Archive for science

A perfect storm for corruption: science research edition

It may sound familiar. The sugar conspiracy — “In 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long?” is a ‘long read’ by Ian Leslie. Change the subject and rename the prominent characters and you have climate change.

The study’s biggest limitation was inherent to its method. Epidemiological research involves the collection of data on people’s behaviour and health, and a search for patterns. Originally developed to study infection, Keys and his successors adapted it to the study of chronic diseases, which, unlike most infections, take decades to develop, and are entangled with hundreds of dietary and lifestyle factors, effectively impossible to separate.

A scientist is part of what the Polish philosopher of science Ludwik Fleck called a “thought collective”: a group of people exchanging ideas in a mutually comprehensible idiom. The group, suggested Fleck, inevitably develops a mind of its own, as the individuals in it converge on a way of communicating, thinking and feeling.

This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error. Of course, such tendencies are precisely what the scientific method was invented to correct for, and over the long run, it does a good job of it. In the long run, however, we’re all dead, quite possibly sooner than we would be if we hadn’t been following a diet based on poor advice.

In the last 10 years, a theory that had somehow held up unsupported for nearly half a century has been rejected by several comprehensive evidence reviews, even as it staggers on, zombie-like, in our dietary guidelines and medical advice.

The nutritional establishment has proved itself, over the years, skilled at ad hominem takedowns, but it is harder for them to do to Robert Lustig or Nina Teicholz what they once did to John Yudkin. Harder, too, to deflect or smother the charge that the promotion of low-fat diets was a 40-year fad, with disastrous outcomes, conceived of, authorised, and policed by nutritionists.

This was cited by John Merline in How ‘Settled Science’ Helped Create A Massive Public Health Crisis. “Anyone who thinks it’s enough to rest an argument on “settled science” or a “scientific consensus” ought to read about John Yudkin … Still, had nutritionists listened to a “fat-denier” like Yudkin four decades ago, we might have avoided the scale of today’s obesity epidemic, which has claimed millions of lives.”

Then there is Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry who describes how Big Science is broken. “Sience is broken. That’s the thesis of a must-read article in First Things magazine, in which William A. Wilson accumulates evidence that a lot of published research is false. But that’s not even the worst part.”

The key in all of these is big money that is separated from results by government. Prestige and honor are, of course, significant motivators but it is money that is often a concrete measure. The feedback is positive: get pleasing results in research and that leads to publication and that leads to more funding. A part of being important is selling the idea that the research topic is critical for public health and safety. These factors are compounded when the research topic is complex with many variables that are difficult to separate and interact with each other in many ways. Then toss in ideological factors and base desires for simple fixes and you have a perfect storm. “This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error.” Look for these behaviors and you can know the quality if the ideas they defend.

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Preposterous, climate consensus

Valerie Richardson notes that More studies rebut climate change consensus amid government crackdown on dissent, As the siege continues, it is evident that any area of weakness is getting reinforced.

“As the body of evidence refuting climate alarmism continues to balloon, the question of how the IPCC can continue ignoring it becomes ever more glaring,” said engineer Pierre L. Gosselin, who runs the NoTricksZone website and translates climate news from German to English.

In spite of that research — or maybe because of it — Democrats have renewed their efforts to clamp down on climate dissent.

Two weeks ago, 17 attorneys general — 16 Democrats and Mr. Walker, an independent — announced that they would investigate and prosecute climate-related “fraud,” citing investigations by journalism outlets accusing Exxon Mobil Corp. of stifling its own scientific research in support of the “settled science.”

While Exxon Mobil has denounced the accusations as “preposterous,” Mr. Walker followed up Thursday with a subpoena calling for the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s work on climate and energy policy from 1997 to 2007, including the nonprofit’s “private donor information,” the institute said.

There is kickback. Part is due to the gross abuse of basic freedoms. Part is also due to the fact that many of the accusations and allegations apply to the accusers and not the accused. Doubling down on insanity only makes the lunacy more obvious.

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Case study comparisons

Rick Wallace takes a look at A case study bearing on the nature of “consensus” in normal science and in the AGW controversy. He looks at the idea of consensus in evolutionary biology and the definition of species, quantum mechanics, and other areas.

But I would contend that this is what real scientific consensus looks like. In such cases, discussants never take the ideas in question as sacrosanct, and because – at least in a normal, healthy science – intelligent inquiring intellects are constantly evaluating ideas for themselves and setting them against their own experience, such ideas are subject to vigorous and even harsh examination, often leading to a range of opinion, especially if there are serious conceptual or semantic difficulties (as there are in the case of the species concept).

Thus, in real science any state of agreement is labile at best – and establishing a consensus is about the last thing on peoples’ minds. I would go so far as to say that under these conditions, as often as not, a leading idea is a target to take aim at rather than a flag to rally ‘round.

Obviously, this cast of mind is utterly different from what we find in the AGW arena. Which in itself is compelling evidence that the motivations are different in normal science and in (C)AGW.

What is perhaps most fascinating about modern spectacles like the AGW movement (and here I’m thinking in particular of the Moscow show trials of the 1930s) is that the truth is always right there in front of everyone – and it is always apparent to those who can see.

Once again it is the point that the observable behavior can tell you about the quality of the intellectual integrity.

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It’s our response to the radiation

The BBC has a short video exploring the question: Has Fukushima’s radiation threat been exaggerated?

Five years after the devastating earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant in north-eastern Japan, one expert is asking if the impact of the radiation was massively exaggerated.

Professor Gerry Thomas, a leading authority on the effects of radiation, walks the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes through the deserted exclusion zone and measures radiation levels.

What goes totally by the board is the mass casualties due to the earthquake and tidal wave. That has now become history while FUD mongering about the nuclear plant hit by that event continues to make headlines. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island also come up on a regular basis in the same vein. The abandoned cities and other responses to fears are shown to illustrate a danger that has never been realized by any measure that makes a clear distinction from the normal.

It is the same with climate where the measures of an ideologically desired effect are so small that they are difficult to separate from ‘normal’ that FUD mongering has to take the place of actual reality.

Dragons and demons are real, it seems, but the still only exist in the minds of those invested in fairy tales and fears. The cost of the response to those fears is not considered in any rational way. Fukushima was hit by a natural disaster outside of its design considerations yet still did not provide a worst case scenario. How much is spent on trying to be perfectly safe in an unsafe world? What is the implication of such spending on the lives and health of the populace? How is the balance?

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The romantic eco-left

The romantic eco-left consists of upper-middle-class people who can’t put two and two together when it comes to economics or science. They just assume that water will come out of their faucets and electricity out of their outlets. These people love global warming because it provides a story that allows them to pursue their bizarre, anti-modern goals under the guise of saving the world.

Since science is no longer scientific, but political, global warming belief breaks down along political lines. The Democrats believe, and the Republicans are skeptical.

Norman Rogers: Yet Another Hottest Year on Record

Other than the ‘both sides do it’ fallacy (“Neither party pays much attention to the scientific facts”), Rogers brings up a few good points worth considering.

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Straw men in consensus – is that science?

Another survey by ‘social scientists’, another example of the problem. Ronald Bailey: The Debate Over Global Warming Is Just a Big Misunderstanding, Says Study — “Or is it?” The stimulus here is a study by Princeton psychologist Sander van der Linden and his colleagues.

Overall, the authors espouse what they call the “gateway belief” model of persuasion: If Americans are told that most scientists think man-made climate change is happening, they will think so too. Not only that: They will become more worried about it and start demanding government action to stop it. And so the study essentially endorses more science education as the way to resolve climate change rows.

These findings contradict previous research from the Yale Cultural Cognition Project, which concluded that beliefs about politicized areas of science are generally treated as cultural signals telling fellow partisans that you are a good person who is on their side. According to the Yale researchers, getting people to change their minds about a politicized issue amounts to trying to persuade them to betray their tribe. This dynamic makes them highly resistant to attempts to bombard them with alleged widely agreed-upon facts. Contrariwise, the folks at the Cognition Project find that the smarter a person is, the easier it is for them to find “proof” for his or her beliefs.

There are a few items mentioned that should lead to skepticism about the study report. First up is the political bias differences. When Democrats and Republicans disagree, the issue isn’t science, it is politics. Second on the list is the straw man based on fuzzy definitions and misdirection. The political disagreement is about governmental interference and cost versus benefit differences regarding the importance and level of understanding of potential human caused climate catastrophe. Exactly what global warming means and the specific items of ‘scientific consensus’ happen to be are not clearly defined nor placed into an appropriate context. A third item on the list is putting scientific consensus as something of value above all else. In science, skepticism is the value that takes precedence as it leads to learning and the advancement of knowledge. That leads to another item which is mislabeling appropriate skepticism as a denial and ideological ignorance.

The idea that ‘more science education’ will solve the problem has been around for a long time as well. It is a simplification of human cognition that has been around for ages and is as much a historically demonstrated falsehood as the idea that socialism will lead to economic prosperity. The correlation between the populations holding these two beliefs is something to consider carefully as well. An esoteric example of this is the argument about whether to teach the traditional biology then chemistry then physics order or to reverse the order to provide a more logical presentation based upon dependencies. From a cognition standpoint, it is a matter of learning to handle abstractions effectively. High school biology is mostly hands on observation and description while physics tends towards the abstractions of algebra and calculus. This, in turn, gets into the efforts to change curriculum away from algebra towards something ‘more useful’ like statistics or to implement programming techniques rather than intellectual development.

The amazing thing is that the U.S. does so well in STEM despite the populace fascination with alternative whatnot, snake oil cures, FUD mongering, and political candidates who make absurd promises and intellectually vacuous rationales for their behaviors. 

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Pushing snake oil and using voodoo while calling it science

jccarlton is asking What Is “Science”. Between the videos and links that prompted the question and illustrate why it is a question, there is enough material to peruse to spend a day or two or more. The focus is on behaviors and how they reflect the quality of the ideas being presented. Behaviors can be observed and that means they can provide an objective insight into subjective bias and presenter issues.

It’s rather amazing that nobody points out the logical fallacies involved stating that the opposition HAS no arguments and are all “deniers” rather than actually addressing their supposedly false arguments. Somehow in all the debate, the side that says that they are on the side of “science” never seems to present any, well science.

We, as human beings want to trust that there’s somebody who knows more than we do. That trust though is often misplaced. The problem starts when other factors influence research. When there’s agenda driving things the science becomes yet another tool to push the politics to drive the agenda and get the desired policies. When the policies are the desired result, all you end up with is people in lab coats spouting nonsense.

The problem with the scientist as prophet scenario is that science is ultimately about discovery, not prediction. So when you treat science like a religion you are no longer dealing with discovery of what is, you are preaching what you want things to be. That’s not science, it’s using the appearance of science to legitimize your agenda.

The integrity of the activists and the media friends is never called into question. Though maybe it should be. Whether it’s creating a consensus about AGW or attacking a pesticide the activities of these people leaves a lot to be desired. But this was inevitable. Give power to people and the corruption and all it brings soon follows.

The problem is to separate the good from the bad. The power of seeming reason is a powerful tool when you are pushing snake oil. Add to that that much of what science is surrounded by jargon that may be impenetrable by outsiders seemingly. Which is actually the point. The problem is that all it takes is one bad study surrounded by all the trappings of authority to do tremendous amounts of harm.

The typical pronouncements that we see should peg our BS meters. Especially when, like Tyson and Nye strong language is used to suppress dissent and debate. If there is an effort to suppress argument, that’s your first huge clue that what you are getting is BS.

So how do you tell real science from hokum. Simple, you don’t allow anybody to keep you from asking questions.

One of the big issues to consider is not only how to distinguish between real and hokum but why nobody seems to care. The examples of AGW, GM foods, vector born disease, and vaccination are one thing. Having the two leading candidates in a national election having to testify about their potentially felonious acts is another.  There was some wondering when there was so much enthusiasm for a socialist despite the reality of history but it seems the concerns are almost in the noise. It seems other issues, the promise of the snake oil, has overwhelmed reason and integrity.

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One funeral at a time

The death of Bob Carter provides an insight into how different people see things. From Stoat and William M. Connolley: Science advances one funeral at a time

Actually A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it, but I’m allowed to paraphrase in titles. And anyway he said it in German, naturally. Today brings us news of another such advancement in science, with the reported death of Robert Carter.

As far as I can recall, he was a minor figure in the Great Climate Wars; at least, I don’t seem to have been very interested in him. He gets those usual suspects Robert M. Carter, C. R. de Freitas, Indur M. Goklany, David Holland & Richard S. Lindzen wrote in 2007; a throwaway line ($1,667 per month) from Heartland in 2012. That seems to be it. It’s a bit of a sad end when even I couldn’t be bothered to attack him. Sou was a bit more interested; or Deltoid back in the day.

Compare and contrast that to Steve McIntyre

I will not attempt to comment on his work as that is covered elsewhere, but do wish to mention something personal. In 2003, when I was unknown to anyone other than my friends and family, I had been posting comments on climate reconstructions at a chatline. Bob emailed me out of the blue with encouragement, saying that I was looking at the data differently than anyone else and that I should definitely follow it through. Without his specific encouragement, it is not for sure that I ever would have bothered trying to write up what became McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) or anything else.

We’ve met personally on a number of occasions over the years – at AGU in 2004 or 2005, and on several occasions at Erice, most recently last summer. He was always full of good cheer, despite continuing provocations, and unfailingly encouraging.

So, For Connolley learning and teaching is out and death to remove unpleasant questions is the way to go. For McIntyre, mentors and investigation and learning and growth are the way to go. Where is the hate? Where is the love? Where is the humanity, intellectual integrity, and respect? Who is talking about “triumph” and winning and losing; war and conquest; destruction of the enemy (even after death)? Who is talking about the loss from death and destruction and valuing growth?

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Statistics and measurement: The climate brouhaha

In science, measurement matters. Issues of precision and accuracy are carefully noted as qualifications to be used in evaluating the meaning of the measurements. Statistics are used to help pull meaning from measures by finding a signal in the noise. Again, great care must be used to make sure that the methods and mathematics are sound. Mann’s Hockey Stick tale is an example of where these issues of precision, accuracy, and proper aggregation of measures can be distorted and twisted to suit a particular purpose. Climatology seems rife with such pollution. Here are two examples. John Hinderaker starts off with a tale about dueling temperature charts. The charts in question are temperature averages over the period from 1880 to the current. One shows average temperature by year on a scale from -10 to 110 (Fahrenheit degrees). This is the nominal temperature variation found in the measurements and the average temperature over the years is remarkably flat. The other graph, for comparison and contrast, is the temperature anomaly over 2.5 degrees for the same period. This graph emphasizes changes by using statistics to narrow down the range of measures and then show differences on a scale that is only 2% of the variations found in the source measures.

Steve wrote here about the global temperature chart that presented conventional data in a normal way, and therefore aroused the ire of climate alarmists, who deemed the graph “misleading” because it didn’t look scary enough

Dickson puts two charts side by side, one showing temperatures, the other showing temperature anomalies, from a presumed base*, on a very small scale so that purported changes are greatly magnified:

A fundamental problem is that the alleged changes that are depicted in magnified form are in fact minute in relation to the uncertainty that goes into their measurement and calculation.

The first problem with temperature measurements is how to qualify them for differences in siting and instrumentation. Anthony Watts got into that with his census of U.S. surface weather observation stations. A second problem is how to calculate an average temperature. This is often done by taking the difference between daily maximum and minimum for each day and then averaging that. It seems that heating and cooling degree days might be a better choice but that only highlights how distance the temperature averages are from something actually useful. A third problem is that of sampling locations. Temperature stations are widely dispersed and more common in urban environments and that doesn’t provide even a good measure of surface temperatures much less atmospheric temperatures. Data selection gets in here as well. There have been stories recently about how climate alarmists are dismissing satellite data as flawed because it does not show the desired increase in temperatures of the atmosphere.

Next up is from Luboš Motl about When religious beliefs trump one’s life“A heartbreaking opinion piece by a climate alarmist“.

Would you speculate about the question whether some change of the largely ill-defined global mean temperature from an ill-defined base to an ill-defined moment will be 2.0 °C or 2.3 °C? This man does. The minimum error margin isn’t much lower than 1 °C, however, and even 40 °C of warming would be way safer than the disease he’s been diagnosed with. I think that most people would think how many months of life await them.

Even if the temperatures in 2100 will be higher by 3 °C than today, and they won’t, it won’t represent any serious challenge for the people who will live in 2100. Worries about the climate are rationally indefensible and most people do this pseudoscientific stuff professionally because they want to get decent salaries for very little work and no valuable work and they want to enjoy the advantages.

The question is what drives this distortion of science?

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doubleplusungood crimethink

That’s what Ed Driscoll says in describing the left’s war on science at Instapundit. The stimulus is Toby Young at the Spectator.

The witch hunt against Napoleon Chagnon shows us what happens if scientists challenge the core beliefs of ‘progressives’

How much longer can the liberal left survive in the face of growing scientific evidence that many of its core beliefs are false? I’m thinking in particular of the conviction that all human beings are born with the same capacities, particularly the capacity for good, and that all mankind’s sins can be laid at the door of the capitalist societies of the West. For the sake of brevity, let’s call this the myth of the noble savage.

This gets back to research by an anthropologist (Chagnon) that offended the fantasies of the left about pre-capitalist, pre-white man, ‘indigenous’ cultures. What happens when you confront an ideologue with reality? It isn’t pretty.

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Persistent in the assault. Creative (and desperate) in tactics.

Jazz Shaw: 2016 will usher in a fresh wave of assaults on Second Amendment rights. From California’s easy path to confiscation to Washington’s ‘tax’ to Virginia’s executive fiat ending interstate agreements, the efforts are ongoing and the rationales continue to be dishonest.

Having lost the battle of public opinion on the importance of Second Amendment rights and losing repeatedly in the courts at the federal level, gun rights opponents have been crafting new strategies to chip away the constitutional rights of gun owners at the state level. (This is traditionally the line of attack where they’ve enjoyed the most success.) Since the Democrats want to score big points with the gun grabbers in their base and there’s a big election on the horizon, you can count on these stories making the news all year long.

The entire demand for gun safety research is a smokescreen to provide some sort of pseudo-science support behind the effort to ban gun ownership.

Gun violence isn’t the only issue on the table with overblown exageration. Anthony Watts: Study: hyperbole is increasing in science

We’ve long noted at WUWT that the word “robust” has seen a significant rise in usage in climate science papers, becoming a favorite word to use when statistical Spackle has been applied to climate data. Now there’s evidence from a new study suggesting that observation is spot-on.

Researchers at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands say that the frequency of positive-sounding words such as ‘novel’, ‘amazing’, ‘innovative’ and ‘unprecedented’ has increased almost nine-fold in the titles and abstracts of papers published between 1974 and 2014. There has also been a smaller — yet still statistically significant — rise in the frequency of negative words, such as ‘disappointing’ and ‘pessimistic’.

The most obvious interpretation of the results is that they reflect an increase in hype and exaggeration, rather than a real improvement in the incidence or quality of discoveries,

Vinkers and his colleagues think that the trend highlights a problem. “If everything is ‘robust’ and ‘novel’”, says Vinkers, then there is no distinction between the qualities of findings. “In that case, words used to describe scientific results are no longer driven by the content but by marketability.”

This sort of observation is why the efforts to get the CDC back into research on gun violence should be troubling. When it comes to corporations, money is corrupt and evil but when it comes to government ‘investment’ in ‘research’ money is a necessary good. Those who believe this way are not in touch with reality. But then, they may suffer confirmation bias supported by the mainstream propaganda machine. See Climate Depot: Meteorologists refute media claims that Arctic storm caused by humans: ‘That’s utter bullsh*t’ – ‘Who is feeding the media this crap?’

‘That’s utter bullshit,” meteorologist Dr. Ryan Maue declared on December 29, in a response to the Washington Post’s claim that the Arctic event “reeks of a human-forced warming of the Earth’s climate.” Maue added: “Who is feeding the media this crap?”
Meanwhile Arctic sea ice extent is currently at a 10 year high

Big Arctic Melt Fizzles: “One Arctic buoy 300 km from the pole reported temperatures just above freezing for an hour yesterday. Another buoy a mile away did not report any above freezing temperatures.”

The current warm spike is not unprecedented. Arctic temperature data shows three cases of North Pole temperatures exceeding freezing (32F) since 1948.

It is one thing to be delusional but that gets compounded when you seek out any anomaly or unusual event to support your delusions and compounded again when you go to extreme links to foist your delusion on everyone else. There is reason to worry.

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An illustration of why it’s not debatable

The site is named Reason.com and you’d think that it’d present reasonable material. Steve Chapman illustrates otherwise in Ted Cruz’s Climate Change Festival of Fraud
Response to global warming evidence mischaracterizes the truth
. Sounds good but only if you don’t consider what is being offered.

Consider the start: “You have to feel sorry for Ted Cruz.” This is called ad hominem and illustrates that the issue at hand is attacking the person and not climate change.

Then there is “The topic was global warming. Every major scientific body has confirmed its existence, but as “the son of two mathematicians and computer programmers and scientists,” he feels particularly qualified to debunk it.” This is an appeal to authority citing appeal to authority – double whammy. Do remember that Mann’s hockey stick debunking was done by a statistician.

Then considered this discovery of the victim’s flaws: “The second is that the satellite data don’t refute global warming. NASA says that based on surface temperatures.” There seems to be some conflict between satellite and surface measures. Choosing one or the other to suit one’s desires doesn’t instill confidence that truth is being sought. Keep in mind that the surface data record is subject to continuous “adjustments” while the satellite data is not. The most recent brouhaha deals with decisions about ship cooling water inlet temperatures being considered more reliable than buoy data. 

This same sort of confusion is evident in “The same data indicate that of the 14 hottest years ever, 13 occurred in this century. When Cruz says there has been “no significant warming” since 1997, he’s engaging in brazen deception.” The problem here is that rate of change is being confused with actual position. There is also a problem in asserting extremes without considering the facts that the measures are within margins of error and the reference period chosen is usually just recent history and quite limited.

Then there’s the money corruption angle: “Which scenario is more plausible, thousands of scientists pretending to believe in global warming to get government grants or Cruz denying it to get campaign donations?” Perhaps Chapman forgets Climategate from a few years back? In one case there is blatant evidence of corruption. In the other, only allegation. Sliming with a perceived taint of money is a phenomena that deserves proper attention as an escape from “reason.” 

The debate deserves better than this.

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Tactics: using the Kübler-Ross model to understand climate activist behavior

Larry Kummer says Activists go thru 5 stages of grief for the climate change campaign

Summary: Climate activists have begun to see the failure of their campaign to get public policy measures to fight climate change. Their actions follow the five stages of grief in the Kübler-Ross model. This helps us predict what comes next, and prepare. For example, stage four (bargaining) offers an opportunity to gain something from the expensive policy gridlock in this vital area. This is the third in a series attempting to understand the ending of this 26-year-story and find in it some useful lessons for the future.

Life goes on, even for activists. There is always another campaign, as the coming apocalypse from air & water pollution was followed by the The Population Bombclip_image002[1] (1968), which gave way to Limits to Growthclip_image002[2] (1972), then nuclear winter (1983), then several more campaigns until peak oil, peak everything, and climate change.

Activists will enjoy the certainty that they were correct even though defeated by an ignorant public led by conservatives and oil companies. They will look forward — as did previous generations of such prophets — to the eventual apocalypse that results from the world’s refusal to believe.

Eventually the weather will decide whose science was stronger, that of the “activists or the “skeptics”. It might take years to see decisive results, or perhaps decades (see some scientists’ predictions here). Climate change is a commonplace in history, sometimes destroying entire civilizations. Our refusal to prepare even for the obvious — continuation of the two centuries of warming or, even more irresponsibly, for repeat of past extreme weather — probably will prove expensive in lives and money.

One way to understand this is that grief is just one example of cognitive dissonance. The real world intrudes on the way one wants to see it. Coming to grips with reality is an emotional process whether it is dealing with the death of a person or the death of a fantasy. As Kimmer notes, acceptance may come but that does not necessarily mean compliance. The acceptance that comes with an ideology hitting the fan of reality is to go with the flow rather than to accept the reality and modify the ideology. That is why the effort goes on and on. Life goes on and the struggle continues. Chicken Little or the Prophets of Doom are only flavors of the phenomena. At least the behavior is being noted and described so all can see it for what it really is.

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The engineering standard?

Herchel Smith takes note of some commentary stimulated by the pending Paris Climate Conference in Global Warming Fraud? Say It Ain’t So!. There are two problems. One is that claims about extreme often depend upon differences in measure that are well under the noise threshold. The other is the lack of accountability in research.

give me an engineering report on the field measurements, and instrumentation used, calibration data sheets, and a data mean, prove to me that you meet the central limit theorem with the ten or so statistical tests used for Monte Carlo calculations, get it peer reviewed, and most of all, have it all done by a registered PE who can be taken to court and lose everything (including his livelihood) if he’s wrong, and then maybe I’ll take it seriously.

Otherwise, the AGW advocates are just wasting my time. But they won’t do that, because they want to write papers in the echo chamber that is AGW “science.”

The standard used is that of the role of a registered professional engineer. An application for a special use permit to build a million square foot warehousing facility near here was peppered with the seals of PE’s who signed off on various reports and findings. While legal culpability might be a bit much for research findings, the means and methods should not be. The problem with much research about climate is that the usual substitute for legal culpability is under assault. Rather than attempting to enhance duplication of results, any who question are told to shut up or even threatened with unemployment or legal prosecution. There is a smell coming from the climate research community and it is beginning to be noticed.

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Being able to reproduce results?

Ben Marwick gets into How computers broke science – and what we can do to fix it. The issue has a current high profile example of the problem in climatology right now. The Congressional brouhaha over an agency’s manipulation of data and that agency’s reluctance to comply with requests for information is a case in point.

The problem:

For most of the history of science, researchers have reported their methods in a way that enabled independent reproduction of their results. But, since the introduction of the personal computer – and the point-and-click software programs that have evolved to make it more user-friendly – reproducibility of much research has become questionable, if not impossible. Too much of the research process is now shrouded by the opaque use of computers that many researchers have come to depend on. This makes it almost impossible for an outsider to recreate their results.

The problem is that most modern science is so complicated, and most journal articles so brief, it’s impossible for the article to include details of many important methods and decisions made by the researcher as he analyzed his data on his computer. How, then, can another researcher judge the reliability of the results, or reproduce the analysis?

Stanford statisticians Jonathan Buckheit and David Donoho described this issue as early as 1995:

An article about computational science in a scientific publication is not the scholarship itself, it is merely advertising of the scholarship. The actual scholarship is the complete software development environment and the complete set of instructions which generated the figures.

It means all those private files on our personal computers, and the private analysis tasks we do as we work toward preparing for publication should be made public along with the journal article.

This would be a huge change in the way scientists work. We’d need to prepare from the start for everything we do on the computer to eventually be made available for others to see. For many researchers, that’s an overwhelming thought. Victoria Stodden has found the biggest objection to sharing files is the time it takes to prepare them by writing documentation and cleaning them up. The second biggest concern is the risk of not receiving credit for the files if someone else uses them.

What to do? FOSS is gaining attention.

Currently, these are the tools and methods of the avant-garde, and many midcareer and senior researchers have only a vague awareness of them. But many undergraduates are learning them now. Many graduate students, seeing personal advantages to getting organized, using open formats, free software and streamlined collaboration, are seeking out training and tools from volunteer organizations such as Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry and rOpenSci to fill the gaps in their formal training.

Measurements in the lab have always been described the tools being used and any peculiarities involved in the test and measurement setup and procedure as a routine part of reports. What Ben notes is that this bit of background in the reporting of investigations has become rather sloppy when it comes to twiddling with numbers using modern computer technologies. The suggestion for a fix is to go back to fundamentals. Describe the methods used to obtain and manipulate measurements. Provide the software and the well sourced data in a manner that anyone can replicate and examine.

Complicated? That’s an excuse. When there are enthusiasts reverse engineering cheap VHF-UHF radio firmware, hackers trying to see if they can get past security barriers in cell phones and business databases as entertainment, and FOSS projects such as the Linux kernal and the GNU project, excuses don’t cut it. What should cause wonderment is why it is only just now that “many graduate students” are just beginning to see personal advantages in the FOSS paradigm and why proprietary data formats such as those native to Microsoft Office, are so predominant. It’s been more than thirty years since VisiCalc took the  financial world by storm. Isn’t “avant-garde” getting a bit stale for this sort of technology?

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Actual denial

Orac says it is A sad day for public science advocacy and then illustrates hubris and denial in his plaint.

Over the years, I’ve noticed many traits that various antiscience cranks share in common, be they antivaccinationists, quacks, anthropogenic global climate change denialists, or anti-GMO activists, and that is an obsession with ad hominem attacks. They can’t win on the science because science doesn’t support them; so they attack the man—or woman. The tactics they use include online harassment, harassment of families, legal thuggery (as Steve Novella recently suffered), and, of course, harassing them at work by contacting their supervisors or administration. …  Of course, if harassment of one kind doesn’t work, maybe another type of harassment might. If harassment at a science communicator’s day job doesn’t work, maybe a bogus lawsuit or online public attacks might. Whatever the tactic, the idea is to intimidate the critic to silence, or at least to make speaking up so painful that the critic thinks twice about it. At the very least, other scientists who see what happened to, say, Dr. Folta might decide speaking up is just not worth the consequences. Again, that’s the idea.

Consider what he is doing here. His list of “antiscience cranks” list four issues and makes no distinction about the quality differences between them. The label itself tends to be an illustration of what he calls an “obsession with ad hominem attacks” because crank is about the person and not the quality of the argument. Who is it that is creating a straw man in making assertions about the “idea” these cranks have about goals for their action?

One of the fundamental issues in science, and especially in the social ‘sciences’, is an awareness of observer bias and its effects on measure and perception. The behaviors Orac cites are those that can be seen by anyone and have been noted in this blog for years. Where Orac fails is that he does not seem aware of observer bias and tends to commit the same behavior he impugns. There appears to be a self awareness missing. 

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Perfect storm for solar

David Bergeron explaines: Why I’m Still Not a Member of the Solar Energy Industries Association even though he runs a solar oriented business in Arizona.

The more I learned about this new artificial solar industry, the more disturbing I found it to be. On-grid solar is nowhere near a break-even economic proposition. It is a very expensive and futile means of reducing CO2. Its job-creation argument is hollow in terms of opportunity cost given that there is no free lunch in the real world of economic scarcity.

Solar is a great field. Many hardworking entrepreneurs have and will continue to strive in free markets to make products that meet real needs. My own company is on a high-growth mode from niche off-grid applications; we have no rooftop business that will inevitably go through a boom/bust cycle according to political favors or a retrenchment thereof.

On-grid solar is a perfect storm for taxpayers: concentrated benefits for the industry, diffuse cost for ratepayers and taxpayers, and, yet, a strong positive public sentiment for solar created by energy Malthusians.

The fact is, when you figure out the total cost of a typical residential on-grid solar plant before subsidies, rebates, incentives and other ‘crony capitalist’ artifacts, the rate of return on the money spent usually exceeds the normal power bills. And that doesn’t include maintenance and repair costs over the lifetime of the solar plant.

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Get a life. Think about pros and cons. Consider the context. How unusual an idea!

Jon Evans has an interesting post on a modern delemma: Is Uber The Root Of All Evil? There is a lot of nuance in the ride share business ranging from ideas about employment and workers to impacts of technology to the encrusted regulation as a means to protect business classes to matters of relativism and choice making based on evaluation of risk versus benefit.

Allow me to humbly propose that the pendulum has perhaps swung too far into backlash. Allow me to suggest that “Uber is evil / represents the worst of capitalism!” is not just wrong, but actually dangerous. Allow me to submit that perhaps Uber is the lesser of two evils.

It may be too soon to say that “the full-time job is dead,” but I think it’s clear that a growing fraction of workers will find themselves working a fragmented panoply of gigs and contracts, rather than pursuing a full-time career with benefits. Yes, this isn’t near as stable and secure. Yes, many-to-most of these people may find themselves living in the precariat for much of their lives, barring the hoped-for eventual introduction of a basic income.

Consider the concern for Uber’s “exploited” drivers today; will we be quite as concerned for them when they are no longer being exploited, because they have been replaced by self-driving cars? Somehow I doubt it.

Whenever defenders of the status quo object to a new idea on the hallowed grounds of security, you can be pretty confident that they are lying. So it is with Uber.

Does Uber knowingly violate local law in cities they enter? They sure do. Is knowingly violating the law always an evil thing to do? …No. Not if the law itself is manipulative, exploitative, and written only to benefit a small class of rentiers — which, alas, is all too often the case.
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But just because Uber’s evils are front, center, and spotlit, doesn’t mean that they are the worst of all possible alternatives. I still counsel to ride Lyft instead, when you can. But when your choice is between Uber and the local taxi cartels, please think at least twice, hard, about which is actually the lesser evil. The answer may not be as obvious as it seems.

Think about the context? What a novel idea in this era of absolute ideologies that ban and even deny anything not in line with desires and fantasies! Note how much the propaganda machine has infiltrated the language and biased the discussion. precariat, renters, exploited, — where’s Marx when you need him?

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What happens to heretics

It is fairly well known that many media meteorologists are a bit reserved in their views on climate alarmism. Anthony Watts is one such individual who has a popular blog on the topic. Another example has ‘come out’ with a book: France’s top weatherman sparks storm over book questioning climate change – “Philippe Verdier, weather chief at France Télévisions, the country’s state broadcaster, reportedly sent on “forced holiday” for releasing book accusing top climatologists of “taking the world hostage

In a promotional video, Mr Verdier said: “Every night I address five million French people to talk to you about the wind, the clouds and the sun. And yet there is something important, very important that I haven’t been able to tell you, because it’s neither the time nor the place to do so.”

He added: “We are hostage to a planetary scandal over climate change – a war machine whose aim is to keep us in fear.”

His outspoken views led France 2 to take him off the air starting this Monday. “I received a letter telling me not to come. I’m in shock,” he told RTL radio. “This is a direct extension of what I say in my book, namely that any contrary views must be eliminated.”

Of course it is fear mongering as that is a useful tactic for all sorts of things where the evidence just doesn’t quite have the desired impact. Expulsion and censorship should not cause shock, either, as the RICO allegations for “deniers” illustrates (not to mention the Steyn vs Mann lawsuit).

There is dissonance here and it is causing behavioral anomalies in the alarmist and accommodation-at-any-cost crowds.  

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Overstep. And stumble? Alarmists misstep

When someone doesn’t realize a high profile is probably not a good idea, it lends credence to the hypothesis that maybe they don’t know that what they are doing is not so good an idea either. The IGES RICO allegations provide An Instance of Warmist Corruption.

We have often written about the fact that the world’s governments pour billions of dollars annually into the global warming project, the object of which is to increase the powers of government. And yet governments, the main parties that stand to benefit from the warmists’ campaign, pretend that their money is somehow innocent, while any private entity that supports climate research is suspect.

Alarmist scientists have gone so far as to urge the Obama administration to prosecute criminally scientists who disagree with them. The premise for this proposed RICO investigation was that “corporations in the fossil fuel industry and their supporters”–i.e., scientists who don’t buy the global warming hype–are deceiving the public for financial gain. This despicable effort, which we wrote about here, is led by Jagadish Shukla of George Mason University and several of his colleagues.

That inspired curiosity about Shukla’s own funding. The results, while incomplete, are striking. Shukla is remarkably well paid by George Mason, for a professor. His salary is currently around $314,000 a year. But that isn’t the half of it. Steve McIntyre writes that Shukla set up a “non-profit” entity, the Institute for Global Environment and Security, Inc. (IGES), to which the federal government has funneled millions of dollars. IGES operates as a slush fund for Shukla and his family; not only is Shukla on the payroll, apparently double-dipping in violation of university regulations, but his wife and daughter also draw substantial income from the “non-profit.”

Generally, when you know that bringing attention to yourself might reveal problems, you avoid doing doing things that spark attention. The climate alarmists appear to be beyond this. That leads to wonder about just what blinds them so.

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