William Connolley is on side of anti-science not the late Bob Carter

In the past week there have been a number of tributes to Professor Bob Carter, retired Professor of Geology and leading climate sceptic. This includes Jo Nova, James Delingpole, Steve McIntyre, Ian Pilmer at the GWPF, Joe Bast of The Heartland Institute and E. Calvin Beisner of Cornwall Alliance. In complete contrast William Connolley posted this comment in a post Science advances one funeral at a time

Actually A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it, but I’m allowed to paraphrase in titles. And anyway he said it in German, naturally. Today brings us news of another such advancement in science, with the reported death of Robert Carter.

Below is a comment I posted at Climate Scepticism

I believe Max Planck did have a point. In science people tenaciously hold onto ideas even if they have been falsified by the evidence or (as more often happens) they are supplanted by better ideas. Where the existing ideas form an institutionalized consensus, discrimination has occurred against those with the hypotheses can undermine that consensus. It can be that the new research paradigm can only gain prominence when the numbers dwindle in the old paradigm. As a result the advance of new knowledge and understanding is held back.

To combat this innate conservatism in ideas I propose four ideas.

First is to promote methods of evaluating competing theories that are independent of consensus or opinion. In pure science that is by conducting experiments that would falsify a hypothesis. In complex concepts, for which experiment is not possible and data is incomplete and of poor quality, like the AGW hypothesis or economic theories, comparative analysis needs to be applied based upon independent standards.

Second is to recognize institutional bias by promoting pluralism and innovation.

Third is to encourage better definition of concepts, more rigorous standards of data within the existing research paradigm to push the boundaries.

Fourth is to train people to separate scientific endeavours from belief systems, whether religious, political or ethical.

The problem for William Connolley is that all his efforts within climatology – such as editing Wikipedia to his narrow views, or helping set up Real Climate to save the Mannian Hockey Stick from exposure of its many flaws – are with enforcing the existing paradigm and blocking any challenges. He is part of the problem that Planck was talking about.

As an example of the narrow and dogmatic views that Connolley supports, here is the late Bob Carter on his major point about how beliefs in unprecedented human-caused warming are undermined by the long-term temperature proxies from ice core data. The video quality is poor, probably due to a lack of professional funding that Connolley and his fellow-travellers fought so hard to deny.

Kevin Marshall


  1. Well then, it is clear to me that science will only advance when WC dies. Or you, or I die.
    Science is not about intransigent belief until death do us part. Science is about learning.
    Some people can learn.
    WC apparently not so much.

    • manicbeancounter

       /  25/01/2016

      Science is not about learning, but understanding the world out there.

        • manicbeancounter

           /  25/01/2016

          It would be nice if you could summarize in your comments what you are referring to. Others can then see how it compare with what I say above, and see it is worth following the link to your blog.

      • Ok, but science is the practice of refining that understanding by being brutally honest with yourself. That requires suspending all “until death” beliefs. Many people just can’t do that.

        • manicbeancounter

           /  26/01/2016

          Actually mainstream scientific research does not require being so brutally honest. It is working at extending very marginally existing knowledge. As such it does not matter what your belief systems are. Success or failure of the research program does not challenge your general beliefs about the world.
          But AGW is different. It has failed to quantify the proportion of recent warming that is human caused. Climatology has even likely got the wrong key performance indicator. 93% of the heat from greenhouse gases has gone into the oceans.
          For people like William Connolley, AGW is a justification for a particular type of politics and outlook. Failure of the research program undermines the green agenda that he so strongly supports. As Bob Carter says as the beginning of the video above, climatology long ago ceased to be about science. Connolley’s comment on his death demonstrates this.

          • Seems to me we totally agree but can’t find common words. I’m saying science should be brutally honest, you say mainstream science isn’t. Totally agree, but don’t you agree that it should be? You go on to say that moonies like Conolly are politicians, not scientists. Totally agree again, but don’t you think they should be if they are going to posture as if they have unique access to truth? Particularly if they are going to preach death for their detractors?

          • manicbeancounter

             /  27/01/2016

            I think we are approach the issues from different perspectives. I totally agree that Connolley,________, Stephan Lewandowsky and others think there is a truth out there, that us lesser mortals are blinded to. They also fail to distinguish between pure science and loose empirical science, or between science and values/politics. If you have a different set of values in their perspective, then you are just as dishonest as if you claimed 2+2=5.
            You will always get people claiming to have a monopoly on truth, or at least acting as they did. So you will never get them acknowledging that their core beliefs could be wrong, or that anything that anyone who disagrees with them might be right. In areas of values, along with areas like climatology, where the data is both limited and highly complex, different conclusions are possible. Honesty and integrity means recognizing that different conclusions are possible. A pluralistic approach can allow for the people who dogmatically hold onto to their views, despite strong evidence that contradicts them. The more simplistic, such as Lewandowsky’s surveys, or John Cook’s 97% Consensus, serve to show how shallow these views are.

          • manicbeancounter

             /  31/01/2016

            The above comment contained a reference to a third person. It has being blanked out, and the subsequent exchange with that person deleted. That person will receive a copy of the thread prior to deletion. The reasons for removal are as follows.
            Firstly, the exchange was highly acrimonious, stemming from two completely different views.
            Secondly, I entered into the exchange to understand further the allegation made in the above comment. I achieved this to a greater extent than expected. It does not cause me to change the view expressed in the essentials. This I will develop this in further posts, but not mention the particular person.
            Finally, and most importantly, the comments derailed the point of this post. It was about William Connolley misconstruing a Max Planck quote to celebrate the death of an opponent. By a number of other accounts linked to in the post, Bob Carter was a fine human being.

  2. I don’t see how anyone could disagree with your four ideas, and that’s the problem. Universities and other institutions will say they’re already applying them.

    For example, you say: “comparative analysis needs to be applied based upon independent standards”. But who gets to decide the standards, and independent of what?

    The university system should in theory be able to apply your ideas within its existing structures. Philosophers of science are on hand to deal with your fourth point; pluralism and innovation are encouraged by human curiosity. Who wants to spend five years researching a subject where the end result is already known? (Don’t all answer at once).

    Connolley is a symptom of something wider. His wicked Wiki ways were discovered and punished. Yet this had no further repercussions, and the same goes for Gleick, Lewandowsky, Cook. How did this come about in a free society, where colleagues, rivals, the media, etc., normally perform a continual check on truth and rationality? Why has this system broken down in the case of climate?

    • manicbeancounter

       /  25/01/2016

      I would have got back to you earlier, only I got side-tracked with other comments. You are quite right to try to cut through my vague waffle. Take the term
      comparative analysis needs to be applied based upon independent standards
      You might get the impression I believe that science needs something like an Accounting Standards Board, with committees spending years producing lengthy and incomprehensible tomes. I had in mind something far more basic.
      For instance, a basic comparison is one word definitions. With two competing arguments, one based on definitions that the author makes up and the other where the author relies on the authority of the dictionary, which would you rate more highly?
      Another form of basic independent standards is basic distinctions. For instance, making the distinction between the following
      – positive and normative statements (facts and value judgements / opinions)
      – trivial and non-trivial statements
      – strong and weak evidence
      – relevant and irrelevant evidence
      Beyond that, evaluation can be furthered by consideration of the null hypothesis; necessary and sufficient conditions; false positives and false negatives.
      I covered these aspects in more detail a couple of years ago. The key is not rigid rules, but general principles to aid understanding. It is not rocket science, but would considerably raise the standards and tone of climatology.

  3. icarus62

     /  25/01/2016

    Carter was a lying charlatan and deserves to be attacked for it. If he wanted respect in death, he should have not been so dishonest in life.

    • manicbeancounter

       /  25/01/2016

      The above comment I have let through as an example of the level of ignorance that Prof Bob Carter was up against.
      A charlatan is defined as

      A person who makes elaborate, fraudulent, and often voluble claims to skill or knowledge; a quack or fraud.

      Try the video clip above. It is of a retired Professor of Geology talking about paleoclimatology, a subject on which he published. If he was a liar (one who knowingly makes false statements) back it up. In my experience all that will come up with it pointing to somebody else who thinks that Prof Carter is wrong because he disagreed with collective opinion.

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