Pharyngula

Randi responds

Unfortunately, he still doesn’t understand the gist of our complaint, but he does clarify a few issues.

I do not, and did not, deny the established fact — arrived at by extensive scientific research — that average global temperatures have increased by a bit less than one Celsius degree. My commentary was concerned with my amateur confusion about the myriad of natural phenomena that obviously bring about worldwide climate changes and whether we can properly assign the cause to anthropogenic influences. Yes, I’m aware of the massive release of energy — mostly heat — that we’ve produced by exhuming and burning oil, natural gas, and coal. We’ve also attacked forests and turned them into fuel by converting them into paper at further energy expense, paper that is also burned, in turn. My remarks, again, are directed at the complexity of determining whether this GW is anthropogenic or not. I do not deny that possibility. In fact, I accept it as quite probable.

One of the more pernicious tactics of denialists is not to outright take a stand and reject an established point, but to instead raise unfounded doubts where there are none of any significance — to falsely state that there is a respectable middle ground of “the scientists aren’t sure” when the science hammers home over and over again that they are pretty damned sure.

Yes, it is quite probable that global warming has a significant anthropogenic component. About as probable as the idea that HIV causes AIDS, species diversity is driven by evolutionary processes, and that the world is round. Sure, someone could reasonably suggest that there are other agents that cause AIDS (so find them already and show us the evidence), or that there are new mechanisms that drive biological change (yes, please, show us some evidence), or that…OK, no one is going to contradict the fact that the world is an oblate spheroid. What we know is that humans are pumping out greenhouse gases released from sequestered carbon sources and gently tipping the balance of solar heat retention towards more warming. No, Randi, we aren’t burning fuel and heating the world directly. That’s a red herring.

I’m a bit disappointed. This was a case where Randi ought to have either a) admitted simple error, or b) recused himself from the argument, citing a lack of information. Either would have been the responsible thing to do.

Or he could have taken Phil Plait’s approach, and simply linked to a site that beautifully refutes the AGW deniers chief claims. Randi chastises me for not consulting him before posting his criticisms, but I wonder if Randi ran his not-pology by Phil before posting it?

The one thing he shouldn’t have done is reaffirm doubt where it is undeserved. It reminds me of all the apologists for Uri Geller, who like to say that although he sometimes does a few tricks when he’s nervous, his powers are real whenever Randi isn’t around to intimidate him. Of course it’s possible — it’s just that the case has been made so strongly that Geller is a phony and that human CO2 emissions contribute to global warming that it’s disingenuous to argue for the exceedingly unlikely…especially when there are special interests out there eager to grab onto that glimmer of false doubt to continue to promote more self-destructive behavior.

I stand by my earlier objection. Randi has made a mistake that will make denialists gleeful, and his current denial of denial doesn’t change a thing.

But here, on a lighter note:

I should add that conditions that make the frigid north a bit more tropical do not bode well for Randi’s home in Florida.

Comments

  1. #1 physicalist1
    December 17, 2009

    OK, no one is going to contradict the fact that the world is an oblate spheroid

    Umm, don’t bet on it.

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    December 17, 2009

    He still fails to recognize that we know that the goalposts have moved to the “A” of AGW. Unfortunately, he gets the fact that the world is demonstrably warming, rather than cooling, wrong yet again.

    He’s a good guy, but I wish he’d quit digging himself into this hole even further. The fact that Petition Project is so much propagandistic nonsense doesn’t dissuade him from making almost all of the mistakes that he made first time around.

    Randi, the fact is that models that do a pretty good job of “predicting” past climates can only account for present temperatures by factoring in CO2‘s warming effects, along with its intensifying effects like increasing water vapor in the atmosphere. Face it, and quit praising everyone who excuses your failings in this matter.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  3. #3 cervantes
    December 17, 2009

    Actually, the follow-up was more embarrassing than the original. He writes: “Yes, I’m aware of the massive release of energy — mostly heat — that we’ve produced by exhuming and burning oil, natural gas, and coal. We’ve also attacked forests and turned them into fuel by converting them into paper at further energy expense, paper that is also burned, in turn.”

    Obviously, he believes that the posited cause of AGW is waste heat. He is evidently completely unaware of what this is all about in the first place, i.e. greenhouse gases. (The contribution of waste heat is absolutely trivial.)

  4. #4 Sigmund
    December 17, 2009

    “Yes, it is quite probable that global warming has a significant anthropogenic component. About as probable as the idea that HIV causes AIDS, species diversity is driven by evolutionary processes, and that the world is round.”
    Sorry PZ but I have to take issue here. I accept the evidence for AGW but think its nowhere near as strong as the evidence for the other three hypotheses. That’s not to say its weak evidence but to seriously suggest that its of similar status to the others is a step, skip and jump too far.

  5. #5 aratina cage
    December 17, 2009

    PZ writes:

    The one thing he shouldn’t have done is reaffirm doubt where it is undeserved. It reminds me of all the apologists for Uri Geller, who like to say that although he sometimes does a few tricks when he’s nervous, his powers are real whenever Randi isn’t around to intimidate him. Of course it’s possible ? it’s just that the case has been made so strongly that Geller is a phony and that human CO2 emissions contribute to global warming that it’s disingenuous to argue for the exceedingly unlikely?especially when there are special interests out there eager to grab onto that glimmer of false doubt to continue to promote more self-destructive behavior.

    I’m breathless. You took the words right out of my mouth.

  6. #6 Free Lunch
    December 17, 2009

    Sigmund and Randi -

    Please explain the changes in the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial era in a way that does not include human activities.

    Presumably both of you accept the idea that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, but if not, feel free to explain why it is not.

  7. #7 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    Sigmund –

    Sorry PZ but I have to take issue here. I accept the evidence for AGW but think its nowhere near as strong as the evidence for the other three hypotheses.

    Why? And please quantify / define “nowhere near”.

  8. #8 Sili
    December 17, 2009

    Cervantes,

    That was exactly what jumped out at me before I even finished reading.

    Seriously: has the chemo gone to his brain? This is not at all the intellectual level I expect from Randi. In fact, I think it’ll be very interesting to see the linguistic analyses recently discussed on LanguageLog applied to his oeuvres to see if there’s a measurable deterioration in his output.

  9. #9 cervantes
    December 17, 2009

    Free Lunch –

    Based on what Randi wrote, he apparently does not understand the concept of a greenhouse gas at all, and attributes global warming to the heat produced by burning fossil fuels and wood. In other words, he’s just completely out to lunch and there is no sense trying to have a rational discussion with him.

  10. #10 vreejack
    December 17, 2009

    Much of Florida is doomed no matter what we do at this point. The most conservative estimate I saw recently for sea-level rise for 2100 is 0.3m, which is one-sixth of Miami-Dade’s average elevation of 1.8m. A more extreme rise of 0.8m is also possible, which would put much more of the city of Miami under water. Miami Beach is only 1m above sea level, so either it will be gone or it will have to change its name to “Miami Sea Wall.” Something similar has happened to much of the Jersey shore over the last century as recreational beaches have been replaced by sea walls. Some of this has been due to anthropogenic interference in the natural erosion process, but sea level rise exacerbates all of it. Texas will suffer quite a bit, too.

  11. #11 KOPD42
    December 17, 2009

    OK, no one is going to contradict the fact that the world is approximately an oblate spheroid.

    Fixed. ;-)

  12. #12 Glen Davidson
    December 17, 2009
    About as probable as the idea that HIV causes AIDS, species diversity is driven by evolutionary processes, and that the world is round.”

    Sorry PZ but I have to take issue here. I accept the evidence for AGW but think its nowhere near as strong as the evidence for the other three hypotheses.

    For one thing, cause and effect match up quite nicely in the HIV-AIDS connection (and nagging doubts have been well cleared up since the connection was first made) and in the evolutionary processes, while the observation of a spherical (oh come on, the technically-correct “oblate spheroid” doesn’t change the fact that it’s as spherical as many balls that we’d unhesitatingly call spherical) earth is confirmed by multiple observations.

    Or to put it another way, the IPCC would not claim that evolution, HIV as cause of AIDS, and the spherical earth are only 95% certain, as it did AGW.

    AGW is sufficiently certain that it need not be overstated by comparing it to near-certainties like non-teleological evolution. Overstatement could lead to rejection of the solid science behind AGW pronouncements.

    Al Gore has overstated the case, by claiming that it’s as certain as gravity ( http://www.slate.com/id/2237789/ ). I wish he’d not risk the importance of the science by his hyperbolic statements.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  13. #13 jojame
    December 17, 2009

    Why is it such a moral outrage to not accept AGW with such certitude? Are you telling me there are no doubts with the claims about AGW?

  14. #14 Carlie
    December 17, 2009

    I don’t know – he did seem to acquiesce to Phil’s points through most of the piece. It reads to me a little more like he reasserted that stuff about not being sure about it in the middle more to attempt to save face a bit. And he probably ought to have lunch with Phil so Phil can explain what global warming is in the first place.
    I’m more disappointed that he didn’t research it through before writing it in the first place, as he knows what kind of influence he has.

  15. #15 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    December 17, 2009

    Are you telling me there are no doubts with the claims about AGW?

    Like with evolution, there are no scientific doubts. As long as you have been here, you should have picked up on that. Or else, you are less than intelligent.

  16. #16 Sigmund
    December 17, 2009

    Free Lunch, I have no problem with the consensus model of AGW. I’m not a climate scientist (I’m a molecular biologist working in cancer research) but I’m quite prepared to accept the conclusions of the experts in that field.
    My objection is simply to the hyperbole in the claim that the evidence is as detailed as that for the other theories which have come from multiple independent sources and which have withstood decades of testing.
    Just to illustrate the point, imagine we found out that 25% of species change is not caused by evolutionary changes. That would be a profound change in the consensus model that goes against tons of research data. Now compare this to a similar situation in climate change – the finding that 25% of climate change is not due to human activities. This latter result, I suggest would not be nearly so surprising – for the simple reason that our knowledge of evolution is far stronger than the current knowledge of climate change.

  17. #17 vreejack
    December 17, 2009

    “”Like with evolution, there are no scientific doubts. As long as you have been here, you should have picked up on that. Or else, you are less than intelligent.”"

    Of course there are doubts about AGW. Critical papers get published in serious climate journals every now and again. They just aren’t gaining much traction. I haven’t seen a serious counter-AGW claim in the mainstream that didn’t get quickly dismembered, but they do get published, unlike your evolution example, for which I do not think a serious “counter-” paper has been published in my lifetime.

  18. #18 vanharris
    December 17, 2009

    I think one of the problems with a lot of people accepting the A in AGW is the mechanism that’s been posited, i.e. CO2 as a ‘greenhouse’ gas, when it’s at a concentration of about 350 ppm, or less than 0.04%.

    I presume the meteorologists have researched this, & found that such a small concentration is indeed potent. I make this presumption because i trust in the self-correcting mechanism that is fundamental to Science. I would’ve thought rationalists, such as Randi, would all tend to do that, unless they can actually do the science.

  19. #19 kausik.datta
    December 17, 2009

    Are you telling me there are no doubts with the claims about AGW?

    Nope, not in the minds of the scientists that have observed and carefully recorded this phenomenon for the past many years, and that have analyzed the minute details of those observations methodically and painstakingly. Jeez, you wouldn’t know evidence if it came up and socked you one between the eyes, would you? PZ has posted (twice) a link to an excellent refutation of claims against AGW. Visit the damn link already – before you open your gab!

  20. #20 The Other Ian
    December 17, 2009

    Please explain the changes in the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial era in a way that does not include human activities.

    Randi said that AGW is probable, and Sigmund said that he accepts the evidence. Why exactly should somebody need to posit an alternate explanation in order to assert that the accepted explanation is only most likely true?

    Right now, the fact of the universe’s expansion is most likely due to dark energy. I say “most likely” because the evidence for dark energy is not well established, not because there is some comparably supported alternative.

    The case for AGW is similar, though stronger. It’s just not as strong as the evidence for evolution, which is conclusively demonstrated by converging lines of evidence in several disciplines.

  21. #21 Glen Davidson
    December 17, 2009

    Why? And please quantify / define “nowhere near”.

    That’s a term that really does need clarification, btw. Let’s take the IPCC’s “95% certain” for the sake of argument–is that “nowhere near” as certain, or is it quite certain after all?

    In public, at least, I wouldn’t call 95% certain “nowhere near” as certain, because most people would likely suppose that “nowhere near as certain” means that it’s not very certain at all, maybe 50-50, or, at best, something like 75-25.

    In one sense, though, 95% certainly would be “nowhere near as certain” as evolution, because I’d say the latter’s got to be 99.9% certain at least (with details being less certain). Scientifically, perhaps, AGW is “nowhere near as certain” as evolution or the HIV-AIDS link.

    It just wouldn’t do to state it that way in public, though. You’d have to say that AGW is really quite certain, within standard measures of confidence levels that scientists accept, but, with it being a one-off event, we can’t be as certain as with repeated events like HIV infections and various evolutionary events.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  22. #22 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    I too am disappointed… instead of using the space to simply clarify his statements, he came off as defensive and grumpy. He was rightfully criticized for taking an uninformed position and posting it on a website built around reason, of all things. Quoting apologists for this behavior and needlessly praising them for being “kinder and closer to the truth” smacks of “argument from tone”…

    What truth is he talking about? The truth that it’s OK for him to pontificate on subjects he clearly has little understanding of in a forum that will assume his position is researched and well thought out, based on his (well earned) reputation? I call bullshit, Randi!

    He seems to be too busy admonishing us for mistaking his poorly worded piece, and just glosses over the main problems that we had with it in the first place, which are:

    1. He strongly insinuated (of not outright stated) that there may be merit to the AGW denialist arguments.

    2. He stated plainly that he suspected the Petition Project may have merit.

    3. He is a well respected, well known skeptic that should know the power and weight of his own words better than he demonstrates.

    All I wanted to see from him was a brief, succinct retraction that simply stated: “I regret having expressed an opinion on such an important issue with so little knowledge, and I humbly retract any statement that in any way indicates that I have an informed, knowledgeable opinion about AGW. And having been given a proper background, I also retract my statement that lends any possible credence to the “Petition Project”, as the merits of the petitioners and the petition itself is questionable at best. I hope to have the time and wherewithal to study this issue more closely and evaluate the facts as presented by many years of research that’s been done on this issue. I will return when and if i can with a more informed, educated opinion on the matter.”

    Why would that not have been sufficient?

  23. #23 JBlilie
    December 17, 2009

    Barbara Bradley Haggerty is lying for Jesus again just now on Talk of the Nation, promoting her book.

    Shorter BBH:

    - Dawkins has a closed mind
    - Einstein believed in a “super-mind” in charge of the universe [!!!]
    - If you read it right, there is circumstantial evidence for the existence of God [emphasis added]
    - I can stand up in a cocktail party and back up my religious belief
    - People have these mystical experiences
    - Religion isn’t like that weird UFO experience stuff
    - That intercessory prayer study wasn’t done “correctly” you have to have “skin in the game” for prayer to really work [!!!]

    What a lying, useless tool.

    I emailed in many notes and not a single dissenter was allowed any air time! So much for talk “of the nation.”

  24. #24 jojame
    December 17, 2009

    If you’ve been following the news then you’ll see there will probably be no more climate legislation. Copenhagen is a mess and the CRU emails damaged scientist’s credibility (whether justified or not). So it’s all moot anyway. We’ll get to see who’s right though.

  25. #25 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    Glen #21

    That was really my point in asking the question that way… I dislike ubiquitous terms like “nowhere near” in making comparisons… especially within well researched sciences…

    You did a much better job of explaining why… thanks.

  26. #26 negentropyeater
    December 17, 2009

    First he wrote :

    strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid.

    (The Petition Project statement proclaiming that Man is not necessarily the chief cause of warming, that the phenomenon may not exist at all, and that, in any case, warming would not be disastrous.)

    Then he wrote :

    My remarks, again, are directed at the complexity of determining whether this GW is anthropogenic or not. I do not deny that possibility. In fact, I accept it as quite probable.

    Then,

    As I’ve indicated, I do not deny the finding of GW. AGW, to me, is less clear, though I accept that it is likely true.

    Summary ;

    I strongly suspect that AGW may not exist at all, but I do not deny that it may exist as I accept it as quite probable and likely true.

    Randi, STFU !

  27. #27 jojame
    December 17, 2009

    @Celtic #22
    But PZ Myers gets to talk about AGW?

  28. #28 MrFire
    December 17, 2009

    Why is it such a moral outrage to not accept AGW with such certitude? Are you telling me there are no doubts with the claims about AGW?

    A good deal less doubtful than the claim that homosexuality is wrong because procreation is the reason sex feels good.

    [/ad hominem]

  29. #29 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    If you’ve been following the news then you’ll see there will probably be no more climate legislation. Copenhagen is a mess and the CRU emails damaged scientist’s credibility (whether justified or not). So it’s all moot anyway. We’ll get to see who’s right though.

    Spoken like a true moron. Ignore the points we’ve made… just continue to make unsupported, stupid, smug assertions. Haven’t you embarrassed yourself enough on this topic on this and many many other threads?

  30. #30 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    But PZ Myers gets to talk about AGW?

    As to the point of my comment, YES… because, unlike Randi, and most certainly unlike you, PZ has gone to the trouble of actually learning about the science in question. He’s done the work, read the research, done the requisite homework to make an intelligent, informed statement. As I implied in my comment, I would have more respect for Randi’s comments regarding AGW were he to do the same.

    I can’t believe I had to even explain that to you…

  31. #31 Glen Davidson
    December 17, 2009

    This was a mistake, in post #2:

    Unfortunately, he gets the fact that the world is demonstrably warming, rather than cooling, wrong yet again.

    I misread him, and got it wrong, though I’d say he did write the relevant passage in a rather weird way.

    But at least he accepts GW, and the problem is that he still seems not to realize how strong the case for AGW actually is.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  32. #32 jojame
    December 17, 2009

    @Celtic #29
    No points have been made in this post except besides saying AGW is true because it’s true.

  33. #33 The Science Pundit
    December 17, 2009

    Right now, the fact of the universe’s expansion is most likely due to dark energy. I say “most likely” because the evidence for dark energy is not well established, not because there is some comparably supported alternative.

    That’s not how I understand it. My understanding is that dark energy is simply the name that phycisists have given to “whatever is causing the Universe to expand.” They named it darm energy because they had no idea what it was. But the phenomenon is real and it can be measured (see this video).

  34. #34 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    If you’ve been following the Faux news then you’ll see there will probably be no more climate legislation. Copenhagen is a mess and the CRU emails damaged scientist’s credibility (whether justified or not). So it’s all moot anyway. We’ll get to see who’s right though.

    Fixed.

  35. #35 gtpooh
    December 17, 2009

    Wow, I wasn’t aware someone as influential as James Randi shared some of my concerns. Sometimes it feels very lonely being one of the few old school treehuggers who feels the strategies being developed are, in all likelihood, going to be fatally ineffective.

    Yes, the climate has been changing. Some of us were worried about this when most of you were in diapers. Or before you were born. But our simplistic CO2 is the cause is ridiculous. There are so many things at work in the changes we see, including the natural cycles of the Earth. Just yesterday research was released that shows that soot, not temperatures, are responsible for Himalayan glacier loss. We know methane is a HUGE contributor, but are we doing anything substantial to reduce the methane produced by cattle and rice production. (I read that the first impact humans had on the environment was when noticeable warming started 5kish years ago with the introduction of rice cultivation) Urban heat effect, deforestation, agri-business, and on and on all have input into the system but are never addressed when GW Cultists get going.

    And what about population. We talk about making more fuel efficient cars and power, but what are we doing to rein in our out of control population growth? Doesn’t matter if you get better mpg or your electricity is eco-friendly if population increases 10% in the next decade. Almost 7 billion humans now breathing (giving off C02, I’m just saying we could curb a LOT of that demon by getting rid of 3 or 4 billion humans), cooking, eating, heating their homes, defecating and procreating. That’s a HUGE amount of waste heat that could be a part of why our metropolitan areas are warmer, no?

    I’m not saying we should do nothing. I think we should have started doing stuff almost 50 years ago. But it’s not too late to develop effective plans to secure our food supply (preferably locally), decrease our footprint and provide for the people we have. The side effect of this would be MORE POWERFUL than your puny attempts to curb CO2, worked out at a convention that produced as much CO2 as a small town.

  36. #36 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    No points have been made in this post except besides saying AGW is true because it’s true.

    Which would matter had those points not been made to you about a thousand times in at least 4 other threads.

    Be gone, cretin.

  37. #37 Sili
    December 17, 2009

    Randi, STFU !

    Sorry, but no. Everyone has every right to keep digging and hang themselves with the rope they’re given*.

    *This sentence brought to you by Mixed Metaphores™. MM™ is a product of Zeugma Inc. Not available in all states and territories, void where prohibited.

  38. #38 JBlilie
    December 17, 2009

    gtpooh, you sound like an atheist-but. I hear a lot of hand waving. I don’t hear the climate scientists concerned about those sources. Are you, like Randi, smarter than those climate scientists?

    That said, like you, I believe in acting locally. We are doing what we can to reduce our footprint. I’m still strongly in favor of international agreement on reducing carbon emissions.

  39. #39 MrFire
    December 17, 2009

    About as probable as the idea that HIV causes AIDS,

    And as a little sting-in-the-tail, Kary Mullis, the guy who pioneered PCR, is an AGW denialist and rejects the idea that HIV causes AIDS.

  40. #40 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlg3ZrAn0yJktAa1txQLOB6bCND-AfW0pA
    December 17, 2009

    Everyone- arguing about whether AGW is a level 15 scientific theory rather than a level 21 like evolution is pretty pointless. Our knowledge of it has passed the stage where we need to worry about that sort of thing. The problem is getting stuff done.

    The other Ian – “The case for AGW is similar, though stronger. It’s just not as strong as the evidence for evolution, which is conclusively demonstrated by converging lines of evidence in several disciplines.”

    Converging lines of evidence in multiple disciplines? For the warming, we have that – species of plants and animals are shifting zones at a rapid rate, ice is melting all over the shop, the heat content of the oceans is growing, temperature trends in all measuring methods are positive, the ocean is becoming more acidic, and so on. I think that covers physics, biology, and chemistry.

    For it being our fault we have:
    Stratospheric cooling as you get when there is increasing amounts of a greenhouse gas in the troposphere.
    Isotope signatures matching what is expected of burning millions of tonnes of cabron compounds.
    The expeted changes in Oxygen ratios for the same thing.
    We can tot up the amount of fossil fuel burned and what do you know, taking it into account with known sinks for CO2 and we can see that it all matches.
    Physics experiments showing how CO2 absorbs IR.
    Observations of various changes in gas concentration in the atmosphere.
    Models which run off the basic physics expected from our knowledge of gas/ IR interaction and suchlike, and within the expected sorts of boundaries for this sort of thing, reproduce the current warming and any other situation you care to suggest, including many historical changes.

    So what else would convince you?

  41. #41 The Other Ian
    December 17, 2009

    Summary ;

    I strongly suspect that AGW may not exist at all, but I do not deny that it may exist as I accept it as quite probable and likely true.

    Randi, STFU !

    Non sequitur. The quote “strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid” does not mean that Randi strongly suspected “that AGW may not exist at all”. It means he strongly suspected that the claimed scientific consensus for AGW was false. In any case, Randi has retracted what he originally said about the Petition Project.

  42. #42 The Other Ian
    December 17, 2009

    That’s not how I understand it. My understanding is that dark energy is simply the name that phycisists have given to “whatever is causing the Universe to expand.” They named it darm energy because they had no idea what it was. But the phenomenon is real and it can be measured (see this video).

    Well, IANA cosmologist, but my understanding is that what you say is correct, except that dark energy is specifically an energy-based explanation. One possible alternative explanation is that general relativity fails at very large scales, in which case dark energy may not exist at all.

  43. #43 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    In any case, Randi has retracted what he originally said about the Petition Project.

    Did I miss that? I’m not sure I could state as much… the best I could find from his follow-up was this:

    I admit that I was unaware of the true nature of the Petition, and I thank Dr. Plait — and several others — who pointed me to this reference and a much better grasp of the situation.

    Which is sorely lacking a follow on statement whereby he officially retracts his prior statement and clearly states that he does not accept the Petition Project as valid.

    And additionally, the most infuriating part of his entire response was towards the end, where Randi asserts this befuddling piece of irony:

    I merely expressed my thoughts about the controversy, and I received a storm (no pun intended) of comments, many of which showed a lack of careful reading that led to unfair presumptions and interpretations.

    Emphasis mine. Randi, that last part was the entire problem with your initial post. Good gravy.

  44. #44 bunnycatcher
    December 17, 2009

    A simple “revoco” would have been more than sufficient.

  45. #45 JBlilie
    December 17, 2009

    There’s a serious shill review campaign going on over at Amazon for Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell

    http://www.amazon.com/Signature-Cell-Evidence-Intelligent-Design/dp/0061472786/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

    If any of your Pharyngulites have the time, it may help to place your thumbs on the stars-scale at Amazon on this fraudulent book. Thanks ?

  46. #46 The Other Ian
    December 17, 2009
    In any case, Randi has retracted what he originally said about the Petition Project.

    Did I miss that? I’m not sure I could state as much… the best I could find from his follow-up was this:

    I admit that I was unaware of the true nature of the Petition, and I thank Dr. Plait — and several others — who pointed me to this reference and a much better grasp of the situation.

    Which is sorely lacking a follow on statement whereby he officially retracts his prior statement and clearly states that he does not accept the Petition Project as valid.

    Well, I read that sentence and the accompanying acceptance of Phil’s comments about the Petition as a retraction, but I take your point that it is implicit at best.

  47. #47 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    Well, I read that sentence and the accompanying acceptance of Phil’s comments about the Petition as a retraction, but I take your point that it is implicit at best.

    Exactly, and as far as I’m concerned, where this issue is concerned, that’s simply not good enough.

  48. #48 Todd Berkebile
    December 17, 2009

    Normally I think PZ does a good job hitting the mark, but here I think he is overstating things.

    We know temperature is rising.
    We know we generate a lot of CO2.
    We know CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

    Those are all facts, but we also know:

    Earth’s climate is a complex buffered system.
    Periods of temperature increase are normal.
    Periods of temperature decrease are normal.

    All we know is that humans contribute to warming, what we don’t know is how much. Is it 90% man caused and 10% natural or 90% natural and 10% man caused? Current models are not good enough to conclusively say. We don’t know whether our contribution exceeds the limits of the planets buffers. Further, even if we are the main cause we don’t know what human activity does the most damage – the CO2 we pump into the air directly contributing to greenhouse warming or other pollution that might be destroying the planet?s natural buffers.

    Science is never “finished” and it would be foolish to assume our knowledge is complete. We have a lot of facts but we use mathematical models to try and understand those facts and the mathematical models are currently primitive at best. It seems like a gross oversimplification to simply declare that climate change is either completely “man-made” or completely ?natural?; this is the exact sort of false dichotomy people around here would normally fight against.

    PS: Despite not being convinced as to the accuracy of global climate models I still support CO2 reduction ; if nothing else less pollution means better health.

  49. #49 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    Todd #48

    –headdesk–

  50. #50 negentropyeater
    December 17, 2009

    The Other Ian,

    The quote “strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid” does not mean that Randi strongly suspected “that AGW may not exist at all”.

    He specifically wrote that the petition project’s statement proclaimed that AGW (the phenomenon) may not exist at all, and that he strongly suspect that it may be valid.

    In any case, Randi has retracted what he originally said about the Petition Project.

    No he didn’t, he didn’t write : “I now strongly suspect the petition project may not be valid”. He thanked Phil Plait for clarifying a few points w.r.t this project. It’s a very wishy washy retraction.

    Sili,

    Sorry, but no. Everyone has every right to keep digging and hang themselves with the rope they’re given

    and I have every right to keep telling him to STFU.

    No he didn’t, he didn’t write : “I now strongly suspect the petition project may not be valid”. He thanked Phil Plait for clarifying a few points w.r.t this project.

  51. #51 gr8hands
    December 17, 2009

    In my first/last/only email exchange with Randi, and completely out of character, one of the points he made was to absolutely refuse to admit that he was using a dictionary that did not have all the meanings of a word — even after being provided overwhelming evidence that he was wrong, Randi stubbornly and irrationally clung to his statements. And then he went off into a bizarre rant.

    Normally, Randi has no problem admitting a mistake — even using the words “I made a mistake.” He’s got enough honesty and integrity to admit it when it happens. He’s also got the training and professionalism to make certain that it doesn’t happen all that often! Never think of him as just a magician!

    But the for year or so prior to my email exchange with him, on the JREF forum he would sometimes fixate on some error of his, deny it, and would just not let it go. It was quite offputting. Perhaps that is being a public figure with a large following. Perhaps that is being a codger. Perhaps dementia. But sad nevertheless.

    Now we get to witness this mess, which will be used as ammunition by deniers. It is a sad day.

  52. #52 gillt
    December 17, 2009

    Check out Mooney’s blog under the post “Where are all you Climate ‘Skeptics Coming From?” it’s positively flooded with AWG denialists. Comeuppance perhaps for using his blog as a PR tactics experiment.

  53. #53 Glen Davidson
    December 17, 2009

    Randi chastises me for not consulting him before posting his criticisms, but I wonder if Randi ran his not-pology by Phil before posting it?

    I really don’t get this. PZ wasn’t attacking Randi, calling him an evil person or the like, in the manner that the IDiots attack us constantly.

    The point is not Randi so much as his article, so why not respond to, yes, the article without worrying about whether or not Randi had actually expressed himself according to his basic understanding of the matter. What matters is the impact of the article.

    Of course one might contact Randi first, letting him clarify his position. But there’s no obligation to do so, and often one wishes to respond quickly to something that might mislead the public.

    And PZ’s, along with Plait’s, responses seem to have evoked a reply from Randi more in line with what we’d expect of him (sans chemo, probably).

    And no, he shouldn’t be promising more “speak first, think later” blogposts. That really isn’t what skepticism entails, and seems to be closer to what Dembski and Belinski like to claim as “skepticism.”

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  54. #54 Paul W.
    December 17, 2009

    I think one of the problems with a lot of people accepting the A in AGW is the mechanism that’s been posited, i.e. CO2 as a ‘greenhouse’ gas, when it’s at a concentration of about 350 ppm, or less than 0.04%.

    I presume the meteorologists have researched this, & found that such a small concentration is indeed potent.

    Yes. Statistics like 0.04 percent are very, very misleading, because what matters is not the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but the amount per unit surface area of the earth.

    There is miles of increasingly thin atmosphere above your head, such that the amount of air over your head at sea level is equivalent in mass to a layer of water 32 feet deep. That’s a shitload of air.

    0.04 percent of 32 feet comes out to about a seventh of an inch of CO2 compressed to the density of water, or the equivalent of something
    like a millimiter of solid carbon dioxide over the entire earth.

    Now think about how thin a piece of plastic works to make a greenhouse. You don’t need more than about half a millimeter of plastic to make a greenhouse, except for structural reasons. In fact, you can use flexible plastic sheeting over studs for the roof and walls. (And I have.)

    I think that analogy is inexact—somebody who remembers the physics can correct me—because a greenhouse wall mostly reflects infrared back into the greenhouse, but CO2 acts as a diffusive-and-absorptive filter, so that IR spreads out in random directions and eventually gets absorbed and converted to heat. (I forget whether CO2 is mostly absorptive of IR, or mostly diffuses it and it gets absorbed by other things…)

    Now think about how thin a sheet of solid you need to substantially diffuse light—like the frosting on a soft-white light bulb, which is basically like a thick layer of paint.

    Or consider a sheet of diffusive plastic, like you may have over your head under a fluorescent light fixture. You only need a thin piece of plastic to diffuse light a lot.

    So rather than talking about concentrations, we should be talking about thickness equivalents—the same mass of C02 spread around the earth as a seventh of an inch of water, but acting like a sheet of foggy plastic wrapped around the earth to make a greenhouse.

  55. #55 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    gillt –

    that is absolutely priceless… I’m sure Mooney is floored that his new audience is so rife with this brand of populist, weak thinkers…

    Me, not so much.

  56. #56 Paul W.
    December 17, 2009

    Clarification to my post above about C02…

    I don’t actually know how dense solid C02 (e.g., dry ice) is… but I think we’re talking about the equivalent of something roughly like a millimeter of typical diffusive plastic. (Most plastic is not very dense, but works just fine for greenhousing if it doesn’t have additives to make it opaque.)

  57. #57 The Other Ian
    December 17, 2009

    He specifically wrote that the petition project’s statement proclaimed that AGW (the phenomenon) may not exist at all, and that he strongly suspect that it may be valid.

    I take “valid” to mean that the petition accurately represents the opinions and credentials of its signers. You seem to be taking “valid” to mean that the petition’s stated opinion is true. I suppose we cannot know for certain what Randi meant unless he comes along and clarifies for us, but given the context of scientific consensus, and given that the latter interpretation would be a rather roundabout way of saying “I think AGW may be false”, I still think he meant the former.

  58. #58 llewelly
    December 17, 2009

    Todd Berkebile | December 17, 2009 3:43 PM:

    All we know is that humans contribute to warming, what we don’t know is how much. Is it 90% man caused and 10% natural or 90% natural and 10% man caused?

    Please read the IPCC AR4 Summary For Policy Makers. Note in particular:

    The understanding of anthropogenic warming and
    cooling influences on climate has improved since
    the TAR, leading to very high confidence7 that the
    global average net effect of human activities since
    1750 has been one of warming, with a radiative
    forcing of +1.6 [+0.6 to +2.4] W m-2 (see Figure
    SPM.2). {2.3., 6.5, 2.9}

    (From page 3)
    and

    Changes in solar irradiance since 1750 are estimated
    to cause a radiative forcing of +0.12 [+0.06 to +0.30]
    W m-2, which is less than half the estimate given in the
    TAR. {2.7}

    (From page 5)
    That is to say, net anthropogenic effects since 1750 are about 13 times the net natural effects.
    For more specifics, see Understanding and Attributing Climate Change, chapter 9 of the same report.

    The models are reliable. It’s not a natural cycle.

  59. #59 eddie
    December 17, 2009

    OT but on BBC radio4 now; What Scientists Believe. Philosopher Stephen Webster investigates links between scientists’ personal beliefs and their scientific work.

  60. #60 pmcarlton
    December 17, 2009

    “Outrage” seems to be exactly the right term here — we must be wary of turning our acceptance of AGW into a “sacred value” in Philip Tetlock’s very specific sense of an idea which we (1) nominally commit an infinite amount of resources to defend, (2) feel disgust at treating rationally, and (3) we direct outrage and punishment both at people who don’t hold the value as sacred, and more importantly, at people who fail be outraged or to punish – i.e., engage in meta-norm enforcement.

    The evidence for AGW is extremely strong, of course, but by overstating the case and comparing it to the earth being round, you start turning it into a sacred value. It may actually be a good tactic to do that in the public sphere, but here in our rational ivory tower we don’t need to be tactical.

  61. #61 Ballookey Klugeypop
    December 17, 2009

    What disappoints me, is not the subject of Randi’s essay, it’s the presentation of logical fallacies and straw men in defense of his position. Perhaps AGW is just his sacred cow issue. OK, but it’s frustrating to hear such a prominent face of the Skeptical movement use the same tactics that the anti-science folks use in defense of their wacky nonsense.

    And in his follow-up, Randi seems oblivious to this. He’s almost completely recanted his position on the science, and the facts, thrown in a few more statements indicating he understands none of it, and is left going, what’s everyone’s problem?

    I have too much respect for the man to make the cuckoo clock noise I usually make when encountering this sort of person, but wow.

    By the way, reading the comments on any of PZ Myer’s posts is an absolute joy. You all are so intelligent, and argue so thoroughly, I feel I get a second-hand education.

  62. #62 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    And no, he shouldn’t be promising more “speak first, think later” blogposts. That really isn’t what skepticism entails, and seems to be closer to what Dembski and Belinski like to claim as “skepticism.”

    That struck me as odd, too… his almost prideful backing of uneducated opinion as an acceptable form of “skepticism”… that is just not what I always thought Randi was about. To me, in most cases, what set Randi apart from other “skeptics” was not that he would say “I doubt it”… he would say “I doubt it, and here’s the evidence”…

    This statement he makes at the end:

    I’ve shown that I can make observations on subjects barely within my understanding, while admitting my shortcomings, and provoke reactions that are interesting, constructive, and sometimes furious. That’s okay.

    …makes me queasy. I do not hold that’s it’s OK to make uneducated observations on important, world-effecting subjects from a platform of respect and claim indemnity on the grounds that “at least it provoked reaction”. I’ll leave such shenanigans to the Howard Stern’s of the world.

  63. #63 felixthecat
    December 17, 2009

    Glory! I have seen the light! Yes, AGW is absolutely, totally real and there can be no doubt. Anyone who questions it is moron, a weak-thinker, stupid, an elitist, or has a teeny-tiny wittle ol’ penis! And if you dare compare AGW advocates to religious fundamentalists, you are just plain old fucking stupid! So there!!! No more questioning any of this!!! If you have any confusion about AGW you are also a retarded moron. Just leave it to the scientists and climb aboard the bandwagon, idiot!

    But what can be done about AGW? As an elitist who drives an Audi A8 Quattro, I object to the meaningless transfer of wealth from rich nations to the Third World. And as someone who is rather dull-witted, I cannot understand all that egg-head stuff anyway.

    Say, how about population control?!? Less people, less pollution and all that other nasty AGW causing stuff! Until over-population is addressed, anything else we do may be pretty much worthless. The religious among us object to any mention of population control so there can be more souls in Hell, and the politically correct object to it on the grounds that it is “elitist” or “racist” or “Nazi-ism”. So no, population control cannot be addressed. So let’s get to work and think up some more stop-gap measures.

  64. #64 Kel, OM
    December 17, 2009

    I remember a few months ago when he was on Point Of Inquiry, he totally botched how the placebo effect works.

  65. #65 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    I take “valid” to mean that the petition accurately represents the opinions and credentials of its signers.

    I’m sorry, but I find it hard to believe you can read the rest of Randi’s paragraph that follows and in any way come to that conclusion, Other Ian…

  66. #66 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    Glory! I have seen the light! Yes, AGW is absolutely, totally real and there can be no doubt. Anyone who questions it is moron, a weak-thinker, stupid, an elitist, or has a teeny-tiny wittle ol’ penis! And if you dare compare AGW advocates to religious fundamentalists, you are just plain old fucking stupid! So there!!! No more questioning any of this!!! If you have any confusion about AGW you are also a retarded moron. Just leave it to the scientists and climb aboard the bandwagon, idiot!

    When you’re done acting like a petulant, ignorant 2nd grader, feel free to present your convincing evidence against AGW at any time…

    Or you can go back to making unintelligent, sophomoric caricatures of anything that’s been said here.

    I’m guessing I know which one you’ll choose.

  67. #67 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    December 17, 2009

    No points have been made in this post except besides saying AGW is true because it’s true.

    Here’s the point Jojame. Until there is conclusive evidence published in the peer reviewed scientific literature that AGW isn’t occurring, then the conclusion that it is occurring is due to overwhelming evidence. At no time have you presented such a citation, so you are just an idjit troll. That is how science works. Positive evidence, not the doubt on evidence, is what is required.

  68. #68 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    Philosopher Stephen Webster investigates links between scientists’ personal beliefs and their scientific work.

    I’m sure that will be a rip-roaring example of empirical research and peer-reviewed study…

    Or it will be some philosophical wanker blabbering on about how science is the same as religion.

    Meh.

  69. #69 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    @ myself #68

    Or it’s possible that I’m grumpy and irritable over the whole Randi thing and I’m misreading it completely and it might be a worthwhile discussion.

    Yeah… i need to go get some food and take a deep breath.

  70. #70 RamblinDude
    December 17, 2009

    Ballookey Klugeypop

    By the way, reading the comments on any of PZ Myer’s posts is an absolute joy. You all are so intelligent, and argue so thoroughly, I feel I get a second-hand education.

    There are many of us who lurk about and feel the same way.

  71. #71 gr8hands
    December 17, 2009

    The Petition Project has people on the list who never signed on to it, and some who have claimed to have been lied to about the content.

    So, the term “valid” is incorrect period.

  72. #72 negentropyeater
    December 17, 2009

    why is Felixthecat so stupid ?

    Say, how about population control?!? Less people, less pollution and all that other nasty AGW causing stuff! Until over-population is addressed, anything else we do may be pretty much worthless.

    Something for you to meditate :
    .if the world had only half of its current population, but each one emmitted as much CO2 as an average American, global emmissions would be three times as much as today.

    Does your pea-brain understand this ?

  73. #73 negentropyeater
    December 17, 2009

    The Other Ian,

    I take “valid” to mean that the petition accurately represents the opinions and credentials of its signers.

    Then you didn’t read what he wrote:

    I strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid. I base this on my admittedly rudimentary knowledge of the facts about planet Earth…. The myriad of influences that act upon Earth are so many and so variable — though not capricious — that I believe we simply cannot formulate an equation into which we enter variables and come up with an answer. A living planet will continually belch, vibrate, fracture, and crumble a bit, and thus defeat an accurate equation.

    If that’s not denial of AGW, I don’t know what is.

  74. #74 Antonio
    December 17, 2009

    PLEASE STOP CRUCIFYING ONE OF OUR OWN!

    Global warming is not like religion. It cannot simply be found wrong by thought experiments or amateur discussion. This is a geologic and atmospheric topic of ongoing research.

    PZ, I support almost everything you say or do but here you are trying to discredit one of our own, based on something that is not as obvious as you imply it is. An anthropogenic cause for global warming is NOT like HIV caused Aids. There are so many factors about our geologic history that we do not fully understand including Milankovitch cycles (of various magnitudes and frequencies), CO2 emissions through heating of carbonate rocks, mid ocean ridge formation and its effect on global sea level, etc. We KNOW that climate change is a very common thing in geologic history so it is not at all obvious whether we are causing (or at least to what degree) the change seen today.

    PZ, you have seen this happen with evolution. The general public usually does not have a complete grasp of the science (and its methods) behind the ideas that get popularized. James Randi has always been a champion for intelligent informed discussion and honesty. Please treat him with the fairness he deserves.

    PZ, why don’t you arrange a fair discussion between Randi and a couple geologists (e.g. Chris Rowan and Anne Jefferson from Highly Allochthonous) and simply hear him out. Based on Randi’s track record, he deserves to at least be heard. Do not compare him with the people who want to “discuss” evolution by concluding creationism. This is nothing like that and you know it, so stop treating it as such.

  75. #75 Dave
    December 17, 2009


    Yes, it is quite probable that global warming has a significant anthropogenic component. About as probable as the idea that HIV causes AIDS, species diversity is driven by evolutionary processes, and that the world is round.

    This is preposterous. And you call yourself a scientist?

  76. #76 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 17, 2009

    Randi wrote in his notpology:

    I must quickly add that PZ and I are friends and allies, and that we’re not at odds. However, I perceive that he often tends to rush to publication without first checking with the author of some provocative item. This provides PZ with lots of controversy and attention, but at the expense of the author in question.

    If someone has something published it’s fair game for criticism. Sometimes critics will ask the author “did you really mean to say this?” or request further explanation. And an author can certainly object if he’s misquoted, quoted out of context, or didn’t actually say or write what is attributed to him.

    However PZ quoted Randi accurately and gave a link to his statement, so Randi cannot complain PZ is playing silly games with Randi’s statement. The objection that PZ didn’t first check with Randi is so much whining. There was no requirement for PZ to do anything but quote Randi accurately, which was done. PZ giving a link to Randi’s original statement is more than the minimum that Randi could reasonably expect.

    Randi, in a poorly written and greatly hedged proclamation, apparently came down on the side of AGW denial. He was criticized for this by PZ and others. If Randi didn’t want to be criticized, then he shouldn’t have written about a topic that he admitted he didn’t know very much about.

  77. #77 Sven DiMilo
    December 17, 2009

    This is preposterous

    because…

    (why do you guys always leave that part out?)

  78. #78 Antonio
    December 17, 2009

    @ Sven DiMilo (#77)

    Because there are many factors about our geologic history that are not well understood due to the disperse degree of sampling we have. We can’t go into our lab and model global warming throughout history to see the degree of anthropogenic cause of it. HIV research is one of the most important and well funded topics of research, and the degree of time in which infection happens is negligible compared to the period of a global warming cycle.

    We can observe HIV causing Aids today in a lab. We are still too ignorant about the causes of global climate change in geologic time to model it.

    Therefore anthropogenic global warming is far from being as obvious as HIV causing Aids. It is dishonest to treat it as if it were.

  79. #79 aratina cage
    December 17, 2009

    Antonio, really? Oh, it’s “AIDS” not “Aids”.

  80. #80 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    PLEASE STOP CRUCIFYING ONE OF OUR OWN!

    Crucifying? Caps? Really?

    I think you might be overstating it a smidge…

  81. #81 AJ Milne
    December 17, 2009

    Why do you guys always leave that part out?

    … because the general strategy of magnifying, exaggerating, and keeping alive unwarranted doubt on a subject such as this one, same as was the case, say, with the carcinogenic effects of tobacco, is a blind strategy related only to its deceptively plausible appearance as merely ‘keeping an open mind’. The facts are not significant. Merely saying ‘oh no, it’s sensible not to be too sure here’, sans qualifications or explanations is generally considered a sufficiently saleable dodge for a lay audience.

    But for the record, the IPCC AR4 view is as follows:

    Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations. This is an advance since the TAR’s conclusion that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in GHG concentrations”

    … ‘very likely’ is formally used for probabilities greater than .9 in the AR4.

    … now yes, you can quibble that technically, our confidence, on, say the facts that the world is round and that species diversity is so driven are well above .99, but honestly, I’d call ‘about as probable’ as a pretty fair descriptor there, all the same…

    (/And certainly not a ‘preposterous’ one. But then, again, when yer business is exaggerating uncertainty, getting a bit out of hand with adjectives in said manner is kinda a given, I’d imagine.)

  82. #82 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    DAMN!

    Blockquote fail.

    Groan.

  83. #83 Peter G.
    December 17, 2009

    Glen@12 “AGW is sufficiently certain that it need not be overstated by comparing it to near-certainties like non-teleological evolution. Overstatement could lead to rejection of the solid science behind AGW pronouncements.”
    I concur with that. A sufficiently good case has been made that co2 is a primary cause of the portion of warming attributable to human genesis without going overboard.

  84. #84 Dave
    December 17, 2009

    Sven Dimilo says,


    This is preposterous

    because…

    (why do you guys always leave that part out?)

    If you cannot infer on your own why I would claim that the evidence for AGW is nowhere near the level of evidence for evolutionary theory, I doubt that I’ll be able to explain it to you here in this noisy room.

    (And I’m only one guy.)

  85. #85 Sven DiMilo
    December 17, 2009

    We are still too ignorant about the causes of global climate change in geologic time to model it.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have geological time to work with here, since the changes of concern are happening in ecological time.
    And the fact is that the necessarily simplistic models available already do a damn good job of accounting for all of the major forcings and feedbacks that anybody can think of. And when you remove the undisputably anthropogenic changes in CO2 from the models, all of a sudden they don’t match observed temperatures.

  86. #86 Carlie
    December 17, 2009

    Shorter Dave: If you don’t know, I’m not telling you.

  87. #87 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    We are still too ignorant about the causes of global climate change in geologic time to model it.

    Oh, FFS… doesn’t anyone read the damned comments before posting? And it’s not as if this statement wasn’t refuted in the other thread with several links provided…

  88. #88 Antonio
    December 17, 2009

    @ Sven (#85)

    But we do have geologic time to work with. Global warming is not a smooth sinusoidal cycle. It is a jagged superposition of tens (maybe hundreds) of sinusoids of different frequencies and amplitudes (and this is simplifying it a lot). Models tend to work very well when we compare it to a small sample. The true victory would be to compare it to a larger sample of geologic time and have it describe what’s going on. Nobody sane says that humans don’t cause global warming, what needs to be discovered is a good approximation for the amplitude of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions factor in a valid climate change model. This amplitude could be the dominating one or a negligible one. We don’t know yet. And as long as we don’t pretend to know, we can still work on the answer.

    I don’t mean “we” as in “random people discussing global warming on a website”. I mean it as students and professors at publicly funded universities.

  89. #89 Todd Berkebile
    December 17, 2009

    @llewelly #58

    Thanks for the links, reading through those now. The TOC can be found here for those wanting to read the whole thing.

  90. #90 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    December 17, 2009

    Therefore anthropogenic global warming is far from being as obvious as HIV causing Aids. It is dishonest to treat it as if it were.

    No, it is just as obvious when AIDS was first identified as a virus. You are the one who doesn’t acknowledge the overwhelming evidence.

    f you cannot infer on your own why I would claim that the evidence for AGW is nowhere near the level of evidence for evolutionary theory,

    Only in your deluded mind. Get our point???

  91. #91 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    I doubt that I’ll be able to explain it to you here in this noisy room.

    That statement will suffice, thanks… the rest is just noise.

  92. #92 Sven DiMilo
    December 17, 2009

    The true victory would be to compare it to a larger sample of geologic time and have it describe what’s going on.

    Won’t this always be impossible? Where are you going to get the spatially explicit input variables for a chunk of geological time?

  93. #93 Antonio
    December 17, 2009

    @Celtic_Evolution (#87)

    The time sampling of those models is far too small to claim that it has any predictive or explanatory power.

    We could be at an increase if seen at a resolution of a couple hundred years but we are not completely sure where we are at a resolution of tens of thousands of years.

    In geology, it’s all about scale. It’s like trying to fit a line through 3 points and having a small error as opposed to fitting a line through 3000 points are truly appreciating the power of your model.

  94. #94 Antonio
    December 17, 2009

    @Sven (#92)

    It is not impossible. The geochemistry of carbonate rocks can tell us a bit about the temperature at which they were formed. Since we know that the great majority of carbonates are formed in the photic zone, we can infer the temperature of shallow marine environments which can give us constraints for a global temperature vs time model.

    Also, lapout relationships in seismic data can tell us a lot about global sea level change which can be related to temperature.

    Both of these methods are localized and so can be compared from location to location to confirm their validity.

  95. #95 Dave
    December 17, 2009

    Nerd of the Redhead said,

    “Get our point???”

    Yes. You are capable of shouting louder than I.

  96. #96 negentropyeater
    December 17, 2009

    Antonio,

    We KNOW that climate change is a very common thing in geologic history so it is not at all obvious whether we are causing (or at least to what degree) the change seen today.

    1. read the IPCC report that summarises the scientific findings on attributing recent climate change to humans.
    2. having read this, explain what is wrong with this document. Please provide all the necessary references to the relevant scientific papers that support your explanation.

    PZ, you have seen this happen with evolution. The general public usually does not have a complete grasp of the science (and its methods) behind the ideas that get popularized. James Randi has always been a champion for intelligent informed discussion and honesty. Please treat him with the fairness he deserves.

    All the more reason to criticize him when he spouts nonsense based on ignorance. Same is valid for you and anybody else, whether he is “one of our own or not.

    Being apologetic of someone simply because he is “one of our own” is the all too typical tribal response of religiots.

  97. #97 efrique
    December 17, 2009

    Randi, re AGW: In fact, I accept it as quite probable.

    It seems to me that he’s then either being half-ignorant or disingenuous, because the other part of the equation is the costs of the two errors (AGW is significant and we do nothing) vs (AGW is not significant and we do something) are so different.

    I don’t think it’s all that likely my house will burn down this year. But I buy insurance against that possibility, because the effect if it happens is so devaststing.

    In fact, even were I a climate skeptic that only assigned a moderate chance to AGW being a significant contribution (I am in fact somewhat skeptical, though less so than Randi), I would still act on it for exactly the same reason I buy insurance.

    If Randi honestly does think significant AGW is somewhat probable, then immediately a comparison of the costs of the two kinds of error leads an honest skeptic to act, act immediately, and act strongly.

  98. #98 Joffan
    December 17, 2009

    Antonio, why do your objectinos make me think of incomplete fossil records?

  99. #99 destlund
    December 17, 2009

    I love how people can cherry-pick the topics they on which they are anti-science, and be completely dandy with everything else. Compartmentalization is a powerful phenomenon. It’s the same thing with creationists, “alternative medicinists,” and climate change deniers.

    If you don’t trust the scientific consensus, it’s because you distrust the scientists or feel that they are being bribed and/or bullied into forming said consensus. But that would mean that scientific method doesn’t work. You can’t have your cake and eat it too: either the universe and everything in it can be increasingly accurately described and even predicted through observation, experimentation, and analysis of data, and that description/prediction can be verified by further observation, experimentation, and analysis; or it can’t.

  100. #100 Antonio
    December 17, 2009

    @negentropyeater (#96)

    That link is a nice summary of the conclusions found. I wonder if you have any access to the data from which these models were calculated and the methodology of the analyses. I have tried to find this before but have not been successful. This would be very helpful.

    Also, these conclusions are limited to a time scale of a few hundred years, which is fine. But, as geologist, I’m a bit skeptical of models that only explain short amounts of time in a process that is usually measured in geologic time. It would be like measuring the geomagnetic field for the last couple hundred years and assuming that it never reverses.

    There are differences between honest scientific criticism and simply calling someone a denier and comparing him with those who don’t believe in HIV caused AIDS, especially on a blog that is so influential among people of many different professions and backgrounds. It is bound to cause unwarranted disaccreditation of a very smart and honest man by people who might not be experts, students or at least rigorously informed lay persons of the field discussed.

  101. #101 destlund
    December 17, 2009

    Oh and “skeptics,” when it comes to science, usually have a very personal need to distrust science on a topic, because before they ever looked at the science, somebody came a long and shoved a bit of pseudoscience into their head when they weren’t thinking.

  102. #102 destlund
    December 17, 2009

    IIRC, Antonio, the raw data being used is publicly available, compiled by national organizations in every nation on earth; sometimes governmental departments, sometimes NGO’s. Some give it away for free, some make you pay a fee. The scientists who analyze this data can show you the results and cite the sources, but they can’t redistribute the data in full because it’s not theirs.

  103. #103 destlund
    December 17, 2009

    I should have waited until 6:42 to post #99.

  104. #104 michey d
    December 17, 2009

    Yes. You are capable of shouting louder than I.

    Yes, poor, poor you. Having people post replies to your comments – how rude! And asking for actual evidence for your “arguments” against AGW? My Zeus, how incredibly arrogant of us!

  105. #105 ilgreven
    December 17, 2009

    …this thread has made me lose a bit of my faith in scientific debate. If this is the way you react to a challenge from someone you usually respect, I really fear for the debate with the yahoos who think science is evil.

  106. #106 jimvj
    December 17, 2009

    #3 Cervantes:
    (and others who made the same point that waste heat from burning fossil fuels is a pittance compared to the extra heat trapped by the CO2 released):

    The Superfreakonomics dudes also made this elementary mistake in their latest book. They claimed that the reduced albedo of PV panels would
    create more global warming than would be offset by the clean electricity produced.

    They got their *sses severely whipped by RealClimate in what has to be an all-time classic fisking (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/an-open-letter-to-steve-levitt/)

  107. #107 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 17, 2009

    Van Harrison says, “I think one of the problems with a lot of people accepting the A in AGW is the mechanism that’s been posited, i.e. CO2 as a ‘greenhouse’ gas, when it’s at a concentration of about 350 ppm, or less than 0.04%.”

    OK, let’s think about this. Let’s say that a 15-micron infrared photon is rising from sea level trying to escape into space. If it is to have a significant probability of interacting with a CO2 molecule it has to pass within about a wavelength of it. How many CO2 molecules are in a square 15 microns on a side from ground to the stratosphere?

    I calculate about 10^16 molecules. This is NOT an insignificant probability of absorption.

    Now the next argument you get from denialists is that the effect is saturated and adding more CO2 will have no effect. That argument gets refuted nicely here:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/…/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument/

  108. #108 Antonio
    December 17, 2009

    @destlund

    I am currently a geology graduate student at a relatively large public university. I have honestly not been able to access this data. This is not the way it usually is. I can access all of NASA’s geochemical data about moon rocks or USGS’s data sets about Yellowstone, but for some odd reason I cannot access this data. I can only get bits and pieces of data or summaries.

    The only other source of data that is inaccessible to us is certain data acquired by mining and petroleum companies because they have stakes in their quality of mineral and gas exploration, i.e. they benefit from not showing this data.

    This is what I don’t like about the global warming data not being publicly released to research institutions everywhere. It makes them seem like they are benefiting from not showing it. No one can argue against data. When you read a scientific paper, the methods and data are what give the conclusions their strength.

    If this problem is as urgent as one is led to believe, people should be mobilized immediately. If this is the case, money raised for global warming should be used to allow everyone to see the raw data acquired. This would convince many graduate students and professors around the world and start the massive movement that would be needed.

  109. #109 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 17, 2009

    On the one hand, if AGW is happening then it behooves us to do something about it. The longer we ignore the problem the more drastic the consequences and the solution.

    On the other hand, if AGW isn’t happening then we can kick back, relax and do nothing. No muss, no fuss, no problem.

    On the gripping hand, even if AGW isn’t happening we’re running out of fossil fuels without a reasonable replacement in sight. All the whines and cries about socialism and one world gummint aren’t doing anything to find replacements for petroleum and coal.

  110. #110 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 17, 2009

    Randi has lost all credibility as a true skeptic. The most he can claim now is selective credulity. This is sad to see from a man who has up to now been a credit to the skeptical movement. However, I do not see how we can trust the judgment of a man who chooses to be skeptical only when it conveniently fits his ideology.

    Let’s scatter the ashes of his credibility and move on.

  111. #111 Paul
    December 17, 2009

    …this thread has made me lose a bit of my faith in scientific debate. If this is the way you react to a challenge from someone you usually respect, I really fear for the debate with the yahoos who think science is evil.

    Randi, a professional skeptic, offered an argument from personal incredulity against a very well understood, evidence-supported, politically-charged issue. It’s not a challenge, it’s a blunder that will have consequences. As someone we respect, we’d be amiss not to be forceful in our opposition. Respect doesn’t mean you get kid gloves, or people pretending you make sense when you don’t.

  112. #112 AJ Milne
    December 17, 2009

    I have honestly not been able to access this data. This is not the way it usually is. I can access all of NASA’s geochemical data about moon rocks or USGS’s data sets about Yellowstone, but for some odd reason I cannot access this data. I can only get bits and pieces of data or summaries… This is what I don’t like about the global warming data not being publicly released to research institutions everywhere. It makes them seem like they are benefiting from not showing it.

    Realclimate maintains a list of sources here.

    See also particularly this comment.

    Note again: this is not a new thing. All of this stuff has been available for years. There have been media reports to the effect that now the CRU is ‘rushing’ to release this stuff–it’s bullshit. It was always available…

    (Meaning, really, having first distorted the fuck out of that reality to the press, the denialists then tried to cover up that lie with another, when their first lie was rubbished when the CRU pointed the publicly available sources out. But as if anyone expected any better.)

    Re:

    Respect doesn’t mean you get kid gloves, or people pretending you make sense when you don’t.

    I’d also add: you set higher standards, if anything, for folk you have already seen can reason soundly enough when they put their minds to it. Having considered both his messages, I have to say I now find this especially disappointing from Randi, overall. If it were some idiot guy-down-the-road at a party, sure, that’s one thing–I might cut him some slack–I mean fuck, maybe he was raised on a steady diet of AM brain rot. Randi should know better.

  113. #113 destlund
    December 17, 2009

    @Antonio I would expect most large state universities would have, if not a department of climatology, a climatologist or at least an ecologist with enough knowledge of climatology to be able to answer your question. What’s more, I’ll wager they’d be more than happy to; if you’re real nice, they might even show you what they themselves are doing with the data. Otherwise you can just keep an eye on this thread until a climatologist notices your question. This is really a biology/atheism blog, though. You might find something here.

  114. #114 destlund
    December 17, 2009

    “As [Randi is] someone we respect, we’d be amiss not to be forceful in our opposition.”

    Fixed. Unless you were talking about self-respect.

  115. #115 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 17, 2009

    Antonio says, “I am currently a geology graduate student at a relatively large public university. I have honestly not been able to access this data.”

    Well, you really haven’t tried very hard, you lying sack of rodent feces:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/wheres-the-data/

  116. #116 David Marjanovi?
    December 17, 2009
    I’ve shown that I can make observations on subjects barely within my understanding, while admitting my shortcomings, and provoke reactions that are interesting, constructive, and sometimes furious. That’s okay.

    Has Randi just admitted to trolling?

    If so, that’s disturbing.

    PLEASE STOP CRUCIFYING ONE OF OUR OWN!

    If we did, we would be dishonest. Sleazy. Evil.

    You’re basically making an argument from authority here. You should be ashamed ? like Randi.

    There are so many factors about our geologic history that we do not fully understand including Milankovitch cycles (of various magnitudes and frequencies),

    What? Of course we do. We can simulate the last few ice ages. I posted references to published papers in a recent very long Climategategate thread; sorry, it’s too late at night for me to look them up.

    CO2 emissions through heating of carbonate rocks,

    Can you possibly be serious? Making burnt lime requires 825 °C.

    Besides, we know how much oil and coal we burn every year, and we know how by much the CO2 content of the atmosphere rises every year… surprise, surprise, the numbers add up. Climatologists are not so fucking stupid as to overlook such obvious things.

    mid ocean ridge formation and its effect on global sea level,

    Any changes in that are way too slow. No increase has been detected ? vulcanologists and seismologists are monitoring this all the time, in case it has escaped your notice.

    We KNOW that climate change is a very common thing in geologic history so it is not at all obvious whether we are causing (or at least to what degree) the change seen today.

    It is obvious, because all other possible causes are not operating today.

    James Randi has always been a champion for intelligent informed discussion and honesty. Please treat him with the fairness he deserves.

    Believe it or not, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

    In fact, we hold his words to his very own standards.

    PZ, why don’t you arrange a fair discussion between Randi and a couple geologists (e.g. Chris Rowan and Anne Jefferson from Highly Allochthonous) and simply hear him out.

    And no climatologists?

    Based on Randi’s track record, he deserves to at least be heard.

    Randi himself admits up front to ignorance.

    Randi himself has promptly gone on to make an argument from incredible ignorance ? he does not know what the greenhouse effect is and believes in all seriousness that the rising temperature is caused by the heat we produce when we burn stuff! All that heat would simply be radiated into the night sky if there were no greenhouse gases to hold some of it back!

    It’s an embarrassing situation ? for Randi, and for you.

    (Really. For a geologist you know surprisingly little about paleoclimatology.)

  117. #117 strange gods before me, OM
    December 17, 2009
    I’ve shown that I can make observations on subjects barely within my understanding, while admitting my shortcomings, and provoke reactions that are interesting, constructive, and sometimes furious. That’s okay.

    Has Randi just admitted to trolling?

    Yes. And he seems to think it’s something interesting and admirable.

  118. #118 destlund
    December 17, 2009

    “Has Randi just admitted to trolling?”
    Youch. By those standards, I’m a troll. I’m the science expert among my friends, but I don’t expect anyone to give me a grant or give expert witness in a court of law. Then again, I never pronounce judgment on working scientific theory without evidence.

    Oh, well. It’s not the first time a professional skeptic shot themselves in the foot.

  119. #119 Steven Dunlap
    December 17, 2009

    Addressing PZ’s main point in this post, there’s an excellent and well documented report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to “Manufacture Uncertainty which shows how Exxon (mostly) has engineered a tobacco industry style disinformation campaign. The point is not to “disprove” climate science but to generate enough doubt and confusion so that the average person simply stops believing everybody. When that happens, change can not.

    Another good one, and very appropriate to this discussion:
    Weathering the storm of stupidity, an editorial by Greg Lyons about the anti-intellectual mania that grips the United States and especially how it relates to the topic at hand here. It starts with a great quote:

    The spread of secondary and latterly tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought. –P.B. Medawar

  120. #120 Sven DiMilo
    December 17, 2009

    I’ve shown that I can

    is just such a strange way to open that sentence.

  121. #121 Peter Beattie
    December 17, 2009

    I’ve just said this over at Phil Plait’s site, but I think the complete failure of Randi’s original piece deserves some more scrutiny.

    1. He starts off with a little poisoning of the well by referring to “academics who are often more driven by ‘politically correct’ survival principles”, and who are also driven by “religious and other emotional convictions”. At best, that kind of introduction is gratuitous.

    2. He says, “a growing number of prominent scientists disagree.” Without giving even a single name of those alleged prominent scientists.

    3. Next up, the Petition Project. Its claims are so patently ridiculous that it’s hard to believe that anyone would even need to look into them. Neither do numbers prove anything, nor was the survey representative of anything relevant, nor indeed were respondents asked whether they had actually looked at any relevant evidence for global warming.

    4. To add insult to injury, Randi says: “I strongly suspect that The Petition Project may be valid.” He of all people should know that ‘I strongly suspect’ is the most strongly suspect phrase in the book. What someone suspects, strongly or otherwise, is of no import whatsoever; either you have evidence or you don’t. If you don’t, your opinion has no meaning. (Unless, perhaps, you’re an acknowleged expert in the field in question, which might lend to your gut feeling just a little bit of weight.)

    5. The very next sentece reads, “I base this on my admittedly rudimentary knowledge of the facts about planet Earth.” This is a complete non-sequitur. Either the so-called survey is representative of anything, or it isn’t. Facts about planet Earth just don’t enter into it.

    6. Sherlock Holmes: “I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data.”

    Randi: “I believe we simply cannot formulate an equation into which we enter variables and come up with an answer. … Please note that this my amateur opinion, based on probably insufficient data.”

    It certainly wasn’t Self-Awareness Day when Randi wrote his piece.

    7. “Years of warming followed by years of cooling have left us just a bit warmer than before.” Conveniently leaving out the fact that recent warming has been on a scale unprecedented in the last couple of ten thousand years.

    8. And the last five paragraphs make one point after another to the effect that life on Earth will go on, a rise in CO2 levels doesn’t necessarily mean an equivalent rise in temperature, we need CO2 to survive, a little warmer climate may not be a bad thing, and we have more important things to worry about. Each of those statements is either trivial, irrelevant to the issue, misleading, or outright callous—of course our species will adapt, but it’s the poor of this world who will suffer from global warming, not we who live in quite breathtaking luxury. And each of those statements is a staple of the denialist rhetoric.

    Of course Randi deserves a lot of respect for all the things he has done. But we would actually be dishonouring his legacy if we didn’t forcefully point out the fallacies whenever his thinking and his arguments so dramatically fail to measure up to his own standards.

  122. #122 Sven DiMilo
    December 17, 2009

    I just learned this from the link @#118.
    WTF?

  123. #123 MetzO'Magic
    December 17, 2009

    Ya know, I’m getting to be a regular here, and some of these threads are getting tedious. Normally I would read through all the comments before posting, but… jojame said:

    Why is it such a moral outrage to not accept AGW with such certitude? Are you telling me there are no doubts with the claims about AGW?

    Jebus, jojame. Could that possibly be a rhetorical question? Grow the fuck up, or get out of here.

  124. #124 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 17, 2009

    The one thing I will say for Randi’s brainfart is that he argued his position so ineptly that there’s really nothing there for the skeptics to use. I mean, good lord, the man seriously thinks the energy released from fossil fuels impacts global temperatures? Yes, the denialists will cite Randi’s screed and we’ll rip them a brand new and fully functional asshole by quoting the absurdities Randi actually said.

    No, this is a tragedy, but it’s a personal tragedy. Randi will now be remembered, if at all, as someone who used to be a skeptic.

  125. #125 PZ Myers
    December 17, 2009

    No, you’re too harsh on him.

    He will be remembered as a fallible skeptic, like all of us. Everyone: me, you, Sagan, Feynman, Darwin, I don’t care who you name or how prestigious they were, we all make mistakes.

    We should never be at the point where we regard one person as holding all the answers.

  126. #126 Celtic_Evolution
    December 17, 2009

    I’m in agreement with you for the most part, PZ (#125)… I’m not at the point of discarding Randi altogether as a skeptic, nor will it diminish some of the great work he’s done as a skeptic in the past, for my part.

    Randi was a role model of sorts for me, but this episode has served to shine a light on some troubling things… his willingness to speak publicly, yet ignorantly on such an important topic, and his defensive posturing when called out for doing so, not to mention his statement about it being “ok” to do so, for the sake of eliciting reaction and discussion. I’ve not seen that from him before and it is disappointing to me. He will remain a man I have respected, but be it a result of the effects of age or whatever, I will forever see him in a slightly diminished light. Sorry… just how I feel.

  127. #127 ginckgo
    December 17, 2009

    I guess this is similar to Ian Plimer: he did an impressive job attacking the creationists, but that doesn’t mean he’s right about his beliefs on climate change.

    Or compare Bill Maher attacking creationists, vs his beliefs on medicine.

  128. #128 Steven Dunlap
    December 17, 2009

    @ Sven DiMilo 122

    I just learned this from the link @#118.
    WTF?

    Yes, indeed, Penn Jilette is a research fellow at the Cato Institute. I love his educational qualifications:

    Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

    Not even kidding. That’s the education you need to be a
    “research fellow” at the Cato Institute and a BFD within the libertarian movement. Clown College.

    When I started looking for his credentials I tried dissertations abstracts first. Silly me. I thought maybe if he’s a research fellow he’s actually done some. What was I thinking?

  129. #129 RBH
    December 17, 2009

    It’s sad to watch Randi going the way of Anthony Flew.

  130. #130 damianphipps
    December 17, 2009

    Steven Dunlap (119):

    Am I allowed to laugh at something so blatantly ridiculous, yet scarily possible in these strange times? From the Salon article:

    So what’s next? A series of essays by Sarah Palin about the Large Hadron Collider and the mysteries of dark matter? An MIT lecture series by Rush Limbaugh regarding the thermodynamics of black holes? A Festschrift of Sean Hannity’s scholarly articles on plate tectonics and volcano formation? Glenn Beck performing live heart-lung transplants on Fox News?

  131. #131 truth machine
    December 17, 2009

    PLEASE STOP CRUCIFYING ONE OF OUR OWN!

    Intellectual honesty is not a team sport.

    We KNOW that climate change is a very common thing in geologic history so it is not at all obvious whether we are causing (or at least to what degree) the change seen today.

    Ah, I see, you’re a willful ignoramus.

    That link is a nice summary of the conclusions found. I wonder if you have any access to the data from which these models were calculated and the methodology of the analyses. I have tried to find this before but have not been successful. This would be very helpful.

    Watch those goalposts hope, skip, and jump. Are you now admitting that the cause isn’t all so unclear after all, or are you suggesting that IPCC is lying?

  132. #132 MikeTheInfidel
    December 17, 2009

    pmcarlton said:

    “Outrage” seems to be exactly the right term here — we must be wary of turning our acceptance of AGW into a “sacred value” in Philip Tetlock’s very specific sense… The evidence for AGW is extremely strong, of course, but by overstating the case and comparing it to the earth being round, you start turning it into a sacred value. It may actually be a good tactic to do that in the public sphere, but here in our rational ivory tower we don’t need to be tactical.

    Concern noted. Also, thanks for the good laugh at the idea that the roundness of the earth is a sacred value.

  133. #133 truth machine
    December 17, 2009

    We should never be at the point where we regard one person as holding all the answers.

    Strawman: that has nothing to do with arids’ complaint about Randi.

    Are we also too harsh Francis Collins? Shucks, the poor fellow is just human, y’know, and we all make mistakes.

  134. #134 Douglas Watts
    December 18, 2009

    The case for AGW is similar, though stronger. It’s just not as strong as the evidence for evolution, which is conclusively demonstrated by converging lines of evidence in several disciplines.

    You know, before you start arguing from a position of your own ignorance of a subject, you might want to read first.

    The evidence for AGW is as strong, or stronger, than biological evolution because it is entirely based on the laws of classical physics, f=ma type stuff.

  135. #135 Douglas Watts
    December 18, 2009

    AGW is sufficiently certain that it need not be overstated by comparing it to near-certainties like non-teleological evolution. Overstatement could lead to rejection of the solid science behind AGW pronouncements. Al Gore has overstated the case, by claiming that it’s as certain as gravity. I wish he’d not risk the importance of the science by his hyperbolic statements.

    Wrong, wrong and wrong. That CO2 causes the atmosphere to retain heat is as certain as gravity, and that as CO2 concentrations increase, all other things being equal, average global temperature must increase. cf. Venus.

    The only uncertainty is the magnitude by which any given atmospheric CO2 increase, X, will result in a specific increase in average global temperature, Y, over a time period Z, after accounting for all other forcings and feedback loops, CO2 sinks, ocean currents, El Nino, La Nina etc.

  136. #136 Douglas Watts
    December 18, 2009

    We KNOW that climate change is a very common thing in geologic history so it is not at all obvious whether we are causing (or at least to what degree) the change seen today.

    We also know that because wild fires are often started by lightning, it is not so obvious that if I pour gasoline all over myself and strike a match, the giant glowing ball I have become is due to fire.

  137. #137 strange gods before me, OM
    December 18, 2009

    And that’ll be a Molly nomination for Douglas Watts at #135.

  138. #138 ilgreven
    December 18, 2009

    #136: When you use ridiculous analogies like this, you shouldn’t wonder why the layman doesn’t get it.

  139. #139 negentropyeater
    December 18, 2009

    We KNOW that climate change is a very common thing in geologic history

    read…p465

    A different matter is the current rate of warming. Are more rapid
    global climate changes recorded in proxy data? The largest temperature
    changes of the past million years are the glacial cycles,
    during which the global mean temperature changed by 4°C to 7°C
    between ice ages and warm interglacial periods (local changes were
    much larger, for example near the continental ice sheets). However,
    the data indicate that the global warming at the end of an ice age
    was a gradual process taking about 5,000 years (see Section 6.3). It
    is thus clear that the current rate of global climate change is much
    more rapid and very unusual in the context of past changes. The
    much-discussed abrupt climate shifts during glacial times (see Section
    6.3) are not counter-examples, since they were probably due to
    changes in ocean heat transport, which would be unlikely to affect
    the global mean temperature.
    Further back in time, beyond ice core data, the time resolution of
    sediment cores and other archives does not resolve changes as rapid
    as the present warming. Hence, although large climate changes have
    occurred in the past, there is no evidence that these took place at
    a faster rate than present warming. If projections of approximately
    5°C warming in this century (the upper end of the range) are realised,
    then the Earth will have experienced about the same amount
    of global mean warming as it did at the end of the last ice age; there
    is no evidence that this rate of possible future global change was
    matched by any comparable global temperature increase of the last
    50 million years.

  140. #140 Rhettfairy
    December 18, 2009

    All:

    I must say, I find all the mudslinging, name-calling and ad hominem attacks very disturbing, both from PZ, Randi, and (to a much greater extent) a number of the posters on this page. So much so that I had to stop reading after about twenty or so posts.

    I want to remind everyone of the late, great Perry DeAngelis. He was on the side of the anti-AGW people, but he and the other rogues managed to have a very good working relationship and – more importantly – civilized debates on this particular topic.

    Seeing as how most of the people on this board are – presumably – fellow skeptics, the level of a great deal of discourse on this page saddens me. Remember: as skeptics, we need to keep emotions out of the conversation and deal in facts.

    Skeptically yours,
    Rhettfairy

  141. #141 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 18, 2009

    Rhettfairy, Let me try to explain this to you. First, an ad hominem attack takes the form: “A is an idiot, so we should not listen to A.”

    No one is using that line of attack. Rather, those in the skeptical community are criticizing J. Randi for abandoning skepticism and drawing a conclusion about a field where he is an utter ignoramus. In so doing, Randi has trashed his credibility as a skeptic. The most he can claim now is being “selectively gullible”.

    It is not that he has hurt climate science. The reasons he gives for his position are so patently absurd that anyone who cites his “skepticism” will immediately regret it. Rather, the tragedy is that a man who devoted his life to skepticism will now be remembered as a fool and a Libertarian pawn. That doesn’t upset you?

  142. #142 Celtic_Evolution
    December 18, 2009

    Rhettfairy –

    Your concern is noted.

  143. #143 Celtic_Evolution
    December 18, 2009

    And, I still don’t understand why people still don’t get that insults / name calling and ad-hominems are not the same thing, by themselves.

    Man, that really grinds my gears…

  144. #144 Rhettfairy
    December 18, 2009

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space:

    Please re-read my post. I wasn’t simply talking about attacks on Randi. I was criticizing both sides for the overall tone of this debate (towards Randi, towards PZ, and towards fellow posters). Whether or not something upsets me is beside the point; when debating, we need to keep emotion out of it and attack the argument, not the person.

  145. #145 Rhettfairy
    December 18, 2009

    Celtic: was that aimed at me? Because I know they aren’t the same thing. I’ve made it a point to brush up on my logical fallacies. Which is why I listed them all separately. And I noticed several of them. Go back and look at the first 20 postings (or so) of which I spoke. You’ll find them, too.

  146. #146 strange gods before me, OM
    December 18, 2009

    No, it’s fine to attack both.

    Randi is wrong. This may arguably make Randi a sucker, a fool, or even a dumbshit. I would argue against the second and third options, but there is nothing inherently fallacious about these personal attacks.

    Randi is a sucker. I may be angry with him also, for being a sucker. There’s nothing inherently fallacious about anger, or any other emotion.

  147. #147 Rhettfairy
    December 18, 2009

    One more thing (sorry for the multiple postings). I am not worried about this tarnishing Randi’s memory. I don’t think Perry’s memory was tarnished by it. As far as I can tell, people remember him quite fondly for all the good that he did. One error in judgment does not necessarily erase an entire life’s work from the collective memory.

  148. #148 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    December 18, 2009

    Yawn, the concern troll is concerned with our tone. Your concern is noted and rejected. May I suggest moving along, as you will gain nothing with further posts on that subject.

  149. #149 Celtic_Evolution
    December 18, 2009

    Go back and look at the first 20 postings (or so) of which I spoke. You’ll find them, too.

    Ok… done… now please go ahead for me and point out by post # all the ad-hominem attacks in the first 20 posts… (hell, I’ll give you the first 50)… as I could honestly not find a single one that fits the actual description.

  150. #150 Walton
    December 18, 2009

    As well as Randi, there do seem to be quite a few rationalists and genuine advocates of evidence-based science who are sceptical of AGW. This guy, for instance, is a geologist and(according to his Wikipedia article) a well-known in Australia as a strong opponent of creationism and supporter of evidence-based biology, yet he’s also an outspoken climate sceptic. Obviously, since he’s a geologist and not a climatologist, his expertise isn’t directly relevant (and relying on it would be a fallacious appeal to authority), but it does appear that Randi isn’t the only one of the Good Guys(TM) who isn’t entirely convinced about AGW. I’m just pointing this out; I know it doesn’t have any direct bearing on the question of how solid the science behind AGW is.

  151. #151 Paul
    December 18, 2009

    I know it doesn’t have any direct bearing on the question of how solid the science behind AGW is.

    Then why point it out? At best it’s dissembling.

  152. #152 llewelly
    December 18, 2009

    Walton | December 18, 2009 12:21 PM:

    This guy, for instance, is a geologist and(according to his Wikipedia article) a well-known in Australia as a strong opponent of creationism and supporter of evidence-based biology, yet he’s also an outspoken climate sceptic.

    He is plenty smart in other areas. But in climate science, Ian Plimer is full of wrong.

  153. #153 David Marjanovi?
    December 18, 2009

    Walton? how did you manage to overlook this here? It was in the Top 5 Most Active for days.

  154. #154 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 18, 2009

    Walton, Ian Plimer also believes the Sun is made of iron and has a lot of other “odd” opinions. Plimer is a crank.

  155. #155 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 18, 2009

    Rhettfairy, you are either a skeptic or you are not. If you are skeptical of you enemies and credulous, then you are credulous.

    I’m afraid skepticism is not a tolerant worldview. It is, however, forgiving. Reviewing the available evidence and modifying your views in accordance with it is sufficient. Randi has not done this. He’s compounded matters by being in denial of his denialism. Sorry, but to cut people slack just because they’ve been “on our side” is insulting to them and to skepticism in general.

  156. #156 damfino
    December 18, 2009

    fair?

    well usually. And in this case, “fair” and commentary should be taken together.

    WWJDT however is getting a lot of twitter mileage out of it via their members. Pretty fun reading, if sad. Still rational thought isn’t their forte though in this instance I think they have a point.

    Which is really new for them.

  157. #157 Pierce R. Butler
    December 18, 2009

    vanharris @ # 18: … CO2 as a ‘greenhouse’ gas, when it’s at a concentration of about 350 ppm …

    Uh, no. According to James Hansen & others, CO2 levels are currently at 385 ppm – and rising.

    350 ppm is being promoted as the target level which we need to reach asap to minimize the predicted damage. Judging by the rumors being emitted from Copenhagen, that figure, though perhaps still too high for long-term sustainability, is wildly optimistic.

  158. #158 truth machine
    December 19, 2009

    I must say, I find all the mudslinging, name-calling and ad hominem attacks very disturbing

    No one gives a fuck what you find disturbing.

    So much so that I had to stop reading after about twenty or so posts.

    Poor baby.

    I want to remind everyone of the late, great Perry DeAngelis. He was on the side of the anti-AGW people, but he and the other rogues managed to have a very good working relationship and – more importantly – civilized debates on this particular topic.

    Ah yes, a standard ad hominem fallacy — you’re wrong because you’re impolite.

    And I noticed several of them. Go back and look at the first 20 postings (or so) of which I spoke. You’ll find them, too.

    Ah yes, the fallacy of the nonspecific reference. “There’s a flaw in his argument.” “What’s the flaw?” “Read it and you’ll see.”

    Remember: as skeptics, we need to keep emotions out of the conversation and deal in facts.

    No, you stupid fucking moron, we don’t.

  159. #159 truth machine
    December 19, 2009

    there do seem to be quite a few rationalists and genuine advocates of evidence-based science who are sceptical of AGW.

    Just because someone advocates something doesn’t mean they always do it. And you (intentionally, surely) equivocate here over the word “rationalist” — someone can advocate being rational without actually being rational.

    I’m just pointing this out; I know it doesn’t have any direct bearing on the question of how solid the science behind AGW is.

    Right; you are pointing it out because you’re intellectually dishonest and hoping it will rub off.

  160. #160 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkD9oPuO_ZXJ3kp7Woq8jiLZTGNrn19t9w
    December 19, 2009

    One of the people on the latest posting at his sight linked to a video which… Could have an alternative explanation, is new enough research that it *may* make a mess of the assumptions, is a bit too accurately matched to the pattern to be entirely wrong, etc. That said, they admit that they “don’t know” if its a small effect, or a big one. Its already, despite the clear statements that they don’t know how much, or what, the real impact is, by anti-AGW people as “proof” that AGW is all invalid.

    This is, fundamentally, the biggest problem. If it turns out that particle impacts “do” increase cloud formation, and that this has the result of screwing even more with global temperatures than CO2 does, then… But you need real data, not wild, “See! Its all wrong!” If it isn’t, we can’t afford to wait for the damn data. If it is, then as far as I am concerned, the personal pocket books of the idiots that knew in the 50s that we needed to work out better tech, but refused to, might lose out because they don’t have the interest, the tools, or the willingness to hire people, to come up with something *new*. And that, in the end, is what the whole attack on AGW amounts to. People with a lot of damn money, trying to scare us into imagining a global financial collapse, when the only thing that is likely to *collapse* is their own bloody businesses, if they keep doing the same stupid thing they have been for decades, which is whine about how much everything costs them, refuse to pay anyone anything, fumble around making short term plans, because thinking ahead “costs” money, and then spend 500 times as much as it would have cost them in the first place, to, for example, figure out how to scrape tar off a rock, because its easier to spend $10 billion figuring that out, than actually have to spend $12 billion to invent a new battery technology, and the $2 billion they save can be used to buy themselves a new yacht, once its been *delivered* as an annual “bonus” for not doing a damn thing, other than, probably, cutting the wages of half their employees.

    It doesn’t matter if its true. It, along with the housing bust, are canaries in the coal mine, with respect to the kind of short sighted, “Lets wait until we have no choice, and it costs 1,000 times more, before even thinking about doing X.”, libertarian economics we have been circling the drain with.

  161. #161 destlund
    December 19, 2009

    Rhettfairy -

    Your concern is noted.

    That’s about the most elegant smackdown I’ve ever witnessed. Celtic for the OM.

  162. #162 aharleygyrl
    December 19, 2009

    logic dictates that you cannot pump tons of pollution into the biosphere and not have consequences. the earth wasn’t meant to be this polluted i don’t think. and i think we get a lot of cancers from it.

  163. #163 alex.asolis.net
    December 19, 2009

    Why are you such an asshole, P.Z.? You promote a kind of blind adherence to the scientific consensus. Randi doesn’t fully understand the science, and so he was posting some of his concerns–based on his understanding. When there’s something I don’t fully understand, I know that for me it’s very helpful to mention my concerns.

    You seem to think that because Randi was posting about some of the things he doesn’t understand, he’s a denialist. My god, do you realize how stupid you sound? You’re acting like climate change is some kind of fucking religious tenet. Stop being such an ignorant, arrogant fucktard.

  164. #164 Sven DiMilo
    December 19, 2009

    destlund, CE wielded the phrase impeccably, but it’s hardly original. In fact, “your concern is noted” has been proposed as the Official Pharyngulista Battle Cry.

  165. #165 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 19, 2009

    Alex Assholis,
    OK. When James Randi had questions about climate change, what did he do? He DID NOT pick up the phone and dial up a climate scientist, or any other scientist. No. He found a fraudulent petition, did not investigate it in the slightest (Just google OISM, and it’s clear they’re a bunch of nutcases.) and said that scientists were just going along with this whole global warming thing so their peers would like them.

    This from a man who has made a career of skepticism. So, I agree, in his first post Randi was not a denialist. He was a credulous, ignorant fool, believing what he wanted to believe. In his second post, he was in denial even about being in denial.

    Sorry, Assholis, but Randi hasn’t hurt climate science in the least. His reasons for rejecting anthropogenic causation are so feeble that any decent denialist ought to be afraid to quote him. No, what Randi has done is show that he is not a skeptic, but rather selectively credulous.

  166. #166 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 19, 2009

    @160
    The major problem with Svensmark’s galactic cosmic ray mechanism is that GCR fluxes have been stable since the 1950s. A second problem is that the mechanism is pretty half-baked, since cloud nuclei are not in short supply:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/04/aerosol-formation-and-climate-part-i/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/04/aerosol-effects-and-climate-part-ii-the-role-of-nucleation-and-cosmic-rays/

    Third, even if this mechanism were true, it would not negate the well known physics of CO2 as a greenhouse gas or its role in climate.

  167. #167 Sven DiMilo
    December 19, 2009

    You promote a kind of blind adherence to the scientific consensus.

    Actually, I think he promotes knowledge of the current scientific consensus as a prerequisite to spouting opinions on this scientific topic.

  168. #168 Deen
    December 19, 2009
    You promote a kind of blind adherence to the scientific consensus.

    Actually, I think he promotes knowledge of the current scientific consensus as a prerequisite to spouting opinions on this scientific topic.

    And even if he was promoting this, it’s not actually a bad heuristic to form your opinion based on what the experts say.

  169. #169 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkD9oPuO_ZXJ3kp7Woq8jiLZTGNrn19t9w
    December 19, 2009

    The major problem with Svensmark’s galactic cosmic ray mechanism

    Thanks, I knew someone had to have a rebut for this, but trying to find one can be a pain in the ass. If you drop in the words for it, with the term “debunk”, all you get it pages with people using it to supposedly debunk AGW.

    That said, **they** even admit that they don’t know what the hell the actual effect is, or of what magnitude. Its a theory, since the effect does happen, but not one able to make *accurate* predictions yet. What the people using it as a sign that AGW is false are treating it as is some sort of holy grail.

    Now that I think of it.. One *huge* problem with the issue is the question – “Does CO2 effect the apparent measurement of such fluxes?” I mean, I would think that would be a critical question. Maybe CO2 gets “hit” more or less, in higher concentrations, changing how much irradiation would otherwise show up when testing for it. After all, its not being measured in space, its being measured after those rays pass through the whole damn atmosphere, and hit the ground. For that matter, pole shifts have been going on for the last few decades, with the north pole shifting way off where it was before. How does that effect how much gets through? And, then there is the ozone layer, which normally blocks a lot of it, and may actually be the biggest recent contributor, since measurements suggest that “more” has gotten through than previously thought. Fluctuation in that could account for such variations, and its quite possible that its density could correlate *directly* with variations of temperature.

    Lot of variables they are not considering, I think.

  170. #170 Deen
    December 19, 2009

    Lot of variables they are not considering, I think.

    Do you actually think you can think up a variable on a random Saturday afternoon that the climate experts haven’t thought of yet?

  171. #171 Red_Rook
    December 19, 2009

    I don’t understand why it should even be considered important or unimportant for James Randi to back climate change. I really haven’t seen him take too many stances on scientific theories. He is a magician that takes people with simple claims that can be proven wrong with simple scientific experiments. Climate change is not this simple. You can’t take a person out into your back yard and show them with one scientific experiment that climate change is caused by man.

    Why would you need the approval of a man outside the scientific community to convince people in the validity of a scientific study. Yes, he is an icon for skepticism, but he isn’t giving a debate on the reasons climate change are false. I think he is staying true to his form of skepticism. He is remaining neutral on a subject he doesn’t know enough to debate on.

    This is a scientific theory, it shouldn’t need icon endorsement to stand or fall. People ignored James Randi stating this at “The Amazing Meeting” he had two years ago. He is suddenly under scrutiny now, because the media is looking for skeptical views?

    The attacks on Randi’s intelligence found in some of the comments make supporters of the issue look horrible. This is a man that has done a great deal to prove hoaxes false, and people are now claiming he is stupid for failing to understand a new scientific theory late in his life. Let the man take his neutral stance. He isn’t a climate scientist.

  172. #172 John Morales
    December 19, 2009

    Red_Rook:

    I don’t understand why it should even be considered important or unimportant for James Randi to back climate change.

    You think that’s the issue at hand?

    He is a magician that takes people with simple claims that can be proven wrong with simple scientific experiments.

    Not scientific experiments — simple demonstrations of whether claims are true. And he is far more than that: he is one of the icons of the skeptical/rationalist movement, and he’s let the side down on this one.

    We, in fact, do him honor by being critical.

    Note the consensus is one of disappointment; he’s more than earned the right to be held to extremely high standards.

  173. #173 destlund
    December 19, 2009

    This is a man that has done a great deal to prove hoaxes false, and people are now claiming he is stupid for failing to understand a new scientific theory late in his life. Let the man take his neutral stance. He isn’t a climate scientist.

    Neither is Bill Maher a vaccine researcher. He had garnered quite a bit of grudging respect for championing science and reason until he let slip his anti-vax woo. He was called on it, respectfully at first, and more mockingly as he continued to notpologize and hedge, until he ultimately went down in a blaze of stupid. His show might not be canceled yet, but voices of unreason will not be tolerated among those who place high value on it.

  174. #174 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 19, 2009

    @169

    First a few fun facts about galactic cosmic rays:

    1)GCR fluxes average about 6 particles per square cm per second–that’s it.

    2)GCR fluxes are modulated by the solar wind–you have fewer GCR when the solar wind blows harder during Solar max and more during solar Min. (Note, a lot of other things change with the solar cycle, so an 11-year quasi-periodicity is not evidence of GCR influence)

    3)GCR energies average about 1 GeV per nucleon, but the highest-energy cosmic rays are around 10^21 eV

    4)GCR are accelerated (we think) by supernovae

    5)GCR typically interact very high in the atmosphere, so all that is left by the time the debris from such collisions gets to the ground is muons and neutrons.

    Now as to your question about GCR interaction with the greenhouse mechanisms. I can’t think of a mechanism. The mechanism proposed by Svensmark–the GCR cause increased condensation nuclei and so more clouds really doesn’t make much sense–and as I said, it won’t overturn what we already know about CO2.

  175. #175 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    December 19, 2009

    Red Rook, I don’t think you get it. The problem is not that what Randi has done to climate science. His reasoning is so ignorant as to be comical. No, the anger here is for the damage Randi has done to himself and to his legacy. Randi has allowed himself to be duped by a bunch of rightwing nutjobs without so much as even attempting any sort of independent verification of the facts. As such, he has destroyed any claim he ever had to being a true skeptic. He is at most selectively credulous. It is a sad day for those of us in the skeptical community, because it is skepticism Randi has betrayed. He doesn’t know enough science to betray science.

  176. #176 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkD9oPuO_ZXJ3kp7Woq8jiLZTGNrn19t9w
    December 20, 2009

    Do you actually think you can think up a variable on a random Saturday afternoon that the climate experts haven’t thought of yet?

    Umm. I think the correct question would be, “Do you actually think that, while considering things that actually involve climate and the atmosphere, you can think up a variable on a random Saturday afternoon that the physicists haven’t thought of in some entirely different discipline from the one they are experts on?” My answer to that is, “maybe”. The people proposing solar effects on temperature are **not** climatologists, so yes, its perfectly reasonable to suppose that someone with “any” idea what is going on in climate might note a variable that they are ignoring, because they are looking at purely solar rays, as it relates to the data, not climate models.

    They are the ones suggesting, out of the blue, that they have found some *huge* variable that everyone that actually studies climate complete missed.

  177. #177 Deen
    December 20, 2009

    @176: ah, sorry, didn’t see who “they” in that last sentence referred to. It appears you were referring to climate denialists, not climate scientists.