Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Missing the Trees for the Forest

As some bunnies have noticed recursive fury has broken out about Recursive Fury.  There are long threads at Shaping Tomorrow's World, where Stephan Lewandowsky hangs out, the blog of the publishers Frontiers and at Retraction Watch.

Eli would like to make a small contribution about the latest hand grenade lobbed by Harry Markram, one of the founders of Frontiers and evidently an editor with a pretty much unrestricted portfolio

My own personal opinion: The authors of the retracted paper and their followers are doing the climate change crisis a tragic disservice by attacking people personally and saying that it is ethically ok to identify them in a scientific study. They made a monumental mistake, refused to fix it and that rightfully disqualified the study. The planet is headed for a cliff and the scientific evidence for climate change is way past a debate, in my opinion. Why even debate this with contrarians? If scientists think there is a debate, then why not debate this scientifically? Why help the ostriches of society (always are) keep their heads in the sand? Why not focus even more on the science of climate change? Why not develop potential scenarios so that society can get prepared? Is that not what scientists do? Does anyone really believe that a public lynching will help advance anything? Who comes off as the biggest nutter? Activism that abuses science as a weapon is just not helpful at a time of crisis.
Without getting into minutia about the unbolded (and there are several falsehoods in there, but Markram is fighting for his baby), this has been greeted by mighty huzzahs from the ilk of Barry Woods, Carrick,  Nik from NYC and others.   Markram makes major errors in dumping on Lewandowsky and his co-authors, because he assumes that the Woods, Carrick and Niks are just fools who no one listens to.  But then again Markram lives in Switzerland where denial has perhaps not made such a major impact on policy and one can ignore the symphony of denial.

Driving the fact home that 97% of climate scientists are aware of the planetary threat is necessary.  Mole whacking to keep the moles in their blogs, well yes, that is also necessary.  And yes, Markram appears unaware of the facts of how his organization handled Recursive Fury.   He has not followed the smokescreens constructed by the Breakthrough Institute, Lomborg and others to stop any real preparation for the coming deluge.   Yes.  Steven is for sure shrill, pre-mature anti-denialism as it were, and those who see and understand existential threats are often treated so by those munching grass. 
Markram apparently believes that singing folk songs with the denialists will work.  Eli, on the other hand, suggests that Markram might also consider the lesson of Admiral Byng.

But as to what is bolded (by Eli), well yes, that is the real issue, but we have to get to it

UPDATE:  For some time now Eli has been pointing out that quoting somebunny's public statements is not exactly verboten in scientific literature.  John Mashey below points to a new post at Shaping Tomorrow's World.  Turns out that Frontiers convened an expert panel to consider the question and sent the recommendation to the Recursive Fury authors
among psychological and linguistic researchers blog posts are regarded as public data and the individuals posting the data are not regarded as participants in the technical sense used by Research Ethics Committees or Institutional Review Boards.   This further entails that no consent is required for the use of such data.”  Although this view is held by many researchers and their ethics boards, it is by no means a unanimous judgment and it is to be expected that legitimate challenges, both on ethical and legal grounds, will be raised as web-based research expands in scope.  But to the charges that Fury was unethical in using blog posts as data for psychological analysis, the consensus among experts in this area sides with the authors of Fury. 
Let the parsing fest begin.


CapitalistImperialistPig said...

I expect that shooting a denialist or two, as you seem to recommend, would do much "to encourage the others" to borrow Voltaire's framing. Folk songs would surely be more effective.

I don't think recalling an infamous miscarriage of justice as a example is such a good idea either.

KBO said...

The other obvious point is, if you take out the bold text, you'd swear that the rest of it was written by a denier.

"The planet is headed for a cliff" sounds a bit suspect and the freudian slip usage of "contrarian" rather than "denier" is a bit of a give-away as well.

"Why not develop potential scenarios so that society can get prepared? Is that not what scientists do?"

It's what Lomborg argues for so I'm guessing he's in that camp.

guthrie said...

Just going by the bit you quaoted, Markram is making a category error. Debating contrarians is not the same as doing a social science paper on their networks and paranoid fantasies. Also actual scientists are debating issues that are completely different from the ones the contrarians are 'debating', it makes sense to try to understand what they are claiming and why and how their ideology works.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Recursive Fury isn't climate science. Everyone needn't do climate science.

George Montgomery said...

CIP: "I expect that shooting a denialist or two, as you seem to recommend, .." Que? "Shooting a denialist" for not doing enough? Your interpretation of "the lesson of Admiral John Byng" is back-to-front.

Bryson said...

I'm with you, George. The point (as I took it) is that if things don't change very soon, there will be a lot of blame to go around, and some of it may well be unjustly allocated. A history of enabling or even merely ignoring denialism and dismissing efforts to unmask the denial industry, may become a serious matter for those unfortunate enough to be in a position of responsibility when ugly stuff hits the fan.

John Mashey said...

See The Frontiers Expert Panel.

willard said...

> Why even debate this with contrarians?

This assumes that Lew debates with contrarians by publishing his paper. This assumption might very well be wrong. In fact, that assumption might very well be a way to beg the questions contained in the last sentence.

The lack of argumentative skills among the climate talking heads is getting very tiresome.

Magma said...

Just a hunch, but I don't think WUWT will be as fast putting this latest Frontiers comment up as the ones before.

Magma said...

Looks like they're too busy over there swapping nutty ideas about the ozone hole right now to bother.

Anonymous said...

For how long will US CO2 emissions keep falling?

Curious George

Anonymous said...

"The planet is headed for a cliff"

Did you ever wonder why hysterics have such a difficult time actually articulating a danger without resorting to cartoon descriptions?

I'm pretty sure it's because when they bring up a false premise that gets refuted they can still retreat into a metaphor which protects the prophecy of doom from logic.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, perhaps Markram is right. If only somebody had the foresight to study when, where, and how people convince themselves that climate change isn't real! Maybe then we could get some of that action going on. But who could possibly look into those psychological stumbling blocks that would help us overcome the obstacles, since the actual climate science debate is already settled? If only somebdoy, ANYBODY AT ALL, could have conducted a study into one of the reasons people reject the science...


EFS_Junior said...

For how long will US CO2 emissions keep falling?

For as long as we all keep off shoring our former industrial might to the likes of China/India.

Goods produced elsewhere that we consume, rightly belong on our CO2 balance sheet.

Got that Curious.

Marco said...

Willard, Lewandowsky did communicate with the contrarians through STW.

WheelsOC, in my opinion Recursive Fury does nothing to further our understanding of why people reject climate science. All it did is document that people who are convinced of something will come up with all kinds of reasons to reject a finding that contradicts that conviction, regardless of whether the arguments are consistent and logical. This has been well documented already, but by focusing on a paper by the authors themselves there is a distinct whiff of retribution.

John Mashey said...

Some people harass climate scientists, and of course, climate scientists want to study climate, so this is relatively safe.

Harassing {social scientists, historians, investigative journalists, etc} is not as safe, because sometimes it gets them interested and sometimes (as here) hands them a dataset useful for study. (By comparison, if someone at NCAR says something about hurricanes, the latter do not rush over to Boulder and offer data on extreme events.)

By now, there's probably enough for Recursive Fury 5 :-)

bratisla said...

Well, this is a quite common text from Andy Revkin. Not surprised.

Oh wait ...

Willard should open a ClimateBall(tm) course (with a reasonable fee, of course, we do not have Heartland Institute backup to pay Willard) for beginners. It would save a tremendous amount of time for everyone.

willard said...

> Lewandowsky did communicate with the contrarians through STW.

An example would be nice, even if it doesn't contradict the claim that Lew's might not debate with contrarians by publishing his paper.


In other news, here's another way to analyze conspirational ideation:

> Some people are more susceptible to conspiracy theories than others, say computational social scientists who have studied how false ideas jump the “credulity barrier” on Facebook.


afeman (recovering badger) said...

Speaking of encouraging others, a month or two ago Dave Appell was musing whether it was all worth it what with nobody (<epsilon, anyway) commenting on his blog of late. I was inclined to point out that I used to comment when I thought we was off-base in some correctable manner. Ah, but why did I stop? Now, I've been systematically following the trail of old dry droppings in the rabbett burrow -- it being useful (for example) to review memories that time has muffled into habits of avoidance:


Since then I've noticed he's shifted his scorn more towards those to whom it is due, which, while welcome, seems less effective than admitting error.

John Mashey said...

See Ugo Bardi's "Recursive Fury:" the reasons of Frontiers' blunder.

Bryson said...

Personally, I wonder how phenomena like academic debate and literary criticism could go be allowed to continue if we adopted the hypersensitive ethical stance being pushed by Frontiers and their new allies. After all, these involve analysis and commentary on the published views of others ("subjects", if you wish to call them that). And the analysis and commentary are not always kind or supportive!

afeman (recovering badger) said...

Whoops, rabbett is a misspelling

Russell Seitz said...

"Harassing {social scientists, historians, investigative journalists, etc} is not as safe, because sometimes it gets them interested and sometimes (as here) hands them a dataset useful for study."

John, since when are social scientists , historians, etc. exempt from consideration as a data set useful for study of the political sociology of science?

If you worry about Jesus Camp graduates reaching for the levers of power, ought you not to be reflexively concerned about groupthink in the Reality Project ? Al's year at Vanderbilt Divinity was not spent studying to become a stump preacher.