SciBlogs

Archive January 2012

The scientific method — what about the philosophical method? Ken Perrott Jan 30

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I enjoy the In Our Time Podcasts with Melvyn Bragg. The subjects are very wide-ranging and always informative.

His last one was on The Scientific Method. It basically discusses the evolution of scientific methods from a philosophical viewpoint. The participants were:

  • Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge;
  • John Worrall, Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the LSE and
  • Michela Massimi, Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy of Science at University College London.

Personally, I would have welcomed inclusion of a practising scientist to bring some practical insight into the discussion. Still, I did find the historical survey of philosophers ideas on the scientific method interesting. But it got me thinking – these philosophers seem so concerned about the scientific method – and yet no one talks about the philosophical method!

What is the philosophical method?

What methods do philosophers use? And how have these evolved over time? And why do we never come across critiques of philosophical methods? Is this because philosophers are happier critiquing other areas and avoid their own?

For example. While I thought this discussion did treat the subject fairly the descriptions of scientific method offered by various philosophers over the years do strike me as “just so” stories. I get the feeling that the philosophers concerned are presenting their pet model. Evidence quoted is usually anecdotal, more for example rather than support. The Copernican revolution, or the evolution of Einsteinian mechanics out of Newtonian mechanics are used to illustrate a thesis, rather than testing the hypothesis by analysing the data from the history of a large number of scientific theories.

Now, I could never have got any of my research results accepted for publication with only anecdotal and illustrative evidence. Good data, statistically analysed to show significance for claims, was always expected. The standards for philosophical theories seems to be a lot lower. How many philosophers really take data collection and analysis seriously?

The other thing that strikes me about these “just so” stories are that they always seem to ignore the human factor. Scientific method is often presented as an algorithm or flow chart – scientists behave this way and they produce hypotheses which are checked experimentally, etc.

But scientists are humans. They are just as prone to emotions as any other people. And in fact current scientific understanding of decision-making indicates that emotions are very much involved in our seemingly rational considerations. Where else do scientists get the passion for the work they do? Creativity does not come from mechanical application of methods. And scientists are also prone to prejudice, fantasy,  attachment to preconceived ideas, and confirmation bias as anyone else. The possible consequences of this need to be recognised and scientific methodology must compensate for it.

That’s why I like Richard Feynman‘s description of scientific method as “doing whatever it takes to avoid being fooled by reality.” This is a better description of the human reality of scientific research than any descriptive, or prescriptive, flow diagram of “scientific method.”

Why does this matter?

Well, for two reasons:

1: How often does one read material from opponents of science using pop versions of scientific method and philosophy of science to justify their rejection of, or denial of, scientific knowledge?  Creationists and climate change deniers will often talk about Kuhnian “paradigms” or Popperian “falsification” to justify their rejection of whole fields of science. We even have the ridiculous example of a climate denier group in Australia naming itself The Galileo Movement! They are equating acceptance of the current scientific understanding as equivalent to belief in a geocentric universe! (See “Galileo Movement” Fuels Climate Change Divide in Australia).

2: Post-modernist and ideological motivated concepts of the philosophy of science do get circulated in academic circles.  In the past I have heard some of these descriptions presented by local science managers and suspect that these ideas can influence management and human resources teachings via philosophy of science and sociology of science inputs. The danger is that this influence decisions on science funding and investment.

Maybe some of the cock-ups we have seen in science management and New Zealand over the years could be traced back to ideology and misunderstanding about the nature of scientific research picked up by managers during their training. Maybe not all these mistakes were due to incompetence.

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In the front lines of the ’climate wars’ Ken Perrott Jan 26

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Here’s another book to look out for – The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. It will be published at the beginning of March .

The author, Michael Mann,  has been a central figure in the “climate wars.” His research into paleoclimate has been a particular target for climate sceptics/contrarians/deniers. And despite their claims that his work was discredited it has in fact been supported and replicated by other climate scientists. It also received endorsement from the The National Research Council of the US National Academies. (See and download Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years (2006) )

Publisher’s description of book

This is how the publisher describes the book:

“In its 2001 report on global climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations prominently featured the “Hockey Stick,” a chart showing global temperature data over the past one thousand years. The Hockey Stick demonstrated that temperature had risen with the increase in industrialization and use of fossil fuels. The inescapable conclusion was that worldwide human activity since the industrial age had raised CO2 levels, trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and warming the planet.

“The Hockey Stick became a central icon in the “climate wars,” and well-funded science deniers immediately attacked the chart and the scientists responsible for it. Yet the controversy has had little to do with the depicted temperature rise and much more with the perceived threat the graph posed to those who oppose governmental regulation and other restraints to protect our environment and planet. Michael E. Mann, lead author of the original paper in which the Hockey Stick first appeared, shares the real story of the science and politics behind this controversy. He introduces key figures in the oil and energy industries, and the media front groups who do their bidding in sometimes slick, bare-knuckled ways to cast doubt on the science. Mann concludes with an account of the “Climategate” scandal, the 2009 hacking of climate scientists’ emails. Throughout, Mann reveals the role of science deniers, abetted by an uninformed media, in once again diverting attention away from one of the central scientific and policy issues of our time.”

McCarthyist attacks on science

Henry Waxman, Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said this of Michael Mann:

“As one of the nation’s leading climate researchers, no one has felt the brunt of the attacks from politicians and the fossil fuel industry more than Michael Mann. This is his personal account from the center of the maelstrom, documenting the lies and distortions about his work and his heroic efforts to stand up for scientific truth.”

Mann has certainly been one of the most high profile victim of the current McCarthyist attacks on climate science and scientists. This still continues. But he is not the only target. This has become such a problem that A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists has been set up. You can find out more about the fund at its new web site and its recent press release –  Climate Science Legal Defense Fund Gets New Backing. As the press release says:

“The fund is designed to help scientists like Professor Michael Mann cope with the legal fees that stack up in fighting attempts by climate-skeptic groups to gain access to private emails and other correspondence through lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests at their public universities.”

The fund will also:

“Educate researchers about their legal rights and responsibilities on issues surrounding their work;

Serve as a clearinghouse for information related to legal actions taken against scientists; and

Recruit and assist lawyers representing these scientists.”

Another important  book to look forward to.

Who is funding the climate change denial groups? Ken Perrott Jan 25

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Have a look at Hot Topic’s Puppets on a string: US think tank funds NZ sceptics. A nice little exposure of how some of the local climate change denier groups get finance. We need more of these sorts of investigations.

Which brings me to the Guardian’s article Climate scientists back call for sceptic think-tank to reveal backers. Who funds the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based climate sceptic think-tank chaired by the former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson? Many have been asking this. The group has been very active, and quite effective, in high publicity campaigns aimed at discrediting climate science and scientists. In particular it has attacked any real or perceived attempt by institutes to restrict availability of data.

Good on them, you might say. And who could disagree with Lawson’s 2010 statement:

“Proper scientists, scientists of integrity, they reveal, and voluntarily they wish to reveal, all their data and all their methods; they do not need a Freedom of Information Act request to force it out of them.”

And he added:

“Integrity means you show everything, absolutely.”

But he sings a different tune when asked who is funding his organisation. He just refuses to reveal the identity of his big donors. Understandably many accuse him of double standards. (I have experienced exactly the same hypocrisy from local denier groups when I have asked for copies of their data and methodology.) And so far he has had the state bodies on his side – a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request to the Charity Commission for it to make public a bank statement it holds revealing the name of the educational charity’s seed donor, who gave £50,000 when it launched in 2009, has been denied.

This Friday that decision is being appealed on the grounds that the public interest will be served by ending the secrecy around the financing of Lawson’s charity. Brendan Montague, the director of an organisation called the Request Initiative, a “community interest company that makes Freedom of Information Act requests on behalf of charities, NGOs and non-profits”, is heading the appeal. He said:

“Lord Lawson’s thinktank, which has been bankrolled by shadowy funders, is lobbying government for a change in climate policy that would affect the lives of millions of people. The privacy of wealth has so far been valued above public accountability, even by our own civic institutions. The democratic principle of transparency is breached when a former chancellor can sit in the House of Lords influencing government policy on matters as important as climate change while accepting funding for his thinktank from secret supporters.”

This appeal has won support from climate scientists around the world who have often been the target of FOI requests. Some would say they have been harrased by such requests.

There is also an on-line petition (see Tell Climate Sceptic Think Tank to Disclose Funding). It declares: “a registered charity should not be hiding who is behind it, especially when its main aim is to change public opinion. Support the scientists’ request and insist that the public learn what is actually going on.”

Reminds me of a few sayings – What’s source for the goose is sauce for the gander. And people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

I’ll keep an eye open for the judge’s ruling.

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Our fingerprints are all over it! Ken Perrott Jan 22

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Skeptical Science has just posted A Comprehensive Review of the Causes of Global Warming. The review’s conclusion are well illustrated by this figure which attributes the inputs from human and natural causes over the last 50 years.

Net human and natural percent contributions to the observed global surface warming over the past 50-65 years according to Tett et al. 2000 (T00, dark blue), Meehl et al. 2004 (M04, red), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, green), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, purple), Huber and Knutti 2011 (HK11, light blue), and Gillett et al. 2012 (G12, orange).

The different colours show the different studies reviewed. These used different and independent methods and Skeptical Science concludes they “provide multiple lines of evidence that humans are the dominant cause of global warming over the past century, and especially over the past 50 to 65 years.”

These studies considered different human and natural causes:

  • Human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,
  • Solar activity,
  • Volcanic activity,
  • Human aerosol emissions,
  • The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

GHG and human aerosol (primarily sulphur dioxide, SO2)  are the two largest human influences, and solar and volcanic activity and ENSO are the dominant natural influences on global temperature. The figure below illustrates the breakdown of their contributions in these studies.

Percent contributions of various effects to the observed global surface warming over the past 100-150 years according to Tett et al. 2000 (T00, dark blue), Meehl et al. 2004 (M04, red), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, green), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, purple), Stott et al. 2010 (S10, gray), and Huber and Knutti 2011 (HR11, light blue).

Clearly, human inputs have provided the largest effect on global temperature over recent years. Greenhouse gas emission have had a positive effect and aerosol emissions a negative, partly balancing, effect. This negative human factor is decreasing as humanity cleans up its act in terms of SO2 and other aerosol pollution.

As Skeptical Science summarises these findings:

“A wide variety of statistical and physical approaches all arrived at the same conclusion: that humans are the dominant cause of the global warming over the past century, and particularly over the past 50 years.  This robust scientific evidence is why there is a consensus amongst scientific experts that humans are the dominant cause of global warming.”

Our fingerprints are all over it!

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The [in]compatibility of science and religion Ken Perrott Jan 19

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There have been several books lately promoting the idea the religion and science are compatible – or at least challenging any suggestion that they might be incompatible. Of course, these were written by advocates of religion, or at least advocates of “belief in belief.”

While many of these books were critiqued in reviews there has been very little challenge presented in book length. So I was very pleased to see news that Victor Stenger has a new book, released in Apri,l called God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion.

John W. Loftus at debunking Christianity has read a pre-release copy and is very impressed (see  Stenger’s New Book: God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion). He calls it a tour de force.

Loftus says (in part):

“The reader is treated to the history of the conflict between science and religion where Stenger argues there is a fundamental conflict between the two. “Science” he writes, “has earned our trust by its proven success. Religion has destroyed our trust by its repeated failures. Using the empirical method, science has eliminated smallpox, flown men to the moon, and discovered DNA. If science did not work, we wouldn’t do it. Relying on faith, religion has brought us inquisitions, holy wars, and intolerance. Religion does not work, but we still do it.” (p. 15)”

I have often said that religion and science are not incompatible at the individual level. After all many scientists are also religious. But their basic approach to knowledge, their epistemologies, are incompatible. So I agree with this comment by Loftus:

“Believers generally do not trust science. Stenger’s book is the antidote. Believers will see just how science works and why it is to be trusted over anything religion has ever produced. “Science and religion are fundamentally incompatible,” Stenger argues, “because of their unequivocally opposed epistemologies–the separate assumptions they make concerning what we can know about the world.” (p. 16)”

Loftus thinks this is Stenger’s best book yet – because it is ” written for the average intelligent reader. There isn’t a lot of technical jargon in it.” He believes it will “appeal to a broad range of readers . . . because he’s hit the nail on the head, writing about the essential problem between scientifically minded people and believers.”

Another book to look forward to.

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Comprehending reality — Should we give up so easily? Ken Perrott Jan 17

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The Edge question is an annual event. Publisher John Brockman poses an interesting question to a large number of scientists, thinkers, academics and writers. He publishes their answers on the Edge website and usually, later,  as a book*

The 2012 question is:

What Is Your Favorite Deep, Elegant, Or Beautiful Explanation?

Andrei Linde, Stanford University

There are answers from 190 people – many you will know, some you won’t, but all are thoughtful and stimulating. I am starting to read through them and found the first really intriguing. It’s from Andrei Linde, Professor of Physics at Stanford University and originator of the Chaotic Inflation Cosmological theory, and has the title Why Is Our World Comprehensible?

Here’s an extract:

“The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.” This is one of the most famous quotes from Albert Einstein. “The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.” Similarly, Eugene Wigner said that the unreasonable efficiency of mathematics is “a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.” Thus we have a problem that may seem too metaphysical to be addressed in a meaningful way: Why do we live in a comprehensible universe with certain rules, which can be efficiently used for predicting our future?

One could always respond that God created the universe and made it simple enough so that we can comprehend it. This would match the words about a miracle and an undeserved gift. But shall we give up so easily? Let us consider several other questions of a similar type. Why is our universe so large? Why parallel lines do not intersect? Why different parts of the universe look so similar? For a long time such questions looked too metaphysical to be considered seriously. Now we know that inflationary cosmology provides a possible answer to all of these questions. Let us see whether it might help us again.

I like his point, his response to a “god did it!”answer provided by the theologically-inclined.

Should we give up so easily?

Linde explains how modern cosmological theory leads to the possibility of regions of the universe where “different laws of the low energy physics operate” – the “multiverse” concept.

“In some of these universes, quantum fluctuations are so large that any computations are impossible. Mathematics there is inefficient because predictions cannot be memorized and used. Lifetime of some of these universes is too short. Some other universes are long living but laws of physics there do not allow existence of anybody who could live sufficiently long to learn physics and mathematics.”

And:

“We can only live in those universes where the laws of physics allow our existence, which requires making reliable predictions. In other words, mathematicians and physicists can only live in those universes which are comprehensible and where the laws of mathematics are efficient.”

And he concludes that while some people may dismiss his ideas as “wild speculation:”

 It seems very intriguing, however, that in the context of the new cosmological paradigm, which was developed during the last 30 years, we might be able, for the first time, to approach one of the most complicated and mysterious problems which bothered some of the best scientists of the 20th century.


*Previous questions/books include:

 2011 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY’S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?
 2010 : HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK?
  2009 : WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING?
  2008 : WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT? WHY?
   2007 : WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?
  2006 : WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?
  2005 : WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?

And so on – back to 1998.

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Nothing is something Ken Perrott Jan 15

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Lawrence Krauss’s most recent book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing was released last week. It’s one I have been looking forward to and I downloaded the eBook version this last weekend.

Some readers may have seen a video of one of Krauss’s lectures on this subject – these are what motivated my interest. For readers who have not seen one these lectures I have embedded one below.

I am keen to get into the book. With chapter titles like “Nothing is Something” and “Nothing is Unstable” it promises to be a good read. (I have placed the list of chapters at the bottom of this post*).

Krauss is not only an excellent lecturer he also writes very well. He has a lively style and is able to communicate complex ideas. Lawrence Krauss is one of the listed speakers art next April’s Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne (see A Celebration of Reason).

I wonder if he will pass through New Zealand as part of a book tour?

‘A Universe From Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009 .

Last year Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow were bombarded with a lot of criticism from religious apologists for their book The Grand Design. I think it helped bring the book to the attention of potential readers. So I hope these moral watchdogs are not asleep and will be just as energetic in their criticisms of Krauss’s book.

My first impression is that A Universe from Nothing actually has more detail than The Grand Design.

So here’s looking forward to some interesting debates.


*Contents of A Universe from Nothing

Preface
Chapter 1: A Cosmic Mystery Story: Beginnings
Chapter 2: A Cosmic Mystery Story: Weighing the Universe
Chapter 3: Light from the Beginning of Time
Chapter 4: Much Ado About Nothing
Chapter 5: The Runaway Universe
Chapter 6: The Free Lunch at the End of the Universe
Chapter 7: Our Miserable Future
Chapter 8: A Grand Accident?
Chapter 9: Nothing Is Something
Chapter 10: Nothing Is Unstable
Chapter 11: Brave New Worlds
Epilogue
Afterword by Richard Dawkins

Index

Who drives the science/religion conflict? Ken Perrott Jan 12

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A recent poll of 1,000 American Protestant pastors is perhaps not surprising, given the well know opposition to evolutionary science amongst the US public. (see Poll: Pastors oppose evolution, split on earth’s age). As the figure below shows over 80% of these pastors believe Adam and Eve were literal people and over 70% oppose evolutionary science. And about half believe the earth is about 6,000 years old!

I think this does identify a problem in the science – religion relationship. There are currently strong attempts to deny any conflict between science and religion. Those making this assertion will insist that opposition to evolutionary science and similar attitudes is restricted to fundamentalists. That most Christians have a more sophisticated attitude to their religion.

But surely this poll indicates that this opposition is actually widespread amongst Christian leaders. The pastors who in many ways do provide an alternative education and ideology to their flock. It indicates that not only are anti-science attitudes common amongst protestants, that actually are very strong amongst protestant leaders and are inevitably taught or communicated to lay church members.

Personally, I don’t think the religion/science conflict is inevitable (except at the epistemological level). But there is no doubt that it exists, especially in the US. And that it is being fed by these dogmatic attitudes of religious leaders.

I suspect that we have a similar situation here – just nowhere as big. In a post over three years ago (see New Zealand supports evolution) I suggested that the 20% of New Zealander opposing evolutionary science mean that about 40% of New Zealand’s Christians oppose evolutionary science.

There are stories of scientifically inclined Christians who feel unable to mention their support for evolution amongst their church community. But perhaps a high proportion of New Zealand’s pastors, or ministers of religion, are happy to promote that attitude.

Maybe they even actively teach (or preach) an anti-science message?

Open letter across the barricade Ken Perrott Jan 08

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Here I respond to a letter sent to The Listener by a former scientific colleague, Doug Edmeades. He is now a science spokesperson for local groups which attack the current scientific consensus on climate change as well as attacking local climate scientists.

Doug and I are old mates. In the past we fought together against commercial and bureaucratic attacks on our research. Now we find ourselves on opposite sides of the “barricade.” But I am sure there is enough mutual respect to enable a reasoned discussion of the claims made by Doug about climate change science in his letter.

I have invited him to respond in turn to my comments and hopefully he will be happy that I post his response, at least in part, here.


Hi Doug,

I am responding to claims you made in your recent letter to The NZ Listener reproduced on the Climate Conversation Group Blog (see In a climate of listening). Space limitations clearly prevented you from justifying these  five claims (your refer to them as “facts”). However they are, in my view, either not factual or misleading. I explain why below and welcome your response to my comments.

1: Claim of “no recent global warming” is misleading

Climate change is a multi-decadal phenomenon – short-term temperatures are strongly affected by natural variability. This is clear in a recent figure portraying five different global temperature records (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: From The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media. (Click on figure to see article)

Choosing short time periods (eg a decade) may give an entirely misleading impression as you can see from Figure 2 where I have plotted temperature trends of separate periods.

Figure 2: Uses GISTemp data

The most relevant comparison here is the 1998 – 2008 and the 1999 – 2010 periods (the dotted trend lines). The table makes it clear how incorporating 1998 in a short period like this distorts one’s conclusions – because it purposely includes a large variation which confuses the trend (see Table below). This is a classic ploy used by many people who attack the current scientific understanding of climate change.

Period Trend (°C/decade) 95% confidence range
1970-2010 0.20 0.16 – 0.23
1998-2008 0.16 -0.09 – 0.41
1999-2010 0.28 0.10 – 0.45

Comparison of trends for the  1970 – 2000 and 1970 – 2010 periods also suggests that  temperature increases over the last ten years probably have not declined. If anything they may have even increased (see Figure 3). This test was presented on the Yale Climate Media Forum – I realise it cannot be conclusive but would be interested in a statistician’s opinion of the test.

Figure 3: From The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media. (Click on figure to see article)

So Doug your claim may well be technically true, maybe even statistically “true” depending on which data set is used, especially if the data for 1998 is included. But it is clearly unwarranted. And misleading.

2: “Medieval warm period” regional, not global.

While contrarians, deniers and climate sceptics have sometimes made a big issue of the “medieval warm period” the conclusion has usually been that it is not a global effect. That is, it may have occurred for parts of the northern hemisphere but is not seen strongly in the global data. See Hemispheric Temperatures in the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ in Working Group I Report “The Physical Science Basis” (AR4).

3: All warming factors are considered

Yes, many factors are involved in driving global temperatures – both natural and human effects. But here is the fact which concerns climate scientists and governments around the world. We just can’t explain the observed temperature trends over the last 50 years without incorporating human inputs as well as natural ones. This is demonstrated in Figure 4 below.

Figure 4a included all the natural and anthropogenic influences.  The black line is the actual measured global temperature anomaly (obtained by subtracting the average temperature for 1901 to 1950).  The individual simulations are shown as thin yellow curves. The red line is the multi-model ensemble mean (see Figure 9.5 — AR4 WGI Chapter 9: Understanding and Attributing Climate Change).

Figure 4: From AR4 Working Group I Report "The Physical Science Basis"

Figure 4b is a similar plot using simulations which consider only the natural influences on climate. The individual simulations are shown as thin blue curves. The thick blue line is the multi-model ensemble mean.

So, climate scientist have considered both natural and anthropogenic influences. And they are unable to reproduce the global temperature changes since 1970 unless anthropogenic influences are included.

That is why the IPCC has concluded that there is a high probability (>90%) that human influences are contributing to the current observed global temperature increase.

4: Models are not reliant on incorrect assumptions about clouds

You misrepresent the current understanding of the influence of clouds in climate models. The fact is that cloud effects are just not well understood yet – the IPCC reports acknowledge that. Figure 5, for example, is from the last IPCC report (Figure 2.20 — AR4 WGI Chapter 2: Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing). It shows the estimated influences of several human caused effects and solar radiation since 1750. Notice the error bars. They are much bigger for clouds and aerosols than they are for the others. Notice the assessment of scientific understanding for these influences. The IPCC acknowledges the low understanding for clouds and aerosols.

Figure 5: From AR4 Working Group I Report "The Physical Science Basis"

Obviously this problem is getting attention in current and planned future research.

5: Criticism of NIWA temperature record wrong and malicious

New Zealand’s temperature record, being regional, has very little relevance to the overall global record. However, politically it has been contentious because of unwarranted attacks on the record, and on NIWA climate scientists, by the organisations you represent.

Richard Treadgold crudely attacked the previously published record, and NIWA scientists, in his article “Are we getting warmer yet?” Campaigning by the extreme right wing  ACT Party in parliament resulted in finance to repeat the calculations your organisations were claiming fraudulent. This produced a new temperature record, together with details of adjustment calculations and methodology which confirmed the previously published record.This would have settled any real, but misguided, concern about the data.

Of course, your Climate Science Coalition and The Climate Conversation Group have continued their campaign – probably not at all surprising because their purpose is political, not scientific. And they have adopted the common denier strategy of McCarthyist attacks on climate scientists we are seeing around the world. The promotion of Treadgold’s article at the very time the “climategate” email scandal erupted highlights the common strategy.

This raises the important question of scientific integrity – a subject that I know has concerned both of us over the years. In his article Treadgold made claims that were damaging, malicious and probably libellous. He said that:

NIWA scientists ’created a warming effect where none existed.’ That ’the shocking truth is that the oldest readings were cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming.’ And ’we have discovered that the warming in New Zealand over the past 156 years was indeed man-made, but it had nothing to do with emission of CO2 — it was created by man-made adjustments of the temperature. It’s a disgrace.’

At the same time he included his own “scientific” analysis which ignored completely effects due to inevitable changes in  recording station. (Obviously because erroneously using the uncorrected raw data fitted his picture better). At the time he claimed that his report was based on work done by scientists in his group – scientists which he refused to name, claiming they wished to remain anonymous!

You may remember I wrote to you at the time asking if you had been involved, or had reviewed the article before its release. This is still a relevant question to me. Despite scientific rubbishing of Treadgold’s article he refuses to withdraw those  malicious comments, or acknowledge the faulty, naive, analysis reported. And, his article still gets used to attack New Zealand scientists.

Well, I am not so naive as to expect politically motived people to be concerned with the truth. But I think this issue does present a problem for us because, unless we take a principled stand on it our scientific integrity is threatened. So, could you please comment on your position with respect to Treadgold’s article, his analysis and his malicious criticism of NIWA scientists? Do you support him? Or have you criticised them within your organisations and attempted to get their withdrawal?

Doug, I am sure you will take my comments and questions in the spirit they are intended and hope you will take the time to respond to this open letter. I certainly look forward to your response and any continuing discussion of these issues.

Ken Perrott.

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New book formats Ken Perrott Jan 05

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The last few days I have been reading a novel in the pBook format. It’s been an interesting experience as since I got my eBook reader over a year ago (see The joys of eBook readers — the Sony PRS-650 Touch) I have read very few pBooks.

People talk about the attraction of a pBook’s smell. Can’t say I noticed that. But I was frustrated that my habit of checking the meaning of new words with a simple click to a loaded dictionary was not available. It is so much more effort to take a dictionary down off a bookshelf and look a word up. I see this will also be a hassle with footnotes and endnotes in more technical books.

Mind you – it was by no means an unpleasant experience – and I do still have a pile of pBooks yet to read.

But I can really relate to the kids in the Cam Cardow Cartoon trying to get WiFi on a pBook. Have a look at  The original e-reader – The Digital Age – sorry, can’t embed it here for copyright reasons.

While on the subject of new ways of reading book – have a look at this video on the medieval help desk. The problems that readers had when the had to progress from scrolls to books.

Help desk – introducing the book (2 min 40 sec)

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