Nomenclature

Some have noted, and I agree that it’s a misnomer to call this “ClimateGate.” In addition to the fact that simply adding “Gate” to a scandal is so late twentieth century, calling it a “Gate” would imply that it’s something that the media will go into a frenzy over, because it’s a scandal about something politically incorrect (e.g., Nixon). No, a better name for it (again, not original with me — I think it showed up in comments at one of the PJM pieces) is “Climaquiddick.” In other words, expect the media to try to whitewash and minimize it.

[Update a few minutes later]

Ah, here. Iain Murray uses it in a post title.

And Jonah points out what should be obvious — that this isn’t just a science scandal, but a journalistic one:

One reason this seemed to me like less of a big deal at first was that the individual e-mails — “hide the decline” and so forth — while damning, also seemed open to interpretation. And I still think that’s the case in some instances. But what seems incontrovertible at this point is that the global-warming industry (and it is an industry) is suffused to its core with groupthink and bad faith. For many of us, this is not shocking news. But it is shocking evidence. Proving bad faith and groupthink is very hard to do. But now we have the internal dialog of those afflicted made public (I hope some intrepid reporters are asking other climate institutions whether they are no erasing their files for fear of being similarly exposed). It is clear that the scientists at the CRU were more interested in punishing dissenters and constructing a p.r. campaign than they were in actual science.

This should be considered not merely a scientific scandal but an enormous journalistic scandal. The elite press treats skepticism about global warming as a mental defect. It uses a form of the No True Scotsman fallacy to delegitimize people who dissent from the (manufactured) “consensus.” Dissent is scientifically unserious, therefore dissenting scientist A is unserious. There’s no way to break in. The moment someone disagrees with the “consensus” they disqualify themselves from criticizing the consensus. That’s not how science is supposed to work. Skeptics who’ve received a tote bag from some oil company are branded as shills, but scientists who live off of climate-change-obsessed foundations or congressional fiefdoms are objective, call-it-like-they-see-it truth seekers. Question these folks and you get a Bill Murrayesque, “Back off, man. We’re scientists.”

An even larger reason this is a journalistic scandal is that governments want to spend — literally — trillions of dollars on climate change. Industries want to make billions off it. The poor will be hurt. Economies wrenched apart. And journalistic skepticism is almost nowhere to be found. If you know people in the “skeptic community” (for want of a better term) or even just normal, honest scientists, the observation that federal and foundation funding and groupthink is driving, or at least distorting, the climate debate is commonplace. But it’s given almost no oxygen in the elite press, because they are in on it.

And as one of his emailers points out, what will really bring down this house of cards is when it’s revealed how awful and completely unreliable the computer code is. It’s no surprise that those who created the “models” didn’t want them released. The other issue, of course, gets back to a problem that the blogosphere has been complaining about for years — how incompetent (and how unprepared from the typical curricula of journalism schools) journalists are at covering, or even understanding, math and science, yet they’ve appointed themselves to explain it to the rest of us.

[Update mid afternoon]

Well, how about that? There’s at least one real journalist working at CBS:

As the leaked messages, and especially the HARRY_READ_ME.txt file, found their way around technical circles, two things happened: first, programmers unaffiliated with East Anglia started taking a close look at the quality of the CRU’s code, and second, they began to feel sympathetic for anyone who had to spend three years (including working weekends) trying to make sense of code that appeared to be undocumented and buggy, while representing the core of CRU’s climate model.

One programmer highlighted the error of relying on computer code that, if it generates an error message, continues as if nothing untoward ever occurred. Another debugged the code by pointing out why the output of a calculation that should always generate a positive number was incorrectly generating a negative one. A third concluded: “I feel for this guy. He’s obviously spent years trying to get data from undocumented and completely messy sources.”

Programmer-written comments inserted into CRU’s Fortran code have drawn fire as well. The file briffa_sep98_d.pro says: “Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!” and “APPLY ARTIFICIAL CORRECTION.” Another, quantify_tsdcal.pro, says: “Low pass filtering at century and longer time scales never gets rid of the trend – so eventually I start to scale down the 120-yr low pass time series to mimic the effect of removing/adding longer time scales!”

Unfortunately, he had to do it at a blog. I wonder if it will ever show up as a CBS story?

Stacking The Deck?

Jeff Foust reports on an upcoming hearing on the safety of human spaceflight. As he notes, there is only one obvious proponent of commercial provision of such services asked to testify. I don’t know what General Stafford thinks about the subject, but I fear it. And note that no one from the FAA-AST will be present, though they will probably be involved, eventually, with passenger safety on commercial vehicles. The worst thing, of course, is that the hearing will be chaired by Jim Oberstar, who is on record as being hypersensitive to safety issues at the expense of progress. That’s unfortunately one of the consequences of the past two elections, though hopefully it will be rectified next November. Expect to hear a lot of talk about how the private sector can’t be “trusted” with the safety of astronauts, but that the agency that has killed fourteen of them in the past quarter century can.

More Climate Scam Commentary

Instapundit has a roundup this morning, including this — the fix is in:

The picture that emerges is simple. In any discussion of global warming, either in the scientific literature or in the mainstream media, the outcome is always predetermined. Just as the temperature graphs produced by the CRU are always tricked out to show an upward-sloping “hockey stick,” every discussion of global warming has to show that it is occurring and that humans are responsible. And any data or any scientific paper that tends to disprove that conclusion is smeared as “unscientific” precisely because it threatens the established dogma.

For more than a decade, we’ve been told that there is a scientific “consensus” that humans are causing global warming, that “the debate is over” and all “legitimate” scientists acknowledge the truth of global warming. Now we know what this “consensus” really means. What it means is: the fix is in.

It also makes one wonder — what else have these people and their enablers in the media been lying to us about?

[Update a few minutes later]

Three things you absolutely must know about the scandal.

[Update a few minutes later]

For those who want to get their geek on, here’s a preliminary code review:

I’ve examined two files in some depth and found (OK so Harry found some of this)

* Inappropriate programming language usage
* Totally nuts shell tricks
* Hard coded constant files
* Incoherent file naming conventions
* Use of program library subroutines that appear to be

o far from ideal in how they do things when they work
o do not produce an answer consistent with other way to calculate the same thing
o but which fail at undefined times
o and where when the function fails the the program silently continues without reporting the error

Yes, let’s completely upend the world’s economy over results like this.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s more:

We have here a stellar example of it in real life in the above example where a “squared” value (that theoretically can never become negative) goes negative due to poor programming practice.

There are ways around this. If a simple “REAL” (often called a FLOAT) variable is too small, you can make it a “DOUBLE” and some compilers support a “DOUBLE DOUBLE” to get lots more bits. But even they can have overflow (or underflow the other way!) if the “normal” value can be very very large. So ideally, you ought to ‘instrument’ the code with “bounds checks” that catch this sort of thing and holler if you have that problem. There are sometimes compiler flags you can set to have “run time” checking for overflow and abort if it happens (there are also times that overflow is used as a ‘feature’ so you can’t just turn it off all the time. It is often used to get “random” numbers, for example.)

But yes, from a programmers point of view, to watch someone frantic over this “newbie” issue is quite a “howler”…

And this:

So we have a tacit confirmation that they start with GHCN data. That means that ALL the issues with the GHCN data (migration to the equator, migration from the mountains to the beaches…) apply to Hadley / CRU just as they do to GIStemp.

Both are broken in the same way, so that is why they agree. They use biased input data and see the same result.

And this:

BTW, IMHO it would be easy to make an alternative Global Temperature Series. “Mc” is quite right that it is easy. I could have one in about a day (less if I didn’t want to think about the details too much) and it would be more accurate than GIStemp. How? Simply by “un-cherry picking” some of the GIStemp parameters then running the code.

I finds the dig at “real science” vs “procedures” interesting. How can you have reliable science if your procedures are broken? I learned about “lab procedures” and the importance of them very early in chem lab. Anyone who disses the merit of sound procedures is an accident waiting to happen… IMHO. And will produce errors from unsound procedures.

But the overall thing that I pick up from this is just the tone of True Believers. These folks really do think they have it all worked out. And that is a very dangerous thing. It leads to very closed minds and it leads to very strong “selection bias”. Often with no ability to self detect that broken behaviour.

You know, I think there will be a great deal of insight come from this “leak”…

The climate gods have feet of clay. What’s sad is that people like commenter and defender Chris Gerrib (who had never even heard of induction until this discussion) and many politicians (e.g., Al Gore) are incapable of understanding the degree to which this invalidates the entire enterprise, because of their ignorance of epistemology.

The Flat-Earth Theory

In comments over at my PJM piece today, I find this:

I agreed with Rand’s article, except for this point:

“But every scientist worthy of the name should be a skeptic. Every theory should be subject to challenge on a scientific basis.”

It is true that every “theory” should be regarded skeptically if there is *cause* to do so (ie evidence for doubt). But not every idea about reality is still a theory. For instance, it is no longer a “theory” that the earth is round (rather than flat). That fact has now been established. The idea is no longer a theory, but is true. There is no basis for being skeptical – for doubting – this conclusion.

The question which gets ignored here is at what point does a theory become a truth? At what point does a conclusion go from being possible, to probable, to certain?

To suggest scientists must -always- be skeptical is to claim that certainty can never be reached – about anything. That is simply a false statement. That is not science. That is the acceptance and practice of a particular philosophy – Skepticism – which is something -quite- different from reason.

The actual problem here is that many people are treating an idea which is (at best) a flawed *hypothesis* as if it were not just a theory but an actual certainty – ie as if they somehow know it to be true. In other words, they hold their conclusion not based on the methodology of reason, but by means of faith.

I think there are some nomenclature issues here. There was a time that the notion that the earth was round (or flat) was a theory. There was no direct evidence either way. That is no longer the case not because the “round-earth” theory has been somehow refined, but because we have actually been able to see pictures of a round planet, from various angles. That the earth is round is a fact, not a theory (one of the reasons that Flat-Earth societies are a literal joke). Gravity, however, remains a theory that explains the physical behavior of every object in the universe (as far as we know). It will never become a fact. It will never be more than the best explanation, and something (in theory…) better could still come along. The same thing applies to evolution, which is the best theory (currently) that explains the facts (the fossil record and DNA relationships). Intelligent design is not a theory — it is a critique of a theory (evolution). But one doesn’t have to propose a better theory in order to shoot one down. If the climate data has been tampered with, it makes their theory suspect, regardless of any alternatives that the critics may have.

A Document Dump

…at ACORN in San Diego. The Republic is fortunate in the idiocy of its enemies.

[Early evening update]

Breitbart’s comments, and ACORN’s (pathetic) response.

Here’s my question. Did Jerry Brown’s AG office tip off ACORN that they’d be coming by? And was this their idiotic response — to just dump them, literally, in a dumpster? Have they never even heard of shredders?

As I said, the Republic is fortunate in its enemies. It’s about what you’d expect, though. An organization like ACORN is not going to select for the best and brightest, and perhaps that’s what always saves us from people like them. Remember that tape during the campaign last year of the moron (I think almost literally) in the red tee-shirt, speechifying “ACORN needs Obama, and Obama needs ACORN”?

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!