The Warning Signs

We should have seen this debacle coming:

Given the recent events, though, it seems to me that we need to develop methods that can alert us to situations where the consensus position is faulty. In the case of climate research, there were numerous such clues that were available five or more years ago which should have made people look much more carefully at the consensus. Here are some red flags in the behavior of mainstream scientists that could be used as prompts for examining more carefully the consensus position.

(1) Consistent use of ad hominem attacks toward those challenging their positions.

(2) Refusal to make data public. This has been going on in this area for some time.

(3) Refusal to engage in discussions of the actual science, on the assumption that it is too complicated for others to understand.

(4) Challenging the credentials of those challenging the consensus position.

(5) Refusal to make computer code being used to analyze the data public. This has been particularly egregious here, and clear statements of the mathematics and statistics being employed would have allowed the conclusions to be challenged at a much earlier stage.

(1) and (4) are strongly related, of course. If anything, what this episode proves is that the global warming debate was never really about science, since they’re determined to move on as though this didn’t happen, and ignore the fact that the science has been perverted.

[Update a while later]

More thoughts from (real scientist) Frank Tipler:

I am automatically skeptical of any claim that by its very nature cannot be replicated by other scientists. What keeps scientists honest is not that scientists are more honest than other people — we aren’t — but that we know our colleagues are looking over our shoulders. Everyone is honest when he knows he is being watched.

We must seriously question whether climate “science” is, or even can be, a true science if skeptics cannot check its experimental claims. The only way climate “science” can approach being a real science is for all of its raw data to be made available. Only then is it possible for outsiders to check, at least partially, the claims of the insiders.

The second reason this conspiracy has been able to survive so long is simply that climatologists are now trained to believe in global warming theory. Remember the overwhelming urge of scientists to believe in their own pet theory, to believe that the data simply must confirm the theory, to believe that the only valid data points are those which confirm the theory? Data that are inconsistent with the theory are not recorded by believers, or not published. To true believers, such data are obviously due to an error in making the measurements, and so need not be recorded.

This human failing is why we need outside non-believers to check the theory against all the data — not just the data selected by the believers.

Of course, in order for us as a society to learn a lesson from this, it has to first be properly reported.

Saved By Private Property

As we awake this Thanksgiving, and give thanks for the opportunity to prepare to watch the Lions maintain their tradition of losing another Turkey-day game (unless, gasp, they actually manage to win two in a row?), it’s worth reminding ourselves or learning for the first time that the Pilgrims almost starved as a result of collectivism. That first thanksgiving was giving thanks for having saved themselves from such a ruinous philosophy. Perhaps next November, we’ll be able to do the same.

[Update a few minutes later]

Things that Frank J. is thankful for.

In Which I Develop A Strange New Respect

…for George Monbiot:

…his message looks awful. It gives the impression of confirming a potent meme circulated by those who campaign against taking action on climate change: that the IPCC process is biased. However good the detailed explanations may be, most people aren’t going to follow or understand them. Jones’s statement, on the other hand, is stark and easy to grasp.

In this case you could argue that technically he has done nothing wrong. But a fat lot of good that will do. Think of the MPs’ expenses scandal: complaints about stolen data, denials and huffy responses achieved nothing at all. Most of the MPs could demonstrate that technically they were innocent: their expenses had been approved by the Commons office. It didn’t change public perceptions one jot. The only responses that have helped to restore public trust in Parliament are humility, openness and promises of reform.

When it comes to his handling of Freedom of Information requests, Professor Jones might struggle even to use a technical defence. If you take the wording literally, in one case he appears to be suggesting that emails subject to a request be deleted, which means that he seems to be advocating potentially criminal activity. Even if no other message had been hacked, this would be sufficient to ensure his resignation as head of the unit.

I feel desperately sorry for him: he must be walking through hell. But there is no helping it; he has to go, and the longer he leaves it, the worse it will get. He has a few days left in which to make an honourable exit. Otherwise, like the former Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, he will linger on until his remaining credibility vanishes, inflicting continuing damage to climate science.

Some people say that I am romanticising science, that it is never as open and honest as the Popperian ideal. Perhaps. But I know that opaqueness and secrecy are the enemies of science. There is a word for the apparent repeated attempts to prevent disclosure revealed in these emails: unscientific.

We will continue to vehemently disagree on political issues, but henceforth (not that I did it much, or paid him that much attention in general), I shall refrain from calling him George Moonbat. He seems to recognize the damage that these people are doing to his cause, even if they cannot.

Another Rock Has Been Turned Over

It looks like the Kiwis have been manipulating the climate data as well. I wonder how much of this is copycat crime — if you’re getting dramatically different results than the “official” ones being funded in East Anglia by IPCC, how much pressure is there to make them conform?

[Update a few minutes later]

I like this:

“There’s been a whole lot of work behind this in terms of things like having overlaps between particular stations when they’ve moved. There’s a whole methodology, internationally accepted, where you actually work out how to correct for these sorts of site changes and so on.”

Why is that I’m starting to think that the “internationally accepted” methodology is to “correct for these site changes” to massage the data to make it appear that the planet has been warming more than it has?

[Update a few minutes later]

It’s interesting that whenever the data is “adjusted,” it somehow always results in a plot that shows warming, rather than cooling. It’s interesting in exactly the same way that whenever the MSM gets a story wrong, it somehow reflects badly on Republicans and Conservatives. Just a coincidence in both cases, I’m sure.

[Update a few minutes later]

More over at Watt’s place.

ISS/Atlantis On Display

A lot of USians will be able to see it tonight. And you don’t have to stay up late, it’s only an hour or so after sunset, at least on the left coast. Go here and plug in your zip code for azimuth and elevation.

[Update a few minutes later]

Heavens Above is another good place to go, where it says that ISS is now sufficiently bright with all of its arrays that it is visible in the daytime, if the sun is low enough.

Science, And Politics

Some thoughts from John Derbyshire:

That’s the spirit of scientific humility. You get a conceptual model that works — fits known data, and has strong explanatory and predictive power — and you work with it to uncover new truths, always understanding that it might yield to some better theory.

It’s an ideal, of course. The guys who perpetrated the great scientific frauds didn’t adhere to it, and it doesn’t look as though the EAU climate researchers did, either. That’s humanity for ya.

Ideals matter, though, and this one is peculiar to science. You will never — I guarantee it! — hear an imam say: “Can we really be sure that Muhammed was the Messenger of God? Will new discoveries overthrow this idea and replace it with some other theology?” Nor will you ever hear a Marxist economist begin a sentence with: “If some day the Labor Theory of Value is replaced by a better theory, …”

And always in science, as the decades roll by, the fraudsters, cranks, and political entrepreneurs fall by the wayside and the scientific spirit triumphs at last. We then know more true facts about the world than our fathers did. And that’s a very wonderful thing. Which I extol.

And it is very clear now that what many of the leading “scientists” in the climate-change fiasco weren’t doing science at all, and had little interest in it.

Tom Blumer notes one of the most absurd, and egregious failures to follow the science this morning, by Trenberth:

He can protest until the methane-generating cows come home, but the following implication of Trenberth’s trembling response is inescapable: “Even though we’ve relied on them all along to build our case, we suddenly can’t rely on temperature measurements to prove or disprove the existence of global warming. Our models nonetheless simply have to be right.” His backup argument if the temps are indeed correct — which would mean that the model generating “the CERES data” and other similar simulations will have been proven to be flawed — would be, “Well, even if the models are wrong, we still have proof in melting Arctic sea ice, rising sea levels, etc.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose work Trenberth cites in a recent paper to support his belief that “global warming is unequivocally happening,” doesn’t name any other factors beyond temperature, ice, and sea levels in the pull quote of its “Summary for Policymakers”: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.”

So unless Trenberth has something meaningful in the “lot of other indicators” he casually cites in his response to his email’s release, he and his brethren are in a heap of trouble. That’s because by his own logic, temperature measurements must be rejected as credible evidence. Further, his presumptive, supposedly settled-science arguments about Arctic sea ice and rising sea levels melt upon only a cursory review.

Who are you gonna believe, me and my Charlie Foxtrot of a model, or your lying thermometers?

Along those lines, William Briggs explains what is and isn’t evidence for global warming.

And Ian Plimer says that we should be angry. Very angry.

I know I am, and anyone who cares about science (at a minimum) should be.

[Update a few minutes later]

Ilya Somin on the social validation of knowledge:

Most of us, however, lack expertise on climate issues. And our knowledge of complex issues we don’t have personal expertise on is largely based on social validation. For example, I think that Einsteinian physics is generally more correct than Newtonian physics, even though I know very little about either. Why? Because that’s the overwhelming consensus of professional physicists, and I have no reason to believe that their conclusions should be discounted as biased or otherwise driven by considerations other than truth-seeking. My views of climate science were (and are) based on similar considerations. I thought that global warming was probably a genuine and serious problem because that is what the overwhelming majority of relevant scientists seem to believe, and I generally didn’t doubt their objectivity.

At the very least, the Climategate revelations should weaken our confidence in the above conclusion. At least some of the prominent scholars in the field seem driven at least in part by ideology, and willing to use intimidation to keep contrarian views from being published, even if the articles in question meet normal peer review standards. Absent such tactics, it’s possible that more contrarian research would be published in professional journals and the consensus in the field would be less firm. To be completely clear, I don’t think that either ideological motivation or even intimidation tactics prove that these scientists’ views are wrong. Their research should be assessed on its own merits, irrespective of their motivations for conducting it. However, these things should affect the degree to which we defer to their conclusions merely based on their authority as disinterested experts.

At the same time, it’s important not to overstate the case. I don’t think we have anywhere near enough evidence to show that the academic consensus on global warming is completely bogus, or even close to it. Nor has it been proven that all or most prominent scientific supporters of global warming theory are as unethical as those exposed in this scandal.

On balance, therefore, I still think that global warming exists and is a genuinely serious problem. But I am marginally less confident in holding that view than I was before. If we see more revelations of this kind, I will be less confident still.

I’ve always been an agnostic on these issues, but willing to accept the notion that the planet is warming and that we are causing it. Where I’ve dug in my heels was on the notion that the proposed cures weren’t worse than the disease, and I agree with Bjorn Lomborg, who (almost alone among the people discussing this) seems to have his head screwed on straight in terms of the economics. But this episode has increased my skepticism about not just the proposed policies, but the science itself. I would say that, at this point, the burden of proof has shifted in the extreme, and is now on those who demand that we impoverish ourselves (at least in relative terms, and don’t fool yourself that this isn’t exactly what they’re demanding) in the name of the science. The science is flawed.

There are no doubt sincere scientists working on this in good faith, but the charlatans in East Anglia and other places have had an inordinate influence on the work of the entire community, and we can’t know to what degree others’ work was affected by it and the false consensus. All climate science is suspect at this point, and the notion that we should be making global policy on it has to be seen now as completely absurd. It will be interesting to see how heretical people will feel comfortable in being in Copenhagen.

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