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Celebrating bad science

When the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee considered the Fifth Assessment Report a few months ago I was surprised when chairman Tim Yeo asked witnesses about the Hockey Stick. Although central to the Third Assessment and still relevant to the Fourth, I was of the view that its importance had now waned as all but the activist parts of the climatological community seem to have quietly accepted its methodological...ahem...peculiarities.

Like so many of his colleagues, Brian Hoskins seemed unable to say clearly that the Hockey Stick was wrong but, with a wonderful sirhumphreyish circumlocution, allowed the committee to understand that this was in fact the case:

Q3   Chair: Do you have any anxiety that controversies that arose from previous reports—take the hockey stick graph that seems to be referred to quite frequently—may cast doubt on the conclusions reached in AR5?

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins: There is a concern always if previous mistakes have been made, as in some cases, or maybe be accentuation of one view. It is a group of people and mistakes will be made and that should not reflect on anything in the future for that body. Of course, we should all be sceptical and we are all sceptical the whole time; so probing it must go on. It is not going to be taken as the Bible, but it should be taken as the view of a large group of scientists from the diverse range of where the scientists come from and this is the consensus view given by them. That is what it is. There must always be a concern if then people can return to a mistake made 20 years ago or an accentuation made 20 years ago to down excellent work that has been done now. There must be a concern.

I couldn't help but remember Hoskins' words when I saw this photo on Twitter yesterday. It shows the President of Yale, Peter Salovey, making a presentation to IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri.

As Max Planck noted, science advances one funeral at a time. On that basis, expect Yale to continue to celebrate junk science for many years to come.

President, Yale University

Notes from Woodbridge Hall

April 7, 2014

Last night, Marta and I had the pleasure of attending the Broadway opening night of Will Eno’s...


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Reader Comments (19)

And so the circus continues its way to the inevitable train wreck of finding who will take the blame.

As usual, the politicians like Hoskins will survive.

Apr 20, 2014 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterTurnedoutnice

Presumably Hoskins was knighted for services to verbosity?

Apr 20, 2014 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterHeadless Chicken

Where Yes Prime Minister is concerned there are a wealth of examples that are relevant....

Apr 20, 2014 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

When was that photo taken? Surely not recently

Apr 20, 2014 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndyL

That reply must have been written by Antony Jay! Surely?
Or possibly it's too humphreyish even for Humphrey.

Apr 20, 2014 at 11:03 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

A fine example of the intellectual dishonesty that has been the driving force of the whole CAGW issue from the start.

Apr 20, 2014 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

The hockey stick wasn't a mistake. It was deliberate distortion of the evidence to produce what the politicians and activists wanted. Yet again, Hoskins distorts the truth.

Apr 20, 2014 at 11:39 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Brian Hoskins supports the sceptical position:

"Of course, we should all be sceptical and we are all sceptical the whole time"

Isn't that how these people twist logic normally?

Apr 20, 2014 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

I'm currently reading Mann's book "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars" (library book, didn't buy it!), and he is saying the hockey stick is valid. Is this one of those things where both sides claim victory?

Apr 20, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Mann is saying the hockey stick is valid? MRDA . Well he would, wouldn't he., doesn't make it so.

Apr 20, 2014 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterLondon Calling

Factual. Substantial faults were published, peer reviewed, about the hockey stick statistics by McIntyre and McKitrick, as is well known.
Sir Brian's stance cannot be justified unless he demonstrates that M&M were wrong. I have not seen this done except in a crackpot way on a couple of delusional blogs, the arguments being so weak that dismissal is appropriate.
It is highly irregular and quite unscientific to promote discredited data. I'd call it pathetic for a person of standing.

Apr 20, 2014 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

Just flicked through these minutes only to be reminded of what a disgraceful chairman Yeo is. The way he leads the witnesses and misrepresents their views. His ejection from Parliament cannot come quickly enough.

Apr 20, 2014 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

They're 'aving a larf.

University president whose organization benefits hugely from monetizing a non-existent problem presents a potent symbol of discredited science to an international committee head whose obscenely large, expensive and unwieldy organization has been responsible for encouraging a uniquely one-sided view of science.

You couldn't make it up.

Apr 20, 2014 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Sir Brian appears to have taken Dickens' short and witty essay 'The Circumlocution Office' as his model.

Apr 20, 2014 at 9:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

"Accentuation"? Now there's a euphemism to savour like a fine cognac. Mmmmmh that's good.

Apr 20, 2014 at 10:41 PM | Unregistered Commenteranonym


There was a crooked Mann
Who played a crooked trick
And had a crooked plan
To make a crooked stick

By using crooked math
That favored crooked lines
Lysenko's crooked path
Led thru the crooked pines

And all his crooked friends
Applaud what crooked seems
But all that crooked ends
Derives from crooked means

Eugene WR Gallun

Apr 21, 2014 at 3:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterEugene WR Gallun

So "There must be a concern." and that is all?
Fudged figures in the research and "There must be a concern."
Wholesale hijacking of grant money and "There must be a concern."
Researchers and heads of department whose primary aim appears to be politics not science, and "There must be a concern."

Yes I'm concerned, I'm concerned that more taxpayer's money is being spent on this foolishness.
I'm so concerned that I vote - and if I can, I vote often - for the candidate that can get us out of this steaming pile of dog-mess.

Apr 21, 2014 at 6:39 AM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

"so probing it must go on."
He's not allowed to question "the science"!! That's Denier talk!

Apr 21, 2014 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Dunford

Answer to Mr. Hoskin:

Unfortunately, although the answer was indeed clear, simple, and straightforward, there is some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the fourth of the epithets you applied to the statement, inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information you communicated and the facts, insofar as they can be determined and demonstrated, is such as to cause epistemological problems, of sufficient magnitude as to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to bear.

You told a lie.

Apr 22, 2014 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDyspeptic Curmudgeon

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