Sep 01 2011

Science by Intimidation

There has been a disturbing trend lately in the relationship between science and the public. Actually, I am not sure if it is a trend or if this sort of thing has been going on as long as there has been institutionalized science – but it has been more apparent to me recently.

The issue is with segments of the public trying to intimidate scientists, with various methods, because they don’t like the conclusion those scientists are coming to. This is a potentially serious problem.

A recent example of this phenomenon is the death threats being made against researchers who study chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It’s ridiculous when you think about it – researchers are just trying to understand a common and troubling syndrome, and some of the people who suffer from that syndrome are trying to inhibit the science by intimidating those scientists. How does this happen?

There are other examples, perhaps the most common being the extreme animal rights activists, who are known for their terrorist tactics and threats. In the case of these activists they appear to be acting from a moral conviction about the rights of animals.

The threats made against the CFS researchers are a different phenomenon, although they can have the same effect. In this case an extreme group of advocates believe that they know something about a puzzling syndrome – that it is caused by disease process that originates outside the body, like an infection. They further feel threatened by any researcher pursing a different hypothesis, such as psychological contributors to CFS.

CFS sufferers who buy into the infection hypothesis then feel animosity toward researchers who disagree with them. This animosity becomes extremely magnified when conspiratorial thinking comes into play – the researchers must be in the pocket of BigPharma or the insurance companies.

This line of thinking turns a scientific controversy into a black-and-white moral struggle. The researchers are not only wrong, they are corrupt and evil, and those with CSF are their victims. Anyone who defends the researchers or their hypotheses is also in on the conspiracy.

This type of thinking speaks to the more primitive, emotional, pattern-seeking part of the brain. It probably will also tend to attract those in the community who have a predisposition to conspiracy thinking. Social media can further be used to magnify these effects, creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop. A specific manifestation of this is the comment section of blogs, or in forums.

In these forums people can get each other worked up, and confirmation bias takes over with each person giving their supporting anecdotes. Dissenters may be chased away, or even censored. The conspiratorial jihad group mentality then takes on a life of it own.

And that’s how you end up with mild-mannered honest researchers receiving death threats from the very people they are trying to help.

We see a similar phenomenon with the anti-vaccine movement, with Morgellon’s disease (more properly known as delusional parasitosis), and with the chronic Lyme community.

It should be obvious why all of this is so destructive. Science works best when it exists in a bit of a bubble. This does not mean it is completely cut off from the practical world, but scientists should be free to pursue their ideas, to follow the evidence and their hunches wherever they lead. The process of science will sort out which ideas have merit and which do not.

Whenever someone puts their thumb on the scale, to try to coerce scientific research in a predetermined direction (or away from an unwanted direction), the process of science suffers. This occurs whether the motivation is political (such as Lysenkoism in the former Soviet Union), religious, ideological, for purposes of corporate greed, or any other motivation. Science cannot function when it is lashed to an ideology.

This also results from a lack of trust in the institutions of science. I will not argue that these institutions or the people in them are perfect – no human institution is, but science basically works. It’s not maximally efficient, but over time the evidence does seem to win out and our understanding grinds forward.

What the conspiracy theorists are saying is not that the practice of science is flawed but that it is completely broken (at least within their area of concern). They therefore feel justified in substituting their own personal beliefs for the consensus of scientific opinion. It certainly seems as if the personal beliefs come first, and the denigration of science, scientific institutions, and individual researchers is a mechanism of denial to maintain a desired belief system.

In fact research shows this is how people typically operate. Even worse, when confronted with disconfirming evidence, evidence that contradicts a firmly held belief, people will not only dismiss the evidence, they would rather believe the science itself is flawed rather than change their mind. So it can be counterproductive to confront people with scientific evidence that contradicts their beliefs – you may just push them further into pseudoscience and conspiracy thinking.

There is no easy solution to this problem, because it is rooted in human nature. We should certainly have no tolerance for thuggery against scientists who are just trying to do their job. They should be protected and insulated so that scientific inquiry can proceed.

The tactics that such groups employ are varied and changing. Direct threats is only one method. As we saw with ClimateGate, another method is to swamp scientists with freedom of information requests, and to take bits of information out of context to make them seem scandalous. Sometimes a researcher’s reputation is attacked, or they are harassed in various ways, such as flooding their institution with complaints.

Many researchers get out of or stay away from controversial topics to avoid such attacks. These thuggery tactics have an effect – they stifle research and public discourse.

At the very least when people do engage in such activity they should be called on it. They should be made to answer for their thuggery and intimidation. Further, institutions need to recognize what is happening and stand by their scientists and educators.

I also hope that by discussing this phenomenon people will understand the psychology better and perhaps be less susceptible to being sucked into such groups.

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193 responses so far

193 Responses to “Science by Intimidation”

  1. jugaon 01 Sep 2011 at 10:55 am

    I don’t think the Climategate scientists were “swamped” with FOI requests. They certainly complained about this (and you obviously accept them at their word) but no evidence was presented of an excessive number of requests. No examples were given of particularly vexatious requests and, in any case, such requests can be legitimately refused under UK FOI legislation. If you know otherwise, it would be interesting to see the evidence.

    That the above is true is also supported by the fact that answering 20 requests for the same information doesn’t take much longer than answering a single request.

    The real reason the CRU scientists objected to the FOI requests was shown in the Climategate email exchanges themselves. They didn’t believe they should be required to provide information and data to members of the public. In one email, Phil Jones said: “I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2010/apr/08/hacked-emails-freedom-of-information).

    If scientists refuse legitimate FOI requests for data that has been paid for by the public, they can’t then complain that people keep asking for it.

  2. dohashion 01 Sep 2011 at 10:57 am

    Do you think this behaviour is related to the ideas of “Brand Loyalty” discussed recently? These people make the diseases part of their self-identity, and thus see attacks on the disease (or their beliefs about the disease) and personal attacks against themselves? Thus they react as if they are defending themselves?

  3. CWon 01 Sep 2011 at 11:32 am

    Juga,

    The first part of this podcast episode goes into more specifics:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/audio/2011/may/30/science-weekly-podcast-sir-paul-nurse?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

    I think there are some good solutions for climate scientists in handling FOI requests.

    With that being said, if people are filing FOI requests for specific data and sending them out to multiple agencies (instead of one agency) or file requests repeatedly for the same information, then it is appropriate to criticize those people and defend the scientists.

  4. locutusbrgon 01 Sep 2011 at 11:47 am

    I personally have been verbally attacked for questioning some of the findings related to 9/11 rescue workers and illness. I suggested to an individual that a 60 pack year smoking history is a much better reason for respiratory issues than having been on site at the world trade center post disaster.
    I was verbally attacked and the individual tried to make a formal complaint against me with the state department of health.

    This was a very personal issue for them, and I understand the anger. Accusations that I am somehow in the “pay” of the US government was disturbing. I think intimidation has become par for the course related to dissenting opinions, never mind factual science.

  5. PharmD28on 01 Sep 2011 at 12:48 pm

    @locutusbrg…

    Where exactly is the science right now about 9/11 rescue workers and the health effects or lack thereof of said exposure? Do we have good science at this point to say that a given 9/11 rescue workers has X% risk of lung cancer, COPD, or whatever? Do we really know definitively that a hx of smoking is a greater health risk than was the 9/11 exposure? I honestly do not know myself….

  6. chaos4zapon 01 Sep 2011 at 12:57 pm

    “We see a similar phenomenon with the anti-vaccine movement, with Morgellon’s disease (more properly known as delusional parasitosis), and with the chronic Lyme community.”

    I know this is beside the point of your article, but I have a small request for clarification. I know that, so called, “Morgellon’s” has parallels with Delusional parasitosis because both usually involve insects of some type but I had always thought that that main factor in defining something as “morgellon’s” was these fibers that are allegedly embedded, or growing from the skin? Delusional Fiberosis, maybe?

  7. steve12on 01 Sep 2011 at 1:10 pm

    @Juga

    Sorry to be so blunt, but the idea that the so-called climategate emails are damning of AGW is horseshit. The only story is that even with access to ALL of those emails, there was no evidence of a conspiracy theory.

    What was there?
    1. Out of context conversations
    2. Misinterpreted sarcasm, like calling for an end to peer review
    3. Figure polishing. Guess what? When scientists are presenting evidence for a pattern in a very noisy data set, they like to make figures that reflect the pattern they’re arguing for, not the noise. Go figure. YOu can argue with the person’s specific claims (too complicated, I know), but this was nonsense.
    4.Questioning the accuracy of a measurement IS NOT suppression of data.
    5. Scientists are humans – and they get angry. They have political opinions. When they’re communicating with friends, they might say something nasty. With unlimited access to private communication and the same standards used here, you could probably invalidate every bit of science ever done.

    I agree, to the non-scientist some of those emails seemed damning, but really there’s no meat in those emails.

  8. Woodyon 01 Sep 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Great post. There are so many other examples of this that are recurring themes on this blog. Why does the “debate” about vaccines and autism rage on? Because the anti-vaxer advocacy group that has built their movement around this idea is large and has invested huge amounts of time and resources. They use anecdotes and charismatic leaders to sway a frankly ill-informed public. When you put those tactics up against “ivory tower” scientists who would rather spend time in their lab than try to communicate with the public (with notable exceptions), it is no surprise that the advocacy group with popular appeal has a big impact. Much of the alternative medicine movement benefits from this phenomenon. Chelation therapy, hyperbaric oxygen, chronic antibiotic therapy for “insert occult infection of choice here”, the list goes on…

    Especially important is Dr. Novella’s point about cognitive dissonance. No amount of evidence is going to convince most of these individuals to change their mind once they have gone “down the rabbit hole”. I think a big part of it is simply unwillingness for one to admit that they were wrong – the past SGU episode on pyramid schemes addressed the psychology of this nicely.

  9. Xanthippeon 01 Sep 2011 at 2:09 pm

    What a disheartening post! I had no idea that anti-science beliefs and conspiracy-mongering was going on in other patient communities as well. Unfortunately, I see plenty of similarities between these CFS patients and the MS patients who are adherents of CCSVI. Those of us who don’t believe that there is any connection between CCSVI and MS are attacked for our skepticism and even accused of being shills for “Big Pharma”. I know converting the true believers is a lost cause. My concerns are 1) how to best reach out to others with MS, debunk the CCSVI propaganda and get them to critically think about CSSVI and 2) how to create a larger online community of like-minded MSers while avoiding the fate that befell the MS Society of Canada’s Facebook community.

    The evidence is piling up against CSSVI in relation to MS. I just want research money to go back towards finding real solutions so the next generation can have better treatment options and be closer to a cure than we are now.

  10. locutusbrgon 01 Sep 2011 at 2:37 pm

    @PharmD28
    The answer is currently we do not know. Here is the link for current research. http://www.nyhealth.gov/environmental/investigations/wtc/health_studies/fatality_investigation.htm

    Like most science what we know is incomplete, however there is no good evidence that the rates of health issues are higher in WTC than in any other group exposed to a high stress rescue operation. There are many reported issues with WTC workers, but that is a big pile of anecdote until properly analyzed. We do know that a life long heavy smoking habit does have good evidence supporting a causal relationship in COPD and lung cancer. I am open to new findings when presented. WTC exposure is a possible cause. Given what we currently know I am not able to say it is probable. I know heavy smoking is probable cause, maybe exposure onsite was an exacerbating or precipitating factor. Again, supposition based on what we know. Plausible not probable. The evidence against smoking is paltry. The evidence against WTC exposure is reasonable since the majority of workers do not have long term respiratory issues.
    The topic is of course debatable, but the point is a disproportionate attack to available evidence. There was no discussion or counter evidence there was just rage. I was not stating facts just probabilities.

  11. jugaon 01 Sep 2011 at 2:44 pm

    @Steve12. I made no comment whatsoever about the Climategate emails being “damning of AGW” or that there was an “evidence of a conspiracy”.

    I was pointing out that just because the scientists said they were overwhelmed by FOI requests, doesn’t make it so. You can choose to believe them if you like but I am not aware they gave any evidence to support their claim. On the contrary, their comments in the leaked emails would seem to confirm that they were doing their utmost to resist giving any information using any excuse possible.

  12. steve12on 01 Sep 2011 at 5:04 pm

    @ Juga

    I guess I assumed you thought this because you were doubting that this has been done. But you’re right, you didn’t say that.

    What is your opinion on AGW?

  13. tmac57on 01 Sep 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Juga- Thanks for the link to the Monbiot article,but I don’t think that it supports your assertion as much as you suggest. What I got from reading it was that the CRU basically shot themselves in the foot by not being more forth coming in the beginning due to a rather human failing of not wanting to give an inch to those whom they suspected were being disingenuous with their FOI requests.They should have been more confident,and sucked it up and complied,since they really had nothing to hide in the end.
    What the article does point out,is that their were “vexatious” requests made,and a deliberate campaign on McIntyre’s part to flood them with subsequent disingenuous requests as payback for being fobbed off initially.No one’s hands were clean in that matter,but it also had nothing to do with science,and more to do with “Gottcha!”

  14. elmer mccurdyon 01 Sep 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Sometimes scientists discover stuff that’s used to kill people.

  15. PharmD28on 01 Sep 2011 at 8:04 pm

    @locustbrg

    Thanks for the link…I totally agree that lashing out is not necessary for your statement. I do not have a pre-formed strong opinion about the issue, but it seems to me that if there is some decent plausibility that there will be health effects from this exposure, we should as a society have a low threshold to provide them medical care accordingly. And that has been the rub for some folks, that because of this uncertainty, we should not provide healthcare benefits to responders….not sure if that is a straw man or not but I can see how such suggestions would rub people wrong – the media has built up this issue too – thinking of the daily show and cable news….so far from what little I know I tend to agree with jon stewart on the issue, but I am open to alternative point of views.

    Anyway, I figure this person got pissed at you because they took your suggestion to mean something you did not mean it too…I will say that when I read your comment myself I kinda wondered where you were going with it? I will not make assumptions though, and I am still pre-contemplative about the whole thing really…still ignorant to many details.

    It reminds me of coal miners who had smoked in the past and gotten what they thought was black lung. I think in that case pulminologists developed a sense based on imaging etc in differentiating smoking induced copd vs. that from coal dust….but we probably do not have such a thing for first responders yet, and we may never? Anyway, when a pulminologist suggests that your copd is not from black lung and is from smoking, I am sure they had to duck some punches on a few occassions….

  16. PharmD28on 01 Sep 2011 at 8:27 pm

    I would think for the CFS folks who seem to truly suffer from this disease, they have a low threshold to react to critical thought or science even about the diagnosis because they probably feel that much of society feel they are faking it to get disability…they probably have projected this straw man on many occasions when such questions are presented.

    I am not an expert on CFS, but its sad that it has to be pretty much a diagnosis of exclusion….I bet there is alot of anger and feeling of hopelessness in patients who eventually get the diagnosis or who have yet to get the diagnosis….then they are told that we really dont understand it….their anger is understandable but still grossly misguided I think!

  17. elmer mccurdyon 02 Sep 2011 at 12:23 am

    I really don’t think there’s anything particularly special about scientists receiving death threats on the internet as opposed to people who are not scientists receiving death threats on the internet. There is something about virtual communication that makes people feel empowered to make such threats, and this is a subset of the general tendency of people online to behave in a more dickish manner than they do when communicating face to face. Such dickishness, in turn, while it obviously does not justify such threats, does probably make them more likely.

    I wonder which is more common, killing online acquaintances or driving them to suicide. I know both phenomena have been documented.

  18. mike.tuckeron 02 Sep 2011 at 1:07 am

    Dr. Novella,

    This is an excellent post on what I agree is a disturbing trend. I hope you will indulge me in making a point that may seem like quibbling, but I think is an important distinction.

    The trend, as you define it, is the intimidation of scientists by those who don’t like the conclusions those scientists are reaching. Climate science denial is an excellent example of this trend, as are the many examples you use of ideologically motivated ‘medical’ groups. However, I feel your use of animal rights activists ad an example of this trend is inappropriate, and does not serve your main point.

    You acknowledge the central flaw of this example in your text, which makes me wonder why you included it at all. The difference is that animal rights activists are objecting to the methods being used, not to the conclusions. I do not wish to justify or condone the actions of extremists in this movement, but I feel the distinction is an important one.

    I think it is possible to have legitimate moral objections to the methods used by a scientist without passing any judgement on the conclusions drawn. For example, I might think that testing beauty products on animals is inappropriate, but that does not mean I think that these beauty products are not safe for human use. Or, to give another example and at the risk of invoking Goodwin’s law, I may accept the data on extreme hypothermia gathered by Nazi scientists but still object to the way in which that data was gathered. (disclaimer for those with poor reading comprehension: I am not calling scientists who perform animal experiments Nazis, nor am I equating an animal suffering and dying in the name of science with a human suffering and dying in the name of science).

    In summary, I think that moral objections to the methods used in certain experiments is not a legitimate example of the trend you are discussing. If your post had been about the methods used by extremists of all stripes, then I am sure there are those in the animal rights movement who deserve to be lumped in with that topic, but that was not the trend you were blogging about.

  19. eiskrystalon 02 Sep 2011 at 4:12 am

    When someone sees a tactic that works, they are going to try it.

    They are unlikely to be called out on it. The media aren’t going to condemn them half the time and even if they did they can just play the emotion card whith some other media outlet.

    The more this happens, the more reinforced it will be as others see it working. It also doesn’t help that science and reason is being denigrated generally.

  20. SteveAon 02 Sep 2011 at 7:36 am

    Juga: “I was pointing out that just because the scientists said they were overwhelmed by FOI requests, doesn’t make it so.”

    Not saying you’re wrong but this would probably be quite difficult for an outsider to judge. From personal experience I can say that responding to even relatively simple FOI requests can take a huge amount of effort, one of the most time-consuming elements being (ironically) the need to comply with the Data Protection Act and preserve the privacy of individuals through the redaction of documents. Even printing out the documents generated though a ‘simple’ request can tie up a printer for a day. And then it all has to be checked, and signed-off…etc.

    And while it’s true that the UK FOI laws do allow some requests to be rejected, it’s not difficult for someone to find a way to drip-feed legitimate requests into the system purely (it would seem) in an attempt to intimidate and waste people’s resources.

  21. AviatorOwenon 02 Sep 2011 at 8:40 am

    If this is a trend, what sort of reporting system have we got in place for the scientist’s.

    Do we have to wait for it to get to the point of death threats before a scientist speaks out?

    I suggest that a wall of shame system be set up for scientist to point out the ring leaders with evident’s, so that the community can take the offensive, while the scientist can continue the research!

    Although I know this would not change hearts and minds, It may help in redirecting the attention away from the scientist. It is very hard to threaten a person while trying to debunk 20 others on all the facet’s of your ignorance.

    This tactic works against us, when we go into a anti vac’s group. and we have the evident’s on our side!

    So why not turn it back on them?

  22. Josson 02 Sep 2011 at 9:20 am

    With regard to ME/CFS there is a lot of ‘lying’ going on at the moment.

    The story about a handful of the estimated 17 million people world wide with this as a diagnostic label has been doing the news rounds for about a month now and has become more and more flamboyant the longer it runs.

    The argument is made that some people with ME/CFS don’t want to believe that the illness they have is ‘psychological’ because they find it stigmatising. This is a complete misnomer and has been spread by the very people that want to classify ME/CFS as a ‘purely’ psychological disorder that should be treated ‘purely’ using psycho-social treatments such CBT and graded exercise.

    The truth is much more complex: there are a great many scientists around the world who, contrary to what you will read in the British Press, do, in fact, believe that ME/CFS is a ‘physiological’ disorder, that it on the whole doesn’t respond to ‘purely’ psycho-social treatment, and that much more bio-medical research is needed.

    Of course the dichotomy between these positions makes no sense in the first place – I have yet to work out what is meant by an illness that does not have any ‘physiology/biology’ attached to it.

    The group that are loosely called the ‘Wessely School’, after Prof. Simon Wessely, claim constantly that the split between physiology and psychology makes no sense and that there needs to be an ‘end to Cartesian Dualism’. I happen to agree to a great extent although I have not made the leap of a complete reductionist when it comes to the mind/brain problem.

    The problem I have is that if the ‘Wessely School’ want psychiatry and neurology to be the same thing then they cannot also argue that ME is not a ‘physiological’ problem – it simply makes no sense. They can’t have it both ways.

    Many people with a diagnosis of ME or CFS or ME/CFS did have a viral start to their illness that has simply not resolved – when this happens they fall into a nightmare situation where they are told that the problem is lack of activity and a belief that they are ill when they are not. They are then told that the only thing that might help is CBT and graded exercise – some refuse, but a great many do try this approach and a great many of those find it of no help at all and some find it positively harmful both to their physical and ‘mental’ health.

    Being constantly told that you are not to believe your own perceptions of your own body is, I can personally attest, quite head-fucking.

    There have been two large medical trails in the UK looking in to psycho-social help for patients with ME; The FINE trial, the results of which were so bad that they have been largely buried and the PACE trail which showed very modest improvements in a small section of patients that were selected using the broadest criteria possible for ME/CFS patient selection. The PACE results were then spun out of all proportion via the Science Media Centre and the resulting headlines said things like ‘Got ME? Just exercise!’ (The Independent).

    These two studies were allocated ALL of the Medical research Funds for ME/CFS in the UK and NO public money has been given for any bio-medical research.

    Meanwhile bio-medical research has continued to be done; quite a lot has been discovered about the illness and proposed International Consensus Criteria have recently been published in the Journal of Internal Medicine supported by 25 clinicians and researchers from around the world:

    Full text: http://niceguidelines.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/myalgic-encephalomyelitis-international-consensus-criteria.pdf

    Journal: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-796.2011.02428.x/abstract

    The general perception of those with ME is NOT a concern that being called ‘mentally ill’ is stigmatising – it is that the mental health treatments they have been offered simply do not help and yet in the UK nothing else is even being looked at and clinics offering CBT and Graded exercise have been rolled out across the NHS, at great cost, with very little evidence for their efficacy and are the ONLY ‘treatment’ available to people.

    The clinic I attend for CBT and Graded exercise has for instance told me:

    ‘try and picture a blue bubble around myself so it is easier to deal with stressful people’

    ‘try reading the book of Job to help with sleep’

    ‘ME is classified as a mental health problem’ this is untrue it is not anywhere classified in this way.

    ‘Do as much on a bad day as you do on a good – try to level out your activities’ – to me this simply stresses the complete lack of understanding there is for what it is to live with this illness for years on end.

    I won’t go on – it makes me depressed thinking about it…..

    I will just point out that Wessely is British liason psychiatrist who works in conjunction with government bodies that deal with benefits claims and with defence departments in the UK and the USA and also denies a ‘physiological’ explanation for gulf war illness, and also is quite happy to work for disability insurance companies that have been prosecuted for denying disability claims.

    If Simon Wessely really cared about patients, as he claims, then he would not be shamelessy and constantly self-promoting in a way that damages their interests by giving the impression that there are more than a handful of people who feel they have been so maligned that they have ‘lost it’. You would think as a psychiatrist he might, in fact, understand that constantly being told that you are not experiencing what you are experiencing might lead someone to such action.

  23. Andrew Cooperon 02 Sep 2011 at 11:06 am

    Hi all and greetings from the UK.

    I’d be very interested to hear views, particularly Richard’s, about an interesting point made by Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble, during a London School of Economics public lecture which you can find details of (including download info) here http://goo.gl/JOeUG

    Pariser said that when we encounter information we agree with we get a dopamine hit and experience pleasure. This seems reasonable – we experience dissonance when we’re presented with information we think is wrong or irrational or challenges our world view. The opposite of cognitive dissonance is, presumably, cognitive assonance.

    So, do we almost literally become addicted to information which we find assonant? And, if so, is there a positive feedback loop here that causes us to search for ever more assonant information, regardless of its veracity?

    If this is the case it I assume it could at least partly explain, in physiological terms, all kind of extreme behaviours, including those of the CFS fundamentalists (and, of course, all other fundamentalists and people who hold irrational views) and the issue of confirmation bias/brand loyalty discussed in the recent SGU.

    I don’t understand the causation here. Do our feelings of agreement trigger the claimed dopamine release, or does the dopamine come first, triggering the warm feelings? But, as I say, I’d be interested to know more about this.

    Of course those of us who are sceptics have a problem here. We’re committed to seeking out information which can disconfirm our beliefs and are therefore condemned to living miserable and unhappy lives, but I guess that’s another story!

  24. jugaon 02 Sep 2011 at 11:10 am

    @SteveA

    “it’s not difficult for someone to find a way to drip-feed legitimate requests into the system purely (it would seem) in an attempt to intimidate and waste people’s resources”

    It may not be difficult but I still haven’t seen any evidence that it happened, apart from vague assertions that they were “swamped” with requests. From what I have read about the requests to CRU, they were mostly for data, which would not have any privacy implications or require redactions.

    The wider issue, and the reason we have FOI legislation, is that public bodies should assume that what the public has paid for, the public has a right to see. Many who started their careers before there was FOI cannot, it seems, bring themselves to accept that it’s not up to them whether they release information.

    It may be onerous at present to comply with some requests, but why is this so? Mostly, because a lot of data which should have been publicly available in the first place, is felt to be the private property of the researchers who have gathered it. Or else only to be shared with other researchers who are like-minded.

  25. steve12on 02 Sep 2011 at 11:41 am

    The reticence of scientists to simply “put the data out there” is well founded. YOu need expertise to interpret that data and fit it to complicated climate models. With the wrong intent or bias that data can be made to say anything, with the right expertise and peer review it will paint an increasingly accurate picture.

    Making all data public will lead to one thing and one thing only: misleading the public. ExxonMobil will find that the Earth is cooling if they want to.

    And the end result – Big Business nullifies science with Big Misinformation.

    All that said, this is s problem in that it’s public property.

  26. mike egnoron 02 Sep 2011 at 11:42 am

    I agree with juga.

    The CRU scientists weren’t swamped with FOIA requests. The problem was that the requests were made by people who were not sympathetic to the CRU scientists’ view of the science. I suspect also that the data did not entirely support the published and public views of the scientists, and they had no interest in permitting scrutiny of the data, particularly by critics. Jones discussed deleting the data rather than complying with the law.

    This is very bad science. It’s also a crime.

    As for the issue of inconvenience or harassment, I think that the real issue is overlooked.

    These scientists are public employees and the data files belong to the public. The public paid for them. Scientists who refuse accountability to their employers as required by law deserve the fate of insubordinate employees who break the law.

    Corrupt scientists is nothing new. What does surprise me (a bit) is the fervor of supposedly ethical scientist to exonerate these frauds.

  27. Spence_UKon 02 Sep 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Firstly: I absolutely agree that death threats should not be made and it is shocking that it takes place, in any situation. It is sad that these threats are made against scientists.

    Secondly: juga is quite right, and I strongly disagree with Steve Novella about the characterisation of the FOI act used against the UEA. As juga correctly notes, even before the first FOI request was issued, Dr Phil Jones had already stated he planned to avoid making the data from his studies available. A handful of FOI requests were submitted (literally six or seven), all of which were simply stonewalled by the UEA (probably with little to no involvement with scientists – mainly the administrative department responsible for FOI requests).

    The following 50-odd FOI requests were all for the same thing – which was a request for the evidence for the basis of earlier rejections. While I don’t endorse this approach, they were neither overwhelming or vexatioius, and were treated by the UEA as a single request. The UEA, to this day, has still failed to provide credible evidence for the earlier request refusals, and recently the UK government body overseeing FOI requests (the ICO) found against the UEA on the matter.

    As for what climategate showed – two important things. It showed the deliberate attempt to stonewall FOI requests, in the words of the ICO about the e-mails, contained “a potential offence under section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act”, and in reference to the e-mail stated, “It is hard to imagine more cogent prima facie evidence.”; it was not pursued because the time limit for prosecution had elapsed under the statute of limitations.

    The second thing was withholding adverse information and producing misleading graphics (the infamous “hide the decline”). Steve12 incorrectly refers to this as “polishing graphics”. No. Graphics were produced that materially differed from how they were described in the text. The ICCER (independent review) described this as “misleading”. Furthermore, many independent, respected scientists have spoken out against this, saying that “hide the decline” was not acceptable behaviour for a scientist. These include:

    Professor Richard A. Muller, professor of physics at UC Berkeley, whose video on the subject is available on YouTube.
    Professor Judith Curry, professor of climatology at Georgia Tech
    Professor Jonathan Jones, professor of physics at Brasenose College, Oxford

    These people have all gone on record to criticise this part of the climategate e-mails. So don’t take my word for it. Take Dr Mullers word. Or Dr Jones’ word, which I reproduce here in italics (hopefully the tags work!):

    People have asked why mainstream scientists are keeping silent on these issues. As a scientist who has largely kept silent, at least in public, I have more sympathy for silence than most people here. It’s not for the obvious reason, that speaking out leads to immediate attacks, not just from Gavin and friends, but also from some of the more excitable commentators here. Far more importantly most scientists are reluctant to speak out on topics which are not their field. We tend to trust our colleagues, perhaps unreasonably so, and are also well aware that most scientific questions are considerably more complex than outsiders think, and that it is entirely possible that we have missed some subtle but critical point.

    However, “hide the decline” is an entirely different matter. This is not a complicated technical matter on which reasonable people can disagree: it is a straightforward and blatant breach of the fundamental principles of honesty and self-criticism that lie at the heart of all true science. The significance of the divergence problem is immediately obvious, and seeking to hide it is quite simply wrong. The recent public statements by supposed leaders of UK science, declaring that hiding the decline is standard scientific practice are on a par with declarations that black is white and up is down. I don’t know who they think they are speaking for, but they certainly aren’t speaking for me.

    BTW I have a huge respect for Dr Novella and enjoy this blog as a lurker – but am guilty of posting on blogs when I disagree with stuff, and not when I agree with it, so feel compelled to stress this!

  28. jugaon 02 Sep 2011 at 1:57 pm

    @steve12

    “Making all data public will lead to one thing and one thing only: misleading the public”

    The alternative is to say the only way not to mislead the public is to keep the data and the calculations secret and ask them to trust the scientists’ conclusions.

    This is why the arrival of the internet and blogging is going to have far wider implications for science than a few FOI requests. Scientists will need to be open about how they’ve reached their conclusions and show their workings. Of course, this happens already in some areas and, in others, the results of the research don’t affect people’s lives or determine public policy.

    Maybe there’s a risk that interest groups will try to hijack data and skew conclusions but the answer is more openness, not less. Those groups will be expected to be open too about their calculations and if “ExxonMobil finds the earth is cooling”, that will be vigorously challenged. Climate scientists will have to show why that conclusion is wrong through the strength of their own conclusions, rather than asking to be believed because of who they are or peer review or the number of people who agree with them.

    We are now in the age where everything is found out sooner or later, probably sooner. No one will be able to get away with deception without being called to account and forfeiting trust.

  29. mike egnoron 02 Sep 2011 at 2:04 pm

    @juga:

    Amen.

    “the answer is more openness, not less”

    The internet is changing things in science in a remarkable and very healthy way.

    Scientific data is now available to the people who pay for it and whose lives will be affected by it.

    There will be much debate, many different interpretations, and many fewer unchallenged assertions of dogma.

    Evolutionary biologists and climate scientists are feeling just the first wave of the accountability tsunami.

  30. daedalus2uon 02 Sep 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Actually they did have to redact the data because they didn’t own all of it. The originators of the data “owned” it and had put restrictions on its use.

    Where are all the scientific papers by all those who filed FOIs for the information? If you don’t like the conclusions of a scientific paper, the way you are supposed to respond is with another scientific paper showing that the first one is wrong. Where are the papers showing that AGW is wrong? There aren’t any.

    It reminds me of the paper in PNAS on evolution of E coli a few years back where a creationist did request the back-up information, but did so in a way that made it clear he had no clue what he was asking for.

    If scientists got funding to respond to FOIs, there would be no problem. They don’t get funding to respond to FOIs, they are expected to do that “for free”, or in addition to everything else they are doing but with no additional funding.

    Michael Mann was investigated by the Attorney General of Virginia (IIRC) for fraud. The school and the state spent more on that investigation than the total contract was worth.

  31. JimDon 02 Sep 2011 at 2:34 pm

    “With the wrong intent or bias that data can be made to say anything, with the right expertise and peer review it will paint an increasingly accurate picture.”

    If the data can be made to say anything it’s not very strong. Asking us to take weak data on faith because we can’t understand a complicated model is the basis of religion, not science.

  32. Spence_UKon 02 Sep 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Where are all the scientific papers by all those who filed FOIs for the information?
    Which bit of the FOI legislation has this as a requirement? Indeed, FOI explicitly states motivation for the request is *never* relevant, for good reason.

    If you don’t like the conclusions of a scientific paper, the way you are supposed to respond is with another scientific paper showing that the first one is wrong.
    No, that isn’t really good enough any more, and there are good reasons. Science has changed, and volumes of data and complexity of statistical analysis combined with journal word limits simply mean the full methods cannot be described in the paper, and sometimes not even in the supplementary information; the only way to truly find out what the researchers did is to get at the code and data. (After all, if it isn’t completely clear what they did in the first place, how can you show it was wrong?)

    Victoria Stodden has some excellent articles on this topic on her blog here.

  33. daedalus2uon 02 Sep 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Junga, what exactly are you smoking? Have you read this blog regularly? Do you read SBM regularly? What is this blog and many other blogs set up to do? To try and cut through the lies and BS that the denialists put out there.

    Homeopathy is still going strong 200 years after it was made up out of whole cloth. Anti-vaxers are still going strong even though their “hypothesis” is pining for the fjords. The Creationists are still getting school boards to substitute creationism for evolution, even as they lose court case after court case.

    The front runner in the GOP presidential campaign doesn’t believe in evolution because he is a creationist, and he doesn’t believe in AGW because he believes that God told Noah that God would never flood the Earth again, so AGW caused flooding can’t happen ever.

    The truth only comes out if people are able to speak the truth, if people are able to understand the truth, and if people want to understand the truth.

    What the internet has done is make putting out information very cheap. It has also made putting out disinformation very cheap. Telling what is good information and what is bad information is still very expensive, it takes personally understanding what is being said and comparing that to reality. If you don’t have the ability or resources to do that, then you can’t tell good information from bad information.

    Putting out disinformation is very cheap, and when big money is behind disinformation, countering it can be very difficult. Yes, the disinformation that Big Tobacco put out has been uncovered. By the time the disinformation the AGW denialists have put out is uncovered, we will likely be beyond the point of no return and Greenland will unavoidably melt and add 7 meters to sea level.

    Despite the best efforts of skeptics, the anti-vax crowd were able to reduce vaccination rates enough so that some diseases have reemerged and people have died from vaccine preventable diseases. The proven fraud that accelerated it is still one of the icons of the anti-vax movement.

    Don’t tell us that “No one will be able to get away with deception without being called to account and forfeiting trust.” There are a great many people who would rather trust their delusions than even consider reality.

    That is what this particular post is about, people not accepting the truth, that XMRV is virtually certain to be contamination and not a virus that is associated or in any way causes CFS. They can’t handle that truth, so they lash out at the scientists doing the research that deliver the closest thing we have to truth, tentative results in the scientific literature that have been replicated and which match essentially everything else that is well accepted.

  34. PharmD28on 02 Sep 2011 at 4:27 pm

    @Juga

    What exactly does your concerns about nefarious communications amoungst these scientists say about your own conclusions about AGW?

  35. Andrew Cooperon 02 Sep 2011 at 4:33 pm

    If you’re wondering who the Richard is I mention in my comment, I meant Stephen. Richard is a friend of mine I told about the LSE lecture yesterday. Numerous apologies!

    Andrew

    PS I’m a huge SGU fan: it’s the only podcast which I download which listen to without fail. Very grateful to all involved for the time, passion and humour you put into it – many thanks!

  36. steve12on 02 Sep 2011 at 4:37 pm

    “The alternative is to say the only way not to mislead the public is to keep the data and the calculations secret and ask them to trust the scientists’ conclusions.”

    Yeah, sounds pretty bad, I agree. And it undermines public support. But it willl be a diaster nonetheless. Sometimes there are no good options – may as well side w/ transaprency, I guess.

    “This is why the arrival of the internet and blogging is going to have far wider implications for science than a few FOI requests. Scientists will need to be open about how they’ve reached their conclusions and show their workings. ”

    But the only people who will be able to understand that data are the people who have access now. Not that there won’t be multitudes of people who think they can work it all out with a spreadsheet in the jammies, but will really just tow the line of their political affiliation, further muddling an important issue in the guise of ‘Power to the People!”, or some such political nonesense.

    “Maybe there’s a risk that interest groups will try to hijack data and skew conclusions but the answer is more openness, not less. ”

    Calling it a “risk” is beyond naive. They will certainly (that’s 100% certainly) find no evidence for AGW. Great, so now it’s the scientists job to refute that. Awersome, science in action!

    After that disagreement, we’ll see who’s better at marketing their position to the public: ExxonMobil or the geophysics community. IOW, I’ll start investing in real estate around the North Greenland area….

    It may be that keeping data out of the public’s (and therefore ExxonMobil’s) hands is untenable and even wrong. But I can sure as hell see why these scientists want to. Literally no good can come from it beyond the moral notion of transparency.

  37. steve12on 02 Sep 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Couple of other points:

    1. “What exactly does your concerns about nefarious communications amoungst these scientists say about your own conclusions about AGW?”

    Already asked once and he obvioulsy doesn’t wanna say.

    2. Daedalus replied to Juga’s original post wiht somehting I had forgotten about:

    “Michael Mann was investigated by the Attorney General of Virginia (IIRC) for fraud. The school and the state spent more on that investigation than the total contract was worth.”

    Since this was your original problem with the post, Juga, I think you should respond to it.

  38. HHCon 02 Sep 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Wouldn’t patients with CFS be too fatigued to carry-out the death threats that they make?

  39. daedalus2uon 02 Sep 2011 at 6:06 pm

    HHC, no. What CFS does is make you feel tired all the time and makes it not possible to do any kind of extended aerobic exertion. It also causes brain fog. Depending on some causation details it can be associated with PTSD and lots of anger and even violence issues. It isn’t a “sleepy” kind of fatigue, it is a desperation-type of fatigue. Death threats from people with CFS need to be taken very seriously (as do death threats from anyone).

  40. jugaon 02 Sep 2011 at 6:21 pm

    @daedalus2u

    “Actually they did have to redact the data because they didn’t own all of it. The originators of the data “owned” it and had put restrictions on its use.”

    You may be right. That’s certainly what they said. Maybe they were genuinely disappointed not be able to release the data. The leaked emails did suggest otherwise, though.

    Even if there had been restrictions, most of this data was gathered by public bodies or by researchers funded by public money. In the past, such data was only made available to “bona fide” scientists. The public were not allowed to see it, even though they had paid for it through their taxes. You may think Freedom of Information is a bad thing and we should go back to those days. There were advantages and you can make an argument for it. However, society has moved on and seems to value FOI over any adverse effects it may have.

    You say “if you don’t like the conclusions of a scientific paper, the way you are supposed to respond is with another scientific paper showing that the first one is wrong”. Steven Novella gives his opinion on climate science although he seems to have no qualifications in the field. You may think that’s a bad idea and only qualified climate scientists should be allowed to pass comment and only in scientific papers. That’s not the way the world’s going though.

    I believe we are seeing a great democratisation of science. Science started as an amateur profession. Darwin, for example, was an amateur because there were no professionals then. There are many people now who have not opted for a career in science but are still capable of understanding the issues and having insights of their own. The amateur is returning. I would argue that the fight against creationism has been waged far more by amateurs than by professional scientists writing peer-reviewed papers. The best resources to counter creationist nonsense aren’t the scientific journals.

    You say in your other comment “by the time the disinformation the AGW denialists have put out is uncovered, we will likely be beyond the point of no return and Greenland will unavoidably melt and add 7 meters to sea level”. I’m not sure what point you’re making. Are you saying that anyone who disagrees should be banned from saying anything? If that isn’t the answer, the only solution surely is for there to be more and better access to the data and the calculations. I don’t see any alternative.

    As a final point, there has been a huge difference in the approach to creationism and to AGW “denial”. Every daft argument from every creationist is painstakingly picked apart and shown to be the nonsense that it is. No one minds shouting creationists’ arguments from the rooftops while explaining how ridiculous they are. No geneticists or biologists or archeologists or palaeontologists refuse to share their research that I’m aware of. No one says creationism should be distrusted because it is funded by “Big Religion”.

    On the contrary, with AGW, the approach has all too often been to try to shut the deniers up and stop them being heard. They are told they must believe the consensus because of all the eminent scientists who agree with it. They are told that anyone who argues against AGW is in the pay of Big Oil. That works for some people, but others don’t like the feeling that they’re being told they mustn’t question.

  41. Spence_UKon 02 Sep 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Hmm, looks like all of my comments will appear once Steve gets around to clearing them – I guess he is at Dragon con today so probably isn’t in a position to make my comments available.

    Juga,

    There was a claim that the data was owned by other public bodies and therefore could not be released. The infamous 50 copies of a single FOI request were for evidence that there was such an agreement. No written agreement had any such terms.

    But there are still problems. One of the FOI requests was just for a station list, and this was refused as well. No agreements could conceivably make the WMO station ID a commercial secret.

    Of the withheld station data, one is in Trinidad and Tobago, and has been identified as the airport weather station which is freely available online in several locations. The others are around eight Polish stations.

    There was absolutely no reason why these nine stations could not have been withheld, with their station IDs being made available so that the data could be retrieved free of charge by other online sources. (The station IDs for the eight Polish stations are still, to my knowledge, unknown).

    If these data are fundamental to climate policy, they should be out in the open and transparent. That we have had to go through this farce to get to the data is not the fault of the sceptics and not the fault of the FOI act. It is a failure of the UEA to make the data available in the first place.

    (Incidentally, NASA GISS and NOAA/NCDC were MUCH better and placed their data up fairly early on when requested; but then the US FOI act is far more effective than the UK equivalent. This act by US climate scientists saved everyone – including the scientists involved – much time and effort)

  42. jugaon 02 Sep 2011 at 6:56 pm

    @steve12

    You seem to be agreeing with me that more transparency is the only answer while being horrified at what you see as the risks and disadvantages. I happen to think the transparency outweighs the disadvantages because it’s the right thing to do. If you allow that information has to be kept from people, it’s a few short steps to the state deciding what’s best for everyone. How do we know whether we are being kept in the dark to protect us from those who would mislead us, or for other reasons? If we’re in the dark, we can never know.

    It’s interesting that you believe so strongly that if the data about AGW gets into the public domain, it’s certain people will be able to disprove AGW. No one tries to hide research into evolution because of a risk that creationists will be able to use it to disprove evolution. That would be ridiculous. Why is AGW different? Do you suspect that the arguments being made for it are not as sound as we are led to believe? It appears that you do.

    So far as my own views on AGW are concerned, I deliberately didn’t answer. Mainly because this discussion is about Freedom of Information as it applies to scientific research, and about the extent to which science should be the exclusive domain of “scientists”, not about the endless arguments for and denials of AGW.

  43. daedalus2uon 02 Sep 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Juga, your analogy is disingenuous. “Big Religion” does not fund creationism. The Catholic Church accepts evolution, and also accepts AGW. Creationism is funded by true believers, by amateurs who (for the most part) are sincere in their delusional beliefs.

    AGW denialism is funded by the fossil fuel industry. By people who know they are spreading disinformation and are doing it so as to increase their profits. It is exactly like what the tobacco industry did, fund tobacco denialism even as they knew that smoking did cause adverse health effects.

    There may be AGW denialists that are sincere in their delusions. I don’t doubt that Rick Perry is sincere that he believes AGW can’t happen because he believes that God said He would not destroy the world by flood again.

    To the fossil fuel industry, people like Rick Perry are useful idiots. They are incapable of the intellectual honesty it takes to understand and practice science, so they are easy to fool with bogus and non-scientific arguments.

    Creationism (for the most part) is a harmless religious fairy tale that some people believe. If adults want to believe nonsense, it is difficult to get them to change. For the most part those fighting the creationists are amateurs too. Steve Novella is an amateur skeptic in that he doesn’t make his living being a skeptic. Few skeptics do. There isn’t a Big Skeptic industry that funds the skeptic movement. Skeptics are not trying to shut creationists up, skeptics are trying to get creationists to be honest and not teach lies to children and not compel public schools to teach their religious beliefs.

    People are not trying to shut the AGW denialists up. They are trying to keep the AGW denialists from spouting lies to a gullible public such that the government bases policies on lies and not on good science. They are trying to prevent AGW denialists from pretending to be scientists while lying about what they claim their research says and means.

    http://scienceblogs.com/classm/2011/09/oops.php

    The recent immensely over-blown and over-hyped report on satellite data published in Remote Sensing is a good example. It was a failure of peer review, for which the senior editor resigned. You can read his resignation letter here.

    http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/3/9/2002/

    He says it should have been published, but it should not have been published without noting that there are already articles in the literature that refute their arguments. These articles should have been referenced and their refutation shown to be invalid.

    The proper response to a scientific paper that is disagreed with is a new scientific paper that cites the first paper and demonstrates how and why it is wrong. Publishing something by stealth and ignoring literature that refutes it and then hyping it as if there is nothing refuting it is not acceptable. Hyping this report and saying that it refutes AGW is a lie. In no way, shape, or form can one paper based on one data set refute the entire corpus of data and analysis that the science of AGW is based on.

  44. PharmD28on 02 Sep 2011 at 10:01 pm

    “Do you suspect that the arguments being made for it are not as sound as we are led to believe? It appears that you do.”

    sounds like a straw man there….yes AGW “believers” are all nervous about “the truth” that will be revealed….that is so dismissive of steve’s concerns he voiced.

    I am not privy to all the details and complexities of the FOI issue, but it seems to me that either way, with whatever positives or negatives, eventually science will as Dr Novella has put it before “grind” forward and in time make since of it all…its just that if one way is slower in this case there are those that are concerned that the damage will be done largely already…..

  45. steve12on 02 Sep 2011 at 11:43 pm

    “How do we know whether we are being kept in the dark to protect us from those who would mislead us, or for other reasons? If we’re in the dark, we can never know.”

    We know because you have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that the entire geophysics community has entered into some sort of nefarious agreement. I trust scientists a hell of a lot more than I trust most other sectors of the population.

    That said, I do think that restricting access to the data isn’t going to work, even if it is gobbly gook in the wrong hands. Like I said – no good solution, take the lesser of evils.

    “It’s interesting that you believe so strongly that if the data about AGW gets into the public domain, it’s certain people will be able to disprove AGW.”

    Obviously, I said no such thing (more below). And this concern troll bit is the most transparent thing going on here.

    “No one tries to hide research into evolution because of a risk that creationists will be able to use it to disprove evolution. That would be ridiculous. Why is AGW different? Do you suspect that the arguments being made for it are not as sound as we are led to believe? It appears that you do.”

    It’s very different data and methodology.

    Fitting multiple datasets that are super-rich and super-noisy to a model that’s this big and has this many variables requires an amazing degree of skill across many disciplines. THis is the only way to make sense of it. Why don’t we just give the collector data from the Hadron Collider to Rush Limbaugh for chrissakes. Nothing good can come form others having the data because all the people who can do anything meaningful with it already have access.

    “So far as my own views on AGW are concerned, I deliberately didn’t answer. Mainly because this discussion is about Freedom of Information as it applies to scientific research, and about the extent to which science should be the exclusive domain of “scientists”, not about the endless arguments for and denials of AGW.”

    So principled. Let me flesh you out a bit, since you’re so modest.

    You’re a right-wing politico concern troll who’s trying to show how unreasonable and undemocratic those damn liberal AGW people are.

    I mean, you don’t want to get off-topic, but when Daedalus responds to your original beef, you have nothing to say. Please. You’re not fooling anyone.

    Also, there’s no need to put scientists in quotes. They’re real scientists in the climate community even if you find the results of their research to be politically distasteful. Nature doesn’t care about politics.

  46. steve12on 02 Sep 2011 at 11:54 pm

    ” There are many people now who have not opted for a career in science but are still capable of understanding the issues and having insights of their own. The amateur is returning.”

    Absolutely untrue. If anything, more and more expertise and specialization is required as each frontier of science becomes more complicated.

    Give me one modern example in science of an amateur – someone with no formal scientific training – making an important discovery. And not stumbling on some bones or finding comets as a hobby (a la David Levy) – I mean making a fundamental discovery.

    Good luck…

  47. Firestormmon 03 Sep 2011 at 1:11 am

    Interesting article thanks.

    You know to believe this is true (of CFS ‘activists’) you have to believe ‘they’ are a distinct and organised body, and I am not sure this is by any means certain.

    As far as the Guardian article goes, I tend to agree with Carl Zimmer:

    ‘I should say I take this article with a grain of salt…the catalog of harassment he presents [is] made up mainly of obnoxious emails. No one’s bombed a lab. And even if there are some people who are sending XMRV-related death threats, they could well just be a handful of people, rather than any sort of broad movement.’

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2011/08/21/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-death-threats-for-scientists/

    Are we not talking about different issues here? I mean although Carl’s reasoned piece managed to attract less than reasoned and out of context comments – the actual ‘intimidation’ and ‘death threats’ need some context surely?

    Where does one draw the line? I enjoy and thank scientists like Vincent Racaniello (http://www.virology.ws/) for engaging with the ‘public’ and he seems to accept that in this day and age he will attract those whose ‘belief’ outweighs any available evidence.

    He and others are willing to engage and debate and listen. These are emotive issues and the internet disseminates all views inevitably as ‘fact’ even those from scientists who gain a heady even ‘god-like’ following.

    Is it not a fact of life? Can it really be assigned to a distinct group of ‘militants’? I mean even the most reserved organisations attract more than their fair share of perceived hostility from those who want them to ‘do more’ or to move in such and such a direction or who do not share their views.

    When an individual chooses (rationally or otherwise) to ‘harass’ or ‘intimidate’ then the definition of that action is the recipients or the law’s. Can we group all such things collectively and suggest a collective?

    I condemn all ‘death threats’ and repeated ‘intimidations’ and I find it increasingly bizarre that for some they can believe so definitively in anything, when for CFS/ME nothing really is definitive – which is half the problem really.

    Frustration/desperation – how do you vent such things? The internet has afforded anyone the opportunity to do so. And yes even patients can attend conferences, make phone calls – but not one of these articles has laid the blame at a collective body of patients.

    There is no ‘CFS-Front’. Concerted attempts to undermine certain scientists perhaps – but no collective body acting in the name of all patients or pursuing a singular aim or bombing laboratories.

  48. jugaon 03 Sep 2011 at 3:52 am

    @daedalus2u

    You say “the proper response to a scientific paper that is disagreed with is a new scientific paper that cites the first paper and demonstrates how and why it is wrong” but your example of the Remote Sensing paper shows exactly the opposite. It’s problems were made known and its conclusions refuted not by a further paper, but by internet discussions involving amateurs, or “engaged observers” as the journal editor said in his resignation statement:

    “Unfortunately, as many climate researchers and engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora, the paper by Spencer and Braswell [1] that was recently published in Remote Sensing is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published.”

    This supports my point about the debate being open to all and not the exclusive domain of scientists. Errors can be corrected far more rapidly than ever before when we don’t just leave it to the scientists. It works both ways though, not just to correct errors from the anti-AGW side.

    “AGW denialism is funded by the fossil fuel industry”. If you think this is important, are you concerned about the many financial interests on the other side of the debate? If not, why not? Climate science has been generously funded for years by government, industry and charities. Of course, there is a risk of seeing secret conspiracies everywhere you look, hidden payments, ulterior motives. I’ve never been a fan of conspiracy theories myself.

  49. sonicon 03 Sep 2011 at 6:05 am

    I haven’t recieved a death threat for some years now. It wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t ever get another.

    For another view on what it means to “Hide the Decline” we will ask the Berkeley Physics professor–
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BQpciw8suk

    I think what this guy is saying is correct and if what he is saying is correct, then what has gone on is not ‘business as usual’ in the scientific sense.
    Of course you might conclude that printing misleading graphic material in scientific journals is standard scientific practice.

    Strangely it seems that many are making that point by claiming that nothing wrong was done.

    But I think most people aren’t really aware that the publications were as misleading as is presented above.

  50. Spence_UKon 03 Sep 2011 at 7:00 am

    It was a failure of peer review, for which the senior editor resigned.
    Not really, for two reasons. Firstly, the review process was followed correctly (as acknowledged by editor). Secondly, peer review has never been assumed to be a guarantee catch all. When papers containing errors are published, those errors are simply addressed by a follow up series of papers.

    If editors resigned every time a bad paper was published, there would be no editors left. As such, I can only call the decision of the editor to resign as bizarre. At the moment the only explanation I can think of is a political decision, as the decision makes no sense scientifically. Perhaps there is another explanation, but I’m struggling to see it.

    Sonic, thanks for also referencing Dr Muller’s presentation; I did reference it (but not link it) above, but my comment was still in moderation when you posted your link :( I hope Dr Novella is unable to release my comments because he is having too much fun at Dragon Con :)

  51. jugaon 03 Sep 2011 at 7:30 am

    @steve12

    “Fitting multiple datasets that are super-rich and super-noisy to a model that’s this big and has this many variables requires an amazing degree of skill across many disciplines”

    I would only partly agree. Firstly, climate scientists have been criticised by statisticians for not having the requisite skills in some cases (even though they may have needed them). Secondly, the computer code leaked with the climategate emails shows that those particular scientists were self-taught programmers and totally lacked any software engineering skills. Climate science is in many ways an amateur discipline that has little contact with other areas of science.

    While the physics of the atmosphere may be complex, a lot of climate science is accessible to anyone with an undergraduate science or maths education. For example, combining temperature measurements to produce an average record over time can actually be done on a PC using a spreadsheet or ‘R’. A lot of climate science is about analysing data and making predictions. It isn’t difficult to follow the calculation that says the Antarctic is warming based on measurements from a small number of temperature stations and satellite measurements.

    The other aspect of climate science that is open to “amateurs” is the meta-science. e.g How should uncertainty be treated? Is the precautionary principle valid and should its use be made explicit? Does climate science make any predictions that are falsifiable? These are in the domain of the philosophy of science and often better understood by amateurs than by climate scientists.

    The goal of science should be to make complex things understandable, not to hide behind the complexity.

    “You’re a right-wing politico concern troll who’s trying to show how unreasonable and undemocratic those damn liberal AGW people are.”

    Ha ha! I don’t think so. Not least because I’m in the UK and we have a different set of pigeonholes that you’d need to put me in. Also, in my experience, Freedom of Information, which I’m arguing for, has been promoted by the left and fought tooth and nail by the right.

  52. SteveAon 03 Sep 2011 at 8:33 am

    Juga: “It may be onerous at present to comply with some requests, but why is this so? Mostly, because a lot of data which should have been publicly available in the first place, is felt to be the private property of the researchers who have gathered it.”

    Most of the FOI requests I’ve dealt with have been completely redundant. If the person making the request had simply emailed or rung and asked for whatever they wanted it would have been given to them informally without a second thought. There’s a perception that UK civil servants are sitting on vast piles of secret information that has to be torn from their grasp. Whereas the truth is that they sit on vast amounts of very boring information that is of of slight interest to very few people, and those people know exactly where the information is and know how to get it and use it.

    My advice to anyone considering an FOI is to look on the Internet first (nine times out of ten the information will be there) and if not, write or ring up and ask for it. If you think anything is being held back, then do the FOI.

    Unfortunately there are some people (dishonest journalists mostly) who will always go for an FOI because it sounds exciting. The implication being that any data that needed an FOI to bring it to light must be ‘Top Secret’. To give you an example, we had a FOI request for some papers that had gone into the production of a report; for completeness we also included a copy of the report itself. The idiot who’d asked for it then did an ‘expose’ on this report (‘uncovered through an FOI’) but neglecting to mention that the report had been online for over 18 months and free to view by anyone who cared to do a simple Google search.

    I’m not saying that the FOI process should be abandoned, but it is open to abuse, and from my experience 95% of requests are generated by time-wasting sensationalists and crackpots.

  53. Spence_UKon 03 Sep 2011 at 8:53 am

    SteveA,

    The ICO investigated the FOI requests to the UEA and found them to be valid requests, for real data that was known to exist, that should not have been rejected.

    Whilst I appreciate many FOI requests are spurious, that point is irrelevant in the context of the UEA FOI requests.

  54. PharmD28on 03 Sep 2011 at 8:53 am

    Juga, you have laid out a number of arguments that cast much doubt on the authority and reliability of the entirity of climate science. When we talk about CAM therapies, we not only can point out flawed data sets, but we now have many quality studies done that show no benefit…thus supporting the narrative that CAM=bullshit.

    You seem to have alot of doubt about the potential to find truth from the climate scientists…but it seems to me that your casting of such doubts will only be useful at some point if some form of scientists collect data to show a different trend and conclusion.

    What data are we aware of that suggests AGW is BS? Or is it only the presence of possibly nefarious emails and un-released data and such a narrative that compels folks to throw the climate science consensus under the bus?

    What data have we to cast significant doubt on AGW? Sorry, I really do not know an answer to this – if you have a link to a good summary, I would be appreciative – thanks.

  55. daedalus2uon 03 Sep 2011 at 10:04 am

    Juga, no one is arguing with you about data being available for others to analyze.

    Are the various main stream media going to issue retractions of the dishonestly hyped and dishonestly overblown articles on how this single paper “disproves” AGW? Of course they won’t. Their goal is to bury good science so the public can’t appreciate what AGW might do.

    If you are not a fan of conspiracy theories, then what do you make of Roy Spencer’s assertion that Wagner resigned due to pressure from the IPCC?

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2011/09/editor-in-chief-of-remote-sensing-resigns-from-fallout-over-our-paper/

    Why won’t the AGW denialists take Wagner at his word? Why do they make up a vast conspiracy to explain what he stated in no uncertain terms? Do the AGW denialists have any data to support their frequent assertions of a pro-AGW conspiracy?

    Climate scientists were funded to do science. The goal of a scientist is to get the science right. AGW denialists are being funded by fossil fuel interests. The goal of AGW denialists is to cast doubt on AGW irrespective of what the facts are or what the science says. The goal of AGW denialists is to delay any action to mitigate AGW, so as to increase fossil fuel profits.

  56. Spence_UKon 03 Sep 2011 at 10:17 am

    daedalus,

    Why won’t the AGW denialists take Wagner at his word? Why do they make up a vast conspiracy to explain what he stated in no uncertain terms? Do the AGW denialists have any data to support their frequent assertions of a pro-AGW conspiracy?
    Why are you creating this massive strawman in which “AGW denialists” all have one opinion, and believe everything Roy Spencer says, and believe in a conspiracy?

    While there certainly are people who think like that, there are also people who take much more nuanced and thoughtful positions.

    It is entirely possible to accept AGW and simultaneously not want the science politicised (and let’s be clear: Wagner’s resignation politicises science), and simultaneously expect high standards of probity from climate science. These aren’t the mutually exclusive positions you paint them to be.

  57. steve12on 03 Sep 2011 at 11:40 am

    “I would only partly agree. Firstly, climate scientists have been criticised by statisticians for not having the requisite skills in some cases (even though they may have needed them).”

    An the link for this assertion is where?

    “Secondly, the computer code leaked with the climategate emails shows that those particular scientists were self-taught programmers and totally lacked any software engineering skills.”

    And the link for this assertion is where? And no one thinks the data should be kept away from statisticians or other qualified scientists, total straw man.

    Also you’re confusing my point about amateurs. I’m a self taught programmer, but I program for the apparatus of my experiments. Nothing wrong with that if it’s done correctly, which I can verify. Most scientists I know have taught themselves to program for one reason or another. It does not make them amateurs or call their work into question. Being a scientist is a very different thing and requires much more training and expertise before one can actually do anything, which is why amateurs never make fundamental discoveries (in modern times.).

    “Climate science is in many ways an amateur discipline that has little contact with other areas of science.”

    And the link for this assertion is where? Do you have some measure of what constitutes a normal amount of contact with other fields? Are there some records of this kept somewhere that you can show us? I seem like I’m mocking, but I would find this interesting…..

    They are not amateurs. THese are people that did their PhD and postdoc. You’re confused between an interdisciplinary field and amateurism.

    “While the physics of the atmosphere may be complex, a lot of climate science is accessible to anyone with an undergraduate science or maths education. For example, combining temperature measurements to produce an average record over time can actually be done on a PC using a spreadsheet or ‘R’. A lot of climate science is about analysing data and making predictions. It isn’t difficult to follow the calculation that says the Antarctic is warming based on measurements from a small number of temperature stations and satellite measurements.”

    I would say the top three mistakes non scientists make when it comes to doing science (and I’m sure that some here will have their own list!) are

    1. The inability to evaluate a piece of evidence vis a vis the larger picture. This forest for the trees understanding of the whole so that one understands where that piece of evidence fits and how vital it is to the overall understanding. When amateurs find one mistake or seemingly contrary piece of evidence, they’re quick to think the overall understanding must be wrong because they have no bigger picture to place that piece of information in. Takes a LOT of time to get that bigger understanding.

    2. Not understanding the power of convergent evidence, largely because they don’t understand the breadth of the field (sort of fits with 1).

    3. Underestimating the complexity of issue while overestimating their ability to deal with said complexity appropriately. THis is sort of a lack of explanatory depth issue.

    I’m a pretty advanced stats ‘user’ (not a statistician, though) and I teach statistics to undergraduates. It’s taken me years to attaint he understanding I have. When I look at some of the climate models my head spins. I know that it would take a massive amount of training for me to REALLY understand what they’re doing, to really understand WHY (not how, the more amateur level of understanding) they may have smoothed, detrended, filtered et al. portions of their data, e.g. I know how many years it’s taken me to be able to work through my own data, and how clueless i was when i began. I didn’t feel clueless though.

    “The other aspect of climate science that is open to “amateurs” is the meta-science. e.g How should uncertainty be treated? Is the precautionary principle valid and should its use be made explicit? Does climate science make any predictions that are falsifiable? These are in the domain of the philosophy of science and often better understood by amateurs than by climate scientists.”

    Yes – an educated amateur public will eventually have to decide what action they’re willing to take based on probabilities. I don’t think there’s literally any reason to think amateurs would be better than climate scientists at determining the probabilities associated with climate models or determining whether it’s falsifiable. Actually, the assertions seems rather ridiculous on it’s face. The rest of the scientific community would be better at this than the public.

    “The goal of science should be to make complex things understandable, not to hide behind the complexity.”

    Of course, but who can actually do that with something this complicated? Not you or your ilk, sorry to tell you. Especially after having read that you think you’re going to piecemeal do your own “analysis” at home with excel & r, which is patently ridiculous, unless you’re a statistician and haven’t told us.

    “Ha ha! I don’t think so. Not least because I’m in the UK and we have a different set of pigeonholes that you’d need to put me in. Also, in my experience, Freedom of Information, which I’m arguing for, has been promoted by the left and fought tooth and nail by the right.”

    OK, maybe you’re someone who likes to think of themselves as some sort of rebel against establishment thinking, with establishment defined by the scientific community. Either way, you’re a concern troll who has their mind made up but doesn’t want to say that for whatever reason. The irony is that you’re unwittingly shilling for big business by rebelling against what you probably think of as big science.

  58. steve12on 03 Sep 2011 at 11:51 am

    I hate posting such long-winded posts, so a little follow up about amateur scientists…

    I hope no one here takes what I’m saying as an insult, because I sound like a real dick talking about amateur scientists. In fact, I have the highest regard for them! Our society desperately needs people who consider themselves amateur scientists and skeptics to move forward on better policy path, for educating kids, etc.

    I am an amateur scientist in every field but the one I do – I gobble up all of the SciAm level physics stuff I can, and always walk away cursing that I know I don’t really get it at the level I’d like to.

    My problem is when amateur scientists like Juga want to appeal to some sort of egalitarian ideal to say that there’s really no distinction between amateurs and pros. First, it’s wrong. Having a whole group of people who’ve trained extensively is neccessary,and these people cannot be supplanted by those who know a lot less and did a lot less training. The record of science in modern times is clear here.

    I also consider this a dangerous idea that will do nothing but undermine public trust of science, and open us up to a “What the Bleep do We KNow?” sort of place. I think we have to fight that.

  59. bluesngreenson 03 Sep 2011 at 12:57 pm

    For this comment, I’m going to put myself forth as a fairly accurate example of regular American. Background: white christian female. No critical thinking, little to no skepticism. Believer in God, fascinated with ghosts, witches and woo. There have been slow changes over the years. I no longer believed every single thing I read, not by much though. About 1.5 years ago, something changed. I’ve spent this time especially getting rid of the dogma and woo and learning reality. I didn’t even realize we were made up of chemicals. My point: changing the way you think is really, really hard. When you’re not used to thinking like a scientist, or even thinking in real terms, wrapping your brain around scientific, critical and skeptical thinking is frustrating and headache inducing. But it can be done. I don’t have an easy answer for how to get people to grow up, don’t think there is one. Don’t hide the information, though. Keep talking, even when it’s above my head and other’s. We are capable of asking questions and being stubborn enough to not care what you may think of our stupidity. For whatever it’s worth, what you are doing is working. Please continue.

  60. In Vitro Infideliumon 03 Sep 2011 at 1:01 pm

    “researchers are just trying to understand a common and troubling syndrome, and some of the people who suffer from that syndrome are trying to inhibit the science by intimidating those scientists” may not be an accurate summation of the background to the media coverage of CFS ‘rage’. Certainly the reported threats are undoubtedly real, but the implied pattern of threats is unclear, for instance Simon Wessely encountered threats over a decade ago, long before the XMRV meme arose. While the recent reputed association of XMRV with M.E/CFS has excited a particular set of self proclaimed M.E/CFS ‘activists’, who are indeed wedded to a single pathogenic basis for the condition, the context of dispute between patients and medical researchers has a much longer history and is far more nuanced than recent media attention to the issue would suggest.

    A parallel with animal rightists is tempting, but the context is entirely different, animal rightists are fighting for a notion of natural justice in which they are divorced from the object of the justice – no lipstick smeared macaques or cigarette smoking beagles are actually activists; by contrast those implicated in intimidation against CFS researchers are themselves the very object of the ‘justice’ that they are claiming. Of course that is no justification for the intimidation, either in terms of the rights of the citizen, or the impact upon the free practice of science, but the sense of personal injustice and oppression yields a motivation that requires more than simple dismissal as ‘yet another bunch of crazies’.

    The context of ‘justification’ for ‘extreme’ activism by M.E/CFS sufferers and/or their carers, is not a ‘crank’ minority adoption of scientifically unwarranted ‘beliefs’, but the experience of the entire M.E/CFS population of a process of ‘psychologising’ an illness of which sufferer’s experience is universally that of symptoms which are wholly physical or cognitive. It is this background of a very real disjuncture between the beliefs of medical practitioners and the experience of their patients that underwrites the justification of the M.E/CFS extremists.

    That it should be psychiatry that provides the material of the disjuncture between doctors and their M.E/CFS patients is not a coincidence, and it is deeply disappointing that a staunch advocate for science based medicine should accept at face value the blandishments of a medical speciality which so singularly fails to meet the standards that SBM demands, as a point of extrapolation. I have no compunction about rejecting the M.E/CFS extremists, I’ve written several blog articles http://cfsmirror.blogspot.com/ and numerous forum posts attempting to challenge the partialist science that is often demanded by M.E/CFS sufferers – but the complaints of M.E/CFS affected people about researchers and medics are not all without reason. Crankery prospers where patients are inadequately supported. There is a mass of research which shows that those diagnosed with M.E/CFS have distinct sets of biological dysfunctions pointing to a range of possible causative processes. A change of focus on the part of medics and researchers away from pyschologising interpretations of the illness, toward the investigation and treatment of organic processes would yield rapid improvements in the relationship between doctors and researchers, and the people they are supposedly helping. In turn this would reduce any legitimacy that the extremists might claim.

  61. me2earthon 03 Sep 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Novella once again raises an interesting issue as far as it goes. He and many commenters overlook the very valid point that scientists are also human and subject to emotion, illogic, ideology, bias and influence, perhaps to a lesser degree than “amateurs,” but true never the less. Science is often perverted for commercial interests it is true, and too frequently bent to personal and implausible beliefs. Novela and many of the commenters seem to readily understand this except in those instances when those doing the perverting or bending happen to coincide with their own belief systems. It seems that their chief blind spot has to do with the misplaced belief that public policy or sources of money are good and noble (unless they disagree with their underlying politics or agendas). Is it really so hard to accept that the influence of public funding and policy you agree with may also lead to non-scientific outcomes?

    The answer appears to depend on the commenter’s own political and ideological beliefs rather than a preponderance of facts and first-hand knowledge. To illustrate:

    In the case of CAM most skeptics here tend to readily accept that government interventions that place a thumb on the scales of truth and fact produce bad policy, bad science, pseudo-science, commercial gain or outright fraud. Often this seems to have a very objective and righteous weight to it because of Novella’s (and many of the commenter’s) direct expertise in medicine. They also regularly point out and correctly expose the distorting influence of public policy, bad law-making, and special interest pandering that helps sustain the harmful impacts of uterly implausible CAM community belief systems.

    On other subjects (in this case AGW) these same skeptics expose their own emotional and ideological biases when they very nearly entirely (and in some cases, outright deny) that the same factor of government/public subsidy can have analogous negative impacts to theories they favor in exactly the same way they claim Big Business does to those they dismissively label as deniers.

    Like the rest of you, I am an amateur when it comes to climate science, so to a large extent I am dependent on others to analyze and interpret the mountains of data that weather systems and models produce. However it doesn’t take an expert to see that much of what is lobbed back and forth is political dogma, not science.

    Most reasonable people can understand and accept that the greenhouse effect is a testable fact and that the earth has been warming since the last cooling episode, due to many factors other than CO2. It is indeed settled science. But to conflate that basic science with a so-far unproven theory that human contributions to the atmosphere have condemned us all to a pending climate catastrophe is certainly dogmatic, an over-reach of the scientific evidence and questionable on the basis of the theory itself (in that so far the various models based upon these theories have produced negative results).

    Contrary to assertions that Big Business and Big Government are actively shilling AGW skepticism, are equally valid examples of Big Business and Big Government shilling for AGW proponents who are gaming a political system rigged to attempt (but that nearly always fails) to pick the winners and losers of tomorrow. Neither should have a place in determining science but alas, in this case they most certainly do play a role on both sides. It is too bad that many here have an embarrassing blind spot that leads to some rather blatant abandonment of the principals of logic and skepticism that you normally hew to.

  62. Spence_UKon 03 Sep 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I also consider this a dangerous idea that will do nothing but undermine public trust of science, and open us up to a “What the Bleep do We KNow?” sort of place. I think we have to fight that.

    Are you seriously suggesting it is dangerous for those outside an elite circle of scientists to question science? You’ve got to be kidding me. That is a far more dangerous situation than having people questioning science.

    Although I disagree with Dr Novella’s characterisation of climategate, I strongly agree with his comments regarding Lysenkoism. Lysenkoism is a classic case of groupthink within an elite group of scientists refusing to accept outside criticism. I’m sure Lysenko would have been very happy with your distinction between “pro” and “amateur” scientists. And it is one example from the record of modern science which doesn’t support your claim.

    Your belief that amateur scientists should toe the party line to move us forward on what you consider to be the correct “policy path” sounds to me like tying political positions to science, which is a recipe for Lysenkoism.

    The idea of a group of elite scientists that shouldn’t be criticised by outsiders is a terrible idea and runs against the very grain of scepticism and critical thinking. What is worse is that you seem to acknowledge this point in your comment but don’t realise the consequences of your subsequent dismissal of it.

  63. me2earthon 03 Sep 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Noticed a typo in my post that inadvertently changes the sense of my meaning:

    Novela and many of the commenters seem to readily understand this except in those instances when those doing the perverting or bending happen to contradict their own belief systems.

  64. jugaon 04 Sep 2011 at 2:42 am

    @steve12

    If the best you can come up with is name calling and abuse, there doesn’t seem much point continuing this debate. e.g. “right-wing politico concern troll”, “concern troll” (again), “unwittingly shilling for big business”.

  65. jugaon 04 Sep 2011 at 2:52 am

    @SteveA

    “from my experience 95% of requests are generated by time-wasting sensationalists and crackpots”

    I can believe that, but the other side is the reluctance on the part of public bodies to release information. I have made a few FOI requests (not on climate science, I hasten to add). One to my local council resulted in a phone call telling me how difficult it would be to respond and trying to get me to withdraw the request. I said I’d stick with it and received the info by email within an hour or two. In other cases, I’ve sent very specific questions which have not been fully answered. Maybe the recipient didn’t read the questions carefully or maybe they decided to see if I would go away if they gave me less than I asked for. For every crackpot request there’s someone else who gets a less than full answer, it seems to me.

    I’m sure your comments about the press are true. That’s lazy journalism.

    Regarding people just emailing or ringing to ask for information rather than FOIing. I wouldn’t consider doing that myself in case I was promised the information and it never arrived. At least an FOI request has a guaranteed response time and records are kept that you asked. If public bodies would rather have informal requests, they could offer this on their FOI pages but it seems a single FOI process is simpler.

  66. jugaon 04 Sep 2011 at 3:07 am

    @PharmD28

    I’m not saying AGW is BS. In fact, I’m trying very hard not to get into a discussion about AGW. Oddly (to me), some commenters here seem determined to out me as some sort of climate denier. Why is this, I wonder?

    In my first comment here I questioned the willingness of some climate scientists to release publicly paid-for information under FOI. This didn’t seem to me a controversial comment, not least because they had been criticised for this by the UK FOI commissioner. I suggested that just because they complained about being swamped with requests, that didn’t prove they had been.

    What then happened seems to have been a closing of ranks on the part of AGW believers in this thread. If I could be shown not to be one of the faithful, that would be sufficient reason to discount the point I was making, never mind any merit it might have.

    This of course is what has gone on in the wider climate debate for years and has done far more damage to the AGW cause than anything “deniers” have said. The perception that no one will respond honestly to legitimate criticism of any part of the AGW orthodoxy has, unsurprisingly, made the public more suspicious and less prone to believe what they are told without question.

  67. jugaon 04 Sep 2011 at 3:18 am

    @daedalus2u

    “Are the various main stream media going to issue retractions of the dishonestly hyped and dishonestly overblown articles on how this single paper “disproves” AGW? Of course they won’t”

    I agree, but I think this is a general problem with the press and not specific to correcting anti-AGW mistakes. Of course, they never issue retractions either of some fairly wild predictions about what will happen if AGW follows the models. I think there are people who fall for the hype on both sides, when what we all need to do is question everything we’re told.

    “AGW denialists are being funded by fossil fuel interests. The goal of AGW denialists is to cast doubt on AGW irrespective of what the facts are or what the science says. The goal of AGW denialists is to delay any action to mitigate AGW, so as to increase fossil fuel profits.”

    As you acknowledge, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, so you won’t be surprised if I disagree with that paragraph. It has all the hallmarks of a typical conspiracy theory. When I read the first few paragraphs of the Wikipedia entry, it seems to me a perfect match. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspiracy_theory

  68. tmac57on 04 Sep 2011 at 9:16 am

    Sometimes a conspiracy theory is true.Witness the tobacco industry’s cover-up of what they knew about the negative effects of smoking.They had a huge financial motive to do so.There are direct parallels to the oil and coal industries.Interestingly,some of the same players involved in the tobacco whitewash are also involved in the ongoing disinformation effort regarding AGW.The problem this time though,is that it it will effect everyone,not just the users of their product.

  69. PharmD28on 04 Sep 2011 at 11:41 am

    @Juga,

    Yeah, I kinda see what you are saying now. You have proved a point I suppose to some degree. You were intentionally vague about your stance on AGW and in the meantime some of the questions you mentioned were met with fairly harsh criticism. Perhaps in an open and full conversation we all agree more than we can show just with a back and forth like this one…

    I think some of your comments about conspiracy theories are misguided perhaps? I mean I think it is far from a conspiracy theory to think that there are many interest groups that deal with fossil fuels that are and will work very hard to mislead the public, to lobby governments very hard, and to attempt to de-legitimize any data that would support claims of AGW. Its far from a conspiracy theory that there are a large group of people that would lose a whole lot of money if AGW every became even close to a broader “significant concern”. I see on TV ads from Exxon about how natural gas drilling can be totally safe, its the wave of the future, American Jobs…etc etc….the jury to some degree is out on natural gas, but they have dodged reasonable federal regulations, and there is data increasingly surfacing to support the idea that natural gas may be quite harmful to the water supply and their air quality…anyway, point is, is that when huge profits are on the line, unwaivering resistance is certain.

    Calling people on this forum that perhaps jumped to a conclusion that you were a AGW denialist a “conspiracy theorist” by definition is sort of wrong…I think.

  70. tmac57on 04 Sep 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Sonic-

    For another view on what it means to “Hide the Decline” we will ask the Berkeley Physics professor–

    You will notice that on the video of Richard Muller that you linked to,that his lecture was in Oct 2010. Since that time Muller has testified in congress on Mar. 31st 2011 :

    The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was created to make the best possible estimate of global temperature change using as complete a record of measurements as possible and by applying novel methods for the estimation and elimination of systematic biases.

    We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.

    The world temperature data has sufficient integrity to be used to determine global temperature trends.

    Despite potential biases in the data, methods of analysis can be used to reduce bias effects well enough to enable us to measure long-term Earth temperature changes. Data integrity is adequate. Based on our initial work at Berkeley Earth, I believe that some of the most worrisome biases are less of a problem than I had previously thought.

    See this article: http://www.good.is/post/scientist-beloved-by-climate-deniers-pulls-rug-out-from-their-argument/

  71. Spence_UKon 04 Sep 2011 at 12:30 pm

    tmac57

    Muller’s views are completely consistent between the two comments that you refer to. His criticism of “hide the decline” related to the presentation of misleading graphs for historical temperature reconstructions from proxies. He has not publicly changed his position on this.

    Because the team that “hid the decline” were the same team who produced the most heavily relied on temperature series (HadCRU), he stated he no longer trusted it – not that it was wrong, but that he wasn’t interested in using data from a group who abuses science in that way. His temperature reconstruction – just like those produced by many sceptics (Jeff Id, RomanM for example) show a similar result to HadCRU.

    Muller’s position is completely consistent. He accepts the 20th century warming, as measured by thermometers and satellites, and he considers “hide the decline” to be anathema to scientific integrity. These are positions with which I fully agree with him.

  72. steve12on 04 Sep 2011 at 5:51 pm

    “If the best you can come up with is name calling and abuse, there doesn’t seem much point continuing this debate. e.g. “right-wing politico concern troll”, “concern troll” (again), “unwittingly shilling for big business”.”

    Actually, the best I can do are all the points that I brought up in the last posts – and previous ones – that you refuse to respond to. Instead, you grab a couple of (correctly used insults and simply ignore the rest. Nice strategy.

    You have to be the most selective responder I’ve ever seen.

    The “name calling” is simply my pointing out that you’re disingenuous, from your actual position on AGW which you high mindedly refuse to divulge, to your selective discussion of the climate emails, to your not responding to Daedalus’ answer to your supposed original problem, to your asking for proof of Steve’s original assertions while ignoring requests (from me in the last post) for you to do the same, to your general strategy of ignoring all of the points you don’t like.

    And for all of these reasons, I say you’re a concern troll with an agenda you don’t want to divulge. I stand by that because it’s obvious.

  73. techczechon 04 Sep 2011 at 6:01 pm

    I find it interesting that scientists are all too eager to cite psychological and social research to “explain” their opponents but are less then happy when sociological research shows them to be just as likely to be influenced by their humanity.

    Of course, science has its own history of thuggery tactics from eugenics to Tuskegee to outright fraud in the service of big pharma. So it seems to me only fair that they have to constantly work on winning the public trust.

    We want to end up somewhere between inspector Javert and animal rights terrorists but we can never let scientists off the hook just because they are nice people. Let’s just remember that they are just as capable of complete idiocy as anti-vaccination activists – including outright fraud.

    I don’t have any problem with suggesting that “scientists should be free to pursue their ideas, to follow the evidence and their hunches wherever they lead.” but we can never be sure that it is true that “The process of science will sort out which ideas have merit and which do not.” Science itself is based on trust and trust is communicated through social connections, not abstract scientific methods.

    And in the game of trust not all people can be won over. That does not mean that they should get a moral or legal pass on their violent behavior but I don’t think this says anything all that special about the public’s relationship to scientific endeavors.

  74. sonicon 04 Sep 2011 at 6:20 pm

    tmac57-
    Actually the professors work has not been concluded. You can go to his website and read about it–

    http://berkeleyearth.org/

    The preliminary findings are as he stated on March 31. The final results are due soon.

    What does that have to do with publishing misleading graphic material on a science journal cover?

    You seem to be mixing things up.

  75. I-IV-Von 04 Sep 2011 at 6:38 pm

    I am curious as to what Dr. Novella thinks about Simon Wessely’s call to merge neurology with psychiatry.

    …”In the 19th century, psychiatry and neurology were not really separated, and even at the start of the 20th century, psychiatrists were still interested in the science of the brain, while some neurologists were skilled in the growing field of psychological rehabilitation. But the influence of Freud and his followers — who did believe that many illnesses were ‘all in the mind’ — led to an increasing separation of the two disciplines.

    “By and large, the current generation of psychiatrists accept that many disorders — autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, OCD, Alzheimer’s and others — are disorders of brain function. Yet the division between neurology and psychiatry remains. It is almost impossible, for example, to train in both fields in this country, unlike in Germany. A few years ago, I attended a US conference in which a scientist proposed that what was needed in CFS was more brain imaging. ‘If we could identify the problem with the brain, we could tell patients it’s not all in their heads,’ he said, without apparent irony.

    “We should not accept this separation…”

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/7202658/mind-the-gap.thtml

  76. steve12on 04 Sep 2011 at 11:28 pm

    techczech loves confused arguments and straw men….

    “I find it interesting that scientists are all too eager to cite psychological and social research to “explain” their opponents but are less then happy when sociological research shows them to be just as likely to be influenced by their humanity.”

    Who are scientists’ “opponents”? People who believe in nonsense?Who said that scientists are immune to social influence? And because scientists are not immune to social influence, they’re not allowed to study sociology and psychology?

    “Of course, science has its own history of thuggery tactics from eugenics to Tuskegee to outright fraud in the service of big pharma. So it seems to me only fair that they have to constantly work on winning the public trust.”

    So because some scientists have done bad things, these scientists deserve this, or we have no right to bring attention to it? Who said that we shouldn’t have to win public trust? Dealing with thuggery should be part of winning the public trust because of past sins, committed by other scientists?

    “We want to end up somewhere between inspector Javert and animal rights terrorists but we can never let scientists off the hook just because they are nice people. Let’s just remember that they are just as capable of complete idiocy as anti-vaccination activists – including outright fraud.”

    Who said scientist should be immune from criticism because they’re “nice”? Who said scientists never commit fraud? Who said it’s right when they do? BEcasue this has happened, thuggery and threats against all scientists aren’t somehow as bad?

    “Science itself is based on trust and trust is communicated through social connections, not abstract scientific methods.”

    OK. Right. While obvious, this isn’t a straw man.

    “And in the game of trust not all people can be won over. That does not mean that they should get a moral or legal pass on their violent behavior but I don’t think this says anything all that special about the public’s relationship to scientific endeavors.”

    2 things:

    It is special because science is one of the most important social institutions that we have. Remember: science has advanced mankind’s understanding of the universe, and all that goes with it, more in the past couple of hundred years than in the previous 90,000 years combined. W/o science, we’re still watching half of our kids not survive into adulthood, and dying at 30. And there is no tech for techczech.

  77. John2on 05 Sep 2011 at 4:01 am

    Steve12 writes
    “I hope no one here takes what I’m saying as an insult, because I sound like a real dick talking about amateur scientists.”

    Yes, you really do. You jumped in on Juga’s first post with ridiculous claims about his beliefs, suggesting that you prefer to post an angry response than to read what has been written, then you post weird insults about the abilities of amateurs to analyse data.

    I’m only an amateur scientist nowadays, but before leaving physics to ply my trade in finance, I managed a very respectable time as a particle physicist, working at CERN. I hope that you’ll understand that I disagree with your “expert” analysis of what I may or may not be capable of.

  78. SteveAon 05 Sep 2011 at 7:14 am

    Juga: “If public bodies would rather have informal requests, they could offer this on their FOI pages but it seems a single FOI process is simpler.”

    It’s not exactly ‘simpler’, but you make a fair point. Many organisations do like funnelling requests through a formal process.

  79. tmac57on 05 Sep 2011 at 9:30 am

    Sonic-

    What does that have to do with publishing misleading graphic material on a science journal cover?

    Sorry if my response wasn’t as direct as it could have been.My point is that Dr. Muller initially thought that there were problems with the data that weren’t being addressed by the 97% of climate scientists,and he saw the “Hide the decline” as some sort of either sloppy science,or fraud. But so far the B.E.S.T. project’s analysis agrees with mainstream analysis of the data.So we shall see.
    In the meantime, here is a video that addresses your video,and “Hide the decline” in greater detail than I would care to go in to.It’s pretty snarky at first,but give it a chance,because the central portion lays out the defense fairly carefully,and addresses Muller’s and your concern about what Jones was actually saying in the email,and why the graphic was done that way.

  80. tmac57on 05 Sep 2011 at 9:32 am

    Oops!I forgot to post the link to the video,so here it is:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz8Ve6KE-Us

  81. Spence_UKon 05 Sep 2011 at 9:55 am

    My point is that Dr. Muller initially thought that there were problems with the data that weren’t being addressed by the 97% of climate scientists

    No, that’s not what he said. He said that he would not trust science produced by someone who thinks it is okay to hide the decline. That is quite different to what you wrote above. And I don’t remember Muller referring to “97% of climate scientists”. He referred to the “group that hid the decline”. I suggest you re-watch Muller’s video and listen to what he has to say more carefully.

    The greenman3610 youtube video is littered with errors. I addressed them in two comments on Bad Astronomy here.

  82. Spence_UKon 05 Sep 2011 at 10:00 am

    Hey, cool! Dr Novella must be back from Dragon Con, and my comments have been released from moderation. Firstly: thank you Dr Novella, and I hope you enjoyed your trip :)

    Secondly, apologies to everyone who now has a bunch of comments suddenly appearing threaded throughout this blog post. If you can’t be bothered to re-read it all, I fully understand!

  83. Pritton 05 Sep 2011 at 11:02 am

    I think that this part explains why I disagree with much of the above post:

    “It should be obvious why all of this is so destructive. Science works best when it exists in a bit of a bubble. This does not mean it is completely cut off from the practical world, but scientists should be free to pursue their ideas, to follow the evidence and their hunches wherever they lead. The process of science will sort out which ideas have merit and which do not.”

    Trying to take such an approach with science very often leads to the mistreatment and abuse of the weakest sections of our society. Scientific racism, or the claim that homosexuality should be viewed as a mental health disorder are now so forcefully rejected that it’s difficult to imagine them being seen as a part of ‘science’ – but they played a vital role in legitimising the bigotry of others. The claim that autism resulted from refrigerator mothers, or that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a manifestation of repressed depression may now be rejected, but these theories have caused lasting damaging, and an increased scepticism towards mainstream medicine amongst the cultures which surround these conditions.

    The results from the recent PACE trial, and a CDC paper on personality disorders in CFS, were both spun and exaggerated to the media in ways likely to cause further problems for patients – yet I’ve not seen any concern from the ‘sceptical media’ about this. In order for science to work properly, an awful lot of work and effort is required – for CFS, there is often a lack of interest in making this investment.

    While many CFS patients will fail to fully understand the work which surrounds their condition, or express their concerns about it poorly, I think that they’re quite justified in being angry about the poor way in which their condition is often treated, and about the harmful affect which the work of certain researchers is likely to have had upon their lives.

    When discussing cognitive biases, I think it’s important to recognise the role they can play in the development of researcher’s hunches, their interpretation of the evidence, and the likelihood of society being influenced by their press releases. The ‘Just World Hypothesis’ would seem a possible explanation many of the examples of error I provided above.

    (Another problem with CFS is that it’s such a complicated topic, with so little clear evidence either way, that it’s very difficult to write about concisely – and even harder to learn about quickly).

  84. daedalus2uon 05 Sep 2011 at 11:58 am

    I saw an article which explains why fossil fuel interests are so intent on casting doubt on AGW.

    http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-07-14/unburnable-carbon-%E2%80%93-are-world%E2%80%99s-financial-markets-carrying-carbon-bubble-report

    The problem is that the fossil fuel assets still in the ground have a “value” that is predicated on their use as fuel. If they can’t be burned as fuel, for what ever reason, then their value goes down. When a major asset of a fossil fuel company is the value of its fossil fuel reserves, a decline in the value of those reserves means a decline in the value of the company.

    From the report:

    “Valuations of the oil and gas sector still assume that they will be able to take all proven and probable reserves out of the ground and burn them. Based on credible data we cannot be allowed to do that, because it is likely to leave us north of 700 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere.” (Steve Waygood, Aviva Investors)24

    In other words, current fossil fuel company valuations are predicated on them receiving (essentially) current market prices for their in ground reserves. If 20% of those in ground reserves are actually burned, that incremental CO2 will just about double the current CO2 level in the atmosphere, a level that would be completely unacceptable as far as AGW goes.

    It is clear that not all fossil fuel reserves can be burned. Those that will not be burned, don’t have the same net present value as if they will be burned. Thus, there is a gigantic inflated bubble of future fossil fuel prices, and so of current fossil fuel company valuations.

    Hiding the fact that future fossil fuel prices will plunge is the only thing that is keeping stock prices of fossil fuel companies where they are.

    The question is, who gets stuck with the loss when the markets appreciate that the price of fossil fuel companies is due to a bubble and the whole thing collapses?

  85. tmac57on 05 Sep 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Spence_UK- The 97% was my own assertion.I didn’t intend to attribute that as a quote by Muller. But looking over your posts on BA, I see that you seem to accept AGW,so you don’t seem to fit in with the denier crowd.Those are the ones that press my buttons.
    I still think that Muller’s presentation was just as misleading as you seem to think that the graphic presented was,but we could argue about that endlessly,so I don’t see any point in going back and forth about it.
    Do you go after the deniers that post on blogs,with the same energy that you do for people like Phil Plait who accept AGW?

  86. HHCon 05 Sep 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Graded exercise therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy have helped some British patients return to normal. As much as 25% of children or adults with ME don’t leave the house. Staying indoors can’t provide a normal healthy environment at all times. I wonder if some British homes have environmental problems, such as mold, mildew, drafts, poor ventilation.

  87. Pritton 05 Sep 2011 at 1:13 pm

    @ HHC: The authors of the PACE trial’s use of the term ‘back to normal’ is a great example of the sort of spin which surrounds CFS.

    If you look at their paper, you can see that the criteria for those patients classed as successfully ‘back to normal’ is actually such that it would include patients who were more seriously ill than was needed to be classed as suffering from ‘severe and disabling fatigue’ at the start of the trial. Look at the PACE paper in the Lancet, and then check their use of figures from the Bowling SF-36 PF paper cited, you will see that on top of the spin, they also made basic factual errors, defining a normal range which included 90% of the population, a population of which 25% were aged over 65, and included all those with disabilities and chronic health problems, when they claimed only to be looking at the working age population (as their patients were all of working age), and the Lancet’s editorial wrongly claimed: “PACE used a strict criterion for recovery: a score on both fatigue and physical function within the range of the mean plus (or minus) one standard deviation of a healthy person’s score”

    It’s also well worth looking at PACE’s published protocol, and seeing how the outcome measures were changed.

    That the PACE trial is being used by some to support the exaggerated claims that have been made about the curative nature of CBT and GET shows just how little influence the evidence can often have over scientific discourse. I think that patients, and everyone else with an interest in the truth, should be angry about this.

  88. sonicon 05 Sep 2011 at 3:19 pm

    tmac57-
    Re : greenman3610– See the analysis by Spence_UK.

    Spence_UK
    I agree that Wagner’s resignation is odd. He seems to be saying that standard peer review doesn’t work where climate science is concerned.
    Odd indeed.

  89. Spence_UKon 05 Sep 2011 at 4:56 pm

    tmac57, not so sure why you want to make it about me all of a sudden, but I’ll answer your question this time.

    When people outside of science use distorted reasoning, it is annoying, and I do spend time criticising it. Ranging from creationism, to 9/11 troofers, to anti-vaxxers, to the anti-GM crowd, and yup, on some occasions I have called out people who question the greenhouse effect, or claim it is saturated, or abuse statistics in the pursuit of these claims.

    But it bothers me much more when people using flawed reasoning within science, and I do react much more passionately – because the reputation of science itself is at stake, and the quicker it is resolved, the better it is for science. That isn’t just for climate science, but for ALL scientific disciplines.

  90. Firestormmon 05 Sep 2011 at 6:21 pm

    HHC

    Depends – as ever – on your definitions I suppose. Personally, I wouldn’t want to open that kettle of fish on this blog.

    The 25% figure is similarly a fluctuating one and not really based on any research I have read, though it is generally accepted that at some point in the progression of the illness, some patients ‘can’t’ leave their beds or their homes.

    Thing is, you can ‘recover’ into some form of ‘remission’ and then ‘relapse’ back into this 25% group – though you might only ‘recover’ to a small degree…

    Been carrying this diagnostic burden for 11 years now, and it’s being knocked off that hard-won ‘plateau’ that hurts the most.

  91. daedalus2uon 05 Sep 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Sonic, yes, that is what his resignation does mean. There are issues at stake other than scientific ones that can be addressed by peer review.

    The reason peer review doesn’t work for climate science is because there are well funded anti-AGW interests who are actively spreading disinformation to trick the public into thinking there is doubt about AGW.

    Peer review does work for scientists working in climate science. Actual climate scientists can tell which papers are bad and ignore them the way that bad papers are ignored in every field. The problem is that the anti-AGW interests don’t care about the science, all they care about is that it is anti-AGW and got past “peer-review”. There was no “scientific interest” in this paper, it was hyped by the anti-AGW interests solely because it had an anti-AGW message, even though it was poor science and didn’t come close to countering the vast amounts of data and theory that supports AGW, yet it was dishonestly hyped as though it did.

    What the CO2 that humans are putting into the atmosphere is doing to the climate is a scientific question, one that science is very well suited to understanding.

    What humans should do about what the CO2 is doing to the climate is not a scientific question, it is a human values question.

    Do we continue putting CO2 into the atmosphere until Greenland melts? Until sea level has gone up 7 meters? 14 meters? More? What level of sea level rise is acceptable? The AGW denialists know that rational human beings will come up with rational answers to the question of what to do about AGW. The AGW denialists don’t want a rational answer to AGW, they want an “answer” that preserves their wealth, even at the expense of great human misery elsewhere.

  92. steve12on 05 Sep 2011 at 11:49 pm

    @John2

    I do make claims about his beliefs, but this is only because he continues to evade questions about those very beliefs! I (et al.) asked him point blank what he thought about AGW, because he seemed to have an agenda. He affirmed that by declining to answer. HE could have set the record straight, but his refusal to do this invited speculation. I do not apologize for that, and I think that his agenda is plain to see.

    He also refuses to address any pointed question he doesn’t like, including the refutation of his original objection.

    Not sure how you assess my mood. But even if I’m mad, and I’m a prick, I responded to what he wrote point by point (something he refuses to do), and copped to where I was in error.

    What makes either of you unable to address any of the points I’ve made about expertise and the complexity of the data & models? IOW, enough w/ the hurt feelings and BS and let’s get to the point. I’ve made it clear what I think, Juga can do the same.

    “I’m only an amateur scientist nowadays, but before leaving physics to ply my trade in finance, I managed a very respectable time as a particle physicist, working at CERN. ”

    Particle physicists who worked at CERN are pros. They’re pros by training (which is obviously what I was talking about) and they are pros literally by virtue of the fact that they are being paid to do science, ergo “professional”. I can’t believe that I have to explain that to someone. Your expertise didn’t evaporate when you went into another endeavor so CLEARLY I wasn’t talking about you.

    “I hope that you’ll understand that I disagree with your “expert” analysis of what I may or may not be capable of.”

    Again, as a pro by training, you should be well qualified to understand data in your field.

    What is going on here?

    John2 = Juga?

  93. Spence_UKon 06 Sep 2011 at 6:39 am

    The reason peer review doesn’t work for climate science is because there are well funded anti-AGW interests who are actively spreading disinformation to trick the public into thinking there is doubt about AGW.

    Unfortunately, it is this sort of view (paranoia?) that has lead to the sad state of science that we are in at the moment. Most of daedalus’ claims are appeal to motive, and many based on rather naive understanding of economics.

    Whilst there is no doubt there are many people funding an anti position on climate science, there is also an overreaction in response and gatekeeping of the science, which is ultimately harmful. More damage was done to the reputation of science by climategate than mitigated by gatekeeping the literature.

    Science has to retain a free flow of ideas, and that means allowing a wide range of viewpoints in the peer review literature. Once you decide that the political consequences of publishing a paper critical of AGW are too severe to allow it to happen, you not only shut out bad papers, but also very good papers that question the status quo. Then science is no longer science, but a political tool. Then we are heading back towards Lysenkoism.

    Ultimately the message to get across is that the peer review literature never was and never will be a guarantee of correctness, and accept that bad papers will occasionally be published – on both sides of the AGW debate. That is the pragmatic solution and the only one that does not ultimately damage the reputation of science.

  94. In Vitro Infideliumon 06 Sep 2011 at 9:01 am

    @HHC. To add to comments by Pritt and Firestorm: PACE most definitely did not demonstrate that CBT or GET helped any CFS patients ‘get back to normal’. There were a few statistically insignificant outliers ( miracle cure !!!) but what PACE did unequivically demonstrate is that both CBT and GET are ineffective for the majority of M.E/CFSpatients, and produces only minimal improvement for minority. The conclusion for health professionals and patients can only be that CBT and GET are neither helpful nor cost effective interventions for M.E/CFS. There is significant anger amongst UK M.E/CFS patients that £5 million was spent on a study that virtually no M.E/CFS patients wanted and which produced a result that many thought was painfully obvious. And I write that as someone who on the basis of an earlier study http://www.hta.ac.uk/execsumm/summ1037.htm thought that CBT and GET were going to be useful.

    “Staying indoors can’t be healthy” is a truism, indeed long term lack of activity has many unwanted health impacts, however achieving a health maintaining activity level in the face of severe muscle and joint pain, as well as overwhelming malaise ( a more accurate descriptor of the symptom than simple ‘fatigue’) is not easy. The psychiatric argument so heavily resisted by most patients is that impairment from M.E/CFS is merely deconditioning as a result of inappropriate avoidance behaviour motivated by a maladaptive illness response. CBT and GET are supposed to assist the patient to get past the maladaptive behaviour and become ‘reconditioned’. As PACE has demonstrated – CBT and GET don’t achieve what was hypothesised they would, although another study suggests this is the fault of patients for not believing in the curative value of CBT strongly enough http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21457596#

  95. daedalus2uon 06 Sep 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Spencer, the AGW fight is not about science. Climate gate had nothing to do with science.

    It is about what policies to adopt to mitigate AGW due to CO2 from burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuel interests want to do nothing because doing nothing is what maximizes the present value of their fossil fuel reserves. They want to sell them and burn them as fast as possible because once they are sold and burned, they have been turned into money in the bank.

    The world’s fossil fuel companies have more fossil fuel reserves than can be burned as fuel. What value should be attached to fossil fuel reserves that cannot be burned as fuel? I think the same value as other resources that cannot be burned as fuel, the same as reserves of granite, basalt, and other random non-fuel and non-ore rock. The value of those “reserves” is essentially zero.

    What would happen if the value of the reserves of the fossil fuel companies went to zero? The value of those companies would drop a great deal. What would happen if the value of those companies dropped a great deal? The stock price would drop a great deal.

    What happens to the stockholders who used to own fossil fuel company stock that was worth $100 and now it is worth $20? What happens to the pension funds that had fossil fuel company stock in their portfolio?

    Fossil fuel company stocks are highly over valued because their value is predicated on the value of the reserves of those fossil fuel companies being sold at market fossil fuel prices. It is just like the mortgage backed securities. Put a frosting of well secured mortgages on top of junk and sell it like it is all secure and eventually the bubble will burst.

    There is no difference. A mortgage is an obligation to pay a certain amount over a certain period of time. The value of fossil fuel reserves is predicated on selling those reserves at a certain price over a certain period of time.

    The question is, how much CO2 can be put into the atmosphere before there are unacceptable changes to the climate? Once that question is answered, then the quantity of fossil fuels that can be burned before that happens is easy to calculate.

  96. Spence_UKon 06 Sep 2011 at 4:32 pm

    daedalus2u, thank you for reinforcing the view that you have some very strange ideas about how the economy works.

    Firstly, what policies do you think would end consumption of fossil fuel tomorrow? That means all cars off the road, heating systems in houses changed, high power industries shut down. Let me tell you now that isn’t going to happen. Because any infrastructure to replace it will take considerable time to build and come on line due to the high capital costs.

    Secondly, who really suffers if the fossil fuel companies collapse? Mainly shareholders. Who owns shares in fossil fuel companies? Well, have you got a pension? Then you probably do. Congrats on your plan to hose pensioners.

    But it’s okay, because the fossil fuel companies won’t go bust. Your scenario is cloud cuckoo land. Because just like any project to extract fossil fuels requires massive capital investment, most non-fossil fuel power sources need even bigger capital investment. And guess who has the scale, workforce and connections to do that work? Yep, the fossil fuel majors and the energy majors.

    The only difference is that the energy companies will then be charging more for their product (which increases share price btw), and have a government guarantee on price (because it is the only way for alternatives to compete with fossil fuels). OK, pension pots do better in this scenario. Who gets hosed then? Mainly the consumers, and if this happens we in the UK can look forward to another spike in elderly people dying from hypothermia because they won’t turn on their heating in case they can’t pay their energy bills.

    How long do you think a government in a modern democracy would last if they are driving up energy bills much faster than inflation+growth?

    You can know everything there is to know about climate science, but if you are naive about communications, politics and economics, you’re going to make things worse, not better.

    You say the fight isn’t about the science, but the politics. Let me just make one thing clear about the politics: you’re doing it wrong.

  97. Spence_UKon 06 Sep 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Interesting commentary by Richard Smith (ex editor of the BMJ) in BMJ group blogs about the topic of not releasing data to people you are worried wants to misuse it.

    http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2011/09/01/richard-smith-let-the-tobacco-company-see-the-data/

    Dr Smith makes his views clear (my emphasis):

    It’s legitimate to worry that the data will be misused by the tobacco company, but denying them access to the data is not the right response. Inevitably it will look as if the researchers have something to hide, perhaps some suspect torturing of the data. Whether we like it or not, as I have said and written many times, we live in an age where what is not transparent is assumed to be biased, incompetent, or corrupt until proved otherwise. The way for the researchers to counter the tobacco company is not through hiding their data but through better analysis and better argument. That is the essence of science.

    Naturally, I agree entirely with his sentiments.

  98. PharmD28on 06 Sep 2011 at 5:30 pm

    “Secondly, who really suffers if the fossil fuel companies collapse? Mainly shareholders. Who owns shares in fossil fuel companies? Well, have you got a pension? Then you probably do. Congrats on your plan to hose pensioners.”

    I presume that if the fossil fuel companies collapse (which they will not in our life), there would be a fairly strong consensus that burning fossil fuels is very bad for our environment. Assuming that is the case [that AGW is perfectly real], then who really suffers if AGW is left un-mitigated? I am pretty sure the economic, environmental, politcal etc ramifications of AGW will be more hellish as the prospect of acting now to mitigate AGW??

    Spence UK, your points about the real life barriers to policies that would mitigate AGW are noted….these likely facts make a compelling argument that we are screwed no matter what at this point …..what this does not make a good argument for though is to address the validity of the theory of AGW…

    Your calling Daedalus’s narrative naive seems to forget the presumed very bad effects of AGW in the status quo…..is he truly being naive or are you in denial about what may be the future of our environment? I ask this with the utmost respect as I am not in your head.

  99. techczechon 06 Sep 2011 at 6:15 pm

    @steve12 Hmm. Straw men? There’s plenty of examples of scientists during the “science wars” denouncing sociology of science as threatening to the whole scientific enterprise. EO Wilson’s Consilience is a good example. I wasn’t suggesting that scientists should not be allowed to do sociology just that they do it fairly. Or at least well.

    Such as not suggesting that a few examples of intimidation of scientists make a trend or are representative of common patterns. I did a quick search for “intimidation of scientists” and could only find about half a dozen categories of cases of the public intimidating the scientists: ME, animal testing, climate change, cigarettes. The rest were accusations of scientists being intimidated by their institutions or by politicians.

    It’s probable that more scientists have been stalked and/or threatened by their students than by members of the public because of what their research is about. It’s always sad when it happens but it means very little when it comes to what science is or should be about. And it certainly does not support the thesis that “Science works best when it exists in a bit of a bubble.”

    The fact of the matter is that most scientists are intimidated by other scientists through tenure committees, grant committees, peer review, whispering campaigns, peer pressure, etc. That is a far more important concern for the substance of what science wants to be about than a few isolated cases of thuggery. They do matter just as much as any individual case of violence matters but not as examples of a real ‘trend’.

    It’s hard to stop oneself agreeing from dismissing all the “[p]eople who believe in nonsense?” By all accounts the people quoted in this case seem to have gotten the wrong end of the stick. But believing in nonsense should not necessarily disqualify them from the public square. We all believe in plenty of things that other people think of (or will think of) as nonsense: God, humor theory of disease, genetics. Darwin did. Newton certainly did. Einstein did. Aristotle did. BBC science reporters definitely do. What is nonsense is always negotiated. And sometimes believing in “nonsense” is the only way to solve a problem – as Morse did when he believed that transmitting information over copper cables was a possibility when no one else did.

    I’m not at all sure that “science is one of the most important social institutions that we have”. Much of the progress you cite as argument is a result of engineering – science as we think of it played almost no role in the industrial revolution. Invention of powered flight happened outside the institutions of science. So did much of the IT revolution. But that’s a different discussion.

    BTW: We were never “dying at 30″. It only looks like that if you include infant mortality in life expectancy. See http://metaphorhacker.net/2011/04/life-expectancy-and-the-length-and-value-of-life-on-a-historical-overimagination.

  100. tmac57on 06 Sep 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Spence- Your response to D2u seems off the mark.He proposed no “plan” that would “hose” anyone. My reading was, that D2u was pointing out the motivating biases of the energy companies.Those are strong indeed,and ignoring any influence from them would be foolish.
    It is true that we have created an energy supply system that the world’s economic system rests perilously on,but it is also true that we are inadvertently causing unwanted climate effects that possibly could be much worse than curtailing fossil fuel usage.We don’t know what those effects are for sure,but it is beginning to look very costly for the future,
    Given that there is a finite amount of fossil fuel resources,we have no choice but to move forward with alternative (and cleaner) energy resources,unless we want to be caught flatfooted and have to retool our infrastructure in a crises situation,which could be very unpleasant indeed for those who remain (I will most likely not be around then). All of the ‘business as usual’ rhetoric that springs from the defenders of our current system sure does remind me of Nero. Fiddle on my friends, but don’t ever say that you were not warned.

  101. daedalus2uon 06 Sep 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Spence, an unacceptable climate outcome is discussed in this paper.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/21/9552.full

    Where the wet-bulb temperature is projected to go above 35C over large areas of the planet if all the fossil fuels are burned. Such conditions are not survivable, rendering those areas of the planet uninhabitable.

    Ending fossil fuel use tomorrow is not what is needed. Ending fossil fuel use before every last bit of recoverable oil, coal and natural gas is burned is what is needed. Transitioning the economy and energy consumption to renewable and other non-GHG emitting sources is what is needed, even if that represents a reduction in lifestyle. It doesn’t need to represent a reduction in lifestyle, except for the vested interests of the fossil fuel companies and their owners.

    Are you suggesting keep burning fossil fuels until billions die from heat exhaustion? How many deaths from heat exhaustion do you think are acceptable?

  102. PharmD28on 06 Sep 2011 at 11:10 pm

    “BTW: We were never “dying at 30″. It only looks like that if you include infant mortality in life expectancy. See http://metaphorhacker.net/2011/04/life-expectancy-and-the-length-and-value-of-life-on-a-historical-overimagination.”

    I know this is not a focus of this thread but I really didnt get this blog post here….I mean is he technically right, that infant mortality was a huge contributor, that not really “that many” died at 30 who made it to 30 – but really so what?. Its hardly an argument to minimize the dramatic and real benefits of medical science on lifespan, quality of life, and preventing/curing/mitigating many awful diseases…oh, and on reducing mortality and suffering of children less than 10 years old…..what is the point of this “by the way”?

  103. steve12on 07 Sep 2011 at 1:35 am

    @techczech:

    Your post is both confusing and confused, and you seem to not remember what any of my points were in regard to from your original post.

    I find this funny and emblematic, though:

    ” science as we think of it played almost no role in the industrial revolution. ”

    Words fail.

  104. ginckgoon 07 Sep 2011 at 2:51 am

    Juga: I’m late to the party, and sorry if this has already been clarified: regarding the assertions that FOIs were not handled properly, check out this summary at SkepticalScience: http://www.skepticalscience.com/Freedom-of-Information-FOI-requests-climate-scientists.htm

    There is evidence that they initially complied with FOI requests, but suddenly got swamped by an apparently coordinated attempt to harass them.

  105. Spence_UKon 07 Sep 2011 at 8:32 am

    PharmD28

    Since some people are struggling to understand my point, I will give you a hypothetical which I hope will make it clear.

    Let’s consider a group of astronomers who make a discovery that there is a large asteroid on a direct collision course with earth. They’ve spotted it with a a couple of years before impact. And let’s assume up front that the astronomers observations are correct.

    Scenario A: the astronomers announce the observations and analysis to the world, with a report explaining the physics of asteroid motion, the likely consequences of an impact, the expected date of the impact, and a demand that action be taken now. They include no raw data, where the asteroid currently is, or any of their calculations to verify the trajectory. Sceptics question this and demand information; those sceptics are rebuffed, and told that they only want to find something wrong with it.

    Scenario B: the astronomers write a dispassionate report, providing a clear definition of the scientific knowledge as before, but this time provide all of their data and methods. Some sceptics take the data, and miscalculate a different trajectory, and claim there is no issue; but many more use the same data and confirm the astronomers concerns.

    Now, two questions.

    1. In which of the above two scenarios is science likely to have the best reputation?

    2. In which of the above two scenarios do you think the public is more likely to accept the scientists findings and then vote to take action?

    My belief is that the majority of people are reasonable and if treated like adults will take time to understand and make the best decision. However, many people dislike arrogance and secrecy and will be concerned when they see that behaviour in scientists.

    Now, getting back to climategate, we saw scientists behaving just like in Scenario A. Going to lengths to avoid letting people see the raw data and methods on which their analyses are based.

    Scientists should be behaving as in scenario B, which will improve the reputation of science, which will increase the likelihood of people wanting to take action.

    I was unimpressed by climategate, but astonished that people who want action taken are defending scientists behaving as in scenario A above. For three reasons; it harms the long term reputation of science; and it harms any likelihood of rational action. But also for the third reason, as Dr Smith points out in the quote above, scenario A is at the very core of science; it is the essence of science.

  106. Spence_UKon 07 Sep 2011 at 8:53 am

    Daedalus2u, your comment shows a huge ignorance of the CO2 cycle and economics (once again). The ultimate peak CO2 concentration in the atmosphere depends on the rate at which is consumed. So we could burn it all over a longer period, and never see the worst effects, or burn half of it tomorrow and leave the rest untouched, and see much worse effects.

    And that is ignoring the comment you make with regards to “recoverable”, which has a number of different definitions. Do you mean economically recoverable? Because that changes from year to year as the price of energy changes and new discoveries are made. Do you mean theoretically recoverable, with projections to undiscovered sources? These are completely different quantities and your comment is unclear as to what you mean.

    Your viewpoint lacks a deep understanding of the issues or any kind of nuance associated with the real world. As such, it is pretty much worthless as far as I can tell.

  107. daedalus2uon 07 Sep 2011 at 11:15 am

    Spence, you can dispense with the ad hominem. I do understand the carbon cycle. “Recoverable” has a specific meaning. If you don’t understand that, then it is you who are ignorant.

    The report I linked to does explain those terms. Maybe you should read, because you don’t understand what you are talking about.

    http://www.carbontracker.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2011/07/Unburnable-Carbon-Full-rev2.pdf

    There is a thing called the discount rate, that is used to express the discounted value that things have in the future. That is what makes a dollar a year for a million years not worth the same as a million dollars today.

    People who don’t know what they are talking about pretending they do know what they are talking about in regards to the value of investments is what causes economic bubbles. That is what caused the housing bubble, the people blowing up the bubble didn’t believe that housing prices could ever fall, or at least that is what they told the people they were selling the mortgage backed securities to. They were wrong, the bubble burst, housing prices collapsed, and the world went into a deep recession.

    There are a few scenarios you left out of your asteroid example.

    Scenario C. The Heaven’s Gate Cultists who think that the asteroid is actually an alien mother ship that is going to take them up to Heaven and so they welcome the asteroid impact and work to thwart any attempts to deflect it. It the real world AGW case, these are those who think AGW is how God is going to start the Rapture.

    Scenario D. The nihilists, who have no hope for the future, so they don’t care if the Earth is destroyed.

    Scenario E. The delusional optimists. These are the people who believe that the price of housing would never fall, that companies can be too big to fail, that the Iraq war would take a few months and would pay for itself, the people who start smoking thinking they will never get addicted, the people who take heroin thinking they will never get addicted, people who think that because science was wrong before, that science might be wrong this time and that the asteroid might miss. They believe in their optimism so much that they are willing to bet a billion lives that they are correct because something lucky might happen.

    Scenario F. The hedonistic “out with a bang” group. They are like the nihilists in that they don’t care if the Earth is destroyed, but want to experience as much pleasure/excitement in the time remaining. They are the ones who consume the seed corn instead of plant it because the harvest won’t be needed after the asteroid hits.

    Scenario G. The sheep who follow a “leader” from one of the above groups and do/think what ever the leader says. They don’t have enough knowledge to evaluate anything themselves, so they just follow the leader they have attached to as a matter of historical accident. Which one they follow depends on what church they grew up with, what political party their parents voted for, what company they work for, what their friends think, what people who are “like them” think is going to happen.

    All the people in these scenarios are willing to take the scientific data the scientists generate and lie about it. Maybe they don’t appreciate that they are lying, maybe they think their lies are for the greater good, that by lying they are doing “God’s Will” by thwarting plans to deflect the asteroid. Maybe they will escape being bullied by one of the other groups. Maybe they will get more resources to exploit and consume before the asteroid hits. Maybe they get perverse pleasure in killing people who are not like them.

  108. HHCon 07 Sep 2011 at 11:41 am

    FYI: Current arguments for cancer coverage for 9/11 responders include the following issues, carcinogens were found in the debris, cement particles mixed with mercury, benzene and jet fuel. Volatile gases were present at the site which were immeasurable.

  109. Spence_UKon 07 Sep 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Daedalus, you are funny. Oh and it’s not ad hominem when I explain why you are ignorant – which I did quite clearly and you failed to rebut.

    Yes, the people you link to define what they mean by “recoverable”. Why do you think they define it, daedalus? Simple: because different people use it to mean different things, so they choose to define it one way, and explicitly state it. Which was EXACTLY the point I was making.

    That’s called “good scientific communcation”.

    You on the other hand, just use it without defining it. Your mistake is to believe there is only one right definition, that is the one you were using, and that anyone who defines it differently must be wrong.

    To be honest, it underlines the pointlessness of arguing with you. You see everything black and white, with no shades of grey. That’s why you have an ideological viewpoint on the politics of climate change and why you do more harm than good for your own cause.

  110. sonicon 07 Sep 2011 at 2:38 pm

    daedalus2u-
    Re: AGW– you seem very concerned that worst case scenarios will play out. And they are awful aren’t they.

    Don’t you think the recent experimental evidence from CERN makes it likely that the high end feedback estimates are too high? It seems likely that there is a driver of cloud cover that has been overlooked. If that is the case, then it is likely the current feedback estimates are biased to the high side. This would imply that the lowest probability scenarios based on high side estimates (the kind that are assumed in the articles you link to) would become implausible.

    Am I following the story here?

    BTW- Might I be so bold as to suggest that you consult a registered investment advisor regarding your investment choices? You might like the concept of asset allocation– just a thought.

  111. daedalus2uon 07 Sep 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Spence, I used the term “recoverable” in the general sense it is understood. No one who uses the term in regards to fossil fuel resources as assets of fossil fuel companies means “as much as we could burn by tomorrow,” or “the amount we could burn over a longer time and not see the worst effects”. If you are trying to deliberately misinterpret what I am saying, then you seem to be achieving that.

    In the sense I was using it, it means the amount of fossil fuels that can be extracted and consumed using present or reasonably achievable technologies at essentially present pricing scenarios. It is the amount of fossil fuels that can be extracted and burned if we extrapolate from current technologies and prices into the future. It does not account for possible regulations, for example regulations that might attach a carbon tax of $100 per ton on CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.

    By any reasonable current definition of “recoverable”, there is more “recoverable” fossil fuel than can be burned, in the time frame by which that recoverable fossil fuel adds value to the valuation of fossil fuel companies, without making large parts of the world uninhabitable. We could change the definition of “recoverable” by adding a tax of $100 per ton of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. Changing the definition of “recoverable” that way would also change the valuation of fossil fuel companies because the value of their reserves would be diminished.

    In the context of what I was talking about, it couldn’t have a meaning different than that. That you want it to have a different meaning is about you wanting to be able to misinterpret what I was saying. You want to have one definition for estimating how much CO2 will be put into the atmosphere and a different definition for evaluating the value of a fossil fuel company.

    You seem to be not interested in a discussion of black and white facts, you seem to want to paint a gray picture with spin and illusions, with smoke and mirrors. You want to blame the scientists for being human and not doing everything exactly perfect even while AGW denialists are trying to damage and destroy what they are doing with lies, with threats, with deliberate misinterpretations.

    Climate gate was a handful of researchers and a handful of emails about a handful of studies. The vast, vast, vast majority of climate researchers had nothing to do with the climate gate research. Why does what the climate gate people did affect the credibility of climate research done by other people? Only because spin-meisters pretend that it does. Why do you blame the researchers for being human and yet not blame the AGW denialists who have latched onto the failings of the researchers to cast undeserved doubt onto all climate research?

    The other link I posted is a case in point. A crummy paper is sneaked past peer review and is then mega-hyped by the anti-AGW echo-chamber. The idea that a single paper could disprove the entire corpus of data and analysis that has been accumulated on AGW is nonsensical. No one who understands the science could possibly think that, yet that is what the anti-AGW echo-chamber blasted into the airwaves. The anti-AGW echo-chamber politicized the crummy paper. The editor resigned in an attempt to de-politicize it. It was already political when he resigned. It has been made political by those who gamed the peer review system, got it published, and then tried to scam the rest of the world with this crummy paper.

    How am I “hurting” the cause of AGW? Have I lied? Have I distorted? Have I misinterpreted? What have I misstated? What gross mistakes of economics have I shown that demonstrated a great misunderstanding of economics?

    You don’t want a discussion, you want the idea of AGW to simply go away. You want to focus a microscope on scientists, and if they misplace a comma, then you want to disregard everything they have every said, or ever will say. You exactly want to intimidate AGW scientists to not discuss their work unless they can be completely perfect in their discussions of it. You want AGW scientists to have no political beliefs, and to be neutral as to what policy decisions their research suggests would be wise.

  112. PharmD28on 07 Sep 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I still fail to understand the “BTW” piece there Spence UK…anyway, I fail to understand much of the back and forth here.

    I am so lost in reading these posts…is there much discussion here about the plausibility that AGW is quite real and will have very negative consequences? I see many are making possibly valid points about transparency in science, accountability, etc…but in the end it leaves me wondering “therefore we should or should not believe AGW is real?”…pardon my ignorance in this matter…I am just a new skeptic and am really lacking any form of clarity about AGW in this discussion…

  113. HHCon 07 Sep 2011 at 4:31 pm

    For future study of 911, I recommend travel and visitation to Aurora, Colorado. Buckley Air Force Base has a 9/11 Memorial with all artifacts shipped from the site.

  114. tmac57on 07 Sep 2011 at 5:29 pm

    PharmD28- You are asking the right questions. That is what a true skeptic does. Just keep reading and see which side stays closer to the science,and tries to avoid logical fallacies,and you can get a better grasp of the issue. Good luck!

  115. daedalus2uon 07 Sep 2011 at 9:54 pm

    PharmD28, an excellent blog on climate science is:

    http://www.realclimate.org/

    They discuss the science of AGW and the lack of science in the AGW denialists.

  116. PharmD28on 08 Sep 2011 at 12:14 am

    I have read half of the comments posted on the older global warming post by Dr. Novella…have learned some of the arguments so far in more detail….I will check out the realclimate blog daedalus2u when I get time….this is some heavy reading and TIME CONSUMING….

    So far, it appears the argument against the consensus of AGW is an broader attack on climate science itself and their “alarmist” agenda. I am having a hard time in finding a science based argument against global warming….even if I concede that these climate scientist are all secretly and categorically cooking the data due to some sort of govt agenda, that still is not an evidence based argument to deny AGW is it?

    I think scientists are perfectly imperfect….I can even entertain the idea that climate scientists would take a wrong turn and be an activist before being a scientist (i am not making this assertion though, I have NO idea)….we see this same thing in medicine – we have thrown researchers in jail for fraud and such….but in the end science figured it out. Just recently a dual ARB study from back in like 2001 was retracted…it all looked shady it turns out as I recall…but since it was published more studies refuted it and clinical practice changed….is there some form of group of scientists that are producing an analogous data set for us to see that clearly changes the consensus….

    I just need to see data that disproves AGW with clarity….because without such data, I would think at best I would remain agnostic or probable about AGW.

    I am open to a data driven alternative to AGW…..and after I find out that AGW is a fraud, then I will what? Keep on supporting limitless use of burning oil, natural gas, etc??

    This whole thing is just weird to me…we are all scientists…does it really take a huge complicated data set and endless arguing about minutia to assume that dependence on burning coal, oil, gas is harmful in many tangible ways that we can all easily agree on….if so then perhaps we can actually all agree on some form of policies that would actually help……boy do I sound naive huh?

  117. jugaon 08 Sep 2011 at 2:36 am

    @PharmD28

    “I just need to see data that disproves AGW with clarity….”

    This comes back to Steven Novella’s original point about Freedom of Information requests to publicly funded climate scientists to obtain their data. Steven’s view seems to be that the purpose of these requests was to irritate or disrupt the scientists in their work. Maybe some were (although I’m not aware of any evidence for this apart from those scientists’ own assertions), but others seem to have been honest attempts to obtain the data so that people could do just what you are asking.

    Certainly you should read blogs on both “sides”. This doesn’t have to be time consuming unless you want to go back through old issues. Just follow what what comes up from when you start. You will soon get a feel for who is being open and honest and who is pushing an agenda and not acknowledging counter-arguments. You might be surprised when you find, for example, that comments on Real Climate are heavily moderated whereas sceptical blogs are open to different views, including those who disagree. The sceptics would have you believe this is censorship of opposing views whereas Real Climate no doubt do this to keep a clear message about what climate science actually says. A good mid-way blog to read is Judith Curry, who is Professor and Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Since she became somewhat sceptical about climate alarmism (I emphasise, only somewhat), she has been shunned by some in the alarmist community but it seems to me she is just trying to get to the truth, which is what science should be doing. She was called a “heretic” for criticising the climategate scientists (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-heretic).

    People on both sides of the argument would like to characterise the issue as black and white. e.g. It’s a conspiracy either by greens or by oil companies; you must either accept 100% that the earth is doomed or you’re a “denialist”; etc. But there’s a big area in between those extremes.

    You say: “does it really take a huge complicated data set and endless arguing about minutia to assume that dependence on burning coal, oil, gas is harmful in many tangible ways that we can all easily agree on”

    You might be surprised that many climate sceptics are very keen on improving the environment, cutting down energy use, etc. Many accept that the earth is warming and that human activity, including burning fossil fuels is a factor. What they are unconvinced about is the scale of the problem and that disaster is imminent if billions of dollars aren’t diverted to tackling it straight away.

  118. techczechon 08 Sep 2011 at 2:44 am

    @steve12 You may well be right about my comment being confused. Although just your saying that does not make it so.

    You are obviously right about words failing you. But your “skepticism” and ability to do research seem to fail you, as well. There is absolutely no doubt about the amount of science involved in the industrial revolution which was mostly driven by tinkerers without a huge amount of scientific education and mostly ignored by the Royal Society (see here for easy listening http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wqdc7). That’s not to say that knowledge of natural phenomena reinforced by research did not play a role. Just not the institutions of science – I wasn’t clear about that.

    That’s the problem with “scientists” talking about social science issues – they think making pronouncements without evidence is OK.

  119. steve12on 08 Sep 2011 at 3:49 am

    “What they are unconvinced about is the scale of the problem and that disaster is imminent if billions of dollars aren’t diverted to tackling it straight away.”

    But this is what makes the “debate” so stupid. Even if AGW isn’t real, we’re going to run out of oil in the near future (i.e., w/i a century, depending on the source). At least we’re going to run out of oil that can be had with a reasonable enough effort as to not have catastrophic economic effects. In any case, the probability that one or the other (AGW or oil running out) will cause chaos within a few generations is quite high.

    And this is why I think that the anti AGW “side” is little more than disingenuous oil company nonsense. They’re supposedly concerned with the economy (as we all should be), but are unphased at the prospect of an economic catastrophe that they’re helping bring about. We needed a Manhattan Project toward renewable energy yesterday regardless of whether AGW is real or not, but instead we get this nonsense debate.

  120. PharmD28on 08 Sep 2011 at 12:56 pm

    But back to my original question again: “I just need to see data that disproves AGW with clarity….”

    Juga, your answer to this question is then if I understand it correctly is essentially: we dont have such a data set at this time because of suppression of the data by an agenda driven group of scientists…is that about right? I am confused…can some dissenting climate scientist simply produce their own data that would cast more doubt on the consensus?

    “You might be surprised that many climate sceptics are very keen on improving the environment, cutting down energy use, etc. Many accept that the earth is warming and that human activity, including burning fossil fuels is a factor. What they are unconvinced about is the scale of the problem and that disaster is imminent if billions of dollars aren’t diverted to tackling it straight away.”

    So you are saying that climate skeptics believe in AGW, but not a more acute form of it. So if we think of the earth as a person with a chronic disease lets say that we call AGW….then why would we not spend billions on finding breakthrough treatments for this condition now? I am missing something I guess…

  121. sonicon 08 Sep 2011 at 2:57 pm

    PharmD28-
    It is not possible to prove or disprove AGW in the normal scientific sense as it is not possible to run controlled experiments on the system as a whole. (I’m assuming you know what Feynman had to say about scientific truth and experiment. Am I assuming too much?)

    If you are going to research this area I feel that I should tell you that this is an emotionally charged subject. Much of what you will be reading is written by people who are out to save the world by delivering the truth.

    Some think they are saving us from a gigantic fascistic government (enslavement). Some think they are saving us from endless over heating (hell).

    I mention this about saving the world because when someone is saving the world they can become emotionally attached to a position in ways that can lead to otherwise unusual behaviors. Do I need to say more about that?

    In this case you can save the world by adopting either position (AGW is a problem or AGW is not a problem). I believe in a situation like this one must be prepared to deal with a level of discourse that might include the hysterical and hyperbolic.

    But you probably have noticed that all ready.

    Happy Hunting!

  122. jugaon 08 Sep 2011 at 3:26 pm

    @steve12

    You are probably right about the oil running out, but I can remember over the last 30-40 years, it has always been predicted to run out in 25 years or so. It’s still at least 25 years away and you sensibly put a more realistic timescale on the prediction.

    Whether we should respond now to what we think will happen in a hundred years time or, more precisely, to what we think the impact will be, is not so obvious to me as it is to you. As a comparison, it was predicted in the 19th century that London would not be able to remove all the horse manure that would be created every day by the rapidly increasing numbers of horses used for transport (I’ve even found a link for you ;) http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/our-economic-past-the-great-horse-manure-crisis-of-1894/). The arrival of the automobile solved that one, but no one knew that would happen.

    What I’m saying is that even if the oil will run out as predicted, we have two choices. Either try to anticipate now what the impact will be and spend a lot of money mitigating it, or let market mechanisms adjust the price of oil progressively upwards as it becomes harder to extract, thereby allowing alternatives to develop that suit what the world needs at the time. How confident are you that we can predict now what the world will need in 100 years? Has there been any period in history where what has happened could have been predicted 100 years before?

    You are obviously totally convinced that there is nothing left to debate about the future impacts of AGW. However, whatever has worked for you to convince you, isn’t working for others. You’re entitled to believe that it’s nonsense or stupid to debate the issue, but I’m not sure how successful that will be as a strategy to win people over.

    Regarding the economics, it is already the case that some of the money that has gone into AGW mitigation has been lost, wasted or misspent. e.g. The rush to bio-ethanol which has accelerated the destruction of the rain-forests (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v469/n7330/full/469299d.html) and massive frauds in carbon trading (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/03/copenhagen-summit-carbon-trading-scam). Is it unreasonable to expect that this is an unavoidable feature when large amounts of money are spent by governments? We’ve also seen it with the Iraq war, for example. Are waste and fraud and unintended negative consequences for the environment a price worth paying?

  123. jugaon 08 Sep 2011 at 5:09 pm

    @PharmD28

    I would not use the term “suppression of data” because it is rather loaded and implies a particular motive, which would be difficult to know. A well-known example is when Professor Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia wrote to someone who requested his data:

    “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.”

    (The best link I can find is http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc3502.htm – I do not believe this quote has been challenged but please correct me if I’m wrong)

    You can take Professor Jones at his word that he felt a natural sense of ownership for what he had created over his career. Why should someone else get it for nothing if they wanted to use it (perhaps trivially) to disprove what Jones had worked on for years?

    An understandable reaction, although wrong in FoI law when the creation of the data had been paid for with public money. Also, Jones seemed to expect his results to be taken on trust and not be independently checked, especially by someone he viewed as hostile to his conclusions.

    My point is, whatever the motive, the result has been an appearance of lack of transparency, which has made some people suspicious.

    “So if we think of the earth as a person with a chronic disease lets say that we call AGW….then why would we not spend billions on finding breakthrough treatments for this condition now”

    Sea level has risen about 20cm over the century. Some estimates have it rising by 200cm over the next century, which would be quite a large problem, perhaps worth spending billions to mitigate. However, if it is only going to rise by 40cm, perhaps it isn’t worth spending so much. If you look at the sea level rise in recent years (http://sealevel.colorado.edu/files/current/sl_global.jpg), you might wonder when the acceleration to 200cm/century is going to start. Or you might ask to know how the 200cm/century prediction can be reconciled against actual recent rises. Or you might ask if anyone predicted the apparent fall over the last couple of years. It sometimes seems difficult to get answers to these questions.

  124. PharmD28on 08 Sep 2011 at 5:22 pm

    “I’m assuming you know what Feynman had to say about scientific truth and experiment. Am I assuming too much?”

    Yes, you are, I have no idea who he is to be totally honest…but I should have qualified my question a bit more. What I meant to ask was that I am hoping that for those who deny AGW that they have some data to support this thought process. I realize that science does not really deal in absolutes, but I hope that if the apparent consensus that is AGW is to have more significant doubt casted upon it in favor for some other consensus, that such would be based on data of it’s own.

    Sonic, I can see what you mean indeed already about the emotion in the debate…many debates in general are plagued with this kind of stuff.

    One thing is very clear to me though is that many in the world have little or no practicle regard for the environment. In the US the most popular vehicle is what, a gas guzzler truck. All the houses in my neighborhood (older 60′s “hood”) have poor windows, little insulation or weatherstripping, etc. And there is a huge swath of this country that openly states having little regard for the environment….even just trying to argue for measures to “help the environment” is met with contempt or at best apathy.

    So while “climate skeptics” to “AGW alarmists” all generally agree that burning these fuels is bad for the environment and making changes would be a good thing….this minimally agreeable common denominator that is so obvious (at least I think it is?), is completely disregarded by our populace….and in many many instances, this bit is completely denied by much of our populace.

    It would appear that the only way that individuals will care to sacrifice in the name of the environment will just mean that there is no more “gas in the tank”…..

    Am I off base??…..it all seems hopeless to me….I just hope that the AGW “alarmists” are wrong at the minimum.

  125. daedalus2uon 08 Sep 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Juga, you are using the wrong analogy. What those filing the FOIs are trying to do is set up the equivalent of a “perjury trap”.

    http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1169&context=lawfaculty

    Catch a mistake in the data, how ever tiny and use that to impugn the entire body of work that the scientist has ever worked on, ever will work on, or the work of anyone the scientist has ever collaborated with or ever might collaborate with. The goal of the AGW denialists is to destroy scientists working on climate change.

    That is what the AGW denialists have done. It is clear that is their intent. They latch onto any mistake, however tiny and never let go of it even when the mistake is corrected.

    For example in one of the IPCC reports there was a reference to photosynthesis reductions due to drought in the Amazon basin. The reference used was not a “peer reviewed article”, so the AGW denialists raised a stink. It turns out there was a peer reviewed article on the subject and the author of the article fully backed up the data and analysis that AGW would reduce photosynthesis in the Amazon basin due to changes in rainfall. But of course that there is sound science behind it doesn’t matter to the AGW denialists.

  126. steve12on 09 Sep 2011 at 12:06 am

    @Juga

    “Whether we should respond now to what we think will happen in a hundred years time or, more precisely, to what we think the impact will be, is not so obvious to me as it is to you. As a comparison, it was predicted in the 19th century that London would not be able to remove all the horse manure that would be created every day by the rapidly increasing numbers of horses used for transport (I’ve even found a link for you http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/our-economic-past-the-great-horse-manure-crisis-of-1894/). The arrival of the automobile solved that one, but no one knew that would happen.”

    I do not find these types of analogies compelling. “They were wrong in England about manure, therefore running out of oil won’t be a problem” does not make sense to me. What about all of the disasters that could have been averted if sensible warnings were heeded?

    “What I’m saying is that even if the oil will run out as predicted, we have two choices. Either try to anticipate now what the impact will be and spend a lot of money mitigating it, or let market mechanisms adjust the price of oil progressively upwards as it becomes harder to extract, thereby allowing alternatives to develop that suit what the world needs at the time. How confident are you that we can predict now what the world will need in 100 years? Has there been any period in history where what has happened could have been predicted 100 years before?”

    What is it’s earlier than 100 years, or the technology doesn’t come fast enough for market pressures to respond, or some combination of the two? Plan for the best is not a good idea. And remember – my point is that we cannot look at the odds oil shortages or AGW – we need to look at the odds that EITHER will occur when asking whether massive investment in alternative energy is a good idea, as it is the fix for EITHER potential catastrophe.

    “You are obviously totally convinced that there is nothing left to debate about the future impacts of AGW.”

    Completely incorrect. I never said any such thing. There remains a reasonable debate about degree at the least. This is science – anything can change with new evidence. But science needs to be done in good faith, and I think it’s beyond naive to think that oil company sponsored research will be done in good faith considering their financial interest. THAT is a very different point. And right now the vast consensus of relevant

    “However, whatever has worked for you to convince you, isn’t working for others. You’re entitled to believe that it’s nonsense or stupid to debate the issue, but I’m not sure how successful that will be as a strategy to win people over.”

    There is a difference between the political debate and the scientific debate. The former is indeed stupid, the latter not. I think there are a lot of politicos running about with w/ a free market fetish – they have a model of how the world should work (but it’s nothing more than a model), and when reality doesn’t fit their model they attack reality. That is indeed dopey. I like free markets as much as the next capitalist, but I don’t believe it’s a cure-all. Almost free markets, with common sense gov’t oversight, have it all over Laissez Faire.

    “Regarding the economics, it is already the case that some of the money that has gone into AGW mitigation has been lost, wasted or misspent. e.g. The rush to bio-ethanol which has accelerated the destruction of the rain-forests (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v469/n7330/full/469299d.html) and massive frauds in carbon trading (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/03/copenhagen-summit-carbon-trading-scam). Is it unreasonable to expect that this is an unavoidable feature when large amounts of money are spent by governments? We’ve also seen it with the Iraq war, for example. Are waste and fraud and unintended negative consequences for the environment a price worth paying?”

    Obviously we shouldn’t waste money, but basic science money is not wasted money, and is the most misunderstood need of all. I’m also not a believer that everything the gov’t has to be bad.
    Your last paragraph points out why we need to start a Manhattan Project for energy NOW with a stress on basic science. The technologies that we need are not coming along as quickly as we had all hoped, as you point out. It’s time to re-double our efforts so that things are up and running when we need them, and we don’t have an energy ‘market correction’ that results in the death of a few billion people.

    To NOT do this because we’re worshipping at the alter of Free Markets to fix everything is ridiculous, and it is these faithful that are leading the “do-nothing” charge.

  127. tmac57on 09 Sep 2011 at 10:44 am

    “The arrival of the automobile solved that one, but no one knew that would happen.”

    Unfortunately, we are now knee deep in bull manure instead.

  128. sonicon 09 Sep 2011 at 2:32 pm

    PharmD28-
    (Feynman was a physicist– you can google for quotes- he has a page full at wikipedia– I like his stuff and he is generally a good person to quote because most people will agree that he had something of value to say.
    I would recommend his books “Six Easy Pieces…” and “Six Not So Easy Pieces…” if you want to read about physics.)

    I know what you mean about disregard for the environment- and with expensive extravagance. I am sometimes awed at the spectacle — this occurs after the initial horror subsides. :-)
    I also think it obvious that we need to find alternatives to burning oil and coal– they are both limited resources. Duh…

    The uber-pragmatic economist might say this– ‘if the result of burning all the fossil fuels is a warming of a degree or so (limited impact), then market forces are our best means of finding and implementing alternatives. If the warming is going to be 3 or more degrees (large impact), then using market forces is absurd.’– And I think that is the basis that the decisions will be made. (It appears that current thinking by many world leaders is that the impact will be relatively small– based on their actions–)
    Is that the same as saying the situation is hopeless?
    You do know the word SNAFU- don’t you?

    I’m not suggesting or endorsing, but– Data driven arguments to support ‘no’ or ‘little’ AGW include things like graphs that indicate the existence of the ‘medieval warm period’ and ‘little ice age’ actually occurred. (Implication- what we are experiencing is a normal part of the climatic cycle of Earth).
    I don’t know that’s the best or even a valid argument- I’m just saying there are data driven questions about the theory.

    Good Luck–

  129. I-IV-Von 09 Sep 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I am still curious to know if Dr. Novella has a comment to offer on Simon Wessely’s call to merge psychiatry with neurology.

    I’m not re-posting this link to chide Dr. Novella, an obviously busy guy who probably didn’t catch it, and/or might have forgotten or lost track of it in the resulting discussion of climate science. But this is Neurologica Blog, so I am definitely curious.

    What I refer to is in the last 3 paragraphs of this piece.

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/7202658/mind-the-gap.thtml

  130. jugaon 09 Sep 2011 at 4:25 pm

    @daedalus2u

    “What those filing the FOIs are trying to do is … catch a mistake in the data, how ever tiny and use that to impugn the entire body of work that the scientist has ever worked on, ever will work on, or the work of anyone the scientist has ever collaborated with or ever might collaborate with. The goal of the AGW denialists is to destroy scientists working on climate change.”

    Pardon me if I find that a rather broad generalisation. I could say:

    “What those supporters of AWG are trying to do is … catch one FoI request that seems to have been submitted by an irrational crank and use that to impugn the motives and integrity of everyone who has ever submitted, or ever will submit, an FoI request to a climate scientist or anyone who ever reads about it on a sceptical blog. The goal of AGW supporters is to ensure any criticism whatsoever of AGW is ignored.”

    Both of those statements seem to me equally broad, unlikely, and impossible to justify.

  131. Spence_UKon 09 Sep 2011 at 5:02 pm

    PharmD28,

    I still fail to understand the “BTW” piece there Spence UK…anyway, I fail to understand much of the back and forth here.

    Sorry Pharm, you’ve lost me – which BTW are you referring to here?

    I am so lost in reading these posts…is there much discussion here about the plausibility that AGW is quite real and will have very negative consequences? I see many are making possibly valid points about transparency in science, accountability, etc…but in the end it leaves me wondering “therefore we should or should not believe AGW is real?”…pardon my ignorance in this matter…I am just a new skeptic and am really lacking any form of clarity about AGW in this discussion…

    These are good questions, and indeed it is largely impossible to discuss AGW rationally on blogs because of the polarised, polemical position people take. Daedalus2u is, unfortunately, a classic example of this. Any attempt to discuss the science will just result in people jumping on overly broad, sweeping commentaries about their own hobbyhorses.

    Getting up to speed on climate science can be quite time consuming. Discussions at places like RealClimate or WattsUpWithThat are generally not very helpful in terms of the science; they are too biased, with narrow viewpoints and often promote advocacy positions rather than dispassionately discussing the science. For a more scientific perspective, I’d recommend sites like “scienceofdoom.com” (for a pro-consensus line) or “judithcurry.com” (for a line close to the consensus, but demanding greater attention to uncertainties, and greater integrity from scientists) or perhaps “pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com” for a more critical view of the consensus line (but still recognising human influence on climate).

  132. jugaon 09 Sep 2011 at 5:20 pm

    @steve12

    I hope you will agree that the likelihood that governments can be successful at solving big problems using large amounts of money is a legitimate subject for “reasonable debate”.

    There are obviously some areas which can only be tackled by governments because of the amount of money required, the lack of profit or the security implications of leaving them to private commercial organisations. e.g. The moon landings and nuclear research.

    On the other hand, the British and French governments financed the development of Concorde, which was successful from an engineering point of view but a commercial failure. When it was proposed, the prediction was that it would be the beginning of a trend of supersonic passenger travel. That was wrong. What was not predicted was: the increase in fuel cost, the recognition of the environmental impact of such a plane, the reaction in the US to take-off noise, the move to cheaper travel for large numbers of people with not much money. With hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do.

    As with the horse manure of course, getting Concorde wrong doesn’t mean predictions about oil won’t be right.

    I do believe though that any solution promoted by a government is more likely than not to be the wrong one. That’s because those making the decision are human beings who are not especially brilliant and who have many competing pressures on them, political, career and commercial. If it’s not the politicians and civil servants deciding where to spend the money, it’s the people whom it will be spent on, which is worse. I’m not against smaller amounts of government spending on research, but the huge sum spent on the Manhattan Project was mostly required to create the fissionable materials. I don’t see any equivalent problem in climate change or alternative energy that can only be done as a single mega-project.

    You say “there remains a reasonable debate” about the degree of AGW. It seems that the only debate is about the degree of the catastrophe, not the degree to which it may or may not be a catastrophe. You quoted back my point that “whatever has worked for you to convince you, isn’t working for others” but didn’t really answer it. Why do you think you have been convinced but not others?

  133. Spence_UKon 09 Sep 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Spence, I used the term “recoverable” in the general sense it is understood. No one who uses the term in regards to fossil fuel resources as assets of fossil fuel companies means “as much as we could burn by tomorrow,” or “the amount we could burn over a longer time and not see the worst effects”.

    Wow, daedalus, you have real difficulty following arguments, don’t you?

    Two separable issues:

    Firstly, your poor communication and failure to define “recoverable”, for which I gave two viable definitions for (and there are many more).

    Secondly, the issue that rate of burning is important for determining the net effect. Yes, I chose two extreme cases just to illustrate that there was a sensitivity. No, I didn’t claim these were likely, just pointing out that there was a dependency that you had ignored.

    Two completely separate issues, and you confuse the two into a complete mess. This is why debating with you is pointless. You have to listen and understand other people’s points in order to have a meaningful discussion. When I ask for clarification of a poorly defined term, you throw all of your toys out of the pram about it, and then when I note you’re missing an important factor in your commentary you just get confused.

    You seem to be not interested in a discussion of black and white facts, you seem to want to paint a gray picture with spin and illusions, with smoke and mirrors. You want to blame the scientists for being human and not doing everything exactly perfect even while AGW denialists are trying to damage and destroy what they are doing with lies, with threats, with deliberate misinterpretations.

    Yeah, my irony meter exploded in the middle of this one. Facts can be black and white, but your argument up to here is all about other people’s motives, which are only black and white in your mind because it eases your cognitive dissonance.

    The other link I posted is a case in point. A crummy paper is sneaked past peer review and is then mega-hyped by the anti-AGW echo-chamber. The idea that a single paper could disprove the entire corpus of data and analysis that has been accumulated on AGW is nonsensical.

    Exactly. So why are you entering into a full herp derp rage on about it?

    How am I “hurting” the cause of AGW? Have I lied? Have I distorted? Have I misinterpreted? What have I misstated?

    I’ve already explained it quite clearly. So you don’t need to ask all of those red herrings.

    You don’t want a discussion, you want the idea of AGW to simply go away. You want to focus a microscope on scientists, and if they misplace a comma, then you want to disregard everything they have every said, or ever will say.

    And once again, here we go again with you opining on other people’s viewpoints and motives, which would require some degree of telepathy to know. Not terribly sceptical now is it? And you’re also wrong. I notice as well you equate prima facie evidence of an FOI breach and producing misleading graphics as the equivalent of “misplacing a comma”. And you can’t see why you’re damaging the reputation of science. Precious.

  134. daedalus2uon 09 Sep 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Juga, in the absence of any data, my suggestion would be an off-the-wall overly broad generalization.

    But we have data. What was the outcome of climategate? Emails were stolen, snippets were taken out of context and used to impugn the researchers involved. There were multiple investigations of the researchers, their data and their work and those investigations found no hint of any scientific misconduct.

    Have those who made the wild accusations of the climategate researchers backed down on those wild accusations now that there have been investigations that looked into the details? Of course not.

    Main stream media makes mistakes in one direction and in one direction only, it panders to the AGW denialists. It wildly exaggerates the significance of every anti-AGW press release and never admits and never corrects these misrepresentations.

    Spence calls me a partisan, I am a scientist who understands the science of AGW and who understands how bad it is going to be. Right now, CO2 is higher than it has been in at least the last 23 million years (~400 ppm). 32 million years ago CO2 levels were in the 500+/- 150 ppm level and sea level was ~50 meters higher.

    http://paleolands.com/pdf/cenozoicCO2.pdf

    I am also a parent, and someone who cares about people in the future having a planet that remains habitable. That does make me a partisan who wants CO2 emissions to be reduced so that people in the future can have decent lives.

    PharmD28, A good place to look is the Stern Report and other publications from that group.

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

    He suggests spending a few percent of GDP for climate change mitigation.

    Spence, you don’t seem to want to argue about the science, only to pick on little minutia points in what I am saying. So where is the data that shows CO2 levels of 500 ppm in the atmosphere are ok and won’t have an adverse effect on climate?

    So what are your motives in picking on the minutia of what I am saying? Of picking on the scientists for their bad handling of FOIs? What do either of those have to do with the science of AGW? If I got your motives wrong, please tell me what they are? Why do you require 100% transparency from one group and none at all from the other? Why when one group shows their data and it all shows one thing, AGW is a problem. The other group doesn’t have any data, all they have is bad analysis that gets picked apart once it is shown.

  135. Spence_UKon 09 Sep 2011 at 7:32 pm

    But we have data. What was the outcome of climategate? Emails were stolen, snippets were taken out of context and used to impugn the researchers involved. There were multiple investigations of the researchers, their data and their work and those investigations found no hint of any scientific misconduct.

    Out of context? Breaking FOI regulations? How can that become any better in any context? But it’s okay, nobody found them guilty of murder either, so everything must be fine /sarc

    Oh and how many of the “multiple investigations” actually looked into the FOI breach? Answer: none. The Muir-Russell inquiry was supposed to but they didn’t look under a single stone. They just asked Phil Jones if he deleted any e-mails (which was ridiculous as the FOI request was for Briffa’s e-mails, not Jones). So Jones could answer honestly and we are still none the wiser. Bernie Madoff would have got off free if that was the sort of “investigation” that had been carried out into his activities.

    Spence calls me a partisan, I am a scientist who understands the science of AGW and who understands how bad it is going to be.

    Firstly, yes you are a partisan, and in itself that is nothing to be ashamed of. Secondly, if you are a scientist and you think hiding declines and breaching FOI is just fine and dandy, you are a disgrace to science. Thirdly, as Niels Bohr said, “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future”. But I’m glad your crystal ball is as good as your telepathy.

    Right now, CO2 is higher than it has been in at least the last 23 million years (~400 ppm). 32 million years ago CO2 levels were in the 500+/- 150 ppm level and sea level was ~50 meters higher.

    And 50 million years ago, Antarctica was still connected to Australia and South America, rendering the world’s climate entirely uncomparable to todays climate in the simplistic way you suggest here.

    Spence, you don’t seem to want to argue about the science, only to pick on little minutia points in what I am saying. So where is the data that shows CO2 levels of 500 ppm in the atmosphere are ok and won’t have an adverse effect on climate?

    Firstly, as I’ve already pointed out, I do accept the greenhouse effect, and that man has a significant influence on climate. I’ve already explained above why I don’t debate the science on blogs, especially not with blinkered advocates of either side, because it is a fruitless process.

    Secondly, irrespective of my position on the greenhouse effect, it is not my burden of proof that CO2 won’t have an adverse effect on climate, any more than it being my burden of proof to show that god doesn’t exist.

    Finally, you ask about my motives. Motives are simple: to ensure science is not distorted by politics, and to ensure scientists – whether they have a strong viewpoint on topics or not (which is entirely acceptable) – remain objective and retain that special integrity that Feynman dude liked to talk about.

  136. Spence_UKon 09 Sep 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Gah! Blockquote close tag fail. First and third nestings from my above comment are quotes. Second nesting of blockquotes are my comments.

  137. tmac57on 09 Sep 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Spence_UK-

    Motives are simple: to ensure science is not distorted by politics, and to ensure scientists – whether they have a strong viewpoint on topics or not (which is entirely acceptable) – remain objective and retain that special integrity that Feynman dude liked to talk about.

    I suspect that this is disingenuous. Like D2U I have a feeling that your supposed objectivity,and desire for scientific integrity,only applies to those scientists on the AGW side of the equation. Will you show us some examples of where you went on a science blog, and took to task, some AGW deniers for their lack of integrity or distortion of the facts?

  138. daedalus2uon 09 Sep 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Spence, so what do FOIs have to do with the kind of scientific integrity that Feynman was all about? Or are you trying to imply that a partisan can’t have the kind of integrity that Feynman exhibited? Such as during Feynman’s Challenger investigations?

    It was that kind of integrity that the multiple investigations of wrong-doing regarding the climategate emails looked into and found no wrong-doing at all.

    Feynman’s Challenger investigation was exactly the type of investigation that AGW denialists are trying to suppress. How many government workers have been forbidden to discuss their work with the press? How many have had their work suppressed? Why didn’t the list of those who gave energy advice to the Bush administration ever get released? What Feynman dealt with in the Challenger investigation was non-scientists (NASA managers) suppressing and influencing how the engineers and scientists did their work.

    So as a human being, you don’t care whether the Earth experiences catastrophic global warming or not? What level of “proof” do you require before thinking that trying to mitigate it would be a good idea? Or do you want to wait until mitigation is impossible?

  139. PharmD28on 09 Sep 2011 at 11:48 pm

    “Secondly, irrespective of my position on the greenhouse effect, it is not my burden of proof that CO2 won’t have an adverse effect on climate, any more than it being my burden of proof to show that god doesn’t exist.”

    Can I clarify what you are saying there? You are saying that trying to prove AGW is as futile as trying to prove the existence of divinity? If that analogy were true, then a science based discussion about AGW would be totally pointless…….

    Thanks sonic, ill have to read up on him….and as I have become more interested as a “skeptic” and a scientist…I have a newfound interest in learning about all sorts of science that I have remained largely completely ignorant about…..I am guessing I will have alot of reading to do…which I already do in my own field…whew…too much to do :D

  140. ChrisHon 10 Sep 2011 at 1:35 am

    PharmD28, there is also a movie based on part of Feynman’s life where he is played by Matthew Broderick. It is called Infinity.

    Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and author of the The Physics of Star Trek, recently wrote a biography on Feynman that I recently read, and enjoyed, called Quantum Man (I first listened to the audio version read by Dr. Krauss while doing summer gardening).

  141. jugaon 10 Sep 2011 at 3:17 am

    @daedalus2u

    “Main stream media makes mistakes in one direction and in one direction only, it panders to the AGW denialists”

    Maybe it’s different in the US. I’m in the UK and have read the Independent for years. It has not for a moment given an inch to “denialists”. It even refused to mention the climategate leaks for weeks after they happened (which was patronising to its readers). Similarly with the Guardian although it did, for example, publish an article by George Monbiot (prominent environmentalist) criticising the climategate scientists. And, as for the BBC, they are notoriously pro-AGW. Although we have many other media outlets that, as you say, pander to climate denial, it hardly seems all one way.

    Also, the media will always hype predictions of disaster because it sells newspapers. Climate science has had the “benefits” of that.

    Speaking of mistakes being in one direction, it does seem that all mistakes made by climate science and its supporters are in one direction also. I would agree that most of the mistakes discovered in the IPCC report are trivial and were overhyped, but they were all in the same direction. Al Gore, quite a few years ago was predicting the Arctic would be ice free in five years. James Hansen was predicting in 1998 that the West Side Highway in New York would be underwater in 40 years (not much sign of that 23 years on). Sea level rise seems to have stalled. Those predicting cold winters in the UK would be a thing of the past were proved wrong over the last couple of years.

    Even if the scientists themselves are more nuanced and state their levels of confidence, the media and activists do seem to focus on the worst case of every prediction.

  142. Spence_UKon 10 Sep 2011 at 6:02 am

    daedalus2u

    Or are you trying to imply that a partisan can’t have the kind of integrity that Feynman exhibited?

    Given that I explicitly stated it was okay to be partisan in my previous comment, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t already know the answer to this question. Of course it is okay to be partisan. But you have to remain true to the principles of good scientific discourse, and that means making available ALL results (even ones which might show your ideas in a bad light)

    Can I clarify what you are saying there? You are saying that trying to prove AGW is as futile as trying to prove the existence of divinity?

    No. In no way did I draw an equivalence between how easy or difficult it is to do. Just pointing out that the burden of proof is on those claiming an effect, an giving an example. Perhaps a less contentious example would be homeopathy: it isn’t the job of science to show homeopathy doesn’t work, the burden of proof is on homeopathists to show that it does work.

    I suspect that this is disingenuous. Like D2U I have a feeling that your supposed objectivity,and desire for scientific integrity,only applies to those scientists on the AGW side of the equation. Will you show us some examples of where you went on a science blog, and took to task, some AGW deniers for their lack of integrity or distortion of the facts?

    As I’ve already pointed out, it doesn’t bother me as much when people outside science lack integrity, because that doesn’t impact the reputation of science. When a bunch of crazy 9/11 troofers lack integrity, that doesn’t harm science, and there are plenty of people to call them out on it.

    When people within science lack integrity, that directly impacts the reputation of science (including lots of stuff I consider important). So it bothers me more.

    Of course, you can choose to place motives on me that you can possibly know without any strong evidence, and demand I disprove it (once again reversing the conventional burden of proof). The reliance on appeal to motive by you and daedalus2u really shows a weakness of critical thinking skills.

  143. Spence_UKon 10 Sep 2011 at 6:04 am

    Hmm, just to be clear, in my last comment, the first blockquote is from daedalus2u, the second from PharmD28 and the third from tmac57. It looks a bit like all are from daedalus2u and I should have made it more clear who the quotes were from.

  144. PharmD28on 10 Sep 2011 at 9:28 am

    “Perhaps a less contentious example would be homeopathy: it isn’t the job of science to show homeopathy doesn’t work, the burden of proof is on homeopathists to show that it does work.”

    But science has shown that homeopathy does not work…plus this analogy is equally odd to me. I mean the supposed mechanism of action to explain any would be effect of homeopathy is as mystical as belief in god, making the science of homeopathy as absurd as debating faith. Climate science seems to (and I am not an expert again) have a fairly reasonable model to explain AGW, and many on here have agreed with it at some level (more or less)…..and it seems to me that if “science” in this case “climate scientists” produce science that says one thing, and “scientists” agree upon a consensus of their science, then it will be up to science to cast serious doubt upon that consensus. In medicine, evidence based medicine sometimes leads us in one direction, and later scientists refute this through science and present an alternative based on science….

    I am confused I think….which is common for me :D

  145. daedalus2uon 10 Sep 2011 at 10:09 am

    PharmD28, what Spence is saying is confusing because it isn’t suppose to make sense. It isn’t supposed to educate you or make you more knowledgeable or more intelligent, it is supposed to confuse you.

    He is saying that “scientists” can’t say anything unless it is backed up to the nth degree with data an analysis, but “troothers” or AGW denialists can say anything they want about anything at any time.

    He wants to muzzle scientists in any policy debate while letting non-scientists spout any nonsense they can think of or make up on the spot.

    That is why his focus is on process, on the “integrity” of scientists but not on the integrity of AGW denialists, not on the actual science of AGW, not on the costs to mitigate AGW.

    If AGW was 1/10 as bad as climate scientists think it is going to be, it is something that needs to be mitigated. If a house is burning down, is it a good idea to debate which rooms will flash over first, and which parts will collapse and then let the fire burn to see if those estimates are correct before trying to put the fire out?

    Spence is a concern troll. He is concerned about the “process” of the science of AGW debate but not about the “process” of the policy decisions that are actually more important. It isn’t the “science” that is going to melt Greenland, it is the warming due to the lack of any policies to prevent it that will. Why does he require no “science” behind the assertions that AGW won’t happen?

  146. PharmD28on 10 Sep 2011 at 10:43 am

    btw, we can at least produce an evidence based argument looking at scientific facts that would greatly strip away the bible down to total BS, leaving us only to address naked faith….but we can as scientists make some form of evidence based argument that the god of the bible does not exist – in the end, science cannot by defacto disprove the existence of that which cannot be emperically seen, measured, detected, or proven with any physical method, but scientific evidence has and can chip away at the premise to a large degree. We also can study homeopathy and we have to prove it is total BS. Even if science will struggle to make an crystal clear science based case for AGW and to prognosticate with perfection….its hard for me to believe that scientists have no place to produce data that would chip away significantly at AGW?

    Plus, I could assume (and be wrong), that climate scientists and their data collected as a whole could prove that AGW is horseshit…it has not done that yet largely it would appear to me, and the reason for that would only be a huge researcher bias across the field….if that is the case, then it would be pretty amazing…an extraordinary claim….that for me would require extraordinary evidence.

  147. tmac57on 10 Sep 2011 at 12:22 pm

    As I’ve already pointed out, it doesn’t bother me as much when people outside science lack integrity, because that doesn’t impact the reputation of science.

    So I guess that the constant drum beat of anti-science denialism coming from Fox News,The Daily Mail,etc. ,is having no effect on the reputation of science…
    This has got to rank up there with one of the more transparently false assertions that I have ever read.

  148. daedalus2uon 10 Sep 2011 at 12:54 pm

    PharmD28, the reason there is no data that proves AGW is horseshit it because it is not.

    Predictions, especially about the future, are difficult.

    The question that should be being asked from a policy viewpoint are what does it cost to mitigate some effects of AGW? If those costs are smaller than the expected benefits, then we should pay them.

    The problem is that once you start figuring out what to do, the easiest, fairest, cheapest and most effective thing is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and to stop putting so much CO2 in the atmosphere. But any way you do that, you reduce the value of the fossil fuel reserves of the fossil fuel companies. Those reserves have a value that is based on their consumption at a certain rate because of what is called the discount rate. If the extraction, selling and burning of those fossil fuel reserves is put off until later, the discounted cash flow from selling them becomes much less.

    If a barrel of oil today is worth $100, then if that oil is sold and the cash invested at 5% interest, then in 100 years the oil sold today will be worth $13,150. If a barrel of oil is sold for $100 in 100 years, then it is only worth $0.76 today because if you put $0.76 in an interest bearing account at 5%, in 100 years you would have $100.

    If you do the same calculations at 50 years, $100 today is worth $1,147 and $100 in 50 years is worth $8.72 today.

    This discount rate stuff also applies to CO2. The CO2 reduction that is the most valuable is the one that occurs today. CO2 reduction in 100 years is worth only 0.0076 as much. CO2 reduction in 50 years is worth 0.0872 as much. That is why planting trees today is not as valuable as reducing fuel consumption. Trees absorb CO2 over their lifetime, the CO2 they absorb in the future has to be discounted to today to put a net present value on it.

    When CO2 emissions are taxed, it is very important that the discount rate be calculated correctly, otherwise people will game the system and make lots of money with no environmental benefit.

  149. sonicon 10 Sep 2011 at 2:28 pm

    daedalus2u-
    I too am concerned about AGW and the effects. It gets too hot where I live all ready on many days. And I spend much of my time outdoors with no A/C. While I could move further North– this would be like turning my back on so many– I’m not sure I want to live that way.

    Yet you send me to a study that uses a model that projects warming much greater than the highest IPCC projection.
    Do you think that the IPCC projections are low by that much? (IPCC projections 1.9- 4.5 degree– the paper you sent to claims central estimates of 3-4 degrees (what center?) and then goes onto suggest that 10 or 20 degrees is possible.

    The straight physics (minus the hypothesized feedbacks) gives us a 1 degree rise given a double in CO2– right?

    The paper then goes on to discuss a 5% scenario given the model they are using (the one that projects heating about 4 times higher than IPCC projections)

    So let’s say the model is a low probability model and the scenario under discussion a low probability outcome given the model.
    What is the probability that what we are talking about is real?

    Off the cuff calculation– less than .25%– that one quarter of 1 per cent (.05 squared).
    I would say that it would be difficult to quantize how much less than .25%- and would also say that the probability of any current model being correct is actually unknown– the estimates are squishy in other words.

    Yet I come up with an answer that what you are talking about (based on the papers you have linked to) is a very low probability outcome.
    What am I missing here?

    Also I wonder if you have considered my question about the CERN experiments and the possibility that the current models have overlooked a driver to the system and have therefore given us biased high estimates for the multiplier.

  150. daedalus2uon 10 Sep 2011 at 6:05 pm

    The IPCC projection is for a very specific time frame. The IPCC projection does not consider anything that happens beyond that time frame. There is a gigantic amount of hysteresis in the climate, it takes decades, even centuries for some of the long time constant effects to happen. The IPCC projection is for an arbitrary date. AGW does not stop and remain constant when the arbitrary date of the IPCC projection is reached. AGW continues to get worse. How much worse depends on a lot of things that are poorly understood.

    There are some positive feedback events that are poorly understood and poorly characterized. For example, AGW is melting permafrost. Permafrost is ground that is permanently frozen because it gets cold enough in winter that it doesn’t melt all the way through in summer. What is under the stuff that has been frozen for a few hundred thousand years or more? Good question. If it is methane, or methane hydrate, when the permafrost melts that methane will be released. If it is simply organic matter, leaves and twigs and grass, then when the permafrost melts bacteria will degrade that and turn it into methane and CO2 also.

    Methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than is CO2. No one knows exactly how much methane and CO2 are tied up in permafrost, but by some estimates it is gigantic, many times as much CO2 as humans are releasing each year. Because no one knows how much GHGs are tied up in permafrost, the climate models can’t estimate what is going to happen, so they simply ignore it. Climate scientists know they are ignoring it, but they know they don’t have the data to make a prediction backed up by data. If you read the reports carefully, the warming levels estimated always have a caveat, unless something with positive feedback happens. Climate scientists know what that means, and they know that the error bars in their estimates are in one direction, the estimates are very likely to be low, and to be low by a lot.

    A good example is ice sheet melting. The IPCC report assumes that the various ice sheets will melt like an ice cube from the top down, and that it will take centuries or millennia for Greenland to melt. Ice sheet researchers know this is BS. Every single ice sheet that has been observed to melt has done so catastrophically. At least 20 have been observed to collapse and every one has done so catastrophically. None of them melted like an ice cube. The dynamic collapse of an ice sheet is highly non-linear and highly non-predictable. The reason for this is because water is denser than ice, so as the top melts, the water flows to the bottom, heating up the whole thickness (3,000 meters in Greenland). When the whole sheet gets to the melting point, it can’t support its own weight and it collapses. The gravitational energy of the ice sheet collapsing can be enough to melt ice at the base and lubricate the continued collapse and flow. The scientists studying ice sheets know this, and if you look carefully at their projections, they add “unless the ice sheet collapses”.

    The IPCC isn’t really a “science” report, there is a lot of politics in it, mostly from oil and other fossil fuel producing political entities. That politics has forced the scientists to only project from the most rigorous of science and to ignore anything that is not well understood, like GHGs from permafrost, like ice sheet collapse, like weather changes that affect things like the Amazon. When you ignore stuff that is likely, and which is likely to make things worse and which have positive feedback, you get an optimistic conclusion.

    Because the IPCC time frame is 2100, there is no consideration for 2110, 2150, 2200 or farther out. When Greenland melts, it will add 7 meters to sea level and will flood most of Florida. I happen to think that flooding Florida under 7 meters of sea water is an unacceptable climate change. Some people seem to think that if it happens 100 years from now it is ok. I am not sure what the value of the land in Florida that will be submerged. Lets say it is only $10 trillion (~$550k per person). With very long term interest rates now at 2%, it would be worth it for the state of Florida to spend $200 Billion to delay the date at which Florida floods by one year. If it could be delayed by 2 years it would be worth $400 Billion.

    There is no question that at current CO2 levels Greenland is unstable and will melt. The last time CO2 was this high there was no ice sheet on Greenland. If CO2 stays this high, then eventually Greenland will melt and add 7 meters to sea level. It isn’t a question of if, it is a question of when.

    Regarding the CERN results, there was a discussion of them on Realclimate and no, they do not represent an unknown that is giving us a biased high multiplier. There is bias in the models, they are biased so as to underestimate what the effects are going to be. Essentially every climate scientist knows this, which is why many of them are getting more and more upset. At some point there will be a point of no return, and the Earth’s climate will change dramatically and beyond our ability to change it back within a few centuries. That may only melt Greenland and raise sea level 7 meters. If it melts the West Antarctic ice sheet, that is another 7 meters. If it melts the East Antarctic ice sheet, that is about 50 meters.

    It it makes large areas of the Earth uninhabitable, it may be extremely difficult to reverse.

  151. tmac57on 10 Sep 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Sonic-Regarding the CERN experiment, take a look at this discussion:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/cern-cloud-proves-cosmic-rays-causing-global-warming-intermediate.htm

    Let me know what you think.I would be interested how you interpret it.

  152. Spence_UKon 10 Sep 2011 at 7:53 pm

    PharmD28,

    But science has shown that homeopathy does not work

    No, we have shown that there is no measurable effect. That is not the same as no effect whatsoever. As reasonable people we might guess that there is no measurable effect whatsoever, but because we only test samples, all we have evidence to support is that the effect must be smaller than can be measured from that experiment (which may include zero, but does not narrow the effect down to zero).

    Which is why, in science, the burden of proof is on the person claiming the effect. It all stems from hypothesis testing which is the most common method for providing evidence in scientific studies.

    The point is pretty simple. Efficacy of alternative medicine, existence of god and the consequences of AGW are all completely different and I’m not arguing that they are equivalent in terms of understanding and evidence. The trivial point I’m making is that the burden of proof is on those making the claim, therefore it is not my responsibility to show that the claimed consequences of AGW are false, neither is it my responsibility to disprove all claims of alternative medicine against those who make such claims, neither is it my responsibility to disprove the existence of god. This is all critical thinking 101.

    One of the biggest problems with AGW is that whilst the greenhouse effect is real and has known consequences (as sonic correctly points out, CO2 direct radiative effect is around 1 deg C per doubling of CO2), most of the feedbacks have little or no support; are trivially and questionably linearised. The rejection of null hypotheses in studies is then based on questionable models of natural variability, e.g. as discussed here. The result is most of what we know beyond the very basics (i.e. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, causes 1 deg C per doubling of warming) is not on firm ground.

    Just to be clear as well here: by “claimed consequences”, I am not referring to the greenhouse effect (which is known and well understood) but the alarmist claims of mass extinctions etc., which do not have strong evidential support in the same way. The likes of daedalus2u etc. like to blur these boundaries; logic distortions such as (the greenhouse effect, therefore global warming, therefore mass extinctions) and argue that because the greenhouse effect has strong evidence, I am required to disprove the mass extinctions; this is not the case, as the strong evidential support does not reach the end of the chain put forward.

    btw, we can at least produce an evidence based argument looking at scientific facts that would greatly strip away the bible down to total BS, leaving us only to address naked faith

    Showing errors in the bible is not the same as showing god does not exist!

    daedalus2u says:

    If AGW was 1/10 as bad as climate scientists think it is going to be, it is something that needs to be mitigated.

    LOL, how exactly does one measure “1/10 as bad as climate scientists think it is”? Which climate scientists? 1/10th of what? Your claims are just bizarre at best daedalus, and they have nothing to do with rationality.

  153. Spence_UKon 10 Sep 2011 at 8:02 pm

    So I guess that the constant drum beat of anti-science denialism coming from Fox News,The Daily Mail,etc. ,is having no effect on the reputation of science…

    No significant effect, no, unless there is truth in the allegations.

    Most of the stuff in the Mail (I have never watched Fox News so I can’t comment on that) is tabloid drivel. People who believe have already made up their minds to think that way. It’s just another form of groupthink and it would manifest itself in many different ways.

    But this is a small minority. The majority of the public are not so easily led. They will not believe something just because it is reported in the Mail.

    But when they see prima facie evidence of FOI breaches and hiding adverse data, which will appear in more outlets than just the Mail (remember the Guardian had many critical pieces on this topic as well) then people will realise there is more to it than tabloid dross. And then the reputation of science really does get harmed.

    The majority of people aren’t stupid and don’t get drawn in by the usual rubbish in the Mail. But in the same way, they aren’t stupid and won’t believe people who think it is okay to breach FOI regulations and withhold adverse data. And the people at fault here is not the Mail or the Guardian for reporting it, but the scientists involved in the first place.

    This has got to rank up there with one of the more transparently false assertions that I have ever read.

    If you genuinely think that people believe everything they read in the newspapers in the UK, you really don’t have your finger on the pulse.

  154. daedalus2uon 10 Sep 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Spence, when someone calls the fire department to report a fire, do the firefighters require him/her to “prove” that there is a fire before responding? Is the “burden of proof” on the person reporting the fire?

    If 100 people call the fire department and 97 of them report that a fire is raging and will have severe consequences and 3 people say they only smell smoke but can’t see any fire and maybe the smoke is from a chimney or maybe the smoke is imagined, should the firefighters wait for more and better data before responding?

    What if two of the people reporting the fire have parking tickets outstanding that have not been paid? Surely people with unpaid parking tickets are not as reliable as people who pay their parking tickets. Should the firefighters wait until those parking tickets have been paid before responding to the fire?

  155. tmac57on 10 Sep 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Spence_UK- I don’t live in the UK,so I will defer to those who do on that issue. I do, however, have to deal every day with people in the US who accept Fox News ( same content as Daily Mail) as the font of all knowledge. Believe me when I tell you, a nation that would elect George W. Bush twice, cannot be relied upon to make rational decisions regarding climate change.

  156. daedalus2uon 10 Sep 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Spence, in case my analogy was too obscure for you.

    97 people reporting a raging fire: 97% of climate scientists reporting on AGW.
    3 people reporting smelling smoke but source is unclear: 3% of those claiming to be climate scientists but are actually AGW denialists.
    2 people with parking tickets: Small fraction of climate scientists caught up in climategate FOI nonsense.
    Firefighters: Governmental regulatory agencies charged with protecting human life and welfare.

  157. sonicon 11 Sep 2011 at 12:57 am

    daedalus2u-

    I was unaware that essentially every climate scientist knows that the models are biased to underestimate the impacts. I understand how that knowledge changes everything.

    So my calculation about the probability of the scenario you linked to was wrong because I assumed the model was low probability when in fact it is a near certainty.
    That kind of error can reek havoc on an otherwise perfectly good calculation– oops!

    Now I’m probably going too far here (I do like to get carried away sometimes) but I’m thinking I made further error because what they are calling a 5% scenario is probably really higher than that because they couldn’t say it was higher because of oil producer pressure.

    I am going too far there, or am I?

    BTW– When doing an evaluation of the value of a commodity such as oil or land, it is always best to begin with a supply/demand analysis. It is almost always wise to end there.
    Your analysis seems to avoid such considerations. Did I miss something?

  158. jugaon 11 Sep 2011 at 2:13 am

    @daedalus2u

    “The IPCC isn’t really a “science” report, there is a lot of politics in it, mostly from oil and other fossil fuel producing political entities. That politics has forced the scientists to only project from the most rigorous of science … you get an optimistic conclusion.”

    I see now where you’re coming from. You believe that even the IPCC has been “got at” by fossil fuel companies and is not representing the true scale of what is likely to happen. This would seem to put you as much at odds with climate science as you say the “denialists” are. If you are ignoring the scientific consensus (as represented by the IPCC) to such an extent, how can you complain that “denialists” ignore it in the other direction?

    You say the problem is that scientists are “forced to project from only the most rigorous science”. Presumably you believe that if they were allowed to use less rigorous science they would predict even worse disaster. I’d love to hear a climate scientist’s view on that one.

  159. daedalus2uon 11 Sep 2011 at 11:43 am

    Juga, no. If you look at what the report says, all of the predictions have the caveat, “unless something we didn’t include in this analysis is important”. The “rules” of what scientific data could be included in the IPCC included the provision that it had to be published before a certain date (July 2006). Nothing that was learned after that date could be included, no matter what it said.

    As George E. P. Box said: “all models are wrong; but some are useful”. The problem with climate is that it is very complicated and is comprised of many non-linear coupled systems. In some ways it is like the weather, which is not predictable beyond a few weeks because of the butterfly effect. Predicting climate is not like predicting the weather in that you are not looking for the “details”, but long term averages.

    The whole purpose of looking at climate change, is to understand if CO2 emissions are causing global warming and how much and to find that out early enough that humans can modify CO2 emissions to prevent catastrophic global warming. The problem is that the “process” of the IPCC was set by governments and governments are controlled by fossil fuel interests. The cumulative effect of CO2 in the atmosphere is summed over time. Reducing CO2 emissions now is many more times effective than reducing CO2 in the future. But reducing CO2 emissions now, has an impact on current fossil fuel production and sales, and on current fossil fuel company profits and valuations.

    This post illustrates the problem. In the culture of the IPCC, it is good to underestimate what is going to happen, so as to not appear to be alarmist. The reason this mindset developed is because people who bring bad news (future projections that are adverse) get punished.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/03/ippc-sealevel-gate/

  160. sonicon 11 Sep 2011 at 3:48 pm

    tmac57-
    Before I discuss the link- I asked the question to D2U hoping to engage him in a discussion on this topic that involved a certain level of subtlety. He is usually quite good at analyzing very subtle differences in positions. He is a trained scientist.
    In this case I have thus far failed to engage him at that level on this topic.

    Re: the link-

    Someone seems to think that the experiment at CERN shows the sun is the dominant controller of the climate and not human activities.

    My response to that claim is- “It couldn’t possibly have done that.” I think it would be possible to explain what the experiment did show and why it couldn’t possibly show that the sun is dominant over human activities in a few hundred words.

    This author has a different approach… He is talking about someone who’s position he describes thusly- “Although seemingly out of fashion for a while until recently…”
    It seems there are people who are stating myth about “cosmic rays are driving climate” and these people are self- contradictory and saying falsehood. Apparently this author wants to take the opportunity to expose this behavior.

    I have no means of evaluating a hypothesis on the basis of its recent fashionability.
    I’m guessing it involves a computation in which a strawman gets quartered.

    Am I right?

  161. PharmD28on 11 Sep 2011 at 5:39 pm

    SpenceUK…

    Sorry, I do not understand….it seems reasonable that it is in this case to ask for an evidence based argument against AGW. I havent taken logic 101, and my logic is not without fault, and all in all “I ain’t that smart”….but somehow I feel it perfectly reasonable that for those who would have significant criticism of an established scientific consensus, that their counter argument consist of an alternative evidence based argument.

    “Showing errors in the bible is not the same as showing god does not exist!”

    I did not say that…I just said that it “chips away” at the premise….please note what I said:

    “in the end, science cannot by defacto disprove the existence of that which cannot be emperically seen, measured, detected, or proven with any physical method, but scientific evidence has and can chip away at the premise to a large degree”

    Spence UK you said:

    “The trivial point I’m making is that the burden of proof is on those making the claim, therefore it is not my responsibility to show that the claimed consequences of AGW are false, neither is it my responsibility to disprove all claims of alternative medicine against those who make such claims, neither is it my responsibility to disprove the existence of god. This is all critical thinking 101.”

    Again, I am new to critical thinking at this level, and again am relatively only fairly “smart”, but I just fail to follow the critical thinking 101 here….

    And regarding my claim that “science has proven that it does not work” which you chose to nit pick, I will quote Dr. Novella:

    “Homeopathy is not just biologically implausible – if homeopathy worked, that would require rewriting some physics and chemistry as well. Homeopathy is beyond implausible. It is as close to impossible as we can get in science. This is not being dismissive – it’s the result of a carefully argued scientific analysis of the claims.”

    And also we do know based on quality RCT’s that homeopathy does not work: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/45/45.pdf

    So I feel pretty good about the claim that science has proven that it is not effective.

    Actually, the homeopathy story really shows how if we in science wish to dispel the myth of homeopathy, that RCT’s were the route to do that with the greatest certainty…so homeopathy denialists eventually were able to say that it does not work because of a the data…AGW denial should follow the same track…at least that is how I see it.

  162. HHCon 11 Sep 2011 at 5:55 pm

    I-IV-V, Thanks for the link, the Spectator article was really fine.
    Dr. Wessely has my utmost respect. In the U.S., neuropsychology is one such merger.

  163. daedalus2uon 11 Sep 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Sonic, I have looked at the CERN results and the realclimate analysis of them.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/08/the-cerncloud-results-are-surprisingly-interesting/

    I haven’t seen the actual paper. I am persuaded by the realclimate analysis (and the comments) that the effects are very likely to be small and not significant. The main reason is that there has been no great change in cosmic rays to generate a change that would cause global warming. The effects on nucleation they see are not large, and don’t occur in the part of the atmosphere where they would have to be to have a large effect. In comment 173, it is pointed out that the day-night temperature change has decreased during the last 50 years as warming has been observed. This is consistent with a CO2 effect and not consistent with a cloud albedo effect.

    There has been a gigantic change in CO2 that would cause global warming by mechanisms that have been known for over 100 years.

    The is a lot of lying on the internet from the usual suspects.

    http://rationallythinkingoutloud.com/2011/09/06/pure-fabrication-lies-and-global-warming-denial-propaganda-from-non-other-than-andrew-breitbarts-big-government/

  164. jugaon 12 Sep 2011 at 1:51 am

    @daedalus2u

    “There has been a gigantic change in CO2 that would cause global warming by mechanisms that have been known for over 100 years.”

    You are correct but those mechanisms predict a relatively benign rise over the next century because of CO2 under most scenarios. It’s only when you add in positive feedback, which is mechanism that is poorly understood even now, that the big rises appear.

  165. ccbowerson 12 Sep 2011 at 11:27 am

    I haven’t been at this site at all over the past week, and it is always interesting to see which post gets the most comments. I would have never guessed this post about intimidation would have so many comments. It is an interesting display of motivated reasoning when skeptics become hyperskeptical of science that conflicts with their preferred ideology. Climate change is particularly difficult in this regard because it has fairly broad implications that extend into politics, economics and public policy. We can only go with the best science available, but deniers will say the best science isn’t good enough. This is the same argument Rick Perry used in the recent GOP debate, and is the same argument all deniers use. The trouble is that as the science progresses the goal posts move to infinity and are never good enough. Again, we can only go with the best science at any given time

  166. tmac57on 12 Sep 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Sonic,your original question to D2U was:

    Don’t you think the recent experimental evidence from CERN makes it likely that the high end feedback estimates are too high? It seems likely that there is a driver of cloud cover that has been overlooked. If that is the case, then it is likely the current feedback estimates are biased to the high side. This would imply that the lowest probability scenarios based on high side estimates (the kind that are assumed in the articles you link to) would become implausible.

    From the link about the CERN experiment that I gave:

    CERN scientist Jasper Kirby, about his recent cosmic ray experiment:

    “At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step”

    So I would say from that alone,that any inferences about whether something is “likely” or not would be premature.

    Also from the article:

    In short, the CERN experiment only tested one-third of one out of four requirements to blame global warming on cosmic rays. Additionally scientists have measured solar activity and the number of cosmic rays reaching Earth, and neither meets the first two requirements listed above. Both solar magentic field strength and the number of cosmic rays reaching Earth have been flat over the past 50+ years

  167. tmac57on 12 Sep 2011 at 12:56 pm

    For clarification of the sentence: “neither meets the first two requirements listed above”, was referring to these requirements:

    1. Solar magnetic field must be getting stronger

    2.The number of cosmic rays reaching Earth must be dropping

    3.Cosmic rays must successfully seed clouds, which requires:
    1.Cosmic rays must trigger aerosol (liquid droplet) formation
    2.These newly-formed aerosols must grow sufficiently through condensation to form cloud-condensation nuclei (CCN)
    3.The CCN must lead to increased cloud formation

    4.Cloud cover on Earth must be declining

    The CERN experiment only tested 3.1 : “Cosmic rays must trigger aerosol (liquid droplet) formation”

  168. daedalus2uon 12 Sep 2011 at 2:50 pm

    CC, exactly, but you mean pseudoskeptics, using rhetoric and “burden of proof” claims to move the goal posts to “win” a rhetorical argument. But the climate of the Earth is not rhetorical, it is what humanity will require to survive. Playing “chicken” with the Earth’s future is what the AGW denialists are doing.

    Juga, yes. If you include only the things that are well understood, the effects are only bad. But if you include things which are not well understood but very likely, then change might be catastrophic.

    There is twice as much carbon tied up as methane hydrate in the ocean and permafrost as in all other fossil fuels combined (extractable and unextractable). The only reason that methane hydrate is stable is because it is below a certain temperature and above a certain pressure. If the ocean temperature goes up, or if undersea landslides depressurize it, then the methane hydrates can become unstable and release methane gas.

  169. Spence_UKon 12 Sep 2011 at 5:10 pm

    PharmD28 and daedalus2u

    You both seem to have misunderstood my point. Which may be due to me not explaining myself. But just to be clear: I have no doubt the greenhouse effect, based on all the various assumptions associated with it, and the radiative physics of greenhouse gases, is well understood and I don’t question that.

    What I am less convinced by is projections of mass extinctions (etc) based on that principle. These are far from well evidenced and reminiscent of the sort of nuclear winter debates between Sagan and Teller – the type of thing which is not really predictable, and scientists generally disagree and can do little more than express a biased opinion. Since they are not strongly evidenced, there is no need to “disprove” them per se.

    Daedalus2u – do you really believe 97% of climate scientists believe a mass extinction or runaway AGW is likely? I really do not think any evidence exists to support that contention.

  170. Spence_UKon 12 Sep 2011 at 5:40 pm

    On the CERN cloud experiments, they are interesting experiments, but far from compelling evidence at this stage. Whilst cosmic rays may influence cloud production, this is just one of many parameters interacting in a non-linear system influencing the hydrological cycle, and it seems likely to me that these are not a first order driving factor.

    Unfortunately the long memory in climate variability tends to through up false correlations, resulting in many “false positive” relationships being claimed. Unfortunately, climate science tends to bring these on itself due to the very weak tests used to detect positive deterministic relationships in climate data that are relied upon.

  171. Spence_UKon 12 Sep 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Oops, mistake in my last post (12 Sep 2011 at 5:40 pm). “False correlations” should read “spurious correlations”. Important difference!

  172. Spence_UKon 12 Sep 2011 at 6:23 pm

    To answer daedalus2u and ccbowers points:

    CC, exactly, but you mean pseudoskeptics, using rhetoric and “burden of proof” claims to move the goal posts to “win” a rhetorical argument.

    Not really. I posted because I disagreed with Dr Novella’s assertion that ClimateGate included anyone being “swamped by FOI requests”, and I provided clear evidence (including from the UK government body overseeing FOI legislation) that, in fact, the reverse was true and from the FOI perspective, it was primarily climate scientists in the wrong, not sceptics. Others (such as juga) also made similar points.

    What turned the thread into a long winded, largely off-topic discussion was the likes of daedalus2u and Steve12 steering the discussion away from climategate (without any rebuttal of the clear evidence provided) and on to the wider topic of AGW, for example, Steve12 in post (01 Sep 2011 at 5:04 pm):

    What is your opinion on AGW?

    Or any of daedalus2u fanciful theories on my motives throughout the thread. Despite the best efforts of Juga and I to avoid turning this into JACFW (just another climate flame war) we tried to stick to the original topic at hand, but were criticised for doing so.

    So if you want to know why we have a large number of rambling comments away from the topic of discussion, best ask daedalus2u and steve12 why they diverted the discussion in this direction.

  173. daedalus2uon 12 Sep 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Spence, you tell me, what level of AGW is unacceptable to you and in what time frame. I happen to think that Greenland melting and 7 meters of sea level rise is unacceptable whether it happens by 2100, 2200, or even 2500.

    Circumstances that I consider to be unacceptable I want to be at most exceptionally unlikely. In the terminology of the IPCC, that is something with a less than 1% likelihood. I happen to think that a 1% chance of Greenland melting is unacceptably high, but that is a value judgment that I have made.

    What likelihood of Greenland melting and on what time frame do you consider acceptable?

  174. Spence_UKon 12 Sep 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Daedalus2u,

    Firstly, as you rightly note that is a value judgement. I’m only really interested in what the science tells us, and value judgements have nothing to do with the science.

    Secondly, the 1% figure you give is impossible to calculate, because you do not know what technological advances mankind will make over the next 20, 50, 100, 200 years.

    Finally, even without man made AGW Greenland could melt. It was ice-free during the Eemian without man’s influence; whilst the Holocene has not been warm enough to melt it to this point (despite the HTM being in the region of 2-3 deg C warmer than today around Greenland), this alone has been due to chance.

    An ice free Greenland caused no real problems for the planet during the Eemian, and I see no particular reason why it would cause problems during the Holocene, especially not over the timescales over which it would happen (at least a thousand years, probably more).

  175. sonicon 12 Sep 2011 at 7:17 pm

    dadaelus2u
    Thank-you for that analysis.
    That’s more or less what I was thinking. The effect is possibly going to be pretty much insignificant– but if there is an effect it will be to lower the current feedback estimates.
    Of course if actual multipliers are higher than current IPCC estimates as you suggest, then this becomes less relevant to the overall picture- doesn’t it?

    That humans can act in ways best described as deceitful is not a recent discovery.
    The chronicling of recent instances isn’t really necessary for my understanding of that.

    tmac57-
    Are you are saying that instead of ‘likely’ I should have used the word ‘possibly’ in my original question to D2u about the CERN experiment?
    If so, I concur.

  176. daedalus2uon 12 Sep 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Spence, so you don’t really care about the climate, just about taking pot shots at scientists and non-scientists who do.

    Ccbowers was exactly right when he/she said:

    “We can only go with the best science available, but deniers will say the best science isn’t good enough. This is the same argument Rick Perry used in the recent GOP debate, and is the same argument all deniers use. The trouble is that as the science progresses the goal posts move to infinity and are never good enough.”

    You want to know what the science says first, so you can say it isn’t good enough, but never say what level of certainty is good enough. Just like Perry, doubting AGW because of the science that Galileo did.

  177. tmac57on 12 Sep 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Sonic- Yes,”possibly” would have been a better option.However,the best option would be to withhold any judgment about what such an experiment means,until there is more certainty,but I understand why people want to try to ‘connect the dots’ so to speak.This happens on both sides of the debate of course.
    What I find inexcusable,is the attempt to characterize the CERN finding as some final “nail in the coffin of AGW”,which was widely attempted by AGW skeptics.One wonders where the people who “just want to keep climate scientists honest” were when such wild assertions were being posited.Shouldn’t we all be concerned about keeping EVERYONE in the debate honest? After all,we and our friends and families are the ones who will have to live with the consequences.

  178. daedalus2uon 12 Sep 2011 at 10:37 pm

    sonic, if there is an effect it isn’t clear if it would have a lowering or an increasing effect. Cosmic rays have not changed in intensity as far as is known. Any effects of cosmic rays would be very prompt and would be mostly gone after a few days, certainly after a few weeks.

    It isn’t clear at all how this could be used to “save us” from AGW, unless the AGW denialists say we should increase ionization in the atmosphere (as in resume atmospheric nuclear testing?) to reduce global warming?

  179. sonicon 13 Sep 2011 at 5:57 am

    dadaleus2u-
    I’m pretty sure the cosmic ray levels have varied over time.
    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/ray_surge.html

    tmac57-
    One way I can withold judgement is to try to understand the ramifications of new informtion– which side of the scale is this tidbit placed?– and How big a tidbit is it?
    Does this tip the scale?

    Re: AGW– As far as I can tell there are a number of reasonable explanations for current observations about the weather and different models based on those explanations that make varying predictions.

    When a model maker can point to a string of correct predictions I become suspicious he might be onto something.
    But sometimes a string of correct predictions is just luck.
    And one must take care to count all the misses when someone is pumping out numerous predictions.

    The IPCC models make what they call projections. I prefer predictions, but I have decided not to ignore the models on that basis.

    Is that what you mean by withholding judgement?

  180. Spence_UKon 13 Sep 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Spence, so you don’t really care about the climate, just about taking pot shots at scientists and non-scientists who do.

    LOL, so now we are assessed on our science based on how much we “care” about climate! Good grief.

    As for taking pot shots at climate scientists, my points are clear, well made and supported by the evidence and scientists from several disciplines (including climate science). Since you have singularly failed to address any of these “pot shots” and just resorted to hand-waving about my motives and how much I “care” about the climate, it is pretty clear that actual science isn’t even slightly relevant to the points you are making.

    Unfortunately, uncertainty is present throughout science and must be properly assessed. I understand you and ccbowers prefer to sweep it under the carpet, but for the rest of us who still practice science with credibility and integrity, it is quite important. You can teach a dilettante about science, but you can’t make it think.

  181. daedalus2uon 13 Sep 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Spence, you haven’t made any scientific points. All you have done is whine about FOIs and join in the speculation that there is hidden data that proves AGW is a hoax, and that the burden of proof is on those who claim AGW is real. You have even said you won’t make any scientific points, that your purpose here is not to debate the science.

    Yes, it takes people who care about the science enough to want to get the science right. That was why Feynman had such intellectual integrity, he really cared about the science. He cared about the science so much that he wasn’t going to let himself get fooled by anything.

    That is the kind of caring about the science that I want climate scientists to exhibit, and I see that kind of caring on only one side of the issue.

    The reason that kind of caring is important is because some really bad stuff could happen to the climate. I and every other person who understands what that bad stuff could be, really doesn’t want that bad stuff to happen (except for those who think AGW is a short-cut to the Rapture).

    What level of bad stuff due to AGW is acceptable to you? How many species extinctions? How much sea level rise? How many homes destroyed by rising sea level? How much reduction in food supplies? How many extremes of weather? You don’t know, and you don’t care. Your position is “prove it will happen” and then you will think about it.

    So do you get paid by the word, or by the post?

  182. Spence_UKon 13 Sep 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Oh good grief.

    Spence, you haven’t made any scientific points. All you have done is whine about FOIs and join in the speculation that there is hidden data that proves AGW is a hoax, and that the burden of proof is on those who claim AGW is real.

    Actually, I’ve made several points about the science, you just haven’t noticed because you are too busy fretting about what my motives might be. I’m not interested in debating AGW specifically with you because it would not be possible to have a rational, objective debate about AGW with you; you are too emotionally invested in it. It would be like having a debate about genetics with Lysenko. Fruitless.

    Whining about FOIs? Pointing out that climate scientists were, most likely, engaging in illegal activities is “whining”? Hmm.

    The claim I “join in the speculation that there is hidden data that proves AGW is a hoax” is an outright falsehood, nobody rational could read my comments and conclude that.

    And yes, the scientific norm is for the burden of proof to lie with those making the specific claim. If you have an issue with this, you really need to do something other than science.

    Yes, it takes people who care about the science enough to want to get the science right.

    Woah, that is NOT what you said. You said care about the CLIMATE. That is a world apart from caring about the SCIENCE. And if you cared about the science, you would not be defending people who break rules in order to hide information.

    That was why Feynman had such intellectual integrity, he really cared about the science. He cared about the science so much that he wasn’t going to let himself get fooled by anything. That is the kind of caring about the science that I want climate scientists to exhibit, and I see that kind of caring on only one side of the issue.

    Yes, but I’ve already pointed out that a number of climate scientists have failed in this respect – and even worse, they are generally not called out on it. Professor Richard A Muller has this right. Professor Judith Curry has this right. Professor Jonathan Jones has this right. The late Richard Feynman had it right. You, on the other hand, do not.

    The reason that kind of caring is important is because some really bad stuff could happen to the climate. I and every other person who understands what that bad stuff could be, really doesn’t want that bad stuff to happen (except for those who think AGW is a short-cut to the Rapture).

    Once again, your concern about “really bad stuff” is no different to the debate about nuclear winters between Sagan and Teller. Those debates were not about the science because science was not in a position to inform, they were about opinion and values. Which cannot be defined by science. It is genuinely very sad and depressing that you don’t understand the difference between the greenhouse effect and the consequences, one of which is firmly rooted in science, the other is not. This is the same mistake made by Rev Thomas Malthus, by William Stanley Jevons, by modern day peak oilers, by Paul Ehrlich, by the club of Rome. All of these used simple, scientific principles as premises, then built absurd edifices on top of these, and argued that these absurd structures were “science” because they were built on scientific assumptions. It is no surprise that all of these were correct about their premise, but their “predictions” of “really bad stuff” never came to pass.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  183. daedalus2uon 13 Sep 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Right.

    Now you say that those predicting adverse consequences have to show that there will be no technology that prevents them in the future, otherwise we should do nothing.

  184. mat alfordon 13 Sep 2011 at 10:45 pm

    d2u,

    Who said “do nothing”?

    I call straw man

  185. ccbowerson 13 Sep 2011 at 11:27 pm

    “I understand you and ccbowers prefer to sweep it under the carpet”

    Actually I have said nor implied any such thing. Intellectual dishonesty is clear as you build your strawman. It is a problem for those who only want to to talk about uncertainty for only certain topics for which they disagree with the implications of the science.

    I made one general comment about deniers (I was not even following the comments much, nor read your posts specifically), and you took it personally. Hit too close to home?

  186. ccbowerson 13 Sep 2011 at 11:45 pm

    I’m not even sure what Spence’s point is here. From a nonexpert’s perspective, we have a scientific consensus. Now it is understood that all consensus is limited by the best available data at any given time and is subject to revision with new data. In the case of climate change this is done largely by climate scientists, because they are the ones who have the relevant knowledge and expertise in the field. So what is the problem here?

    When we extend beyond science into value judgements, policy implications, etc then the nonexpert opinion becomes more important. As far as the science goes, that will not be determined in the comments section of this blog post.

  187. sonicon 14 Sep 2011 at 1:53 am

    Spence_UK-

    dadaelus2u is smart and he can follow an argument and he has analytical skills.

    Much like you.

    I think it is possible the trouble lies in a different area.
    I offer this possibility–

    You talk about a scientific process.
    d2u talks about a hypothesis that must not be tested.

    Ships passing in the night?

  188. PharmD28on 14 Sep 2011 at 3:30 pm

    “I’m not interested in debating AGW specifically with you because it would not be possible to have a rational, objective debate about AGW with you”

    Well, not only is he listening, so are others in this forum, so if there is an evidence based argument to cast doubt on the expert current consensus, then I and perhaps others are all ears…but as you said before, you believe that you do not have to prove that AGW is overblown, it would be the job of the climate scientists to produce compelling data to prove AGW and to what extent is it bad, very bad, etc…but it seems to me that such a consensus already exists based on an evidence based argument….

    So I still am confused as to where the data is that would class that significantly challenges the consensus, or I suppose that if such data arrives the climate scientists woul either suppress it or simply deny the impact of such data?

    General question, for those AGW skeptics here, do you believe that the climate science community could ever reach an anti-AGW or greatly diminished concern about it – or is it the stance that the well is just poisoned and they are incapable of being impartial?

    I am still confused….the back and forth is dizzying….everyone claims straw man based on their accepted reality….who the hell is the straw man police in such a scenario, lol

  189. ccbowerson 14 Sep 2011 at 8:45 pm

    PharmD28-

    You are taking a fairly balanced and impartial approach, and do so with tact. The only reservation I have is that you giving deniers a bit too much credit by creating a bit of a false balance (although I agree that this is a good strategy for constructive discourse).

    Although I do think that climate change/warming deniers are somewhat different than other deniers (I think that they tend to be more intelligent and logical but with a libertarian slant), they are still letting ideology skew their view on a scientific question. That is not to say that there aren’t ideologically driven global warming alarmists, but their ideology pushes their beliefs to a hyperbole of the science rather than a denial of it.

  190. ccbowerson 14 Sep 2011 at 8:46 pm

    … not that hyperbole is a good thing

  191. mat alfordon 14 Sep 2011 at 9:51 pm

    “Denier” is a loaded term, bordering on an ad hominem in skeptical circles.

    At least part of the problem here is that the people who see the dimmest future with the most catastrophic outcomes label anyone who does not share that view as a “denier” when in fact they just sit elsewhere on the spectrum.

    This then leads to the kind of (largely fruitless… but entertaining) exchanges we’ve seen in this comments section.

  192. PharmD28on 14 Sep 2011 at 11:44 pm

    “At least part of the problem here is that the people who see the dimmest future with the most catastrophic outcomes label anyone who does not share that view as a “denier” when in fact they just sit elsewhere on the spectrum.”

    I said this basically earlier, but its worth saying again that many many many in this country do not even agree there is a spectrum…that is what is so frustrating about this all to me….

  193. ccbowerson 15 Sep 2011 at 9:29 am

    “Denier” is a loaded term, bordering on an ad hominem in skeptical circles.

    Ad hominems require that a term be used against a particular person. There is no doubt that there are deniers of this topic, and to point that out and comment on that is not an ad hominem.. its a statement of fact. I’m not sure that anyone in this comments section is a denier, but that doesn’t mean the concept cannot be discussed.

    Lets not commit a continuum fallacy by saying that there is no meaningful differences between extremes. There is intellectual dishonesty along the extremes, and reasonableness somewhere between those extremes. Lets not also create a false balance by saying the truth is in the center.

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