Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Watt a whopper of religious fervour

Anthony Watts criticises Michael Mann for refusing to 'debate' Roy Spencer because not only is Spencer a climate science denier, he is an evolution denier.

Anthony Watts can't tell the difference between science and religion as evidenced by the fact that he thinks this tweet, which is about science, is a comment on religion:

Prof Mann mentions only science and expresses the normal reaction from any scientist when asked to 'debate' a science denier.  (Nowhere does Mann mention religion.)

Real Scientists Don't Debate Creationists or Climate Science Deniers

You can just as easily substitute climate science denier for creationist in the following excerpt from an article by Richard Dawkins: (my paragraph breaks and emphasis)
Some time in the 1980s when I was on a visit to the United States, a television station wanted to stage a debate between me and a prominent creationist called, I think, Duane P Gish. I telephoned Stephen Gould for advice.
He was friendly and decisive: "Don't do it."
The point is not, he said, whether or not you would 'win' the debate. Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to. For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all.
They need the publicity. We don't.
To the gullible public which is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist. "There must be something in creationism, or Dr So-and-So would not have agreed to debate it on equal terms."
Inevitably, when you turn down the invitation you will be accused of cowardice, or of inability to defend your own beliefs. But that is better than supplying the creationists with what they crave: the oxygen of respectability in the world of real science.

Does Anthony Watts deny evolution?

Anthony's knee-jerk reaction to Mann's tweet raises some interesting questions.  It is well known that Anthony Watts denies climate science.  Now we can legitimately ask if he also denies biological science?  I guess so, based on his reaction to the tweet.

Mixed Reaction from the Deniosaurs

There are some quaint comments on Anthony's shock horror article, including quite a few from people who said they can see the point that Mann is making, and others who wonder why Anthony jumped straight to religion when Mann didn't mention religion. (Good question.)

There are, of course, lots of comments from people who didn't bother to evaluate the article and just saw it as an excuse for more Mann-bashing.  One of the weirdest comments came from the 'Good Lord!' Monckton who wants to find some scientific papers on 'intelligent design':
My one question about intelligent design is why there seem to be no scientific papers about it in the reviewed literature. I should be grateful if anyone can help here.

233 comments later, Anthony decided to close the thread because it exposed too many seriously warped ideas held by the members of his nutty fan club.


  1. A bit OT but there's a good account of Peter Singer debating the existence of god with Dinesh D'Souza - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/17/goodgod

    1. Interesting link, Rachel. Still, I think that Singer's points would be viewed by serious religious philosophers as overly simplistic.

      However, atheist philosophers debating religion with religious philosophers makes more sense than scientists debating science with religious pseudo-whatsits :)

  2. I think Mann is just afraid of debate. If he has so much science on his side, why doesn't he debate any and all challengers and kick their asses with his science ju-jitsu? I guess he's just so morally superior he doesn't need to lower himself.

    Speaking of religion, since you brought it up, even Jesus (and Buddah) walked among the unclean to bring his message to them. Mann just preaches to his adoring sycophantic faithful followers who are already converted to the Green Religion. He doesn't really stand much chance of converting the unwashed masses to his belief system with that type of attitude.

    1. Pinroot - I call Poe's Law.

      Inevitably, when you turn down the invitation you will be accused of cowardice, or of inability to defend your own beliefs. But that is better than supplying the creationists with what they crave: the oxygen of respectability in the world of real science.

      In case you are for real, the juxtaposition of your imagery is curious (from a cultural and sociological perspective).

      It was Watts who 'brought up religion. You've then elevated Prof Mann to the level of Jesus and Buddha and at the same time denounced environmental awareness and scientific understanding as 'religion' and called people like yourself presumably (fundamentalist Christians?), as 'unwashed masses'. And all this because Professor Mann effectively says he won't legitimise crank 'beliefs' by sharing a platform with a science denier.

      Frankly, I'm with you in your last point (and another reason for not wasting time debating cranks). No-one will 'convert' the 8% Dismissives with any attitude let alone facts - dogmatism ("nothing will convince me otherwise") is one of their characteristics.

    2. Pinroot

      I know this is a zombie thread but my background in evolution and years of studying the evolution/creation fake debate draws one conclusion about these debates. No side wins but the creationist side claims victory. They do it not by answering the science with science but by sowing doubt, throwing in things that may or may not be true and doing it with such a scattergun approach that the scientist always looks silly as s/he stumbles for the correct piece of science which usually requires a lengthy explanation. They are for entertainment purposes only. It is not for nothing that the late Duane Gish, creationist, gave his name to the Gish Gallop (which I've just described above).

      Just as theists want to promote atheism to the ranks of a religion, so too do climate change deniers. I don't know why. After all, a religion is based on faith. Climate change science, whether you agree with its findings or not, is based on evidence.

  3. What is the purpose of Obama's/NASA's outreach to Muslims if it is a forgone conclusion that anyone with religious beliefs other than our own don't deserve dialogue?

    1. I hope no-one has ever accused Anonymous of having any level of skill in logic or critical thinking.

    2. Now that's funny coming from someone complaining about being banned from HotCopper based on discrimination. Maybe if you had been told that you had been banned for not believing in evolution you would find it acceptable.

    3. Huh? (again)

      Must be the same Anonymous - totally lacking any comprehension, logic and reasoning ability.

      (Reminds me of the deniers on HotCopper - replete with logical fallacies.)

  4. Where is Dr. Mann's proof that Spencer is a climate change denier?

    The following is listed at Roy Spencer's web site under Climate 101:

    "Now, you might be surprised to learn that the amount of warming directly caused by the extra CO2 is, by itself, relatively weak. It has been calculated theoretically that, if there are no other changes in the climate system, a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration would cause less than 1 deg C of surface warming (about 1 deg. F). This is NOT a controversial statement…it is well understood by climate scientists. (As of 2008, we were about 40% to 45% of the way toward a doubling of atmospheric CO2.)"

    Does that sound like Spencer is denying CO2 induced warming to you?

    1. Spencer is a good example of the 'Curry' type of denier - casting doubt on the science and emphasising uncertainty where not warranted. He posits on no basis at all that climate sensitivity is very low.

      A definition from Rational Wiki:

      In scientific denialism, the denialist can 

      -deny a cause (carbon dioxide does not cause global warming), 

      -an effect (global warming does not occur), 

      -the association between the two (the earth is warming, but not because of carbon dioxide), 

      -the direction of the cause-and-effect relationship (carbon dioxide concentrations are increased because the earth is warming) or 

      -the identification of the cause-and-effect relationship (other factors than greenhouse gases cause the earth to warm). 

      Often denialists will practice minimization (the earth is warming, but it's not harmful) and will use misplaced skepticism in the veneer of being a scientist when it is unwarranted.

      (I can see why you didn't you provide a link because it illustrates Spencer's denial

  5. It's worse than most people think regarding Roy Spencer. Not only is he a creationist (as far as we can tell, he's not of the young Earth variety. I suppose that would be a bridge too far for an earth scientist). But he's also a prominent signatory of the Cornwall Alliance:


    Here is what they signed up to:

    "We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God's intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth's climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history."

    Why would Mann want to debate a person who thinks that no matter what mankind does to the planet, a magical sky fairy will somehow make it all OK? This fact needs to be publicised more than it is! Spencer is completely driven by religious ideology.


    1. Trying to imagine him spouting his crap in front of a couple of hundred students in an Australian uni. He'd be laughed off the lectern (maybe flour- bombed first.)

  6. Gavin Schmidt (nice guy) debated Spencer and it will be on Stossel's show tomorrow for those interested. For those behind in the latest climate issues here is an excellent summary of recent competing approaches to understanding climate sensitivity. This will help you understand the debate a little better.


    1. Thanks for that link. While the article was interesting and covered off on many relevant points, I don't agree with it when it speculates that if climate sensitivity were "only 2 degrees" (which is within the current best estimates) we should opt for adaptation not mitigation.

      For one thing, if we didn't mitigate, CO2 wouldn't stop accumulating when it doubles and the temperature rise wouldn't stop suddenly at a 2 degree rise if we kept pouring waste CO2 into the air, and people will find it hard enough to adapt to a 2 degree rise let alone higher.

      For another thing, the 2 to 4.5 degree rise usually refers to the immediate response, not the longer term response. That is, the impact of melting glaciers, reduced sea ice and land ice, the medium to longer term response from the oceans and other effects - all of which will exacerbate the problem over time - with known responses as well as unknown (known and unknown 'unknowns') responses.

      I'm also disappointed that the article didn't consider the impacts on people living one, two, three and more centuries into the future. Nor what what humans will have to do in order to adapt to life with a rise of two degrees and more.

    2. All models are educated speculation especially in trying to model a chaotic system. What this article highlights is the 2 different approaches to model development. The modeling approach that incorporates real world measurement based on multiple sets of newer buoy and satellite data is showing lower sensitivity than IPCC models and only time will tell which is able to more accurately reflect reality.

      Also the scientists I've talked to are saying anything over 4 degreesC for a doubling of CO2 looks untenable and it gives hope that we can still employ a solution to deal with rising CO2.

      Please check out Dr. Drew Shindell (lead IPCC author on ice melt) at NASA as he has a solution to stop ice melt in 5 years time. It is tied into the very important recent discovery that black carbon contribute 2 to 3 times more to warming than originally thought and this is actually good news as black carbon can be eliminated quickly and cheaply. Removing 23% of man made warming, the amount of warming now attributed to black carbon, is certainly doable for a rapid reduction. This is critical because as you point out CO2 is a long lasting GHG and mitigation will not help slow or stop ice melt in the short term. There is also an albedo issue with BC on ice and that is also being examined.

    3. OK Anonymous, for once you seem to be making (a bit of) sense, so maybe worth responding to the black carbon (hereafter, BC) issue.

      Yes, BC is a significant forcing contributed by mankind. But when you say "recent discovery", I'm not sure I agree with that. The GISS 2011 model forcings:


      do have BC at about 20 - 25% of the GHG forcing for a good while now. Like... since the GISS records began in 1880. In fact, in 1883 the BC forcing was exactly 25% of the GHG forcing, and it's about 20% today. Back in the day, all they had was messy old coal, so that's why it's a bit higher then than now.

      I do agree that BC is the 'low hanging fruit' regards cutting down on the anthropogenic contribution to the forcings. But, even if you could stop the BC problem tomorrow, the GHG problem is still going to loom rather large, and take us way past 2C all by itself.

      Your turn.

    4. @Metzomagic

      'Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment†'

      Journal of Geophysical Research: AtmospheresAccepted Articles, Accepted manuscript online: 15 JAN 2013

      "Thus, there is a very high probability that black carbon emissions, independent of co-emitted species, have a positive forcing and warm the climate. We estimate that black carbon, with a total climate forcing of +1.1 W m-2"

      IPCC 2007 AR4 placed total forcing of BC at only +0.44Wm-2

    5. In 2005, when AR4 was being cut, the GISS model forcings that I linked to above had BC itself at 0.553 w/m2 and the negative effect of BC on snow albedo at 0.187 w/m2. Combined, that's 0.74 w/m2 of forcing due to BC. So I don't know where AR4 managed to come up with only 0.44 w/m2. Except that the IPCC reports always seem to err on the side of extreme caution.

      Anyway, the 1.1 w/m2 attribution from the paper you linked to above is also speculative, it being a very recently released paper that other scientists have not yet had the opportunity to comment on (please don't even try to equate pre-pub peer review with general acceptance by the scientific community). And... as I said above, even if we were to cut out all BC emissions tomorrow, which is of course unfeasible, the GHG problem still dwarfs it by a large margin at around 3.0 w/m2.

      But Anonymous imagines that throwing figures out there to nitpick away at the established science is good enough to discredit all of climatology. After all, throw enough sh#t at the wall and some of it will stick, eh? And isn't it a great thing that a forcing once though to be contributing 0.74 w/m2 of warming may now be thought to contribute ~40% more? That like... totally saves our bacon. Not.

  7. Sou, thank you for alerting me to Anthony's nonsense. I tend to stay away from WUWT, because of time constraints and blood pressure reasons, so I always appreciate being pointed to particularly egregious examples. And this example of Wattzian logic is certainly a text book extreme of crazy-making.

    In fact, after linking to the story and reading Watts' words and the stream of silly commentary from his adoring fans I wound up writing my own essay on the whole affair:

    WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27, 2013
    News Flash: Anthony Watts claims all Christians are Creationists!

    Notice Mann said not one word about "Christian faith."

    Please look at Michael Mann's words :
    "No, I'm not interested in "debating" climate change & evolution denier Roy Spencer on your "news" network."

    Seems simple, straight forward and polite.
    Roy Spencer rejects current climatological understanding.
    True, check out Roy's website.
    Roy Spencer also rejects the scientific understanding regarding biological evolution.
    Dr. Spencer is in fact, a firm Young Earth Creationist

    {and a Bible literalist?}
    Roy Spencer writes: "The Bible was the only 'holy book' in which I could find a record of God's creating the material universe from nothing! Next, the work of many historians revealed to me that the Bible is by far the most accurate and best-substantiated ancient book known to man. It truthfully portrays actual historical events and has been faithfully copied by scribes over the centuries so that what we have today in the Bible is, to a very high degree (within a percentage point or two), known beyond a shadow of a doubt to be the same as was originally written down by the authors"

    {Rejecting biological evolution is a notion that can not survive rational scrutiny!}
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Follow the logic here,
    it is Watts who drew the direct line between "rejecting evolution" and "Christianity"
    Now, is it fair for Anthony to claim all who "reject evolution" are Christians?
    Incidentally, Anthony Watts' own "update" reaffirms such an impress.
    Raspberries may be fruit, but not all fruits are Raspberries.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    As for debating invitation itself:

    "Why won't you# debate me*?"
    # = scientists
    * = Spencer or Watts, or the Lord M or FOX, or whoever's batting that meme around.
    ~ ~ ~

    It's like this...
    that question coming from the likes Spencer and FOX, et al. is
    sort of like asking:
    "Why won't I participate in a friendly sparring match with you?"
    Even though I know you're wearing brass knuckles, like fighting dirty, hate my guts and want to kill me.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Am I exaggerating?

    Let's consider the 1999 Mann et al paper, the one denialists want to destroy Mann's career over:

    Title: "Northern Hemisphere Temperatures During the Past Millennium: Inferences, Uncertainties, and Limitations"

    ~ ~ ~

    and so and so forth . . .


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