The Power of Admitting “I’m Wrong”

“Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it ain’t so.” -Mark Twain

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” -Richard Feynman

Every day that you set forth in the world is a new opportunity to learn something about it. Every new observation that you make, every new test you perform, every novel encounter or piece of information you pick up is a new chance to be a scientist.

How so?

Image credit: Alan Chen.

You have a conception of how things work in this world. You’ve pieced it together as a combination of your experiences, your knowledge, and the working hypotheses that you’ve accepted as the best mirror of reality. And every new shred of evidence you pick up about reality interrogates these hypotheses, daring your picture of reality to hold up to this level of scrutiny.

No matter who you are, no matter how smart you are, no matter how brilliantly you’ve drawn the conclusions you’ve drawn from the evidence you’ve gathered, there will come an instance where the evidence you encounter will be irreconciliable with the picture of reality you presently hold. And when that moment happens, your response will mean absolutely everything.

Image credit: Glennbeck.com.

Because there is the possibility that your view of reality — the way you make sense of things — is flawed in some way. You have to open your self up to at least the possibility that you are wrong. It is a humbling admission, that you may be wrong, but it’s also the most freeing thing in the world. Because if you can be wrong about something, then you can learn.

Image credit: Dave Koerner at Northern Arizona University.

The discovery that planets move about the Sun in ellipses required exactly that; were it not for Kepler and his ability to accept that his earlier models were flawed, and then abandon them and create new and improved ones, physics and astronomy would likely have been set back an entire generation. And if you, yourself, can do this in your own life, you can find a better explanation for the phenomena you encounter in this world. You can bring your understanding of the world more closely in line with what reality actually is. In other words, you can do what all good scientists do, and in the end, learn something amazing.

Image credit: NASA, retrieved from Universe Today.

But if you can’t admit that you might be wrong, if your picture of reality is unchangeable despite any evidence to the contrary, if you refuse to assimilate new information and new knowledge and re-evaluate your prior stance on an issue, then you will never learn.

Anything.

Perhaps as an adult you’re entitled to that right; you are, after all, free to believe whatever you want. But if you’re a student in school? Your job is to learn. If you don’t do your job, particularly if you don’t even try to do your job, it’s your teachers duty — and I would say responsibility — to fail you.

At least, it should be. Recently, some incredibly appalling things have been happening in education that completely undermine this, including the banning of the words ‘dinosaur’ and ‘evolution’ from standardized tests and the passage of Tennessee’s “academic freedom” bill that allows teachers to teach counterfactual scientific information to their students about biological evolution and climate science, among other topics.

Image credit: Listverse / Mike Devlin.

And this is unfathomable to me. See that creature above? That’s a black wolf. Know what’s interesting to me about it? The black wolf doesn’t occur in nature! The mutation for black fur did not occur until after the domestic dog had been in existence for thousands of years. If ever you see a black wolf, that tells you that at some point in their lineal history, there was a wolf that engaged in breeding with a domestic dog that had that (dominant) black fur mutation.

Biology, of course, doesn’t stop with evolution. What I just explained to you is an explanation that requires genetics to understand, which is encoded in an organism’s DNA. But before you get to DNA, before you even get to genetics, at a more basic level you must have an understanding of evolution. If you want to understand disease: evolution. If you want to understand whales and dolphins: evolution. (I mean come on, they’ve got freakin’ leg bones!)

Image credit: retrieved from distraff at selectsmart.com.

Same deal with global warming; there are plenty of people asserting that the Earth isn’t warming anymore (yes, there really are), despite all studies showing that it totally is, if you look at the data without cheating. For example, last year (2011) was “only” the 11th-warmest year on record since records began in 1880. But last year was also a La Niña year, which is characterized by cooler temperatures. It was also the hottest La Niña year of all time, since 1880.

The question I always ask people who dig in even deeper when their view on an issue is challenged by new data is the following:

What evidence would it take to change your mind on this issue?

For the “Is the Earth continuing to warm” question, you may very well get your wish in 2012 or 2013; one of the next two years could easily become the new warmest-year-on-record.

Image credit: NASA / GISS global average temperature data.

Believe it or not, it’s actually harder for many of us to admit that we could be wrong about something the less we know about it! Why’s that? A neat little psychological effect known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. In a nutshell, it says that people who are incompetent at something (e.g., biology, climate science, etc.) lack the very skills necessary to evaluate the fact that they are incompetent!

This results in people who know almost nothing about a particular topic who are willing to opine at length, argue with experts, and declare — incorrectly — that they are right and you are an idiot. Here’s the original graph from the original Dunning-Kruger paper, illustrating exactly that.

Image credit: Justin Kruger and David Dunning, 1999.

But if we recognize that our present understanding may not be the final answer, and we can absorb that ego-bruise from possibly not being in the right when we thought we were, we can step forward. There are plenty of people working to help make it easier for us all to do exactly that. I’m not exempt from this either, even in areas where my knowledge actually is far above average. Last week, I wrote about when ultramassive stars die, and a number of people challenged some of the contentions I made. Yes, some of them may have been jerks about it, but they also had information that I didn’t. Despite being a theoretical astrophysicist, I don’t know all there is to know about all aspects of astrophysics, and I never will.

Image credit: NASA / CXC / M. Weiss.

So I went out and learned what it was that I didn’t know, and now my picture of how supermassive stars die is — while possibly still imperfect — improved over what it was. And the next time I go to explain it, there will be at least two things that I can do a better, more accurate job of explaining, and there will be at least one misstep I won’t make again.

It doesn’t make me any less of a person or any less of a scientist that I didn’t get everything right the first time I put it all together; on the contrary, it makes me human. I’ve been refining what I know and how things make sense to me my entire life, and I’ll continue to do that tomorrow. There is no part of that picture of reality that I hold so dear that overwhelming evidence to the contrary couldn’t change my mind. I would be surprised at a great number of things, but I wouldn’t be stuck.

I know exactly what types of evidence would change my mind about the theories, hypotheses and ideas that make up my world view. Remember the words of Carl Sagan:

When you make the finding yourself — even if you’re the last person on Earth to see the light — you’ll never forget it.

I hope that I never reach the point where I think I’m always right; I hope I can always gather new information and knowledge, have that crisis when my preconceptions conflict with new data, and admit when I was wrong. Because I don’t want to ever stop learning; no matter how much I know, there’s always going to be a whole Universe out there to explore.

Comments

  1. #1 dbhb
    April 17, 2012

    It amused me to read recently that the Dunning-Kruger effect might *itself* be wrong. Or at least not fully right: much less the case in Europe apparently, and the opposite of the case in the far east. Of course what I read may have been wrong.

    Anyway. Good article for all that.

  2. #2 Eric Lund
    April 17, 2012

    @1: I looked up the Dunning-Kruger paper, and there might be something to your claim. The participants in the studies reported in that paper are described as “Cornell undergraduates”. Since Cornell is in the Ivy League, there may be some foreigners in the mix, but the study group would be predominantly US citizens and permanent residents. So there may be a cultural factor they haven’t controlled for. OTOH, one of the experiments involved English grammar, and IME people who are not native English speakers are quite aware of their lack of skill with English, so the effect in that experiment may have been understated if Dunning and Kruger were not careful to screen non-native English speakers out of that group.

  3. #3 cope
    April 17, 2012

    Being able to say “I don’t know” when asked a question on the topic of one’s area of expertise is also a difficult but valuable capability to develop.

    I only heard my graduate school adviser say “I don’t know…” to an undergrad once, afterward adding “…nobody knows”.

    Another time, on a field course in Scotland when I was his TA, he was asked a question at an outcrop. He hemmed and hawed for a bit and asked me “How did I explain this last year?”

    The failure of some folks to be able to admit they don’t know something that others think they should know might be an extension of the DK effect.

  4. #4 Wow
    April 17, 2012

    It’s not made easier with deniers and other anti-science types who use “Science doesn’t know, therefore they know nothing!!!” then use that inability of science to know to peddle their woo as knowing. Even though they can’t show any proof that it does, in actual fact, know the answer.

  5. #5 NewEnglandBob
    April 17, 2012

    Thank you. “I don’t (necessarily) know” is a scentific necessity.

  6. #6 CB
    April 17, 2012

    As someone who thinks they’re pretty smart, I may not like to be wrong but I’ve always thought it absolutely crucial to admit that I am because how on earth could I have become smart in the first place — and by extension become smarter in the future — without being wrong and learning?!

  7. #7 Denier
    April 17, 2012

    Here I was getting all excited that you were finally willing to admit that your views on AGW might be flawed, but we’ll have to save that for another day.

    P.S. – It kills me every time you use the awful GISS dataset. Is there any reason you don’t use RSS or UAH or any other dataset that doesn’t have all of GISS’s siting issues or penchant for historical adjustments?

  8. #8 Marco
    April 17, 2012

    Errr….”denier”, what difference would that make?

    Hardly anything:
    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/uah/from:1979/to/trend/offset:%200.22/plot/rss/from:1979/to/trend/offset:%200.12/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:1979/to/trend/offset:-0.02/plot/gistemp/from:1979/to/trend/offset:-0.12

    And this is with the old HADCRUT version.

    Also, GISTEMP makes hardly a historical adjustment. It just uses the GHCN as its data source, which occasionally is updated. CRUTEM also uses the GHCN network, but it also contains additional data. And with all those supposed siting issues (which the major pusher of that claim, Anthony Watts, showed to have no effect on the trend…ooops…), it’s amazing how close the satellites track the surface record.

    So, “denier”, does this make you rethink your position.

  9. #9 Composer99
    April 17, 2012

    Considering you can discern the global warming signal in the temperature datasets with even just a tiny handful of rural temperature stations (see example by commenter caerbannog here) I don’t think Ethan is the one who has to admit to being wrong about AGW.

  10. #10 Mike Olson
    April 17, 2012

    I can only agree with your thesis. I would point out as well if there is no cognitive dissonance in one’s life, perhaps one should seek it out. Just to expand one’s horizons. The fox might well have stated he didn’t want the grapes…but reality is he did. Similarly, why are some folks fearful of recognizing global warming or the notion that humans are responsible? Personally, I think that at some level, for these people it is impossible to accept their actions may have helped to cause such a catastrophic set of events. On the other hand with those who would accept it, there seems to be a greater willingness to admit the possibility that specific events are not going to happen or not as likely to be as disasterous as initially thought.

  11. #12 Nathan Myers
    April 17, 2012

    I have to admit that I, too, hoped Ethan was about to reveal a hint of uncertainty about something … anything. This is not because I find any of his beliefs repugnant or laughable (although I don’t doubt I could find a few of each). Rather, it was because actual,
    personal examples of his own fondly held opinions scourged by rude facts would be much more educational than poking reflexive fun at would-be cryptozoologists.

    My experience with cryptobiologists is that they are eager to acknowledge uncertainty about the correctness of their ideas. Their
    objection is to their opponents’ apparent overconfidence about convention. Many seem only to be asking that their evidence be treated on its own merits, without reflexive ridicule. To outsiders, ridicule suggests mainly that you are not justifiably confident about your own position, which may itself be misleading. Demonstrating how you were, and might yet be, obliged by facts to change your mind is the best way to show that it really can happen.

    Treating the apparently-deluded with the respect every person deserves only adds to your credibility. Darren Naish over at Tetrapod Zoology is good at this; his cryptozoological takedowns are overwhelmingly more enjoyable for their scrupulous fairness.

  12. #13 Denier
    April 17, 2012

    @Marco: see the link posted by Hans. It makes a difference.

    In both RSS and UAH datasets the temperature peaked with the 1998 El Nino. The GISS dataset is not congruent with the satellite record. Due to the documented siting issues with the terrestrial sensors used to collect the data used in the GISS dataset, I view the RSS and UAH data to be more accurate and less prone to being influenced by UHI. I know I won’t be convincing anyone, but it still saddens me when someone as knowledgeable as Ethan resorts to using bad data in making a point.

  13. #14 Benjamin Raucher
    April 17, 2012

    When viewed in context of our finite lives what do trends of global warming really mean? They may just be aberrations and white noise

    BENJAMIN RAUCHER

  14. #15 Marco
    April 18, 2012

    denier, it is well known that the satellites are much more sensitive to ENSO variations. NONE of the land-based datasets (pick any, GISTEMP, NCDC, HADCRUT, BEST, JAMA, whichever) show such extreme variations.

    You complain again about the “documented siting issues”, but then clearly have not paid attention that Watts himself, the guy complaining about all those siting issues, was a co-author on this paper:
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2011/2010JD015146.shtml
    Now, read the abstract thoroughly, and you’ll find this gem:
    “…so that the overall mean temperature trends are nearly identical across site classifications.”
    In other words, the data you call “bad” is NOT bad for the purpose it is being used for, notably according to the one person who has been pushing this “poor siting” agenda!

    In fact, not noted in the abstract, the poorly sited stations gave a slightly (not statistically significant though) HIGHER trend. Read the paper itself to get some idea of how important your UHI was. Or read the paper from BEST on the topic:
    http://berkeleyearth.org/pdf/berkeley-earth-uhi.pdf
    (not published yet)
    Hilariously, they get a (not significant) *negative* trend for the supposed UHI effect!

    Also, if you think UHI is so important, why are the trends virtually the same for the land-based and satellite-based data?

    Another comment for you to think about: GISTEMP LOTI also includes the temperature of the oceans. What do you think that means for your “poor siting” claim?

    And my final comment for you to think about: the satellites measure temperature indirectly. Over the last two decades, there have been numerous changes in the algorithms to extract this temperature signal, mostly the algorithms of UAH have changed. From “no warming”, they have gone to the trend I showed above. They may not be influenced by UHI, but they ARE influenced by many other aspects, such as the difficulty in extracting the temperature in different vertical layers. The satellite data is for the lower troposphere, which includes the surface layer where the biosphere is located, but also a lot of atmosphere where one only finds some birds.

  15. #16 Wow
    April 18, 2012

    “denier, it is well known that the satellites are much more sensitive to ENSO variations”

    It is also well known that satellites don’t measure temperature, but need a COMPUTER MODEL to turn the intensity spectrum into temperatures.

    And, since the satellite is measuring the emission of the atmosphere in depth, aren’t actually measuring the surface air temperature anyway.

    But it’s funny how computer models are acceptable if they “prove” AGW is wrong…

  16. #17 Wow
    April 18, 2012

    “When viewed in context of our finite lives what do trends of global warming really mean? They may just be aberrations and white noise

    BENJAMIN RAUCHER”

    There is a less-than-0.01% chance of that, Ben. The chance that the change isn’t due to the assigned causes excluding human CO2e changes is in the “couple-of-percent” maximum range.

    That test is, in fact, where the IPCC get their “Very likely” figure from.

  17. #18 Titian
    April 18, 2012

    Still arguing the failed CAGW meme? How does it feel to have your CAGW fantasy “science” exposed as nonsense by empirical data and new methodologies? Do you attempt to find out what went wrong with the hypothesis? No, undeterred, you trot out Hansen’s phony manipulations as ‘proof’ of CAGW. Keep the faith brother. You might as well blame the climate on witches and sin, it’s just as valid as your method.

  18. #19 Wow
    April 18, 2012

    If, by “failed” you mean “I’ve been peddling a strawman and nobody thinks its real any more”, then yes, we’ve been arguing with you chicken-little deniers about your failed CAGW theory.

    “exposed as nonsense by empirical data and new methodologies?”

    Such as done by Mystic Meg? Or Ken Ham?

  19. #20 Wow
    April 18, 2012

    “You might as well blame the climate on witches and sin”

    Rather amusing, since the deniers (often religious nuts) blame disasters like the New Orleans flood (hey, why did we have to pay for your little flooding? It wasn’t a catastrophe, you spongers!) on their sinful ways.

  20. #21 Wow
    April 18, 2012

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/29/michele-bachmann-hurricane-irene_n_940209.html

    Michele Bachmann Says Hurricane Irene And Earthquake Are Divine Warnings To Washington

    http://newhampshireprimary.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/michele-bachmann-global-warming.html

    Michele Bachmann: Global warming “unproven theory”

  21. #22 Steven
    April 18, 2012

    Does this effect apply to the field of religion?

  22. #23 ClementW
    April 18, 2012

    To me, a ‘Scientist’ is a Human Being first and last. I have wondered for a long time why we have persisted in calling ourselves members of the genus Homo and of the species ‘sapiens’ in spite of having thousands of years of the prevalence of the opposite of ‘sapiens’ i.e. Foolish. Perhaps we should start at this point and change our species designation to a less pretentious ‘pre-sapiens’.

  23. #24 Denier
    April 18, 2012

    @Marco – Most of the UAH/RSS adjustments were made in the past to correct for the orbital decay of the now decommissioned NOAA-11 satellite. RSS currently uses the MSU on NOAA-15 which is also subject to orbital decay but they have a good, pier-reviewed handle on correcting for that. UAH uses the AMSU on the NASA AQUA satellite which does not have the issue.

    UAH and RSS are collected via separate sensors on separate satellites, processed by separate teams, and all of the raw data is available to everyone. No one has yet to make a good argument as to the terrestrial based datasets being equal let alone superior to the satellite data currently being collected. If we’re trying to figure something out, we should start with the best observational data available. Using the bad GISS data is simply inexcusable.

  24. #25 Juice
    April 18, 2012

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-04/e-sbt041812.php

    Serious blow to dark matter theories?

    New study finds mysterious lack of dark matter in sun’s neighborhood

    A team using the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, along with other telescopes, has mapped the motions of more than 400 stars up to 13 000 light-years from the Sun. From this new data they have calculated the mass of material in the vicinity of the Sun, in a volume four times larger than ever considered before.

    “The amount of mass that we derive matches very well with what we see — stars, dust and gas — in the region around the Sun,” says team leader Christian Moni Bidin (Departamento de Astronomia, Universidad de Concepcion, Chile). “But this leaves no room for the extra material — dark matter — that we were expecting. Our calculations show that it should have shown up very clearly in our measurements. But it was just not there!”

  25. #26 OKThen
    April 18, 2012

    Ethan
    Yes, yes. I’ve been too busy to respond and I’m racing now. But I had to take a moment to say yes, yes.

    To learn is to be open to the possibility that we do not know; and in fact that is not only a possibility; it is an overwhelming reality that we do not know much. And as someone said, the more we know the more we don’t know.

    To say I don’t know is an admission of intelligence. To learning faster we must fail faster. Take particle physics as an example; to learn faster we need bigger accelerators. Like the LHC and with such a machine some of our best ideas will hopefully be broken. To find a new particle or a particle where we least expected it is to admit, “I did not know.”

    @4 Wow
    Yes, yes. We must deal with the anti-science types.
    My simple formula is this.
    I focus on the how of science; how the internal combustion engine or evolution works and what is the evidence.
    I’ll let the peddlers of woo have why opinion. e.g. why there is a universe.

    I do not however cede morality to them. Human morality is just as much a product of nature as squirrel morality and spider morality.

    As for The Book says such and such. I say that all books (however inspired) are written by men and women. And I am not interested in a discussion about what Willie Wonka (or whoever) said. Tell me why such and such an idea is important to you and reasonable to you. etc.etc.

  26. #27 Marco
    April 19, 2012

    Denier, you again claim, without providing any proof (and certainly no rebuttal to the proof I provided) that GISTEMP is bad. You also provide no evidence that the satellites are the *best* observational data. You merely claim it to be, with the supposed absence of someone showing the surface record to be equal or etter as evidence. Oddly (well, actually not so odd), you cite no paper that does the opposite (i.e., show the satellites to be better than the surface record).

    Finally, a challenge: there are papers in the literature that use the SAME raw data as UAH and RSS, use a different methodology, and find different answers. Different as in higher. Can you find them?
    Also, your claim about NOAA-11 is wrong. NOAA-11 was used to determine the error in the UAH dataset by Mears et al. The orbital decay problem is one that affects all satellites, both before and after NOAA-11. UAH just did their calculations wrong. And that was just ONE of the calculations they did wrong. Multiple additional changes have been made to the procedures, because errors and other issues have become apparent (like the non-linear calibration methodology that has to be used to extract the temperature signal from the actual raw data). And are you aware that the UAH record is being compared to the data from weather balloons to check whether the algorithms are giving data in the right ballpark?

  27. #28 Wow
    April 19, 2012

    “No one has yet to make a good argument as to the terrestrial based datasets being equal let alone superior to the satellite data currently being collected.”

    Well, for a start, the satellite doesn’t measure temperature even nearly.

    It measures brightness levels. Through the atmosphere. Which then needs a very complex model to turn into temperature.

    Whereas the thermometer needs a model that says “when mercury warms up, it expands” to turn what IT measures into temperature.

    Secondly, they agree within the error bars with both the land record and with the models. 0.13-0.17C per decade +/- 0.05.

    Yes, that’s right: the satellite temperature records for UAH and RSS agree with the models and the thermometer record.

  28. #29 Justicar
    April 19, 2012

    AHAHAHA.

    The flat Earth picture credit. Follow it back to its source.

  29. #30 blueshift
    April 19, 2012

    Justicar- It’s beautiful! Did you peruse the comments?

  30. #31 Denier
    April 19, 2012

    @Marco – I’ll take the easy one first. Nothing I said about NOAA-11, NOAA-15, NASA AQUA, the adjustments, or orbital decay was incorrect. You are also correct about Mears et al., which is what let UAH to the previously mentioned adjustments. Where you are 100% wrong was in challenging my assertion that the data coming from the AMSU on the NASA AQUA satellite does not have the orbital decay issue. It does not. That satellite has its own thrusters that actively maintain its orbital profile. So long as it has propellant and doesn’t experience some sort of system failure its orbit will not decay.

    The issues with the GISS data is so extensive, I’m not sure where to begin and keep it readable in the format of a blog comment. The two largest issues I have are with their methods of adjusting their data to account for their sites becoming progressively more urbanized, and they way they make up data where they have few or even no temperature sensors.

    There is a paper that was put together that summarizes most of the issues I have with GISS data that can be downloaded by anyone. The link is here: http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/surface_temp.pdf

    There are many more than the two main issue I mentioned above, but the UHI siting adjustments section starts on page 62. The fabrication of data from insufficient or nonexistent sites is touched on in the sections starting on page 92 and page 168.

    Not that I really want to muddy up this discussion any more than it already is, but the CRU people were nice enough to document a number of issues with their own data. That log file was released as part of the “Climategate” leak. The file is called Harry_Read_Me.txt and contains over 11,000 problems with the data.

    The satellite data is vastly better, and it isn’t even close. As stated earlier, using GISS data is simply inexcusable.

  31. #32 Composer99
    April 19, 2012

    Nothing I said about NOAA-11, NOAA-15, NASA AQUA, the adjustments, or orbital decay was incorrect.

    I am sure you are 100% sincere. Nevertheless, there is no obligation to take your word for it.

    References, please.

  32. #33 Denier
    April 19, 2012

    @Composer99 – The issues with orbital decay causing problems with the data coming from the NOAA satellites I don’t think is debated, but as mentioned by Marco it can be found in Mears et al.(2003) as well as Mears and Wentz(2005).

    The corrections being made to the UAH dataset from version 5.1 to version 5.2 in response to Mears et al., and the validation of the changes is in Christy et al.(2007).

    After looking into it, my claim that RSS was getting their data from NOAA-15 is no longer entirely correct. It was correct in version 3.2 where all of their data was from NOAA-15, but as of January of this year data from NOAA-15, AQUA, NOAA-18, and METOP-A is now included. That can be verified on their website: http://www.ssmi.com/msu/msu_data_description.html

    On UAH using the NASA AQUA satellite:
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2010/01/how-the-uah-global-temperatures-are-produced/

    On the NASA AQUA satellite having thrusters to maintain its orbital profile: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/OrbitsManeuver/

  33. #34 Composer99
    April 19, 2012

    @ Denier:

    Thank you. A lot of people denying AGW can’t be bothered to provide links (of any sort) to back up their claims.

  34. #35 Marco
    April 20, 2012

    Denier, you were definitely incorrect: you claimed that the corrections of UAH were related to the orbital of NOAA-11. In reality, the failure of UAH was the incorrect correction for ALL satellites (used up to that date).

    AQUA also has orbital decay, but it is very small and can be corrected using its thrusters.

    And then there’s the document you cite as a good summary of your complaints. The paper by Watts and D’Aleo, which originally contained the libelous (and provingly false) claim that NCDC had deliberately removed surface stations to increase the warming trend. Again you ignore the FACT that data from that surface station project, the actual hard data, shows no effect of bad siting! Well, actually, if anything it introduces a “cooling” bias (but very, very small). Hmmm…all those nice pictures, and the data says “doesn’t matter for the trend in average temperature, dudes!”

    I also know of the complaints about the GISTEMP extrapolation. But also here there is evidence in the scientific literature that this is an acceptable approach. Unsurprisingly, when CRUTEMv4 added additional stations, including several closer to the poles…the warming trend increased!

    A final comment to your “Harry_Read_Me.txt”. Did it document over 11,000 problems with the data? Looks to me someone confused the starting comment (“Nearly 11,000 files!”) with the supposed number of problems. And what was Harry doing? Well, he was making an updated programme, based on his own way of doing things, and writing comments along the way of the problems in doing that. Of course, we’re talking CRUTEM here, not GISTEMP.

    Ultimately, what I miss from you is evidence (your one major source on problems with the siting has contradicted itself in the actual scientific publication) that the satellite record is superior to the surface stations, and an explanation as to how that changes anything about the FACT that it continues to warm. Unless you are one of those “1998 was warmer, and therefore it is cooling!” people.

  35. #36 Wow
    April 20, 2012

    “On UAH using the NASA AQUA satellite:”

    And the same Dr Roy Spencer, after correcting his satellite data (no comment from you..?) gets a figure that is within the error bars of the surface temperature records from, for example, GISS.

    So even Dr Roy Spencer disagrees with you.

  36. #37 Denier
    April 20, 2012

    UAH, RSS, etc.:

    The AMSU sensors in satellites work by measuring the thermal microwave radiation emitted by molecular oxygen in the 50-60 GHz oxygen absorption complex.[1] Anywhere there is an oxygen molecule, there is a thermometer.

    GISS:

    GISTEMP has a modest network of sites that cover less than half of the planet. The coverage is sparse even in some of the most critical areas. For instance, north of 80N latitude there are only three stations, and zero north of 82.5N latitude.[2] The area without any real observational data in their network is larger than the continental United States. Perhaps Hansen and Lebedeff did publish a paper in 1987 about “extrapolating” data for areas that are vast distances from where any data exists, but apparently no one puts much faith in the practice being valid because no one besides Hansen does it.

    When extrapolation is dialed back to only include areas within a 250km radius of a site in their network, which I still think is a bit of a stretch but I digress, you can see how little of the planet GISS actually uses in their dataset.[3] All of the gray areas in the map linked below are areas that later “extrapolated”.

    To sum up, having data from everywhere that is validated against radiosondes makes for a better observational dataset than one that is “extrapolated” to cover areas a thousand miles away from were any data exists. I can move on to the awful method GISS uses to adjust warming into their trends where there is none if Ethan ultimately allows it but was interested to read your defense of the extensive extrapolation GISS practices.

    [1] – http://amsu.ssec.wisc.edu/explanation.html
    [2] – http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/station_data/v3.temperature.inv.txt
    [3] – http://data.giss.nasa.gov/work/gistemp/NMAPS/tmp_GHCN_GISS_250km_Anom1203_2010_2010_1951_1980/GHCN_GISS_250km_Anom1203_2010_2010_1951_1980.pdf

  37. #38 Marco
    April 21, 2012

    Denier, if GISTEMP’s extrapolation is oh so bad, care to explain why GISTEMP agrees quite well with the other surface station datasets (which also makes your claim about “awful method” rather problematic). Perhaps you can also explain why CRUTEM4 with new stations (many of them in areas that GISTEMP’s extrapolation says are warming) shows increased warming compared to CRUTEM3.

    Maybe you are more happy with BEST? Ethan could surely replace it with that record, as soon as it has included ocean temperatures. But for the time being…BEST land-based gives essentially the same result as GISTEMP land-based, so why not use GISTEMP?

    All your complaints, and whatever approach people use, the result is the same. Must be hard for a denier.

  38. #39 Chelle
    April 21, 2012

    What about the power of having to resign when you are wrong in science. Such as in the case of the project leaders of the OPERA experiment and their Superluminal Neutrinos, they couldn’t even permit themselves to saying and publish that there might be a mistake somewhere. People have to look out for their careers and beg left or rightwing politicians for fundings, or follow industries that need to make money, that puts some bad pressure on the neutrality and objectivity of some sciences. The truth has many enemies.

  39. #40 Denier
    April 22, 2012

    @Marco – The hardest part is getting people to look at new evidence and admit there might be a problem with some of the conclusions they’ve been holding on to. Of course CO2 is a greenhouse gas, turns certain frequencies of infrared radiation into atmospheric heat, increased levels lead to increased heat, and humans are the main cause of increased levels. People point to that and think the “science is settled”, and on that it absolutely is.

    Where many supporters of the AGW theory get into trouble is that they don’t know the atmospheric heating caused by CO2 can be calculated with precision and only accounts for a tiny fraction of observed and projected warming. To make up the difference climate scientists use a multiplier called “feedbacks” and that is anything but settled. Ask any 5 climate scientists what the correct feedback multiplier is and you’re likely to get 5 different answers.

    Old papers used to try and justify high feedback multiplier of +5 or more, but predictions they made and the observational data since publication has shown the feedback multiplier can’t be anywhere near that high. In fact a slew of new observational studies is showing the feedback multiplier isn’t a positive number at all.[1][2][3][4][5] Negative feedback fits with common sense because Earth’s climate is pretty stable, but it ruins AGW theory.

    If the feedback multiplier is negative, the math in the climate models is wrong. It comes as no surprise the predictions are failing. Sure there are some conservative models with error bars that extend down to the warmer temperature datasets, but none of the models are even close on predicting the lack of stratospheric cooling in the past 20 years[6][7][8] which was supposed to be the true fingerprint of AGW.

    It is a fun time to be a “denier” as we’ve been labeled when you combine the failed predictions, obvious bad math, and reliance on an unknown feedback fudge factor, with there being a solid alternative theory called cosmoclimatology[9] which relies on the sun instead of CO2 being the primary driver of climate on earth. It has put the shoe on the other foot where the AGW proponents have to deny current research, ignore observational data, and side with some sketchy characters to cling to what they thought they knew.

    [1] http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2011GL050506.shtml
    [2] http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen/236-Lindzen-Choi-2011.pdf
    [3] http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2012GL051251.shtml
    [4] http://www.met.reading.ac.uk/~sgs02rpa/PAPERS/Allan11MA.pdf
    [5] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0967064510003668

    [6] http://www.arl.noaa.gov/documents/JournalPDFs/RandelEtal.JGR2009.pdf
    [7] http://www.acd.ucar.edu/Research/Highlight/stratosphere.shtml
    [8] http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/temp-and-precip/upper-air/uahncdc.ls

    [9] http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110824/full/news.2011.504.html

  40. #41 OKThen
    April 23, 2012

    “The lady (Denier) doth protest too much, methinks.”

    Denier says, “It is a fun time to be a “denier”.”

    Denier doesn’t say, “It is a fun time to be a scientist.” Because Denier isn’t scientifically minded. He is a political shill who’s positions are a priori decided for him by politcal scientific-ilLiterati. Denier’s role is to bow low, to obfuscated, to deride but never to clarify.

    Denier is very good at never clarifying.

    The big picture is that climate scientists are unanimous that the Earth’s rapid global warming since 1900 and particularlly since 1980 is caused by human activities such as increasing greenhouse gases production/emissions by humans, deforestation by humans, and the burning of fossil fuels by humans.

    Climate scientists argue about the various details of their AGW models; because all of the credible Earth climate change models (covering the late 19th century through the present) are AGW models. AGW: Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming. Climate scientists are not proponents of AGW(in the sense that Denier is a political shill and anti-AGW proponent). Climate scientists are proponents of Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming models; because AGW models are the only climate models that SCIENTIFICALLY explain the recent century rapid rise in average Earth temperature.

  41. #42 Denier
    April 24, 2012

    I was going to leave this thread to die as it seems to have devolved into name calling which I try to ignore, but something very relevant just happened. The journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society just published a paper by Prof. Henrik Svensmark of the Technical University of Denmark titled “Evidence of nearby supernovae affecting life on Earth”. This may prove to be the turning point for cosmoclimatology.

    ftp://ftp2.space.dtu.dk/pub/Svensmark/MNRAS_Svensmark2012.pdf

  42. #43 Chris
    April 24, 2012

    I’ve been refining what I know and how things make sense to me my entire life, and I’ll continue to do that tomorrow.

    I just have to say I really like this line.

  43. #44 Wow
    April 26, 2012

    “they couldn’t even permit themselves to saying and publish that there might be a mistake somewhere”

    Oh dear.

    This seems to me rather like the xtian fundies who proclaim that ALL Islam is bad because “no muslim ever complains about the muslim terrorists”.

    Not because this doesn’t happen, but that they “know” it doesn’t. And, as Douglas Adams proved in THHGTTG showing that nothing exists, any contrary evidence can be safely ignored.

  44. #45 James
    May 3, 2012

    The problem with many in the field is they equate the word Science with TRUTH( or the quest for truth) and nothing could further from it. In fact there is a pathological push toward confirming each ones own personal truth.
    Einstein didnt want a beginning because he knew where that led.
    The big bang was also laughed at for the same reason–again delaying proper thought to the truth–and even now the credit goes to Hubble to avoid giving credit to Catholic physicist who proposed it which is much like giving the guy who launched Probe B the credit for Relativity.

    Even though it was clear that Sagan’s 3rd graders notion that only a few things were necessary for a planet to have life, scientists didnt push hard enough and truth was delayed again.
    When the mechanism for evolution was partially explained abiogenesis was almost latched on to it as a given and somewhere in these people minds the universe has some sort of natural selection.
    Fine tuning has been piling on the insurmountable improbabilities that every rational human through history has see in all of 5 seconds of logical thought–yet again…science moves toward it own truth through its myopic bias of naturalism negating their own opinions as particles colliding.

    If it wasnt for theists or agnostics in the field, or atheists who want their personal theories to be right for funding–nothing would move at all. So lets not pretend the “we now know” proclamations are ever gonna stop and the can is ever gonna be stop being kicked down the street toward their own personal truth.
    A first cause eternal designer has been at the top of the mountain for all of human history and a bunch of atheists who have flocked to the fields of Origins are never gonna even approach answering that question with multi or holographic universes. IMO they have fully revealed themselves with these proposals as hopelessly biased.

    That doesnt mean the search for mechanisms should be stopped–after all it was believers in God who founded science because they saw a world created using Order. But this pretending that this designed mechanism can happen without a Causal Agent smacks of lunacy with many of the book selling atheists in the Origin field coupling their personal wish making with science as if its fact. Its insulting and just down right embarrassing to the many objective thinkers in science.

  45. #46 Wow
    May 4, 2012

    “The problem with many in the field is they equate the word Science with TRUTH”

    You mean:

    “The problem with many in the field of religion is they equate the world of Science with TRUTH”. Then, because scientists aren’t doing “truth” and are actually open to being wrong and corrected, these religious nuts then go screaming “SEE!! SCIENCE IS A SCAM!!!!!”.

  46. #47 Composer99
    May 4, 2012

    Denier:

    Do you even read the abstracts of the publications you cite? Of the five papers you suggest infer negative feedback, only one (big surprise – Lindzen & Choi 2011) actually does based on their abstract.

    In fact negative feedback would make the massive changes observed in the past (Ordovician “snowball Earth”, past hothouse conditions, rapid warmings in the end-Permian and PETM, glacial-interglacial cycles in the recent past) nonsensical, putting the lie to such claims as “Negative feedback fits with common sense because Earth’s climate is pretty stable, but it ruins AGW theory”.

    In addition, all of your cites on stratospheric behaviour show stratospheric cooling trends, which is in direct contradiction to your insistence that the cites show “the lack of stratospheric cooling in the past 20 years”.

    Perhaps you can provide some actual evidence of “failed predictions, obvious bad math, and reliance on an unknown feedback fudge factor” on the part of mainstream climatology.

    If not, I hope you wear the label “liar” well.