"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 P. Feynman

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Message to climate scientists

Typical propaganda derived from Cook's discredited paper.
The Cook et al paper which generated the much ridiculed 97% figure is the subject of an excellent blog post by Jose Duarte picked up by Judith Curry at Climate Etc summing it up beautifully:

My fellow scientists, let's huddle up for a minute. What are we doing? What the hell are we doing? I'm mostly speaking to climate scientists, so the "we" is presumptuous – I ask for a couple of minutes of your charity. Is this really what we want? Do we want to coarsen science this much? Do we want to establish a scientific culture where scientists must take polar positions on some issue in the field? Do we want to tout a "consensus" that ignores all those who don't take a polar position? Do we want to import the fallacy of demanding that people prove a negative, a fallacy that we often point out on issues like evolution, creationism, religion, and so forth? Modern scientific culture has long lionized the sober, cautious scientist, and has had an aversion to polar positions, simplistic truths, and loyalty oaths. Do we mean to change that culture? Have we tired of it? Are we anti-Popper now? No one is required to be Popperian, but if we're replacing the old man, it should be an improvement, not a step back to the Inquisition. Do we want dumb people who have no idea what they're doing speaking for us? Are we fraud-friendly now, if it serves our talking points? When did we start having talking points?

In any case, what the hell are we doing? What exactly do we want science to be and represent? Do we want "science" to mean mockery and malice toward those who doubt a fresh and poorly documented consensus? Do we want to be featured in future textbooks, and not in a good way? When did we discover that rationality requires sworn belief in fresh theories and models that the presumed rational knower cannot himself validate? When did we discover that rationality requires belief in the rumor of a consensus of researchers in a young and dynamic field whose estimates are under constant revision, and whose predictions center on the distant future? (A rumor, operationally, since laypeople aren't expected to engage directly with the journal articles about the consensus.) Who discovered that rationality entails these commitments, or even argued thusly? Give me some cites, please. When did we discover that people who doubt, or only mildly embrace, the rumor of a consensus of researchers in a young and dynamic field whose estimates are under constant revision, and whose predictions center on distant future developments, are "deniers"? When did science become a church? When did we abandon epistemology? Again, what are we doing?]

Those climate scientists who defended this garbage upset me the most. What are you doing? On what planet would this kind of study be valid or clean? Are you unfamiliar with the nature of human bias? Do you think being a staunch leftist and environmentalist is the default rational position? Do you think that environmentalism and other leftist commitments are simply a set of descriptive facts, instead of an optional ideological framework and set of values? Do you understand the difference between 1) descriptive facts, and 2) values and ideological tenets? I'm trying to understand how you came to defend a study based on the divinations of lay political activists interpeting scientific abstracts. One possibility is that you don't think that being a leftist is ideological, that only conservatives and libertarians are ideological. That's an absurd position, but at least it might explain why you defended this garbage. Those scientists who endorsed this study are obligated openly and loudly retract their endorsement, unless you think you can overcome the points raised here and elsewhere. I really want to know what the hell you were thinking.


  1. Thank you for this. I read it with a deep sense of gratification that you are helping Duarte to spread a sense of rationality and reasonableness. I'm a psychologist by training and a programmer and horse trainer by choice. I don't bring a deep understanding of science and statistics to the issue of global warming but I do bring a finely honed bullshit detector and it's a field rank with the BS piled higher than I've ever seen, except perhaps in the field of health where junk science seems to be the norm.
    Your blog is an oasis in an arid desert devoid of honesty, rationality, skepticism and sanity. Even after a few years of reading as much as I can I am still utterly flabbergasted at what passes for science and rational, intelligent thought in this field.
    Christopher Essex describes a phenomenon known as phase locking (Taken By Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming) to describe what we are witnessing. Eric Hoffer's The True Believer and Charles MacKay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds offer some insight as well.
    But still...this is science that has gone mad, or at least a field of science captured by people who are essentially anti-science.
    This will still be producing PhD dissertations in Social Psychology a hundred years from now.
    Again, Thank you.

  2. I'd like to get your take on this.