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

From: William Hamilton <>
Date: Thu Nov 26 2009 - 09:33:41 EST

When I was a sophomore I had a EE lab in which seldom did the results we got
match theoretical predictions. Since we knew what we should get -- we could
calculate it -- we changed our results to conform to the theory -- with a
little random noise added in for realism. What was at stake was a grade in a
lab course. The professor knew the equipment we had was ancient, the
contacts probably had many years worth of accumulation of corrosion, dirt,
etc., which would corrupt the results, so turning in the results as we
obtained them probably wouldn't have hurt us that much, and might have even
given the professor ammunition to request newer instruments. But for a grade
we fudged. Now, consider the working scientist who "knows" what the theory
says, but has a stubborn result that won't agree with the theory. And he
knows there is a group of skeptics who will use the discrepancies to
denigrate his results. And what is at stake is a grant. A truly honest
scientist would not try to hide the discrepancy, but the temptation is
powerful enough that some scientists may succomb. And what's at stake for
society in this instance is a potentially economy-busting, wrenching change.
As painful and embarrassing as this may be, what is needed is a thorough
investigation, in which each individual will be put under oath and asked to
eaxplain his words.

I pretty much agree with Don Winterstein's analysis.

On Thu, Nov 26, 2009 at 1:04 AM, Don Winterstein <>wrote:

> Countries around the world are contemplating very costly actions to address
> AGW.
> Leading climate scientists would benefit from exaggerating dangers of AGW:
> larger grants, more power, more fame.
> Probably just about everyone who's been trained as a scientist can believe
> that human activities contribute to GW through greenhouse gases.
> The question is not whether AGW exists, but how serious it is, and whether
> we can have any significant effect on it without doing more harm than good.
> All scientists who do peer review have biases and in that sense may
> unjustly control what gets published. These emails indicate very strong
> biases among people in control and a willingness to use their power to
> distort the nature and importance of AGW.
> What the world needs is an assessment of AGW that's as accurate as possible
> so that the world can respond appropriately to it. The emails strongly
> suggest that the assessment we have has been exaggerated and probably has
> serious inaccuracies.
> In other words, even if the emails turn out to be more innocuous than they
> seem at first reading, they give a strong impression that the world may
> well not have good enough information on AGW to serve as a basis for
> action. This may be science as usual, but the consequences for the world
> are such that the scientists need to be held to higher standards, and
> everything they do needs to be done openly, in public view.
> (As a matter of fact these emails do not come across to me as science as
> usual. Unless they have explanations that are subtler than I think,
> they reveal a kind of science that I've never encountered. We're apparently
> talking here about a conspiracy of several leading climate scientists spread
> around the world, a conspiracy to promote preconceived notions in spite of
> contrary data. I suppose such stuff has happened before, but it can't be
> tolerated when so much is at stake.)
> Don
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Murray Hogg <>
> *To:* ASA <>
> *Sent:* Wednesday, November 25, 2009 1:27 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Ottawa Citizen: The Skeptics Are Vindicated
> But don't you see, Cameron, that even here you're engaging in
> commentary? Not irresponsibly so, I hasten to add. But whilst one could
> use the sleazy hotel room analogy I think one should do so with the
> awareness that this is precisely to set a context which *might* not be
> warranted.
> Let me depart on a little tangent here - relevance to be seen shortly...
> I was having a mental dialogue this morning about what I would say to
> Andrew Bolt if I had a chance to talk with him face to face about his
> blog post. And I imagined it going like this...
> Murray: "My problem, Andrew, is that I know you to be a critic of AGW -
> indeed of GW itself - and I can't help thinking you've not been entirely
> fair in your assessment."
> AB: "Well, what interpretation would YOU put on it?"
> Murray: "Well, I think I'd want to give the author's of the e-mails the
> benefit of the doubt."
> AB: "Snort! What a *ridiculous* thing to say!" (or, he might have said
> "You're living in denial, you buffoon ideologue!")
> At which point my mental dialogue broke of as I realized that this last
> (which should in no way reflect Bolt's actual position, of course) is
> entirely the crux of my problem - too many people ON BOTH SIDES OF THE
> DEBATE (which I put in big letters so it isn't missed!) who think ANY
> argument from the other side is obviously ridiculous.
> Now, I may well be - in all seriousness - either daft, ignorant, or
> naive (or a combination) but I just don't get that the e-mails show any
> OBVIOUS impropriety. And, frankly, the more I look at them, the more
> assured I become that we are going to see PRECISELY the same sort of
> tendentious debates that occur between atheist and Christian
> fundamentalists over the text of scripture. In that respect my use of
> biblical studies as an analogy was quite deliberate.
> And if I can just add the following to try to paint a picture of where
> I'm coming from on this...
> I've spent more than a little time in numerous science labs focusing
> primarily on helping scientists with data accumulation. As such, I think
> I have a pretty good feel for how scientists - generally speaking - go
> about the business of collecting and analysing data. And it is, frankly,
> a pretty subjective practice.
> More than that, I've spent more than a little time around scientists -
> the entire range from the prima-donna to the eccentric genius - and I
> know that the entire scientific enterprise is anything BUT "scientific"
> - it's very, very human.
> What this means is that I see the scientific community's treatment of
> data existing on a multi-axis spectrum which takes in considerations of
> precision of measurement, ambiguity of data, scientific competence, and
> personal integrity. At its very best, science honestly and competently
> with clear, precise data. But at its worst?
> And now my point: I have ALWAYS assumed that the GW community shows
> PRECISELY this sort of spread. With the result that I have ALWAYS
> regarded GW researchers as - in the long run, on the average, to be
> scientists of average competence, dealing (with a reasonable degree of
> integrity) with data of lower than average clarity, and perhaps
> overstated precision. AND doing so as human beings who display the
> entire gamut of personality types from the self-obsessed, ego-centric,
> to the time pressured workaday researcher.
> Now, add to this that the CRU e-mails are to some degree ambiguous -
> they are not, after all, a carefully worded confession to the effect
> that "yes, we've engaged in a systematic programme of disinformation"
> and I can finally ask the near rhetorical question....
> What, precisely, is so remarkable here?
> All the e-mails demonstrate - from my personal perspective - is that the
> science of global warming is precisely the sort of science (precisely
> the sort of human activity) that I always thought it to be.
> Blessings,
> Murray.
> > My scholarly instincts tell me that Murray is right, but my common
> > sense tells me that John is right.
> >
> > Yes, Murray, I agree with you that a close study of the e-mails needs
> > to be undertaken before any coherent charge of manipulation is
> > advanced -- if we are speaking about formal charges of some kind.
> >
> > But imagine this scenario. A governor with a wife and three kids in
> > the suburbs is photographed entering a room in a sleazy motel with his
> > gorgeous blonde secretary. Later, his telephone record reveals calls
> > received from this woman's phone number at off-work hours, and his
> > computer reveals e-mails coming from her e-mail address. Later on,
> > one of his gloves is found at her apartment. Etc.
> >
> > Now it's *possible* that all of these events have an innocent
> > explanation. Maybe the secretary is really a government undercover
> > agent, conferring with him about Homeland Security matters. Maybe she
> > is a lonely and suicidal person and he meets with her and communicates
> > with her to talk her out of jumping off a bridge. Etc. But it
> > *looks* very bad. And what this means is that this governor, when the
> > information leaks out, has some explaining to do. (If not to the
> > public, at the very least, to his wife.)
> >
> > I would say that some of the statements made in these e-mails are such
> > that their authors have some explaining to do. It is possible that
> > all the data manipulation referred to falls within the bounds of
> > normal scientific procedure. It is possible that the apparent attempt
> > to manipulate the peer-review process is really nothing more than the
> > usual intramural grousing and sniping of biased professionals, and
> > does not indicate an actual attempt to seize institutional power and
> > suppress ideas. However, it *looks* very bad, and some explanation is
> > called for. I would say further that if such explanation is not
> > forthcoming, not only the scientific integrity of these scientists,
> > but the scientific integrity of many pro-AGW scientists has been
> > called into question. How do we know that such attitudes and
> > practices are not widespread within the pro-AGW community?
> >
> > Of course, these e-mails do not prove that there is no anthropogenic
> > global warming, or that all scientists who believe in it are corrupt
> > or dishonest. But they create doubt about both the quality of the
> > science and the integrity of the scientists, and until that doubt is
> > addressed, any major political or economic policy initiatives based on
> > pro-AGW science are rightly questioned. The ball is in the court of
> > those who have been informally accused. They remain silent at the
> > peril of their AGW "cause".
> >
> > Cameron.
> >
> >
> > ----- Original Message ----- From: "John Walley" <>
> > To: "Murray Hogg" <>; "ASA" <>
> > Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 1:55 PM
> > Subject: Re: [asa] Ottawa Citizen: The Skeptics Are Vindicated
> >
> >
> >> 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
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> ----- Original Message ----
> >> From: Murray Hogg <>
> >> To: ASA <>
> >> Sent: Wed, November 25, 2009 11:17:47 AM
> >> Subject: Re: [asa] Ottawa Citizen: The Skeptics Are Vindicated
> >>
> >> Hi all,
> >>
> >> What I'm finding quite interesting is the way in which discussion of
> >> the CRU e-mails has so many resemblances to arguments over the "real"
> >> meaning of Scripture - given that there's little question that the
> >> "textual tradition" is reliable (i.e. the e-mails themselves are
> >> genuine), we now see exegete after exegete clamouring to offer their
> >> commentary on the most damning verses.
> >>
> >> Curiously, however, a piece like the Ottowa Citizen article doesn't
> >> actually engage with "the text" - nor, may I say, have many of the
> >> other critics of the CRU who are insisting the e-mails are so
> >> damning. So here's another parallel with Biblical studies: we have a
> >> great deal of discussion about what "the text" does, or doesn't mean,
> >> but in a total absence of any engagement with "the text" itself.
> >>
> >> It's early days yet, but it's already almost a "confessional
> >> orthodoxy" that the e-mails are to be read as revealing monstrous
> >> dishonesty on the part of the entire climate science community - so
> >> much so that John Walley can state, of the back of a piece that
> >> doesn't even engage with the contents of the e-mails, that "defenders
> >> look like buffoon ideologues". Indeed, there's no evidence that the
> >> journalist has himself read the e-mails. Nor that he is himself doing
> >> anything other than reporting on the perceptions of people who
> >> themselves show no evidence of having read the e-mails.
> >>
> >> Chinese whispers are all good fun, folks - but not a credible basis
> >> upon which to make strong claims about the integrity of those who
> >> suggest the whisper might have gotten out of hand.
> >>
> >> So I find myself in agreement with Schwarzwald that the e-mails
> >> shouldn't be swept under the carpet - but that said, does it strike
> >> anybody else as curious that those making the most noise about the
> >> importance of the contents are actually not doing much in the way of
> >> engagement with same? This, frankly, is why Andrew Bolt of the
> >> Herald-Sun is a very good journalist - he (or, more likely, some
> >> faceless H-S researcher!) went to the trouble of actually citing the
> >> material. But most of the other comment I've seen - including the
> >> Ottawa Citizen piece - has been long on rhetoric, and short on actual
> >> analysis.
> >>
> >> So, like Schwarzwald, I think certain parties are indeed going to
> >> have their credibility undermined by this debacle - only I wouldn't
> >> think that it's only the advocates of GW who will be made to look as
> >> though they are motivated by something other than purely scientific
> >> concerns.
> >>
> >> Blessings,
> >> Murray
> >
> >
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William E (Bill) Hamilton Jr., Ph.D.
Member American Scientific Affiliation
Austin, TX
248 821 8156
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Received on Thu Nov 26 09:34:09 2009

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