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The Science Credibility Bubble 1747

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 etymxris ( 121288 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @11:48AM (#30388664)

    Science is empirical, math is not. Scientific hypotheses are inductively tested, mathematical hypotheses are deductively proven. (And mathematical "induction" is still deductive in that the premises subsume the conclusion.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:00PM (#30388842)

    You might want to read up on Pons and Fleischmann some more. It certainly was not "out and out fraud".

  • Re:Funding (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuantumPion ( 805098 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:04PM (#30388920)

    Who could have possibly predicted that accepting hundreds of billions of dollars from governments over the last couple of decades could have somehow politicized Science?


    Dwight D. Eisenhower - 1961.

    "The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:08PM (#30389008)

    Hundreds of billions??? You have the wrong side. 20 Billion dollars over 30 years for the entire world. Compared with 37Bn dollars given as subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear power industry *EACH* *YEAR* by the *US* ALONE* and I think you find the finger points a different direction.

    How many people would want a piece of THAT action?

    Much more.

  • by _Swank ( 118097 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:10PM (#30389040)

    please, please, please get your facts straight on what these scientists did with their data when they 'threw out raw data'

    they threw out siberian tree-ring data for certain years (i believe it was 1960 to present) that they were using to infer local temperatures and, instead, used the actual local air temperatures. this turned a graph that showed temperatures over a period of time longer than thermometers have existed in from one relying on only tree-ring data, to one relying solely on tree-ring temperature data to one using mostly tree-ring data with some tree-ring data replaced by more accurate actual temperature readings.

    yes, the tree-ring data in this location diverges unexpectedly from the actual temps recorded. that is a problem to explain. but it has nothing to do with the fact that the temperatures really did continue to increase.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:19PM (#30389216)
    They threw out more than that. They also managed to "lose" raw data. And this loss was announced after the head of the CRU emailed that he would delete such data before he allowed it to be exposed under a FOIA request.
  • Re:Yes, Here's Why (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kythe ( 4779 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:23PM (#30389278)
    Theories remain theories, period.
  • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:24PM (#30389290)

    Why do you assume that liberals don't understand reality and you do? Maybe their theories are more accurate and complete than yours.

    Or maybe not.

  • Re:Yes, Here's Why (Score:5, Informative)

    by bluesatin ( 1350681 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:27PM (#30389370)

    I don't think that means, what you think it means: Scientific Theory []

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

    by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:32PM (#30389460) Journal

    or rather, how to keep living their fat cat lives...

  • by icensnow ( 932196 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:36PM (#30389552)
    That is so bogus. There are many fields of scientific study where all we can do is observe what happens now, try to reconstruct, often from proxy data, what has happened in the past before the era of human observation, and use extrapolations from physical principles (i.e., numerical models) to try to better understand processes. Climatology, geology, ecology, paleontology, much of astronomy, much of what we think we know about evolution, and a lot of oceanography -- in other words most things having to do with the large scale, have the same observational, not lab-experimental, basis. Climatology is at least physically based enough that we can try to project the future (arguing about accuracy of those predictions is fair, and that argument is a robust part of current climate research).

    The canard about what we know in the 1970s is getting really stale. In the early 1970s, climate modeling was in its infancy and we were trying to nail down what, among many possible climate problems, was most likely. If your library has a copy of S.H.Schneider's The Genesis Strategy, look it up for a view of the uncertainty we had back then. News magazines picked up on the ice age side of things more back then, not because there was any scientific consensus at all, but because it sold magazines. By the early 1980s, the scientific consensus was that CO2-greenhouse gases were the imminent concern. Nobody has been seriously pushing the encroaching ice age as a problem for 30 years. This is how science works: hypotheses lead to research which leads to corrections and improvements.

  • by confusednoise ( 596236 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:37PM (#30389568)
    At the risk of engaging in a flame war (when I really should be working)...

    As far as climate change goes, I think I would go with the consensus of the scientists. []

    Key bits:

    The finding that the climate has warmed in recent decades and that this warming is likely attributable to human influence has been endorsed by every national science academy that has issued a statement on climate change, including the science academies of all of the major industrialized countries. At present, no scientific body of national or international standing has issued a dissenting statement. A small minority of professional associations have issued noncommittal statements.

    But no doubt this post will follow with reams of people telling us why these opinions are suspect.

    An interesting thing that has been happening with the vaccine debate is that the very people who are most expert on the field are prevented from weighing in on the issue, as in "well, we can't believe Dr. X, he published a Nature paper on immunology so clearly he is biased and can't be trusted".

  • by wes33 ( 698200 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:38PM (#30389598)

    "In 1975, American Scientist, Nature, and New York Times"

    citations needed - the cooling idea was always marginal and
    not widely held amongst scientists and disappeared quickly
    quite unlike the current warming hypothesis

  • by Eukariote ( 881204 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:39PM (#30389612)

    What's your "clear and unambiguous experimental and observational falsification" of Big Bang cosmology?

    See Halton Arp's observations of the redshifts and angular correlations of quasars. Since he started this work, it has been corroborated by a vast body of additional observations. A good overview is given in his book [] "Seeing Red".

    The essence of it is this: according to the Big Bang model, red shift is cosmogenic, and quasars should be, on account of the vast distance implied by their red shift, distributed isotropically. Turns out that quasars are, in terms of angular separation, correlated with "foreground" galaxies to an extent that is so far away from any possible chance statistical fluctuation resulting from an intrinsically isotropic distribution that the quasars have to be causally correlated, and hence their redshift is not of cosmogenic origin.

    A might be expected, he has been treated as a heretic, was denied further observation time, and now lives in effective exile.

  • by somethingwicked ( 260651 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:44PM (#30389720)

    I can not believe that someone on this forum, FOR NERDS, would make such a huge mistake on the REAL stuff that matters.

    "You've never worked in the real world... they expect RESULTS!" -- RAY STANTZ TO Dr. Peter Venkman

    As a Slashdot reader, you should know better...You might as well have misquoted a Python line, sheesh

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:44PM (#30389726)
    There is nothing out of context about the fraud involved in selectively using a temperature proxy only for specific time periods when it agrees with your preconceived notion. That is "Mike's trick ... to hide the decline [in the tree ring proxy temperature []]."
  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:46PM (#30389760)

    So in other words, they used tree ring data pre-1960 to show a general warming trend even though they didn't want to use it post-1960 because they knew it wasn't accurate?

    If it isn't accurate in comparison to the actual temps post-1960, I see no reason I should believe they are accurate pre-1960. If you can only accurately give me data from post-1960, then just give me data post-1960, don't try to prove your point using faulty an inaccurate "temperature" readings from tree rings...

  • by HebrewToYou ( 644998 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:49PM (#30389822)
    I know it's an inconvenient truth, but the leaked documents weren't limited to email correspondence...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:51PM (#30389870)

    They threw out more than that. They also managed to "lose" raw data. And this loss was announced after the head of the CRU emailed that he would delete such data before he allowed it to be exposed under a FOIA request.

    I think you may be referring to this story:

    Those dastardly scientists: planning 20 years ahead to "lose" the data before FOI act even existed.

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

    by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:11PM (#30390284) Journal

    Actually the problem isn't really the people who doubt scientific theories, but people who reject them on shady grounds. There's nothing wrong with saying "I doubt that evolution works that way, but you may convince me." The problem is people saying "Evolution is wrong, period." That's no doubt, because it is itself a definitive statements. Doubt is about not being definitive. Doubt means "I don't believe that it's true, give me evidence." Rejection means "It isn't true, period."

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:14PM (#30390344) Journal

    It's amazing the poster can claim with a stright [sic] face "nothing interesting" was found ...

    Why don't you read what I wrote?

    While nothing interesting was found by most scientific journals

    And I linked to one of many journals that--shock of all shocks--didn't publish anything regarding the leak. I didn't say anything about what you, me, Slashdot or blogs found in those leaks. Instead I tried to relay that the general consensus seemed to be, from what I read, that there was nothing to get excited about. The journals might be wrong but I was just trying to tell you what I noticed from them after the leak.

    You did a really good job of quoting me out of context. You did an even better job of quoting source code out of context. I'm also pretty certain you probably got that from another site.

    Which to me, is pretty damning stuff.

    What can I say? We're all entitled to our own opinions. Write a paper on this and submit it to the journal of Nature. See what happens.

    Furthermore, the use of this is commented out NOW.

    It's pretty damning but it's commented out. If you read the comments of the Slashdot article I linked, you'll see that this source code isn't automatically accepted as the word of god and is actually under heavy debate. But why bother? You've clearly already judged me as having some political agenda by submitting stories to Slashdot. I probably can already be identified as a liberal since I'm posting here, right?

    So all the output they have produced is simply not science

    I'm supposed to believe you but I'm not supposed to believe the scientific journal of Nature? When digesting second or third hand information, I'll go with the latter, thank you.

  • Data and algorithms (Score:5, Informative)

    by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:19PM (#30390444)

    Other research [] centers [] also collect similar data, and some have open-sourced their algorithms [].

    And yes, their conclusions are similar to those of the CRU. That's what the GP means by saying that criticisms have been answered.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:22PM (#30390500)
    I discuss the email in question, here []. It's not going to convict Dr. Phil Jones in itself (though evidence is becoming pretty clear that it is genuine), but losing data, even if the cause were benign, after you vowed to delete the data in case of an FOIA request, which would be a crime, is extremely suspicious. In my view, the email is sufficient cause for removing Dr. Jones from his position of responsibility. He also states in that email that he'll hide behind a UK data protection law and IP rights to avoid complying with FOIA requests.
  • Re:Yes, Here's Why (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jaeph ( 710098 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:27PM (#30390592)

    Yes, but the emails show that the preexisting bias is on the climate-scientists side, not the skeptic's side.

    Look, we have a group of people discussing the deletion of emails in response to a FOI request. They also discuss boycotting forums that publish an opposing point of view. That these items were even considered is all the sign we need that something is not kosher. Sure, the science may remain legitamite, but these particular scientists are not to be trusted. They are snake-oil salesman who at best may have lucked into the correct side of a debate.


  • by cknudsen ( 891397 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:36PM (#30390724) Homepage
    Have you not seen some of the source code found in the dump? Take a look at Eric Raymond's analysis of some of this: []

    I particularly like the source code comment that states "Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!"

    You cannot dismiss this as just email bickering. You can see the SOURCE CODE where they artificially change the data to suit their agenda! Why are people not more ticked off about this??? This is an offense to both science in general and programming,

  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:38PM (#30390772)

    You can isolate oxygen, show its effect on a candle or a toad. You can make electricity and calculate trajectories and show people.

    We, chemical scum view the world through a narrow slit in our burka. We see a tiny tiny part of the spectrum of the electromagnetic radiation and we see sizes within a few orders of magnitude of our body sizes. Noone has ever seen an oxygen atom with their own eyes that resulted in any conscious recognition, without a scientific equipment to facilitate the viewing. The evidence for oxygen, or the evidence against aether is no less direct than the evidence for global warming and AGW and the theory that explains it, the evidence for oxygen is just more accessible, easier to understand and has more showy demonstrations. The case for oxygen also doesn't have people receiving large amounts of money to deny the evidence no matter what.

    Until you can predict the weather with the same reasonably unerring accuracy with which we predict projectile trajectories, the science isn't good enough.

    You will never be able to predict weather over long timescales (more than a few weeks). Weather is not climate. When you're doing physics, you're not calculating the trajectory, energy content of atoms that compose a gas in a volume of space, instead you're dealing with statistical averaging and assumptions about the closed system, in terms of pressure, volume and temperature.

  • by virtualXTC ( 609488 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:02PM (#30391254) Homepage
    I'm not sure if it was your intention, but your response seems to indicate that you think Al Gore is as equally un-qualified to speak about climate change as Palin. For the record, Gore at least studied in a climatology lab while at Harvard.
  • by epiphani ( 254981 ) <epiphani@ d a l . net> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:06PM (#30391330)

    (Reposting this where appropriate)

    People seem to forget the context of that "undermining the peer review process" took place.

    They certainly tried to impact the peer review process. The paper in question resulted in half of the editorial board of the journal in question resigning over the peer review process that took place. []

    The paper in question turned out to be underwritten by the American Petroleum Institute.

    As for Mann and Jones' apparent effort to punish the journal Climate Research, the paper that ignited his indignation is a 2003 study that turned out to be underwritten by the American Petroleum Institute. Eventually half the editorial board of the journal quit in protest. And even if CRU's climate data turns out to have some holes, the group is only one of four major agencies, including NASA, that contribute temperature data to major climate models — and CRU's data largely matches up with the others'.

    Read more:,8599,1946082-2,00.html#ixzz0ZJERceR1 []

  • by wh1pp3t ( 1286918 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:08PM (#30391366)
    Funny, Al Gore is going to profit the from all of his.

    He is nothing more than a marketing man for carbon credit trading. He is the chairman [] for Generation Investment Management [], partnered up with the former CEO of Goldman Sacks.

    How convenient.

  • Einstein and Darwin (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:18PM (#30391528) Homepage

    the basic conclusions are very similar, save for extreme circumstances. {Newtonian Mechanics} works fine at human-experienced scales, speeds and distances.

    It's fun you mention Einstein's and Darwin's theory in the same post, because they share some other characteristics :
    They are hard to prove experimentally in a lab (due to energy, mass or time constrains), and we have to rely on observing-the-universe-as-a-lab to find the necessary data to prove/disprove them.

    Although some human-made experiments can be designed to test some manifestation of Einstein's theories, like the distortion of time and GPS sattelites [], we just don't have the technology yet to create some high energy or high mass effects like gravitational lenses and have to rely on observing them in the universe around instead of experimentally recreating them.

    Same happens with Evolution : some kind of speciation has been reproduced in laboratory, or has been man-caused in industrial countries. Nonetheless we can't currently "evolve an eye in a lab"(due to obvious problems of time scale and necessary space). For lots of larger-scale models, instead, we have to rely on what we learn from our planet trough fossils records. (Fossil and planet Earth are to evolution, what telescopes and the universe is to extreme-range physics).

    Curiously though, Creationist are only complaining that "Evolution can't be tested" and are only pushing for Intelligent Design. None of them is pushing for Intelligent Falling although the same argument could be used for Physics~ And although IF is similarly valid (read: silly) as ID~

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:22PM (#30391618)

    No, one picture certainly does NOT tell it all. I noticed you conveniently avoided linking to the explanation,

    In a nutshell, the difference is due to bias corrections accounting for changing time of observation, thermometer type, station moves, etc. The specific adjustments are shown in and the corresponding algorithms are described in the webpage above. There are published papers for these adjustment procedures, and you can go read them (and by "read them" I mean the slogging through the methods section, not skimming the abstract) if you like, but somehow I doubt you will.

    Corrections to raw data are made all the time. Yes, you can introduce more error during this process than you remove. Depending on what specifically you are doing and how you're doing it, there may be statistical means of checking for that.

    It's people like you who make me, as a scientist, cringe, because I have to consider every possible way any figure or text I create could be taken out of context. People seem to have this expectation that science should be easy, and that if something requires background to understand, we're being deceptive. No, we're not. Science is hard work, and if you're going to criticize intelligently, you have to understand the methods.

  • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:47PM (#30392020)
    ignorance indeed:

    (1) Greenland used to be green....
    Actually it didn't, it was called GREENLand [] to lure people in action. Or perhaps a translation error.

    (2) Medieval Warm Period []
    2000 year temp graph []

    (3) Rome used to import ENGLISH wine
    correlation vs causation []

    (4) Astronomers have been pointing out *forever* that Major and Minor Ice Ages are dependent on the precession and nutation of the Earth's orbit.
    I don't dispute this. However, there is *no* proof of this causing the *rate* at which we are seeing change today. Something else is effecting the system that wasn't around us.

    (5) [] where proxy data shows the global warming folks are seriously out to lunch
    The Heartland Institute? seriously? they are such a blatant [] shill [] for [] Big Oil and Big Business it's not funny.

    The recent disclosures that some scientists may not have followed accepted processes for handling data (ignored more complete data sets for smaller data sets that better supported their ideas etc.) are serious things to investigate and rightly should be investigated. I don't know of any climate change proponents who disagree with that.

    It doesn't, however, change the other *vast* accumulated data that show a very marked divergence from historical norms at rates not seen previously.
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:01PM (#30392278)

    What's "wrong" supposed to mean?

    Not correct.

    We also know that neither GR nor QM can simultaneous be correct explanations of the Universe, because of their mutual incompatibility, but that doesn't make them "wrong".

    Yes, in fact, it makes at least one of them, and as I recall the nature of the problem probably both, wrong.

    It doesn't mean they aren't the best available models within certain domains, which is what science is about more than "right" and "wrong". Recognizing wrong, though, is important to science, too: that some model is wrong is an indicator that there is a place where it may be productive to search for a better model, and what is known about how the model is wrong gives you a place to start looking.

  • by DriedClexler ( 814907 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:03PM (#30392306)

    No, that sounds like post hoc curve fitting. It can make any theory you want look correct.

    In order to be a valid method, you have to add a few more steps/constraints:

    - All parameters must be based on values in general use that were not created just for this model.
    - Any massaging of the data was done before you know how it would affect the outcome.


    - The model continues to stand up against future data.

    I would also add:

    - You must allow anyone to inspect your assumptions and input, and not make it require a multi-year scavenger hunt and FOIA requests to do so.

  • Re:a myth (Score:3, Informative)

    by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:20PM (#30392552)

    No, most of this data has been available for years, although RealClimate [] assembled this convenient index in part as a response to claims that scientists were withholding data that were leveled in association with the recent data theft from CRU.

    There has long been plenty of raw and corrected climate data, as well as climate models with source code, more than enough for any interested investigator to replicate major conclusions of climate researchers.

    Most of the interest in raw data seems to be politically motivated and to be directed toward finding pretexts to level accusations against climate researchers in order to create the illusion of doubt about the science. The groups that scream most loudly about unreleased data never seem to do much with the great bulk of data that is available. One popular strategy seems to be to demand raw data from somebody who does not actually own it, and then cry "conspiracy" when they try to explain that unreleased raw data must be requested from the actual owner. For example CRU was bombarded with "freedom of information" demands for raw data that was not generated by them and that actually belonged to national meteorological services.

  • []
    Yes. Some of the science was valid. But some of the facts presented as true were blatantly designed to mislead.
    My point is, one either supports the scientific method or one does not. There are no grey areas. Either its science, or its propaganda. It cannot be both. 'An Inconvenient Truth' is propaganda masquerading as science, which is actually what this forum topic is about.
  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:35PM (#30392748)
    A picture can lie a lot better than a thousand words. I see that picture popping up in the climate denialist literature all over the place, without most places referencing the paper it is taken from [].

    The paper actually contains information that explains what you're seeing on the picture. The adjustments made are detailed, compared [] and explained. The references for the expanded reasoning can be followed.

    Besides, the graph is about the US temperature measurements. US != global. It could show warming and global warming could not be happening or it could show a decrease in temperature and global warming could be highly severe. Your argument is simply bad.
  • Re:About That Data (Score:5, Informative)

    by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:41PM (#30392820)
    1. The data is from the NOAA, not the NASA.

    2. The data is for the US land area, not the whole world.

    3. Here is the paper listing [] and referencing the adjustments. Be the first to prove in detail how and why they are wrong to make and you'd be instantly famous.
  • by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:47PM (#30393894) Homepage

    Or acid rain messed up the growth of your trees in the area. Or the lack of salmon runs have cut the nutrient input to the forests (yes, bears eating spawned salmon have been a major source of nutrients for the trees. Or???

    Your example listed one thermometer. But what if there are hundreds of thermometers. Thermocouples, mercury, made by multiple manufactures, distributed over a wide area. What if there is satellite temperature data? What if multiple other temperature proxies all synced up with the instrumental temperature readings? What if all of those different sources of data all pointed to a single temperature trend. And then a single temperature proxy such as tree-ring measurements disagreed with those temperatures. And only over a limited area and a limited time. It seems reasonable to hypothesize that something weird is happening to the trees.

  • by Lars T. ( 470328 ) <.moc.liamelgoog. .ta. .regearT.sraL.> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:48PM (#30393914) Journal
    Yeah, I know that story. And you take that as the truth? According to the Curriculum Vitae of Zbigniew Jaworowski [] "Since 1993 he is working at the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw, now as the chairman of the Scientific Council." (and he still is). How the hell could he have been fired from an institute in Norway years later?

    And of course the "this paper puts the Norsk Polarinstitutt in disrepute" - because it's shoddy science.

    But hey, we are used to lies and shoddy science from the "skeptics".

  • by hallucinogen ( 1263152 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:54PM (#30393980)
    It's only Briffa's tree-ring data that doesn't match other tree series and proxies from 1960 onwards. It's a set of 10 or so trees (might be less) that agreed with 100's of trees from Europe and Asia till 1960, but then something happened. That is the "decline" or the "divergence problem". It has never been a secret and it sure as hell doesn't invalidate tree-rings as a good proxy for direct temperature readings. It would however be interesting to find out what happened in Alaska..
  • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:15PM (#30394252)

    I know that they used them to come up with a proxy for temperature going back 1000 years. I also know that from 1960 on they don't act as their algorithm for generating the proxy data expects.

    As a Computer Scientist I know that there is an issue with their algorithm if the proxy data generated from 1960 on does not match actual observed temperatures.

    Knowing the full details of how their algorithm was developed and operates is not required in order to make a judgment of its viability when you see that it fails to correctly estimate temperatures for recent time. The algorithm is flawed from 1960 on, therefore it cannot be assumed that it is correct from 1960 back.

    This goes back to the article's question of the public's perception of science. One common response often bandied about is that people critical of the science aren't "climate scientists." Well, they don't necessarily have to be. If a statistician looks at the large volumes of data the climate scientists work with and sees an error in analysis, it is valid to point it out. The methods and analysis tools that are being used here cross many disciplines, anyone from any of those disciplines is capable of making a judgment about the science from the vantage point of their particular discipline.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:48PM (#30394824)

    True, but sometimes the current models are more complicated models that have been closely tuned to appear to match reality, but in fact are overcomplicated.

    Overcomplicated, in regard to a scientific model, means that there exists an actual, existing alternative model which is equally predictive and simpler.

    Take quantum mechanics. It really looks to me like somewhere along the line we ignored Occam's Razor and jumped to a more complicated model.

    Really? Where is the more parsimonious model that handles everything QM does?

    I believe this happened when we decided to take particle statistics and claim that these applied to individual particles. So instead of a particle having a position it has a position probability field, etc.

    IIRC, there are some important predictive differences between particles-as-waveforms and particles-as-classical-objects-with-difficult-to-determine-properties, and the former not the latter predicts behavior in the real world better. I'm certainly aware that QM is complicated enough to make people's brains hurt thinking about it, but I'm not at all convinced that the complication is unnecessary.

    Compair that to QM, where the basic premises are not well defined, and where one really can't say that it is the simplest possible model that supports a small number of well supported premises.

    (1) Models don't support premises, they (if "premises" are relevant at all) flow from them. Models support predictions.
    (2) Its not as important, scientifically speaking, that a model flow from a small set of premises as it is that it provide useful predictions. Complexity is only an issue in choosing between models that are equally predictive.

    Now lets say I come up with a simpler model, that is a closer match to experimental data than early QM was. However it is not as good a match as the latest really complicated and heavily tunes QM models are. It would be largely ignored by most Theoretical physicists, since the current model is better.

    Actually, that's not necessarily true. If it was, in all cases equal to or worse than current models, it would certainly be ignored. If it was not as good as current models over all, but it was simpler and better predicted behavior in some area than current models, it would have a chance to be taken at least somewhat seriously as something which might be the basis of a viable alternative approach.

    But, yes, if your new model is nothing but a giant step backward from where we are now in all ways accept simplicity, then its not going to fly. And why should it?

    The problem basically is that the modern models are so complicated and so highly tuned that it is not viable to devise a substantially different model that has results just as good as the current ones.

    That's not a problem. What you are basically doing is complaining that our current models explain reality very well, so it is hard to come up with something radically different that explains reality better. But, you know, producing models that explain reality very well is the goal of science, not a problem with science.

    there is no way to get more than a small team to work on such a model.

    Sure there is, which is why people work on, say, superstring theories, which haven't yet shown any predictive advantages over the theories they hope to generalize and displace.

  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:27PM (#30397424) Homepage

    How can the numbers have been verified to be accurate when the CRU in question admitted to throwing out the RAW data used to generate the numbers?

    CRU wasn't the original source for most of the data, they just held a copy of it, which is why them deleting the data is a total non-issue, most original data is still happily sitting around at their original sources.

  • by Fareq ( 688769 ) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:49PM (#30397566)

    Not quite.

    Building on those hills and then being surprised that being burned out is a possibility... that is stupid.

    There are things that can be done to mitigate the risk: getting rid of the tinder near your property, keeping your own grass-or-whatever alive and not dried out, buying sufficient fire insurance, having plans on what to do if you have to leave in a hurry...

    My family lives right in the middle of one of 2008s burn areas. Our house didn't go up, but several nearby did. California burns every year (typically twice), but most individual areas only burn every 50 years or so.

    If you are sufficiently prepared, the risk can be acceptable. A 2% chance each year that your property will be part of the Fire Lottery... if you're sure you can protect the people, have reasonable protections, and some means of recouping the financial loss... you're fine. (Some areas burn more often. Living there and then being surprised... that's stupid)

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Friday December 11, 2009 @08:01AM (#30400148) Journal
    "We've known about evolution for about 150 years and have had all that time to collect data but the same cannot be said for climatology as an actual science."

    Fourier predicted the properties of CO2 in the 1820's, Faraday confirmed his prediction in the 1850's, Arrhenius [] first proposed the idea of AGW in 1896, the National Academies of Science warned the US government it had detected a strong AGW signal in the 1950's. The IPCC is widely regarded by scientists as the most robust review of any scientific question ever undertaken by manking. But yes, evolution and AGW still have their "skeptics".

The absent ones are always at fault.