Tag Archives: Science

The Scientists Who Cried Wolf

I have always had a deep respect for science and the work of devoted scientists.  My late father was a PhD biochemist who taught biochemistry and microbiology at a couple of universities in the south.  When I was a kid he had a large and fully stocked lab that allowed me to experiment and learn the wonders of scientific discoveries with resources and freedom that very few children enjoy.  Though my chosen career path ended up being software engineering, I have never lost my healthy fascination with science of any kind.  At the moment I am reading Jerry Coyne’s excellent Why Evolution Is True, though I have never had any doubt about Darwin’s theory.  In fact I have never been exposed to any scientific theory that seemed so immediately clear and obviously true as evolution.  In a myriad of disciplines, there is enough science out there for a few lifetimes of exploration.

But this whole anthropogenic climate change thing never sat right with me.  In fact I have never subscribed to the theory that the earth is getting warmer because of man-made (anthropogenic) causes.  Though some exceptionally bright friends of mine were willing to accept the conclusions of some of these scientists, I have remained a skeptic.  The recent ClimateGate scandal, with which you may be unfamiliar if you get your news from the Big Three networks, has only strengthened my skepticism.  In a recent post titled Not So Skeptical Skeptics, I blogged about the failure of skeptics to be properly skeptical on this subject .

But one other aspect of what I think to be bogus, grant-and-politics based “science” has troubled me for a while, though I have not seen many others look at it from this perspective.

We are all likely familiar with the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  In that fable, usually attributed to Aesop, a shepherd boy entertained himself by falsely shouting “Wolf!”, causing nearby villagers to come to his aid.  Then one day a wolf did come along and the villagers understandably ignored the boy’s cries.  The wolf then ate the flock, and in some versions of the story it even ate the boy.  I see bothersome similarities between this basic story and the “cries” of the climate change alarmists.

It concerns me that a legitimate warning by scientists in the future may well be ignored because of conclusions drawn from the dogmatic politization of science that we have seen in the anthropogenic climate change debate as well as the evidence coming out in the recent ClimateGate scandal.

Daniel Henninger has very similar thoughts in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, titled ClimateGate: Science is Dying.

Global warming enlisted the collective reputation of science. Because “science” said so, all the world was about to undertake a vast reordering of human behavior at almost unimaginable financial cost. Not every day does the work of scientists lead to galactic events simply called Kyoto or Copenhagen. At least not since the Manhattan Project.

What is happening at East Anglia is an epochal event. As the hard sciences—physics, biology, chemistry, electrical engineering—came to dominate intellectual life in the last century, some academics in the humanities devised the theory of postmodernism, which liberated them from their colleagues in the sciences. Postmodernism, a self-consciously “unprovable” theory, replaced formal structures with subjectivity. With the revelations of East Anglia, this slippery and variable intellectual world has crossed into the hard sciences.

This has harsh implications for the credibility of science generally. Hard science, alongside medicine, was one of the few things left accorded automatic stature and respect by most untrained lay persons. But the average person reading accounts of the East Anglia emails will conclude that hard science has become just another faction, as politicized and “messy” as, say, gender studies. The New England Journal of Medicine has turned into a weird weekly amalgam of straight medical-research and propaganda for the Obama redesign of U.S. medicine.

Henninger takes it one step further in equating the shout-down fascism of scientists like Mann, Hanson, and Jones with the religious persecution that hindered science in the distant past:

The East Anglians’ mistreatment of scientists who challenged global warming’s claims—plotting to shut them up and shut down their ability to publish—evokes the attempt to silence Galileo. The exchanges between Penn State’s Michael Mann and East Anglia CRU director Phil Jones sound like Father Firenzuola, the Commissary-General of the Inquisition.

For three centuries Galileo has symbolized dissent in science. In our time, most scientists outside this circle have kept silent as their climatologist fellows, helped by the cardinals of the press, mocked and ostracized scientists who questioned this grand theory of global doom. Even a doubter as eminent as Princeton’s Freeman Dyson was dismissed as an aging crank.

Indeed.  Read Henninger’s article here.

Not So Skeptical Skeptics

One of the best podcasts that you will find is The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe.  I link to their podcast feed over on the right side of my blog page under GREAT PODCASTS and I highly recommend it.  I have learned a lot from their discussions of science-related current events and they are even funny while they do it.  Steve Novella, the main guy, is simply sharp as a tack.  Having said all of that, they really disappointed me with their response to the ongoing scandal that has been dubbed “ClimateGate”.

Additionally, I was absolutely stunned to discover that none of the Big Three networks have covered the scandal and the leaked information and ramifications at all on television.  Seriously – this is a blatant news blackout.  I simply cannot believe that they would be so obvious.  Someone on Twitter humorously suggested that we should accuse Tiger Woods of involvement to get some coverage, but I digress…

I will admit up front that I have always been a skeptic when it comes to anthropogenic climate change (what used to be called Global Warming before cold spells undercut that mantra).  My pre-ClimateGate reasons for this skepticism include things like the pre-industrial Medieval Warm Period, the outright silliness of trying to consider the Little Ice Age to be a baseline for normal temperatures, the discredited Hockey Stick graph, James Hanson’s deceitful attempt to use September temperatures to make October look inordinately hot, it goes on and on.  Additionally, part of my reluctance to get on board is the stink of a social/political agenda on the part of the high priests of the church of man-made climate change.  Additionally, though believers love to dismiss any non-believers who receive research money from energy concerns they do not use that same standard for these scientists who get massive grants for coming up with the “approved” results, nor do they talk much about Al Gore cashing in on it.  They simply [naively] assume altruism in those people.

Having said that, ClimateGate is a huge scandal, and while I can understand people like Michael Mann (the huckster who created the discredited hockey stick graph) and Phil Jones circling the wagons to protect themselves and their [well-funded] alarmist industry, I cannot understand why the SGU rogues and their friend-of-the-SGU Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomer) seem to be willing to throw aside their alleged skepticism in order to stick to their story.  In doing so they embarrass themselves and have seriously undercut their well earned credibility, particularly with those of us in the sub-group that Steve once dubbed their “libertarian listeners”.

I listened to the SGU podcast #227 to see how they would respond to the damning information that has come to light from the leaked (or hacked) data pulled from the UK’s Climate Research Unit.  Did they mention the scientists conspiring to use tricks to hide the decline in recent global temperatures (“Mike’s trick”)?  Nope.  Did they mention the scientists discussing illegal schemes to hide their data from Freedom of Information (FOIA) Requests?  Nope.  Did they talk about the fact that these scientists claim that all of the raw, unadjusted data has been lost, with only the “corrected” (i.e. “tricked”) data left available?  No, they did not.  They simply circled the wagons and took the typical [shout-down fascism] tactic of calling us anthropogenic climate change skeptics “deniers”, a well-known reference equating us to holocaust deniers.

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait, who is president of the JREF and seems to be a very decent guy, even took the ridiculous position of dismissing it with this pathetic statement:

Bottom line? Yawn. Get back to me when you have equally overwhelming evidence that global warming is not happening, or if it is it’s not anthropogenic. Then we can talk.

One could argue that his statement is an example of the logical fallacy called the argument from ignorance, “in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false”.

When the data is called into question you cannot dismiss skeptics based upon your unwavering faith in that same questionable data.  Perhaps in such a situation one should check one’s premises.

These so-called scientists have been using tricks to arrive at their pre-determined conclusion, have talked of avoiding FOIA requests, and have “lost” the raw data, but the skeptics at SGU continue to declare that it is settled science… based upon the very people and data that have now been shown fairly convincingly to be lies, half-truths, manipulations, and obfuscations.  I am trying to find a good analogy here to describe what they are doing in defending the ClimateGate offenders.  Maybe the way football fans will let a player get away with egregious crimes because they feel like they are on the same team?  Perhaps a better analogy is the way that people who naively supported vacuous candidate Obama still refuse to admit that they were hoodwinked by his platitudes.  Those analogies are not exactly right but I am getting close.  I will have to put more thought into that.  Maybe they have simply gotten so used to defending against “deniers” that they are just doing the thoughtless knee-jerk reaction.

Perhaps most importantly, the computer models on which a lot of this theory is based did not predict our current cooling trend.  Why is that?  Because as analysis of the source code is now revealing, they coded the software with a conclusion in mind, fudging things to make them work.  Poor Harry, whoever that is, but I will get to that in a minute.

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Watch This Heated ClimateGate Debate

Hat tip to Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters.

Mr. Sheppard links to a 10 minute long heated debate between a British climate change skeptic (he would call himself a sceptic) and a Russian UN IPCC contributor.  Watch the video, but I have also included some key quotes from the skeptic that Sheppard listed.

Sheppard’s bullet points:

  • The case [for anthropogenic global warming] is blown to smithereens [by this scandal], and this whole theory should be destroyed and discarded and Copenhagen conference should be closed.
  • The world is cooling and has been cooling for seven years, and the leading scientists, so-called “scientists,” have been trying to hide that evidence.
  • The data, real data, over the last one thousand, ten thousand or million years, shows there is no relationship between carbon dioxide and world temperatures or climate extremes. Now we can see that actually the people in charge of data have been fiddling it, and they have been hiding the real decline in world temperatures in an attempt to keep their so called moral high ground.
  • The Copenhagen jamboree is a scandal and it must be stopped.
  • There is a gigantic bandwagon run by governments who want to control world energy supplies and hold back development in the third world. This thing they are doing now is just the same as they are doing in the banking crisis, it is creating a whole bubble of false values.
  • Their claims are false, I repeat, they are false, and this theory they’ve got is like the Titanic and it will crash. I would suggest that honest green campaigners who want to preserve biodiversity should get off this [man-made global warming] bandwagon before it sinks.
  • Carbon dioxide levels are driven by temps, not the other way around. There have been big peaks in CO2 in past…carbon dioxide is actually a good thing for the world…More CO2 makes plants and animals more efficient.

Think you’ll see that kind of debate on non-Fox television any time soon?

Yes, that was a rhetorical question.

I highly recommend following @NoelSheppard on Twitter.  Additionally, if you are a conservative and you are not on Twitter yet, you are missing out on the best vehicle for information dissemination that exists today.  Please sign up and follow Mr. Sheppard, and you can follow me as well at @RobWaterson and @WarOnSocialism.

Three Key Points About ClimateGate

[Hat tip to the always spot-on Hot Air]

Writing over at Pajamas Media, Iain Murray points out the three most important things to know about what is now being called ClimateGate:

First, the scientists discuss manipulating data to get their preferred results. The most prominently featured scientists are paleoclimatologists, who reconstruct historical temperatures and who were responsible for a series of reconstructions that seemed to show a sharp rise in temperatures well above historical variation in recent decades.

So when people mock you about being a denier, remember that their entire Climate Change belief system was largely constructed by these same dishonest, “proper result”-driven scientists.

Secondly, scientists on several occasions discussed methods of subverting the scientific peer review process to ensure that skeptical papers had no access to publication. In 2003, Tom Wigley of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, complained that paleoclimatologist Hans von Storch was responsible for “the publication of crap science ‘in order to stimulate debate’” and that they “must get rid of von Storch” (1051190249) as an editor of the journal Climate Research (he indeed subsequently resigned).

So they are big about calling for peer review, but they attack peers who review things in ways that they do not like.  Real science requires letting people attempt to poke holes in your theory, but these High Priests of the Church of Climate Change fight back when people do just that.

Finally, the scientists worked to circumvent the Freedom of Information process of the United Kingdom.

They discuss hiding data and deleting emails in order to evade FOIA requests.  Unbelievable.

Showing that the True Believers are circling the wagons, Newsbusters is reporting that the only TV news outlet reporting on this historic scandal is Fox News:

The Obama administration has another reason to hate Fox: it appears to be the only national television news outlet in America interested in the growing ClimateGate scandal.Despite last Friday morning’s bombshell that hacked e-mail messages from a British university suggested a conspiracy by some of the world’s leading global warming alarmists — many with direct ties to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — to manipulate temperature data, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and NBC through Monday evening have completely ignored the subject.

LexisNexis searches indicate that NPR appears to also be part of this news boycott.

Having never believed in this junk science hoax, one of my main concerns has always been the long term effects of this political “science”.  When something legitimate comes along that does warrant a warning from [more legitimate] scientists, people will remember this bogus, political Global Warming hoax and will ignore the scientists.

The Climate Change Scam

As you have likely heard, an inside whistleblower at the UK’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) has released an immense amount of data containing emails and documents on to the internet.  Some reports say 60 megabytes and some say 160, but the result is the same.

The believers in the Church of Anthropogenic Climate Change are circling their wagons in an attempt to mitigate the damage, with Michael “discredited hockey stick graph” Mann even trying to go Clintonion with his redefinition of the word “trick”, but they are not convincing anyone.

A Washington Times editorial lays the truth bare:

Professor Phil Jones, the head of the Climate Research Unit, and professor Michael E. Mann at Pennsylvania State University, who has been an important scientist in the climate debate, have come under particular scrutiny. Among his e-mails, Mr. Jones talked to Mr. Mann about the “trick of adding in the real temps to each series … to hide the decline [in temperature].”

Mr. Mann admitted that he was party to this conversation and lamely explained to the New York Times that “scientists often used the word ‘trick’ to refer to a good way to solve a problem ‘and not something secret.’ ” Though the liberal New York newspaper apparently buys this explanation, we have seen no benign explanation that justifies efforts by researchers to skew data on so-called global-warming “to hide the decline.” Given the controversies over the accuracy of Mr. Mann’s past research, it is surprising his current explanations are accepted so readily.

The Believers are trying to spin this as an innocuous misunderstanding, but as I discussed in a previous post, that spin is viciously undercut by their discussions about hiding data from Freedom of Information Requests:

There is a lot of damning evidence about these researchers concealing information that counters their bias. In another exchange, Mr. Jones told Mr. Mann: “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” and, “We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind.” Mr. Jones further urged Mr. Mann to join him in deleting e-mail exchanges about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) controversial assessment report (ARA): “Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re [the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report]?”

In another e-mail, Mr. Jones told Mr. Mann, professor Malcolm K. Hughes of the University of Arizona and professor Raymond S. Bradley of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst: “I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!”

At one point, Mr. Jones complained to another academic, “I did get an email from the [Freedom of Information] person here early yesterday to tell me I shouldn’t be deleting emails.” He also offered up more dubious tricks of his trade, specifically that “IPCC is an international organization, so is above any national FOI. Even if UEA holds anything about IPCC, we are not obliged to pass it on.” Another professor at the Climate Research Unit, Tim Osborn, discussed in e-mails how truncating a data series can hide a cooling trend that otherwise would be seen in the results. Mr. Mann sent Mr. Osborn an e-mail saying that the results he was sending shouldn’t be shown to others because the data support critics of global warming.

Repeatedly throughout the e-mails that have been made public, proponents of global-warming theories refer to data that has been hidden or destroyed. Only e-mails from Mr. Jones’ institution have been made public, and with his obvious approach to deleting sensitive files, it’s difficult to determine exactly how much more information has been lost that could be damaging to the global-warming theocracy and its doomsday forecasts.

An independent observer would have to agree that people with nothing to hide are not likely to be running around conspiring about ways to hide data from FOIA requests.

Like Al Gore, these guys are getting money based upon the “sky is falling” results of their questionable research.  Like Al Gore, it would seem that they are not at all concerned with truth if it stands in the way of their propaganda and their political goals.

One side story here: the initial response by the New York Times involved a typical spin, claiming that they should not print the data since the emails were potentially illegally obtained.  Can you smell the hypocrisy from a “news” outlet that never hesitates to publish classified information if it hurts national security?  Does anyone still doubt that the NYT is simply a newsletter for the social democrats?

Dawkins Embarrasses Bill O’Reilly

Dawkins: “It is a most extraordinary piece of warped logic to say that because science cannot answer a particular question, you’re going to throw in your lot with Jesus.”

O’Reilly: “Here is why I do not throw my lot in with science, science does not advance the human condition in any moralistic way and Jesus did.”

Dawkins: “Why would you muddle up the question of keeping your moral compass for life, which is important, with the other question which is explaining the nature of the world, the nature of life, the nature of the universe?  That’s what science is about.”

It is clear that science advances the human condition in a way that cannot even be compared to religion.  In fact, I would argue that had religious doctrine not consistently persecuted inquisitive scientists as heretics there would have been a man on the moon 50 to 100 years earlier than it happened.  Imagine where we would be today if early scientists could have pursued their discoveries without pressure and threats from organized religion.

Religious issues aside, if you do not “believe” in evolution you are either ignorant or you are dumb.  Period.  When I say ignorant I do not mean it as an insult, we are all ignorant of some things.  I sure am.  I simply mean that you do not have the information.  It staggers me how often I embark in a conversation on evolution with a creationist or IDer only to find that their arguments and “points” are very easy to address.  They are simply uninformed about the extent of the fossil record as well as the predictions made by scientists in terms of transitional fossils and the subsequent discovery of the predicted intermediate forms, for example Archaeopteryx.

The brutal reality is that religions will either embrace the inarguable truth of evolution or risk looking like a group of flat earth denialists, the modern day equivalent of a caveman worshiping a moon god simply because he does not understand what that thing is in the sky.

I like Bill O’Reilly and the very unique role that he plays as a watchdog (unlike the mainstream media who are now lapdogs rather than watchdogs), but he is woefully ignorant of science.  It is patently ridiculous that he discards science because it does not clearly explain everything and instead falls back on a 2000+ year old book written by people who knew nothing about science.  That is classic gap theism and it is ignorant.

Two new gaps in the fossil record

There is joke that has been repeated a couple of times on my favorite podcast (The Skeptics Guide to the Universe) that whenever a new fossil is found it just creates two new gaps in the fossil record.  Think about it; it is funny.  Unfortunately, while it’s fun to poke at creationists, anyone who does not “believe in” evolution is either sadly ignorant of a massive amount of science or is blinded by a particular faith that seeks to take credit for the beauty of natural selection.

Let’s step back for a moment.  The way real science works is that someone puts forth a theory about something and over time if that theory can be tested honestly without failure it gains some credibility.  Moreover, if that theory can correctly make predictions about future discoveries it starts to cross that line between theory and accepted science.  Einstein’s predictions were tested during critical observations of solar ecplipses and these successful tests of his ideas began to turn his theories into accepted science.  Similarly, scientists had predicted the existence of a transitional species that would be somewhere between dinosaurs and birds.  Lo and behold, they found Archaeopteryx, a creature that is the “missing link” between dinosaurs and their only remaining descendants: birds.  For one more example, scientists had theorized about a transitional creature between land mammals and whales (which in fact were land mammals that returned to the oceans); this was proven with Ambulocetus.

Some scientists have announced that they have identified a very early ancestor to both primates and modern day lemurs, a true missing link in the evolution of mammals into primates.

Ida - a missing link

Ida - a missing link


A few very important points about the incredibly well preserved 47 million year old fossil, from National Geographic:

Ida, properly known as Darwinius masillae, has a unique anatomy. The lemur-like skeleton features primate-like characteristics, including grasping hands, opposable thumbs, clawless digits with nails, and relatively short limbs.

“This specimen looks like a really early fossil monkey that belongs to the group that includes us,” said Brian Richmond, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study.

He goes on to point out what I implied in the title of the above photo (borrowed from the NatGeo story): this is only one of the many missing links:

But there’s a big gap in the fossil record from this time period, Richmond noted. Researchers are unsure when and where the primate group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans split from the other group of primates that includes lemurs.

“[Ida] is one of the important branching points on the evolutionary tree,” Richmond said, “but it’s not the only branching point.”

This fossil was so well preseved that “scientists were able to examine fossil evidence of fur and soft tissue and even picked through the remains of her last meal: fruits, seeds, and leaves.”  Noting that the fossil was found in Germany, the National Geographic story makes one additional closing point that had eluded me:

What’s more, the newly described “missing link” was found in Germany’s Messel Pit. Ida’s European origins are intriguing, Richmond said, because they could suggest—contrary to common assumptions—that the continent was an important area for primate evolution.

This sort of transitional fossil was predicted by evolutionary theory and we will find many many more similar examples as time goes by.  I am sure that the Discovery Institute is workiing on a good spin at this very moment.