Climate scientists’ motivated reasoning

by Judith Curry

Insights into the motivated reasoning of climate scientists, including my own efforts to sort out my own biases and motivated reasoning following publication of the Webster et al. (2005) paper

A recent twitter thread by Moshe Hoffman (h/t Larry Kummer) reminded me of a very insightful paper by Lee Jussim, Joe Duarte and others entitled Interpretations and methods: Towards a more self-correcting social psychology

Apart from the rather innocuous title, the paper provides massively important insights into scientific research in general, with substantial implications for climate science.

The Jussim et al. paper is the motivation for this blog post that addresses the motivated reasoning of individual climate scientists. And also for my next post that will address the broader ‘masking’ biases in climate science.

<begin quote>

“Getting it right” is the sine qua non of science. Science can tolerate individual mistakes and flawed theories, but only if it has reliable mechanisms for efficient self-correction. Unfortunately, science is not always self-correcting. Indeed, a series of threats to the integrity of scientific research has recently come to the fore across the sciences, including questionable research practices, failures to replicate, publication biases, and political biases.

Motivated reasoning refers to biased information processing that is driven by goals unrelated to accurate belief formation. A specific type of motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, occurs when people seek out and evaluate information in ways that confirm their pre-existing views while downplaying, ignoring, or discrediting information of equal or greater quality that opposes their views. People intensely scrutinize counter-attitudinal evidence while easily accepting information supporting their views. People generate convincing arguments to justify their automatic evaluations, producing an illusion of objectivity.

Scientists are not immune to confirmation biases and motivated reasoning. Values influence each phase of the research process, including how people interpret research findings. Reviewers’ theoretical and ideological views can influence their evaluation of research reports, leading them to judge studies that oppose their beliefs more critically than studies supporting their views. Consequently, they are then less likely to recommend publication of studies with undesired findings or funding for studies based on undesirable theories or hypotheses.

There are powerful incentives to present a strong, compelling story when describing their research. Most of us are motivated to get the science right, but we are also motivated to get the studies published and our grants funded. We want our colleagues to find our research sufficiently interesting and important to support publishing it, and then to cite it, preferably a lot. We want jobs, promotions, and tenure. We want popular media to publicize our research and to disseminate our findings beyond the confines of our lab. We might even hope to tell a story so compelling we can produce a bestselling popular book and receive lucrative consulting and speaking engagements, or have our findings influence policy decisions.

In brief, powerful incentives exist that motivate us to achieve — or, at least, appear to achieve — a “Wow Effect”. A “Wow Effect” is some novel result that comes to be seen as having far- reaching theoretical, methodological, or practical implications. It is the type of work likely to be emulated, massively cited, and highly funded.

Compelling, persuasive narratives are amply rewarded by promotions, grants, named chairs, etc., but the relationship of “compellingness of narrative” to validity (effect size, replicability, generalizability, etc.) is currently unknown. This raises the possibility that for some unknown and possibly substantial portion of the time, we are rewarding research practices that produce Wow Effects that are false, distorted, or exaggerated. We next demonstrate how mundane explanations for the same data remain hidden in the depths of the theorizing, methodology, statistics, and conclusions of some major areas of psychological science.

A checklist for increasing confidence that our research is relatively free of motivated biases:

  1. What do I want to happen and why? An honest and explicit self- assessment is a good first step towards recognizing our own tendencies towards bias, and is, therefore, a first step to building in checks and balances in our research to reduce them.

JC comment: This one is the most subjective, but in many ways the most telling. Are careerist objectives paramount in publishing this paper (for yourself, or to support a student or postdoc’s career objectives)? Are you looking to support your preconceived scientific notions or ideology, or are you looking to advance the science? If your answer to any of the following questions indicate bias, then you should come back and think harder about #1.

  1. Am I shooting for a “Wow Effect!”? Am I painting a weak and inconsistent result as dramatic in order to tell a compelling story? Scientific ambition is not inherently problematic, and may be a powerful constructive force for scientific advancement. But we want our literature to have true, valid, Wow Effects, not ones that cannot be replicated or ones promoted as powerful and pervasive, which upon further reflection (or evidence-gathering) are, in fact, weak, fragile, and fleeting, or which can be easily called into question under critical scrutiny.

JC comment: A litmus test of this is whether you are planning the press release for your paper before it is even accepted for publication.
 Do you care more about whether your paper will stand the test of time, or are you more interested in short-term publicity and publication in a high impact journal that looks for ‘wow’ papers?  Part of this is exacerbated by the high impact journals such as Nature and Science, with press embargoes, that are clearly going for the ‘wow’ factor.  A big problem is that many of these papers (particularly in Nature Climate Change) do not survive the first week of their press release without massive flaws having been uncovered.

  1. Do I have a long track record of research that systematically validates a particular political or social narrative or agenda? This is not about one’s intentions but rather one’s results. If one’s results consistently validate a particular set of beliefs, values or ideology, one has failed this check, and suggests that attempts at falsification may be in order.

JC comment: Falsification is maybe not the right word here; rather ‘refutation’ should be attempted. This should be attempted as a regular practice.   A scientist should always ask “how might I be wrong?” at every step of their research.  When the conclusions of your research are always predictable to outsiders, then your research will appear biased.

  1. Am I receiving remuneration (e.g., speaking or consulting fees) for reaching a particular conclusion? Conflicts of interest, though they do not invalidate one’s conclusions, plausibly place one at greater risk of dubious research and interpretation practices more generally.

JC comment: Also consider biases that may be introduced from ideas you submitted in a federally funded grant proposal, that you are seeking to confirm. Did you submit ideas supporting the consensus on climate change, that you thought would give your proposal a better chance of funding?  See this previous post 

  1. Have I generated theoretical arguments for competing and alternative hypotheses and designed studies to incorporate and test them?* Honest tests of alternatives can go a long way to reducing personal bias.

JC recommendation: if you are unaware of competing and alternative hypotheses, check out the papers listed in my Week in Review posts , and also my posts on attribution  – the topic that is the source of most of the debate.

  1. Have I read some of the literature highlighting the invidious ways our motivated biases, morals, and politics can creep into our scientific scholarship? Doing so can alert one to ways in which our preferences might distort our science. After having done so, have I made a good faith attempt to eliminate such biases from my scholarship?

JC recommendation: check out my collection of blog posts related to this topic, discussing relevant papers in the literature [link]

  1. Have I sought feedback from colleagues with very different preferences and perspectives than mine or with track records of scholarship that often contest my preferred narratives?

JC comment: If you are active on twitter and block other publishing climate scientists, that is a hint that you deserve an ‘F’ on this one. I get that there are morons in the twitosphere, by all means mute or block them. But don’t wear your bias on your sleeve by blocking other climate scientists! Take note, Michael Mann and Katherine Hayhoe. For the latest drama in this regards, see this from Ross McKitrick. UNbelievable.

“It may not always be possible for researchers to meet all of these checks. However, as a starting heuristic, meeting six of the seven probably justifies confidence that the research has kept bias mostly in check. What to do if one cannot meet at least six (or, alternatively, one fails too many of one’s own such questions?). Although that, too, is a matter of judgment, one possibility will be to start over.”

<end quotes>

JC’s struggle with ‘motivated bias’ – Webster et al. (2005)

The saga of my own fight against motivated bias begins with publication of  Webster, Holland, Curry, Chang (2005): Changes in tropical cyclone number, duration and intensity in a warming environment.

Webster’s motivation for investigating this topic was that he was disturbed by Kevin Trenberth’s Science paper and public pronouncements about increasing intensity of hurricanes while he was a lead author of the IPCC AR4 (which was in the ‘discussion’ phase at the time), which Webster regarded as unsupported. He supported Chris Landsea’s decision to resign from the IPCC over Kevin Trenberth’s statement.

Webster was surprised when the result of his investigations actually supported Trenberth’s assertions.

Prior to publication of the Webster et al. (2005) paper on hurricanes, I was blissfully well outside of the scientific or public debate on climate change. As an established, tenured Professor, my main objectives in publishing papers were to produce seminal papers that would stand the test of time, and hopefully change the way scientists think about the topic I was publishing on. I was also motivated to help my students and postdocs get established in their scientific careers.

That all changed in September 2005, following publication of the Webster et al. paper, several weeks following the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. The story behind all that was recounted in an interview with Keith Kloor at the now defunct Collide-a-scape.

The relevant issue here is that I became enmeshed in a scientific and public debate that was rife with minefields that would contribute to motivated bias. The first front in the ‘war’ surrounding the Webster et al. paper was the hurricane researchers, notably Bill Gray and Chris Landsea. The attacks on us, particularly by Bill Gray, were ugly. Then we were attacked by the professional climate ‘skeptics’,from the think tanks. The ‘hurricane wars’ was a huge story in the media. (see also Chris Mooney’s book Storm World).

We were being attacked publicly; this was WAR on science. In our beleaguered state, we were ‘adopted’ by the enviro advocacy groups and the activist scientists (including RealClimate bloggers and Joe Romm). I became a ‘partisan’ on this topic; not so much the broader issue of AGW (but I decided at that time to generally accept the consensus), but on the specific issue of hurricanes and global warming.

Publication of the Webster et al. paper (also Emanuel, 2005) stimulated hundreds of publications on this topic. In the following year I was asked to review many many papers on this topic. My first reaction to receiving such a paper was to quickly figure out what ‘side’ of the debate the paper fell on. I was very hard on papers that were generally critical. I was also very hard on papers that supported our paper; after all, it wasn’t going to help ‘our side’ if weak papers got published.

I became a ‘partisan’ on this subject, and more broadly the issue of AGW. I was a soldier in the noble fight against the war on climate science.  I started paying attention to social media and blogs, and I became intrigued by RealClimate.

At the same time, I was most definitely paying attention to the criticisms from Gray, Landsea and others related to the quality of hurricane intensity data. I became increasingly intrigued by the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, and was puzzled by the mid-century warming ‘hiatus’.

The personal and professional shock of entering the public debate on climate change was deeply unwanted, surprising, and disturbing.   I could have stayed out of all this, but I was deeply disturbed by the ‘war on science.’ Why couldn’t scientific disagreement play out in the usual way (conferences, publications), with the media acknowledging uncertainty and disagreement? Well, the answer to that question was that urgent policy decisions were at stake, including rebuilding New Orleans. With regards to AGW, for the first time the public realized that even 1 degree warming could actually matter, if it caused more intense hurricanes. This was seized on by climate change activists, with an equal but opposite response by the libertarian/conservative advocacy groups.

I was concerned about bias being introduced into the science by this partisan ‘war.’ My reflections on all this were published in the  2006 paper by Curry, Webster and Holland Mixing politics and science in testing the hypothesis that greenhouse warming is causing a global increase in hurricane intensity that was submitted in November 2005.   Upon rereading this paper 13 years later, I still really like it. You can already see evidence of my readings from philosophy and social science in trying to grapple with what was going on.

Upon publication, our 2006 paper saw extensive discussion in the blogosphere. I used google to identify the blogs that were discussing this, and I stopped by each, leaving a comment stating my willingness to answer any comments. On one blog, I entered into a particularly interesting discussion, where people wanted to look at the data, asked questions about the statistical methodology, etc.   A few days later I realized I was at the nemesis blog of RealClimate (ClimateAudit). I continued to engage at CA (see the Collide-a-scape interview for further details.) During the period 2006-2010, the main blogs I participated in were ClimateAudit and Collide-a-scape.

Up until 2009, I was still considered as an ‘ally’ by the AGW advocate community. (Although there were early hints from the Climategate emails of Mann’s ‘displeasure’ re my comments in a NRC committee to review a doc on temperature trends.)

Of course, this all changed in Nov 2009 with the Climategate emails, you can read my perspective on this in the Collide-a-scape interview.  I was still fighting against the ‘war on science,’ but I was reconsidering who the ‘bad guys’ were. Over the next few years, the reception of the activist wing of climate science to my response to Climategate and Climate Etc. clarified all this, with serious implications for the integrity of climate science.

In August 2010, I started Climate Etc., the blog was seeded with material from my draft ‘uncertainty monster’ paper. Apart from scientific topics, my motivation was to grapple not only with any personal bias that I might have, but to understand bias in climate science caused by the politicization of the topic.  Almost 9 years later , I think some things have improved, but the climate scientist activists have further entrenched their biases, to the great detriment of  climate science and the climate policy debate.

So, how did I end up taking a different path and ending up in a different place than say Michael Mann, Katherine Hayhoe, or whoever?

First, as a female scientist of my generation, I wasn’t really entrained into the ‘power’ community surrounding climate science, although in the 2000’s I was named to some National Academy and other advisory committees. So my career path wasn’t invested in this kind of ‘power’ climb to influence climate science or public policy. I wasn’t editor of any journals, a lead author for the IPCC, etc. I was more interested in doing my own research. When I went to Georgia Tech in 2002, my main objective was in building a faculty and mentoring them and developing a good educational, professional and personal environment for students. So my career objectives were not really tied up in the ‘AGW enterprise.’

My generation of scientists (60+) have mostly identified as atmospheric scientists (meteorologists), oceanographers, geologists, geographers. By contrast, younger scientists (particularly those receiving Ph.D. since 2000) studying any topic related to climate pretty much have their careers defined by the AGW enterprise. As a percentage, I suspect that a far lower number of 60+ climate scientists are activists (and are more ‘skeptical’), relative to a large percentage of under 50’s (who don’t seem skeptical at all). Somebody outa do a survey.

Second, politically I’m an independent with libertarian leanings, and I have never been particularly aligned with environmental movement (while I highly value clean air and water and species diversity, the environmental movement seems motivated by other issues). I simply don’t have the soul of an ‘activist.’

Third, since my days as a graduate student I have had an abiding interest in philosophy and the social sciences, particularly as related to science.

Fourth, I care more about whether my publications will stand the test of time and contribute to deep understanding, than I care about the ‘wow’ factor, which I regard as transient and leading to nothing but trouble (e.g. Webster et al. 2005).

Fifth, at this stage of my life I can afford to buck the ‘system.’ 20 years ago, when I had a mortgage payment and college tuition to pay, there is no way I would have put myself out on such a controversial limb. There is only so much personal and professional integrity that you can afford, if your job might be at stake.

So that summarizes my personal journey, over the past 14 years, to fight against my own personal biases. Through Climate Etc. I provide resources that I hope others can use to think about, understand and challenge their own biases. Apparently trying to fight against bias in climate science gets you labeled as a ‘denier’, ‘anti-science,’ ‘serial climate disinformer.’ There seems to be no end to the perversions of ‘motivated’ climate science.

What’s next: If you are a true believer in AGW and the urgent need to act, you will think this is all irrelevant, e.g. settled science, 97% and all that. The bigger problem than motivated bias in individual scientists is when this bias gets institutionalized. The Jussim et al. paper also provides insights into this that are relevant to climate science, which will be the topic of my next post.



147 responses to “Climate scientists’ motivated reasoning

  1. Dr. Judith, thanks as always for clear thoughts on a most important subject. Your blog is a must-read for anyone seriously interested in climate science.

    Best to you and yours,


    • double sixsixman

      This article communicates well, from the heart.\

      Often articles “from the brain”, PhD-style, fail to do that.

      It certainly appears that science is “for sale”, and federal and state governments get the “science” they pay for, by paying salaries, and making grants.

      Not that the wild guess, computer game climate astrology, and always wrong climate predictions, made by government bureaucrats, who happen to have science degrees … is REAL SCIENCE.

      Richard Greene
      Bingham Farms,Michigan

  2. Thanks for discussing the link between the large questions of scientific truth and the discourse around the climate issue. Sorting out facts (knowledge) from opinions is the human predicament. The progress ov civilization owes much to the scientific enterprise, but now faces a threat to be replaced with scientism (belief in science, which is for most people, to believe scientists). That leads to the attendent problems of which ones and one which topics.
    A companion essay in this matter comes from Michela Massimi, Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She works in history and philosophy of science and was the recipient of the 2017 Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal by the Royal Society, London, UK. Her article recently published at Aeron is entitled Getting it right. Excerpts:

    “We should expect science to tell us the truth because, by realist lights, this is what science ought to do. Truth – understood as getting things right – is not the aim of science, because it is not what science (or, better, scientists) should aspire to (assuming one has realist leanings). Instead, it is what science ought to do by realist lights. Thus, to judge a scientific theory or model as true is to judge it as one that ‘commands our assent’. Truth, ultimately, is not an aspiration; a desirable (but maybe unachievable) goal; a figment in the mind of the working scientist; or, worse, an insupportable and dispensable burden in scientific research. Truth is a normative commitment inherent in scientific knowledge.”

    “Getting the evidence right, in the first instance – via accurate measurements, sound non-ad-hoc procedures, and robust inferential strategies – defines any research programme that is worth being called ‘scientific’. The realist commitment to get things right must begin with getting the evidence right. No perspective worthy of being called ‘scientific’ survives fudging the evidence, massaging or altering the data or discarding evidence.

    .”Scientists ought to share rules for cross-perspectival assessment. That our knowledge is situated and perspectival does not make scientific truths relativised to perspectives. Often enough, scientific perspectives themselves provide the rules for cross-perspectival assessment. Those rules can be as simple as translating the 10 degree Celsius temperature in Edinburgh today into the 50 degree equivalent on the Fahrenheit scale. Or they can be as complex as retrieving the viscosity of a fluid in statistical mechanics, where fluids are treated as statistical ensembles of a large number of discrete molecules.”
    My synopsis is

  3. That’s a powerful article! In a rational world, it would spark discussion among climate scientists. In our world, however, the smart money will bet on “not going to happen.”

  4. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Dr Judith, I do not understand why scientists deal with anthropogenic CO2, although the entire convection in the troposphere is driven by water vapor (and ozone in high latitudes)?
    Thank you.

    • That graphic is powerful. Convection busts through the greenhouse layer and carries the energy from evaporation in the oceans up to release of energy with the forming of water and ice in the high clouds, way above most of the CO2 in the atmosphere. Quit reading hundred year old theory about a greenhouse layer that traps energy and look at data that shows energy busting up through any layer. Climate theory is not based on actual data that is measured, day by day, it is based on junk ideas that are wrong and a century old. One major storm makes more difference than a year of one molecule per ten thousand holding back some IR to space.

      Thank you Ireneusz Palmowski, everyone, consider, convection is not properly considered in climate science. it is available in the GOES data, look at all of it. Evaporation and convection and precipitation in Polar regions and high mountains rebuild ice that is sequestered, only when oceans in Polar regions are warm and thawed. Data does prove this.

      Consensus makes it cold and then increases sequestered ice from evaporation and snowfall from cold frozen oceans, go figure.

  5. Jody Pellerin

    How much pressure is there on “climate scientists” to conform with the AGW camp? Is there any way at all that other viewpoints can be heard these days?

  6. A wonderful post. Reading this confirmed all of my biases in this area, which is a a backwards compliment I suppose.

    As usual Feynman said it all succinctly: The first principle is that you must not foo yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.

  7. This is a fantastic read. I forwarded it on Twitter to some of the gun violence prevention researchers I interact with, and not surprisingly, where there are similarities in scientific hypothesis testing vs confirmation bias.

  8. In my view, situation really boils down to:
    1. Follow the money.
    2. Lack of integrity.
    While this problem has always existed, I think this corrosive condition has assumed epidemic proportions in today’s society.
    By way of anecdotal observation, back in my undergraduate days, the basic rule was pretty simple: Do not lie, cheat or steal. Penalty was removal from the university. Now that simple ethical standard has been twisted, warped and convoluted into a “political correct” caricature.

    Doing what is right no longer matters. Rather, the preordained end justifies whatever the means, no matter how outright corrupt. Hard to see how this situation can be reversed, given outright and rampant “brain washing” so prevalent in today’s universities. My solution is to simply cut off federal grant funding to those institutions utterly lacking of integrity. Integrity being defined as obvious denial of individual freedoms guaranteed under the US Constitution. This would include tacitly allowing the mob to deny these basic freedoms.

    • Roger Knights

      @kellermfk: “My solution is to simply cut off federal grant funding to those institutions utterly lacking of integrity. Integrity being defined as obvious denial of individual freedoms guaranteed under the US Constitution. This would include tacitly allowing the mob to deny these basic freedoms.”

      Roger Scruton proposes getting rid of the current academic set-up entirely. See: “PC insanity may mean the end of American universities” by Roger Kimball at
      (A rather cluttered page.)

    • > My solution is to simply cut off federal grant funding to those institutions utterly lacking of integrity.

      This laughably assumes assumes the federal funding agencies disapprove. Quite the contrary, they are the origininary lack of integrity.

  9. Pingback: Climate “Scientists” | Transterrestrial Musings

  10. David L. Hagen (HagenDL)

    Judith Curry Our compliments on working to uphold the scientific method and integrity under strong political pressures. Thanks for your arguments on the scientific method that extend or complement those of Noble Laureate Richard Feynman in his 1974 Caltech commencement address Cargo Cult Science

    Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they’re missing. But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea Islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in Cargo Cult Science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school—we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. 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.
    In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another….
    We’ve learned from experience that the truth will out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in Cargo Cult Science….
    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.
    I would like to add something that’s not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you’re talking as a scientist. I’m not trying to tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like that, when you’re not trying to be a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We’ll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong, that you ought to do when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

  11. “Sensitive dependence and structural instability are humbling twin properties for chaotic dynamical systems, indicating limits about which kinds of questions are theoretically answerable. They echo other famous limitations on scientist’s expectations, namely the undecidability of some propositions within axiomatic mathematical systems (Gödel’s theorem) and the uncomputability of some algorithms due to excessive size of the calculation.” James McWilliams, 2007, Irreducible imprecision in atmospheric and oceanic simulations

    It seems more like drunks from either camp looking for truth under the lamp post they know and love. The rest of us are concerned that the real objectives of humanity are not lost sight of. It is simple in principle to take the initiative on the broad front of population, development, energy technology, multiple gases and aerosols across sectors, land use change, conservation and restoration of agricultural lands and ecosystems and building prosperous and resilient communities of free peoples. The Copenhagen Consensus smart development goals are a checklist. Emissions of greenhouse gases or loss of biodiversity are far from intractable problems — and economic growth is the foundation of any practical measures.

  12. Pingback: Climate scientists’ motivated reasoning — Climate Etc. – NZ Conservative Coalition

  13. Judith Curry, thank you for this essay.

  14. Norman Page

    Judith. In the GWPF Briefing 24 Executive Summary you say:
    “Climate models are useful tools for conducting scientific research to understand the climate system. However, the above points support the conclusion that current GCMs are not fit for the purpose of attributing the causes of 20th century warming or for predicting global or regional climate change on timescales of decades to centuries,with any high level of confidence. By extension, GCMs are not fit for the purpose of justifying political policies to fundamentally alter world social, economic and energy
    systems. It is this application of climate model results that fuels the vociferousness of the debate surrounding climate models.”
    You are entirely right that bottom up GCMs are not fit for forecasting purposes but this does not mean that reasonably plausible projections of future climate cannot be made from the emergent properties of the complex climate system.
    When analyzing complex systems with multiple interacting variables it is essential to note the advice of Enrico Fermi who reportedly said “never make something more accurate than absolutely necessary”. In 2017 I proposed the adoption of a simple heuristic approach to climate science which plausibly proposes that a Millennial Turning Point (MTP) and peak in solar activity was reached in 1991, that this turning point correlates with a temperature MTP in 2003/4, and that a general cooling trend will now follow until approximately 2650. See “The coming cooling: usefully accurate climate forecasting for policy makers.”
    and an earlier accessible blog version at
    See also the discussion with Professor William Happer at
    The establishment’s dangerous global warming meme, the associated IPCC series of reports, the entire UNFCCC circus, the recent hysterical IPCC SR1.5 proposals and Nordhaus’ recent Nobel prize are thus founded on two basic errors in scientific judgement. First – the sample size is too small. Most IPCC model studies retrofit from the present back for only 100 – 150 years when the currently most important climate controlling, largest amplitude, solar activity cycle is millennial. This means that all climate model temperature outcomes are too hot and likely fall outside of the real future world. (See Kahneman -. Thinking Fast and Slow p 118) Second – the models make the fundamental scientific error of forecasting straight ahead beyond the Millennial Turning Point (MTP) and peak in solar activity which was reached in 1991. All this is reasonably obvious using basic common sense and Occam’s razor.
    The establishment academic science community exhibit an almost total inability to recognize the most obvious Millennial and 60 year emergent patterns which are trivially obvious in solar activity and global temperature data. The delusionary world inhabited by the eco-left establishment activist elite is epitomized by Harvard’s Naomi Oreskes science-based fiction, ” The Collapse of Western-Civilization: A View from the Future” Oreskes and Conway imagine a world devastated by climate change. Intellectual hubris, confirmation bias, group think and a need to feel at once powerful and at the same time morally self-righteous caused the academic establishment to delude themselves, teenage students, politicians, governments, the politically correct chattering classes and almost the entire UK and US media that anthropogenic CO2 was the main and most dangerous climate driver. The certainty with which this proposition has been advanced led governments to introduce policies which have wasted trillions of dollars in a quixotic and inherently futile attempt to control earth’s temperature by reducing CO2 emissions.

  15. David Wojick

    The concept of objectivity that seems to underlie this analysis is illusory. Belief is not irrational. Disagreement is not irrational. The weight of evidence is relative to the observer. That is not irrational.

    • David Wojick

      Just to elaborate, this sounds like what I call the Lockean fallacy. The mistaken idea is that all reasonable people looking at the same evidence must come to the same conclusion. The very opposite is the truth. That is, reasonable people can look at the same evidence and come to opposite conclusions.

      How do we explain this? My view is that the weight of evidence is relative to the observer. It is still objective, but it is relative. Different people see things differently because they are different.

      I consider this one of my best discoveries, and I have been studying complex reasoning since 1973. Here is my little tract from 1975:

      • David Wojick: How do we explain this? My view is that the weight of evidence is relative to the observer. It is still objective, but it is relative. Different people see things differently because they are different.

        There is an interesting, to me at least, maturational/neurophysiological complication. Recall Planck’s complaint that new ideas only spread as the older scientists die off. New objective evidence (I prefer “sharable” over “objective”) has its strongest effect in young people whose brains are still maturing. Unfortunately, it applies as well to what might be called “hysterias” (or “memes”), ideas that spread through communication independent of any sharable evidence (or in defiance of sharable evidence, as with the more “urgent” versions of AGW warnings.)

    • “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.”
      ― David Hume

      The key is to reverse the passions in the face of erroneous reason.

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  17. Excellent!

  18. There is evidence of confirmation biases and motivated reasoning in the nutrition field. In “The Big Fat Surprise” Nina Teicholtz wrote in the introduction about how the anti-fat movement became so embedded that when one distinguished scientist suggested at a conference that maybe the consensus was not quite correct he was severely attacked. Adding, 

     “This kind of reaction met all experts who criticized the prevailing view on dietary fat, effectively silencing any opposition. Researchers who persisted in their challenges found themselves cut off from grants, unable to rise in their professional societies, without invitations to serve on expert panels, and at a loss to find scientific journals that would publish their papers. Their influence was extinguished and their viewpoints lost. As a result, for many years the public has been presented with the appearance of a uniform scientific consensus on the subject of fat, especially saturated fat, but this outward unanimity was only made possible because opposing views were pushed aside.”

    Does that sound like the history of climate science?

    • Many interesting parallels between climate and nutrition science

    • Yes Don, nutritional science has been very wrong about dietary fat for over 60 years. That these ideas lacked good support was actually pretty obvious, but the scientists succeeded in capturing the federal government and getting them to enshrine their falsehoods into government policy. I think that millions were harmed by this bad science and it may be behind the obesity epidemic too. When companies create “low fat” foods, they tend to substitute lots of carbs and sugars to improve the flavors.

  19. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky introduced the concept of behavioral economics and revolutionized modern economic theory.
    Best concrete example of motivated reasoning is the concept of inflation expectations.
    According to Kahneman, human behavior is naturally wired to discount long term threats and will generate endless alternate scenarios to downplay or ignore undesirable outcomes.
    From a recent interview, quote:
    KAHNEMAN: I if you were to design a problem that the mind is not equipped to deal with, climate change would fit the bill. It’s distance. It’s abstract.

    KAHNEMAN: I’m pessimistic in general. But I’m pessimistic in particular about the ability of democracies to deal with a threat like that[climate change] effectively. If there were a comet hurtling down toward us – you know, an event that would be predictable – within a day, we’d mobilize. So it’s not even that it’s distant in time. If it was going to affect our children, we’d mobilize. But this[climate change] is too abstract, possible, contested. It’s very different. We can’t – we’re not doing it, in fact.

    • We won’t do anything ever because CAGW will always be on the horizon, never in the near future.

      • We won’t do anything ever because DEBT(317% the size of global GDP) will always be on the horizon.
        In the end we will embrace geoengineering because it’s a cheap fix.

  20. Pingback: Climate scientists’ motivated reasoning | Watts Up With That?

  21. The evidence for AGW is overwhelming – the evidence against negligible. And in a world of abrupt and more or less extreme change – the foundational science of complex system dynamics multiplies uncertainties.

    That signals the need for less prognostication and more pragmatic responses.

    • The evidence for AGW is overwhelming – the evidence against negligible.

      That means nothing if we don’t have a clue of how much of the warming is anthropogenic and how much is natural. IPCC’s answer to that is not convincing, as models are running too hot. Models don’t know anything that we don’t know, and there’s a lot that we don’t know.

      • The odd thing is that models don’t run hot. There are 1000’s of feasible trajectories for solutions of any model. One of these might be right. There is – however – no objective way of determining whether the trajectory selected for inclusion in CMIP ensembles is the right one. Understand this and you might start to understand complex system dynamics.

        But with climate pragmatism it matters not at all how much warming was greenhouse gases – or how temperatures might change in a world sensitive to small changes.

      • The world is not warming as much as it should according to theory:

        The trajectory is clearly divergent and already at the lowest side of predictions. And it looks like the difference between reality and models is going to continue widening.

        And the world’s climate is not sensitive to small changes or we wouldn’t be here in the first place. The huge increase in CO2 has produced at most a very moderate warming still within interglacial variability, and a significant part of the warming might not be due to GHGs.

      • You fail to understand why opportunistic ensembles fail at the level of valid theoretical justification. But never mind. In future you will find that trajectories will be tuned to match observation.

        And climate is best described as a globally coupled, nonlinear, complex dynamical system. We had better hope that it is ergodic – with state spaces somewhere between hothouse and snowball Earth.

        But I wonder why you insist that making changes in a system with the large unknowns you claim is not a leap in the dark? Especially when economic growth and environmental conservation can go hand in hand with risk reduction – something consistent with principals of decision making under uncertainty.

      • David L. Hagen (HagenDL)

        Robert I. Ellison There is plenty of hard evidence that climate models overstate the Human HotSpot anthropogenic Tropical Tropospheric Temperature by ~300%. Study John Christy’s recent 2019 presentation

      • This is an opportunistic ensemble of a 100 or so solutions of models that do not have deterministic solutions. Is this point so difficult? It’s like comparing apples and sushi.

      • i think what Robert is saying is that it’s not necessarily so that the models are running too hot. It could be that the Earth is running too cool. (correct me if i’m wrong, RIE)…

      • Javier, thanks for the updated graph…

      • This is a single model with 1000’s of solutions starting from small differences in initial conditions. It runs both hot and cold even when trained to observations.

      • If your model says that for the same conditions for a century (1980-2080) the warming can be +1°C to +6°C, then your model is not very useful and should not be used as evidence of attribution nor as basis for policy decisions. Falsifiability is a requirement in science. What falsifies such model?

        why you insist that making changes in a system with the large unknowns you claim is not a leap in the dark?

        It was a leap in the dark to add all that CO2 to the atmosphere without knowing the effects. But after 70 years of doing that it is clear that we have been lucky and the climate has responded very little to it. The climate has continued warming showing very little response to the added CO2. The 1910-1945 warming with little extra CO2 is not very different to the 1975-2000 warming with lots of extra CO2, and since 2000 the warming is even slower.

        And it is clear that we could not have decided not to use fossil fuels. societies making use of them out compete societies that don’t. China’s growth in power and prosperity is matched by their grow in fossil fuel use. It’s like asking bacteria in a culture flask to grow more slowly so it will support them longer. That’s not how it works.

      • If you use the observed real-world forcings (solar, volcanic) and correctly mask the model results and observational data so that they both cover the same geographic area, the models are not running hot. Rather, they’re spot on.

        That’s an apples-to-apples comparison.

      • HadCRUT 4 is a global surface average temperature dataset.

        If it doesn’t represent the same as CMIP5, then explain why they completely agree over past data and start disagreeing in 2006 when the models started predicting. The prediction is clearly too hot. And I can predict that the situation won’t improve with time.

        They say CMIP6 is even more sensitive to CO2. It will be fun to add it to the graph then.

      • Robert I Ellison: We had better hope that it is ergodic – with state spaces somewhere between hothouse and snowball Earth.

        Ha ha ha ha ha! Favorable bounds yes, but there is no necessity that the system be ergodic.

      • You are all over the place as usual. I have never said anything but that models cannot produce anything but probabilistic – and quite useless – forecasts and that opportunistic ensembles have no valid theoretical justification. Initialized decadal forecasts requiring 1000’s of times more computing power might be possible.

        Or indeed that the state of upwelling in the eastern Pacific might be modulated by solar variability and influence radiative balances through cloud feedbacks.

        These multidecadal to millennial swings I have been thinking and reading about for 40 years. But it is also true that climate is a deterministically chaotic system with nonlinear responses in AMOC or in cloud, ice, hydrology, biology that may be triggered by these minor changes in the global atmosphere you speak of. Unknowable and uncertain changes.

        And pragmatic responses were covered by reference to the Copenhagen Consensus smart development objectives. I linked my own latest thoughts on this as well that was obviously not considered.

        Ergodic implies that states seen in the past will be revisited. It was an ironic reference to extremes of the past that were extreme enough. I suggested that we should hope that the system is ergodic rather than more extreme still.

      • Robert I Ellison: Ergodic implies that states seen in the past will be revisited.

        Yes it does, but it is not the only assumption that has that implication, and it is more specific. Ergoci means that the (limit of) the long-term relative frequency that the system is in a state is equal to the probability of that state. The assumption was used in the late 19th century before being explicitly written, in order to permit estimation of probabilities from relative frequencies. It hasn’t been shown to be characteristic of any actual process, though the error associated is usually assumed to be small.

        This is discussed in detail by Lawrence Sklar in Physics and Chance: Philosophical Issues In The Foundations Of Statistical Mechanics,
        a surprisingly thorough and rigorous history of late 19th century thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.

      • oops, “ergodic” for “Ergoci “

      • HadCRUT 4 is a global surface average temperature dataset.

        No, no, it’s not. GISS is a global dataset; HadCRUT explicitly leaves parts of the globe out. Read the methodology.

        Both are missing data from parts of the globe where we have few thermometers. GISS interpolates across these areas (increasing the uncertainty of the resulting temperature dataset accordingly), while HadCRUT just flat leaves these areas out. These includes areas of the globe that are expected to warm the most (e.g., the Arctic), and the thermometers that we do have up in the Arctic validate that it’s warming faster than average.

        So, yeah, masking the model results and observational results so they cover the same area is important.

        On top of that, during the “slowdown”, the real-world solar and volcanic forcings ran a little cooler than the model forcings did. Of course, there’s no way to predict that ahead of time; the models are typically run with “business as usual” natural forcings, which seems pretty reasonable to me.

        If the real-world forcings had run *hotter* than the model forcings, then the models would be *underpredicting* the warming. But that wouldn’t mean CO2 had a greater warming effect than we though — no, it would still be because the natural forcings ran hot.

        To sum up: no, the models really aren’t running cold. They’re right where we’d expect them to be, given the forcings and the observational data coverage.

      • I suggest you read what AR5-WG1 Chapter 2 section 2.4.3-Global Combined Land and Sea Surface Temperature says and shows in figure 2.19. The differences between land datasets for the last decades are very small. If they agree despite their different methodology, and coverage, then that is not the problem.

        This is also shown in this comparison:

        It is just an excuse to take a chunk of surface out of the models so they don’t look so bad. So the idea now is that a great deal of the warming is taking place where nobody is looking (measuring).

        And yes, we agree that reduced solar forcing is the main cause of the pause, as increased solar forcing was an important cause of the previous warming. You can’t have one without the other.

    • ——Robert I. Ellison | June 20, 2019 at 12:50 am |
      ——Yes – I gave up on blogs generally long ago.

      Could you do many people a favour and give up on this blog too?

    • > The evidence for AGW is overwhelming – the evidence against negligible.
      > … need for less prognostication and more pragmatic responses.

      Also negligible, is the ability to properly measure it. Hence our sorry state of being reduced to elaborate prognostication guesswork (models). Here then is my (not original) pragmatic response.

      Subsidies and other operational political privileges for the current rather hopelessly uneconomic renewable energy technologies (wind and solar), cost the public a great deal of money. But the amount of that finding its way into R&D into viable technologies as a result of this, is very much smaller. Most is just money straight down the drain.

      Would it not be better to scrap/phase out the subsidies etc, and put a portion of the savings directly into research, equal or greater than the amount currently going into R&D ? Together with added incentives for demonstrated progress.

  22. Joseph Ratliff

    Reblogged this on Quaerere Propter Vērum.

  23. Science is supposed to be about induction, reasoning from observation, experimentation, etc. to conclusions. Supporting data is expected to be available to all for verification. Debate is supposed to be about whether the methodology is applied correctly. If it is, then the conclusions are accepted. If not, conclusions are rejected.

    Leftists have tried to make science deductive, as in, conclusion oriented. Championed by Stalin’s pet scientist Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, while going through some motions of data collection, the actual decision turns on whether proposed conclusions are acceptable to a specific ideological outlook. If politically correct, conclusions are accepted and the data adjusted. If not, then conclusions are rejected and their proponents silenced — permanently.

    The former Soviet Union would send dissenting scientists to the Gulag. In the U.S., leftists have to settle for character assassination, media blackout and/or legal harassment.

  24. “The bigger problem than motivated bias in individual scientists is when this bias gets institutionalized.”

    Indeed. This can scale from group-think in some orgs, to a full-blown culture of a similar rank to a mainstream religion. All across this scale, the nub of the issue is that the biases become (subconsciously and strongly) coordinated across wide social groups, via a process that literally bypasses our reason. Plus, emotive belief in the cultural narratives propagated by such groups trigger a whole bunch of attendant instinctive behaviours, such as consensus policing and demonization of the out-group (e.g. ‘deniers’). This all occurs due to very long brain / culture co-evolution, which advantaged groups (so, an in-group / out-group recognition and reinforcement system). Modern enterprises like science and the law oppose cultural domination, but it’s a war in which at times these enterprises can themselves be partially or even wholly subverted. It is the aspect of bypassing our very reason, and hence all that we use to try and assess ourselves, which makes cultural bias very difficult to fight. A list of attendant behaviours, and examples in a CC context (including subverting of law and morphing the moral landscape) are here:

    Factors such as confirmation bias, wow factor, careerism and various other individual biases, while issues on their own, are massively amplified by the coordination system above, plus are mutually reinforcing (e.g. a strongly established cultural belief system will grant career rewards to those whose work systemically promotes the core cultural narratives). The bulk and still growing belief in climate catastrophism has for many years existed in the public and not within science (catastrophist scientists are a small minority). Yet its power to exert bias, and keep silenced the majority who do not speak out against those who say mainstream science underwrites a high certainty of imminent (decades) catastrophe (absent dramatic action), appears to be profound.

    • Another symptom is the inability to review assumptions – not seeing the log in thine own eye.

      • This would only be a symptom of cultural bias if the assumptions aligned to a powerful belief system such as a religion or strong political ideology. Or at the least an advanced group-think that can at times encompass many within organisations or fields of endeavour.

      • It was one of the original 8 ‘symptoms’ identified by Janis.

        But I was of course sardonically referring to skeptics.

      • Yes, I know. But skeptics per se are not part of a strong cultural belief system / strong group-think. The most recognisable single feature of such is a policed consensus, and they don’t have one (which for completely different reasons both sides have on occasion bewailed). They are all over the map. Entirely separately, there can be those with group-think / belief formed from a *different* system, which happens to support the skeptic side. So such symptoms can come from this. An example is that in the US Dem / Libs allied with climate culture, pulling Rep / Cons in on the skeptic side. So cultural bias symptoms appear based on ‘Rep / Con’ culture and not ‘skeptic’ culture. But this doesn’t happen in some other countries. Another mechanism is ‘cultural resistance’, aka innate skepticism, which has nothing to do with reasoned skepticism and is a cultural ‘disbelief’ system if you will. So it’s a more complex picture, but one in which there is not universal symptoms of this kind for skeptics merely because they are skeptics. But for sure, can occur.

      • No – I don’t buy that there is an objective difference between the antithetical meme sets of skeptics and alarmists. The fundamental psychological dynamic is self identification with a collective.

      • ‘Skeptics’ are often criticized by the establishment (e.g. Gavin) for not having a consistent argument, with lots of different points and not even agreeing with each other. Making this complaint reflects a lack of understanding of skepticism. Being all over the map is a feature (virtue), not a bug

      • Andy –

        You forget that there’s a ton of evidence that both sides are almost universally aligned by a strong ideogical signal.

      • It is true that skeptics have their own party line as do the alarmists. (it’s the reason i no longer go to the wuwt comment page)…

      • Yes – I gave up on blogs generally long ago.

      • The far left and the far right have more in common than they will ever admit to…

      • Roger Knights

        “I don’t buy that there is an objective difference between the antithetical meme sets of skeptics and alarmists. The fundamental psychological dynamic is self identification with a collective.”

        But don’t libertarians (who are often climate change contrarians) disagree amongst themselves more than other political groups? They don’t seem to identify as much with a collective party line. E.g., Radian “objectivists” fiercely disdain libertarians, although both factions are free-marketers. They’re more often true individualists, not the common leftist “herd of independent minds.”

        However, there is too much would-be mind-guarding on WUWT. It should be freer and easier.

      • The far left and the far right have more in common than they will ever admit to…

        They both have a very human tendency towards identity protective beheld such as confirmation bias.

        And so do moderates and independents. If there is a moderating factor with respect to quality of identify, it is strength of identification, not the flavor.

      • But don’t libertarians (who are often climate change contrarians) disagree amongst themselves more than other political groups?

        Evidence (other than anecdotal observation)?

        Libertarians identify with their ideology. For example, many librarians are heavily identified with an anti – government ideology. They will filter evidence so as to confirm their views against government.

        The mechanisms of motivated reasoning are deeply engrsined in human behaviors. They aren’t distributed in proportion with ideogical orientation. Of course, motivated reasoning theory would suggest that humans would see motivated reasoning more easily in people who have a different set of ideological views then their own.

      • Robert,
        “The fundamental psychological dynamic is self identification with a collective.”

        Indeed. So per above one can point to this for say the general population in the US, who are polarized on CC in a manner where each side identifies with Rep / Con or Dem / Lib, and have the cultural rhetoric to match, while neither side has significant knowledge of the domain. As Kahan puts this, it’s about ‘who they are’, not ‘what they know’, where the self-identification is mainly political ideology. By contrast in the UK, all the main parties support CC policies and in Germany the main advocate for CC policy over the years is right of centre, not left (Merkel has been known as the ‘climate chancellor’). So more generically for skeptics of climate catastrophe, if there is a policed consensus, one should easily be able to point to the consensus narrative, and likewise the widespread policing activities that maintain it, in the same manner as one can do for the other side. (This does not preclude a wide range of theories ranging from the plausible to the absolutely bonkers, likewise a wide range of rhetoric, in fact lack of consensus and associated policing of course means a much wider range). To share a viewpoint (e.g. atheism) doesn’t necessarily mean membership of a cultural collective. Memes of ‘socialist hoax’, for instance, stem from conservative culture, not from some ‘skeptic culture’. If you can point to their consensus narrative and also its widespread policing globally, you are home and dry. Note, the lack of such a cultural consensus says nothing whatsoever about the truth of arguments, but the presence of one does, because all strong cultural narratives are wrong.

      • J:
        I completely agree with your statement…

        “The mechanisms of motivated reasoning are deeply engrsined in human behaviors. They aren’t distributed in proportion with ideogical orientation.”

        …and everything I have written here aligns completely with this. But as we have discussed before, symmetrical rules frequently do not produce symmetrical outcomes. In the US, the entanglement of the climate domain with Rep / Con versus Lib / Dem culture, is the same as the entanglement of creationism domain with the same cultural conflict, but with the parties reversed. Neither is symmetrical. If you don’t like that for one domain, you have to say why it’s wrong for the other too. Nor, as culture is emergent, do the same entanglements apply to all countries, per above these are locally ad hoc depending on conditions. So there is not universality of outcome, only universality of the underlying mechanisms.

      • Judith:
        ‘Being all over the map is a feature (virtue), not a bug’

        Absolutely. This does not reflect a cultural consensus.

      • Andy West: So there is not universality of outcome, only universality of the underlying mechanisms.

        Good post. It is important, imo, to emphasize that there is more than one mechanism. And although the mechanisms are universal, their strengths (like mathematical talent and musical talent) are not uniformly distributed in any population.

      • The subject of libertarians came up. I am one, though I don’t go to church. I can’t get kicked out of their church because I am not in it. We don’t have much of a party in any case. So we have no party power. But then we don’t care what they or anyone else thinks. It’s a good trade. The fact that we attack each other is a good thing. We can compare this to a party accepting anything that comes down the pike no matter how nuts it is because their afraid of getting kicked out of the party. We can say, you’re wrong without fear. We may not be self critical, but we know others will fulfill that role. Being a libertarian is to defend yourself all the time. To be called names. To be looked down upon and have jokes made about you. None of this is meant to be a complaint. I am fortunate I figured out what it is I am supposed to be and do.

      • CO2 is good, wind and solar evil, nuclear power thwarted by irrational green fears, CAGW an international conspiracy to create a world government and overthrow capitalism and democracy, the global warming religion…

        Truth is far less dramatic. Two relatively small extremes finessing the same climate talking points endlessly. Sea level rise, tropospheric hotspot, models, hockey sticks, hurricanes and extremes …

        It is all mightily irrelevant. The rest of us just want pragmatic responses that bring economic growth, social progress and environmental conservation.

      • People are risk adverse. Which is why a winning side has pragmatic policies.

      • Roger Knights

        Joshua wrote, in response to me, “Libertarians identify with their ideology.” But my contention was different: I disagreed with Ellison’s contention, “The fundamental psychological dynamic is self identification with a collective.” I implied that Libertarians are much less group-oriented or “other-directed.” They are much less likely to be “joiners.” They are less involved in party politics and the Libertarian Party. They tend less to herd together.

      • Roger Knights

        PS: Oops—I forgot to turn off the italics after “collective.”

      • Robert,
        “It is all mightily irrelevant.”

        If only. Unfortunately, this is not so. It is the socially conflicted nature of the domain, and the cultural influences exerted upon it, which keep the debate trapped in the manner that you describe, and with public perceptions far adrift from reality, as you also note (plus often with very strong emotive convictions associated with those perceptions). Knowing the pedigree of memes within such conflicted domains, whether relatively free-standing (which doesn’t in any way indicate correctness) or largely / wholly sponsored by a culture and which one, of what age, etc (and higher level specifics such as cultural alliances), doesn’t tell you anything about the physical world (in this case the climate). But it does help to show how the conflict has developed and why it cannot move forward with the application of reason, plus provides a partial map of systemic bias sources (with the associated policing etc).

      • This is a puzzle I have thought and read bout for 30 years. It accidentally intersected climate.

        The alternative in this ‘debate’ is both sides telling each other and themselves stories superficially in the objective idiom of science. With an impossible certainty given Earth geophysics – to traduce the spirit if science.

        Science in Earth system complexity – in which catastrophe cannot be completely discounted btw – is less about hypothesis testing and more an uncertain but productive “process of discovery. The latter requires an investigative approach, where the goal is uberty, a kind of fruitfulness of inquiry, in which the abductive mode of inference adds to the much more commonly acknowledged modes of deduction and induction.”

        The ‘debate’ between factions – a perennial reiteration of talking points – focuses on these stories of science. They are mightily irrelevant to broader concerns of people more generally. Including that people are risk adverse and simply want climate pragmatism.

      • Andy –

        I think its absurd to argue that “skeptics” as a group are somehow less prone to the fame reasoning biases as any other particular ideologically-aligned group (I’m not limiting that reference to political ideologically), particularly for those “skeptics” who are particularly identified with their position on climate change.

        Of course, there is a political signal in views of “skeptics” about climate change in countries other than the U.S., even if it is stronger in the U.S., but that is only one component of the biasing mechanism. Another functions at a personal level, IMO. It isn’t only about how one signals group membership – but how one attaches to one’s view of oneself also.

        People get emotionally attached to a particular issue, and then their reasoning aligns so as to reinforce that emotional attachment. In countries where the issue has a particularly strong political salience, the effects are likely to be magnified.

        All you need to do is look around at the comments sections of “skeptic” blogs if you need an example. It is probably representative of a sub-section of “skeptics” as a whole – those who are particularly emotionally attached to their position. In those comments sections, you will see abundant examples of the identity-aggressive and identity-defensive (identity protective behaviors) that are commonly associated with the biases of motivated reasoning.

        I have to say, it is quite remarkable to see people effectively ignore that evidence to see some kind of behavioral divide that distinguishes the reasoning of “skeptics,” but that is exactly what the theory of motivated reasoning would predict: groups involved will see the impact of motivated reasoning in “others” and believe that it is less characteristic of their own group.

      • Roger –

        I implied that Libertarians are much less group-oriented or “other-directed.” They are much less likely to be “joiners.” They are less involved in party politics and the Libertarian Party. They tend less to herd together.

        Fair enough. Perhaps it is so (I’m not really convinced, but open to the possibility. Here is some evidence:

        Self-described libertarians tend to be modestly more supportive of some libertarian positions, but few of them hold consistent libertarian opinions on the role of government, foreign policy and social issues.

        But even if so, the question would be whether a less strong identification with a particular political label would translate into less of a proclivity towards motivated reasoning in support of their particular belief-matrix. I think not.

      • J:
        No humans, whoever they are, are less prone inherently (i.e. due to their biology) to bias than any other. What matters is how their groupings are arranged, i.e. what constitutes the group boundaries within which emotive conviction is enough to trigger strong group cultural behaviours (or less strong ones via cultural alliance). The point about the political signals in different countries, is that these are due to the localised cultural alliances, which allows one to see by compare and contrast what those alliances are, plus they can reflect too (value dependent[!]) cultural resistance.

        All the climate blogs represent a vanishing and non-representational proportion of the population. But they are (as is science) influenced by public attitudes. And as we’ve discussed before, the fact that the debate (in or out of blogs) is drenched in rhetoric, does not tell you the cultural origins of the (main lines of) rhetoric. See the above on climate domain and creationism domain, where the scenarios are the same with the parties reversed. This tells you where the cultural origins are. It is exactly the social evidence that provides this. But over the years you’ve always declined to read this post and various others.

        The umbrella narrative for culture on the orthodox side is ‘a high certainty of imminent (decades) global climate catastrophe’, supporting a raft of sub-narratives such as the current ‘climate emergency’. As discussed in the 2018 Climate Etc companion posts ‘the catastrophe narrative’ and ‘CAGW: a snarl word’, this narrative is not supported by IPCC AR5 tech chapters (so, the mainstream science), i.e. even ignoring anything and everything sceptical. The narrative is presented from a raft of authorities world-wide, featuring some of the highest in the world downwards, and in the most emotive terms; see footnotes to those companion posts, with ~180 example catastrophe narrative quotes, categorised. While this influential authority push and public adherence only claims a v small minority footprint within climate science (at least that is explicit, which is why the main output doesn’t support it), the former pressures both science and domain blog exchanges. All the usual cultural behaviours are triggered (see the post ‘climate culture’), including policing of the narrative. Motivated reasoning is observable all over the domain and from every angle, and as you know from cultural cognition, the rhetoric within the US from Rep / Con and Dem / Lib identities via alignment, is very strong. For details on this alignment, see above reference, which happens too in the US for creationism, with the parties reversed. In the former case, the ‘pull-in’ alliance is climate culture with Dem / Lib, in the latter it is religion with Rep / Con. Across all the different scenarios in each country, they are all explainable in terms of climate culture amid local conditions, including for instance the UK where all the main parties support CC policies (and for instance the *conservative* government just declared UK to go for zero net emissions by 2050, a world first I think), but there is a similar level of (less politically aligned) skepticism as in the US.

        You always seem to miss the main point, which is not that there isn’t motivated reasoning all over the place, but which of it is sponsored by what culture, which in turn points to cultural narratives that must be wrong (all strong cultural narratives are wrong). And unless you’re going to tell me that you’ve converted to catastrophism and now disagree with mainstream science – the mainstream science does indeed confirm what the social characteristics indicate, i.e. that the narrative of catastrophism is cultural, so it is wrong. Regarding science (and blogs), albeit v small and insider, per above these are pressured by multiple cultures. Yet in the skeptic case, as Judith notes above, their technical contributions are all over the map. This tells one that notwithstanding cultural pressures, these are different too, plus highly likely not *directly* stemming from the domain core topic (as catastrophism does). If there was a universal ‘culture of scepticism’ that acts across the globe, as the emotive culture of climate catastrophism does, then you could easily point to its umbrella narrative *and* to its policing. And you’d observe consequent pressure, universally, towards a single PoV. Plus then you could also back-work its alliances for strengths. So if you can point to this and its policing, then do so.

        None of this invests any level of truth or otherwise whatsoever in any of the wide range of skeptical inputs, with or without whatever rhetoric; we know only from this that climate catastrophism is cultural and flat wrong, and is a systemic source of uni-directional bias.

      • Robert,

        Well I think we agree about the stories, aka memes and narratives. But unfortunately they aren’t only told and argued in tiny forums. Significant swathes of the population are emotively committed to (various) stories within the domain. Influence may be out-sized, in the sense that many people go with the flow around them so as not to risk censure. And for instance climate concerns always poll way lower when these are linked to financial commitment and / or in lists of other concerns, which does indeed lend weight to an underlying pragmatism. Nevertheless, these stories are seriously entangled with the concerns of many ordinary people. This fuels the conflict and bias that hobbles science, not only with say ‘masking’ per Judith’s latest, but likely resistance to alternate approaches such as your one above. Productive chap, that Mr Peirce.

      • Roger Knights

        Re climate contrarians critiques being aall over the map, see item 10 my 2012 WUWT guest thread, “Notes From Skull Island – why climate skeptics aren’t ‘well funded and well organized’” It reads:

        “10. Not only would there be more stylistic similarity [if climate skeptics were organized and well-funded], but the content would be less idiosyncratic as well. There’d be evidence of a “script” or list of talking points that skeptic commenters were following, instead of the typical home-brew assemblage of arguments.”

      • They have scripts learned in online echo chambers – including this one.

        ‘There are a number of plausible theories is what scientists say when they don’t have a clue.’ Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

        As far as crude and eccentric skeptic theories are concerned – it matters not at all what the story is as long as it serves to confute global warming.

      • The basic skepticism is over the claim of CAGW being “settled”. Not that there is some better rival theory.

        Allied to this is skepticism that the professional as whole operates with integrity. In turn tied to its source of funding.

      • Roger Knights

        “They [skeptics] have scripts learned in online echo chambers – including this one.”

        It’s true that skeptic commenters have picked up talking points from their favorite sites, many of which would not stand him to the best warmist critiques, or would have to be toned down in light of them. (One instance is the skeptic critique of Hansen’s prediction that the West Side Highway would be underwater in 30 years. I did some original research on this, including looking at Hansen’s two earlier congressional testimonies) which I still haven’t posted (I want to send it to warmist Tom Curtis’s blog, but I keep procrastinating), in which it turned out the Hansen was really talking about 40 years, and that his prediction wasn’t based on Antarctica melting, but rather on huge amounts of glacial ice there splitting off and sliding into the sea. Another knee-jerk skeptic position is opposition to any form of geoengineering, even ones that could easily be terminated with no harm done.) The decks would be cleared of much fluff if warmists were more willing to debate. But their disinclination to do so led to the decline and fall of the Dutch “Climate Dialogue” site.

        Back on topic. In this regard average skeptics are not really all that independent. But they are relatively independent, compared to their warmist counterparts, few of whom seem to be aware of anything but a caricatured version of skeptics’ analysis—or of skeptics rebuttals to their own counterpoints. One informal indication of this is that there seem to be more defections from the warmist side to the skeptics side than vice versa. Skeptics who visit warmist blogs or try to engage are normally repulsed—it isn’t as though they are afraid to look at what the opposition has to say, and only want to parrot their own side. This openness seems less common among warmist believers. That’s all I was arguing—that skeptics aren’t as responsive to social pressure to conform to a script as warmists. (A good indication of this is warmists’ reluctance to consider nuclear power as an option.)

        “As far as crude and eccentric skeptic theories are concerned – …”

        Not all skeptic theories are crude—some are or seem sophisticated. (But they can also be dismissed out of hand as fantastical, I suppose.) And the heterodox is almost automatically, in a conventional context, eccentric. Eccentricity is a characteristic of independence and often of insight, as Bertrand Russel, I think, said.

        “… it matters not at all what the story is as long as it serves to confute global warming.”

        It does matter, because because it muddles / diffuses the Message and makes it less pointed—and harder to stand out from the noise in the media. If some bogeyman were exerting a big behind-the-scenes influence (e.g., by funding and influencing the moderation of skeptic blogs), it would attempt to hone and simplify its script, and cut out distracting diversions, for better impact. This is basic PR. (Of course I recognize that you aren’t suggesting that there’s a skeptic bogeyman.)

  25. Oh my gosh yes! Where are the sociologists of science (and their funders)?

    “As a percentage, I suspect that a far lower number of 60+ climate scientists are activists (and are more ‘skeptical’), relative to a large percentage of under 50’s (who don’t seem skeptical at all). Somebody outa do a survey.”

    And I’d add for those old skeptics “what about our experiences in science” make us older folks more skeptical? Is it our discipline or the methods in our discipline? Or is someone free to indulge her/his skepticism only when they are retired? So many possibilities!

    • afonzarelli

      Or maybe it’s the old saying oft attributed to Churchill, “If you aren’t a liberal at age twenty, then you have no heart. And if you aren’t a conservative by age forty, then you have no head.

  26. I have occasional breakfasts or dinners with old friends and we talk about current topics but I know that I can’t cross certain barriers with them. Their belief systems are fixed possibly because they read little philosophy or economics or climate science. And forget talking about politics. They are experts on these topics based on their possession of very little empirical knowledge but powerful confirmation biases. Yet they remain close friends. So what to do except embarrass them with knowledge they don’t have. They read detective books. I read philosophy, economics, and climate science.
    I really don’t believe this flaw in human reasoning is peculiar to either political party. We are what we believe, evidence or not.

  27. madrocketsci2

    Unrelated to your blog: A friendly hello from a former Georgia Tech grad student.

    I was an aerospace grad student, so on the other side of campus who finished about 2 years before you retired. I did have a class over in the EAS building though: Do you happen to know a Dr. Sven Simon (space plasma physics) by any chance? If not, no big deal – it’s a big school.

  28. Marty Anderson

    This is great post and discussion.

    I’m a practitioner, who has also managed applied research programs at places like MIT.

    I helped build some of the environmental regulations, like CAFE and mobile emissions

    I have also worked on global scale bankruptcies, and spent years learning some of the most successful management processes – that are based on the only long term reality – that forecasts are always partly right and mostly wrong. See The “Toyota Way”.

    So, I have considerable experience with the real-world outcomes of “scientific consensus” and political power.

    A mentor once suggested I read this article:

    “The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research”

    I consider this the most important article I have ever read, with respect to the challenges of the unknown future that all of us face.

    • I remember reading this article, I also liked it very much. I should have done a blog post on this.

      • Judith Curry:

        From the article: “The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.”

        Stupid (lack of intelligence or common sense) appears to be either incorrect or misleading. The more appropriate word would be: uncertainty, a word with which you are familiar.

        Dealing with uncertainty, living a life with uncertainty requires a temperament (a person’s nature which permanently affects one’s behavior), a temperament to tolerate uncertainty many people don’t seem to have or have not nurtured.

        A scientist who struggles with uncertainty can end up doing/saying some very bizarre things.

    • The book:
      “Ignorance: How It Drives Science” by: Stuart Firestein (2012)
      Is also a great read.
      An example:
      “… is there any reason, really, to think that our modern science may not suffer from similar blunders? In fact, the more successful the fact, the more worrisome it may be. Really successful facts have a tendency to become impregnable to revision.”

      • You might also like “The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience” by Lee McIntyre
        “Lee McIntyre argues that what distinguishes science from its rivals is what he calls “the scientific attitude”–caring about evidence and being willing to change theories on the basis of new evidence. The history of science is littered with theories that were scientific but turned out to be wrong; the scientific attitude reveals why even a failed theory can help us to understand what is special about science.”

        I’m about 1/2 way through my copy. Lot’s of references to the philosophy of science by Feynman, Popper etc..

  29. Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  30. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Why do scientists assume that the magnetic activity of the Sun will be at a constant high level?
    Does the rotational speed of the Sun affect the magnetic activity of the Sun?
    How does the rotational speed of the Sun change depending on the location of the center of gravity of the Solar System?
    While the Earth and Moon are generally similar in composition, a notable difference between the two is the apparent depletion in moderately volatile elements in lunar samples. This is often attributed to the formation process of the Moon, and it demonstrates the importance of these elements as evolutionary tracers. Here we show that paleo space weather may have driven the loss of a significant portion of moderate volatiles, such as sodium and potassium, from the surface of the Moon. The remaining sodium and potassium in the regolith is dependent on the primordial rotation state of the Sun. Notably, given the joint constraints shown in the observed degree of depletion of sodium and potassium in lunar samples and the evolution of activity of solar analogs over time, the Sun is highly likely to have been a slow rotator. Because the young Sun’s activity was important in affecting the evolution of planetary surfaces, atmospheres, and habitability in the early Solar System, this is an important constraint on the solar activity environment at that time. Finally, as solar activity was strongest in the first billion years of the Solar System, when the Moon was most heavily bombarded by impactors, evolution of the Sun’s activity may also be recorded in lunar crust and would be an important well-preserved and relatively accessible record of past Solar System processes.
    Mg II index data
    The Mg II data are derived from GOME (1995-2011), SCIAMACHY (2002-2012), GOME-2A (2007-present), and GOME-2B (2012-present). All three data sets as well as the Bremen Mg II composite data are available (see links below). In late years the GOME solar irradiance has degraded to about 20% of its value near 280 nm in 1995, so that the GOME data have become noisier. The most recent information on our Mg II data can be found in Snow et al. (2014).

  31. verytallguy

    Judith, perhaps the starkest example I’ve ever seen of motivated reasoning from a scientist are your attempts in the comments to defend this risible post on the (lack of) anthropogenic sources for atmospheric CO2.

    It really is quite remarkable – any straw, no matter how weak, is grasped at.

    • Out of the blue, words by my dearly departed mother come flooding back, “How many times do I have to tell you this?”

      Occasionally, the motivated reasoning is in the not wanting to listen.

    • “I am making no personal judgment on Fred’s analysis; I find Greg Goodman’s comments and ensuing discussion with Fred on the original blog post to be interesting.”

      What terrible bias!


    • And your comment VTG is classic consensus enforcement, which is your only contribution to the climate debate. You comb the voluminous public statements of the victim and find something that is wrong or questionable and then highlight that. It’s called in politics smearing someone. It’s classic selection bias and the worst kind of anonymous trolling.

    • The post you link to is authored by Fred Haynie, not by myself. That is a topic that I don’t personally have much expertise on, and I welcome guest posts to help me learn from the discussion. What better way to fight against bias then to put forward a controversial perspective for discussion?

      • verytallguy

        Judith, I referred to the comments, not the article. That you promote such a risible article in itself is remarkable, of course.

        In the comments you attempt to pretend the IPPC do not ascribe the rise entirely to anthropogenic sources by trying to quibble over the word “dominant”(!), despite it being crystal clear in the report that they do so.

        You entirely incorrectly interpret an article by Corrine le Quere as supporting your case.

        This is textbook motivated reasoning.

        As to “not much expertise” on the anthropogenic origins of atmospheric Co2 ? If you did want to further your expertise, promoting cranks rather than listening to experts in the field seems a very, very odd way indeed to go about it.

      • Well, I am motivated to give a full range of arguments a hearing, and a forum for people to discuss these. Yes I can recite the IPCC’s conclusions, but I’ve learned the hard way that they are associated with masking bias (see follow on post)

      • “motivated to give a full range of arguments a hearing”?

        Sure. Why stop with Fred – get Gwyneth Paltrow in.

        It’s perfectly possible to get real expertise without “reciting” anything.

    • VeryTallGuy: Judith, perhaps the starkest example I’ve ever seen of motivated reasoning from a scientist are your attempts in the comments to defend this risible post on the (lack of) anthropogenic sources for atmospheric CO2.

      I thought that the conclusions were wrong, but the arguments and evidence were worth engaging. Defending the author and his essay was not the same thing as endorsing his “reasoning” or conclusions.

      • “….but the arguments and evidence were worth engaging.”


        Sometimes being wrong and making mistakes are the best education.

    • perhaps the starkest example I’ve ever seen of motivated reasoning from a scientist

      Guilt by association fallacy
      “A guilt by association fallacy occurs when someone connects an opponent to a demonized group of people or to a bad person in order to discredit his or her argument. The idea is that the person is “guilty” by simply being similar to this “bad” group and, therefore, should not be listened to about anything.”

      Fallacies are the resort of manipulative people with a weak case and no love for truth.

  32. Roger Knights

    Blaise Pascal — ‘Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.’

  33. One of the psychological dynamics involved with motivated reasoning not covered above is the importance of the scientific issue. If failure in the experiment is just another day at the office then you try again. However, if the scientists perceive with absolute certainty the sustainability of our species is at stake , then the possibility of being wrong takes on an entirely different dimension.
    Many, apparently including some activist scientists, have convinced themselves that getting the science and policy implications wrong threaten civilization itself.
    With that kind of burden on their shoulders, how can they take their work and admission of their errors lightly. They can’t.
    The importance of the mission to save the world just won’t let them.

  34. Seems to me that, “motivated bias in individual scientists is when this bias gets institutionalized,” could also be considered the definition of delusion (also known as, mass delusion– an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder. For example, we now know that Mann’s ‘hockey stick’ is a fraud. Additionally, it is delusional to believe that all global warming is caused by a single compound made up of the elements carbon and oxygen, known by its chemical formula, CO2, which is thought to exhibit mystical properties not observed in nature. The magic properties of CO2 are achieved by applying magical magnification formulae such that an arguably scant contributor is then seen to be the source of AGW which in turn is thought to be the source of great peril to humanity and all life on the planet, despite lack of evidence.

  35. Nothing in natural science can explain why we would succumb to this mass hysteria (see above) if the peril of AGW is not actually there. We can, however, look beyond the natural sciences for an explanation if we think that the peril is not really there–e.g., Hot World Syndrome. Contrary to that, of course, will be the belief of the inventor of a peril that the rest of us simply do not recognize the peril and that will always be the case. There’s the ‘motivated bias’ that we see in the AGW debate and is the reason from the get-go why we have the scientific method– it’s to help us deliver us from bias and differentiate between reality and religion.

  36. So, we cut through the scientific bias when we recognize that the null hypothesis of AGW– that everything we observe can be explained by natural causes– has never been rejected. After that, what we’re left with is ideological not scientific bias and that is why AGW theory is not science at all. That is why AGW theory is instead, a Left vs. right debate concerning the efficient allocation of scarce resources, which in turn involves societal issues and political philosophy concerning the limits of individual liberty… personal freedom. In theology, for example, ‘liberty is freedom from the bondage of sin.’ Michael Crichton I think was the first to see belief in AGW as a remapping of Judeo-Christian notions of good and evil and the perils of sin.

  37. Pingback: Curry: Climate scientists’ motivated reasoning – The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

  38. Judith, you say in your post that someone ought to do a survey. If you want to undertake this, I will help.

    • Hi Tom, actually I’m hoping a social scientist would undertake such a survey. I had a good friend who was world expert on such things, but he is recently deceased.

  39. afonzarelli

    i just recently realized that there are few (if any) climate blogs where you can post images in your comments and with a high degree of freedom of speech as accorded us at here Climate etc. That and the quality academic posts here make this a very special place to come to. (let’s hope that the russians don’t snatch dr. curry away from us any time soon… ☹️)

  40. The data I’ve seen show that Trenberth was wrong, after all. All types of hurricanes are declining. Even before the 11 year hiatus.

  41. Pingback: Climate science’s ‘masking bias’ problem | Climate Etc.

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  43. Angelica Nelson

    A lot of the drive for a wow factor is due to the unresponsiveness of government officials. Even in cases where people get sick in large numbers, the CDC only wants to hear about the “severe” cases of flu or whatever the current pathogen is. This hoists the bar for what’s “significant” and slows reaction to current events. Our officials are full of rhetoric but if you go to them with a balanced viewpoint, they are likely to procrastinate until disaster has already struck,(hopefully after they’re in office), and focus on less risky decisions. It’s a politician’s job to stick their neck out, but they are still not keen on doing it. Furthermore the current arbitration environment for international investors causes everyone to think twice before acting on uncertain evidence. Look what happened to Angela Merkel and the scaling back of nuclear energy after Fukushima. Germany was sued by Vattenfall for investment loss. They didn’t succeed but it’s a lesson for us all. It takes courage to act on balanced data in a prudent way without resorting to the cheap persuasion of wow factors.

  44. Being comfortable with being stupid is the precursor to the Scientific Method, which demands that we are skeptical about not only the opinion of others, but about our own opinions and ideas.

    As tribal primates, we have all the failings noted above, but we also, as humans, have the ability, if not the propensity, to demand evidence and data to come to a conclusion.

    Thus the entirely proper scepticism on the anthropogenic impact on climate change.
    There is no evidence that CO2 is in control of climate.
    And there is no evidence that we are in control of CO2.

  45. An overwhelmingly dominant source of motivated reasoning arises where the funder of a science has a vested interest in that science being seen to reach a particular conclusion. This would drive
    – tobacco-funded research to give smoking a clean bill of health
    – government-funded climate research to upfront settle on CAGW.

    Absorbing Judith’s sensible guidelines will matter naught unless you already grasp that first you must follow the money to understand the actual dynamic,. For therein lies endemic, unreformable corruption of the science process.

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  47. Excellent discussions all. This could easily form the basis for a useful advanced graduate course.

  48. Norman Page

    The current misuse of science for political ends was predicted by Eisenhower in his 1961 farewell address:
    “……the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”
    I would add -with a political agenda
    See also:

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  55. I’ll continue to believe the men and women who are educated and work in the field of science of climate. Our ocean continues to rise as reported by a journalist. The facts stand on their own.

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