Their own private reality

Over at Scottish"Sceptic" there's an attempt at a report of what not-Prof Salby said at a lecture recently. The talk sounds to have been not too dissimilar to the Hamburg one I commented on and if you read the comments a variety of people make a variety of the obvious points as to why its all a pile of dingoes kidneys. Not terribly surprisingly it all bounces off, because if SS were the kind of person to listen to reason, he wouldn't have written the post in the first place. And really, although you can play around with fancy ideas, if you can't answer "so where did all the human-emitted CO2 go?" its all a waste of time.

I rather started blipping through the comments, there are more than 50 now, and like some slow-motion train wreck there are no end of people happily offering advice to the driver, but he's not listening. The trouble, in this argument, is that there are just so many reasons for the bleedin' obvious. SS does have the advantage of being polite - well, mostly - and apparently reasonable; but the reason is a veneer of words.

After a while, I realised he was still calling Salby a Prof, even though he knows full well Salby isn't one. Its all a bit embarrassing for them, but still: isn't Dr good enough? Its a real title that you earn and get to keep; Prof comes with the job, and when you lose the job you lose the title. I pointed this out and got the bizarre response:

I’ve checked and anyone can make anyone a professor,. so we’ve decided to make him and honorary professor of the Scottish Climate and Energy Forum.

Is this an attempt at humour? Its not funny. It just comes across as a total disconnect from reality. JBL complains too, and gets told:

What actually matters is whether someone warrants a title. I am more than happy that Prof Salby warrants the title so I will use the title. If you don’t agree then I can’t force you to do so.

So that's it then. In "sceptic"-world, anyone can award anyone else any title they like, purely based on their own opinion. This would be mindbogglingly stupid, if it was what SS believed.

But actually, he doesn't believe a word of it. The answer is worse: he's been caught out in an error, and can't bear to correct himself, no matter how blatant the error may be. Given that, what's the point of attempting a scientific argument with him?

More like this

I wander thro' each charter'd street, Near where the charter'd Thames does flow. And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every Man, In every Infants cry of fear, In every voice: in every ban, The mind-forg'd manacles I hear Over the year a number of things…
Maybe I should save this stanza for a slightly more apt occasion, but I'm impatient, so: But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole-shrine he came, And he told me in a vision of the night: — "There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, "And every single one of them is right!" (…
For my sins, I decided to listen to Murray "I have a theory" Salby talking about his ideas about why the recent rise in CO2 isn't human-caused (note that isn't his most recent UK tour; that's back in April). By all means read my notes below if you're interested in the various ways that he is wrong…
Like its illustrious forebears comments elsewhere and part II. However, rather differently like, in that I want to point to some positives before falling back into snarking. I've commented at wottsupwiththatblog and hotwhopper about Li et al.. It is, I think, a flawed paper but not as badly flawed…

Personally I have much more time for those who are willing to simply acknowledge their errors than for those who are not. Everyone makes them. I don't think making an error actually means anything. I would hope so at least; if not, I'm in real trouble :-) In fact I find it slightly odd that anyone would actually be that concerned about acknowledging an error. Someone who implies (through their actions) that they never make an error is surely more divorced from reality than someone who simply acknowledges an error and moves on.

By wottsupwiththatblog (not verified) on 16 Nov 2013 #permalink

If we abbreviate Skeptical Science as SkS, should be then abbreviate Scottish "Sceptic" as ScS?

P.S. I seem to be stuck in the spam folder for your last post.

By Victor Venema (not verified) on 16 Nov 2013 #permalink

I'm pleased to see your commitment to the correct use of titles and will happily look forward to your implementation of the correct honorifics for Dr. and Professor Judith Curry and Lord Matthew Ridley.


[Why, hello. On the subject of correct use of honourifics and persist denial of reality, I refer you to your own private reality -W]

By thomaswfuller2 (not verified) on 16 Nov 2013 #permalink

What kind of Professor is Murry Salby? For some reason Eli is reminded of the piano players in bordellos, often called professor.

But anyhow, thanks for the fish.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 16 Nov 2013 #permalink

I was even more struck by the interaction here, in which one of the commentors ended up rejecting the idea of looking up information online as a method for determining the density of salt water. The mind boggles. (Though, give the guy credit: at least he correctly self-labels.)

It is genuinely fascinating that ScSc can talk politely at length with you (and now a bit of a posse there) without being able to grasp even trivial substantive points (e.g., the idea of a strawman). Have any of the conversations there yielded any signs of learning?

Silicon Valley saying: "If you've never failed, you're not trying hard enough."

On the use of honorifics: there is of course asymmetry:
a) People who claim titles to which they are not entitled get credibility zeroed. People who claim specific invalid affiliations some times get letters from lawyers. The House of Lords was unamused at Monckton. The brochure advertising Salby as a Professor @ U Colorado-Boulder 1997-present was fraudulent, since he resigned in January 2008. I have no idea who created that, but Salby apparently did not bother to correct it.. It seems to have been used to present him to both UK and Scottish Parliaments, sponsored respectively by Graham Springer and Murdo Fraser.

b) On the other hand, many people entitled to honorifics don't seem to care much, and in writing about them, it really gets wordy to be constantly saying "Professor Sir ... (degrees). For amusement, people might read Monckton's peculiar use of "Dr", including accusation of the heinous crime of " interfering in an unlawful manner on the blogosphere." I tried to look that up in the US Code by could not find it. I looked under "interfering with chaos" also, but it wasn't there either.

My reply discoursed on the frequent non-use of Dr.. I;ve hiked with several Lords (who deserve the title) and they generally expect to be called by first names,as have many "Professor Sirs." I've met.

But, back to the topic. Fortunately, SS has provided enough data for my next report, which includes examination of the lengths that people will go to defend their beliefs.
As evidence builds against them, the walls against the evidence get built higher. Dunning-Kruger also helps, especially if one can reject anything any actual expert says or writes.

Salby was once a respected atmospheric physicist, now reduced to touring for SS/SCEF and especially the "Slayers," whose publisher sponsored this tour. But, he had practivce with The Sydney Institute, EIKE and Klimarealistene on the last trip.

Most amusingly, that thread at SS has been WebCited 19 times already, only 2-3 by me, so some other people seem to think it's worth recording for posterity.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 16 Nov 2013 #permalink

JBL @5

By John Mashey (not verified) on 16 Nov 2013 #permalink

"Is this an attempt at humour? Its not funny. It just comes across as a total disconnect from reality."

He's just trolling.

",,,used to present him to both UK and Scottish Parliaments, sponsored respectively by Graham Springer and Murdo Fraser."

Should that be Graham Stringer, of the UK parliament science committee? If so, worrying that he can't tell science from a hole in the ground.

Donald: yes, thanks. Typo in hurry before going out. Stringer.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 17 Nov 2013 #permalink

The search for leftie contrarians. Graham Stringer (GS)?

I disagreed that Alexander Cockburn (similarly Lyndon laRouche) was a genuine example because of his lurch towards the extreme right and away from sanity

Earlier thread

As for GS, the choice of party is less of a guide than
his voting record

which is nothing out of the ordinary;his articles are a bit UKIP like, in some respects. His scientific opinions are also nothing unusual except for his arrogant skepticism about the existence of dyslexia.

Conclusion. Right of centre rather than leftie, just an example of a chemist with prejudice.

By deconvoluter (not verified) on 17 Nov 2013 #permalink

Fuller, not that this is particularly important, but do you understand the difference between the following two situations?
(1) Person A refers to Person B without use of a title.
(2) Person A refers to Person B using an incorrect title.

(Some people genuinely care about (2). At the moment, you are pretending to care about (1) because you seem confused between (1) and (2), but in fact you don't care about either (1) or (2). None of this is very hard.)

SS tells Wotts:
"Thanks for your contribution. All I want is a fair and open debate about the climate based on the evidence and not preconceived ideas or prejudice. I will know I have succeeded when I see those who are paid by the public arguing between themselves in a civilised way based on the evidence with fair funding for people like Salby.

Salby may not be right, but he more than justifies being listened to and being funded to carry on his work. Likewise, if it came to the crunch and the pendulum swung to the other extreme, I would say the same for those who proposed man-made causation"

Maybe SS can convince the Scottish Parliament to fund Salby, explaining that he has been unfairly debarred by the NSF for activities that easily could have risen to allegations of grant fraud and deception of government had Salby remained in US. Compare the NSF report to GRANT FRAUD. Hint: researchers rarely get convicted of felony and get sent to jail (they tend to settle first and arrange funds restitution), but sometimes they do, as in some cases I just happen to have around, such as in this one, this one, or this one.
Salby was wise to run as far away as possible *before* disciplinary proceedings at CU and *before* the NSF completed its investigation. Otherwise, this could ahve been escalated to DoJ and the IRS (NSF OIG does not do those directly.)

By John Mashey (not verified) on 17 Nov 2013 #permalink

Scottish "Sceptic":

What actually matters is whether someone warrants a title. I am more than happy that Prof Salby warrants the title so I will use the title. If you don’t agree then I can’t force you to do so.

Spoken like a politician!

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

Is SS to be master, then?

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 17 Nov 2013 #permalink

Mal Adapted, this is exactly what it made me think of :)

@ #12 John Mashey

1) I wouldn't call Salby "Prof" myself, but I'm not going to get my knickers in a twist if other people do so. In my experience, most retired profs continue to go by "Prof" regardless of official "emeritus" status, whereas people who leave academia after failing to get tenure do not go by Prof: Salby's position is intermediate between the two, but closer (based on age and number of years teaching) to the retired end of the spectrum.

[I think you're being very generous. I agree that someone who retires, gracefully, would without much controversy continue to use "Prof". But someone who has been sacked for failing his duties? No -W]

2) When dealing with people so out of it they think that there's even a whisper of a chance that the CO2 rise is not anthropogenic, I think it is useful to try and twist your thinking around until you can see where they might be coming from. My best attempt is that they think of CO2 in the atmosphere like water vapor: the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere at any time is determined by the temperature of the atmosphere, and any additional human emissions of water vapor would just condense out without appreciably changing anything but very localized concentrations.

The problem with convincing these folks, is that in my mind, the best evidence is neither the isotopic one nor the mass balance one - the first is confused by the difference between residence-time & perturbation-lifetime, the second by this false water-vapor equivalency - for me, the best evidence is that our computer models can do a pretty decent job on reproducing all the relevant factors at the same time - the isotopic decline, the mass balance, measured oceanic concentrations, etc. etc. Sadly, skeptics hate computer models, so this isn't a great approach to convincing them...

(ok, and the ice core record is pretty definitive, but contrarians* hate the ice core record too. Except when it shows stuff they like.)

*(apologies for saying "skeptics" above. Contrarians is a much more accurate descriptor of their behavior, and they don't fuss about it the way they do about "denier")

In my experience, most retired profs continue to go by “Prof” regardless of official “emeritus” status, whereas people who leave academia after failing to get tenure do not go by Prof: Salby’s position is intermediate between the two, but closer (based on age and number of years teaching) to the retired end of the spectrum.

On the last part, I disagree. John Mashey, upthread, posted links to Salby's history, from which it was clear that Salby was fired as a professor in Australia for failing to perform his duties. That IMHO is more like failing to get tenure than retiring. I'm not sure whether CU Boulder fired Salby or whether Salby resigned before he could be officially fired, but the record clearly shows that he left Boulder in disgrace (he was apparently engaged in financial shenanigans which led to his debarment by NSF). I'm willing to give the Professor title to someone who retired honorably, but not for somebody in circumstances like Salby's.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 18 Nov 2013 #permalink

I doubt that many would care much about "prof," except that the announcement brochure was such a classic example of false and/or misleading-by-careful-selection of credential inflation to impress unskeptical audiences. Consider flyer used by SCEF. That include (but not limited to):

'1) Professor, Faculty of Science, Macquarie University, 2008-2013.
2) Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, 1997-present. ...
4) Affiliate Scientist, Atmospheric Systems and Analysis, 1988-2002. ...
6) Director, Center for Atmospheric Theory and Analysis, University of Colorado, 1986-1999.'

1) True, although might be misleading to anyone unfamiliar with with the story, given that Salby was dismissed for cause (not teaching, and then playing credit card games that would be an employment death wish anywhere I've worked), and quite possibly, one more MQ didn't talk about.*

2) Ffraudulent claim of affiliation, since Salby resigned in January 2008, and fled the next month to Australia, before CU disciplinary process got going and NSF finished its investigation and debarred him. From Australia, he sued CU twice, accomplishing little but waste of time and money. See DeSmogBlog for the court cases.

Had he stayed in US, and NSF pursued more than the last 2 grants, there was enough $$ to have considered bringing to the DoJ allegations of long-running Grant Fraud.

"Using federal grant dollars for unjust enrichment, personal gain, or other than their intended use is a form of theft, subject to criminal and civil prosecution under the laws of the United States"

Researchers rarely go to jail for this, because they almost always settle and make restitution. Of course, in this case, there might have been tax issues with the IRS over mis-use of 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and the NSF documented various attempts to mislead, which might well rise to violations of 18USC1001.
" shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years"

4) Was at the heart of Salby's financial chicanery. Salby ran ASA via his (junior) coauthor Callaghan as President and Research Asst Gratrix as Secty-Treasurer, and an old colleague Garcia on Board. This is terrible governance, something IRS explicitly warns against. The NSF found Salby to be the real mover, not anyone else. ASA had miserable accounting controls, until it got a new tax-preparer, about the time Salby created the ASMP shell company to further hide the trickery. I've looked at ~60 publications of Salby since ~1990. He never once gave an ASA affiliation, almost always CU instead. Giving an ASA affiliation would have made the scams all too easy to find. As it stands, to figure out what was happening, I had to get a copy of every paper, look at affiliations, and then the grants#s acknowledged, then find the grants in the NASA and NSF databases, which were not so accessible when Salby was actually doing this. As the NSF was starting to catch up with Salby (PhD 1978) he tried to blame Callaghan (PhD 1999), who coauthored ~25 papers with Salby and almost certainly did much of the programming. Salby was almost always the lead and corresponding author, so he ran the show.

6) Is true, I think, but unsaid is the fact that CATA was never a large center (about 3 faculty in 1998), but with reorg ~1992, it shrank. By 1995, it was down to one... and Salby's last paper with other CATA faculty was submitted in 1993. So, for half the time, that Center was Salby (and sometimes some grad students).

* The one they didn't talk about, but in my mind, the worst of Salby's behavior, was his treatment of his PhD student, Evgenia Titova. She'd come to MQ In late 2009, and seemed to progressing normally on research, coauthoring 2 papers and giving 2 internal seminars, on "Relationship of the Antarctic oscillation to changes in the Antarctic Ozone hole", her thesis topic approved in 2010.

There is zero trace of any involvement of her in Salby's quixotic CO2/ice-core silliness. She was not mentioned in his videos, and Salby started this in July 2011 by doing a bait-and-switch away from the accepted paper on which she was a coauthor.

The only trace of involvement was that Salby listed her as coauthor of 2 posters for EUG in Vienna, April 2013. Normally, when one is far along in dissertation, going off on wild tangents is not what one does. EITHER:
a) He diverted her from her dissertation completion to help him OR
b) She had nothing to do with them, and he stuck her on as a "human shield" for sympathy, and then in his email via bloggers, used the phrase "our research" 5 times, and expressed worry about her. Right.
(In either case, if somebody at MQ actually saw the abstracts for EGU, that may have helped trigger events leading to Salby's February suspension.) Many real profs proudly list their students and dissertations on their own C.V.s, as in fact, doing that well is an important part of being a Prof at a research university. (In his ~20 years @ CU, Salby supervised 2 for sure, and likely 2 more, and I think they've done OK later, but that is not a lot of students.)

Most professors do well by their PhD students, foster their research, help them out, sometimes help them find jobs and often form lifelong relationships. (My last 1-2 months finishing mine were spent living in my supervisor's basement, for example, before I headed off to Bell Labs,)

PhD students, especially those far along, are incredibly vulnerable to misbehavior by their supervisors. I've heard of professors stealing students' work. I've heard of profs doing poor supervision or (rarely) getting students involved in extraneous efforts, as Ed Wegman did.

But Salby's behavior was (bad words).

I know of no way for MQ to prevent Titova from contacting Salby if she wished, but MQ might well have gotten a restraining order preventing him from bothering her,. Blog commenters were angry at MQ, thought Titova should join Salby in a lawsuit against MQ, tried to contact her by email, call her, etc, etc, just what she'd need. Hopefully, MQ has found her appropriate supervision to complete her PhD.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 18 Nov 2013 #permalink

William, since you seem to have some interest in ScottishSceptic, I thought I might make you aware of the recent discussion I've had on this post. Unless I'm misinterpreting ScSc, it appears that he is arguing that using "denier" is fundamentally wrong and libelous, but suggesting that climate scientists should be executed may be okay. Comments towards the end are where this argument materialises.

By wottsupwiththatblog (not verified) on 19 Nov 2013 #permalink