Archive for December, 2009

A case study in trying to come to grips with reality

Bruce has a very good detailed example of a troubled person trying to get through the stages of denial. See Monbiot – Projection, Denial And Ad Hominen Are Now “Argument”?.

Incredible projection on view in an article by George Monbiot today. If you’re not familiar with Monbiot, he’s been a leading supporter of AGW writing for the Guardian. And when Climaquiddick broke, he agreed that there was fire within the smoke and made the point that the damage to the AGW cause from the emails is real.

Today we see him trying mightily to erect a strawman and beat it to death. But he does that after again admitting the problem brought on by the emails but not quite as much as he has in the past.

The need is for an honest argument and that need is why it is an important issue. An example to contrast with Monbiot is Why the Historical Warming Numbers Matter – e very good summary and explanation of the science issues and why they are important.

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The lumps under the rug are getting hard to ignore

There are videos and pictures and hard evidence but we are told they are of no significance. Covering Up for ACORN by Matthew Vadum describes how the James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles videos are being swept under the rug by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger.

Surely Harshbarger knows these things, yet he seems unembarrassed to associate himself with this report that whitewashes the activities of a radical advocacy group-turned organized crime syndicate.

It seems this use of the rug to cover unpleasantness happens to a lot of issues these days. Rober Bradley describes how Alarmists cold-shoulder facts.

Others continue to trumpet “studies” that paint terrifying environmental fairy tales if world governments do not immediately criminalize carbon, ban fossil fuels and ration energy.

But these tactics are not new. Paul Ehrlich’s “population bomb” of the 1960s predicted food riots in the United States and around the world. Today, obesity is bigger problem.

Though climate models have proved to be an obvious inconvenient truth, alarmists continue to ignore this elephant in the room.

Then there’s Cal Thomas on the flat-head society

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has taken the route of many who would rather call names than have a serious debate

Or you can take a look at a BOOK REVIEW: Dispelling the fallacies of the left By A.G. Gancarski for another example of using the previous administration as a rug.

For a more detailed example of how something inconvenient can be swept under the rug, see The Smoking Gun At Darwin Zero about how a data set is adjusted in puzzling ways with a ‘surprising outcome’ of fitting an agenda. Again, Hrynyshyn provides an interesting contrast in his post The “climategate” virus spreads which expresses his dismay that folks are noticing the bumps under the rug. AJ Strata takes note of this in Another Set Of Cooked AGW Data, Results In More Proof AGW Does Not Exist

That cadre of alarmist ’scientists’ who thought they were the smartest people on the planet are now running into something the world has yet to fully grasp. The age of the internet and blogs (along with supporting SW tools that do data processing, graphing, video editing, etc) has created the ability for powerful and rapid collaborations of very smart and gifted individuals to form over night. These virtual teams are a new force that humanity’s legacy institutions have never faced before. They are in for a shock.

Why Switzerland Has The Lowest Crime Rate In The World reveals another issue where reality is often swept under the rug. In this case the issue is gun control.

Jennifer Rubin describes the state of the rug regarding the health care issue in The Crisis Bullies Are Losing

Backers of a government takeover of health care have been trying, not unlike the environmental hysterics, to tell us that we are in a dire crisis. For if one is in a crisis, something must be done. And in a crisis, one tends to be predisposed to accept all sorts of eye-popping power grabs and unbelievable statistics, because it’s a crisis after all. Alas, the public isn’t buying it. It sure doesn’t seem like a health-care crisis to most Americans.

She also describes a similar phenomena regarding the economy in Let’s Not Be Stupid or see The Job-Creation Snow Job — By: Thomas Sowell.

These examples illustrate that many issues if significant social importance are argued with a lack of intellectual integrity – behavior that is not conducive to effective decision making.

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Other issues are still to hand

Climate research problems are not the only issues on the plate. Others still simmer and are being figured out.

The decisions of the USAG about who to prosecute have puzzled some. ACORN is one example. Jennifer Rubin describes the current activity on another in DOJ Employees Subpoenaed: Will Holder Interfere?. That one involves the blatant voter intimidation witness in the last major election. Another USAG issue is the terrorists trials and Kejda Gjermani covers some of the action there in the idea that The True Administration of Justice is the Firmest Pillar of Good Government. An alternative view at Slate is about Why the critics of the KSM trial are wrong. Rick has some additional thoughts on this topic in Theocentrism vs. Egocentrism. That cites Deborah Tyler who suggests that

liberalism is not insane. It is a highly adaptive ego device that enables people to violate commitments, vilify those who are true to their faith, and avoid personal sacrifice while feeling great about themselves. The only defense against hypocrisy is self-knowledge; the politics, spirituality, and morality of liberalism are well-constructed firmaments of self-delusion.

That gets back to the Roadkill Diaries taking note of the Christopher Essex commentary to the point that

Governments leaders wanted something where they could absolve themselves of the responsibility for making informed decisions. They would have to read science stuff otherwise. They ordered up a kind of unnatural scientist that would tell them precisely what they wanted to hear.

And then there’s Sarah. Going Rogue has sold more than a million copies at a record pace and now Palin wows them at the Gridiron Club. That shows a side many have denied she has, again. The truth can sometimes take a long time to sink in for some folks.

Then there’s Afghanistan (see The worst and the dimmest) and the troop strength versus pullout schedule; net neutrality and related issues (see Will Google be Neutral and Transparent with its new service?); Technology and the future of journalism as seen with the Tiger Woods story; and the Muslim conundrum such as described in Gaddafi: Swiss minaret ban invites al-Qaeda attacks.

Therein lies the assumption that all acts of jihadist terrorism must be a response to some kind of provocation (real or imagined) from non-Muslims: after all, the apologists keep telling us “defensive” jihad is quite alright, caliph or no caliph.

Now to check out the Skeptics Handbook and see if it fits the denial of reality paradigm often ascribed to those who dare question authority in certain matters.

Don’t we live in interesting times?

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More on the climate fuss

The many posts on climate research here are due to the fact that it serves as an excellent example of the problems of intellectual integrity and the behaviors that are evident when people suffer dissonance between reality and their desires. The climate controversy touches on deep seated emotional ideas of self with measures that have significant ambiguity. The consequences escape the individual realm and become socially significant to an extreme degree.

There are several sources of ambiguity. One is that temperature is being used to measure the amount of heat in the atmosphere and earth surface. Another is that there is no direct measure of temperatures, no global record of any quality or scope, going back past the agricultural science movement typified by the establishment of land grand universities in the Us in the latter part of the 19th century. Another source of ambiguity is in the actual temperature record we do have. Marc Sheppard (of “American Stinker” email fame) notes in Understanding Climategate’s Hidden Decline that

Anthony Watts has surveyed over 75% of the 1200-plus U.S weather stations from which national temperatures are accumulated. Most of those were found to be inaccurate by more than 2°C, largely due to being located within 10 meters of an artificial heating source.

Compare Marc’s post to those linked at Climate talking points, especially on the topics such as the MWP and Mann’s Hockey stick. One is primarily bald assertion. The other is logical inference supported by careful rationale and an awareness of the implications of the measures being used. That is the lesson to see about intellectual integrity and its proper pursuit.

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Climate talking points

Answering the Climate Skeptic at a Few Things Considered provides a categorized index of quick answers to anything a skeptic might be skeptical about when it comes to climate science.

In what I hope is an improvement on the original categorization, they have been divided and subdivided along 4 seperate lines: Stages of Denial, Scientific Topics, Types of Argument, Levels of Sophistication. This should facilitate quick retrieval of specific entries. Individual articles will appear under multiple headings and may even appear in multiple subcategories in the same heading.

A first thing to note is that asserting “denial” is a conclusion about the motivation of anyone with skepticism. That is a clue as to the integrity of the list and the answers provided.

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Amateur Science

The climate research brouhaha has emphasized the roles of amateurs in science. M&M (the Canadian retiree and his partner the economics professor) who raised a lot of ire in the revealed communications are the famous ones. Two more examples can be seen at the Coyote Blog in Example of Climate Work That Needs to be Checked and Replicated and The Strata-Sphere at Pre “Adjusted” CRU Data & IPCC AGW Models Prove AGW Theory Is WRONG!.

The fact is that much of climatology is numerical and statistical. The tools to replicate work and examine algorithms are readily available to the amateur scientist. That means that amateurs can be a valuable resource for checking, validation, and verification. The recent history shows that this is indeed the case much like amateur astronomers can provide an extra eye for celestial events.

But what do scientists get the big bucks for? If amateurs can do all this science, why have research grants and professorships and ‘professional’ scientists? The are several keys there. One is the teaching and education aspect. Another is the creation of new models. A third is in data collection and preparation. The professionals create structures that amateurs and interested citizens can use to gain understanding about the world around them.

That means the professional gets paid the big bucks to provide targets for the amateurs!

The professional paves the road and helps the amateur find his way from source to destination. He has to deal with amateurs who think they have found a shortcut or think there is a better way to travel. If the professional is good, he will learn about his road and its qualities by this process of educating others. First rate teachers know this and it is one of the reasons they teach. Others get annoyed that their most gifted students can’t stay on track and keep with the program.

When it comes to climate research it appears that there are some very gifted amateurs at work. Consider the attitude of various professionals towards them and what that says about the qualities of the professionals.

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Let the data be free!

Captain Ed has a good summary at Hot Air in AGW meltdown: UK Met Office needs three years to review East Anglia data. The scientists realize that data confidence has been tarnished so they plan to reconstruct so that its quality will be transparent and open. The politicians are trying to stop this effort.

The Met Office is taking the correct approach. The data on which they largely relied has not only been shown to have been corrupted by bias and corruption, it’s also been destroyed. Knowing the UEA-CRU’s credibility as a scientific effort has been compromised, real scientists would insist on recreating the data set in a thoroughly testable and transparent process before proceeding to use any of the conclusions reached from the previous work to form any more recommendations for action.

In fact, the UN, the UK, and the rest of the world should be insisting on the same approach — if they were interested in science in the first place.

Scientists may be people but that is no excuse for the kind of behavior being seen in the journal Nature‘s editorial about this brouhaha, for instance. It is no excuse for diminishing the arguments raised about communications and documents released as being only words taken out of context or using stolen or ill gotten material. That kind of stuff is people and politics stuff. Scientists would go after the substance and not the people. They’d do like the Met Office plans to do and clean up the data with processes and procedures that are open and transparent. They’d meed objections and skepticism with teaching and explaining rather than obfuscation, censorship, and mud slinging.

You may not understand the science but you can, and should, understand the behavior. The behavior tells you much about where the science really is.

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Skating climate science

Gavin, one of the insiders in the climate brouhaha (climategate seems to be the preferred label right now), takes on the idea of Unsettled Science with a curious claim:

The phrase “the science is settled” is associated almost 100% with contrarian comments on climate and is usually a paraphrase of what ’some scientists’ are supposed to have said. The reality is that it depends very much on what you are talking about and I have never heard any scientist say this in any general context

This is a technique for skating around the truth. Its problem is shown when he follows with

In the climate field, there are a number of issues which are no longer subject to fundamental debate in the community.

There are words and there are ways of saying things and those who assert

Playing rhetorical games in the face of this, while momentarily satisfying for blog commenters, is no answer at all to the real issues we face.

should perhaps look at their own blog posts.

It is not the contrarians who are using “science is settled” assertions but rather those who predict doom and gloom like reported by Seth Borenstein at PhysOrg in Global warming may require higher dams, stilts. The ‘settled’ argument is the logical fallacy of appeal to authority used to rationalize taking extreme measures to solve an anticipated problem that is not founded on more honest rationales.

An honest argument would address reasonable questions. For example, on the rising water issue one has to wonder, if the predicted rise in ocean levels over the next few decades or centuries is a matter of inches, who don’t tides and storms cause equal havoc?

One of Gavin’s nemesis, Watts up with that?, has many posts about this sort of skating around the issues. If I had a subscription to Nature , I’d cancel it, for instance, describes a pattern that can be observed in several prestigious science journals for the last several decades. Similar ideological bias flavoring science education have occurred in Scientific American and Science but all that tells you is that eminent scientists, like Gavin, need, like all of us, a reality check at times.

Gavin does have a good essay on the matter of degree of confidence in what we measure and learn. It is too bad that the does not apply those concepts to the issues of climate research.

UPDATE: see also A devastating response to “There’s nothing to see here, move along” (@WUWT) for how Gavin’s assertions about the international panel are suspicious and Science as a contact sport: Reviewed (scienceblogs) to admire the ‘artistry’ in skating around the issue with the ‘everyone does it’ logical fallacy. Compare and contrast!

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Climate research brouhaha: update

Judith Curry, a climate scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology was one of the very few in the field to comment about the severity of the problem and found herself alone. See the interview Climate Scientist: Time For More Transparency at Insider Interviews.

Nobody [in the climate-science sector] wants to talk about this. When I put my essay out on climateaudit.org, I thought I would be one of 500 people out there making statements, but oops, I’m out there by myself.

Jim Miller has some thoughts and cites Roger A Pielke, Sr. summary of last April. It notes the many facets involved in climate change, the ‘cabal’ problem, and the distorted political goals.

Mark Steyn notes that Lord Jones is Indisposed.

The reviled “skeptics” and “deniers” have forced Prof. Phil Jones in East Anglia to step down “temporarily” and prompted Penn State to investigate Prof. Michael Mann. Yet you’d have no idea of what the story was about from reading the AP reports in the average American monodaily. If, as the old saw has it, 90 percent of journalism is announcing that Lord Jones is dead to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive, the remaining 10 percent involves telling people Professor Jones’s temperature is much lower than expected without telling them why.

The Devil’s Kitchen takes note of behaviors in CRUdGate – Why this can’t be swept under the carpet. It notes attempts to minimize the brouhaha by misdirecting the issue from the message to the messenger, appeals to the authority of peer review or consensus, or just a couple of bad apples.

Firstly, we must understand how the whole thing hangs together, because the edifice of AGW is very definitely not just pure science, boffins in white coats in labs and so forth. It spans the whole gamut from real pure science, through the applied sciences and Engineering, passing through economics and finally ending up in the dark arts of Politics and Diplomacy. That’s a lot to take in, so I have created a handy diagram that explains. Never let it be said that your polymathematic Pedant-General makes you do the hard work.

Do go check out the graphic as it flows from ‘pure science’ to ‘policy and politics’ and also see the version annotated by placing the major players in their appropriate spots. One of the tactics used to obfuscate the arguments in some circles is to misplace the players from their established roles as a means to denigrate them and deny their arguments.

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Post WW II and the natural sciences explosion

The fifties were great years for scientists in fields such as meteorology or oceanography or other branches of geophysics and the natural sciences. It was an inertia from the World War and government sponsored research that was developed to help win it. But there was danger, too. Bill Whittle takes note of an Eisenhower warning that was offered in his famous military industrial complex speech: “a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.”

Ronald Bailey describes the fallout at Reason.com in The Scientific Tragedy of Climategate – “the real tragedy of the Climategate scandal is that a lack of confidence in climate data will seriously impair mankind’s ability to assess and react properly to a potentially huge problem.” The question is why ‘climate data’ had any credibility to begin with.

Collecting weather data in a systematic manner has been an amateur activity up until perhaps a hundred or so years ago when agricultural science efforts began serious studies. The land grant colleges of about the 1870’s mark that time. A second step was correlated with the WW II time frame when aviation safety needed better weather data and information storage and processing technologies facilitated the gathering and structure of mass data collection. When computers became capable of doing modeling and new sensing methods for weather phenomena were invented allowing satellite and automated data collection things really took off.

The fact remains that the history of actual weather measure is fairly short and most of that history was a process of some person physically taking a reading from a mercury thermometer. That is as good as it gets and anyone who has tried to maintain a weather record this way for more than a few days will realize just how difficult it is to get good, reliable, accurate, and precise data. While much of the focus on climate change has been on models, the recent revelations show that the real problem is getting a good handle on the raw data upon which everything else rests. That data needs effective organization, documentation, structure, and qualification before anyone can draw pictures from it.

In modern times, there are very many amateur weather stations that are providing real time data to web sites to be examined on popular weather websites. Many well educated laymen have the tools to collect, organize, and analyze this data as an avocational activity. What the climate brouhaha reveals is the clash between this modern phenomena and the post WW II academic government complex Eisenhower warned about.

Toto has pulled the curtain and we can see the wizard. We have the tools and the education to understand what he is really doing. That makes the wizard rather unhappy, it seems. We’ll see if he can get over it and join us on an adventure of discovery.

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The primal lie and the mirror

American Digest, ClimateGate: First Lie is the Deepest.

Think about your own collection of emails written to friends, associates, and colleagues over the years. They form, taken en masse, footnotes and journal entries that document your life. Email does not exist in a vacuum. It replicates in outline the conversations, phone calls, meetings, work sessions, bull sessions, conventions, and all the other multifoliate actions that define your days. So it is with the HadlyCRU emails.

The letters of our ancestors have value because the tell us about those ancestors in the most intimate and valid manner. The correspondence and actual words of these people give a first hand glimpse into values and manner that enrich our relationships.

In the current era, there is much more that is recorded in our interactions with others. How we speak, how and what we write in our communications, is a mirror with an image of our being complete with many aspects we may not want to see or be seen. But seen they will be. How that exposure is handled gives insight in itself.

Once that happened it became easy to spot the liars at HadlyCRU and among other Alarmist supporters. It was simplicity itself. Anyone who told you that “the emails were a non-event” was part and party to the hoax and the lie. There was no longer any reason to believe any of them. You might not know enough about science, but you knew a lot about email and how it indicated what the real world environment of the writers of that email was like. If you were an honest person, you had to believe, finally, your own lying eyes.

Denial is a self protection mechanism but becomes a cancer of the soul if it does not pass and an acceptance of reality takes over. It has yet to be seen whether this exposure of climate scientist’s communications will be accepted for what it says.

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