That Seems Legit

So yeah, my laptop's monitor died on startup three times this evening. If I suddenly don't post for a few days, it's likely because I'm looking to get it replaced. Just a heads up.


With that out of the way, I want to talk about credibility. Mark Steyn has been promoting his book, constantly talking about all the great reviews its gotten. No surprise there. He's made jokes about how paltry the people arguing against him have been, as though I've said nothing about his book. Again, no surprise there.

What is surprising is how everybody is lapping it up. You would think some people would notice this is a sham. Apparently not though. Today Steyn quoted a review from another person who has bought his shpiel hook, line and sinker. This one is Barbara Kay, who wrote, in part:

Or maybe they've been struck by the fact that in the defamation suit by Michael "hockey stick" Mann against journalist Mark Steyn, who publicly called Mann out as a "fraud," Steyn is backed in print by a hundred credible scientists...

Credible scientists? Let's be honest, Barbara Kay has no basis for calling them this. She doesn't know how credible the scientists quoted in Steyn's book are or aren't. Let's help her out.

Before we get to that though, let's look at the scientist she quoted in her article. I mean, she gave an example of a scientist and said:

There is certainly more than one scientist and more than one investigative journalist pushing back against climate-change mantras. And they simply can’t be waved away as outliers or weirdos. Although God knows, a biased media trys to.

I'd like to wave away some people as outliers and weirdos. Because, to be frank, they are. I mean, we've already seen some of these people basically believe the United Nations is using global warming as a front for a conspiracy to establish the New World Order. It'd be nice if we could dismiss people like them as nutjobs.

But Barbara Kay says we can't. She says there are people we can't wave away. Shedoesn't offer any reason as to why not, but maybe we can figure it out by looking at who she chooses as her example:

Take, for example, Robert M. Carter, Emeritus Fellow and Science Policy Advisor at the Institute of Public Affairs; chief science advisor for the International Climate Science Coalition; and former Professor and Head of the School of Earth Sciences at James Cook University. In September, 2013, after the release of the latest IPCC Assessment Report by Working Group 1, Carter was interviewed by the BBC, and said: “Climate has always changed and it always will – there is nothing unusual about the modern magnitudes or rates of change of temperature, of ice volume, of sea level or of extreme weather events.”

Um... Why can't I dismiss Bob Carter as an outlier or weirdo? I've talked about him before. This is a guy who wrote a chapter in the book Climate Change: The Facts where he referred to an analysis and claimed it:

revealed worldwide errors in the range of 1-5C for individual sampled area-boxes, i.e. errors that far exceed the total claimed twentieth century warming of -0.7C.

Which was true. The individual "sampled area-boxes" in question were 1°x 1° boxes. There are 360 longitude degrees and 180 latitude degrees. That means there are 180 x 360 = 64,800 of these area-boxes. In other words, each individual box represents less than .2% of the planet's surface. Carter ignored this fact, pretending the uncertainty of each area-box represented the error for the entire planet and concluded:

these results indicate that no statistically significant modern warming will be able to be inferred on the basis of HadCRUT or similar thermometer-based records until the current temperature rises over 1°C above that computed for 1969.
Though global average temperature may have warmed during the twentieth century, no direct instrumental records exist that demonstrate any such warming within an acceptable degree of probability.

I'd say that's pretty messed up. Conflating the uncertainty of the temperatures for a tiny fraction of the planet with the uncertainty for the temperatures of the entire planet to claim we can't tell the planet has warmed seems... weird. I'd say it's fair to dismiss anyone who does it as a weirdo. I know Barbara Kay says we can't, but... why not?

Similarly, why shouldn't we dismiss Professor Zbigniew Jaworowski, PhD as a nutjob when he called global warming "A Lie Aimed At Destroying Civilization"? Or in his words:

The IPCC thesis is based on research from the CRU. Scientists from the University of East Anglia have at their disposal enormous sums of money and political support. In practice, they simply obey the dictates of the United Nations, which is promoting the global warming initiative, in order to suppress the development of industry, which they claim is destroying the Biosphere of the Earth…. The anti-industry propaganda is aimed at the destruction of our civilization!

Does Kay want us to believe this is a credible scientist we can't dismiss as a weirdo? What about Dr Walter Starck, PhD, who says:

It is time to recognise the climate scam for what it is: a conspiracy to defraud on a monumental scale.

Kay says we can't dismiss him as an outlier. Okay. Starck says global warming is just "a conspiracy to defraud on a monumental scale." If he's not an outlier, does that mean all "hundred credible scientists" backing Steyn think there's a massive conspiracy?

What about Professor David R Legates, PhD, who backs up Steyn by criticizing a temperature recontruction Michael Mann did for the northern hemisphere for not matching the results he got when using data for the entire globe. Are we to understand "credible scientists" don't believe the southern hemisphere exists?

What about Dr Michael R Fox, PhD, who complains scientists were "dismissed as skeptics" and says, "The scientific case against man-made global warming has collapsed." Are we to believe "credible scientists" dispute the greenhouse effect? Apparently so, because there's quite a few more who say things like this. There's even a Dr Lee C Gerhard, PhD, who in 2009 said:

The MCO was considerably warmer than the end of the 20th century.
During the last 100 years, temperature has both risen and fallen, including the present cooling.

This is supposed to be a "credible scientist"? What kind of "credible scientist" would claim the world has been cooling? I don't care if is 2009, 2014 or 1999. The only way you could claim it is cooling is to engage in cherry-picking of the highest order, and even then, you'd have to intentionally ignore the entire idea of uncertainty.

But apparently that's okay. Cherry-pick all you want. Cherry-pick the years you examine when looking for trends. Why not? While you're at it, take a tiny portion of the globe to get high levels of uncertainty and pretend those represent the uncertainty for the entire planet. Deny the greenhouse effect, claiming man has no influence on the planet's temperatures at all. Say global warming is just a huge conspiracy to defraud people on a massive scale, or to destroy modern civilization, or to create the New World Order, or whatever.

It clearly doesn't matter. As long as you say something people like, you're "credible."

4 comments

  1. "What kind of “credible scientist” would claim the world has been cooling?"

    Geologists? Anthropologists?

    Graphs (from Wiki, so by definiton incredible but still...)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_temperature_record#/media/File:Five_Myr_Climate_Change.png
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene#/media/File:Holocene_Temperature_Variations.png

    A geologist considering millions of years (1st chart) might have no problem at all talking about cooling, (Continents, oceans, mountains and coal beds having fairly long "lifetimes") while an anthropologist, looking at human history with a much shorter timeframe, would consider the 2nd chart showing the Holocene. Cherry picking from 12,000 years ago gives a rising trend while picking from 8000 years ago gives the cooling trend.

    Different perspectives, differently quantified, and differently (sometime awkwardly) expressed.

    None of these differences warrants accusations of lying, evil intent, financial corruption, or idiocy. Certainly it is unproductive to common understanding to use lawsuits, RICO, and other tools of social coercion to silence alternative viewpoints and expressions. This, I think, even it turns out that an overwhelming majority of the society does align with a single faction in a debate. We don't, for instance, threaten Young Earth Creationists and the Glen Rose Texas "Creation Museum" with making libelous assertions about prominent paleontologists. We don't advocate anti-RICO activities when the Texas, Idaho, and Arkansas branches of the YEC movement hold joint press conferences about the opening of new education facilities on their particular topic. Neither of us is ever going to agree to support YEC "theory". But we don't suppose, either, that a mistaken theory poses an existential threat to our effort to reform all the world's markets and governing systems along the lines we prefer.

  2. Oh come on. How badly can you take something out of context? I had just quoted a person saying:

    During the last 100 years, temperature has both risen and fallen, including the present cooling.

    I was obviously not talking about temperature changes on geological scales. I get you might want to ramble on and on to make some point about blah, blah, blah, but dear lord, can't you find a real hook? If you're going to write that much text, couldn't you make it have some connection to anything I've written? Anything at all?

  3. "How badly can [I] take something out of context?"

    Rhetorical questions, again?

    Following on from your link, it would appear Barbara Kay is an English teacher, turned columnist. We should not expect or demand her non-technical criteria on what makes or breaks any scientist's "credibility". To the extent that such a question is interesting you at all, I would suspect the question would turn on how well a scientist composes his text. A careful and precise use of word choices; clear linkages of thought from cause to effect; fair acknowledgement of prior work with full citations; proper placement of quotation marks, commas, and parenthesis -- the sort of thing a professional of English demands of a writer regardless of topic. The sort of thing, frankly, that you so often find yourself annoyed to discover misused.

    In point of fact, addressing your specific question as to the credit of Dr Lee C Gerhard, PhD -- he is a geologist. From Kansas, if it matters, as once was I. A geologist, if I may be permitted to repeat myself, is the "kind of scientist" who generally looks at the environment over a somewhat longer period than 100 years; was specifically quoted about the "MCO" or Medieval Climate Optimum (over a thousand-year-period) but certainly is correct to say that during the past 100 years the various indexes of global temperatures as reported in various places have trended down between, say 1900 and 1940 and up since then.

    The label of any given temperature as "optimum" is a value judgement, of course. One more creditably made by anthropologists about the effect of temperatures on human culture, than perhaps other disciples of studies that might consider other conditions "optimum" for sea-level, or polar bear population, or other measures.

    But as to your direct question about "what kind" -- do I better address your question with this second attempt?

  4. Pouncer:

    Rhetorical questions, again?

    I have no idea why you think this would be worth remarking on. I tend to ask rhetorical questions more the less I feel a person is participating in a reasonable manner. It's a way of distancing the discussion from them, something that's desirable if you don't like how a person is behaving in the discussion. Like when you say:

    Following on from your link, it would appear Barbara Kay is an English teacher, turned columnist. We should not expect or demand her non-technical criteria on what makes or breaks any scientist’s “credibility”. To the extent that such a question is interesting you at all, I would suspect the question would turn on how well a scientist composes his text.

    I'd normally be inclined to ask a rhetorical question, mocking you as there is absolutely no reason to think a person writing, "Steyn is backed in print by a hundred credible scientists," merely means Steyn is backed by a hundred scientists who can follow the grammatical rules of English well. That a person is an English teacher doesn't somehow mean their views of what makes a scientist credible will be based on grammar.

    A geologist, if I may be permitted to repeat myself, is the “kind of scientist” who generally looks at the environment over a somewhat longer period than 100 years; was specifically quoted about the “MCO” or Medieval Climate Optimum (over a thousand-year-period) but certainly is correct to say that during the past 100 years the various indexes of global temperatures as reported in various places have trended down between, say 1900 and 1940 and up since then....

    But as to your direct question about “what kind” — do I better address your question with this second attempt?

    Are you doing this on purpose? The question is about Lee Gerhard's claim in 2009 the world was cooling in the present (as of 2009). Talking about temperatures of 1900-1940 does nothing to address that. I genuinely don't understand how you could consistently manage to ignore this.

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