Posts tagged ‘climategate’

Painting Your Intellectual Opponents as Psychologically Defective

Perhaps some of you have seen studies knocking about from time to time that attempt to correlate one or another political position with various psychological or mental deficiencies.  Probably the most common is "________ (fill in the blank, I have seen this study for both Conservatives and Liberals) have lower IQ or are less educated or more gullible or whatever than their intellectual opponents.  Most folks in the mainstream, fortunately, treat this as the unserious biased ad hominem attack that it is -- it should hardly be a surprise that the folks who look the best in all these studies miraculously match the political views of those doing the study.

However, for those of you who don't follow the climate debate, you may not know that there is a cottage industry among the alarmist / warmist community that cranks out studies that say that skeptics are mentally defective in some way.  I kid you not.  I won't get into it, because those not in the climate debate won't care much and those in the debate have seen this stuff debated to death.  But I thought those of you out of the loop might like to see an example.

A guy named Stephan Lewandowsky has released a series of really egregiously-structured studies around the general theme of climate skeptics being susceptible to conspiracy theories, or conspiracy "ideation" as he puts it.  He has "proved" this in the past by offering a mix of people on the Left and Right a list of conspiracy theories mainly held by people on the Right (e.g. Obama birth certificate) while leaving out almost any of the common conspiracy theories held by the Left.  Then he asks these people which theories they believe, and Surprise!  People on the Right, who overlap a lot with skeptics, believe Rightish conspiracy theories more than do people on the Left. So thus climate skeptics are what they are because they are people who are more susceptible than average to conspiracy ideation.  Yes, this study is as stupid as it sounds -- actually it is more stupid because he did it via Internet poll advertised mainly on alarmist blogs with no controls for people submitting false flag answers.  And like most climate studies, he got some basic statistical calculations wrong.

Anyway, his new study is out and it is just as awesome in its dedication to fail as his prior work

One known element of conspiratorial thinking is its ‘self-sealing’ quality (Keeley 1999, Bale 2007, Sunstein and Vermeule 2009), whereby evidence against a conspiratorial belief is re-interpreted as evidencefor that belief. In the case of ‘climategate’, this self-sealing nature ofconspiratorial belief became evident after the scientists in question wereexonerated by nine investigations in two countries (including various parliamentary and government committees in the U.S. and U.K.; see table1), when those exonerations were re-branded as a ‘whitewash.’ This ‘whitewash’ response can be illustrated by U.S. Representative Sensenbrennerʼs published response to the EPAʼs endangerment finding.

This so grossly oversimplifies the issues involved as to be breathtaking.  Only the most tightly sealed of echo chambers could possible pass this work on to publication.

My Favorite Climategate 2.0 Email (so far)

I am working on a summary post of the new batch of climategate emails, but this is perhaps my favorite.  It is written to Andy Revkin, nominally a reporter for the NY Times but revealed by the new emails to be pretty much the unpaid PR agent of Michael Mann and company.  Over and over, emails from Mann and his cohorts get Revkin to write the articles they want, drop quotes from skeptics from articles, and in general coordinate communications policy.

Anyway, one climate scientist writes Revkin this note

I think the notion of telling the public to prepare for both global warming and an ice age at the same [time] creates a real public relations problem for us.

Amazing that this actually had to be said.

Update:  Revkin is currently an opinion blogger but at the time of the emails he was supposed to be a news reporter at the NYT.

Trashing Science is a Bipartisan Effort

Last week when I wrote this...

This is the whole history of the climate debate, with alarmists trying one technique after another to avoid engagement.  Skeptics are funded by Exxon — Don’t listen to them, they are just shills!  The science is settled — No need for debate!  Skeptics are violent and helped kill Gabriella Giffords — everything they say is hate speech and must be ignored!

... I left one off the list -- that rather than disputing a particular scientific hypothesis,  alarmists like to claim that skeptics are engaging in a "war on science."  I suppose I could ask the author, as she tries to shift the debate from science to politics, exactly who is politicizing science.  Certainly there are skeptical morons in the Republican party who understand none of the issues and knee-jerk oppose the alarmist position.  Just as there are numerous progressive morons who claim to be all about the science while signing petitions to ban dihydrogen monoxide.  When Judith Warner chooses to focus on the morons, rather than the skeptics making scientific arguments, what is she telling us by this choice?  In fact, she tries to take the very existence of the morons as evidence no one is doing fact-based science on the skeptic side, a proposition absurd not only by its tortured logic but also because its so easy to disprove by example.

This anti-science meme has, until recently, actually been a powerful argument in the alarmist arsenal.  Not particularly for its effect on the voters at large, though it certainly helps support the in-group progressive mythology about themselves and their enemies that helps confirm their own smugness.  No, I think for years this has had an effect on scientists outside of the climate community.  Normally such scientists would not wade in to a field they know little about to express an opinion, or, God forbid, sign a petition on issues in that field.  But so many academics were fooled into believing that skeptics were actually engaging in a war on science (a la evolution denying) that they felt the need to support climate alarmists.  Their signatures on petitions did not necesarily mean they agreed with the science, but represented for them a plea of support of science itself.

As scientists from outside the climate community have begun actually looking at the science, or observing the science via the climategate emails, they are horrified by what they see, e.g. the secretiveness, the resistance to replication, and the flat out shoddy science.  Many of them are starting to understand that when they signed these petitions supporting alarmists in the name of science, they were in fact supporting Jenna Jamison in the name of chastity.

By the way, lets not forget which side of this argument began the politicization and ad hominem attacks.   I will offer just this one example, from the Economist way back in 2002 (eight years before the tea party -- and note the key quote is over 20 years old)

Stephen Schneider, [who ironically has the famously corrupt "hide the decline" chart on his personal web page] spoke we suspect not just for himself when he told Discover in 1989: “[We] are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place...To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have...Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” In other words, save science for other scientists, in peer-reviewed journals and other sanctified places. In public, strike a balance between telling the truth and telling necessary lies.

Dangers of a Monoculture -- Reactions to the CRU Emails

Cross-posted from Climate Skeptic:

I am disappointed to see folks like Lord Monkton calling for scientists to go to jail over what has been discovered in the Hadley CRU emails.  No one is going to jail, at least based on what we know so far.  Laws were broken, but of the type that perhaps people lose their jobs but not their freedom.  And demanding that people go to jail just paints skeptics as opportunistic, over-the-top and vindictive.   We sound like the looniest of the alarmists when we say stuff like this.

This is not to say that the emails (as well as the source code, which Steve McIntyre and his readers are starting to dig into) don't give us useful insights about the climate science process.  And what they really point to for me is the danger of a monoculture.

For years, with the media's active participation, criticism of the mainstream scientific position on global warming has been painted as somehow outside the bounds of reasonable discourse.  Skeptics are called "deniers," with the intent to equate them with those who deny the Holocaust.  At every turn, global warming activists with the help of the media, have tried to make it uncomfortable, even impossible, to criticize the science of catastrophic man-made global warming.  In the extreme, this has degenerated into outright threats.

NASA's James Hansen has called for trials of climate skeptics in 2008 for "high crimes against humanity." Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lashed out at skeptics of 2007 declaring "This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors" In 2009, RFK, Jr. also called coal companies "criminal enterprises" and declared CEO's 'should be in jail"¦ for all of eternity."

In June 2009, former Clinton Administration official Joe Romm defended a comment on his Climate Progress website warning skeptics would be strangled in their beds. "An entire generation will soon be ready to strangle you and your kind while you sleep in your beds," stated the remarks, which Romm defended by calling them "not a threat, but a prediction."

In 2006, the eco-magazine Grist called for Nuremberg-Style trials for skeptics. In 2008, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki called for government leaders skeptical of global warming to be thrown "into jail." In 2007, The Weather Channel's climate expert called for withholding certification of skeptical meteorologists.

The examples go on ad infinitum.  Several folks have emailed me and asked why I have not joined the feeding frenzy over the "climategate."  In part, this is because I don't think there is anything in the emails that is a whole lot worse than what many of the actors have been saying publicly.  The media has played along not only because many of its members were sympathetic to the message, but because the catastrophe played well into the "if it bleeds, it leads" culture.  Even when the media was not "picking a winner" in the science, it supported the catastrophist message in its editorial decisions, choosing to cover (for example) ad nauseum a 30-year low in Arctic sea ice but failing to even mention a 30-year high in Antarctic sea ice which occurred on nearly the same day (more here).  Ditto hurricanes, tornadoes, floods droughts, etc "” only events and records in one particular tail of the normal distribution were covered.  Even when they worked to be fair,  the media were frequently criticized by alarmists for  allowing even a mention of the skeptic position in an article otherwise generally supporting the orthodoxy.  The term "false balance" was coined.

The result was a group who were effectively exempt from criticism "” and knew it.

The most amazing thing to watch has been the absolute scorn and obstructionism piled on Steve McIntyre and his readers and partners.  I  have read Steve's work for years, and find it to be incredibly fair and deeply analytical.  I took as one of my early roles at my climate site the explanation to laymen of exactly what McIntyre was talking about in his posts.  He often challenged the climate orthodoxy - which in most scientific disciplines is highly valued, but in climate science is a crime.  In the emails we even see scientists within the monoculture raising the exact same issues that they have blasted McIntyre for "” apparently it is OK to raise such issues as long as 1) you are an insider and 2) such concerns are suppressed in any public document.

Perhaps the single most abusive part of the monoculture has been its misrepresentation of peer review.  Peer review was never meant as a sort of good housekeeping seal of approval on scientific work.  It is not a guarantee of correctness.  It is really an extension of the editorial process "” bringing scientists from relevant fields to vet whether work is really new and different and worthy of publication, to make sure the actual article communicates the work and its findings clearly, and to probe for obvious errors or logical fallacies.

Climate scientists have tried to portray peer review as the end of the process"“  ie, once one of their works shows up in a peer-reviewed journal, the question addressed is "settled."  But his is never how science has worked.  Publication in a peer-reviewed journal is the beginning, not the end.  Once published, scientists attempt alternatively to tear it down or replicate its conclusions.  Only work that has survived years of such torture testing starts to become "settled."

The emails help to shed light on some aspects of peer review that skeptics have suspected for years.  It is increasingly clear that climate scientists in the monoculture have been using peer review to enforce the orthodoxy.  Peer review panels are stacked with members of the club, and authors who challenge the orthodoxy are shut out of publication, while authors within the monoculture use peer review as a shield against future criticism.  We see in the emails members of the monoculture actually working to force editors who have the temerity to publish work critical of the orthodoxy out of their jobs.  We are now learning that when alarmist scientists claim that there is little peer-reviewed science on the skeptic's side, this is like the Catholic Church enforcing a banned books list and then claiming that everything in print supports the Church's position.

History teaches us that whenever we allow a monoculture - whether is be totalitarian one-party rule or enforcing a single state religion, corruption follows.  Without scrutiny of their actions, actors in such monocultures have few checks and little accountability.  Worse, those at the center of such monocultures can become convinced of their own righteousness, such that any action they take in support of the orthodoxy is by definition ethically justified.

This, I think, is exactly what we see at work in the Hadley CRU emails.