone is going to suffer from her terrible use of the “hucksterism” perjoritative. Did I spell that right, yerytrollguy? Did you pitch a hissy fit when mikey mann libeled Judith? Hypocrite.

      • Don,

        you’re disappointing me. “Serial disinformer” much worse than “huckster”? Persecution? Please be serious Don. I expect better of you.

        Your hyperbole and hysterics underlines that you’ve nothing to rebuff the obvious:

        That Judith makes strong ethical demands of others she completely fails to observe herself.

      • Did you pitch a hissy fit when mikey mann libeled Judith? Hypocrite.

      • “Disinformer”?


        Be serious, Don. I expect better of you.

      • Study up on U.S. defamation law, verytrollguy. Calling a M.D. a quack is libel per se. Calling a lawyer a scheister is libel per se. Calling a scientist a serial disinformer on the science is libel per se. Trolling Judith is not a very manly thing to do. I expect better of Australians.

        Did you pitch a hissy fit when mikey mann libeled Judith? Hypocrite.

    • Curry’s whole article is about people who are damaging science by ignoring the rules of how science is done. That’s bad. One of the ways of doing that is by trying to suppress the science of opponents by attacking them personally. Bad. Then she comments that is being done by a certain well-known group of climate scientists – and it bothers her because it’s bad for science.
      Your “inconsistency proof” only sounds good if one doesn’t pay attention to what she’s saying.

      • miker

        Do you not see the problematic part of your argument that contains this?:

        ==> ” One of the ways of doing that is by trying to suppress the science of opponents by attacking them personally.”

      • “trying to suppress the science of opponents by attacking them personally” Is she doing that? Possible, but there isn’t evidence from the fact that she says something bad about them. My better impression is that she doesn’t like them very much, doesn’t like what they’re doing to the field (and maybe to her personally). Is she trying to _suppress their science_ or _suppress their use of PR tactics to force the science_?

      • Miker,

        you’ve lost me. I didn’t address Judith’s argument; whether it has merit depends on whether you think Mann or other climate scientists is involved in “hucksterism”.

        Perhaps as an exercise, Judith’s WSJ op-ed could be compared to Michael Mann’s HuffPo op-ed, to see which best aligns to the “huckster” portrayal in the post. Why not do that and report back?

        What I posted about is Judith’s inconsistency, not for the first time. Judith uses her argument to enthusiastically label her opponents with a perjorative term, “hucksters”. This tactic is something she has previously said is equivalent to racism or antisemitism. For her use such strong language, then to do this is herself, is quite remarkable.

    • I nominate this thread for the 2015 “silliest CE thread” award.

  14. Curious George

    Excerpts from “The Law Complete” by C. Northcote Parkinson, chapter 14 on Palsied Paralysis:
    The first sign of danger is represented by the appearance in the organization’s hierarchy of an individual who combines in himself a high concentration of incompetence and jealousy. … The next or secondary stage in the progress of the disease is reached when the infected individual gains complete or partial control of the central organization. … If the head of the organization is second-rate, he will see to it that his immediate staff all all third-rate; and they will, in turn, see to it that their subordinates are fourth-rate. … The institution is for all practical purposes dead. It can be found afresh, but only with a change of name, a change of site, and an entirely different staff.

    • I read Parkinson’s work which opined (correctly) that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” My life experience led me to define a similar law, that “rubbish expands to fill the volume available for its disposal.” I see the truth of that around me as I type. Faustino

  15. Few years back, another Feynman (this time Dr. Joan, sister of Richard) wrote an easy to read article (unfortunately beyond the pay wall) very relevant to the current climate debate and its natural variability

    If solar variability affects human culture it most likely does so by changing the climate in which the culture operates. Variations in the solar radiative input to the Earth’s atmosphere have often been suggested as a cause of such climate change on time scales from decades to tens of millennia. In the last 20 years there has been enormous progress in our knowledge of the many fields of research that impinge on this problem; the history of the solar output, the effect of solar variability on the Earth’s mean climate and its regional patterns, the history of the Earth’s climate and the history of mankind and human culture. This new knowledge encourages revisiting the question asked in the title of this talk.

    Several important historical events have been reliably related to climate change including the Little Ice Age in northern Europe and the collapse of the Classical Mayan civilization in the 9th century AD. In the first section of this paper we discus these historical events and review the evidence that they were caused by changes in the solar output.

    Perhaps the most important event in the history of mankind was the development of agricultural societies. This began to occur almost 12,000 years ago when the climate changed from the Pleistocene to the modern climate of the Holocene. In the second section of the paper we will discuss the suggestion (Feynman and Ruzmaikin, 2007) that climate variability was the reason agriculture developed when it did and not before.

  16. Craig Loehle

    A third option is sports: it is okay to play against opponents (different schools of economics) as long as you play fair. I remember lots of pickup basketball where the rule was you called foul on yourself if you fouled. Anyone who did not would get dirty looks from everyone. In science this would entail making a fair description of other schools of thought, giving credit where due, being open with your data, etc. That is, while Feynman’s view is what I view as ideal, I accept that people can have a strong point of view about their favorite theory, whether supply-side economics or cognitive therapy, and that they will try to push that theory/method/approach. The problem comes in with the view that anyone who doesn’t agree with you is evil or funded by some vast oil conspiracy and therefore should get fired.

  17. Professor Curry gives us a pre-modern version of science — of society — in which people are exhorted to act virtuously (with “integrity”). Can we hear from some climate scientists working in post-doc limbo, or Assistant Professors scrambling for tenure? I’ll bet they see things differently than the tenured professors featured in this post.

    For a generation or two modern economics has focused on the insight that incentives matter. That might provide a more useful starting point for analysis of the institution of climate science than measuring individuals’ love for science vs. “hucksterism” (good luck with neutral analysis of that).

    We have good examples of these dynamics in other fields. In finance the incentives reward corruption, and sociopaths thrive. The late great John Boyd (Colonel, USAF) would offer young officers the choice between career success and service — that they were different paths revealed the deep dysfunctionality of the US military. He didn’t record the results, but I assume most were sensible and chose the blue pill. (See this for details.)

    My guess is that historians will describe climate science during the past 30 years as the almost inevitable evolution of science enmeshed in powerful political forces. I doubt if it will take more than a few pages to tell this simple story.

    • Yes, incentives matter, but those that you respond to depend on your own values. For example, as an economic policy adviser I valued honesty, integrity, analytical rigour and regard for policies which promoted community well-being more highly than the benefits of accepting the insider-outsider ethos of the Queensland Public Service, where you worked to benefit, promote and protect yourself and your mates and give the Minister what he wanted, and undermined anyone such as me who didn’t come on board. So in climate science, there are clear incentives to conform to the orthodoxy; but, hopefully, there are some who, like Judith, respond to different incentives. Romer is clearly in my camp.

      • Perhaps. As someone who has worked in SF real fields, from social work to investing for the wealthy, in my experience economic incentives are trump within a broad range of acceptable behaviors (i.e., excluding outright fraud, criminality, etc).

        As I said above, it would be interesting to hear voices other than those of prosperous tenured professors about these matters. They might have less ethereal perspectives on how to manage a career in climate science.

        But then, they might find it more prudent to remain silent and allow their seniors to natter on while they keep their heads down and avoid political mousetraps.

  18. Romer’s comments show that the underlying issues are probably a universal condition. People being people.
    What seems different with ‘climate science’ is the scope, the scale, and the sheer nastiness. I attribute that to two things. An awful lot of money is involved in climate research, and in ‘remedies’ like renewables. E.g. Solyndra. And a lot of agendas hitched themselves to the AGW horse. E.g. Greenpeace. In other words, the toxic brew of money and politics.

    The other difference is that this is playing out for the first time in the internet era, where stuff is subject to scrutiny (e.g. McIntyre of Mann) outside former ‘message control’ channels (e.g. McNutt at Science, who refused to recognize and deal with the Marcott misconduct). That tends to expose, and perhaps amplify, the lack of Feynman integrity that is so evident in ‘Climateball’.

    • ristvan,

      “what seems different with climate science .. is the sheer nastiness”

      It’s not unusual in the history of science, or more broadly in academia. Debates about the most esoteric theory often become like grade-school food fights. There’s no adult supervision.

    • I have a number of meteorological textbooks from the 1930s ( and they are still remarkably apt and useful ). They reference, at least briefly, the issue of warming with increased CO2. Certainly Manabe’s ground breaking experiments appear to have been motivated by curiosity.

      But when science became authoritative (IPCC) and that authority was founded by people who wrote:

      “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that .. the threat of global warming.. would fit the bill…. the real enemy, then, is humanity itself….we believe humanity requires a common motivation, namely a common adversary in order to realize world government. It does not matter if this common enemy is a real one or….one invented for the purpose.”

      Adversarial conflict became all but inevitable.

  19. daveandrews723

    “if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it:”
    That is one of the most important quotes I read above. It makes me wonder about the reluctance of the warmists to deal with the failure of the CO2 models in dealing with the 18 year “pause” in global warming.
    I will go out on a limb here as a non-scientist and argue that science does not even understand the basic “greenhouse effect” of CO2.
    I know it is heresy to say something like that. The experts will say it is simple physics and well proven.
    But if the models are wrong the entire theory is wrong, in my very humble opinion.

    • Da723. It isnt the CO2 part that the models get wrong. The quite well excepted impact on ‘grey earth’ of a CO2 doubling is 1.1 to 1.2C. Lindzen used 1.2, so that is my personal choice.
      The models don’t get the feedbacks right. Things like water vapor and clouds. These cannot be computed from basic physics because ofmthe computational resolution problem. They to be parameterized from sometimes shakey observation. And parameters raise the unansweable attribution problem: how much of the observation is ‘natural’ and how much is anthropogenic? The attribution that 1975-2000 was AGW is proven false by the pause. Bad parameterization of feedbacks.

      • Craig Loehle

        +1 this is where claiming it is “just physics” is clearly hucksterism (or worse). By the way, the climate models can’t even do true radiative transfer due to computational limits, and also don’t all do it the same:
        Oreopoulos, Lazaros, and Eli Mlawer. 2010. “The Continual Intercomparison of Radiation Codes (CIRC): Assessing Anew the Quality of GCM Radiation Algorithms.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 91:305-310.

      • […] ‘grey earth’ […]

        Think it through, Rud…

        You ought to realize that there’s no such thing as a “grey earth” in the thermal IR part of the spectrum. It’s quite brightly CO2 colored. (Also H2O colored, at least where high clouds don’t act as a black body under the stratospheric CO2.)

  20. If you are selling a product or service and expect to have a long career with many repeat customers you need to tell them about your product’s weaknesses as well as its strengths. They will find out anyway and if they didn’t hear it from you they’ll never trust you again.

    • +1000000
      I often get a talking to about being “too honest” with customers – thing is, those same customers that I have been “too honest” with will ask for me by name when they call back, because they know they’ll get the truth.

  21. The adversarial method was a stylized behavior wherein lawyers could argue on behalf of their clients’ interests before the bar. It was a specialized behavior intended for use in a particular setting. There was always an equal opportunity for the other side to present balancing arguments and all parties understood the ground rules, which were maintained by the court.

    In general, lawyers are reviled (and deservedly so) for bringing this behavior pattern into regular society (the use of “non-lies” in a way which is intended to create a false impression upon the audience) in a setting where none of the safeguards for fairness are in place.

    Until advocates get over themselves and understand their adversarial behavior is immoral, then our society is facing an ugly decline along the lines of Babel.

  22. If you are a scholar in a laughably immature science or wildly speculative science, first duty is to call your science laughably immature (climate) or wildly speculative (economics). Then we can listen to you with some attention.

    It would help climate scientists’ cred if they were clearer on stuff which has actually happened and foggier on stuff which hasn’t happened yet. Seems to go the other way. (eg: NY was built near sea level in a notorious hurricane belt. SoCal has always been a desert waiting to happen. Don’t act surprised all the time. Your not HuffPo, you’re a scientist.)

    Oh, and no need to publish. We’re sick of chucking out the old certainties every decade to make room for the new certainties. Grateful for any snippets of good info or observation, no need for that here-we-demonstrate stuff.


  23. Feynman’s “method” – of honesty and integrity and truthfulness applies to everything, not exclusively to science.

    • Feynman’s “method” – of honesty and integrity and truthfulness applies to everything.
      While this is technically and morally and ethically true it does not produce the greatest “happiness for everyone”.
      Lots of lies produce good results for a society provided
      a. they are not discovered
      b. we agree to accept the slip in our moral compass for a greater good.
      This occurs on both sides of the climate debate societies.
      There is a big difference between those who use b.and may be given the excuse that they do not know they are participating in a lie and a. who are completely aware that they are not being honest.
      Both have recourse to greater good arguments , the former for themselves, the latter for “others”.
      copyright TM angech

      • Disagree, but won’t expand for now except that I think honesty and integrity are fundamental, and in the longer term the “greater good” is never served by compromising them.

  24. “How we can bring Feynman integrity back to policy relevant climate science is a considerable challenge.”

    I am of the opinion that the day we are all nurturing a culture characterized by fallacy-free arguments based on the modern scientific method; Popper´s empirical method; we will have both the integrity and the scientific method we need to act to the best for our society. Such a culture will have to be built by demonstrating it´s superiority in every argument.

    Enjoy some Popper:

  25. See what you did Judy, you evoked another great debate with a choir of different voices. It is one of your great gifts! I will leave the science to youse guys, but I do know a thing or three about the climate debate, or lack of debate except in places like Judy’s climate site.

    A case in point is the recent 3 million gallon EPA toxic spill in Colorado.
    To this moment, I can’t find any environmental advocacy Website even mentioning it one week later. (See link below)

    “One week after Animas River toxic spill, full impact still not clear.” After a 6 day silence Secretary McCarthy discusses the EPA’s 3 million gallon toxic spill. You probably know news coverage has been very slow, with some exceptions like the Weather Channel.



  26. Judy,

    As usual, I am a lunatic of information, now about the Colorado disaster! Yes, my only focus is on the policy debates surrounding the Clean Power Plan.

    I can send you a well-rounded view, if appropriate?

    In the meantime, I am writing an Op-Ed piece about it, hopefully devoid of partisanship?

    Did I mention that I am watching the Simon and Garfunkel Reunion Concert in Central Park to add perspective?

  27. Judy, I read all of Romer’s papers from his seminal 1986 paper on “Increasing Returns and Long-Run Growth,” which kicked off New Growth Theory, until recent years. His comment which attracted your “WOW” response seems to be to be completely true, and would apply to the great majority of economists I’ve been taught by or worked with since 1961. Although a few once admirable economists such as Krugman have moved away from the Romerian stance.

    I’d never heard of “freshwater economists,” but if I meet one, I’ll immediately put salt on his tail. Faustino

  28. Re: Adversarial Science & Economics as compared to Adversarial Conduct in the Courts

    There is virtually no justification to advocate in favor of adversarial academic or scientific behavior. In all instances, the truth should be the highest goal of a scientist or an academic. Of course, knowing human frailty, adversarial behavior is, to some extent, inevitable. However, it should be viewed as a failing and not part of a worthwhile process.

    The justification for adversarial behavior in the law is different. Lawyers and clients are dealing with only one case (not work or studies that can continue for many decades), and a major legitimate justification for adversarial behavior in the law is to give those fighting established authority a fighting chance. Without sanction being given to adversarial tactics, the “little guy” would be powerless before the courts in his one shot at (hopefully) justice because, without sanction for adversarial tactics, the powers that be can always find a rule or justification to squash an individuals attempt to obtain justice in his own particular case.

    On the other hand, science and economics are part of an ongoing process and adversarial tactics over time are inimical to the truth and solid academic or scientific work.


  29. You want curiosity, not truth.

    Nietzsche gets at the problem:

    “Supposing that Truth is a woman—what then? Is there not ground for suspecting that all philosophers, in so far as they have been dogmatists, have failed to understand women—that the terrible seriousness and clumsy importunity with which they have usually paid their addresses to Truth, have been unskilled and unseemly methods for winning a woman? Certainly she has never allowed herself to be won; and at present every kind of dogma stands with sad and discouraged mien—IF, indeed, it stands at all!”

    “Dogmatist” means model builder. But truth appears on her own. Curiosity is the way of courting it.

    What you get otherwise is organizations and bureaucracies supporting themselves, and no truth.

  30. Joshua,

    I had read that piece before. It provides some good details about the lead-up to the Colorado disaster and some exoneration of the EPA role in it.
    However, important questions remain about the EPA: Their lack of communication to downstream citizens and New Mexico officials; their general lack of information provided to the media and the 6 day delay in Secretary McCarthy even noticing it publicly; their core competency to take control of American waterways and the electrical grid; their accountability for this disaster and the inevitable future disasters; the communications between the Colorado EPA and the USEPA; their lack of a plan for an event like the King Mine; and, there are probably a few more more problems I haven’t mentioned. It will be interesting to see the EPA’s self-analysis and Congresses review of the event.


    P.S. There are several other pieces about the disaster that I would recommend you read, in order to get a well-rounded sense of it.

  31. Pingback: Mark Steyn’s new book on Michael Mann | Climate Etc.

  32. Pingback: El “palo de hockey” (alarmismo climático en esteroides) le hace llevarse un buen palo a su autor. |

  33. Climate “science” has long been transformed into climate industry. There is no “science” left in it.

  34. manicbeancounter

    With respect to climate science and economics, my favorite Richard Feynman quote is:-

    You cannot prove a vague theory wrong. If the guess that you make is poorly expressed and the method you have for computing the consequences is a little vague then ….. you see that the theory is good as it can’t be proved wrong. If the process of computing the consequences is indefinite, then with a little skill any experimental result can be made to look like an expected consequence.

    My view is that we should not reject either climatology or economics on the basis that the theories will inevitably be vague. Instead we should recognize that our knowledge of both will always be limited and seek to find the limits and boundaries of that knowledge.
    Adversarial approaches are legitimate if one respects that the other side may potentially have a legitimate point of view. Prof. Mann’s behavior in his pejorative language and attempting to silence critics by threat of lawsuits are, to use an English term, “simply not cricket“.

  35. Chris Colose (@CColose) – Actually you do not “get it”.Regarding

    “What they owe is science output”

    what I asked for IS

    science output.

  36. Pingback: “Given the extremely high policy relevance of climate science, this transition to Feynman integrity will require a better decision analytic model than the linear model that ‘speaks consensus to power’ – examples of such strategies are provided

  37. Pingback: The adversarial method versus Feynman integrity | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  38. Pingback: Mark Steyn’s new book on Michael Mann | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  39. Re: adversarial method 8/12/2015

    Several astute commenters here have poked at the meaning of science. To be clear, what both Judith Curry and Paul Romer are talking about is the science that decides the validity of its models according to these three standards:

    (1) Peer review

    (2) Publication in (certified) professional journals

    (3) Consensus support attributed to a (certified) community.

    (This brand of science has two other principles, but they are rare and pragmatically insignificant. Adding those two to the mix here would only confuse the already confused whom one would wish to de-confuse.)

    Even a casual examination of these three key criteria shows that each is subjective. That fact is the cause of factions developing in communities practicing that kind of science, including especially climatology and macroeconomics. Because the criteria are subjective, their communities are free to coalesce into schools of thought, e.g., the Chicago/Freshwater vs. Austrian vs. Keynesian. That freedom is freedom from facts, not from some facts, but from the ensemble of all facts; it is freedom from strictly objective boundaries. The dilemmas and frustrations faced by Romer and Curry are baked into the cake of their brand of science.

    The other brand of science competing for center stage is Modern Science, as it was first created by F. Bacon in 1620, perfected over the ensuing centuries, and practiced exclusively in industry today. In this version, science is the objective branch of knowledge. It is devoid of the subjective, at least in the context of its models. What Romer and Curry unwittingly practice is the deconstruction of Modern Science, occupying center stage in some departments of academia. It could be called Popperian after its creator, or better to illuminate the contrast, Post Modern Science.

    Modern Science models judges models only by their predictive power. It is the mapping on (existing) facts to (future) facts through postulated Cause & Effect relationships. It eschews the three criteria of its deconstruction. While facts underlie both versions, at the top level the two versions of science are orthogonal by definition. Neither is predictive of the other. Accordingly, each has its distinct Scientific Method.

    Romer’s problem is that the inevitable controversy subjectivity fosters has boiled over into economics. Problems like climategate and its whistle blowing on the conspiracy to control climate journals, and the elevation of the Hockey Stick conjecture to a leading position in climate models to erase the Medieval Warm Period weren’t sufficient to torpedo climatology. In climatology, raw political power, as in the United Nations, has managed to keep the lid on such controversies, at least among “policymakers”, its focus group, notably including Obama and the Pope. Curry’s problem is that the predictions of AGW have failed.

    The cause of the catastrophe in climatology then is twofold. (1) The only testable prediction of its AGW conjecture, that an Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity < 1.5ºC is "very unlikely", has failed, and failed with better than 95% confidence. And (2), the rise in global average surface temperature over the past century, attributed to man, came to a full stop almost two decades ago, even though man has accelerated his dumping of fossil fuel byproducts into the air. The public knows better. Its scientific literacy is no greater than that of the Post Modern Scientists, but regardless it has demonstrated an instinct for facts to appreciate that AGW is invalid. Recognition of this failure demonstrates that Modern Science will inevitably trump Post Modern Science.

  40. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #192 | Watts Up With That?

  41. I’m just catching up on threads I missed while on holidays.

    JC comment: I find Romer’s articulation of ‘adversarial science’ to be quite insightful and clearly describes what is going on in certain sectors of climate science. It seems that the motivations for adversarial science may be to support policy advocacy, prop up professional egos, and/or careerism.

    I agree. I find it insightful too

  42. Pingback: JC’s conscience | Climate Etc.

  43. Pingback: JC’s conscience | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  44. Could advocacy be a new form of “Cargo Cult”?

    • Re: Pooh, Dixie 9/13/2015 4:52 pm: “Could advocacy be a new form of ‘Cargo Cult’?”

      Pooh, you’ve got it!

      Tribal peer review is a headset of coconut halves. The tribal journal: the grass hut control tower. Tribal consensus is the jungle-cleared, oil can lit runways. The tribe met, all is ready, and that is a fine thing. But, as Feynman repeated the obvious, “No airplanes land.”

      In the tribe’s deconstruction of Modern Science, no elder rose to object, don’t we need to say somewhere that the airplanes actually fly? Somewhere or other, don’t we need to say that scientific models will predict something new and clever?

  45. Pingback: RICO! | Climate Etc.

  46. Pingback: On the difference between ‘science’ and ‘bandwagonism’ (or ‘science as a consensus of experts’): a reply by Judith Cury, Ph.D. in geophysical sciences (1982), to the suggestion that the ‘RICO Act’ should be

  47. Pingback: On the difference between ‘science’ and ‘bandwagonism’ (or ‘science as a consensus of experts’): a reply by Judith Cury, Ph.D. in geophysical sciences (1982), to the suggestion that the ‘RICO Act’ should be

  48. Pingback: On the difference between ‘science’ and ‘bandwagonism’ (or ‘science as a consensus of experts’): a reply by Judith Cury, Ph.D. in geophysical sciences (1982), to the suggestion that the ‘RICO Act’ should be