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Tuesday
Jan012013

Kahan't see the wood for the trees

Dan Kahan has a problem with Michael Mann's review of Nate Silver's book, The Signal and the Noise.

Frankly, I find the gap between Mann’s depiction and the reality of what Silver said disturbing. You’d get the impression from reading Mann’s review that Silver is a “Chicago School” “free market fundamentalist” who dogmatically attacks the assumptions and methods of climate forecasters.

I don't think this discrepancy is any kind of a surprise to readers here - it's the way the great Mann works. But it's certainly fun to watch Kahan grappling with the problem of what he calls a "great climate scientist" mispresenting the work of a sympathiser. You wonder if he has considered the possibility that Mann might misrepresent his critics too.

I mentioned The Hockey Stick Illusion in my comment, but I think the moderator at Kahan's site has not yet recovered from the New Year celebrations. No doubt it will appear in due course.

(As ever, please be nice if you decide to comment at sites I link to.)

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Reader Comments (52)

sorry Bish...the guy strikes me as trying to have his cake and eat it too. He doesn't appear to consider the possibility that climate science is so embryonic that it cannot begin to address climatic prediction seriously. The very concept of "sensitivity", for example, needs debunking. As far as I can see it means...CO2 is emitted and then lots of things happen that we cannot describe in any scientific fashion over timescales that we cannot predict and, at some point, the temperature changes/doubles/triples/quadruples.

Jan 1, 2013 at 11:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Dan Kahan (whoever he is) mentions Scott Armstrong in his article. I wonder if he knows what Armstrong has to say about the polar bear science.

Jan 1, 2013 at 11:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Kahan writes:

... neither climate scientists nor scientists of science communication nor any other scientifically minded person should resort to simplification, effacement of complexity, and disregard for intellectual subtlety in describing the thoughtful reflections of a scholarly minded person who is trying to engage openly and candidly with complicated issues for the benefit of curious people.

Let me fix that for him:

... neither climate scientists nor scientists of science communication nor any other scientifically minded person should resort to simplification, effacement of complexity, and disregard for intellectual subtlety in describing the thoughtful reflections of a scholarly minded person who is trying to engage openly and candidly with complicated issues for the benefit of curious people.

The principle is the same for non-scholarly-minded persons, Mr Kahan. Just saying.

Jan 2, 2013 at 12:02 AM | Registered Commentershub

I don't have the intellectual skills to debate with this guy but I do wonder about the certainty he espouses with this comment;

For Silver, the basic reason to “believe” in—and be plenty concerned about—climate change is the basic scientific fact, disputed by no one of any seriousness, that increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 (also not doubted by anyone) conduce to increasing global temperatures, which in turn have a significant impact on the environment.

Could you, perhaps, ask where his evidence is as, apart from the IPCC's 1.5 degrees, I have never been shown the physics behind this belief.

Jan 2, 2013 at 12:14 AM | Registered CommenterGrumpyDenier

coldoldman: Yes - I'd like to see his reference list too.
//
The two graphs at the top of page four of this paper made me laugh:

http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2012/12/29/nature-climate-change-study-on-science-literacy-cultural-pol.html

and made me wonder if Mr Kahan is aware of this letter:

http://opinion.financialpost.com/2012/11/29/open-climate-letter-to-un-secretary-general-current-scientific-knowledge-does-not-substantiate-ban-ki-moon-assertions-on-weather-and-climate-say-125-scientists/

Jan 2, 2013 at 12:47 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Despite his critical words Kahan lets Michael Mann off too lightly regarding the comments on Nate Silver and "Chicago School" economics. Mann's comments are so reckless and ignorant that it's hard to see how one could trust anything he says about anything. He does not establish ANY intellectual or ideological or scientific lineage between Milton Friedman and Nate Silver.... merely asserts that Silver "might" have taken courses with Friedman. In fact, Milton Friedman retired from teaching at U. Chicago in 1977 and moved to California. Nate Silver was BORN in 1978. Thus, absent any specific knowledge of influential contact between Friedman and Silver, or influence upon Silver from Friedman proteges, and absent any genuine deep intellectual linkages (which Mann does not actually even allude to), all Mann's hostile invocation of "Chicago School" economics serves to do is to wave a spurious red flag for his ideologically servile audience at Huffington Post.

Without giving it any specific content, the association is about as silly as saying Karl Marx used to do his research at the British Museum, therefore anyone who does their research at the British Museum must be a disciple of Karl Marx. Every time I read public commentary from Michael Mann he strikes me as exceptionally glib, shallow, facile, and intellectually inept.

Jan 2, 2013 at 1:06 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Jan 2, 2013 at 1:06 AM | Skiphil

Every time I read public commentary from Michael Mann he strikes me as exceptionally glib, shallow, facile, and intellectually inept.

And those are his good attributes, right?! ;-)

Happy New Year to all!

Jan 2, 2013 at 2:11 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

I think this is a devastating critique of Mann. It doesn't matter to me that Nate Silver and Dan Kahan don't seem to understand some things I think I understand. Here's that paragraph from Kahan again:

For Silver, the basic reason to “believe” in—and be plenty concerned about—climate change is the basic scientific fact, disputed by no one of any seriousness, that increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 (also not doubted by anyone) conduce to increasing global temperatures, which in turn have a significant impact on the environment.

diogenes and coldoldman went straight to the physics but for me the key phrases are

* "be plenty concerned about"
* "increasing global temperatures ... have a significant impact on the environment"

I wonder at once if Silver and Kahan have looked at another time series that is much less talked about: global deaths from extreme climate events, which have been coming down since the 1920s. That for me utterly changes the likelihood that there is anything to "be plenty concerned about." And such a ray of sunshine doesn't require the concept of sensitivity to be debunked or indeed for basic greenhouse theory to be debunked.

But, as I already said, that doesn't matter to me. Not for now. When Kahan writes:

Silver doesn’t say this—indeed, had no reason to at the time he wrote the book—but I have to wonder whether Mann’s savage reaction to Silver is part of Mann’s “street fighting” posture, which apparently includes attacking even intellectually and emotionally sympathetic commentators whose excessive reflection on climate forecasting “uncertainty” threatens to prevent the public from even “listen[ing] to what we’re saying.”

that is devastating for Professor Mann. And, although I fully agree with Shub that the "street fighting" posture shouldn't be used even for the least of men, that is very good news.

Jan 2, 2013 at 2:47 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Bishop - your comment is now up.

Happy New Year to all from Brisbane. Where water restrictions have now been officially lifted. It appears that the never ending drought predictions of Professor Flannery turned out to be ever so slightly wrong. But he's got over that and is no doubt preparing to warn us of far more alarming climatic/environmental thingies in the years ahead.

Jan 2, 2013 at 2:51 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

This is what Bishop Hill said in his comment:

For anyone who has read The Hockey Stick Illusion, the discrepancy between Silver's words and Mann's representation of them is not a surprise. This happens quite often when Mann is involved. For example there was the occasion on which Mann announced that McIntyre had requested data from him in the form of a spreadsheet, something that was shown to be untrue when the correspondence was published. Or his claim that the Hockey Stick results were robust to the inclusion of any particular tree ring series being shown to be false by datasets on his own website.

You can believe that AGW is a real and pressing problem without having to accept this kind of behaviour. It's unfortunate if you fail to consider the possibility that you may have a rogue scientist on your side of the debate.

It did appear (I had the foresight to make sure I had a copy) and I imagine this caused grave concern back at climate HQ. So now it has disappeared. Instead there is this addendum to the main post:

Update on Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 10:23PM by Dan Kahan

The phrase "Mann is a great climate scientist" has attracted the attention of many commentators who would like to debate this point.

I am tempted to post a few of the comments as a way to illustrate and add color to the point in the post about how the business of climate forecasting obliges scientists to pass through a political flack storm. But does anyone really not know that already?

I just don't see the comments section of this post as a valuable forum to discuss Mann's work, if for no other reason than the discussion "signal" emitted by comments relating to the main points of the post will be drowned out by the raucous "noise"of that debate.

There better places. For those who want to participate in or observe & learn from reflective and spirited enagement with the merits of climate science, I recommend these active and interesting sites:

Watts up with that?

Climate Progress

The Blackboard

Climate Etc.

Full links are given - and not a bad selection. But interesting all the same. The Bishop's irenic style sometimes only gets him so far - but it surely always gets him further in such cases than those of a more brutal disposition. Close.

Jan 2, 2013 at 3:48 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Now isn't this curious? Here is a guy who's wasted 472 words talking about Mann (" here’s something else that I feel I ought to say"), and when his readers have something back to say, they have to travel to a handful of other websites?

The issue is not Mann's science. It is Mann's representation of Silver, and whether the same could be true of Mann's representation of criticism, in general. The question is Mr Kahan asks: 'Is it possible at all, to criticize Mann, for anything, and get a decent response in return?"

There are lots of practitioners who wade into the climate debate thinking themselves somehow to be above the fray.

Jan 2, 2013 at 4:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

What's most interesting to me is not that Kahan decided not to show all critical comments he received about Mann (I wouldn't expect him to) but that he did show Andrew's, as comment number 4, then changed his mind. I think we can take it from this that Andrew's contribution didn't fail on any objective measure of impoliteness or off-topic-tude. Some of the comments that followed, on the other hand, he implies now, could be styled a "political flack storm". But that cannot have applied to the first.

I have no arguments about Kahan's decision not to publish all or even any of the rest but it seems strange and quite an embarrassment to reverse out of his decision on Bishop Hill's. Worth an email or two between the two men tomorrow, perhaps, with a view to a focused and polite discussion with Kahan, on the issues raised by this turn of events, on this blog?

Jan 2, 2013 at 4:50 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Kahan says Mann is incompetent, twice and especially with this:

neither climate scientists nor scientis of science communication nor any other scientifically minded person should resort to simplification, effacement of complexity, and disregard for intellectual subtlety in describing t thoughtful reflections of a scholarly minded person who is trying to engage openly and candid with complicated issues for the benefit of curious people.
He then proceeds to link to WUWT.

I don't think we could ask any more from a Yale guy. This whole episode ought to make us appreciate the freedom we have to speak out, compared to all those "scholars" prisoners of a career and future grants.

Jan 2, 2013 at 5:39 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Kahan has now added DeSmogBlog ... to give a sense of balance?
I wonder how the balance of his deleted comments is going?
Is he being pushed?

Jan 2, 2013 at 7:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrady

I had a nice email from Kahan explaining that the comments were turning into a foodfight about the merits of Mann's work, so he felt he had to take down everything related. I can understand this.

Jan 2, 2013 at 7:40 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Dan Kahan is a well respected professor of law who appears to concentrate more on it’s psychology than it’s practicalities. This seems to have led him to drift into cognition theories similar to those expressed by people such as Lewandowsky and Corner and how they apply to the climate change controversy. I remember a few months ago reading an article of his in either Nature or Science (as I would only have gone there following a link from a blog or some such I’m afraid I can’t remember which and I can‘t be bothered right now to google it) where the thrust of his argument seemed to be that the main reason each of us were for or against the arguments was a form of peer pressure. In other words, we simply based our decisions on what everyone else in our circle/community believed. I know that a lot of those on the other side of the fence thought the article was wonderful, but I found it, quite frankly, bordering on the ridiculously simplistic and no better than the stuff that the aforementioned Lewandowsky and Corner come out with.

That he has had a little poke at Mann is welcome news. It would have been better though if Mann’s misrepresentations over the Silver affair had awoken an interest in him to look closer at his (Mann’s) science.

Jan 2, 2013 at 7:54 AM | Registered CommenterLaurie Childs

I had a nice email from Kahan explaining that the comments were turning into a foodfight about the merits of Mann's work, so he felt he had to take down everything related. I can understand this.

Did he take down more than your comment? Last night I saw these stages:

1. Comment from Larry and reply from Dan.
2. Same plus reply from Larry and comment from Bishop Hill.
3. Comment from Bishop Hill removed and comment 4 now a second reply to Dan. Update as given above on main thread.

Obviously between 2 and 3 he may have decided to let some more comments be shown - perhaps one or more angrily disputing what Andrew had said.

I really respect the guy for what he's written about Michael Mann and now for this email to Andrew. I haven't read his other stuff but I think it's without question this will have made him think.

Jan 2, 2013 at 8:14 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Laurie Childs:

"I know that a lot of those on the other side of the fence thought the article was wonderful, but I found it, quite frankly, bordering on the ridiculously simplistic and no better than the stuff that the aforementioned Lewandowsky and Corner come out with."

I agree and I also think it would be better if Mr Kahan considered the possibility that there are some real issues with the science that drive disagreement rather than try to use peer pressure to explain why many are sceptical.

Jan 2, 2013 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Laurie Childs:

"I know that a lot of those on the other side of the fence thought the article was wonderful, but I found it, quite frankly, bordering on the ridiculously simplistic and no better than the stuff that the aforementioned Lewandowsky and Corner come out with."

I agree and I also think it would be better if Mr Kahan considered the possibility that there are some real issues with the science that drive disagreement rather than try to use peer pressure to explain why many are sceptical.

Jan 2, 2013 at 8:17 AM | not banned yet>>>>>

I also concur.

The following paragraph from Mr Kahan's post convinces me of his opinion of those who don't follow the 'consensus' line, plus his almost schoolgirlish crush on the poor downtrodden climate scientists battling against the forces of evil as in:-

"This is a subtle point to get across even if one is trying to help someone to actually understand how science works. But for those who are trying to confuse, the foreseeable generation of incorrect predictions furnishes a steady supply of resources with which to harass and embarrass and discredit earnest scientists."

"For Silver, the basic reason to “believe” in—and be plenty concerned about—climate change is the basic scientific fact, disputed by no one of any seriousness, that increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 (also not doubted by anyone) conduce to increasing global temperatures, which in turn have a significant impact on the environment. Forecasting is less a test of that than a vital tool to help us understand the consequences of this fact, and to gauge the efficacy (including costs and benefits) of potential responses.

Seems right to me. Indeed, seems wise."

He might not think too much about Mann but his opinion of sceptics, who form a legitimate part of any scientific discussion, is writ loud by the line, which "seems right" to him:-

"climate change is the basic scientific fact, disputed by no one of any seriousness, that increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 (also not doubted by anyone) "

He's nailed his colours to the mast and has as much contempt for legitimate scepticism as Lewandowsky and Corner, and as such is a disgrace to academia. He has nothing to offer to the scientific debate and, as with others dabbling with psycho babble around climate change, will be forgotten along with the other nonentities in a few months time.

Jan 2, 2013 at 8:51 AM | Registered CommenterRKS

It's amazing how many science communicators (Simon Singh, the BA, Brian Cox, now Kahan) have simply no idea on what we are talking about, and feel compelled to intervene often on the basis of a casual New Scientist reading or even worse, as a member of the Mann Cult.

Jan 2, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Laurie, I think this is the paper you refer to. Kahan et al found that contrary to expectations, more science knowledge correlated slightly with increased scepticism. They tried to spin this politically unacceptable result into some vague theory about peer pressure and polarization, to the amusement of many sceptics.

In both examples, there is the usual irony of such people studying other peoples prejudices while appearing to be blissfully ignorant of their own.

Jan 2, 2013 at 9:19 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

One thing that has always stood out with Mann is not the way he views sceptics but the way he treats people on his side should they 'dare' to say things that he does not like . 'Play ground bully ', seems to be his approach to everything.
In practice means his never going to go into an court room if he can at all avoid it , has there he never get away with that approach. Which is both good news for those he threatens and bad news for those looking forward to seeing him having to deal with hostile questioning rather than pal review . For under pressure and under the public spot light he often does more good work for AGW sceptics than he knows.

I have long held the view that when he falls , we will be surprised to see who lines up to kick him on the way down, such is the legacy of Mann's 'style '

Jan 2, 2013 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Paul, many thanks for the link to that paper. Your comments triggered some lightswitches inside my head and I remember it now, there was some discussion on the blogs when it came out, but I hadn’t, till now, actually read it. Your post spurred me into getting off my backside and finding what it was that I actually read. Turns out it was this Nature article here:
http://www.nature.com/news/why-we-are-poles-apart-on-climate-change-1.11166
which Kahan obviously based on the paper that you found.

Jan 2, 2013 at 10:13 AM | Registered CommenterLaurie Childs

I think old Dan is doing the equivalent of nervously laughing and trying to get Mann to act like the great climate hero that he expects and not be so easy to act like a narcissistically unhinged child.

Of course Dan blames the awful ‘professional “skeptics”’ for driving Mann into this mindset.

I’m forecasting Dan won’t have any great success in changing Mann’s demeanour ;)

Jan 2, 2013 at 10:40 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Omnologos, agreed. Most of them know far less about climate science than the average above the parapet sceptic. You'd also think that these would be the very people that at least understood our scepticism. Not even agree with it, just understand it. But they don’t. At all. It’s almost like they’ve all undergone some kind of mass hypnosis, whereby they can see us, they just can’t hear what we say or read what we write. So they have to invent our motivational thought patterns and our reasons for scepticism for us. No matter how many times we tell them, they can’t hear us when we say they are wrong.

Jan 2, 2013 at 10:53 AM | Registered CommenterLaurie Childs

Paul, I echo Laurie's gratitude. With over 16,000 items in my personal wiki (tiddlers, not pages, for the cyber cognoscenti) I increasingly forget what I have, even when I read a name or term again. I'd noted Dan Kahan for his Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus in February 2010 and I'd also noted the May 2012 paper you link to, but in a hurry, not making the link with Kahan explicit in that case. Sorted, thanks.

KnR:

One thing that has always stood out with Mann is not the way he views sceptics but the way he treats people on his side should they 'dare' to say things that he does not like. 'Play ground bully' seems to be his approach to everything.

Key point. But this paranoid persecution of those previously considered 'on the inside' evokes for me the constant purges of International Socialism practised by the likes of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. This is something much more characteristic of Bolshevism and Maoism than of National Socialists like Hitler, who tended to be much more loyal to his old-time colleagues - the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 being the exception that I'm hoping proves my rule.

For what might seem an obscure and far-fetched claim on the roots of this devilish behaviour, James Billington convinced me back a while that this ongoing state of "cleansing of the faithful" came directly from the teaching and practice of Adam Weishaupt, founder of Illuminism in Bavaria, which Billington shows convincingly in Fire in the Minds of Men was a major influence on Marx through Philippe Buonarroti - and on from there to Trotsky and co. This terrible habit had an occult source, in other words, in more than one sense.

Not that Michael Mann currently has the paraphernalia of torture and murder at his disposal to do the job thoroughly but it's surely the thought that counts.

Jan 2, 2013 at 11:12 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Here is a crude and simple way of looking at the great debates around climate. Two GIGOs dominate them.The first was the 'science' end 'Guesswork In, Gospel Out' (a phrase first used I think by a commenter at WUWT). The second is 'Gospel In, Groupthink Out' - a process which includes the communication of scientific results, as in getting clarification of the gospel through to the heathen, and it is here that I think Mann's toes were stood upon by a less-than-awestruck Silver. Mann's catechism includes reference to well-funded, right-wing, fossil-fuelled conspiracies - a convenient 'devil' to inspire the faithful to more cohesion and more immunity from radical ideas. Hence the facile link to the Chicago school.
Both of these GIGOs are a bit of a disgrace to the body politic, and to the body scientific. I guess we can blame the internet and the globalisation of 'environmentalism'. Kahan is scraping at the surface of climate debates, driven it would seem by the shock of a civil man spotting the gulf between what Silver wrote and what Mann wrote in response. As several commenters have noted above, let us hope Kahan will go on to dig more deeply. He'll be in for a shock there too, but it might help him get a better idea of what some of the substantial concerns are of those unconvinced by the shrill cries of alarm over climate and carbon dioxide.

Jan 2, 2013 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

My only explanation for the widespread phenomenon of even critical, scientific and otherwise skeptical thinkers who have a mental block about climate science, is that we are witnessing a magnificently grand and Extraordinary Popular Delusion and Madness of the Crowd. This meme of human guilt for and fear of CAGW is remarkably pervasive, such that those caught in its throes have little ability to perceive or comprehend the skepticism of those of us who have some or many doubts about the 'settled science'. In evidence for the depth of this sensory failure I could list all of the imagined motivations for the skeptic, nearly all projections from the body of the madness of this livid crowd.

A measure of the severity of the pathology of this 'madness' is to note how reversed the effects of climate change are in this malperception of the costs and benefits of such change. Change itself is necessary and required for the life and health of social organizations, and it is beyond obvious that a warmer climate is better than a cooler one, warmer sustaining more total life and more diversity of life. This utter reversal of reality in the propagated meme of CAGW is nothing short of astonishing. How was it that this happened?
================

Jan 2, 2013 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Bishop, I have just submitted this comment on Kahan's thread, and hopefully it will soon be approved:

-------------

What is the evidence that Mann is a "great climate scientist," speaking of evidence? In the last several years, there have been abundant articles confirming the existence of a worldwide Medieval Warm Period as well as a Little Ice Age. These were the warm and cold periods of the last 1,000 years that no longer existed in Mann's "hockey stick" temperature record. Many of these new articles have been written by IPCC authors, such as Jan Esper. Here is a link for his paper in 2012:

http://www.wsl.ch/fe/landschaftsdynamik/dendroclimatology/Publikationen/Esper_etal.2012_GPC

Here is a sentence from the Abstract: "The record provides evidence for sub- stantial warmth during Roman and Medieval times, larger in extent and longer in duration than 20th century warmth."

Here is a link to another 2012 paper reaching similar conclusions:

http://www.clim-past.net/8/765/2012/cp-8-765-2012.html

To be clear, the earth is warming and it is largely (80 to 90 percent?) due to emissions of CO2, black carbon, methane, and ozone precursors, as well as reductions in sulfates (which cool the earth). Warming per se isn't the issue I'm attempting to address.

The issue is that one of the reasons climate change science has become so politicized, in my view, is that Michael Mann's hockey stick was the poster for climate change, and again in my view, it was less science that politics. It was a rush to judgment, to embrace a new view of recent past climate that erased everything that we thought we knew about temperatures for the last 2,000 years of so.

It didn't help that he sat in judgment of his own work (and that of others with different conclusions) as head of the relevant IPCC committee - no conflict of interest there! - and that the Climategate emails revealed that he and his collaborators were actively trying to prevent publication of papers contrary to their own.

Some of his colleagues, it was later revealed by Climategate letters, harbored doubts that the the MWP didn't have temperatures about as high as today. Now the paleoclimate community itself is publishing many articles contrary to Michael Mann's hockey stick. No wonder Mann is angry!

All of us hate the way that science, especially climate science, has become politicized. I suggest that Michael Mann's behaviour is a major part of this process. Few of the skeptic websites were in existence, and none of the most popular ones, until people like Steve McIntyre started delving into Mann's papers in detail, and revealing all the problems that Mann's work entailed.

I wonder how much better off we would be if Michael Mann had gone into a different field, the hockey stick had never seen the light of day, and thus the plentiful ammunition for the skeptics had never been generated. The kinds of crazy skepticism we see today wouldn't have had a chance without a poster boy of manipulation, Michael Mann, giving people the ammunition to say that the IPCC and mainstream scientists were manipulating data to try to convince voters and legislators to do their bidding.

I also wonder how much better off we would be if mainstream scientists hadn't circled the wagons around Mann, and if the IPCC had procedures so that the most self-interested scientists wouldn't sit in judgment on the issues most important to their ego and reputation.

Let's see if we can continue to refine our models, learn more about the biggest bugaboo of such models (clouds), and drill down to get the scientific answers that we need.

And to close: I'm a huge fan of Nate Silver!

Jan 2, 2013 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Brilliant John.

Jan 2, 2013 at 4:48 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

John, sadly I don't think your comment will be approved, see Kahan's latest post and update

"I invite others to weigh in (but not on whether Mann is a great climate scientist; see my post update on that)."

I just had a look at the Silver book. The stuff about Mann is mostly uncontroversial, but the following sentence on climategate leapt out at me:

"Skeptics alleged that Mann and other scientists had conspired to manipulate the CRU temperature record".

There is no reference for this of course, since as we all know, it's completely untrue.

Jan 2, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I'd add Bert Bolin, John Houghton, and James Hansen to the list of people that could have made the world a better place if they had not been involved in climate science. There is probably a list of a dozen or so such figures who, in a better world, would have been replaced by wiser, courageous, and more modest men who could have torpedoed the political exploitation of climate science simply by being strong and forthright about the very severe limitations of our knowledge of the climate system. I think Frank Ludlam could have been one such man, but alas he died too young.

Jan 2, 2013 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Is there any indication of how Mann is feeling about Kahan now?

Jan 2, 2013 at 6:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

Quoting Kahan from the top of the page:

Frankly, I find the gap between Mann’s depiction and the reality of what Silver said disturbing. You’d get the impression from reading Mann’s review that Silver is a “Chicago School” “free market fundamentalist” who dogmatically attacks the assumptions and methods of climate forecasters.

Am I alone in finding this an odd reading of Mann's critique? Here's what Mann said:

"I suspect that Nate's failing here arises from a sort of cultural bias. There is a whole community of pundits with origins in economics and marketing who seem more than happy to dismiss the laws of physics when they conflict with their philosophy of an unregulated market. Nate may not share that philosophy, but he was educated by those who do.

He goes on to discuss those educators, concentrating more on Levitt than Friedman. This doesn't seem to fit with an accusation of "free market fundamentalism" against Silver.

Jan 2, 2013 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Bucketchap...was Silver educated by "those who do"? Or is this yet another attempt at deflection by you?

Jan 2, 2013 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

@Jan 2, 2013 at 8:53 PM | BitBucket

Yeah , Mann's "may not" totally contradicts Kahan doesn't it? /sarc

But what exactly is "Nate's failing" stated in Mann's previous paragraph to the one you quote? It seems Mann wants to get across some idea of Silvers failings to us but he seems to struggle to make it clear.

My parsing sees Mann criticising Silver for giving "too much space" and for "parrot[ing]" J. Scott Armstrong. This could be a failing in Mann's eyes I guess because Mann has a counter position to Armstrong, but that is only a battle of authorities in my mind. Not the "failing" Mann wants to get across.

Of course we could always analyse the continuation of the quote after where you stop and say "He goes on to discuss those educators, concentrating more on Levitt than Friedman.":

Mann says:

Nate Silver was trained in the Chicago school of Economics, famously characterized by its philosophy of free market fundamentalism. In addition to courses from Milton Friedman, Nate might very well have taken a course from University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt...

Lol, I love that :)

I agree Mann is woolly and allows for much sophistry in parsing him, but I think it is looking more likely that the "failing" Mann atributes to Silver can be reasonably be inferred as being related to Silver's “Chicago School” “free market infection. Now whether Silver is a fundamentalist - is the remaining question - has Silver imbibed the "Chicago School" training to be fundamentally "failing" to be in unquestioning awe of Mann? I think so ;)

What do you think Mann means by talking of Nate Silvers "failing".

Is this "failing" so intrinsic or innate to Silver he can't help himself? If so, how did this "failing" become so innate? Does Mann gives us an idea of how?

Jan 2, 2013 at 9:41 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

As Paul Mathews predicted at 5:02, Dan Kahan has chosen not to publish my comment, above at 4:07. It amazes me that people who present the appearance of trying to work things out can't seem to see that shutting down debate is part of why public discourse is so poisoned.

Here is my followup comment to Kahan:

"Dan, it looks to me like you aren't going to post my comment from earlier today. That's too bad. I think it is quite relevant to where we are today. Getting to the heart of why so many people now simply don't believe the IPCC or climate change scientists in general is part of why we can't get traction for even a civilized discussion. If Michael Mann is a large part of that particular problem, wouldn't it be useful to discuss it, to bring it out in the open?"

Jan 2, 2013 at 9:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

quote from wikipedia

Levitt was born in 1967 and attended St. Paul Academy and Summit School, graduated from Harvard University in 1989 with his B.A. in economics summa cum laude, and received his Ph.D. in economics from MIT in 1994.

I wonder how he picked up Milton Friedman's views, or even the Chicago School views ....maybe the Bucket will tell us? Once Mann has told him. or SkS has forged some evidence.

Jan 2, 2013 at 9:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

I have had several posts accepted and find Dan quite polite in his responses for one who is very much a believer in CAGW.

Stay polite, on topic with the models, concise, and support with quotes from NOAA and the IPCC.

Jan 2, 2013 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

Laurie Childs

Do you think that Mr Kahan is also subject to "...simply based our decisions on what everyone else in our circle/community believed"?

Jan 3, 2013 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

John one of thing about Mann that has always stood out , along with his very odd psychology , is that his work is often of a standard that if used by an undergraduate putting in a essay , would lead to the work failing . So is peer review in this area really so bad or it the standard so poor in 'climate science' that this level of work is actual consider acceptable?

Jan 3, 2013 at 12:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Cat: I don't think my interpretation was sophistic, but whatever rings your bell...
What do you think Mann means by talking of Nate Silvers "failing".
He's talking about Silver's acceptance of arguments from someone he (Mann) considers unreliable. To describe this as a "failing" seems quite reasonable; he is after all giving his opinion.

Greek, birds of a feather flock together. I would guess that economists who don't share the "Chicago School" views would not apply for or be accepted into a position at the CsoE. Maybe greek birds behave differently though...

Jan 3, 2013 at 1:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Jan 3, 2013 at 1:06 AM | BitBucket

He's talking about Silver's acceptance of arguments from someone he (Mann) considers unreliable. To describe this as a "failing" seems quite reasonable; he is after all giving his opinion.

How's it go? I know - Am I alone in finding what you say there an odd reading of Mann's critique? ;)

Remember Mann says this:

I suspect that Nate's failing here arises from a sort of cultural bias.

You see I have highlighted what I think is most important there?

Mann clearly is speculating that Silver suffers from an innate cultural bias. An innate cultural bias that makes you make wrong decisions is quite debilitating. When Mann criticises Silver's selection of Armstrong as a preferred adviser he is only showing this as a particular example or symptom of an innate failing or pathology in Silver - it is not its cause. I think that is a better reading than yours. Once you accept that then you must ask yourself - Does Mann try to explain this innate failing in Silver?

I think the impression that Kahan says he got shows you the way to the answer to that ;)

Greek, birds of a feather flock together. I would guess that economists who don't share the "Chicago School" views would not apply for or be accepted into a position at the CsoE. Maybe greek birds behave differently though...

Gee I dunno. Now that you put it so darkly - yeah just what does any 18 year old kid think they are doing when applying to Chicago University to study economics? I mean, as both you and Mann darkly mutter, he had to know its reputation whren he applied.

I like the fact that both you and Mann are so polymathic to pathologise association with this Universities Economics course and also speak unto us the truth about climate. ;)

Jan 3, 2013 at 1:57 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Cat: " An innate cultural bias that makes you make wrong decisions is quite debilitating." ... but quite common (think of religious societies' attitudes to Women etc). I think maybe Mann was being polite - he didn't want to accuse Silver of being a 'denier' and so found a formulation that got over a similar message, imprecise as it is.

When I talked of economists being "accepted into a position at the CsoE", I was talking about a staff position (the normal interpretation of a 'position' I think). You indicate that I consider CsoE to be deviant (I pathologise association...) but I have no feeling on the matter.

Jan 3, 2013 at 3:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

@Jan 3, 2013 at 3:13 AM | BitBucket

Cat: " An innate cultural bias that makes you make wrong decisions is quite debilitating." ... but quite common (think of religious societies' attitudes to Women etc). I think maybe Mann was being polite - he didn't want to accuse Silver of being a 'denier' and so found a formulation that got over a similar message, imprecise as it is.

Which brings us back to the beginning. We lay people (including Kahan) trying to understand what the great man was actually saying about Silver. I agree with Kahan's interpretation.

However you still don't think so do you?

You say Mann (for some reason) doesn't feel he can accuse Silver of being a denier directly so he creates obfuscation to convey the "denier" message in another way?

You must be so proud of that forthrightness! ;)

Or is Mann, as Kahan and I think, casting aspersions on Silvers critical faculties based on badly understood ideas of what it means to be educated at the University of Chicago?

Mann doesn't come out looking well either way.

When I talked of economists being "accepted into a position at the CsoE", I was talking about a staff position (the normal interpretation of a 'position' I think). You indicate that I consider CsoE to be deviant (I pathologise association...) but I have no feeling on the matter.

Well maybe you didn't know Silver was born in 1978 and graduated in 2000 from the Universtity Of Chicago? i.e. he must have just left high school when he accepted his "position" there. How this helps bolster your interpretation of anything I am not sure - this seems to rank along side Manns speculation that Silver was taught by Milton Friedman there. i.e. demonstrates someone not well informed on a subject who, however, is still willing to make self serving sweeping generalisations on that same subject.

Jan 3, 2013 at 4:14 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

I imagine that having spent a nice afternoon discussing science with Silver, Mann felt an affinity to him that prevented him from a direct attack. Just a guess, I am no shrink. I realise that for sceptics it is deeply important to discredit Mann at any opportunity, whatever he actually said or meant, but for me he is a normal person. He has more climate knowledge and experience than I will ever approach and I respect him, but on a personal level, Mann is just this guy...

On 'positions' at Chicago, why you confuse Levitt's teaching position with Silver's undergraduate place is beyond me.

Jan 3, 2013 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Jan 3, 2013 at 11:58 AM | BitBucket

I imagine that having spent a nice afternoon discussing science with Silver, Mann felt an affinity to him that prevented him from a direct attack.

Well it looks like it worked because Silver hasn't attacked Mann, directly or otherwise, as far as I know. Or can you show an example of a direct attack on Mann from Silver that I have missed?

On 'positions' at Chicago, why you confuse Levitt's teaching position with Silver's undergraduate place is beyond me.

It's beyond me too sweetheart. I have not confused Levitt's teaching postion with Silver's undergraduate place. I haven't said anything about Levitt. I only quote Mann and you using his name. I have only been responding to your ruminations on Kahan's interpretation of Mann's position.

If you can clearly show how my "confusion" manifests itself then please do so. Otherwise it seems it is you who is suffering from confusion by not making yourself clear. Or are you just indulging in plain self serving sophistry? ;)

Jan 3, 2013 at 12:23 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Cat, darling, the discussion of positions came about from this exchange:

Diogenese the Greek: "Levitt was born in 1967 and attended St. Paul Academy and Summit School, graduated from Harvard University in 1989 with his B.A. in economics summa cum laude, and received his Ph.D. in economics from MIT in 1994.

I wonder how he picked up Milton Friedman's views, or even the Chicago School views ....maybe the Bucket will tell us? Once Mann has told him. or SkS has forged some evidence."

BitBucket the brilliant: "Greek, birds of a feather flock together. I would guess that economists who don't share the "Chicago School" views would not apply for or be accepted into a position at the CsoE. Maybe greek birds behave differently though..."

I was talking about positions with reference to Levitt being at Chicago but not having studied there.

Jan 3, 2013 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

I've tried again to post on Kahan's discussion thread, this time omitting all mention of Michael Mann or even his initials. Let's see if Dr. Kahan will allow this post:

-----

Re: "What I see is "skeptics" saying, in almost complete uniformity, is that global warming has "stopped," or "paused." Such a view is logically inconsistent with the view that increasing ACO2 leads to higher temperatures (as we are increasing ACO2)."

I'm a skeptic and happy to admit it, but only in the sense that it seems to me that climate sensitivity is likely at the low end of the IPCC range, or possibly lower. Certainly not zero, temps are going up, in large part because of human emissions, but the issues of "how much" and "how quickly" are not irrelevant for policy.

A major reason I've come to the conclusion of low climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2, a conclusion that could change as facts on the ground change, is that actual temperature trends for 15 years -- and for that matter, for the entire life of the satellite temperature record -- have been considerably below virtually all modeled forecasts from the IPCC and contributors. (Other reasons for informed skepticism include topics that are off-bounds for this discussion, e.g., truth telling and stonewalling by people on the IPCC with initials like ......, but my prior attempts to explain how such reasons feed skepticism have not been posted.)

I'm not a denier, but I do try to see how facts on the ground relate to the models that are telling use that armageddon is near.

Jan 3, 2013 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

@Jan 3, 2013 at 2:53 PM | BitBucket

I see, so you say that your use of "Greek" was a noun referring to the poster diogenes and not part of a response to me?

I thought you were maybe making a reference to the origin of the proverb - birds of a feather flock together. Can I suggest something? You'd probably be better off addressing people directly by their known handles or references, or at least use consistent punctuation after your nicknames for them, if you want to be clearly understood that is?

Jan 3, 2013 at 3:23 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

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