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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Curious Tale of Anthony Watts and His Dog

MobyT | 10:00 PM 18 Comments - leave a comment
UPDATED: Update added at the end of this article.

Today I came across a post by Anthony Watts who some readers know from his blog, WUWT.

The Part about Anthony's Dog

Anthony's apparently been surreptitiously supporting the Union of Concerned Scientists by pretending he's a dog (if I've got that right).  Anyway, he used his dog's name to subscribe, maybe thinking he needed to hide his true identity in case UCS didn't accept fake skeptics as members.

That's right, Anthony pretended to be his dog! He thinks it's hilarious that UCS accepted his subscription in his dog's name (Kenji).  Others will no doubt be bemused by the lengths to which he felt he had to go in order to 'spy' on the highly secretive (not!) UCS.

(Some of you may even call to mind Anthony's ongoing outrage at Dr Gleick pretending to be a human being with Heartland Institute.  Dog impersonations are okay but human impersonations are not.  The other difference being that the UCS is completely open, while the Heartland Institute is a very secretive organisation.)


And Now the Curious Tale

Anthony claims something the UCS wrote isn't true, while in the same article posting more than ample evidence showing that what the UCS wrote was spot on.  (Yes, if you thought Anthony was a bit odd for pretending to be his dog, what follows is even more odd.)

Enter The Union of Concerned Scientists

Watts claims this statement from the Union of Concerned Scientists is 'completely false'.  He underlined said statement in red so his readers would understand to what he is referring:


So, let's see.  Did Fox News lead in with the headline: "New Research Shows Wind Farms Cause Global Warming" or not?

Enter Fox Nation

We don't have to go to Fox News to find out, but you can if you like by clicking here.  Anthony kindly posts a screenshot of their article:



Let's examine these two statements more closely.  Maybe Watts found a letter changed somewhere:

UCS: New Research Shows Wind Farms Cause Global Warming
FOX: New Research Shows Wind Farms Cause Global Warming

Seriously?  Identical.  Even to the capitalization.

Enter Reuters

Now so far, Anthony seems oblivious to what it was that so amused/amazed/appalled The Union of Concerned Scientists.  He attempts to shift the blame, saying it wasn't Fox's fault, it was Reuters fault.

Watts is saying that all Fox did was publish an article by Reuters.

Two questions immediately arise:

  1. Does Fox publish anything no matter how silly just because it arrived from one of their syndicated news providers?
  2. Did the Reuters article say: New Research Shows Wind Farms Cause Global Warming.

I don't know the answer to the first question.  But it sure doesn't seem very responsible for a major international news media network to publish whatever anyone sends them no matter how absurd.

The answer to the second question meant going across to the Reuters website.  Here is their article, which has the following headline:


Okay, let's line them up again just to make sure we're not seeing things:

UCS: New Research Shows Wind Farms Cause Global Warming
FOX: New Research Shows Wind Farms Cause Global Warming
Reuters: Wind Farms may have warming effect: research

UCS accurately quoted the ridiculous headline from Fox.  Reuters had a completely different headline.

Just in case you are wondering if Reuters changed their headline at some stage, here is a link to their article using Wayback Machine.  (Watts also provides the headline from The Telegraph, which was equally misleading but different from that of Fox: "Wind farms can cause climate change, finds new study".)

What did Watts not Spot?

For starters, Anthony did not point out that Fox made up their own headline.  But as you'll have figured out already, Watts missed a much more fundamental point.

Why is the Union of Concerned Scientists amazed, amused and appalled?

Well, the research did NOT find that wind farms 'cause global warming'.  The research found that wind farms have a local warming effect.

Anthony even posts the abstract of the research paper in question, but still hasn't twigged why the Union of Concerned Scientists scoffed at the Fox News headline.

Here is the relevant part of the abstract as shown on WUWT.  Anthony even bolded the sentence about local (not global) warming "over wind farms relative to nearby non-wind-farm regions":



The World's Most Visited Anti-Science Website and Winner of the Bloggies Lifetime Achievement Award


And @bloggies wonders why science blogs have no interest in sharing a platform with their 'lifetime achievement winner' WUWT?

Give the dog a bone...

Update:

As of now the blog article referred to above attracted 74 comments, of which I read only one that may possibly have alerted Anthony to his error, but Anthony deleted it mysteriously saying (in reference to this? Surely he doesn't want to draw attention to one of his other deficiencies):
----------------
Greg Laden says:February 27, 2013 at 8:10 am[snip - no comments from you - re pending issues - Anthony]
-------------

Summarising for people who are unfamiliar with the context, what this example illustrates quite neatly is:

1) Double standards


In Watts world, he can fake his own identity (posing as a dog!), but if someone else does so much as use an on-line identity (eg Sou), Watts calls them "anonymous cowards" at best or effectively calls for them to be flogged drawn and quartered.

What is even more ridiculous is that Watts felt he needed to fake his identity at all - as if he thinks there is a 4,000 strong inner UCS sanctum that operates in secrecy. (The Union of Concerned Scientists doesn't set criteria for membership AFAIK. Anyone can join, even a someone posing as a dog! I don't know if they boot people out for any reason.  Most organisations have some base criteria.)

Makes you wonder what sort of circles Watts usually inhabits?  (Such weird thinking is consistent with the notion that almost ALL the scientists, journalists, politicians and the majority of the general public are part of a decades long conspiracy to deceive the few remaining science deniers, and that climate science is a 'hoax'.)  

2) Cognitive difficulties - critical reading and arithmetic in particular


Watts didn't pick up on 'global' vs 'local'. Watts may not even know that there is a difference between a local effect and a global effect. That would go some way to explaining his ongoing obsession with individual surface stations long after it's been proven time and time again that individual stations being out balances out once they are aggregated.  (This includes a paper that listed Watts himself as one of the authors.  Seems that comprehending the findings of a paper is not a pre-requisite for being listed as an author.)

18 comments:

  1. "Dog impersonations are okay but human impersonations are not. The other difference being that the UCS is completely open, while the Heartland Institute is a very secretive organisation."

    You forgot one last difference, Sou: Watts hasn't tried to pass off an amateurish forgery as a leaked UCS document in order to pseudo-scandalize the target of his fun.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Neither did Dr Gleick, so that's a straw man.

    What Watts is trying to do is 'pass off' as 'completely false' something that he himself has proven to be true - in the very same article. So far neither he nor anyone commenting over there has appeared to understand what the UCS was referring to.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Brad, you are welcome to contribute to discussion provided you do not promote unfounded and unsubstantiated rumours.

    ReplyDelete
  5. That's kind of like discrimination, Sou - if you ban lying, you are effectively censoring him altogether.

    Good post, by the way - who knew Anthony Watts had such trouble thinking clearly?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sou, good to see that you broke out the praziquantel in response to the hydatid appearance.

    Of course, I've never seen a dog who likes to take its medicine so you might have to do a repeat to get the appropriate dose...


    Bernard J.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good work. It's not hard to catch out the deceipt and lies these people like Watts peddle. And even when exposed it's the lack of integrity of those that continue to support and promote them that erodes your faith in human nature.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Apologies for the delay in comments appearing. Had to introduce pre-screening, which caused a delay. BAU is back as of now.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Welcome to new/familiar faces.

    Anon 1 and Bernard J - there was resistance to the anti-helminth - it wasn't working. The more drastic cure seems to have done the trick.

    Cliff - agree. And often not hard to expose.

    I've added an update above.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sou:

    "Such weird thinking is consistent with the notion that almost ALL the scientists, journalists, politicians and the majority of the general public are part of a decades long conspiracy to deceive the few remaining science deniers, and that climate science is a 'hoax'."

    Hilariously, five pages of google hits for the claim "climate science is a hoax" lead back to a single originator: Stephan Lewandowsky.

    We "deniers" don't say that. We "deniers" don't believe that.

    Then again, the good professor considers engaging with us—the main subjects of his research—to be "an enormous waste of time"!

    (See http://theconversation.edu.au/there-is-a-real-climategate-out-there-4428#comment_14041.)

    It's no wonder he fails to even name a belief to which we actually subscribe, is it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We "deniers" don't say that. We "deniers" don't believe that.

      No? What's this then?

      Or if that's not enough, try this.

      Then again, the good professor considers engaging with us—the main subjects of his research—to be "an enormous waste of time"!

      Yes, many psychological studies have shown that to be true.  Hard core deniers are driven by forces other than reason.  This is from the recent Lewandowsky study, Recursive Fury:

      First, much of science denial takes place in an epistemically closed system that is immune to falsifying evidence and counterarguments (Boudry & Braeckman, 2012; Kalichman, 2009). We therefore consider it highly unlikely that outreach e fforts to those groups could be met with success...

      ...This con finement of recursive hypotheses to a small "echo chamber" reflects the wider phenomenon of radical climate denial, whose ability to generate the appearance of a widely held opinion on the internet is disproportionate to the smaller number of people who actually hold those views (e.g., Leviston, Walker, & Morwinski, 2012). This discrepancy is greatest for the small group of people who deny that the climate is changing (around 6% of respondents; Leviston et al., 2012). Members of this small group believe that their denial is shared by roughly half the population. Thus, although an understanding of science denial is essential given the importance of climate change and the demonstrable role of the blogosphere in delaying mitigative action, it is arguably best met by underscoring the breadth of consensus among scientists (Ding, Maibach, Zhao, Roser-Renouf, & Leiserowitz, 2011; Lewandowsky, Gignac, & Vaughan, 2012) rather than by direct engagement.

      Delete
  11. "No? What's this then?"

    Why, it appears to be a link to your own site!

    Citing the 'ultimate authority' again, Sou? :-) LOL...

    "Or if that's not enough, try this."

    Really? You mean if a link to your own page on which you quote someone NOT saying the words in dispute isn't enough, then you're generously offering me a google search for another, equally-irrelevant phrase?

    What have I done to deserve such generosity, Sou?

    LOL ....

    Now, just to clear up whether we're dealing with an ethical or a lexical defect on your part, please answer as honestly as you can manage, Sou:

    Do you, or do you not, notice the gaping difference between someone arguing that climate science is a hoax, and someone arguing that CAGW is a hoax?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you, or do you not, notice the gaping difference between someone arguing that climate science is a hoax, and someone arguing that CAGW is a hoax?

      No, there is no difference. CAGW is an acronym invented by climate science deniers to refer to human-induced global warming as observed and explained by science.

      Now, that's enough of your silly word games.

      If you want to engage with adults you'll need to start behaving in a more mature manner. Otherwise you'll be no longer allowed to comment here.

      Delete
  12. Sou,

    from time to time people tell me (generally in the middle of losing an argument with me) that I'm too fond of playing "semantics", "word games", etc.

    Maybe they're right.

    My favourite is a little game called "Let's Use The Right Words."

    CAGW is not synonymous with climate science, nor would the fraudulence of the former imply the fraudulence of the latter. Not even close. Deny the difference all you like—it won't go away.

    CAGW, AGW, GW, MMGW, APGW, etc. are hypotheses in climate science. Whether they're realities or misconceptions, whether you prefer to call them opinions, conjectures, hypotheses, theories or laws, it doesn't particularly matter for the present purpose—they're not interchangeable with climate science and they never will be.

    To conflate or mistake a field of science for a theory within that field, whether tactically or through genuine ignorance, leads you to the absurd pass of having to say that anyone challenging any theory is denying science. (Actually you may possibly be quite comfortable saying things like that, but trust me—when normal people hear it, it sounds insane.) You'd have to say, for example, that the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dan Schectman was denying chemistry when he challenged the existing chemistry wisdom on semi-periodicity in crystals. You'd have to say that Warren and Marshall were denying medicine when they argued that the standard medical treatment for peptic ulcers was flawed.

    PS:

    In rē CAGW, you may think my "side" invented the "acronym," but the fact that you can't even define it correctly doesn't bode well for your ability to argue meaningfully on this. It doesn't "refer to" what you say it "refers to." Please try again, Sou. This is a useful mental exercise, if nothing else.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oops—

    Sorry Sou—on re-reading, this sentence I wrote sounds a bit condescending and, well, immature because I didn't choose my words carefully enough:

    "(Actually you may possibly be quite comfortable saying things like that, but trust me—when normal people hear it, it sounds insane.)"

    What I meant was:

    "(Actually, in the climate debate such rhetoric has become almost normalised, but when people less involved in the issue hear us, they think this kind of language is extreme and slightly crazy.)"

    ReplyDelete
  14. Brad, you wore out that argument long ago. You can't go around making up stuff, re-defining words and denying a body of knowledge exists and expect people to agree with you. If you want that, go to WUWT or Jo Nova or HotCopper. (I expect you got those fanciful ideas from some denier site - you think there's some other mysterious body of knowledge around that conflicts with all the known knowledge of the past 200 years - even though no-one has published it yet and no-one else has ever heard of it and it presumably re-writes all the laws of physics, chemistry and biology.) A classic case of 'climate science is a hoax'.

    Climate science is a body of knowledge about the climate, which includes the fact that humans are heating the earth. Trying to demote facts to 'hypothesis' doesn't change the facts, it just makes you look like a denier.

    I don't know what you 'believe' about climate science, nor care. Maybe you can take your pick from rationalwiki (link in the top RH corner):

    In scientific denialism, the denialist can deny a cause (carbon dioxide does not cause global warming), an effect (global warming does not occur), the association between the two (the earth is warming, but not because of carbon dioxide), the direction of the cause-and-effect relationship (carbon dioxide concentrations are increased because the earth is warming) or the identification of the cause-and-effect relationship (other factors than greenhouse gases cause the earth to warm). Often denialists will practice minimization (the earth is warming, but it's not harmful) and will use misplaced skepticism in the veneer of being a scientist when it is unwarranted.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Did Watts believe that joining up using his dogs name made the dog a scientists?
    dumbo
    anyone can join UCS use whatever name you like

    read top citizens and scientists

    donate to join

    http://tinyurl.com/aawbnv6

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great post! From memory this isn't the first time he's pulled this dog trick, and it backfired then too. Perhaps someone should browse the name of the IPCC reviewers for the name "Kenji" before we get the inevitable "ha ha my dog is in the AR5" blog post.

    His dog probably knows more about statistics than he does.

    ReplyDelete

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