Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Praise of Skepticism I


For too long now, the term "skepticism" has been used in the climate debate in an almost pejorative manner. Time to start a series of reflections on skepticism as a virtue, of something we cannot do without in science.
 To start with, I want to borrow a nice story from the "Chronicle of Higher Education" blog by Peter Wood: "Skepticism and Tradition". He uses the example of the initiation rites among the Baktaman in New Guinea, as reported by the anthropologist Fredrik Barth, to make an argument for more tradition in our Western education systems; I want to focus on the other end of the pair and use it as an argument for more skepticism in the natural sciences (and especially in the climate sciences).

The Baktaman tribe "had evolved an elaborate system of initiation grades. Having passed though one grade, a young man could look forward to many more, if he lived long enough." In this series of initiation rituals, the already initiated elders introduced the young men into the secrets of the Baktaman culture:
But by far the most interesting secret was the revelation that the secrets revealed at the previous initiation were false. They had been a deception necessary to protect deeper truths for which the novices were not yet ready.
Of course, the young novices found out the trick, but this did not undermine their willingless to learn more about the real secrets:
 It simply underscored that the deepest knowledge would be long in coming and difficult to attain and that it might be best to cultivate a certain sense of provisionality. The Baktaman initiated their young men into skepticism, or more precisely, they initiated them at one and the same moment into both respect for tradition and doubt about it.

Peter Wood finds a nice way to translate this perplexing story into a metaphor or model for our own culture and education: "We create a spider web anchored between a rock and a slender stem, between fixed tradition and uncertainty."
Here it is time to part from Peter Woods, who makes an argument to strengthen "tradition" in the American educational system. Instead, I want to pick up the other end of this powerful metaphor, uncertainty and skepticism, and adapt it to climate sciences. Climate sciences, once in a mode of defense against skeptical attacks,  tend to completely hide behind the walls of "traditional" knowledge with its milestones "evidence", "truth", "objectivity" and so on, angrily rejecting skepticism and any attempts to question certainties, traditions, or pureness even where they don't exist.

In doing so, many scientists tend to neglect another interesting fact which the anthropologist Fredrik Barth reported from the Baktaman tribe, as Wood sums up:
No people can live entirely within a static tradition. Even the Baktaman in their rain forest fastness are constantly improvising, adapting images from other small tribes, forgetting some details and adding others, reinterpreting as they go. (One of Barth’s signal accomplishments was to capture this buzz of micro-innovation on the fly.)
As we know from recent discussions even on the level of the IPCC, uncertainty is especially important in climate science, where knowledge gained about the climate system in "traditional" ways is permanently challenged by exactly uncertainties. Once not under (ideological, political or institutional) pressure, most climate scientists readily admit this.
Thus, I want to change just one word when Peter Wood laments "These days, the idea that tradition has a rightful claim on the university has little support" - I just replace "tradition" with "skepticism": These days, the idea that skepticism has a rightful claim on the natural sciences has little support, too.

Maybe it is time to pay more respect to the climate blogosphere for keeping skepticism alive, which is as vital to culture as is tradition:
The Baktaman initiation system doesn’t really have a termination. There are always new layers of knowledge to be uncovered, deceptions to be overcome, and coherencies to grasp.  To advance, the Baktaman must gain a sense of how skepticism deepens tradition and tradition deepens skepticism.

88 comments:

Anonymous said...

Agreed, except that a healthy taste for skepticism in science is better cultivated by reading Feyerabend, rather than blogs. Against Method should be mandatory reading in natural science intro courses.

-hvw

Werner Krauss said...

Or what about reading Feyerabend via blogs? Here the link to Feyerabend and a fine comment / summary on
Judith Curry's climate etc.

Peter D. Tillman said...

It's a sad commentary that such skeptical scientists as Judith Curry and Freeman Dyson have been treated so harshly by certain activist members of the climate-science community.

Anonymous said...

Werner, you may need to define "skepticism". Skepticism is not the same as running after any and all new idea, as long as it contradicts the paradigm. In fact, proper scientific skepticism requires one to be skeptical also, and perhaps even in particular, of new ideas. This is remarkably absent in what some call climate skeptics.

And in an interesting twist of fate, Peter Tillman manages to refer to Judith Curry, who was attacked exactly for that absence of scientific skepticism. Not by what Tillman calls "activist members", but by Richard Tol, who felt it was very inappropriate (to put it mildly) that she appeared to support a paper that contained such obvious mathematical flaws.

Bam

Anonymous said...

@Werner Krauss
Mmmh, no! A scientist who firmly believes that what he does and what she should do is to follow Popper's program will not learn anything there. The general (skeptical) public will go like "yeah, scientists feel too important, all is relative, listen to my theory!".

To get the real deal, the experience to break free from a paradigm you previously didn't know you had subscribed to, there is no way around the books.

According to PF, science is a tradition, just a tradition. And skepticism is one little but very important tool of the trade. I really don't see where in the current natural (or climate) science landscape there would be a lack of skepticism that is directed at methods, results, interpretations, etc. Glad if you could enlighten me. Of course, if you were skeptic about the importance of your institution, your field, or science as such, they would kick you out -- traditions are like that.

-hvw

OBothe said...

As hvw, I do not see a lack of skepticism in natural sciences either.

However I agree in one small point with the blogpost. The skeptical part of the climate blogosphere - as annoying and/or pseudo-skeptic it often is - should be praised for standing on the toes of the climate scientists/us. Furthermore, the "auditors" and the blogosphere in general have increased impetus for younger scientists to be willing to question the "consensus" where it has to be questioned.

But that differs from saying something like: skepticism has little support in the natural sciences.

Reiner Grundmann said...

I would distinguish between different motivations for skepticism in science, interest based and ideological.
The first has to do with scientific careers: you can enhance or undermine them using skeptical strategies (or defending yourself against them).

The second has to do with a cognitive adherence to certain views which you do not easily give up.
In reality, both are mixed but it may be worth distinguishing them.

In some institutions, disciplines and fields skeptical attitudes are encouraged or tolerated more than in others.

And time is important. Once a field has reached some kind of common understanding those who raise yesterday's questions are frowned upon.

Werner Krauss said...

@Bam #4
If, for example, "mainstream" science has the right to decide what proper skepticism means, skepticism no longer deserves its name.

And who is to decide if and when this is the case: "Skepticism is not the same as running after any and all new idea". You?

Concerning Judith Curry versus Richard Tol: Was Richard Tol never accused by someone of being wrong in something? I bet if we search long enough we will find something...and then we will quote it here, and say: see, Bam!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Werner

for this nice contribution, especially the view (well hidden between the lines) of science being a tribe itself.

There is never enough skepticism, whether in cultivated readings, nor in blogs.
Skepticism is a constitutional and major part of science an it should find back to this important role where it went forgotten for what ever reasons.

To go back to the tribe: reading the IAC-report on the IPCC processes, one might wonder if the IPCC represents an scientific body in the sense mentionned above.

Here's where one of the big misunderstandings and the reason for all the quarrel might be detected: the IPCC is rather a political and a bureaucratic institution than a scientific one.

For true believers some kind of a "... revelation that the secrets revealed at the previous initiation were false", maybe?

V. Lenzer

Werner Krauss said...

-hvw #5

Okay, I agree, folks should read books, the real stuff in the long version.

And "the general (skeptical) public" and their reaction: is this not only a rhetorical argument from, let's say, the "science wars", or does this public really exist and react like that?

I don't get your naivety concerning seeing no "lack of skepticism" in natural sciences. Why read Feyerabend then? Why post comments in the climate blogosphere? Why not just go on studying the workings of climate in the bright and innocent world of climate science?

Traditions are, by the way, not "out there". Instead, they are defined by practices and by "the big men", at least in many tribes on New Guinea and in natural sciences. So it is not a strange entity called "tradition" that decides who is included and who is excluded and who is kicked out; instead, it is real people and organizations doing that.

@OBothe #6
Thanks for partially answering the question of hvn #5 (lack of skepticism).
I appreciate seeing you defending the honor of natural sciences! I am sure you are a proud member of the tribe, and I am far from insulting your tribe at large!
But if you allow, I will insist that climate sciences serve well to re-think the nature of science and the role of skepticism. There have been discussions about the politicization of science or the scientification of politics etc - useful and necessary discussions, which now partially even become part of the IPCC. Science and its tradition is in need of permanent re-defintion, just like the initiation rituals in the Long Houses.

Werner Krauss said...

@Reiner #7

To be less abstract: which career strategy would you recommend right now in the interdisciplinary field of climate sciences? Maybe a touch of Curry?
And concerning time: could you please define what currently is "in" and what is already "out" in the climate discussion?
Thanks -:)

AnonyMoose said...

Because I use an RSS reader, I first see your headline. You might want to contemplate its present spelling briefly.

Anonymous said...

Werner, feel free to use a different definition of skepticism, but please do make that clear.

If you believe that unidirectional skepticism is just fine, fine with me. I would no longer take you serious, but that should not bother you much.

Regarding Tol vs Curry: yes, Richard Tol has been wrong plenty of times. In this case, however, Peter Tillman likes to portray Judith Curry as this brave soul he stands up against the evil climate bullies. She is not. Too many examples where she just is plain wrong, and where her response is to ignore the criticism or to come with shifting goalposts. Her defence against Tol's criticism was a good case-in-point.

Bam

Reiner Grundmann said...

Werner
I try to stimulate thought using this typology. I am not in the business of recommending career strategies...
But I note that some mainstream climate scientists have tried to rescue the label scepticism from the sceptics. Maybe this is associated with the rise of the word 'denier'.
I agree that scepticism is not a one sided tool.

Werner Krauss said...

Thanks, AnonyMoose ´12
How embarrassing that is....

Anonymous said...

@Werner Krauss #10
This particular public certainly exist, and you can observe it all over the blogsphere. Admittedly I have no idea about its size.

I post in blogs for entertainment and intellectual stimulation and read Feyerabend for the same reason. Plus, he helps me doing my job by explaining how scientific progress takes place. The readjustment of the roles of empirical data vs. theory for example are really useful.

Whether there is a lack of skepticism or not depends on what you mean with skepticism and on your personal experiences. From what I have seen in several fields of environmental science, skepticism in the sense of challenging established paradigms is highly valued, because everybody knows that its essential for progress. I can see good science, bad science and boring science, the latter making up a large part of the literature. Maybe that is what you mean? If you don't leave the trodden path, your funding is secure, your paper production rate stays OK and your PhDs finish in time. If you challenge an established paradigm you embark on a high risk enterprise; that paradigm is there for a good reason after all. If you pull it off though, you get the credits you deserve, in the long-run, even if you run against big old men's pet ideas. That is what I mean with "skepticism is alive and kicking" in the natural sciences: the process works. Compare with other traditions such as religion or politics.

I agree with your characterization of "tradition" and may add that they are additionally defined by their history and have long memory. If the aim is to reduce the persistence, the institutional boundary conditions must change, not the attitude towards "skepticism". In any case, politically loaded Climate Science would be a particularly bad choice for such an attempt.

-hvw

Mathis Hampel said...

Werner,

"if, for example, "mainstream" science has the right to decide what proper skepticism means, skepticism no longer deserves its name."

you point to an important question; which people, in which institutions and through which media can authoritatively discuss climatological matters?

Rather than mainstream vs alternative science there are national differences in who counts as a legitimate skeptic and who does not. Skepticism is a form of social technology and what we observe is some kind of transnational cross-fertilisation of standards, regulations, legislations.

Of course, ideally this should not matter. However I think it is fair to speak of "a changing landscape in the authorisation of legitimate climate knowledge", thus also skepticism.

Rob Dekker said...

Werner (#8) If, for example, "mainstream" science has the right to decide what proper skepticism means, skepticism no longer deserves its name.

That's a bit of a read herring. Bam (#4) only suggested that you define "skepticism", at least in the context of your own post(s).

Which seem a reasonable request, if not necessary before you start using it as an argument for more skepticism in the natural sciences (and especially in the climate sciences)."

Anonymous said...

@ Werner Krauss

What do you mean with being "skeptic" in the climate change context? Skepticism as an attitude or skpeticism as being against mainstream science and/or IPCC?

Maybe you could clarify with the following examples:

Is Lindzen a skeptic by virtue, because he believes that climate sensitivity is lower than summarized by the IPCC?

Is Rahmstorf a skeptic, because he believes, that IPCC underestimates sea level rise?

Is Curry a skeptic, because she believes climate science is corrupted by politics?

Without definition of what kind of skepticism you are talking about, misunderstandings are programmed. Things are getting mixed up similar to the Shindell/Hartwell post.

Andreas

Mathis Hampel said...

btw, a great paper is Lahsen's

"Experiences of modernity in the greenhouse: A cultural analysis of a physicist ‘‘trio’’ supporting the backlash against global warming"

http://128.138.136.233/admin/publication_files/resource-2590-2008.05.pdf

it explores three individuals' grounds for skeptcism in a very distinct US context.

enjoy

Anonymous said...

Academia has developed its own forms of "Scepticism": e.g. Deconstructionism and Post-Modernism. But – I'm almost certain that most can agree – life feels not good if we don't/can't trust anyone or anything. As long as we (or the most of us; see for example the Rasmussen Report on "falsification" from last year) don't trust the people who govern us or who pretend to do climate "science", they don't trust us, either.

Johann Gottfried Herder wrote, typically for his "Anti-Scepticism" (cf. Carl Siegel: Herder als Philosoph), in Ueber Zweifelsucht und Disputierränke (in Adrastea, Erstes Stück) in 1801 subsequent to an essay on Pierre Bayle's skepticism (see Suphan Sämtliche Werke, Vol. XXIII, p. 94): In vielen „Fällen ist der Scepticismus nicht als eine Heldentugend auszurufen, sondern als eine menschliche Schwachheit zu bedauern. Wer preiset den Kranken glücklich, der sich vor dem gesunden Menschenverstande scheuen zu müssen glaubet? / Descartes empfahl das Zweifeln als die erste Stufe und Probe eines philosophischen Geistes; was hieß ihm Zweifel? Entsagung ungeprüfter Autorität, sorgfältiges Forschen, eigne ernste Ueberlegung. Nichts weiter: denn Er selbst behauptete viel.“

In Herder's parable Der Zweifel" (in Zerstreute Blätter, Fünfte Sammlung) he noted in 1793 (see Suphan Sämtliche Werke, Vol. XVI, p. 151): „Nichts ist gefährlicher, als zweifeln zu wollen, wo alles vest und gewiß ist.“

*** ***

I liked the penultimate issue of Gegenworte, Hefte für den Disput über Wissen, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 24. Heft, Herbst 2010: "Wissenschaftsrituale", where we can find for instance an essay on "Wissenschaft, Ritual und Initiation" by the ethnologist Karl-Heinz Kohl.

And for example the indologist and religious scholar Axel Michaels writes from the perspective of a victim in his essay on "Evaluation als akademisches Ritual": „Die Effizienz liegt in der Inszenierung von Misstrauen, aber Evaluierte und Evaluierende gehören der gleichen Kaste an, und so sehr sie einander misstrauen, so sehr bestätigen sie sich gegenseitig. Längst orientiert sich die Wissensgenerierung nicht mehr allein an denen, die sie finanzieren: den Steuerzahlern.“ (see "Heft 24": http://edoc.bbaw.de/abfrage_collections.php?coll_id=53&la=de)

namenlos

Werner Krauss said...

@Mathis #17, Rob #18 and Andreas #19

Folks want a definition? I do my best to deliver; here we go:

I found Mathis' comment very helpful, defining skepticism as a "social technology". My own argument goes along similar lines.

Skepticism in the context of my post is based on Wood's interpretation of Baktamans' initiation rituals. After the first deception, the young Baktaman novices get skeptical of the truth told to them at the next grade of initiation; at the same time, they also become curious to deeper enter into the real traditional knowledge. Just like them, Woods says, "we (also) create a spider web anchored between a rock and a slender stem, between fixed tradition and uncertainty."

Skepticism reminds us that tradition is made up and invented, and that our knowledge is pretty much restricted. And tradition protects us from getting lost in the unknown and in uncertainty and enables us to act. And these antipodes of tradition and skepticism create the spiderweb; a space where knowledge is produced and innovation is possible.

Thus, skepticism is more of a concept or a space than individual persons. It's not the blog, it is the blogosphere. It is not the single argument, it is the permanent shift of discussion, the influx of new ideas. It does not mean convincing someone of a new idea, it means bringing a new perspective into play (which might sooner or later replace or add to familiar ones).

Climate change is real, and it happens now. Fine. But the debate is not closed. Peer review (and academic careers) will not forever be restricted to the strange mix of academic institutions and profit oriented journals; "uncertainty" is despite the efforts of some traditionalists becoming part of the IPCC terminology, and the relation between the IPCC and science is still to be figured out (as V. Lenzer in comment #9 already suggested). There is still so much uncertainty, and the only thing we know is that in near future we will smile at our current silly attempts to understand climate change.

To say the science is settled, that the debate is closed, that the skeptics are wrong etc. can be deadly. Tradition turns immediately into corruption of standards, once the game gets reduced to inclusion opf the good and the exclusion of the bad. Climate science, as it is so closely related to power and administration, is especially prone to this disease. If the science is (momentarily) settled in this and this point, why turn it into a dogma? Why being afraid of "deniers"? Why take science for religion? Because the science is still so uncertain that it has to be afraid of each and every infidel? Why not open the next door and try another step into the unknown, instead of keeping the door closed?

Skepticism in the climate debate is necessary to keep science tradition alive; it brings new input from the outside, from lay people, NGOs, from other disciplines. It needs this urgently, because "traditional" science alone will turn static and won't be enough to face the challenges of the future.

(Sorry to frustrate your hopes for me making commitments to one side or the other.)

Hope this serves well as a definition.

Werner Krauss said...

@ Mathis #20 and namenlos #21

Thanks for interesting literature!

namenlos, you state that

"Academia has developed its own forms of "Scepticism": e.g. Deconstructionism and Post-Modernism. But – I'm almost certain that most can agree – life feels not good if we don't/can't trust anyone or anything. "

I am sorry, but this sounds like kindergarten. That is like me saying: relativity theory is nice, but we need fix time and space, so we just ignore it.
Meaning, it is possible to stay ignorant, of course. But as an intellectual, it is not possible to deny the inherent uncertainty in our knowledge, as Derrida reminded us (muy simplificado), or that even scientists are in need of rhetorical strategies to express their discoveries, as post-modernists among many other things insisted.

It is one of the benchmarks of the interdisciplinary climate debate that many scientists are deeply afraid of "post-modernism". Hysterically afraid. There must have been a deep, deep trauma. But believe me, there is nothing to be afraid. They just pushed the limits forward, as skeptics sometimes do. It does not hurt, and there are no deniers hidden under the postmodernist bed.

Werner Krauss said...

@namenlos again:

despite the above written, I totally subscribe to all the other quotes in your comment. This is no contradiction; instead, it is the other post of the spiderweb - here the postmodernist, there the ability to trust and to believe. (and thanks for the wonderful link, I am looking forward to read Kohl - who is not an ethnologist, which means Volkskundler in German, but an anthropologist - Völkerkundler).

Anonymous said...

@ Werner

Thanks for your attempt to clarify. I'm still confused, because it's easy to define "skepticism" in a general way, the interesting and presumably difficult thing would be to adopt your definition to examples like Lindzen, Rahmstorf or Curry.

I'm also confused about your words about uncertainty. Uncertainty is not an enemy for science, in fact working with uncertainties is quite normal. I'm quite familiar with the report of working group I in the AR4. Could you give me examples, where do you miss statements about uncertainties there?

There is still so much uncertainty, and the only thing we know is that in near future we will smile at our current silly attempts to understand climate change.
Where is your own uncertainty? What about the possibility, that coming generations will be impressed about how much science did already know in our times?

Werner, you are growing more and more skeptic.

Andreas

Anonymous said...

(Comment #22, January 26, 2012 3:34 AM, stucks in the spam filter *sigh*.)

Werner, you cite me:

"Academia has developed its own forms of "Scepticism": e.g. Deconstructionism and Post-Modernism. But – I'm almost certain that most can agree – life feels not good if we don't/can't trust anyone or anything."

And your response is:

"I am sorry, but this sounds like kindergarten. That is like me saying: relativity theory is nice, but we need fix time and space, so we just ignore it.
Meaning, it is possible to stay ignorant, of course. But as an intellectual, it is not possible to deny the inherent uncertainty in our knowledge, as Derrida reminded us (muy simplificado), or that even scientists are in need of rhetorical strategies to express their discoveries, as post-modernists among many other things insisted."

Well, I said: "I'm almost certain that most [people] can agree". Perhaps we have a misunderstanding. Please have a look for example to the definition of deconstruction in the Encyclopædia Britannica:

"In polemical discussions about intellectual trends of the late 20th-century, deconstruction was sometimes used pejoratively to suggest nihilism and frivolous skepticism. In popular usage the term has come to mean a critical dismantling of tradition and traditional modes of thought."

Is your reply meant to be more than polemic ("kindergarten")? Did you use these words (so-called Deconstructionism and Post-Modernism; which are most commonly in art and culture criticism) (or do you think these words were used) in a "pejorative manner"?

I didn't intend to use that two sentences just in a polemic or pejorative manner -- probably I was too scarce or my "but" was a bit ambiguous. I don't believe that you think "life feels good, if [you] don't/can't trust anyone [e.g. family, friends etc.] or anything" [e.g. food, state etc.]. So, please, what's your point? You think I am ignorant/denying/unintelligent?

You write:

"[...] Kohl - who is not an ethnologist, which means Volkskundler in German, but an anthropologist - Völkerkundler".

Maybe Kohl is both? See also his curriculum vitae and publications by and about him, please (or look at the edit-history at Wikipedia).

namenlos

Rob Dekker said...

@Werner (#22).
I think you are not quite there yet (in defining what YOU mean with 'skepticism' in the context of your posts).

It seems to me that you are defining the "context" of how you would use 'skepticism' in your posts, rather than defining 'skepticism' itself. Thus you run the real danger of creating a circular, self-reinforcing, 'mis-labeled' argument.

For example, if you replace the word "skepticism" with the words "Dunning Kruger effect",
or even something like "spread misinformation for political purposes" or "ad hominem attacks on scientists", then your post #22 would be equally valid. The post would still be valid, in that it does not define the terms, just describes the 'context' in which you use it.

So maybe an example would help.

You write : skepticism is more of a concept or a space than individual persons. It's not the blog, it is the blogosphere

I can certainly give you plenty of examples on how the 'blogosphere' is used to "spread misinformation for political purposes" or show evidence of "Dunning Kruger effect" and plenty of "ad hominem attacks on scientists", so my definitions of the work 'skepticism' in the context you propose would still be equally valid to yours.

So, maybe if you would give some examples of how 'skepticism' in your definition is necessary to "to keep science tradition alive". Or maybe even an example of where 'skepticism' in your definition and context has actually enabled the creation of a scientifically sound paper that enhances our understanding of this planet's climate system. Thanks in advance.

Werner Krauss said...

@namenlos #26
Sorry, I did not want to offend you; I was just thinking and following my line of thoughts and compeltely forgot politeness and that I talk to someone...blogger-madness...

And yes, I looked up Kohl at wikipedia and found out that he is neither ethnologist nor anthropologist; instead, he was Bundeskanzler! -:)

Werner Krauss said...

@Rob Dekker #27

Sorry, but I am not in the mood to play this kind of logic games. It doesn't help to explain something.

Anonymous said...

Werner (to your last comment to me), what's about Karl-Heinz Kohl's Curriculum Vitae and his PhD? and virtually all of his many publications? And everyone else besides you seems to call him an ethnologist, don't they? Forget the "edit history" at Wikipedia (And Thubauville may be a fake account (Scepticism where scepticism is due.).). After all, these are not important points. But I still don't get what it means...).

(I still miss my comment #22, January 26, 2012 3:34 AM. Does it stuck in the spam filter? *sigh*)

namenlos

Hans von Storch said...

Sorry, namenlos, with respect to to comment #22, January 26, 2012 3:34 AM. - there is nothing in the SPAM box.

Werner Krauss said...

@namenlos #30

again, you are right:

folklorist is a Volkskundler

ethnologist is someone who practices anthropology (social anthropology in England or cultural anthropology in the US) = Völkerkundler / Ethnologe = Karl Heinz Kohl.

(I took erroneously ethnologist for folklorist)

Rob Dekker said...

Werner #29, Sorry, but I am not in the mood to play this kind of logic games. It doesn't help to explain something.

It was not a logic game, Werner.

In your application of Peter Wood's educational process work to climate science, you present "the climate blogosphere" as "keeping skepticism alive".

I would sure like to know which definition you use for 'skepticism' in that statement, since, the climate blogosphere" (at least the self-proclaimed 'skeptic' part of that) has shown gobsmacking disrespect for alternative views, disregard for reason and scientific evidence, stunning contempt of fundamental physics that do not fit a pre-conceived belief, using cherry-picking and strawmens as a method to trumpet their own statements, which promptly get spinned and re-spinned on 'friendly' sites, a stunning amount of skapegoating, labeling and bullying and disrespect for climate scientists, the IPCC and anyone who agrees with the "mainstream" scientific position on climate change as endorsed by all major scientific institutions around the planet, topped with FOIA attacks, criminal investigations, frivolous lawsuits and personal harrassment against climate scientists and their spouses, with the occasional death threat. Not to mention the continuous flow of misinformation vented for political purposes, topped off with a universally present Dunning Kruger effect among the opinionated media ego's and their army of political supporters who dominate that "climate blogosphere" you are talking about.

Is THAT the kind of "climate blogosphere" that you think we should "pay more respect to" and is necessary to "to keep science tradition alive" ?

Or did you have another one in mind ? One that actually has to to with 'skeptical' thinking ?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Rob
does your account apply only to the people you don't like? Or would you apply it across the board?

Rob Dekker said...

Reiner,
My account is a simple summary of facts. It has nothing to do with who I like or do not like.

Now that I summarized the negative effects that the "climate blogosphere" has caused directly or indirectly, can somebody please answer the question I had in post #27, and show "an example of where 'skepticism' in your definition and context has actually enabled the creation of a scientifically sound paper that enhances our understanding of this planet's climate system." ?

Werner Krauss said...

@ Rob (and Andreas, too)

Still have to think about your requests for examples. This is kind of weird. It is like asking: Can you give me an example where the skepticism of the novices improved Baktaman culture? This question would not really make sense, right?

I am afraid that you are not interested in the Baktaman story at all; you just want to defend your science against the evil climate skeptics and deniers etc. If so, this discussion is really a waste of time.

Werner Krauss said...

@Rob#35
oh, we posted at the same time - but my post anticipated your question, so my answer is fine.

I just want to add this: you write

"My account is a simple summary of facts. It has nothing to do with who I like or do not like."

I like that. You would make a great Baktaman elder!

Reiner Grundmann said...

Yes, great answer, Rob! And an astute unwillingness to understand the question. Chapeau!
I also note that you preferred not answer my last question in the blog entry on Arnell's assumptions.

Anonymous said...

@ Werner

Ihr Aufhänger ist ja schön und gut, aber bedeutsam wird er ja erst durch die Verbindung zur Klimawandeldebatte, die übrigens Sie, nicht ich, hergestellt haben. Ohne Erläuterung, wie Sie - nicht ich - diese Verbindung sehen (und da helfen Fallbeispiele sehr wohl) bleibt dieser Aspekt im Zustand bedeutungslosem Blabla, schön abgehoben, aber wenig verständlich und hilfreich.

Ja, Diskussionen sind dann in der Tat "waste of time".

Genauso wasted wie zuletzt, als Sie mit Shindell et al. ein wirklich diskussionswürdiges Paper vorgestellt haben, aber die Diskussion in dem Moment tot war, als Sie bemerkten, dass es um Mitigation, nicht um Hartwell ging.

Werner, Sie beklagen oftmals eine von Ideologie und eingeschränkte Sichtweise beeinflusste Diskussion von Klimapolitik. Ich frage mich nur, warum Sie nicht ihre eigene Agenda und ihre eigene eingeschränkte Sichtweise bemerken.

Ich begrüße es ja, dass Geisteswissenschaftler in der Klimadebatte mitreden und vermisse deren bedeutsamen Beiträge, aber wenn diese glauben, auf dem Feld der Wissenschaft mit Klimaforschern konkurrieren zu wollen, dann überschätzt man die eigenen Möglichkeiten und unterschätzt die eigenen.

Mitreden zu wollen ohne sich mit den wissenschaftlichen Grundlagen vertraut zu machen, ist ebenfalls verhängnisvoll. Und genau dies ist desöfteren mein Eindruck, den ich von Ihnen und Herrn Grundmann habe (siehe Shindell et al.)

Over and out, it's indeed "a waste of time"

Andreas

Anonymous said...

@ Rob (#33)

You are wasting your time.
If someone praises the septic blogosphere, I'd like to defend him by assuming, he has never read septic blogs like WUWT. Or he has too little scientific knowledge to see the blatant distortions of science.

Maybe we are erroneous and there exists a really helpful skeptic blogosphere we have not discovered up to now.

Andreas

Anonymous said...

Initiations at large try to trigger either way a new life for the initiates, with new value/s. F.ex. F. Nietzsche, one of the best-known reinitiators of Nihilism (cf. #26), wrote in his book Beyond Good and Evil in the quite most radical sense of "revaluation of values" („Umkehrung der Werte“) (cf. f.ex. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nietzsche-moral-political/) which may have influenced f.i. O. Schlemmer, Master of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop 1923: „Umkehrung der Werte, Wechsel von Standpunkt, Name und Begriff ergibt das Gegenbild, den nächsten Glauben [Cited in V. Wahl (ed.): Das staatliche..., Böhlau Vlg., Weimar 2009, p. 297].“ Or let's take Adonism, a little-known, obscure but in some circles controversial (much like J. Evola's revaluation of values) neo-gnostic (and neo-pagan) secret society which seems to be founded in the early twentieth century in Germany and who worshiped Adonis. Adonism tries to reerect "the" urreligion, among others by perversion of the classical symbols and revaluation of values (cf. H.E. Miers (Lexikon...(1979))) Gnosticism itself often declares in their secret teachings f.i. Materialism, the world, or the biblical God as "evil".

And, Werner, although I know my above and the following text is different from your and esp. Wood's point: I recognised that Wood tagged his article with 'Occupy Wall Street': Whithin the scientific community and other "scholars" it is contested f.ex. whether H. Schüttler's exegesis of the Philosophengrad (Höhere Mysterien), one of the Illuminati's writings, only known to their highest grade, includes the request to overthrow the government ("Aufforderung zum Umsturz") (cf. W.D. Wilson, Geheimräte gegen..., Metzler 1991, p. 77; R.E. Schade (ed.), Lessing Yearbook, Vol. XXV, Wayne State University Press 1994, p. 134f). Still others debate whether the inner core of the Illuminati were attacking the very principle of private property also, or whether they wanted the abolition of the hereditary right, abolition of patriotism, abolition of all religions, abolition of the family (no marriage etc.), or whether they wanted to establish a One-World-Government. What seems to be sure to most researchers is that the "actual" goals of the Illuminati (who organized itself in the beginning in a university), though they were basically knowledge-driven, they were political ones, and were only known to few members at the head of the order.

Let me add some more weirdness (not to mention Discordianism or the concept of a magical paradigm shift in chaos magic): Wood mentions the Fraternal Order of the Masons. They strongly influenced the Illuminati. Both orders were affected by Gnosticism to some degree. And Gnosticism had effect on Theosophy, too. On the 15th October 2011 begun a worldwide action: upwards of a few mill. people in 82 countries marched together for a "global change". The movement's official website is: http://15october.net/. Before the 18th October the registrant of that site was Paulina Arcos, 866 United Nations Plaza, New York. The unofficial Lucis Trust's address is said to be: 866 United Nations Plaza, New York (cf. e.g. the "skeptic" site http://lalternativaitalia.blogspot.com/2011/10/lucis-trust-behind-occupy-wall-street.html). Lucis Trust has consultative status (roster level) with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and is a nonprofit service organization incorporated in the United States in 1922. It was partly founded by A. Bailey, a divisive and influential new age writer and theosophist. By all means please note also that 15october.net published a reply to "solve misunderstandings" (http://15october.net/2011/10/18/a-brief-press-release-to-solve-misunderstandings/) but some are still "skeptic".

namenlos

Rob Dekker said...

Andreas If someone praises the septic blogosphere, I'd like to defend him by assuming, he has never read septic blogs like WUWT. Or he has too little scientific knowledge to see the blatant distortions of science.

If it were just WUWT, then I'd be happy. WUWT is hilarious. The fact however is that anti-science stand has become much more serious than that. For example, Hans will probably recall how the flawed Soon/Baliunas paper used by Sen. Inhofe as evidence that global warming is a "hoax", a message which was amplified with a consistent anti-science propaganda vented through outlets like Fox News over the year. To the point that now all the Republican candidates vent this falsehood openly and half the US population believes it. Meanwhile Ricj Perry organized a praying session for rain in Texas last summer. The irony is mindboggling.

Or how a scientist was interrogated by criminal investigators over his peer-reviewed paper on drowned polar bears. And his wife then received hundreds of harrassing and threatening emails after Marc Morano from climatedepot post her email and called for people to ask her questions about that paper. Not to mention the absurt ClimateGate media frenzy.
And it gets really scary if you find out who is funding all this political anti-science propaganda (vented also through the blogosphere).

Maybe we are erroneous and there exists a really helpful skeptic blogosphere we have not discovered up to now.

Maybe in Werner's imagination of an ideal world, were the skeptisism is a positive force of creative thought and constructive discussion of new ideas which are still consistent with our observations and theories. That blogosphere would enhance understanding and bring people together so we can move forward and make the best decisions for our future.

But, since Werner nor Reiner seem to be able to find ANY positive contribution (let alone some scientifically sound analysis) resulting from the climate blogosphere, I'm afraid that the blogosphere I descibe in post #33 is all there is.

Werner is a smart guy, who knows all this. Which makes me wonder exactly why he did this post.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Robert Watson takes a different view when he says "We should always be challenged by sceptics."

Regarding the anti-science approach of skeptical bloggers you may want to look at the evidence. Bishop Hill or Climateaudit claim to uphold more rigorous scientific standards than the official climate science community.

A study of the blogosphere conducted after the CRU email affair finds that skeptical bloggers accuse the 'climate establishment' of defending dogma and orthodoxy, and thus being anti-scientific.
Nerlich, Brigitte (2010) 'Climategate': paradoxical metaphors and political paralysis. Environmental Values, 14 (9). pp. 419-442
It seems tempting to accuse your opponent of being 'against the science'. Everyone tries to play this trump card. It thus becomes futile.

Hans von Storch said...

Rob, with a head dizzied by jet lag, I deleted one of your two messages (which were not classified spam but late). I am sorry. Would you please repost. - Hans

Anonymous said...

Reiner, please make sure you read the whole context of the quote by Robert Watson. As Rob and Andreas discuss, the so-called "skeptical" blogosphere has for the most part not contributed anything beyond innuendo (that last part is my opinion).

The evidence is also clear that blogs like Bishop Hill and Climateaudit are not more scientific than the actual climate scientists. Their supposed skepticism is extremely asymmetric, not something you'd expect from someone who is scientific.

Bam

Rob Dekker said...

Reiner said Regarding the anti-science approach of skeptical bloggers you may want to look at the evidence.

OK, I'm looking..

Bishop Hill or Climateaudit claim to uphold more rigorous scientific standards than the official climate science community.

OK. that is "the evidence" ?

A study of the blogosphere conducted after the CRU email affair finds that skeptical bloggers accuse the 'climate establishment' of defending dogma and orthodoxy, and thus being anti-scientific.

Yes. As I pointed out before, the 'skeptical bloggers' make a lot of accusations. Especially against climate scientists.

It seems tempting to accuse your opponent of being 'against the science'. Everyone tries to play this trump card. It thus becomes futile.

Yes. Who would be 'against the science' ? The scientists ? Or the bloggers who claim that the scientists are against the science ?

May sound obvious to anyone, but in science, you have to check EVERY possible explanation for a certain phenomenon.

So, we really do not know unless we investigate the science that is presented.

That is why I asked for an example of which scientific contribution (peer-reviewed paper, or any other scientifically sound analysis) the skeptical 'climate blogosphere' has made.

Did you find any 'evidence' of such contributions yet ?

Rob Dekker said...

Hans Rob, with a head dizzied by jet lag, I deleted one of your two messages (which were not classified spam but late). I am sorry. Would you please repost. - Hans

Welcome back home, Hans. It seems that you resolved the issue already, since both my posts (in the Arnell thread) made it through. Thank you !

http://klimazwiebel.blogspot.com/2011/12/what-do-you-think-about-effort-of.html?showComment=1327738999867#c8626530392196193966

Anonymous said...

@ Rob

Maybe it's a question of different perspectives. We are both interested in climate science, so we are disappointed and/or annoyed about the distortion of science in many skeptic blogs, leading to a lot of confusion among skeptics (e.g. GHG effect violates thermodynamics or earth temperatures is caused by atmospheric pressure; a problem only for people reading septic blogs).

I think Werner and Reiner are more interested in the consequences of climate science and the climate debate. Supposed they think, that IPCC or mainstream scientists would dominate this discussion, trying to build an monopoly of opinion on political options. Maybe they are therefore grateful about skeptic blogs challenging this monopoly.

Even it would be true, I couldn't share this point of view. Would it be a progress, if skeptic blogosphere gives a political opposition, based on distortion of science ("hide the decline" etc) and polemics?


PS:
I think, there are some examples, where skeptic blogosphere produced scientific progress. Think about the paper of McDonnell (2011) about antarctica or think about the scientific progress in evaluation of paleoclimatic data.
But compared to the damage... ;-)


Andreas

Reiner Grundmann said...

Rob
"That is why I asked for an example of which scientific contribution (peer-reviewed paper, or any other scientifically sound analysis) the skeptical 'climate blogosphere' has made."

How about the efforts by Steve McIntyre? These seem to have started the whole CRU affair and the repercussions. The damage done cannot be solely be attributed to "the sketptical blogosphere".

The damage is a loss of public trust and this has much to do with the reaction of the climate science establishment to the skeptical criticism.

Watson has understood this, the IAC has understood it, many others have. Have you?

BTW: I think we should not forget what Werner's focus on this thread was. It was a re-evaluation of the notion of skepticism for science. Some commentators have diverted attention to the old lore of skeptics-are-the-buch-of-evil-people-against-climate-mitigation. This is your political agenda and you are entitled to it. But in my opinion you are abusing the platform Klimazwiebel is providing you.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Werner #11
coming back to you question from the start, "which career strategy would you recommend right now in the interdisciplinary field of climate sciences? Maybe a touch of Curry?"

I was going to comment about the more imminent strategies of climate scientists wanting to be included in the next IPCC report but then left it at a more general statement ;-)
Eduardo has just now posted an excellent insider view of what I had in mind.
This does not provide an immediate answer to your question but shows what drives the science in this field. It is up for the lead authors to define how much of a sceptical flavour will be acceptable. And researchers will make a judgement about what kind of research is likely to be acceptable. This is process of mutual adjustment based on expectations. So in the end we get a social-cum-political-cum-scientific nexus which defines the range of variation.

Anonymous said...

Reiner, what exactly has Steve McIntyre contributed? Can you please be a bit more specific?

Bam

Rob Dekker said...

Andrea said I think Werner and Reiner are more interested in the consequences of climate science and the climate debate. Supposed they think, that IPCC or mainstream scientists would dominate this discussion, trying to build an monopoly of opinion on political options. Maybe they are therefore grateful about skeptic blogs challenging this monopoly.

It is possible that Werner and Reiner think like that, but it would be nice to hear that from them. So far, Reiner is arguing only without specifics, and Werner seems missing in action altogether.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Bam #51
Have a look here:

DOI: 10.1029/2004GL021750

http://climateaudit.org/

A comment in German, more generally on the "sceptical blogosphere", here on Klimazwiebel

http://klimazwiebel.blogspot.com/2011/05/klimawissenschaft-in-einem-postnormalen.html

Mathis Hampel said...

In my understanding science and skepticism are two sides of the same coin, as much as science and scientific conduct they cannot be positively deliminated. Skepticism as in the infamous hockey stick controversy serves to rethink scientific conduct, that is, to regain trust in science. It also showed that our understanding in its current form is quite robust – humans are active agents, the question of degree being rather trivial, imo. Also, we cannot know the unknowns but point to lack of rigour or neglected research.

Now if scientists subscribe to “transparency“, skeptics – usually those who have been excluded by the IPCC, or those who retreated voluntarily – have to follow in order for us to decide what/whose skepticism we accept. Skepticism must become a legitimate technology of trust. i.e., how to decide in what scientistskeptic to trust and for what reason?

For example, I would suggest that funding from big big sponsors, governments perceived as authoritarian (eg oppressing unruly media), NGO's (?), private sources etc. will be eyed upon as much as unethical behaviour, insults etc., whilst increasingly democratically produced, criticised and legitimised knowledge (a long long road in the making) will succeed within trans- and subnational rather than global political cultures. This scientific art of living will be a democratic socialist one. It is hard work and requires skepticism as social technology.

Anonymous said...

Reiner, I am afraid your first link is merely an example of a non-contribution. While it is true that the method MBH98 and 99 used 'mines' for hockeysticks, the fact remains that the actual signal is much higher than the spurious hockeystick signal of the noise.

Moreover, someone who delved into the code used by McIntyre and McKitrick itself 'mines' for hockeysticks: it selects the 1% of most extreme hockeystick-like shapes, and then randomly selects some of these to show. Not something that I would consider proper practice, especially when it is not explicitely mentioned that this is what the code does.

I have also spent some time reading climateaudit, som years ago, but got put off by the highly asymmetrical criticism and the increasing tendency to create a "narrative". To me, that makes the contribution of Steve McIntyre largely irrelevant and even disruptive. That some people here at Klimazwiebel are such fans of Ravetz' postnormal ideas is fair enough, but I am not amongst them.

Bam

Reiner Grundmann said...

Bam
you misunderstand. McIntyres work (and that of others, like Hans von Storch's and Eduardo's) led to a critical assessment of the hockey stick, no matter how you assess individual papers.
You don't have to repeat what you like and don't like.

OBothe said...

Just a suggestion, could it be - as was my impression from your workshop in May 2011 and also from some posts here - that you (the tribe of the main contributors to the Klimazwiebel) yourself need "sceptical" input? It often appears, as if you're 100% convinced of your positions and critical position are rather quickly shrugged off. Maybe I'm wrong with this impression, maybe I just don't get the deeper truth - or the irony of some contributions -, but I really get the impression, that you as a tribe are focussed on your tradition/interpretation and are not too much interested in new or contradicting input.

Besides that is Reiner correct, that S McIntyre and others have, at least, quickened if not even forced the critical reevaluation of some methods and assumptions. The quoted paper may not be as sound ... or thorough ... as McIntyre wanted it to be, but that paper together with others and a number of blog posts over the last years have initiated new trains of thought in climate science or at least shifted the focus to previously not as intensely followed ideas. For example, some of those texts earn certainly credit for the (recent?) focus on uncertainty (and the "uncertainty monster" is part of the recent focus not one of the texts earning the credit).

Rob Dekker said...

Reiner (post #49 and #53).
I'm glad you brought up McIntyre & McKitrick 2005 (M&M 05) since this paper it is a prime example of a flawed paper used by
the 'skeptical' blogosphere as a political instrument, overblowing it's conclusions, trumpeting the paper loud and wide (into pupular media) as somehow exposing serious flaws in the existing science, meanwhile obfuscating their own flaws, discrediting and attacking scientists personally who present contradicting findings or expose the flaws, and then use the overblown conclusions for political gain, which (in this case via the Wegman report) also went right into the US Senate and House of Congress to influence policy.

Let's do a fact check on M&M 05 first.

M&M05 criticize the PC1 method used for the reconstruction in MBH 98/99. They claim the method when tested on persistent red noise, nearly always produces a hockey stick shaped first principal component (PC1) and overstates the first eigenvalue.

Now, M&M 2005 does not quantify how much the temperature reconstruction is affected by this flaw.
That is done officially by Wahl and Ammann 2007.
http://www.springerlink.com/content/h483676101066104/

which showed that the 'flaw' identified by M&M 05 did not significantly affect the reconstruction :
"reconstructed hemispheric temperatures are demonstrated to be largely unaffected by the use or non-use of PCs to summarize proxy evidence from the data-rich North American region".

This result by Wahl and Amman was not refuted by McIntyre and McKitrick in peer-reviewed literature.

Also, newer reconstructions (for example Moberg et al 2005 and Rutherford et al 2005) had used different reconstruction methods (and many more proxy data series) and still came to the same overall conclusions as MBH98.

Normally, scientifically speaking, that would be the end of M&M 05.

But in the 'skeptical blogosphere', M&M 05 lives on.
As I mentioned before, in the 'skeptical blogosphere' Potholer's first law applies :

Myths are created much faster than they can be debunked

And it seems that Reiner is keen on making sure that the McIntyre myth stays alive.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Rob
do you think the hockey stick will be in the next IPCC report?

Werner Krauss said...

@ Rob, Andreas, Bam etc

Would you in general agree, that the tricky way Baktaman elders initiate the novices into Baktaman tradition contains an element which might serve well for the education of climate science novices:

"It simply underscored that the deepest knowledge would be long in coming and difficult to attain and that it might be best to cultivate a certain sense of provisionality. The Baktaman initiated their young men into skepticism, or more precisely, they initiated them at one and the same moment into both respect for tradition and doubt about it."

Of course, I mean not lying to the climate novices, but "a sense of provisionality" sounds reasonable and realistic, in my opinion.

I think it was the following remark at the end of my above post which caused this debate about individual papers etc:

"Maybe it is time to pay more respect to the climate blogosphere for keeping skepticism alive, which is as vital to culture as is tradition"

There is one thing I don't understand: Aren't you guys not also using the blogosphere to express your opinion, and yes, your skepticism? Wouldn't it be more logical then to save skepticism from the "skeptics" instead of denying skepticism in general? I think this is called throwing the baby out with the bath water...

I also wrote in my initial post that
"Once not under (ideological, political or institutional) pressure, most climate scientists readily admit (that uncertainty exists)."

I learned in the course of this thread that it is obviously impossible to admit in this heated atmosphere to the existence of any uncertainties. Everything is fine in climate-science-land. Alright. But under the surface, I am sure some "micro-innovations" are going on. Again Wood:

"No people can live entirely within a static tradition. Even the Baktaman in their rain forest fastness are constantly improvising, adapting images from other small tribes, forgetting some details and adding others, reinterpreting as they go.(One of Barth’s signal accomplishments was to capture this buzz of micro-innovation on the fly.)"

@Obothe #57 (first part): yes, I understand the problem. I will think about it.

Anonymous said...

Reiner, how has the reassessment of MBH98/99 contributed to the science? People had already moved onwards to other reconstructions with other methodology and proxies. Moreover, the claims made in that particular criticism were rather dubious. I don't see how a questionable criticism of a paper (however questionable that latter paper may be itself) contributes to the science. In my opinion it just creates more confusion.

Bam

Anonymous said...

Werner, I don't see why we would need the blogosphere to keep skepticism alive. Scientific skepticism is already cultivated in academia.

What I see in the blogospheric skepticism is mainly contrarian and asymmetric in nature. And that's not what the Baktaman elders are teaching the novices.

Regarding your comment on uncertainty: it's easy to admit to uncertainty when discussing with someone who has the same respect for what it means. If you are discussing with someone who has not, or simply does not have the ability to understand it, you must simplify. That some then complain about the lack of discussing uncertainty is just the way it is. For those people it is damned if you do, damned if you don't: they will take whatever you do and abuse it.

Bam

Werner Krauss said...

@ bam

"Scientific skepticism is already cultivated in academia"

Okay then.

Hans von Storch said...

Bam, in normal science, skepticism is already cultivated and well alive in academia; in post-normal conditions this is not necessarily the case. This is one of the reasons why we need to do research on the issue of science done under post-normal conditions.

The hockeystick affair was a good example on this - the group around Mike Mann and his buddies (cf. Climate gate e-mails) acted as gatekeepers with the effect that others had a hard time to publish their entirely legitimate but skeptical results (cf. Gerd Bürgers case). In this case, reservations against the work of Mike Mann and his coworkers were not voiced in the reviewed literature - also because of maintaining what was considered a good political argument for the reality of man-made climate change (see IPCC AR3). Only after a kind of revolt among several academics, among others us, but also on the blogosphere was this gatekeeping broken. (see also von Storch, H., and E. Zorita, 2007: The decay of the hockey-stick. Climate Feedback - The Climate Change Blog, nature.com, 4. May 2007 - http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/)

As far as I know the case brought up by McIntyre and colleagues about the informational limit of tree ring data from a special site (bristecones - do I remember correctly?) was never really dealt with.

Hans von Storch said...

Bam, 61: I presume that you are rather young so that you were not around in the years following the MBH publication in 1998/9, its recognition in IPCC AR3, the recognition in the award winning Gore-movie - and finally the almost ubiquitous acceptance of its "truth" in many applied studies, public lectures and media presentations. Even though the hockeystick was undoubtedly an interesting and legitimate attempt for reconstructing past states, it was still experimental, so that not surprisingly a number of limitations were found and much later published (after 2004) - but it was recognized as "truth" before the community had time to look in a skeptical (as usual in academia, as you rightly mentioned) mood.

This was a major failure of the academic quality control system, and overcoming the insufficient statistical methodology was a major scientific progress in this field.

That this happened was not the responsibility of Mike Mann, even though he - being a human with personal weaknesses as we all have - did not oppose this development but re-enforced it by his aggressive gate keeping. But it was the responsibility of the scientific community that it allowed this to happen.

Hans von Storch said...

Rob Dekker/58 - you write "That is done officially by Wahl and Ammann 2007. which showed that the 'flaw' identified by M&M 05 did not significantly affect the reconstruction". The problem is that both Wahl and Ammann are part of the group around Mike Mann, which can hardly be seen as independent, and are not enjoying "undisputed authority" in the community, to say it this way.

Another group did deal with this real effect, detected by McI and McK, and its insignificance for the reconstruction problem in a comment already in 2005: von Storch, H., and E. Zorita, 2005: Comment to "Hockey sticks, principal components and spurious significance" by S. McIntyre and R. McKitrick, Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, L 20701 doi:10.1029/2005GL022753, which was replied to by McI and McK.

That the two did not refute the Wahl and Ammann assertion may very well be related to the efficient gate keeping, which was demonstrated in the ClimateGate e-mails. On the other hand, you could ask McIntyre, if they had prepared a reply, and if so, what happened to it. Would you try to find out, Rob Dekker, or is contact with McIntyre contagious?

Rob Dekker said...

Hans, The problem is that both Wahl and Ammann are part of the group around Mike Mann, which can hardly be seen as independent, and are not enjoying "undisputed authority" in the community, to say it this way.

To hear such words from a scientist is disturbing to say the least.

Have we not learned anything since Enlightenment ? Are facts now going to be determined again by certain "authority", and finger pointing at unspecified "groups" ?

As a scientist, you very well know that scientific analysis done by Wahl and Ammann stands by itself, irrelevant of who was the author, to which "group" that author is claimed to belong to, nor whether the authors enjoy some form of unspecified "authority".

Specifically, if the conclusions in Wahl and Ammann are not sustained by their analysis, or there is a flaw in the analysis itself that renders the conclusions irrelevant or incorrect, then all that is needed is for somebody else to point out the mistakes, and present a corrected analysis with corrected conclusions.

Until then, the Wahl and Ammann 2007 conclusions stand undisputed.

One more post to follow

Rob Dekker said...

Hans, thank you very much for you reference to your own effort to quantify the effect of artificial hockey-stick (AHS) as found by M&M 05.

Interesting to note your findings, that "the AHS does not have a significant impact but leads
only to very minor deviations.", which is consistent with other scientific critiques on M&M 05, including Ammann and Wahl.

Also note that the response to your comments (from M&M) does NOT dispute NOR correct your quantification of the AHS effect. M&M only point out flaws in your analysis, specifically your choice of noise.

Their argument for using their noise (instead of yours) is that it is presumably more accurately reflecting the MBH proxy series AC properties.

But they seem to ignore the flaw in their own noise : time series generated with their method have nearly uniform variances, unlike those of the original proxies. When appropriate variance rescaling is applied, series with low RE result (Huybers 2005 and confirmed by others), instead of the high RE results that M&M found.

Thus, as far as I understand it, the hockey-sticks are pronounced in M&M 05 because they are created from noise that matches one aspect of the original proxies (AC statistics) however they conveniently ignored that they created a mismatch on another aspect (variance) of the original proxies. Drop either choice (back to standard noise, or correct for the mismatch in variance) and M&M's hockey-sticks disappear altogether.


So M&M 05 cherry-picked their method, and then overstreched their conclusions, meanwhile not even quantifying the effect they discovered.

Wahl and Ammann nailed the insignificance of the M&M 05 effect by showing that even non-PC statistical methods reproduce the temperature reconstruction without significant difference.

And this result stands undisputed.

Finally, I find your hand waving of "gate keeping" and unspecified "ClimateGate emails" as well as your suggestion that I contact McIntyre directly to ask how his reply to Amman and Wahl was 'handled' extremely unscientific.

I'm really not interested in your conspiracy theories, Hans. And in fact, I'm disappointed that a scientist with your stature experience comes up with in this sort of childish and unprofessional responses.

Anonymous said...

@ Rob

I appreciate your posts very much, often I have similar thoughts. But your last few sentences about H. von Storch are not ok. We should respect, that HvS had made some experiences, we don't know about.

I have not been engaged in climate debate in former times of TAR and the hockey stick debate. From my present point of view I'm surprised, how according to HvS some practises have been. By the way, some time ago I've read the paper of Mann et al. 1998, I was astonished how clear uncertainties were described.

I think OBothe gave a very good summary of the value of McIntyres work in #57. But I would mention also the other side of the coin, character assassination and criminalisation of M. Mann, where McIntyre has been participated.

In my opinion even "climatgate" had some good effects, I can't see "alarmism" compared to Copenhagen any more, openness and transparency in climate science has reached levels I do not know from any other field of science.

It's like a desease, which can have good aspects, if you realize something has been going wrong and change, but I would not go so far to write an article titled "praise of cancer" ;-)

Times have changed, alarmism is a relict of former times, the skeptical blogosphere should have no objections against climate science today. OTOH we see nevertheless a blogosphere driven by special interests, we see GOP candidates with strange views about climate science, adopted obviously by skeptic think tanks. I see an article in the WSJ written by skeptics distorting science, but I'm not annoyed at all, it's rather a reminescence of former times, almost funny (except you are living in the USA ;-).

Yes, in our times the skeptical blogosphere is part of the problem, not the solution, but maybe according to HvS former times have been different, we should respect his point of view.

Andreas

Anonymous said...

Hans von Storch, the claims of gatekeeping of criticisms of MBH98/99 are not supported at all by the climategate e-mails. Unless you have found some new e-mails that show how people colluded to keep such criticism out of the literature (I am not interested in discussions about blogs - this is quite different).

Moreover, it is fair to discuss statistical shortcomings, but is it then not fair to point out that the criticism by McIntyre and McKittrick was wrong, or at the very least highly inflated? For science, including post-normal, this means the contribution is to add further confusion, rather than clarification. Which I myself do not consider a contribution, as I like to use that word only in its positive meaning.

I am also wondering where in An Inconvenient Truth MBH99 is shown (it must be MBH99, as it went 1000 years back). Apparently you have seen it there, I have not. Could you indicate when exactly? You see, as far as I am aware, Al Gore showed data from Lonnie Thompson, not MBH99. He does refer to the MBH99 graph in the book, but claims Thompson's thermometer (as he called it) is the most authorative.

Bam

Vinny Burgoo said...

Bam, have a look at this Skeptical Science page:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Al-Gore-Dr-Thompsons-thermometer.html

John Cook got the MBH paper wrong (and moved the goalposts) but that page does acknowledge that Gore used the 'Mann hockeystick' in his book and in the subsequent presentations.

(Speaking of Al Gore, his latest blog - see climaterealityproject.org/blog/ - from the Antarctica-bound ship N G Explorer shows that, although he has been reading up on all this stuff for many years now, he's still a tiro. He thinks that thermal expansion is a minor component of sea-level rise, is befuddled by the difference between ice sheets and ice caps and appears to be unaware that ice shelves mostly float. He also uses a superseded, 40-year-old estimate of the SLR that might result from melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and, in an earlier blog, made dodgy claims about the rate of warming on the Antarctic Peninsula - although not as dodgy as claims by one of his shipmates, the CEO of his Climate Reality project, who blogged that 'Antarctica ... is now one of the fastest warming places on the planet'. Perhaps some of the apparent oddities in Gore's blog are a result of his muddy writing style, but isn't such a style itself evidence of poor comprehension?)

MH said...

@Rob Dekker

By 'Huybers 2005' do you mean: Huybers, P. (2005), Comment on ‘‘Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance’’ by S. McIntyre and R. McKitrick, Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L20705, doi:10.1029/2005GL023395 ? Then you might also mention the Reply to comment by Huybers on ‘‘Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance’’ by McIntyre and McKitrick. And who are the 'others' that confirm 'Huybers 2005'?

Rob Dekker said...

Hans, if I upset you, then I understand, and I am sorry.

It was neither my intention to terminate the conversation regarding contributions of 'skeptics' on the blogosphere, nor to put you down in any way. As Andreas points out correctly, I do not know what it was like for you to go through the earlier IPCC AR discussions, nor what criticism of your work (and how that came to you) must have felt like.

I have great respect for the way in which you stood up for science during the Soon and Baliunas affair, and I appreciate each and every one of your scientific publications. In my opinion, you have contributed handsomely to methods that enhance our ability to quantify uncertainty in (paleo) climate data, reconstructions in general and anthropogenic attribute statistics, and yes, also in your efforts to show inadequacies in the MBH 98 methodology (as well as irrelevance of the M&M 05 AHS effect).

So I admire you very much as a scientist, and I also share your pragmatic and down to Earth approach to the changes we humans are making to this planet's atmosphere.

This is why I was so completely baffled by your references to highly unscientific arguments to persons that can "hardly be seen as independent", enjoying "undisputed authority", and that they are "part of a group", and that this is a "problem", and definitely your references to the CRU email controversy references as an argument.

The CRU email hack and the subsequent media frenzy and witch-hunts on scientists were in my opinion such a blatant attack on everything that science stands for, where the worst of human nature prevailed (pre-conceived beliefs over reason, opinions over fact, ad hominem over substance, media and politics over science), that I am baffled on why you would even reference them as a argument.

But seen in the bigger picture, the CRU hack may be part of something much more dangerous :

Consider the following theory :
Maybe what you call a 'little revolt' plus the CRU hack were sparks that ignited a political time bomb which was very well placed and stuffed with explosives by special interests, and amplified by political media into a 'convenient' message (that scientists are lying, and that global warming is a 'hoax') which is easy to sell to a large portion of the population.

If that theory is true, then, now that the bomb exploded, are we done ? Can we go back to science and reason now ? Or should we continue trampling (unspecified) "warmists" and "alarmists" and publicly discrediting and legally attacking (certain) scientists ? Where is the limit, Hans ?

Believe me, here in the US, they won't stop.

Here is the latest experiment in political influence on science and intimidation of scientists who publish peer-reviewed papers that are not in line with certain political agenda's :
http://www.peer.org/docs/doi/7_28_11_Monnett-IG_interview_transcript.pdf
This interview was dubbed as "PolarBear-Gate" by Fox News if I'm not mistaken.

It's an experiment, I'm sure, but one that may become very common if politics become even further anti-regulation and even more controlled by special interests such as the $4 trillion fossil fuel industry.

Rob Dekker said...

Werner, short direct response to your post :

As I tried to clarify above, I think we are entering a phase of "extreme skepticism" to certain realities that we don't want to acknowledge.

That is I think is a real danger to the the very nature of science and reason as a foundation of learning and our ability to anticipate. In other words, extreme skepticism can make us do really stupid things.

And that is why I do not think it is wise to call for 'praise' of this development at this time.

Werner Krauss said...

Some reflections after 71 comments:

In the course of this thread, Rob Dekker, Obothe, Andreas and Bam took on the role of the elders. After the novices have listened long enough (and even temporarily subscribed) to the skeptical myths and stories, the elders revealed the real truth and unmasked the myth of the skeptical blogosphere. In doing so, the klimazwiebel author finds himself as a stunning novice, eager to learn what might come next. So let's sum-up preliminarily:

The elders finally reveal that there is and never was any need for the climate blogosphere, especially not for the so called skeptical blogs.

On the basis of their expertise they also conclude that the hockey stick debate was nonsense, because Mann and others got it right, more or less. Even Al Gore's reputation seems to have survived the skeptical storm.

The attempt to integrate social and cultural scholars into the climate debate failed, because this and other debates on klimazwiebel show that they never really learned to understand at least the basics of climate science.

As it turns out, climategate was mostly a hype or at best "a cancer" that was cured and left the patient - the previous victims of skeptical scorn - stronger than ever.

Thus, klimazwiebel and others who praised skepticism so much, never really were skeptical towards their own arguments; instead, they arrogantly denied basic and simple facts. They used the new medium of the blogosphere to undermine the search for truth, to willingly confuse citizens and to boycott the attempts to save the climate.

Maybe some of them were indeed involved in some fights we don't know much about today (and which are meaningless for the present, anyway). Maybe those ambivalent heroes of the past played the role of the "useful idiot" and served to calm down overambitious climate scientists. But mostly, we know today that they were "driven by special interests", to put it politely.

Today we know that academic climate science always was skeptical in itself, in a good academic tradition. The blogosphere had its chance, but as it turned out, it is counterproductive in the search for truth. All those McIntyres, Currys, von Storchs etc at best invented "narratives" (which is a friendly word for conspiracy theories, of course).

Today, climate science indeed is a "Leitwissenschaft"; it is free of its previous sometimes overambitious "alarmist" tendencies (which were, nonetheless driven by altruistic feelings and not "special interests); it is absolutely transparent with a well-functioning peer-review system, and it delivers the scientific information necessary for the IPCC and the world in order to take action.

Thus, the myth of the skeptical blogosphere was nothing but a deception necessary to protect deeper truths, as we learn from the Baktaman elders:

"But by far the most interesting secret was the revelation that the secrets revealed at the previous initiation were false. They had been a deception necessary to protect deeper truths for which the novices were not yet ready."

Rob Dekker said...

Sorry Werner, the post I referred to as "above" seems stuck in a filter..

Werner Krauss said...

@Rob #73 and 74

There are profound differences in the political landscapes of Germany and the US. I totally agree that the situation in the US raises a lot of concerns. And it is those national contexts in which we work and which influence the ways we present our work to the public.

But when you write "And that is why I do not think it is wise to call for 'praise' of this development at this time" - are you still a scientist then, or have you turned into a politician yourself? And if so, into a good one? In an almost invisible move you identify "skepticism" with "this development" of extreme political interests - hey, you really want to sacrifice "skepticism"? What else will you give up in this fight? And what consequences will self-censorship have?

I have to admit I don't know much "tongue-in-cheek" my post #75 actually is. Maybe it depends on the context. But is it really wise to present an "immaculate image"? Political enemies have to be fought politically, not with scientific self-censorship.

Anonymous said...

@ Werner

Perhaps the deeper reason for your or Rob's differences is indeed the location. In Germany media stick mainly to science, in the US "skeptics" dominate a part of US media.

Maybe you would understand Rob and me better, if you would listen to the GOP candidates, the last WSJ op-ed or Fox News. I know, it's painful, but maybe you would understand better our position of seeing the skeptical blogosphere as part of the problem.

If you were a novice and realizes the daily lies (I hope you do) in skeptic blogs, would you trustfully wait for the next lessons?

Yes, the story about initiation rites is nice, but the transfer to skeptic blogosphere is some kind of provocation. Nevertheless I'm hopefully awaiting part II ;-)

Andreas

Anonymous said...

@ Werner

Science is not snow white, Judith Curry or Hans von Storch are not irrelevant, and skepticism doesn't belong to Rick Perry.

Good, we are slowly moving forward. You seem to acknowledge a bad side of skepticism mentioning Rick Perry (btw: the other GOP candidates sound quite similar about climate change).

Do you realize, that these candidates give statements, which are in contradiction to von Storch, Curry? In other words: If you see in HvS or Curry examples of a "good skepticsm", then it's very sad to see, that this skepticism doesn't influence politicians like Romney, Santorium, Perry etc. So if climate science has lost in public science communication, "good skepticism" has lost, too.

Another example:
Ravetz praised WUWT several times. Do you really believe WUWT challenges sciences? If so, I recommend you ask HvS if he reads WUWT.

PS:
I would not dare to compare Judith Curry to Hans von Storch, HvS deserves respect for his scientific contributions. And his posts at Klimazwiebel offers some deeper thoughts than "Wow, interesting". ;-)


Andreas

Werner Krauss said...

Andreas, as you might have noticed I deleted twice my recent comments. That's because I don't know exactly how to say that I did NOT appreciate your recent comment #79.

I fully accept that you have a mission, and you are always welcome to bring it in here. But you shouldn't start to educate me and to grade or to judge respected scientists like Hans von Storch, Judith Curry or Jerry Ravetz. I do not appreciate that, and i don't know what legitimizes you to do so. We don't do that on klimazwiebel (at least, we try).

And, by the way, I see a certain contradiction in devaluing the climate blogosphere and being at the same time an avid (anonymous) blogger. I do not share your opinion; for example, I always take your contributions seriously, and they become in one way or another part of my scholarly work on the dynamics of climate change and the climate debate. You don't have to share my opinions, of course; but if I praise the blogosphere (inluding the skeptical one), you can bet that I know what I do.

Anonymous said...

@ Werner

No, I have not noticed.

I fully accept that you have a mission, and you are always welcome to bring it in here. But you shouldn't start to educate me and to grade or to judge respected scientists like Hans von Storch, Judith Curry or Jerry Ravetz. I do not appreciate that, and i don't know what legitimizes you to do so. We don't do that on klimazwiebel (at least, we try).

No, I have no mission. I'm only making some fruitless attempts to make you think about other perspectives, but I admit, that OBothe in #57 expressed my thougts much better.
Of course Klimazwiebel authors never grade or judge about respected scientists like J. Hansen, St. Rahmstorf et al. /sarc off

And, by the way, I see a certain contradiction in devaluing the climate blogosphere and being at the same time an avid (anonymous) blogger.

Werner, I gave examples of good scientific work by skeptics here. Why can't you understand, that my point is, that science and skeptic blogosphere have BOTH two sides of the coin? It's too simple to praise good skeptcism vs. bad science. Therefore there's no contradiction at all. Did you notice in my points "alarmism", unsupported scientific claims, distortion of science? I hope not.

Yes, Werner, I'm sure you know what you do and write. But I don't know, if you know how it could be (mis)understood.

PS:
If you don't appreciate my last post, why did you delete your posts, not mine? Sounds, like there were bigger problems in your posts than in mine. BTW I don't need to write here, no further molestation.

Andreas

Anonymous said...

@ Werner

Sorry, I forgot an explanation.

I wrote "Wow, interesting" about a typical J. Curry blog post comment.
Maybe only regular readers of Curry's blog could understand, so I explain the context.

She posted a nonsense paper by M. Salby, who uttered foolish thougts about the carbon cycle (yes, it was "foolish", if you have doubts, please ask H. von Storch). Her only comment to her readers was "Wow, interesting.".

Another strange thing was giving Lüdecke from EIKE a platform for presenting an amateur paper, which should according to R.Tol better be ignored.

Rejecting "Slaying the Dragon" was the only time I can remember, she acted as a climate scientist at her blog, the rest is agenda and mission.

Readers can enjoy this mission, I personally like climate scientists talking about science more.

Werner Krauss said...

@Andreas
True, I could have deleted your post! I have to confess that this idea never came to my mind. Isn't that true klimazwiebel style; I delete my own post when I get angry about yours -:)?

Your posts are no molestation, Andreas, don't worry. I just didn't like your last one. And yes, as I said before, Obothe is maybe right and everybody, even klimazwiebel, needs a dose of skepticism from time to time. I am glad that you finally agree in my praise of skepticism, at least a tiny bit!

Anonymous said...

@ Werner

Great style indeed. Maybe blog communication isn't the right medium for both of us. Too often we seem to misunderstand each other, maybe a bar, red whine, face-to-face communication could help ;-)

Good night

Anonymous said...

Vinny, thank you for pointing out that Al Gore misattributed (well, somewhat at least, it DID come from his paper) Thompson's thermometer as coming from Thompson.

Regarding your complaints about the "Al Gore" blog, please take them there. I've seen him correct his mistakes (unlike some actual climate scientists making the oddest of comments on their own blog), so it appears he is not beyond being educated.

Bam

Werner Krauss said...

@Andreas
Indeed, that.would be nice. But it is not necessarily misunderstanding; instead, in certain matters concerning climate change we are of different opinion. That makes debates interesting, by the way.

Hans von Storch said...

I think this thread is demonstrating quite clearly that climate science is operating in a post-normal setup (this is not a matter of opting for such, but the result of an analysis of the situation). Obviously it is not possible to talk only about climate science issues, but we bring into this debate all the time our preconceptions, or perceptions, or world views. About good and bad politics. About good and bad futures. About good and bad science. About good and bad scientists. About us and about the others. Our culture is ubiquitous in these debates - which is of no surprise.

Rob Dekker said...

Hans,
I am sorry, but I am a bit new at your site, and thus also not very familiar with some of the terminology you use.

For example, could you summarize what you mean with "science is operating in a post-normal setup" ?


Do you mean something like this :
http://www.physicstoday.org/resource/1/phtoad/v64/i10/p39_s1?bypassSSO=1

which compares the current situation where science and scientists have to operate under to the situation during Copernicus era ?

Meanwhile, as another example of how the 'skeptic' blogosphere operates as a political medium, here is a Wall Street Journal post, where Happer (chairman of the Marshall Institute) is allowed to vent strawman arguments, misleading information and verifiably incorrect statements into the Murdock media machine :
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204301404577171531838421366.html

Incidentally, Happer also mentions de Freitas (and the Soon and Baliunas paper). What do you feel when you read their statements, Hans ?

Note that Happer's statements are nicely sustained by thousands of comments that repeat 'skeptic' myths, completely overwhelming any 'debunking' and 'fact-check' posts which are few and far between.

That is the 'skeptic' blogosphere as I see it.

Werner, do you have any examples of the 'skeptic' blogosphere actually contributing to our understanding of the climate system, rather than operate as a industry-funded political media frenzy ?