Friday, 31 January 2014

Another open letter to "Dr" Bob Tisdale


Life's too short, mate.  Go down the pub, have a few beers, get a kebab on the way home and don't set the alarm as tomorrow is Saturday.  And for goodness stop writing those long, boring and repetitive open letters to various people.  They don't care about you.  Get over it.



PS  I archived your latest open letter to avoid the web traffic.

PPS  This comment is a hoot.
bobl says:
Maybe BT should do a Monckton and write., If you don’t respond within 7 days I’ll assume you agree with me
If he doesn't respond in seven days, assume he printed it out on absorbent paper and found it softer than Andrex.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dr Roy Spencer's intellectual honesty

Dear Reader,

Not even a genuine smile
I have written about Dr Roy Spencer and what he believes before.  Today, tipped off by Collin Maessen at Real Sceptic, I return to the subject because the subject of my ire has given some more information on what he does believe so it is only right that I should reassess what I wrote.

The background is at Real Sceptic so I won't repeat it here, but Spencer wrote a defence of his religious beliefs and how they do or do not affect his science at his own website.  You can read an archived link here.

The piece Spencer wrote is a mess.  He's an intelligent man but this looks as if it was written in a coffee break.  Firstly, he gets agitated that using the Bible to support the consensus view seems fine but to deny it isn't.  I can't comment, other than to say that there are plenty of people, Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution Is True would be one of them, who would say that using the Bible to support scientific ideas one way or another is not acceptable.  Science stands or falls on the evidence.

Spencer goes on:
In the case of global warming skeptics, I suppose the accusation is part of the assumption that bible-believers feel that “God is in control”, and so everything will turn out OK no matter what we do. Go ahead and pump all the CO2 into the atmosphere you want. The Big Guy will take care of it.
Well, yes, because that is more or less what the Cornwall Alliance declaration states.  I won't link to it here since there are links easily found elsewhere.  But apparently Spencer doesn't believe that at all.  So his theology is starting to get rather messy.  God, in whom he claims to believe, doesn't seem to care one jot about humanity even though He sent His Son to save us two millennia ago.  Nuclear weapons are evidence enough, according to Spencer, that we can do ourselves rather large amounts of damage.  Doesn't God care?

In other words, we know that humans are capable of creating a huge amount of misery for ourselves, which we have done repeatedly down through history. Catastrophic global warming could, at least theoretically, be just one more example of this.
Except that I view CO2 as one of those cases where nature, on a whole, benefits from more of our “pollution”. The scientific evidence is increasingly supporting this position.
This is not a big stretch considering that CO2 is necessary for life to exist on Earth, and yet only 4 molecules out of every 10,000 in the atmosphere are CO2. Venus and Mars have atmospheres that are almost 100% CO2; life on Earth, in contrast, has sucked most of it out of the atmosphere. No matter how much we produce, nature automatically takes out 50% and uses it. 
Oh, well, that's all right then.  Nature benefits.  Rather unsure how he arrives at this conclusion since it would appear that nature is more than the plants that do seem to do better as a result of increased carbon dioxide concentrations.  Some plants, including those that are our staple foods, don't benefit as much, if at all.  The scientific evidence supporting Spencer's position isn't as strong to me.  Indeed, nature certainly includes the habitats that will be lost when seas inundate low lying land, making areas that support agriculture unproductive. 

The climate homeopathy argument, there's so little CO2 it can't do what it is claimed to do, is a pretty lame argument, easily dealt with.  And it doesn't matter what CO2 concentrations are on Venus or Mars, were in the near or even distant past - it is the change, the rapid change, in CO2 levels and the fact that modern existence is precariously placed on a tiny fulcrum, balanced at the moment perhaps but liable to swing wildly in an unpleasant direction.  And while nature might take 50% of the CO2 out, it also puts most of it back again.  I am sure Spencer has heard of the carbon cycle.  Perhaps he forgot to mention it.

Back to religious beliefs:
 Epstein [a journalist who mentioned Spencer's beliefs and precipitated his response] incorrectly assumes that I support the wording of all of the positions of the Cornwall Alliance, as stated in their Cornwall Declaration. But the Director of the Cornwall Alliance knows I don’t. We’ve discussed it.
Now I don't know about you but I don't sign things I don't agree with.  Even if I agree with a bit of it, if there is something I don't agree with on a petition, I don't sign the petition.  The reason is simple - by putting my name to it, someone, everyone, can make the justified assumption that I do agree with it.  If my signature is required on a contract, I need to agree to all those clauses.  I can't go to my boss later and say that I don't like this line about having to actually work for the salary.  So, sorry, Roy.  You made your bed when you signed it.  If you don't agree, have your name taken off the list of the advisory board so we can believe that you have a touch more intellectual honesty than perhaps your piece demonstrates.  You are a clever man.  Show it.

Why do I support it? The central reason is I believe that current green energy policies are killing poor people.
Anything that reduces prosperity kills the poor. This is the single biggest reason I speak out on global warming, and why the Cornwall Alliance speaks out against policies which end up hurting the poor much more than they help.
Radical environmentalism is interested in seeing more people dead than alive. I don’t care what their press releases say. I’ve debated enough of these folks to know that their biggest complaint is that there are too many people in the world.
 Oh dear.  So Roy Spencer does not deny climate science because the evidence suggests that there is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming.  Nope, he doesn't like the fact that some environmentalists seem to him to be interested in "seeing more people dead than alive".  What an absolute load of rubbish.  What intellectual paucity leads to that conclusion I know not.  If the argument is about policy, then talk about policy and forget the science.  That, after all, is settled, is it not?

Some have claimed that the Earth would be just lovely without any humans. (Extra points for anyone who can spot the oxymoron there).
 I fail to gain my extra points because I don't see an oxymoron there.

On a more superficial level, the accusation is often that the Bible-believing scientist “rejects settled science”, in my case the naturalistic “explanation” for the origin of life. How can anyone trust a climate scientist who rejects “settled science”?
Except this claim reveals an appalling lack of knowledge on the part of the accuser. In general, nothing in science is ever settled. And in particular, no one knows how life arose from non-living matter. It remains a mystery today.
Belief in the naturalistic origin of life is just as religious as the belief in a creator. Even well-known evolutionists have admitted this.
 Well, I would argue that there are some areas of science that are settled - various laws such as thermodynamics and motion for example - but be that as it may.  Spencer steps aside from science when he denies a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life.  I would like to know who these well-known evolutionists are that believe there is an equivalence between the two notions - natural origins or a creator.  Sadly, Spencer keeps his own counsel on that one and I am unsure where I could find out.  It wouldn't be any of the obvious ones, Dawkins, Gould, Coyne, Jones, Myers, and a thousand others.  Wallace could be one Spencer has in mind but Wallace's religious views were decidedly unusual.
I challenge you to deny this, Dr Spencer

The scientific evidence for a “creator” is, in my opinion, stronger than the evidence that everything around us is just one gigantic cosmic accident. I have no trouble stating that — and defending it — based upon science alone. No need to quote the Bible.
 Really?  What is it?  Spencer's apology for intelligent design that he put out all those years ago betrays the fact that he really doesn't understand evolution, couldn't really have studied it in any depth and swallowed the discredited ideas of intelligent design without any particularly critical thinking going on.  Poor on his part.  Really poor.  Is there any scientific evidence for a creator?  Aside from some coincidences in the value of some constants, I don't know of any.  If Spencer does, he is keeping quiet on it and if I were him, I would too because I could look extremely silly.  There are some scientists who know a huge amount more than he does, and I do, about evolution, fundamental physical constants and much besides that would line up to tear his evidence to shreds.  And if you want to know more about the anthropic principle, which I am sure you don't but is probably the best Spencer might come up with, try Stenger.
Try denying this as well, Dr Spencer

But why should any of this matter for real, observable science, like climate change? Belief in macroevolution is a religion, not science. It is an organizing system of thought, a conceptual model of origins, a worldview, which the evolutionist must fit all of his observations into.
 I've dealt with this idea before.  Science is not religion.  Not under any definition of either science or religion that I can find.  After all, religion relies on faith and science on evidence.  Macroevolution, even if evolutionists bother with that term, is not religion and saying it is doesn't make it so.  This is a tired old creationist trick which no one really buys any longer, or at least so I thought.  Alabama must be behind the times.  Macroevolution is not an organising system of thought, a conceptual model of origins or a worldview.  It is an evidence based science.  And the evidence is immense.  I bet Spencer didn't really get very far in his study at all.  Not the two years he said he spent.  He could have spent a weekend reading Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True.  Available from all good bookstores (I'm sure there must be a Barnes & Noble in Huntsville).
There is no evidence that this is how it happened

Evolutionists are free to interpret their observations as they see fit.  That they find they fit within the framework of evolution as a whole is not difficult to understand.  The observations do not contradict evolution.  That we know so much about the workings of the genome, the means of selection and how the whole puzzle connects together is testimony to the excellence of these scientists.  It is demeaning to say that they do it because it is their worldview.  Spencer, who tries valiantly to defend science against a strawman argument earlier in his piece has descended to a scurrilous version of a straw army.  It is beneath him and he should recognise that.

The existence of the universe itself violates either the 1st or 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics. That’s why cosmologists must invent physics no one has ever observed to explain how everything came to be.
Is that “science”? Really?
Epstein doesn’t understand that even atheist scientists are also guided by their religious belief that there is no creator. All scientists interpret data based upon their preconceived notions.
In Earth science, I find most researchers believe nature is fragile. But that is not a scientific position, it is a religious one. No less religious than my view that nature is resilient.
In short, there is no such thing as an unbiased scientist.
There's quite a lot here.  Does the Universe violate the laws of thermodynamics?  The answer appears to be no.  And no. Probably not a surprise but you can't expect Spencer who is not a physicist to understand that one.  Or he could read around the subject like he claims he did when he studied the controversy surrounding the ID/evolution thing.  Ah, I get it now.  He studied the controversy.  Perhaps he should have read the science.  And cosmologists inventing science?  I am certainly not a fan of some of what cosmologists have come up with, but it doesn't matter what I think.  The evidence will be the arbiter, won't it?

Furthermore, life has to do more than just come into being. It has to reproduce. How does that happen by chance? Researchers have computed the probability of it happening to be essentially zero.
I’m afraid my faith isn’t strong enough to believe in such silliness.
And if you are going to comment, “Exactly what research shows all of this, Dr. Spencer?” Well, to paraphrase (and with apologies to) William F. Buckley, Jr., “Do your own damn Google search.”
 Oh dear once again.  Spencer makes all these assertions but provides a link to Buckley while he can't be bothered to find links that support his version of science, or faith or whatever he supposes it to be.  I titled this piece "Dr Spencer's intellectual honesty" for a reason.  It is rather missing here.  It is not for the reader to have to do the research because they might not be finding the same sources as Spencer uses.  If he were to try this as a scientific paper, it would be returned with a big fat note on it saying "Sources?".  It is intellectually dishonest to do this.  Spencer would have us believe that well known evolutionists think the origin of life problem is a religious one yet not bother to name even one.  Probably because there aren't any.  Not real ones.  If he says Stephen Meyer, I'm not sure I could survive the fall off my stool as I burst my sides with laughter.

There remains a question of why we should accept what Spencer says on anything if this is the contempt with which he treats his readers?  He doesn't try very hard to establish the erroneous equivalence between religion and science, perhaps because he knows how wrong it is.  He probably knows that intelligent design has been well and truly squashed and the embarrassment that was the testimony of Michael Behe at the Dover trial.  And he must know that intelligent design proponents all seem to be adherents of that exquisitely white protestant American version of the God of the Christians and not any other version of any other possible creator.  Nope, you don't need to quote the Bible to do this.  You just have to remember how absent of intellectual honesty intelligent design actually is.  Rather like climate science deniers, intelligent design proponents find it hard to get into proper peer reviewed journals.

In a way I now understand Spencer a bit better but I don't accept his argument.  Yes, scientists might have biases. But that does not mean their results and their conclusions are biased while Spencer's acceptance of intelligent design is clearly in denial of the evidence.  And, as Spencer fails to tell you, your biases will get found out.  If your evidence is not strong enough to support your conclusion, eventually your science will come undone.

The argument that scientists are biased, so what, invites deniers in to fill the unspoken gap.  What about the biases of climate scientists?  Aren't they biased?  Perhaps, but their careers are on the downslide when their bias becomes their science.  Isn't that what has happened in some regard with Dr Roy Spencer?

I have made the assumption that Spencer is intelligent and competent.  His blog post might suggest otherwise.  If he wants to convince people that he is right to let his faith dictate his position on some scientific matters then he really does need to do better.  Science just isn't religion.  Let me say it again in case he is reading.  Science just isn't religion. On that Spencer is most definitely wrong.

And if Spencer goes here he might find out how science really works.

A commenter called Sparkicle at says: " I take it that this blogger's belief is that since the scientist in question is on the advisory board of some jumped-up-creationist-bandwagon he must therefore subscribe to all the beliefs held therein."  I didn't make it clear.  My point was that to sign up to all the Cornwall Declaration while only agreeing with part of it is strange.  If your argument is that climate policy is harming the poor, just say so.  Perhaps Spencer has in the past and I have missed it.  However, the Cornwall Declaration is consistent with Spencer's views on intelligent design/creationism and it would not be unreasonable to assume Spencer did agree with the whole Cornwall thing.  I certainly don't agree with everything some organisations do, but then I don't publicly support them and let my name be used on their websites.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Overstating the irony

Part of what being a true skeptic includes is the moment when you are alone with the mirror.  Can you look at yourself and honestly say you haven't borrowed an argument from the very thing you are arguing against? 

I haven't a clue who Gareth Paltridge is but he will be having sleepless nights if he ever reads this.  That's because he has made a schoolboy howler.  I don't mean that he starts his piece (archived) at WUWT by saying that global temperatures haven't risen for seventeen years when what he actually meant to say is that surface temperatures have risen but since I have chosen to cherry pick the starting point when there was a strong El Nino, it looks to the uneducated and the deliberately obfuscatory that no warming has occurred.  It's a bit like starting an analysis of your savings account on the day that you had a payment from the estate of a maiden aunt which, the very next day, you spent on a second hand Aston Martin.  Every month since, you have paid £50 into that account, sometimes taking some cash out to pay a bill or two.  It looks wobbly but you have managed to keep the account going upwards most of the time.  But to your crooked accountant, you haven't increased your savings one little bit.  No, Mr Paltridge.  You're wrong.

No, Mr Paltridge fails to notice the irony in this passage, thereby ensuring his inclusion in collections of schoolboy howlers for centuries to come (whoops, I've just tipped the irony meter off scale):
It is a particularly nasty trap in the context of science, because it risks destroying, perhaps for centuries to come, the unique and hard-won reputation for honesty which is the basis of society’s respect for scientific endeavour…
What he intends us to think is that because of his mistaken belief in the no warming agenda, climate scientists will have destroyed our trust in science, perhaps for centuries, because he thinks people will not accept the call to arms as warranted. Did he not notice, as he wrote his warning against alarmism that he was being, ahem, alarmist.  That he was, ahem, overstating his case.  Perhaps he thinks the dictionary definition of ironic is encapsulated in an Allannis Morrisette song.

Actually, he is much smarter than that.  Wikipedia reveals that he is a genuine, if now emeritus, atmospheric physicist who has an irony problem.  His whole career was spent taking tax dollars (Australian ones) without, for some unknown reason, feeling that being an advocate for something or other was the only way to ensure career progression and renewed grants that he thinks you have to do to get on. 

It's a strange piece.  The longer version is at Quadrant, a conservative magazine that is reportedly sceptical of left wing ideas.  Be that as it may, climate change is politically neutral.  The remedies have political ramifications and it appears Paltridge is in agreement that global warming is caused by human activities, just that it won't be that bad.  I suspect we've all played a similar game.  Leave the umbrella behind because it won't rain too hard.

I fundamentally disagree with Paltridge, and for one very good reason.  It is not the scientists, in whatever field, that are damaging the reputation of science, but the deniers who feel it is their job (and in some cases it is their paid job) to ruin that reputation.  It hasn't been too many years since the well founded scientific evidence for the dangers of tobacco.  And there are ongoing efforts by people who reckon they are intelligent enough to rubbish the immense contribution to human health and wellbeing that vaccines have given us.  A few minutes reading the comments of antivacciners, or climate science deniers, shows that, rather than seeking the truth, they are more often intent on ruining the truth.  It is hard to see people claim a conspiracy amongst doctors, or pharmaceutical companies or climate scientists and feel that they are really concerned to find the truth. 

Does Paltridge believe there is a conspiracy amongst climate scientists?  Perhaps not but he gets close:
The trap was set in the late 1970s or thereabouts when the environmental movement first realised that doing something about global warming would play to quite a number of its social agendas.
This is close to saying that climate scientists are not working in climate science to find out what is happening but because it is a means towards social activism.  I'm not sure he has any evidence for that, especially as at the time he wants us to believe that a trap was set, the chances of making much traction would have appeared small.  And the smart money would have been in other areas of conservation, like fluffy but endangered animals. 

He continues:
The trap was partially sprung in climate research when a number of the relevant scientists began to enjoy the advocacy business. 
Any evidence at all for that?  I understand that Michael Mann didn't want the role that he seems to have had thrust on him and Jim Hansen only spoke up because no one else seemed to want to.  I am open to correction.  On the other hand, I see a rather larger number of climate deniers being advocates.  Is this just another bit of irony?

Paltridge is, of course, being an advocate himself here, which is just one more irony to add to the pile. 
Scientists—most scientists anyway—may be a bit naive, but they are not generally wicked, idiotic, or easily suborned either by money or by the politically correct. So whatever might be the enjoyment factor associated with supporting officially accepted wisdom, and whatever might be the constraints applied by the scientific powers-that-be, it is still surprising that the latest IPCC report has been tabled with almost no murmur of discontent from the lower levels of the research establishment. What has happened to the scepticism that is supposedly the lifeblood of scientific inquiry? 
He is arguing that there is uncertainty and we should be more aware of that.  Well, I thought it was right there in the IPCC reports but what do I know?  He's the one who is an emeritus professor and has presumably read the things.  Just because the IPCC claims less uncertainty doesn't mean it isn't there, and the junior ranks not making their discontent known is explained simply by the idea that they might not be feeling any discontent or, if they are, their discontent is expressed at earlier stages of the process and can be dismissed or explained.  Simple.

I won't bother going through the tediously predictable series of comments at WUWT.  You just know that the usual comments are going to be there, climategate, various conspiracies, Lysenko.  It just goes to prove that the real damage to the reputation of science comes from articles like Paltridge's which seem oblivious to reality.  It is easy to sit in an armchair, pointing fingers.  Paltridge should know better.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Vincent Gray, the philosophy of science and the beef substitute

With a hat tip to Sou, I now know of Vincent Gray, physical chemist and climate science denier.  Since Sou has chosen not to concern herself with the musings of Gray on the philosophy of science, I thought I would.  Actually, like Sou, I won't bother with the stuff on the scientific method because it is a bit like the conjuror's beautiful assistant, there to distract the eye.  The real philosophical meat in this sandwich is a bit more hidden.  So where is the beef?

The aim of Gray's article over at WUWT, just like all deniers, is not to advance learning but hinder the truth about an impending reality which he, amongst others, doesn't much like.  In order to do so, deniers do not hesitate to misrepresent reality, while at the same time pretending to be in favour of discovering what reality really is.  Gray's trick for hiding the incline is hidden in this paragraph (in my bold):

Scientific observations have to be repeatable and there has to be full information on the circumstances of the observation, the apparatus and the instruments used, and the name and qualifications of the observer.
 You see, it just isn't true.  Scientific observations are often not repeatable.  Let me take you on a magical history tour.  Let's dial our time machine back to 23 February 1987.

On that day, something happened that has not happened since the seventeenth century: a naked eye supernova was observed.  Supernova SN 1987A.  Over the next few months, the supernova reached magnitude 3, easily observable with the naked eye.  Telescopes and instruments were aimed at the star all over the southern hemisphere so that measurements and observations could be made.  Before the first human observations of the supernova were made, however, an unrepeatable event was observed.

Neutrinos, those superlight particles, were detected as they passed through the Earth.  Because they have such little mass, they don't interact easily with matter, passing straight through the Earth most of the time.  Occasionally, one neutrino will interact with an atom, causing a detectable event if the interaction occurs within a detector.  Luckily, such detectors were available in 1987 and three of them made observations of bursts of neutrinos pretty much synchronously that are interpreted as coming from the supernova, arriving before the first burst of light.

This was good science.  But according to Gray it isn't, because the observations are not repeatable.  The supernova won't go bang again, not now, not ever, so we cannot repeat those observations.  The next supernova, perhaps one within our own galaxy, might not be preceded by a similar burst of neutrinos, or we might not detect them.  Actually, it's Gray that's wrong. 

Hundreds of scientific observations are unrepeatable.  In fact, all those temperature readings are unrepeatable.  We can't rewind the clock and take them again.  We trust that they are correct or we make adjustments, including removing a reading from the record, if they are in error.  It isn't difficult to understand but presumably a physical chemist of such long standing as Gray has become immune to the reality of much of science.  A lot of it is clearly unrepeatable. 

Astronomers would be instantly out of business if Gray were correct.  There would be no point trying to detect gamma ray bursts because they are such transient events.  For decades, transient lunar phenomena were treated with scepticism because they were unrepeatable, but they are fully accepted now and there are videos taken through telescopes to demonstrate their truth.  They are, clearly, unrepeatable observations.  They happen one at a time, are detected rarely and, let's face it, you would be lucky to see one even if you had a powerful telescope and observed the Moon nightly.

I suspect Gray knows full well that his line about scientific observations having to be repeatable is bunk.  That's not why he said it.  His aim is to debunk climate science by making people think that the unrepeatable day to day observations of temperature and other weather phenomena are not science.  If they are not science, the analysis of the data is also not science and....

Since we have taken our personal TARDIS back to 1987, we might step into a bookstore and see if we can find any creationist literature.  This is the realm of the evolution deniers.  In an effort to deny that evolution is a fact and not "just a theory" we might come across a similar argument.  Evolution can be seen on a day to day basis but you have to look closely, because one of the places you might see it is in the superfast life cycles of bacteria.  In the world of much bigger organisms with life cycles measured in decades, evolution is much slower.  But the denier argument is that evolution cannot be true because you cannot see it happening and, well, you can't repeat those observations because speciation happened in the past. 

Indeed it did, but the record of speciation is in the modern organism as much as your biometric data is in your passport.  More so.  In the 1980s this science was in its infancy but the science of whether evolution happens was settled.  Anyone denying it had to deny huge chunks of science and so it proved.  Carbon dating - rubbish!  An ancient Earth - pants!  And so on.  Climate science deniers use many, if not all, of the same discredited arguments, in different fancy dress outfits admittedly, as the creationists used all those years ago.  Gray is doing nothing more nor less than I was encountering as a fresh graduate all those years ago.

It isn't surprising that evolution denial has crept out of its crypt and made a mummy like comeback on Watts's conspiracy rich pages.  Here's the edited highlights of one comment:

TheLastDemocrat says:
This observation aspect sets the situation so that predictions and forecasts are not scientific. They can be based on good science, but they are a matter of, at best, good logic and reason.
This “forecast” issue also applies to hind-casting. It is very easy to find some hard-nose scientist declaring that evolution is a scientific fact. but it cannot ever be. Zebras and jellyfish came from somewhere, but it has already happened. Any explanations are after-the-fact.
This has been duly noted by some believers in evolution. They have thus set up the task of observing evolution happening. Some declare that they have developed news species by running through many generations of one type of bacteria in differing conditions, and having two population emerge that can no longer inter-breed.
This is as close as evolution gets, in the present day, to being “fact.”
The theory of evolution may be well-reasoned. it may be where all of the species came from. It is a fact that there are many species. But how they came to all be so different is not a matter of scientific fact. There are great, logical theories, however. That is it: conjecture.
We scientists do need to reflect on what science is so that we are all clear about this, and can thus spot limits and errors when someone tries to throw the “settled science” meme at us. Or at policy makers.
 I am not sure what TheLastDemocrat means by "we scientists" but I would not be so sure he or she is a scientist based on what is a pretty insight light version of evolution.  Perhaps TheLastDemocrat should put Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True or Richard Dawkins's The Greatest Show On Earth, or go to this site to find the experiments on bacterial evolution that TheLastDemocrat so offhandedly dismisses.  It's not as if "we scientists" can't find these resources. 

Anyway, this is by the by.  Gray has set up a false distinction and knows that no one at WUWT will challenge him and even if they did, the playground bullies will form a circle and shout childish insults at the one who understands. 

If what Gray said were true then crime scene investigation would be pointless.  Unrepeatable observations of a murder would mean the guilty would go free.  We couldn't prove them guilty, therefore they are let go.  We wouldn't need a trial.  Gray has said that observations need to be repeatable and forensic observations are just as scientific as any others.  Thank goodness he isn't correct.

The more I have read climate science deniers, the more I see myself wishing Stephen Jay Gould were still here.  He'd have irritated them, being truly a man of the Left.  Gould had more learning in his lunchtime coffee than Gray, Monckton, Eschenbach and more have in their entire lives.  He wrote exquisitely well.  There is no collected edition of his essays debunking creationists (I link to one of his classics earlier in this post) but I, for one, would welcome it.  Such a book would be a standard text for anyone wanting to understand the denier's arguing techniques.  And Gould would have written a better essay than this one, and included a baseball reference that us Brits would not understand.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

"Dr" Bob in retirement - just keep churning it out

Recently "Dr" Bob Tisdale, climate science denier, announced his retirement.  That was on 3 January.  Since that time, however, he has been busier than ever.  Perhaps he could do with a lie down because the other day he decided that his level of self-importance was sufficient to justify another one of those pointless things that science deniers do - the open letter (archived).

This isn't the first open letter to appear on WattsUpWithThat.  In fact, the fake skeptics there quite like them.  They play to the gallery without ever achieving anything.  Let's put ourselves in Jon Stewart's, the intended target's, shoes for a moment.  As the star of a popular and respected, at least in some circles, show that pricks the skins of those right wing sausages who sit and glumly watch that tower of truth, Fox News, or listen to Alex Jones (with the sound turned down to protect their hearing), you're likely to find the round file with this one.  Why?  Because it flags up why you shouldn't bother taking it seriously right from the get go.

Dear Jon:
I am an independent climate researcher and regular contributor at the award-winning science blog WattsUpWithThat. I am also the author of three ebooks on global warming, climate change and the poor performance of climate models. I am writing to you about your January 6, 2014 episode (full episode here) of The Daily Show. It began with “The Global Warming Hoax” and “War on Carbon” clips, which ran consecutively when aired.
The clip and excellent commentary can be found here.

Bob, here's my advice.  Anyone who says they are an independent climate researcher is immediately going to look stupid.  I could say I am an independent evolution researcher but it isn't really true.  I collect fossils.  What you have said is that I have no support from the scientific community and that you are highly likely to be a climate science denier.

You confirm that by stating you are a regular contributor to the "award winning" WattsUpWithThat.  Wow.  Award winning.  Awards are all well and good and I am sure that people get a nice fuzzy feeling when someone gives them an award.  But the selection process needs to be worthwhile and the award needs to have sufficient recognition.  I suspect Jon Stewart knows what a stitch up the WUWT awards are.

Three, count 'em, three ebooks.  More wow.  Anyone can do an ebook.  What you are flogging are pdf files of books that, presumably, you couldn't interest even one of the crank publishers in.  If I wanted, I could do the same.  People will put more store in a real, physical, printed book published by a reputable publisher with a proper publishing record.  Vanity publishing might look good amongst your mates.  For Jon Stewart, I suspect less so.

First, let me say that I applaud you and your staff for making The Daily Show a massively entertaining political satire. I enjoy the show thoroughly. 
Flattery then a lie.  Clearly you don't enjoy the show thoroughly otherwise you wouldn't be moaning about it.  Understand how that one works, Bob?

During your January 6th episode, however, you expressed beliefs in climate models and in the climate science community…the human-induced global warming wing thereof. Unfortunately, the climate models used to hindcast past climate and to project future climate are so flawed that they are not fit for their intended purposes. And the climate science community under the direction of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has specialized in only one aspect of global warming, which is why the models perform so poorly. I’ll provide evidence for those statements in the following, including data and peer-reviewed scientific studies. 
 Ah, the kernel of the complaint.  It's about the climate models which, as we know, are approximations to reality and, although they can give us a valuable insight into what is happening and about to happen, are not sufficiently perfect to give the sorts of answers that climate change deniers would like them to give.  Will it rain on my birthday in 2075?

For most people, their understanding of climate science comes from the time around 2006-2007 when there was a lot of interest in global warming and climate change. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was getting press and the IPCC and Al Gore were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Things have changed drastically since then. Specialists in many fields of climate science are now writing papers about model failings, and they’re not small problems. They’re fatal flaws. Skeptics have become much better at presenting and illustrating those model failures, too, and describing why they’re important. And there has been a flood of peer-reviewed papers over the past two years, in which climate scientists are trying to explain the hiatus in global warming—with limited success and limited agreement; that is, there’s no consensus on the cause of the pause. Examples are discussed in the very recent Nature article Climate Change: The Case of the Missing Heat by Jeff Tollefson. Those scientists wouldn’t be writing those papers if the climate models had anticipated the current cessation of global surface temperature warming. Unfortunately, with the IPCC’s focus on manmade greenhouse gases, climate scientists still do not know how to model nature’s handiwork. More on this later.
I don't know when most people gained their understanding of climate science and I suspect you don't either.  Without doing a literature search, I expect climate modellers have always been putting caveats and cautions into their work on climate models because that's what real scientists do.   Skeptics of your hue wish that they did something different, then amplify it when they publish something on the subject.  It is the same conjuring trick to hide the incline that creationists were doing in the 80s, amply demonstrated by Stephen Jay Gould all those years ago.  In an effort to make models better, modellers investigate the models and how the real climate is acting.  This is essential, it is normal science and nothing special.  It is only the deniers who think this means anything more than trying to understand reality in all its myriad, chaotic forms. 

You presented a clip of Dan Weiss of the Center for American Progress who said:
If 97 doctors told you that that lump on your lung was something to worry about, and 3 scientists — er, doctors — told you not to worry about it, are you going to listen to the 97, or the 3? Sounds like you might listen to the 3, which would be sad.
(Quotes from the DailyKos transcript here.)
That argument has been used a lot recently.
You were right to point out the error in the logic of the response to it, which was to the effect of climate scientists are paid to… But the reality of the situation is something altogether different.
The climate science community has specialized in only one aspect of global warming and climate change, and as a result, they have overlooked other major contributors.
 As you well know, Bob, there are plenty of people who listen to the 3% of doctors and a good many of them aren't around any longer to regret it.  You have missed an important point in that last sentence, Bob.  Climate scientists have examined other hypotheses and found that they are wrong or insignificant.  That's an important point.  It is one the deniers don't seem to recognise.

I’ve addressed this problem previously in two open letters—one to George Clooney and your associate Lewis Black here, and one to the Executive Producers of the upcoming ShowTime series Years of Living Dangerously here. As I wrote to Black and Clooney:
The climate science community, under the direction of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), has only been tasked with determining whether manmade factors, primarily carbon dioxide, could be responsible for the recent bout of global warming, and what the future might bring if the real world responds to projected increases in manmade greenhouse gases in ways that are similar to climate models. They were not asked to determine if naturally caused, sunlight-fueled processes could have caused the global warming over the past 30 years, or to determine the contribution of those natural factors in the future—thus all of the scrambling by climate scientists who are now trying to explain the hiatus in global warming. Refer to the IPCC’s History webpage (my boldface):
Today the IPCC’s role is as defined in Principles Governing IPCC Work, “…to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation…”
It is not the IPCC’s role to understand the scientific basis for naturally caused climate change, which the Earth has experienced all along. As a result, even after decades of modeling efforts, climate models still cannot simulate naturally occurring ocean-atmosphere processes that contribute to global warming or stop it. So a “doctors” example falls flat because it relies on experts whose understandings of climate are extremely limited in scope.
The response to “97 doctors” argument should have been: “Would you see a podiatrist or proctologist for that lump on your lung?”
 Sadly, Bob, some people do go to see someone totally unsuited to checking and treating that lump on their lung.  Perhaps it is a visit to a homeopathist who will give them some magically shaken water, or an acupuncturist who will stick some needles in them. They could choose to visit an independent cancer researcher, perhaps on the basis of some posts at an award winning website and the promise of three, count 'em, three ebooks.  Or perhaps they will pick an oncologist who has spent many years learning their craft, understanding their science and trying to do something to reverse the process.  So, yeah, the analogy is a good one after all. 

Another way that it is a good analogy is that many oncologists are studying the effects of human caused cancers - you know, the one's that dare not speak their name at WattsUpWithThat (I shall not be so prissy: lung cancer due to smoking - and if Watts wants to come here and moan, read some of my other posts where I talk about my dad's cancer.  Neither of us is special.  It was a primary tumour in the lung that did for my dad).

Besides, telling Jon Stewart that you have a record of sending these hopeless, badly spelled, letters to people like George Clooney, that's going to endear him, isn't it?

The climate science community now understands the problems caused by limiting their research to the increased emissions of manmade greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide.
The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) is concerned about the IPCC’s focus. See their document titled Submission by The Netherlands on the future of the IPCC. Under the heading of “The IPCC needs to adjust its principles”, KNMI begins:
We believe that limiting the scope of the IPCC to human-induced climate change is undesirable, especially because natural climate change is a crucial part of the total understanding of the climate system, including human-induced climate change.
 As you should know, unless you live in a climatically controlled cave, the KNMI did not mean what you think it meant. One way to spot a denier is to see how they respond to evidence that contradicts what they would like others to believe.  You fail here, Bob.

Life is too short for one of your pithy open letters, Bob.  This one goes on and on and on.  I can't be bothered to pick it all apart so I shall skip to the end.

In closing, Jon, when people imagine climate models, maybe it’s best to think of early generations of CGI (computer generated imagery). A decade or two ago, we’d go to the movies and be amazed at the images on the big screen. And we probably thought some of the video games at that time were also impressive. Looking back at them now, they look hokey.
Climate models used by the IPCC for hindcasting and projections of future climate are at the hokey-looking phase of development. And the more you investigate them, the hokier they look.
You could knock me down with a feather.  Doesn't it strike you as strange that we are at the beginning of this process and that it isn't perfect?  It doesn't seem strange to me because I think I have an idea how science works.  We learn and feed that learning back into what we already know.  Deniers don't learn, don't feed that back in so don't make progress.  Bob, you are at the hokey stage of pointing at things and saying that isn't perfect.  Climate science, on the other hand, is making progress towards a more complete understanding.  And it will do it in spite of the flea bites that you and your cronies inflict.

Jon, if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment on any thread at my blog Climate Observations
Bob, I can think of one.  Why don't you use your retirement to do some serious reading on the topic?  Another: why don't you learn to write at less length and greater precision?

Bob Tisdale
PS: If you should know of a comedian who’s tired of the tripe we’ve been seeing from the catastrophic manmade global warming wing of the climate science community, please let them know I’m looking for a co-author for my next book. Working title: The Oceans Ate My Global Warming. I’m looking for someone to help make it fun to read.
Bob, seriously?  You think Jon Stewart is going to give you the name and address of a comedian to help make your next pdf fun to read.  He doesn't need to.  He could just say take a blue pencil to huge sections of it because you don't half go on.  Secondly, he could tell you to get a better title.  It's a turn off.  A casual reader won't look twice at a title like that.  It looks as if it ought to be witty but you need to know what the book is going to tell you, that energy is being sequestered in the deep ocean rather than in the atmosphere just above the surface, to understand the title.  Besides, readers who do understand that will know your pdf is full of jokes already.  Like the jokes you seem to associate with.

My advice, "Dr" Bob, is to give it up.  The climate is changing and it is changing because of human activities.  That much is easily demonstrated by climate scientists the world over.  Anyone who has watched creationists and intelligent deniers struggle to get themselves heard will know it is not because of a global conspiracy but because their "science" is based on a premise that isn't true: questioning the real science by deniers is not intended to find the truth but to promote an untruth.  It takes little intellect to spot what you and Monckton, Willis, Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and others do.  The ultimate sign of this is simple.  There is plenty of shouting about the consensus at WUWT but no one seems to have done the obvious and repeated the activity of rating the abstracts.  If they did, they know what the outcome would be. 

And of course it is a denier trick to try to confuse the idea of consensus.  It's been around for decades.  The public prefers to know there is a consensus (back to the doctors, Bob) because that means the science is well established.  The reason there is a consensus is because scientists examine the evidence and come around to that point of view (read this by Phil Plait, in fact read many more of his posts because he deals with science as it is, not as you would wish it to be).  It is the evidence, Bob, and that isn't on your side.  Forget the models.  What do the temperature records say.