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Monday, October 19, 2015

The Spanish Inquisition, conflict of interest and free speech

Sou | 2:25 PM Go to the first of 29 comments. Add a comment

Still nothing from denier blogs. All is quiet. Have deniers given up the battle? Are they gearing up for a concerted attack on science? Looking for that final, final, final, final, final nail in some coffin or other? Anthony Watts is still focusing on extremist right wing lunacy. He's not got anything to offer the centrist WUWT-ers.

Today's contribution (archived here, latest here) is from Paul "bring back smog" Driessen, who is moaning that an economist should be allowed to breach the rules of the Brookings Institution, and blames it on Elizabeth Warren. Nothing to do with climate science, although Paul did manage to mention Senator Whitehouse in the same article. Chastising him for wanting scientists to declare the entities funding their research, and any potential conflict of interest. He opened in his usual highly exaggerated and misplaced fashion:

As Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition for 15 years, Tomas de Torquemada presided over the interrogation, torture, imprisonment and execution of thousands, for the “crimes” of religious heresy and pretended conversion to Christianity. Historian Sebastián de Olmedo titled him “the hammer of heretics.”

Today Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are pursuing their own inquisition against perceived “heretics.” 

Paul does admit that medieval implements are not being used to torture climate deniers or right wing extremists. He says that it's only because they "don't have" these at their disposal. (I'd say he doesn't know much about Tomás de Torquemada, and didn't even bother reading the Wikipedia article. The chap was a religious zealot, and not a nice man who did awful things by any standard, particularly to Jewish people, but probably not as bad as some at the time.)

Thing is, Paul Driessen confuses conflict of interest with free speech. They are quite separate issues.

In regard to Paul's article - it's mainly about an economist/lawyer, Robert Litan, resigning from his unpaid position with the Brookings Institution. The Boston Globe reports:
David Nassar, a Brookings spokesman, said that Litan violated a Brookings policy by touting his affiliation when he gave testimony on his study before Congress. Nassar said that the study “was not connected with Brookings in any way.” 

Conflict of interest is not a free speech issue

Somehow, Paul Driessen has turned this into a free speech issue. It's not. It's a conflict of interest issue, which is quite different. Paul's thinking is not just flawed, it's completely broken. There is nothing stopping Robert Litan from speaking. The Brookings Institution has rules, and they were broken. Elizabeth Warren discovered through questioning Robert Litan at a hearing, that there was potential conflict of interest in Robert Litan's testimony. She was correct to point it out.

Conflict of interest is not straightforward. It's not just up to the person having the potential conflict to announce it, though it's best if they are up front about it. The point is, any potential conflict should be declared. If the person having the potential conflict doesn't declare it, then anyone else who is aware of it should do so. Having a potential conflict of interest doesn't mean that a person will take advantage of it. What it means is that it should be declared so that others can judge whether it will have any bearing on the issue at hand and, if so, what if anything should be done about it.

The other thing is that Paul Driessen claims that Elizabeth Warren applies double standards, because in her election campaign she received donations from various parties. The thing is, the fact that he knows this totally contradicts his claim. He only knows it because the funding was declared. There is no hiding it. It's how political elections work in the USA.

Paul Driessen declares his conflict of interest

Interestingly, Paul Driessen himself declares his conflict of interest. Anthony Watts' article by Paul Driessen has a statement at the bottom, showing what Paul Driessen's interest is - it's as an employee for an extremist right wing lobby group. So that everyone knows that Paul's article is coloured by the interest of not just him, but his employer and the donors:
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow 
The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow is a misnomer, but that's to be expected. They could hardly call themselves "The Committee For A Polluted Tomorrow" and expect to be given donations.

From the WUWT comments

The "thoughts" from deniers are all over the place. Some think that conflicts of interest should be declared. Others think they should be hidden. 

Marcus wrongly thinks that Elizabeth Warren has "dark secrets" that are neither dark not secret - that she openly declares, mind you!
October 18, 2015 at 4:48 pm
Now I understand why E. Warren didn’t want to run for president….too many dark secrets she wanted to keep dark !! Thanks…

Michael Selden thinks the opposite to Marcus. He decides that the requirement to declare a conflict of interest is tantamount to intimidation. Just what sort of world does he want to live in?
October 18, 2015 at 5:00 pm
These are not to be taken lightly, and are reminiscent of the sort of abuses we saw enacted almost 100 years ago under the espionage and sedition acts. Even without an act being passed, the intimidation is the kind of thing we see on college campuses as well. The fact that these folks see the need to do this is a good indication that they know full well the weakness of the rationale supporting their arguments for more stringent anti-carbon policies. As their case becomes weaker, the calls for abuse become more shrill. 

Paul Westhaver chastised Paul Driessen for his representation of history, and this led to further thoughts at WUWT - mostly pro:
October 18, 2015 at 5:19 pm (excerpt)
OM Gosh…
“execution of thousands”… NOT by this guy!

TobiasN sets out some strategies for dealing with what he strangely calls "fundamentalist liberals" (what is that?)
October 18, 2015 at 5:29 pm
Some strategies when dealing with fundamentalist liberals (if you must):
– Don’t bother explaining what falsifiability is – what it has to do with science. This totally does not work. Liberals like the idea of never being proved wrong.
– Don’t try to mock them. A lot of them think of themselves as freaks in a world which has no normal, so this has little effect.
– Instead, call them gullible whenever you have the goods to back it up. They hate that. They fear people thinking they are stupid.
Just my opinion. And only in general. There are a lot of exceptions.

jabre doesn't like the "dark turn" taken by WUWT. Unlike Paul Driessen, he or she doesn't support corruption in the financial world:
October 18, 2015 at 5:29 pm
This is a dark turn for WUWT. The depths of corruption within the financial world are very deep and twisted. I find this attempt to directly conflate the climate debate with one superficially covered example in finance legislation and oversight troubling. If we are to see many more of these posts you will likely lose my attention quickly.
*Please* keep WUWT focused on climate. 

Dick F. calls the US Senators Nazis - arguably the two senators most highly respected for their integrity and honesty:
October 18, 2015 at 7:21 pm
We’ve seen this type before. Just put brown shirts and swastika armbands on Fauxahontas [Warren] and Whitehouse and you’ll recognize them immediately. 


  1. Sou writes : 'Still nothing from denier blogs. All is quiet.'

    Obviously you haven't checked out the latest revelation by Dr Evans on the Jo Nova blog. He has declared that centuries old physics is dead.

    He has 'discovered' that the Earth has a different sensitivity to energy from CO2 vs energy from the Sun.

    So energy from the Sun has a sensitivity of 0.54C per W/m2 compared to energy from CO2 which has a sensitivity of less than 0.15C per W/m2.

    My only question is how does the Earth know which photons are from the Sun and which are from CO2.

    But you try telling the JoNovians that Dr Evans notions are fractally wrong.

    I wonder what Dr Evans will do with all those Nobel prizes.

    1. Sou runs a daily blog and the claim of of Evans is long debunked on that time scale. See Stoat, for example. The "climate model" of Evans is not used by climatologists to model the climate. The mitigation sceptics will have to do better.

      The greenhouse effect is naturally always the same, but the feedbacks can differ depending on what is forcing the climate and how fast it goes. We have not seen evidence for this, but it is theoretically possible. The circulation would likely react differently whether the change in energy is mainly at the equator (sun) or poles (greenhouse gases), which could change the feedback.

    2. There were also some HW articles on David's Force X a while back (use the search bar up top). This latest series of his is just an attempt to justify his earlier articles from what I can see.

      David Evans is still trying to figure out his Notch and Force X, judging by this recent comment from October 17, 2015 at 12:19 am:

      We are learning from people’s reactions and comments, and have corrected a couple of minor errors so far.

    3. Dave: there is something behind Evans' analysis, in that we might ultimately expect a different climate response to different photons. Fortunately, these calculations have been done in detail and were first published using one model at least 18 years ago.

      Nowadays, there are at least 3 definitions of radiative forcing: instantaneous, stratospherically adjusted and effective. David Evans seems to be talking about his own redefinition of instantaneous radiative forcing, which basically no-one uses nowadays because of this well-known issue. This is addressed by using adjusted or effective forcing instead. Evans then uses a simple model combined with some of his own misunderstandings to come up with his hypothesis. But it seems that Evans is unaware of how any of the calculations are actually done, that effective forcing addresses all his concerns and the calculations have already been done using better physics than his pictionary version of a model. If his "rerouting" feedback exists, he should be able to show it in his own implementation of a GCM climate model and point out the physical processes, and/or be able to find it using the spectroscopic data regularly collected by satellites or ground stations in the ARM network.

      If David Evans had ever read any papers on radiative forcing, or the IPCC reports, he would know about things like effective radiative forcing and he'd also see that the results of doing these calculations are in the IPCC reports. Here's AR4, published 8 years ago:
      And AR5, published 2 years ago (see Section 8.1.1):

    4. Very nice work, Mark. Now if you could only get Evans to read what you just wrote. But he thinks he knows it all, so that's about as likely as 20 tropical cyclones in the NH in a single seas... oh, wait :-)

  2. As far as I know American politicians to not have to declare their conflicts of interest. Warren likely does so voluntarily.

    "The Committee For A Polluted Tomorrow" and expect to be given donations.

    Their donors would likely not mind much, but they would be less effective influencing people who are less interested in politics.

    1. The US has regulations requiring disclosure of direct campaign funding at the national level which is effectively disclosure of conflicts of interest. There are ways to circumvent this. For instance funding for think tanks is not transparent and at least some of these overtly work to shape the political landscape.

  3. I'm confused. I seem to recall American 'right wingers' telling us that torture was great and worked well.

  4. I'm mixed up now... the denialists' sadly misrepresented Galileo wasn't a victim of the Spanish Inquisition, but rather the Inquisition in Rome nearly a century and a half after the peak of the Spanish one.

    Claim: We're modern day Galileos!
    Q. Do you conduct experiments?
    A. No.
    Q. Fieldwork?
    A. No.
    Q. Any primary scientific studies?
    A. No.
    Q. Metastudies?
    A. No.
    Q. Can you explain the basic physics of the greenhouse gas effect?
    A. Of course. Carbon dioxide, which is plant food, and which has always been in the atmosphere, and which mankind doesn't effect, and the climate has always changed, and sea ice is growing, fat polar bears too, and how could CO2 do that when no warming since 1998, and grants... Al Gore exhales CO2, doesn't he? because socialism, and the oceans aren't acid, it's high school chemistry acid Ph is less that 7, 'scientists', Lord Monckton of Brenchley's FOI showed faking temperatures, and snow, it snowed and was cold last winter, warmists, so explain CO2.

    1. Q. "Can you explain the basic physics of the greenhouse gas effect"?
      Well this guy Freeman Dyson would be able to explain that , Magma.
      A lot of people consider him to be about the most prestigous and revered physicist of our times.
      But ,uh oh, he keeps banging on about that denialist meme you pointed out about "Carbon dioxide, which is plant food". He keeps sort of denying that there is a problem. He says there appears to be scientists with vested interests in keeping this piece of science alive.
      By all accounts,he seems of the opinion there's nothing to worry about. .everything a denialist would argue.
      But at the start and very end of this interview,he's adamant that ..Oh, yes, we are definitely affecting the global climate.
      So what is Freeman Dyson...a denier, a lukewarmer, or a believer.?
      Hints..books on shelves, 100% democrat, 100% O' Bama supporter.
      Answer... true believer, comforting in your twilight years.

    2. Mack, if you can't explain the greenhouse effect just say so. If you are a greenhouse effect denier you can say that, too. I don't expect you to be able to explain it and I suspect you don't even "believe" it.

      You claim that Freeman Dyson would be able to explain it. If so, why doesn't he do so? He is a climate science denier. One of the better known ones because he's a well-known physicist.

      He is not a climate scientist and knows precious little about climate. What he spouts is just the usual denier bullshit.

      Linus Pauling is regarded as one of the top scientists of the twentieth century. When he stepped outside his domain he spouted nonsense, too.

      And sorry to burst your bubble, but politics ain't science. If you base your scientific beliefs on your politics, does that mean you're a young earth creationist, and an evolution denier? (I wouldn't be at all surprised to find the answer to both those is yes.)

    3. I can explain the "greenhouse effect" Sou. Basically it's the atmosphere being "transparent" to incoming "visible" solar radiation, but "absorbs","traps", "slows" infra-red radiation from the Earth's surface.
      If I can explain that, then, as you rightly point out,..."....why doesn't he do so?" Why , as a lifelong physicist, doesn't this guy Freeman just accept that..and have had all the numbers for this sorted out long ago, and simply tell us?
      You say because "He is not a climate scientist and knows precious little about climate". Exactly, What would an atmospheric physicist with life-long studies of atmospheric quantum thermodynamics know about climate?...wouldn't know flood from drought. Write him any case...he's a teacher, not a scientist.
      Thing is though, unlike a denialist like me, this bloke Freeman is adamant that Man is warming the planet. Obviously he's counting on some more hot air from Paris.

    4. Perhaps the Paul Driessen piece is a tribute, of sorts, to The Monty Python Show. "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise. Fear and surprise. etc".
      Then again, maybe not. After all, WUWT knows its meme - "Nobody expects the SPAMish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is ... surmise. Ignorance and surmise. Er, our two chief weapons are surmise and ignorance ... and ruthless inefficiency. Our three chief weapons are etc."

    5. So, Mack
      Why has Dyson never published a single climate science paper?

      Why has Dyson not published his hypothesis that CO2-forced warming will be negligible?

      That's how science works. Being wrong in interviews about something outside of your field of expertise is not how science works.

      It's interesting that the contrarians are apparently reduced either to silence or dragging up long-debunked non-experts like poor old Dyson, who would be better remembered for his very considerable achievements elsewhere.

    6. Freeman Dyson, from a 2009 interview:

      "I am not so much interested in global warming. [That interviewer] portrayed me as sort of obsessed with the subject, which I am definitely not. To me it is a very small part of my life. I don’t claim to be an expert. I never did. I simply find that a lot of these claims that experts are making are absurd. Not that I know better, but I know a few things. My objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have. I think that’s what upsets me...

      I am not an expert, and that’s not going to change. I am not going to make myself an expert. What I do think I have is a better judgment, maybe because I have lived a bit longer, and maybe because I’ve done other things...

      I have a lot of friends who think the same way I do. But I am sorry to say that most of them are old, and most of them are not experts. My views are very widely shared."

    7. I believe that physicists think that they own intolerance to criticism, and no-one else is allowed to display it :(

      The contradictions are there - he claims he's not familiar with the technical facts but views them as absurd. That's an absurd position to take!

    8. Sou, you may be familiar with this already. Like some stereotypes there's a grain of truth to it.

    9. Maybe there should be a 'special' outlier category for physicists when giving an opinion i.e. pontificating outside their field of expertise. Just don't tell them they are lumped in with the rest of the DK uninformed crowd. That way they will still feel 'special'.

      I watched a video on utube of an excruciating interview of Freeman Dyson by a scientifically illiterate interviewer. Here

      This is the clanger question

      "we've seen a 40% rise in CO2 but not a 40% rise in temperature so clearly there is not a correlation"

      It is totally unfair to use the uninformed ramblings of 90 year old eminent scientist as proof that modern climate scientists have got it all wrong or even worse are somehow running a scam.

      Disclaimer I am a retired physicist that worked for forty years in multidisciplinary scientific research teams. I realized long ago that I knew very little outside my area of expertise. Even now I still sometimes think I know, but with a bit of further reading find out how wrong I was. Bert

    10. Arthur C. Clarke's first law of prediction, with the more gentle phrasing of a half-century ago: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

      Less politely updated for the Giaevers and Dysons of today: When a distinguished but elderly scientist is talking ignorant crap outside his field of expertise, he's just talking ignorant crap.

    11. Magma if I make it to 90 I will be glad to be able to get myself a tin of beer out of the fridge, let alone drink it without dribbling!

      My interest in Cosmology is amazed at these young whippersnappers postulating inflation after the big bang and string theory and multiverses etc. The evidence is slowly piling up. I hope to live long enough to see more.
      When I was studying Physics the Hubble Constant was not known accurately. The age of the Universe was probably between 9 to 20 billion years.

      Didn't Rutherford say that there was no real future practical use for radioactivity?

      Who said 640k of RAM was plenty?


    12. I learned why continental drift could not be true (no power source) and all about rising and falling "land bridges" between continents in "geology" back in the slide rule days.

    13. Freeman Dyson has become a 'pet physicist' that climate science deniers like to drag out:

  5. Off topic; but it spoke to me.
    A CBC ( Canada ) science show, Quirks and Quarks celebrated a Birthday Saturday. One of the pieces they replayed as significant was an interview with Issac Asimoff from 1974. The host opined that it was the first time most Canadian heard about the greenhouse effect.
    I guess it's not all Mike Mann's fault.

    1. I just goes to show how deep and long lived the conspiracy is!

    2. Those UN-backed world government types play a long game, you know. But they are still preparing the black helicopters inside the hollow volcano as we speak. :-o

    3. But, but... , Asimov was just a science fiction writer[1].

      I think the IPCC and a lot of sciencist just saw the idea as a cash cow and ran with it. I suppose Asimov could have claimed plagiarism if he had used the plot in a story but I am sure he never expected the idea to be taken seriously.

      I mean it's like someone taking Arthur C. Clarke's ideas about satellites seriously. Oh ...

      1. We'll just ignore the Ph.D. in chemistry and the non-fiction scientific explaination books.

    4. Does anyone know where the job application form is for black helicopter crew?

    5. @Millicent: If you're a fit, you'll be contacted. Not the other way around.


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