An Example of Pointlessness

So I've been trying to get more disciplined in how I handle some things so I don't let pessimistic moods prevent me from doing things I'd like to get done. Part of how I plan to do that is to look for sources of enjoyment within the things which make me unhappy. Today's post will be an attempt at doing so. I sm going to look at a discussion and highlight just how ridiculous pathetic, and at least in a certain light, funny, it is.

The discussion in question happened in the comment section of this post by David Appell. The post is about the recent dismissal of a defamation lawsuit filed by Michael Mann against Tim Ball. Mann is (in)famouse for his "hockey stick" temperature reconstruction while Ball is... a relative nobody.

The case was recently dismissed, and this is uncertainty/dispute about what the reason for the dismissal was. One idea is the case was dismissed because Ball requested material underlying Mann's hockey stick, Mann refused to provide that material for years, and the judge dismissed the case because of the delay. Another idea, one discussed by Appell, is the judge concluded Ball's words were read by too few people to have harmed Mann in any meaningful way, plus he's too old and sick for a trial.

Appell has long been a fervent defender of Mann, and naturally, he embraced this latter idea without question. In his mindless zeal to defend Mann, Appell... well, let's just look at what he said. Things began not in Appell's post, where he writes only two sentences, but in the first comment he made on that post:

Mann et al's data files have been available for well over a decade, here:

http://www.meteo.psu.edu/holocene/public_html/shared/research/MANNETAL98/

The implication, of course, is the idea Ball requested material which Mann refused to provide is rebutted by the fact Mann's "data files have been available" for quite a while. There's some interesting history to those data files, and David Appell is somewhat involved in it. Mann has often told people incorrect data was provided upon request because the people asking for it explicitly asked for it in an Excel spreadsheet, a claim David Appell mindlessly parroted all the way back in 2003 (a copy is here as I can't find the original page offhand). Appell promoted this bogus claim even though it was trivially easy to prove Mann's claims were utterly false (as discussed here).

Mann flat-out fabricated claims to excuse incorrect data being sent out, claims which were easily shown to be false yet have been repeated for years without question. It's strange. What's also strange is how the availability of the correct version of this data is a total non-sequitur, as I explained to Appell:

David Appell says in a comment, "Mann et al's data files have been available for well over a decade..." I don't know how many people will see this, but Appell's statement is highly misleading. While it's true Mann's underlying data series are available, what people have long sought, and been denied, is access to results, and even some of his code.

The most commonly cited example is many r2 verification statistics Mann's code shows he calculated yet have never been published by him. This may not be "data," but when a person calculates verification statistics for their work then refuses to disclose what the results are, people will naturally be suspicious.

And that's just one example. There's also code people would like access to because there are results in Mann's work which cannot be replicated with the code he's provided. As an example, nobody has ever been able to replicate MBH99's confidence intervals (for 1000-1400 AD) because the code Mann's provided does not produce them.

Saying the the "data" has been available for over a decade while ignoring the things people have sought after for over a decade which are not data, is... well, weird.

I cited two specific examples of material Mann has refused to share which are highly relevant to examining/juding his work. Appell had no answer to this, and knowing that, he decided to try to change the subject by discussing nothing I had said:

Brandon, that's BS. The hockey stick has been found by many people now using many types of mathematical techniques. PAGES 2k just published, again, the hockey stick found via seven independent statistical techniques.

No one has any evidence Mann et al did anything wrong, but they continue to attack him personally because they don't like the scientific result that the world is rapidly warming. Ball never published any science related to the hockey stick (or much else) to validate his claims. 21 years later people like you are still at it, for some reason.

No one has the right to tell a scientist was he HAS to do. If you don't like his results, take the paleodata and go calculate what you're looking for yourself -- that's how science is done.

I called him out on that, and again, he responded with a non-sequitur. It's not worth highlighting those comments, but then Appell randomly jumped back to a previous point of the discussion, to respond to part of a comment he had ignored before, to say:

Brandon Shollenberger said...
"Whether or not valid studies have found a "hockey stick," and whether or not Michael Mann committed any sort of fraud, it is indisputable he has refused to share certain material that would be highly relevant in examining his work."

Nope. Mann's lawyer wrote:

"The BC Supreme Court has never made any finding, directly or indirectly, that you failed to produce your data...."

"In summary, the Court's brief ruling on August 22 made no finding whether your claims were valid or whether Bell's pleaded defenses had any merit."

How much clearer can that be?

I had cited two examples of material Mann has refused to share for going on 20 years now. Appell, out of the blue, cites a comment from Michael Mann's lawyer saying the judge of the case supposedly did not say Mann had refused to share material. Whether a judge, in 2019, said Mann refused to share material with Tim Ball as part of a legal procedure, in no way determines whether or not Mann refused to share that material for a couple decades.

This response is utterly bizarre. Even if Mann's defamation lawsuit wasn't dismissed for him refusing to share material with the person he was suing, that doesn't mean he shared that material. Given this response, I said:

David Appell, you say, "Mann says all his data and code are available" I discussed two examples of things which Mann has refused to share, for over a decade. You don't say I'm wrong about either example. If I were, it would be easy to prove by showing where the material I refer to is published.

Similarly, I said Tim Ball requested this material and Michael Mann refused to provide it. You don't say I am wrong. If Mann had provided it, again, it would be easy for you to show. Instead, you cite Mann's lawyer saying the judge in a lawsuit never made any ruling that Mann had failed to provide material. That a single person has not said something does not make it untrue.

I'm not going to pursue a conversation here any further. It is abundantly clear you'll simply refuse to engage in anything resembling a genuine discussion. You can rest comfortable in your intellectually dishonest echo chamber if you want. I prefer to actually try understanding what different ideas people have.

As a closing thought, I'll go with a simple, irrefutable point. This is a crucial issue for the lawsuit, and it is the easiest one on which someone could prove me wrong. Michael Mann calculated a number of r2 verification statistics for his reconstruction, and he failed to disclose many which were unfavorable. To this day, he has still not published those r2 verification statistics.* People who can't acknowledge, or attempt to disprove, that simple point are wasting everyone's time if they instead try to change the subject.

*The results were published by his colleagues, after they were forced to disclose the results by a journal, and they were abysmal, indistinguishable from 0.

And that was my last comment there. I began my participation in the thread by citing two specific examples of material Mann refused to share, and to close out my participation, I referred back to them to show how easy it would be to prove me wrong if I were actually wrong. That was to highlight the impotence of the non-sequiturs Appell had posted. Having done that, I said I wouldn't puruse a conversation there any further. Appell's response was... well, something:

Brandon: I don't know what material you're referring to that you want. Specifically.

"That a single person has not said something does not make it untrue."

It doesn't make it true, either.

"I'm not going to pursue a conversation here any further. It is abundantly clear you'll simply refuse to engage in anything resembling a genuine discussion. You can rest comfortable in your intellectually dishonest echo chamber if you want. I prefer to actually try understanding what different ideas people have."

You wrote this before, then came back.

I did not do this. This claim is bizarre and baseless. Either Appell is outright lying, or he's delusional.

"As a closing thought, I'll go with a simple, irrefutable point. This is a crucial issue for the lawsuit, and it is the easiest one on which someone could prove me wrong. Michael Mann calculated a number of r2 verification statistics for his reconstruction, and he failed to disclose many which were unfavorable."

How do you know he calculated these if he didn't disclose them?

This remark is idiotic as my initial comment explicitly said, "The most commonly cited example is many r2 verification statistics Mann's code shows he calculated yet have never been published by him." Appell didn't ask me about this when I said it. If he had, I'd have been able to provide him a direct citation of Mann's code which performed the calculation. Intentionally ignoring what I said, then waiting until I leave the discussion to ask me about it is inane.

"To this day, he has still not published those r2 verification statistics.* People who can't acknowledge, or attempt to disprove, that simple point are wasting everyone's time if they instead try to change the subject."

It's not changing the subject to point out that the hockey stick has been confirmed again and again and again. That strongly suggests Mann, Bradley and Hughes did nothing fraudulent.

And why the focus on Mann when there were three co-authors on the paper(s)?

Why focus on Mann, the lead author of the paper in question? The only author who has become (in)famous for his work on the paper? The only author who has become a popular spokesperson for the global warming movement? The only author who has spent a lot of time in the media? The author who filed the lawsuit which was the topic of hte post we were having the conversation on? Is that a real question?

"The results were published by his colleagues, after they were forced to disclose the results by a journal, and they were abysmal, indistinguishable from 0."

Who? What paper? What journal? Give citations so people can understand what you're writing about, instead of making vague and foggy accusations.

When I called waiting to ask for material until after a person has left inane, that was far too kind. In reality, it's just dishonest. It's stupid too. Nobody is going to be fooled by driving someone away by being an obnoxious prick who refuses to discuss anything that person says, only to turn around and pretend to ask for information once they've left.

I don't have anything to punch up this ending. To answer that last question of Appell's, "You're a lazy moron." Anyone who pretends to care as much about the hockey stick debate as him should know the answer. The only reason he wouldn't is he's lazy and stupid. Or he does know and just lies about it. That's always possible. Either way, for people who don't know, here's a link. It shows those results having been published by Caspar Ammann and Eugene Wahl, colleagues and sometime co-authors of Michael Mann, which they were forced to include in a paper defending Mann only because the journal wouldn't let them engage in the same deception Mann did where you calculate verification statistics, find out they're terrible, then hide them and pretend you never saw them.

So yeah, this post isn't the most exciting or thrilling of things. Still, it makes me happy to take a little time to highlight the absurdity that can come with having discussions with other people. Rather than just be sad about the time "wasted" on discussions like this, I think it's nice to look at them and get a laugh.

Because honestly, if talking to people like David Appell doesn't make you life, it'll make you cry.

4 comments

  1. By the way, this behavior from David Appell is in no way surprising. We've discussed it on this site before. And of course, Appell is nothing special. We saw practically the exact same behavior in several recent posts about Jeff Id, showing this isn't limited to one "side" of an argument.

    I get some people might find it boring to focus on things like this, but this blog was always envisioned as a journal I let other people view. Sometimes journal entries are only interesting to their authors.

  2. > By the way, this behavior from David Appell is in no way surprising. We've discussed it on this site before. And of course, Appell is nothing special. We saw practically the exact same behavior in several recent posts about Jeff Id, showing this isn't limited to one "side" of an argument.

    That's funny. I was just about to write a comment that I neve often seen that David argues at about the same level as Jeff. And then I read that you wrote exactly that.

    I just read the other thread. David's fallacious arguments about the use of "admit" are the exact same as some I've seen made in the "skept-o-sphere" ( I remember in particular David Rose exploiting the meaning of "admit" in exactly the same way, with nary a "skeptic" being even slightly concerned when I pointed it out at Judith's) .

  3. Joshau:

    That's funny. I was just about to write a comment that I neve often seen that David argues at about the same level as Jeff. And then I read that you wrote exactly that.

    That typo makes your sentence a little difficult to interpret 😛

    (I know what you meant, but almost typing "never" makes it awkward to read since that'd mean the opposite.)

  4. Brandon: I am sincerely glad to see that you are realizing the importance of your own happiness. I'm argumentative enough to know that sometimes it'll go far enough to make me wonder if I'm really enjoying it. I disagree with you strongly on some points, but don't like to see you or anyone despair. It helps to remind myself that people are stupid and venal- but so am I. And I have a high opinion of myself!
    So please do laugh- at me, if you like. It's a tonic.

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