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« Cheating at the IPCC | Main | Not waving but drowning »
Thursday
Dec202012

The view from the Whitehouse

David Whitehouse has a thoughtful piece on blogging, science and the like. It will be uncomfortable reading for those in the ivory tower:

The fact is that the internet is changing science and the debate about climate science is a good example of it. You can be a professor of anything these days but there will be someone out there in cyberspace who is smarter, better at statistics and computing, and has more time to focus on key problems. Someone who will ask for the raw data and mercilessly pick away at it, pointing out mistakes that before would have gone unnoticed. This might be uncomfortable for some, but it is undoubtedly good for science that cares nothing for personal feelings. The baloney detection kit is in ten thousand parts and is on the internet. Science needs to find a way to encompass this new reality.

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Reader Comments (76)

I think that 90% of this article is excellent and 10% of it is evidence that sceptics can be as dismissive of the facts as the warmists ^.^


Let’s get one thing over quickly. Not many disagree with the basics of climate science; that the world is warming, or that mankind is emitting greenhouse gasses, or that man, as a result, is influencing the climate. I believe that those few who do disagree are wrong, but they should not define everyone who raises questions. If popularisers and professors want to go on about those kind of “skeptics” then they are missing the issue. That’s not the point. It never was.

Dr Whitehouse is a big supporter af empirical evidence and pointing out mistakes but only if I agree with him?
Based on empirical evidence contained in ice core records which at the moment is unquestioned evidence; there is no proof that (in the current range of CO2 levels) emissions of CO2 are warming the planet. However Dr Whitehouse effectively suggests that climate scientists ignore people like me so TYVM Mr Whitehouse.
May I ask Mr Whitehouse for the evidence to prove that human emissions of CO2 are actually warming the planet? If he can not provide that evidence (Rhoda could not so I give Mr Whitehouse zero chance ^.^) then he falls well below the standards he tries to set for others.

Dec 20, 2012 at 9:15 PM | Registered CommenterDung

David Whitehouse makes some very good points. The other side to this beneficial corrective resulting from the development of 'virtual science' is that the internet also, at least initially, facilitated what I called 'virtuous corruption.'

Processes like peer review, as important quality assurance processes in science, relied upon anonymity and open-mindedness — a dedication to the search for truth, rather than the promotion to a cause. We were alert to the possibility that venal motives might corrupt science, and so developed research protocols to manage this and practices such as the declaration of financial interests. But we ignored for too long the possibility that political motives might also corrupt science: at least until the Hockey Stick, or Donald Kennedy rushing the fraudulent Hwang et al stem cell paper through review so that the press release could precede the Congressional vote to overturn an administrative order limiting research.

The internet brought scientists into global networks; the jumbo jet brought them into frequent personal contact at conferences; the IPCC cemented the networks of the like-minded; some journals helped that by not insisting on double blind reviewing (with reviewers often knowing not just the political implications of findings, but the identity of authors). Climategate confirmed all that: anonymous peer review is broken, and the internet, as Whitehouse shows, has sprung up to fill the vacuum and exert some discipline.

We still get a rush of fresh alarms in the scientific literature on the eve of each meeting of the parties of the FCCC, but now we recognise them as part of the annual rhythms, as regular as the coming of Christmas. The problem is, we have lost a reliable scientific base for our policy decisions. The internet might restore it, but it still needs a good editor; or more perceptive journalists to translate it — Roger Pielke's Honest Brokers, perhaps.

Dec 20, 2012 at 9:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

Aynsley Kellow

For your analysis of peer review and the effect of the internet to be correct you have to be able to prove that peer review was never previously corrupt?
The internet is a very bright light and it is being used to illuminate areas that have long been kept dark.

Dec 20, 2012 at 9:24 PM | Registered CommenterDung

A good article by David Whitehouse. It may well be naive in the face of talk of more state control of the internet, but the analytical-blogger phenomenon might well be the key to reducing the risk of yet more doomsday scares of which the climate one is the latest and most successful by far. The speed with which sloppy science and shonky analysis can be exposed, chapter and verse, is surely going to inhibit the facile appeal to science/computers. The power of doing that in the past was revealed by the notorious Club of Rome/ Limits to Growth materials, and I suspect their spurious success was a big spur to those who had spotted CO2 as an ideal vehicle for their dastardly plans way back in the day.

Dec 20, 2012 at 9:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Not so, Dung! Your suggest a false dichotomy, where its really a matter of degree. Nobody would suggest that peer review was perfect. Editors could choose hostile or friendly reviewers. Reviewers could guess the identities of authors. I still find reviewers intent on feeding their own egos (and h-Index) by insisting that you cite Smith & Jones, 2007. And my particular favourite: review after resubmission a referee who finds new objections they didn't have the first time. (It has always been inexact and infuriating). But the factors I describe came with a rush and overwhelmed the system. The internet is one restorative; some journals are using open review of papers submitted, using a more disciplined approach before deciding whether to 'publish' a paper. (This is a kind of accelerated 'test of time', flushing out the responses that previously had to await publication after review by the editor and 2-3 reviewers).

Dec 20, 2012 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

The future for CRU and its ilk is bleak indeed: http://www.kaggle.com

Dec 20, 2012 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterchippy

Aynsley Kellow

We have a number of your countrymen who are regular contributors here and from what little I have managed to read about you; I would say you share a similar view of the world of climate change and its politics ^.^

Dec 20, 2012 at 10:13 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung on Dec 20, 2012 at 9:15 PM
"May I ask Mr Whitehouse for the evidence to prove that human emissions of CO2 are actually warming the planet?"

I don't know that anyone has conclusive evidence, which is probably why you asked the question!

Also, I am sure that sceptics, being human, can be as dismissive of the facts as anyone else, but I cannot see it in this article.

When I read David Whitehouse's article, I took the 'I believe' that the world is warming statement to be an olive branch, an opinion, or even a belief, that can be aired without rancour, though it would need to be proved (Ah!!! This isn't a Maths problem!), of which to be wary, or shown to be the case, rather than something that is settled, that could be safely assumed, so we can 'move on'.

David Whitehouse writes:
"Not many disagree with the basics of climate science; that the world is warming, or that mankind is emitting greenhouse gasses, or that man, as a result, is influencing the climate."

I don't think I wouldn't disagree with that either, as there is no time scale. Over the last 400 years there has been warming, over the last 13 years there has been no increase, but then, there have been several intervals of that length in the last 400 years where the temperature went down or did not change, so I wouldn't want to start an argument over the temperatures of the last 13 years, when it isn't the point of the article!

David's quote says that mankind is emitting greenhouse gasses and that is influencing the climate. In that paragraph, he didn't mention 'catastrophic' or even 'warming'. An urban heat island is man influencing the climate, so I can agree, yet still be a sceptic on CMGW.

Dec 20, 2012 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Christopher

Tamino has an interesting perspective on the "fake skeptic", David Whitehouse, today too.

Dec 20, 2012 at 10:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Aynsley Kellow: "And my particular favourite: review after resubmission a referee who finds new objections they didn't have the first time."

I think many here will recognise this phenomenon: you review a document that is so bad you only pick out the main faults. When it comes back to you with those problems fixed, you have a look at the second order faults...

Dec 20, 2012 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Robert Christopher

I do not mind if Dr Whitehouse offers an olive branch to the opposition but I DO mind that he singles out sceptics of a similar persuasion to my own and calls us pariahs ^.^ I particularly do not like this when there is empirical evidence proving that CO2 has no warming effect. I am not an unreasonable man hehe.
There is no rancour in my posts so far, just a friendly chiding.

Dec 20, 2012 at 10:46 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Peer review is an exercise in which the reviewers, who are considered competent by an editor, who himself is not considered competent in the field of review are asked to give an opinion on the work of somebody who may or may not be competent himself.

The reviewer then give the opinion. By all accounts they don't ask for the data and for sure don't go through the lengthy analysis of the work.

Who in the world other than the precious scientists would accept such an effort.

Dec 20, 2012 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Steiner

BB

Tamino is again knocking down a straw man. The main thrust of the graph is that IPCC estimates of warming have been way too high, the stuff about when warming took place is just statistical obfustication ^.^
Also the article on WUWT that Tamino is referring to is by Ira Glickstein, PhD not Dr Whitehouse.

Dec 20, 2012 at 10:58 PM | Registered CommenterDung

@dung

info@thegwpf.org

Report back, do. Two clicks to get the email address. Not that hard eh?

Dec 20, 2012 at 11:12 PM | Registered Commenterjeremyp99

Whitehouse in December 2012:

The fact is that the internet is changing science and the debate about climate science is a good example of it. You can be a professor of anything these days but there will be someone out there in cyberspace who is smarter, better at statistics and computing, and has more time to focus on key problems. Someone who will ask for the raw data and mercilessly pick away at it, pointing out mistakes that before would have gone unnoticed. This might be uncomfortable for some, but it is undoubtedly good for science that cares nothing for personal feelings.

So how that fit with Jonathan Jones in February 2011?

People have asked why mainstream scientists are keeping silent on these issues. As a scientist who has largely kept silent, at least in public, I have more sympathy for silence than most people here. It's not for the obvious reason, that speaking out leads to immediate attacks, not just from Gavin and friends, but also from some of the more excitable commentators here. Far more importantly most scientists are reluctant to speak out on topics which are not their field. We tend to trust our colleagues, perhaps unreasonably so, and are also well aware that most scientific questions are considerably more complex than outsiders think, and that it is entirely possible that we have missed some subtle but critical point.

Taken together, these two quotes suggest there are two kinds of 'amateur', the useful and the misguided. On the hockey stick McIntyre, McKitrick and Montford are useful amateurs. On the badly-named greenhouse effect Whitehouse, Jones, Curry, Lindzen and Drake think that Dung, AlecM and others are misguided.

Of course I should add that McIntyre objects to being called an amateur and rightly so. But the very important impacts of the internet on science Whitehouse describes need to be qualified. Not all amateurs are useful. And if some are misguided that is used by the climate consensus to try and tar all with the same brush of 'missing some subtle but critical point,' as Jonathan puts it.

Everyone happy with that? Good natured chiding remains possible on all sides I'm sure.

Dec 20, 2012 at 11:23 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

jeremyp99

Not sure what point you are making in your very short post, are you able to explain? I know that Dr Whitehouse made a post on GWPF but it did not contain the graph that Tamino displayed.

Richard Drake

That is indeed a very interesting post and you are in excellent company, Alec and I are outgunned ^.^

AlecM and I are misguided and are being put firmly in our place. Can you pick out anything I said that particularly annoys you or even better something that is not backed up by the evidence? My request is obviously incredibly good natured hehe.

Dec 20, 2012 at 11:48 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Patrick Moore who died very recently was an amateur astronomer without any formal qualifications but he did not seem to mind the word "amateur" and was greatly respected by professional astronomers.

Climate scientists should treat the criticisms and suggestions of amateurs on their merits.

Dec 20, 2012 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Dung: I didn't say that anything you have ever said has annoyed me. I said that I think you're misguided, and that's partly because I don't often hear you say what Jonathan did: 'that it is entirely possible that we have missed some subtle but critical point'. I think atmospheric physics as a whole is a very difficult problem, and that this is bound to be doubly true for the outsider. You seem much more confident than I am that you can see the flaws in those who have studied the subject for far longer than you have (I'm assuming - please put me right on this point, of course, if you go back in your research and picking up awards in the field as far as Richard Lindzen, say). I warmed to the humility of Jones in February 2011. I don't feel the same warmth when I read any of the latter-day greenhouse doubters, apart from Phillip Bratby.

Dec 21, 2012 at 12:21 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard

I am just about aware that Jonathan Jones is someone you admire because at one time he used a pseudonym and now he uses his real name, other than that my own inadequate memory can not provide me with any information.
However the fact that I can not comment on the work of a specific scientist should not weigh against me when you are considering what I say. I can see that you genuinely believe I am misguided but I have to ask you again what I have said that is not consistent with the evidence?
The only thing I think I have done is disagree with people you respect?

Dec 21, 2012 at 12:28 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung, you're going right off the subject and trying to get me to go with you. It's your obsession, mate, not mine.

Dec 21, 2012 at 12:30 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard

Upthread I stated that there was no evidence that CO2 is warming the planet, I also said that the ice core records back up that statement and I can not see what you can object to in those statements.
I am not trying to make you do anything but I am defending what I said thats all and no bad feeling :)

Dec 21, 2012 at 12:34 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Just wondering if anyone has noticed the rage vented by the righteous Jehoveh, aka Tamino, on this unbelieving heathen called Whitehoiuse?

Dec 21, 2012 at 12:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

diogenes

Can you settle a point here?

Tamino claims to be arguing about a post Dr Whitehouse made on WUWT and shows a graph supposedly used in that artcle. However the article on WUWT showing that graph is by Ira Glickstein. Have I missed something?

Dec 21, 2012 at 12:46 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung, I've done my reading in atmospheric physics and it evokes a great deal of humility in me. You don't have to know anything about Jonathan Jones to get my point about his humility too, in the passage I quoted. And yet this guy understands more physics than I do, as became clear when we met in the pub in Oxford! And still he is humble when faced with atmospheric physics, plus the chemistry and the biosphere and the oceans and the whole jolly lot. There's tension here between the inspired amateur who asks exactly the right questions and the armies of plodders with axes to grind who waste time for those that understand the subject more. This is relevant to Whitehouse's article. I think he's closer to 100% right than you do but in your critique you have helped clarify something quite important here.

Dec 21, 2012 at 12:48 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Dung, "Also the article on WUWT that Tamino is referring to is by Ira Glickstein, PhD not Dr Whitehouse."

That is strange. I wonder why Glickstein's name is not mentioned and the piece says, "Feedback: david.whitehouse@thegwpf.org". Maybe you are looking at a different article...

Dec 21, 2012 at 12:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

I am not interested in a taxonomy of bloggers.

Dec 21, 2012 at 1:27 AM | Registered Commentershub

I will do nmy best Dung...but I do not know whatm ou are talingabout. Obviously I ignore the professional falsificators Tamino and Bitbiucket, who would not know the truth if it were written in neon on their bellies

Dec 21, 2012 at 1:31 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Richard

I do not claim to understand atmospheric physics but I do claim to be able to read the papers written by scientists about many aspects of climate change. Reading the evidence of the ice cores does not require anything more than intelligence. Now you keep dodging my question, the ice core records show that CO2 NEVER preceeds warming, it always follows. The ice core records also show periods where CO2 rises for as long as 2000 years while temperature is either stable or falling. Under these circumstances do you not think it is a little crazy to believe that CO2 causes warming?
The last 15 years also must cause a little pause for thought?

Dec 21, 2012 at 2:00 AM | Registered CommenterDung

"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."
W.S.C 1939
"I cannot forecast to you the action of Atmospheric Physics. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is self-interest."
R.F. 2012

Dec 21, 2012 at 2:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Dec 20, 2012 at 9:15 PM | Dung

Dr Whitehouse is a big supporter af empirical evidence and pointing out mistakes but only if I agree with him?

Based on empirical evidence contained in ice core records which at the moment is unquestioned evidence; there is no proof that (in the current range of CO2 levels) emissions of CO2 are warming the planet. However Dr Whitehouse effectively suggests that climate scientists ignore people like me so TYVM Mr Whitehouse.

May I ask Mr Whitehouse for the evidence to prove that human emissions of CO2 are actually warming the planet? If he can not provide that evidence (Rhoda could not so I give Mr Whitehouse zero chance ^.^) then he falls well below the standards he tries to set for others.

Dung, I'm not sure you're being entirely fair to David Whitehouse in your reading of his essay.

One thing that I noticed which was conspicuously absent from his essay was any mention of [the evil human-generated] CO2 - let alone as the primary (or secondary or tertiary for that matter) "cause" of whatever "influence" we might be having..

IMHO, he is simply acknowledging that (to use his words):

the world is warming ... mankind is emitting greenhouse gasses... man, as a result, is influencing the climate

Perhaps we have all been subjected to far too many years of brainwashing and propaganda from the IPCC, its inner circle and dutiful stable of activist-journalists. Consequently, whenever we read such a combination of factors we have become conditioned to assume that it's all about our CO2 and the concomitant (but unproven) imminent tipping point, danger, catatastrophe or whatever the scariest flavour of the week might be.

However, Whitehouse - being an equal opportunity "ommitter", so to speak - mentioned none of the above, either! Although I'm sure he's quite aware of the contentiousness of such claims!

Those whom I believe he is suggesting be ignored - although he does not specifically mention them - are those who are so quick to cry "hoax", "scam" or "fraud" etc., and I'm inclined to agree with him. Mainly because I always cringe whenever I hear/read one of the "good guys" use such words!

IMHO, in doing so they hand to those who would prefer that our voices not be heard, a giant brush of thick black paint with which to smear us all.

In my reading of his essay, his references to climate science were simply by way of example and illustration of his far broader and important point to the effect that the Internet has radically changed the way that science is done:

the internet is changing science and the debate about climate science is a good example of it. You can be a professor of anything these days but there will be someone out there in cyberspace who is smarter, better at statistics and computing, and has more time to focus on key problems. Someone who will ask for the raw data and mercilessly pick away at it, pointing out mistakes that before would have gone unnoticed. [...]

Even the IPCC has recognized this, and, perhaps predictably (she says somewhat cynically and with apologies for the following somewhat o/t observations), has taken steps to head the impact of this change off at the pass.

In the spirit of transparency, objectivity, and according to one of Pachauri's latest porkies:

welcom[ing] the opportunity to engage in debate on the subject of climate change

not only did they disappear the longstanding - albeit very rarely practiced - rule that non-peer-reviewed literature be flagged as such, they took a giant leap forward by specifically declaring that blogs are not acceptable source materials for their "gold standard" reports.

Dec 21, 2012 at 5:16 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Richard Drake 11.23 pm: If there's one thing in which I am not an amateur, it's heat transfer. This is because I trained as a Metallurgical Engineer before I got my PhD in applied physics and we were working with GHGs long before anybody else. I suggest you look at my two posts on the Worstall blog to find out my latest thinking: http://timworstall.com/2012/12/19/is-climate-change-really-a-damp-squib/

Climate science has been an example of scientific mass hysteria, imagining temperature measurement by pyrgeometers is a real energy flux when it's an artefact. There can be no significant CO2-AGW..

Dec 21, 2012 at 7:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Dung, there is a fallacy here that you appear to have missed. To admit to a lack of officially recognised expertise in climate science, as you do, is fine. To acquire such expertise utilising skills from outside the field, as Nic Lewis and Steve McIntyre have done, is laudable. Likewise contributing to the debate through self-education in the area, as many of the sceptic bloggers have done, can lead to very useful insights and help public understanding of the issues. But to engage with anyone who presents himself as prominent in the climate blogosphere, without ever demonstrating any form of relevant expertise, is I believe pointless and simply adds "filler" (spam if you like) to otherwise illuminating topics. I personally would prefer you not to engage in that way, but it is of course your choice. We all need to be real about our individual capacities to contribute to the debate.

Dec 21, 2012 at 7:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

Have you noticed that Whitehouse's excellent article is actually a response to Ince and Cox's superficial editorial in the New Statesman discussed here a few says ago.

I think it was said in the comments that someone wanted a big name sceptic to take Ince and Cox on. Well Whitehouse has done that in a polite but utterly devastating way, showing up their lack of knowledge about what they are talking about.

Whitehouse has demolished Ince and Cox, whose only qualifications for such pontificating seems to be that they are on TV.

Presumably they are the 'overrated opinions' mentioned by Whitehouse.

Dec 21, 2012 at 7:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe P

Whitehouse's first sentence is disappointing to me

'..... wonders of science, based on so many generations of scientists carrying out observations and measurements, formulating hypotheses and theories, using logic and mathematical models'

He has omitted the most crucial step of all.....experiments! You can have the best observations in the world, the most ingenious and logical hypotheses, the best programmers and the most powerful supercomputers available.

But if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate...it ain't worth a hill of beans. Far too many 'climate scientists' seem to think that she is only a minor player in the huge pantomime they have constructed. Instead she is the star of the show.. Front and centre for all of the performance.

Experiments Rule OK!

Dec 21, 2012 at 8:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Something I've been saying for years but not something that David appears to have come to terms with.

Dec 21, 2012 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

JoeP
Dr Whitehouse’s article covers the same ground as Cox and Ince, and is infinitely better in its openminded attitude to the democratisation of science (and of intellectual life in general) caused by the internet. Though I’m not sure that Dr Whitehouse is responding directly to Ince and Cox. If he is, he’s being very coy about it.
The Cox and Ince article doesn’t require a polite corrective. It needs a stake through its heart. In it, the authors (guest editors of a magazine which is still influential in the intellectual life of the country) describe climate sceptics as “people who rail against science” who “risk becoming disenfranchised”. Coming from two BBC employees, this is easy to interpret. It’s two fingers up to Whitehouse’s open internet-based community: “We are the mainstream media, and you’re not part of it”.

Dec 21, 2012 at 9:14 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Latimer, I think you and David Whitehouse are speaking from the same song sheet. In his very last paragraph Whitehouse writes......

"Richard Feynman, once said, “It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong.” He and Carl Sagan would have loved these times. They would be looking at the data, and writing blogs."

I read the Whitehouse article as a very thoughtful contribution to the debate and an elegant riposte to the Cox and Ince New Statesman article. It is also timely for me as, starting over the Christmas period I will begin to migrate to a wiki all the project notes, lab books, protocols, calibrations, raw data and results as well as a blog associated with a new research programme to the web. The project is a re-evaluation of Earth's surface temperature record throughout the last 800 or so million years. At a practical level this is a major undertaking in terms of sampling, samples, analytical techniques, protocols, data management and QC. Intellectually the results will make a significant contribution to our understanding of how surface temperature has evolved, what might the links between CO2, GCR's etc. on geological timescales and place important constraints on major Earth cycles such as sea floor spreading style and rates, and weathering fluxes.

I hope that data will be posted in near enough real time. This has two aims that are consistent with the Open Notebook Science concept promoted by Jean-Claude Bradley at Drexel University. The first is it will help communication between myself and my students. Secondly, I plan to make the site completely open so our methods and results are available to others. I anticipate that this will promote discussion and ideas for new experiments, measurements, sample collecting strategies and in time lead to new science.

In addition I hope the project may have a 'citizen science' component with members of the wider public contributing to the work. This could be through sample collecting in different regions of the world. Imagine the benefits, time and cost savings if we can use the energy, knowledge, interest and drive of members of the public to collect samples from regions we would otherwise not be able to collect from. The data set will grow considerably through the coming years and how to handle this in terms of QC, statistics, time series analysis etc. will be greatly aided by the input of experts from outside. Similarly, I'm often confronted with electronics problems, redesign of instruments etc., software control and data acquisition issues. I've solved these to date on my own but am the first to admit that my electronics and software knowledge is at best 101!

Whilst I am excited by this I am also apprehensive for very many reasons. The first is I'm concerned about the time commitment. However, I rationalise that a lab wiki and blog is needed in any case so this shouldn't be too onerous. I'm concerned about revealing my lack of understanding, or knowledge in many areas. I have sympathy with Jonathan Jones statement last year that Richard Drake highlighted. I'm also worried that I might be distracted and diverted into discussions that are not helpful to the project.

Yet I was launched into the public eye and web and my experiences to date have been nothing but positive. I've had colleagues I've respected for many years come up to me at conferences and say I was brave, thank you for the stance I took and how much in agreement they were but were not in a position to say anything. I maintain very cordial relationships with colleagues who it might be said sit on the other side of the debate to me. Above all my dealings with everyone on the blogs has been very positive, helpful to my thinking and very productive.

So despite my apprehension, I agree near 100% with David Whitehouse.

Finally, may I commend a short essay titled 'The concepts of beauty and creativity: Earth Science Thinking' by Susan Kieffer. I think it's available at her website: geologyinmotion.com . It is a very personal essay by a deep thinking scientist. It doesn't relate directly to the debate about the internet and the scientific method but has, what I believe to be important, ideas about intuition and the development of abstract ideas in the physical sciences that I forced a schism between the 'public' and the 'ivory tower' after the Victorian era of public science lectures etc. that were commonplace and very well attended.

Soory for the long posting and I'll press 'Create Post' before I decide to withdraw this announcement!

Dec 21, 2012 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

Latimer, Stephen and Geoff,

I think you all might be doing Whitehouse a disservice. His last paragraph states....

" Richard Feynman, once said, “It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong.” He and Carl Sagan would have loved these times. They would be looking at the data, and writing blogs."

You can't get much more explicit a reference to the importance of experimental results.

Dec 21, 2012 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

Apologies for the typos and poor grammar in my long posting above. I should have proof read it before sending!

Dec 21, 2012 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

"...the world is warming ... mankind is emitting greenhouse gasses... man, as a result, is influencing the climate..." is a clear statement of cause and effect, for which there is no supporting evidence at all.

I agree with Dung, and others, that there is evidence to the contrary.

What is needed is the proper application of the scientific method.

Dec 21, 2012 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Hi Paul

Good luck with your massive undertaking!

If there's anything a 1970s trained one-time chemist resident in the Home Counties with a bit of spare time, an active (I hope) brain and a PC can do to help on a voluntary basis, let's talk. You can find out more on the 'Denizens' thread at Climate Etc

To clarify, I wasn't disappointed with Whitehouse's article overall. But many people - who may not be diligent scholars - only read the first few sentences before deciding whether to move on. Its a busy old world and there are lots of calls on their time.

So I'd have preferred it if Whitehouse had made more explicit reference to experiment right up front.

No experiments = no real science...just opinions and models and appeals to authority. With only such tools we get about as far as a theory of nature composed of Earth, Water, Fire and Air - And we know this to be true 'because Aristotle said so'.

Dec 21, 2012 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Paul Dennis: thank you. Even the best BH commenters sometimes fall short but missing an explicit reference to the primacy of experimental results at the end of a short article was not our finest hour. It is, as you say, a very good piece by Whitehouse.

AlecM: I'd already read your confident claims on Worstall's thread before I wrote on this one. Others will I'm sure be gobsmacked to learn that it did not affect my opinion of your work.

Chris M: very well said.

Aynsley Kellow: your early responses deserved better. But I'd like to return if I may to this important preliminary paragraph of Whitehouse:

Let’s get one thing over quickly. Not many disagree with the basics of climate science; that the world is warming, or that mankind is emitting greenhouse gasses, or that man, as a result, is influencing the climate. I believe that those few who do disagree are wrong, but they should not define everyone who raises questions. If popularisers and professors want to go on about those kind of “skeptics” then they are missing the issue. That’s not the point. It never was.

My bold. Taken in context Whitehouse is clearly referring to slayers or skydragons. So is he right to say "not many" and "those few"? Most important, how would we go about testing whether he is right? Yes, folks, we're talking experiment :)

What about the stronger words of Steve McIntyre as a not unimportant part of his analysis of the Monica Lewandowsky scandal in September:

This is not to say that there aren’t a few extreme skydragons who challenge whether CO2 has had an impact on global temperature, but my guess is that they make up only a very small percentage of readers of skeptical blogs.

Is it a "very small percentage," as I also believe, in rather stark contrast to the amount of noise that is sometimes heard? Once again, how would we go about testing this 'guess' (albeit a highly informed guess, given the author's primacy in the formation of 'skeptical blogs' in the first place)?

Dec 21, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Paul Dennis, do you have a website for this yet? I'd love to get involved.

Dec 21, 2012 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Latimer, TBYJ and interested others,

I don't have a website yet, or rather it is not live as I experiment with the best options to structure the material (WordPress + Wiki, LateX and other necessary plug ins! or some other option). As soon as I do then I'll let people know. Meanwhile anyone who is interested can contact me on paul (hyphen) dennis (at) macmate (dot) me. I'll compile an email circulation list and send out details of the project and website etc.

Dec 21, 2012 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

Paul Dennis
congratulations on your new site. It’s a joy to read someone so enthusiastically welcoming us laypeople into what promises to be a very exciting scientific project.

On “doing Whitehouse a disservice”: I apologise if I failed to express how much I appreciated his article, but I tend to view everything cynically from the point of view of likely public reaction.
Cox and Ince, too, quote Feynman in support of their position, which is the same as Sir Paul Nurse’s in his infamous Horizon programme. Under a veneer of praise for science and the benefits it has brought us, there’s a scarcely disguised warning to toe the line and listen to the voice of authority if we don’t want to be “disenfranchised”.
If this provokes any debate, it won’t be about: “where does the truth lie?” but about: “Who do you believe, award-winning TV star Cox, or spokesman for a Lawson-led sceptical site Whitehouse?”

Dec 21, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff,

Your point is well made. The debate, as we have seen with respect to Matt Ridley's article, has already centred around the who do you believe meme.

Dec 21, 2012 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

Paul, unfortunately the debate has always been an argument from authority. Lay people believe the science is too hard for them to understand, so they have to trust the 'experts' - this is one of the biggest crimes of the whole debacle. I'm with geoffchambers, every time I see the crowds rallying around yet another GWPF report as if it is a gamechanger, I just look at it the way joe bloggs will.

Dec 21, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Chris M

I am sorry but I do not agree with your judgement for a number of reasons.

I have a great deal of respect for Dr Whitehouse and I pointed out that 90% of his article was excellent (I read all of it). I will read it again following Rhoda's post but at the moment I am still of the opinion that sadly he was trashing anyone who did not agree that CO2 causes some warming. I quoted experimental evidence which seems to me and to hundreds of scientists (50 on just one of Idso's papers) to prove that CO2 does not cause any warming. I would feel happy to argue this point even if I had no qualifications at all. There is not one shred of experimental evidence to support the statement that CO2 causes some warming yet I am the one criticized and not Dr Whitehouse. It seems to me that many even on our side of the argument are still influenced by a famous name or a series of letters after someone's name even in the face of evidence which proves them wrong ^.^

There is no scientist on the planet who has expertise in climate science because it is such a multi disciplined subject and even the best qualified scientists have to talk outside their area of expertise in order to discuss it. Those scientists then have to quote and rely on the work of many others with different expertise which is what I do.
If what I say is backed up by experimental evidence then I reserve the right to say it to anyone.
In terms of suggestions that someone without letters after their name can not be of much use I say that it was me who found the Berthold Klien experiment report which again shows that CO2 causes no warming at current and much higher atmospheric concentrations.

Dec 21, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Knowing dr whitehouse I can say with certainty that he is only a spokesperson for himself.
If he doesn't believe it he won't toe any line, that's the problem he had with the BBC.

Dec 21, 2012 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete E

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