Buy

Books
Click images for more details

Support

 

Twitter
Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing
Links

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« The wind from Hawaii | Main | Josh 85 »
Wednesday
Mar092011

Paul Nurse on sceptics again

Paul Nurse was interviewed by journalist Charlie Rose recently. The video can be seen here, with a transcript on the same page. Much of the conversation is only of indirect relevance to readers here, but there are parts of the interview - when Nurse revisits the subject of scepticism - which are fascinating.

PAUL NURSE:  Science is important because it’s the most reliable way of gaining knowledge about the world and ourselves.  There’s something about science and the way we do it.  It’s to do with respect for observation and experiment.  So you don’t cherry pick data.  Half the problem with all the climate change debate .

CHARLIE ROSE:  Yes.

PAUL NURSE:  . is because different protagonists just collect -- cherry pick certain bits of data.  They treat it like a sort of debating argument rather than a scientific one.  Science respects all the data, like on this table, and tries to make sense of all of it.  That’s one thing. 

Secondly, science is very skeptical when it’s done well.  You always challenge your own theory.  You’re own worst enemy for your own theory.  So what this means is that when you construct a theory or an idea that explains how things work, you challenge it.  You attack it.  You never let it alone.  That means over the years, a theory or an idea gets better and better because it’s been challenged for so long.  And that’s why sometimes we think science is very secure, like Newton’s laws of motion.  And sometimes we don’t think it’s secure at all because it’s right an early point in the study and we’ve not done it.  So the constant attack makes it better. 

And the third point, which, again, is something that not everybody understands is there is a community of scientists who are challenging these ideas, challenging the data.  And when they come to a consensus about it, you’ve got many, many minds who have been convinced that something is happening.  And that isn’t trivial.  And it’s part of the sociology of the process that actually makes science secure.  So science is important because of this very reliable generation of knowledge and, therefore, understanding.

CHARLIE ROSE:  Has the Internet been a double-edged sword? 

PAUL NURSE:  The Internet is a double-edged sword.  It allows people to communicate.

CHARLIE ROSE:  To say anything they want to. 

PAUL NURSE:  But they can say anything they want, and what it means is -- is -- and sometimes I’ve argued that it’s no longer peer-review that’s so important but point of view.  The Internet allows anybody to say anything, and even if they’re totally unreliable, and that distorts science, actually, because they’re not behaving in a way -- you know, if you, again, the climate change debate .

CHARLIE ROSE:  Right.

PAUL NURSE:  . which I’ve looked at a little bit in recent months.  If you read all the blogs, and so on, people are just rude (ph) about each other .

CHARLIE ROSE:  Right.  Right.

PAUL NURSE:  .. they use it as a debating trick.

CHARLIE ROSE:  But didn’t they take on you at some point in some capacity or .

PAUL NURSE:  No, no, I was interested and I did a program for the BBC on trust in science.

CHARLIE ROSE:  That’s what it was.

PAUL NURSE:  On trust in science.  And I only used climate change as an example of how trust can be undermined, if anybody can say anything and it’s treated with equal weight to people who really know what they’re talking about.

CHARLIE ROSE:  Somebody once said you’re entitled to your opinion but you’re not entitled to the facts.

PAUL NURSE:  Yes.  Exactly right.  And the facts -- and what I think in all these big issues, actually, that we’re going to face is that you have to treat the science objectively.  You have to separate it from the politics. It’s no good having politics and ideology influencing scientific argument.

CHARLIE ROSE:  But did you suggest in the piece that you did on television that global warming has been damaged by .

PAUL NURSE:  By exactly that.  Because .

CHARLIE ROSE:  Some people less believe it -- less now because there was a blip in the use of evidence?

PAUL NURSE:  Well, it was so exaggerated, it wasn’t true.  But what’s happened here is very, very interesting.  You see, people have -- are very worried about the impact that if there’s global warming might have before you respond to that on economic growth and on the economy.  Quite rightly so, because I mean, it will have a big impact.  But they’re so worried about it, I think what they’re doing is they are trying to show that the science doesn’t actually illustrate that so they don’t have to take on the problem.  And that’s because they don’t like that sort of interference in the economy.  So their political views are influencing the science. 

CHARLIE ROSE:  Yes.  But you know what’s fascinating about this, too, is that people you’d be surprised by who you’ve admired for other reasons, you know, have bought into the idea of challenging some of the assumptions about global warming.  I mention the late Michael Crichton as one.

PAUL NURSE:  Yes.

CHARLIE ROSE:  He was a novelist, but he had an M.D. from Harvard, he was a very bright guy.  He understood art, he understood a lot of things.  Freeman Dyson.

PAUL NURSE:  You know, we had -- we had both -- I mean we have Michael give a talk at Rockefeller .

CHARLIE ROSE:  Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL NURSE:  . before he died.

CHARLIE ROSE:  Right.  And now Freeman Dyson.

PAUL NURSE:  Yes.  Also.

CHARLIE ROSE:  The physicist who came here to talk about it.

PAUL NURSE:  And, you know, this is, you see, I’m all in favor of skepticism and argument.

CHARLIE ROSE:  Right.

PAUL NURSE:  OK.  And I think it’s good to have a range of views.  What I don’t like so much is when very small arguments are hugely exaggerated as if they’re very, very important, and then when you, you know if there’s a temperature change here, that it’s just -- it counters what one expects, when all of NASA’s measurements say something else, and then you read blogs and they just focus on this and ignore everything else.  That’s not good science. 

Interesting stuff. I'm particularly intrigued by the idea that the critics of mainstream climate science have exaggerated things - presumably the importance of the Climategate and the paleoclimate studies. This suggests to me that Sir Paul hasn't really examined the story in sufficient detail: after all, it was the IPCC that put the Hockey Stick into the Third Assessment Report in six different places. It was Sir John Houghton who launched the report in front of a very large blow-up of the graph. It is not sceptics who have exaggerated the importance of paleoclimate (and Climategate, which resulted from it), but the IPCC. As I say in the Hockey Stick Illusion, the problem is not that the Hockey Stick was central to the global warming hypothesis but that the IPCC promoted it as if it were.

If climatology is ever to return to some semblance of normality, it is going to have to deal with the fact that it is impossible to do paleoclimate temperature reconstructions with any accuracy (as Jones has now apparently admitted). Then somebody is going to have to explain to the public why the IPCC has been saying something entirely different for the last ten years. I don't think it is unreasonable for sceptics to demand public recognition of what the scientists are saying to each other privately.

Normal sciences do not hide the decline and they do not use sales tools like the Hockey Stick and they do not pretend they know more than they do. All these corruptions of science should be condemned by Paul Nurse. He does not need to throw the baby out with the bathwater: "Hide the decline was wrong but the hypothesis still stands" is a valid point of view. However, silence on hide the decline looks suspiciously like complicity and that would be unfortunate.

Everyone in the scientific establishment and in climatology should be speaking out and condemning the malpractice exposed by Climategate.  Only then will we get a chance of normality in climate science and a rational debate on global warming.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (57)

So you don’t cherry pick data. Half the problem with all the climate change debate .

=================

If you are skeptical, you do, and its the correct thing to do.

The reason is the burden of proof is asymmetric.

If your theory is, the sun rises every day, and I cherry pick an instance where the sun doesn't rise, your theory has a real problem. The fact that you may have lots of data where it does rise each day doesn't count as much as the exception where the theory fails.

Alarmists and their post modern scientific method ignore this.

Mar 9, 2011 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick

Scientists these days are enormously specialised. I'm sure that Nurse is jolly knowledgeable about micro-biology, or whatever is his thing, but I doubt he has ever paid any serious attention to the arguments about global warming.
One almost wonders, if he were to actually spend some time doing so, might he suddenly realise that Mann and Jones and co. have not been doing anything that he recognises as science, and that we have been right all along ?

Mar 9, 2011 at 4:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterfFreddy

Paul Nurse, like all other non-climate scientists who ride to the defense of 'Science', and especially those poor beleaguered climate ones, ought to start looking at the questions posed by sceptics which go to the actual science of this lot.
Blathering on about 'cherry-picking' simply shows that Nurse and consorts have not used their own judgements, hopefully critical, as they ought, being 'scientists' - but have been brain-washed by The Team.

Why is it that someone of Nurse's caliber doesn't get it that data spewed out by models are not proof of anything, especially when they are never compared to actual, empirical data?

Can someone point him to the devastating analyses by Willis Eschenbach, which can be found on WUWT without great difficulties?

Until Nurse and consorts adress this, their scientific relevance in the AGW debate is, as far as I'm concerned, nil - nada -zilch. And they're not even good propagandists ...

Mar 9, 2011 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

Charlie Rose has probably the best interview programme on TV (on the Bloomberg channel). He is smart and well-informed.

I sense very much that Nurse was starting to back-pedal a bit after Rose mentioned the scepticism of Crichton and Dyson. It's a shame the conversation stopped where it did because I would have liked to have heard Rose ask Nurse why he disagrees with Crichton and Dyson.

Mar 9, 2011 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred Bloggs

Paul Nurse now sounds confused over climate science and the criticism of it.

It is clear he came to this debate thinking that he as a self-appointed champion of science would deal with the sceptics once and for all, only to find out, to his own cost, that his own televised contribution was full of holes.

The man is full of hot (CO2) air.

Mar 9, 2011 at 5:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Rosanne D'Arrigo told the NAS panel that you have to pick cherries if you want to make cherry pie. See http://climateaudit.org/2006/03/07/darrigo-making-cherry-pie/

Jan Esper said: (see http://climateaudit.org/2006/03/09/esper-on-in-site-cherry-picking/)
this does not mean that one could not improve a chronology by reducing the number of series used if the purpose of removing samples is to enhance a desired signal. The ability to pick and choose which samples to use is an advantage unique to dendroclimatology.

Mar 9, 2011 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

Quote, Bertrand Russell, "There are matters about which those who have investigated them are agreed. There are other matters about which experts are not agreed. Even when experts all agree, they may well be mistaken."

Mar 9, 2011 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I used to flatter myself that I had had a good scientific education, Four of my lecturers had FRS after their names and my research supervisor as well.
I never thought that I would be ashamed of my scientific upbringing

Mar 9, 2011 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterGordon

I, too, sense that Paul nurse is beginning to have second thoughts, but he is trapped in his own initial assumptions about climate science and the veracity of The Team, a terribly unscientific position to be in!

Mar 9, 2011 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

This:

PAUL NURSE: ...And the third point, which, again, is something that not everybody understands is there is a community of scientists who are challenging these ideas, challenging the data. And when they come to a consensus about it, you’ve got many, many minds who have been convinced that something is happening. And that isn’t trivial. And it’s part of the sociology of the process that actually makes science secure. So science is important because of this very reliable generation of knowledge and, therefore, understanding.

CHARLIE ROSE: Has the Internet been a double-edged sword?

PAUL NURSE: The Internet is a double-edged sword. It allows people to communicate.

CHARLIE ROSE: To say anything they want to.

PAUL NURSE: But they can say anything they want, and what it means is -- is -- and sometimes I’ve argued that it’s no longer peer-review that’s so important but point of view. The Internet allows anybody to say anything, and even if they’re totally unreliable, and that distorts science, actually, because they’re not behaving in a way -- you know, if you, again, the climate change debate .

...is utter nonsense. Science is secure as a method because it willingly questions itself from inquiries submitted by the most insignificant babies humanity has to offer. Science as a construct of faith (as Nurse describes it) is only secure when it defends it's borders from questions being asked. The internet is the ultimate reality check for any scientific endeavor. If someone in the world can raise a valid question, regardless of credentials, you must answer it or consider your theory flawed.

Consensus of even millions of scientists is nothing compared to the properly worded question of a four year old. Take care in your statements of your work so that it can never subjected to such a challenge.

Mar 9, 2011 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

PAUL NURSE: Well, it was so exaggerated, it wasn’t true. But what’s happened here is very, very interesting. You see, people have -- are very worried about the impact that if there’s global warming might have before you respond to that on economic growth and on the economy. Quite rightly so, because I mean, it will have a big impact. But they’re so worried about it, I think what they’re doing is they are trying to show that the science doesn’t actually illustrate that so they don’t have to take on the problem. And that’s because they don’t like that sort of interference in the economy. So their political views are influencing the science.

Bah! Paul Nurse is skeptical of millions of green jobs coming our way thanks to innovative new technologies, like windmills, that we need to fight the global warming. Nurse is a denialist now. He is right down there with those who deny the holocaust.

Mar 9, 2011 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

It seemed like he was trying to justify to himself... interesting...

Maybe totally wrong, bit I picked up "doubt"... in his position "doubt" is not allowed. Someone will probably tell him to pull himself together for the good of the Society...

I thought BH's following comment was excellent.

Mar 9, 2011 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Nurse seemd very unsure of himself, was rambling and illogical. Hardly what you'd expect of a science Nobel Laureate.

I suggest our host sends him a copy of THSI free and for gratis.

Mar 9, 2011 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I'm convinced that Paul Nurse WOULD be sceptical of climate science, if he were not surrounded by, and counselled by, climate advocates. If Paul Nurse moved in circles whose associates were not inextricably linked to renewable energy firms, if he were associating more with the Dennises than the Actons, the Stringers than the Oxburghs, he'd be far better informed and far more suspicious of the science.

But he takes counsel from the cabal instead, and consequently believes that the consensus of opinion is a consensus of evidence because he is told it is a consensus of evidence by people who have very particular reasons to conceal the actual truth. He is unreachable. Like so many good and honourable scientists, he is naive and, consequently, blissfully ignorant. Truth be told, he is probably as much sinned against as sinning.

Mar 9, 2011 at 6:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

I see Nurse's position as one of internal conflict:he's unwilling to accept that an unwashed rabble might in fact have a point.

Mar 9, 2011 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

Simon

I wrote Paul Nurse a letter asking if he'd like to reach out to us sceptics to try to find some common ground. No reply.

Mar 9, 2011 at 6:37 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

What Sir Paul appears to have missed is that the internet propogates information about errors/mistakes. This he calls cherry-picking.

Sometimes I dabble in neologisms. Might I suggest the term "Nurse's cherry" for a counter-example or error?

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

You know the thing where, Michael Mann and his buddies got together and submitted a tract to Eos, in reply to a paper by Soon and Baliunas in a different journal, and Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt justified such actions on the basis of 'defending against bad science'?

...is that how consensus is built in science, Dr Nurse?

At that time, their 'consensus' justified their unprofessional activitiy.

Does this consensus exist today?

The presently available palaeotemperature proxy data records do not support the assumption that late 20th century temperatures exceeded those of the MWP in most regions, although it is clear that the temperatures of the last few decades exceed those of any multidecadal period in the last 700–800 years. Previous conclusions (e.g., IPCC, 2007) in the opposite direction have either been based on too few proxy records or been based on instrumental temperatures spliced to the proxy reconstructions.

It is also clear that temperature changes, on centennial time-scales, occurred rather coherently in all the investigated regions...

Exceptional warming in the 10th century is seen in all six regional reconstructions.

Assumptions that, in particular, the MWP was restricted to the North Atlantic region can be rejected

From: A Regional Approach to the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, Frederik Ljungqvist

Obviously, the consensus doesn't exist anymore.

The science should justify the presence of a consensus. Consensus should not justify the state of a science, no, Dr Nurse?

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

My impression of the transcript is that he was rambling. There are large sections where he makes no sense. Whether this is just due to TV nerves, I do not know, but it calls into question his ability to express himself and construct proper argument.
I doubt that what he has to say is very influential. Most people do not know his name and in today's celebrity culture some blabberings by someone no one has heard of is unlikely to carry much public sway and influence.
Dipping his toes in this matter without carrying out the necessary background investigation to get to the root of what sceptics are arguing, so that those arguments can be addressed fully and properly, may well result in tarnishing his reputation. I envisage that in the end, he will regret his involvement in this affair.
I fully concur with Nick's comments that there is a substantial difference between cherry picking data that leads to a support of a theory, and the cherry picking of data that undermines some aspect of a theory. The former is of no relevance, the latter raises a serious issue that the theory must address or stand condemned. For example, if the theory is that an increase in CO2 levels increases back radiation which in turn increases temperature then each and every year when there is not an increase in temperature, an explanation (which explanation is consistent with the CO2 warming theory) is required as to why there was no increase in temperature that year.

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Andrew

If the Flat Earth Society wrote Paul Nurse a letter asking if he'd like to reach out to them and find some common ground, then the response would be the same. Why would he bother moving half way to a farcical position with no evidence to support it? He'd be doing science a disservice and wasting his own time.

As clearly stated in the interview, fact and opinions are different things. Your entire position depends upon nothing more than criticising the body of climate science, there is no alternative body of papers with a coherant position.

Why should Paul Nurse feel any obligation to meet a fringe group almost bereft of scientific evidence, on common ground?

[BH adds: he said in the Horizon show something about scientists needing to engage with their critics. I therefore wrote to ask him to engage.]

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

Nurse thinks all branches of science are similar to his own field of Biology.

He seems unaware that some are light-years ahead - eg physics - and others are still on the start line - eg climatology.

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

a fringe group almost bereft of scientific evidence

The IPCC?

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterwoodentop

What are your scientific qualifications again, Zed? I've forgotten.

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic

Nick said: "The reason is the burden of proof is asymmetric"

I would go further: You cannot prove a scientific hypothesis.

Hypotheses are developed to explain patterns in nature - the more data you collect (by observation) the greater chance of spotting interesting patterns and formulating new hypotheses. There will always be limits to what we can, and do, observe - this is why science is never 'settled' and scientific understanding will never be complete.

However, when you test an hypothesis, experimental design is everything - you design tests that have the best chance of falsifying the hypothesis - why waste your time doing a thousand experiments when one will do; and then you can move on to more productive research.

Calling this 'cherry picking' is a weak rhetorical attempt to discredit counter arguments which are based on sound scientific practice.

I'm encouraged by Sir Paul's interview comments. He hasn't forgotten key essentials of the scientific approach (the figureheads of scientific institutions often lose the plot when they become immersed in politics). He is also clearly beginning to reason things through in the reported interview.

Sir Paul's last big stumbling block is his belief that consensus has any scientific significance whatsoever. History shows very clearly that past scientific consensuses cover a full spectrum from completely wrong to not completely wrong! That's the uncertainty and the challenge that goes with thinking as a scientist.

It's no discredit to him that he doesn't 'get it' yet. It will be to his lasting discredit if he fails to properly research and think through the issues for himself in what has become the most important scientific issue today.

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterR2

ZedsDeadBed said: “Your entire position depends upon nothing more than criticising the body of climate science, there is no alternative body of papers with a coherant position.”

Well ZDB, if you’re as knowledgeable about the science as your statement would seem to indicate, let me ask you the same question I posed you twice before but you’ve never managed to respond to: where is the real-world (i.e. scientific) evidence to support CAGW theory? More specifically, where within the IPCC’s AR4 WG1 reports (i.e. the ones that discuss the actual science) is real-world evidence presented that would enable anyone to verify/falsify CAGW theory via the Scientific Method?

As I said before, if you have any respect for science and are knowledgeable about the way it works, I assume that you must know where I can find the evidence that validates the CAGW hypothesis. I would, therefore, be very grateful if you could point me to it.

Thanks in advance… again.. and again.

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

"History shows very clearly that past scientific consensuses cover a full spectrum from completely wrong to not completely wrong!"
Mar 9, 2011 at 7:30 PM | R2

What absolute bunkum. History shows scientific science to be mostly right, most of the time. Scientific consensus on any given subject, tends to reflect all that is known and understood about that subject, at that point in time. If something better comes along, which shows itself to be superior (in whatever way), then this tends to be adopted quickly. That doesn't mean that the previous consensus was wrong. That's a ridiculously simplistic way of looking at it.

For example, Darwin didn't nail eveything spot on. By your reasoning, after his work had been adopted as the consensus view, when improvements were made and adopted, you would judge Darwin as wrong.

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

ZedsDeadBed said: “What absolute bunkum. History shows scientific science to be mostly right, most of the time.”

If you’re talking about science based upon verifiable/falsifiable theories, I’d tend to agree. Unfortunately, CAGW is not a verifiable/falsifiable theory, which is why it is defended using the concept of ‘post-normal’ science and an inversion of the ‘null hypothesis’.

If you are truly interested in finding out just how solid the science for CAGW really is, may I suggest you try asking the question I posed to you over at Real Climate and see what sort of answers you get?

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

Science was unanimous on the 'fact' that the Earth was at the centre of the universe for 1800 years or so. By ZDB's reasoning, that doesn't mean the science was wrong.

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

@Zed

"That doesn't mean that the previous consensus was wrong."

That's not what I said. try to keep up!

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterR2

Dave Salt

*sighs*

I get really bored of these ones. I notice you totally dodge the point you quote about there being no coherant body of work giving an alternative theory. You're directing your energies in the wrong place. It's a classic Hilly Billie technique to focus in on a specific scientific paper/report, focus in on a specific element within that, and ask the question in a specific way, to try and keep debate entirely about that.

What do you think is gained by looking at your question? Why would a report on the physical science basis be required to contain falsifiable hypotheses?

If you are talking about climate science generally (and, in fact, in the work AR4 WG1 draws from, rather perversely of me in light of the answer I've just given you, but that's just the way I am), there are huge numbers of falsifiable hypotheses, and emprirical demonstrations.

Have you really not managed to find any? Where have you been looking?

Mar 9, 2011 at 7:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

ZedsDeadBed said: “Why would a report on the physical science basis be required to contain falsifiable hypotheses?”

Because that’s the way the Scientific Method works!!!

ZedsDeadBed said: “If you are talking about climate science generally (and, in fact, in the work AR4 WG1 draws from, rather perversely of me in light of the answer I've just given you, but that's just the way I am), there are huge numbers of falsifiable hypotheses, and emprirical demonstrations.”

OK, point me to one… it’s as simple as that.

Mar 9, 2011 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

Zed

I suggest you take a look at Prof. Christies' summary of climate science to the Subcommittee on Energy and Power Committee on Energy and Commerce recently.

http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/Media/file/Hearings/Energy/030811/Christy.pdf

He is not a radical sceptic nor does he have any political agenda and a more balanced view of the true state of the science would be difficult to find.

Mar 9, 2011 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Ignore zebedee. She talks bunkum from a position of scientific ignorance.

Mar 9, 2011 at 8:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

This thread is way off topic. I have set up a new discussion forum for those that want to argue off topic. Please take it there (link is in the sidebar for future reference)

http://www.bishop-hill.net/discussion/

Mar 9, 2011 at 8:10 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Like Prof Ann Glover, (the Scottish Government's Chief Scientific Advisor), I get the impression that Prof. Nurse has never actually had the time to look at the fundamentals of the CO2 hypothesis assertion. I heard Prof Glover (a highly respected molecular biologist) being interviewed a few months ago on why it was so important to give pupils exposure to science; and she quickly cited climate change as an example. But she also sounded uncertain of even the basics; and to be fair mentioned that there were sceptics. But she didn't rebuff them with any science, instead she simply stated that the consensus view was undoubtedly correct, because the sceptics were so out-numbered.

I think the key problem here is ignorance - Nurse and Glover are not dippit, they are just very busy people who have never had the time to look for themselves at the basics of the CO2 cycle and reflect on the long term climate context. I don't blame them for this ignorance - Judith Curry readily admits that she made the mistake of trusting what was in the IPCC reports rather than checking the details for herself - and she is is in the climate field.

I still think that if sceptics could have the opportunity to give a 60 minute presentation (in private) to Nurse and Glover et al, of what is wrong with climate science and the CO2 induced AGW fantasy, real progress could be made, and quite quickly. Debates are fun but the sceptics won at both St. Andrews and Oxford, without making any effective capital from the victories.

Has anyone tried a private approach or meeting?

If one could be arranged, and I would suggest starting with Professor Muller's demolition of the hockey stick team -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BQpciw8suk which would surely raise a few doubts about the characters they have been so quick to defend.

Then a bit of climate change context from the GISP and Vostok ice core data proxies - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFbUVBYIPlI

and then include Prof. Bob Carter's video in which he repeatedly torpedo's the IPCC - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOLkze-9GcI

The basics of why the concentration of CO2 is largely irrelevant above 350ppm due to Beer Lambert Law (almost all of the IR radiation is already being reflected by the existing CO2 and water vapour) should also be covered. (and of course the fact that humans only responsible for 3% of the gross CO2 emissions, and CO2 is only responsible for about 7% of the so called greenhouse effect.

Then a quick summary of why linear computer models will never be able to replicate the highly complex and chaotic interactions between the oceans, atmosphere, biosphere and cryosphere, especially as they are primed in the first instance with flawed assumptions such as water vapour being a positive feedback. Some good geological and palaeontological evidence of the ice-free Arctic seas in the Holocene (carbon-dated driftwood found on raised beaches in Northern Greenland) should quell concerns over the plight of the polar bears and demonstrate that negative feedbacks must rule the roost. The Royal Society's 1817 report to the Admiralty on the lack of Arctic ice is always good for a laugh also.

Nurse and Glover et al are scientists so they should at least give consideration to giving an hour of their time to look at the sceptic case, rather than rely on simplistic misinterpretations of it by the likes of Goldacre and Singh. If Nurse and Glover are so sure the IPCC alarmists are correct (even if this belief is based on faith as opposed to knowledge), what have they got to lose?

So my suggestion is for sceptics to try this approach, as I think it would be more successful than rather than yet another adversarial debate. I have a science degree but am effectively just an interested layman. (Very interested - I don't want my children to grow up in a poverty stricken de-industrialised society where the lights go out every time the wind stops blowing, all because an irrational fear of a harmless trace gas). Does any one think this idea has any currency, and if so does anyone got Nurse's email address and happy to make an approach? Or maybe we should not bother with Nurse and the Royal Societies - it is the Government's scientific advisers who have the responsibility to steer the correct course for the politicians. Just as the hockey stick was promoted as a central to the IPCC's position on AGW, we sceptics should be making the best capital we can from Muller and Curry's recent exposure of it's fraudulent manufacture. We should not be waiting for those guilty of groupthink and lazy thinking to come to us.

Mar 9, 2011 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

My apologies yer grace, but the questions I posed to ZDB are, to my way of thinking, the very foundations upon which our scepticism is based.

Indeed, these are the questions I’d fully have expected Sir Paul Nurse would address if he were so sure that we sceptics were wrong. Unfortunately, he seems to be behaving like a true CAGW believer: he simply avoids any discussion of the core science.

By the way, I think I’ll refrain from posting on your new discussion forum (http://www.bishop-hill.net/discussion/) as I see ZDB has already soiled it.

Mar 9, 2011 at 8:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

Dave

I've no objections to your discussing things. It just gets a bit same-y if every thread involves Zed questioning people's scepticism and everybody else replying in kind.

Mar 9, 2011 at 8:53 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Lapogus

See my response to Simon above.

Mar 9, 2011 at 8:54 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Sorry BH - I started on my post before Simon's comment and your response. So Nurse has a closed mind, and the demise of the Royal Society continues on then. What about making an approach to Glover and the other advisers to ScotGov? I have her email address and I am sure that we could get the others: http://www.scottishscience.org.uk/members

Scotland's a small country and you never know.

Mar 9, 2011 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

Point taken, yer grace… I’ll refrain from troll feeding.

Still, having seen ZDB’s last response, I think we’ve got all the answers we’re ever going to get from him/her, though he/she has provided a nice quote for future reference :-)

Mar 9, 2011 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

I wrote Paul Nurse a letter asking if he'd like to reach out to us sceptics to try to find some common ground. No reply. - Bishop Hill

The problem I see is that IF PN were to "reach out" to BH one of the first matters he would need to face would be BH's own treatise on the inquiries. Unfortunately, they rather implicate some of PN's own colleagues... which leaves him with rather a dilemma does it not?

Mar 9, 2011 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

I think that Nurse knows very little about the climate controversy and assumed that a bunch of troublemakers are using the internet to spread flawed pseudo science. The climate experts obviously know what they are doing and a consensus proves it, so it has never crossed his mind that the experts may have got it wrong. He was keen to differentiate the behavior of the troublemakers from vigorous scientific challenge, which he thinks is good and essential.

Furthermore, he doesn't seem to be aware of the dishonest tactics, corrupt peer review, bad statistics, rubbish codes and all the other warning signs that scream out that AGW is not to be trusted.

I think the significance of this is that even now, Nurse still does not get it. He leads a pack of the good and the great, most of whom don't get it either, for the same reasons. Some of Nurse's comments were true but applied to the wrong people. Nurse and his colleagues are busy and don't have time to read the arguments in the blogs. The BBC and the MSM reinforce the warmist propaganda, so it is disappointing but not surprising that the RS and other bodies support the alarmists. I can't see that changing anytime soon, and by the time the penny drops our economy will be in ruins.

Mar 9, 2011 at 9:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

I think I might try a handwritten and hand illustrated letter to Paul Nurse c/o the Royal Society asking him to look at the strongly logarithmic nature of CO2 warming, perhaps a cartoon showing that it isn't the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere that is the governor of how much warming there is, but how much IR spectrum there is at 2.7, 4.3 and 15 microns to which the CO2 can react. Once those absorption bands have been reacted to there is no further warming. Is that right? I am a little old granny, and I might get in under the radar perhaps? My children are breeding like rabbits and like Iapogus I don't want them to live in an impoverished part of the world because of warmist policies.

How beautiful it is, the balance of the atmosphere to give us just the right amount of warming for millions of years. Why can't Sir Paul Nurse understand that? I don't think he's busy, he is just not very clever and typically he is one of those public figures who is ever so pleased with himself. What about the rebels who objected to the Royal Society's views on Global Warming? They have done their best to put things right, but no one pays any attention.

Mar 9, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMariwarcwm

Sir Paul seems to be having second thoughts about his earlier acceptance of the AGW mainstream - an apparent requirement for the position of President of the Royal Society. Perhaps he could try some comparisons with his own area of experimental microbiology. For instance
- making the most accurate measurements possible.
- using the best empirical methods.
- checking the results, and cross-checking.
- independent verfication of results - or reproducibility.

He will find there are some pretty wild and unverified assumptions that are pivotal to the whole argument that significant warming will take place and this will have highly disruptive consequences. When it comes to the political ability to deliver constraint in output of greenhouse gases at a lesser cost that the wildest doomsday forecast of "business as usual", then nobody even questions this.
For the sociological angle Sir Paul should compare his early experiences with Murdoch Mitchison in Edinburgh with climate science. In his Nobel Autobiography he wrote:-

"My 6 years with Murdoch were pivotal for my entire research career. He gave me both complete support and total freedom, spending hours each week talking with me but never instructing me what to do."

Now look at anyone who produces any science that might slightly undermine the consensus to see the discrimination that they face. Then Sir Paul might see that Climate Science lacks the maturity to be considered on a par with biology or physics.

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2001/nurse-autobio.html

Mar 9, 2011 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

Sir Paul Nurse. If he has spent some decent time studying climate science, he is unimpressive in his lack of penetration and edge. If he has not spent some decent time studying climate science, ditto. He has not impressed me. I would go further, and say that I would hope for, but not expect given recent imcumbents, more from a president of the Royal Society. He still has a chance to redeem himself, but it will call for his admitting that he was too trusting of others. Can he, will he, do that?

Mar 9, 2011 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

I think Nurse is getting interview coaching from John Prescott. Not up to the same standard yet, but getting there.

Mar 9, 2011 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Dunford

John Shade - I agree with you. The RS should be conducting a proper enquiry. Yet, when it comes to enquiries they appear to lend their name to underhand practices.

Mar 9, 2011 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

BH - it is indeed disapointing that our good "nurse", although most willing to talk to skeptics (perhaps mainly those who know nothing) is not willing to talk to a certain skeptic (who indeed knows where the bodies are buried).

But this is an important issue.
I have been turning over in my mind where are the critical leverage points that are keeping this most foolish fantacy alive.

It is not the politicans (being led by the nose to the tax money trough), the scientists themselves (rather ditto as well as some really dyed in the wool true believers - a lost cause I'm afraid), nor the mainstream media (who have long since lost their investigative reporters and survive on press handouts and set pieces from true believers).

No, it is the scientific institutions which have been captured by a gorilla band of professional committee men. (Any open minded people who remain are cowed by what looks to be a rock solid wall on belief in the "consensus").
Somehow, the army of institutional members who have been left outside in the cold must be galvanised into action to demand evidence for the outrageous AGW claims.
In that way, the whole farce would soon crumble.

Mar 10, 2011 at 2:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterAusieDan

That Paul Nurse -he's a lovely man, isn't he? Just the bloke to work with. Never picks a fight -he said so in the interview at about 10 min. And so assured and convincing! And influential (he said so and I believe him)! Obviously just the man to have on side if you are a CAGW believer, and a potential asset to the anti cause if he can be got to change sides. And that may be possible - his non-trivial consensus becomes the more secure as it ages, and maybe he could be brought to agree that the CAGW consensus is very young. But it's no good insulting him and his mates. Minor malfeasances may have been perpetrated but the poor chaps were only wriggling out of apparently rather insignificant difficulties at the time, comparted with the big picture. It's only more recently that the anti side have pointed out the wriggles were really quite significant. So go along with him and concentrate on the science, which you chaps know all about, like he extolled in the interview, and not the people. After all, they were only doing their jobs! Me, an aged disillusioned bureacrat, doubt you will get anywhere by trying to make them crawl. Sweep the mistakes under the carpet. Let skeptical views do battle with the consensus, and you chaps have convinced me that you will win.

And I am totally unsurprised that PN did not reply to the bishop, what with the confrontational approach so many contributors adopt here. Bishop, get a mate ( or someone to get a mate) without any connection to these blogs and a similar affable nature to cosy up to the good Knight and we might have a way out of the catastrophic mess the government seem determined to inflict on us.

On the other hand, confronation may also work! So keep the two modes of attack separated!

Mar 10, 2011 at 3:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterEclesiastical Uncle


PAUL NURSE: ...And the third point, which, again, is something that not everybody understands is there is a community of scientists who are challenging these ideas, challenging the data. And when they come to a consensus about it, you’ve got many, many minds who have been convinced that something is happening. And that isn’t trivial.

Nurse is quite clearly talking about sceptics reaching a consensus that opposes the proclaimed consensus about CO2 being the driver.


But by far the greater fear as far as Nurse sees it is what happens when the sceptics reach a consensus? Because then

you’ve got many, many minds who have been convinced that something is happening. And that isn’t trivial.

So what is the something that may have been happening, that Nurse is clearly worried about in case it becomes apparent, that is not trivial?

This is yet going to blow. Big time.

Mar 10, 2011 at 7:00 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>