Rebutting Conspiracy Theories Seems Pointless

A recent post may have made you realize I really don't want to discuss conspiracy theories about the alleged chemical attack on the city of Douma by the Syrian government. I've been trying to avoid discussing that topic, especially on Twitter, but I let myself get dragged into it today.

Don't worry. I'm not going to write a long screed about the topic. That's not the point of this post. The point of this post is to show why I didn't want to. I always come away from exchanges on topics like this feeling they were pointless. Most of the time, I find myself putting more work into examining what others say than they did.

This is why I ask people to make their case in a collected, coherent manner with all the requisite information provided in a single location. It almost never happens. I understand doing so requires a fair amount of work, but not doing so simply forces anyone who cares to examine what you say to do the work you refused to do.

Today, I'd like to show a Twitter exchange why I describe the discussions so many people try to get others to participate in are pointless. Also, I'd like to keep a copy for record keeping.

Before I go into the exchange, we need a bit of context for the discussion. A city named Douma was part of a conflict in Syria, and an alleged chemical attack on the city was used as the basis for military action by the United States against Syria. Some people claim no such chemical attack happened. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did an investigation and released a report claiming such an attack did happen. Recently, an internal document questioning certain aspects of the OPCW's claims.

The following exchange is about the OPCW's commentary on one location in Douma, where a metallic cylinder alleged to have been used as part of a chemical attack was found. I commented several times on Twitter advising caution regarding some things I've seen people saying about this commentary. For instance:

I had hoped to limit my discussion on Twitter to comments like that, saying things were questionable/wrong and encouraging people to move the discussion somewhere substantive discussion could be held. Then I saw these tweets:

These comments suckered me into a discussion because they seemed so strange to me. I looked at the photos provided, and I couldn't see what made the OPCW's claim "obviously untrue." I tweeted a couple times trying to figure it out, and I got this response:

I couldn't see what point that tweet was supposed to make so I tried to simplify things:

My thought was since I didn't get a productive answer originally, I'd simplify things by asking a direct question about a very limited issue. The OPCW said it didn't find "primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of an explosion that may have created the crater..." I asked about primary fragmentation first because it is the easier to deal with, and I hoped we could pin down one issue before moving onto another (secondary fragmentation). This... did not work very well:

Now here, it's obviously important to understand what "primary fragmentation" is. I am no explosives expert, but I have some basic familiarity with terminology for it. Fragmentation is when solid material is thrown from the site of an explosion at high speeds, often "fragmenting" in the process. Primary fragmentation is (basically) fragmentation coming from the explosive device, like pieces of the device's casing.

Photos of pieces of a mortar* shell lodged in a wall would show primary fragmentation. Nobody has suggested photos of such exist though. Instead, when questioned we get tweets like this:

Now, I had specifically asked about primary fragmentation, but there's nothing in this response to suggest it is limited in the same way. Even so, the image doesn't show fragmentation at all. What is shows is rubble. This is explicitly called out, with the tweet saying there is "rubble both in bedroom and on balcony." Rubble is not the same thing as fragmentation. If I drop something heavy on a roof and a portion of it collapses, there is rubble, but there is no fragmentation being propelled from an explosion.

That bizarre response, combined with another response, got me riled up enough I posted the following tweetstorm:

I don't think twitter is a good place to have productive discussions, and I think that tweetstorm suffers due to the nature of Twitter. Even so, I think I did a reasonable job of conveying the point. I got attracted to this particular Twitter discussion because I had seen the person I wound up responding to suggest the OPCW's report was so misleading as to be fraudulent. I then saw try to support that claim by saying it was "obviously untrue" when the OPCW said:

The FFM analysed the damage on the rooftop terrace and below the crater in order to determine if it had been created by an explosive device. However, this hypothesis is unlikely given the absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of an explosion that may have created the crater and the damage surrounding it.

Why is this "obviously untrue"? I don't know. When I tried to find out, I was told the mere existence of "rubble both in bedroom and on balcony" was proof. That's nonsense. It's obviously nonsense to anyone who has any idea what the OPCW meant when it referred to "the absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of
an explosion."

And yet, what value is there in pointing that out? Will doing so change anyone's mind? Will it even change what people say? I don't know. I'm not hopeful though. Look at how little trouble it was to make this bogus claim. Look at how much effort it takes to dispute it.

We live in a world where there seems to be little consequence for stating things which are objectively untrue. If anything, there are rewards. Just look at what happens when the President of the United States promotes deceptively edited videos to attack an opponent. Not only does he not suffer for it, he's rewarded by distracting people from focusing on things he doesn't want to deal with.

Is there any reason things should be different for people less influential than the President? Is there a reason we can't all show the same disregard for accuracy and the truth? Coming at it from the other direction, is there any reason we should care about truth or accuracy?

*I say "mortar" in this post because mortar shelling is the cause I heard some people blame the damage at this site on. Some people might blame other devices, such as a rocket. Everything said in this post holds true for them. I'll be using "mortar" to cover them all for simplicity in this post.

45 comments

  1. It's worth noting I did not say "conspiracy theories" here just out of rhetoric. Leaving aside accusations of dishonesty, if not fraud, by the OPCW, this topic was based on the idea chemical attacks were staged in a conspiracy by an unknown number of people rigging scenes of supposed attacks (amongst other things).

    Conspiracy theories are not inherently wrong/suspicious. Conspiracies do happen. It just seems to be pointless to discuss theories about them since no disagreement seems to be capable of changing anyone's mind. Then again, that seems largely true of most things (nowadays?). Maybe this post misses the better target.

  2. Brandon -

    Personally, I find Steve's complete confidence, that his analysis via indirect evidence is so far superior to expert analysis conducted on the ground, to the point where he thinks that expert analysis is obviously wrong, to have interesting implications to his confidence about his climate science analysis.

    It seems to me that such extraordinary confidence tends to accompany a prediliction towards conspiracy ideation.

    Its rather similar, imo, to the complete confidence expressed in the deep state conspiracy comments being posted daily over at Lucia's.

  3. Joshua, I find it interesting you've made this sort of comment a number of times, and despite being directly told McIntyre handling of climate issues is markedly different than his handling of other issues, you seem to make no effort to check your conclusions. It's almost as though you actively avoid looking at evidence which would contradict your views about McIntyre so you can keep making comments detracting from his efforts on climate matters. After all, the last time you tried to offer support for your impression of McIntyre, your criticism consisted of him focusing on how a person fabricated a claim about what people had said in a discussion "while ignoring... more substantive criticism" (link here)

    A person claimed people had said something they clearly didn't say. McIntyre focused on getting that falsehood corrected. You had nothing to say about the falsehood, offering no criticism of it, instead faulting McIntyre for not letting it slide. Naturally, you stopped talking rather than defend that position. Willful avoidance, perhaps?

    For the record, this comment of mine is lame. That's on purpose. Comments like the one you posted are boring and useless. There's no reason to respond to every criticism of a person with remarks in the form of, "Yeah, what he said is dumb. I wonder what that means about his comments on X." I did a quick search of my comments section, and I found comments in the same form as the one you just posted on four different posts. What's the purpose?

    I see this all the time on blogs. People repeat the same things over and over on post after post. I don't get it. If you're going to do it, why not copy-paste the same comment? Why not link to a comment you're repeating? That'd save everyone some time. It's fine to bring up ideas expressed in the past, and it's fine to repeat the same points many times. But it should only be done if there is some new value. Incorporating new ideas, educating new people, etc.

    This is the primary reason I stop following blogs. If I know everything a person is going to say before they say it, what's the point? There's no value in having the same discussion over and over with nothing changing in it.

  4. Brandon -

    It is my impression that people who engage in poor faith in exchanges on a variety of topics where they're heavily invested are generally likely to engage in poor faith in other topics where they're heavily invested. Of course, it's entirely possibly that Steve engages in poor faith on a variety of topics where he's heavily invested and doesn't engage in poor faith on the topic of climate change. Seeing as how I can't evaluate the technical issues in play with the discussions of climate change, I can't be absolutely certain that he exchanges in poor faith when he's discussing technical issues. But, given that he exchanges in poor faith in a variety of other topics, and engages in poor faith in aspects of discussions of climate change that aren't particularly technical in nature, I think it's rather unlikely that his participation in technical discussions about climate change are free from such poor faith engagement.

    Of course, you're certainly entitled to believe that the character traits of his discussions about the technical aspects of climate change stand apart from the character traits of many of his discussions in other areas.

  5. Joshua, I think you have the effect backwards. Assume he is correct about climate science. How would it affect thinking in other matters?

  6. MikeN -

    That's an interesting point.

    If I assume that he engages in good faith in technical discussions on climate change, then I would expect to him engage in good faith in other technical and non-technical discussions (including those where he is heavily identified).

    I would know that it's possible that his behavior when discussing climate science would not be a good predictor for his behavior in other discussions - so I'm not sure i would "assume" it to be the case, but I would have such an expectation, logically. Assuming and expecting would be very close in that context, but I'm not sure I think they'd be the same.

    But what I see him actually do is engage in poor faith in other areas of discussion - such as in the manner that Brandon had posted about. Seeing that behavior, I expect (but don't assume - I leave it somewhat open to question) that he engages in poor faith in technical discussions about climate change even if I can't really evaluate the technical discussions on technical merits.

  7. You missed my point. He is correct when lots of experts are claiming he is incorrect. It would lead to feeling a level of certainty in other fields, even conspiratorial thinking.

  8. MikeN -

    If he thinks he's correct when experts think he isn't, it might well lead to conspiratorial thinking whether he's actually correct or not.

    In fact, over-confidence (a tendency to think you're correct when you aren't, and that as a non-expert you're better able to determine the truth than experts), it seems to me, tends to run in parallel with conspiratorial thinking.

    As an example, consider Ron who's posting over at Lucia's. He's sure about the deep state conspiracy, and the climate scientist conspiracy (I assume), the Syrian chemical weapons conspiracy, and the vaccines cause autism conspiracy (IIRC). That clustering may, very well, not be a coincidence.

    As an add-on, he also thinks he can figure out the causality between genetics, gender, and evolution despite no apparent expertise in Ev-Psych or other related fields (just-so storyifying about evolution to "explain" cultural development is, imo, one of the most commonly found manifestations of over-confidence).

    Just to be clear, I'm not endorsing the "all "skeptics" are conspiracy nuts" line of thinking. But it may be true that for certain individuals, the clustering of conspiracy beliefs isn't just coincidental.

  9. MIkeN:

    Joshua, I think you have the effect backwards. Assume he is correct about climate science. How would it affect thinking in other matters?

    His contributions to the global warming debate are the only reason I paid the slightest attention to what he's said about topics like Russia and Syria. I'd wager that's true for most people. He earned a lot of good will/respect, including from climate scientists. But on these new topics? Nobody outside a small echo chamber gives him the time of day. The sad reality is if a person came across McIntyre's postings of the last ~4 years, they'd probably believe all the lies people like Michael Mann and Stephan Lewandowsky told about him. I probably would.

    Joshua:

    I can't really evaluate the technical discussions on technical merits.

    For what it's worth, this seems like an excuse to me. I was a high school student when I came across the beginnings of the hockey stick debate. I was able to evaluate the debate. It wasn't hard. Technical knowledge isn't really needed. You're quick to talk about how McIntyre argues (supposedly in bad faith), but you say nothing about how people from RealClimate did. I'd challenge anyone to read the short eBook I wrote as an introduction to the hockey stick debate and tell me they found the topics in it too difficult to evaluate. They're not.

    Heck, 90% of the "battleground issues" consist of people acknowledging what McIntyre claimed was true but making excuses as to why it "doesn't matter." For instance, Michael Mann himself acknowledged his famous hockey stick was entirely dependent entirely upon a small subset of his data, all from one region in the North America. Given his hockey stick was supposed to be a reconstruction of temperatures for an entire hemisphere, that's a damning problem. And it's one that isn't in dispute.

    You can take just the points McIntyre and the people from RealClimate agree on, and result is a damning criticism of the people behind the hockey stick This includes things like Mann acknowledging he did statistical tests on his original hockey stick and got failing results in 1998-1999 even though in the 2001 IPCC FAR report, Mann as a lead author promoted his reconstruction with the boast it passed numerous statistical verification tests. That the IPCC report said that is undeniable. That Mann did the tests and got failing results is undeniable, with even Mann acknowledging it happened. The fact Mann failed to disclose those results is undeniable.

    It doesn't take any technical expertise to evaluate things like that. Yeah, Mann and his pals have offered excuses about why they wouldn't trust the results of those tests, and those claims can only be seen to be BS with technical knowledge. But who cares? Even if you think a failing test result isn't a problem, you can't fail to disclose it and tell the world your results past many verification tests. Yet that's exactly what Mann did, based solely on facts he himself acknowledges. How are things like this hard to evaluate?

  10. Apparently an earlier comment of mine did not go through. I don't feel like re-typing it, so I'll to a quick summary. Joshua, you said:

    Brandon -

    It is my impression that people who engage in poor faith in exchanges on a variety of topics where they're heavily invested are generally likely to engage in poor faith in other topics where they're heavily invested. Of course, it's entirely possibly that Steve engages in poor faith on a variety of topics where he's heavily invested and doesn't engage in poor faith on the topic of climate change. Seeing as how I can't evaluate the technical issues in play with the discussions of climate change, I can't be absolutely certain that he exchanges in poor faith when he's discussing technical issues. But, given that he exchanges in poor faith in a variety of other topics, and engages in poor faith in aspects of discussions of climate change that aren't particularly technical in nature, I think it's rather unlikely that his participation in technical discussions about climate change are free from such poor faith engagement.

    Of course, you're certainly entitled to believe that the character traits of his discussions about the technical aspects of climate change stand apart from the character traits of many of his discussions in other areas.

    This comment failed to respond to the point of my comment. Ironically, in doing so it demonstrated that very point. I criticized how you were posting a repetitious non-sequitur rather than discuss the topic at hand, Rather than address what I said, you responded by restating the same thing you had said before, meaning you responded to my criticism of your repetitious non-sequitur by posting a repetitious non-sequitur.

    It seems you're trying really hard not to address issues which are inconvenient to you, something I've noted many times, including the last two times we discussed this very same issue. In each case, your behavior was the same. You repeated yourself rather than deal with what I said, and when called out on it, you stopped responding. I'd be curious to see if you do the same here or if instead you actually try dealing with the issues I raise.

  11. Brandon -

    I criticized how you were posting a repetitious non-sequitur rather than discuss the topic at hand, R

    I find it interesting when you write these kinds of posts about Steve, since he is lauded in the "skeptic" community for the supposed high integrity of his input on climate change and the supposed veracity and quality of his technical analyses. When you write posts that display such a lack of integrity on his part, and a lack of veracity and quality of technical analysis on his part, I think it's interesting to note the connection.

    Part of the reason I do it is because I suspect that some "skeptics" who hold Steve's input in such high esteem read your blog and the comments. So I think it's worth taking the time to write a comment that just might (it's unlikely I'll admit) get them to think about the connections in play.

    So I get why you think it's not the topic at hand, but I see an interesting connection. Yes, that and many other of my comments on the blogosphere have a repetitious nature. The repetitious nature of posts in blogs, and comments in blogs, is a rather interesting phenomenon. To me, it suggests that there's more than meets the eye when people write that stuff. I'll point out that IMO, there is a repetitious aspect to the posts you write and the comments you make.

    Rather than address what I said, you responded by restating the same thing you had said before, meaning you responded to my criticism of your repetitious non-sequitur by posting a repetitious non-sequitur.

    I responded by reinforcing my point of interest. I'm not necessarily interested in your point of interest. And when I suspect that engaging on certain topics with you will not produce an exchange which is either interesting or meaningful to me, I often don't bother. There is certainly an aspect of poor faith when I don't respond to a point someone has made - but frankly, I find that with you in particular, responding to the points that you make is often a waste of time. I've commented to you in the past as to why I feel that way, and in fact, I feel that you haven't really responded (on point) to those points.

    Thus, I'm not interested in addressing the past difference we had about the example I provided of what I felt was Steve engaging in poor faith. You made your point clear that you didn't think that was a good example. I disagree. So be it. There's nothing that's going to change about that.

    It seems you're trying really hard not to address issues which are inconvenient to you,

    Inconvenient? I don't think so. I think it's that I'm not interested in exchanges, in particular with you, on issues which I don't find interesting or where I don't think that anything of value will come out of the exchange (I'm making an exception right now, because I doubt that anything I'm saying in this comment will result in any useful exchange....but since you repeated your point...)

    For what it's worth, this seems like an excuse to me.

    I just want to note your syntax there. I appreciate that you use the sociopragmatics of FWIW, and "seems like....to me." The use of such sociopragmatic syntax relates to one of the issues I've raised with you, and it's the kind of syntax that makes me more inclined to respond.

    I was a high school student when I came across the beginnings of the hockey stick debate.

    I think you are probably underestimating the skills and abilities you had in high school to understand some of the technical issues that Steve writes about, in comparison to my skills an abilities to do so.

    It wasn't hard.

    For you. See, that's the kind of syntax that I think is problematic. When someone says "That's easy," or "That's simple," without, apparently, taking into acount the subjectivity of such a statement, it can make further discussion on the issue more difficult. I do, sometimes, try to parse technical arguments related to climate change, to see if I can strain out the logical flow despite not being able to understand the details - so as to try to get a window into the "faith" or logical integrity of a technical analysis.

    Technical knowledge isn't really needed. You're quick to talk about how McIntyre argues (supposedly in bad faith), but you say nothing about how people from RealClimate did.

    I comment on the "faith" of arguments made by "realists" quite frequently in blog comments. It's one of the repetitious aspects of my blog comments that people complain about.

    I'd challenge anyone to read the short eBook I wrote as an introduction to the hockey stick debate and tell me they found the topics in it too difficult to evaluate. They're not.

    Perhaps, I haven't read it.

    Heck, 90% of the "battleground issues" consist of people acknowledging what McIntyre claimed was true but making excuses as to why it "doesn't matter." For instance, Michael Mann himself acknowledged his famous hockey stick was entirely dependent entirely upon a small subset of his data, all from one region in the North America. Given his hockey stick was supposed to be a reconstruction of temperatures for an entire hemisphere, that's a damning problem. And it's one that isn't in dispute.

    FWIW, I don't think that Mann is likely to engage in good faith w/r/t technical arguments either, because I have seem engage in a manner that I think is in poor faith, more generally, on topics related to the impact of climate change and the development of policies to address it. But w/r/t the technical aspects, given that I can't evaluate them myself, I'm not going to just accept any one person's characterization of his technical arguments. I might read one person's take, and take their view into account, along with considering my impression of the degree to which that person generally engages in good faith in the more general discussion framework.

    How are things like this hard to evaluate?

    They're not hard to evaluate if I take your characterization of them at face value. I'm not really equipped to evaluate the quality of your characterization. I'm quite sure I could find many technically-equipped people who would disagree with your evaluation. I'm not just going to take their word for it either. Instead, what I try to do, is to read competing views on such things, and then reverse engineer from the "faith" aspect of their engagement in the more general frame, to evaluate probabilities as to who seems more trustworthy. I also try to factor in the likely biasing influence of my own ideological preferences. It's a far from perfect process, especially that last part. In fact, I take seriously the theoretical material I've read which suggest that no one can really effectively control for their identity-oriented biases. But I think I can do it, to some extent, so I do my best.

    In that regard, I have found that sometimes you do things which lead me to be less inclined to trust your technical analyses, and sometimes you do things which lead me to be more inclined to do so. The biggest issue, for me w/r/t my level of trust in your technical analysis, has to do with the consistency with which you explicitly acknowledge the line between objective fact and your opinions.

  12. Joshua:

    I responded by reinforcing my point of interest. I'm not necessarily interested in your point of interest. And when I suspect that engaging on certain topics with you will not produce an exchange which is either interesting or meaningful to me, I often don't bother. There is certainly an aspect of poor faith when I don't respond to a point someone has made - but frankly, I find that with you in particular, responding to the points that you make is often a waste of time. I've commented to you in the past as to why I feel that way, and in fact, I feel that you haven't really responded (on point) to those points.

    In other words, you want to have your say without having to deal with any contrary views. The crucial difference between you and me is even if you think responding to me is a waste of time, I always do my best to respond to the issues you raise. That includes criticisms of me. You don't do the same. You often choose not to respond to things I say.

    Here you claim you feel I haven't responded (on point) to things you say, yet instead of pursue the topics you feel you haven't gotten a topical response, you choose to drop them. I do not. When I feel a person has failed to respond topically to an issue, I bring up that failure so the issue can be dealt with squarely. That's because my purpose in having discussions is to try to resolve points of disagreement. Based on your comments, I supsect your purpose is different. For instance, you say:

    Thus, I'm not interested in addressing the past difference we had about the example I provided of what I felt was Steve engaging in poor faith. You made your point clear that you didn't think that was a good example. I disagree. So be it. There's nothing that's going to change about that.

    Yet if you had any interest in resolving points of disagreement, you'd have at least attempted to explain why you felt your example was a valid one when confronted with a cogent argument it was not. That's not what you did. You chose to ignore the response you received and effectively said, "I disagree, and it's a waste of time to discuss this further."

    I just want to note your syntax there. I appreciate that you use the sociopragmatics of FWIW, and "seems like....to me." The use of such sociopragmatic syntax relates to one of the issues I've raised with you, and it's the kind of syntax that makes me more inclined to respond.

    And yet, this is a perfect example of the very issue at hand. You've often criticized me for stating things as fact while you claim they are merely matters of opinion, yet every time I confront you on such accusations, you leave the discussions on the pretense of them not being interesting. In other words, you are quick to make accusations while refusing to offer support for them.

    I think you are probably underestimating the skills and abilities you had in high school to understand some of the technical issues that Steve writes about, in comparison to my skills an abilities to do so.

    Given I've had over a hundred responses to my eBook from people of different walks of life, and not a single one of them has expressed the supposed incompetence you express, I doubt that. We're talking about issues so easy to grasp you could do so in under an hour if you read my eBook, but as you say:

    Perhaps, I haven't read it.
    ...
    They're not hard to evaluate if I take your characterization of them at face value. I'm not really equipped to evaluate the quality of your characterization.

    You refuse to read or deal with the simple arguments I offer then say you won't take my statements at face value. That is a perfect demonstration of the bad faith I've attributed to you on this page. You could spend an hour reading the case I've made, a case which is predicated primarily upon Michael Mann's own words, but you choose not to. You then choose not to believe my statements because you don't take my word at face value. In other words, you willfully avoid issues which would contradict your preconceived beliefs.

    You are quick to suggest people engage in confirmation bias. Perhaps there is an argument your focus on that issue is a matter of projection.

    The biggest issue, for me w/r/t my level of trust in your technical analysis, has to do with the consistency with which you explicitly acknowledge the line between objective fact and your opinions.

    I... have to assume you didn't mean what you wrote here. According to you, the biggest issue you have with trusting my technical analysis is me explicitly acknowledging the line between my opinions and objective fact. I think I do a damn good job of such (and think you falsely claim I do not). I suspect you meant to say something like "don't acknowledge."

  13. As an aside because I've been trying to write a post about a relevant topic (but can't figure out how to write it correctly), I feel I should point out I've written entire essays on how it is literally impossible to know anything. I have a 2,500 word essay on a hard drive somewhere discussing how "facts" are really just theorems offered with certain axioms being accepted as common ground. I have spent a great deal of time discussing the nature of facts and opinions how they differ and how one can distinguish the two.

    Joshua has often accused me of conflating facts and opinions, but when challenged on such accusations, he has always balked at having any substantial discussion of his claims. If anyone doubts this, there is a simple proof. Ask Joshua to provide any example where I've conflated my opinions with facts. I'd wager he will fail. After all, I've done so numerous times. He has never once lived up to the challenge.

  14. Brandon -

    I always find it interesting when I direct a comment at an individual on a blog, and in response, they direct a comment to a supposed "audience."

    Here's a clue for you to find examples. Look for where you've be exchanging opinions with someone, and they express an opinion and you respond with "That makes no sense" or something similar. Just because you understand something in theory doesn't mean that you act consistently with that understanding in interaction with people.

  15. Brandon -

    Yet if you had any interest in resolving points of disagreement, you'd have at least attempted to explain why you felt your example was a valid one when confronted with a cogent argument it was not.

    If after i have given an opinion to someone, they tell me I haven't explained my opinion, then I see two basic ways forward. One would be if I thought maybe I hadn't be clear. In that case, I would try to explain again. Another would be if my interlocutor seemed to be interested in demonstrating why my opinion was wrong. In other words, why my opinion didn't make sense. In that case, further explanation would likely be useless.

    Sometimes I go through s process with particular people where, after multiple explanations, I come to feel that offering further explanations is pointless, because they're don't seem to pursue an exchange of views. After repeated such experiences, I'm less inclined to offer that person explanations in the future.

    I spend quite a bit of time online trying to resolve differences in points of view with people who seem open to discussing them as differences in points of view. I like doing that, probably too a fault.

    When I think that an interlocutor doesn't seem interested in engaging in those discussions in a frame of differences in opinions, but instead seems to be engaging from a frame of establishing the superiority of their opinion, I can start to lose interest. When that person seems particularly strong in their approach from that angle, I lose interest more quickly - because further engagement often just seems futile.

    I'm not suggesting immunity in that regard myself. At some level, I often engage as a form of trying affirm the sorority of my own view. But I seek a kind of balance. I enjoy perspective-sharing, and like to push myself towards perspective-taking. If I'm engaging with someone who doesn't seem to me to have the same goal, it's hard for me to maintain that balance. It's not their fault. If I were more enlightened, I could maintain that balance regardless. Maybe I'll get there some day, but I haven't yet.

  16. Joshua, I remember telling Kaufmann that his correction made it difficult to point out upside-down Mann as Kaufmann had provided an Excel sheet where it was easy to prove the upside-down error to anyone.

  17. Kaufmann provided all his data in Excel format. It was easy to point someone to download this spreadsheet, and compare to the original paper, and you can see the climate scientists are using data upside down.
    Kaufmann later made a correction to his paper that removed the upside-down usage(I broke the news of the corrigendum at ClimateAudit), and now it is a more complicated process to get people to see this error that is still in Mann's papers.

  18. What should I conclude from that?

    My understanding is that sophisticated statisticians have signed in on both sides of the broad argument about the level and significance of problems with Mann's methodology.

    What should I, as someone who knows diddly squat about statistics, conclude from that?

    Should I just take Steve's word for it?

    Given that I have seen him engage in poor faith arguments, and promotes the kind of poor faith arguments that Brandon on has posted about, that doesn't seem like a particularly good idea to me.

    I don't know that Steve's arguments about climate science are made in poor faith, but I have a reason to not trust his analysis implicitly (just as I have reason to not trust Mann's arguments implicitly).

  19. Joshua, you do an excellent job demonstrating why your approach to discussions is the problem in our exchanges when you say:

    If after i have given an opinion to someone, they tell me I haven't explained my opinion...

    I never claimed you hadn't explained your opinion. I said you offered your opinion, I explained why it was wrong, and at that point you refused to discuss the matter any further. On multiple occasions.

    You offered an explanation. I've never disputed that. What I've said is your explanation was clearly wrong, a point which is easy to demonstrate with the slightest examination of what you said about the example you offered, an examination you've adamantly refused to engage in.

    If you engaged people in good faith, genuinely attempting to address the issues they raise in a full and open manner, this sort of thing wouldn't happen. There is no reason months after someone says something there should be any disagreement about what it is they said. That you can't accurately describe what people say, in conversations you left abruptly, is on you. It's nobody else's fault.

  20. Joshua:

    I always find it interesting when I direct a comment at an individual on a blog, and in response, they direct a comment to a supposed "audience."

    I'm not sure why you find it interesting. It's a sign I wanted to address something you said without directing my response to you because I felt it'd be wasted on you. I'm sure you've encountered people who felt similarly plenty of times.

    Here's a clue for you to find examples.

    Yeah, no. You're bad enough at having productive exchanges when you directly address what people say. Let's not start offering one another "clues" at what we mean.

    My understanding is that sophisticated statisticians have signed in on both sides of the broad argument about the level and significance of problems with Mann's methodology.

    What should I, as someone who knows diddly squat about statistics, conclude from that?

    Probably that you should at least attempt to learn what the conflicting views in question are. If you had done that, you'd never advance the summary you've advanced above. If you don't know what Steve McIntyre's commentary has hel, even on a conceptual level, after commenting about him for years, that's just pathetic.

    It would take you, at most, an hour to read the eBook I wrote as an introduction to the hockey stick debate. It's free, readily accessible and easy to read. Reading it would give you a broad understanding of what McIntyre's arguments have been about. If you can't be bothered to spend a tiny amount of time reading something like that while spending much more time making derisive remarks about McIntyre, I think that's all anyone needs to know.

    When you discuss things with people in good faith, dealing with what they say directly, you are capable of having productive discussions. Unfortunately, you seem to spend much more time willfully avoiding things.

  21. >What should I, as someone who knows diddly squat about statistics, conclude from that?

    That's why upside-down Mann is so helpful. It is more easy to understand than the other stats. Kaufmann's spreadsheet made it even easier.
    The refusal of Mann to issue a correction takes away his credibility, while Kaufmann maintains credibility. Indeed, the whole Arctic warming paper has a much weaker counterargument from Steve McIntyre, with just some accusations of non-robustness after they fixed this error and one pointed out by McCullough.

    Dismissal of Steve's argument based on claims made elsewhere is reasonable, when you can't evaluate things directly. However, evaluation of the argument is pretty easy, as even AMac was able to do. The warmers who took a close look inevitably started by believing Mann's lie in response to Steve about how regression algorithms are blind to the sign of the indicator, then with pushback they either drop the subject(Arthur Smith) or start obfuscating or referring to the traditional talking point of 'it doesn't matter, there's lots of evidence'( Martin Vermeer). Ari Jokimaki I felt treated things reasonably from the 'warmer' side.
    https://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/tiljander/

  22. Brandon -

    I never claimed you hadn't explained your opinion.

    From earlier...

    Yet if you had any interest in resolving points of disagreement, you'd have at least attempted to explain why you felt your example was a valid one when confronted with a cogent argument it was not.

    Notice the poor faith extended by "if you had any interest in..." An assumption of a lack of interest on my part - something in fact you don't really have any idea about. Arguing from incredulity is a weak stance. Perhaps there are reasons other than a lack of interest which explains why I didn't engage with you further on that topic.

    I gave an example that I thought was a valid one. My opinion hasn't changed. You explained, in a way that is very typical of you, why it wasn't valid (not why you didn't think it was a good example). IMO (based on past experience), there's not really any point in further discussion when I reach that kind of stage with you in conversation - so I don't bother.

    I can have worthwhile exchanges with people on line where we differ on things such as whether an example I've given of a phenomenon holds up.. Sometimes I will try with people to have an exchange with people in situations like that even when I think there's evidence that it won't prove worthwhile. But at a certain point, with certain people, I just accept that it's pointless (at least some or most of the time).

    Now it is certainly possible that kind of impasse is entirely on me. I wouldn't rule it out. But either way, when you and I reach that kind of impasse, it doesn't resolve in a meaningful way, from my perspective, and I see no way that is likely to change.

    And with that, as we have pretty much reached one of those stages, I'll catch you on another thread.

  23. MikeN -

    That's why upside-down Mann is so helpful. It is more easy to understand than the other stats. Kaufmann's spreadsheet made it even easier.

    To make that evaluation, I would need to have a better understanding of the statistical issues at hand, and the competing explanations about the level and significance of any problems.

    The refusal of Mann to issue a correction takes away his credibility,

    I would imagine that there are statistically sophisticated people who disagree with that statement. The conclusion you offer there rests either on an ability to interpret the statistical arguments sufficient to make a judgement, an acceptance of someone's word for it, or a wish simply to confirm a bias.

    That doesn't mean that I won't read you arguments about it. It just means that I don't accept the conclusions you offer at face value (just as I don't reject them at face value).

    Dismissal of Steve's argument based on claims made elsewhere is reasonable, when you can't evaluate things directly. However, evaluation of the argument is pretty easy, as even AMac was able to do.

    Easy for whom? You seem to be falling into the same trap as Brandon does. I wouldn't know where to begin to evaluate the competing explanations for why Mann's methodology were or weren't valid. What seems "easy" on the surface inevitably leads into a much deeper set of questions that require very high levels of knowledge and experience to evaluate. Show me a discussion between people with competing views on the validity of Mann's statistical approach that is carried out at simple level. I''ll be happy to read it and report back.

    The warmers who took a close look inevitably started by believing Mann's lie in response to Steve about how regression algorithms are blind to the sign of the indicator, then with pushback they either drop the subject(Arthur Smith) or start obfuscating or referring to the traditional talking point of 'it doesn't matter, there's lots of evidence'( Martin Vermeer). Ari Jokimaki I felt treated things reasonably from the 'warmer' side.

    That looks to me like an bias in search of a confirmation. There is no way, however, to confirm whether my perspective on that is true - as I would need to evaluate your claims on their technical merit.

    I'm big lately on perspective-taking on these kinds of issues, as a way to think about framing them. It seems to me that statement I just quoted from you lacks perspective taking. Would the "realists" of which you speak agree that they are simply dropping the subject or obfuscating, or simply referencing a talking point? I doubt it. They would present an argument in a frame very similar to the frame you presented (i.e., "skeptics" are hiding behind irrelevancies to support their agenda, "skeptics" are distorting Mann's methodology, etc.). And so I have no way to effectively make an evaluation.

    I've read these kinds of exchanges hundreds of times - on any variety of topics. For example, the arguments about the methodology of Cook et al. are quite similar. It's quite remarkable how many electrons have been transmitted where people argue what is largely an irrelevancy (i.e, even Richard Tol says there is not doubt that the vast majority of papers published on the issue support the conclusion that ACO2 is responsible for the vast majority of anomalous recent warming.)

    The patterns repeat over and over. It leads nowhere, IMO, except more of the same.

    If people find that interesting, that's fine with me. I have no ability to evaluate the technical arguments being made about Cook et al.'s methodology, so I just conclude that I don't know what the answer is and try to move on from that perspective. I.e., given I can't evaluate the methodological arguments, then I just move on to what are the larger-scale implications of my inability to evaluate those arguments to formulating an opinion as to whether we should be implementing policies to address anthorpogenic climate change?

  24. Joshua:

    Bingo!

    You're being a prick!

    From earlier...

    You offered an explanation. I confronted you on it, explaining why the explanation was untrue. You disappeared. Later, I noted how when confronted with a cogent argument as to why your explanation was untrue, you responded by portraying me as having said you "haven't explained [your[ opinion..."

    Basic reading comprehension. Saying you refuse to address challenges to your explanation is not saying you refused to provide an explanation.

    I gave an example that I thought was a valid one. My opinion hasn't changed. You explained, in a way that is very typical of you, why it wasn't valid (not why you didn't think it was a good example). IMO (based on past experience), there's not really any point in further discussion when I reach that kind of stage with you in conversation - so I don't bother.

    In other words, when someone says you're wrong and offers a clear and simple argument to support their assertion, you feel free to leave the discussion.

    Now it is certainly possible that kind of impasse is entirely on me. I wouldn't rule it out. But either way, when you and I reach that kind of impasse, it doesn't resolve in a meaningful way, from my perspective, and I see no way that is likely to change.

    Given you consistently refuse to respond to simple points, often disappearing without even notifying anyone of your refusal, I'm confident in saying it is entirely on you. The simple reality is you gave an example of McIntyre supposedly acting in bad faith where Nick Stokes made a false claim about what had been said, and McIntyre refused to change the subject without first correcting that falsehood.

    You claimed ignoring Stokes's (supposedly) more central points in order to set the record straight as to what had and had not actually been said was dishonest. It's noteworthy you make false claims here and, when challenged, refuse to correct them, instead preferring to change the subject or disappear. In effect, you are defending making false claims and refusing to correct them.

    And with that, as we have pretty much reached one of those stages, I'll catch you on another thread.

    I would prefer that not happen. I am sure it will, but I wish it wouldn't.

  25. Joshua says:

    I would imagine that there are statistically sophisticated people who disagree with that statement. The conclusion you offer there rests either on an ability to interpret the statistical arguments sufficient to make a judgement, an acceptance of someone's word for it, or a wish simply to confirm a bias.

    In reality, not a single statistically sophisticated person would say Michael Mann's credibility is not diminished by him refusing to acknowledge the Tiljander proxies were misused (being used upside down, amongst other things). I can state this with certainty as nobody who is statistically sophisticated has ever said such a thing, or defended Michael Mann's actions on this issue in any way.

    Plenty of people have defended Mann on this issue, but none have been statistically sophisticated. Mann and his co-authors didn't even have meaningful statistical knowledge. Put bluntly, they didn't know what they were doing.

    Easy for whom? You seem to be falling into the same trap as Brandon does. I wouldn't know where to begin to evaluate the competing explanations for why Mann's methodology were or weren't valid.

    Notice how Joshua says things like this without addressing the fact I have, repeatedly, directed him to material I've written for this exact sort of purpose? I went out of my way to write an easy to digest introduction to issues which focused largely on showing what points are not in dispute. I wrote one small eBook to cover the early issues like Mann's original hockey stick, and I wrote a second to cover the issues with arose in later work like the Tiljander proxies. I repeatedly cited Mann's own words, the words of people who support him (e.g. Gavin Schmidt) and the underlying literature Mann used as sources for his data. And I provided citations for every single quotation so they could be checked for veracity and context.

    The fact Joshua refuses to look at things like what I've written, even out of idle curiosity, speaks volumes. The same thing can be found with tons of other people. And it's true on both sides of the "debate." Try getting a Skeptic to read anything showing how full of BS Richard Tol is, and you'll get much the same reaction. People simply refuse to look at things which run contrary to their views, and then they have the audacity to use their willful ignorance as part of an argument to justify their views.

    And it's not just in global warming where you'll see this. There are tons of people who genuinely believe things like the Mueller Report exonerated Donald Trump. Steve McIntyre adamantly refuses to acknowledge Russia invaded Crimea. It doesn't matter how right you are. It doesn't matter how truthful or accurate discussions of topics are. It doesn't matter how clear and precise any explanation is. People will simply refuse to look at it because they don't want to deal with it.

    Joshua has often talked about how confirmation bias affects so many people. The reality is he's one of the biggest culprits of it you'll ever find.

  26. MikeN -

    I think the concept of "epistemic learned helplessness" is a useful concept here. Here's a post about that topic that is somewhat relevant:

    You could consider this a form of epistemic learned helplessness, where I know any attempt to evaluate the arguments is just going to be a bad idea so I don’t even try. If you have a good argument that the Early Bronze Age worked completely differently from the way mainstream historians believe, I just don’t want to hear about it. If you insist on telling me anyway, I will nod, say that your argument makes complete sense, and then totally refuse to change my mind or admit even the slightest possibility that you might be right.

    (This is the correct Bayesian action: if I know that a false argument sounds just as convincing as a true argument, argument convincingness provides no evidence either way. I should ignore it and stick with my prior.)

    In the Mann/Steve case, my prior being that I can't evaluate the statistics (and so none of the arguments on either side will get me to change my prior), or in the case of Cook et al., the vast majority of published literature supports the conclusion that ACO2 emissions explain recent anomalous warming - a prior which in itself is of limited value, but it has some value.

    https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/06/03/repost-epistemic-learned-helplessness/

    Edit - I should note that in the Mann/Steve case, my prior is that I can't evaluate the statistical evidence (not, as one might think, that Mann's methodology was valid).

  27. Brandon -

    I did skim this far:

    Notice how Joshua says things like this without addressing the fact I have, repeatedly, directed him to material I've written for this exact sort of purpose?

    Please read what I wrote again. "For this exact sort of reason?" What I said was that I would be interested in reading simple-level discussion from people who disagree. is that the exact sort of purpose you had when you wrote your e-book? Lol. I'm not interest in reading your explanation for why agreeing with your opinion should be a simple thing to do.

  28. Oy, I missed this:

    I confronted you on it, explaining why the explanation was untrue.

    Bingo again. Ok, I'm really done this time.

    Catch you on another thread, Brandon.

  29. MikeN -

    With reference to where this excursion started [Brandon, with reference to his high school years]:

    I was able to evaluate the debate. It wasn't hard.

    FWIW, I am not talking here about evaluating a single component of the debate (the existence of a spreadsheet with certain data). I doubt I'd be able to do that with any confidence, but I really don't care about any particular aspects of the debate. Neither do I care in particular about Mann's credibility, except to the extent that as I assess his credibility I wouldn't take what he says at face value. I have seem him exhibit poor faith behaviors just as I have seen Steve exhibit poor faith behaviors. I find it problematic that some people take Mann's arguments at face value just as I find it problematic that some people take Steve's arguments at face value.

    Thus, neither do I care about the relevance of the "hockey stick" methodology to Mann's credibility. I couldn't make that assessment, so it wouldn't change my "priors" - based on his exhibition of poor faith arguments.

    Most importantly, I am not able to judge the relevance of any particular technical aspect of the debate to the overall debate. (IOW, the relevance of a specific aspect of Mann's methodology to support his conclusions, or the relevance of his "hockey stick" paper to the effect of emitting ACO2 into the atmosphere) But I'll note this comment:

    I'm actually finding it difficult to criticise MMH too strongly - it's not that they are correct, on the contrary it is clear that their analysis is wrong-headed and fundamentally irrelevant -

    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2010/08/once-more-into-breach.html

    Now I suppose you might just say that Annon is a "warmer" who wants to dismiss the relevance of questions about Mann's methodology. OK, You're certainly entitled. But I'm not going to take your word for it that his determination that Mann's wrong-headed analysis is irrelevant is just a reflexive, tribal reaction. Nor will I dismiss the possibility that it is so, either. In my estimation, largely based on the fact that I haven't seen Annon make what I consider to be poor faith comments, what he says functions as a pretty reasonable touchstone. As such, I wouldn't take his opinion as fact with some kind of blind faith, but I would use it as a basis for a kind of "epistemic learned helplessness."

  30. MikeN -

    Going back a bit further on this thread, here is where first started with my comments about evaluating technical arguments.

    Seeing as how I can't evaluate the technical issues in play with the discussions of climate change, I can't be absolutely certain that he exchanges in poor faith when he's discussing technical issues. But, given that he exchanges in poor faith in a variety of other topics, and engages in poor faith in aspects of discussions of climate change that aren't particularly technical in nature, I think it's rather unlikely that his participation in technical discussions about climate change are free from such poor faith engagement.

    Unfortunately, I became sidetracked when I was told that is likely an "excuse" (for something,...I'm actually not sure what... but it matters not).

    But re-focusing, I don't think that the existence of a spreadsheet, or lack thereof, has much bearing on that statement. Do you?

  31. Okay, Joshua, this is an administrative thing so please don't feel you can ignore it like you feel you can ignore so many other things. There is never, and I mean never, a situation in which you are to post five comments in less than 80 minutes on a single post on this site. Doing so in the future will be considered spammng. The truth of this evaluation is readily demonstrated by how easily you could have grouped multiple comments together. Not only is it easy to take a moment to collect your thoughts before hitting Submit, this site offers an Edit feature which can be used to append thoughts to comments after they are submitted.

    I can't believe I have to say this, but please, in the future, do not post so many comments in such a small amount of time when you could express the same thoughts in fewer. There is no reason for doing so.

  32. So Joshua has chosen to stop responding to me, apparently, but I do want to address something he said. Or more specifically, something he quoted. Joshua quoted, favorably, from this article suggesting it reflects a view he finds useful. I'll quote a bit more than he did:

    (This is the correct Bayesian action: if I know that a false argument sounds just as convincing as a true argument, argument convincingness provides no evidence either way. I should ignore it and stick with my prior.) I consider myself lucky in that my epistemic learned helplessness is circumscribed; there are still cases where I’ll trust the evidence of my own reason. In fact, I trust it in most cases other than infamously deceptive arguments in fields I know little about. But I think the average uneducated person doesn’t and shouldn’t. Anyone anywhere – politicians, scammy businessmen, smooth-talking romantic partners – would be able to argue them into anything. And so they take the obvious and correct defensive maneuver – they will never let anyone convince them of any belief that sounds “weird”.

    This is, quite possibly, the most lazy and intellectually dishonest viewpoint I have ever seen expressed. This is so bad I feel a desire to write a lengthy essay explaining how dishonest and self-serving it is. This belief can, quite literally, be used to justify believing anything anyone wants in the face of any amount of evidence. Given Joshua favorably cites this article, it is no surprise he says things like:

    In the Mann/Steve case, my prior being that I can't evaluate the statistics (and so none of the arguments on either side will get me to change my prior), or in the case of Cook et al., the vast majority of published literature supports the conclusion that ACO2 emissions explain recent anomalous warming - a prior which in itself is of limited value, but it has some value.

    When that's not even what Cook et al's results said. There is integrity in saying, "I can't tell what is true so I won't reach a conclusion." There is no integrity in saying, "I can't tell what is true so I will assume what I choose to believe is true no matter what."

  33. Joshua, Annan I feel speaks honestly. His attempt at betting with Lindzen over global warming was illuminating.
    Somewhere on that blog he says that a climate scientist told him once he likes to exaggerate warming at these sort of conferences to push the public to action. I'm not sure Mann or McIntyre are the target of that comment. It is talking about model ensembles, and Mann is MBH, not MMH.

    When I speak of upside-down Mann, keep in mind that this is not the primary stats methodology of Mann. It is just an easier one, that someone as unsophisticated as Amac was able to sort through with little difficulty. I don't agree with Brandon's claim above that no one who is statistically sophisticated has ever defended Mann.

  34. MikeN:

    I don't agree with Brandon's claim above that no one who is statistically sophisticated has ever defended Mann.

    I'm not sure who you'd think is statistically sophisticated and has defended Michael Mann's methodologies, but for what it's worth, I was speaking specifically on the Tiljander issue. Very few scientists have defended Mann on the Tiljander issue, and as far as I know, nobody with any real statistical prowess has. Certainly people like Gavin Schmidt, a close friend and frequent support of Mann, haven't defended his usage of Tiljander. (Well, Schmidt did but then later backtracked his defense after realizing it was wrong.)

    That said, you say:

    Joshua, Annan I feel speaks honestly. His attempt at betting with Lindzen over global warming was illuminating.
    Somewhere on that blog he says that a climate scientist told him once he likes to exaggerate warming at these sort of conferences to push the public to action. I'm not sure Mann or McIntyre are the target of that comment. It is talking about model ensembles, and Mann is MBH, not MMH.

    MMH in this case is not Michael Mann, Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes as in MBH. but rather Ross McKitrick, Steve McIntyre and Chad Herman. Annan's commentary on MMH's paper is... well, I'm not going to go into that. The truth is the MMH paper was a minor paper even people following McIntyre's blog are unlikely to be aware of. In the grand scheme of things, the commentary in it makes up less than .1% of what McIntyre argued on his blog, and for most readers of his blog, it was utterly irrelevant.

    What's important for this thread is not who is right or wrong about this particular issue (though if people were interested, I'd love to talk about that as I think this particular issue got way less attention than it deserved). What's important is Joshua cited Annan's commentary on this issue saying:

    Now I suppose you might just say that Annon is a "warmer" who wants to dismiss the relevance of questions about Mann's methodology. OK, You're certainly entitled. But I'm not going to take your word for it that his determination that Mann's wrong-headed analysis is irrelevant is just a reflexive, tribal reaction. Nor will I dismiss the possibility that it is so, either. In my estimation, largely based on the fact that I haven't seen Annon make what I consider to be poor faith comments, what he says functions as a pretty reasonable touchstone. As such, I wouldn't take his opinion as fact with some kind of blind faith, but I would use it as a basis for a kind of "epistemic learned helplessness."

    Joshua presented Annan's commentary as though it was discussing something from Michael Mann. It wasn't. It was discussing something Steve McIntyre worked on, and in that regard might have some relevance to the current discussion, but Joshua couldn't even figure out whose work was being talked about. And while Annan's commentary was about work McIntyre helped with, it was n't work which had to do with Michael Mann publications as Joshua portrayed.

    The fact Joshua cites obscure posts about issues few people would even remember (I'm maybe one of ten who would in any detail) as though they were about something entirely different than what they were actually about is bizarre. I struggle to imagine how Joshua even managed to come up with that link, much less how he concluded it was discussing the topic he portrays it as discussing.

    Now I want to write a post about the topic Annan refers to. I think it's pretty interesting, on a technical level, and I don't remember it receiving much attention at all. I'm not sure McIntyre even wrote a post about the paper Annan criticized. Aside from people like me, who went through these issues for historical documentation purposes, I'm not sure anyone remembers this topic.

    Fun fact, I found notes I took on this very topic nearly a decade ago. This topic came up back when I was still new to commenting on climate blogs. I used to take lots of notes so I could check and verify things, never feeling comfortable advancing ideas of my own as everyone else seemed more knowledgeable. This has been a strange way for me to take a trip down memory lane.

  35. MIkeN -

    I'm not sure Mann or McIntyre are the target of that comment. It is talking about model ensembles, and Mann is MBH, not MMH.

    Arrgh. Thanks. My bad. I was looking to see if Annan posted anything about the level or significance of problems with Mann's statistical work (because as I said, I can use Annon as a kind of touchstone since I haven't seen him engage in poor faith unlike many other participants in the discussion), and yes, sloppily confused MMH for MBH. (I don't know why, but that link was the only one that came up [outside of this one which didn’t seem very relevant - https://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2010/02/mann-cleared-almost.html?m=1
    ] when i did a "site" search for comments from him about Mann's work, helping to contribute to my confusion.)

  36. >Seeing as how I can't evaluate the technical issues in play with the discussions of climate change,

    You say that a spreadsheet makes no difference, but I disagree, and this was really my whole point, not getting you to evaluate things. The Excel sheet made it easy to evaluate the claim of upside-down Mann. Kaufmann's correction took this easy method away. There was one climate blogger, had no science knowledge and only repeated talking points and saying person X or org Y is credible and you should believe them over the deniers(this group included Al Gore). As an example, the blogger once asked for citation that the WMO chart at issue in 'hide the decline' https://www.justfacts.com/images/globalwarming/wmo.png did not have separate lines for instrumental temperature, as was listed in some talking points. This blogger required a peer reviewed source for the claim, and was unable to evaluate this by looking at the chart.

    Well this idiotic blogger ended up able to look at the Excel sheet(no ducking behind peer-review here) and follow my argument of how things were used upside-down, even after I first foolishly picked a year at random and ended up using the big outlier in the data that said the exact opposite of surrounding decades. The upshot of this episode was the blogger after seeing my point suggested I talk to the author. At the time I was in full conspiracy mode and assumed everyone would act like Mann. Rather than say this, I thought I'd contact the author first to prove my point. This was how I ended up breaking new of the upcoming corrigendum, getting some attacks in the process when others didn't believe me.

    Shocking is this blogger became a working climate scientist building models.

  37. MikeN -

    You say that a spreadsheet makes no difference, but I disagree, and this was really my whole point,

    Just to make sure you understand. It isn't that I think a spreadsheet makes no difference about anything, but that it makes no real difference to my ability to evaluate (1) the importance of a specific methodogical flaw (assuming there was one) to the larger value of MBH, or of MBH to the full body of Mann's work, or Mann's credibility, or (2) the relevance of MBH, or Mann's body of work, to the larger statistical disagreements about the implications of anthropogenic emissions to the risks posed by climate change.

    A spreadsheet makes no difference w/r/t my ability to evaluate Steve's input either. If I had sophisticated statistical skills, I might be able to evaluate the veracity, and good or bad faith, of his statistical arguments. There are people with strong statistical skills who think his contributions to the discussion are made in good faith. There are those who think they are made in bad faith. I can't tell from any kind of direct evaluation of his statistical arguments. I can try to tell from parsing the superficial logic of his statistical arguments, but that is quite difficult. However, when I see him making what I consider to be poor faith arguments in areas that aren't scientifically complicated (Brandon linked above to a possible example I offered back in the day of one such situation I found rather by happenstance, along with a brief explanation for why I felt that way, and he has provided a series of other examples on his own blog comments), then I have additional information that I can use to get a sense of whether it's likely that his technical arguments are made in good or bad faith.

    The same mechanism works for me for Mann. Not being able to evaluate his technical arguments (or how significant a putative error on his part might be to his credibility or his body of work or quality of analysis), I can look to see whether he generally argues with people who disagree in good or poor faith.

    It's an imperfect system, buts it's the kind of system people use alll the time in these kinds of situations. That's what I was getting at with that link to the Slatestarcodex blog - from a blogger I generally respect as being very thorough on his analyses.

    When I see Mann engaging in what I consider to be poor faith in non-technical contexts , it lowers the level of confidence that I have that he engages in good faith in his technical arguments.

    Now it's possible that Mann, or Steve, have an entirely different character of argumentation when they're arguing about technical arguments that they identify with strongly as they do when arguing about non-technical frames that they identify with strongly. So my system has a built in flaw. But I consider the likelihood of that happening to be rather small.

  38. MikeN -

    BTW - I did also stumble across this last night when I was looking around to see what Annan might have to say about Mann/Tijlander.

    https://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2009/11/04/tiljander-again

    So I'd say he's very likely statistically sophisticated - but his input isn't useful for me at all, the reason being that I've seen make a series of (IMO) obviously poor faith arguments on blogs in non-technical discussions (and I've tried to engage him on some of his arguments, and he's been more or less completely unresponsive w/r/t any meaningful engagement).

  39. I agree with your general idea. I used to send people to RealClimate, figuring they would turn people into skeptics just from their bad faith of deleting comments and ducking questions.

    With regards to spreadsheet, it makes it easy to evaluate Mann vs McIntyre on a small point, and make a judgment of credibility. Similarly, one can look at Steve's argument about Tom Brady and deflation, and compare to Bill Nye the Science Guy.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSY_QZKt1NI
    Strangely when I asked on Yahoo which is more scientific, this led to major administrative interference. Bill Nye is a made man.

  40. MikeN -

    I used to send people to RealClimate, figuring they would turn people into skeptics just from their bad faith of deleting comments and ducking questions.

    The implications of moderation and conclusions about "ducking" are usually merely a function of the observer's orientation, IMO - usually based on an emotional attachment to one side or the other. Anthony started deleting my comments and calling me a coward when I challenged his arguments, and then put me into moderation when I explained that his accusations against me (he falsely accused me of posting comments while being paid by a university employer, merely because I had an academic email account) and none of his denizens felt there was anything significantly in poor faith about that. Judith deleted my comments when I responded, with non-personal attacks, to a string of commenters who would regularly line up with a long line of personal attacks toward me. People would ask her to please ban me from her site or put me in personal moderation because (IMO) I would criticize the logic of her arguments. And this was all in the same context where "skeptics" whined incessantly about how "But RealClimate moderation" was proof of the big bad climate cabal trying to snuff out the truth-seeking, speaking truth to power, science purists.

    One person's "ducking questions" is the next person's reasonable moderation to control against trolls trying to distract people from their important discussions.

    Once again, often an assessment based on moderation practice requires either an ability to understand the technical issues at the heart of the disagreements, or merely a willingness to accept one side implicitly and reject the other side without being able to evaluate those technical issues. This all fits with tons of evidence about how, when we're dealing with highly polarized issues, people in general don't formulate their views on arguments from a dispassionate analysis of the evidence at hand (which they often can't even understand), but from a starting emotional alignment with one side or the other, and then the application of a filter to the evidence so as to reinforce that starting emotional alignment.

    With regards to spreadsheet, it makes it easy to evaluate Mann vs McIntyre on a small point, and make a judgment of credibility.

    I don't think so. First, I doubt that I could really assess the validity of the arguments about the spreadsheet. For example, Connelley might argue one perspective on the spreadsheet issue and you might argue another (see the thread linked above for a parallel example). What am I to determine from that? Further, even if I did look at that argument, I'd then have to rely on similarly contrasting viewpoints of knowledgeable people about the significance of any particular small point to the larger points at hand, be it the importance of the small point to MBH, MBH as a contribution to the science, or Mann's body of work as a contribution to the science, etc.

    Similarly, one can look at Steve's argument about Tom Brady and deflation, and compare to Bill Nye the Science Guy.

    I'm not going to bother watching that video. What do you think I should conclude from doing so?

    Strangely when I asked on Yahoo which is more scientific, this led to major administrative interference. Bill Nye is a made man.

    My impression is that Nye is not a particularly scientific person - but that in and of itself tells me nothing about Steve's value as a contributor to any variety of issues. Again, I go back to what I judge to be a fairly convincing evidence of a history lack of good faith argumentation on his part in at least a number of cases. Now I might be able to track down the validity of his argument on deflategate relative to Nye's, or I might not (I rather expect that I wouldn't), but even that wouldn't be of much value for me. Just because he might present more compelling arguments about deflategate relative to Nye, that doesn't negate that I've seen him present, what I consider to be, poor faith arguments in contexts where he is highly identified with a particular point of view.

  41. The same moderation argument applies elsewhere as well. However, by 'ducking questions' I don't mean moderation, as it is hard to see that unless it is your own comments being deleted. Instead it is skeptic A asks X, and Gavin or Mann responds with Y and the person notices that the question wasn't really answered, while claiming to refute an argument. I don't know the effect on his views, but one Richard Sycamore was arguing against Steve at ClimateAudit, and I later noticed him posting at RealClimate about I think upside-down Mann; their responses were like this.

  42. Mike -

    Instead it is skeptic A asks X, and Gavin or Mann responds with Y and the person notices that the question wasn't really answered, while claiming to refute an argument.

    Again, these calls are pretty much always made in alignment with the ideogical persuasion of the observer. You can almost always predict whether someone will think a question is being ducked, or that a questioner is being a troll, if you know the observer's opinion on how much risk is posed by ACO2 emissions (and usually their politi al orientation).

    I don't think that's a coincidence.

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