Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

02/24/2010 (11:56 am)

Now They're Acting Like Scientists

My position throughout the global climate change kefuffle has been that when the scientists touting anthropogenic climate change begin acting like scientists, I’ll take their science seriously. It was plain to me that they were acting like political partisans, not like scientists.

So it was with cautious satisfaction this morning that I read this Fox News report, about a meeting in Antalya, Turkey of 150 scientists called by the British government’s official Meteorological Office:

After the firestorm of criticism called Climate-gate, the British government’s official Meteorological Office has decided to give its modern climate data a do-over.

At a meeting on Monday of about 150 climate scientists in the quiet Turkish seaside resort of Antalya, representatives of the weather office (known in Britain as the Met Office) quietly proposed that the world’s climate scientists start all over again on a “grand challenge” to produce a new, common trove of global temperature data that is open to public scrutiny and “rigorous” peer review.

Skepticism and caution are called for; it is certainly possible the same, partisan scientists are attempting to mollify the public so they can produce another biased data set. However, at least on the surface, what the Met Office is calling for is exactly what is needed. If we’re going to know what the climate is doing, a generally-accepted set of fair thermometers is the right place to start.

So, I applaud, while wearing my most skeptical face. We will watch very, very carefully, but if the outcome of this process is actually good science, then “Bravo.”

I’ve revisited some of my prior rants on the subject, to remind myself what it is that about the process so far that seemed so far off the mark. Like this:

Anybody reading this who wants to bring me back to “sanity” from my skeptical stance, needs to produce an explanation for why scientists who claim to believe humans are causing global climate change continue to defend the now-discredited Mann global temperature history, why they sneer at skeptics for their lack of scientific rigor while at the same time excusing the same lack of rigor in popularizers like Al Gore, why they refuse to require that the models used for predicting global climate and for adjusting global temperature readings be made public for the purpose of peer review, why they carefully scrutinize every measurement that does not fit their anthropogenic narrative but accept uncritically every measurement that does fit it, why they tolerate the persecution and firing of dissenters, and why they tolerate the bizarre and obviously political approach of the IPCC. Also, they need to stop accepting nonsense like “an oil company paid for the research” as a valid reason to reject an inconvenient finding; that’s just laughable. If they act like scientists, I’ll treat them like scientists.

…and like this:

There is a scientific debate about climate change, and scientists should continue that debate, but what our culture is facing is not the result of that debate. On the contrary, in the culture at large the debate has been stifled, distorted, and co-opted by political partisans in an attempt to obtain political power.

…and like this:

It’s the very people who engaged in the dishonest peer review process who are defending the hockey stick and similar graphs. If their peer review was not scientifically robust, then those graphs are unsupported, and need to be re-established by a transparent, properly peer-reviewed process.

It has been the skeptics, all along, who represented genuine regard for the scientific process. Anthropogenic global climate change has ridden a wave of biased “journalism” that claimed for itself the imprimatur of science, but which accepted uncritically the deceitful pronouncements of partisans as though they were gospel because at the beginning of the chain of echoes stood somebody wearing a lab coat. If leftists thought for themselves, they would not have been taken in so easily.

Some of us were not taken in. We must remain vigilant against being taken in again. But won’t it be grand if we can actually figure out what the climate is doing, at long last?

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February 24, 2010 @ 12:13 pm #

It Seems to me that the first thing they need to do is figure a way to collect temperatures which are relatively unaffected by their environs. And are located in places which will not ipso facto affect their temperatures. I’m thinking of the mention of one site that was located with a fairly close proximity to a volcano for the purpose of collecting CO2 data. Well duh. You’re going to get a high reading! I’m not sure _anything_ is likely to affect the numbers other than the activity of the volcano. Not that that information isn’t worthwhile collecting, but for the purpose of human caused CO2? not so much.

And of course, Wattsup has documented so many sites that have been polluted by surroundng development. My guess is that the satellite imaging is probably going to be the most accurate source of good data, but then, I’m not a climatologist.

February 24, 2010 @ 12:23 pm #

They’re acting also like little boys and girls who have been forced to do their homework over again. It is outrageous. On the one hand this ‘science’ is presented as measurable, self-correcting, and self-evident to the enlightened. But now that they are being forced to go back to the drawing board there is not a word of self-criticism as to why they find themselves in this almost laughable embarrassment in the first place.

Therefore your caution, Phil, with trusting them in this new effort is most wise. The best news of all is the word on “‘rigorous’ peer review”. If they hold true to that, then truth might have a chance.

And I can’t help but wonder about the similar complaints about more politics than science in the area of Intelligent Design and Evolution in general. But that’s another subject.

February 24, 2010 @ 1:33 pm #


The problem with the satellite data is that it has only existed since 1979. For historical data, they have to rely on ground measurement — and comparing old ground data against recent satellite data is tricky.

Measuring temp beside a volcano is actually useful, so long as the volcano is stable, and so long as you have other sources of ground temp. Same with measuring near cities; the problem is not so much that the city makes things hotter, because if the site is stable over time, it’s likely to show responses to outside forces even if it’s natural baseline is a little high. What Anthony Watts has been complaining about is not just that the urban effect exists, but that individual sites change over time — that some sites used to be unaffected, but that the effect of urban heat has grown around them. In those sites, the apparent warming has been the result of changing local environment, which makes those sites useless for measuring outside forces unless we adjust the local changes out.

Scientists do make adjustments for all these things; the problem all along has been that the adjustments have not been made honestly or with proper scrutiny.

February 24, 2010 @ 8:16 pm #

If you have a few spare moments for enjoyable reading, you might check this out – as well as the comments.


February 27, 2010 @ 6:14 am #


I had the same thought. Your analogy is great. The way these scientists have handled this has reminded me the reaction of Dan Rather when the research he did for his story line about George Bush being a slacker in the National Guard was exposed for being shoddy and biased. “You can criticize the way we did our research all you like, but we still stand by our story line.”

I don’t expect groveling, but it would be nice if the tone was a little more humble, one of taking a fresh start and seeing where the data leads. Rather, the attitude has seemed to me to be of grumbling that they know that when they take another look the conclusion will still be the same, that their time is being wasted.

Hey, I guess I would be mad too. After all, we should have been signed off on the Kyoto Protocol years ago, and cap and trade legislation should be rolling through on iron rails.

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