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The Science Credibility Bubble 1747

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the save-me-jebus dept.
eldavojohn writes "The real fallout of climategate may have nothing to do with the credibility of climate change. Daniel Henninger thinks it's a bigger problem for the scientific community as a whole and he calls out the real problem as seen through the eyes of a lay person in an opinion piece for the WSJ. Henninger muses, 'I don't think most scientists appreciate what has hit them,' and carries on in that vein, saying, 'This has harsh implications for the credibility of science generally. Hard science, alongside medicine, was one of the few things left accorded automatic stature and respect by most untrained lay persons. But the average person reading accounts of the East Anglia emails will conclude that hard science has become just another faction, as politicized and "messy" as, say, gender studies.' While nothing interesting was found by most scientific journals, he explains that the attacks against scientists in these leaked e-mails for proposing opposite views will recall the reader to the persecution of Galileo. In doing so, it will make the lay person unsure of the credibility of all sciences without fully seeing proof of it, but assuming that infighting exists in them all. Is this a serious risk? Will people even begin to doubt the most rigorous sciences like Mathematics and Physics?"
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The Science Credibility Bubble

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  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @11:49AM (#30388686)

    When I was a kid, I used to genuinely believe that humans were on a path to greater wisdom, more profound discourse, and perfect knowledge.

    Lately, I just see a bunch of power-hungry assholes doing their utmost to discredit intelligent thought and dumb-down the world around them, so they can continue on an unimpeded path toward greater assholism.

  • Re:What (Score:5, Interesting)

    by h2oliu (38090) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @11:58AM (#30388800)

    I would argue that people don't know when to doubt, and when to believe.

    Which scientists do they believe when it comes to Autism and vaccines? Which scientist to believe when it comes to global warming? It is just they have more insight into the infighting that is present into the community now.

    The infighting has ALWAYS been there. When I was in graduate school I never saw a larger bunch of petty people whining over who was the bigger fish in there tiny ponds.

  • by Remus Shepherd (32833) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @11:58AM (#30388806) Homepage

    I work in a field closely associated with climatology (satellite remote sensing), and I work with climatologists. And I agree with the article on one point: We really do not understand how big a deal this 'climategate' is.

    The worst bits in that email dump are petty squabbles between researchers and critics. That's standard -- often critics are dishonest people who are attacking the science in order to advance a political agenda, and that is very frustrating to someone who wants to do honest science. Yes, tempers flare in private emails. Scientists are human. If people are going to lose faith in science because scientists are human...then we as a race are doomed, in my opinion.

    As for the results of the CSU climate research, they're not in any doubt. Every criticism of them has been answered, and there are other studies that agree with the CSU results. So attack the scientists for being human if you must, but the science is sound and must be heeded.

    I really do not understand why this has blown up into such a conflagration. Anyone who gives up on science because of this trifling matter is welcome to go back to the dark ages and live their short, wholesome, science-free life.

  • by BlueParrot (965239) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:01PM (#30388870)

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."
    - Bertrand Russel

    As evidence of the validity of Russel's insight, consider the people who are cocksure enough to assume it is they who are the doubters. They will even quarrel amongst each other about which of them is the intelligent, when in reality they are all idiots.

  • by AshtangiMan (684031) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:02PM (#30388886)
    Yes. Math is a construct, or a tool that assists in scientific pursuits. I reacted to that last sentence and came in to find out if anyone else did. So where do you draw the line? If we look at some well understood mathematical principle (let's say Pathagoreum's theorum), is it any less valid as a theory because it is confined to a human abstraction of the universe (geometry)? Ok, perhaps less valid is the wrong wording, but is that not still a science? It is testable, repeatable, and started with an empirical understanding. I still fall on the not a science side, but have trouble justifying that even to myself.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:03PM (#30388894)

    Oh, I'm sorry. I guess that we can't really thank science for medicine, computers, airplanes, the food on our table. I guess that one murderous programmer working on an open source file system means all of Linux is shit, too. And you know what? I got taken for a ride buying speculative real estate in Florida. I guess this means that you can't make money in real estate, that the whole thing's a rotten idea. Incidentally, I threw out the bath water. Where'd the baby go?

    I'll buy that argument once religious whackadoodles promise to renounce their faith because of televangelists and pedo-priests.

  • by AlphaBit (1244464) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:03PM (#30388900)
    "And in doing so will make the lay person unsure of the credibility of ALL sciences without fully seeing proof of it but assuming that infighting exists in them all. Is this a serious risk?"

    No, having doubt and skepticism is called being scientific. I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've seen complaints that "lay" people aren't scientifically critical enough. Maybe if people actually questioned what "scientists" tell them, fewer would fall victim to the bottomless sea of unproven alternative medical treatments.

    And infighting does exists in all sciences, at least if it's an active field.
  • Re:Open source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Codger (96717) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:05PM (#30388958)

    Sure, you can go through the proofs and run some experiments - if you're a mathematician or a scientist. For the average Joe, these activities are as foreign as eating boiled locusts for dinner. Average Joe will doubt (and already does doubt) because he lacks the training to understand how math and science work. And average Joes outnumber and outvote mathematicians and scientists by a large margin, and end up electing the scientific ignoramuses who dominate one of the US national political parties.

  • by stevelinton (4044) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:15PM (#30389130) Homepage

    Climate Science is a STUDY, much like Social Studies, Political "Science", and most (but not all) fields of Psychology. You cannot experiment on Climate on the timeframes or scales these "scientists" are suggesting. You cannot produce a hypothesis, alter variables, and confirm or deny your ideas.

    Would you also call astronomy "star studies"?

  • Re:Yes, Here's Why (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:15PM (#30389146)

    The argument from incredulity is often applied to science by the layperson. You don't need an opponent or a debate to use a logical fallacy. The fact that the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case had to happen proves that people question science regardless of it's validity.

    Exactly. There has never been, nor ought their be, an automatic trust of anything, including science. By definition of "layperson", we do not know and are not read-up on, the exact arguments for an against any particular theory. It has long been the case that unscrupulous individuals will try to sell a product or an idea "because science says so". This is behind every diet fad, every exercise machine, every crackpot "business methodology", that we've been exposed to for centuries (see: snake oil salesman).

    The reason that climate change has been resisted and argued by so many, for so long, is exactly this. We do not trust the people interpreting this for us at the national level. We see a group of people who have financial motivation to resist, a group of people who have financial motivation to sell green-wash products, and a group of people who advocate shucking technology and returning to some insane, idealized view of nature, where man and animal and nature all get along, and don't eat or kill each other. All "climategate" has done, is confuse us further. We still lack faith in science, we still do not trust any of the people arguing, and we have good reason for this lack of trust.

  • by gowen (141411) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:20PM (#30389236) Homepage Journal

    As for the results of the CSU climate research, they're not in any doubt. Every criticism of them has been answered, and there are other studies that agree with the CSU results. So attack the scientists for being human if you must, but the science is sound and must be heeded.

    But science is hard to understand, and human weakness and temptation is something everyone understands all too easily. So, the fact that the science is right is lost beneath the crowing of the right-wing bloggers, and the truth gets lost beneath the "truthiness".

    The media has told us that popularity is truth, and so as more people who take the easy "global warming is a conspiracy" line, that is treated as if it invalidates the science. Media coverage of science is almost uniformly terrible, and no-one has the slightest, because scare stories and conspiracies are easy to package than nuance and subtlety. Fortunately, scientists have rarely needed popular acclaim, and have never received it, so nothing will really change.

  • Re:Open source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rwv (1636355) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:21PM (#30389250) Homepage Journal

    If you can falsify any of the theories by experiment, people will pay attention to you, regardless of politics.

    I'd like to see you "Design an experiment" that falsifies the global warming hypothesis. Go out an get yourself a model Sun and then figure out how to simulate an experimental and control version of Earth. My understanding is that entropy/chaos and imperfect assumptions in any such model can lead to spectacularly divergent results. So until a realistic Sun/Earth computer model exists, a true "global warming experiment" can't be run.

  • by stevelinton (4044) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:23PM (#30389286) Homepage

    The more science is viewed with skepticism the better the science will be in my opinion.

    Fair enough, but sometimes you have to make a decision now, based on what you know now. If you allow your "skepticism" to turn into "I'll make decisions based on the theory that is most personally convenient to me, even if the current evidence, while not conclusive, weighs against it" then you are not just being skeptical, you're being foolish.

    Every serious scientific review that has looked at the evidence carefully (and at the raw data and at the analysis procedures, etc.) has concluded that the balance of evidence strongly supports AGW and strongly supports action now to curb emissions.

    It is possible that in ten years time the balance of evidence will shift (or even tomorrow) but for the decisions we have to make today, that is irrelevant.

  • Re:What (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:24PM (#30389292)

    Indeed. Personally, I would like to see a bit more skepticism when it comes to science. As in "Hey, show me some data and explain to me why what you say should work before I take your word for it." Or at least go out and do some of your own research before accepting something from some random scientist. Too often news organizations quote someone with some professorial or scientific title and pretend that the quote has value. Unless I know that person and have been able to assess their credibility in some way beforehand, they could have just as well quoted my barber. This presentation issue is a failing of news organizations though. Any person can still do their own filtering.

    What we're getting now though is that ad hominem attacks on scientists (of the sort of "You work for institution XYZ, you're automatically disqualified from contributing.") is seen as valid approach in any discussion on any topic. This is complete idiocy, and a mark of the intellectually lazy. To some extent, the public press and scientists themselves contributed to the problem. The press has elevated scientists to the status of oracles, and the public was happy to believe the oracles. Many scientists thrived on that elevated status, and did little to dispel it. Now that the oracles have been shown to be as human as everybody, the public is engaging in a massive back-lash. To some extent, it's to be expected.

    But no matter how explainable the situation, there is a fundamental problem if science is being put on the same level as high-school English Lit (see posters above for ready examples) - and that's going to cause more problems down the line. Sadly , I find this attitude is mostly prevalent in the US - and various voodoo-practicing countries.

  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:26PM (#30389346) []

    It's hard to even explain seemingly obvious scientific truisms when it takes a 300 year history lesson on one topic.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:34PM (#30389500)

    It's amazing the poster can claim with a stright face "nothing interesting" was found, when the top Slashot post in the very article he links to has a very long debate covering the source code [] that was released.

    One very "interesting" item from that is this code:

    ; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
    2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor

    Which to me, is pretty damning stuff. Yes if you look currently that recalculation is not used (in that module anyway) but that code should NEVER have been typed and is a giant red flag something weird is going on. Yes I mock up sample data in my own code, but never have I taken real data and applied varying magic constants across the dataset. At the very least you'd expect to see a source for these amazing numbers quoted in the code - the only information we have is that it is "a correction for the decline" which is the heart of what worries people about the emails too.

    Furthermore, the use of this is commented out NOW. But when exactly was it commented out? What datasets were published when this code was running? You can't say "look it does nothing now" because at some time it was doing something. And that is the heart of the problem, without data or the code visible no-one can know. So all the output they have produced is simply not science, even if parts of it happen to be accurate - because we have no way to independently discern what is fact and what is manipulated speculation.

  • Re:Open source (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gowen (141411) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:34PM (#30389504) Homepage Journal

    Not saying this is what happened to the climate data...

    It is. The unprocessed data was on tape and punchcards, and then the climate unit moved to a building with less storage space, and the unprocessed data got chucked in the landfill. Of course, all this was in the mid-1980s, a fact the conspiracy nuts have a tendency to omit.

  • Re:What (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:35PM (#30389532)

    It's not always so simple to see if the observations disprove a theory. Like a theory that states that chemical X causes biological response Y, but only if genes from set Z aren't working at full capacity, which could be caused by one or more of 1000 possible agents (W).
        How do you test for that, when reliable tests for W may not exist, some of them may not be known, and direct experimentation is ethically questionable or economically infeasible?
        There is anecdotal and circumstantial evidence for this kind of thing in medicine, environmental science, etc. on a regular basis, but we can't gather sufficient evidence to show anything with statistical confidence.


    P.S. the scenario posed is an abstraction of the autism/vaccine question. The data gathered and statistics used couldn't provide evidence there was a link even if it were true - the experimental design is too poor and the data are unreliable.

  • Modern-Day Galileo (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:36PM (#30389550)
    Some of us have noticed this about cosmology for a long, long time now. Global warming is just a trendier issue so it gets noticed first, that's all.

    “Certain results of observational cosmology cast critical doubt on the foundations of standard cosmology but leave most cosmologists untroubled. Alternative cosmological models that differ from the Big Bang have been published and defended by heterodox scientists; however, most cosmologists do not heed these. This may be because standard theory is correct and all other ideas and criticisms are incorrect, but it is also to a great extent due to sociological phenomena such as the ‘snowball effect’ or ‘groupthink’. We might wonder whether cosmology, the study of the Universe as a whole, is a science like other branches of physics or just a dominant ideology.”
    —Martin Lopez-Corredoira, astrophysicist. []

    Some of you more knee-jerk types would also benefit from this article [] because some of you use some really weak arguments.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:39PM (#30389614)

    It basically has. We've only seen incremental refinements, not any major developments.

    Many of today's computing devices, 40 years later, are derived directly from a CPU architecture that was initially developed in the early 1970s. Sure, today's processors can perform more operations per second and are constructed with improved fabrication techniques and materials, but there's been little change.

    Hell, we're still using C for any serious software development, which has seen relatively little change over the same time period. And most of these programs are running on UNIX-like systems, or systems very obviously influenced by CP/M and VMS, all of which date from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    The Internet is, for the most part, based on technologies developed back then. And I'd hardly call the World Wide Web all that spectacular. It has shown to be one of the most poorly-implemented and poorly-designed networking technologies ever, even if it is widely used. Trust me, in the mid-1990s, we were not seriously expecting to still be using JavaScript over 15 years later.

    We can't get into space any better than we could then. The Shuttle proved to be a disappointment, so we use Soviet technology from the 1960s to get to the ISS (which is perhaps our only significant accomplishment of the past 40 years).

    Radios today are basically the same as those from the 1960s. We've seen minor improvements in television technology, but nothing groundbreaking. Old CRT TVs from the 1970s still look better than some modern plasma TVs, for instance.

    Our transportation is virtually the same. All we've seen are some minor safety improvements. But the fuel efficiency of today's cars is even below those of 30 and 40 years ago, in some cases. And our public transit systems are a mere shadow of what they once were in the 1930s.

    We've made very little progress during the past half-century.

  • by Carik (205890) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:46PM (#30389786)

    Climategate only proves that the conservolibertarians are capable of manufacturing controversies out of nothing. There is no difference between "Climategate" and the "War on Christmas" or the supposed conspiracy run by "Darwinist evilutionists".

    There is a difference, actually. There are a few (very few) respectable scientists who aren't convinced by the data, or at least argue that the results will be milder than the majority are predicting. They aren't big names, and they're not the ones going to the newspapers, but they're out there. I was in a class with one of them, although I can't remember his name, a few years ago. His take was essentially this:

    1) We know the climate is changing,
    2) We know humanity is releasing greenhouse gases,
    3) We also know that the climate has cycled through hot and cold periods as far back as we can find data.

    The three points are almost certainly connected, and we may or may not have a perfectly clear understanding of how. The important thing is that the greenhouse gases are mostly also bad for other reasons, so we ought to start limiting their production. Eventually we may be able to prove that they are or are not driving climate change.

  • So unnecessary (Score:3, Interesting)

    by snowwrestler (896305) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:47PM (#30389800)

    People concerned about the policy proposals currently being put forward have focused way too much energy on questioning the scientific findings of current and recent warming. It's so unnecessary because scientists understand, and will readily admit, that there is much greater uncertainty when the models are run forward to predict future decades.

    The models can be tuned and validated against historical data, then different forcings backed out to assign relative significance. This is where you get statements like (paraphrasing) "70% of recent warming has been due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, with 90% confidence." Some estimate of confidence is possible because of the validation against historical empirical data and climate reconstructions. Independent lines of inquiry can reinforce each others' findings. This is solid science, and where the "climategate" PR stunt falls down. The e-mails provide good fodder for insinuation, but no answer to the quantitative agreement seen in independent lines of study.

    But when we run the models forward, there is not yet any empirical confirmation. Distinct models, using distinct data sets, can be seen to agree to some degree--but how much of that reflects reality, and how much reflects common assumptions? Every forward-looking run must assume some set of future values for human activity and natural processes, including ones that are parameterized (like cloud formation) that might advance beyond currently validated bounds. The uncertainty grows when the models are asked to bring their predictions down to local conditions--the distinction between predicting global average climate, and predicting long-term local weather. Will Kansas get hotter or colder, wetter or drier? There is quite a bit of uncertainty in such predictions--again, as working scientists clearly understand.

    Layering on the biological response to these uncertain predictions creates even more uncertain predictions. One recent study at Woods Hole seemed to indicate that some animals might respond to ocean acidification by growing thicker shells. I'm not taking that one study as gospel, but it is worth considering that we do not fully understand biological systems and how they will respond to changing climate conditions.

    Finally we get to the societal and economic layer, which sits, at least partially, atop uncertain biological predictions. Global warming may causes shifts in where certain crops can be grown--these changes will exact a cost on human society. Will they also confer a benefit? It's not scientific heresy to think that changes to climate can produce benefits as well as costs--although perhaps not to the same subset of the population. We may have to invest substantially in new areas and ways of farming, in new transportation routes. It's not inconceivable that the end result could be greater efficiencies and healthier produce. And of course there is also substantial error (to say the least) in multi-decade economic models.

    The greatest threat is probably sea level rise. Wealthy nations might make the decision to invest in mitigation, rather than prevention. It is possible to raise or move cities, and to build barriers to keep out the sea. Such decisions are policy, but must be informed by the best scientific understanding we have--but that understanding must include understanding of uncertainty.

    But instead what we see is a concentrated dose of PR and ignorance, attempting to raise doubts about scientifc conclusions about climate change that are well-supported (like whether human emissions can change the climate). You see people trying to simultaneously point out problematic sitings of temperature stations, and demonize working scientists for adjusting temperature data to minimize the error due to such siting. You see people repeatedly gesturing toward the sun, when numerous direct measurements indicate flat or declining insolation over the recent decades. They come off looking stupid, and smart people dismiss them.

    It's a shame because lost in the battle ove

  • Laypeople. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:48PM (#30389814) Journal

    You're assuming that everyone who has an opinion about this will actually be informed, will take the time to look through those proofs, reproduce those experiments, etc.

    Read this. []

    In particular, look at that graph. Are you frightened yet?

    Evolution is one of the crowing triumphs of modern science. It has more evidence than any other theory I know of, from many branches of science -- the "tree of life" is repeated, exactly, in genetics, in the fossil record, in the geologic record, everywhere we care to look for it. It informs pretty much all of modern medicine and biology, and it is a humbling look at our origins and our true status with respect to other life on the planet. It is beautiful, important, and solidly supported by fact.

    Even the Catholic Church has officially embraced evolution, and the big bang theory, as truth.

    And a third of Americans reject evolution outright. These aren't people who just aren't sure -- they say it is definitely false.

    Want to guess why?

    Because they feel it threatens their religion. Because if evolution is true, the Earth (and certainly the Universe) cannot be six thousand years old, and they must accept that they are descended from apes -- or that, by any honest classification, humans are still a species of ape. Because they cannot accept the fact that at least some part of that religion is a fairy tale, or at least a metaphor.

    The problem is, in order to reject evolution, they find they have to doubt just about every legitimate scientist who has an opinion on the subject, and keep themselves willfully ignorant. Furthermore, in order to believe the earth is six thousand years old, they pretty nearly have to stick their fingers in their ear and go "la la la la" in order to avoid pretty much every branch of science that has anything to say about the subject.

    That is, if they are right, even the most basic grade-school cosmology must be wrong -- there are objects more than six thousand light years away from us. Geology must also be wrong -- not merely carbon-dating (which is already quite rigorous), but the kind of time scales modern geology suggests. And of course, modern medicine must be wrong -- our understanding of things like antibiotics relies on evolution to work.

    And yet, they will feel qualified to address these issues, to challenge real scientists with such arguments as, "That's microevolution. Show me one 'kind' turning into another, and I'll believe it." When this fails to get them anywhere, they again close their eyes, ears, and minds, and ultimately turn to the very simplistic, reassuring, and ultimately wrong words of Ken Ham: "Who should you believe -- God or the scientists?"

    The problem here is not just the validity of evolution. It is that in order to believe what the creationist wants to believe, they have to reject huge chunks of modern science. In order to continue to be relevant, they have consistently attempted to get their strange ideas taught in school -- not just as a philosophy, or a class in its own right, but as part of science.

    And it's not just america -- 22% of Canadians [] are creationists. Something like a third of Americans are.

    So, the short answer is, yes, laypeople absolutely will doubt whatever they feel they have a problem with. If they doubt evolution, cosmology, Einsteinian relativity, geology, archeology, paleontology, etc, just so they can believe a certain way, it's certainly not a stretch that they would doubt anything that conflicts with their actual (polluting, wasteful) lifestyle.

    And unfortunately, even when 99.9% of scientists agree on something, it doesn't help if they can't convince the public -- because laypeople are also voters.

    We need another Carl Sagan.

  • by dlt074 (548126) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:50PM (#30389856)
    so you're saying that global warming is so complex and hard to understand that scientists who are used to doing real science need some sort of special scientific method to analyze the global warming data? only enlightened bought and paid for "scientists" are capable of reading the "proper" answers from the holy data? the climate changes over time. always has always SHOULD. it's not my fault and i don't want to pay for something natural and necessary. i especially don't want to handy cap humanity because of a bunch of whack jobs who think the sky is falling.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:52PM (#30389916)

    That's when you will find that it is all a BIG LIE.

    What arrogance and hubris that these tiny humans think that they can influence the weather one way or another...

    The Global Climate Change scam is all about funding someone's pet research, socialism and redistributing wealth.


  • by DamonHD (794830) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:55PM (#30389960) Homepage

    Not all scientists (a) are American (b) have fixed party-political views or allegiance (c) use the word "liberal" like you do above or associate it with the same concepts, etc, etc, etc.

    Just as a data point, Mrs Thatcher (UK Prime Minister 1979 to 1990) was a chemist and apparently was brought up a strict Methodist. Where does that appear in your world map?

    My point being: scientists are not a homogenised entity, distributed along a small number of dimensions. There is an awful lot of variety amongst the humans that practise science. Generalisations are generally misleading.



  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:56PM (#30389976)

    There is the difference, just as people have been distrusting some sciences recently there has also been an increase in intellectual elites showing distain for the, lets call 'em Plebes. I think it stems from being walled up in Universities and not having to work for a living.

    Someone in the real world that works on cars, develops deodorant or makes heart medication doesn't say "I'm a Scientist so I'm right!" They say "I'm an automative engineer, or a chemist that works on medication, or I'm a chemist that designs right guard." Its like the BASF commercials here in the US, "Helping Make Products Better."

    All too often in the debates about GCC someone who is a climate researcher will go "Well I'm a climate researcher so I'm right and the people that don't agree with me are idiots." Yea, not the best way to approach people. /Disclaimer, I spent the last 6 years at a University not working for a living, now I'm out doing real work again.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:05PM (#30390138)

    I can link too: []

    My link is better than yours! It does not rely on group think and manipulated data! Thhpt!

    If they so drastically manipulated data from Australia, what else have they done... this is why access to raw data is so vital, and why things that are based on raw data we cannot see simply cannot be trusted (especially given the penchant from the emails we have seen to shut out people going off-message).

    Thanks for giving me an opportunity to shed even more light on the disturbing revelations from the data and code (which matter far more than the emails).

  • by Alaren (682568) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:07PM (#30390184)

    I really like this sentence from your link:

    In the humanities, one finds theories whose subject matter does not (only) concern empirical data, but rather ideas. Such theories are in the realm of philosophical theories as contrasted with scientific theories. A philosophical theory is not necessarily scientifically testable through experiment.

    I think people make an (often unexpressed) distinction between experimental science, and observational or computational science. Large-scale sciences like climatology and astronomy suffer from an inability to isolate variables or to yield "reproducible results." They might yield reproducible observations, but even this is not necessarily the case (e.g. an radiation burst from some portion of the sky might conceivably never occur again, and so secondary evidence of the phenomenon must be sought). We can "build models," but these yield approximations and while they are helpful, they are clearly distinguishable from direct experimentation.

    It is disingenuous to say, in effect, "Your cellphone works, therefore global warming is real," or "The math is good, therefore dark matter exists." The science is different. Somewhat ironically, the philosophical dominance of empiricism ("Show Me") makes observational or computational science extremely challenging. Until we isolate dark matter, there will always be doubters. And short of a massive global disaster like something out of a Hollywood film, there will always be people who doubt that global warming is either (A) real or (B) anything to worry about.

    I see a lot of comments here crying foul, leveling insults at anyone who thinks they are "expert enough" to question climatologists, making bigoted remarks about this religious group or that political ideology... but those same arguments apply in reverse. You can isolate oxygen, show its effect on a candle or a toad. You can make electricity and calculate trajectories and show people.

    But you can't show them global warming, at least not yet. You can only argue for its existence by indirect evidence, making predictions about the future that sometimes fail to be true--which sounds suspiciously like religion. Until you can predict the weather with the same reasonably unerring accuracy with which we predict projectile trajectories, the science isn't good enough. Which is a little bit scary, when you consider the potential problems if global warming is real and we realize that too late! So I certainly think it is worth understanding better. But you can't call it a "done deal" when stuff like "Climategate" would appear to suggest otherwise.

    That doesn't mean people are losing their faith in science. Kind of the opposite, really. They're just holding it to a standard some sciences are not yet mature enough to furnish.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:20PM (#30390450)

    The worst problems are evading a legitimate FOIA request

    You know why dont you? Because the specific data in question was under contract at that time between the scientists and the company they got the data from. The scientists were not allowed to give away the private data for free. The deniers knew this, and were trying to get the data specifically to void their contract, and to disrupt the work of the scientists by destroying their access to data. They had no other reason to need that information. Furthermore, that data is now public. Furthermore, it was not a FOIA request, thats an American law that doesn't apply to English citizens. FURTHERMORE, the government agents working on that request agreed with the scientists that it was NOT a legitimate request, and had no problem with rejecting it.

    coercing journals to not publish the works of "skeptics", and excluding "skeptic" literature from the IPCC record.

    Say you were a scientist researching lung cancer, and there was another scientist who worked for the tobacco companies, who consistently published results that you found questionable denying any link. In the peer review process, would you approve their work, even though you found it wrong? After a consistent pattern of this, would you grumble in private emails to your friends? And while it is troubling that any scientist would talk about suppressing alternate viewpoints, there has been NO evidence that they actually did suppress those views.

  • Re:Yes, Here's Why (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:29PM (#30390616)

    You aren't trusting science, you're trusting the institution. You trust that people out there are working to ensure the safety of the environment you live in. You don't know how, you don't know why, and a few people don't properly understand the extents.

    It's not science that you're thinking about, mostly it's about the fact that you do what you do every day and nothing bad has happened. Possibly secondarily is the checks and balances that go in to building safe products. You don't question the science that led you there, and a few people, if they get whiff of the methodology DO lose trust (see H1N1 vaccine drama).

  • Re:Yes, Here's Why (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:39PM (#30390800)

    However, for a long time what the lay person thought when they heard "Scientist say X" was "Huh, that's pretty neat" or "Man, I need to change what I'm doing" etc. Most people recognize that science is not perfect, but most people also believe the science of today is better than the science of yesterday.

    With the so-called "Climategate" (and why the fuck is everything compared to Watergate? They aren't even close to the same thing! anyway...), the water has been muddied, and just about everything a scientist says for the next few years will be taken with a much larger grain of salt. Now people think "Maybe the old science was better, and the new science has been twisted for personal agendas?"

    It doesn't really matter that these scientists didn't actually manipulate the data - they were talking about doing it, and since it's the scientists themselves we trust as impartial researchers to give us sound data. If the scientists are untrustworthy, then the data is less trustworthy as well.

    It isn't really a bad thing either, people are people, people have agendas, most scientists do good work without their political or social biases get in the way, but such biases will ALWAYS color the research a scientists does to some small degree. It is unavoidable, but if we recognize it we can put such biases in their proper place.

    Lastly, scientists who discuss manipulating data, or who are caught purposefully manipulating data, should pretty much be ostricized from the scientific community if we are to restore faith in the community as a whole. Police yourselves, don't defend these assholes, and we'll all be better off.

  • by Killall -9 Bash (622952) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:43PM (#30390882)
    Your average blue-collar idiot is smart enough to detect circular logic. i.e. AGW is real because we see higher temperatures, and the temperatures numbers are fudged to show a warming trend because we know AWG is happening and we need to prove it to the idiot masses.

    Your average blue-collar idiot is also smart enough to see a conflict of interest... such as it not being in Jiffy Lube's best interest to tell you that your car doesn't need an oil change. What do climatologist do for a living other than telling us the sky is falling? Do they study the changes in the Earth's climate over billions of years? No, geologists do that. When geologists start telling me its time to panic, I'll panic.
  • Re:Open source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cajun Hell (725246) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:46PM (#30390938) Homepage Journal

    So until a realistic Sun/Earth computer model exists, a true "global warming experiment" can't be run.

    The purpose of science is to create and confirm/falsify that model; it can't use that model as a basis for experiments. Nobody is ever going to confirm or falsify a global warming hypothesis using this approach, because if their simulation doesn't get the result they want, they'll just say the model wasn't realistic enough.

    With weather science, we're at a point somewhere in between Copernicus and Kepler. We have a basic idea that appears consistent with the observations, so we're likely (but maybe not) on the right track, but we have lots of nagging details that keep us from having an accurate enough model to really propose a theory. I think it might end up being so complex that we never (even a thousand years from now) quite nail it down with enough precision that we can say, "The temperature will be n.i degrees at this time next month."

    What we do have, though, are parts of the model. We can do an experiment in a flask and see how the gasses in the flask can influence its ability to absorb/reflect/etc energy. If someone thinks this isn't going to a factor in the ultimate (possibly unattainable) model for weather, I'd love to hear why.

    Was Copernicus a scientist? I can't give a satisfying answer to that one, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say he was doing good work. ;)

  • by secondhand_Buddah (906643) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:46PM (#30390954) Homepage Journal
    I think the issue here is that someone like Al Gores makes a film full of factual inaccuracies, wins a Nobel peace prize for his efforts and is lauded by the pro Climate change scientists.
    The scientists should actually have pointed out the inaccuracies in the video, but they didn't. So when average Joe like me sees this, what do I use to draw my conclusions? Well its not rocket science - Al Gore talks rubbish and the scientists still support him. Where does that leave the credibility of the scientists? Well in my book, up the creek without a paddle.
    As far as I am concerned, this is an engineered crisis to manipulate people to start being more conservative with their energy consumption, while moving towards using sustainable and renewable forms of energy and manufacturing. While I am all for the objective, I object being lied to and coerced, and will never be able consciously align myself ethically with people who believe that they have the right to behave in such a manner.
  • by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:59PM (#30391178)


    Answer this: []

    Answer this:

    2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor
    if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,'Oooops!'
    ---Some code removed here for brevity.
    ; Now normalise w.r.t. 1881-1960
    ---Some code removed here for brevity.

    This is not a trifling matter. There are serious consequences to accepting the AGW theory.

    I eagerly await your answers...

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:01PM (#30391224)

    Would people stop trying to pretend like each and every email must indicate fraud for there to be any fraud?

    Considering that what is being claimed is a global conspiracy by almost all climatologists to stifle dissent and push a fraudulent theory of AGCC, then yes, I would expect that the vast majority of emails deal with how to silence critics, distort hundreds of data sets, bribe politicians, newspapers and other shenanigans.

    Instead, what I find is a few emails that are politically stupid, and some statistical verbiage that means nothing without context.

    As someone else said: it's like accusing someone of genocide, then only finding a nerf gun during a home search. It's a bit of a letdown.

  • by Theovon (109752) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:05PM (#30391314)

    I'm a scientist, and my father was before me. Between the two of us, we've encounted an innumerable number of total boobs who call themselves "scientists."

    We scientists like to go on and on about how stupid lay people are regarding science. And it's true. They are stupid about science.

    But scientsts are people too and just as often just as stupid about science. You see, we're humans, we make mistakes, and we're motivated by our political views and our desire to further our careers. There really is no such thing as an objective scientist, and the main thing that keeps the whole community in line is peer review, and that works because every scientists wants to bury his competitors. Other scientists compete for grant money, and your main weapons are getting on review committees and poking holes in other people's articles. The articles that get published are the ones that are better science but also the ones that offend the politics and agendas of the fewest reviewers. Scientists also want to more favorably review their friends' works, and even in double-blind reviews, they figure who is who.

    The ideal scientist tries to disprove his own work. The real scientist does just enough of this to try to ensure his work gets published. Hell, we even use the review process to vet our work just as much as we try to do it ourselves. When submitting a journal paper, the main question isn't "is this good science, novel and interesting" but "have I worded it cleverly enough to trick the reviewers into thinking it doesn't offend their biases." In the world of "science", the primary motivating factors are publishing, publishing, and publishing. Oh, and money -- to fund the research you need to do in order to publish.

    Conferences REALLY show you what it's all about. Yes, there are very interesting presentation sessions. We people who enjoy science go to these and learn something. But what's really telling is what happens BETWEEN sessions. Do scientists go to lunch and talk about science? A little. But mostly, the socializing is all about getting noticed and meeting the big-wigs in your field. Oh, and grant money. Most of us struggle to get the once-in-a-lifetime NSF grant, while the REALLY big guys have money coming out their ears. If they like you, they'll recommend you and give you some of their cast-offs.

    Don't kid yourselves, people. This isn't some utopia of god-like minds creating the future here. Most scientists are just average people who just happened to end up in that career and are clever enough to climb the right ladders and end up in the good-old-boys-club.

    Am I surprised at all that the global warming people look really bad right now? No. Not at all. They weren't careful enough, made very human mistakes, and didn't do transparent-enough science.

    Frankly, the scientific community NEEDS this kind of bubble-burst. For far too long, scientists (and physicians too) have enjoyed the same status that the priesthood once had, and we've come to rest on our laurels. For too long, we've expected laypeople to just "believe our conclusions, because it's too complicated for you to understand it," which is the exact same thing that caused the Catholic church to fall from the power they once had. Scientists, like priests, are our mediators between us and God, except this time, God is an equally nebulous thing called "Science".

    Just like the priests used to perform sermons in Latin long past the point where anyone understood, scientists obfuscate their knowledge in jargon that few even in their own fields understand. (Some reviewers are even intimitidated into giving a good review by thinking they're not smart enough to get what you wrote.) Yes, there is most certainly a time and a place for using semantically dense terminology, equations, and the like. But scientists also have a duty to their paritioners to teach the science that they have discovered. There are a few scientists out there who take it upon themselves to help laypeople to understand, by writing

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:09PM (#30391384)

    As I scientist myself I can't understand how anybody calling themselves a scientist can refuse to provide raw data and methodology used to obtain any derived results. Those that did that are totally discredited IMHO. I mean c'mon - you just can't do that. Playing w/peer review on the other hand, tell me something new...

  • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:24PM (#30391632) Homepage Journal

    If this is all an attempt to cut global pollution, fine that is a good thing.

    Which it's obviously not, because what it does is re-classify CO2 as a pollutant, which it is not. Has anybody studied how reducing CO2 concentrations back to 1940's levels will affect crop yields, which have increased significantly since then? Yes, there have been plenty of advances in technology and know-how that have improved farming in the last 70 years, but surely the concentrations of such a critical component of photosynthesis as CO2 must have some effect on yields as well. So will our attempts to "solve" the Global Warming "crisis" have other unintended consequences like ... starvation? The hysteria that led to the outright ban on DDT caused millions of more deaths from malaria, so there is history of things like that happening. And this time the offensive chemical is a basic component of all life.

    And what about all the real pollution, that we have much better control over? Are we ignoring doing something about the obvious issues with our critical waterways because of some prediction from computer simulators? And how many of the assumptions that went into those climate models are accurate, and how many are way off from reality []? Shouldn't we ask for some accurate predictions out of those models before we assume that all the theory behind them are correct?

  • Re:Open source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by B1oodAnge1 (1485419) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:24PM (#30391640)

    Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He's not in at the moment - minor family crisis.

    Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same?

    Yeah... that's probably just a typo right?

    look for yourself: []

  • by Rising Ape (1620461) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:33PM (#30391770)

    But your average person doesn't care enough to study it in enough detail to really grasp it. Simplified explanations are fine, and rather easier to grasp than for climate science than for quantum electrodynamics. The trouble is that the FUD brigade can throw enough misinformation around that people don't know what to believe, and they're not qualified or inclined to study it in depth for themselves. Neither am I, and I care about the issue more than the average person and at least have a scientific background. So most people go off trust, and casting doubt on that is a very effective tactic, and I think that's what we're seeing here.

    I don't think that scientists have pushed the emotional angle. I don't remember seeing any anyway, though I'd welcome being corrected. That's mostly the preserve of the environmental groups.

  • About That Data (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sycodon (149926) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:35PM (#30391816)

    Interesting thing about the NASA Data. Check this graph from NASA []

    This shows that virtually all of the warming seems to come from their "corrections".

    Seems this would have a difficult time passing the smell test.

  • Re:Yes, Here's Why (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BobMcD (601576) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:53PM (#30392100)

    In a networking analogy, it's RIPE, ARIN and the other registrars facing people calling them chicken little for pointing out IPv4 exhaustion and suggesting to use ip addresses "with higher than 256 parts", calling networking engineers "stupid people didn't think of that" and calling IPv6 a scam "to sell some routers".

    Perhaps this is a sound analogy. Especially because, in a lot of ways, IPv6 is indeed inflated to sell some routers. Or at least it is aggressively timed. There still exists no foreseeable need for each node in the network to communicate with every other node and the very presence of NAT-based firewalls have eroded this from common practice. In fact, the ISP's won't let you operate 'servers' on their end nodes anyway, without extra fees, and the non-elite user stands to lose from this transition. Finally, nothing at all precluded the adoption of VLANs or similar wire-sharing technology that could segregate telephony (for example) and allow re-use of address space.

    So yes, this is kind of the same thing. We're seeing a religious push towards the most drastic and least convenient of changes when there is little agreement about the exact date when we will have no other choice.

  • by Stradivarius (7490) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:58PM (#30392220)

    They have every right to say this; when the people arguing against them are not climate scientists, or in scientific fields related. If I tell someone with a PhD in climate science that they are wrong, they have every right to chuckle at me, since I really don't know what I'm talking about. This is not a problem.

    It is when the guy with the PhD thinks his expertise entitles him to refuse to publish the full, raw data he used along with his analytic methods. It is when he uses his influence with a journal to exclude equivalently credentialed scientists' papers because they disagree with his interpretations of the data. Science is not a priesthood. We do not (and should not) accept proclamations from scientists as truth because they hold a piece of paper or have three letters next to their name. We analyze their data and their methods,and try to poke holes. If nobody can poke valid holes, then his analysis gains acceptance until someone comes up with a better analysis. When certain scientists - the very people who should know the merits of scientific scrutiny the best - start trying to circumvent this process, it damages their credibility and the hard-earned reputation of science as being based on fact rather than emotion or politics.

    It is also a problem when the guy with the PhD thinks his expertise in a given scientific field makes him an expert on public policy. Folks can accept scientific observations that the world has been warming in recent years yet have differing views on appropriate solutions. One of the disturbing things about many practitioners of climate science is how they've been merging with a parallel alarmist religious/political movement that thinks warming is our capitalistic sin against the planet, and which assumes the solution has to be drastic carbon output reductions regardless of how much economic collateral damage it would cause. The thought of engineering other ways to produce planetary cooling is dismissed. Discussions of such policies is not the realm of science. It is the realm of public policy, which thankfully is not left simply to a handful of people whose expertise is often exceeded by their hubris.

    We need to remember that scientists are human beings too. They are as fallible as anyone else. Back in the 1970s there was a big scare from climate scientists that we were going to have massive global cooling and enter a new ice age. The problem is that climate is very complex, and attempts to model it inevitably miss something. While such models are valuable tools to gain understanding and predict future events, they do need to be taken with a grain of salt. So let's have a debate about what we should do about global warming. But let's go into it open-eyed, realizing that the participants and the models all have faults that should make us leery of hasty and dramatic changes in policy.

  • by ehrichweiss (706417) * on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:00PM (#30392244)
    Funny you should say that. There is a guy at the heart of a branch of psychology who, before he got into psychology, was a computer programmer back in the 60's and all the grad students used to come to him so he'd make a program that could create data that fit within their deviation. He now says that it scares the bejesus out of him because those studies are now heavily quoted and HE was personally responsible for make all that shit up...
  • Re:What (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nine-times (778537) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:06PM (#30392350) Homepage

    Right. People talk about "science" as being almost a set of beliefs, a religion where "scientists" are the priests. We're told that science provides all these things, and science tells us what everything *really* is.

    One problem with that viewpoint is that trusting "scientists" isn't scientific. Insofar as science is a good and helpful practice, it doesn't ask you to trust based on the authority of special individuals. There isn't really a special class of people called "scientists" who have special access to truth on all matters. "Scientist" is just a loose term for someone whose job involves science, used when we don't have a better term at hand. People may be more or less experts on a particular topic and may have more direct or clear knowledge about particular things. I could be employed as a garbage man and know more about DNA than a "scientist" who happens to be a physicist and hasn't studied biology in any depth.

    Of course, there are still experts. The entire body of scientific knowledge is too large and complex for anyone to be the expert in all of it. Most of us have other jobs that don't allow in depth study on even a single scientific topic. As a result, we often have to decide whether to trust in the authority of experts. It's not as easy as it seems.

    Imagine I was explaining the concept of general relativity to you, and it all made sense to you and you understood how it worked and you could see the equations and make sense of them. That's science, and it doesn't really require trust. Now imagine instead that I was explaining the concept and you didn't understand and it didn't make sense to you. Suddenly you'd be in a position of being expected to accept some pretty counter-intuitive ideas without understanding them, based on what I claim Einstein said. No only do you have to accept that Einstein is an authority and necessarily correct, but also that I understood Einstein properly and am explaining it properly. Accepting the claims of relativity then isn't much different from an article of faith.

  • by antibryce (124264) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:29PM (#30392666)

    their conclusions are similar because they're actually all using the same raw dataset. []

    They just all apply their own "adjustments" which is why they vary slightly. The above link is a good introduction to how well these "adjustments" work. Here's a good article questioning if the scientists didn't "adjust" so their numbers would match the other publications: []

    I don't think anyone is faking data to deceive, but it's entirely possible people are saying "here's what everyone else found, if I don't find similar I'll be shunned."

  • Re:Open source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:39PM (#30392804)

    If you can falsify any of the theories by experiment, people will pay attention to you, regardless of politics.

    If you can get published. Suppressing publication of contradictory theories/evidence seems to have been part of the problem here.

  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:51PM (#30392984)

    It's absurd that one can be considered "educated" in the western world without having a basic understanding of century old (or older) scientific principles (evolution, relativity, calculus...). It is not "too hard" to learn these things. If you have a college degree, you should be as familiar with basic science as you are with writing essays.

    If the average lay person has as much understanding of modern science as they do something like modern economics (we all know China holds our debt, and why), then an attitude of skepticism toward scientists is actually desirable. Without that basic understanding, how are we to communicate?! How do you express something like climate change to a populace which doesn't know 19th century thermodynamics? On what basis can they trust or criticize you? I don't trust people saying things that sound like nonsense. A sometimes "nonsense" people turn out to actually be lawyers, but not knowing their basic terminology I can't tell the difference between a charlatan and the real thing, so I can't really trust any of them. I imagine that's how most people see scientists.

    All we're left with is politics and sound bytes, which does not lead to a helpful discussion.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:12PM (#30393336)

    What is it about the intellectual elitists here and there that they cannot for the life of me use the logic and reason they claim is what seperates modern humanity from the ancient barbarian???

    -the earth, by scientific ESTIMATES is 4.5 billion years old
    -the earth, by scientific ESTIMATES has been through 6 ice ages
    -the earth, by scientific ESTIMATES has been much warmer in its history than during the short period of human existence we are now the product of meaning a natural CYCLE of warming and cooling is a state of NORMALCY that has occurred for the billions of years pre modern humanity
    -the earth, by scientific ESTIMATES has a climate that was/is subject to other natural forces both terrestrial and astronomical that can be verified to be occurring on other neighboring bodies in the solar system, indicating a solar influence shared by all bodies in this solar system
    -the earth, by the scientific ESTIMATES has warmed recently but since they deleted that data they have abandonded science for geopolitical posturing, the warming which MAY have occured pre 1998 of which has been on a cooling trend since could have been the foundation for REAL Climate Science but that was all literally, thrown away.

    Notice a trend here????????

    But in their quest for power, rooted in political ideology designed to punish the productive, reign in the free and create more income stream for their follies, they have reignited the Randian discussion soon to go global. This happened before although Atlas had not shrugged yet....

    Message to the elite- fuck off or revist 1792!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@bea u . org> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:47PM (#30393892)

    > Those who read that the solution was taxes were more likely to doubt the validity of the
    > science than those conservatives who read the article with no mention of increased taxes
    > but instead read about Nuclear power.

    And we are being perfectly rational. I'm going to ask you to do something hard, accept that Conservatives and Libertarians actually sincere in their worldview and not just evil, stupid, greedy selfish bastards. We get suspicious when a proposed solution goes 180 degrees against every belief we hold True. Especially when we know we are being lied to in that first example.

    Because taxes and government control AREN'T the only option, as you point out. If the policymakers proposing socialism as the solution were seperate from the scientists proclaiming impending DOOM! we would simply examine the science and it appeared sound propose different policy, i.e. build nuke plants like it was the end of the world and fund the crap out of fusion and any other alternative. If AGW is the problem then both the socialist and capitalist solution equally solve the problem and we argue the political argument of which direction purely in the political arena. But of course that isn't what happened. Almost to a man,the scientists proclaiming DOOM! are also pushing one policy solution over the other with no apparent SCIENTIFIC basis for doing so while claiming a scientific mandate for doing so. Seeing them butchering scientific objectivity for political activism on the solution it isn't a big leap of logic to begin questioning how faithful to the ways of science the same people were when determinging we were DOOMED! in the first place. And then the questioning started hitting such paydirt the Blue team started declaring "the science settled" and demands that "Deniers" be put on trial for Crimes against the Earth started being seriously discussed (as opposed to laughed at) and such.

    In the end scientists should not be declaring support for ANY solution to AGW since it outside the scope of their skills. The most a climatologist can do is announce their findings on the climate, it is then the problem of other professions to propose solutions and then the duty of the political world to pick one. It is always a big red flag when experts in a narrow field suddenly start trying to leverage their acclaim in a narrow specialty to push major policy in the political realm. Why should I as a Citizen give extra weight to some climate scientist's opinion whether we should build nuke plants or attempt a total rip and replace on the industrialized world over some CNN pundit? Exactly.

    Same as when Dr. Sagan and the rest of the idiots back in the 80's brought dishonor on the reputation of scientists by trying to weight in (by appeal to their authority as scientists, as Citizens they of course had the same right and duty as every other Citizen) on issues of disarmament. There is nothing in the field of astrophysics that offers any insight into the complex political, military and moral issues that drove the Cold War. But that didn't stop them from making absurd Appeals to Authority; they even had a psuedoscientific doomsday scenario for that argument as well, Nuclear Winter. It was bullcrap and beside the point. Saying loosing the nukes was a 'bad thing' was belaboring the blindingly obvious. And anyway, it wasn't like there was really a Dr. Strangelove faction calling for a first strike on EITHER side. The argument was whether MAD, unilateral disarmament or speaking truth to evil was the best course. History has ruled, Reagan won they lost. And certain people are still mad as hell their side lost.

    > We might not have perfect models or understand every nuance of climate change but we
    > have pretty good research on the larger points.

    No we don't. Global warming stopped in 1998. Show me a model from before that that predicted that while still showing a longterm warming trend. The flip of the PDO to a cool phase could very well mean this is just a downward jog on a

  • by zill (1690130) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:53PM (#30393976)

    If you don't think academic scientists work for a living, you are WAY WAY off base. Becoming an assistant professor in a science discipline at a respected research university is currently one of the hardest and most time consuming undertakings you can take on.

    I think he was referring to the common misconception that a tenured researcher has guaranteed pay, whether he actually "works" or not.

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@bea u . org> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:22PM (#30394346)

    > At a certain point you are able to say that you have enough data to conclude, but
    > if you wait until you have perfect data, it'll be FAR TOO LATE.

    Of course you do realise you are expounding the exact same "precautionary principle" that is the heart of Henninger's WSJ article that is the topic of discussion.

    What you propose would be an acceptable use of Science! if all of the Doom & Gloom(tm) came with well marked error bars. It doesn't. You never see the Goracle pronounce "If we do nothing there is a 38% chance of a runaway meltdown of the Greenland glaciers." It is always stated as a certainty of DOOM! if we don't act now! (Operators are standing by!) The fact of the matter is we don't have enough data to state much of anything with certainty on the GW topic, it is all swarming clouds of probability, and you are entirely correct that we almost certainly won't have time to acquire enough data to get even 90% certainty before it would be too late.. if we credit the more gloomy modeled scenarios enough to take them seriously. So no, it isn't settled that "We need to act now." if by act you mean follow the Goracle over the cliff with Cap & Trade, etc. We should be having a rational conversation about risks vs reward, cost/benefit, etc.

    We can't guard against every risk, we have to make decisions. I can promise you that the Earth WILL be smacked by another asteroid/comet/etc sooner or later. Should we reorder our society to devote every available resource to building a defense? No. It is a question of probability and our current efforts to catalog the minor bodies in the solar system is probably the right response for now. With only a little knowledge of science and some imagination one can think up a hundred or more equally horrible possible scenarios we could avert if we spent Sagans of dollars on solutions for. But we live in a world with a limit to available resources so we have to pick our fights with Nature.

    Personally, on GW I'd argue that reducing our reliance on fossil fuels makes so much sense on so many grounds (economic, political, military, ecological, etc.) we should be making every reasonable effort. Should we reorder our society in ways almost certain to bring us to ruin? No, that would be a solution worse than the problem. So if ya want a tax on imported oil to stabilize the price at levels high enough to encourage alternatives and promote domestic production I'd support it. An major push to get new nuke plants online to replace the coal we are currently burning to make most of our electricity? Count me in.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:23PM (#30394354)

    You can show people global warming. They did it on mythbusters. The greenhouse with more CO2 was hotter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:55PM (#30394954)

    The original data are available. They can be purchased, just as the data used by CRU were purchased. That's one of the lies being spread about climategate - that CRU was holding on to some data that are not available anywhere else and they deleted some holy grail original tape. It's bullshit. Much of the data was bought from sources with an NDA. CRU could not respond legally to the FOIA requests. The original data are still there, still for sale, still with an NDA. Nothing is stopping some coal-burning industry shill from buying the data, analyzing it, and proving AGW wrong. Go for it, denialists.

  • by daveime (1253762) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:54PM (#30395894)

    I don't care what it contains ... you asked for a list of peer reviewed papers, I gave you a list of 450 with the general theme of skepticism. If it contains some non-skeptical papers, fine, unlike you I am open to accept I am wrong on the merits of the material, not by trying to impugn the messenger.

    I took a cursory look at the very first paper, which contains not only 4 pages of citations to referenced works, but also a correction addendum at the bottom. Now please tell me, if the author was neither accepting criticism nor addressing those criticisms, then why would he issue a correction to his own work ?

    You know, this is *exactly* what a skeptic in any field has to deal with.

    Your initial statement some posts ago was

    "Nobody has made a scientific refutation of AGW, and that is what is important to me."

    Then when someone challenges that statement you add in extra conditions about what *you* consider to be a valid paper, and then make that a pre-condition (well, 3 preconditions actually) of success for the skeptic to retain a valid point.

    Then on supply of a list of 450 with a pretty unambiguous title describing the contents of the list, you spiel off two names as if they were college buddies in an attempt to sound more knowledgeable than the common plebs, and manage to debunk the whole list as 450 skeptic rantings without further ado.

    Now I could go through each of the 450 papers, crossreferencing the 40 odd citations in each one, then checking on Citeseer or some such academic repository to see if any were *still* valid or if all 16000 were nothing more than a product of the "big oil companies" PR departments, but I shall gracefully decline.

    There will be no convincing you as you have decided you are right, the science is irrefutable when done by "the right kind of scientists", and everyone else is either wrong or a crank.

    Goodnight (or should that be good morning).

  • Re:What (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lennier (44736) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:05PM (#30396772) Homepage

    "The public has little or no understanding of how science works (even many non-scientist academics don't). "

    How did we come to such a state of affairs? Isn't the essence of the scientific method and the scientific community transparency, honesty and open discussion?

    Why then should the "workings" of science be such a mystery, and why is there such an outcry from scientists such as Jones when those workings are rudely exposed?

    I'm generally a believer in global warming, and I'm boggled not by the East Anglia emails, but by the scientific community's *reaction* to those emails. "How dare they be leaked!" It's what I'd expect to hear from a proprietary company or intelligence agency that doesn't want its "sources and methods" exposed... but isn't science above such secrecy?

    I was told in high school that the difference between science and alchemy was that alchemists were notoriously private and secretive and didn't share data. Why then are scientists acting the same way?

  • Re:Open source (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lennier (44736) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:33PM (#30397474) Homepage

    "No scientist would ever - ever - delete raw data, at least without a gun to his or her head."

    Cough. The NASA Apollo tapes? The ones found under a staircase in Australia with a sign saying "beware of the leopard"?

    After about Apollo 14 it seems even the scientists were bored with the whole moon landing thing.

    Also Princeton apparently doesn't keep very good historical records either.

    "You'd think somebody must be writing a history of the Institute. You'd think there would be some records of what the seminars were, but I'm told that as far as records go, the records of our physics here at the university are in a shambles. The wastebasket is full of stuff at the place up on Nassau Street where the university archives are. So if somebody following up the lead of this morning's paper decides to shred all of those, there will be no earthquake that I know of. I don't know anybody who's working with those papers or organizing them."
    -- John Wheeler, oral interview, 1994. []

    I have this impression of scientists as a bunch of ADD eight-year olds hopped up on lemonade. That's historical data! Don't care about that! Only old people like the past! Onto something newer and cooler now! Grant monies kthx!

    Unfair I know, but sheesh. Forgetting how we got the science we have bugs me. Sometimes going back and re-analysing old raw data with a new methodology can lead to very different conclusions, and sometimes the people running the labs at the time weren't all squeaky clean saint-geniuses. Even in the 'hard' sciences like physics, especially post WW2 with all the atomic secrecy and government money. Wheeler elsewhere in that interview series observes that even all the scientists working on the H-bomb and fusion didn't know what each other were doing, and some still can't talk until their classification expires. So reanalysis of old data in the light of new knowledge can be very very important.

    We're salvaging historical data in the arts. The BBC purged old Doctor Who tapes, and most of the tapes of Metropolis the movie were lost but one was recently found. Jason Scott at [] is salvaging 1980s computer history. So we should be pushing for the same level of data preservation in science.

  • by DG (989) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:59PM (#30397652) Homepage Journal

    Notwithstanding the somewhat strident tone, the gentleman you are rebutting has the central point of it.

    For reasons I don't claim to understand, "climatology" has become rampantly politicized. There is a strong aura - as the whole "climategate" scandal drags into the light - that those doing climate research are no longer doing real science. Instead, the books are being cooked to support a particular result and along with it, a particular political agenda.

    And when perfectly legitimate questions are posed, by perfectly reasonable people, the answer tends not to be scientific debate, but rather arguments from authority, personal attacks, handwaving, etc.

    Something is very much rotten in the state of Climatology. It is very difficult to trust any claims made by anyone when the waters are so murky and foul.


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