Carlos

Interesting differences of methodology in climate science

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In the last few years a global temperature reconstruction for the past 1000 years was published by Michael Mann that was based on using tree rings as a proxy for temperature measurement. This temperature reconstruction was dubbed "The Hockey Stick" because of it's shape:

http://www.global-warming-and-the-climate....ockey-stick.gif

This reconstruction created massive controversy because the medieval warming period and little ice age were completely absent, which served to make the recent warming phase look starkly unnatural.

As I mentioned in a separate thread, the hockey stick was harshly criticized by "skeptics" and was revealed to be a complete scam that attempted to rewrite the climate history of the Earth for the last thousand years. (and of course, Michael Mann now works for the US government as an advisor for climate change).

What I find particularly interesting is the difference in methodology by which either side argues for/against the hockey stick graph.

In this web article, John Daly delivers a harsh and thorough debunking of the hockey stick, presenting his argument in a down to earth manner so that the reasoning that connects his evidence to his conclusions is laid bare and easy to follow:

http://www.john-daly.com/hockey/hockey.htm

Contrast this with the method of presentation for the "Dummies guide to the latest “Hockey Stick” controversy", published by realclimate.org (a climate science website that Michael Mann works for):

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archi...ck-controversy/

I have a bachelor's degree in Physics, yet I still find the "dummies guide" to be painfully difficult... it is dense, unenjoyable to read, it is hard to follow the line of their reasoning, etc. Whereas John Daly appealed to relatively simple to explain experiments and measurements from reality, the realclimate argument rested on intimidating descriptions of mathematical processes from which very little could be understood. And furthermore, considering that this was supposed to be a "Dummies guide", I can't help but conclude that their intent was to intimidate through the shear pretentiousness and complexity of their reasoning.

In any controversy with a right and wrong side, the right side can argue simply by appealing to reality. What is the wrong side left with? Pretentiousness, intellectual intimidation, confusion, etc, their goal is block reality from deciding the issue.

I find this to be fascinating, because from personal observation whenever quality, validity and/or integrity seem to be missing, pretentiousness is the most ready substitute!

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I find this to be fascinating, because from personal observation whenever quality, validity and/or integrity seem to be missing, pretentiousness is the most ready substitute!

The Argument From Intimidation takes many forms.

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In any controversy with a right and wrong side, the right side can argue simply by appealing to reality. What is the wrong side left with? Pretentiousness, intellectual intimidation, confusion, etc, their goal is block reality from deciding the issue.

I find this to be fascinating, because from personal observation whenever quality, validity and/or integrity seem to be missing, pretentiousness is the most ready substitute!

Good observation, Jason! You've discovered something which I've long observed myself with regard to not just the global warming issue, but to the way lots of ideas are presented. This was one of Ayn Rand's criticisms of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. If you've ever read his critique, you will find that it's insanely complex. To follow it I had to literally draw diagrams and connect points, which I finally gave up on, for lack of time and due to waning interest. I ended up going to secondary sources, but what is revealing is that Kant didn't have to present his theory in such a complex form. It could have been presented much more straightforwardly. The whole point of his method, as Ayn Rand noted, was to cripple the mind by flooding it with complexity.

I have also observed that the very best minds in human history, the ones who did constructive work, are usually the ones who present the clearest explanations. Sir Isaac Netwon springs instantly to mind. Archimedes is another case in point.

I agree with Betsy that it's a form of intimidation, because these people always appeal to authority and try to point out that you lack some knowledge to understand a point. But, I think it also serves to cripple the mind, thus causing people to give up trying to understand things. I see this technique used every where today. It's very common in the area of the law, for example. The defenses of Clinton in the 1990s were a great example of that.

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Good observation, Jason!

I'm Jordan, who's Jason?... :)

Sorry about that Jordan. I guess I typed the name without thinking. :)

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HERE is another excellent presentation about the hockey stick controversy.

In addition to the issue of complexity and obfuscation by the pro-AGW side noted by Carlos, there is another fundamental epistemological difference in the global warming debate. The side that believes in AGW (anthropogenic global warming) accepts the output of the GCM (global circulation models) climate models as primary and temperature observations from land stations, weather balloons (radiosondes) and satellites as secondary or derivitive. Thus, when the data -- actual temperature observations -- conflicts with the predictions of the models, the pro-AGW side assumes the data must be faulty and proceeds to seek reasons to "adjust" the data. And there is a scandalous amount of such "adjusting" going on even now.

If you want to follow the debate, on terms that most laymen can understand, I highly recommend the site ClimateAudit. Browse the archives at that site (see the list of links on the left side) and you will discover just how badly the data is being doctored and just how flawed are the major studies that have been done purporting to prove AGW.

The site is run by Steve McIntyre, who is not out to prove either side is correct, but is merely trying to "audit" the data and the methodologies used in various studies. He is the one who discovered that the methodology used by Mann in the hockey stick study "mines" the data for any series that has the hockey stick shape and then puts tremendous weight on that series while discounting all the others. McIntyre even demonstrated that Mann's method will produce a hockey stick when used with series that are just random numbers.

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