This is a guest post by Lloyd Robertson.
I think we need a new typology for people who comment on climate--better than warmists vs. skeptics or any other "teams". I propose three main analytical categories:
- state of mind
- whether still learning or not
- communicating with public/media honestly or dishonestly.
For state of mind, I want to distinguish ordinary ignorance, Socratic ignorance (knowing when one doesn't know something), and knowledge.
The best combination of the three categories would be Socratic ignorance combined with some knowledge, still learning, and communicating honestly. In this category I would put your distinguished self, Steve McIntyre, and some bloggers I read including Lucia (including posts by Zeke), Judy Curry, and Pielke Jr. I would be more impressed if lukewarmers were prepared to say that much of the IPCC AR4 is not only shaky, but nonsense. Judy Curry stands out for having taken a fresh look at all this, and calling a spade a spade.
What impressed a lot of us about Climategate was the contrast between the way folks spoke in private, and the way they spoke in public. In public it was all about suppressing any admission of ignorance or uncertainty in order to maintain the dogma. In private, though, there was sometimes something like Socratic ignorance combined with some knowledge. For example, Trenberth saying on two occasions that there were important things he and his colleagues didn't know about temperature, "and it's a travesty that we don't know." Socratic ignorance, probably some ordinary ignorance, some knowledge, possibly trying to learn, communicating dishonestly. Ed Cook saying "we honestly know fuck-all about what the … [temperature] variability was like on timescales greater than a century with any certainty (i.e. we know with certainty that we know fuck-all)." On this last point, though, Cook probably realized that there was substantial paleo evidence against the warming dogma, and none to speak of in favour of it: a combination of ordinary and Socratic ignorance, not much knowledge, not trying hard to learn, communicating dishonestly.
Let's have some more fun: Trenberth again, but this time constantly in the news saying every hurricane is the beginning of Armageddon. Plain ignorance, lack of knowledge (not the field in which he's trained), not trying to learn, still communicating dishonestly in that he knows or should know better.
This raises a subtle point. If one is convinced that a person wallows in complete ignorance and folly, it is difficult to blame them for anything they say. How can they be dishonest about the truth if they really don't know anything? Of course there is the dishonesty in failing to achieve Socratic ignorance, and for a scientist, there is dishonesty in not trying to find out more, or not trying to disprove one's favourite theory.
For all I know, Lewandowsky has never known anything on any subject, including how to conduct an online survey. But doesn't even an ordinary, fairly stupid person have enough sense to be more honest about his mistakes than Lew is being?
Of course I am a skeptic, and I am giving the impression that the egregious faults are all on the other side. I suppose the skydragons, whoever they are, are plain ignorant, not trying to learn, but probably honest. I don't read them, I had never even heard of them until Judy Curry sharpened her lance against them.
Muller is probably an interesting case: impressive in his defence of McIntyre and Anthony Watts, blowing his own horn a bit too much as he confirms the mainstream view of temperature, and then going out on a limb by attributing the warming to man-made CO2. We have Michael Mann's word for it that the question of attribution is not settled, and it is certainly not as simple as Muller made out. So: on that question, plain ignorant, lacking in knowledge, and not trying hard enough to learn. On the other hand, Muller is probably always honest--perhaps to a fault given his non-Socratic belief that he is always right.