A Few Things Ill Considered

Expertise, Elitism and Credibility

A few random items on expertise, elitism and credibility.

The first is from an interview with the late Stphen Schneider about the recent PNAS paper on the relative expertise of “convinced” and “unconvinced” climate science activists, an interesting read:

About the ‘elitist’ part: Scientists are really stuck. It’s exactly the same thing in medicine, it’s the same thing with pilot’s licenses and driver’s licenses: We don’t let just anyone go out there and make any claim that they’re an expert, do anything they want, without checking their credibility. Is it elitist to license pilots and doctors? Is it elitist to have pilots tested every year by the FAA to make sure that their skills are maintained? Is it elitist to have board certification on specialities in various health professions? I don’t think so. I think it’s the way we have safety. We have an FDA, which analyzes food and drugs.

We’re talking about planetary life support. People who are special interests in making money in the fossil fuel industry, who are ideologues, who are so deeply opposed to government regulation or international agreements, will just make any wild claim to support their ideology or special interest. They’ll find some hired gun PhD, or they’ll pick weak scientists for the most part – and should they really be afforded as much credibility? Can you tell me that a hundred institutions around the world, that have been working for 40 years, that have had dozens and dozens of carefully reviewed assessments, are somehow no more credible – even if they’re more elitist – than petroleum geologists funded by an oil company? They’re as knowledgeable about climate science as I would be about how to fix the leak in the Deepwatergate problem. I mean, they’re really not experts, and it really does matter what people know. If we do not do the due diligence of letting people understand the relative credibility of claimants of truth, then all we do is have a confused public who hears claim and counter-claim.

The second is from an article by Kerry Emanuel discussing the “swifthacking” of CRU emails (aka “climategate”):

What the emails show are a few researchers behaving in a manner unbecoming scientists and gentlemen. The true scandal is the attempt to catapult such behavior into high crime and to dismiss an entire scientific endeavor based on the privately expressed sentiments of a few (a very few) researchers working in an environment of ongoing harassment. At the time of this writing, three separate panels convened in Great Britain, and two investigations conducted by the Pennsylvania State University have cleared the authors of the controversial emails of any serious wrong doing, and with good reason. Meanwhile, the gross mischaracterization of what those emails actually contain continues unabated.

It is helpful first to remember that the emails in question were semi-private correspondence among scientists and that the vast majority of the email shows a high level of diligence and professionalism in conducting and reporting research. The few emails that have been the subject of so much heated rhetoric show that some scientists are occasionally prey to human pitfalls (shocking!). It is simply naïve to suppose that we never complain to each other about the unfairness of editors and reviewers and openly wish we could replace them, or that we sometimes wish we could keep data out of the hands of those we know are determined to misuse it. Drop a microphone into a conference social event and one would hear countless conversations along these lines. This is nothing to be proud of, and most of us are wise enough to keep it out of written correspondence, but the idea that this represents a conspiracy among a broad cross-section of researchers is ludicrous.

And lastly, a little advice:

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Comments

  1. #1 Bruce Elrick
    July 31, 2010

    I like what Jeremy Whitlock says in an opinion piece he wrote:
    http://www.nuclearfaq.ca/credibility.htm

  2. #2 adelady
    August 1, 2010

    I do love it when the spam actually lines up with the thread title.

    Expertise, Elitism and Credibility! Yes.

  3. #3 phunctor
    August 1, 2010

    “We’re talking about planetary life support.”

    And I’m talking about the danger of giant space bunnies coating the Earth with vaseline and snorting it up their nose.

    What you have to explain is why continuing a conversation that opens with a breathtaking claim is worthwhile.

    From where I sit, here’s the timeline.

    (1) Hmm, temperatures seem to be going up.
    (2) I wonder if it could be caused by the Industrial Revolution.
    (3) Let’s make some models.
    (4) Well with /these/ coefficients I can make a linkage.
    (5) OMG these coefficients predict Universal DOOOOM!

    The data flow from the hypothesis itself (2) into the alleged confirmation (4) is troublesome.

    Given the usefulness of Universal Doom in separating idiots from their money, putting it in play requires the utmost rigor. I don’t see that.


    phunctor

  4. #4 skip
    August 1, 2010

    OMG these coefficients predict Universal DOOOOM!

    Who said this?

    Exactly. If you actually read the *science* of AGW you would know it is just that–science. Your caricature shows that your perspective is secondhand parrot-points. Get off Wattsup and read a book.

  5. #5 mandas
    August 1, 2010

    phunctor

    “…..Given the usefulness of Universal Doom in separating idiots from their money, putting it in play requires the utmost rigor…..

    Looks like you are in trouble then!

  6. #6 phunctor
    August 1, 2010

    I’m taking the advice of Cromwell to the elders of the Scottish Church — “In the bowels of Christ, I beseech you: Consider that you may be wrong” — and exposing myself to contrary opinion.

    So far you’re reinforcing my belief that AGW is in its anthropology a tribal totem. I wander in, identify myself as the despised Other, a couple of your warriors count coup on me. Ad hominem 2, engagement 0. What’s the title of this blog again?

    I simulate (much simpler) systems for a living, and give me a few magic numbers and I can make them do whatever I want. So I spend lots of time and math on deriving the numbers from something measurable. So – which books? I’d be particularly interested in understanding the empirical grounding of the coefficients used in the models.

    “Earth in the Balance” doesn’t quite cut it.


    phunctor

  7. #7 coby
    August 1, 2010

    phunctor, it kind of beggars belief that you are in the least bit sincere in “exposing yourself to contrary opinions”. Where in your comment at #2 is any indication what so ever of anything more than riduculing things you are completely uniformed about?

    FYI, in case you are able to listen to other viewpoints, your history is totally incorrect. It has gone more like this:
    1. The earth’s mean surface temperature is too high acording to Stefan-Boltzmann law and known parameters.
    2. some gases, like CO2, in the atmosphere are radiatively active, which explains the discrepancy.
    3. CO2 may rise due to fossil fuel burning which should in turn raise the earth’s surface temperature

    All that happened before 1900. I highly recommend Spencer Weart’s History of Global Warming

    When someone comes here with such a complete disregard for the varifiable facts of the matter you must forgive us for doubting the sincerity of your interest. When someone comes here and introduces their presence with talk of “giant space bunnies” and alledged predictions of “universal doom” you must forgive us for not taking you seriously.

    What is your point?

  8. #8 mandas
    August 1, 2010

    coby

    I think you are wasting your time with phunctor. Statements like this:

    “…..So far you’re reinforcing my belief that AGW is in its anthropology a tribal totem….”

    indicate without doubt that he is a denier, and will not accept anything which contradicts his ‘belief’ system. Anyone who states that AGW is a ‘tribal totem’ confirms unequivocably that he has no interest in science, has not read any of the science on the subject, and just wants to try and score cheap points.

    If he truly wanted some data on climate change he would just do a scholar search or go to any of the climate data centre websites and access the available information. Instead he comes in here and talks about giant space bunnies and complains about ad hominen attacks, when we quite rightly call him for being the idiot that he is. He can’t even get his supposed timeline right – because we all know (at least, those who have read any of the science that is) that there were predictions of increasing CO2 causing climate change long before any temperature changes were observed. But of course, that simple fact, along with all the other available information – you know, observations matching predictions – is inconvenient for your average uneducated denier.

  9. #9 phunctor
    August 1, 2010

    1) Thank you for your brief introduction to the greenhouse effect.
    2) As you may know[1] the triatomic gases have nice fat IR spectra from the bending modes. Among them are C02 and H20. Do you know the proportion of the greenhouse effect contributed by these two gasses?
    3) Introducing your conclusion as a background assumption in your first sentence is not a common feature of sound arguments. The space bunnies were a playful attempt to point out the weakness of unsupported assertion as a rhetorical device. Sorry if it was confusing.
    4) OP said we’re talking about the planetary life support system, and more or less invited us to infer what he meant by that. Just to be clear, how should I read this? Is the glss in peril from AGW?
    5) Given billions of years of plss operation over a wide range of operating points and subject to large (Chicuxlub?) disturbances, I would find that an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary evidence.

    [1] Condescension returned to sender.

  10. #10 coby
    August 1, 2010

    phunctor:

    1) Thank you for your brief introduction to the greenhouse effect.

    Your welcome. Don’t forget to check the details at the link provided, it is a interesting history.

    2) […] C02 and H20. Do you know the proportion of the greenhouse effect contributed by these two gasses?

    It is in the range of 10-30% for CO2 and 65-85% for H2O (including clouds) (see here for example)

    3)[…] The space bunnies were a playful attempt to point out the weakness of unsupported assertion as a rhetorical device. Sorry if it was confusing.

    It’s called argument by ridicule, a common logical fallacy.

    4) OP said we’re talking about the planetary life support system, and more or less invited us to infer what he meant by that. Just to be clear, how should I read this? Is the glss in peril from AGW?

    From the human point of view, yes the planetary life support systems are indeed in peril at the degree and rate of change projected into this century.

    5) Given billions of years of plss operation over a wide range of operating points and subject to large (Chicuxlub?) disturbances, I would find that an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary evidence.

    Since the planet has not been suitable for human life for most of this multi-billion year history, it is hardly reassuring to note that it has supported some form of life or another. There are many examples of mass extinction events in geological history most likely caused by rapid climate change.

  11. #11 adelady
    August 1, 2010

    Thx Coby.

    I do love all the commentary telling us that things were different climatically during various geological ages. We weren’t there then! Even if we’d managed all the evolutionary steps in super-quick time, we wouldn’t have been able to survive anyway.

    When will people start acknowledging that we’ve managed to survive and thrive only because we are in *this* particular geological time slot. The climate and all its dependent ecological, biological systems are what support us. We shouldn’t muck around with them.

  12. #12 phunctor
    August 2, 2010

    Coby, thanks for the cite. I have some reading to do. In the same vein, can you point me to something regarding the effect of absorptive saturation on dForce/dCo2?

    Adelady, in your second para your first assertion is incapable of disproof. Is that enough acknowledgement? Karl Popper loves ya babe.

    Your second is a truism.

    Your third is, I suppose, a credo and thus unarguable. However, credos do sometimes get adopted as a basis for policy and thus comments on their implications are in order.

    If any human activity comprises mucking about I suppose we should just go extinct. If there’s a right amount of mucking about that’s a whole lot less than what we do now, I guess partial extinction is the answer. If by some incredible coincidence we noticed the problem at just the time when we can change it without major reductions in human population, than I suppose we’ll need some kind of Druidic priesthood to tell us all how to live.

    For my part, I’d rather bet that we’ll deal with any changes that occur.

    It has not been revealed to me that the correct environment is that unperturbed by humanity. That doesn’t make me stupid, ignorant, or evil. It just means I don’t subscribe to that belief.

  13. #13 Dappledwater
    August 2, 2010

    Looks like Phunctor is yet another engineer (retired?) who knows better than all doze scientists.

  14. #14 adelady
    August 2, 2010

    Well if phunctor *is* an engineer, he’d surely be thrilled to bits at the opportunities engineers and other technicians now have to upgrade our clunky, brutalist technologies for something more elegant and streamlined.

    The one thing we do have in our favour is our astounding intelligence – it’s also astounding how we fail to use that intelligence intelligently. As far as dealing “with any changes that occur”, why on earth would we not use our wits to ensure that changes are minimised or directed in a way that best suits us?

    Cleverness, innovation, imagination – these are not mysterious, magical properties that will emerge in later generations to solve problems we create. They’re attributes we have now in abundance and we’re fools not to make the most of them.

  15. #15 phunctor
    August 2, 2010

    I know a little bit about cleaning up noisy data sets.

    I test a data filter by feeding it synthetic data simulating the expected background with no signal. If the filter produces more signal output than can be accounted for statistically I know there’s a problem with the filter.

    Mike Mann’s famous anything in, hockey stick out filter appears not to have been tested like that. So, no, I make no obeisance to them scientists. They appear to be fallible.

    phunctor

  16. #16 skip
    August 2, 2010

    When will people start acknowledging that we’ve managed to survive and thrive only because we are in *this* particular geological time slot.–Adelady

    Its one of those to which I *never* get a straight answer. Let me know if you ever do.

    If by some incredible coincidence we noticed the problem at just the time when we can change it without major reductions in human population, than I suppose we’ll need some kind of Druidic priesthood to tell us all how to live . . . For my part, I’d rather bet that we’ll deal with any changes that occur.

    What does this even mean–that you think acting on climate change means subjecting yourself to an environmental “priesthood”?

    You asked for a reading suggestion, phu. Try this for a start: *Collapse* by Jared Diamond. The historic precedent for our species in the face of environmental stress adn the need for adaptation to these realities is grim.

    So, no, I make no obeisance to them scientists. They appear to be fallible.

    Right. You’re the enlightened skeptic and we’re the dupes believing the “priesthood” whose goal is to sluice our money through a socialist conspiracy with AGW as its contrived basis.

    Do you think we’ve never heard this before?

  17. #17 phunctor
    August 2, 2010

    What does this even mean–that you think acting on climate change means subjecting yourself to an environmental “priesthood”?

    Well, it’s now more or less the law of the land that I commit environmental pollution every time I breathe out. I kind of like breathing. I’m very cautious about granting jurisdiction over it.

    When will people start acknowledging that we’ve managed to survive and thrive only because we are in *this* particular geological time slot.–Adelady

    Its one of those to which I *never* get a straight answer. Let me know if you ever do.

    This is a broad and unsupported assertion. Humans could not have thrived in any of N earlier evolutionary contexts? What evidence could be brought in support of this claim, absent a time machine?

    None – and according to some philosophers, this removes it from the category of scientific statements. So what is to be acknowledged?

    Diamond was pretty good in Guns Germs & Steel, I’ll take your recommendation – thanks.

  18. #18 Mal Adapted
    August 2, 2010

    Phunctor sounds like someone who just may be able to change his mind, if he reads enough of the science supporting AGW. Let’s not “reinforce his belief that AGW is in its anthropology a tribal totem”, but rather keep giving him cites (and sites).

    I think he’d profit from a visit to Skeptic Arguments and What the Science Says, especially the Hockey stick is broken argument.

  19. #19 skip
    August 2, 2010

    Diamond was pretty good in *Guns Germs & Steel*

    But better, and even more relevant still, in *Collapse*, although the former was also excellent. The lessons are sobering. Pay special attention to the section on the Greenland colony . . . quite relevant to our discussion.

  20. #20 skip
    August 2, 2010

    Humans could not have thrived in any of N earlier evolutionary contexts? What evidence could be brought in support of this claim, absent a time machine?

    What is the point–that therefore we can assume it [global warming] will be *fine* for humans? Its not about *knowing* that it will be horrible, but knowing that its a massive *risk*.

    The point of the rhetorical question is that deniers parrot this talking point ( ” . . . temperature variation is natural . . . temperature variation is natural . . . “) thinking it a clever silver bullet argument when in fact its garbage. You want to talk about the “cost” of using less fossil fuel? Let’s talk about the likely eventual “cost” of raising global temperatures by 4 degrees . . .

    it’s now more or less the law of the land that I commit environmental pollution every time I breathe out. I kind of like breathing.

    Do I get to decide for myself when you’re trying to make a serious point and when you’re being superfluous, or will you give me some hints?

    I ask because, in my experience, a classic denier tactic in debate is to make outrageous assertions, sweeping generalizations, and incoherent statements, and then, when confronted, claim, “Oh well . . . that was just tongue-in-cheek.”

    Phu: I’m working on a checklist of questions I want to start asking people about this issue who introduce themselves as “learned” skeptics of anthropogenic climate change. I want to revise the instrument through trial and error but would you indulge me by being the first to use it? I’d be grateful

    The questions, answered true or false:

    1. You have never read a scientific paper.

    2. You have never read a scientific paper about climate.

    2. Your “knowledge” of this issue comes largely from a few popular sources (TV, websites, etc.).

    3. You have never *engaged* the other side of the debate (i.e., read a book that argues *against* your position).

    4. You have no *intention* of engaging the other side of the debate.

    5. You cannot at this moment, identify a set of benchmarks, or criteria that would satisfy you that anthropogenic climate change is both real and threatening enough to justify preemptive policy changes. (In other words, “I would be convinced if [insert satisfactory conditions here]”)

    6. You think this is funny–or at least you try to tell yourself that.

  21. #21 mandas
    August 2, 2010

    Mal

    Can’t agree with you about phunctor being educatable. Anyone who comes in and makes statements like this:

    “….Mike Mann’s famous anything in, hockey stick out filter appears not to have been tested like that…”

    obviously has a preconceived view on the subject that would brook no argument. And if he is as intelligent or as educated as he likes to claim, he would not ask:

    “…. can you point me to something regarding the effect of absorptive saturation on dForce/dCo2…”

    Anyone who TRULY wanted to know the answer to that question could do a little research on Google Scholar or indeed just the web itself, and discover hundreds of links and papers just waiting for someone who wanted to be educated. Instead, he tries to score a few cheap points and alludes to some sort of expertise that he just does not possess. I have said it before and I will say it again, this time to phunctor – DO SOME RESEARCH, don’t just read the opinions of igorant denialist bloggers.

  22. #22 phunctor
    August 3, 2010

    1. You have never read a scientific paper.
    FALSE.

    2. You have never read a scientific paper about climate.
    FALSE

    I read a long screed from Monckton on the provenance of the C02 forcing coefficient, a few years back. You probably don’t consider that science, as he didn’t publish it in a forum that he and his friends had conspired to close to non-believers.

    AGW enthusiasts appear to wish to close the door on a policy discussion and accuse everyone who disagrees with them of ignorance stupidity or corrupt self interest. I’m just a guy, used to be I could care less about this stuff, but began to notice that something didn’t smell right.

    The concept that rational skepticism can arise based on the business interests of the promoter is not so outrageous. T. Boone Pickens wants us to switch to “clean energy” eh. What a philanthropist!

    2. Your “knowledge” of this issue comes largely from a few popular sources (TV, websites, etc.).
    FALSE.
    “The Day After Tomorrow” should terminally embarrass everybody on your side of this debate. Shame!

    Your passion for saving the planet probably comes from immersion in Gaeanic propaganda in your pre-kindergarten years. Remember Captain Planet? The show was created by Ted Turner, husband to Hanoi Jane. As far as impugning sources goes, that works for me.

    3. You have never *engaged* the other side of the debate (i.e., read a book that argues *against* your position).
    TRUE. I tried to read “Earth in the Balance”. I really tried. But my synapse kept getting in the way. Multiple neurons, it’s a curse.

    4. You have no *intention* of engaging the other side of the debate.
    FALSE – if “Collapse” qualifies.

    5. You cannot at this moment, identify a set of benchmarks, or criteria that would satisfy you that anthropogenic climate change is both real and threatening enough to justify preemptive policy changes. (In other words, “I would be convinced if [insert satisfactory conditions here]”)
    a) Retrodiction.
    b) Replication.
    c) Comprehensive transparent review of complete data sets and the inferences drawn from them. I say there’s room for suspicion. You call me names. This is the discourse of power, not science.
    d) Depolarization. “Denialist” says much more about the speaker than the subject. And nothing whatsoever about the issues.

    6. You think this is funny–or at least you try to tell yourself that.
    FALSE
    I think it’s tragic.

  23. #23 Dappledwater
    August 3, 2010

    “I read a long screed from Monckton on the provenance of the C02 forcing coefficient, a few years back. You probably don’t consider that science” – Phunctor

    No, and neither do climate scientists. Seriously though, Monckton, the potty peer?.

    “The Day After Tomorrow” should terminally embarrass everybody on your side of this debate. Shame! – Phunctor.

    So are you saying that movie was scripted by climatologists?.

  24. #24 skip
    August 3, 2010

    I read a long screed from Monckton . . .

    Whose absurdities are so legend and immense they might eventually implode on themselves and create a singularity in space that makes climate change seem benign.

    . . . something didn’t smell right.

    I imagine your nose is at least as keen a scientific organ as Lord Monckton–although its ability to discern horseshit is now very much in doubt. If you invest anything remotely approximating scientific credibility in the man its likely you are hopeless, but this is not new. With this intellectual pedigree you will be mates with our own resident “Crakar” (whom I adore for other reasons; don’t get me wrong) soon enough.

    Re: T.Boone Pickens:

    No one is saying you should believe Pickens . . . or Al Gore . . . or U2 . . . or [insert non-scientific celeb of choice here].

    2″The Day After Tomorrow” should terminally embarrass everybody on your side of this debate. Shame!

    Lets just politely agree you don’t investigate this issue with any rigor and call that a starting block for discussion and move from there.

    Your passion for saving the planet probably comes from immersion in Gaeanic propaganda . . .

    And your medical and auto insurance is an irrational psychic hangover from watching *Speed Racer* and *Wile E. coyote*. You’re ignoring reality.

    AGW is science, Phuncter. You’re doing what the vast majority of deniers do: You’re trying to convince yourself that AGW belief is “religion” because then you can dismiss it. You don’t study the issue; you rely on Monckton. I just wish you understood how *obvious* it is. You don’t *want* to believe it so you find someone who tells you you don’t have to.

    3. You have never *engaged* the other side of the debate (i.e., read a book that argues *against* your position).
    TRUE.

    Didn’t that feel good? Honesty really is the best policy.

    4. You have no *intention* of engaging the other side of the debate.
    FALSE – if “Collapse” qualifies.

    It doesn’t, and if I led you astray in the recommendation then that is my bad and I apologize. Its not about climate (directly or principally) but about history. But read it and you’ll understand its relevance–and with any luck you’ll understand yourself as well–as a member of a sometimes-clever but often-very-self-deluded species that ignores perils to its own detriment. You’ll never get there reading Monckton, I assure you. You’ll end up like Crakar for sure.

    And are you saying there is no “retrodiction” or “replication” in climate science?

    What datasets have been “concealed”?

    (Anyone reading knows what you’re going to say, but say it anyway. Its healthy. Get it out.)

    Phu: Its obvious: You’re repeating things that denier sources are *saying* about climate science: the models are wrong, CO2 sensitivity is not that high, the scientists have scotched the analysis and hidden the data, etc. You have no factual basis for these “critiques”; you’re just parroting something you read from the likes of, oh yeah . . . Monckton.

    And finally, how can you sensibly make “depolarization” a criterion of scientific truth? It just shows how muddled your thinking is: “I’ll only believe in AGW if nobody calls me names! Otherwise I’m plugging my ears and not believing it. Mleah!”

    (Its reminiscent of one our occasional contributors, Paul in MN, who declared that he would not brook the possibility of AGW being true unless we agreed to stop discussing, among other things, “organic food”. (*He* said it . . . ok?)

    As with any other academic pursuit, climate science has, no doubt, its share of assholes. But what does this have to with the *science*?

    I think it’s tragic.

    Then do something about it besides reading *Monckton* (for the love of God . . .) and calling yourself the enlightened “skeptic” of a “religion”.

  25. #25 Chris S.
    August 3, 2010

    …2. You have never read a scientific paper about climate.
    TRUE

    I read a long screed from Monckton on the provenance of the C02 forcing coefficient, a few years back…

    (fixed it for you)

  26. #26 phunctor
    August 3, 2010

    Can you identify a set of benchmarks, or criteria that would satisfy you that climate change, although real, is probably not primarily forced by human action?

    What would convince you that there is probably no reason to believe that dire results will ensue if we don’t [insert incredibly expensive prescription likely to make Al Gore (more) hundreds of millions of dollars] Right Now?

    Yes, I know this discussion has been going on for some time. My purpose here is as much as anything to understand you guys. I surely don’t expect to change any minds.

    There are lots of unconvinced people out here. It seems you feel we should be convinced by now. Sorry, not your call. The facts are the facts, and they will out. Next year we’ll know more than we know this year. If we have different estimates of how the shape of our ignorance will change, that’s no basis for enmity.

    What I don’t understand is the sincere loathing so ably expressed by mandas, with assists. The artful use of “denier”, associating a hypothetical disaster with a real one – with vicious and premeditated intent to demonize the so-labelled. This is a pattern more commonly seen in an ideological context than in a disagreement about what are the facts on the ground.

    It’s pretty much the definition of elitism to dismiss people because they disagree with you.

    In my world, expertise is when you can explain it to your grandmother. As many times as necessary, and answering all her questions.

    The assault on peer review at EA put a gigantic crimp in your credibility.

    This may or may not be rocket science, but even if it is that’s ok with me. I got my coffee mug fair and square.


    phunctor

  27. #27 mandas
    August 3, 2010

    skip/DW/Chris

    uhh guys, I think we have been punked!! There is no way phunctor is serious – its all woo!!

    It wasn’t until post 22 that I finally realised he was pulling our legs! But he gave it away in answer #2. Well done phunctor – you got us! Monckton! Hilarious.

  28. #28 skip
    August 4, 2010

    Oh . . . you could be right.

    “Phunctor . . . punked . . . .punktor”

    If so I’ll admit I fell for it head, line, and sinker.

    Fess up, now Phu. Don’t keep us in suspense.

  29. #29 phunctor
    August 4, 2010

    Nope.

    The position of a citizen not able to be fully informed about everything but still interested in policy is a difficult one. There isn’t enough time to become fully informed. One needs to trust some information sources and distrust others on quite general grounds. It’s probably idiosyncratic but for me the tone and form of argument is important in assessing credibility.

    And the tone and form I’ve observed is long on personalized dismissal of dissenters, and short on refutation of their claims. It’s almost as if you don’t care about convincing the generic me, but just shutting me up. It’s almost as if you’re more committed to the policy prescriptions than to the scientific truth. So your credibility suffers.

    About the precautionary principle:

    Duncio: I can imagine a big disaster, so the precautionary principle says I get my way!
    Simplicio: You dunce! I can imagine a gigantic disaster, so I get my way!
    Anselm: Dolts! You are so screwed. (reaches into sophistry bag) I can imagine a disaster than which no bigger can be conceived so I get my way.

    My trajectory on AGW has been from lukewarm, to unconvinced, to unconvinced but worried. The first transition to unconvinced was as a result of the poor quality of AGW rhetoric. The second, to worried, follows from The Economist climbing on board. I’ve trusted them a long time. AFAIK, unlike the BBC, their pension fund isn’t fully invested in AGW mitigation. So when I find myself crossways to them it worries me.

  30. #30 Mal Adapted
    August 4, 2010

    I said:

    Phunctor sounds like someone who just may be able to change his mind, if he reads enough of the science supporting AGW.

    Based on Phunctor’s subsequent comments, it appears I was mistaken.

  31. #31 mandas
    August 4, 2010

    Yeah, still going to go with the opinion that phunctor is pulling our legs. Seriously, no-one could be that stupid and still remember to breath (I’m not name calling – I don’t believe that you actually believe what you have written phunctor)

    He does make some quite reasonable statements, such as:

    “….The position of a citizen not able to be fully informed about everything but still interested in policy is a difficult one. There isn’t enough time to become fully informed. One needs to trust some information sources and distrust others on quite general grounds….”

    But then he gives the game away by suggesting that the best way to keep informed is to go with the person with the best ‘tone and level’, rather than going with the expert on the subject. I guess that’s why he suggests that Christopher Monckton, the ultimate Walter Mitty who has not science education at all, is a better source of information on climate science that scientists who have studied and written about the subject for decades. Or that “The Day After Tomorrow” somehow undermines the science of climate change and that I should be embarassed by it (it WAS a crap movie – but then again I didn’t sit there thinking it was a documentary).

    If I thought phunctor was actually serious in his comments, I would direct him to the thousands of papers on the subject and suggest he read people who know what they are talking about. After all, anyone with a serious interest and who seriously wanted to know the truth would go to the source and examine it, and not just read the opinions of other people. No-one with any credibility believes the truth is best represented by uniformed opinion.

    So give phunctor some credit. He couldn’t be as stupid as he is making himself out to be with some of his statements.

  32. #32 phunctor
    August 5, 2010

    Well that’s interesting mandas. I’ve located a bunch of rebuttals of Monckton, and I’ll do a hard read of him & them when I get past this crunch, got a conference in September.

    My casual reading of him a few years back didn’t notice any fairies in the bottom of his garden, no orgone boxes, no qui meridians. Maybe he’s a raving loon and I didn’t notice, it’s certainly a possibility. Perhaps “Napierian logarithm” should have cued me?

    While we’re talking about raving loons, did he predict an imminent 20 foot rise in sea level? But I digress.

    Stipulating there isn’t time to become universally informed, what in general is a good posture when an element of the controversy is the claim that experts(A) are transparent and straightforward, but experts(~A) are sold-out shills?

    Which experts’ expertise am I to rely on? The majority is usually a good rule. Sadly, I’m aware of an instance of interference in the publication process. I don’t know how many instances I’m not aware of. The majority argument, as a result, fails to convince. Notice carefully. I’m not speaking to the merits of AGW, but about your damaged case for it.

    I still maintain that poor quality rhetoric is a useful indicator of the absence of a solid case. What do the lawyers say? “When the law and the facts are against you, shout & wave your arms.”

    There is suggestive evidence leading to a reasonable suspicion that the expertise of the peer-reviewed community is in part deployed to promote a narrative rather than uncover the truth. Only thorough, independent, transparent review can dispel this suspicion.

    I could refer to a dozen scientific controversies that raged until a convincing to the skeptics demonstration was devised. My favorite is Pasteur’s curly glassware.

  33. #33 skip
    August 5, 2010

    Phu:

    I have a particular bastard in my field whose delivery would cause you to assume he’s hiding something, based on your criteria of evaluating scientific claims. (I’m quite sure he was the troll who wrote a scathing rejection of one of my pieces last year . . . although it was published later in a less prominent journal.) But this doesn’t change the fact that the insufferable prick is just about right about everything based on the facts as we know them.

    Nonetheless, ff it helps you to have the option of beheading the messenger during this investigative process of yours, please assume that most of us who post here are arrogant, effete snobs. You can even count me among the most repugnant, if you wish. Once that is out of the way you need never be surprised by it; and besides, when you finally find the refutation of the AGW hypothesis it will make our downfall all the more satisfying, right?

    But continue these investigations of Monckton. You might even start out the process the way I did: Read three books picked by the opposition and explain in writing how they either changed your mind or why you think they’re wrong. The three “skeptical” books I was assigned were *The Deniers*, *Red Hot Lies*, and *Cool It*. Suffice it to say they were far from convincing, and my 40+ essay on the matter is at your disposal if you want to tap Coby to have me send a copy through him as courier.

  34. #34 phunctor
    August 5, 2010

    Thanks skip, I’d appreciate that (the essay).

    My plan going forward is going to take some time. Because I’m lazy and self-indulgent I’m going to start with the three books you named above, and then your essay. From there, Monckton & his rebutters. Following that, the three books you’re about to assign to me. Quite a project to flow from a curious click and a puckish post.

    Mandas groks the puckishness but misses on the motivation. I imagine there’s quite a lot of social value in being so convinced of a proposition that disagreeable Others are fair game. Why, one could gather with like-minded friends, strut around, and throw stones! Splendid fun.

    phunctor

  35. #35 mandas
    August 5, 2010

    phunctor

    You may accuse me of missing the motivation – but I will respectfully disagree completely with you in that regard. I remain suspicious of your motivation for posting, and I remain even more suspicious that you are genuinely seeking the truth and can be convinced that you are wrong. Virtually everything you have written has come from the perspective that you ‘know’ that climate change is all a crock, and you have had your opinion confimed because you have read other people who possess a similar opinion, and they spoke so elloquently that they must have been telling the truth. Well I’m sorry, but elloquence does not equal credibility or make the message any more truthful. Indeed, some of the greatest and most convincing orators NEED to be persuasive, because they were (and are) nothing more that snake oil salesman.

    There are people in the world who believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, and we all descended from a single man and his clone that were put into a nice garden somewhere in Mesopotamia (or thereabouts), and a little while later a jealous, homophobic, racist, genocidal, misogynist and wrathful (amongs other faults) deity destroyed almost all life on Earth in a giant flood because he thought it was all a big mistake that he made. Lucky some escaped on a boat and repopulated the Earth.

    Now there are a LOT of very persuasive and elloquent speakers in the world who will try and convince you that this is the case – but do you accept what they say? Of course not (I hope!). And the reason you don’t accept what they say is not because those arguing the alternate case are so well spoken, its because only a few minutes reading will show just how stupid the creationist case is. Every single branch of science is consistent and there is overwhelming evidence that shows the truth of the matter.

    Climate change is exactly the same. Stop listening to snake oil salesman. Do some reading. Its pretty damn obvious when you look at the facts, and not the spin.

  36. #36 phunctor
    August 6, 2010

    Eloquence is all about the effect on the audience. It’s vital for winning a debate, but it only gets you so far. Form matters, a lot.

    False analogy, changing the subject and the demolition of straw men can be very effective debater’s tricks, but they do not comprise a compelling argument.

    Your attempt to make me look stupid by putting me in the same frame as young Earth creationists is a weak argument. If skillful, it demonstrates contempt for your audience. If inept it demonstrates ineptness. In neither case is it valid.


    phunctor

  37. #37 skip
    August 6, 2010

    Whether you’re stupid or not was not Mandas’ point. Its the irrelevance of “tone” in scientific debate.

    Again, Phu, if it helps just *assume* we’re jerks, but let us know how your investigations go either way. Again, think how sweet it will be when you unearth the “proof” that AGW is a crock and wave it under our noses.

  38. #38 mandas
    August 6, 2010

    Oh well – I give up on phunctor.

    He is obviously more impressed by spin and style, whereas I am more impressed by facts. Go back to Monckton please phunctor, so we can keep discussing the science. Its not your style.

  39. #39 skip
    August 6, 2010

    Oh for godakes, will you stop?

    I utterly disagree with Mandas, Phu. Start with Monckton and work your way up toward more credible analyses from there. Obviously I am convinced that the end result of rigorous investigation of this issue is that you will see global warming in a more learned–and concerned–light, so please have at.

  40. #40 Dappledwater
    August 7, 2010

    Skip, worth a shot, but I think you’re being played.

  41. #41 phunctor
    August 10, 2010

    Ah serendipity! At the lab where I work there’s a Sigma Xi talk coming up on Thursday entitled “Why is the Earth’s Surface Temperature Changing?”. I’ll report, should you be interested.

    phunctor

  42. #42 mandas
    August 10, 2010

    Thank you phunctor – we will be interested in reading about the talk. Just for your interest, here is the abstract from the SigmaXi position paper on climate change, released in 2007: http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/news/UNSEGonline.pdf

    “…Global climate change, driven largely by the combustion of fossil fuels and by deforestation, is a growing threat to human well-being in developing and industrialized nations alike. Significant harm from climate change is already occurring, and further damages are a certainty. The challenge now is to keep climate change from becoming a catastrophe. There is still a good chance of succeeding
    in this, and of doing so by means that create economic opportunities that are greater than the costs and that advance rather than impede other societal goals. But seizing this chance requires an immediate and major acceleration of efforts on two fronts: mitigation
    measures (such as reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases and black soot) to prevent the degree of climate change from becoming unmanageable; and adaptation measures (such as building dikes and adjusting agricultural practices) to reduce the harm from climate change that proves unavoidable….”

  43. #43 phunctor
    August 12, 2010

    Well Dr. Lean’s Sigma Xi talk at the lab today was excellent. In a very dense hour she touched on ENSO/NAO, volcanoes, aerosols, vertical structure, and insolation.
    My ignorance enlarged considerably and grew interesting new textures at the edges.

    I frankly didn’t understand her thesis that closed and open solar magnetic flux lines have significantly different effects on Earthly climate. There seemed as well to be a hint that meridional flow deep in the sun may bring some of the recently missing energy to the surface soonish, but she didn’t quite say so.

    She let us in on the quiet news that GISS has to be comprehensively tortured to predict the present from the past – evidently it’s inclined to produce up to twice the dT that actually happened without adhocery. She said “I don’t know” often. I had no sense that she was in pursuit of a policy goal or in defense of a narrative.

    Different solar models led to quite different graphs of the AGW forcing. But the structure of that argument had a problem in my eyes. (Roll yours, mandas!).

    “If this is true about the sun then we get /this/ graph of AGW forcing” assigns without discussion all unknowns to the AGW category. Arguing forwards from effect x, y, z is one thing. Arguing backward from a residual is another.

    Still I am more inclined to think AGW is a significant factor in climate change than I was this morning.

    phunctor

  44. #44 mandas
    August 12, 2010

    phunctor

    Thanks for your input. No eye rolling on my behalf – its sounds like a lot of what was said in the talk would have been over my head just as much as it was over yours.

    Despite what people may say about me, I am a skeptic. But I am a real skeptic, not someone who calls themself a skeptic because they take a contrary view of what the mainstream believes – but they only adopt that position because of preconceived prejudices. If the information from a reputable source threw more light on the issue, it seemed credible, and expanded our knowledge, I would welcome it. And if it demonstrated that some of our thinking on climate change was flawed, then that’s also welcome.

    But I am also pleased that you appeared to have kept an open mind, and the presentation of real science from a real scientist has helped convince you that there may be something in this AGW after all. I can only encourage you (and everyone else) to keep reading and listening to the facts and not the spin.

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