Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Deniers crying in their beers

I'll give Jim Steele his due.  He is the first denier I have ever seen come up with perhaps the most important Richard Feynman quote of all:
[There is an] idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school—we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it; other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked—to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.
I've crossed the first bit out because Steele doesn't use that.  You can check here (archived).  You can also see that he didn't bother with the next paragraph:
Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can—if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong—to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. In summary, the idea is to try to give all the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution, not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another. [Feynman quotes from here]
Perhaps there is a reason why he didn't bother with the second paragraph but it is an important one.  I can't remember ever seeing a post proposing something at WattsUpWithThat actually doing what Feynman says here.   Give alternative explanations.  But, wait, deniers can't do that because the people reading their denialist thinking might actually see that the consensus view is the right one.

And that will never do.

Steele's article is a crocodile tears exercise in whinging.  Steele is moaning about the US TV series Years Of Living Dangerously which we in the UK have yet to see, although you can see episode one at the show's website.

Deniers won't like the series.  It is aiming to tell the science of climate change through human stories.  It may not entirely succeed (I can't know from just seeing one episode) but it is important that the science is heard loud and clear.  Alongside Cosmos, the updated remake of the classic Carl Sagan series, there is a two pronged attack on anti-science.  Not surprisingly, Steele doesn't enjoy his current viewing. 

Well, tough.  We get Cosmos here in the UK and it is both excellent and something surprising.  Cosmos is rather tough on deniers.  The story of how leaded petrol became unleaded petrol is less familiar a tale of science denial than those of climate, cancer or tobacco, but it is illuminating nonetheless.  Steele and his Watts hosted clique probably didn't enjoy that episode.  Good. 

You know that Jim Steele has jumped the shark when he adduces Pastor Rick Joyner to his side.  Joyner, according to Steele,  "embodies Albert Einstein’s advice to “Never Stop Questioning.”"  That's hilarious.  Joyner is an adherent of dominion theology which aims to have government on Christian grounds according to Biblical law.  I suspect Joyner has stopped questioning that one.  For more Joyner fun, click here.

Steele's moan seems to be that the producers didn't make the TV show that Steele wanted them to make:
If the documentary wanted to educate the public about the best practices of science, they would have examined all the facts including well know water management practices. But only Pastor Joyner seemed willing explore such alternative viewpoints. The producers’ efforts would have done more good, if they had tried to enlist the pastor’s influence to promote better watershed management. But the producers seemed intent on bending over backwards to suggest recent droughts were unnatural and caused by rising CO2. But our best scientists do not support that suggestion either.
Is Steele that naïf?  Maybe so.  He has hitched his wagon to Anthony Watts so there is an element of naivety.  Steele must surely be aware that the producers made exactly the sort of programme that they wanted to make.  They have a point they want to get across, a way they want to make that point and they get on and do it.

Perhaps Jim Steele won't mind if I have a moan about Glenn Beck.  Could he not, just for once, explain that there are other explanations behind his right wing rants?  You know, he could show the other point of view.

Only kidding.  I'm not stupid enough to think that a 45 minute long episode has the time to do everything Steele would like it to do.  Besides, the majority of the people watching are taking in the human interest side.  If they want to look at the science, they can find it elsewhere.  Many of them will already be aware of the science and will have joined the consensus.  Science programmes don't draw vast audiences.  You can bet The Big Bang Theory gets more viewers (and Jim is moaning that not all nerds are like those portrayed in the series and they should introduce a character more like the nerds he used to hang around with - or perhaps....)

Interestingly, Steele questions the BEST data.  You might be aware that this was the denier funded, denier backed, denier promoted last gasp at showing there really was no climate change project that, ha, ha, showed that climate change is genuine.  Anthony Watts himself said he would accept the result whatever it said.  Until it was published, of course.
Instead of discussing all the science, the producers try to bludgeon Pastor Joyner with Christian peer pressure beginning with his daughter. Then Katherine Hayhoe visits and repeats the same simplistic arguments from episode 1. Then former U.S. Representative Bob Inglis piles on. Finally Pastor Joyner is brought to Dr. Richard Muller who has been hailed as the Koch-brothers-funded skeptic who now believes in CO2-caused warming. But the producers fail to mention that Muller’s homogenized instrumental data may suffer from the same biases illustrated in “Unwarranted Temperature Adjustments: Conspiracy or Ignorance?.” Or contrasting satellite data that shows the global average has not risen in 17 years. 
 I've removed the links.  The second one is in quotation marks and links to Steele's own site.  He needs a proof reader.  The page linked is aimed at educating students as it has three critical thinking questions (though a leading question like the first one is less critical thinking than guided study):
1. Does categorizing a weather station as rural mean human landscape changes have not increased the local temperature?
2. Why are minimum temperatuers more sensitive to local land surfaces?
3. Why would a rural station that has never changed location or instrumentation have its data adjusted?
Temperatuers, I ask you.

Remember that Feynman quote.  In trying to make a case, Steele doesn't follow Feynman.   The "contrasting satellite data that shows the global average has not risen in 17 years" is this:
A couple of things - satellite data is not the only source of information about temperatures available.  What story do the others tell?  Secondly, any trend of exactly 0.00 should ring bells.  Especially as this graph keeps growing longer and longer, just like Pinocchio's nose but the trend keeps on at 0.00.  Natural phenomena don't do that.  What's going on?  Does anyone know?

On one thing I can agree with Steele:
We are all blinded by our illusions and we can only free ourselves from those illusions by careful observations, experiments and respectful debate.
I contend he is blinded by his illusions.  He admits his Christian past but I am not sure he understands it:
Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to be closer to God is religion’s equivalent of Feynman’s ideal scientist who leans over backwards to prove that he has not been fooled by clinging to a cherished belief. 
And the Golden Rule (of reciprocity) is common to every religion and older than both Christianity and Judaism. 

But back to Steele's article.  One can delight at the hypocrisy:
Accordingly climate alarmists have circled the wagons and refused to debate with climate skeptics, preferring hit pieces such as Years of Living Dangerously. 
And the deniers don't do hit pieces like, for example, Steele's one.  But there you go.  And the reason why climate scientists don't debate the deniers - you only have to see Lord Monckton's mendacious presentations to realise that all the denier has to do is sew doubt.  And science isn't settled by debates.  And debates are a game.  It isn't rocket science, Jim.

Remember that shark.  Steele's closing words sum up precisely why his analysis fails Feynman's test:
I suggest they will be better scientists if they emulated Pastor Joyner, and listen to all sides, promote more debate, and then let the truth lead us wherever it may. 
As Pastor Joyner himself says on his Facebook page:
Today, there are basically four worldviews: The Christian worldview, Islamic worldview, secular worldview, and the Marxist worldview. Each of these in their pure form is in basic conflict with the others. If you understand these worldviews, you will have a basic understanding of virtually all of the conflicts in the world today.
Just letting Jim know that Joyner doesn't have a clue.  15% of the world are Hindus.  That's 1.1 billion adherents.  Bhuddists make up more than 500 million people.  In Joyner's mind there might be four worldviews.  In mine there are dozens.  Question everything?  Yeah, right.   And Marxist worldview.  What century is he living in?

PS  Jim has a nose for these things and will probably appear in the comments.  I shall listen but anyone who takes Rick Joyner seriously needs a good argument to convince me of anything.  If you come here and say the sky is blue, I shall need to go outside and check.  As one of the comments at WUWT points out
Unfortunately Rick Joyner in other (more important areas such as Christian doctrine) is a fruitcake.


  1. The rest of Feynman's quote was left out for breivty purposes but you can twist it as you may. It is exactly the rest of the quote that prompted me to write my essay. It was the producers who failed to provide even a hint of the abundant peer reviewed science that shows it was not climate change but watershed management that was hurting oyster fisheries. You really should be attacking the producers for not honoring Feynman's ideal scientist.

    The documentary's producers and yourself fail Feynman's ideal. "Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can—if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong—to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. In summary, the idea is to try to give all the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution, not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another. "

    I do not knwo anything more about Joyner or his beliefs other than how he acted in the documentary. But his sincere openness to opposing views is an example of how we should all act when we are faced with contrary viewpoints. And in that regard you too could learn much from the pastor's behavior. But despite my presentation and my references to peer reviewed science that debunks the documentaries fear mongering, you try to redirect people's attention away from the evidence via character assassination of all skeptics. I suggest you practice what you preach.

  2. I was commenting on what you wrote, not the show. At great length you told me that you were upset that the show did not do what you wanted it to do. Sorry, but it is a TV show and the producers set out to give a particular point, are you going to moan about Cosmos next? It kicks the deniers, a word with at least 150 years of history of being used in this context so don't get uppity about the Holocaust denier non-link.

    I don't need to be Feynman's ideal scientist either. Like I said, I thought you'd arrive here and misrepresent. I am character assassinating all skeptics. I don't need to, they do a very good job of showing themselves up.

    1. Jim, I will posit something. Einstein said question everything. Do you think he meant ignore the answers? Do you think he meant ignore the evidence? Do you think he meant having a mind so open that your brains fall out?

      I recall a few weeks back that you misunderstood Carl Sagan's baloney detector. I read that book too.

      My journey to my present position began more or less on your side of the fence. What I did do was question things. One of the things I questioned was why those people who studied climate science told me one thing and journalists, engineers and others who were not so well qualified in climate science were trying to tell me something different. The questions have answers that put me firmly in the AGW camp.

    2. Sweden's top climate scientist and IPCC member recently explains it best.

      "There is not a single well educated scientist that question that greenhouse gases do affect climate. However, this is not the issue but rather how much and how fast. Here there is no consensus as you can see from the IPCC report where climate sensitivity varies with a factor of three! Based on observational data climate sensitivity is clearly rather small and much smaller that the majority of models."

      Why do you ignore the answers such well qualified scientists who say the issue of climate sensitivity is totally unsettled???

      Or the answers from Germany's leading climate scientists and IPCC member Dr von Storch who says "“If things continue as they have been, in five years, at the latest, we will need to acknowledge that something is fundamentally wrong with our climate models. A 20-year pause in global warming does not occur in a single modeled scenario. But even today, we are finding it very difficult to reconcile actual temperature trends with our expectations."

      I started off teaching students that Co2 warming was real. My questioning led me to ask why were there so many bogus papers suggesting ecological catastrophe had been caused by such a small rise in temperature.

      You claim I misunderstood Sagan's baloney detector? Really ??? How so? Are you suggesting attacking the arguer is better science than examining the argument simply because that is what you prefer to do??

    3. From Sagan: don't believe in the argument from authority, authorities have been wrong in the past.

      I notice that almost your first response is to claim that the thing is about the person. Not so. I was writing about your specious moan. You seem to act as if question everything should have the added corollary "except Jim Steele".

      Of course, the quotes you give are about scientists doing science. They are not about scientists throwing paper in the air and going, yeah, you've been right all along. Global warming isn't real. Perhaps you understand that.

  3. Catmando, excellent review of the game that Jim Steele is playing.
    In fact. so good, I would very much like to Repost great swaths of it at WUWTW, about 1,000 words worth. I've clipped most of the Years Of Living Dangerously specific paragraphs, but kept all the Feynman related paragraphs. I'd love to give it a title like "Catmando does Jim Steele" but will come up with something more restrained. ~~~ what do you think, can I have your blessing?

  4. Well Catmando actually,
    if I don't do this tonight, who know's when I'll be able to get to it. Besides, I have a good feeling that you'll tell me "of course" I haven't for gotten your Feynman quotes ;-) .

    Furthermore, the more I thought about it, the more I liked "Catmando does Jim Steele" - if you have objections, I'll change it.

    1. Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier. I like what you have done with my post and fully endorse it. Thank you for your efforts in improving my modest effort. You don't have to ask in the future if there is anything you want to use. Just go ahead and use it.

    2. Thanks, what can I say my mama told me always ask (when possible). ;- )
      I appreciate your endorsement and probably will repost from here again, you write some good stuff. Now if only some of it would soak into the faith-based thick skulls that need the learning the most, such as our pal Mr. Steele, the world would be a better place.

    3. Thank you for the compliment. And I could not agree more with your last sentence.