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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Roy Spencer is comparing himself to Nobel Prize winners!

Sou | 3:26 AM Go to the first of 29 comments. Add a comment

I just saw this at WUWT, in an article by Roy Spencer (archived here):
Comparing John Christy and me to “scientists who disputed the links between smoking and cancer”, Dana once again demonstrates his dedication to the highest standards of journalism.

Well done, Grauniad.

I prefer to compare us to Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who rejected the scientific consensus that peptic ulcers were due to too much stress or spicy food. While they eventually received the Nobel Prize ...

BTW, what Roy is complaining about is an article by Dana Nuccitelli in the Guardian. You'll probably recall some of the shenanigans that Roy and John get up to - like their misleading charts and Roy's run-in with Senator Whitehouse.

He said to that US government committee that:
at some point we have to ask ourselves is all of this just mostly part of what the climate system does naturally
In other words, he doesn't have a clue about climate. I don't think that attitude will win him any Nobel Prize. What do you think?

I'll finish the quote of the embattled pioneering Roy Spencer:
....after years of ridicule and scorn from the medical research community, we have no illusions that we will ever be credited for our long-standing position that global warming fears have been overblown. I’m sure the UN’s IPCC will find a way to take credit for that, and get another Peace Prize for it.
What do you see? First, by Barry Marshall's account they were not subject to "years of ridicule and scorn". That's a favourite myth of science deniers. The work of Marshall and Warren was treated with respect, though many were sceptical, as all scientists are when presented with a new theory. Here's more evidence.

Second, the climate is vastly different to H pylori - that's just one organism in one species. The climate is in a whole other category.

Third, notice how Roy is whining about not being understood. Poor Roy. If he didn't reject, on no grounds at all, what his own data is telling him - and what the work of all his peers are telling him, then he might feel a bit more loved.  If he did manage to discover something new, then he'd earn some respect. As it is he's just another denier. They can be found at hangouts like WUWT. Their ideas aren't worth a cracker.

That's all. I'm a bit busy and WUWT has been deadly dull. Or I've found it so. The WUWT-ers still get excited, with one of Christopher Monckton's ridiculous "it hasn't warmed since 1996 articles" getting more than 200 comments. I didn't have time to read them. Sorry.


  1. hmmm... what distinguishes the work of Barry Marshall and that of Drs. Spencer/Christy is that Marshall was correct and had evidence in support of his idea, whereas Spencer/Christy were incorrect[*] and didn't/don't have evidence in support of their ideas. In fact once the errors in the Spencer/Christy MSU analyses were corrected (repeatedly) [*] their own evidence (as Sou indicates) rather contradicts their "viewpoint"....which is rather unscientific..

    at the risk of being censored for recycling a post I wrote a few years ago it's worth pointing out that Drs Spencer/Christy made rather a hash of their attempts to determine tropospheric temperature from microwave sounding units (MSU):

    [*] Their early attempt to sell the notion that the troposphere was actually undergoing a cooling trend, was revised after it was pointed out that (a) their analysis was not sufficiently constrained to distinguish cooling from a warming consistent with physical expectations [ONE], (b) the method of averaging different satellite records introduced a spurious cooling trend [TWO], and (c) their disregard of orbital decay introduced another spurious cooling trend [THREE]. A little later it was shown (d) that MSU-2 showed a spurious cooling trend due to spillover of stratospheric cooling into the tropospheric temperature signal [FOUR], and later still it was pointed out that (e) the diurnal correction applied by Christy and Spencer (a sad litany of error) was of the wrong sign and gave yet another spurious cooling trend [FIVE].

    [ONE] B.L. Gary and S. J. Keihm (1991) Microwave Sounding Units and Global Warming Science 251, 316 (1991)

    [TWO] J. W. Hurrell & .K E. Trenberth (1997) Spurious trends in satellite MSU temperatures from merging different satellite record. Nature 386, 164 – 167.

    [THREE] F. J. Wentz and M. Schabel (1998) Effects of orbital decay on satellite-derived lower-tropospheric temperature trends. Nature 394, 661-664

    [FOUR] Q. Fu et al. (2004) Contribution of stratospheric cooling to satellite-inferred tropospheric temperature trends Nature 429, 55-58.

    [FIVE] C. A. Mears and F. J. Wentz (2005) The Effect of Diurnal Correction on Satellite-Derived Lower Tropospheric Temperature, Science 1548-1551.

    1. A new paper suggests that there are also errors in their analysis of the satellite data for the "mid-troposphere region between 20° South and 20° North".

    2. Thanks, Chris, for the references. A handy list. Mike's reference is this one, to add to the list:

      Stephen Po-Chedley, Tyler J. Thorsen, and Qiang Fu, 2015: Removing Diurnal Cycle Contamination in Satellite-Derived Tropospheric Temperatures: Understanding Tropical Tropospheric Trend Discrepancies. J. Climate, 28, 2274–2290.

  2. I remember sitting in the audience of an Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) meeting, IIRC in Canberra between 1985-87, and hearing one of Marshall's students present work on H. pylori and ulcers. Ulcers were an area I was unfamiliar with but I thought the student did an excellent job of describing very well controlled experiments. But there were several members of the audience that were clearly not happy with the hypothesis being presented to them. It was one of the few times in science when I have been shocked by the vitriol of the criticism leveled at a speaker. Whether that was the usual response to the work of Marshall and Warren at that time I cannot say, but it was definitely unpleasant. The sort of unpleasantness that Monckton might throw at someone.

    1. I was working at Royal Perth Hospital while Warren & Marshall were doing their work. I think it is fair to say that their hypothesis was accepted faster the further away you got. It was mostly within Australia that there was a lot of push-back, as I recall.

      A prophet is without regard in his own country.

  3. I'd have thought Robert A. Kehoe would be a better fit.

  4. What he needs to compare himself with is the last two doctors who were still arguing peptic ulcers could not be caused by bacteria.

    1. To complete the analogy you'd need to mention that these last two doctors developed an assay to measure the bacteria, determined they're there exactly as predicted, and yet are still claiming that they don't cause ulcers.

  5. Once again I'm seeing a connection between my friend Mr. Cina and the Spencer/McIntyre/Christy/Curry crowd.

    "Just a few decades ago, it was settled science that ulcers were caused by stress. Then, after it was discovered in about 2005 that a certain *bacterium* causes ulcers, not stress, then the fact that so many experts in the medical sciences thought it the "consensus" that *stress* causes ulcers didn't matter anymore. They were wrong. That's how science works."

    That was almost 5 months ago. Has anyone else seen the same ulcer straw man pop up before that date?

    1. Quite often over the years. I can't remember where I first saw it though, but it has been widely spread over the years.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. H.pylori and continental drift provide hope for cranks of all stripes. I see them pop up all the time, whether it's creationism, anti-vax, tobacco, ozone, or climate change.

    4. Ditto on it showing up regularly. Orac over at Respectful Insolence wrote about it at least once, debunking this particular talking point.

  6. The H.pylori story is one fo the two most common "consensus was wrong, valiant scientist was ridiculed, but vindicated.

    1) H. Pylori, which ( I conjecture) was that the consensus had not really been examined well enough and the story is more complicated.

    2) Wegener and continental drift, which many people get wrong ... since there was no consensus, but a multi-decade fight between the USA and {Europe, Australa, including eminent geoscientist Arthur Holmes).

    Occasionally, people cite Dan Schectman and quasicrystals, but I think that was different, i.e., the pushback mostly came from Linus Pauling ... but that was a big push in those days.

  7. John Mashey:

    "Wegener and continental drift, which many people get wrong ... since there was no consensus, but a multi-decade fight between the USA and {Europe, Australa, including eminent geoscientist Arthur Holmes)."

    And they forget the fact that Wegener's proposed mechanism was physically impossible ...

  8. The H.pylori case is a great example of how a new, surprising, but at the end of the day, correct, idea should travel to the core of scientific consensus -the hard way.

    From 1983 -the year they first introduced their idea in the form of two letters to The Lancet, citations of Warren and Marshall in the medical literature slowly grew from 2 in 1983, to 283 citations five years later, to 763 citations on the tenth anniversary of their letters, in 1993.

    The progression clearly indicates that their arguments won on their merits; but it would be absurd to think that any researchers could simply announce that the orthodox diagnosis of peptic ulcers was entirely wrong, and all of their peers would somehow concede the point all at once. Transforming an orthodoxy in a decade is pretty impressive, and would not be possible if the idea were not actually right.

    Compare Andrew Wakefield's claims -also in The Lancet- that MMR vaccinations cause autism. A quick look at citations of Wakefield shows no increase over time. He makes regular claims that his peers ignore him because of groupthink, political bias and financial pressures...

    ...all of which reminds me of the subject of this post.

  9. I am amazed that Dr Spencer would be arrogant enough to try the "Galileo Gambit". He missed Dana's point about the analogy with the scientists who disputed the link between smoking and lung cancer.

    The counter-analogy with the relationship between H.pylori and stomach ulcers is interesting. From memory the relationship is complicated; H.pylori occurs naturally and not everyone with H.pylori gets ulcers, and not all ulcers are caused by H.pylori.

    BTW what is the reference in Dr Spencer's article to Rolling Stone?

    1. 'I am amazed that Dr Spencer would be arrogant enough to try the "Galileo Gambit".'

      Well, this is the kind of hubris which makes some persons suffer from Dunning-Kruger and in the end become Bozo the Clown, just as Carl Sagan noted:

      "The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

      It is interesting to see how the (climate) denialists are devolving on the Ghandi-scale:

      "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

      Those who were sceptical at the beginning (and we're talking about the 1950's here) had a chance of 'winning'. However as the time went past, more and more evidence/observations accumulated corroding away the genuinely sceptical position, the denialists went to fighting-mode (on political field), and now they are mostly laughed at. Soon they will join the creationists and flat earth society as a branch of ideological rejection of reality which is ignored.


  10. Replies
    1. Oh. And I actually follow Thunderf00t and I missed the reference :-(

      But I don't think Dana was accusing Dr Spencer of committing a crime, just being biased.

  11. Sure, it was once the consensus position that ulcers were caused by stress and diet. There was not much evidence for that, but it was a generally accepted belief among the medical profession.

    Then along came a maverick doctor with a new theory. And by research, hard work and in spite of resistance from the consensus crowd, he and his team won them round with their irrefutable evidence gathering, until today the fact that H.Pylori causes ulcers is the consensus position.

    Now see the difference between H.Pylori and the Climate Change issue.

    A scientist produces a theory more than 100 years ago that green house gasses cause planets to retain heat. Other scientists warn that green house gasses are accumulating in our atmosphere and it could lead to global warming and a changing climate. Gradually more and more scientists look into this theory and over time masses of evidence is gathered until it becomes the consensus position among scientists studying the topic that, yes, GHGs are increasing; the planet is warming and humans are causing it. Evidence continues to grow and be gathered though no action is taken.

    Then in the early 21st century a few maverick scientists and a lot of supporters with no substantial evidence, start trying to pick holes in the consensus science. Though their voices become louder they cannot produce any robust alternative theory that accounts for the rising GHGs and the global warming that is irrefutably evidenced.

    But these 'fake-skeptics' carry on shouting and, now with their band of followers including quite a few with influence, try every trick in the book to play down the potential impacts of climate change and persuade the general population that the evidence for climate change be ignored. But they still can't explain why the accepted science is wrong, never mind providing an alternative theory that holds water.

    Parallels? "Pah", I say.

    1. Dr. Barbara McClintock produced evidence of "jumping" genes, that is, genes that change location within the genome. Her ideas didn't win much support at the time, but 10 to 15 years later with more evidence coming in, it was accepted. Similarly with Dr. Lynn Margulis and the endosymbiosis theory. It wasn't accepted at first, but she came back with even more evidence and convinced the scientific community.

      At some point if you can't convince the scientific community of your "maverick" idea then you need to discover exactly why others aren't accepting your evidence, and then shore up its weaknesses. Or you could just complain no-one recognizes your brilliance and you're oppressed.

    2. To the extent that there was push-back against Warren and Marshall in came principally in the form of denial by ageing ulcer experts. When Glaxo's Xantac (an ulcer palliative and Glaxo's biggest earner at the time) left patent, even that denial faded from sight.

      Parallels? Who's to say?

  12. Bert from ElthamApril 9, 2015 at 7:41 PM

    A counterfeit $50 note was found in circulation. This of course means all $50 notes are suspect. I will never again trust a $50 note! In fact I will only accept $20's and $10's as for $5's these are below my status. Bert

  13. In the meanwhile, actual nobel prize winners are doing this.

  14. Nobel Prize winners don't throw their arms up in the air and say, "God did it!" or in the case of the Cornwall Alliace, "God won't do it!"

  15. I can't see Roy Spencer being awarded a Nobel Prize any time soon. Coming up with a complete explanation of an important issue is very different to simply disputing the explanation so far provided.

    But, it should be noted, it was not all beer and skittles for Marshall and Warren.

    There is a very nice interview in Discovery, which is worth reading for an insight into Marshall; quite a clear thinker and a go-getter.

    The interview also covers the skepticism of the 'established order' of the time:

    How did you get the word out about your discovery?
    I presented that work at the annual meeting of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in Perth. That was my first experience of people being totally skeptical. To gastroenterologists, the concept of a germ causing ulcers was like saying that the Earth is flat. After that I realized my paper was going to have difficulty being accepted. You think, “It’s science; it’s got to be accepted.” But it’s not an absolute given. The idea was too weird.

    Then you and Robin Warren wrote letters to The Lancet.
    Robin’s letter described the bacteria and the fact that they were quite common in people. My letter described the history of these bacteria over the past 100 years. We both knew that we were standing at the edge of a fantastic discovery. At the bottom of my letter I said the bacteria were candidates for the cause of ulcers and stomach cancer.

    That letter must have provoked an uproar.
    It didn’t. In fact, our letters were so weird that they almost didn’t get published. By then I was working at a hospital in Fremantle, biopsying every patient who came through the door. I was getting all these patients and couldn’t keep tabs on them, so I tapped all the drug companies to request research funding for a computer. They all wrote back saying how difficult times were and they didn’t have any research money. But they were making a billion dollars a year for the antacid drug Zantac and another billion for Tagamet. You could make a patient feel better by removing the acid. Treated, most patients didn’t die from their ulcer and didn’t need surgery, so it was worth $100 a month per patient, a hell of a lot of money in those days. In America in the 1980s, 2 to 4 percent of the population had Tagamet tablets in their pocket. There was no incentive to find a cure.

    You published a synthesis of this work in The Medical Journal of Australia in 1985. Then did people change their thinking?
    No, it sat there as a hypothesis for another 10 years. Some patients heard about it, but gastroenterologists still would not treat them with antibiotics. Instead, they would focus on the possible complications of antibiotics. By 1985 I could cure just about everybody, and patients were coming to me in secret—for instance, airline pilots who didn’t want to let anyone know that they had an ulcer.

    Didn’t infectious-disease researchers support you, at least?
    They said: “This is important. This is great. We are going to be the new ulcer doctors.” There were lots of people doing the microbiology part. But those papers were diluted by the hundreds of papers on ulcers and acid. It used to drive me crazy.

  16. Don't we need to try transplanting these stratospheric bacteria -- say, to Mars -- to check our theory that global warming is caused by a bloom of these stratospheric bacteria, before we start spraying antibiotics into the stratosphere?

    Oh, wait, I'm ten days late ....

  17. We have never said that bacteria can't contribute towards ulcers, but there is no way a small change in the amount of bacteria could over come natural variation in an self regulating system such as the human stomach. No process engineer would allow such a thing!!


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