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

    A list of the fields from which you accept appeals to authority might be nice.

    My hypothesis is that for each of in that list, I will be able to make you lose faith in a few seconds search.

    Faithfully yours,



  2. Blair says:

    I accept, with little reservation, results I read in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Canadian Journal of Chemistry and pretty much everything from the NRC Research Press. These journals, while imperfect, provide scrupulous peer review and are quick with errata's and corrections.

    I also accept appeals to authority in the fields of Mathematics and most mathematically-based high-end physics where I lack the skill or knowledge to challenge assertions but believe that the institutions, given time, have a good record of smoking out bad science.


  3. Trust, as is often said, is hard to gain and easy to lose. Once lost it is very difficult to regain. The complete lack of condemnation of the behavior revealed by the UEA emails by leaders in climate science (indeed, in science in general) did more damage to scientific credibility than any other even I have seen in my lifetime. It was a PR catastrophe… and one that was completely avoidable. Recognized leaders had only to call out the miscreants and it would have been over. The lasting (and damaging) perception is that those leaders did not and do not actually think the miscreants were in fact miscreants. Terrible error.


  4. > I accept, with little reservation, results I read in the Journal of the American Chemical Society […]

    That's not a field, but a Journal.

    Some scary stories in chemistry:


    Some more in Maths:


    Thanks for playing.


  5. Blair says:

    and in playing the game you completely miss the point. The robust efforts by these disciplines to root out bad actors and get retractions is why we do not read about “chemistrygate” or “mathgate”. Why we do not see high-profile chemistry professors calling their colleagues “p-orbital head”, “electron dense” or “transient in nature” on Twitter. Anyone can go to retraction-watch and find a half-dozen retractions in a field but as I note above retractions demonstrate the robustness of the system not its failure. It is when a discipline fails to force retractions in light of clear evidence that one must wonder.


  6. Interesting post. By coincidence I just wrote a post on other bloggers with similar stories



  7. David Young says:

    Of course Willard, all fields of science are affected by these problems, some are a lot worse than others. Medicine recognizes it has a problem and is trying to do better. The problem here is that climate science is in denial that there is a problem, aided and abetted by a politically active and strong alliance of NGO's, politicians, and activists and yes some biased blog proprietors.


  8. > The robust efforts by these disciplines to root out bad actors and get retractions is why we do not read about “chemistrygate” or “mathgate”.

    Another reason is that the “gate” brand is a political weapon, and that mathematics tend not to have that much political traction. Not that it can't:


    Another hit for “chemistry” and “fraud”:



    It would be interesting to know more about how you know about these “robust efforts,” Blair. What makes you think that there's no skeletons in the mathematicians' closets? Oh, right: you don't have access to their emails. Since there's a site like Retraction Watch, “robust efforts” are made.

    You're just rehearsing the good ol' Road to Damascus story. In a post about appeals to authority, you start by underlying the ones of MT and AT. Your blog is already repleted with appeals to your own authority.

    Climategate. Your faith is shattered. It will never come back until some demands are being met.

    Do you know about emotional blackmail, Blair?


  9. Qu’on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnête homme, j’y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre.


    I am absolutely not interested in so-called “climategate”. Whether the science stands or falls does not depend on whether those producing it are saints. That's not what science is. I do not like Richard Muller precisely because he engages in these very “denounce or be denounced” tactics, but I think his work is admirable.

    But I will say that one of your examples seems particularly troublesome to me. regarding excluding publications from consideration by IPCC, whether that is contemptible or understandable or even praiseworthy would arguably depend sensitively on whether the work should have successfully passed peer review in the first place.

    Should IPCC allow for injection of frank nonsense into the discourse just because a journal has been sloppy, or because a pseudo-journal exists? Maybe so. I guess it depends to some extent on whether you are interested in the rules of the game on one hand or in the conveying of crucial information to the policy sector on the other.


  10. Blair says:

    So your example of an issue for the field of chemistry is a report prepared for the Royal Society of Chemistry, identifying the culprits, including admission errors, indicating their penalties and highlighting actions by the body overseeing them to ensure the fault is not repeated? This represents a triumph in demonstrating how this sort of thing should be handled? The were no cover-ups, the investigation was done in public, the miscreant was being punished and it was being broadcast to the world by one of the premiere scientific bodies in the field.

    As for my blog being “repleted with appeals to your own authority”, I would argue that it is filled with personal anecdotes and the results of my personal research/study/interests. I provide opinions and supplement them with information that can be easily confirmed via a Google search (and therefore not linked) and selected links for info that is not as easy to find.


  11. Another great example of the “robust efforts” in mathematics:

    > More than 2 years after the 500-page proof has been made public, the mathematical community still hasn't been able to decide whether it's correct or not.



  12. > The were no cover-ups, the investigation was done in public, the miscreant was being punished and it was being broadcast to the world by one of the premiere scientific bodies in the field.

    Thank you for indirectly stating what could very well be the conditions under which you'd have faith in climate science in general, unless once the faith is lost, etc.

    An interesting quote from the article about the Chiranjeevi affair:

    > Rathnam hopes his university will not be judged by Chiranjeevi's actions. 'We have a number of people here who do good work,' he says. 'They should not be penalised. It is not fair.'

    Does this case of copy-pasting remind you of the Wegman affair, by any chance, Blair?


  13. EliRabett says:

    First sentence has two things stated as facts both of which are wrong. It's enough to make a bunny think you are pulling it out of your butt.


  14. Blair says:

    Once again you seem completely oblivious to the point. The mathematician provided a 500-page proof!. He/she provided the entire basis of his/her argument in a form that can be checked by his/her peer group. The difficulty is that the check involves thousands of hours of heavy-duty math and it is being done as we speak. Nothing is being held back, no one is saying “you can't see my code”, no “Freedom of Information Requests” had to be submitted to get the data. It was all provided as a matter of course and is being reviewed as quickly as possible given the complexity of the task and the limited number of individuals capable of doing such a detailed evaluation?


  15. ” The lasting (and damaging) perception is that those leaders did not and do not actually think the miscreants were in fact miscreants. Terrible error.”

    Maybe. Maybe they think it would be a worse error to countenance the publication of private emails as a legitimate form of discourse.

    Academics do have legitimate interests in secrecy, particularly insofar as their relationship to students is concerned, but also because, in a misguided effort to make academia more like a marketplace, academics have to compete for credit for their achievements and for grants.

    The injustice of having this huge public dump of email far outweighs the rather tepid handful of revelations found among them. The outrage of the academic sector is far more directed at the hacking, the willful misinterpretation of its content, and the baseless implication of some organized scandal, than in the handful of tepid transgressions revealed.


  16. Blair says:

    In the first sentence I make two assertions, one is pulled from Dr. Tobis's credentials own web site and the second is that (…and Then There's Physics runs a web site?
    Are you asserting that Dr. Tobis' description of himself on his own website is incorrect?
    Are you asserting that …and Then There's Physics does not have a web site?


  17. TinyCO2 says:

    Blair, first rule of Climate Club is don't mention Climategate. Second rule…

    I don’t know why warmists can’t grasp that you are entitled to your own opinion and that you’re not about to collect citations for every generalised impression you have. They will argue the minutiae of everything rather than deal with the general gist of your arguments. Arguing that other sciences might have flaws in them is an odd way to exonerate climate science. Their view is that climate science must be allowed to make mistakes unquestioned because the issue is so important. The opposite is true. The more critical the science, the more rigor it should be exposed to.


  18. ” Nothing is being held back, no one is saying “you can't see my code”, no “Freedom of Information Requests” had to be submitted to get the data. It was all provided as a matter of course and is being reviewed as quickly as possible”

    If this is what you mean by “show me” you're not being serious and I'm not going to bother with you any further.

    I agree that openness in science is a good idea. Climate science is not an outlier on this.

    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.

    Science is coming around on this, and climate science is too. Using what are reasonable emerging standards in 2015 to attack work done in the decade leading to 1998 is grossly unreasonable, and is an explicit attack on work done in good faith under the prevailing standards of small, ill-funded sciences at the time. Nothing is being hidden; and a failure of bit-for-bit replicabilty only proves that bit-for-bit replicablity was not a standard at the time the work was done.

    The work is reproducible in that subsequent analyses are entirely consistent with the past work being attacked. The implication that anything other than serious work done in good faith is happening is an unsupported calumny.

    I have coarser words for you but I'll have the sense to sit on them.

    Go assassinate somebody else's character if you find sport in it. We have bigger fish to fry.


  19. The demands are increasing with each of your comments, Blair. From faith we go to cover-ups, and now to FOIAs.

    Do you consider econometrics as part of maths? I hope you do. Here's an interesting episode:

    > Nelson pointed out a serious mistake with your [Richard Tol's] data. You brushed her off. You were wrong. There really was a serious mistake. It sat in your paper for 5 years. Now, even after the fact, you do not thank Nelson, you do not apologize to Nelson, instead you blame Stern for inconsistency which is pretty ridiculous given that you’re the one who made the mistake. Not cool, not cool at all.



    To this date, Richard swears that this “doesn't matter.”

    How do you feel about that one, Blair?


  20. > I would argue that it is filled with personal anecdotes and the results of my personal research/study/interests.

    I would argue that we're seeing on every page your credentials, and that on your “About Me” blog post, you state: I’m sorry if the above sounds a bit like bragging, but what I am trying to establish is that in the field of hydrocarbon spills and clean-up I am not a novice.


    I think that this qualifications qualify as more than “personal anecdotes,” Blair.


  21. Blair says:

    Actually, your comments have done nothing but reinforce my original points. Your examples have made my case admirably by bringing up a case of a well-handled problem, a case where fully reproducible information was provided and your most recent example cannot even be considered tangentially related to your point. Do I consider econometrics part of maths? No I do not, I consider it is a field of economics that makes use of mathematics in its analyses…next….


  22. Blair says:

    You take exception to my “About me” for the blogging platform? That is absolutely a new one. I wrote that because my initial postings (when my blog was initiated) dealt specifically with hydrocarbons and I have not had call to update it. Thanks for the giggle.


  23. > Actually, your comments have done nothing but reinforce my original points.

    Which means that unless I get you something more conspirational, you won't budge.

    Or perhaps you will, if I add that Mochizuki is not playing by the rules of the math racket, by refusing to give talks to explain his work?

    You forgot to opine on Wegman's affair, incidentally.


    > Your examples have made my case admirably by bringing up a case of a well-handled problem […]

    In what way does the Gremlins episode is well handled?

    For five years, Richard knew about his Gremlins, but ignored the criticisms of a fellow researcher.

    Gremlins about less than 25 data points.

    When he issues a correction, he claims that it doesn't matter, whence it's quite clear that it does matter to the lukewarm narratives sold, for instance by the Cophenhagen Consensus and the GWPF.

    Faced with Gelman's criticisms, he brushed everything aside as if nothing happened.


    > I consider it [econometrics] is a field of economics that makes use of mathematics in its analyses…next….

    The Auditor might disagree with you on that one. It's like saying that bioinformatics is still biology.

    That you picked maths as a scientific field was a nice tell, BTW. We can almost predict that you'll require engineer-level derivations of the CO2 doubling.


  24. > You take exception to my “About me” for the blogging platform?

    No, I take exception to your “personal anecdotes” dismissive, whence it's quite clear that you appeal to your own authority as a chemist, a biologist, and someone who is “not a novice” about oil spills and clean-ups. Therefore your argument is unresponsive, and my point stands.

    Also, what's the name of the blog, again?


    Look. I don't mind one bit that you do appeal to your own authority. It's your blog, after all, and you're free to do as you please. That you tell your own story about how oil pipes are safe and all that jazz is your prerogative.

    However, please own what you're doing. This is your Damascus moment. Climategate changed everything you thought about climate science, except perhaps for the fact that lukewarmism accepts the science, usually.

    There's no need for any Damascus moment to belong to the “show me” tribe.


    You do not show me much by responding like that.


  25. Blair says:

    To be clear, I say pipelines are safer than the alternatives. In a world of compromises one should seek the safest, least environmentally damaging way to address a societal need. In the transportation of bulk quantities of hydrocarbons across a diverse and mountainous landscape the research is clear: pipelines are safer than oil-by-rail, tanker truck, barge or even bucket brigade.

    As for my “Damascus moment”, your biblical scripture is wanting. I describe my transition in my post. It was not in the heat of a single moment of divine revelation but as described the result of observations over a period of time. As I’ve written previously my current position is based on my interpretation of the evidence because I lack trust in those who I should be able to trust to give me an honest answer.

    What I find most interesting is that you care so deeply about what is in my heart and feel the need to show me how wrong I am. In my personal life, I embody everything you could hope for from a “true believer” in the cause. I live a low carbon lifestyle while working in my non-professional life to advance the cause of renewable energy. My professional life, meanwhile, is spent cleaning the environmental messes of our industrial past. My personal actions and behaviours couldn’t be more desirable by the standards of the debate and yet there seems a need to dictate the contents of my heart as well. Sadly every time certain members of the community post vicious statements on twitter I become less and less likely to place my faith in their professional opinions.


  26. Mark says:

    You have to admire how Eli, with a drive-by bit of troll idiocy, Tobis, with his endless cavils about trivia and now Neverendingaudit stooping to ad hominen are proving the original point so forcefully.

    The behaviour of the supporters of the more alarmist end of CO2 warming really is quite telling.


  27. Brad Keyes says:


    “Whether the science stands or falls does not depend on whether those producing it are saints.”

    This may astonish you, but one doesn't have to be a saint to follow the scientific method! Just because Mann, Jones and co. struggle to do so, it doesn't follow that it's some sort of superhuman feat.

    “….would arguably depend sensitively on whether the work should have successfully passed peer review in the first place.”

    I confess to having a certain morbid admiration for the double-jeopardy system you've set up here (in your mind). You ignore skeptical papers that fail peer review; but when they do pass peer review, you *still* ignore them on the basis that… wait for it… you don't personally opine that they should have passed!

    LOL… Brilliant stuff. Airtight epistemological gatekeeping.

    “I guess it depends to some extent on whether you are interested in the rules of the game on one hand or in the conveying of crucial information to the policy sector on the other.”

    You mean, it depends on whether we're interested in being honest or being effective? 😉

    It's revealing—and deeply misguided—that you describe it as a choice between alternatives. It isn't. Unless you want your “information” to be worthless spam, you must first satisfy the rules of the game (or as we prefer to say, “the scientific method”).

    Buying in to the false Schneiderian dichotomy may well have been the first and last mistake climate scientists ever made.


  28. nigguraths says:

    The Soon-Baliunas – Chris de Freitas episode is enough to turn your stomach. There is no coming back. Tobis and, nevaudit might not have read all the emails concerned out of respect for their favourite science and scientists but I have, as have others. There are many respected names in there – not one of them steps up to say 'hey guys, let's cool it a bit'. People underestimate the power of closed-forum groupthink cascades

    The environmental sciences are unique in having other human endeavours as enemies.


  29. I have always been rather puzzled by efforts to equate 'the injustice' of disclosure of dubious (or worse) behavior with that dubious behavior itself. These things seem to me unrelated. Most people who use email in their work understand that it is unwise to assume absolute privacy in their email messages, and indeed, many employers make that fact clear to their employees. The prudent everywhere understand that an assumption of absolute privacy is unwise. But putting that small issue aside, the public may or may not appreciate the academic sensibilities and interests you point to, but they for certain understand that the activities disclosed in the UEA emails were not at all what they expect of scientists. The real scandal is that climate scientists seem utterly unaware of or unconcerned with the public perception of their field. They ignore the public reaction to disclosure of inappropriate behavior to the detriment of their field, and risk loss of public support for climate science. Climate scientists may consider the public incompetent to judge the behavior of people working in the field, and incompetent to evaluate the quality of what the field produces, but I can assure you they are in control of the funding, and quite competent to decide what is and is not going to be funded.


  30. If Soon & Baliunas was not perceived so badly, you may have a point, Shub. Many reviewers resigned in protest, as you may recall:


    Even then, I'd suggest that you have not seen enough of academic publishing. Gatekeeping is everywhere, including blogs. It's even a civic duty, included in the TOS of most platforms. No need to read any private correspondence to know any of this.

    The Soon & Baliunas episode underlines that contrarians had not much to show for themselves publication-wise, at least at the time, and that they tend to forget that the main gatekeeper in that story was de Freitas himself. The problem with letting go of this card is that the whole idea of “climate science is corrupt, therefore I lose faith” becomes quite moot, at least as far as the publication process is involved.

    “Oh my stomach” indeed.

    – Willard


  31. > As for my “Damascus moment”, your biblical scripture is wanting.

    I was referring to this expression, Blair:


    We could discuss the Scriptures if you please, but I doubt that what you yourself call your “faith” refers to them.


    > I describe my transition in my post.

    Your “transition” is portrayed in three steps. In the 1990s, hardware was expensive, but scientific life was hunky-dory. Then, Climategate. Doubts are sown. Then whitewashes. Bam. The Wizard pulls the curtain.

    Was the pulling of the curtain a process too?


    > As I’ve written previously my current position is based on my interpretation of the evidence because I lack trust in those who I should be able to trust to give me an honest answer.

    Sure. This means you agree with the consensus claim from which you started, but now can say that you yourself looked at the evidence. And this evidence leads you to mention doom and gloom predictions, activists, Erhlich, how we can't predict the future, concerns about message torque.

    All these memes accumulated over the years have been triggered after the CG inquiries, because only then you took a more lukewarm look at the evidence.

    I predict an imminent cue to impacts.


  32. The whole post is about Blair's conversion, Mark. If that's not an appeal to an authority, I don't know what is.

    Just like ad homs, not all appeals to authority are fallacious. As soon as Blair appeals to his own authority, it can be questioned:

    > Ad hominem arguments are the converse of appeals to authority, and may be used in response to such appeals, for example, by pointing to the feet of clay of the authority being pointed to.


    Besides, I don't even question Blair's authority. I merely point out that he's portraying himself as one.

    It's not complicated, when you think about it. You still need to think about it, though, instead of going through cavills, trivia, stooping, proving the original point, or else.


  33. OMG, (neighbour in Langley from N.West skeptic) you've awakened a sleeping gyrant (a word that seems apt to describe the The Great Tobis and others of his ilk)

    Just for the record, for those who might have missed The Great Tobis' contributions to this particular “debate”, I offer the following:

    In Sept. 2010, we were treated to Michael Tobis’s “gate-crushing” crusade

    And a few months later, quite possibly awed by assertions from (inter alia) Kevin Trenberth, Tobis dutifully recycled Trenberth's unsubstantiated avowals. See: Kevin Trenberth: False memory syndrome?

    Nowadays, IMHO, one should expect no more – and no less – from Tobis' “contributions” to any discussion.


  34. Groupthink is very common.
    about the same time as it started with IPCC, in 1989 a similar groupthing caught the physicist who failed, lied, fraudes, insulted, cherry-picked, protected their failure from review, firewalled opponents to publication, ruined careers.

    really what happened with climategate is STANDARD.
    I am sure that reading the real, not romantic, story of germs, of quasicrystals, of x-rays, of planes, would show the same corruption.

    the principle of groupthink, start as you explain, by a good science, a rational position taken with limited but solid data.

    then when the errors is clear, yet much ego and money is commited, there are two possibilities.

    if the actors are independent, able like entrepreneurs to make money with the truth, independently from peers, then they move to realism.

    however if the losses are big, if the group can punish the dissenters, then the members start to fall into groupthink. they refuse to consider evidences, they terrorize the dissenters, they bloc broadcast of reality, and this violence increase with appearance od data that dissent. it finally explode only when some foreigners can mage money or glory with the reality.

    climate unlike other technology, allow no winner. on the opposite some parasites, green business, state regulators, IPCC, researchers, win power with the delusion…

    all is rational and well modelized by Roland Benanou in “Groupthink: Collective delusions in organizations and markets”


  35. you are right, there is nothing exceptional in climategate manipulation of peer review, self censorship, violent dismissal of dissentig opinion, tentative to close dissenting journals…

    See for example HTSC as described heres.
    author who observed HTSC had to write it in footnote


    add to that LENR, Quasicrystal, Wright brothers, germs,

    all was finally proven because of technical application and strong character, despite academic.

    thomas Kuhn describe it well ,


  36. expect more in the next month… maybe more because the golem of groupthink last longer.

    by the way, AGW real or not is solved. If you don't know why, and don't know you are lucky to be aware, you are lost in groupthink.


  37. nigguraths says:

    I'm afraid the years have not been kind on your memory of the events surrounding the Soon-Baliunas history, willard.

    The resignations were instigated. In a cloud of groupthink, dominoes can topple easily.

    Who cares about the paper? We are talking about de Freitas' job here. Is that something that is routinely done too, willard? Getting people fired from them jobs because you don't like their ideas?

    Do you know the names of the people getting copied in those emails? Unless we can turn up messages from them advising some reason, caution, moderation and a liberal stance, I wouldn't trust the 'science' coming from *any* of them. I would go over what they say with a comb. You can't be dishonest in one thing and honest in another. You can still be technically right, of course, dishonesty doesn't make you dumb.

    People think just because someone is 'right-wing' (whatever that means) you can do whatever to them.


  38. Blair says:


    When you choose to use a biblical allegory, then best you understand its context. All your Wiki link tells me is that you do not understand the context of the quotation. Paul’s transition was not a journey, per se, it was an instantaneous revelation that occurred at a specific time during a journey.

    As for my transition, your reading comprehension is deeply flawed if that is what you read. I present a journey of a thousand steps, not three. That you fail to recognize that displays your limitations not mine.

    As for my journey, I never lost faith in the basics of chemistry, geochemistry or the other physical sciences. As such my understanding of the fundamentals of climate change never changed. My trust in the “community of scholars” in the field of climate change was what changed.


  39. TinyCO2 says:

    Why does neverendingaudit think that trying to demonstrate that science as a whole is flawed makes climate science exempt from criticism? That the Climategate behaviour was not a temporary aberration but a norm.

    You're not selling it to me.

    Tobis can barely admit that there were mistakes and even if they were, that was yearrrrrs ago. Rabett continues to pretend he's two people… one of whom is a bunny.

    Blair, are you sure sceptics should be giving climate scientists the benefit of the doubt?


  40. > The resignations were instigated. In a cloud of groupthink, dominoes can topple easily.

    Your sociological explanation is duly noted, Shub. Here's another one:

    On 28 July von Storch drafted an editorial stating that “the review process of CR failed to confront the authors with necessary and legitimate methodological questions which should have been addressed in the finally printed paper“, and proposing a new system in which all new papers were to be sent to the editor in chief rather than directly to individual editors as previously. While Kinne agreed that the Soon and Baliunas paper should not have been published as it was, he did not accept von Storch's proposal and wanted prior agreement from all the other editors before von Storch's editorial was published. When von Storch found that some of the other editors thought the Soon and Baliunas paper was acceptable, he “concluded that we have different standards”, and suspected that “some of the skeptics had identified Climate Research as a journal where some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common.”. He felt that “editors used different scales for judging the validity of an article. Some editors considered the problem of the Soon & Baliunas paper as merely a problem of 'opinion', while it was really a problem of severe methodological flaws. Thus, I decided that I had to disconnect from that journal, which I had served proudly for about 10 years.”

    Hans von Storch resigned on the same day, 28 July, and condemned the journal's review process in his resignation letter: “The review process had utterly failed; important questions have not been asked … the methodological basis for such a conclusion (that the 20th century is probably not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climate period of the last millennium) was simply not given.” Clare Goodess also resigned later that day.


    Not only Hans von Storch was quite lukewarm regarding the quality of the Soon & Baliunas, he was also critical of MBH and of MM05b. There's no need to have your antediluvian memory, dear Shub, when what one can read a single Wiki does not cohere very well with your sociological explanation. No wonder you armwave it.

    Since Brent claimed having reviewed “the evidence,” should we expect a future post on Soon & Baliunas?


  41. > That the Climategate behaviour was not a temporary aberration but a norm.

    You mean a norm among climate scientists in general, TinyCO2?

    That implicates way more scientists, papers, and emails than you'd presume.


    > You're not selling it to me.

    Here's some other stuff instead:

    ndrea Rossi’s E-Cat — the device that purports to use cold fusion to generate massive amounts of cheap, green energy — has been verified by third-party researchers, according to a new 54-page report. The researchers observed a small E-Cat over 32 days, where it produced net energy of 1.5 megawatt-hours, or “far more than can be obtained from any known chemical sources in the small reactor volume.” The researchers were also allowed to analyze the fuel before and after the 32-day run, noting that the isotopes in the spent fuel could only have been obtained by “nuclear reactions” — a conclusion that boggles the researchers: “… It is of course very hard to comprehend how these fusion processes can take place in the fuel compound at low energies.”


    Do I get your attention, now, TinyCO2? I've got lots of potential buyers waiting on the line. You need to act now.


  42. nigguraths says:

    I told already, willard, you are only dealing with what is visible outside whereas I have seen those sources *and* read the emails.

    This is from Mike Hulme, then with an UEA email address:

    “Whilst we do not know who reviewed the Soon/Baliunas manuscript, there is sufficient evidence in my view to justify a “loss of confidence” in the peer review process operated by the journal and hence a mass resignation of review editors may be warranted. This is by no means a one-off – I could do the analysis of de Freitas's manuscripts if needbe.”


    “CSIRO and Tyndall communication managers would then think that a mass resignation would draw attention to the way such poor science gets into mainstream journals.”

    Clare Goodess is at the UEA.

    In other words, mass resignations were pushed and planned to produce the intended effect.

    Everytime I read these emails, the feeling is the same: disgust. Please don't post more newspaper clippings and external sources when it is such sources and the emails together that tell the whole story, which is a different one from the official line.


  43. > Paul’s transition was not a journey, per se, it was an instantaneous revelation that occurred at a specific time during a journey.

    Thank you for chasing that squirrel, Blair.

    First, the revelation was not “instantaneous” but “immediate” (NIV): in this immediacy, Paul had time to gather some evidence. He “suddenly” (GNV, KJV) saw some heavenly light; he fell to the ground; God spake to him; he “then” (GNV) talked back to Him; Paul was blinded by God's light for three days; etc.


    Second, this interpretation has been contested:

    > A 2012 paper in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences suggested that Paul’s conversion experience might be understood as involving psychogenic events. This occurring in the overall context of Paul’s other auditory and visual experiences that the authors propose may have been caused by mood disorder associated psychotic spectrum symptoms.


    Third, we need to be able to refer to states to be able to speak of events like “transitions.” This means we accept a discontinuous conception of time, and that however “instantaneous” you might wish to portray Paul's conversion, your change of faith alternated from one alternative to the other at a specific moment which in principle took the time for your judgement to traverse the relevant synapses in your brain.

    Another alternative, of course, is that your story is a useful fiction for the sake of rationalizing your position. Whatever its status, there are still some gaps in your story. For instance, when did you hear about Erhlich?


    Thank you also for telling me that your process included a “thousand steps.” Where have you told that in your story exactly? Perhaps I should have said “stages” instead of “steps.” I was referring to specific moments in your narrative, and referred to the very words you used:

    (1) “This was in the mid 1990s […] I was impressed […]”

    (2) “My doubts, like those of many of my colleagues, were sown in the fall of 2009”

    (3) “instead of renouncing the bad behaviour, they ignored it, made excuses for it or condemned Toto for pulling open the curtain”

    Interestingly, you also claim that you can't go back what you call a “curtain” once it was “opened” and Oz “revealed.”

    Now, in what sense should we interpret this “revelation” Blair?


  44. > Please don't post more newspaper clippings and external sources when it is such sources and the emails together that tell the whole story […]

    I'm not sure what you mean by “such sources” – are you referring to the external sources to which I'm not supposed to link, or to reality in general?

    Shutting yourself down in the emails may be suboptimal for many reasons.

    First, it won't help decide if Soon & Baliunas was worth publishing. For that, you need to read the paper(s).

    Second, this is only a semi-automatically curation of emails, which means we mostly hear the Miracle Worker's story. For instance, I don't think we have the “email discussion about this amongst concerned paleoclimate experts here at UEA, in the USA and in Oz and NZ” to which MikeH refers. It does not seem to refer to all the researchers who claimed that Soon & Baliunas distorted their data. Perhaps Blair can tell us that, since he reviewed the evidence in a thousand steps.

    Third, evidence of “groupthink” is a double-edge sword, e.g.

    > You may or may not have seen/read the article by Soon and Baliunas (from the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysics Lab) in the Jan 31 2003 issue of CR (vol.23,2). A variant of this analysis has just been published in the journal Energy and Environment. The authors/editor made a big media campaignto publicise this work, claiming it showed clearly the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the 20th century and that the IPCC (and other) analysis claiming the 20th century was the warmest in the last millennium was plain wrong. In the UK, the Sunday Telegraph ran the story.

    Interestingly, we read the same story in the Wiki, which undercuts a bit your “but external sources” defense.

    Fourth, adding Mike Hulme to the lot is welcome, as we always need for another “champion,” if you know what I mean. Perhaps you ought to remind Blair how Hulme reacted to CG I and II, and how this undercuts the scope of his narrative. Perhaps you'll need to refer to external sources for that.

    Fifth, if I can only quote from the Miracle Worker's curation and that reading the emails disgusts you, there are fair chance that you're asking to be disgusted.


    I am not sure if Hans received 2272. Do you have a source to verify that?


  45. What difference would it make if I were to assert (falsely, I currently believe, but consider what if you had convinced me) that there were huge transgressions by several prominent scientists?

    The world is or is not in huge trouble. Nothing in the transcript changes the evidence a whit. I a, much more interested in that question than in the pecadillos you pose.

    I understand that you do not trust us. So you want us to show you. Fair enough.

    But any effort to show is met with astonishing indifference. The conversation always comes back, as Willard says, to “yes, but Climategate”.

    Open data? Published code? Ignored ignored ignored ignored. A lost file from 1988? Scandalous!

    I am not interested in your stolen emails relative to the question of whether the entire biosphere is being systematically damaged, and not just damaged, but damaged at an ever greater rate. Pardon me, but that seems more important.

    I am interested in whether my understanding, gained over years of study at leading scientific institutions, is somehow wrong despite its coherence with itself and evidence. All of the counterarguments have been shallow, clearly uninformed and aimed at the uninformed, and thoroughly incoherent. What am I to do about this?

    All I realistically try to do can do is show you, as you ask.

    I would like to show you, but what if your distrust of me is so severe that I can show you nothing?

    Okay, then, Dr. Muller has done the requisite denunciations. And so you can trust him, right? Here is what he says:


    “If you say ‘it’s something else and I don’t know what it is’ my answer is ‘something else that happens, by accident, to perfectly match the carbon dioxide increase? Are you serious?’”

    The answer, of course, is no, not serious at all.

    Muller is your test. He denounced Mann, Briffa et al in just the style McIntyre would approve. And he still is convinced that CO2 is causing warming. Will you “look at” what he has done? Or will you try to find an excuse to look away? Maybe he has some bad habit you can dredge up to embarrass him and excuse your indifference to what he is saying?

    As ATTP explains, this is not “skepticism” by any stretch of the imagination.



  46. for those interested this test is paid by Swedish DoE (Elforsk) , and the boss support the result and ask to launch research efforts in the domain.
    Norway have invited McKubre and Essen to talk of the status of LENR to prepare a hedging plan.
    Bill gates visited ENEA and Vittorio Violante the LENR coordinator (who already organized a meeting in EU parliament in 2013)…
    Airbus join LENR Cities ecosystem and there is a conference currently in Oxford where an Airbus representative will talk…
    LENr startup Brillouin CEO was proudly showing a meeting with Pekka Haavisto, a Finish green ex-minister, and with steven Chu in Statoil resort.

    ICCF19, the cold fusion conference, obtained the “high patronage of the prime minister office”

    and oil price is collapsing.

    all that will make AGW debate void, as CO2 will not be emitted because too expensive. all the green business parasites will be desperate , and will try to oppose at least few more month to exit properly and let others take the debts.


  47. TinyCO2 says:

    You think that ‘showing’ is all about waving more and more papers. It’s not. Even without Climategate it would have been impossible to get the kind of action you want on AGW with the evidence you have now. Copenhagen was dead in the water even before the emails were released. 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. How many years of failed conferences have there got to be before you ask ‘why is nobody listening to us?’

    People (even I) like to use silly analogies when talking about AGW. It’s counter productive. There has never been a problem like AGW before, at least not in a time when people had freedom. To seriously cut CO2 would take an extraordinary change in the minds of most people. Just making them aware there might be a problem is not good enough. They need to KNOW it’s true, not just be told. They need to both realise what the immense personal costs would be and be willing to pay them. Any progress so far has been built on lies that it doesn’t take that much to save the planet. Low costs don’t need high proof.

    You cannot harangue climate scepticism away. You can’t keep trying the same tactics that have failed over the last ten years to stop more sceptics from arising. You can live in your own little world of bitching about us and watch the CO2 rise or you can try and work out where you’re going wrong. I don’t think you’ll even contemplate it because I don’t think you’re really worried about AGW. Like Willard says it’s a game. All that matters is being the winner in the battle even if you ultimately lose the war.


  48. EliRabett says:

    MT is a lot of things, including Eli's good friend, and a very clever and nice guy, but he is not in any sense a prominent former modeler. He is a former modeler. Prominent? No,alas


  49. Jeff Norman says:

    I for one am not at all surprised Michael Tobis is, “…absolutely not interested in so-called “climategate”.”

    He has already declared on this blog his lack of interest in anything pertaining to climate that has happened in the last 20 years.


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