Re: [asa] AGW discussion

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Mon Nov 30 2009 - 16:34:03 EST

Randy and Others:

My objection to AGW theory has never been to the theory itself, or to the
fact that it appeals to expert argument. My objection has been to the AGW
*style of argumentation* -- to the contemptuous way in which one group of
experts (the majority of climatologists) treats other groups of experts (the
minority of climatologists, and many other earth scientists, physicists,
mathematically modellers, etc., who have relevant knowledge). To my way of
thinking, the "expert argument" which allegedly "proves" AGW is tainted by
the use of any argumentative tactics other than reason and evidence --
tactics such as shouting "the science is settled", or "his Ph.D. doesn't
count because it's in Atmospheric Physics rather than Climatology", or "he
has done some side research for oil companies so he must have selfish
motives". News flashes: science is an ever-changing field, and is never
"settled"; scientific specialties other than one's own often have insights
to give regarding problems in one's own discipline; employment to do
research for an oil company does not automatically establish that one's
scientific integrity has been compromised; and alleged biases cut both ways
(as if university professors who *don't* work for oil companies
automatically are free from all economic and political opinions which might
bias their research).

And of course, I have seen these same sort of argumentative tactics employed
to attack ID proponents, or even just plain old critics of Darwinian theory.
And I've seen them in the world of religious studies and other areas of
academia. Aside from their intrinsically dishonourable nature, they are
often very harmful to the progress of a discipline. For example, when
"literary" approaches to the Bible were first attempted in the 1970s, they
were often shouted down by the old school of historical-critical scholars,
who thought they were unscientific rubbish. The historical-critical
scholars would have strangled literary approaches in their crib, if they had
the power, and they did use their control over journals, etc. to block the
entrance of literary approaches for as long as they could, and I know of
people who were not hired in Biblical studies because they would not kowtow
to the "consensus of the experts" regarding the validity of
historical-critical methods. But now literary approaches are a perfectly
legitimate part of the field of Biblical studies, especially in Old
Testament studies. The old guard was simply narrow and defensive, and
abused its power. Having seen the injustice of this, I tend to be rather
sensitive when I see the same bullying and dogmatism going on regarding
evolution, global warming, or other topics.

But it might be worth mentioning the Climate Audit web-site, which appears
to be the closest thing to a moderate web-site that one can find in a
polarized internet world. There is an interesting article there by a
pro-AGW person, Judy Curry, and she is open-minded enough to criticisms of
the behaviour of the AGW lobby to write:

>"it is difficult to understand the continued circling of the wagons by some
>climate researchers with guns pointed at skeptical researchers by
>apparently trying to withhold data and other information of relevance to
>published research, thwart the peer review process, and keep papers out of
>assessment reports. Scientists are of course human, and short-term
>emotional responses to attacks and adversity are to be expected, but I am
>particularly concerned by this apparent systematic and continuing behavior
>from scientists that hold editorial positions, serve on important boards
>and committees and participate in the major assessment reports. It is these
>issues revealed in the HADCRU emails that concern me the most, and it seems
>difficult to spin many of the emails related to FOIA, peer review, and the
>assessment process. I sincerely hope that these emails do not in actuality
>reflect what they appear to, and I encourage Gavin Schmidt et al. to
>continue explaining the individual emails and the broader issues of

I have not felt anything like this level of self-criticism from the AGW
supporters who post here. Indeed, Judy Curry's phrase "circling the wagons"
pretty much describes what I have observed on this site.

Her full post, and a large number of responses to it, are found at:

It is good to see a relatively civilized exchange between a pro-AGW person
and skeptical commenters. I wish there were more web-sites and news sources
of this nature.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Randy Isaac" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, November 30, 2009 2:44 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] AGW discussion

> I'm not quite sure why it would be helpful to start yet another blogsite
> or debate site on this topic. The experts in the field have posted pretty
> well everything on the topic and I don't know what we would add to the
> dialog. Virtually everything we have to say has been said in one way or
> another. has many key contributors to the field
> weighing in and addressing questions. In fact, it is worth following their
> contribution to the email issue at
> Then there is which seriously considers the top
> 74 skeptical arguments on global warming at
> I previously provided the link to the 2007 conference which has a
> tremendous amount of information. The overview talks say it all.
> I don't think we have anything else to add. Any data or information that
> counters this are most welcome. The problem is that most arguments from
> skeptics make one of the following categories of misunderstanding:
> 1. Focusing on a subset, spatially or temporally, of the global trend
> data. (I.e. focusing on the last decade or just Greenland)
> 2. Speculating on amplification effects of solar activity
> 3. Misunderstanding the role and validity of models in climate research
> 4. Confusing surface vs atmospheric vs deep ocean thermal attributes
> We would all be thrilled to hear of any data that demonstrates there
> isn't, or won't be, a problem, or of any analysis of data that alleviates
> the problem.
> But right now I don't see that a forum of this type would generate any
> valuable addition to the field. If people do not believe the experts in
> the websites above, then why would they believe us when we repeat that
> information?
> Randy
> --------------------------------------------------
> From: "Dave Wallace" <>
> Sent: Friday, November 27, 2009 11:18 AM
> Cc: <>
> Subject: [asa] AGW discussion
>> Rich, Terry, Randy, Ted
>> I would like to propose a discussion of the AGW science between:
>> -Glenn Morton, a former member of this list, taking the con. He accepted
>> AGW in the past but is now skeptical.
>> -Randy and Rich taking the pro side, we have heard some of their
>> positions recently on the list.
>> To my mind in order to have a reasonable discussion the ability to show
>> graphs, tables, pictures etc is essential, so I suggest we use one of the
>> blogging services on the web that supports such. All posts and comments
>> would be moderated prior to posting and would be limited to say 1 a day
>> plus minor clarifications from each side. Only comments from the
>> moderators or the three participants would be allowed on the blog. List
>> members with questions could send them to the list and the moderators or
>> participants could decide whether to take them up or not. Moderators
>> would be Ted and Terry although I think David Opderbeck would be good if
>> we could get him.
>> I should point out to people that both Glenn and Rich, at one point did
>> not accept an evolutionary origin for life and now do. Thus if enough
>> data is thrown at them they have in the past changed their positions.
>> Dave W
>> ps I copied Glenn and while I did not run this particular proposal past
>> him, I think he would be willing. Glenn's GW web side is:
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Received on Mon Nov 30 16:35:45 2009

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