Friday, August 6, 2010

More context on Curry

In my previous post, I summarized the apparent meltdown of Judith Curry. In this post, I'll provide some more "historical" context by summarizing some relevant posts from Keith Kloor's Collide-a-scape.

Our story (for this post, anyway) begins over on Climate Audit on June 12, where Judith posted this comment (emphasis mine):

Michael Tobis has spend a lot of time here, he seems genuinely interested in what an “armistice” might look like. In order to understand the issues with the CRU emails, the broader hockey stick affair, and other issues of concern to the climateauditors, it takes alot of work to wade through all that stuff. It is much easier just to accept the spin from RC. I have slogged through this stuff sufficiently thoroughly on my owned to be convinced that there are some serious issues. Trying to figure all this out by wading through past CA posts is very difficult. I have found Montford’s book “The Hockey Stick Illusion” to be enormously helpful in this regard. Willis is sorting through “Only in it for the Gold,” which is good, but some sort of guide will help, it is very difficult to get the flavor and identify the most significant posts by cruising though past blog posts
As far as I can tell, Michael Tobis’ efforts here reflect an honest interest to bridge. Efforts on both sides to point to key posts and make arguments again (even though you’ve made them before somewhere else) is necessary for a productive dialogue
I guess all this makes me a “tone troll”, but from my perspective this has been a very interesting discussion with possibly some productive outcomes
Our story picks up at Collide-a-scape (again, emphasis added):
Steven, whether or not Montfort or McIntyre is “correct” in some sort of ultimate time will tell sense, I am not judging that.  I am saying that they put forth powerful arguments that are being dismissed.  Montford’s book is a serious one and an important contribution to the history of climate science, and it is receiving very good reviews.  It is being ignored by the climate establishment, see for example Gavin Schmidt’s comment at RC when i mentioned this book on the Comments on the Second CRU Inquiry Reports thread.   Has ANYONE supporting the IPCC and the consensus view read this?  If not, I would appreciate your not dismissing the book because of some ancillary statement about McIntyre or Montford that has no relevance to the substance of this book.  If you don’t want to read the book, McIntyre’s motives are very clearly stated in his recent Hearland Conference presentation.   McKittrick’s motives might be slightly more political, but attempts to identify any economic incentives from oil companies or whatever have failed (i can’t find the post on this at the moment.)
Steven Sullivan then asks (quoting Curry):
“Montford’s book is a serious one and an important contribution to the history of climate science, and it is receiving very good reviews.”
From whom?
Judith's response (egads, the Discovery Institute!?):
Re the “Hockey Stick Illusion,” here are some blogospheric reviews, not from identified “skeptics (as far as i can tell):
Seth’s Blog
NC Media Watch
Facts Plus Logic
Discovery News
Note also the reviews at Amazon.  The Amazon reviews pay tribute to how interesting and well written this is
So why hasn’t this been reviewed by any of the mainstream IPCC consensus types?

 Deltoid's Tim Lambert chimes in:
Judith says: “here are some blogospheric reviews, not from identified “skeptics (as far as i can tell):”  Except for the one at Klimazwiebel (where the author explicitly states that he is not writing a review) all of the reviewers (including Matt Ridley) are easily identified as skeptics.
As far as know, you are the only person not in the CA camp who has positive things to say about it.  I’m prepared to look at it on your recommendation, but don’t expect anything soon.
I’m surprised that you are unfamiliar with The Discovery Institute — I would take an endorsement from them as a sign that something is wrong with the book.
Slight tangent as Judy fawns over the book again (emphasis added):
So if you want to understand the ruckus, you need to understand all this, this book does a masterful job of explaining this whole issue in terms of the technical issues and the process violations in a very readable and compelling way. It will help you understand where McIntyre et al. are coming from and what their concerns are.
As I’ve said before, I don’t take everything in this book at face value, but I have not spotted any inaccuracies.  If this book is incorrect, it should be rebutted. Hasn’t happened so far, just snarky ad homs and irrelevant comments over at realclimate.
Note, the closest thing to a rebut is RC’s “Dummies Guide to the Hockey Stick Guide Controversy“written in 1995.  Montford’s account is far better argued and more compelling than the Dummies Guide.
So I am laying down the gauntlet, this really needs to discussed and rebutted by the paleo researchers and the IPCC defenders.
Tim Lambert, thank you for your intention to read this.
Still plugging the book:
Re what climate books to read, it all depends on what you have already read, what your perspective is, your interests, and your knowledge base.  With regards to my recommendation to read the “Hockey Stick Illusion,”  it is particularly relevant in terms of understanding the “ruckus” from the perspective of the “new skeptics,” i.e. citizen scientists engaged in the social computing movement.  I think it is particularly important for scientists and others supporting the IPCC consensus to read this book, to understand the source and nature of the “ruckus” and to challenge their beliefs and precepts about this whole debate.  For a newcomer to this whole issue, it is a good roadmap to this particular debate (i.e. hockeystick) but this is a very narrow slice of the overall climate science pie.
So how do people decide what to read?  Well, in the blogosphere, challenge yourself by reading a diversity blogs.  I understand the reluctance to fork out $$ to actually buy a book, let alone take the time to read it.  The Hockey Stick Illusion is pretty inexpensive.  For a “taste”, see Montford’s earlier essay on Caspar and the Jesus paper.

 Dhoghaza bringing us back on topic:
Judith Curry, do you even *look* at the sources you cite as “not being identified skeptics as far as you can tell”?

NC Media Watch

Five minutes at this guy’s site and I learn that he thinks climate science is a fraud, that NASA “makes up” climate data:

“Shock new evidence of a NASA scientist faking a fundamental greenhouse gas equation shames beleaguered space administration in new global warming fraud scandal.

Caught in the heat are NASA’s Dr. Judith Curry …”
Given that you believe this non-skeptic source to be objective and non-biased, I assume that you agree that you’ve been caught up in this scandal?
Judy falls back on a familiar tactic here - backpedaling:
Please don’t get sidetracked by the sites i listed for reviews of Montford’s book.  I have never heard of any of these other than Klimazweibel, and cited them since the authors of the reviews weren’t known skeptics (at least that I recognized).
Attack the source, attack the person, great reasoning strategy.
Dhoghaza calls her on it:
Judith Curry:
“Attack the source, attack the person, great reasoning strategy.”
You argue that favorable reviews by these people are evidence that Bishop Hill’s book is worth reading.
Rejecting a dominionist, creationist organization as being a credible source of information on scientific issues is perfectly reasonable.  Do you go to Answers in Genesis to learn about biology?

Likewise, NC Media Watch, beyond being authored by a skeptic, is authored by someone who believes all of climate science is fraudulent.  Including your work, apparently.  You really take a favorable review by this person as being evidence that Bishop Hill’s book is worth reading?
Sorry.  I have higher standards.

“Please don’t get sidetracked by the sites i listed for reviews of Montford’s book.  I have never heard of any of these other than Klimazweibel, and cited them since the authors of the reviews weren’t known skeptics (at least that I recognized).”
Now you’re suggesting that if you *had* recognized them as being skeptic sites (I’d use stronger words for the DI and NC Media Watch), that you would *not* have listed them.
Yet, you didn’t bother to spend the few moments in Google that would’ve been required to educate yourself in that regard.
Still in retreat:
dghoza, I am not interested in engaging with your “gotcha” attempts that are completely peripheral to any arguments of importance or relevance to what I guess is 99% of the people perusing this thread.

“Attack the source, attack the person, great reasoning strategy.”
You’re sloppy.  That’s not an attack, it’s a fact.
For instance, not long ago, you put forward Watts Up With That as being a credible source, for instance, and when it was pointed out to you that the site posts ridiculous misinformation (CO2 snow in antarctica, greenhouse effect doesn’t operate on Venus, etc), your excuse was that you hadn’t actually bothered to familiarize yourself with the site.
When asked to iterate those scientific points of interest brought forth at the Heartland Institute, you trotted out a list of stuff that’s mostly been debunked, after admitting that you’re not familiar with the details of much of the science being challenged.
Likewise the proxy stuff.  You say it makes your eyes glaze over, yet surely … surely … something important is being said by the denialist side and certainly their conclusions aren’t being accepted because of … “tribalism”.
And now this bit where you cite a source that accuses you of fraud!
Is it unreasonable for people to expect more of you?

“I am not interested in engaging with your “gotcha” attempts that are completely peripheral to any arguments of importance or relevance to what I guess is 99% of the people perusing this thread.”
Then what was your reason for posting those sites?  You were perfectly happy to have us “sidetracked” by them before it was pointed out to you that, um, perhaps they weren’t as unbiased as you wanted to believe.
And what is McIntyre and Climate Audit of not the crowning glory of “gotcha” attempts to discredit mainstream science?  You appear to adore their “gotchaisms”.
Alas, Curry is now on a new tack (sort of):
The Miskolczi paper is an interesting case.  There is very much to criticize in this paper, but he does make a few good points, particularly with regards to neglect of the virial theorem. Since it was published in a Hungarian journal with a minimal impact factor, mainstream scientists don’t want to bother with writing a formal reply to that journal.
There is some discussion (rather shallow, really) of this paper over atRabbett Run.  Hopefully somebody in the blogosphere will tackle this (e.g. Eli or scienceofdoom).
Note rebutting this is a much bigger job than replying to allegations made by Montford, which somebody could do in an afternoon if they were so inclined.
And, we're back:
Phil Clarke, re Montford’s book, I am primarily suggesting that people who want to understand the “ruckus” should actually read this book which provides the perspective of the skeptics.  The well argued allegations in this book, which are serious, should be refuted by the mainstream climate community involved in this research and the IPCC if they are in fact incorrect.  And if they are correct, there are serious problems with climate research and with the IPCC. As to whether someone just entering the fray and trying to understand the whole thing should actually purchase and read this book, well such a person will have to decide whether or not to read this based on what they have seen/heard about the book.  It would be counterproductive (not to mention very time consuming) for me to try to summarize all the allegations and evidence provided by Montford.  I hope that someone in the climate blogosphere will take this on, sounds like Tim Lambert actually intends to read it.  That fact that NO ONE from the mainstream climate community is commenting on this (other than a few people over at Klimazweibel) is telling, in my opinion; much of what Montford has written will not be easily refuted.

 So Montford's book - which, if we are to believe Dr. Curry - is so important that it demands attention from serious scientists, is simultaneously "not easily refuted" and rebuttable "in an afternoon"? It's too time-consuming for her to even summarize it - yet she later does exactly that in the Real Climate comments?

Next, after insisting that "it's the argument that counts" (not the source of funding), Curry then goes on to . . . attack the source of funding of climate scientists?
Tim 203:  Personal motives or the source of funding don’t particularly matter, its the argument that counts.  Stating your biases and source of funding, and providing documentation and data, should be sufficient to eliminate motive from consideration of the argument (the person examining the argument can reproduce or otherwise check the argument and dismiss any explicitly value laden statements).   The medical research field (with heavy funding from big pharma) has such guidelines in place.

Re government funding, libertarians often quote Eisenhower’s farewell address in 1961:
“Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. 

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded. 
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. 
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society. ”
Their concern is basically about a technochratic elite being increasingly granted priest-like powers over the laity.

There is an extra layer of concern however for something like the IPCC assessment report, which involves generating an overall integrative narrative and using expert opinion to assess confidence levels for the various conclusions.
The Penn lawyer Jason Johnson recently wrote:

“To use legal terms, is the work by the IPCC and establishment story lead scientists a legal brief – intended to persuade – or a legal memo – intended to objectively assess both sides?”
The deeply imbued belief by nearly all climate scientists participating in the IPCC assessment report seems to be reflected by Michael Tobis’ statement in #174 “. . .my insistence (along with most people who understand the situation) that the only reasonable target for net carbon emissions is zero and that vigorous pursuit of that goal is long overdue. . .”
How can a large group of scientists having such an insistence about policy be writing a legal memo and not a legal brief?  Whether they are consciously doing so or not?
Curry's next comments repeat some of the same errors that she later posted on Real Climate (I've bolded the important bit):
Tim, with regards to the North NRC Report, the supported at least of two of MM’s main points:  the PCA issue, and the bristlecone issue.  That is pretty hard to deny?  Both sides have spun the report to suit their agendas (RP Jr certaintly doesn’t have a dog in this fight, so his reaction was probably unbiased if not completely accurate).  I recall discussing the findings with a young paleoclimatologist right after the North Report was released, the paleoclimatologist thought the report was a “big blow.”  That was also an honest reaction. Since then, much spin.  But the end result of the North Report is that MM’s PCA and bristlecone critiques stand, and the 4th assessment report drew back substantially from the 3rd assessment report in its conclusions and confidence levels.

So the “vindication” seems to be of the following nature:  MM doesn’t really “matter”, the last half of the 20th century is likely the warmest in 400 years.   So exactly how does this vindicate MBH98,99, which said something very different, and “reject” MM, which pointed out errors that were fatal flaws to the analysis as far as i can tell?  Yes recent papers have improved the analysis (e.g. Wahl/Amman, Mann et al. 2008), but there are still issues, and these papers were not included in the North Report.

I bought the “consensus” vindication at the time, similar to RP Jr., but I no longer buy this interpretation.

Tim, the point is that when there are two credible arguments with opposite conclusions, then the science is highly uncertain, at the forefront of science, and confidence statements regarding one side of the argument at the “likely” or “very likely” level are inappropriate.

If you pay close attention to McIntyre’s arguments, the hockey stick has not been independently replicated, free of the centered PCA and the suspect tree ring proxies.  This is why Montford’s book is so useful, it helps sort through the arcane arguments McIntyre has been making, which are not well organized on his site.

But wait, there's more!

Robert #256, you ask a very interesting and important question, IMO.  When skeptical groups come up with lists of 17,000 (or whatever names) of scientists, many with Ph.D.s that do not believe in global warming, I used to feel justified in ignoring this “because they aren’t climate scientists,” and after all, nearly all (important) climate scientists agree with the consensus.  I no longer feel justified in ignoring this, and can recognize my former self-righteous tribalism for what it was.

“Elite” outsiders (academics from other fields) have much to contribute to the field of climate science and its assessment.  Not just from the perspective of the technical aspects (given the complexity and multi-disciplinary aspects of the field), but also from the “process” angles and the more philosophy of science angles.  Particularly with regards to the process angles, the social psychology of conducting something like an IPCC assessment needs investigating, we need help here not just from the social scientists but also from the lawyers.  How we run peer review and make our data available, acknowledge conflicts of interests, etc.  should be evaluated and assessed against the standards of other fields.  One of the reasons our field is losing respect from elite scientists in other fields is the postnormalism aspect of our field, where so many climate scientists find it impossible to separate the policy implications from the science.  Etc. Etc.  So I for one am listening, and would like to see more formal involvement of “elite outsiders” in the process, I think this recommendation is being made by a number of different people to the IPCC IAC.

Yes, that's right: Curry just invoked the OISM petition.

1 comment:

  1. The Penn lawyer Jason Johnson...

    Kind of says it all, if Curry is drawing on stuff like that for supporting material.