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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Scottish (Fake) Sceptic: A legend in his own lunchtime but no survey expert

Sou | 10:21 PM Go to the first of 32 comments. Add a comment

Results are out - see below.

Anthony Watts has an article up by/about Mike Haseler (archived here), who going by uknowispeaksense is regarded as a "legend in his own lunchtime".  What he isn't is a true sceptic, though that's what he's called his blog, and I'm not even sure that he's Scottish.  (Then again he also calls himself a climate scientist though from his own blog, the closest he's got to anything remotely related to climate science is designing precision temperature controllers and who knows what they were used for!)

What is clear is that he is tied up with another shonky organisation that call themselves (or their blog at any rate) the Scottish Climate & Energy Forum.  Mike describes himself as "Chairman".  According to the blog there are six on the committee.  They had a bit of a natter one day and decided that with six people they could form a club, from the look of things.  (I mean, if three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization.**)

Anyway, like the ScottishSceptic blog, the Scottish Climate & Energy Forum blog is just another dime a dozen anti-science blog.  (The third most recent article on the blog is promoting Murry Salby of all people!  You can see an archive of their home page here if you're curious about them.)

A month or so back Mike Haseler asked fellow fake sceptics to complete a survey.  According to UKISS, he did the rounds of various science denying blogs in the UK and the USA. A month later and he's got some preliminary results.

Mike reckons he got 5,000 responses, so he managed to get as far as reading the respondent count.  He also managed to process some of the questions, but he reckons it will take him a year to write a report.

It's pretty obvious that Mike Haselaar doesn't design or analyse surveys for a living.  Still, to take a year, even part time, to write up the result of a 21 question survey, of which most were just demographic questions and of which only two were open ended (including the last "any other comments" question) probably means he hasn't got a clue what to do with the responses.  Nevertheless, he's going to try to get some funds from the "guvmint" he so despises to tide him over while he tries to figure it out.  He wrote to Anthony Watts:

Given the huge number of responses and detail of questions a full assessment will take up to one year to complete. 
Do you reckon he's going to go through each response one by one?  Or what?  Weird that the number of responses is a factor in writing up the results.

What about the "detail of questions"?  Well, all but two were tick the box questions so that would take no time at all to analyse.  In fact he should by rights have prepared the analytic framework before he asked people to respond, as part of the survey design.  He should have already set up the crosstabs or whatever he was doing. Then all he needed to do was plonk the numbers in.  If he wanted to do any fancy analysis on the basis of the initial results he could still do that.  But a year? Sheesh!

Now normally if a person wanted someone to pay for something they'd write up a proposal and pitch it to the prospective funder.  You wouldn't write a mickey mouse survey that has no apparent design, is filled with loaded questions and pitched to the scientific illiterati and then say "it's all too hard to analyse and will take me a year, how about some dosh!"  But that's exactly what Mike Haselar is doing.  He wrote to Anthony Watts that he's:
... looking to rub shoulders with the politicians in the hope of scrounging more public money...

Oops - nope.  I accidentally (on purpose) got that from one of his articles when he was writing about something else.  I'll try again.  What he says about his twenty-one question quiz:
This is a huge commitment from an organisation that has no outside funding and is reliant on one full-time volunteer (Mike Haseler). We will therefore be approaching the Scottish and UK government with a view to obtaining funding to complete the analysis.

A huge commitment? Uknowispeaksense has the survey here.  See for yourself.  It's a short quiz with only one six-part question about climate.  (The rest are mainly demographic questions and voting preferences etc. although there is a strange question which I'll get to shortly)  The vaguely climate sciency question was simple in the extreme, or I should say simplistic.  Mike prefaced the survey asking people to "Please say if you agree or disagree with the following statements" and then proceeded to give them three more choices. So he couldn't even get the simplest question straight.

Anyway, here is the one and only climate question.  Feel free to complete it.  I'll let it run for a while and let you know the results FWIW :)

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Mike had one other question that was, well I don't know what he was trying for with this one.  I think he may have been trying to figure out the extent to which his respondents had a tendency for conspiracy ideation.  Maybe you can figure it out.

What he did was offer a number of statements about a flu epidemic and wanted people to put them in order from most trustworthy to least trustworthy.  In case people didn't understand what he wanted he put the question another way and told them their highest ranking should be at the top and the lowest ranked at the bottom.   Then, because he still wasn't sure his readers would understand what he wanted, he tried a third time, telling them the highest ranking should be at the top etc.

Here it is, thanks to UKISS. Click to enlarge it.

Source: scef via uknowispeaksense

All the statements except the top one provide a source for the information.  What do you reckon Wondering Willis Eschenbach would put up the top :)

Anyway.  That's it.  Just goes to show that despite their scorn of guvmint and guvmint-funded research, some fake sceptics have no hesitation in putting their hands up for taxpayer funding.  And it just goes to show why fake sceptics have such a hard time getting research published.  Some of them are so hopeless they can't even design and analyse a simple little survey on their lonesome.

As for Mike Haseler - given his history, I'm waiting for him to come running crying "copyright" and "libel" and "sue".

PS If you want to know Mike's preliminary results, you can read them in the WUWT archived article here.



Results - 97% agree

Okay - the survey has run long enough. The numbers are actually just survey respondents so they don't necessarily reflect the readership of this blog.  Having given that caveat, I'll extrapolate the results to HotWhopper readership anyway.  It makes life more interesting :)

  • 3% of HotWhopper readers are science deniers of the "sky dragon slaying" type.
  • 3% of HotWhopper readers aren't aware that burning hydrocarbons results in CO2 - or maybe they aren't aware that coal and oil are hydrocarbons or maybe they don't know how a lot of electricity is produced or maybe they don't know that most motor vehicles run by burning petrol or diesel.
  • 3% of HotWhopper readers don't know that earth has warmed, rather a lot actually, and rather quickly.
  • One HotWhopper reader says climate doesn't change naturally.
  • 15% of HotWhopper readers don't agree that CO2 will cause catastrophic global warming, 68% agree that it will and 17% are "neutral", though I can't tell what proportion of that 17% took "neutral" to mean "don't know" vs "neither agree nor disagree" vs "I'm not saying".
  • 97% of HotWhopper readers understand something about CO2 and greenhouse gases and climate.  Now that number seems awfully familiar.


  1. Notice that even on a pseudosceptic site, the answers were, with one exception, broadly in line with the scientific concensus.

    The exception being the one about 'Catastrophic' GW. This is scientifically meaningless, without a definition in hard numbers, (CAGW is defined as x degrees warming over y years) it requires a value judgement by the reader. Those already affected by GW who have lost loved ones or property, might argue it is already catastrophic. I am guessing Anthony Watts would not.

    I challenged SmokeyStealey to define what he meant by the 'C' in 'CAGW' in hard numbers and he just ducked the question. GW is not happening, so its irrelevant, he replied. Hah!

  2. Taking into account that ScottishSceptic was the bloke who recently did the totally useless Alexa Ranking from which equally naive 'skeptics' concluded that there is no consensus in Climate Change, I would not be surprised at all if Haseler's final survey conclusions are that the earth is round and that fake skeptics like himself can actually read.

    BTW, I did notice how Anthony Watts

  3. I do hope (for the sake of Mike Haseler's 'expert' credibility), that an admitted server glitch did not affect their survey data.

    "From 10am (UK time) for about 40minutes we had a glitch on the server - caused be all things, an attempt to do a backup to ensure no survey data was lost.

    Apologies for those who were attempting to fill in your survey at this point. "

    On the other hand, Former NASA Principal and Investigator for Apollo Mr Iron Sun Manuel did the survey so I am sure it must be OK. /sarcasm

  4. I asked Mike when the data would be available and he ducked that question by saying how much money/time he needed for the analysis. I don't believe it would take long at all to analyse the data, but if he refuses to make the data public, then we'll never know.

    As for the question about "CAGW", I think I answered "Neutral" because catastrophic is not defined. I'm sure others felt the same (and probably noted so in the comments at the end of the survey). Also are the 98% disagreeing with the statement those who answered everything up to "Neutral" or "Agree"? We don't know, and he can twist that any way he wants without showing us the data.

    Finally, interesting to see Tol's comment on WUWT "98% > 97%". I await his in-depth statistical analysis of Mike's survey results with interest...

  5. Catastrophic: (adjective) involving or causing sudden great damage or suffering

    While global warming is already being linked to many catastrophes - droughts, storms, etc, I doubt that global warming per se would ever meet the "sudden" part of the definition of catastrophic. The "great damage" part of the definition is subjective.

    "Catastrophic" global warming is a straw man argument

  6. Catastrophic: (adjective) involving or causing sudden great damage or suffering

    While global warming is already being linked to many catastrophes - droughts, storms, etc, I doubt that global warming per se would ever meet the "sudden" part of the definition of catastrophic. The "great damage" part of the definition is subjective.

    "Catastrophic" global warming is a straw man argument

  7. Martin Gardner, Carl Sagan, Steve Schneider, most scientists most of the time, the folks who write for Skeptical Inquirer, etc are real skeptics.

    For Mike Haseler, I urge use of a well-established term, pseudoskeptic.

    In addition, see this:

    'Morton's demon stands at the gateway of a person's senses and lets in facts that agree with that person's beliefs while deflecting those that do not. This demon is used to explain the phenomenon of confirmation bias.'

    In Scottish pseudoskeptic's case, the Demon is Sauron-class: able to fend off any inconvenient fact, and whose eye ranges far and wide in search of supportive nonsense.

    As for SCEF, have any others named themselves as part of this?

    1. Bookmarking that Wikipedia entry on pseudoskepticism, John. The bullet list of how pseudoskeptics behave there has the entire WUWT readership down to a T.

      And therein lies the big difference between actual skeptics and pseudoskeptics (including the D-K inflicted): we are self-aware of our biases and limitations (well, at least to a large degree), and they aren't. Very few pseudoskeptics could read that Wiki entry and take anything useful away from it. Though... maybe that's just my confirmation bias showing ;-)

    2. Why does anyone pay but a moments attention to this Haseler idiot?
      The guy is a moron,regardless of whether he's pronouncing on climate change, politics, or whatever.
      I seriously put it to you that he is either mentally ill, or a complete fantasist.
      Perhaps the medical staff wherever he should be living, could advise us?

  8. Somewhat ironically I designed a survey like this a few years back, and with some (limited) experience with surveying people for work I soon realised that:

    1) to do a thorough survey that would answer the intent of the exercise I would need more psychological and sociological research experience than I had myself,

    2) to complete the statistical analysis fore the survey that was growing at my finger tips would require more time than I was willing to invest

    3) the quality assurance of the data collection process could not be guaranteed within the parameters available through Survey Monkey.

    I gave up the exercise as a fraught endeavour given my limited time and resources, but it was useful in terms of gaining a deeper understanding of what such a survey could and should achieve. From this it's plain to see Mike Haseler's efforts are a joke, and reflect poorly on his abilities and motivations. It's amusing though to see his attempts to ape the professionals.

  9. I presume this Mike Haseler is the same one who is environment spokesman for UKIP in Scotland. Like a lot of prominent UKIPers he seems to have a thing about gays and has accused them of being deeply hostile to heterosexuals. I've seen him making comments on online version of "The Scotsman" basically saying that global warming is all down to solar activity.
    His views on global warming will no doubt go down well with UKIP Scotlands ex leader Lord Monckton. Nationalism, anti gay sentiments and global warming denial all seem to go hand in hand.

    1. That last sentence of mine reads like I am saying that Lord Monckton has made statements criticising gays. In fairness to him I don't believe he ever has.

    2. Looked that up, it's true. He has strange ideas about combating AIDS but he explicitly distanced himself from gay-bashing and homophobia. Not a common stance in rightwingers but not too unusual either.

  10. Mike has done an excellent job with this survey... of showing just how large a disconnect there is between mainstream science and the denizens of sceptic blogs, which fully justifies the need for surveys that communicate the scientific consensus.

    It is deeply sad that 21% of those responding to the survey do not accept that the rise in CO2 is man made, the evidence for which is overwhelming (regardless of what Prof. Salby might argue). If the sceptics want to marginalise themselves from the debate on what to do about climate change, that is just the way to go about it, just as Fred Singer!

  11. If I had had a bit more support from blogs like this when I wrote asking you to publicise it, then there might be the numbers of "convinced" to have said the more positive things about the convinced side.

    But the real problem is the huge size of the dataset. There are 99 columns and over 5000 responses. That's half a million question "cells". Just to read them (at one a second) will take around 4 weeks. Even employing someone at minimum wage it would cost around £1000 to get them to read all the responses.

    The reality is that there is no money for sceptics. The Scottish Climate & Energy Forum ran out of money a year ago and since then I've been funding it out of my own pocket.

    So, until someone stumps up the money so I can hire in someone so I can do a proper professional job of the analysis, we are at a stalemate.

    1. [Get a load of this guy. He's saying he's going to read "every cell"! What a nutter.]

      Mike Haseler wrote: when I wrote asking you to publicise it

      You did? I'll have to check my email. I get lots but don't recall getting one from you. Just a sec I'll have a look....

      Okay. I had a look through my email. Nothing from Mike Haseler. Nothing from scef. Nothing from Scottish. Nothing from scottish fake sceptic and nothing from scottish sceptic.

      Looks as if you didn't write to me asking to publicise it. And even if you did write under some other name or somewhere else, I don't see how that would have helped you in the survey design.

      Admit it, Mike. You ended up the creek without a paddle and it was your own doing.

      And off you toddle to the guvmint you despise when you get out of your depth.

      Why should taxpayers dip into their own pockets to fund your incompetence, let alone your weird delusions about climate science? Most people prefer information to disinformation like you peddle.

      Mike - you obviously don't know the first thing about surveys. You should have got some help before you started. It's a bit late now. However there are surely even some science deniers who could handle it. I expect out of all the zillions who supposedly read WUWT you could find some kind person who'll find a couple of hours in the next day or so to do a quick write up of the main findings.

    2. "The reality is that there is no money for sceptics."

      There is no money for fake sceptics. Really? Well, blow me down!

      Thank goodness there is some sanity in the world.

    3. Two words - Pivot tables.

      Here is a start.

      "99 columns and over 5000 " oh boo hoo

      I've worked with census data which is thousands of times bigger and more complex, and on tight deadlines. Really, if one can't even do basic analysis, or at least spend 5 minutes on reading a couple of tutorials, what was the point of the survey?

    4. The reality is that there is no money for sceptics.

      That's the free market for you...

      :-) :-) :-)

    5. Must have used the free version of the software! For £24 you can download, filter, cross-tab, & for £299 you can have text analysis & SPSS integration - even batch analysis of the spreadsheet downloaded would be a simple job, how about we do a whip round for the £24? (please someone tell me how to make links 'live').

    6. Mike, this is terrible. What you're trying to do is an assignment for a first year psychology student. It takes maybe an hour of time for someone with basic stats skills to analyze your results and write a report. And you can do it free - just download EpiInfo, spend a couple of hours learning how to use it, and do the work.

      And consider this: if you don't understand how to conduct one of the most basic data analyses on the planet, how on earth are you going to be able to understand the advanced mathematical and physical problems posed by climate modeling?

      A little humility would probably be a good thing.

    7. Mike hasn't said where he's stuck. It sounds as if he doesn't know where to start. However he did give some prelim results, which covered the main question so at least he figured part of it out.

      He might be wanting to do some crosstabs and for that, the suggestion of pivot tables would work. It depends on how complicated he wants to make it. Whether he wants to do statistical testing of results for example. (He could turn it into a quasi-sociological analysis of people who answer surveys on "skeptic" blogs, rather than focusing on their knowledge (or lack of it) about climate science.)

      Or he might be stuck on what to do with the open ended questions. It'd take a bit of time to code them. Responses would add to the richness of the analysis if done right. Not essential though. I'd guess maybe one in ten give or take five would have answered them, which is a fair number but not something that would bog him down for weeks let alone a year.

      I don't think he'll get a publishable paper out of this but he might be able to come up with a novel angle. For example, he could make a blog article of the back story of how he learnt what to do and what not to do in a survey.

      Whatever he does, I'd suggest he not send it to The Auditor. The last time someone did that, the survey disappeared never to be seen again. ("Twas a conspiracy :D)

    8. "But the real problem is the huge size of the dataset."

      No, as others have indicated the size of the dataset is trivial, especially when it rolls off the survey mill in a tightly-bounded format such as Survey Monkey produces.

      The real problems with this survey are that is has deficiencies in its design/construction, that it has no rigorous quality control processes, and that it is not being analysed by someone competent in non-parametric statistics.

    9. I'm curious - are the raw data available?

    10. Oh I think there'd be value in the results without any stats analysis. The number of responses is large enough to give an indication. There's no need for peer review or extensive QC. It would be easy enough to run off a couple of different cuts of the data. Not that I'd expect too many surprises.

    11. I'm not sure that I would use the term "value" unless there was a modifying adjective!

      The trouble is Sou that the sampling is not random. There would indeed be something to glean from the data (which is why I wondered if it had been freed, just as was requested of climatologists), but without understanding the sample population in terms of selection biases - and truthfulness - it's difficult to make firm claims from the data, no matter how much of it there is.

      This was one of the first things that stopped me from pursuing my own survey - and the ensuring of verifiable and honest answers through more rigorous means than uncontrolled and anonymously-returned online responses soon turned me away from the idea altogether.

      And the issue of naïve and biased/leading questioning remains.

      These things all quickly erode "value"...


    12. You're thinking too literally, Bernard :) Think about what the survey would really tell you.

      It's basically a sociological/demographic survey of science deniers isn't it? I think that's got some value in its own right. There were 5000 responses. That's a heap. Truthfulness wouldn't be an issue with that number, or I wouldn't have thought so. No survey can assure "truthfulness" of every response but I wouldn't get too hung up on that. It's not as if there were trick questions. If it gave results very different to what's expected you'd want to look into it some. Otherwise ...

      Eg I'd expect the sample to be heavily biased towards engineers and older men :) It would be interesting to see if that were the case.

      The couple of questions about CO2 and climate are only of passing interest as a check to see if the sample really is of science deniers or not and maybe how extreme is their denial. It's the demographics that are more interesting - don't you think?

    13. "Think about what the survey would really tell you."

      Oh, I get that! From that perspective it would be very interesting.


      It's why I'd like to drill down into the raw data...

    14. Should we make Mike an offer, Bernard? If he's willing to pay a kid £1000 to "read the responses" he should be able to stump up a bit more for some real analysis :)

    15. "But the real problem is the huge size of the dataset. There are 99 columns and over 5000 responses. That's half a million question "cells". Just to read them (at one a second) will take around 4 weeks. Even employing someone at minimum wage it would cost around £1000 to get them to read all the responses."

      Huge? Bah! I analyze GRACE accelerations recorded every 5 seconds since 2002. Just the accelerations recorded south of 50°S come to ~13 MILLION data points. Each data point records the relative acceleration and the x,y,z coordinates of both GRACE satellites for a total of 7 floating point numbers. Because of all the digits in these ~91 MILLION floating point numbers, they probably couldn't be read at minimum wage faster than once every 10 seconds. So without accounting for breaks or sleep, these data will take ~28 years to read.

      Should I hire an army of minimum wage "data readers" for a few decades, or use a netbook to read these data in a few seconds? Decisions, decisions...

      Just download the free "R" programming language used by professional statisticians, use the read.table() command to load the data and apply any of the ready-to-use analysis functions that R provides. Here's an example which loads HadCRUT4 data and regresses against several other variables. Googling pivot table R also yields a number of helpful tutorials.

  12. I'm one of those "neutral" people. My response was based on the ambiguity in the question. Whether CO2 causes catastrophic warming depends on how much CO2 will be released from now on and what someone considers "catastrophic". We may also be so 'lucky' to have Yellowstone Park exploding, in which case the extra CO2 may just be enough to prevent a glaciation. Etc. etc. etc....

  13. Most of the questions were straightforward, except for the one about catastrophic warming. I ticked "neutral" because I had no idea what catastrophic meant. I'll bet many others did the same.

    Naturally, Mike is interpreting these don't-know-what-you're-on-about "neutrals" as expressing a doubtful (neutral) opinion on catastrophic warming. He'd never admit that his question was ill posed -- especially when it can be spun to get the answer he wants.


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