Friday, 20 June 2014

Awards Night

I would like to let all my readers know that tomorrow night is awards night at the Starlight Ballrooms, Las Paranoias (off junction 3 of the M25).  The night is being organised by the Non-International Commission On Denying Science (NICODS) and is their 0th annual awards evening.  Remember that evening wear is required and there is a vegetarian option if you don't want the chicken in a basket.

So on to the awards.

For literature -

There could be no one other than James Delingpole BA (Oxon), who is recognised for his magnum opus, Kumquats: Why The International Socialist Agenda 21 World Governance Climate Scientists Conspiracist Are Like Various Bits Of Fruit In My Fruit Bowl (£0.99 from The Works).  Delingpole, in ten heavily referenced to a crank website in New Guinea pages, explains why he is a paranoid tin foil hat wearing non-scientifically trained fruitcake, though that's not what he intended to do.
Form an orderly queue please ladies, he is British

For music -

Once again, no one came close to the latest whacky adventure in a long line of whacky adventures by Viscount Christopher Monckton, the world's only fruitcake sponsored by a chocolate biscuit.  Monckton's latest venture has been a remake of a famous sixties American sitcom, although he changed the title slightly.  In the States, Hey Hey We're The Moncktons, has been a rip roaring success and the first single from the album of the series has hit number 2 (although I may have misheard that and actually it is number twos). Anyway, I urge you to follow this link to hear Christopher Monckton sing "I'm A Disbeliever". dead link

For science -

It might be getting a little recursive here to say it but only Jim Steele could win this one.  How on Earth can someone so intelligent and knowledgeable(TM) be so, I don't know, grumpy about a cheese. In this case parmesan.  At least he provided some of the cherries for Delingpole's fruit bowl.

For economics -

The gremlins that ruined Professor Richard Tol's reputation and the 2009 paper on which financial wizard and sometime science writer Matt Ridley based his attempt to win his own prize and the NICODS award for literature at the same time.  Quite when those gremlins struck, why and how badly they have screwed up Tol's reputation remains to be seen.  The WUWT thought police, Smokey and the DBStealey Bandit, are expected to finger the collar of a man, namely Michael Mann, anytime soon on a stitched up charge of doing conjuring tricks at children's parties.
Tol's gremlins settle down with some snacks to watch the awards ceremony
dbstealey greeting a climate science realist

For international relations -

None other than Murry Salby who has made a name in international relations that Henry Kissinger and Prince Andrew can only envy.  Firstly he skips to Australia when he feels the hot breath of authority uncovering his unusual financial arrangements, then he finds himself stranded in Europe when the credit card he is using is frozen as he is off on a jaunt when a lecture hall full of students are trying to catch up on their sleep while listening to him drone on about zzzzzzzzz.
Salby, undecided which gesture to give

For jurisprudence -

[Please note, our lawyers, Sou, Grabbit & Runne, have reminded us that the Michael Mann v Mark Steyn case is ongoing and we should not comment on the idiocy of [redacted] comparing [redacted] to a child [redacted] because that may just influence the outcome of the case.]

For philology (that's something to do with studying words) -

Dr Roy Spencer, he of the jolly hair cut (though not as jolly as Richard Tol who, though he can't be here tonight, has combed his hair tonight in honour of his gremlins). Spencer, you may remember, got hot under the collar about the word denier, correctly pointing out that it was associated with the libertarian philosopher and pioneering sociologist and namesake, Herbert Spencer, 150 years ago, therefore being coupled in many people's minds with the Potato Famine deniers.
Crazy hair, crazy lack of knowledge

For philosophy -

None other than Dr Timothy Ball whose constant striving to join the dots and cross the teas of the world's conspiracy theories has meant that he has proven than Michael Mann was born in Kenya and therefore cannot be a professor at an American university while demonstrating that Richard Lindzen shot JR.

What's wrong with this picture?  The entire second line.

For social inclusiveness -

Willard Anthony Watts, resident of California, who keeps a bit of seaweed in his garage and uses that to make decisions on the climate.  Watts has won for his brilliantly effective method of maintaining polite discourse - insulting commenters to his site that contradict or correct him then deleting the comments where those commenters defend themselves, correct the lies about them or the misinformation.  This way there is no dissent, no arguments and definitely none of that antisocial yobbish behaviour that you might get if two people were allowed to discuss their disagreements.  And then there's dbstealey if the rational commenter looks like they might be winning.
That bloke off Fox News explains to Willard how he'd like to make him hot under the collar

Oh, and Watts thinks people might just not to taken in by this piece (archived) at his award [sic] winning science [sic] site.

Please note - we originally asked Seth McFarlane to host our awards, you know, so he could make some very tasteful jokes about clothes like he did at the Oscars the other year, but then he went and made that science series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and included a programme that said global warming was real and caused by humans so we had to sack him on the grounds that his views and our did not quite coincide.  He naturally said that was McCarthyite censorship on every media outlet he could find.  Well, actually he didn't, but if he were a science denier he would have done because that way you can guarantee to get lots of noise for very little truth.

So instead, we got the only person qualified to do justice to our little awards ceremony, the peer without peer, the drama queen without a seat in the House Of Lords, Viscount(TM) Christopher Monckton.

Late update - Monckton can't make it because he is currently in negotiations with a major pharmaceutical company trying to persuade them to stop laughing at his attempts to claim he has found a cure for all known ills.  So instead, we have turned to Lamb Chop, the sock puppet of the late Shari Lewis.
Oh, look, there's dbstealey again (on the right - Mod.)

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Has Anthony Watts been surrounded by idiots at his site for so long he thinks everyone is an idiot?

Short answer - yes.

Long answer.

This is how WattsUpWithThat works,

Anthony Watts puts up a post.  There are three kinds. Some basic bits of uncontroversial reportage which are uncommon.  Reposts of press releases with a short bit of non-commentary by Watts and often no link to the full story/paper to which he is referring. The third kind are the desperate pseudoscientific posts, usually guest posts by the likes of Tim Ball, Willis Eschenbach, Christopher Monckton and Jim Steele of the cherry picked, highly slanted and easily debunked variety. These are common.

The posts gather comments. Usually these begin with a brainless thumbs up. Sometimes someone will notice that the post has a flaw or, more likely, is a pile of fetid dingo's kidneys. The recursive idiots on the comment thread have their pickings of the rancid meat while the commenter who actually has a handle on reality tries to fend off the increasingly personal attacks.

In wades dbstealey, aka David Boehm, aka Smokey, aka mod.  From his privileged position, totally protected by Watts, he can make whatever comment he wants and usually he twists the words of the rational one, makes things up and ups the ante. He does not listen to reason, draws a comment that is a response to his insults and uses his moderator hat to shut down any discussion. Oh, did I mention that his hypocrisy knows no bounds. It is the climate change supporters who censor and shut down discussion.

Meantime the choir of idiots continues to sing to the organ grinder's unscientific tune.

And that, my friends, is how it works.

It is recursive and asymmetrical. You can't win by using reason because you're not allowed to. And Anthony wonders why real scientists would rather cross an eight lane highway rather than breathe the same air as him.

Should anyone arrive here from WUWT wishing to have their fourpennorth, here is my comment policy.  Unless you are trying to part me and my money over erectile dysfunction matters or have found a long lost relative in Nigeria who, fortunately, has popped their clogs and left a fortune for me, if only I forward you my bank details, then I don't delete comments. If someone wants to make a prat of themselves, I prefer to leave it on the Internet for everyone to see.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Julia Slingo interview

The BBC radio series The Life Scientific hosted Julia Slingo of the Met Office. It is a very interesting listen. You can download it too.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Tim Ball says something astonishing

You know what I'm going to say.  Tim Ball hasn't got a clue.  How do I know?

In an article at WUWT (archived), he says this:
Climate is an average of the weather over time or in a region and until the 1960s averages were effectively the only statistic developed. 
In reply, perhaps just quoting from Wikipedia is simplest:
By the 18th century, the term "statistics" designated the systematic collection of demographic and economic data by states. In the early 19th century, the meaning of "statistics" broadened to include the discipline concerned with the collection, summary, and analysis of data. Today statistics is widely employed in government, business, and all the sciences. Electronic computers have expedited statistical computation, and have allowed statisticians to develop "computer-intensive" methods.

The term "mathematical statistics" designates the mathematical theories of probability and statistical inference, which are used in statistical practice. The relation between statistics and probability theory developed rather late, however. In the 19th century, statistics increasingly used probability theory, whose initial results were found in the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly in the analysis of games of chance (gambling). By 1800, astronomy used probability models and statistical theories, particularly the method of least squares. Early probability theory and statistics was systematized in the 19th century and statistical reasoning and probability models were used by social scientists to advance the new sciences of experimental psychology and sociology, and by physical scientists in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. The development of statistical reasoning was closely associated with the development of inductive logic and the scientific method.

Statistics can be regarded as not a field of mathematics but an autonomous mathematical science, like computer science and operations research. Unlike mathematics, statistics had its origins in public administration. It is used in demography and economics. With its emphasis on learning from data and making best predictions, statistics has a considerable overlap with decision science and microeconomics. With its concerns with data, statistics has overlap with information science and computer science
 Tim, you might not have noticed this but those three paragraphs are just about the foundations of modern science.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, think thermodynamics. The quantum thing rose out of that.

In fact, Tim could usefully consult this page from Wikipedia, a lovely timeline which tells us much about when some statistical things were invented or first used, like Bayes Theorem (1761), using a line of best fit (1801), correlation (1888), student t distribution (1908).  Not a bad cherry pick from what is quite a long list.  The Royal Statistical Society was founded in 1838 and had Florence Nightingale as its first female member. 

Ball is, at least, honest:
 I am not a statistician. I took university level statistics because I knew, as a climatologist, I needed to know enough to ask statisticians the right questions and understand the answers.
Luckily, I took both A level and university level statistics so I guess I am better qualified than Ball is.  And, just like him, I am not a climatologist.  I studied biology.  Much more importantly, I don't have an ideological line on the climate so I don't know the answers in advance.  And I can understand, I think, the answers.  I am also sceptical - I check things.  I check them especially if I don't think they are true to start with, if they clash with other things I understand. 

Ball could have done that but in a moment of ignorance, he chose not to let light into his personal darkness.  It would have taken a few clicks of the mouse but that was too much.

There is a problem with being wrong and that is the frequency of being wrong.  People always make mistakes.  It is how often and how stupid those mistakes are that matters. 

I don't think many people who know of Ball think him particularly credible but an ideological rant like his piece at WUWT is not going to raise his credibility rating.  After all, he moans about the  missing standard deviation in the title but just once in the article itself:
Reduction or elimination of the standard deviation leads to loss of information and further distortion of the natural variability of weather and climate, both of which continue to occur within historic and natural norms.
The fact that science has trended away from standard deviation to the idea of 95% confidence levels has escaped Ball.  Presumably he knows what the 95% is: it is two standard deviations.  So science is much more interested in whether the discovery is less likely than Ball is.

Ball's article isn't really about statistics, its about bad scientists doing bad things like not mentioning variability, and those same bad scientists not caring about the variability of the climate.  I don't think climate scientists will lose sleep over Ball's latest dismal effort.  Instead, they will get on with doing the calculations.

But first, let's dip into the eleven comments this piece had gathered by the time I saw it.

Profitup10 says:
A very good piece that most climate change supporters will not understand nor believe. 
Mostly, I think because it is neither a very good piece nor one that climate change supporters [sic] will find hard to comprehend (other than that it is a disjointed and incoherent piece, but that's what you get from Ball).

Profitup10 is straightforward conspiracy nut.  Bit like the bouncing Ball.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Consensus in science revisited

A year ago I wrote this article: What consensus in science really means.  It has proven more popular than most and has an afterlife of its own, ticking up hits every week.  It is nice to see that enquiring minds are looking to see what I think.

The thing is, although science itself doesn't proceed by consensus, it would be weird if consensus did not emerge as more and more results come in from more and more investigations and observations.  That it does happen is one of those things, like death and taxes, that is inevitable.

Even Richard Tol agrees that much.

The mad thing is, some deniers still don't get this.  They still don't get the idea that scientists might look at the evidence and agree with one another.  Perhaps this is because deniers hardly agree with anything or anyone.  That might explain why the usual WUWT daily postings look like the reheated left overs of a burger joint - no one really wants to have them but they fill a need for the intellectually starved that congregate there.

If none of this makes sense to you, then you can, should you so wish, point your browser at the Oregon Petition.  I won't bother giving you directions.  You find it if you feel you need to.  What you do need to know is that dbstealey, aka Smokey, aka lots of other things, moderator and sock puppeteer par excellence, thinks the Oregon Petition is the bee's knees.

For some reason, Smokey doesn't understand that, if science doesn't work by consensus, it surely cannot work by persuading a list of people to sign a petition.  Petitions work when there is something to have a difference of opinion about, or to demand that something be done.  Scientific questions are not solved by getting a bunch of people to say we agree with it.

Hang on a minute.  Haven't I just said that scientists do say they agree with something?  Indeed I have.  I did say that scientists fall in line behind the idea and profess a "belief" in such and such theory.  And they do.  But it wouldn't matter, and the theory would be no more correct, if they signed a petition to say they agree with it.  Because scientists are not saying they agree with or accept a theory.  They are saying this is the best theory we have.  And they don't care about signing a petition.  The science is in the scientific journals and conference presentations.

I love those letters you sometimes get to the newspapers.  150 people say this... with a handful of signatories listed and an instruction to visit the paper's website for the remainder.  Wow, I go.  Some celebrity or academic has circulated one of those chain letter things that you had as a kid.  Now let's read it.  No, let's not bother.  It's the argument from authority writ large.  The argument may or may not be strong.  Ten, fifty, 31,000 names makes no difference.

In the end it doesn't matter what the number of the consensus is.  What matters is what the evidence tells us.  It speaks quite clearly.  You have to be deaf, or not willing to listen, to ignore what it says, yet there are plenty who are not willing.

If Tol is so concerned that Cook & al (2013) are wrong, then he can rerun the thing.  Sample 12,000 abstracts in the way sampled by Cook & al, using their criteria and see what you get.  I think I can predict the result.  97% +/- a bit.  And if that fails, perhaps Tol can try this paper which reports a consensus of 91%:
This could get recursive.