Sunday, January 20, 2013

Reader Rabett

Some good stuff out there including Science of Doom's wonderful series on atmospheric radiation (a nine parter and growing) and the return of Sylvia T writing on Post Normal Times

While at the [Heartland] conference, I happened to sit next to a very pleasant woman from the Ayn Rand Institute, who gave me a book entitled The Logical Leap – which seemed a fitting description of the entire affair. Although PNS does speak about certain kinds of science in negative terms, my overall argument is that the tale of corruption in climate science, as told by cranks and contrarians of various persuasions, only appears to fit this negative narrative if one takes a flying leap over crucial distinctions between the kinds of science that have led to unintended consequences – in which risks tend to be downplayed, and the kinds of science used to understand and address those consequences. It is also important to consider distinctions between different types of knowledge, uncertainty, and peer review – all distinctions that Jerry himself has observed.

That tale of corruption is only believable because of unrealistic public images and expectations of science, e.g., that it provides “proof”, or that it is some sort of a crystal ball. Although skepticism is inherent in the practice of actual science, for reasons that should be obvious, I also argue that many of those who call themselves “skeptics” are actually cranks and contrarians who are performing something like a parody of science. Missing is the crucial wink/nod to indicate it as such – thereby crossing the line from parody to outright deception (see Nachmanovitch 2009), as the act gets mistaken for the real thing by those least informed, and/or cannot tell the difference. The paradox is that parody only sticks when it has some element of truthiness, which means there are lessons in all of this for the practice of science as it enters the policy arena.
with an expanded must read essay and  a  profoundly ignorant and oblivious reply from Jerome Ravetz 
I have written at great length on ‘climategate’ without convincing Sylvia of my case, or even of my rationality and integrity, so this time I will make only a few brief remarks.   I think that our deepest difference is in our perceptions of the opposed sides in the debate.  She sees a consensus of the established, high-quality scientific community on the one hand, with an assortment of cranks, prostitutes and self-deluders (as myself) on the other.  By contrast, I would argue that one important source of strength and conviction among the opposition has been the perception of bad practice among the mainstream.  
Ravetz evidently has been hiding under a rock for the past fifty years.  The major political controversies about scientific issues have emerged from high class science only after a considerable study and formation of a strong consensus.  They are characterized by a need for action which threatens major industries.  Among them have been tobacco, air and water pollution, cfcs, climate change.

It is important to recognize that controversies where the second element was lacking have not become poster kids, including for example, vaccination causing autism.  the causes of AIDS/HIV, etc..  There was considerable choosing up side in the Pre Normal Science stage before the scientific consensus emerged, but beyond a few bitter enders (and Eli knows about South Africa) they did not take hold.  DDT, not being tied to a large industrial complex, the chemical manufacturers had better things to do, was dragged out only as a distraction for the tobacco companies by Roger Bate and by Bjorn Lomborg supporting the fossil fuel industry's opposition to legislation regulating CO2 emissions.

As Eli and many others have pointed out, the key characters, Fred Singer, Fred Seitz, CEI, the Heartland Institute will help the Jerry Ravetz's of the world on any issue supported by their funders. 

Ravetz cannot admit that the play for payers have sucked him in so he blames the scientists. The entire approach of the hookers has been to convince Ravetz not to trust the scientists.  They have a ton of money and many cranks to help them.  They have succeeded. 


Anonymous said...

“DDT, not being tied to a large industrial complex, the chemical manufacturers had better things to do, was dragged out only as a distraction for the tobacco companies by Roger Bate and by Bjorn Lomborg supporting the fossil fuel industry's opposition to legislation regulating CO2 emissions.”
You see Eli, I am sympathetic to you at times, and especially as regards Ravitz, and then you do things like use only. How does a brain like yours come up with nonsense? You starting to see why you lose credibility with a wider audience.

willard said...

Ravetz, Lenny.

Please don't konfuse your sex symbols.

EliRabett said...

Mea maxima. Fixed.

raypierre said...

Ravetz is clearly an idiot, but I say a pox on all their houses. The whole "Postnormal Science" thing, even in the hands of the more insightful like Sylvia T, is a sad example of what happens when people who do not do real science try to write about science. The challenges faced by climate science are not in any way different from the challenges faced by any other observational science dealing with large-scale systems with many interacting components, such as astrophysics. What makes climate science different is not anything in the way the science is conducted itself, but rather the use to which the science is put (or not put) in decision making by governments. Society makes decisions in the face of uncertainty all the time, and the only bizarre thing is that some governments complain much more about the level of uncertainty in climate science than they do about the far greater uncertainties in economic models, or in intelligence assessments that are used as the basis of trillion dollar wars putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk. Complain about post-normal policymakers if you like, but please spare me PNS!

willard said...

Raypierre's comment is a sad example of what happens when people who do real science try to dismiss those who wrote all their lives about science without paying any due diligence.

Raypierre could no doubt formulate a very potent criticism of Ravetz' ideas. Not that he would ever bother. It's so bad that it's not worth it. And so we get another incisive critique void of any substance.

Even idiots can be right. Even bright, chivalrous minds can be wrong.

I don't buy Ravetz' ideas, but at least I know why.

David B. Benson said...

Eli --- First word of last paragraph.


We should never forget PSN's debt to its founders, Paddy Chayevsky, Marshall McLuhan, and David Ogilvy

Steve Bloom said...

I think Ray made the key point, Willard.

The first commenter needs to check his history. Bate and Lomborg had no substance to their claims on DDT, so one could be forgiven for thinking that their efforts in that field were of a piece with the rest of their content-free crap.

willard said...

I think that raypierre's point is that Ravetz is a non-scientist-idiot.

If you agree with this key point, I wonder why we should care about your unsubstantiated opinion of it.

Martin Vermeer said...


some ideas are so obviously bunk that they are not worth critiquing in detail. Only in a perfect world would rubbing this in be redundant (and, to be redundant about it, we don't live in a perfect world).

willard said...


Have you read Kuhn? I bet not. Since it's so obvious, it's not worth checking in detail.

But if my bet is right, I'd suggest you stick to your lab coat and stand Ravetz' concepts aside. If you really feel compelled to say something about some implications you fear about Ravetz' concepts, please take off your lab coat and please voice your concerns as an ordinary citizen and in a way that could improve things.

The world would be a better place if we refrained from talking about stuff we don't even care to talk about anyway.

Martin Vermeer said...

Kuhn? Actually yes (though it's been a while).

When something is obviously bunk, you only need to study it to the point where the obviousness emerges. I gather from both his words and his tone that Raypierre has been there, done that.

So much bunk, so little time.

Paul S said...

In a similar vein, I came across a comment in Tamsin Edward's new blog entry, quoting a Tweet by Paul Matthews:

'If most climate scientists were like @flimsin, there’d be hardly any sceptics.'

To some extent I'm sure it was said in jest, in the spirit of a simple compliment to Tamsin, but such things are often revealing about a person's perspective. A couple of things are interesting about this particular quote:

1) It suggests that the author does not see much of a scientific case for skepticism regarding anthropogenic climate change.

2) It indicates a need to absolve "skeptics" of any responsibility for their own actions and beliefs. This is something I've seen many other "skeptics" echo in some way or other. Ravetz does so in the quote. Of course, that means any consequences forthcoming due to those actions and beliefs are likewise the fault of others.

raypierre said...

It seems to have been lost in the follow-up to my comment that I am not just criticizing Ravetz, but the whole PNS idea, which I think shows very little understanding of the conduct of observational science and introduces a concept that is basically superfluous and probably distracting. In the grand scheme of things, Sylvia T's discussion shows a far greater understanding of the actual science than Ravetz, but my broader point relates to PNS in general, not just Ravetz. People can be confused for all sorts of reasons,and Ravetz' confusion transcends what can be accounted for by the PNS concept alone.

John Mashey said...

I offer analogies from the corporate world, something astute executives train people to guard against.

Communications and computing businesses are complicated, and getting things done requires good interactions among multiple disciplines and groups, who need to talk to each other enough, in varying amounts.

Suppose something important is going on, that mostly involved A and B, but may have input from C, D, E, F, G and some task force gets set up. All too often, somebody in one of the less-involved groups (or even uninvolved), will try to place their part of it in the very center and try to run it, or at least gain "high centrality" as the Social Network Analysis folks say. Another tactic is to try to subsume A and B into G. Sometimes this is called "looking for a parade and jumping in front of it."

This can happen for empire- and ego-building, but even just from honest belief. I spent years trying to make sure that when engineers from different disciplines didn't try to solve whole system problems by insisting that all problems had to be solved in the piece they were doing.

Of course, in academe, inventing a new turf and new terminology can be a big win, if it catches on.

Anonymous said...

Raypierre I hope you'll elaborate further.

IMO PNS belongs more in the realm of WGIII than WG I or II. I suspect Sylvia would agree.

take the choice of discount rate for example. it's inherently a subjective choice. now Tol might try and dress up his choices using fancy models and appeals to revealed preferences or distract you with his hair, but that doesn't change the nature of the problem.

the costs and benefits of climate change impacts or mitigation are simply not reducible to dollars and cents the way that is amenable to meaningful policy advice. frankly anyone who thinks otherwise is living in an idealized fantasy world.

of course this doesn't mean that Ravetz isn't a putz for getting conned by cranks.


willard said...

Everyone who agrees with Mash's analogy should welcome PNS. This is so obvious as not requiring any kind of justification whatsoever. Let's hope there are no noble white coats stupid enough to disagree.


A criticism of the very concept of PNS would be a good idea. Endorsing what is simply an argument against a contrarian interpretation of the concept of "extended peer-review" does not count as one. Neither does appealing to intuitions transforms this "hello, my name is Raypierre and Jerome is an idiot" into a rational criticism.

To remind Nietzsche afficinados (of which I am not, though I know some) that Nazis were dropping Zaratustrean pamphlets during the War does not refute the concept of Untermensch. If you really like to bitch a PNS practitionner, at least pick on Van der Sluijs. You can pee over him like you're doing right now, ethologically speaking, but this would at least be justified on the basis of Tognetti's paper.


Speaking of which, people should take care of meditating on this:

> If PNS appears “tailor made for the denialist crowd” it is because these differences [I'll let the reader dig the differences himself] are mostly overlooked. I would argue instead that it is the failure to recognize the implications for science of a post-normal situation that makes science vulnerable to what some have called “Scientific Certainty Argumentation Methods”, or SCAMs (Freudenberg et al 2008). Thus we find science in a double-bind, where failure to fully communicate uncertainties reinforces public expectations of certainty, which in turn allows the credibility of science to be
undermined by exposing those uncertainties. But uncertainty is inherent in all science, and is not limited to technical considerations.

The first person to explain the debate over Pluto's planethood using Kuhn's framework wins an Internet.

Steve Bloom said...

Willard, obviously Ray can defend himself, but I was referring to this:

"The challenges faced by climate science are not in any way different from the challenges faced by any other observational science dealing with large-scale systems with many interacting components, such as astrophysics. What makes climate science different is not anything in the way the science is conducted itself, but rather the use to which the science is put (or not put) in decision making by governments."

So then Ravetz, disliking the stated implications of the science, attacks it notwithstanding his utter lack of qualification to do so, using PNS as a crutch. (And, note, appearing to have not even bothered to acquire a reasonable amateur knowledge of the science as many here have.)

What's to like with that?

Steve Bloom said...

Also, Willard, re that last passage you quoted, I would submit that "the failure to recognize the implications for science of a post-normal situation" is now history, the (symbolic) turning point being when Nature observed that climate scientists are in a knife fight. While its broad adoption is unavoidably uneven, as with e.g. the nest of appeasers at the Met Office, we can see that change in attitude reflected in the new U.S. NCA. There's lots more on the way, we can be sure.

Steve Bloom said...

Just to add a sharper poin to my characterization of Ravetz, a standard-issue denialist with a social sciences PhD is still just a standard-issue denialist. He's well-gone emeritus, and isn't even worth your time, Willard, to say nothing of Ray's.

Steve Bloom said...


willard said...

> Ravetz, disliking the stated implications of the science [...]

Citation needed.

> [Ravetz] attacks it notwithstanding his utter lack of qualification to do so[.]

I'm not sure what is meant by Ravetz "attacks", nor do I know what is the "it" that Ravetz attacks.

Clarifying these two points would help determine the validity of the appeal to authority.

Pending these two clarifications, I'll note that using peerhood as an argument against extended-perhood would beg the question.


Softer sciences are not as easy as it may seem. More so when most of what we have so far on the table would fail a very basic critical thinking test.

And by "very basic", I mean very, very basic.

Steve Bloom said...

Willard, I don't even really want to discuss Ravetz, let alone meta-Ravetz, so no, I'm not interested in spending time trawling through denialist blog comment threads for the examples you want.

willard said...

If the topic is Ravetz' concept of PNS, I believe that the meta-issue is Ravetz' idiocy. So I'm not sure who's meta here, Steve.

Reading Sylvia's should suffice to find everything you need against both.

Reading oftentimes suffices.


Ravetz seems something of a poster child for McLuhan's observation that with the advent of television, advertising has become more important than products.

Anonymous said...

PNS, IMHO, has the flaw of the Golden-Age-Syndrome.

Everything was just spiffy once-upon-a-time in science land, then it got all tangled up with politics and policy and became tricky.

Twas ever thus.

Anonymous Etc

Anonymous said...

"By contrast, I would argue that one important source of strength and conviction among the opposition has been the perception of bad practice among the mainstream."

Such as, for example, arguing that volcanic explosions are not detected by tree rings, implying thereby that they are insensitive recorders of low temperatures, and in turn that temperatures inferred from tree rings may have been over-estimated in times past, from which one supposes to support one's arguments that current temperatures exceed any of the last millennium. And instead of examining one's underlying assumptions, then proceeding to find "supporting evidence" for such logic by use of climate and growth models whose outputs are entirely dependent on the assumptions embedded in the chosen set of parameters used.

Just one example.

willard said...

> Everything was just spiffy once-upon-a-time in science land, then it got all tangled up with politics and policy and became tricky. Twas ever thus.

Indeed. This is a big problem with the NS in PNS: there is no such thing as normal science, except perhaps when Kuhn studied it at the dawn of the militaro-industrial complex. Ravetz says so quite directly in his posts, which are discussed at Susan's in many places, for instance there:

NS is mostly a construct in reaction to something like the deductive-nomological model:

This kind of explanation fails to take into account that lab coats are mainly data hunters and gatherers powered by caffeinated beverages.


So as I see it, this is mostly a Kuhnian problem and we should take it upstairs. As Russell might observe, the main reason why **The Structure of Scientific Revolution** sold well was because of the words "structure" and "revolution", who were big sellers in Kuhn's time. Perhaps we should only ask for a refund.

It would be nice if we could separate Ravetz' conceptual apparatus from the op-eds it inspires him. These op-eds do not follow from them.

Anonymous said...

Willard, in her response to you at that link, "shewonk" states:
"The problem is not with science or even uncertainty in science. Scientists are very aware of and able to deal with uncertainty". And from there goes on to say that the real problem is how those in power make use of the fact that uncertainty exists.

The problem with this is that its not correct--it's a ridiculous blanket statement. Some scientists have an excellent understanding of uncertainty and others have bad ones. Mann is a classic example of someone who either doesn't understand the full range of actual variation in the system under study, or chooses not to present it if he does. Indeed that sums up a large fraction of the problem with Mann's work generally. So, I know nothing about Ravetz, and I don't care at all for some of the ideas I hear from the "post-normal" crowd that I've been exposed to (admittedly, not a lot), but I have to agree with him on his point I quoted above.

EliRabett said...

There are magic words at RR

willard said...

Dear Anonymous,

For your own sake, please keep your coatracking for others' commenters. For I could peer-review your rhetorical claims, perhaps not extendedly, but certainly extensively.

Mann, Mann, Mann.

Say that again.

Mann, Mann, Mann.

Anonymous said...

There were no "rhetorical claims" there Willard, but I'll try to figure out just what the hell you're talking about anyway. Due dilligence you know.

guthrie said...

Come now, Ravetz gives himself away with:
"By contrast, I would argue that one important source of strength and conviction among the opposition has been the perception of bad practice among the mainstream."

It is certainly true that the denialists and their ilk, as well as common or garden folk who don't know much about climate science have indeed perceived that climate scientists are corrupt and bad.
But perception is not necessarily reality as I'm sure you all know.

As a trained but not working scientist, it is bleeding obvious to me that science has always been both data led, theory driven and what have you, and to some extent controlled by political considerations. Now with politics you can't make science give you the result you want (integrated over time that is) but you can ensure that good areas that benefit your funders get free public research and bad areas which would cause problems, e.g. earth sensing satellites, don't.

The whole post normal science thing being both a recognition of such issues by social scientists which may lead to better understanding of science the discipline and how it interacts with power, and a means to beat up scientists used by denialists and other anti-science folk.

willard said...

Dear Anonymous,

Here was your example:

> Mann is a classic example of someone who either doesn't understand the full range of actual variation in the system under study, or chooses not to present it if he does. Indeed that sums up a large fraction of the problem with Mann's work generally.

Please tell me how this has anything to do with due diligence.

Coatracking sounds more like it.

Thanks for playing, though.

Ronin Geographer said...

If we can possibly separate the question of Ravetz' recent incoherence from the substance of PNS, I would love to hear raypierre's more specific critique of the latter, should he care to elaborate. That said, given the incoherent material from Jerry, I have been reluctant to write about it myself, which is why it took me so long to get that post out.

I agree with raypierre that (at least part of) what makes climate science different is the use to which it is put. In fact, in a policy context, use of scientific information is an additional key criteria for quality. Therefore, an important message is that scientists need to consider how their information is or will be used, and recognize that science not a neutral bystander, separate from the system that is being observed. Thus the need to consider context and ethics in a broader than technical framework.

Mashey's comment nails a key obstacle to supposedly interdisciplinary endeavors, which is the tendency to frame everything from the perspective of the discipline of the person who started it and dumb everything else down accordingly. Which means that the social sciences are typically brought in around the margins as an afterthought, and crammed into compartments in box models or something similar, which perpetuates those proverbial silos, and is suggestive of determinism.

Having been interdisciplinary since my undergraduate days, with grounding in both the social and natural sciences (but more in the former), I have done my best to stay out of those silos altogether, and avoid the dumbing down approach. But there is little appreciation for what it takes to actually do this - but I'll try to also avoid ranting.

More soon on PNT...

Anonymous said...

Choir: Mann! Mann! Mann! Mann! Lovely Mann! Lovely Mann!

Rib Smokin' bunny

willard said...

Rib Smokin' bunny will hold anything bunnies don't say against them.

So much the worse for Ravetz' naïveté.

Anonymous said...

Willard at 10:41:
The point is that the sentence you quote is not in any way rhetorical. It's a statement regarding the quality of science Mann produces, pretty simple. Spin it however you like, but when you start to speak to the substance instead of your meta-analysis, that's when I'll be interested.

Anonymous said...

One more time Eli:
Who asked you to comment on the lawsuits? Are you going to answer that or not?

willard said...

Dear Anonymous,

One has to appreciate your insistence.

You claim:

> The point is that the sentence you quote is not in any way rhetorical. It's a statement regarding the quality of science Mann produces, pretty simple.

It is pretty simple indeed, but simplicity does not prevent from being rhetorical. In fact, those who would embrace a populist standpoint are well advised to keep statements simple. So there's a non sequitur right there.

Your "let's talk about substance" is also quite simple. And yet it serves a rhetorical effect. This effect is caused by many ingredients, my favorite one being that to talk about Mann counts as substantive.

Some might disagree about the Mann case being substantive, both for discussing Ravetz and in general, as it is now used in climate blogland.

You are using Mann as a whipping boy, Anonymous. Not only are you using him as a whipping boy, but you're asking Eli to whip with you. Not only are you asking Eli to whip along, and to whip it good as would imagine Devo's fans, but you're using all sorts of tricks to make sure everyone got that.

All that by way of quite simple statements.

I conclude that your claim that your statement is false and that you, dear Anonnymous, are a frolicsome bunny.

PS: There's another thread for matters of lawsuit. Please mind your manners.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the meta-meta analysis Willard, I am enlightened. Your insight into my real motives are particularly interesting and I will keep them at the forefront of my mind at all times.

I'm curious however as to whether you know anything about paleoclimatology? Tree rings? Volcanoes? Statistics? Trend detection? Climate? Inference? Attribution?

Or is all that science stuff irrelevant to the "real" issues at hand?

willard said...

Frolicsome bunny,

I must confess I've never quite understood that fascination about the word "meta". Tarski, for instance, used it to recursively define truth:

> If the language under discussion (the object language) is L, then the definition should be given in another language known as the metalanguage, call it M. The metalanguage should contain a copy of the object language (so that anything one can say in L can be said in M too), and M should also be able to talk about the sentences of L and their syntax.

Perhaps this fascination has to do with the fact that the word "about" sounds less precise. Perhaps it is because it's tougher to denigrate comments with the concept of aboutness. So much conjectures, so little time.

There are two main problems with the "meta" word in our context. The first is that human communication would not work without such "meta" channel. All that would remain would be failures to communicate. The second is that with most complex languages, the delimitation between meta-language and the object language becomes quite moot.

There's even a theorem according to which one can't have such delimitation, if you're interested.


In case you feel lost by this comment, let us remind ourselves what was the topic of our conversation.

The main topic of Eli's post is Ravetz' recent remarks in reaction to Sylvia's paper, and by extension Ravetz' overall posture in the climate debate. The discussion widened a bit because, well, Eli's not complimentary op-ed led to some piling on, which in turn attracted some (i.e. my) pushback against philosopher bashing. However tortuous were my meanderings, this pushback always kept the eye on the ball, the ball being Ravetz' op-eds and Ravetz' conceptual framework, my point being that the op-eds are not caused by the framework.

This should clarify what the relevant discussion of Eli's post.


Now you, frolicsome bunny, are trying to coatrack Mann, paleo, tree rings, volcanoes, stats, trends, climate, inference, and attribution into this. You are also suggesting that I'm the one who's being meta here regarding what you call the "issues at hand". I believe that the first part of this comment shows that this suggestion is false and that your identification of the "issues at hand" is wrong.


Please note, finally, that in calling your coatracking, never had I the intent to probed your mind states. I tried to describe what you were doing the best I can. The way you are ignoring the points I am raising regarding your own performance so far are making me doubt of your sincerity in having a real conversation.

My description and jusdgement of your comments are not topical to the discussion, of course. As such, I admit in being "meta", as you say. Please rest assured that this attunement will stop as soon as your disgressions will.

If you don't like me describing taking your coatracking as a textbook example of what trolling looks like, you know what to do.

EliRabett said...

The answer to Anonymous' question of Eli is Anonymous, who injected Michael Mann into all available spaces.

Eli is pleased to note that Anthony Tony's poll is now closed and a decision is eagerly awaited by all. Popcorn is being prepared.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Willard, I'll take your reply to my question at 2:06 as a definite "no", but thanks for making me wade through several paragraphs and various red herrings to fish that out.

Is there anybody here at all who can actually discuss the legitimacy of Mann's science, recent or otherwise? Anybody at all?

If you think I'm somehow on the side of the NR or CEI in any way, you're wrong, I ain't. Don't give a shit about them and it's probably true that they're using him as a focal point for their agenda. But that doesn't justify Mann's science in any way, much less his personal behavior. I mean you have to blind not to see that. And indeed, many of you are. You can't even it discuss it.

willard said...

> Don't give a shit about them and it's probably true that they're using him as a focal point for their agenda.

What about yours, frolicsome one?

Steve Bloom said...

Frolicsome, Mann's colleagues demonstrably think rather highly of him. (The various means of establishing that are obvious, so a smart bunny like you can figure them out on your own.) That being the case, what you're really on about is trying to use Mann as an access point for trashing the entirety of climate science. Why should anyone here want to interact with you in such a regard? You need a hobby that's actually interesting.

Willard, I've always taken "meta" as being a word to use rather than "about about" or equivalent clumsy (IMO) phrases. There's no denying it's jargon, but that being so it's just in keeping with the old Anglo-Saxon sport of word-bloat, which seems to have turned out to be the most effective and lasting form of imperialism.

Steve Bloom said...

Note to Willard: Just so we're clear, the deranged comments on science I've seen from Ravetz have not been on Sylvia's blog, where he's been quite polite, but at WTF and Judy's. I'm satisfied my memory of them is accurate, and in any case am not interested in spending time finding them just to satisfy your Socratic questioning.

Anonymous said...

On a conceptual note; Ravetz's Kuhn needs more Chalmers.

Anonymous Etc


Silly ravetz.

willard said...

I acknowledge your request to disregard any kind of need to provide evidence for your beliefs, Steve. Note though that asking for evidence would be more Aristotelian than Socratic. Socrates was more inclined to work with what was accessible during his dialogues, if we can call them so.


Since you bring Socrates in the discussion, I am wondering if you read **Gorgias**. I'm only asking because I'm actually listening to a a podcast right now called the Partially Examined Life:

It's been a while since I thought about that, but the discussion seems quite relevant. Socrates' point is that persuasion by itself sucks when it's not about conveying knowledge, i.e. justified true beliefs. Eli and the rabbits seem to be looking to ways to persuade about knowledge while having to entertain querents who do not seem to be compelled to play the same game.

There seems to be a frustration in having to deal with orators like our Frolicsome bunny, for whom the inverse of flattery sounds good enough when talking about Mann, more so when it's being portrayed as "we only want Good Science". Righteous hindsight is an easy part to play and an easy product to sell: all one has to do is to create havoc and make the bunny squad fire in a circle. (If you prefer a simple statement, Frolicsome, I'm simply saying that you're a sophist, which was the "denier" gambit of that time.)

What sucks even more is that it's tough to persuade about the opposite of flattery, something that does not seem to bring any kind of pleasure. What sucks the most, at least to me, is that being connected to justified true beliefs seems to come with this idea that one does not need any kind of persuasion craft. Something like this leads to feel justified to publicly old Oxonians idiots.

Climate blogland might very well be footnotes to a handful of Plato's dialogues.

PS: Capha is iogene.

andrew adams said...

anonymous, [you can actually enter a name (or pseudonym) here you know]

Personally I don't have any great desire to discuss Mann (which doesn't mean I am prepared to throw him under the proverbial bus either), and I have even less desire to discuss him in a thread which is about something else entirely. And when someone insists on continually shoe horning him into such an unrelated thread then I'm inclined to agree with Willard that this has the appearance of being a rhetorical device rather than an attempt to advance the conversation.

As for people's knowledge of paleo, tree rings etc., judging by the number of very confident pronouncements on these subjects I have seen in the blogosphere, especially from the "skeptics", it would seem that everyone is an expert on these things, apart from me.


SOCRATES: What’s your way?

STREPSIADES: At the drug seller’s shop have you seen that beautiful stone you can see right through, the one they use to start a fire?

SOCRATES: You mean glass?


SOCRATES: So what?

STREPSIADES: What if I took that glass, and when the scribe was writing out the charge, I stood between him and the sun—like this—
some distance off, and made his writing melt,
just the part about my case?*

SOCRATES: By the Graces, that’s a smart idea!

STREPSIADES: Hey, I’m happy— I’ve erased my law suit for five talents.

SOCRATES: So hurry up and tackle this next problem.

STREPSIADES: What is it?

SOCRATES: How would you evade a charge
and launch a counter-suit in a hearing you’re about to lose without a witness?

STREPSIADES: No problem there—it’s easy.

SOCRATES: So tell me.

STREPSIADES: I will. If there was a case still pending, another one before my case was called, I’d run off and hang myself.

SOCRATES: That’s nonsense.

STREPSIADES: No, by the gods, it’s not. If I were dead, no one could bring a suit against me.

SOCRATES: That’s rubbish. begone. I’ll not instruct you any more.

STREPSI des: In the Gods name why not?

SOCRATES: There’s no point— as soon as you learn anything, it’s gone, you forget it right away.

Clouds Aristophanes

Anonymous said...

"Frolicsome, Mann's colleagues demonstrably think rather highly of him. (The various means of establishing that are obvious, so a smart bunny like you can figure them out on your own.) That being the case, what you're really on about is trying to use Mann as an access point for trashing the entirety of climate science."

Steve, no.

The ones who really understand the issues in detail do not think highly of him, especially after this episode. Trust me. I personally know a number of scientists who doubt his motives, his methods, and his knowledge, and some of them even read this blog. I know because they've told me so. And no, I'm not going to name names, because they didn't give me permission to do so.

I know from reading previous comments that you're one of the more astute ones here. I ain't actually here to troll, OK, even if I will give it back in equal dose to that given if I feel the urge. If you don't want to believe me, fine, believe whatever you want. But I would suggest contacting some of the authors of the recent letter and doing some investigation on the matter.

It's not just an issue of being technically wrong on some obscure science point. The bigger issue is that Mann wants to slant the interpretation of the science towards his view of relatively little T variance in times past, which reduces the probability that former periods were as warm or warmer than now. That's what his angle is, and that's why he does not like other scientists who publish findings to the contrary. Jan Esper being the principal case in point, but also Briffa, David Frank and others, who have shown in various different types of analysis that the methods Mann uses under-estimate past climatic variance, especially on long time scales. These people know what they're doing. They are much more careful in what they do than Mann is.

Again, believe whatever you want. I'm going to tell you what I know about the issue. If you don't like it OK, fine. But I'm going to say what I know.


Eli , ravetz can also count on Fred Singer to claim his agenda's endorsement by Jacques Barzun, Herbert Hoover and Emperor Franz Josef. Nobody's name has ever been removed from the Oregon Zombie petition either.

willard said...

Dear frolicsome bunny,

I should not have said you were a sophist. After reading this bit of introduction, which I believe is by the translator himself, Benjamin Jowett, it might be inappropriate:

> Callicles, in whose house they are assembled, is introduced on the stage: he is with difficulty convinced that Socrates is in earnest; for if these things are true, then, as he says with real emotion, the foundations of society are upside down. In him another type of character is represented; he is neither sophist nor philosopher, but man of the world, and an accomplished Athenian gentleman. He might be described in modern language as a cynic or materialist, a lover of power and also of pleasure, and unscrupulous in his means of attaining both. There is no desire on his part to offer any compromise in the interests of morality; nor is any concession made by him. Like Thrasymachus in the Republic, though he is not of the same weak and vulgar class, he consistently maintains that might is right. His great motive of action is political ambition; in this he is characteristically Greek. Like Anytus in the Meno, he is the enemy of the Sophists; but favours the new art of rhetoric, which he regards as an excellent weapon of attack and defence. He is a despiser of mankind as he is of philosophy, and sees in the laws of the state only a violation of the order of nature, which intended that the stronger should govern the weaker (compare Republic). Like other men of the world who are of a speculative turn of mind, he generalizes the bad side of human nature, and has easily brought down his principles to his practice. Philosophy and poetry alike supply him with distinctions suited to his view of human life. He has a good will to Socrates, whose talents he evidently admires, while he censures the puerile use which he makes of them. He expresses a keen intellectual interest in the argument. Like Anytus, again, he has a sympathy with other men of the world; the Athenian statesmen of a former generation, who showed no weakness and made no mistakes, such as Miltiades, Themistocles, Pericles, are his favourites. His ideal of human character is a man of great passions and great powers, which he has developed to the utmost, and which he uses in his own enjoyment and in the government of others. Had Critias been the name instead of Callicles, about whom we know nothing from other sources, the opinions of the man would have seemed to reflect the history of his life.

You're more a man of the world, a Realpoliker, so to speak.

Thank you for making me realize that Socrates at least expected the Sophists to play fair.

Oh, and the justification you are providing not to name names could explain why your demands cannot answered in a felicitous manner. It could also provide evidence that you might be aware of this.

PS: The dialog contains an interesting theory of punishment, if you would care for such a thing.

Steve Bloom said...

"the methods Mann uses under-estimate past climatic variance"

Oddly, the recent paper would seem to be making the opposite point, i.e. that climatic forcing from volcanoes may be larger than the tree-ring record shows. So now I'm confused.

Re some of the dendros being really pissed, this much is obvious. Mann et al. are accusing them of having missed something important at the heart of their expertise, so no surprise there. Re scientists in general not being immune to the favorite plains ape pastimes of malicious gossip and backbiting, um...

Probably Willard has already noted the vast irony of the auditors going after Mann tooth and claw for the crime of... auditing (albeit of a more scientific sort than the auditors prefer).

Some high points listed on Mike's site:

"2013 Inducted as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society

"2012 Awarded the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union

"2008 Inducted as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union"

OK, probably they hand those fellow things out like popcorn, but the recent Oeschger medal award seems notable, does it not? Says the EGU:

"This medal has been established by the Division on Climate: Past, Present & Future in recognition of the scientific achievement of Hans Oeschger. It is reserved for scientists for their outstanding achievements in ice research and/or short term climatic changes (past, present, future)."

Now, anony, if your description of attitudes toward Mann is correct, how then do you 'splain this award?

Also, one cannot help but notice that Mike's pubs list is rotten, nay, teetering to the point of collapse, with Nature, Science and PNAS. Que?

Steve Bloom said...

An interlude, in honor of Willard:

Broomgilda: "He's a witch!"

Frederick of York: "How do you know this?"

Broomgilda: "I saw him down at the bridge consorting with the Devil!"

Frederick of York: "How do you know it was the Devil?"

Broomgilda: "Because he was in the form of a winged griffin!"

Frederick of York: "Hmm, that's the Devil all right! Guilty as charged."

willard said...

Thanks, Steve.

Here's another one:

[Ray]: Ravetz is an idiot.

[willard]: Well, yeah, perhaps, but for curiosity's sake I'd like to see an engineer-level derivation of that.

[Frolicsome Bunny]: Hey guys, you talking about Mike?

[willard]: Come on, Frolicsome Bunny. Don’t do this again.

[Frolicsome Bunny]: I just thought maybe you were having the old Mike discussion.

[Steve]: Dude, for the last time: we’ll tell you if we ever have a conversation about Mike.

[Frolicsome Bunny]: You promise?

[willard]: Of course, Steve. We know how you love Doritos.

[Eli]: Yeah, man. Everyone knows.

ligne said...

the frolicsome one: "Trust me. I personally know a number of scientists who doubt his motives, his methods, and his knowledge, and some of them even read this blog. I know because they've told me so. And no, I'm not going to name names, because they didn't give me permission to do so."

i once met Jesus.

ligne said...

"Also, one cannot help but notice that Mike's pubs list is rotten, nay, teetering to the point of collapse, with Nature, Science and PNAS. Que?"

clearly, having published papers that turn out to be incorrect, they preferred to double down on errors and publish more work from the same corrupt reasearcher, than to face the horror of retraction.

guthrie said...

So anon doesn't like Mann's work.
WE had gathered that. But they still havn't explained why all the usual scientific argy-bargy means that it's okay to call him a fraud and make comparisons between him and various criminals.

Steve Bloom said...

Now, ligne, you begin to grasp the horrific scale of this world-spanning conspiracy. :)

Steve Bloom said...

Actually, Willard, giving up Doritos was quite easy. In the end all I had to do was read the back of the package. Of course, with the Doritos I didn't feel compelled to read it more than once. There's some lesson here, I just know there is.

But there is hope for me, and I can prove it! Just in the last day over at the Empty Blog I refused to engage on the details of Alexander Harvey's nnth off-topic posting of Lindzen's latest wisdom. I hope you're impressed.

David B. Benson said...

"[Regarding global temperatures:]

'In summary, the mid-Holocene, roughly 6,000 years ago, was generally warmer than today, but only in summer and only in the northern hemisphere.'

And because of orbital/rotational cycles, at the same time it was warmer in summer at high NH latitudes, it was also COLDER in winter:

... hence an average temp lower than current global temps (despite more dramatic seasonal shifts)." from a comment elsewhere.

Which of course depends not all all on Mann's so-called hockey stick.

Anonymous said...

This is the song anonytroll is singing:

Rib Smokin' bunny

Pinko Punko said...

This Ravetz guy reminds me of Steve Fuller on Intelligent design


Somebody should tell Willard that Plato served only Dorito at his symposia , because he was afraid of the trans-fats in Ionitos

willard said...

You sound as a Platonician, Steve, at least when comes the time for a Doritos. Knowledge does seem to compel you to the Good. It's just a pity most of us will cling to our habits no matter how much we read ingredients lists.


This reminds me of the bit where Socrates and Gorgias try to define rhetoric, which bears some historical importance, for that's just after knowledge gets its classical definition of justified true belief:

SOCRATES: Shall we then assume two sorts of persuasion,—one which is the source of belief without knowledge, as the other is of knowledge?

GORGIAS: By all means.

SOCRATES: And which sort of persuasion does rhetoric create in courts of law and other assemblies about the just and unjust, the sort of persuasion which gives belief without knowledge, or that which gives knowledge?

GORGIAS: Clearly, Socrates, that which only gives belief.

SOCRATES: Then rhetoric, as would appear, is the artificer of a persuasion which creates belief about the just and unjust, but gives no instruction about them?


SOCRATES: And the rhetorician does not instruct the courts of law or other assemblies about things just and unjust, but he creates belief about them; for no one can be supposed to instruct such a vast multitude about such high matters in a short time?

GORGIAS: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: Come, then, and let us see what we really mean about rhetoric; for I do not know what my own meaning is as yet. When the assembly meets to elect a physician or a shipwright or any other craftsman, will the rhetorician be taken into counsel? Surely not. For at every election he ought to be chosen who is most skilled; and, again, when walls have to be built or harbours or docks to be constructed, not the rhetorician but the master workman will advise; or when generals have to be chosen and an order of battle arranged, or a position taken, then the military will advise and not the rhetoricians: what do you say, Gorgias? [...]

GORGIAS: I like your way of leading us on, Socrates, and I will endeavour to reveal to you the whole nature of rhetoric. You must have heard, I think, that the docks and the walls of the Athenians and the plan of the harbour were devised in accordance with the counsels, partly of Themistocles, and partly of Pericles, and not at the suggestion of the builders.

SOCRATES: Such is the tradition, Gorgias, about Themistocles; and I myself heard the speech of Pericles when he advised us about the middle wall.

GORGIAS: And you will observe, Socrates, that when a decision has to be given in such matters the rhetoricians are the advisers; they are the men who win their point.

I'm sure you noticed the analogy with physicians, emphasized above. The whole line of reasoning seems to be in use in climate blogland, for instance:

The relationship between knowledge and health does seem quite natural. I'm not sure it works, as I'm more an Aristotelian myself. Perhaps I'm just too much of a creature of habits.


No, we're not indirectly talking about Mike, frolicsome one.

willard said...

Someone should tell Russell that Marshall simply rediscovered Gorgias.

Had he read Plato, Dodger's honest brokering persuasion scheme might have been shorter.

Steve Bloom said...

RP Jr.'s status requires a constant stream of new material. As with Lomborg's latest in wsjonline, when there is none (and it does tend to run out early), repetition and fabrication are the order of the day.

willard said...

Speaking of repetition, you might appreciate this comment by Ross:

Nowhere is there a mention of the Wegman Report.

Auditors might wonder why.


Bunnies might also notice that the link provided to M&W does not lead to its complementary discussion, which can also be found on the Euclid Project, but with some effort:

Auditors might wonder why.

willard said...


I also forgot that comment on MW by Eduardo Zorita:

> The introduction already contains a terrible and unnecessary paragraph, full of errors: [...] Further misunderstandings, this time about climate models: [...] This paragraph, and later other similar paragraphs, tells me that the authors have not really read the original paper by Mann, Bradly and Hughes (1998). [...] Again, wrong. Correctly or incorrectly, this is not what MBH did. [...] Well, this result may be interesting and probably correct, but I doubt it is useful, since I am not aware of any reconstruction using this statistical regression model.

Eduardo's conclusion can bear some importance on the difficulties surrounding the concept of extended peer-review:

> In summary, admittedly climate scientist have produced in the past bad papers for not consulting professional statisticians. The McShane and Wyner paper is an example of the reverse situation. What we need is an open and honest collaboration between both groups.

Eduardo does not seem to consider MW as an open and honest contribution.

No word from McKitrick on that.

John Mashey said...

Although more was found later on M&W, even in Sept 2010, there was a section, A.12 in Strange Scholarship... that highlighted some of the problems.

People might also "enjoy" the 07/11/11 news release from the Kellogg School of Management, where McShane is a Marketing Prof:
Hot or cold? A new study finds that natural phenomena, such as tree rings or ice sheets, are weak predictors of annual global temperatures

Note that it links to free copies of the original paper and the M&W rejoinder ... but the commentaries are not so easy to find :-)

willard said...


A comment I posted this morning crossed your last remark about MW commentaries. Don't know if Eli can fish it out from spam. Here was the most cryptic part:

> The posterior mode (conditional on λ and σ2) results from minimizing the argument of the exponent with respect to the βj,j = 0...p. This is equivalent to the LASSO optimization problem [Park and Casella, 2008, cf. MW2010, page 13]. It is difficult to imagine a scientifically defensible reason for specifying such a prior in the paleoclimate context. In a Bayesian analysis, draws from the conditional posterior for the β will never result in any of the coefficients being exactly equal to zero: the posterior mode (i.e., the LASSO) is structurally much different from all draws.

Emphasis added.

The only comment I could find discussing Tingley at Steve's was this from a certain ACT:

> I suspect Tingley doesn’t understand the importance of the cross-validation step, because what he has done is so easy to rebut and so obviously wrong to anyone with knowledge of the LASSO.

An interesting comment, considering that Tingley simply used the default values of glmnet:

> I do not perform the cross-validation procedure used in MW2010 to determine the LASSO penalization parameter (λ on page 13 of MW2010). Instead, I use the default setting of the glmnet package, which sets λ to be 0.05 times the smallest value of λ for which all coefficients are zero. The LASSO penalization is thus very small.

Perhaps frolicsome bunny has an opinion on this matter.

Now's your chance, frolicsome one.

EliRabett said...

Not in the spam folder

Anonymous said...

Ah, McShane and Wyner and their ridiculous analysis. Good times.

Rib Smokin' bunny

willard said...

The first link should not be

but this one:

richardtol said...

Jerry Ravetz is a notable philosopher who has engaged in public discourse throughout his career. Eli Rabett is pseudonym. Which of these two can best be described as "hiding under a rock".

J Bowers said...

That was a bit lame, Richard. Never heard of a pseudonym? It's not as if Professor Rabett's real name isn't bandied about on the interweb. It's the same with Tamino and Deep Climate. Maybe George Eliot was hiding under a rock, too? How about Nigel Persaud?

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

What a wonderful coincidence that Tol rhymes with troll.

Richard, do you think Voltaire was his given name?


Anonymous said...

I think that Richard is pointing at squirrels.

Or bunnies, if that's the way one swings.

Bernard J.

EliRabett said...

Well Richie, even Jerry's friend Sylvia knows that he has rounded the corner and is headed for the home of the emeriti.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary Eli, Jerry is still a lively strong kicking bunny with all his buttons on and marbles present.

I attended his recent seminar on Kuhn's seminal work last year, and very interesting it was too. He rambled a lot less than Sylvia does in her most recent diatribe contra los contras.