Re: [asa] Ottawa Citizen: The Skeptics Are Vindicated

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Wed Nov 25 2009 - 16:41:18 EST


"This was the danger of always criticizing the skeptics for not publishing
in the ‘peer-reviewed literature.’ Obviously, they found a solution to that
– take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop
considering ‘Climate Research’ as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal.
Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community
to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need
to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who
currently sit on the editorial board …What do others think?"

Does this speak for itself? This being just one example of a number.

I mean, I do understand what you're saying to a degree - clearly we should
not blow things out of proportion. On the other hand, it's very easy to make
it so even the most obvious, bold statements do not "speak for themselves",
with pleas being made to context (real or imagined), to the state of mind of
the speaker in question, etc. In other words, it's pretty easy to kick up
enough dust and smoke such that nothing ever "speaks for itself", because we
really need to have a long conversation about what the meaning of "is" is.
It's spin-doctoring, it's lawyering, etc.

And while there likely are (I'd say certainly are) some people blowing these
documents out of proportion, there are also people who are desperately
engaged in damage control - insisting that there's nothing to see here, that
none of these emails reflect poorly on the scientists involved or on the
climate debate in general, and so on. There's such a thing as excessively
downplaying what is in fact very bad news. Recall the recent ACORN scandal,
where the first response from ACORN's leadership was to regard what was
exposed as an outlier event from a single office, no big concern, the
appropriate parties would be punished, etc. That changed in short order.

Even Murray Hogg's line of reasoning here is something I have a problem
with. Murray (whose latest response has come in while I was writing this) is
saying that, look, scientists are human like everyone else. Okay, maybe some
of these guys were acting bullheaded, or narcissistic, or power-hungry, or
whatever. Big deal. Scientists have their flaws. It happens.

There's a problem I have with this. Namely, it's also very human for people
to deny these very "human" traits - to present themselves as utterly
correct, their reasoning without flaw, and their detractors corrupt, stupid,
or insane. And as someone who's been watching the AGW debate unfold for a
while, the idea of scientists (particularly scientists stressing the reality
and dire nature of AGW) has been, of course, excessively downplayed. The
Kyoto Treaty was treated by many as a no-brainer, an obvious necessary bit
of legislation that everyone must, must, must sign onto because it's just so
clearly correct. Or, lacking that, various legislation has been provided as
either the absolute best option or 'the best possible option that we can
manage, so it would be irresponsible not to fully support this because it
won't get better, only worse'.

To put it another way: If it's true that there's nothing surprising in these
emails, on the grounds that scientists are humans and therefore flawed like
anyone else, then the most reasonable response is - my apologies, scientists
of the ASA list - to encourage treating scientists like humans. As in,
regarding them with skepticism, questioning their motivations, and perhaps
even disagreeing with them (either in terms of interpreting their results,
or more generally, rejecting their advice with regards to public and private
policy). And that is going to mean treating scientists, even academics in
general, with less awe and deference than many in these debates generally
seem inclined to.

On Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 4:17 PM, Iain Strachan <>wrote:

> John,
> I don't think the emails "speak for themselves". This is typical
> jumping to conclusions by taking something out of context. Here's the
> explanation of the most supposedly controversial email:
> The reference to "hide the decline" is referring to work that I am not
> directly associated with, but instead work by Keith Briffa and
> colleagues. The “decline” refers to a well-known decline in the
> response of only a certain type of tree-ring data (high-latitude
> tree-ring density measurements collected by Briffa and colleagues) to
> temperatures after about 1960. In their original article in Nature in
> 1998, Briffa and colleagues very clear that the post-1960 data in
> their tree-ring dataset should not be used in reconstructing
> temperatures due to a problem known as the "divergence problem" where
> their tree-ring data decline in their response to warming temperatures
> after about 1960. “Hide” was therefore a poor word choice, since the
> existence of this decline, and the reason not to use the post 1960
> data because of it, was not only known, but was indeed the point
> emphasized in the original Briffa et al Nature article. There is a
> summary of that article available on this NOAA site.
> I didn't see this innocent explanation offered on any of the web-sites
> fond of using the words "warmist" and "conspiracy" in close proximity
> to each other.
> I think you should tone down your bluster, especially towards some of
> the members of this list, and take care to research the background
> before making wild claims about emails taken out of context "speaking
> for themselves".
> Iain
> On Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 8:54 PM, John Walley <>
> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> > To my knowledge no one has contested that the content I mentioned
> "hiding the decline", "fixing" data, ensuring someone wouldn't be selected
> for peer review etc., was not authentic. That does speak for itself in my
> opinion.
> >
> > If you don't want to accept that those are the actual emails and you
> don't want to dl them yourself for fear of Rich's virtual moral felony
> charges, then you are just stuck. However I am quite satisifed that I have
> seen enough.
> >
> > Mind you I have never been an AGW denier and this is not just feeding red
> meat to my prejudices as some would like to believe. In fact I have
> recommended and forwarded to this list a presentation by an Atmospheric
> Scientist from GA Tech that came and spoke to our RTB CHapter and she
> clearly concluded that AGW is supported and I have accepted and endorsed
> that. A quick scan of the archives would verify that.
> >
> > What has done it for me and pushed me over the edge however is the
> shameless and unconscionable double standard of those on this list that
> would try to protect their anti-science ideology by this childish refuge of
> quoting Christian ethics to those that threatened their desire to be
> sheltered from obvious reality . This in my mind casts serious doubt on the
> individual's scientific credentials as well as their claim to represent
> truth as a Christian. If this is allowed to stand by the ASA then I am in
> the wrong place. In my opinion this is just as shameless and disgraceful to
> the Body as Ken Ham or Henry Morris.
> >
> > I suspect there are many more that share at least some of these
> sentiments but are reluctant to say so. I for one however feel compelled to
> say it.
> >
> > John
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > ----- Original Message ----
> > From: Murray Hogg <>
> > To: ASA <>
> > Sent: Wed, November 25, 2009 3:20:22 PM
> > Subject: Re: [asa] Ottawa Citizen: The Skeptics Are Vindicated
> >
> > Sorry John, but I have to contest your analysis here.
> >
> > Personally, I would say it's a stretch to claim that "we all saw the
> *actual* e-mails" or that they "speak for themselves".
> >
> > What *I* saw were a few excerpts - carefully selected and edited by a
> journalist with a known anti-GW bias and who - according to qualified
> scientists I know and trust personally - himself routinely engages in a
> touch of poetic license when it comes the facts on GW.
> >
> > Now, before you understand me too quickly let me state very clearly: I am
> NOT arguing here that Bolt has misrepresented the situation, I am merely
> pointing out that Bolt's blog amounts, in essence, to commentary - that
> commentary may be dead on the money - it's not the accuracy of it I'm
> questioning.
> >
> > What I AM arguing is that it is simply naive to claim that such
> commentary is a case of allowing the documents to "speak for themselves."
> >
> > Indeed, if they were even capable of doing so, the Herald-Sun would
> simply have published the documents without comment - rather than get one of
> their staff columnists to to tell us what they mean.
> >
> > And, again, given that the Ottawa Citizen article doesn't deal with the
> actual e-mails it merely cites the opinions of a few people who are supposed
> authorities on the matter to say it "vindicates" claims of impropriety is a
> stretch.
> >
> > Again, I'm not saying that the authors of the e-mails are pure of heart
> and clean of hands - I'm only expressing an observation that people seem to
> have drawn some very strong conclusions, in a very short period of time. And
> whilst I could well be a buffoon ideologue living in denial (I'm pretty sure
> I'm not an ideologue) an awareness of that possibility doesn't help me to
> see things any more clearly.
> >
> > Blessings,
> > Murray
> >
> >> My buffoon idealogue comment wasn't directly due to anything in the
> Ottawa Citizen article. That article was just further vindication of the
> incredulity of rational people over the defense tactic of selectively hiding
> behind propriety when it suits the defenders.
> >> We all saw the actual emails and what I saw was enough, "hiding the
> decline", "fixing" data, ensuring someone wouldn't be selected for peer
> review etc.
> >> I think those that are defending this are the ones not engaging in the
> actual tect of the emails. They speak for themselves unless you are in
> denial.
> >> John
> >
> >
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> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
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> >
> --
> -----------
> Non timeo sed caveo
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Received on Wed Nov 25 16:41:25 2009

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