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« The reverse twinkle | Main | New vacancy on S&T committee »
Saturday
Oct162010

Hegerl on stupidity

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about Gabriele Hegerl's lecture in Edinburgh and said that she said that sceptics were "stupid". The video of the lecture is now available here and my recollection of what was said was not quite right. The exact quote is as follows:

...What is frustrating to me as a scientist is that the objections raised by the skeptics groups are scientifically so stupid often...it would be really much more fun to fight really interesting assertions.  But it's often things that often ring reasonable to people who have not background in this but that are scientifically totally with out value. I would find it more interesting to discuss if the sceptics would raise better questions.

So Prof Hegerl was quite correct to say that she didn't call anyone stupid. It was the questions asked by sceptics that she said were stupid. 

(H/T to Rob Schneider and also thanks for the transcript of this excerpt)

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Reader Comments (37)

"But it's often things that often ring reasonable to people who have not background in this but that are scientifically totally with out value." I know she is foreign, but she doesn't make sense. No wonder she thinks objections are stupid.

Also, does she not recognise that the points raised by Lindzen et al are legitimate? Does she not realise that there are many highly qualified scientists out there who are sceptical? She is a mathematician, so perhaps she doesn't understand the physics of the climate.

Oct 16, 2010 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The following is abridged from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Sixth Edition (2007):

stupid

adjective   Of a person: unintelligent, slow-witted; obtuse, foolish. Of a quality, action, idea, etc.: … typical of a stupid person.

Draw your own conclusions.

Oct 16, 2010 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

It took a lot of ingenuity to corrupt the New Zealand temperature record, to show a warming trend when none actually existed. That wasn't stupid then. But getting caught was stupid.

Is this how her logic works? Or is my question stupid?

Oct 16, 2010 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

I hope the Professor will allow me to raise a stupid issue: I was always taught that you don't adjust raw data without good reason, yet the "homogenisation" and "quality control" procedures applied to temperature datasets seems to have been applied without good reason, or at least without a documented reason. It may be stupid of me to conclude that climate models are not models of the climate, but models of the temperature adjustments.

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterStupid of Tunbridge Wells

This is the money quote - from the blurb

since the Industrial Revolution, climate has begun to warm approximately at the rate expected from climate models in response to greenhouse gas increases.

Does she not realise that the climate "models" are graphs of what happened in the past - with the lines extended into the future?

As such it is a meaningless boast that they "predicted" what happened in the past.

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Another stupid question for Dr Hegerl.

Chris Field, Chair WG-II recently is reported to have said:

"The fact of the matter is that climate change impacts are very poorly known"

Michael Mann, genius climate scientist recently said:

"Overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is heating the planet, shrinking the Arctic ice cap, melting glaciers and raising sea levels. It is leading to more widespread drought, more frequent heat waves and more powerful hurricanes.... scientists are in broad agreement on the reality of these changes and their near-certain link to human activity"

Who is right?

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Ms Prof Hegerl's comments and general attitude reminds me of the late William F. Buckley's trenchant comment on the viability of a world governed by "smart" people:
"I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University. "

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Is it hot or cold today?

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

"Also, does she not recognise that the points raised by Lindzen et al are legitimate? Does she not realise that there are many highly qualified scientists out there who are sceptical? She is a mathematician, so perhaps she doesn't understand the physics of the climate."

That is a very good point Phillip, my (never completed) postgrad in Meteorology was based significantly on Lindzen's work in the eighties (mid latitude weather). Looking back and regaining my interest in disbelieving what the 'Hockey Stick' was saying - (my undergrad degree was in Geophysics/Oceanography, so was very familiar with geological history), I think there are too many mathematicians in the 'Climate Science' field, hence the over reliance on modelling, and not enough scientists (Physicists, Geologists, Experimental/Observational scientists).

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobB

What she has said is that sceptics can't form scientifically sound questions that are of interest to her.

Now she knows that is untrue. What we have here is an example of academic conceit, a complete unwillingless to reach out to other people.

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

From American Heritage Dictionary:

idiot savant n., pl. idiot savants. A mentally retarded person who exhibits genius in a highly specialized area, such as mathematics or music. [French : idiot, idiot + savant, learned.]

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Never ascribe to malice, that which can be attributed to incompetence.


http://www.google.co.uk/images?q=Gabriele%20Hegerl&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&rlz=1R1GGGL_en___GB351&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1024&bih=593

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

What an incredibly predictable and boring lecture.

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter B

Re Jack Hughes

Does she not realise that the climate "models" are graphs of what happened in the past - with the lines extended into the future?

Or they're models of what we know about the climate today, trained with what we think might have happened in the past, then trusted to shape our future, our childrens future, their children's future etc etc.

So basically still GIGO. No problem, adjust the temperature data to match the model's predictions! Cool that pesky old data, and voila, warming in a can!

Oct 16, 2010 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Is it stupid to ask: if the Hockey Stick Illusion was just that, why do so many still defend it so ferociously?

The point has been well made that showing MBH 98, 99 to be ill-founded does not 'refute' AGW. So why the ahem, 'bizarre' defensiveness?

Oct 16, 2010 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Spliting hairs

She did call Skeptics Stupid.

Oct 16, 2010 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

Budiansky:

"My three years at Nature left me painfully aware that scientists are about the worst people on earth when it comes to confusing their political inclinations with objective fact — and absolutely the worst in the concomitant certainty that one's opponents must be liars, frauds, or corruptly motivated, since (obviously) no honest person could possibly have reached a contrary conclusion through objective reasoning. As absurd and unwieldy as democracy is in handling scientific matters, I found myself constantly thankful that scientists weren't running things, mainly because of this supreme intolerance for differing political conclusions."

Read more: http://budiansky.blogspot.com/2010/09/you-may-be-right.html#ixzz12YIKOlhi

Oct 16, 2010 at 8:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

From: The basic laws of human stupidity.
http://fravia.com/realicra/basiclawsofhumanstupidity.htm

"The first basic law of human stupidity: Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation."

"The second basic law of human stupidity: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person."

"The evidence that education has nothing to do with the probability (of being stupid) was provided by experiments carried on in a large number of universities all over the world. One may distinguish the composite population which constitutes a university in five major groups, namely the blue-collar workers, the white-collar employees, the students, the administrators and the professors. Whenever I analyzed the blue-collar workers I found that the fraction σ of them were stupid. As σ's value was higher than I expected (First Law), paying my tribute to fashion I thought at first that segregation, poverty, lack of education were to be blamed. But moving up the social ladder I found that the same ratio was prevalent among the white-collar employees and among the students. More impressive still were the results among the professors. Whether I considered a large university or a small college, a famous institution or an obscure one, I found that the same fraction σ of the professors are stupid. So bewildered was I by the results, that I made a special point to extend my research to a specially selected group, to a real elite, the Nobel laureates. The result confirmed Nature's supreme powers: σ fraction of the Nobel laureates are stupid."

Now extending the above abbreviated analysis to the AGW/skeptic debate, one would expect that there are just as many stupid AGW proponents as there are stupid skeptics, regardless of education and/or reputation. However, the number of stupid debaters would be greater than anyone would anticipate. In other words, each individual should be concerned that perhaps he/she is stupid but doesn't recognize it; i.e., does a stupid person really know they are stupid? Perhaps Dr. Hegerl should stop pointing fingers.

Oct 16, 2010 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrCrinum

Dr Hegerl,

One of the more irritating habits of posters who believe in AGW is to write 'If it's not CO2 that's causing the warming then what is it? You can't suggest anything, can you?' Well, red rag to a bull, that.

I see your expertise is in just that area, so perhaps you could let me pose a question of my own.

My own attempt to explain warming since 1850 (the beginning of the petrochemical industry) has been dubbed the Kriegesmarine hpothesis, named after the spike in temperatures during WWII. I suggest that oil spill (and, later, the synthetic surfactants when they began to pour out of the sewers in industrial quantities) altered the characteristics of the ocean surface and a) lowered albedo by smoothing b) reduced stratocumulus cover over land and sea by suppressing the production of salt aerosols c) reduced upwelling by 'disengaging' the wind from the surface* which reduces DMS production by starving the phytoplankton and as a side-effect increasing the pull-down of 13C as more C4 metabolism occurs, leading to a high 12C atmospheric signal d) altered internal cloud physics by pollution of droplets and causing larger droplets to form e) lowering ocean albedo by causing a collapse in phytoplankton numbers f) reduced CO2 mechanical pulldown by reducing the number of breaking waves and hence the number of bubbles forced down in the water column g)something I haven't thought of yet h) something I've forgotten to mention.

Enough light oil comes down the world's rivers every fortnight to smooth the entire ocean surface. Those interested might do the calculation using the data from Benjamin Franklin's experiment with a Clapham pond.

As an appendix we might consider the anthropogenic silica load on the oceans which favours diatoms over the calcareous phytos, which explains (increased farming, more dust, more run-off) the falling 13/12C ratios from 1750. Diatoms use a C4-like fixation process.

Now my question. With all those factors going on, could the Kriegesmarine hypothesis explain the same phenomena as the CO2 hypothesis and, further, does it explain the puzzling aspects of real-life data which do not match the consensus opinion?**

Julian Flood

*there is an FAO document of wind speeds -- related to fish productivity -- which matches the big WWII oil spills and seems to refute the Folland and Parker bucket correction.

**a)The Andaman Sea, for example, is heating up at an amazing rate. b)Palle/s experiment shows large albedo changes, but I'd like to see satellite measurement. c)The hotspot would, of course, not appear if the atrmosphere is being warmed from below. d)The Sea of Okhotsk is melting earlier.

Oct 16, 2010 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

Perhaps Prof. Hegerl could drop in and post a few of the interesting questions so that we might see the bar we aim for?

Oct 16, 2010 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Once in awhile somebody uses a few simple words that crystallise the whole issue of MWP, LIA, temp adjustments, changing rainfall history, this is a one liner from WUWT.

"The future is certain only the past is unpredictable."

Oct 16, 2010 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

I have read the quote 3 times and to be fair we are 2 hours ahead of the UK here in Cyprus (Bar opens very early but I am on time off!) but if that is a Scientist explaining........my English teacher would have given me a D!

I swear "Gabriele" was serving me earlier!

I wonder why Bish could not get the quote right first time!!!!

Oct 16, 2010 at 9:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Those words would be anathema to any true scientist. Moreover, they reveal the bluster of acute insecurity.

Oct 16, 2010 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Isn't this another example of Franny's groupthink on 10:10 "well we found it funny"? They spend so much time congratulating each other about how clever they are, that no one ever stops to ask simple stupid questions like "why hasn't warming increased in accordance with the peer reviewed Hockey Stick Graph?" Oops, Kevin Trenberth did. Has he found out yet? Is there evidence that he followed up on one of his moments of scientific brilliance? Unless Kevin wants to answer otherwise, that is another FAIL.

Alexander Fleming did not throw away the dirty petri dish, he was curious and went on to discover penicillin.

Kevin Trenberth spotted a big glitch in AGW theory, wrote an e mail, and will go down in history for writing an e mail. Doh!

Oct 16, 2010 at 11:32 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

I think we are overlooking a large issue here folks.

I am not sure Hegerl believes what she said (even a true idiot could tear apart her assertions).
Does Bob Ward truly believe what he writes or Mann or the RS or Monbiot?

Their comments are not aimed at sceptics, they are aimed at members of the public who do not understand what is going on, they are soundbites and nothing else.

The main stream media make sure that almost all those sound bites reach their target. In a way we "are stupid" to respond to this kind of rubbish, what we need to do is find ways of getting our own sound bites out there and the HSI was a massive step but we need more.

Oct 16, 2010 at 11:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

So who 'often' make stupid assertions other than stupid people?

Oct 16, 2010 at 11:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

For an insight into Professor Hegerl's dismissal of Professor Lindzen's views, see Cameron Rose's comment where she is reported as saying - his views are not supported by the models - (my paraphrase).

http://climateedinburgh.blogspot.com/2010/10/great-pain-no-gain-no-pressure.html

Oct 17, 2010 at 7:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRonaldo

Tks Ronaldo.... lol doesn't cover it, more like OMG!

"Her reply was that generally accepted models did not bear out his views."

If they carry on in this vein, it won't be long before people just point and laugh!

Oct 17, 2010 at 8:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete

Dung

I am not sure Hegerl believes what she said (even a true idiot could tear apart her assertions).
Does Bob Ward truly believe what he writes or Mann or the RS or Monbiot?

I suggest that they do believe the simplistic logic they always reduce everything to, as illustrated also by Bob Watson during the Guardian debate: "if you increase CO2, it gets hotter". Their thinking, their curiosity, does not really go beyond that, except to explain away precisely the "stupid questions" that suggest it's not as simple as that.

Whether or not they believe all of their soundbites, probably to the extent that they are still looking for the balance between being "effective or honest".

Oct 17, 2010 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter B

I really haven't a clue whether people actually believe what they say, or are saying it for some ulterior reason. It is difficult to believe that Bob Watson believes it is as simple as "if you increase CO2, it gets hotter", but strange things happen. If you repeat something often enough maybe you come to believe it; and there is nothing Bob Watson does more than keep on repeating the same message.

However it is worrying if Hegerl believes that "generally accepted models did not bear out his views." I have pointed out that she is a mathematician, but no real scientist could possibly believe that "generally accepted" (whatever appeal to authority that is) models have greater weight than a leading atmospheric physicist.

She just isn't a scientist. She visited this site once. Perhaps she could come back and defend her statement.

Oct 17, 2010 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip, in the Guardian debate Bob Watson went on to say, just look at Venus, Earth, and Mars; Venus has lots of CO2 and is the hottest; Mars has little CO2 and is the coldest, and the Earth is in between (which provoked an "this is ridiculous" outburst from Piers Corbyn, with Monbiot then threatening to have him escorted out). That is the bottom line of all of the argumentation of several people, including Michael Mann and Bart Verheggen.

As for Hegerl, I would suggest that she'd be surprised at even having to defend that statement.

Oct 17, 2010 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter B

Peter B:

I know. I don't like to be rude about chemists (as our host is one), but Watson hasn't practiced as a scientist for donkey's years and I'm sure has no idea about the effects of CO2 on climate.

BTW, you're not my son, who is also a PeterB? He is in New Zealand and keeps complaining about the weather ("bloody cold" today).

You are right about Hegerl. These people have an implicit faith in climate models.

Oct 17, 2010 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip, no, I am another Peter B, based in the UK. My regards to your son.

Oct 17, 2010 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter B

"Her reply was that generally accepted models did not bear out his views."

Note the plural: "models". The models on offer are mutually inconsistent. So Lindzen's views are to be rejected on the basis that they are inconsistent with a set of mutually inconsistent models. This novel form of argument deserves a name: 'The Hegerlian Fallacy' (or 'Argumentum ad Exemplum Inconstans' in a formulation suggested to me by the Latin scholar Nigel Molesworth).

Oct 17, 2010 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterJane Coles

Prof Hegerl only implied that what skeptics ask is stupid. What's the big deal? Some in the climate debate have labeled entire countries as stupid. See eg: http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/10/15/the-land-of-stupid/

It is not stupidity, but vanity, that prevents one from actually objectively considering the arguments/positions of an opponent. If those who disagree with you are stupid, or evil, you can just ignore them and avoid the need for that whole cumbersome "thought" thing. It's so much easier that way.

Oct 17, 2010 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterGaryM

So Prof Hegerl was quite correct to say that she didn't call anyone stupid. It was the questions asked by sceptics that she said were stupid.

She said that the questions raised by skeptics were "often" stupid, which is pretty much what I would expect from Sturgeons Law: 90% of everything is crud.

Oct 17, 2010 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterad

@DrCrinum:

In other words, each individual should be concerned that perhaps he/she is stupid but doesn't recognize it; i.e., does a stupid person really know they are stupid? Perhaps Dr. Hegerl should stop pointing fingers.

Does a stupid person know they are stupid? Most likely, no.

Here's a fascinating paper titled "Unskilled and Unaware" -- describing research into actual vs. self-assessed skill levels. And here's a follow-up.

The study authors conclude that actual ability is inversely proportional to confidence. So be very skeptical of confident people.

Cheers!

Oct 21, 2010 at 4:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterBS Footprint

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