Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cherry picking the use of language.....

In the interesting House Committee on Oversight hearing and a discussion about has broken out on Real Climate, Gristmill and places west. Ethon, flew in carrying Prometheus (the bird has direct Boulder-DC flights and a good frequent flayer plan), told Eli to look at a use of language illustrating the care that some take and the traps that others fall into. On page 9 of P's testimony we read

A memorandum providing background to this hearing prepared 26 January 2007 by the majority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight illustrates the cherry picking of science (reproduced in Figure 1). Cherry picking literally mean “take the best, leave the rest.”
Here we have the set up, a literal but never used interpretation of a common idiom. As the Wikipedia says
cherry picking is used metaphorically to indicate the act of pointing at individual cases which seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases that may contradict that position....
Among the cherries is the basic science on global warming, After some discussion of a Committee staff document which references papers by Emmanuel, Webster, et al. and the WMO consensus statement at the bottom of the page comes the hammer
The hearing background memorandum is absolutely correct when it asserts that “recently published studies have suggested that the impacts [of global warming] include increases in the intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms.” But this selective reporting does not tell the whole story either. Such cherry picking and misrepresentations of science are endemic in political discussions involving science.
Note the smoothness with which this was done. Eli forget that cherry picking is picking the best of the fruit, did you?

BTW, Steve Bloom pretty much nailed the WMO statement in the comments on P's blog
It was an exercise in statementism, pure and simple. Just as with last year's statement, it's simply an agreement that people shouldn't yell at each other in public until after the next round of papers and in particular up through the release of the AR4 WG1 report
His host was not pleased.

UPDATE: How Prometheus compared Phil Cooney's editing and the Oversight Committee staff document has become a point of contention, especially at Chris Mooney's Intersection. Rather than engage in a parsing fest, Eli went and listened to the testimony on CSPAN (caution, RealPlayer Link). If you advance the slider to 2:47, Rep Welch questions Pro about the comparison that Pielke made in his written testimony. If you have 12 or so minutes listen to the whole thing, including at ~2:56 where Shindell tells the Congressman that Pro is wrong about the meaning of the WMO statement on hurricanes. At 2:57 this is followed by a direct question from Welch to Pro about whether the Committee memo is equivalent to Clooney's editing. Pielke responds: Not much difference, no.

Pielke is a serial defender of Cooney in any case, stretching a lot of cases.


Anonymous said...

On Chris Mooney's site, Pielke was called on this and explains that he never intended his claim of cherry picking by the Waxman committee to be equated with actions by the Bush administration which are the focus of the Waxman hearing.

Well, maybe not, but others certainly interpted it that way -- and he should have suspected as much before hand and made it perfectly clear that he was not implying an equivalence (or not brought up the Waxman memo example at all).

EliRabett said...

Hi, I've mixed in at the Intersection (not yet posted) and placed an update at the bottom of the post. Suffice it to say that Pielke states that there is "not much difference" between what Cooney said and the Committee staff wrote.

Anonymous said...

I think Roger Pielke missed his calling as a linguist becasue he loves playing with words (especially his own) to make them mean what he wants them to mean (and not always before he says them).

He has now greatly expanded upon his "not much difference" testimony :

"On the dynamics of the selective presentation of scientific information in Committee memo and the Cooney edits there is indeed not much difference,"

But as every good linguist knows, when you add all those clarifying words, there is a great deal of difference in the way that they come across (ie, in the interpretation thereof) even if not in their actual meaning.

Anonymous said...

What i found most interesting was how Pielke broke out into a caterwaul when Dave Roberts over at Grist revealed that Pielke's invitation to the hearing came from the Republicans. Pielke called that an ad hominem attack.

But the only people who later linked to his testimony is Ron Bailey at Reason Magazine and Steve Milloy at

Guess that says it all.

Anonymous said...

..and he replied with his own attack on Dave Roberts (which appears to have since been removed from Prometheus.)

Here's some more classic Pielke BS:

"The IPCC Summary for Policy Makers is not out yet, but if this report in the Washington Post is in fact true, then we are in store for some controversy:"

Oh, boy, controversy.

And may I ask "who is going to stir the that pot"?

Pielke loves to speculate about what will be in the upcoming IPCC reports, that and "prove" the bigwig scientists wrong (or at least "prove after the fact that they were off by a few percent in their 15 year temperature predictions").

It used to be that scientists could avoid dealing with political scientists entirely because there was no overlap between their two disciplines (if you can call poli sci a "discipline"), but unfortunately, the politicial scientists have recently discovred a worm hole (called "science policy") that allows them to invade the scientist's universe (an wreak havoc with the time-space continuum).

Anonymous said...

Worse than Dave Roberts exposing Pielke and his ties to the Republican party is the AP report that also noted that Pielke's invitation came from Republicans.

The AP gets carried all over the place and once U.S. journalists get wind of Pielke's play with the party that denies global warming, then his phone might stop ringing.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, this thread is dirty....Mr. Rabettt, you're a mean ol' man for lettin' this continue. People might start ta' figure out that Roger Pielke Jr. is nothin' more than a figment of the media's idea of a scientist. Or....they might start to call him a media star!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of "cherry picking" Pielke's dad has picked up on phrase and used it over on his blog.

Can you imagine the craziness of trying to have a Christmas dinner at the Pielke's?

Anonymous said...

You can be sure they have a turkey (or two).

EliRabett said...

Eli has it on good authority that they serve another type of white meat. Of course, he is a sensitive type. On the otherhand, we have something of a problem at the Rabett household, as Ethon comes to dinner, and he considers big birds close relatives. We do like cherries tho.

hardiansyah said...

yea.. He has now greatly expanded upon his "not much difference" testiimony