Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Scientific Fraud

Kim duToit posted about this, so I assume most of you have run across the "Caspar and the Jesus Paper". It (and this) is a long post, and you should definitely RTWT if you care about how science is used in public debates.

Cliff's Notes version for those who don't have the time to RTWT: The Global Warming "Hockey Stick" showing that most warming has been recent, and man-made (as shown in Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth") is not just hooey, it's almost certainly fraudulent.

While I don't know for certain, I suspect that Kim picked up on this particular story since he has a background in statistics. Statistics originally got started so that there would be a mathematical way to know when someone's trying to snooker you.

While I wasn't trained as a scientist, I was trained as an engineer (Electrical, thanks for asking), so I'm not a complete n00b when it comes to the Scientific Method. I don't want to shock you, but lots of science is hooey. That's just how science is; a wag once described the scientific process as "not replacing a falsehood with a truth, but rather replacing a falsehood with a more subtle falsehood." So I don't have a problem with Anthropomorphic Global Warming (AGW) being wrong. I do have a problem with actual, you know, fraud. The pre-meditated sort, for professional gain:
That the statistical foundations on which they had built this paleoclimate castle were a swamp of misrepresentation, deceit and malfeasance was, to Wahl and Amman, an irrelevance. For political and public consumption, the hockey stick still lived, ready to guide political decision-making for years to come.
Orson Scott Card discussed this some time ago.

What's crucial is that Steve now understands why the "censored" data sets are smaller than the ones Mann used. The full source data includes those misleading results that shouldn't have been used. But the "censored" data sets leave it out.

This means that Mann knew exactly what he was doing. This was not an accident. Mann ran the program on the data without the misleading numbers, and then he ran it with the misleading numbers. What he published was the results that made his ideological case.

This is background to the "Jesus Paper" post. It's more accessible (not much discussion of statistics, for example), and more entertaining, but both describe the same fraud. I'd like to think that this is an isolated incident, but it's not.

Bjorn Lomborg is a statistician, and wrote a book called the Skeptical Environmentalist. It documented a bunch of mistakes and failures in climate model computer programs. It was well documented (you might say excessively footnoted) and peer-reviewed by earth scientists. Michael Crichton has a long but worthwhile post that discusses this (among other cases of politically motivated scientific orthodoxy):
The scientific community responded in a way that can only be described as disgraceful. In professional literature, it was complained he had no standing because he was not an earth scientist. His publisher, Cambridge University Press, was attacked with cries that the editor should be fired, and that all right-thinking scientists should shun the press. The past president of the AAAS wondered aloud how Cambridge could have ever "published a book that so clearly could never have passed peer review." )But of course the manuscript did pass peer review by three earth scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, and all recommended publication.) But what are scientists doing attacking a press? Is this the new McCarthyism-coming from scientists?
The worst was Scientific American - once a great magazine - debasing themselves with a whole issue as a hit piece on the Skeptical Environmentalist. Not only did they only publish critical articles by notorious, bised authors like Paul Ehrlich, not only did they refuse Lomborg the space to rebut these articles in detail, not only did they threaten to sue him for copyright infringement if he posted his rebutal online, but they titled the issue "Science defends itself from 'The Skeptical Environmentalist'".

Well now. I may be a rube that went to State U, but science doesn't need to defend itself. Nature provides the data, and if it's not reproduceable, you're wrong. "The scientist proposes and nature disposes."

All of this is cut from the same cloth, which is the intellectual class trying to wrap its pet theories up in scientific garb. When someone smells a rat, and starts a, you know, actual scientific discussion about the matter, all you hear is wagons being circled and Professor Torquemada issuing an excommunication. Sentence first, then the trial. Ask Larry Summers.

Personally, I'm skeptical about the whole AGW theory, because I'm actually pretty well versed on long-term (i.e. million-plus year) climate variation, and it doesn't look like anything is particularly out of whack today. I'm also pretty well versed in computer programming, and the fallibility of computer models. But I'm willing to keep an open mind - you know, be scientific, and look at the evidence.

However, when some idiot in the press (or worse, the American Association for the Advancement of Science) tells me that the debate is over, that there's a "consensus", that people who are unconvinced are "deniers" who should be fired (or jailed) - I reach for my wallet, and you should, too. Consensus? What the heck does that mean in scientific terms? I don't give a dang about the consensus, I care about the data. Oh, and I really, really care if you won't show me your data (like Mann and his Hockey Stick).

Deniers? Every scientific advance from Galileo to Darwin to Nils Bohr involved denying accepted wisdom. If you can't take the heat, get the heck out of the lab.

The sad realization is that much - maybe a majority - of the scientific community is involved not in science, but in class warfare. Eric Raymond - as always - puts the knife in:

Secularists and leftists enjoy sneering at conservative Christians who believe in the Rapture and other flavors of millenarianism. Reasonably so: it takes either a drooling idiot or somebody who has deliberately shut off most of his brain, reducing himself to an idiotically low level of critical thinking, to believe such things....

It is therefore more than a little amusing to notice how prone these ’sophisticated’ critics are to their own forms of idiotic millenarianism.

You're part of the in crowd, or you're not. Me, I guess I'm not.

UPDATE 17 August 2008 16:07: Confederate Yankee has a very interesting post about how we may actually be heading into global cooling (meaning new Ice Age). He has temperature graphs for the last 12,000 years, the last 100,000 years, and the last 500,000. It's well worth your time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia: Over hundreds of thousands of years, the eccentricity of the Earth's orbit varies from nearly 0.0034 to almost 0.058 as a result of gravitational attractions among the planets.

I am always intrigued that this doesn't seem to be discussed by those who believe in AGW. If the value were zero, the orbit would be perfectly circular, and the amount of energy received by the planet would vary over the course of a year only due to variations in solar output (yet another variable AGWers don't talk about very often). As the value moves away from zero the amount of energy received by the planet varies over the year as the planet changes distance from the sun. But due to kepler's law of planetary motion the amount of time spent closer to the sun is less than the amount of time spent further from the sun (as the value moves towards one). And the inverse square law means (if I've got my math right, which I'll admit I may not) that the total amount of energy received over the year will go down, resulting in cooling. So as the eccentricity of our orbit moves towards 0, we should see warming, and as it moves towards 1, we should see cooling (again, solar output can affect this).

Then there's the legion of records (church and town) showing that in Northern Germany during the MWP they were growing olives and figs. Yet we are not yet warm enough for these crops to be grown there today (I once shut up someone who claimed to have a degree in environmental science by asking him why I should be concerned about AGW when we still weren't warm enough for this to happen, and all the doom-n-gloom predictions of what further warming would do - rising sea levels, etc. - hadn't happened then). And there's the record in Great Britain which shows that during the MWP there were beetles there that only live in warm climates, and about 1,000 years ago they all disappeared, to be replaced with cold weather beetles, and the warm weather ones still haven't moved back hat far North.

AGW is the biggest swindle ever, with trillions of dollars at stake (over many years, of course). And since the data doesn't actually support the AGWers, they're reduced to calling those who haven't drunk the cool aid 'deniers', and declaring that 'the debate is over'. The only scientist who would be concerned about further debate on ANY topic is one who fears what further debate will reveal. What the AGWers fear will be revealed has become pretty evident, as articles like the above (and the ones linked to) have shown.