“Fake Skeptics” – a term of intolerance

Tamino, the handle of blogger Grant Foster, uses the term “Fake Skeptic” to describe those he believes to be wrong. I believe Foster’s first use of the term was in his “Skeptics: Real or Fake?” article of 28th June 2011.

The term is “skeptic” is ambiguous. It is either John Cook’s definition of someone who “considers all the evidence in their search for the truth” or (following the Oxford English Dictionary) it is – more broadly – one who doubts or questions. This I discussed here, a few days ago. But either way, what it says to me is that anyone who dissents knows what the truth actually is, but they pretend otherwise. It is a roundabout way of saying “You are a liar, you know it and pretend otherwise“.

What evidence do I have for this extreme accusation?

  1. Lack of Substantiation by Tamino

    To quote from the article:-


    “I’ve often discussed Arctic sea ice, and specifically mentioned that it’s one of the strongest evidences of global warming. All by itself it’s not absolute proof, but as evidence goes it’s strong. Very strong. It’s also an excellent litmus test to separate real skeptics from fake ones.”

    This is evidence of past warming. The skeptics like Warren Meyer, Joanna Nova, Lord Monckton, Prof Richard Lindzen, Anthony Watts, Bishop Hill (Andrew Montford), Prof Bob Carter and Lord Nigel Lawson of the GWPF, do not deny that the earth has warmed in the last century or so, most of which is in the Northern Hemisphere. They do dispute whether the extreme summer minima of ice was entirely due to global warming (alternatively being due to an influx of warmer currents into the Arctic Ocean, like (maybe) in 1923). What they are all united on is that they deny a future catastrophe. That is, warming will accelerate, with catastrophic consequences for the planet. That is they accept that there was about 0.7 Celsius of warming in the twentieth century, but deny that this century there will be 3 to 6 degrees of warming, with severe climate disruption. Even if this were the case (as Lawson says), the current policies would be both ineffective to combatting the problem and would be economically disastrous.

  2. Tamino perverts the truth

    Grant Foster is highly intelligent and has great skill in statistical analysis. However, he is highly intolerant of those he disagrees with, fails to discourage intolerance in his blog comments and uses his considerable intellectual powers to turn invert empirical reality and defend corrupt science.

In short, Tamino is a climate bully-boy. He does not seek to advance understanding, but seeks to suppress it. He has once before deleted his blog. He should do so again, leaving only an apology.

The views expressed are my own. Tamino is not the only climate bully-boy, but a symbol of it. He is not the worst, but probably the most intelligent. I believe that the intolerance should be met with intolerance. This is simply an extension of the 21st Century British attitudes against discrimination, the older beliefs of fair play and that the best way to understand is to compare and contrast the arguments. Furthermore, modern history shows that those who keenest to suppress dissent have the weakest or most immoral case. I will shortly be inviting Tamino to reply by posting, unedited, on this blog.

Update – cross posted to Tamino’s blog. A sign of a climate bully-boy is that they are cowards underneath. They cannot cope when confronted with the reality of what they are doing. Like in George Orwell’s 1984, they edit reality to make it appear the opposite. The right of reply is yours Tamino. Do you believe in what you are doing, or are you just preaching to the converted and promoting intolerance?

manicbeancounter | May 3, 2012 at 12:13 am | Reply

The term “fake skeptic” is a term of intolerance. [edit]

[ResponseOn the contrary, the term is exactly correct.]

Michael Mann’s narrow definition of “Skepticism”

Climate Scientist MM continues his dogged defence of the climate consensus at Thinkprogress.

Consider the following statement

Make no mistake: Skepticism is fundamental to good science. Whenever a conclusion is drawn or a proposition is made, the demand that it stand up to scrutiny is the self-correcting machinery that drives us towards a better understanding of the way the world works. In this sense, every scientist should be a skeptic. Good science responds to good faith challenges, and to contradictory evidence that is presented, and climate-change science should be no different.

The spirit of the following statement is at first beguiling, and the spirit is something that many would agree with, although “good faith challenges” allows for discrimination against people you disagree with. However, it is his meaning of “scepticism” that I want to take issue with here.

Mann’s definition is most clearly expressed by John Cook of “Skeptical Science“, but also supported by (amongst others) Tamino of “Open Mind” blog. The clearest expression is in the article “Are you a genuine skeptic or a climate denier?

Genuine skeptics consider all the evidence in their search for the truth. Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their pre-determined views.

Compare this with a more established source of word definitions – the Oxford English Dictionary. I don’t have the full 20 volume edition, but I think my 1983 book club edition of the Shorter OED will do well enough. There are a number of definitions of “sceptic” on page 1900.

Definition 1 pertains to a school of philosophy after the Greek Pyrrho, which doubts the possibility of knowledge of any kind.

Definition 2 is someone who doubts the validity of knowledge claims in a particular area of inquiry. This includes, but is not confined to the natural sciences. In the area of climate is the Climate Realists like Tallbloke, who doubt the greenhouse gas theory.

Definition 2.1 “one who maintains a doubting attitude with reference to a particular question or statement“. The OED has this as the popular definition.

Definition 3 is one who doubts the truth of Christianity. An older definition, not applicable here.

Definition 4 is one who is seeking the truth. That is “an inquirer who has not arrived at definite convictions“. This is only occasionally used, at least in the late 20th century.

Cook’s definition is at odds with all the definitions in the dictionary. There is nothing there about how much evidence a genuine skeptic must consider. Indeed, it by his own definition Cook is not a skeptic. More seriously, Cook is disagreeing with the experts in their field. According to Cook’s definition, a skeptic is someone who formerly had a doubting attitude as in 2.1, but now has fallen into line. The philosophers are a school of deniers. (Desmogblog will no doubt now unearth evidence that they were in the pay of big olive oil producers.) Some who still doubts the truth of climate change will not have “considered all the evidence” yet. For those who have read the evidence, this category ceases to exist. The doubter of Christianity is irrelevant, whilst the seeker of truth is someone who is behind the curve.

But then who do you believe on the definition of “skeptic / sceptic”. A consensus of the world’s leading experts, or a group of dogmatic people using language for partisan purposes?

NB. I use sceptic with a “c” to denote the expert definition, and with a “k” to define the partisan definition. However, I quite realise the use of “c” was probably as a result of King George III trying the separate Britain from the revolting colonies by means of a common language.

With respect to Dr Mann, I may have got him totally wrong. Maybe he does not realise that skepticalscience.com is based on a misrepresentation. If Dr Mann (or a nominated associate) would like to clarify that he follows expert opinion, I will be more than happy to distance him from the polemicists who allegedly support him.

Tamino on Australian Sea-Levels

Tamino attempts a hatchet-job on a peer-reviewed paper on Australian Sea Levels. Whilst making some valid comments, it gives the misleading impression that he has overturned the main conclusion.

The sceptic blogs (GWPF, Wattsupwiththat, Jo Nova) are highlighting a front page article in the Australian about a peer-reviewed paper by P.J. Watson about Australian sea levels trends over the past century.

The major conclusion is that:-

“The analysis reveals a consistent trend of weak deceleration at each of these gauge sites throughout Australasia over the period from 1940 to 2000. Short period trends of acceleration in mean sea level after 1990 are evident at each site, although these are not abnormal or higher than other short-term rates measured throughout the historical record.”

The significance is that Watson shows a twentieth century rise of 17cm +/-5cm in Australia, whilst Government policy is based a sea level rise of up to 90cm by the end of the century. If there is deceleration from an already low base, then government action is no longer required, potentially saving billions of dollars.

Looking for other viewpoints I found a direction from Real Climate to Tamino’s Open Mind blog. Given my last encounter when he tried to defend the deeply flawed Hockey Stick (see my comments here and here) I curious to know if this was another misdirection. I was not disappointed. Tamino manages to produce a graph showing the opposite to Watson. That is rapid acceleration, not gentle deceleration.

How does he end up with this contrary result? In Summary

  1. Chooses just one of the four data sets used. That is the Freemantle data set.
  2. Making valid, but largely irrelevant criticisms, to undermine the scientific and statistical competency of the author.
  3. Takes time to make the point about treating 20 year moving averages as data for analysis purposes. The problem is that it underweights the data points at the beginning and the end. In particular, any recent acceleration will be understated.
  4. Criticizes the modelling method, with good reasons.
  5. Slips in an alternative model that may answer that criticism.
  6. Shows the results of that model output.

Tamino’s choice of the Freemantle data set should be justified, especially as Watson gives the comment in the conclusion.

“There is evidence of significant mine subsidence embedded in the historical tide gauge record for Newcastle and a likelihood of inferred subsidence within the later (after the mid 1990s) portion of the Fremantle record. In this respect, it is timely and necessary to augment these relative tide gauge measurements with CGPS to gain accurate data on the vertical movement (if any) at each gauge site to measure eustatic sea level rise. At present only the Auckland gauge is fitted with such precision levelling technology.”

That is, the Freemantle data shows the largest acceleration towards the end and this extra acceleration might be because land levels are falling, not sea levels rising.

The underweighting of recent data is important and could be dealt with by looking at shorter period moving averages and observing the acceleration rates. That is looking at moving averages for 19, 18, 17 years etc. If the acceleration rates cross the 20cm a century rate with the shortening of the time periods then this will undermine Watson’s conclusion. Tamino does not do this, despite being well within his capabilities. Until such an analysis is carried out, the claim abstract in the abstract that “(s)hort period trends of acceleration in mean sea level after 1990 … are not abnormal or higher than other short-term rates measured throughout the historical record ” is not undermined.

Instead of pursuing the point, Tamino then goes on to substitute Watson’s modelling method for an arbitrary one plucked from the air, with the comment

“Finally, we come to the other very big problem with this analysis: the model itself. Watson models his data as a quadratic function of time:

.

He then uses  (the 2nd time derivative of the model) as the estimated acceleration. But this model assumes that the acceleration is constant throughout the observed time span. That’s clearly not so. ”

Instead he flippantly inserts a quartic equation, which gives the time-varying acceleration (the second derivation) as a quadratic function against time.

There are some problems with a quadratic functions as a model against time. Primarily it only has one turning point. Extend the graph far enough and it reaches infinity. So at some point in the future sea levels will reach the sun, and later the rate of rise will be faster than the speed of light. More seriously, if this quadratic is the closest fit to all the data series, it will either have, or soon will have, overstated the actual acceleration. If used to project 90 years or more ahead, it will provide a grossly exaggerated projection based on known data.

On this basis I have edited to give all the inferences that can be drawn from rising sea levels in Australasia.

That is, a pure maths exercise in plotting a quadratic equation on a graph, unrelated to any reality.

An alternative to this is to claim simply that there is not sufficient valid data, or the analysis is too poor draw any long-term inferences.

An alternative approach is to relate the sea level rises to the global temperature rises. Try comparing Watson’s graph of rate of change in sea levels to the two major temperature anomalies.



First it should be pointed out that Watson uses a twenty year moving average, so his data should lag the temperature data. The strong warming in the HADCRUT data in the 1920s to 1940s is replicated in Fort Denison and Auckland sea level data. The Lack of warming in the 1945 to 1975 period is replicated be marked deceleration in all four data sets from 1950 to the 1970s. The warming phase thereafter is similarly replicated in all four data sets. The current static phase, according to the more reliable HADCRUT data, should similarly be marked by a deceleration in sea level rise from an already low level. Further analysis of Watson’s data is needed to confirm this.

There is no reason in the existing data to believe that Watson’s conclusions are invalid. It is necessary to play fast and loose with the data and get lost in computer games models to draw alternative inferences. Yet if a member of the Australian Parliament says legislation to cope with sea level rise should be withdrawn due to a new study, the alarmist consensus, (who have just skimmed through Tamino’s debunking), will say that the study has been overturned. As a result, ordinary, coastal-dwelling people in Australia will continue to endure real hardship due to legislation based on alarmist exaggerations. (here & here).

Denialists become Superfluous

OR Who Needs Enemies when you have Friends like These

Climate Psychology is a blog specialising in mirror-posting articles from one side of the climate change argument, but with more lurid titles. The direct inference being that the truth of the science is so blatantly apparent that any criticism must be by the deluded, the deranged, or be in the pay of some sinister forces. One such mirror posting is of Tamino’s “Hockey Stick Delusion” at RealClimate under the Title “Tamino debunks the junk science of Montford and McIntyre for the umpteenth time — the hockey stick is still sticking around

To anyone who looks at both sides of the argument – who properly compares and contracts each point made, will see that Tamino fails to address the points made. As I said in an earlier posting

 Look at

1. Who gives the fullest answers?

2. Which side evades the points, or attempts sleight of hand?

3. How are contrary or neutral points treated. Clue – look at how Judith Curry (who is trying to remain neutral) is treated. Further, look at how contrary opinions are treated.

4. Finally who are the real deniers in all of this?

This leaning on psychology is nothing new. It was used by the KGB to punish dissenters without trial (see also here and here). The recent publication of a statistical analysis of the Hockey Stick by McShane and Warner again shows which side of the debate the delusional mostly reside. The greatest irony is the blog has the following quote:-

“Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology.” Barack Obama

The Hockey Stick and Climate Science

Posted Yesterday to the discussion at Climate Audit on the topic of “The Team Defends Paleo-Phrenology”

It may help …. to understand the nature of the science. It relies on statistical techniques to establish results. These, crucially, depend for their validity on the elimination of bias. If a researcher has faulty data, then the results are undermined. If the researcher is selective in the data, then the results are undermined. It outliers are not eliminated then the results are undermined. This all means that where there is extremely complex data, and problems of measurement, it is extremely difficult to establish conclusions that cannot be overturned. This is both true of economics and of paleoclimate.

I would contend that climate scientists, as a junior scientists, need to learn from other disciplines.
– From accountancy, about sense-checking the data (see link below)
– From research into new drugs, about the necessity for more technicians to collect and collate data, and to experiance dead-ends.
– From law, to distinguish between levels of evidence and distinguish baseless rhetoric from cogent arguement
– Most of all from statistical theory, where you will find you results will have no validity unless you take active steps to eliminate bias. Even then, with complex data, your results may still be later undermined, despite passing a battery of tests.

For all of these reasons, we should accept that the results of research are tentative. We should recognise the limits of our knowledge. In recognising the boundaries, and establishing procedures to quickly identify error, paleoclimate may be able to move forward.

 

The whole hockey stick issue, brought to a head with the Tamino posting, shows the problem of bias. To obtain a temperature reconstruction requires using data that usually gives a very weak signal indeed. Therefore any data needs to be carefully collected and every conceivable bias removed. It is only by eliminating bias that the statistical analysis can begin. In many cases there will be no significant results. Much painstaking work will achieve a dead end. And there is the rub. Careers are not made by failing to get a result. In this arena phenomenal fame and prestige can come to those who produce results that fortify the consensus. And there is plenty of recognition to those with supporting roles as well.

The original MBH98 may never have emerged in a more muted form if an expert reviewer had asked how such a novel result could be reconciled with the existing view that there was a medieval warm period. Hence my point about sense-checking in the previous blog posting. Similarly the comment that the 20th century warming was unprecedented should be answered with how do you know that? Read the Hockey Stick Illusion and you will find that the claim lacks scientific validity.  

If climate science it to mature it needs more painstaking data collection and analysis. As a science, it needs to find the current boundaries and limits of our current knowledge.

For those who believe that the Hockey Stick Team still have something worthwhile to say, should start with Steve McIntyres repost of “Tamino and the Magic Flute“. Compare that with Tamino’s posting “The Montford Delusion”.

Look at

1. Who gives the fullest answers?

2. Which side evades the points, or attempts sleight of hand?

3. How are contrary or neutral points treated. Clue – look at how Judith Curry (who is trying to remain neutral) is treated. Further, look at how contrary opinions are treated.

4. Finally who are the real deniers in all of this?

Tamino v. Montford – A Sense-Check

Clarification – This post is an attempt to say two things – but badly.

First, a simplistic verification of a global temperature reconstruction is to cross-check against local temperature reconstructions from around the world. These, on average, strongly contradict the hockey stick.

Second, Tamino’s claim is essentially McIntyre has just been taking pot-shots at sound science. Instead McIntyre has looked at all the steps in making a reconstruction, and found all wanting.

So what of a neutral lay-person trying to compare the Montford’s Hockey Stick Illusion and Tamino’s debunking? From my accountancy experience, it is normal to try to get a sense-check. What is the expected result? If the actual is different from the expected, then difference needs to be reconciled. The MBH98, MBH99, and the subsequent reconstructions in the book, completely overturned perceived thinking, so there needs to be a sense-check to make sure the results are valid. 

 The sense-check for the global temperature reconstructions can be from localized reconstructions from around the world, to see if the global reconstruction replicates the typical pattern. A website, CO2science.org, documents peer-reviewed articles estimating temperatures in the medieval warm period. For those that have a temperature estimate, those that agree with the hockey stick – that temperatures were lower than today – are out-numbered 5 to 1 by those that say temperatures were higher in the MWP. The raw median, median, and mode values are that temperatures were about 0.75oC warmer than today. The weaker, qualitative, studies have a similar picture. Those that suggest that temperatures in the MWP were similar to or lower than today are outnumbered more than 4 to 1 by those that suggest temperatures were higher. So when the more scientific, global, reconstructions come up with a novel, contrary, result, there needs to a full reconciliation to explain why. Without such an explanation, we just have McIntyre’s multi-layered* findings that the global reconstructions are critically flawed stands.

*McIntyre’s findings are multi-layered, including.

a)      Hockey Stick shapes were given undue weighting by the short-centering of the PC analysis. For instance, McIntyre calculated that Sheep Mountain had 390 times the weighting of Mayberry Slough (p113-114). Of the 112 original proxies in MBH9, just 13 had a hockey stick shape. Tamino does not counter this, only looking at the 22 longer hockey stick series, made up of individual series, such as Gaspe, along with regional combinations such as NOAMERPC1.

b)      Dodgy data and infilling. Looking across the columns of data, McIntyre noticed identical data in adjacent columns, as though infilling had taken place. (p78-81)

c)      Many of these series were based on old data. If Mann had used the most recent data available in 1998, could the final Hockey Stick have been less pronounced? (p83-84)

d)      Some of the most important original proxies were flawed.

  1.  
    1. Gaspé has better data, but was unpublished. (p174) It also had an alternative proxy with better data in Alaska. (More here)
    2. Sheep mountain had updated proxies that fails to show an HS (p 357-361)
    3. The Graybill bristlecone series had a number of flaws (e.g. p121-125 & p353-357)

e)      The failure of alternative reconstructions. (Chapter 10).

f)        There was considerable evidence of biases in the data selection in the proxies (along with small sample sizes); the selection of the proxies in the reconstruction; and the short-centring which gave rise to hockey sticks on random data 99% of the time. Given this, any measure of correlation statistic was rendered largely meaningless. McIntyre did not explore this. However, Montford provides evidence that the verification statistic used was highly irregular in the disciplines outside of climate science. (e.g. p156-164)  Latest – McIntyre shows the evidence that to suggest verification statistic was cherry-picked.

That is, the selection of data in the proxies, the proxy selection, the bias by short-centering, and the selection of verification statistic are all different levels in establishing a reconstruction, and all shown by McIntyre to have failed.

For a different take – which side pursues scientific understanding, see the follow-up https://manicbeancounter.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/the-hockey-stick-and-climate-science/

Tamino v Montford on the Gaspé series

Have just finished reading A.W. Montford’s (alias Bishop Hill) The Hockey Stick Illusion. Although I thought it excellent, and agree with the reviews (e.g. Air Vent), I thought I would look for contrary opinions, to allow me to compare and contrast the different sides. It just so happens that Tamino has posted a critical review at Real Climate blog on July 22nd. Bishop Hill has responded.

In the spirit of allowing you to make up your own mind, let me present one aspect, which does not need a scientific background to evaluate.

Tamino claims that McIntyre rejects Gaspé because

 “This particular series doesn’t extend all the way back to the year 1400, it doesn’t start until 1404, so MBH98 had extended the series back four years by persistence — taking the earliest value and repeating it for the preceding four years. This is not at all an unusual practice, and — let’s face facts folks — extending 4 years out of a nearly 600-year record on one out of 22 proxies isn’t going to change things much.”

 

I would agree with Tamino, if that was the only problem with Gaspé. But other problems Montford recounts.

  1. It had the biggest hockey stick of any of the 112 series. 1975 was 3.05 standard deviations from the series mean. Only 12 others had any sort of hockey stick shape. (p.75)
  2. It was included twice in the proxies – once as part of the North American PC series and once on its own. (p.140).
  3. It did start in 1404, but until 1421 relied on a single tree, and two up to 1447. The original authors “had not used the early portion of the series at all in their own reconstruction”, but Mann had. (p165.)
  4. Mann’s own claim for its’ inclusion was that the study represented the northern treeline. But Gaspé was well south of the treeline. As a sensitivity analysis, McIntyre replaced Gaspé with the Sheenjek River Series in Mid-Alaska. It was further north and had more trees. When this was replaced, the medieval warm period re-appeared. (p.166).*
  5. McIntyre showed “that you could only get rid of the Medieval Warm Period by using the Gaspé series twice and by including the unreliable early portion, and by extending this highly dubious data back to the start of the fifteenth century.”
  6. An updated study was done taking the data to 1991, instead of 1982. There was nothing like the same growth spurt in recent times. The data went unpublished, and the author claiming to have lost the location. So the results could not be independently replicated. (p.174).
  7. Montford says in reply to Tamino

“The observation that “McIntyre argued that the entire Gaspe series should be eliminated because it didn’t extend all the way back to 1400” is wrong. MBH had its steps starting at 50-year intervals. Gaspe should therefore have been in the 1450 step not the 1400 one.”

 

From my simple view, the criticism of the Gaspé proxy series is multilayered. It was used inappropriately; there was a better proxy available (or an update); it was clearly an outlier; and was used twice.

Finally, Steve McIntyre has already criticised Tamino on Gaspé here. McIntyre makes the additional point

“The Gaspé series is a cedar chronology. There is no botanical evidence that cedars respond linearly to warmer temperatures. World experts on cedar are located at the University of Guelph, Ross McKitrick’s university. Ross and I had lengthy discussions with these cedar experts about this chronology – they said that cedars like cool and moist climate.”

 

* Gaspé is around 49o North (same as Paris), Sheenjek River 65o North. (same as Iceland).