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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anthony Watts is finally back to his field of expertise, with help

Sou | 11:24 AM 128 Comments - leave a comment

See update below

This article isn't about science, it's about behaviour.  It's about blog and twitter spats.  So unless you're interested in blog bickering, don't read on.  It's boring and mundane.

After a hiatus, Anthony Watts has decided to blog in the one area in which he can be called an expert.  Name-calling. (Archived here.)

From what I can gather, a UK dendrochronologist called Robert Wilson in a lecture referred to a recent paper (?) by Michael Mann as a "crock of shit".  This was picked up on a the website of a UK denier Andrew Montford (archived here).  It might have been left there except that someone drew it to Michael Mann's attention and he responded in a tweet, using the word "denier", which he later deleted and retracted saying he'd wait for confirmation.  The confirmation came from Robert Wilson in a comment on Montford's blog, but Michael Mann didn't retweet his deleted comment.

The only reason I'm writing about this is to comment on the behaviour of scientist Tamsin Edwards.  It's not unexpected, given her previous behaviour.  (I smell curry.)

Tamsin put on her concern troll hat, or was it her "scientist police" hat.  However, she didn't direct her concern trolling comments at Robert Wilson, who made the "crock of shit" statement and confirmed it in a comment on the UK denier blog.  No. She got stuck into Michael Mann.  And she didn't just do it on twitter, she did it on Montford's denier blog (saying she was "so shocked") and then again at Anthony Watts science denying blog.

So much for her holier than thou sermons to climate scientists!

(IMO, Michael Mann is kinder to Tamsin Edwards than she deserves.  Maybe he tweeted this before she entered the fray at WUWT.  Or maybe he sees some of himself in her outspokenness, though not in what she says or whose favours she courts.)

Climate scientists are under a perpetual spotlight.  I don't think there is any other scientific group whose every public utterance is dissected and misinterpreted and blown up out of all proportion by the denial machine and regurgitated year after year.  It's not fair but life isn't fair.  Robert Wilson's comment in a lecture is one thing.  He used an unprofessional turn of phrase but I'm sure worse comments have been made in public in all fields of science.  However, he didn't need to repeat it on a denier blog.  And Tamsin Edwards definitely didn't need to buy into it and certainly shouldn't have picked sides the way she did.  And while Michael Mann's reacting was understandable and justifiable, it pays to pick your battles.

Back to science soon.


I've just seen that Tamsin Edwards tweeted that she thinks I unfairly represented her views but didn't elaborate.  That may be so, I cannot tell.  I only commented on the facts of the matter and what happened in sequence.  People can judge for themselves.  In any case, I wasn't writing about her views so much as her actions and how they are taken in all the different quarters but especially in the deniosphere.  I find it hard to accept that she could still be so naive after all this time (especially given all the feedback to her from more experienced climate scientists).

(And FWIW, Richard Tol has adopted the language of the scientific illiterati, with its very limited vocabulary.  I doubt that will come as a surprise to anyone who follows the personalities in the climate blogosphere.)

Sou 22 Oct 13 6:59 pm AEDST


Steve Bloom said...

Tamsin's been at this for a while now. See comment 14 here, paragraph 9 in particular. I've by no means read everything she's posted there, but it does appear that throwing Mike under the bus was the way she punched her entry ticket to the deniosphere.

Anonymous said...

First, Mike's an idiot for reacting like he did.
Second, Rob Wilson is an idiot for using the description in a public lecture
Third, Tansim is behaving as expected from her.

Now, allow me to expand on that a little bit: Mike Mann is often a little bit too trigger happy. He could easily have pointed out to Rob Wilson that one Hans von Storch once used the word "Quatsch" (=nonsense), only to see the Hockeystick be shown correct by Wahl & Ammann, and largely supported by the NAS, and of latest the PAGES 2k study. Did Rob Wilson really wanted to go there?
Better yet, Mike Mann could do some more work and show Rob Wilson wrong in his disparaging remark, and then ask for an apology.

Regarding Rob Wilson: he should know better, too. I know why he's complaining, but it is not only poor wording to use, it is also not very smart to go that way. The Mann paper about volcanoes and tree rings offers an hypothesis. A testable hypothesis. Wilson could show the hypothesis wrong. To the best of my knowledge, he hasn't tried that. Never smart to dismiss a hypothesis that actually has indirect support.

Regarding Tansim: she's a favorite also because she doesn't want to say anything about policy. But that little trick will soon bore the hell out of journalists as well as the deniosphere bloggers. She'll thus have to come with more and more extreme statements (and thereby become Curry2), or go back to relative obscurity. I can only hope for her she chooses option 2.


Anonymous said...

The issue is the crock of shit not the bickering after.

Rachel Martin said...

So calling someone's work a "crock of shit" is fine. But calling someone a denier is not ok? Am I the only one who thinks it should be the other way around? I get called warmist, alarmist, left-wing greenie and all manner of things that really don't concern me but which are false nonetheless. But if a peer referred to my work in a public forum as a "crock of shit" without any further explanation as to why, I think I'd be a bit taken aback and rightly so.

Anonymous said...

first 2 papers by Mann:
latter papers presenting evidence rejecting hypothesis.

Mann et al. 2012. Underestimation of Volcanic Cooling in Tree-Ring Based Reconstructions of Hemispheric Temperatures, Nature Geoscience, 5, 202-205.

Mann et al. (2013). Discrepancies between the modeled and proxy-reconstructed response to volcanic forcing over the past millennium: Implications and possible mechanisms. JGR. 118, 14, p. 7617-7627.

Anchukaitis, K. et al. (2012). Tree rings and volcanic cooling. Nature Geoscience. 5: 836–837. doi:10.1038/ngeo1645

Esper J et al (2013) Testing the hypothesis of post-volcanic missing rings in temperature sensitive dendrochronological data. Dendrochronologia. 31 (3): 216-222.

Esper J et al (2013) European summer temperature response to annually dated volcanic eruptions over the past nine centuries. Bulletin of Volcanology 75, 736, doi: 10.1007/s00445-013-0736-z.

St. George et al. (2013). The rarity of absent growth rings in Northern Hemisphere forests
outside the American Southwest. Geophysical Research Letters 40, doi:10.1002/grl.50743

D’Arrigo, et al. (2013). Volcanic cooling signal in tree-ring temperature reconstructions for the past millennium, Journal of Geophysical Research, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50692'Arrigoetal2013.pdf

Sou said...

Yes, I've always seen Tamsin as a curry in training. Judith found her way in by the same route (via Michael Mann), plus her bagging the IPCC.

Sou said...

No, Rachel, you're not the only one.

O. Bothe said...

Let's recapture.

Wilson says the volcano-missing-treering-hypothesis is bullshit. I wouldn't go as far, but I tend to agree. Mann or the hypothesis shoots at some basic assumptions of dendroclimatology, and does so very unconvincingly, as shown afaik by a handful of publications (Anchukaitis et al., two or more Esper papers, see previous comment by anonymous). One only has to look at the PMIP3-simulations for the last millennium and the northern hemisphere reconstructions to see that the hypothesis lacks rigor. Then Mann wonders that the dendro-community and also some paleo-modellers don't take the hypothesis serious.

Wilson does say so in a lecture and since Montford slightly misrepresents him, he clarifies it.

Mann calls Wilson a denier. I.e. Mann implies, Wilson would deny basic facts of climate change or as the wiki puts it "reject a general scientific consensus". Wilson doesn't do that. Mann in his further postings refers the flippant remark to the 'hockey stick', which is wrong. Wilsons lecture was meant - according to Wilson - to understand the shortcomings of reconstructions including Wilson's own work. And yes, we have to consider the uncertainties in the reconstructions. Yes, the Pages2K reconstructions are in some sense consistent with the HS, but even the HS papers emphasized the uncertainties - as Mann himselft pointed some months ago.

Tamsin, and a bunch of other scientists (including me) point out to Mann (or to twitter as a whole) that Wilson isn't a denier, that they are shocked by the tweet, and so on.

And now you choose to pick on Tamsin for doing so? Truly WTF. We all had to buy into it, because Mann definitely crossed a line in re-defining science contrarianism. He retracted this re-definition, and that's a good thing.

Liking Tamsin to Curry is like comparing James Annan with Roy Spencer. Anyone willing to do that? I hope not.

Sou said...

Fair enough. However I didn't comment on whether or not the dispute itself has any merit (ie whether the paper itself is good or not). That can be slogged out in publications and elsewhere by discussing the topic itself.

What I was observing was the pattern of behaviour and how it is being read by others, particularly the denialati. And there is a pattern of behaviour.

As I suggested in my article, IMO no-one came out smelling of roses. But remember, Michael Mann wasn't the first to make an unprofessional comment in this little episode. He was the only one to retract AFAIK. And he has been the subject of more attacks than you could count, so I for one don't blame him for being sensitive.

I don't object to anyone telling Michael Mann to lay off if he goes too far. But Tamsin took it further than that. Maybe others did too, I don't know. There's no point in helping deniers more than necessary when they use a classic tactic like this.

Mark said...

That 'Mann wonders that the dendro-community ... doesn't take the hypothesis seriously' isn't supported by anything other than your creative mind. You completely skip past Robert Wilson's unprofessionalism and ignore Andrew Montford's awful writing ('we have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period' and other blatant distortions). If you can't accurately summarise what happened, why bother commenting at all?

Anonymous said...

Pretty simple story... Dendro-chronologists in public bitch fight over "settled science" and this site blames Anthony Watts. What a joke... Michael Mann is a total tool and anyone who supports him is fool... He will totally screw the climate change cause because he is a nasty piece of work.. zero credibility...

Steve Bloom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Bloom said...

James Annan with Roy Spencer!!??

Anyway, O., there was a time after Judy had started engaging in the blogosphere but before she had taken the initial step down her current path (IIRC maybe around 2004). Initially she was all about defending the science while engaging the deniosphere critics, then started in with critical comments not too different from ones Tamsin has made. So the comparison was fair. But to be clear, based on a close look at their scientific work, a huge difference is that Tamsin is a pretty good scientist. (Evidence that Judy isn't one is her recent scientific flubs plus a general lack of first/sole-author papers in her cv.) But, while I hasten to say I'm not predicting any such thing, it's not like pretty good scientists are incapable of going off the rails.

Re Mike's missing year idea, I call five refuting papers, including at least one of the cast-of-thousands variety, evidence of having taken it seriously (although maybe it was also because of Mike's reputation, not just the scientific content). But, if and when Mike loses the argument, I expect he'll say so.

I'll add that I think Mike is suffering somewhat from resentment felt by relatively obscure specialists toward a famous generalist who got that way because of a prior work in their field. They may well have seen this as rubbing salt in the wound.

As for the rest, let's not neglect the fact that Rob screwed up badly by (apparently) inviting Montford at all. At the very least he was aware of Montford's presence (per Montford, they had lunch) and should have understood that defensive measure needed to be taken. The deranged blog post was a guaranteed outcome, compounded by the use of that unfortunate phrase. While I suppose we should follow Napoleon's advice and chalk Rob's actions up to incompetence rather than malice, he has enough experience with the likes of Montford that he truly should have known better.

Sou said...

Anonymous hands us a classic example. I'd be hard put to better illustrate what I'm talking about.

(It's not just that some scientists give the denialati a free pass for writing whatever pseudo-science and ad hom attacks they please, it's that even some scientists appear to be very selective in regard to who among them should always adhere to the highest standards of decorum. Ie Mann is scolded - by scientists on denier blogs - for biting back while Wilson and Montford are not scolded for starting the whole thing in the first place. And all the while the rabble roam free.)

cRR Kampen said...

Nice to see Tol come up in daylight like that. He may return under that rock now.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty clear you've got it going on for Mann.... but he's bad news.... Crock of shit is an assessment... Denier is an ad-hom attack... Mann is the king of ad-hom attacks because his science is suspect... Mann calling Wilson a denier is like me calling you a chauvinist tea party supporter.... Mann is not your friend... he is the worst thing that ever happened to the environmental movement.... he will go down and take all his supporters with him.... Keep supporting him if you like.... it will not change the fact that he is a Cooch (to use his words)

SCM said...

Anonymous wrote:
"Michael Mann is a total tool and anyone who supports him is fool... He will totally screw the climate change cause because he is a nasty piece of work.. zero credibility.."

and followed with:
...Mann is the king of ad-hom attacks because his science is suspect...

Pot Kettle much? How suspect is your science anonymous?

andrew adams said...

I agree that Wilson's remark was completely unprofessional. I doubt that scientists can be very rude about each others' work behind closed doors, and as I understand it Mann's work did ruffle some feathers amongst other scientists in the field (and I've no idea who's right), but it was inappropriate for Wilson to make his criticism in the way he did.
But by labelling Wilson as a "denier", Mann moved the argument away from a disagreement (albeit a heated one) on the science and was questioning his motivation and integrity, which I don't think is defensible unless there is very clear reason to do so (which I don’t see in this case). And Tamsin wasn't the only scientist to criticise him for it. So as much as I'm generally sympathetic towards Mann, in this case I think he made a bit of an arse of himself, and in general (and much as I hate concern trolling) his aggressive approach doesn't always do him a lot of favours, however understandable it is given the provocations he is subject to.

andrew adams said...

I doubt that scientists can be very rude about each others' work behind closed doors

should read I don't doubt of course

Anonymous said...

Absolutely terrible behavior by Wilson. I'm trying to imagine the equivalent thing in medicine:

A well-known and respected immunologist calls a vaccine developer's work "a crock of shit" in a lecture attended by a well-known anti-vax blogger. He then has lunch with that blogger, edits a post by that blogger in which the "crock of shit" phrase remains, and turns up in a comment thread infested with conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers to lend supporting comment to the post.

The chances that the vaccine developer would be expected to recant an accusation of anti-vaccination politics are pretty slim. But the immunologist would have to weather a shitstorm. Completely unreasonable behavior.

And swearing in a lecture? Very unprofessional.

I think Mann should write an opinion piece for one of the journals that have published his "crock of shit," pointing out that Montford is one of the bloggers who have been trying to poison his reputation for years and that Wilson just joined in. Maybe it could raise a debate about professional ethics, whether climate scientists as a whole have been too conservative in their handling of deniers, and whether they need to pay a bit more attention to how their public utterances are received. I'd love to see Wilson defend that "crock of shit" comment (to students!!!) in a peer-reviewed journal...

Anonymous said...

Once again you miss the point... even the IPCC has dumped his 1000 year temperature reconstruction... you are not being clever by blindly supporting him... he is the Jim Jones of Climate Science... drink the Kool Aid if you like... but you are a fool... he is a false God... and you are a sucker for supporting him.... so here is what you are stuck with.... when you try to concoct a 1000 year temperature history for the entire planet you better make sure it matches recorded history... and when you get caught cooking the books you shut-up... but what does Mann do... he and his mates try to change recorded history... oops... and they get caught... oops... and now he's being thrown under the bus.... you want to save him... he screwed you all... Just because you are bald, fat, ugly and have a white lab coat and an axe to grind doesn't make you a scientist... don't get me wrong... Mann is a smart guy... he committed a very clever fraud.... he wrote a computer program that was cleverly designed to produce a Hockey Stick.... ah the 70th proxy... that's where the magic was... but he never factored in those pesky Canadians... it's like an episode of Scooby Doo... but here is the difference... at the end of Scooby Doo, when the crook is unmasked and admonishes everyone, nobody starts a blog to defend him.... he's a CROOK... I admire your loyalty... I'd like to think that if I perpetrated a global fraud somebody like you would defend me... anyway.... I don't have to criticise his science... as Wilson said... it's a "CROCK OF SHIT"... but... who cares... he's a Denier... and that means I am Superman and you are the next Tea Party candidate for president... and a Misogynist... and Up is Down... and Al Gore invented the Internet... now... how did Anthony Watts figure in this again? BTW... you are better than Mann because Mann would not even enter into discussion with somebody who didn't think he was Gods' gift to bald guys with a tree ring fetish....

Lars Karlsson said...

"it's like an episode of Scooby Doo"

Yes, all fantasy.

Anonymous said...

so many points ...
but you are wrong, I am Superman.


Sou said...

Anonymous starts badly and ends incoherently. Chapter 5 of AR5 WG1 is littered with various Mann et als in the text and the figures of paleo temperature reconstructions.

The fake sceptics don't read science, of course. So one can't expect anonymous to know that the various Mann reconstructions are very much alive and well.

It's not a bad imitation of a typical comment at WUWT, of the overly long variety rather than the "I don't understand it but it's brilliant" comment.

Lolwot said...

I thought it was a perfect example of the kind of poison that tasmin and wilson seem to be blissfully unaware of.

Anonymous said...

I like to see a cocky rebel take on one of the giants, and for that Wilson did ok in my book.

However, his public intemperance in language was a big mistake, for which he was foolish not to apologise. He has rather made his language a bigger story than what he was actually trying to say. It will not enhance his professional reputation, and as the challenger he has more at stake.

Mann also slipped up initially by not grabbing the high moral ground, welcoming positive criticism and offering to talk though Wilson's concerns. However, he has recovered a lot of ground, while Wilson has not.

I think Mann should do nothingmore except to say he looks forward to answering Wilson when he publishes his paper, or speaks at a conference.

This is of course, a sideshow, and a minor one at that.


Tamsin Edwards said...

Hi all,

I don't mean to feed the flames, sorry, but I should probably defend myself as this will live on in the internet. I've also had to split it to get past the character count, so I'm sorry for verbosity too.

Thanks very much to those that stuck up for me - both publicly and privately - and pointed out here that I wasn't the only scientist to say something.

You say "I wasn't writing about her views so much as her actions". But "concern troll" is a fairly strong accusation about my views and/or motivation (Urban dictionary: "to disrupt dialogue or undermine morale..insincere...manipulative" etc). Having never met me - or even conversed with me on Twitter, that much - I'm not sure it's possible for you to make that call Sou. Of course I refute it - I am extremely genuine and sincere on Twitter - call me naive, fine, but please don't accuse me of manipulation or insincerity. Those that know me in person have stuck up for me.

I did smile at concern troll definition #4 in the urban dictionary:

"the term is [also] used ... to effectively mean "anyone who does not agree entirely with the standard dogma of position B, thus must actually covertly support position A", when said person does actually support B, just only 99%.""


"She got stuck into" is also rather strong, isn't it? The main tweets were:

"You are seriously calling Rob a denier for criticising your work, M? That's pretty strong to call a prof climate colleague. Is it not better to tweet which criticisms you disagree about, a technical response, rather than call him "denier"? To me "denier" implies someone that disagrees on very basic physics e.g. CO2 a greenhouse gas. Not statistical disagreements. And if it's the tone you don't like, address that rather than call him denier? Calling a colleague denier = strong stuff. Am I one to you?"

(It continued, but mostly tangentially). I suppose it depends in what tone you read it in your head. Perhaps you are imagining shouty. Instead, imagine a softly spoken, quite posh, English accent. :)

I still don't completely understand why Mike retracting his comment makes him the good guy for un-saying it, but I'm the bad guy for querying whether he should have said it in the first place. Is the retraction not at least partial validation of my - our - view that it was undeserved and inaccurate?

I've said elsewhere that I agree Rob's comment (crock of s***, forthwith COS) was rude. Arguably misjudged/unprofessional, fine. But it's also something I can imagine being said in a scientific meeting, either tongue-in-cheek or in frustration (particularly after multiple previous scientific discussions on a particular topic, as Mike and Rob have had), between two colleagues that know each other pretty well. However, "denier" is a pretty damning assertion about a person's entire scientific competence (zilch) and/or motivation (nefarious), and all the more so when they are a well-published, well-respected expert in your own research field.

I know some are shocked by me at COS, and that's fair enough: some people are more sensitive to swearing than others. However, to me "denier" is not only ad-hom but also serious, akin to "bat s*** crazy" or "liar". One can defend their work against the accusation it is a COS in papers, conferences, emails and talks, as Mike and Rob have done. One cannot defend themselves against a description of denier in these ways, because it is against their person (and has no clear definition - denying what exactly? Rob doesn't deny AGW, of course).

As for swearing in lectures, I probably do let slip the odd "crap".

Tamsin Edwards said...

Part II of my comment:

I think Steve Bloom called me a denier today, or at least said I was on that path, though I'm not absolutely sure: "punched her entry ticket to the deniosphere"…? I wonder how that would go down with my boss Tony Payne, who is extremely supportive of me and my work, helps me find funding so I can stay working with him, trusts me to do my own work, and is a world-leading ice sheet modeller and IPCC AR5 lead author. I also wonder how that would go down with my climate modelling mentor, Mat Collins, who first taught me about climate models, invited me to talk at his meeting last autumn, and is a coordinating lead author. I wonder how it goes down with one of my closest friends and colleagues Jonty Rougier, whose work is the foundation of the UKCP09 climate projections. I know that paragraph sounds like an ego trip but I mean it to say - are you questioning their judgement, based on your assessment of me from Twitter and one lunch (which, I think, I bought :) )? Actually, I should say at least a thank you for your description of me as a pretty good scientist :) But entering the deniosphere? I'm really not.

Re: all these comparisons with Judith Curry. I'm a female climate scientist that listens to sceptics' views. There, I believe, your analogy ends. I'm IPCC all over. Ask anyone that actually knows me or my work.



Steve Bloom said...

Oh, Rob edited the post? Really? I missed that part entirely. Where was it stated?

Tamsin Edwards said...

Oops, typo in comment 1: "some are *more* shocked by me at COS"

Tamsin Edwards said...

Though being "IPCC all over" doesn't mean I won't criticise aspects of it - or its representatives - that I think are wrong:

Scientists, and people, are complicated. Please let's stop viewing it as them and us, black and white. People are never completely right or completely wrong. We can only work out where we all are on the spectrum by talking with each other.

*lights campfire, starts singing Kumbaya....*

Brad Keyes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marlowe Johnson said...


I think we'd all agree that Mann's choice of adjectives were uncalled for as I suppose were Wilson's. Where the difference of opinion lies, I'd argue, is not so much in the importance that are attached to these terms, but the fora that Wilson and you choose to operate in. like it or not, you are judged to some extent by the company you keep and the choices you make when selecting targets for criticism. *public* discussions of climate change is a contact sport and the sooner you realize it the more informed your choices will be, one way or another.

dbostrom said...

Personally I prefer "climate crank." Previously I liked "contrarian" but climate crank is more specific, better captures the distinctive nature of the species. said...

possibly worth pointing out Mann's tweet in full:

'Closet #climatechange #denier Rob Wilson, comes out of the closet big time: … #BadScience #DisingenuousBehavior'

What is interesting, is Michael thought him a denier' not for criticising his work, but another reason?

MichaelEMann @flimsin Not for criticizing my work, but for apparently regurgitating #denialist drivel by the likes of McIntyre etc.

Sou. Just curios what is your definition of a 'climate change denier'

I think the earth has warmed in the last 2 centuries, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and am completely OK, with the possibility that say half+ of the warming since 1950 is AGW.

And I don't know any 'sceptic' or 'lukewarmer', who would have any problems with that..

Lars Karlsson said...

Tamsin, to comment about the issue at WUWT was naive, to say the least. Have you ever looked at how they comment there?

Sou said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment, Tamsin.

I still don't completely understand why Mike retracting his comment makes him the good guy for un-saying it, but I'm the bad guy for querying whether he should have said it in the first place.

I'd have thought you would have understood that's not what I was writing about. And understood that if that were all that happened then you'd be a bit of an upstart perhaps but no more than me or anyone else, and this article would never have been written.

I'll expand on that later but have to go out now, so it won't be for a while.

Rachel Martin said...

Thanks, Tamsin. My only gripe with your stance here is that you criticise "denier" while in the same breath defend "crock of shit". Yes denier is name calling but it's still rather petty and in the incivility stakes is trumped by calling someone's work a crock of shit in a public lecture in my view. The latter is much more serious I think. It's fine to criticise someone for using the word "denier", as I know people get offended by it, but if you're going to police the manner with which people correspond then surely "crock of shit" was worthy of some serious criticism too. Either ignore both comments or criticise both. Making a deal out of one over the other shows prejudice.

One thing I will say in your defence is that you should be free to comment on whatever blogs you like.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous n+1 says
How pathetic and ridiculous. You give your own ignorant 3rd hand opinion on someting you know nothing about. You don't even make it clear what it is that Tamsin did that you are objecting to. She criticised Mann for labelling Wilson a denier. Is that her crime?
I'm surprised that she even bothered responding to you.

As for Mann's work, there is nothing new about Wilson's description. It was described as crap in the climategate

Sou said...

Brad Keyes was banned from HW a long time ago. The only person to earn that distinction so far.

metzomagic said...

An except from Montford's blog post regarding Wilson's lecture (referring to MBH98):

"Ultimately a flawed study" was the conclusion, with a gory list of problems set out: inappropriate data, infilling of gaps, use of poorly replicated chronologies, flawed PC analysis, data and code withheld until prised from the grasp of the principals. In the paper's defence, it was noted that it was an early attempt at a millennial reconstruction and that it did at least attempt to discern spatial variability, something that had not previously been done.

Straight out of McIntyre's playbook. That's what really had Mann pissed off. If Wilson's not a denier, he's doing at least a pretty good Curry imitation. And Tamsin can't see this? Very naive on her part.

Anonymous said...

I still don't completely understand why Mike retracting his comment makes him the good guy for un-saying it, but I'm the bad guy for querying whether he should have said it in the first place.

Well if you thought he should not have said it, why are you so loath to give him credit for un-saying it?

Wilson's blunt refusal to apologise compounds his offence, even when given an excellent opportunity. But that is apparently a trivial "boys will be boys" thing. Personally discourtesy can pass in private, but in public in front of students, it is something that calls for an apology.

Might have been better if you let Mann realise for himself the right course of action and kept your "Aha!" to yourself. Wilson apparently deserves no "Aha!".


Anonymous said...

A good "plain English" discussion of the problems with McIntyre's attack on Mann's hockey-stick can be found here: John Mashey's comments are particularly worth reading.

A quick summary for those who don't have time to trawl through the material at the above link:

Problem 1) A 100:1 cherry pick to find noise "hockey sticks". Almost 1000:1 cherry-pick ratio for noise-hockey-sticks plotted up in the publication. McIntyre performed 10000 noise runs, of which only the dozen most "hockey-stickish" results were published in the Wegman Report. Also, for any particular noise run, if a hockey-stick appears, the "blade" will have only a 50 percent chance of point up. Yet all 12 noise "hockey sticks" shown in the Wegman report were oriented correctly. There's a 1 in 2^12 chance of that happening if the results were chosen randomly.

Problem 2) The "random noise" McIntyre generated was badly contaminated with "hockey stick" signal statistics. McIntyre used tree-ring data as a noise model template, but forgot that the tree-ring data contains signal as well as noise. He failed to filter out the signal before he used the tree-ring data for his noise model. This greatly increased the chance of getting spurious noise "hockey sticks".

Problem 3) McIntyre failed to compare the magnitudes of his "noise" hockey sticks with Mann's genuine tree-ring hockey stick (i.e. he didn't compare the Mann vs. his own noise singular values). McIntyre's noise hockey sticks were *much* smaller than Mann's tree-ring hockey stick.

Note: A copy of the Wegman Report can be found at:

Anonymous said...

Silly typo correction:

...the "blade" will have only a 50 percent chance of **pointing** up.

dbostrom said...

This episode reminds me of something being discussed at Wott's blog, namely how to handle frustration with a conversation that won't die when it should. The climate problem has become in large part a strange combination of boring repetition combined with ceaseless experimentation with slander and character assassination. In such conditions tempers fray and we begin responding to familiar verbal cues even when those cues may not be what we think.

Upthread here there is yet another nameless mouthbreather calling Mann's work crap. When somebody's been the target of enough remarks like that, many of them uttered in far more public places and by people who even if they are least not nameless cowards should know better, then a certain amount of conditioned response is pretty much inevitable, for a human being.

Where and to whom one dismisses a person's work as crap makes a difference, as does who says it. Calling a paper "a crock of shit" in front of an audience of peers isn't particularly offensive, if one is talking to an audience capable of discriminating crap from worth and if the person making the remark is capable of reasoning their opinion.

The same remark made to a general public by a person who is ignorant of the means to judge the thing they're criticizing is a different case to the first. Real harm can be done that way, not only to the feelings of the person being criticized but to the welfare of the public.

Mann has been pummeled by the slings and arrows of countless anonymous or braver fools. Under these conditions, if one in a thousand remarks is actually more benign and more substantive, it's hardly surprising that he'd fail to notice.

A key difference with Mann is that he's capable of compunction, apparently; once his conditioned hair-trigger had been fired and he had time to take stock of what actually happened, he moved to correct himself.

You won't find retractions on "the other side," the side mostly shaped by cranks. Cranks can't change their minds; rigid thinking is a key diagnostic of a crank.

dbostrom said...

One other thought: I think it's possible Tamsin Edwards is not calibrated against the mode of the climate conversation as it's promoted at the level of Anthony Watts, etc.

If one has not spent a sufficient amount of time delving into this fiasco, it's hard to appreciate how degenerate is the "discussion." Invective is at a discount, strong words we'd normally reserve only for good friends or our very worst personal enemies are slung indiscriminately against researchers whose initial puzzlement of course eventually turns to resentment and anger. The people dragging this conversation into the mud are mostly uniquely unqualified except to the degree that they can work themselves into a spluttering rage or are gifted verbal sadists.

If Tamsin doesn't understand this then more research into the meta-properties of the "debate" is indicated, before judging researchers. As well, Tamsin's in good company; others have blundered in with the same information deficit.

So rather than get angry at Tamsin, maybe it would be good use this as a teaching opportunity. Wilson's the wrong lab animal for that.

carrot eater said...

There's something odd reading about name-calling on a blog that isn't above a bit of name-calling itself.

Anonymous said...

Mann had to retract. He flung an accusation of "denier", and all that it implies, at someone who clearly is not denying anything. Wilson on the other hand is in an unfortunate situation. While his description of Mann's work was ill-advised, what can he retract/replace with that both describes a "crock of s**t" in more diplomatic terms and at the same time satisfies Mann ? Out of curiosity, beyond Anthony Watts blogging about this issue, as many others have, why is he the "target" in the thread title ?

Richard Betts said...

Hi Tamsin

You forgot to say that the IPCC Vice Chair has also expressed support for what you do, see here

Your friends at the Met Office Hadley Centre also think you do great things!

Sorry to not join the conversation earlier (we're in the final stages of the IPCC WG2 report so I've been a bit busy). I have to say that I am astonished at the comments about you - this whole "if you're not with us then you're against us" attitude is childish and destructive. It's very unpleasant to see people ganging up on you Tamsin, so well done for standing up to them.

Incidentally, Steve Bloom, you should know that not so long ago, Tamsin told me that you are nicer in person than the impression you give online. I should hope so too, because your remarks above are poisonous, spiteful, and totally unjustified.

And Sou, I think you are stirring up trouble unnecessarily with this post. Do you seriously think that expanding a spat between two academics into a bigger argument and picking on a further individual is in any way helpful? Because I don't.

dbostrom said...

Yet another "anonymous" with poor reading comprehension, or so hasty to comment that no reading happens at all.

Surely we can do better. On the other hand, we don't name ants in a colony and they too all behave pretty much identically, so perhaps "anonymous" is best after all. Let one "anonymous" stand for all.

Anonymous said...

Hot Whopper is confirming its hallowed role as Joe Romm's backup Joe McCarthy. You seem to be the "projected" image of WUWT, but with a lot smaller following and even less substance.

Steve Bloom said...

Oh, Richard, learn to read.

You presumably refer to my remark about Tamsin having punched her ticket to the deniosphere. Notice that Tamsin said "I think" that phrase meant I had called her a denier, so she at least thought it phrasing was open to interpretation. You didn't, and rather than ask me for clarification, which you could have easily done, you decided to flame me. Why?

But for the record, let's deconstruct the meaning: Does participating in or wanting to participate in the "deniosphere" (i.e. the sector of the internet most heavily frequented by deniers) mean one is a denier? In a nutshell, no. What it means in this case is that Tamsin wanted to gain credibility (trust as she puts it) with deniers. Had I wanted to label her a denier, I could have (and would have) instead said something like "She punched her ticket as a denier."

But since you didn't want to quote what Tamsin actually said at Montford's blog, let me do it for you: "They agree Mann analysis was wrong" where "They" referred to "Most. Scientists." and "analysis" refers of course to the hockey stick.

Nothing to say about that? Really? Seriously?

Such remarks are red meat for deniers, and I do not think Tamsin so stupid or naive as to have not known that. You know that too.

But the contrived self-righteousness you displayed above gives you a warm glow, doesn't it, even if it wasn't "in any way helpful"?

bill said...

'Joe McCarthy'?! Give us a break, you ridiculous little anonymous coward...

Don Brooks said...

Tamsin, what is it that you're hoping to accomplish by engaging with the contrarians? I'm genuinely curious. Are there specific audiences you're targeting?

Steve Bloom said...

You may want to tweet her with a pointer to your question.

Sou said...

I see both lots of chivalry of a sort, and lots of restraint by different people in the comments. I wouldn't expect everyone to see the issue the same way and I like the fact that different perspectives came out in the comments.

It's obvious to me that some people didn't recognise the issue I was raising. Regulars here know that HW is about "demolishing disinformation". Yes, it's a snark blog and I use a lot of sarcasm to make the point.

I think it's a real shame when scientists either knowingly or otherwise give deniers ammunition. I especially dislike the habit of deniers to target and try to isolate a particular scientist or climate hawk. Anthony Watts is a master at this, targeting people, particularly Michael Mann but also John Cook, Dana Nutticelli, Al Gore, Bill McKibben and Scott Mandia and others. One of the motives for this blog is to take the heat off the scientists themselves. They don't deserve the personal attacks and it must distract from the science. (The distraction is having some minor effect.)

Given that some commenters seem to have missed the point, I'll add the following comments FWIW.

First I note that Tamsin is appreciative of the chivalry sent in her direction, writing:

Thanks very much to those that stuck up for me - both publicly and privately - and pointed out here that I wasn't the only scientist to say something.

It may be so that Tamsin wasn't the only one to rebuke Michael Mann. But none of the gallant scientists that rode to Tamsin's defense here posted any comments on Bishop Hill or WUWT that I could see. They might "side" with the UK crowd against the US crowd, but except for Tamsin I didn't get the sense that they "sided" with deniers on denier blogs.

Tamsin Edwards, Richard Betts and O. Bothe all seem to have missed the point of my article, and the point made by many people who commented. It's not the science that's the issue. It's not even the siding with Dr Mann against Dr Wilson that's the issue. I'd be surprised if there weren't factions among scientists. It's the fact that Tamsin added fuel to two denier blogs, at least one of which I know well. Until Prof Mann's legal action for defamation got under way, you'd see probably several WUWT articles a month showering vitriol on Michael Mann. Not so much his work, but he himself. There are comments in this thread that are examples of what used to be a very common occurrence at WUWT until just recently.

(I don't frequent Andrew's blog but I am aware he is a delayer and disinformer.)

Nor has my article got anything to do with Tamsin's desire to engage with deniers on the topic of science. In this instance Tamsin wasn't writing about science she was writing about behaviour. She bought into a dispute started by Rob Wilson, which drew a reaction from Michael Man. She chose to make comments on two denier blogs sending a very clear message the Michael Mann is a very bad man. She was wittingly or otherwise fueling deniers' antipathy toward Michael Mann. And they lapped it up.

It's hard for some of us to avoid thinking back on Judith Curry's history. Judith Curry traded on deniers' war on Michael Mann and his hockey stick to gain entry to the fake sceptics' circle. (Remember the T-Shirt incident?) Back around the time of her wooing deniers in a big way (eg via Keith Kloor) she was writing so much about Michael Mann that I almost began to wonder if she was a jilted lover. Judith also likes to play the role of "scientist police" or "concern troll".


Sou said...


Now Richard Betts says "I have to say that I am astonished at the comments about you - this whole "if you're not with us then you're against us" attitude is childish and destructive. It's very unpleasant to see people ganging up on you Tamsin, so well done for standing up to them."

There is no "with us vs against us" attitude here. And while Richard's protectiveness toward Tamsin may be appreciated it seems to me it's unwarranted. With her lack of reticence to tell scientists how to behave I don't imagine she is going to have an attack of the vapours if people criticise her behaviour in turn.

I expect Richard noted the double irony in his post even as he was writing it. The first one being the "Everyone ganging up on Tamsin for being part of the group that ganged up against Michael Mann." Except Tamsin took it further than anyone else did. She gave tacit support on denier blogs, which can only be viewed by them as encouraging.

The second irony is when Richard wrote: "Do you seriously think that expanding a spat between two academics into a bigger argument and picking on a further individual is in any way helpful? Because I don't." Even while he was helping to expand the "spat" by making his own comment.

Anyway. Thanks to everyone who commented on this thread. Climate scientists have it tough and I can't imagine it's always easy to know what path to take. And I have a lot of admiration for climate scientists who play a public role, even if I don't always see eye to eye with them (as here).

That goes for you, Tamsin, Richard and O. Bothe and others as well as Michael Mann.

Rachel Martin said...

One other thing about this whole episode that is particularly disappointing is that it's quite clear to everyone who reads about the climate change debate that Michael Mann gets more than his fair share of contrarian-bashing. It's almost a game to them to bash Michael Mann. Now we have one of his peers partaking in this activity in a public lecture with known contrarians in the audience. Why oh, why? There is a much better way to demonstrate problems with someone's research than to describe it publicly as a "crock of shit".

Whenever I'm in a discussion with a climate science contrarian I often find myself having to defend Michael Mann. Now I can see this latest drama is going to result in contrarians saying "Even Robert Wilson thinks his work is a crock of shit". So because this is directed at Michael Mann I think this whole thing is even worse. And to then read that his peers are not only failing to criticise the unprofessionalism of this episode but calling Michael Mann out for reacting badly to it is all the more shameful.

I am not an academic but I am married to one and I can assure you that this is not how things are done in his area of expertise. In fact, the whole sorry story has made climate scientists look rather petty and rude and this has nothing to do with Michael Mann's behaviour.

andrew adams said...

I do wonder if Robert Wilson would have made the same comment if he was criticising a scientist other than Mann.

In general if the aim is to have a civilised dialogue on climate change with those who disagree with you it's better to avoid the whole subject of Mann and the HS altogether. It's such a polarised subject there doesn't even seem to be scope for civilsed disagreement.

cRR Kampen said...

Given Watt's obsession with the d-word, I use 'climate revisionists' since.

ourchangingclimate said...

+1 Rachel Martin regarding the COS vs denier comments

+1 Tamsin Edwards regarding singing Kumbaya

(incidentally, )

The irony here is perhaps that both Michael Mann and Tamsin Edwards are receiving a lot of, mostly undeserved, flack. And many people seem to have very black/white opinions on both of them. Which is why I find Rachel Martin's comments to refreshing.

Bart said...

There is a quite famous quote from the 'emails', however as this article is about behaviour, the very next sentence indicates that other scientists have a different approach to Mann, about how to communicate/behave.

"....What if climate change appears to be just mainly a multidecadal natural
fluctuation? They'll kill us probably..."

But the very next sentence is more important

"Back to McIntyre: what to do? Get away from the YES and NO camp, find the
humble, middle road. There is a passage in the bible: if someone hits you on
your cheek, turn him your other cheek..."

which were emails from the dendrochronology forum...

[Barry Woods]

cRR Kampen said...

Actually the utter nonsense and malice at WUWT are exposed into broad daylight in a way here that might happily end that revisionist site.

Mass does not count. Who, does.

Tamsin Edwards said...

Thanks for your supportive comments, clarifications, and further criticisms, particularly those from you Sou. I have lots more I could say, inevitably, but today I need to knuckle down. Maybe catch you all later.

andrew adams said...

Well the saying about wrestling with a pig might also be apposite here.

But either way it's fine up to a point, but different people might choose to react differently and I don't see why if someone is subject to a relentless barrage of criticism which they perceive to be unfair and unjustified, whether on a personal level or aimed at their particular field of science, they shouldn't react to that.

One of the things that really bugs me is the way some people want to frame the discussion purely in terms of scientists' behaviour, as if the skeptics don't have any responsibility for their own actions or for the nature of the public debate on climate change, or that it's somehow illegitimate to suggest they might modify their own behaviour in any way.

Ultimately everyone is responsible for their own behaviour and should be prepared to own it. And not having the kind of stature and influence in the debate that others enjoy doesn't give people a free pass to act unreasonably.

willard said...

Hello Sou,

Since Tamsin promised to catch up later, I might as well take the opportunity to clarify my tweets from yesterday here, which she and others found confusing. Hope you don't mind.


My first tweet of the day was:

> Thx, @TLITB1. Has @MichaelEMann changed his wording, @girlwithpoodles & @wottsupwiththat? Also, why this "colleague" stuff, @flimsin?

The first part thank our gracious Leopard for recalling the first version of Mike's riposte, which we'll call the D-version, pun intended.

The second part was a rhetorical question, as we know that Mike took his D-version back, a fact I think should have been acknowledged.

The third part was to underline something I think deserves some thought: I'm not sure why we need to mention that Peter is Mike's "colleague".


That "colleague" part deserves due diligence.

First, this might very well be false. At least that's what Latimer Adler posits.

Second, if they're colleagues, they do share incompatible explanations of a scientific phenomenon. They're competitors, and because of this a pox in all the houses, I say.

Third, this clause begs the question: what is it with colleagues that prevent us to call them anything? Collegiality usually sets up an atmosphere with more lax manners.

As you can see, my tweeted Q was a bit compact. While I get that to mention Peter as Mike's colleague may have been there to show that the D-version was false, it also raises issues that I think deserve due diligence.


The main reason to clarify Tamsin's objective. Is she calling Mike out because is D-version if false? Because one does not simply call someone a D? Because one does not call a colleague a D? Because one does not call a colleague a D when unjustified?

Compare all what could be said to Mike:

(1) Mike, your D-version is false when referring to Peter.

(2) Mike, one does not simply [1] accuse someone of being a D, i.e. ever and none.

(3) Mike, one does not simply accuse a colleague of being a D, i.e. because he's a colleague, you punk!

(4) Mike, one does not simply accuse a colleague of being a D unless you have a good justification.

I don't want to inspect the relationship between all these cases. I only want to note that **only (1) includes Peter**. The other claims are way less specific.

This rough analysis is how I could explain how Tamsin's criticism is underspecified enough for people to read it in many ways.

If Tamsin only meant (1), then a simple retraction would have sufficed. Since we now know that Tamsin asks:

> I still don't completely understand why Mike retracting his comment makes him the good guy for un-saying it, but I'm the bad guy for querying whether he should have said it in the first place.

I don't think Tamsin "queries" anything, either to Mike and to us, From my own experience, rhetorical questions can lead unwelcoming people to be even more unwelcoming. If Tamsin does not accept Mike's retraction, or considers that's not enough, she should say so. She should also tell exactly does she expect from all this.

"Querying" is good up to a point where she might very well be accused of being confusing ;-)


This should take care of my first tweets.

Since my own stance on this would be Toby's, I'll simply +1 his two comments.


Joshua said...

Tamsin -

"Please let's stop viewing it as them and us, black and white."

I would suggest that since that is your goal, you might re-think your approach. If you had to evaluate, do you think that your engagement in these debates thus has lessened the "us vs. them," scorched earth, zero sum gain aspect of these arguments?

If you're interested, I could explain why I think that some of your efforts are counterproductive in that regard.

willlard said...

OK, some nits:

1. Replace "Peter" with "Robert".

2. I say a pox in both houses to refer to this:

3. The "you punk!" is facultative, but is there to indicate we're not exactly into tone trolling territory.

4. "Since we now know that Tamsin asks" is incomplete: add something like "then we don't expect her to be satisfied with the retraction of the D-version".

5. When I say that "I don't think Tamsin "queries" anything", I mean that I think Tamsin conveys a bit more than questions. Cf. a parent asks the child "do you think it's a good idea to throw mud at your friends?"

6. In "She should also tell exactly does she expect from all this", add a "what" somewhere.

Sou said...

Willard, I'm not sure whether to feel honoured that you've explained your tweets (I think I saw some of them but not the lot and not in sequence) or not. Is this a first? :-)

All food for thought. There is more than meets the eye I'm realising. Loyalties within loyalties and rivalries - which Steve Bloom alluded to elsewhere too.

This whole discussion has got me to think about the relationship between the disinformers and scientists in Britain (and maybe Europe as a whole) which contrasts with that between same (but different people) in the US and Australia. In Europe/UK some disinformers must have charm or other allures (social status perhaps?). Not saying that just from this instance. I believe there are other episodes where UK scientists have been successfully courted and maybe over again - despite the same result each time.

I think in the colonies our social relationship may be more primitive, less nuanced and/or our disinformers are more primitive and/or our scientists are more aware (know with whom you sing Kumbaya, and why they join in with you and why you join in with them) :)

Anonymous said...

Turning the other cheek is the same as just rolling over and letting the bullies win. EXACTLY what is desired.

Briffa has already noticed what happens if he let's McIntyre have his way: he gets to go to court and have himself be accused of scientific misconduct for the sole reason that he is still working with data.


Joshua said...

Tamsin -

While I'm asking you questions that it seems you won't answer:

You tweeted (twat?) this:

"trying to detoxify the debate, & for the most part ppl seem to agree it's working (scientists 2)"

Who is it that agrees that it is working? What is the evidence used to make that determination that the debate is less toxic and that it is as teh result of you and/or someone else participating in "skept-o-spheric" blogs? When I look at someplace like Climate Etc., I believe I see no reduction in the toxicity, and in fact, I see "skeptics" using your input as justification for doubling-down on toxic comments.

Marlowe Johnson said...

IMO parsing willard's tweets and blog comments is a form of mental floss akin to sudoku; often maddening but worth the effort when you finally get it ;)

oh and +1 to your follow up comments Sou. very well said.

John Russell said...

Fascinating thread.

I'm interesting in exploring why some scientists like Tamsin Edwards and Richard Betts have, let's say, a 'working relationship' with contrarian/sceptic/denial websites; while the relationship, both ways, between those sites and scientists like Mike Mann is akin to warfare.

Let's say first that I completely understand why the latter warfare exists. I guess I've been part of it myself as I cannot (I readily admit) keep my cool when dealing with people who are in denial, once they start making snide comments in my direction. For Mike Mann, to read the vitriol heaped on him by people who are frequently uneducated must be unbearable. To me his robust stance is very understandable.

When it comes to scientists like Tamsin and Richard Betts who are willing to engage, I have always admired their willingness to, let's say, 'build bridges' with the bloggers and commenters who create/frequent those sites. I think I understand their tactic and indeed I hope they are successful. But it does raise the question as to what gives them the ability to interact with these sites when other scientists cannot/will not. Given their unquestionable scientific knowledge and their input into the IPCC reports they surely must accept that one possible outcome—should the long-term worst-case climate projections turn out to be the most accurate—is a prognosis for society that is, at least, somewhat compromising. I know they won't be drawn on policy as scientists but do they, just as members of society, have concerns and worries about what the future might hold in a worst-case scenario? And if they do, how do they manage to keep civil when dealing with people whose agenda is to play down the possibility of human caused climate change doing it's worst and stall action to deal with it?

Carrick said...

That's different "COS" work I think. ;-)

I like his 2008 paper btw.

dbostrom said...

Writing for the hypothetical silent majority lurking in the background is one motivation for "trying to keep the conversation civil." The same people who might not be able to discriminate between science and unhinged invention may yet be able to detect the general look and feel of unreliable, inventive hyperbole, thanks to familiar cues. Hyperbole marches arm-in-arm with demagoguery. Demagogues don't present rational arguments. Faced with a choice between calm and reasonable versus demagoguery, presumably some fraction of people will default to the side of reason.

Carrick said...

Confirmed: The real fireworks came when Mann's latest papers, which hypothesise that tree ring proxies have large numbers of missing rings after major volcanic eruptions, were described as "a crock of xxxx".

metzomagic said...

When I look at someplace like Climate Etc., I believe I see no reduction in the toxicity, and in fact, I see "skeptics" using your input as justification for doubling-down on toxic comments.

This. "Oh look, we were right all along. Scientists involved in the IPCC support our views!"

metzomagic said...

ETA: just look at how Montford gobbled up wholesale all the McIntyre talking points that Robert Wilson was spewing in that lecture. Most of which are demonstrably false. And Tamsin condones that sort of behaviour?!

David Young said...

Richard Betts frequents places that fit Hot Wopper's hyper partisan definition of "denier" and generally is read respectfully by the evil "deniers." Richard 'c comments here are entirely truthful and correct.

Sou, name calling is more fit for the grade school playground than for adults.

K.a.r.S.t.e.N said...

Sou, interesting thread indeed. Being a working scientist in the UK (but not British), I do have the impression that many of my colleagues are fairly open-minded when it comes to discussion with "Sceptics". I admire their patience, but I haven't figured what keeps them going. I started to engage with "Sceptics" more than three years ago, and it took me quite a while to get into the "game". Tried polite, tried snarky, tried ironic ... to no avail in most cases. Went further meeting one of the self-proclaimed "lukewarmers" (twice) in order to figure how they think. Despite the fact that we get along very well on a personal level, it's a hopeless enterprise when it comes to the science. He just wouldn't trust me. That's the point where I finally gave up. I don't see any point in discussing the science with someone who clearly doesn't know the science well enough, but isn't willing to learn (regardless of the reason) at the same time. Hence my strict rule: No science argument with ANYONE who is unwilling to listen, while I can't learn a shred for myself from them in return. Ruthless ignorance! Works very well for me. There are other things than science which we can still talk about ;-). I wonder whether, e.g. Tamsin or Richard, will ever get to that stage (not that I want it to be that way).

However, I have to point out one important aspect: I never even bothered to go to a "sceptic" blog to have a "discussion". Rather, I kept engaging in a fairly neutral forum (knowing that at least lurkers will learn something). How some colleagues endure the hostile tone in "sceptic" blogs or on twitter towards mainstream science and scientists is waaaaaaaay beyond me. Based on the experience I had in the past couple of years, I would probably watch the "sceptics" in their "home ground" a while in order to learn more about particular psychological conditions, but I would certainly not waste my time trying to have some sort of reasoned debate. Ideology and reason is mutually exclusice. If other people have a more optimistic point of view in that regard, fine with me. I'm afraid I can't share it. Most importantly, I am not willing to accept the smear and the utter disrespect from many contributors there. Smear and disrespect against the science, the scientist, and, sure enough, myself. Again, if some of my colleagues don't have a problem with it, perfectly fine with me. I do have a problem with it! And they shouldn't be surprised that others have a problem with it too. Disclaimer here: The problem is not with the particular person who makes weird claims, but with their opinion, which I am sure you agree are two seperate things.

Speaking of problems, I'm a bit puzzled why Tamsin thinks there is a difference between those who are in full denial about AGW and those who accept some parts of it (without having the expertise to judge for themselves in the first place). There is none. Just a different stage of irrational behavior. But then ... it's just my irrelevant opinion ;)

Anonymous said...

You're definintely not the only one Rachel. The same inversion of standards disturbs me too.

And Tamsin - that girl needs to grow up and also to stop rubbing shoulders with folk who are demonstrably not concerned with the science about which she herself professes to be so concerned.

Bernard J.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous October 22, 2013 at 11:53 PM

I call Poe.

And if he's actually serious, I'd call a psychologist.

Bermard J.

Anonymous said...

Don, I'm curious also. I hope that Tamsin responds and clearly states her intentions in a comprehensive way.

History would seem to indicate that such endeavours are fraught indeed.

Bernard J.

willard said...

> Sou, name calling is more fit for the grade school playground than for adults.

How would you describe "more fit for the grade school playground", David Young?

Would that be more fit for college football fields?

University halls, perhaps?

Just querying, of course.

willard said...

Thanks, Sou. I'll return later for more tweetsplaining. There's also others' contributions that would merit being underlined.


Thank you for the kind words, Marlowe.

I just listened to this great Radiolab episode:

> We've all felt it, that irresistible urge to point the finger. But new technologies are complicating age-old moral conundrums about accountability. This hour, we ask what blame does for us -- why do we need it, when isn't it enough, and what happens when we try to push past it with forgiveness and mercy?

Lots of interesting stuff beneath those stories. I found "Dear Hector" quite touching.

David Young said...

Said this down thread, but it should be here. Richard Betts' comment above is entirely truthful and correct. Betts' comments at "denier" sites are generally taken seriously and treated with respect, at least by most. I certainly take him quite seriously precisely because he is objective and clear and worth reading.

Hyper partesan typographies of "denier' and "delayer" are just the classical hallmark of prejudice, namely, stereotyping of whole classes of people. Such prejudice is perhaps comforting, but really the province of weak minds and small hearts. As true here as at WUWT.

Anonymous said...

"When it comes to scientists like Tamsin and Richard Betts who are willing to engage, I have always admired their willingness to, let's say, 'build bridges' with the bloggers and commenters who create/frequent those sites. I think I understand their tactic and indeed I hope they are successful."

This raises an interesting point.

Remember Richard Muller, the darling of denialists because he put the boot into mainstream science? There was much traffic back and forth across the bridge between Muller and the folk who refused for ideological reasons to accept the science. Then Muller's BEST project found that the mainstream science was right all along, and Muller explicitly said so - and all of a sudden the denialist movement shunned their erstwhile hero.

These people don't want to learn, they want their ideologies to be reinforced. One can offer them pacifiers in the name of reconciliation, but when their pacifiers are taken away in an effort to wean them toward science they won't talk to you.

Denialism isn't interested in learning, it's interested in maintaining its ideology and/or vested interest. Bridge-building in this context will enjoy the same success that bridge-building achieved in the issue of tobacco and lung/heart disease.

Bernard J.

Steve Bloom said...

Content-free polemic is boring, David. But out of curiosity, what have you learned from Richard re the science?

willard said...

Also note David Young's choice of measuring sticks: "truthful and correct".

I doubt David Young can claim his "is more fit" is only a descriptive term which seeks to only be truthful and correct.

Also note that Richard Betts judgement was two-pronged: "child-like" AND "destructive".

(Perhaps it's correct, but it's not that true as one might think: ask your psychologist, your sociologist, or your anthropologist.)


Is David Young's comment constructive?

He's piling on, for Svante's sake!

How constructive is telling someone "you're acting like a child"?

Is acting "like a parent" that constructive?

How about the proto-strawman "anyone who's namecalling is acting like a child" more constructive?


Incidentally, I had a discussion like this in my confusing tweets, e.g.:

> [O]ne does not simply tone troll adults while likening them to kids, @ucfagls.

My interlocutor tried to escape with "I'm not namecalling, I'm describing a behaviour". As if "denier" did not describe a behaviour, as if "acting like a kid" did not castigate anyone.


Incidentally, Mike tried to escape with the same wedge:

> @flimsin @dougmcneall No problem, didn't mean to imply any motive Tamsin, but simply that the reinforcement mechanisms favor contrarianism..

Judy too, if only less subtly:

> .@keithkloor it is different to call someone's arguments a 'crock' than it is to insult someone personally, e.g. 'denier', 'disinformer'

How is this any different?

What difference does this difference make?

Does it make it more constructive?

See how "querying" works?


TL;DR --


Sou said...

What I am wondering is what difference it makes to be read "respectfully" from reading "non-respectfully"?

In my experience, "respectful" is in the mind of the reader more than the keyboard of the writer. If someone tells me I'm being disrespectful of science deniers by pointing out that they deny science, I'd be right more than 90% of the time if I decided that that someone denied science and didn't like it being pointed out.

I have on many occasions used the term "climate science denier" generically only to have a person complain that I called them a denier, when I didn't. It was merely a case of the cap fitting.

Another question is when is a "denier" and "evil denier"? Seems to me that's reading a lot into a word. From my perspective, "denier" does not equate to "evil denier". "Denier" is a value-less term. It just means that a person denies - in this topic, climate science. However "disinformer" denotes that someone has made a deliberate decision to tell a lie or withhold pertinent facts.

Words and reactions to them tell as much and maybe more about the person reading them as the person writing them.

Sou said...

Of course one would be correct if they were to point out that at HW I make fun of science deniers (in so far as they deny science). That is a lot of what HotWhopper is all about.

One could mount a very good argument that this amounted to not showing respect for science denial. I wouldn't argue with that.

The question could then be posed, does showing respect for science denial result in science deniers coming to accept science, any more than not showing respect for science denial? One could turn to cognitive science studies to find the answer. I have read that in more extreme cases, showing disrespect can harden a science deniers rejection of science. Hardened science deniers are not the target audience of HW, although they are most welcome to read and comment here.

Joshua said...

David -

"Hyper partesan typographies of "denier' and "delayer" are just the classical hallmark of prejudice, namely, stereotyping of whole classes of people. "

How willing are you to apply those criteria on both sides of this debate?

You can't seriously believe that what you describe is characteristic of one side in this debate only, or even that it is demonstrably disproportionate?

I mean you can't, can you? Keep in mind, I know that you spend or have spent time at Climate Etc.

John Russell said...

I've never used the word 'denier', as I know it's a red rag to a bull to many of those in denial and simply poking sticks at those who deny has little appeal*. Interestingly no one has ever taken offence when I've told them they're 'in denial', even though—according to a dictionary definition—the phrase means exactly the same as 'denier'.

I adopt this policy because I agree completely with Doug Bostrom's point; "Writing for the hypothetical silent majority lurking in the background is one motivation for "trying to keep the conversation civil."

*That's not to say one shouldn't be robust in arguments—though that usually brings out the worst in many of those in denial (which can be turned to one's advantage in the points scoring stakes).

Sou said...

That reminds me of the time someone on a forum got very upset at the use of the words "climate science denier" and "fake sceptic" and asked that it be stopped. I agreed to stop using for as long as no-one used one of the following: alarmist, warmist, watermelon, cultist, Lysenkoist, nazi, commie etc etc - all of which had been used in the very same thread. The truce lasted about three more comments IIRC and it wasn't broken by me or any climate science accepter :D

It's funny how people view words, depending on their perspective. I really think that the person who objected to "climate science denier" didn't even notice all the descriptors applied to people who accept climate science.

John Mashey said...

In 2011, atmospheric physicist Murry Salby became a hero to certain blogs, most of which had never once mentioned him before, but at that point, they suddenly knew he was a great carbon-cycle researcher, although he had never published anything on that.

In May 2013 he was dismissed In May from (Sydney) Macquarie University (for among other things, using a university credit card to buy plane tickets to/from Europe for a trip that was explicitly not approved, amidst already-ongoing misconduct proceedings. In July, he chose a course a lawyer might have advised against, providing a set of complaints via blogs, such as Jo Nova, WUWT, and BH, rapidly propagated to others. and generating 1700+ comments in 4 days, and some more later (my annotated version of the collection is ~350 pages). People wrote insulting letters to MQ and posted them., gaining "brilliant" accolades from other posters. People wrote to politicians to try to get MQ defunded. Anyone known not part of the worldview got thumbs-downed, repeatedly reviled or asked things like:
"Aren’t you late for your appointment at the euthanasia clinic"

Clearly, the commenters at such blogs must have their views treated with the utmost respect, given their comments, of which I mention a small sample, with counts of some, to be continued in next post.

Salby was described as:
angel who should be unsacked, Einstein of climate science 2, fine science hero or hero 2, foremost climate scientist, maverick like Nobel winner 19, one of the world's most brilliant climate scientists, profoundly original thinker

He was proclaimed a martyr, with phrases like:
Copernicus 4, disenfranchised 4, dissident 2, excommunicat {-ed, ion} 2, exile 30, Galileo 16, heresy 8, inquisition 3, pilloried 2, purge (Flannery behind) 4, Rosa Parks, Siberia , threatens the religion , Timothy Leary, witch hunt 3.

MQ was described:
absolute shits, another Climategate, or bigger, bad faith 6, barbaric 5, cheap politicking of these intellectual dwarves, climate hysteria indoctrination, Communist 6, corrupt {-ion}30
crime 23, criminal 45, Dark Age superstitions, Dean of junk science, deliberate, targeted, vicious attacks on the academic freedom, Deutsche Physik, dictator{-ial , -ship} 11, dogmatic cult psyientists, formally contact MQ and invite them to defend themselves here at WUWT, Hitler 2, Jim Jones cult 2, Luddites, Mao, Mussolini, Nazi 11 including envionazi, not a University any more although it’s too ignorant to realize the fact. It’s a political party with a campus, Pol Pot would be proud, smear {campaign, job, etc} 18, sociopath (-ic) 10, Stalin {-ist} 19 envirostalinists, Uni heads need to be fired for such anti-scientific behavior.

Next: academia is bad, Mike Mann is bad, and probably had something to do with it, Likewise Lewandwosky, Cook, Flannery, Gore, Trenberth, etc.

John Mashey said...

(part 2)
Academe in general:
scurrilous ethics and outrageous behavior of academia, That sums up just about ALL universities in the Western world all Marxist, all totalitarian regimes where no dissent is allowed, UEA or U of East Anglia 12, Whitewash 4 Mann or Jones.

(The next needs some explanation: some commenters thought that MQ lured Salby from CU (University of Colorado-Boulder) in 2008 to obstruct his research that was dangerous to the cabal, although the first public display of is silly CO2 ideas was actually July 2011 ... when pointed out, some proclaimed that his ideas must have been known in 2008. Then, people decided it wasn't just MQ acting alone, but as part of an international conspiracy, including Mann, "The Team" and others. They discovered that Kevin Trenberth worked in Boulder, so he must have had something to do with it. Then others were just generally whacked as known to be bad, whether involved in this or not:

Bad people, including dog-whistles:
Cook, John ~25
Flannery, Tim 61
Gleick, Peter 12
Gore, Al 10
Hansen, James 21
Jones, Phil 6+
Karoly, David 7
Mann, Michael 33
Obama or Barack 11
Lewandowsk {-y,-i}, Stephan 21
Lewpaper or Lew paper 3
Team, The ~8
Trenberth, Kevin 31

Of course, mainstream climate science got described:
AGW bandwagon 5
AGW crackpottery 5
AGW doctrine
AGW lunacy
AGW meme
AGW movement
AGW nutcases
AGW, edifice of 2
alarm{-ist, -ism} 46
appalling climatology, from CRU, UEA. NASA. or other enlightened dump
CAGW gravy train
CAGW or C/AGW 44
calamatologists despise sceptics
church of CAGW
climate cult
Climategate 26
cult science of climatology climate church
Dellingpole has the answer call them out for the scum they are
dogma {-tic} 14
dogmatic cult
fraud 30
God help us from these fools who claim to be climate scientists
goose step impersonators masquerading as ‘scientists’.
hoax 16
hockey stick 6 (well they know that's wrong)
lying cheating warmist "scientist"
Lysenko 19
Propaganda 23
pseudo science 5
religion 10
religious {-ly-based} 12
sacred CAGW gospel
scam 4
“science” now means “propaganda” “idolatry”,“blindness”, “mendacity” and “venality”.
pitchforks and torches and tar ….

Others, sometimes unclear who,m but invoked:
Agenda 21 3
cabal 6
Clique -2 (~ The Team?)
Conspirac {-y,- ies} 29
dirty lying verminous mendacious hypocrites
enforcers for the Warming dogma have their most outspoken critics publicly drawn and quartered. They mount their heads on pikes
fascist 8
goose stepping, alarmist, fascist, progressives march along
hate group known as the EPA
high priests and political masters of AGW
“liberal” today actually means “selfish,” “callous,” “dishonest”, “control freaky”, “sociopathic”. ” “reactionary” and “fascistic”
Luca Brazi
Marx {-ist, -ism} 12
Soviet 16
squealing warmist weasel
thug {-s, -ery} 11
warmist or warmista 48
What swine the agw crew are

Finally, small selection of miscellaneous comments:
Go away and preach to the already converted. We use our brains here.We think for ourselves.
I decline to dignify the children at desmogblog. (we published NSF reports)
Scientia weeps
The enormous difference between skeptics and the other camp is the skeptics want to get to the bottom of the issues…

"Josh" came up with a cartoon that was much praised, provided by Montford to denigrate MQ.

Of course, when some US Federal court cases and NSF debarment report surfaced, material easily found (an hour or two) in far less time than people spent reading and commenting, suddenly, a topic of tremendous interest was mostly abandoned without reflection or apology. Move on, nothing to see. I have deleted some of the more "colorful" comments.

David Young said...

I learned from Richard Betts at Climate Audit that in fact Ed Hawkins is correct about the baseline period for comparing temperatures to model projections. in fact, the FOD of AR5 was wrong and so was McIntyre. Richard got respect for his comments there and did shed light on an important question. It's still not looking good for GCM's, but its not as bad as McIntyre thought.

Sou said...

When you summarise the reactions like you did, John, the silliness shows up starkly. And yet I still see comments on WUWT wondering why no-one will take them seriously.

Sou said...

Better late than never, I suppose, David. Maybe you could get out more :)

Anonymous said...

I don't know if he "edited" the post or not, but he starts his comment on the post with "Although I vetted Andrew's post, I want to clarify that my 2 hour lecture was, I hope, a critical look at all of the northern hemispheric reconstructions of past temperature to date."

By claiming he "vetted" the post, I assume we are meant to then take it that he endorses its contents, warts and all. His clarification appears to be directed at misunderstandings other commenters have taken away from the post, not the content of the post itself.

Wotts Up With That Blog said...

And, apparently, Salby is about to embark on a talking tour of the UK. I find the Salby issue both fascinating and depressing. It's fascinating that he can be taken seriously but depressing that some still consider that his views may have merit. Some of the science associated with CC/GW is complicated and I can understand how some might be uncertain. In my view, that's not true for Salby. Some of Salby's mistakes are so trivial that if you don't realise this then you really should stop considering that you understand science and just start listening to those who do.

John Mashey said...

Well, you are clearly warmista attack dogs ... or something, to not understand :-) I left a lot out, including:
'I know we are mocked for conspiracy theories'

Wotts: tell us more of his speaking tour. I know that John O'Sullivan, in
'Principia Scientific International (PSI) is so horrified and angered by the retaliation of pro-green anti-scientist administrators at Macquairie University that we have secured a generous donation from our publisher, Stairway Press, to sponsor Professor Salby's visit, if he agrees, to London in October to make a high profile public presentation of this attack on science.'

Surely, he's not talking for the Sky Dragons??

Note, Salby did talk at Cambridge. Here was one result:
Wolff is a serious ice-core expert, many papers.

BTW, Salby first presented the CO2 ideas at IUGG in Melbourne, 07/05/11.
The problem is that he submitted and got accepted a talk on "“Rebound of Antarctic Ozone" for a session called "JM04 Stratosphere-Troposphere-Ocean coupling in weather and climate."

But, with no notice, he gave his CO2 talk instead, in a totally-unrelated session. I've attended 100s of sessions at technical conferences. I've never seen this done.

His 2 EGU presentations in Vienna weren't oral talks, just posters, both listing his PhD student Titova as coauthor, despite fact that she arrived in 2009, and was working along on approved dissertation on Antarctic ozone, with appears and presentations. There is zero trace of any real involvement with the CO2 silliness, she is never mentioned in his talks ... but suddenly, in July 2013 email, "our research" gets mentioned 5 times.
a) Salby diverted her from her approved research into working on those posters, at a time when she should be finishing dissertation.
b) OR he just stuck her name on.

and in any case, he self-destructed before she was done, and then seemed to try to drag her into it, while expressing great concern for her. Right. The bloggers mostly blamed MQ for being mean to her, and thought she should join Salby in suing them.

PhD students are seriously vulnerable ... and this echoes Salby's treatment of his most frequent coauthor Callaghan ... who must have written a lot of code for Salby over years ... and then got blamed for the problems with NSF.
It also echoes Wegman dragging a post-doc and 3 of his grad students into the Wegman Report, none of whom were helped much by that.

Steve Bloom said...

Ah, thanks, I had somehow not seen that. Hard to put a good spin on that, innit?

cRR Kampen said...

Crikey... o_O

Wotts Up With That Blog said...

Bishop Hill is advertising that he will be speaking at three locations in England in early November. A new blogger, called ScottishSceptic, is advertising that he will be speaking in Edinburgh too.

Anonymous said...

You would think so, but it doesn't seem to be stopping some from trying...

BBD said...

An new push to misinform the public in the UK. I'm almost tempted to... heckle.

John Mashey said...

Wottts: thanks! I see it's:
Nov 4-8 ~ Stairway Press, i.e., publishers of Sky Dragons

and Nov 7

Commenters @ BH already got tickets (free).

Sponsored also by

His itinerary misrepresents his history:
Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic
Sciences, University of Colorado, 1997-present. FALSE, resigned in 2008

Affiliate Scientist, Atmospheric Systems and Analysis,
1988- —2002.
FALSE: he formed ASA in 1994, was shell company he used for $, what got him in trouble with NSF.

BBD said...

Commenters @ BH already got tickets (free).

Well, I suppose you cannot misinform the already misinformed, so one could take a positive view of this.

David Young said...

Some people are trustworthy and some aren't. Betts is trustworthy and honest. You and Tamino are too full of rhetorical and name calling and are not trustworthy. On technical substance you and the other name callers are a waste of time when I can get the real truth from Betts Annan and Hawkins.

Sou said...

David, you should find Wotts and Bart's blogs more to your liking. They are reliable and civil.

Tamino and here are reliable but a bit rough for your taste. CA and Bishop Hill and WUWT are completely unreliable and quite uncivil. Realclimate is superior, civil and highly reliable but probably too technical.

There's a blog for every taste and disposition :)

jqb said...

"First, Mike's an idiot for reacting like he did."


jqb said...

"Mann is the king of ad-hom attacks because his science is suspect..."

Ok, you're a cretin ... got it.

jqb said...

See Anonymous October 22, 2013 at 11:08 PM for a far more honest accounting than what O. Bothe gives here.

jqb said...

Piles upon piles of intellectual dishonesty from Ms. Edwards ... another way in which she resembles Curry.

jqb said...

"I think Steve Bloom called me a denier today, or at least said I was on that path, though I'm not absolutely sure: "punched her entry ticket to the deniosphere"…?"

She's really a bit dim, it seems.

jqb said...

"And Sou, I think you are stirring up trouble unnecessarily with this post. Do you seriously think that expanding a spat between two academics into a bigger argument and picking on a further individual is in any way helpful? Because I don't. "

What a hypocritical ass/troll.

jqb said...

"Richard Betts' comment above is entirely truthful and correct. "

What sort of person is someone who believes, and even proclaims, that anyone who agrees with them is entirely truthful and correct?

jqb said...

"You and Tamino are too full of rhetorical and name calling and are not trustworthy."

Putting aside your megalomania for a moment, David, what makes you trustworthy?

jqb said...

"Please let's stop viewing it as them and us"

Please let's stop being a condescending ass and hypocrite.

jqb said...

"Who is it that agrees that it is working?"

Her comment is the grossest sort of intellectual honesty. Clearly, to everyone but her, she has become a concern-trolling lightning rod, a divider of people into even more camps they were already in, and she's an utter fool if she thinks that there has been any detoxifying or that there *could* be, given the ideological commitments -- and the funding -- of the deniers. She's a pathetic hypocrite, having written an absurd piece excoriating scientists for speaking out on dangers to the human race while she herself is playing this game, oh so stupidly, of "conversing" with denialists and trying, oh so ineptly, to "detoxify" something that cannot be detoxified.

jqb said...

She claims that she has detoxified the discussion. She's an arrogant fool, and quite the hypocrite after that piece she wrote attacking scientists for venturing outside of narrow bounds of science.

jqb said...

"I'm interesting in exploring why some scientists like Tamsin Edwards and Richard Betts have, let's say, a 'working relationship' with contrarian/sceptic/denial websites"

Because they throw red meat to the deniers, much as Curry does. There is no instance when they have actually swayed any denier away from their pre-held positions toward science, they only strengthen their beliefs.

jqb said...

Don't expect Edwards or Betts to learn anything from this.

Rob said...

Rachel, a beautiful summary of this affair.

It is fine to criticise someone, including Michael Mann, but civilised and *balanced*.

Anonymous said...

Anyway... It doesn't matter what you losers think... In my great country the Green wacko's are out of power... the Carbon Tax is being abolished... and the corrupt scientists have been sacked... suck on that losers... I don't care what you think and neither do the majority... you are irrelevant.. we pity you and wish Global Warming would selectively cook you all... P.S. I actually studied physics, chemistry, mathematics, materials, engineering, environmental science and a whole lot of other subjects... and y'all are a bunch of "dum asses"... and I made a lot of money and I'm going off to build another road... suck on that!!!!!

bill said...

Gee, your prison offers a good variety of courses then?

spilgard said...

I fear that ... Anonymous may have ... skipped ... the course which ... covered ... the purpose and syntax of ... the ellipsis.

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