The on-line semi-intellectual journal of an oddball generalist.

Posted By Confutus

   I've been trying to follow up on the "climategate" story, and I finally checked out the real climate site. I find that there has been work done on the questions that I couldn't find answers to, and these have been included. I'm less of a skeptic about Anthropogenic Global Warming than I was, but I'm still somewhat critical, and I do not believe that drastic and disruptive change in energy use and policy should be forced on the public, on the basis of science that has not been fully explained.  

   I'm also less inclined to believe the more damaging material that was in the e-mails. I must confess that I jumped to some conclusions before hearing both sides of the story, which is something I deplore.

   Some of material in the e-mails obtained from the CRU does appear damning, especially when the apparently less ethical and apparently obstructive statements are gathered together, concentrated, and dumped all at once. Knowing more of the context neutralizes a great deal much of the suspicion of impropriety, but hearing from other parties, not quite all of it.
   Given how much self-serving fraud has been committed by public figures in politics, business, religion, education, etc. over the last couple of decades alone, it is little wonder that people suspect scientists of being equally corruptible.
   The code that accompanied the emails looks just as bad, or even worse, in the eyes of the suspicious, especially when all the layman can read is the comments in it. This, too, comes without context. The reactions of computer programmers and statisticians who have examined it range from incredulity, through hilarity to profanity. Many of those who consider it to be no worse than other scientific programming concede that it is badly written, poorly documented, and possibly bug infested. It does not clearly reveal what was done to which data or why. Since so many methods and assumptions are embedded in the code, problems with it should also be addressed. On technical grounds alone, regardless of whether the underlying science is good or bad, the code which is currently in use by the CRU ought to be reviewed.
   Due to the proposals of severely disruptive economic measures proposed by political figures, when people are already burdened with government regulation and taxes in an economic recession,  with each new revelation (on either side) an endless parade of uninformed skeptics is going to come from out of nowhere, many of them through left field.
   This is not a coordinated assault on science, as some people seem to think. Those who are well educated tend to forget what it was like to be ignorant. Skeptics and disbelievers in global warming come from perfectly intelligent and competent lawyers, statisticians, computer programmers, financial analysts, and so forth, whose expertise does not overlap with climatology, as well as from the political noise machine. Good answers to the controversies of global warming are generally not in the science primers, and the advanced literature might as well be written in heiroglyphics, for all the layman can make of it.
   It does scientists, or defenders of science, no good and no credit to lump these all together and adopt an air of sneering and insulting condescension, attempt to hmiliate them, or accuse everyone who disagrees with them of bad faith. Those tactics have a nasty backlash, and do nothing at all to persuade skeptics that scientists are decent, honorable, truthful folk who ought to be listened to. But that same thing could be said about creationism vs science or Democrats vs Republicans, on all sides of all debates.


 
Posted By Confutus

  By stonewalling on the release of data and failure to disclose their methods and accusing those who demand it of incompetence and vested interests, East Anglia's Climate Research Unit has forfeited its claim to dispassionate unbiased scientific integrity.

 

  What possible purpose does it serve to withold raw temperature data? Is it data patentable? Copyightable? Militarily or diplomatically sensitive? Dangerous to the  life, liberty, property, or privacy of those who provided it? Hazardous to the public health? These are all snortworthy. The most obvious potential reason is that it might reveal a professionally embarrassing and career-destroying  dishonest manipulation of the data to fit a particular theory, gross negligence in preserving it, or both.

 

  Given the potential violations of the British Freedom of Information Act, the evidence of conspiracy in the e-mails and possibly scientifically illegitimate manipulation of data in the code, and the immense political, economic, and scientific consequences if the HadCRUT data is shown to be scientifically invalid, it seems to me (as an outsider) that the British Government should empower a review board to investigate the CRU, similar to those called after the failures of the space shuttles Challenger and Colombia in the US.


 
Posted By Confutus

I have long been something of a skeptic of the theories of global warming. Although I am not a climatologist, I had the impression from my scientific reading that climate research was comparitively in its infancy, so that claims of "The science is in" seemed to be premature. It appears, with the recently uncovered evidence of scientific fraud, at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingcom which is being dubbed "ClimateGate", that my skepticism was well justified. 

 

The late Nobel-prize winning physicistt Richard Feynman gave a commencement address in 1974 , entitled "Cargo cult Science". The whole thing is worth reading, but the central thesis is especially applicable.

 

But there is one
feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science.
That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying
science in school--we never explicitly say what this is, but just
hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific
investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now
and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity,
a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of
utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if
you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you
think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about
it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and
things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other
experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can
tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be
given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know
anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you
make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then
you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well
as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem.
When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate
theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that
those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea
for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else
come out right, in addition.

In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to
help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the
information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or
another.


 
Not only did the CRU fail to practice this kind of scientific integrity, but it actively conspired to manipulate data to support the preferred theories, hid and suppressed data that would counter it, and attempted to silence and stifle critics. This is not science. It is politics of the nastiest kind. This is not scientific integrity, but  fraud.  Everything the CRU has published on climate research is now  tainted, and none of it can be regarded as scientifically trustworthy. The whole subject will have to be reviewed, and more carefully, too.

 


 

 

 
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