On Appeals to Authority, “Climategate” and the Wizard of Oz: a Personal Journey from "Trust Me" to "Show Me"

In the comments section of an earlier posting I have been in discussion with a prominent former modeller (Dr. Michael Tobis) and the author of a blog on climate science (…and Then There’s Physics). My initial posting included the following line

The show me crowd looks at the “good science” and points out that many historical predictions of doom and gloom (that previously met the test of good science) have been shown to be overheated or just plain wrong.

Dr. Tobis responded by suggesting that:

I read the assertion implictly as a claim that **formal predictions** were made by in **peer reviewed articles** regarding **physical climatology** climate that have **proven false** [his emphasis].

In reading his words I can see that my language could have been cleaner in that it could be inferred that the “doom and gloom” refers only to the very distinct field of climate modelling rather than to my intended target, the more generalized field of activist scientists who have made a living predicting doom and gloom in the climate and/or human ecology fields. I am talking about well-known scientists like Dr. Paul Ehrlich who has made a career of predicting disaster 10 -15 years down the road. For a really detailed look at the general condition, I can recommend two truly excellent books by a Canadian journalist with a strongly scientific bent named Dan Gardner. His two books Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail – and Why We Believe Them Anyway and Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear are must reading for anyone interested in science policy and how we currently communicate science and complexity to the public. Both emphasize how important it is not to torque your message if you want an effective long-term (rather than immediate and temporary) response.

So you may ask why I concern myself with the failure of good scientists to renounce bad behaviours by activist scientists and to correct poor messaging? Well on a personal level, it is what drove me away from a trust in the peer reviewed science to my currently more nuanced (read less-trusting) mode. Essentially it was responsible for my transition from the community of “trust me” to the community of “show me”.

To recount my personal journey we start with me in the early 1990’s when I was a firmly in the “trust me” camp with regards to the field of climate change. As I have mentioned elsewhere, while a graduate student I was required to take courses in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria. Due to their location on campus (at that time they still did not have offices on the campus proper but rather outside the main science block) I was temporarily assigned desk space in an office area shared with the grad students and post-docs working on one of the first generation climate models. I drank coffee with them, drank beer with them and listened as they worked out how to take complex natural systems and convert them to computer code. This was in the mid 1990s when computer power and memory were at a premium and the models were necessarily primitive. I was impressed by the dedication and intelligence of the people working in the field. While there the professors I met were of the highest quality and unimpeachably ethical (and to my mind still are). Meanwhile in my home department I watched my professors diligently working on their role as peer-reviewers. Each peer-review took hours and showed a dedication to an unpaid and unheralded task that I found noble.

My doubts, like those of many of my colleagues, were sown in the fall of 2009 with the release of the “Climategate” emails. Like many of my colleagues I was intrigued by their release and read avidly about and into them. The best analogy I can see for before and after the Climategate email release is the perception, through the course of the movie, of the character of the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz. At the start of the movie the Wizard is a glorious figure, trusted by all and believed to be virtually omnipotent and working for the good of the people of Oz. Based on their faith in his wisdom and honour, Dorothy and her friends were willing to go on a perilous quest and take ridiculous risks. It was only when Toto pulled back the curtain to reveal the real Wizard that impressions changed. The Wizard went from being a mystical demi-god to a badly flawed man, certainly skilled and knowledgeable in his way, but flawed and human after all. At first the viewer is angered by the flaws in the Wizard and that he put the characters through such terrible ordeals for no real reason. But by the end of the film the Wizard is, to some extent, redeemed. At the conclusion he is viewed as a flawed man, no better than any other and no worse than many. Most importantly, the story taught viewers not to trust the voice from on high but to look for the man in the corner speaking into the microphone.

So how are the two related? Well I am not going to discuss “Mike’s Nature Trick” or “hide the decline” or any of the other catch-phrases that can be argued about based on their context. Rather what got to me were the (in my opinion) egregious examples of behaviour outside the norms of science:

I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!

If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise.

and the general attempt get Chris de Freitas fired from his position at the University of Auckland.

These behaviours struck at the very core of my ideas of “good science”, where information is shared, colleagues are collegial, replication is the goal and the drive exists for incremental improvements on the knowledge-base by building on the works of others. This release was a seminal moment for the burgeoning climate field and an opportunity for the leaders of the field to demonstrate their mettle. Unfortunately, instead of renouncing the bad behaviour, they ignored it, made excuses for it or condemned Toto for pulling open the curtain. I cannot condone the actions of “the hacker” but it is not possible to go back to before the curtain was opened and Oz revealed. To completely mash up my analogies, much like Nixon at Watergate, the actions of the small number of miscreants named in the Climategate emails didn’t crush my faith in the system of “good science”; rather the attempt to cover-up their actions by the people, most trusted with protecting the integrity of the system, was what drove me fully into the “show me” community.

Having seen behind the curtain, my innocence has been lost and I no longer accept appeals to authority in this field. I need to be convinced every time a new paper comes out and that convincing means releasing enough information so that work can be replicated. What seems unclear to good people like Dr. Tobis and …and Then There’s Physics is that the only way to recover from a hit like the Climategate emails is to be cleaner than clean. To form a truth and reconciliation committee to clean out the bad and highlight the good work that has been, and is being, done. Instead, the bright lights in the field have doubled-down on their bad behaviours. A prominent scientist call his academic colleagues “anti-science” and “delayers” and I read not one person challenging him on it? I hear a lot of people say that “Climategate was in 2009″ and it is time to “get over it”. But it is hard to get over something that the perpetrators won’t even admit took place? A faith once lost is hard to find again and the leaders of this field have done nothing to help me regain my faith.

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81 Responses to On Appeals to Authority, “Climategate” and the Wizard of Oz: a Personal Journey from "Trust Me" to "Show Me"

  1. Jeff Norman says:


    You are being trolled off course.


  2. Jeff Norman says:

    “Code is generally not published, when published is not portable, and when portable is not ported. The events in question go back to papers published in the mid 90s based on graduate student work in the 80s, when keeping track of floppy disks was a real issue.”

    Step right up folks and see the hand waving, hand waving here, that's right ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls the finest hand waving in the county, presented here for your illumination and entertainment.


  3. I agree with much of what you say, Tiny.

    “You think that ‘showing’ is all about waving more and more papers. It’s not.”

    I think everybody understands that by now. The thing is that when someone declares themselves the sort of skeptic who wants to be “shown”, there's an assumption that they'll be willing to look at the evidence. It's peculiar, all this demand for openness in cases where openness is for one reason or another not forthcoming. Because when there is openness, there is no interest in what is shown. It's not a matter of “waving papers”; in fact this is not a close call, and anyone taking the time to examine the evidence will see it. The longer we wait before zeroing out net emissions, the worse the price our descendants will pay. It's actually pretty obvious once you know the ropes.

    “It takes almost nothing to get politicians to go to a fancy conference to eat and drink for a week but to get them to write a blank cheque on CO2 reduction is something else entirely. When politicians do set targets they do so with almost absolute ignorance of whether their promises can be met or not. When the bills start rolling in and the people get restless they back of as fast as they can. Still mouthing all the right words of course.”

    Absolutely agree.

    “How many years of failed conferences have there got to be before you ask ‘why is nobody listening to us?’”

    We've been asking that for years. Perhaps there is no way to avoid the trainwreck. But some of us think we have to try our best. It does seem awfully inadequate sometimes.

    ” Any progress so far has been built on lies that it doesn’t take that much to save the planet.”

    To some extent that is true. It certainly is a lie, and it certainly gets a lot of play. If you look at my position
    you will see that I hate this tactic.

    We have to tell the truth. It will be expensive, and it will be complicated. It will not be a return to some green hobbit-hole idyll.

    Promises of an easy road will not work. “Moving the needle” will not work. The whole world needs to understand that we have a worldwide collective problem. This includes people for whom “collective” is anathema. We need a social consensus to match the scientific consensus, like the social consensus against smoking at least, if not the one against slavery. This is a very long way off.

    The problem we're discussing here is that dedicated so-called skeptics seem determined to make it further off. I don't know what they get out of it, except the few who are actually paid to stir the pot.

    “You can’t keep trying the same tactics that have failed over the last ten years to stop more sceptics from arising.”

    The playing field is tilted against the good guys in many ways. We don't have a lot of alternative tactics available to us. Our one advantage is a cruel one – that we are more or less right, and that sooner or later everyone will regret not listening to us earlier. I'd rather forego that victory, though.

    ” I don’t think you’re really worried about AGW.”

    That's where you're wrong. I have to discipline myself not to be emotionally upset about it every waking minute. I'm not alone in this.

    “All that matters is being the winner in the battle even if you ultimately lose the war.”

    Look, a lot of people are heavily ego-involved, no doubt about that. But it is a peculiar war. We stand to lose every battle except the last one because our opposition has self-defeat built in.

    The important thing is to tip this thing as soon as possible. I have no illusions that it will happen anytime soon. People in the political trenches seem convinced one has to claim that victory is nigh. It isn't. But sadly, victory is inevitable.


  4. Jeff Norman says:


    This neverendingdistraction is winning. Please initiate emergency ignore procedures.


  5. As a climateball move, “show me” seems to boil down to the following tactics.

    1) accuse climate scientists of hiding stuff and exaggerating and otherwise acting in bad faith. (When pressed we see people offer up 19th century geographers and eccentric biologists as examples.)

    2) Suggest that the authority of the climate field is invalidated by a handful of controversial events (leaving aside the malice and ill-will and willful misunderstanding that was the context both of those events and the revelations)

    3) Suggest that if there is a real problem, the climate community will have to work harder to make its evidence visible and understandable

    4) Ignore any attempt to communicate evidence, mocking it as pedantic.

    A hermetically inescapable trap.

    Eppur si scioglie.


  6. Jeff Norman says:


    I addition to your contributions about climategate, the e-mails revealed the previously suspected behaviours to be true and in some cases worse than anyone reasonable thought possible.


  7. Blair says:

    So to clarify, your argument is about “instantaneous” versus “immediate” when discussing a text translated from Hebrew to Aramaic, to Greek and finally to English. The fact that the English translations use various words and that the two earliest languages, at the time, of course had neither word and conceptually could not distinguish the two concepts, should mean nothing to you. Your ability to somehow distinguish them in 2015 shows your own version of divine inspiration.

    As for my transition, I noted that it was neither immediate, nor instantaneous. I used the word “sown” very specifically to infer the planting of a seed that results in the growth of a plant. I indicate that through following the story and reading into and about the emails I came to the conclusion that the actors could not be trusted. I remain amazed that you seem to ignore what I have written in order to somehow look into my heart. Looking into my heart is not necessary, I have written my thoughts for all to read.


  8. what was revealed is well known in consensus science.
    terror agains dissenters done over journal, with support of high impact journal, weak review of “good author”, minor scientist whose findings are replaced by the one of lead authors, tweaking of results by graph tactic… nothing new.

    the problem is also well understood in epitemology, like Kuhn and Feyerabend.

    it is factually impossible to differenciate good and bad science inside a human system when there is consensus of terror which can prevent data to be accepted…

    this is the concept of “incommensurable”. given that groupthinked scientists know how to bend the model, to adjust the data, to cherry pick data, to choose the methos that match, to compute the coefficients that reach the goal, one can prove a false thing…

    only when something work really and visibly, like a plane or a powerplant can truth be deparated from myth.
    even independent testing are rejected as manipulation by groupthinked scientists. is is like talking with a paranoid guy…

    see how they invoke conspiracy while most skeptic bloggers are simply short with money, facing people with billions of budgets like green peace, WWF, friend of earth… it culd be laughable like a truther conspiracy, but that is mainstream and NyT sell the soup.

    it is hopeless, forget it. at least for the academic, until they have public fund.

    as Szpak of Spawar said, “scientists will believe whatever you pay them to believe.”


  9. nigguraths says:

    [1] Soon and Baliunas was 'worth publishing' ?

    Again, you've swallowed the arguments of the Team and appear to have no independent perspective on this question. 'Worth publishing?' is not a question at all with S&B – what bothered the team was that the paper was being used in political circles, carried the Harvard tag, and questioned IPCC, i.e., Mann's conclusions. This had to be countered by raising questions about the worthiness of the paper. Have your read the laughable joke response Mann and his group put together in Eos – the poor saps couldn't write two coherent sentences in criticism. Worthy and worthless papers get published all the time. Do you find vigilante pitchfork gangs forming in the dark for every paper that is not 'worth' publishing?

    [2] curated emails
    No 'curation' of emails will exonerate what Mike Hulme, Barry Pittock, Jim Salinger, Mike Mann etc etc did in the emails available.

    If you cannot pull up a Mike Hulme email like the one I quoted, and defend it to its substance, the argument is finished. I am not interested in arguing about secondary sources with someone who hasn't done the research. You began by claiming the resignations were 'in protest', then tried to interpret their likely instigated nature as a 'sociological phenomenon' and now you say the person who released the Climategate emails has robbed you of emails that could have shown your theory correct.

    There are lots of people involved that give good counsel with respect to the SB paper. Their advice was not listened to. Sure, it is possible that emails exist where the Team exonerates itself in a blaze of self-reflection and moderation. But such imaginary emails are not reflected in the translated actions. The same individuals could have come out in public and spoken out their thoughts. That didn't happen. What we got was orchestrated resignation.


  10. > So to clarify, your argument is about “instantaneous” versus “immediate” when discussing a text translated from Hebrew to Aramaic, to Greek and finally to English.

    That's another interesting squirrel to chase down, Blair. We could go back to the Aramaic and the Hebrew version is you please. I have a friend who specializes in these. The notion of light in that passage is quite interesting.

    One of the arguments that I put forward was that you were incorrect to claim that in the biblical context, Paul's conversion was “instantaneous revelation.” I duly submit that it is a verbal trick you used to distract us from the fact that the expression has currency in the English language as a sudden change of belief.

    Another argument would be that for you yourself speak of “faith,” “conversion” and even “revelation” while taking exception to the reference to the road to Damascus amounts to a double standard which eo ipso would put you into my “show me” box, were I to apply your greenline test.

    Since you are a chemist, a biologist, and someone who is “not a novice” about oil spills and clean-ups, does it mean I should put all of them in the same box?


    > As for my transition, I noted that it was neither immediate, nor instantaneous. I used the word “sown” very specifically to infer the planting of a seed that results in the growth of a plant.

    A cursory reading of the biblical passage shows that Paul's “transition” was far from being immediate either. It is his “conversion” which was. The allusion to the planting of a seed only describes the second part of your Damascus moment, Blair. Let me remind you how you complete your “transition”:

    This release was a seminal moment for the burgeoning climate field and an opportunity for the leaders of the field to demonstrate their mettle. Unfortunately, instead of renouncing the bad behaviour, they ignored it, made excuses for it or condemned Toto for pulling open the curtain. I cannot condone the actions of “the hacker” but it is not possible to go back to before the curtain was opened and Oz revealed.

    You're disputing the word “immediate” whence your own “conversion” has been likened to when Dorothy sees the Wizard behind the curtain. Are you suggesting that Dorothy's realization was not immediate?


    Let's see against how her revelation unfolds:


    As you can see, the viewers can see the curtain falling at around 0:15.

    The Straw Man taps Dorothy's shoulder at 0:18.

    Take a good look at 0:19.

    At 0:20, she already signals to her two other companions what she just realized.

    Now, who plays the role of the Straw Man in your metaphor?


    If that does not suffice, let me remind you what you said about the curtain:

    Having seen behind the curtain, my innocence has been lost and I no longer accept appeals to authority in this field.

    You have seen behind the curtain. Would you say that seeing is “immediate” or something that is more like a planting growing over its lifetime?


    Finally, you're saying that your innocence has been “lost.” Do you think that once innocence is lost, there's no coming back? If that's the case, then there's an interesting connection between that theme and the one of the seed:

    Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
    Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
    Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
    With loss of Eden, till one greater man
    Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,



    In your Damascus story, there are other seeds of interest, Blair, e.g.:

    the more generalized field of activist scientists […] well-known scientists like Dr. Paul Ehrlich […]

    Has this seed became a plant with CG I and II and what you call their cover-ups?


  11. > You began by claiming the resignations were 'in protest',

    Unless you can argue that people can't organize protest, I don't think you have refuted my point, Shub. In your list, you forgot on Storch. You have yet to mention where von Storch appears in this “organization.”


    > Sure, it is possible that emails exist where the Team exonerates itself in a blaze of self-reflection and moderation. But such imaginary emails are not reflected in the translated actions.

    Are you suggesting that Hulme, Pittock, and Salinger are members of the Kyoto Flames, Shub?

    Does the second sentence allow me to go beyond the emails? I thought your forbid me to do so. Then I will simply point out that how de Freitas, Soon & Baliunas, the Idsos, Legates, Energy and Environment's editorial board, the Torygraph's journalists involved and other actants coordinated their efforts should be of interest by those who study groupthink.


    Speaking of self-reflection and moderation, here are some “thoughts for considerations” excerpted from 1999:

    a. I think we need to be very careful not to be implying that everything in the peer-reviewed literature is correct–even if the processes are followed meticulously. […] Where the process seems to be being subverted, one would hope that the subscription base will lapse, the set of submissions from leading authors will diminish, or the responsible party will learn about the problems and concerns through letters and even surveys of scientists' views about the journal and fix the situation.

    b. In all of this, what we need to indicate is the strength of our efforts is the process. […] What gives the IPCC its stature is the process that it uses to get to where it gets–with a brodaly based set of authors and very wide-ranging and careful reviews involving experts from the scientific community around the world. […] However, for IPCC to clima its process leads to the most authoritative presenation of the issue, it is essential it consider not only the peer-reviewed literature, but also the various claims and perspectives of “The Skeptics”–basically, the IPCC has to be careful not to be seen as ignoring or hiding disagreements, but actually facing and explaining them. […]

    c. What I think has been a bit unfortunate is that we (the scientific community) do not seem to really have an effective forum where all the various viewpoints can be published together on an ongoing basis and a really active (but civil) exchange of views can take place. […] I really think we need to find a place where these discussions can occur […]

    d. If one is going to find some forum for a real exchange of views, it seems to me one challenge will be to come up with a sponsoring entity, moderator and rules that might attract both sides to it […]

    e. Meanwhile, rather than think about suing someone about seeming insults, I have taken the suggestion of several people whom have been criticized before me, and have simply added to my resume, for example, that ExxonMobil sent a letter to the Bush Admin in early 2001 urging my dismissal (along with getting rid of Bob Watson from IPCC, Rosina Bierbaum from OSTP, and Jeff Miotke […]

    f. That those of you being attacked are being attacked should be seen as a recognition of the importance of your work–were it not important they would be ignoring it. And if your papers are sound (as you all argue they are–and seems the case to me), the misdirected and false claims of “The Skeptics” will ultimately have no lasting effect, even if in the short term some politicians pay them too much attention and induce some short-term harm and delay. [..]

    Is your stomach alright after having read this, Shub?

    If you want to know who wrote that, I can hint you that it's a climate scientist. Not that this will ever pull back Blair's curtain.


  12. Blair says:

    Ok Willard, I get it you are punking me. There is no conceivable way that a reasonable reader could see an analogy of the Wizard of Oz and decide that the analogy depends on the timing of scenes in the original movie. That a language of a society that had not yet developed mechanized time-keeping could have words in their language to distinguish time at the sub-second level?

    As I re-read your posts, I see that you create a straw-man and then tenaciously defend the use of the strawman while completely ignoring the fact that the post exists and the language of the post is clear.

    So yes, feel free to infer what you will. I will stick to the details I have written.


  13. David Young says:

    Michael Tobis, You are right about Muller. He has high credibility because he called out the errors and bad behavior. So why don't you increase your own credibility and own the Mann problems? Mann is still published (2015) his original hockey stick with the instrumental record spliced onto his flawed flat blade. Hard to believe, but he feels safe from criticism by people like you perhaps.


  14. Brad Keyes says:


    “1) accuse climate scientists of hiding stuff…”

    You mean, the way Phil Jones accused Mike of hiding the decline?

    If you ever learn the first rule of holes it will be a sad day for the comedy world.


  15. Brad Keyes says:


    your scientific illiteracy is a gift that keeps on giving. The gift of laughter.

    “2) Suggest that the authority of the climate field is invalidated by…”

    It has no “authority,” Michael.

    Because it is a science, Michael.

    (Nominally, at any rate.)

    The concept of “authority” is a nonsense in science. I'm sure it makes perfect sense to you, but then… that's why we're laughing.


  16. Brad Keyes says:


    the only reason you're winning the argument is your shameless resort to cherry-picking! You selectively focus on the emails that exist, deliberately ignoring all the hypothetical ones that could potentially convey a very different impression indeed if they existed.

    What hope does Willard have against such classic denier tactics?


    • Ha!

      If the warmies had any sense they’d take the Climategate emails, do a ‘reanalysis’ like Karl et al, and Cowtan & Way.

      Bit of kriging here, some infilling there, adjusting a few emails, and hey presto they can generate a completely fictional set of emails. Behold, Climategatev2 adjusted emails – wherein Michael Mann, Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, Tom Osborn et al, appear polite, ethical, transparent and professional, happy to defend their science to everyone, instead of what the unadjusted data reveals – which is a bunch of unethical thin-skinned groupthinky backstabbers intent on manipulating climate science instead of just practising it.


  17. > deliberately ignoring all the hypothetical ones that could potentially convey a very different impression indeed if they existed.

    The “1999” in my previous comment was not referring to a year, Brad.

    Thank you for your concerns.


  18. > There is no conceivable way that a reasonable reader could see an analogy of the Wizard of Oz and decide that the analogy depends on the timing of scenes in the original movie.

    Yet you're claiming that *my* “biblical scripture is wanting” and that I should “understand its context” when I was simply referring to an English expression that has currency. Let's just say that your “Wizard of Oz is “wanting.” If you *see* the context, nobody can say that you used a metaphor that represents a process of a “thousand steps” all the way down to the last stage of your “conversion.”

    Your understanding of that “allegory” is wanting, just like is your understanding of the curtain process in the Wizard of Oz.

    There is no more “suddenness” in Paul's “conversion” than when you see the Wizard behind the curtain, which should correspond to the moment you despaired from seeing Mike & Phil condemned.


    > As I re-read your posts, I see that you create a straw-man and then tenaciously defend the use of the strawman […]

    That one is simply brilliant, Blair.

    Bringing the Bible on the table was a strawman. Bringing the context of the Bible was a strawman. Twice you tried to “clarify” my position and strawmaned it. Your “a thousand steps” rebuttal was a strawman both of your text and of my summary of its steps or stages.

    I'm not sure who's punking who here.


  19. > the problem is also well understood in epitemology, like Kuhn and Feyerabend.

    In Feyerabend, perhaps. Even then, some may argue that his anarchism also applies to CEOs, exceptional individuals, and everyone else you'd like to protect with your caricature, Alain. However, to get that out of Kuhn, you'd have some work to do, since it would be a cognitive feature, regardless of funding.

    Show me.


  20. Blair says:

    While an undergrad I took the opportunities provided to me to take several courses on comparative and Canadian literature. One of my literature professors informed us in our lecture that one of the most annoying questions a student can ask a professor is “since the author of the piece is still alive has anyone asked her what she meant by her piece?” The reason the question so frustrates the professors is that in order to do their jobs they have to make suppositions and assumptions about what writers are thinking when they were writing. Nothing annoys a professor more than having all those assumptions dashed when the author can simply state categorically, and in no uncertain terms, what she meant by a piece of prose. All that hard work ruined by a silly author who goes and tells you what they actually intended their prose to mean!

    In this case, I am the author and I have told you what I meant. I have clearly indicated that mine was not an instantaneous, sudden or rash transformation. The use of the expression “pulling back the curtain” while it can imply a sudden event, is used in the literature all the time to represent both quick and slow changes. You have created this imaginary scenario in your mind (much like a lit prof) and have spent the last several days trying to tell me what I meant by my prose. Well as the author, I am here to pop that balloon. As I wrote very clearly in my text, my transition was not an immediate, instantaneous or rash one. It happened over a period of time based on my reading of and into the emails and was reinforced by the reaction of the gatekeepers to the revelation of the information.

    As a further note, as I have also written elsewhere, this was not a sudden dose of “scepticism” but rather a wake-up call about the faith I had placed in the individuals (I use the word trust) involved in the enterprise. Like every student of science I was taught to have an appropriate level of scepticism whenever I open a journal article. What I did not realize was how base, petty and intellectually insecure some of these “great minds” actually are. The mean-spiritedness of some of the bright lights (as typified by their communications on twitter) certainly reinforces the feelings I had when I first read the emails.


  21. I agree that the main problem supporting groupthink is not money, but cognitive assets.
    anyway it is economical rationality, as described by Benabou. people defend their belief in their assets (money, funding, glory, self-esteem).

    Kuhn explain as you seem to say that the resistance to revolution is because people have been preformated to think inside a paradigm, and only value the evidence which support the paradigm.

    it seems independent from interest, but this way to ignore evidences, even if implemented as education, is a groupthink. professors as described by Benabou protect their students from the risk of reality, causing reevaluation of everybody asset values.

    cognitive or economic theories are dual explanations of the same reality.
    people when having invested much in a paradigm, a system of beliefs, assets, educate and terrorize people including themselves to avoid having access to reality which will show their ruin.

    in fact it statrt rationally, by protecting brain from things that have no chance to be interesting… it become denial when some facts dissents, but one can preted it is just protecting brain from loss of time.
    It is so frequent to see deluded science mindguard facing dissenting , instead of asking for new experiments to clear the affair, see them ask to save money by not funding any research…
    This is my way to separate deniers from critics. Critics ask for more science, deniers for less science.


  22. Shub, there is no way you can construe von Storch as a “member” of “the team”. Von Storch's principled behavior in this episode, even though he is by no means a climate alarmist, and who has been explicitly critical of the hockey stick, invalidates this whole line of attack on the CRU hacking victims.



  23. Mann never hid anything and Jones never said he did. If any scientist should be on the hook for this relatively minor matter it should be Briffa.


    I don't really think Jones or Mann were crucial players until y'all decided to crucify them.

    “Suggest that the authority of the climate field is invalidated by”

    The original post refers to “faith in the system of “good science” ” and it is in this sense that I mean authority. Science is a collective enterprise, and it proceeds on trust as much as on verification. If one goes about verifying every little thing without exception, one is hard pressed to move beyond what Descartes (the last person who could grasp all of Western culture and science) managed to know. Outsourcing is crucial.

    Our host says he doesn't want to do the outsourcing anymore on climate. That is his right. He is welcome to dig deeper. That's part of the system too. But when he says “show me” and then refuses to look, that becomes another matter entirely.

    If you don;t like a word someone uses, it is polite to ask for clarification before jumping straight to mockery. But I shouldn't expect a more polite reception, because that leap to contempt, after all, is what “Climategate” is all about.


  24. Blair,

    That you bring on the table the authority of your old professors, your own authority as a student of science and your authority regarding your intentions are duly acknowledged.

    None of this is relevant to what I said so far, which does not relate to your narrative intent. The suddenness you claim in Paul's Damascus moment rests on an incorrect interpretation. The “thousand steps” in your conversion is absent from your story. The “stem” metaphor applies to the process, but not to the conversion where “it is not possible to go back to before the curtain was opened and Oz revealed.”

    I don't doubt your intention regarding the continuity of your conversion. Even if we accept that your “faith” progressively changed, you need to accept that your story relies on a state after and a state before: the “trust me” and the “show me”. (I don't doubt that your professor would note that the two me's do not cohere.) Once you accept the existence of belief states and posit a transition between two states that are incompatible and opposed, you simply can't pretend that there is not an immediacy in between the transition between the two states. This would be ontologically incoherent.

    It is quite legitimate to call that process a Damascus moment. There is nothing in that expression which must imply a supernatural intervention. The expression has been secularised. There was a turning point in your story. This turning point provides a landmark for your change of what you called “faith.” A unique, radical, and irreversible watershed acting as a catalyst, which “revealed” the Wizard behind a curtain.

    There was you before, in the “trust me” box, and now there is you in the “show me” box, forever. However hard you may try to pretend that I don't get what you're saying, I think I have shown you that I understand quite well what you're saying. Instead of reciprocating, you threw squirrels at me, the latest being what you really really meant.


    Nevertheless, what your old professor says is quite interesting: “since the author of the piece is still alive has anyone asked her what she meant by her piece?”. Is it something you did with the CG I and II emails? Somehow, I doubt it.

    Now, imagine the number of fields I could distrust just on the basis of our interaction.


  25. Brad Keyes says:

    “Mann never hid anything and Jones never said he did.”

    Jones *wrote* that Mann had hidden something. And that he (Jones) had just finished using the same trick himself.

    I'm afraid a link to the apologetics of a non-scientist (who claims science operates by the same epistemology as Christianity) isn't capable of altering the semantics of East Anglian English.

    “If one goes about verifying every little thing…”

    Nobody has ever demanded to verify every little thing.

    But every little thing must be verifiable by SOMEBODY. Hence the reproducibility that is the sine qua non of all science—and which MBH98-9 lacked, making them grey literature useful only for lining rat cages.

    “But when he says “show me” and then refuses to look, that becomes another matter entirely.”

    And when we say “show me” and Michael Mann says “Giving them the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation these people are engaged in,” it becomes another matter entirely. A matter other than science, that is.

    “I don't really think Jones or Mann were crucial players until y'all decided to crucify them.”

    Remind me: did we decide to crucify them before or after Mann's career-making graph was reprinted 6 times in a single IPCC report? Before or after Mann was appointed personal science advisor to the President of the US?

    And by “remind me,” I mean remind yourself.

    “If you don;t like a word someone uses, it is polite to ask for clarification before jumping straight to mockery.”

    Polite perhaps, but no fun.


  26. Blair,

    Sometimes I think you get matters of substance wrong.

    But once you get past the usual “Climategate” pseudo-scandal, I am starting to think of this blog as very cogent work. It's obviously prolific as well. Very impressive.

    I hope you are amenable to argument, since I think you are wrong about some things. I'd prefer to have conversations with an actually engaged skeptic. I haven't encountered one who really is capable;e of fair-minded discussion in a long time. But even if you disappoint me in the give and take, which is yet to be seen, your writing is mostly worth reading.

    I'm considering sticking around. Again, I hope for some give and take.

    But there's one thing I won't discuss again. That's “climategate”.

    I'd prefer if “yes but climategate” is recognized for the purely polemic and aggressive tactic that it is. But I'd tolerate just not discussing it at all.

    If you think anything of consquence was “revealed” by the CRU hacking there is no possible mutual learning on that topic, because I disagree. I think that it's just another “Benghazi”, a fake scandal drummed up out of confusing events by purely politically motivated people.

    Further nitpicking the few emails that have any “legs” just rewards this tactic of calumny and distraction insofar as I am concerned.

    This is not to defend any statement ever made or every graph ever drawn by the dramatis personae or their associates. But I think if you want to actually promote the discussion in the way that you do and you want any actual member of any of the WG I communities to engage with you on it, the least you could do is accept that the statute of limitations has expired on emails exposed before Copenhagen 2009, and that in general trawling an ocean of stolen correspondence for things that can be interpreted badly is not a sensible way to conduct important and subtle policy discourse.

    I want this topic to go away on this site. It won't. Climate blog commenters probably have decades of “yes but climategate” in them. I simply won't engage them.

    But if you want participation from people who really know the ropes on the WG I material, it is not a good plan to keep slapping us in the face with what we consider a reprehensible and deeply unethical attack on a scientific community that is already dealing with an awkward and in some ways unexpected burden – communicating the inexorably increasing seriousness of the climate risk.


  27. Well, I was once (simultaneously) a nice boy and a Jewish boy but I was never really “a nice Jewish boy” (of whom a nice Jewish girl's mother would approve).

    Similarly, I am arguably prominent and arguably a modeler, but have never really been a prominent modeler.

    That is, whatever prominence I have is not as a direct result of climate modeling.


  28. Breaking news:

    > In this post, I am going to tell a story of one paper and its authors which misrepresented my paper and refused to acknowledge the fact. It’s also a story about the section editor of Journal of Algebra which published that paper and then ignored my complaints. In my usual wordy manner, I do not get to the point right away, and cover some basics first. If you want to read only the juicy parts, just scroll down…


    Until that affair gets settled, perhaps Blair will take all theorems of mathematics with a grain of salt?



  29. Pingback: Why the modern environmental movement must abandon its traditional left-right rubric | A Chemist in Langley

  30. Pingback: More on "Professionalism" in the Climate Change debate | A Chemist in Langley

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