Re: [asa] AGW discussion

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Mon Nov 30 2009 - 23:47:59 EST


I am glad that you are concerned about some of the statements in the
e-mails. This is the first time I have heard you say it. That makes me
feel somewhat better.

Please read my words carefully, because I write them carefully. I never
judged the correctness of anyone's science on the basis of their attitude.
What I said was that the attitude revealed in the e-mails was such as to
generate distrust in the *scientists* who defend AGW, and that this
*would* -- whether or not you think it *should* -- reduce belief in the
*science* put forward by those scientists. That's just a fact of human

The distrust is also politically sane and sensible, something which perhaps
few people here seem to appreciate. When you are a public policy-maker, a
Senator or Representative or Member of Parliament or Prime Minister or
President or Regional Councillor or Mayor or Alderman (none of which, I
suspect, most people here have ever been), and if you have always gone along
with the "scientific consensus" on the global warming issue on sheer trust,
and have been prepared to "bite the bullet" in terms of billions of dollars
of new government spending, or thousands of job losses in industry, in order
to do the right thing for the environment, and then you find out that the
scientists who have supposedly been advising you honestly and neutrally may
have cooked the data in order to arrive at a pre-conceived "truth", you are
likely to become a bit distrustful, if not bloody angry, just as you would
be angry if you found out that your finance department was advising you
based on cooked books. From this political perspective, I'm not very much
concerned, as you seem to be, that the public might "unjustly" think
uncharitable thoughts about scientists who write e-mails like this. I think
the scientists responsible for the e-mails should be grateful the public
isn't at their doorstep with tar and feathers, and is giving them the chance
to explain.

The other thing, of course, is that if there is more than an *attitude*
problem, if any actual *misrepresentation* is going on, then the science
itself *would* be questionable. For example, if the real data, undoctored,
don't support the "hockey stick" graph, and if in fact it turns out to be
clear that the data was doctored to make it fit the graph, what then becomes
of the "science"? What motivated the doctoring of the graph, if not lack of
confidence that nature itself supports the hypothesis? I'm not arguing that
it is in fact the case that doctoring has occurred, but there are enough
suspicious-looking statements in the e-mails to make this a possibility,
especially given that fact that there are many competent Ph.D.s (not the
majority, I know, but still many competent Ph.D.s) who have expressed
scientific reservations about the handling and representation of the data
all along, even before the hacked e-mails became public.

But let's stick with the least damaging possibility; let's say that the
science is utterly untouched by the whole set of things revealed in the
e-mails; they *still* show an arrogant, manipulative attitude, a *desire* to
manipulate peer review (even if not acted upon) that is inappropriate for a
man of science. I can honestly say, without fear of self-righteousness,
that I have never had any desire to limit, define, or restrict the
conclusions or types of argument that should be published, orally or in
writing, in any journal or other medium pertinent to my academic fields. It
goes against everything I stand for as a scholar and as a human being. Even
the wish to have such power over an academic or scientific discipline is in
my view immoral (as in the New Testament even lustful thoughts, though not
carried out, are sinful). I find myself repelled as a human being by the
remarks in these e-mails about peer review; I think that the writers are
Machiavellian schemers, and tyrannically-minded. And I've experienced that
same tyrannical mind-set in my own academic areas, so I know it when I scent
it. It has the very same smell in climate science that it has in religious
studies, philosophy, literary theory, etc. A rotten smell.

As for why I have not issued a "balancing" statement apologizing for
excesses on behalf of the skeptical community, my answer is simple: I am
not part of the "skeptical" community, if by "skeptical" you mean, actively
denying AGW. I take no side either way on this issue. I neither affirm nor
deny that AGW is taking place. I do not feel competent to assess the
science either way. However, I have done enough math and science to know
that mathematical modelling of systems with numerous variables, under
conditions of very imperfect data and very imperfect understanding of causal
connections, can be very tricky, and therefore I am "skeptical" in the sense
of wondering where the cocksureness of some of the modellers comes from (a
healthy skepticism which I am glad to see is echoed by the only person on
this list who, to my knowledge, has a Ph.D. in earth sciences related to
climate). Nonetheless, I am not "skeptical" in the sense of doubting that
human CO2 emissions may well have an effect in raising the world's
temperature. I have been clear about that from the outset: I have a
completely open mind on the issue. So I don't apologize for the bad
behaviour of some of the "skeptics", because I don't speak for the
"skeptics" any more than I speak for the "believers".

Indeed, it is the whole mentality of "skeptics" versus "believers" that I am
fighting against;
such partisanship should have no place in science or in academic life in
general. There should be only provisional acceptance or provisional
rejection of a hypothesis, with room for every shade of the spectrum in
between, and no hard feelings against those who disagree with the majority,
merely because they dissent. When "minority view" is treated as "heretical
view", then science has become religion, and that is something that
everybody here claims to be against.

I have no dog in the AGW race, and none of my political or economic views
have to change, no matter how the science turns out. However, I have always
said that Kyoto was a flawed treaty, because, *precisely if the world
situation was so apocalyptic as the Kyoto promoters made out*, there should
have been *no* exceptions to the emissions levels, not for India or China or
anyone else. Therefore, the fact that exemptions were granted to so many
countries, including two of the world's biggest polluters, has nothing to do
with the "science". It has everything to do with the anti-Western and in
particular anti-American slant of modern global politics. I have no
sympathy for this anti-Western slant, or for the anti-American slant, which
to my mind smacks of the old European jealousy of the fact that the
Americans, originally their offspring, have become more powerful and more
successful than they. I have no use for this politics of ressentiment, and
I don't think that AGW science, no matter how valid it is, should have been
used in the political way that it was used in Kyoto.

I would like to have heard, loudly and clearly, from the leading global
warming scientists and their journalistic echo chambers, that there was no
*scientific* basis for the Kyoto exemptions, and that the only thing that
"science" implied was the general wisdom of lowering global CO2 output. But
so many of the scientists and their journalistic and political mouthpieces
and allies were of the politically Left persuasion, that such caveats were
rarely or never uttered. The movement of thought that was insisted upon by
the climate change "establishment" was: "The science is settled, and
therefore if you don't support the Kyoto Accord, you must be politically
right-wing and morally debased." This was a revolting use of science; it
would be quite possible to say that the science of AGW was good, but that
Kyoto was a lousy way of acting upon it. That is a judgment for economists,
political scientists, ethicists, statesmen, etc., not for climatologists,
who have no more knowledge of economics or political science or realpolitik
than the next man.

As for giving a fair hearing, I have stated that this should be done, in
every post that I have sent on this subject since the breaking of the story.
I believe in the principle that one should not assume guilt until it is
proven; but I don't accept the further principle, apparently accepted by
some here, that even *suspecting* that something fishy might be going on,
based on a normal amount of incriminating evidence, is somehow unChristlike.
If we weren't allowed *any* suspicion, on "Christian" grounds, we would have
to say: "Gee, they say some odd things in these e-mails, but of course, we
mustn't allow ourselves even the thought that these odd things may imply
willful alteration of data to suit a preconceived theory, because that would
be thinking uncharitably about our fellow human beings, and Christians
aren't allowed to do that." If that is the kind of naivete that
Christianity requires of its followers, count me out of Christianity, as of
this moment.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Randy Isaac" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, November 30, 2009 9:25 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] AGW discussion

> Cameron,
> As I have mentioned over and over again, our focus is on the scientific
> issues and we look at the validity of the data and the arguments. These
> are not determined by the attitude of anyone. You have said you only
> question AGW because of the "attitude" issue. Those of us who work in the
> sciences have often had to tolerate insufferable attitudes and behavior of
> scientists and they can turn out to be correct, with brilliant ideas. So I
> am not at all sympathetic to anyone who judges ideas based on their
> opinion of "attitudes" of the advocates.
> No, I have not and cannot justify any of the statements in the emails and
> I think you unjustly misrepresent me by insinuating that I am not
> concerned about the wording. I am indeed. I am concerned about the quick
> excuses made on the authors' behalf and am just as concerned about the
> aggressive eagerness with which others are quick to malign both authors
> and the data without giving fair hearing to the full context. I have not
> sensed that concern on your part. I believe I expressed a very precise
> balance that we neither accuse nor excuse the authors until the full story
> has been uncovered. And that must be done by responsible, objective,
> independent parties.
> It is very tempting for me at this juncture to make a few observations
> about the attitudes of the skeptics and the skeptic sympathizers. Perhaps
> it would have been good for you to make such observations to show your
> balanced views. But in light of my comments above, I will refrain, though
> with difficulty.
> Randy

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Received on Mon Nov 30 23:48:23 2009

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