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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Persil-brains: with James Inhofe, Eric Worrall, Andy May and WUWT

Sou | 9:22 PM Go to the first of 14 comments. Add a comment

There used to be a laundry detergent called Persil, that advertised "whiter than white". I thought of it when I saw more evidence that climate science deniers have an strange aversion to washing. First it was whitewashing, now it's brainwashing that sends them into a spin cycle. Seems as if a lot of climate conspiracy theories revolve around washing, or should I say complaints about washing.

Washing Inhofe's Brain

I'd say that Senator James "snowball" Inhofe's brain would benefit from a thorough cleaning to get rid of all the rubbish floating about in there. Eric Worrall has written about the latest bit of idiocy being circulated (archived here). Senator Inhofe, a committed science denier in the USA, talked about his grand-daughter asking him why he doesn't understand global warming. Eric copied part of an article from the Washington Post:

The senator, speaking last week on the syndicated Eric Metaxas radio show, said his granddaughter once asked him, “Popi, why is it you don’t understand global warming?

Here’s the full quote:

You know, our kids are being brainwashed? I never forget because I was the first one back in 2002 to tell the truth about the global warming stuff and all of that. And my own granddaughter came home one day and said “Popi — see “I” is for Inhofe, so it’s Momi and Popi, okay? — Popi, why is it you don’t understand global warming?” I did some checking and Eric, the stuff that they teach our kids nowadays, you have to un-brainwash them when they get out.
Not only is Senator Inhofe denying science, not only did he call for making climate science research a crime, he's now claiming he was the first to dismiss as nonsense 200 years of scientific achievement. What does S Fred Singer (from January 1997) or the Competitive Enterprise Institute think about that, I wonder?) Is it any wonder that the Republican Party USA is in such dire straits?

The bits of the article that Eric didn't copy included how Senator Inhofe thought that snow in winter was "unseasonable", which is a weird thing to say and quite worthy of reporting. Nor did he copy the part about how the temperatures of the past few months and couple of years have been by far the hottest in the entire history of the instrumental record.

The Washington Post article didn't indicate what the Senator's grand-daughter thinks today, or who she is. Nor did the reporter point out the "unseasonable" weather being experienced in the USA right now, with the deadly heat wave in the USA including Inhofe's home state. I haven't seen any reports of Senator Inhofe tossing a heat-struck Scissor-tailed Flycatcher onto the floor of the US Senate and admitting that global warming is real.

Washing on the brain

What I found interesting in all this denial was the assumption that if a person understands and accepts science, they must have been brainwashed. That's the same conspiracy-evolution process that prompted deniers to claim that all nine inquiries into the theft of stolen emails were a whitewash. To a conspiracy theorist, if all the evidence shows your beliefs to be wrong, then it has to be the evidence that's wrong, not your beliefs. And anyone who accepts the evidence must be part of the conspiracy.

Eric goes so far as to blame teenage drug abuse on climate science. He wrote:
For parents, trying to undo this damage is a nightmare. If they push too far, and their child starts disagreeing in public with what is being taught, the child just receives more bullying to conform. But doing nothing is also not an option.

The people who traumatise our children also publicly wonder why so many turn to drugs. It should be obvious. I mean, if authority figures convince a child the world is about to end, that it is all their parent’s fault, that there is nothing they can do to avoid a horrible death, what do you say to those same children, to convince them to do their homework?

Andy May's hypothesis about "man-made" climate change

There was another article in the same vein at WUWT the other day (archived here), where a denier called Andy May decided to put various notions, some science and some not so scientific, into one of five disparate categories:
  1. Facts
  2. Theories
  3. Laws
  4. Hypotheses
  5. Ideas

Andy decided that some things in science are facts and some are hypothesis. He wrote:
Sometimes people ask climate skeptics if they believe in evolution or gravity. They want to ridicule our skepticism by equating man-made climate change to evolution or gravity. Evolution and gravity are facts and man-made climate change is a hypothesis.

Andy is being quite silly. If evolution and gravity are facts, then so is human-caused global warming.

A scientific hypothesis is an explanation that has not yet been sufficiently well tested or developed to be accepted as a scientific theory. In science, a theory is as close as you'll ever get to a "fact". Scientists always leave the door open just a notch to allow for new discoveries and improvements to theories. The real reason is that it's just not possible to unequivocally "prove" a complete scientific explanation to be true and complete in every respect. No matter how remote the possibility, an exception to the rule could always appear at some time. A hypothesis may end up evolving into a scientific theory, or it may be a detail relating to an existing theory, which ends up helping to flesh out and refine that scientific theory.

Andy could have (but didn't) add a "conspiracy theories and lies" box so that the WUWT-ers had somewhere to put anything that conflicts with their beliefs, world view, or mental models. All sorts of things could end up in that box, including evolution, climate science, global warming, round Earth, gravity, the moon landing, or whatever a conspiracy theorist wants to put there.

Andy doesn't know much about science. He wrote:
In the scientific community, for both a law and a theory, a single conflicting experiment or observation invalidates them. 
He quoted a paraphrase of something attributed to Albert Einstein, but you can see where he committed a logical fallacy:
"No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong."
"...a single experiment can prove me wrong" is not the same as "a single conflicting experiment or observation invalidates them". A single conflicting experiment or observation will not normally invalidate a scientific theory. It might, it could, it's not impossible, but it usually won't. New evidence or experimentation may alter a theory in some way, or may help in filling in undeveloped details.  It often turns out that the evidence is flawed, not the theory. It takes a lot of evidence and very solid and credible explanations before a scientific theory is tossed out in favour of a completely different theory.

Andy distinguished between "climate change" and "man-made climate change", effectively placing all the blame for our current situation on the un-fairer sex. (I don't really agree with him, though it must be said that many polls suggest that more climate science deniers are men, and women are more likely to accept climate science.) Andy wrote:
“Climate change” is not falsifiable, it is not a scientific hypothesis or a theory. “Man-made climate change” is a scientific hypothesis since it is falsifiable. 
That comment tells you more about the looseness of Andy's thinking than anything else. He didn't make any attempt to limit himself to scientific theories, or otherwise. His was a motley collection.

Andy drew up a table, which got a lot of WUWT conspiracy theorists talking. His table was something of a mish-mash. He's not a clear thinker. When it came to climate change he had several categories and he allocated each to one of fact, theory, law, hypothesis, or idea. I've copied the climate change parts of his table into a new table as shown below.

How to define catastrophe?

Andy claims that it's not known by how much humans (at least "men") have altered the climate. (He isn't one for reading scientific papers.) So instead of acknowledging that we humans have changed our climates, he categorised it as a hypothesis rather than a fact, adding a comment about "probably".

He added the denier meme of CAGW as an "idea". The word catastrophe would be regarded by many as a value judgement. Is having to relocate multiple millions of people now living in Bangladesh and Egypt a catastrophe in the making? Was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people and left scores of thousands homeless and without their businesses a catastrophe? What about California running out of surface and groundwater for the long term, and burning up in wildfires? Would that be classed as a catastrophe? How would these past and probable events stack up against recent terrorist attacks, which killed dozens in different parts of the world? Were they catastrophes or merely unfortunate incidents?

These are all value judgments to a great extent. Scientists can measure the scale of events in terms of human cost, economic cost, the cost of recovery, and the cost of adaptation. It's more difficult but probably not impossible to put a price on the loss of biodiversity, and the destruction of food webs. What ends up being regarded as catastrophic may depend in part on the person making the judgement.

Alarmism about clean energy

Andy is also an alarmist when it comes to shifting away from fossil fuels. He's also quite ignorant about the pace of global warming, how much there is left in the carbon budget if we are to avoid 2 °C of warming, and the sharp reduction in the cost of renewable energy. He wrote:
Recent climate history (the “pause” in warming) suggests that we have plenty of time to get our arms around this problem before doing anything drastic like destroying the fossil fuel industry and sending billions of people into poverty due to a lack of affordable energy
He also has some odd notions about the cost of electricity from any source. When solar power can be produced at 2.99 cents a kilowatt hour with no subsidies, it's competes very favourably with many fossil fuels even with their tax concessions and subsidies.

Hard to go against a life-long career in oil and gas

By the way, Andy listed his qualifications and credentials, none of which indicate he has any expertise in climate science or any related science, though he calls himself a petrophysicist. He shares a background not uncommon to some other climate science deniers, particularly his association with the fossil fuel sector:
Andy May has been a petrophysicist since 1974. He has worked on oil, gas and CO2 fields in the USA, Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, China, UK North Sea, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Russia. He specializes in fractured reservoirs, wireline and core image interpretation and capillary pressure analysis, besides conventional log analysis. He is proficient in Terrastation, Geolog and Powerlog software. 

From the WUWT comments

These first few comments are under Eric Worrall's brainwashing article. For a crowd that is known for its conspiracy theorising and inability to think critically, the comments would break most irony-meters:

Robert of Ottawa is worried about five-year-olds: 
July 27, 2016 at 2:38 pm
I’ve noticed the same in various young kids I know and talk with. It is worse than criminal to brainwash 5 year olds.

Lucius von Steinkaninchen is an expert in uncritical thinking:
July 27, 2016 at 2:42 pm
Sadly, schools through most of the West have become ideological madrassas churning out children devoid of critical thinking. 

Lucius von Steinkaninchen takes another shot, but stops short of predicting an ice age:
July 27, 2016 at 2:47 pm
It is likely that this brainwashing will backfire horribly on the Left in 20 or 30 years, when the kids will be adults facing real problems – economy, jobs, family, etc – and will suddenly notice that the world *didn’t* end, contrarily to the litany of doomsday predictions recited over their childhoods. 

CodeTech is an ageist, as is Anthony Watts' "anonymous coward" mod:
July 27, 2016 at 3:07 pm
Hey, we can see this NOW, as the millennials are clearly incapable of functioning in life. They were coddled and lied to their whole lives, now most of them are dumb as posts.
[Please do not insult any perfectly functional fence post by comparing it to today’s college graduates and tomorrow’s snowflake-enabled students. .mod

TonyL  is probably referring to the fact that climate change has gone mainstream in US politics, finally. The candidates are no longer fearful of saying they will address it (unless they are from the anti-science wing of the Republican Party):
July 27, 2016 at 3:59 pm
Global Warming and all the rest of the whole package of leftist ideology has been taught of thirty years now. Let’s see how it is going.
Is it backfiring horribly on the left?
Is the hard core Left enjoying unprecedented political popularity among the younger demographic?
Just consider the impressive performance of Bernie Sanders. What should have been a fringe candidate became something of a national sensation.
I would say that the Left is doing very well reaping the rewards of their control of the public education system. 

czechlist is ready if renewables continue to replace fossil fuels and finally cause a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions:
July 27, 2016 at 4:10 pm
The progs are prepared for any event. When CAGW doesn’t happen they’ll say it is because they prevented it through their awareness programs and warnings (see their Ozone hole and population bomb/food shortage extinction explanations) and (like seat belts and air bags) there’s Obamacare – that $2500 per family savings is how much more we’d be paying if they hadn’t pass it.
Progs have their propaganda ready for anything and, unfortunately, simpletons are conditioned to believe it.

pyeatte  uses code words for science, he calls it "far-left propaganda"
July 27, 2016 at 2:58 pm
The solution is to stop voting for Democrats and gain control of the school boards. Teachers must stop teaching far-left propaganda. 

I don't know if any people who know Menicholas understand why he does it. James Inhofe, probably yes. He's obeying his paymasters.
July 27, 2016 at 6:21 pm
Do not get me wrong, I agree that kids in US schools are subjected to attempted brainwashing, and many of them are buying it.
I just do not think they are necessarily permanently indoctrinated.
When the things that are being warned of fail to materialized in their lifetime, they will know the truth.
And they will know they were lied to, and who did it, and many of them will understand why.

Robert from oz makes a sensible comment, although his version of science is probably different to real science:
July 27, 2016 at 7:37 pm
Kids do not need to be taught both sides of the argument at all , just taught real science and from there they will work out if CAGW is crap or not .

John explains how his children inherited his inability to think for himself, and they dutifully mimic their parents:
July 27, 2016 at 3:21 pm
It’s about time the truth is spoken. My two children are now adults, when they were coming up I would talk to them about this climate BS, today they don’t swallow the lies.They know how to think for themselves. 

Mark - Helsinki had a lot to say on the subject (18 thoughts altogether). He thinks teaching science at school is "mental abuse", "child abuse" and terrorism. He must have struggled in science class:
July 27, 2016 at 3:53 pm
Technically it is a form of terrorism, fearism, making kids live in fear in order to push a political ideological or religious agenda.
What is next, getting kids to report of their parents believe, and if not the feds show up and arrest you for “abusing your kids” that is, telling them CAGW is bollocks 

4 Eyes wrote:
July 27, 2016 at 7:08 pm
It clearly is specific issue brainwashing. There is little doubt that the child not would have any grasp of the physics involved. Therefore the only reason for the child to query grandpa is that the child is brainwashed. Scary. 

Under Andy May's article about scientific theory vs ideas, there were a few evolution deniers who objected to Andy saying it was so.

July 26, 2016 at 8:21 pm
Maybe so, but evolution as a theory for creating life is taken as true without evidence, just like man made catastrophic global warming. 

Roy Spencer points out that scientific theory is the best you'll get from science, though for some reason he described what I'd call hypotheses as theory. Or perhaps he was referring to evolution:
July 26, 2016 at 4:10 pm
a little too black-and-white…I’d say all there are only theories…some are so well established that people no longer try to disprove them an they are routinely used to make accurate predictions, others are highly speculative. 

Andy May admits he doesn't know what he's talking about and makes things worse, not better:
July 27, 2016 at 9:39 am
Thanks Dr. Spencer that was the sort of feedback I was after. Hypotheses and theories are clearly the same, since the difference is a judgement call. “Law” as a simple description of the what happens, seems a little arbitrary. But, facts versus the others, even though we know facts can come and go? I like having the term fact to use when debating science, at least for a period of time a fact is universally accepted, even if it can go away tomorrow. Language is tough, making science clear is tough. 

Germinio slipped past the mods and tried to bring the scientific illiterati back to the real world:
July 26, 2016 at 3:40 pm
For what it is worth, there are multiple exceptions to Newton’s law of gravitation that have been observed,
starting with the precession of the perihelion of Mercury (known and unexplained before Einstein), along with gravitational lensing of light and the more recent observations of gravitational waves.
I would also question where “6+6=12” is a fact or is it made up — the answer depends on whether or not you are a plationist and believe that numbers have an independent reality outside of humans. Nor is it clear why
Newton’s second law is stated as an “unequivocal fact” when it is just as much a theory as anything else.
Finally I would suggest that “man made climate catastrophe” is a prediction not an idea. Although I am not
sure what scale the author is using to rate both climate catastrophe and islamic terrorism. Or even if it is
possible to make such a comparison. Terrorism is a statistically speaking a very minor problem and people are far more likely to be killed in traffic accidents for example than be killed by a terrorist. Not to mention the fact that in the UK on average 2 women a week are killed by their partners and no-one calls domestic abuse a existential threat (like the republicans have done for terrorism). 

Seth added a sensible comment (my emphasis):
July 26, 2016 at 4:28 pm
I think that some of the basic definitions here are not the scientific ones.
In science a theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method and repeatedly tested and confirmed, preferably using a written, pre-defined, protocol of observations and experiments.
They provide a understanding of observed facts and make predictions about untested facts, which were then substantiated before the hypothesis became theory. Scientific theories are the most reliable, rigorous, and comprehensive form of scientific knowledge.
Examples are germ theory of disease and the general theory of relativity.
The greenhouse effect is a consequence of theory of optics. The fact that we have increased the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere isn’t a theory, it’s known from measurement. Optics predicts that we would then see an increase in global mean surface temperature, and this has been observed:

Further on the discussion ended up in mindless greenhouse effect denial, of the type written by AndyG55
July 27, 2016 at 4:34 am
“Well we know it is responsible for most of the recent warming.”
Most of the GISS warming is from infilling and adjustments
All real warming comes from El Nino (Not-CO2 related) events and ocean cycles.

And foolish conspiracy theories of the political type written by wws
July 26, 2016 at 4:33 pm
I promise not to repeat this post again, but it is just as relevant in this thread as it was in the other. If it hadn’t already been obvious, it is becoming very clear that in the US, at least, the “Climate Change” movement has only one true goal: To provide a platform to support planted stories throughout the mass media which will scare low-info voters into voting for the Democrat Party.
That’s it, that’s the only real game going on – different versions of the same game are being played in the other democracies. But there’s no “science” going on, and there hasn’t been for a very long time. 

References and further reading

In his grandchild’s question — ‘Why is it you don’t understand global warming?’— Sen. Jim Inhofe sees ‘brainwashing’ - article by Jacob Bogage at Washington Post

Watch Out, Coal! Dubai Announces Plans For World's Lowest Cost Solar Plant - article by Mark L. Clifford at Forbes

James Inhofe calls for criminal investigation of climate scientists as senators prepare proposal that would ditch cap and trade - article by Suzanne Goldenberg in The Guardian


  1. Curiously climate denier's arguments cause me so much head pain it causes me to turn to drugs. Luckily yeast invented alcohol.

    1. Bert from ElthamJuly 29, 2016 at 3:22 AM

      MightyDrunken in the Goon Show the discussions of Eccles and Bluebottle remind me of deniers thinking.

      Here is one of the best

      There are many others. Bert

  2. @-"He quoted a paraphrase of something attributed to Albert Einstein, but you can see where he committed a logical fallacy:
    "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong."

    That quote of Einstein crops up sometimes, it is worth pointing out that after he said that Miller conducted experiments of lightspeed that appeared prove him wrong.
    His response was to say he would wait for 'better' results.
    To be fair there was a suspected source of uncertainty in the Miller experiments, although Miller did not think so!

  3. More evidence that Dr. Spencer has gone completely off his rocker.

    Seth is correct:

    A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world.

    "Well substantiated" in no way leaves any room for "highly speculative"...and Dr. Spencer should certainly know better.

  4. "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong."

    I think it is likely Einstein never said that. I did dig into it a while back when a bunch of climate change deniers were using it. The closest match to what Einstein said is this from "Induction and Deduction in Physics":

    "Thus, a theory can very well be found to be incorrect if there is a logical error in its deduction, or found to be off the mark if a fact is not in consonance with one
    of its conclusions. But the truth of a theory can never be proven."

    No mention of a single experiment at all! Einstein was talking about abstractions. He was referring to provability of a theory; it is possible to disprove a theory but not to prove it.

    Ironically he also said this in the same paper:

    "I offer the reader in these hectic times a small, objective, passionless reflection
    because I believe that quiet devotion to the eternal goals that are shared by all civ- [9]
    ilized men can today serve political reconvalescence better than political meditations
    and credos."

    I interpret that as meaning it is better to leave politics out of science :-)

    1. Bert from ElthamJuly 29, 2016 at 4:22 PM

      Proofs are for mathematicians. Gödel gave them a bit of a scare a while back.

      His incompleteness theorem made them shudder in complacency. Bert

  5. Perhaps one experiment could invalidate a theory. However, with regards to anthropogenic global warming, no such experiment has been conducted. Do these skeptics ever plan on doing the experiment?


    1. "Do these skeptics ever plan on doing the experiment?"

      The answer is probably no. I cannot believe the climate change deniers would make any effort to do something which might falsify their own hypothesis - they are not interested in the scientific method. Because science is not on their side, all they can do is try and nitpick.

      Actually "experiments" to falsify AGW are being done all the time, observations are experiments. Estimates of Global Mean Temperature are compared to hypothetical calculations of energy balance, General Circulation Models etc.

    2. "Do these skeptics ever plan on doing the experiment?"

      Actually Harry, I'd argue that the answer is "yes": the deniers are doing it now by resisting mitigation and supporting further emissions of CO₂.

      It's a one-off, real-time, real-life experiment, where n = 1 planet, and the final report will say something to the effect that "an apparent unforeseen consequence of the experiment was the loss of a large proportion of the planet's biosphere and cryosphere. However, our consultant's statistical analysis indicated gives p = 0.051, so we conclude that these major extinction and melting events not likely to be the result of the high CO₂ treatment."

  6. I wonder if its the same granddaughter who has gotten used to Inhofe's stupidity.

    I didn’t think anything about it,” he said, recalling that he had encouraged his 13-year-old granddaughter to join him in the water but she declined.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Here is an excellent example of a proposed theory of a climate behavior and the potential for invalidation. It has to do with Richard Lindzen's original complicated model of the QBO of stratospheric winds.

    The quasi-biennial oscillations are striking in their periodicity yet Lindzen (and others that cite his work) ascribe an emergent cause as a mechanism. To balance that, an alternate mechanism is possible through an external forcing which synchronizes the cycles. Conventional wisdom says that an external forcing is always a possible mechanism for any cyclic behavior, thereby invalidating an internal source such as a resonance.

    I don't believe in much of what Lindzen says so I went digging into possible mechanisms for the QBO behavior, which is well represented by high resolution monthly data since 1953.

    One rather obvious external mechanism for QBO is due to lunisolar gravitational tides.

    Much like the well-understood oceanic tides, these atmospheric tides have always been a possible mechanism and -- get this -- you will find places where Lindzen even admitted to their potential. These quotes were from over 40 years ago:

    "It is unlikely that lunar periods could be produced by anything other than the lunar tidal potential" -- Richard Lindzen, 1974

    "For oscillations of tidal periods the nature of the forcing is clear" -- Lindzen, 1967

    Recently, I tried deriving from the governing Laplace's tidal equations, inserting a cyclic lunisolar tidal forcing into these equations, and then fit the model to the data. From that, what I observed was an incredibly close correlation, which essentially matched cycle for cycle for over 60 years.

    Now this gets back to the nature of invalidation of a theory. It would be extremely easy for Lindzen to crawl out of his emeritus lair and invalidate my new model of QBO behavior. All he has to do is show that the alignment of the QBO data is NOT with the aliased lunisolar draconic tide. Remember that Lindzen himself opened up the possibility for their potential as a source cause, and implied that lunar tides would obviously exclude other mechanisms.

    That is how science has worked for eons. A simple explanation that matches the observations is held until a better theory comes along. Any more complicated explanations are assigned to the dust heap. This is a cut-and-dried example of something that the denier Lindzen will have to either put-up or shut-up with. All he or his supporters have to do is invalidate the correlation. It only takes one observation to do that.

    Yesterday I submitted this QBO model to the AGU meeting for this coming December. The abstract will likely get accepted and I will be in San Francisco to defend it. That will be a blast.

    1. Great to hear you will defend your work at the AGU FM. An important step towards a paper.

      You found a good correlation. How do you explain the magnitude (as a function of latitude)?

    2. For pure QBO, there is no function of latitude, instead around the equator, the nodal forcing is of a nearly balanced +/- magnitude.

      Away from the equator, Coriolis effects take hold and so more turbulent effects occur.

      Not to compare to Laplace, but this analysis is essentially taking the same purely mathematical approach that someone such as Laplace took in the 1700's, when applying calculus to science was still in its infant stages.

      That's what I don't get about Lindzen. All he did was try to apply Laplace's formulation but IMO completely mucked it up and created a monster of complexity.


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