Climate Scientists and the Riemann Hypothesis

During the last few days, there has been a flurry of activity following an announcement by Xian-Jin Li of a supposed proof of the Riemann Hypothesis, perhaps the most famous unsolved mathematics problem (now that Fermat’s Last Theorem has been solved.) Atle Selberg, an eminent mathematician, recently said:

If anything at all in our universe is correct, it has to be the Riemann Hypothesis, if for no other reasons, so for purely esthetical reasons.

On July 1, 2008, Li posted his proposed proof on arxiv.org here, stating in a short abstract:

By using Fourier analysis on number fields, we prove in this paper E. Bombieri’s refinement of A. Weil’s positivity condition, which implies the Riemann hypothesis for the Riemann zeta function in the spirit of A. Connes’ approach to the Riemann hypothesis.

I recently noticed a quip that there were two sorts of mathematics papers – those where you can’t understand anything after the first page and those where you can’t understand anything after the first sentence. I’m glad that I’m not alone.

Subsequent events showed an interesting role for blogs even in a mathematical field where there are only a few people in the world who can read the paper.

Terence Tao observed the next day (July 2) on his blog (as a comment not even a thread):

It unfortunately seems that the decomposition claimed in equation (6.9) on page 20 of that paper is, in fact, impossible; it would endow the function h (which is holding the arithmetical information about the primes) with an extremely strong dilation symmetry which it does not actually obey. It seems that the author was relying on this symmetry to make the adelic Fourier transform far more powerful than it really ought to be for this problem.

During the next couple of days, Li put two revised versions of his preprint onto archiv.org and seemed to feel that he could cope with this problem.

On July 3 at another blog, Fields Medalist Alain Connes stated:

I dont like to be too negative in my comments. Li’s paper is an attempt to prove a variant of the global trace formula of my paper in Selecta. The “proof” is that of Theorem 7.3 page 29 in Li’s paper, but I stopped reading it when I saw that he is extending the test function h from ideles to adeles by 0 outside ideles and then using Fourier transform (see page 31). This cannot work and ideles form a set of measure 0 inside adeles (unlike what happens when one only deals with finitely many places).

On July 6, it was announced on arxiv.org that the paper had been withdrawn.

This paper has been withdrawn by the author, due to a mistake on page 29.

Li’s failed proof was 40 pages of dense mathematics, with one flaw on page 29. But the flaw was enough to cause the paper to fail.

Just think how much easier it would have been for Li had he published in Nature. His article would have been 3 pages long – a little section on the colorful history of the Riemannn Hypothesis, moving quickly to the “results” and implications. Maybe Nature editors would suggest that he mention the number of zeros was unprecedented. Due to “space limitations”, there would obviously be only a few sentences in the running text on how his proof actually worked, but the words “rigorous” and/or “conservative” would almost certainly have been used.

Their running text in Nature would perhaps said:

“We used the E. Bombieri’s highly conservative refinement of A. Weil’s rigorous positivity condition, which implies the Riemann hypothesis for the Riemann zeta function.”

Isn’t that much more convincing than Li’s original? Now you can see the realdefect in Li’s proofs: the failure to use either of the terms of “rigorous” or “conservative”. Instant climate science rejection. Had he correctly used the terms “rigorous” and “highly conservative”, nothing else would need to have been said and the paper would, of course, become an instant classic in climate science. Nobody would actually read it past the abstract, but it would be highly cited.

Had he published in Nature, if asked to provide details on his proof, Li could have refused and been backed up by Nature’s editors, who would have said that their policy does not require authors to show minute details of their methodology. If anyone doubted Li’s proof, if they were so smart, why didn’t they prove the Riemann Hypothesis themselves?

Perhaps 6 years later, someone would decode entrails of the Li “proof” from snippets, whereupon Li would haughtily announce that he had “moved on” to a new proof using an even more rigorous, conservative (and opaque) methodology and so he had been right all along.

199 Comments

  1. Pat Keating
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 6:55 AM | Permalink

    Nice irony, Steve. You hit the nail on the head.
    It’s really the difference between the hard-science journals
    of mathematics and physics and the soft-science
    journals like Nature.

  2. Frank K.
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:09 AM | Permalink

    And if this were climate science, Dr. Li would already have published his book “An Inconvenient Proof” claming that he really * had * solved Riemann’s Hypothesis, but that the bullies in the mathematics community had tried to silence him by finding a minor fault on p. 29, which doesn’t really matter anyway since we all know that Riemann’s hypothesis is true – no more need for debate, the mathematics is settled!

    Frank K.

  3. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:20 AM | Permalink

    Nice blow to the midsection Steve.
    Oh what an inconvenience when mathematics expose the falsehoods of politicsed science!
    Nature will not be amused by this.
    But they deserve it.

  4. Craig Loehle
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:21 AM | Permalink

    You mean it matters if the math is wrong? Nah…

  5. George Tobin
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:30 AM | Permalink

    Dear Mr.McIntyre:
    We cannot reprint this post because while you made appropriate use of “rigorous” and “conservative” you failed to include “robust”, “imminent”, “consensus” or “catastrophic” for a net 55-point deduction. If the society or the planet itself does not die in the interim, please feel free to resubmit.

    The People’s Content Protectorate
    Nature

    P.S. Pictures of polar bears and penguins are required for all submissions received after July 15th

    Steve: Excellent point on “robust” – how could I have overlooked this! The other words lack a little irony though.

  6. Dishman
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:30 AM | Permalink

    “You just have to look good, you don’t have to be clear.”

    I think Xian-Jin Li is a good example of the attitude serious researchers should take. Let it all hang out, and if there’s a problem, either fix it or withdraw it.

  7. Richard
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:34 AM | Permalink

    The author must also be a recognised “name” with a fine collection of previous publications and plenty of former colleagues and friends who are reviewers for the relevant journal.

  8. bernie
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:40 AM | Permalink

    Don’t you just hate it when that happens to an otherwise perfect proof.

  9. Patrick Hadley
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:51 AM | Permalink

    As a maths graduate of long ago I really enjoyed that article.

    If Phil Jones had come up with a proof no doubt he would have refused to release the details, “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.”

  10. Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:52 AM | Permalink

    Regarding there being “two sorts of mathematics papers – those where you can’t understand anything after the first page and those where you can’t understand anything after the first sentence”, I would differ.

    There are at least two other kinds: the third kind are those where even the first sentence is not comprehensible, and the last kind, where the title of the paper isn’t either!

  11. stan palmer
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:53 AM | Permalink

    it doesn’t matter that the details of this proof are not quite correct since other independent proofs of the hypothesis exist

  12. dearieme
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:01 AM | Permalink

    Riemann denial is a crime.

  13. stan palmer
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:26 AM | Permalink

    http://terrytao.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/structure-and-randomness-in-the-prime-numbers.ppt

    Terrence Tao has created a public lecture on prime number theory which slides are at the URL above. It is pertinent to the discussion he provides slides that outline the proof of the Prime Number Thereom and touch on its relationship to the Riemann Hypothesis. These slides made the discussion on his blog at least slightly comprehensible to me.

  14. bernie
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:28 AM | Permalink

    In doing some reading on Oreskes’ presentation, the American Denial of Global Warming, I came across a new term that
    describes what Alain Connes did to Prof Li’s proof: Agnotology. By shooting down what would have otherwise been a perfect proof Alain is evidently guilty of the “cultural production of ignorance.” I just thought it was plain old scientific discourse, but then I I am not given to creating new words where old words do very nicely.

  15. Jon
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:35 AM | Permalink

    What is the point of this post? I mean, I understand that it is meant to be an insult to climate scientists- but what is the point? Couldn’t you just have easily said, “Nature has shoddy acceptance standards and Michael Mann is a doody head” and achieve the same results?

    Great auditing work. Truly this is advancing the state of the science.

    Steve: Perhaps Nature could change their policies and require authors to disclose relevant aspects of their calculations when asked. That would be a substantive advancement in state of climate science. Perhaps Science could require Lonnie Thompson to archive his data. I avoid use of pointless adjectives like “doody head” – is this a term of art in climate science?

  16. Clark
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:37 AM | Permalink

    It seems climate science is unique in this sort of malarkey. Nature and Science publish lots of poorly-documented “flashy” papers, but (at least in biology) other researchers feel free to tear them down in subsequent publications.

  17. stan palmer
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:53 AM | Permalink

    re 16

    “Nature has shoddy acceptance standards …”

    Shouldn’t this be extended as in “Nature has shoddy acceptance standards and these standards are used as the criteria to accept papers that will be used to make dramatic changes to the world economy”

    This may not have been the point that S.Mc. was trying to make in the post but it is an important one.

  18. Barney Frank
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:01 AM | Permalink

    Couldn’t you just have easily said, “Nature has shoddy acceptance standards and Michael Mann is a doody head” and achieve the same results?

    No, because he also supplied an example of a discipline that does not have shoddy standards. When climate science makes a concerted effort to apply such standards to itself, and some climate scientists already are, perhaps it won’t be so easily lampooned.

  19. Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

    Steve

    I think this is the first article that I have ever read that pushed the irony meter clear into hyperspace. I will be chuckling about this all day, you are really really a funny guy.

    This brings up a question though; What would it take to create a peer reviewed climate science journal that did have rigorous standards? It seems that this online process is quite effective at building a global community of peer reviewers of broad reach and nearly infinite depth.

    Hint Hint Steve this could be the next level for climateaudit.org. Auditing is one thing, but if you did a climate journal with very rigorous standards and an open review process, the real dedicated scientists would flock to it like flies on honey. I bet you anything that you could have a board of some very good people as well.

    Something to think about.

  20. Austin
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:05 AM | Permalink

    In his Nature article, Li would have derived his results using “discrete numerical methods” whose numbers he “adjusted” while points in between “were interpolated.”

  21. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:19 AM | Permalink

    RE 3. its more like a good hipcheck.

  22. jae
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

    At least the matter was settled quickly, professionally, and definitively. No need for 3 years of exchanges on blogs like MathAudit and RealMath.

  23. john mathon
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:41 AM | Permalink

    This is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while. Thank you, again Steve!! I’ve been thinking the same thing for a while. The lack of rigor in the climate science process is unnerving to people who have a strong science/math background. As scientists or people steeped in the scientific process we must acknowledge that the lack of tropospheric temperature rises consistent with the AGW theory essentially invalidates the theory. At this point all true scientists must admit that the theory that there is significant “greenhouse warming” beyond the amount we have had for thousands of years is unproven. The additional CO2 we have been putting into the atmosphere may be causing some “greenhouse” effect but it is very small effect much smaller than was thought.

    Also, the lack of heat storage in the oceans and other recent data essentially disprove AGW theory. As scientists this must be stated clearly and unequivocally to the public so the name of science isn’t sullied any further by this regretable period of fearmongering. We have to hope if we come clean now that the public won’t be too upset and that science as a whole won’t be too badly discredited. It was an honest concern at first based on some good physics principles so we can be allowed a certain amount of discretion to go down the road and build all this climate monitoring equipment and to study. We have learned a lot in the last 10 years especially. It is now apparent that the data proves the theory of significant AGW feedbacks false.

    I am seriously concerned that if more scientists don’t come clean about the true state of the AGW theory that science will become discredited. The politicization of science is a deadly phenomenon for science. If we cannot be truly “unbiased” and scientific in our processes and make clear the facts without getting political then science will die and mankind will suffer. Maybe it is inevitable that all our “faiths” will be discredited at some point. However, we need to reform science to prevent this kind of debacle from happening again. This politicization of science will kill science if we don’t reform our journals, our funding processes and indeed possibly prosecute people who are making money for politicizing science.

  24. D Johnson
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:42 AM | Permalink

    Great post! If you haven’t done so, you might read Lubos’ blog on the same paper a few days ago. It had more thorough treatment of the math, which of course I didn’t understand.

  25. MrPete
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:53 AM | Permalink

    One other important analogy: if this had been published in Nature, there could have been all kinds of professional rejoinders to Tao and Connes’ blogged responses:

    * Your response has no credulity, it’s just a blog
    * If you don’t write that up as a paper, we don’t need to listen to you
    * What! You think you can do serious work in an online, supposedly-open peer review process? Hardly worth our time. Publish in a real publication next time.
    * Li 2008 (in publication, to be printed in 2010) responds to all of your concerns. We’ve moved on. You bloggers are way behind.

    (Isn’t it nice how publication time ‘margin’ allows much more rapid ‘advance’ of the science…)

  26. MrPete
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:59 AM | Permalink

    Oh, one more analogy:

    If Li had picked up the correct lesson from Math PR folks (the equivalent of IPPR), he would simply have responded with…

    Nothing but silence.

    And he’d have been backed up by his peer review buddies and the editors.

    This goes beyond refusing to provide details of the proof. Any such requests are simply ignored at the outset. After all, they are trifling, a waste of time.

    (The math is ‘settled’, there is no ‘debate’. Deniers like Connes are just trying to be picky but it doesn’t matter. So the best approach is to ignore any complainers. Act as if it were true…)

  27. Jeff A
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:04 AM | Permalink

    Steve “Good Will Hunting” McIntyre

  28. Michael Jankowski
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:19 AM | Permalink

    The proof of Fermat’s last theorem had a snag, too…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermat's_last_theorem


    “…After learning about Ribet’s work, Andrew Wiles set out to prove that every semistable elliptic curve is modular. He did so in almost complete secrecy, working for a full seven years with minimal outside help. Over the course of three lectures delivered at Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences on June 21, 22, and 23 of 1993, Wiles announced his proof of the Taniyama–Shimura conjecture, and hence of the Fermat’s Last Theorem. Wiles drew upon a wide variety of methods in the proof, some of them having been developed especially for this occasion.

    Although Wiles had reviewed his argument beforehand with a Princeton colleague, Nick Katz, he soon discovered that the proof contained a gap. There was an error in a critical portion of the proof which gave a bound for the order of a particular group. Wiles and his former student Richard Taylor spent almost a year trying to repair the proof, under the close scrutiny of the media and the mathematical community. In September 1994, they were able to complete the proof by using a very novel approach in the troublesome part of the argument. Taylor and others would go on to prove the general form of the Taniyama–Shimura conjecture, now frequently called the modularity theorem, which applies to all elliptic curves over Q, not just the semistable curves that were relevant for the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem…”

  29. Jamie Bull
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:31 AM | Permalink

    I think this xkcd is relevant here. There’s no way you can hold up any other field to the same standards of perfection as you can pure mathematics. Statistics within a chaotic system just don’t work like that.

  30. Daniel Rothenberg
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:34 AM | Permalink

    I hardly think your analogy to climate science is warranted. We’re talking about the freaking RIEMANN HYPOTHESIS here, arguably the most famous unsolved mathematics problem out there. Proving the hypothesis would result in instant, legendary fame for the mathematician(s) involved, as well as an instant $1,000,000 prize from the Clay Mathematics Institute. Even in the shadow of the Nadal/Federer battle this weekend, it would likely be the most important event of the year, but probably more likely the decade (unless something revolutionary comes out of the LHC).

    Besides, you’ve undermined your argument with your assertion that the mathematics is barely comprehensible to those without sufficient background to understand it (of which I fall squarely in the same category with everyone here – I had a mathematician friend explaining the issue with this proof to me and my eyes still glazed over); Perhaps it really did take 30+ pages to establish what was necessary for this proof to prove. Mathematics tends to be like that sometimes. On the other hand, if a climate science paper is a simple experiment involving the tweaking of a parameter or two in a model, then it would be superfluous to re-write up 30+ pages on the model itself; references to prior works on that topic would suffice, and the same goes for similar situations across most fields.

  31. Bruce
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:39 AM | Permalink

    Proving the hypothesis would result in instant, legendary fame for the mathematician(s) involved, as well as an instant $1,000,000 prize from the Clay Mathematics Institute.

    Al Gore makes that amount every 3 or 4 speeches.

  32. stan palmer
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:51 AM | Permalink

    On the other hand, if a climate science paper is a simple experiment involving the tweaking of a parameter or two in a model, then it would be superfluous to re-write up 30+ pages on the model itself; references to prior works on that topic would suffice, and the same goes for similar situations across most fields

    If the entire proof had been written down, it would have amounted to thoudsands of pages. Such a effort was done for Wiles proof What you desacribe as “references to prior works” are what limits the paper to such a short length.

  33. GTFrank
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

    Why would anyone waste their energy trying to prove anything anymore? Why not just model it? What about models which provide projections of different proof strageties. As long as the error bars are wide enough…

  34. rafa
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:59 AM | Permalink

    Dear Steve, congratulations. It is a great post with the appropriate level of irony. You’ve made my day.

    best

  35. Andrew
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 11:00 AM | Permalink

    But the method doesn’t matter, the answer is correct!

  36. RomanM
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

    … and if you asked to see some parts of the proof which were not obvious, Prof. Li would say “Why should I show them to you? You’re only trying to prove me wrong!”

  37. JP
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 11:19 AM | Permalink

    Bernhard Riemann…I wonder how many Calculus II students still have nightmares because of this one genius?

  38. Daniel Rothenberg
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 11:22 AM | Permalink

    Al Gore makes that amount every 3 or 4 speeches.

    Al Gore used to be the Vice President of the most powerful nation on the planet. Even if he had nothing to do with AGW, speeches by him would cost the same amount.

    If the entire proof had been written down, it would have amounted to thoudsands of pages. Such a effort was done for Wiles proof What you desacribe as “references to prior works” are what limits the paper to such a short length.

    My point exactly; this is why the “3 pages in Nature” argument is bunk.

  39. Pat Frank
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 11:46 AM | Permalink

    Really well-done and very appropriate contrast of standards. And there’s nothing like humor to make an analysis palatable. What an enjoyable read on both levels. With tongue so firmly in your cheek, Steve, for hours after writing that you must have had trouble speaking.

    Connes found an error, Li acknowledged the error, and Li withdrew the paper; presumably getting to work. The contrast with the behavior of Michael Mann following the publication of MM03 could not be greater. And we see no gathering of riemann-solvationist mathematicians starting a dishonestly polemical blog to defend Li’s work against that solvo-denialist Connes.

    Nor (yet, anyway) do we have other mathematicians publishing numerical Riemannian proofs with conveniently obscure criteria demonstrating that the Li-solution is statistically robust. In so doing, mathematics could indulge a climate science stratagem, in which a second erronious proof is published, and then the difference between the two proofs is offered as a highly precise Riemannian anomaly, which, depsite the absence of a rigorous proof is nevertheless precisely accurate because all the errors are removed by a felicitous differencing. QED – climate science style.

    Just to comment on another minor point you made Steve, Nature is fully revealed by its stance on climate science to be not a science journal. It’s a science magazine, far more interested in the sensational and the reputation-aggrandizing than in the integrity of science. Its reviewers are far too often inept and its editors far too often tendentious for Nature to merit the status of a science journal. Under the guiding hand of Donald Kennedy, unfortunately, Science has also striven for that status.

  40. Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 11:49 AM | Permalink

    I completely agree! Nature etc. have much lower standards and focus on superficial methods to advertise. The arXiv has made the verification of various statements in papers in mathematics, high-energy physics, and a few nearby fields much faster and much more efficient. And if real big shots like Tao and Connes are available online, there’s no way to stop the knowledge which is why my readers learned that the paper was wrong at the following day. It would indeed take years with Nature- and IPCC-like channels.

  41. Stephen Richards
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 12:05 PM | Permalink

    My heart goes out to Li. I did something similar but not even minutely as complicated about 20 years ago. I had a book of A3 perforated dot matrix printer paper and then for a whole 5 day week worked through a I remember was a semi-conductor problem using fourier transforms. On the Friday afternoon I completed the maths but didn’t like the result, It looks crazy. So I gave it to a colleague for the weekend. On Monday he returned with a huge grin from ear to ear. I made an error on the first page which change the result totally. I have never felt so p&ss~d off. Poor old Li.

    Good piece though Steve. You never cease to surprise me.

  42. Gunnar
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 12:12 PM | Permalink

    >> What is the point of this post? I mean, I understand that it is meant to be an insult to climate scientists

    That’s not it at all. It was to make an intellectual point, with sarcasm and irony. Just getting the truth can be mildly interesting, but it’s usually boring. What Steve does is make it interesting and funny. It’s not just making fun of Nature, it’s making fun of everyone who has been taken in by this sorry excuse for a scientific hypothesis.

  43. CuckooUK
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 12:20 PM | Permalink

    Xian-Jin Li is 99% sure that he is right.

    Shouldn’t he now become a living deity?

  44. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 12:27 PM | Permalink

    Wow, this is a fantastic line of argument. You report on an error published in a mathematical journal and somehow jump to maligning both “Nature” and the entire field of climate science.

    Given the thousands of papers published about climate science in dozens of different journals, I find your analogy laughable.

  45. MarkR
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

    Gavin says, “Sigh, we’ve dealt with this many times before, see http://www………argh”.

  46. Gunnar
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 1:03 PM | Permalink

    streamtracker, I find your post laughable. There have been thousands of climate science papers, but almost all of them are peripheral. The very few that actually attempt to advance the central hypothesis of AGW are full of critical errors, both mathematical and scientific.

    If you think otherwise, please point out the AGW paper that uses the scientific method and which does not contain a critical error.

  47. Mark H.
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

    What a great analogy – so perfect in it’s illustration of the cultural differences between a sober science and climate play-science. And it is a gift that keeps on giving, in reply after reply. Even those who object to the “line of (Steve’s) argument…maligning both Nature and the entire field of climate science” manage to entertain us in providing us with a supercilious posturing and outraged indignity – confirming the caricature.

    But that is what is wrong with the “entire field of climate science”, no?

  48. Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

    I don’t think you can really compare the soft science of climate estimation (what I prefer to call measurement of the past and today’s climate, and predictions of future climate) to a hard science like mathematics. The data climatologists work with are educated guesses about past climate, and current measurements of large, chaotic systems using wildly inconsistent methodology. Attempting to predict future events based on this kind of dubious information over a long career would turn most scientists into raving psychotics.

  49. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 1:10 PM | Permalink

    Re #31 – **I hardly think your analogy to climate science is warranted.**
    Really? I think it is a great comparison.
    ** We’re talking about the freaking AGW here, arguably the most famous (MAN-MADE??) problem out there.**
    ** Proving the hypothesis – 1) MEASUNRING the effect of CO2 and 2) Calculating in detail the assertion that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would raise the global temperature by 2.5 degrees or whatever would result in instant, legendary fame for the climate scientist(s) involved, (get the picture?)

    **Besides, you’ve undermined your argument with your assertion that the mathematics is barely comprehensible to those without sufficient background to understand it ,etc **
    We are having a hard time understanding many of the climate science explanations.

  50. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 1:32 PM | Permalink

    Hmmm. The responses of those critical of this fun article by Steve are quite revealing. However this last one by streamtracker (#44) is especially interesting. Apparently s/he doesn’t understand that in any subject there are underlying findings which later work depends on. It may be that thousands of papers can be published in an area which don’t particularly depend on a particular finding, but at least the authors of such papers should be interested in seeing to it that such foundational papers are correct and properly vetted to assure validity. Things like methods used to calculate global temperature, to estimate historical temperatures and the statistical evaluation thereof aren’t just another paper. They’re fundamental to any climate study dealing with climate change and/or anthropic global warming, and as such color how all climate science papers are perceived.

    The scientists most knowledgeable in affected areas should be jumping over each other to analyze proposed critical findings and the authors of doubtful findings should not be hiding from people proposing a correction, but using all venues available to resolve the problem.

    In the case of Dr. Mann, there was no attempt to dialog. Those of us who have followed the story from the beginning have no doubt about who is in the right here and who has sandbagged. The contrast with this example from mathematics couldn’t be more stark. Probably 2000-2500 of the 3250 pages of this blog are related to either particular scientific findings or the battle, and it has been a battle, to obtain materials which ought to have been available with little or no effort.

    It’s probably too much to ask scientists arriving here fresh to read more than a scattering of these articles and it’s probably wise to ask them not to read any of the comments so as not to get more upset than necessary. But anyone who is willing to put in a day or two just reading articles might well come away with a different opinion of this site than we often see.

  51. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 1:35 PM | Permalink

    #40. Luboš observes that “real big shots like Tao and Connes are available online”. I don’t understand much, if anything, at either blog, but both seem like very big guys in their field and both seem very prolific. It strikes me that blogs are a pretty effective way of carrying out peer review. I might add that I’m continually amazed at Luboš’ ability to comment on such difficult topics. Climate articles are more like baseball statistics – interesting but pretty uncomplicated.

  52. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 1:41 PM | Permalink

    #44. Read my correspondence with Nature. Unfortunately, I am not maligning Nature, but accurately describing personal experience.

    I can’t count the number of climate articles that use terms like “rigorous”, “conservative” or “robust” as a replacement for proper methodological description. While I’ve framed it ironically, the point is deadly serious. If I were an editor, I would have a policy advising authors that use of any of those (or similar) adjectives was grounds for instant rejection – and I’d advise reviewers to stop their review if they encountered such language and tell the authors to re-submit using proper methodological descriptions (including source code if necessary).

    Note: A reader below objected to my turn of phrase here pointing out that the number of uses of these terms is mathematically countable, a point that I concede, and arguing that my sample is limited. It would be more accurate to say that I’ve regularly encountered the use of such terms in dealing with people like Mann, Wahl, Ammann, Rutherford, Juckes in the controversies with which I’ve been particularly involved (with quite a few different journals not taking any exception.)

  53. MrPete
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 1:46 PM | Permalink

    I’m personally fascinated that some people find it reasonable when:

    – A mathematics paper is published after years of work
    – Has a single error
    – And is withdrawn in a matter of days
    – With obvious good interaction among “advocates” and “deniers”

    Whereas the following is tolerated

    – Papers in some areas of climate science are advanced after months of work
    – And are known to contain a variety of errors (nobody even tries to defend it)
    – A huge defense mechanism is raised to avoid serious discussion of what is actually
    VERY fuzzy conclusions, trying to act as if the conclusions are rock-solid.
    No Way would the paper be withdrawn after publication.
    – Any outside criticism is considered heinous.

    So a paper with uncertain and disputable results should NOT be criticized, while a paper based on easily critiqued “hard” math SHOULD be criticized.

    Something seems backward to me. Sure, the math is difficult, but once it is shown to be wrong, we’re done.

    Shouldn’t there be even MORE review and critique of climate science, which is so much harder to prove correct???

  54. jeez
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:04 PM | Permalink

    If anything at all in our universe is correct, it has to be the Riemann Hypothesis, if for no other reasons, so for purely esthetical reasons.

    Deniers of this proof of the Riemann Hypothesis simply do not understand the importance of the Precautionary Principle. If the proof is not accepted, it could unravel all future esthetic reasons and lead to truly ugly outcomes.

  55. Terry
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:07 PM | Permalink

    #30 Daniel Rothenberg

    I hardly think your analogy to climate science is warranted. We’re talking about the freaking RIEMANN HYPOTHESIS here, arguably the most famous unsolved mathematics problem out there. Proving the hypothesis would result in instant, legendary fame for the mathematician(s) involved..

    I think your missing the main thrust of Steve’s article which is full disclosure. Xian-Jin Li fully disclosed every part of his “proof” which meant that other mathematicians at his level could fully reproduce it. Gifted amateurs could also examine it, and whilst not able to understand every aspect of it, could perhaps find issues or even resolutions with certain aspects.
    I’ve read the proof to Fermat’s last theorem (and seen the documentary) and I understood and could follow about 5% of the details (I’m being generous to myself) and had there been an error in that 5% then I could have pointed it out. Climate science should be no different.
    All science subjects, whether they be maths, physics, chemistry or climate (I’m being generous to climate), should be subject to the same rigorous standards. At the very least this should mean that all data and methods are fully disclosed. If the data and methods aren’t disclosed to a degree such that the results can be replicated then the paper should be rejected or withdrawn.
    Finally, climate science appears to rely heavily on computer models for most of their results. If you you want see how a pure science treats computer programs then google “four colour theorem”.

  56. Not sure
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:09 PM | Permalink

    Al Gore used to be the Vice President of the most powerful nation on the planet. Even if he had nothing to do with AGW, speeches by him would cost the same amount.


    No.

  57. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

    Daniel Rothenberg.
    “…as well as an instant $1,000,000 prize from the Clay Mathematics Institute.”

    Gee, who cares if a few details are wrong? Surely the Clay Mathematics Institute wouldn’t mind paying out the million big ones, and couldn’t be bothered by the few minor but fatal flaws.
    Concerning climate science, Nature aint the ones paying, are they? The ones who are paying are poor folks dying of starvation in Africa etc. because people with your mindset just can’t be bothered by inconvenient things like mathematics and transparency. Do me a favour – stay out of the bridge building business.

    Overall, rarely do I find myself reading all the posts in response to a thread. Like one reader put it, I’ll be spending the rest of the day chuckling about this. Great hip check, Steve.

  58. Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:19 PM | Permalink

    Al Gore used to be the Vice President of the most powerful nation on the planet. Even if he had nothing to do with AGW, speeches by him would cost the same amount.

    No.

    Note Dan Quayle.

  59. Joel
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:22 PM | Permalink

    As on occasional reader of CA and just another guy trying find out the truth of all this, I’m just offering my perception as a guest. While you slap each other on the back with a laud guffaw, not everyone is laughing. While I appreciate the audit and fact checking, I often find the tone here just one step above “G0re invented teh interwebs lolz!!111″. If your goal is to have a fun little club, then cool. Responding to civil posts with “Puh-leaze!”? Really. I can’t imagine that is increasing the level of discourse. Hey, I’m just a guy concerned for what sort of a planet my kids are in store for. Obviously climate change is a serious issue and what you do here is worthwhile. I just get the feeling that you’ll get a little more mileage (or L/KM) keeping things civil. Now go ahead and tear me down. I’m just looking in from the outside and telling you what I see. Anyway, thanks for your work. Peace.

  60. See - owe to Rich
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:30 PM | Permalink

    I love this article and am printing it out to post on the wall at work.

    Of course, we all know the difference between pure mathematics and lies, damned lies, and statistics, but there is a story for all in the rigour which should be applied to disprove the null hypothesis, which in climatology is that it is all natural causes. Personally, I believe in a limited amount of AGW (as part of my religion you see), but I am still awaiting a proof of how much it is. Still, we’ll leave “Sensitivity to CO2″ to that thread on the bulletin board.

    Rich.

  61. Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:33 PM | Permalink

    Dear Steve,

    indeed, Connes and Tao are both Fields medal winners, and even among the Fields medal winners, they are almost certainly near the top. ;-) They also became a sort of bloggers. For rather obvious reasons, hardcore math blogging attracts limited audiences even if the bloggers are demicelebrities like these two.

    When we worship the technology, one must still try to see “both sides” of the story. Whether the correct knowledge spreads – and is refined – efficiently is obviously a different question from the technical and visual quality of the current paper or HTML technologies. What is more important is whether the people who are doing the research and who able to promote (mis)information with the existing infrastructure are honest and competent.

    M&M wouldn’t have occurred without roughly two very smart authors either!

    To sketch this point in more detail, consider e.g. an excited YouTube dude:

    In his video, he even doesn’t seem to have the idea that a bombshell statement about a proof of a 100+ years old famous math problem could be incorrect. I find such an expectation kind of incredible because thousands of mathematicians, including the top ones, have tried to prove the theorem for more than 100 years and all of their attempts so far have turned out to be incomplete or mistaken. So why should a rational person “automatically” believe the first somewhat random preprint by a not-quite-top author that he encounters and that claims that the problem has been solved? And the dude clearly did!

    But with the right composition of people like the YouTube dude, you could easily promote this proof as a fact. Relatively to a broader public, the YouTube dude is not a complete simpleton. I would say that there are pretty much isomorphic people in journals such as Nature. If they combine a collective and wishful thinking properly, they can become weapons of mass misinformation.

    These things are clearly happening in contemporary climate science. There’s a lot of people who have a lot of wishful thinking and many societal goals. They don’t have any common sense expectations – for example the statement that the judgment day comes in 2013 is not too surprising for them or at least they want to believe that it shouldn’t be surprising – and they are waiting for already pretty bad papers and amplify them.

    This kind of dynamics competes with the standard critical peer review and more general audits. The peer review and other types of quality control still exist. But the ideologically driven amplification exists, too. Above some critical mass of the zeal, the zeal simply becomes more relevant than the quality control and convenient but mostly bad research grows exponentially with a faster rate than the high quality research.

    That could happen in math, too, but people like Tao and Connes would first have to lose any significant influence over their colleagues. The field would have to hire a lot of YouTube dudes. The Fields medal committees etc. would have to be controlled by YouTube dudes who think that Tao and Connes are deniers of the magnificent Li’s proof of the Riemann Hypothesis, and so forth. ;-)

    That simply won’t happen because the quality pressure is stronger than the wishful thinking and ideological pressure in mathematics (especially because the guys who don’t have a clue are revealed efficiently or they give up) – which means that the convergence point is thankfully in the vicinity of correct results, not in the vicinity of results that YouTube dudes find convenient.

    But of course, things could in principle go mad in any field of human activity. And one more thing: the more “polarized” and “one-dimensional” a popular discussion about a problem becomes, the more likely a scientific discipline collapses in the same way as climate science. “Global warming: yes – good, no – bad” is an obvious example of such a polarization. But some recent hysterias about string theory (also imperialist thing!) got pretty close to it. The difference is that the actual research in high-energy theoretical physics, much like in number theory, is not controlled by journalists in Nature or YouTube dudes or government bureaucrats, unlike climatology.

    Things may always become bad if there are some people who are “officially” members of the expert community but who begin to promote one-dimensional (and usually wrong) misinterpretation themselves. It is easy for such experts to find allies in the media and elsewhere and if the funding agencies and governments add up, you can easily fill the discipline with incompetent or dishonest people who will drag the results to the predetermined one-dimensional goal rather than the unpredictable correct result dictated by the scientific method.

    Clicking my name = the report about the RH.

    Best
    Lubos

  62. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:33 PM | Permalink

    #52

    Are you referring to the Jones paper or are there other instances?

    As far s I can tell you have had a few occasions where you have ran into some difficulty getting information and this has led you to the sweeping generalization that the majority of climate scientists should be maligned and the journal Nature in general should be maligned.

    I tend to be suspicious of people who make such sweeping generalizations and I would find it useful if you could chronicle the instances where you had problems with Nature and if you would enumerate the instances where, “climate articles that use terms like “rigorous”, “conservative” or “robust” as a replacement for proper methodological description”.

    I would obviously want you to do that in a rigorous manner. Why not do a meta-analysis of the literature to test your assertion, instead of making these untested generalizations that leave you committing the same offense you accuse the climate scientists of making? If you did that in rigorous and well documented manner, I would be the first to be convinced.

  63. Craig Loehle
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:35 PM | Permalink

    I would just like to point out that some of the issues dealt with here (e.g., principal components, UHI adjustment methods, Mann’s code, gridded averaging, adjustments) ARE math and not empirical questions and not computer codes per se. The same standards should apply for correctness.

  64. jeez
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

    streamtracker: You’re kidding right? There are dozens, if not hundreds of threads on these subjects over a period of years. I suggest you start browsing through the links on the left navigation section.

  65. dreamin
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:40 PM | Permalink

    I suspect that the outcome would have been different if the livelihoods of James Hansen, Michael Mann, the IPCC, Al Gore, etc. depended on the Riemann Hypothesis being true.

    As a side note, the evidence for CAGW reminds me of the evidence for alien visitation. There’s lots and lots of weak evidence. Every time you study one piece of evidence carefully, you find serious problems with it. The proponents of the theory hand-wave these problems away, emphasizing the quantity of the evidence over the quality.

    All it would take are four or five QUALITY studies and I would reconsider my position. And the best evidence would be a few actual bona fide falsifiable predictions. Given that the warmists claim to be able to make specific predictions about the future, one would think they could do this.

  66. Daniel Rothenberg
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:43 PM | Permalink

    Terry said:

    I think your missing the main thrust of Steve’s article which is full disclosure.

    Oh no; really, I got that. It’s buried under a heap of what I consider less-than-witty sarcasm, but I still got that. I question why there is even an attempt to make this into some high-fallutin’ analogy rather than continue his previous line of blog entries. It’s a terrible analogy and only serves to rile up skeptics, such as the poster who claims that of the supposed “thousands of climate papers” out there, each one is riddled with a critical mistake.

    To that poster, before I waste my time refuting your assertion, you owe me the favor of supporting yours in the first place. Rather than request a statistical analysis of a sample of papers, though, I’ll make it simple: Produce a single, mainstream paper by a well-known proponent of AGW on a topic directly related to the theory, and demonstrate a critical mistake in that paper.

    Pierre: Did Mr. Li win the Millennium Prize with his proof? Not quite. Your comparison is flawed.

  67. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:51 PM | Permalink

    #61. My own practices are to deal in specifics as much as possible and I do so pretty consistently.

    There have been many instances of difficulties in accessing data and methodology chronicled on many occasions on this blog, including acquiescence by Nature in obstruction. A summary would be interesting and perhaps worth doing some time.

    I didn’t say that all climate science articles used terms like robust, conservative and rigorous; however, too many do. I’ve discussed many articles on this blog and objected to terms like “rigorous”, “conservative” or “robust” on many occasions. As you say, a meta-analysis would be interesting.

  68. Mark H.
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

    Joel (59);

    As blog with commentary on a subject having political and policy implications, this site contains a far greater proportion of serious and analytical comments than most. As you are only an occasional reader, perhaps you don’t know the origins of this blog – it being born in response to disreputable campaign to discredit McIntyre and Mckittrich because had professionally critiqued an iconic IPCC graph and its supporting data and methods. The response to that critique, by the study authors and their supporters, has ranged from stock excuses for the further withholding of data to the disingenious savaging of opponents in other blogs.

    By now, regular readers are quite familier with the various derogatory phrases of the anti M&M group, as well as this group’s list of excuses and justifications. As it happens, this particular thread was an ideal platform to express regular reader frustrations, but with a great deal of levity. And each of those jabs were, by the way, based on actual statements and rationales advanced by that group.

    So yes, it is just a single thread that offers both amusement and instruction.

  69. jae
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 2:57 PM | Permalink

    #5. I think “skillful” was left out, too.

  70. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 3:09 PM | Permalink

    Daniel,
    I beg to differ, Nature bombed it, and Steve used an excellent analogy to convey this. I suspect your irratation has more to do with you not being able to cope with the truth. Lubos elaborated on this extensively. The reviewers were victims of their own wishful thinking. Let’s hope they’ll return to sobriety, and be more careful next time.

  71. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 3:13 PM | Permalink

    #67

    including acquiescence by Nature in obstruction
    . I’d like to see it chronicled in one place.

    As you say, a meta-analysis would be interesting.

    I am waiting. But until then I consider your assertion based solely on a few anecdotal observations.

    My own practices are to deal in specifics as much as possible and I do so pretty consistently.

    I am not sure how specifics relate to your broader claims regarding the quality of work in climate science. Specifics don’t always translate into a broader scope of inference. Like you said it would be useful to do a meta-analysis.

    And by the way I am not just trying to be snarky. I worked as a graduate student with an advisor who challenged some very basic methodology in his field. He went to the trouble of doing a very rigorous meta-analysis, and to make a long-story short, it ultimately culminated with a conference on the issue that published a position paper that supported his viewpoint. You can’t publish today in the first and second tier publications in his field without adhering to his guidelines.

  72. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 3:21 PM | Permalink

    A quick word count. I searched the following 4 terms (robust, conservative, rigorous, skill) in 9 papers (and only 9 papers – I’ve got other things to do.) The 9 papers are not a random selection, in that these are papers that I’ve been more involved with, but neither are they the worst offenders from a larger sample. (I added “skill” since this term, as used in climate science articles, is generally more hortatory than analytical.) However this quick sample supports my point relative to the proxy literature that I’ve been most involved with.

    MBH98 – robust 4 , conservative 3, rigorous 2, skill 11
    MBH99- robust 4, conservative 1, skill 3
    Rutherford et al 2005 – robust 3; conservative 1, skill 33
    D’Arrigo et al 2006 – rigorous 1, robust 4, skill 1, conservative 0
    Mann et al 2007 – robust 13, conservative 7, rigorous 1 , skill – 69;
    Wahl and Ammann 2007: robust 15 ; highly conservative 2, skill – 24
    Ammann and Wahl 2007, conservative -5 , robust 9 skill- 8
    Juckes et al 2007: robust – 8, skill 3, rigorous 1
    Osborn, Briffa, annually resolved skill – 13, rigorous 2, robust 1 , conserv 0

  73. Philip_B
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 3:30 PM | Permalink

    Clark in #16 makes a good point. The problem is not so much poor science gets published. It does in a number of fields. The problem is the reluctance to criticize poor science due to the political culture surrounding climate science. All that matters is the paper reaches the ‘right’ conclusions.

    Some days, I think there are only two kinds of climate science paper. One kind where the findings show climate change is occuring. The other where the findings don’t show climate change is occuring, but a model proves they will in the future.

  74. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 3:35 PM | Permalink

    #64 I think if Steve is going to make such sweeping claims, he needs to apply the same rigorous analyzes to those claims that he expects from those being critiqued in his claims. Otherwise he is just relying on anecdotal evidence (however well supported each individual anecdote may be). It’s really an issue of scope of inference and applying the appropriate tools to test assertions at that level of inference. He is making an inference based on his limited set of observations to a very broad universe (The journal nature in general and the “uncountable number” of publications on climate science)

    Since these are not small claims he is making, I expect his tests of the evidence for the claims to be “rigorous”, “conservative”, “robust”, and “skillful”.

  75. MrPete
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 3:41 PM | Permalink

    streamtracker, this entire blog is documentation of the claim

  76. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 3:43 PM | Permalink

    #72 That is supposed to be test of your assertions? A word count? That may fool some of the folks who read this blog, but I think any one with a background in the application of meta-analysis would find it fall short of anything worthy of the name.

    Your assertion was “I can’t count the number of climate articles that use terms like “rigorous”, “conservative” or “robust” as a replacement for proper methodological description.”

    You’ve only provided a very small sample size for the first part of this assertion.

    However this quick sample supports my point relative to the proxy literature that I’ve been most involved with.

    Nine papers? Like I said a very small scope of inference. You’d have to look at a lot more papers then that.

    Steve: Well, I was using the phrase “I can’t count the number of papers”… colloquially here. In a mathematical sense, I concede that the number of papers using these terms is countable. I don’t think that many readers thought that we were venturing into a discussion of the Cantor continuum with this turn of phrase, but since the head post did discussion a mathematical hypothesis, I will edit the comment in #5 to note that I was not suggesting that the number of such papers were uncountable in a mathematical sense.

  77. Terry
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 3:43 PM | Permalink

    Philip_B says:

    Clark in #16 makes a good point. The problem is not so much poor science gets published. It does in a number of fields. The problem is the reluctance to criticize poor science due to the political culture surrounding climate science. All that matters is the paper reaches the ‘right’ conclusions.

    I’d say that, in the hard sciences, nearly as much kudos is given to those that dis-prove a proof as those who present a proof. For example, Alain Connes will not have done his career any harm is demonstrating an error in Xian-Jin Li’s proof. On the other hand, I doubt there’s many a climate scientist out there willing to risk their career by calling into question any findings in an MBH, Jones, or Wahl and Ammann paper.

  78. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 3:46 PM | Permalink

    #75. Oh puh-leeze, I am not making an “inference” from a limited set of observations to a very broad universe. The post was satiric, but why don’t you criticize what I said instead of inventing things.

    Just think how much easier it would have been for Li had he published in Nature. His article would have been 3 pages long – a little section on the colorful history of the Riemannn Hypothesis, moving quickly to the “results” and implications. Maybe Nature editors would suggest that he mention the number of zeros was unprecedented. Due to “space limitations”, there would obviously be only a few sentences in the running text on how his proof actually worked, but the words “rigorous” and/or “conservative” would almost certainly have been used.

    Their running text in Nature would perhaps said:

    “We used the E. Bombieri’s highly conservative refinement of A. Weil’s rigorous positivity condition, which implies the Riemann hypothesis for the Riemann zeta function.”

    Isn’t that much more convincing than Li’s original? Now you can see the realdefect in Li’s proofs: the failure to use either of the terms of “rigorous” or “conservative”. Instant climate science rejection. Had he correctly used the terms “rigorous” and “highly conservative”, nothing else would need to have been said and the paper would, of course, become an instant classic in climate science. Nobody would actually read it past the abstract, but it would be highly cited.

    Is there anything here about all climate science or all articles in Nature? The example does indicate the folly of trying to express something complicated like a proof of the Riemann hypothesis in the compressed space of a Nature article, which is necessarily little more than an extended abstract. If authors accompanied a short Nature article with an extended Technical Report, I’d have no complaint. But a short Nature article (or a short Science) article is not a substitute for a technical report, no matter how prestigious the address.

    Had he published in Nature, if asked to provide details on his proof, Li could have refused and been backed up by Nature’s editors, who would have said that their policy does not require authors to show minute details of their methodology.

    In the above paraqgraph, I expressed a possiblity – “could have refused and been backed up”. Obviously it could happen, because it has happened on another well-known occasion.

    If anyone doubted Li’s proof, if they were so smart, why didn’t they prove the Riemann Hypothesis themselves? Perhaps 6 years later, someone would decode entrails of the Li “proof” from snippets, whereupon Li would haughtily announce that he had “moved on” to a new proof using an even more rigorous, conservative (and opaque) methodology and so he had been right all along.

    Both hypotheticals and hardly generalizations about all of climate science. But based on true events.

  79. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

    75 Documentation does not make for a rigorous statistical test for an assertion with a broad inference. All the documentation provides is a few examples of case studies.

    [snip - sorry, this analogy is banned as are any religious references.]

    Maybe you are right about the field of climate science, but I would expect a much higher level of evidence than a few case studies before I would throw the baby out with the bath water.

  80. Darwin
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

    streamtracker is not being serious. If he were serious he would know the importance of the papers from which Steve derived his examples. Now if he is serious, he will understand what implication his statement has for a paper written by Naomi Oreskes that claimed to demonstrate an overwhelming consensus on climate science.

  81. Urederra
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

    So, do you guys think that on-line journals like PLoS ONE is the way to go?

    only if it wasn´t so expensive to publish on it.

  82. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

    #78

    You stated:

    “too numerous to count” colloquially that means a very large number. Your implication was clearly that the field of climate science in general is suspect. And when other readers made that broad inference you made no attempt to correct them.

    I see I have you to the point of arguing semantics. I’ll leave it to others to decide whether the gist of my argument is sound.

    And while this may be a snarky post, it is within the context of blog that clearly has very little respect for the field of climate science.

  83. James
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 4:18 PM | Permalink

    Steamtracker

    Read the site to get an idea of just how much time and effort is required to get data out of these “scientists”.
    This is the point of the blog entry – full disclosure of data allows others to review it and test the methods. If they are found to be wanting then the paper should, quite rightly, be withdrawn.
    This is what you and I call the scientific method and your indignation about the point of the post shows, to me at least, that you doubt that any scientist would break the method.
    Unfortunately the scientific method is frequently broken in climate “science” (hence the inverted commas as the subject is currently no more scientific that astrology); as you would see if you read the blog. On a number of occasions the Freedom of Information Acts around the world have been invoked to try and get data, and even then requests have been ignored / rejected.
    It shouldn’t be this hard to check the various hypotheses in climate “science” but, unfortunately, it is.

  84. MrPete
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 4:28 PM | Permalink

    streamtracker — no, not the “entire field of climate science”. After all, published climate scientists post here ;)

    There’s quite a lot of good, serious, well-documented and supported work done in climate science. But there’s a pretty small intersection between such work and the highly publicised, quick-to-popular-press articles that gain so much favor today.

    McIntyre, Pielke et al have documented across-the-board biases in selection and treatment of papers referenced by IPCC, supposedly a broad based, even-handed review of “all” climate science. The fact that they exclude some and give a pass to others is not a slur on the whole field… but the fact that there’s little or no outcry about such things IS a reproach to the whole field, if not to all of science.

    There’s a veritable deluge of such issues. Not the occasional drip-drip-drip of chinese water torture. Many of us arrived here, and have stayed, not because of snark, but because we care about good science.

    I’m ever the optimist… you too, if you give some time to study, will discover this is true.

    (Why isn’t it better indexed and summarized? Because this site does not have ANY dependable source of resources… it really is just one guy and a growing group of part time helpers.)

  85. Richard deSousa
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 4:36 PM | Permalink

    Hey, don’t you all know climate science is a *soft* science like psychology… just feel good about the results and it’s sufficient… after all we don’t want to “dis” the AGW scientists and hurt their feelings.

  86. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

    #83

    “you doubt that any scientist would break the method”

    Believe, I am fully aware that scientists are just people (You shouldn’t jump to such a conclusion based on so little experience with me). I have no doubt that some scientists “would break the method”. I have seen it happen on occasion in my own field. My point was only that to support the assertions that it is a practice that is common (or frequent as you say or “too numerous to count”) in a field requires more than a few anecdotal examples. It requires a rigorous test.

    I have suggested Steve carry out such a test.

  87. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 4:44 PM | Permalink

    #84

    McIntyre, Pielke et al have documented across-the-board biases in selection and treatment of papers referenced by IPCC, supposedly a broad based, even-handed review of “all” climate science.

    I would appreciate the full reference so I can judge for myself.

  88. Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

    I think the difference is that the Riemann Hypothesis does not affect public policy. If it did, then there might have been the sort of partisanship that we’ve seen in climate science.

    Incidentally, in the case of the Wiles proof, I understood the first sentence. And that was it.

    Fortunately, in mathematics, people are tearing down, analyzing and criticizing others proofs all the time. And there are crackpots who think they’re right when everyone else has already dismissed them as wrong.

    The problem is that mathematical rigour is not exactly a high priority in climate science. Getting published is the highest priority, because that’s how people are assessed.

    I’ve read quite a few climate science papers, and I’m amazed that so many of them get published with such trivial results.

  89. Earle Williams
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

    streamtracker:

    I would appreciate the full reference so I can judge for myself.

    Full reference indeed:

    http://climatesci.org should get you started. :-)

  90. Luis Dias
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 5:11 PM | Permalink

    I don’t understand the bitterness that some people show in here. This is a personal BLOG which contains, *gasp*, personal opinions about things. It so happens that mr. Steve McIntyre does not appreciate the methodology that often times climatologists have, by putting into magazines such as “Science” resumés of their own works, having full support of the media and the scientists in general, and then fail to disclosure their work, as they ARE OBLIGED TO DO.

    It is maddening to see other fields, like maths, to do precisely the contrary and the speed of events is like optical cable speed compared with climatologist’s horse mail. I got the joke and I completely fail to be in the “skeptical” “demonic” side of GW. This seems to be a very sensible critique on the system, and I for one, would like it to be seriously addressed, rather than being attacked such as some posters here are doing.

  91. CodeTech
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 5:20 PM | Permalink

    Steve, thanks so VERY much for the laugh today!

    I feel bad for Li, there’s no way it can be fun to find a hole in a proof. And I freely confess that I have absolutely no idea what it’s even about. Are they still trying to get the Stargate working?

    Reading through the comments (which I always do), it’s clear the majority “got it”.

  92. Jaye
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 5:35 PM | Permalink

    Small point…mathematics is not a science. Its mathematics and nothing else. Results are proven conclusively (apart from a few glitches like Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem) not temporarily held up by the latest batch of supporting experiments. Apart from that

    THE POST WAS FREAKIN’ HILARIOUS!

  93. Tolz
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 5:40 PM | Permalink

    streamtracker,

    To be intellectually fair, I think you should advance even one paper referenced by the IPCC that supports significant AGW to this blog for discussion. You have to tell us what you think the significant AGW “conclusion” is. You will “very likely” find a number of posters able to beat it up, but do so objectively and with regard to how well the conclusion is scientifically supported by the paper.

  94. Jaye
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 5:43 PM | Permalink

    In a mathematical sense, I concede that the number of papers using these terms is countable.

    Steve I have to disagree. Since most of these papers are irrational, then there have to be uncountably many of them.

  95. don
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 6:52 PM | Permalink

    Very good. Speaking of irony, real climate has a whole how to article on cooking data and fudging climate graphs in three easy lessons, in the interest of recognizing bad climate science. Perhaps the article was a joke? When I inquired if anyone had seen a hockey stick lurking around, speaking of cooking data, my question wasn’t posted. Oh well.

  96. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 6:54 PM | Permalink

    #89 Thanks Earle.

  97. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 6:56 PM | Permalink

    #93,

    Actually, you miss my point entirely. It’s not about one paper, it about analyzing the a broad spectrum of papers. So, intellectually it is about a total different exercise. And no I won’t perform that meta-analysis.

  98. Patrick Henry
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:00 PM | Permalink

    The proof may not be valid now due to “natural variations” in mathematics, but over the next 15 years it will accelerate towards a tipping point of correctness. Within 80 years, mathematics as we know it will become uninhabitable.

  99. MrPete
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:05 PM | Permalink

    streamtracker, the problem is, many of us are having a hard time finding rock-solid papers in support of AGW elements. Particulary in certain sub-areas. Example: Strip Bark BCP’s (BristleCone Pines) are one crucial factor in historical reconstructions. Find us ONE rock-solid paper supporting such use. You won’t find it.

    This is not “meta analysis.” This is a search for Waldo, who has been missing for quite a long time.

    It really IS about “one paper”… the respected paper none of us can find… the paper that everyone can rely on to provide a solid basis for future work. Where’s the BCP paper? The UHI paper? The 2.5 degree CO2 paper? etc etc etc…

    When nobody can produce such papers, many of us are forced to suggest that perhaps more humility is needed…that perhaps we don’t know as much as we think we do. We’re not saying AGW is wrong. We’re saying the science is weak.

  100. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:06 PM | Permalink

    Jaye,

    Since most of these papers are irrational, then there have to be uncountably many of them.

    Tsk, tsk, Jaye. You’re confusing a number with an uncountable number of digits with an uncountable number of numbers. Consider n*pi (where n is an integer). There are a countably infinite number of such numbers each with an uncountable number of digits. OTOH, there are an uncountable number of numbers of the form c*pi where c is a real number. Of course, if c is a real climate, all bets are off!

  101. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:10 PM | Permalink

    Earle, Actually I take that back. That’s cute but I really don’t need a primer in inductive reasoning. Anybody have the full reference mentioned in post #84.

    McIntyre, Pielke et al have documented across-the-board biases in selection and treatment of papers referenced by IPCC, supposedly a broad based, even-handed review of “all” climate science. The fact that they exclude some and give a pass to others is not a slur on the whole field… but the fact that there’s little or no outcry about such things IS a reproach to the whole field, if not to all of science.

    Is that a reference for journals articles? Did they do a systematic meta-analysis to support that assertion regarding IPCC? I’m sorry as a biologist I don’t rely on websites for my information on biology, I go to the peer-reviewed journals. I’m not sure why I should do otherwise for climate science. I’m an outsider to this field and I don’t care if the issue is pro or anti I ‘m still going to the journals for the last word.

  102. Jaye
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:16 PM | Permalink

    No Dave, there are uncountably many irrational numbers. Period. Google, “irrational numbers uncountable”…and despair.

    • hotandcoldEV
      Posted Feb 2, 2010 at 3:22 PM | Permalink

      Just wow. That is sooo out of touch.

      I’m a professional mathematician and it’s now *absolutely necessary* to go to the blogs to find out what is going on. (By the blogs I mean those like Terry Tao’s & so on.)

      (btw, thanks also to whoever bumped the thread.)

  103. rwnj
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:18 PM | Permalink

    C’mon steamtracker, show us the intellectually rigorous paper that proves AGW. You are very indignant about something. Let’s see it. If you can’t point to the thing that you are defending, you should just go away.

  104. Jaye
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:21 PM | Permalink

    Or you can google this “Cantor’s diagonalization argument”…

  105. Jaye
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:23 PM | Permalink

    Either way you will be wrong and you will have been wrong whilst, tsk tsking somebody…very embarrassing, imo.

  106. rwnj
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:28 PM | Permalink

    Jaye is correct. The irrationals are uncountable.

  107. John M
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:38 PM | Permalink

    Steamtracker

    Google: pielke ipcc bias

    Click on the first hit.

    Here are some others that are related:

    Another Example Of CCSP Bias In The Report “Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate”

    This is also interesting:

    Use Of Winds To Diagnose Long Term Temperature Trends – Two New Papers

  108. John M
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:45 PM | Permalink

    Whoops,

    Sorry, didn’t notice your moniker is streamtracker.

  109. David Jay
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:46 PM | Permalink

    Don’t you just love it when someone shows up who is so confident of themselves but isn’t even aware of the core controversies?

    Steamtracker, come back after you have read MM05

    (certifiably peer reviewed)

  110. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:46 PM | Permalink

    Hey nixon gave a bunch of tapes. only 18 minutes were missing. Thompson and Jones are isolated cases. 18 minute gaps. Focus on all the other stuff.
    Look over here……see the shiny thing.

    On another note analyzing corpi using word frequency is a first order wack at things. That actually might make an interesting community project of we can assemble the Corpi.

    So you might start with the words Steve mentions and add some to it.

    “rigorous”, “conservative” or “robust”

    Now, what is so interesting about these words from a rhetorical point of view
    is that they are self Endorsing.

    “My argument here is flimsy. My argument here has holes.”

    When you see the version that are self defeating, then you understand the rhetoric of self endorsing.

    So, It would be instructive to compile a list of self endorsing phrases and words and see if journals differed in their propensity to allow such subtle
    rhetoric. Trust me, I understand this stuff better than anyone here.

  111. Jaye
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:46 PM | Permalink

    I’m sorry as a biologist I don’t rely on websites for my information on biology, I go to the peer-reviewed journals. I’m not sure why I should do otherwise for climate science. I’m an outsider to this field and I don’t care if the issue is pro or anti I ‘m still going to the journals for the last word.

    …said the robot.

  112. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:48 PM | Permalink

    #103

    I wasn’t defending anything. Read my comments more carefully. I was focused on a very specific issue. I was asking for a rigorous analysis of the problems with reporting methodology in climate science. My issue was with the anecdotal nature of Steve’s assertions and my contention that to make such a statement requires more rigorous analysis. I have no vested interest in the outcome and if Steve does a rigorous analysis and he does find systematic problems, I would be very grateful for his efforts. Just as I was grateful for his contributions regarding the jump in the GISS data set from 1999 to 2000 and his contribution to the debate on the Hockey Stick issue. The later he tackled in a rigorous manner. What I’d like to know is has he found a few exceptional instances of poor reporting of methodology or is it more systematic. To show it is systemic requires a broader analysis.

    I was hoping that someone could lead me to such a reference (in a peer-reviewed source).

  113. Tolz
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:52 PM | Permalink

    Streamtracker,

    If you’re really sincere, that you are in search of the “truth” one way or another about Global Warming, and that so far you are inclined to trust peer reviewed journals, then surely you have read ONE study that is compelling; that you found well-documented to support a significant AGW stance. You pick! Send it here and tell us what the conclusion is. It’ll be a good exercise to demonstrate, in the case of climate science, the shortcomings of “peer review”. Because if you can’t do that, you are just a heckler asking for chapter and verse about the “broad spectrum” of papers. Bring something to the party to demonstrate you have “a point”.

  114. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 7:53 PM | Permalink

    Jaye,

    No Dave, there are uncountably many irrational numbers. Period. Google, “irrational numbers uncountable”…and despair.

    As I said, you’re making an error. In this case a logical error. Your logic is the equivalent of:

    The number of irrationals is uncountable
    Papers of type C are irrational
    Therefore papers of type C are uncountable

    compare this to:

    Some mortals are (all)men
    Fido is a mortal
    therefore Fido is a man.

    QED

  115. Dishman
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:02 PM | Permalink

    steamtracker #101 wrote:

    I’m sorry as a biologist I don’t rely on websites for my information on biology, I go to the peer-reviewed journals. I’m not sure why I should do otherwise for climate science. I’m an outsider to this field and I don’t care if the issue is pro or anti I ‘m still going to the journals for the last word.

    You seem to have missed a major point of the original post. That is, the proof was posted online and broken by blog posts. Papers published online can get more eyes faster. The reviewers tend to be less merciful. Original authors can update their papers much faster. Best of all, the authors can and are expected to provide all their supporting data.

    What we’re missing is a nice way of maintaining papers that also captures the review process such that later searchers can quickly evaluate how thoroughly (and brutally) a paper was reviewed.

    Ideas are not people. They have no feelings or cares. I believe that ideas should be abused, bludgeoned, shredded and otherwise brutalized. If they still stand after that, maybe they have some validity. If they break like Xian-Jin Li’s proof, then they weren’t ready for prime-time anyway. Maybe someone will find something of value in the wreckage.

  116. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:08 PM | Permalink

    #111 Jay,

    That’s a really weak statement to make. To bad you had to resort to a personal insult.

    While I do recognize that there are issues with the peer-reviewed system of science, I do not believe that we are at the point were science by blogs is better. Not even close. So, until you figure out a way to add rigor to this form of scientific inquiry, I need to stick with what has worked to advance my field of science quite well.

    I actually think that the peer-reviewed system of science in the long run is self correcting. And if the science of AGW is an emperor with no clothes, it will eventually come to light within the system. Perhaps with some nudging from folks like Steve. But, to be effective he will have to go beyond anecdotal reports (documentation) to a more systematic analysis of the field. Otherwise robots like me will remain no more than curious about his work, and yet be unable to be convinced of any broader assertions.

  117. Jaye
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:09 PM | Permalink

    Dave,

    Maybe I can rephrase for you…

    The number of irrationals is uncountable
    …then the rest is a joke, not a logical proposition.

    And Tsk, tsking somebody…dude you must be a real [self snip].

  118. MrPete
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:10 PM | Permalink

    Streamtracker, you’re asking for something that is, sadly, well nigh a logical impossibility:

    …I was asking for a rigorous analysis of the problems with reporting methodology in climate science.

    …What I’d like to know is has he found a few exceptional instances of poor reporting of methodology or is it more systematic. To show it is systemic requires a broader analysis.

    …I was hoping that someone could lead me to such a reference (in a peer-reviewed source).

    Problem is, it’s the peer-reviewed sources that contain poor methodology.

    If there is such a problem, you’re asking foxes to peer review an article demonstrating that foxes have a problem.

    And it does not require peer review to demonstrate a problem. Witness the subject of this thread. The topic was math. Guess what: Steve is a (statistical) maths guy. And the work he’s auditing is (statistical) math. It is his area of deep specialization.

    When someone is proven mathematically or statistically wrong, they’re proven wrong. You can argue if you like, but the game’s over. Except in some circles of climate science. With certain “veins” of research and researchers, he hits the same people, same obfuscation, over and over and over. Not a single case of proper archiving from some of them. Not a single case of proper analysis from others. Etc etc. This has been going on for years now, streamtracker.

    My wife’s a biologist too. At first she was VERY skeptical about the crazy things I was sharing with her from Steve’s escapades. But after a while, you begin to recognize that there’s a bit of a Very Real Problem. I’m related to other scientists, including climate scientists. No, they’re not ALL doing poor science. But some most definitely are. It is shocking. Why do you think so many very real scientists hang out here? This is a big concern to more and more people.

    And I guarantee we’re not all planet-desecrating gas-guzzling SUV lovers. :-D

  119. rwnj
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:15 PM | Permalink

    #116 My meta-analysis of ClimateAudit leads to the conclusion that there are serious flaws with peer review. To ask for confirmation of CA’s assertions in a peer-reviewed article is to miss an essential point. The papers that have been analysed on this blog are widely quoted and are written by the prominent people in the field. The failures of Nature and other journals documented here are not a case of a few mistakes slipping by; they are the failures of deliberate obstruction. Systemic and intentional errors are very different from unbiased statistical errors.

  120. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:19 PM | Permalink

    What I’d like to know is has he found a few exceptional instances of poor reporting of methodology or is it more systematic. To show it is systemic requires a broader analysis.

    I was hoping that someone could lead me to such a reference (in a peer-reviewed source).

    There’s a difference between an audit and making a generalized hypothesis. Let’s suppose that, as an auditor, you pulled a few large invoices from a company’s balance sheet and looked at them and found problems with them. That doesn’t prove that all the invoices are problematic, but it means that internal controls were inadequate to detect these problems and that you need to look into things. Maybe you pulled the only bad invoices in the system by sheer chance. However, having pulled a few bad invoices, you couldn’t conclude that everything was hunky-dory; the auditors would be obliged to expand the scope of their operations and really look at the accounts in greatly expanded detail, whereas, if the sample had not turned up any problems, they would not necessarily need to go any further. I realize that this is not necessarily how academics do things, but academic forms of due diligence are not the only systems of due diligence in the world.

    Let’s stipulate for a moment that I may have identified material defects in at least a couple of papers prominently displayed by IPCC. It’s far beyond my resources as a private individual to carry out comprehensive due diligence on the entire field of climate science, flattering as it is for you to think that I am enough of a polymath to venture on such a task. However, it’s not something that I can do nor plan to do. All I can do as an individual is to write about individual articles and issues that interest me. But I submit that, if I’ve shown QC defects in articles prominently used by IPCC that survived their supposedly “rigorous” due diligence, the onus is thereafter not on me to show that the problem extends beyond the papers that I’ve studied, but on the climate science community proposing policy changes to show that their QC is adequate, something that they haven’t shown the faintest interest in.

    There is little comprehension in the field of the value of independence in a review. IPCC reviewers nearly always have a horse in the race and do not act as “independent” reviewers in the way that a financial auditor or consulting geologist for a qualifying report do. I haven';t prescribed an alternative, I merely put the issue out there. Mann was not a good choice as IPCC author reviewing his own work, nor was Briffa better choice in AR4.

    If you don’t like the example of financial statements, consider the example of a QC defect in a product. If some defective samples come in, you don’t say to the customer – prove that all our products are defective. You apologize to the customer and look at your quality control methods and try to see where they broke down. If you’re a supplier to a company under a big contract and you have a few off-spec samples, you don’t stonewall them. Figuring out the QC problem becomes the #1 priority of the business from the president to the janitor.

    steamtracker, even in a satirical article, I don’t see the generalizations that you attribute to me; maybe there’s the odd phrase here and there, but, if you’re committed to textual analysis, you might start by considering such statements in the context of the extensive corpus on this blog.

    Also consider that I’ve said on many occasions that, if I had a big policy job, I would rely on the views of formal institutions like IPCC, regardless of my personal views. People have asked me to say more than this or something different than this but I’ve resisted. If I viewed the IPCC handling of the HS as typical of their entire corpus, then I could not take this position. By taking the position that I have, I have not extrapolated from defects in the papers that I’ve examined in detail to all of climate science, as you’ve accused me of. Think about it.

  121. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:22 PM | Permalink

    117,

    Well Jay, I guess robots come with all sort of different operating systems. That’s just an observation.

    And nice touch insulting my discipline while your at it.

  122. Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:22 PM | Permalink

    Re: Streamtracker

    I actually think that the peer-reviewed system of science in the long run is self correcting. And if the science of AGW is an emperor with no clothes, it will eventually come to light within the system.

    1. In the long run, we’ll all be dead. Meanwhile, if its wrong, we’re paying for the consequences.
    2. We’ve seen that often enough, mistakes are only acknowledged and then corrected when they criticized outside the system. For example, the downfall of Hwang Woo Suk was due to assiduous bloggers actually checking his results, not by colleagues.

    The peer-review system has been systematically undermined by small groups of people reviewing each other’s work because supposedly they were the only people who could review the work.

    Its better, in my view, for results with data and methodology to be posted online and everybody gets to see it.

    Every mathematician makes a mistake or an assumption too far, but the open review process insists on rigorous proof of every non-trivial statement.

    What’s great about the case of Xian-Jin Li is that he is still an excellent mathematician, who undoubtedly will do good work in the future. There’s no shame in being wrong about something that’s really hard to solve.

    And to his credit Xian-Jin Li withdrew the flawed proof. Would that others have the testicular fortitude to do the same.

  123. John M
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:24 PM | Permalink

    Streamtracker #116

    If your intent is just to make a point that Steve Mc hasn’t published a lot, you’re not the first to make that point. This is a blog by a non-climate scientist who has made an astounding amount of progress and gained a lot of grudging respect from “true” climate scientists, peer-reviewed or not. As others have said, try to catch up on what folks have been discussing here.

    If you’re interested in peer reviewed papers, there are plenty of them out there, a couple by Steve, lots by Pielke and others.

    I’ve already pointed you to Pielke’s site. Here’s another peer-reviewed paper by Pielke. Is nation-wide systematic enough for you?

    http://climatesci.colorado.edu/publications/pdf/R-318.pdf

  124. BarryW
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 8:30 PM | Permalink

    Re 120

    But with the QC analogy when a process is out of tolerance you shut down the operation until you can correct the problem instead of continuing to make defective products. How many samples do you need to identify that the climate analysis is too defective to use for policy decisions? An audit also usually requires the organization being audited to justify that the rest of the material the audit was a subset of is not defective. I don’t see either being done by the climate research or policy communities.

  125. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:24 PM | Permalink

    #120

    Steve, thank you for your thorough response.

    As I have already stated my perspective is that of a biologist and controversies in my field affect how I view controversies within the field of AGW. In my field the theory of evolution has been challenged and often the challenges consist of instances where a handful of papers are refuted and this is then used to caste doubt on the entire field of evolutionary biology. What the challengers fail to understand is that the theory of evolution is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and each of those lines is supported by thousands of research papers. Finding a handful of problematic papers does not mean that whole edifice of evolutionary biology comes tumbling down.

    I am glad you set me straight on your viewpoint about climate science and made it clear that you do not feel that the theory of AGW comes tumbling down because of problems with a handful of papers. It seems to me that in some ways AGW is similar to evolutionary theory in that there are multiple lines of independent evidence to support its main ideas. For this analogy to be sound I would have to assume that the pillars of AGW are as strong as those of evolutionary biology. I need more time to study climate science before I can decide either way.

    However, I still can not get past this issue of making general statements based on a few anecdotal examples. If you’ll please bear with me.

    You state:

    I typically avoid generalizations as much as possible. Even in a satirical article, I don’t see the generalizations that you attribute to me; maybe there’s the odd phrase here and there, but, if you’re committed to textual analysis, you might start by considering such statements in the context of the extensive corpus on this blog.

    Yet early in the comment you make this undeniably broad generalization:

    There is also little comprehension in the field of the value of independence in a review. IPCC reviewers nearly always have a horse in the race and do not act as “independent” reviewers in the way…

    That is really a very damning charge. So, I really want to see your broader evidence for that assertion. At this point I do not know your work well enough to trust such a statement. I now that if someone made that generalization regarding my field, I would expect them to back it up with a thorough analysis.

    Perhaps the thorough analysis of that broad assertion is buried in this website. Although, I agree that it would be a tremendous amount of work for you to do a meta-analysis of the review process in the field of climate science as a whole, I think it would be quite reasonable for you to index your site in such a way that it would make it easier for folks like me to find the body of evidence you have assembled for any given broader assertion you have made. Given my limited time I could then more easily explore what you have to say. Currently when I follow your link entitled “Peer review” it takes me to only one post regarding one paper.

    Steve: The indexing on the blog is a problem. In editor mode, I can locate things much better than readers can and I’d like WordPress to make this form of access available to readers (without entitling them to edit things). It’s hard for me to spend the time indexing things.

    As to the category “peer review”, I was surprised when you drew this category to my attention as I don’t recall initiating the category or making the keyword to the post in question (but I do forget things from time to time unfortunately). I had to look it up myself. There are a couple of people with editor access and I suspect that one of them may have added this category and the keyword on the post in question – which isn’t a particularly convincing explanation, I realize, but would perhaps explain why this category has only one entry, something that’s pretty atypical of the other categories on the left frame.

  126. jae
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:34 PM | Permalink

    Streamtracker: You might understand better if you read the Wegman Report that followed Steve’s presentation at (NAS?). It’s here somewhere.

  127. Jaye
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:38 PM | Permalink

    120 is an interesting post. I see your main points and believe them to be accurate, however I have trouble reconciling this statement

    But I submit that, if I’ve shown QC defects in articles prominently used by IPCC that survived their supposedly “rigorous” due diligence, the onus is thereafter not on me to show that the problem extends beyond the papers that I’ve studied, but on the climate science community proposing policy changes to show that their QC is adequate, something that they haven’t shown the faintest interest in.

    with this bit

    Also consider that I’ve said on many occasions that, if I had a big policy job, I would rely on the views of formal institutions like IPCC, regardless of my personal views. People have asked me to say more than this or something different than this but I’ve resisted. If I viewed the IPCC handling of the HS as typical of their entire corpus, then I could not take this position. By taking the position that I have, I have not extrapolated from defects in the papers that I’ve examined in detail to all of climate science

    Are you making a distinction between the possible discovery of a defective QC process and the body of work that the QC process should regulate? That must be what you are saying.

  128. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:42 PM | Permalink

    #127 Jae, thanks. I’ve already read it. I’ve only read one other document that was as tedious and that was the judges findings in Dover, PA evolution trial. The Wegman is a great source of info regarding the Mann issue, but it really does not address my specific issue.

    Steve: I do not permit discussion of evolution on this blog and will delete any further posts in which this word occurs. It leads to pointless discussions and unilluminating comparisons. If you have valid points, make them. But the other topic will not be tolerated here even as an anology. I’m not going to snip or comment further; such posts are automatic deletes.

  129. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 9:50 PM | Permalink

    There is also little comprehension in the field of the value of independence in a review. IPCC reviewers nearly always have a horse in the race and do not act as “independent” reviewers in the way…

    That is really a very damning charge

    It’s a matter of record that Mann wrote the section of IPCC TAR promoting his own work, while Briffa wrote the corresponding section of IPCC AR4 promoting his own work. I’m not the only person to make this criticism. von Storch made the same point back in 2005 when the matter was more topical. I think that I posted on it at the time.

    The issue is nontrivial – IPCC argues that they have got the most qualified specialists to write their reviews. But there’s a difference between that and being independent. Company geologists are the most knowledgeable about their own ore body, but they don’t write the independent qualifying reports. In financial transactions, the value of independence has been learned over the ages.

    Here are a couple of posts on the conflict of interest involved in IPCC authors reviewing their own work. here here. Look at the links as well. In one of them, von Storch says of IPCC reviewer independence:

    In this case, I find the inquiry of Rep. Barton to be valid. The IPCC has failed to ensure that the assessment reports, which shall review the existing published knowledge and knowledge claims, should have been prepared by scientists not significantly involved in the research themselves. Instead, the IPCC has chosen to invite scientists, who dominate the debate about the considered issues, to participate in the assessment. This was already in the Second Assessment Report a contested problem, and the IPCC would have done better in inviting other, considerably more independent scientists for this task. Instead, the IPCC has asked scientists like Professor Mann to review his own work. This does not represent an “independent” review.

  130. streamtracker
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:17 PM | Permalink

    #125

    Steve thank you for your reply. The issue of QC in climate science is something I need to think more about.

    One issue I have with your QC analogy is that unlike a centralized industrial facility, the endeavor of climate science (science in general) is widely distributed in dozens of journals, many independent research groups, and several subdisciplines. It wouldn’t be reasonable to put the onus on all factories in a given industry to get their act together if one particular factory had issues. To extend that to science, if a particular problem was found with how immunologists deal with peer-review, I would not expect biologists of all subdisciplines to have to undergo the kind of scrutiny I would expect of immunologists.

    Again I think it would be useful to know which particular journals, research groups, or subdisciplines might have problems and to focus attention on those. Again perhaps some of that info is buried in your site.

    Thanks for the informative and lively discussion. I really have sign out for the night.

  131. kuhnkat
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:17 PM | Permalink

    Streamtracker,

    it is interesting that you are requiring a man, posting on an open blog, to be more rigorous than the people who have been a problem for him posting in respected journals.

    Proof?? Climate scientists claim they can not even prove their “science”. Yet, you apparently want detailed, documented “proof” that would hold up in a court that far exceeds anything that the so-called “climate science” has ever been put through.

    I will personally make time to help Steve organise his “proof” as soon as you require the same from RealClimate and other “Climate Scientists” AND THEY ACTUALLY DELIVER!! I am sure others would volunteer also.

    Until then, try reading the posts which document the many interchanges with those involved in the issues with Steve and others, You may also try your skill at understanding what Steve and others have posted here in respect to evaluating the papers and claims that were made for them.

    Until you have done some homework you have no RIGHT to a product which would be quite EXPENSIVE in terms of man hours to deliver!!!! Yes, unlike many gubmint employees (note I said many and not all) Steve and the others associated with these events must work for a living. I would think that you could probably negotiate a price for your request of PROOF!!!!

  132. Ross McKitrick
    Posted Jul 7, 2008 at 10:31 PM | Permalink

    Streamtracker: first, note that the humor in Steve’s blog post takes a bit of a trained ear to “get”. If you don’t know why wisecracks about the language of “rigorous”, “conservative” etc are funny, that’s fine. It’s a bit like Monty Python. You get it or you don’t. This post was funny, if you know the history.

    You want an example about Nature: Steve’s and my interaction with them was written up a few years ago here. It was a long process and it’s a long read. You will, perhaps, waive it away as unpersuasive. Well I was there, and I know what happened, it was a rotten business by people who were determined to squelch legitimate but embarassing criticism of a paper they dearly wanted to protect. Bear in mind that during that whole process we had no access to Mann’s code nor could we identify his data (his disclosure consisted of a site with hundreds of unindexed files, most of which were not part of the final calculation). Look at the 2nd last paragraph:

    Reluctance on the part of Mann et al. and Nature to produce the results for their “experiments, ” and in particular for the AD1400 step, would be one thing if the source code that generated them were available; but the refusal to provide either one is completely unjustifiable, especially since Nature based its decision against our paper, in part, on claims about the RE statistics that can only be verified by looking at the “experiment” results. We surmise, based on our implementation of the methodology, that the R-squared and Coefficient of Efficiency (as this is defined in paleoclimate studies) statistics fail to reach statistical significance for the AD1400 step. It may also show that there are other problems in MBH98 besides the ones that we have described already. We already know that the adverse results from the bristlecone pine sensitivity study were not disclosed.

    Rather prophetic — the r2 and CE scores indeed proved that Mann’s results were insignificant not just for the AD1400 step but right into the 1700s, and we know he calculated them in his code without reporting them. The NAS report even contains a section on r2 and CE tests arising from this controversy, but they couldn’t bring themselves to mention the fact, that came up during the panel questioning, that he denied calculating the tests even though the code had been released by then and it contains the calculations. Etc. etc. If none of this strikes you as problematic then you will find most of the concerns around this site to be a mystery.

    For examples of IPCC bias, deletions, fabrications etc. that I encountered while working as an expert reviewer on AR4 see http://ross.mckitrick.googlepages.com/McKitrick.final.pdf which is a chapter in a forthcoming book.

  133. Larry Hulden
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 1:11 AM | Permalink

    Streamtracker said:
    “It seems to me that in some ways AGW is similar to ************ ****** in that there are multiple lines of independent evidence to support its main ideas. For this analogy to be sound I would have to assume that the pillars of AGW are as strong as those of ************ *******.”
    The pillars of AGW are not that strong because of weakness in documentations of data and methods. It is still not possible to establish that recent increase in temperatures differ from noise levels of natural variation.
    Big issues like ************ ****** and continental drift are conclusions from ROBUST lines of evidence. Steve has shown in his blog and GRL that hockey stick is not supported by any robust evidence. Each paper claimed to have supported hockey stick have been shown to encounter statistical problems.
    Papers claiming that insects have shifted northwards because of AGW include methodological errors (actual temperatures have not even been used, frequency changes are intermixed with distributional changes etc).
    According to IPCC malaria is said to increase with AGW. Still malaria disappeared from large parts of the world when temperature increased between 1860 and 1950. Malaria was widespread with more than 130 endemic sites in Yakutia in the 1920’s-1950’s. In 1926 when northern hemisphere low (-71 C) was measured IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRANSMISSION SEASON about 1000 cases of malaria were registered. In 1933 -67 C was measured with about 12,000 cases of malaria. We can of course relate this increase in malaria cases to the increased minimum temperature unless we remember that malaria is principally spread indoors. Unfortunately IPCC do not remember these facts.

  134. Gaudenz Mischol
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 1:18 AM | Permalink

    Streamtracker says

    One issue I have with your QC analogy is that unlike a centralized industrial facility, the endeavor of climate science (science in general) is widely distributed in dozens of journals, many independent research groups, and several subdisciplines

    independent like all the groups using the same tree-ring data (as shown in the Wegman report) to come to same conclusion? Really independent, and on this IPCC heavily relies on. So maybe you see why many of us are sceptical about this proof of AGW.

  135. Dishman
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 5:37 AM | Permalink

    Streamtracker says

    One issue I have with your QC analogy is that unlike a centralized industrial facility, the endeavor of climate science (science in general) is widely distributed in dozens of journals, many independent research groups, and several subdisciplines.

    There are other significant common elements.

    Actual temperature measurements come from three sources, satellite data, surface stations and ocean measurements. Problems with the surface stations are documented at SurfaceStations.org. Satellite data can be found in recent threads here and does not show any recent warming. It’s my understanding that the ocean measurements don’t show any recent warming, either.

    Two of the biggest tools used (GISTEMP and GISS GCM) come out of NASA GISS. NASA GISS apparently does not believe in Software Assurance. From a Software Safety standpoint, all value of redundancy goes away if there is a system or software flaw, as that flaw will be faithfully reproduced across all redundant systems. Worse, it creates an illusion of safety that diverges from the underlying reality.

    If you’re looking at 50 different live videos of a coin being tossed, what are the odds that they will all come out the same? If all the cameras are looking at the same coin, the odds are 100%.

  136. MrPete
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 6:16 AM | Permalink

    A comment about the community “conversation”…

    FWIW – perhaps some readers don’t get that Stream-Tracker, whoever she or he is, is a biologist, not an AGW-proponent. It’s Stream, not Steam. I know it’s easy to slip to ‘Steam’ but do let’s pay a little respect to fellow professionals, ok?

    I would hope you can see that StreamTracker’s line of questioning has every mark of a professional coming here to honestly discover what the fuss is all about. “We” (I know, how can you herd a bunch of CAts) need to recognize that CA is a fun-loving blog created by a fun-loving guy, with a very serious mandate that is shocking to professionals in the field.

    Perhaps there needs to be two new “introductory” elements at CA:

    1) A ‘frequent commenter intro’ category where professionals (of ANY discipline — this is a multidisciplinary herd if there ever was one) can attach a few CV attributions to their online moniker.

    Perhaps it’s a list Steve maintains but I want to keep it easy for him. The point of this: enable newbies to understand that CA’s frequent contributors are a ragtag bunch of peanut gallery commenters who happen to be competent professionals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a wonderfully multidisciplinary group before! Part of what makes this beautiful is that Steve’s requirement that everyone leave politics and religion at the door, gives us the discipline to focus on the topic at hand even though we represent disparate views on the banned topics. (I don’t even want to see an analysis of the range of opinions on banned topics. Sometimes, innocence really is bliss, enabling us to enjoy being together without other perspectives coloring the conversation, important as those other topics may be.)

    2) A ‘CA netiquette’ category introducing some of the challenges involved in approaching/evaluating CA’s interactions, both from a “newbie” and a “long term lurker” perspective.

    CA represents some pretty unique challenges both to professionals new to the blogosphere and to experienced blogistas. For example:

    ——————————————————————————-
    Learn to distinguish the Inquisitive Professional from the Experienced Troll
    There’s a significant, perhaps subtle, difference between…

    Curious Professional Scientist (or Grad Student) visits, deeply appreciative of peer-review science:
    * They observe a lot of pretty upsetting charges and counter-charges (‘published with no valid supporting data!’ ‘why can’t you see 2.5c CO2 is well documented’)
    * Traumatized, they go into shock. Yes, many of the attributes we’ve all heard about: anger, denial, etc etc.

    Their postings tend to be:
    * In defense of peer review (it is the best thing we’ve got and eventually will self-correct)
    * In defense of the professional community (I’m a scientist! Who are you to denigrate science? Climate science in general? A “hockey team” working out of Boulder/NASA/??? This is upsetting!)
    * Asking for ‘proof’ of claims (You’ve got to show me something better than ____)

    Distinguishing factors:
    * They do not post endless repetition of tired, unsupported claims in defense of some aspect of AGW.
    * They respect good professional insight. They will (eventually) be able to write in recognition of well-made points, without immediately changing the topic

    Experienced Troll visits, bent on defending the honor of AGW or destroying the credibility of CA or at least distracting CA’s readers:
    * They observe a community in “vigorous discussion” and charge into the fray

    Their postings tend to be:
    * In defense of ANY element they perceive will support the honor of AGW and its proponents
    * Unable to concede any point, no matter how valid. Rather than agree and complete the conversation, they’ll go silent on that issue (for a time) and quickly change topics

    Distinguishing factors:
    * Their agenda is not really science, it is, and ultimately feels like, PR for AGW.
    * They tend to be unable to give up unsupported and unsupportable arguments. Eventually, they get snipped. Worst case, they get banned (Banning is VERY rare here. Unbelievably rare.)

    How To Act


    * Do Bee: a professional
    * Don’t Bee: a Troll

    * Do assume new posters are Curious Professionals unless proven otherwise
    * When reading past comments, recognize there’s a mix of Professionals and Trolls here. And ALL of us have been learning the difference over time. This is a living, breathing community. With all the warts.

    Just sayin’

  137. Craig Loehle
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 6:29 AM | Permalink

    Streamtracker: almost the entire corpus of major papers on 1) paleoclimate reconstructions and 2) the surface temperature record have been audited on this site and Watts’ site. Almost all of the papers and/or databases (e.g. GISS) have serious issues such as nondisclosure, proxies that are very questionable (bristlecones), code that does not seem to work or does not do what it claims (e.g. adjust UHI in Hansen’s code), missing data that should not be missing (GISS world coverage), unjustified and uncodumented adjustments of weather station data, clearly incorrect maths & stats, and on and on. The entire body of this work is published by authors who mostly do not diclose methods, data, or code, including gatekeepers of the two dominant global temperature data sets, Jones & Hansen. I’m sorry that you need to read this entire blog to see all this, but it is here. Some of the criticism has come out in peer review papers–I’m attempting to do my part with 1 last year in E&E.

  138. MrPete
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 6:56 AM | Permalink

    Ross (132),

    Wow. That paper/chapter is incredible. I love the loss-of-uncertainty progression. And the T3 Tax, tied to objective measures of AGW, is a persuasive way to inject objectivity into the process.

    Attaching economic incentives to nature rather than man’s biases would glue our attention to real science. (My summary)

    I hope your insight in this is not lost in the discussion. This is something every real scientist could support.

  139. AndyW
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 7:01 AM | Permalink

    I’m no expert on scientific literature but the maths “paper” described by Steve also shows the problem with stuff that is put into the big wide world without peer review. Ok, the correction was made later but already the genie is out of the bottle and it is hard to know how many people still think it has been solved because they watched youtube and not the highly mathematical blogs (I am assuming here that youtube is more popular than highly mathmatical blogs here of course). There’s undoubtably unreviewed papers still out there that are wrong and have not been pulled and are still being quoted. Such is the curse of the fast access to information we live in nowadays. That is why, with all it’s possible faults and being open to protectionism, peer review is still important.

    In the old days of course it took a while for it to get down to the people who did not understand it and could misquote it in ignorance like me! I’m thinking here of quantum mechanics in the 1920’s where there was a lot of debate but it was all amongst people brains the size of small planets and it was eventually thrashed out and fed down to us with some constraints and guidance on the possibilities of the competing theories. Imagine if that had happened today, realquantum web site this and quantumauditnotpossible that. Imagine the heated debate

    So in summary, both types of presenting scientific knowledge have their pro’s and con’s.

  140. Pierre Gosselin
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 7:54 AM | Permalink

    Please allow me to translate no. 140:
    Steve McIntyre, who a few years back together with Ross McKitrick dismantled the hockey stick – the icon of the 3rd IPCC Report – has used the case of the falsely proven Riemann hypothesis to illustrate in a very fascinating and pleasureable way today’s state of climate research – a must read!

    German’s never write with short sentences…part of original text has been editted.
    You’ve got fans and readers in Germany too, Steve.

  141. Carl Gullans
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 7:56 AM | Permalink

    Steamtracker (#130),

    To continue the analogies a bit further, you should know that the stated goal of ClimateAudit is to audit the papers cited by the IPCC’s assessment reports. This is one whole body that can be found at fault. If there are 500 drug companies, and 10 of them produce bad or harmful drugs, it is no comment on the quality of the other 490 companies. But surely one must find fault with the FDA that gives all of them a pass without more than cursery investigation, evades questioning of their QC methods, and worst of all refuses to accept that the 10 drug companies (proven by assay to be harmful) should not be relied upon.

  142. Ross McKitrick
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 8:09 AM | Permalink

    Mr Pete – Thank you kindly.

  143. pat
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 8:39 AM | Permalink

    Re: #102 jaye and #106 rwnj “the irrational numbers are uncountable”
    Wrong: the infinite set of irrationals that are algebraic is denumeral. The set of trancendental numbers is non-denumeral i.e. constitutes the set of the contnuum

    Steve:
    Enough already. They were having fun with “irrational” and “uncountable” and there is no need for parsing.

  144. mhummer
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 9:00 AM | Permalink

    Ross post 132

    You referenced your PDF for an upcoming book – nice work btw. Here is an errant sentence from page eight.

    “demands a verdict either of either profound stupidity or deliberate misrepresentation on
    the part of the IPCC Chapter 6 Lead Authors.” Can take either the first either out or the second either out, either that or you could do something entirely different either way.
    :)

    MH

  145. bernie
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

    Ross:
    I agree totally with MrPete. Your chapter is probably the clearest and most compelling description of the potential biases in the IPCC reports. Coming from Massachusetts I am less inclined to give any governmental entity taxing authority becuase of past behavior – though I agree that your argument as to a properly implemented tax makes perfect sense. When is the book due?

  146. MarkW
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

    Another point regarding the peer review of math articles. Nobody questions the “qualifications” of the person raising an objection. The only question is, is the objection valid.

    I just wish the climate community could stir itself to rise to that low standard.

  147. MarkW
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 9:59 AM | Permalink

    My point exactly; this is why the “3 pages in Nature” argument is bunk.

    There is a huge difference between the 3 page Nature article and the referenced mathematical proof.

    The parts that were left out of the math proof are universally recognized as being proven. That is, when using calculus, it wasn’t necesary to prove that the theorems of calculus are valid.

    None of the issues left out of the Nature paper reach that level of proof. When they do, there will be no objection to leaving them out.

  148. MarkW
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

    I actually think that the peer-reviewed system of science in the long run is self correcting.

    No system is self correcting, if criticism is not allowed.

  149. Darwin
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink

    MrPete, your 136 is very good, except for a caveat — I would think a real professional would delve a little deeper into a blog before making his or her own derogatory assertions about the keeper of the blog. Most of the commentators suggested streamtracker look around a little more — do some of his own investigating — rather than have others do the work for him. Still, on blogs, a little variety spices up the conversation and gets the juices flowing, and your distinguishing features between a troll and true inquisitive newbie to a blog have broad applicability.

  150. MrPete
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 11:36 AM | Permalink

    Darwin says “I would think a real professional would delve a little deeper into a blog before making his or her own derogatory assertions about the keeper of the blog.”

    I’m willing to give a lot of grace on this, recognizing even in people close to me a real level of shock upon encountering the things Steve has been uncovering. When people go into shock, their initial reactions and responses are not necessarily how they would respond under more normal circumstances.

    This is why I’m suggesting a “front lobby” area for newbies. Give them a taste of what they are about to experience. Caution them that it is likely they will experience a bit of “shock”. CA Netiquette might be one way to help them prepare, and encourage more appropriate comments from everybody.

    Personally, I’m learning a lot about online community and communication through this process. I’m hopeful it will be useful when I start my own blog. (No, I won’t abandon CA… and Steve’s welcome to another Almagre Adventure any time :))

  151. Craig Loehle
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 11:45 AM | Permalink

    MrPete suggests an upfront section where regular posters can put bio material and where nubies can also get an introduction. I like this. Having been hooked on CA for years, I know the regulars but the many new visitors do not. If Ross M says something i read it really carefully (especially having seen him speak). Some people blather.

  152. Old Dad
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 1:10 PM | Permalink

    Some “science” is apparently more like sausage making than I thought. The struggle toward truth, though, is fascinating and heroic.

    Soldier on.

  153. Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

    Nice cheap shot, Steve.

    I suggest you do read one issue of Nature cover to cover, because one finds some blissfully EXACT sciences like physics and mathematics in there. Nevertheless, remember old Albert’s words :

    “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

    It is so very unfortunate that Nature is chiefly concerned with reality, and not pure abstraction. On one hand, I agree with you that it does not exempt reviewers from doing their work. I also concur that good science takes more that perfunctory descriptions – which is sometimes all one can do in the ridiculously limited space these publications allow.

    On the other hand, reducing ALL of Nature’s 139 years of history to MBH98 (will you ever get over it ???) is like saying “all AGW skeptics are blood-drinking monsters with ties to the oil industry”. Thankfully, your esteemed readers (some of them at least) are more finely discerning than that….

    • hotandcoldEV
      Posted Feb 2, 2010 at 3:26 PM | Permalink

      There’s no Mathematics in Nature. No mathematician reads the journal for professional reasons (unless working in some very applied area).

  154. Sam Urbinto
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

    I’d say the best start page might be The Wegman and North Reports for Newbies It’s pretty easy to read.

    I personally find the questions and answers of all parties involved in the Subcommitte on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing very illuminating also. You can find the transcript here

    Various # and people: It’s quite easy. The findings of a disinterested outsider, a statistician who is part of the NAS asked to look into the social network aspect of paleoclimate

    Based on the literature we have reviewed, there is no overarching consensus on [Mann's work]. As analyzed in our social network, there is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.

    It is clear that many of the proxies are re-used in most of the papers. It is not surprising that the papers would obtain similar results and so cannot really claim to be independent verifications.”

    http://data.climateaudit.org/pdf/others/07142006_Wegman_Report.pdf

    MrPete#99 “Strip Bark BCP’s (BristleCone Pines) are one crucial factor in historical reconstructions. Find us ONE rock-solid paper supporting such use. You won’t find it.”

    In fact, of course, there just could be specific official statements that BCP shouldn’t be used as a temperature proxy around here someplace. :)

    … in four climatic zones, which concluded that pine growth at the treeline is limited by factors other than carbon (Körner 2003). While “strip-bark” samples should be avoided for temperature reconstructions, attention should also be paid to the confounding effects of anthropogenic nitrogen …

    Page 52: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309102251

  155. Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

    JEG–

    I also concur that good science takes more that perfunctory descriptions – which is sometimes all one can do in the ridiculously limited space these publications allow.

    The remedy for the perfunctory descriptions is for the authors themselves to select venues that permit longer papers. This can include journals that permit longer articles than does Nature (many do). It can also include publishing internal reports. Many universities, national labs and government agencies have internal publications houses and publish manual size documents constantly. The US government even tracks these!

    It is true that these documents are treated as grey literature by university tenure and promotion committees. However, they are essential for recording details one can’t include in brief journal articles. With respect to something like climate change, which is now a question that matters to the public, these sorts of reports should be written.

  156. bernie
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

    JEG
    A much more civilized and measured riposte than most of your earlier efforts. Congratulations. I am sure it will draw a response that will be worth reading.

  157. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 4:15 PM | Permalink

    Re: #153

    On the other hand, reducing ALL of Nature’s 139 years of history to MBH98 (will you ever get over it ???) is like saying “all AGW skeptics are blood-drinking monsters with ties to the oil industry”. Thankfully, your esteemed readers (some of them at least) are more finely discerning than that….

    I do not see the skeptics reference as a proper analogy to the complaint heard frequently at CA about Nature, in general, and the MBH98 incident, specifically, and probably because I see it from a different perspective.

    MBH98 represents a rather shoddy use of statistics to conclude what it did about past temperatures, but a paper by its HS shaped reconstruction that anyone, the least bit familiar with climate science and the issues of AGW, would recognize for what it later represented: a major piece of the argument for a large A in AGW. Given its recognizable importance Nature allowed it through with minimal restraint and climate science was rather quite in any critical discussions of it – before MM that is.

    Now Nature is Nature, past, present and probably future, so what has been revealed probably adds little new in the way Nature operates. I suspect the same could be said in a general statement about climate science. The scenario, which in my mind needs repeating, is that a publication considered prestigious in science fields allowed the article to be published (first line of defense) and once published was critiqued by climate science not at all (second line of defense) and the IPCC made use of it prominently in its reviews as a singularly strong piece of peer-reviewed evidence and visual aid for promoting mitigation of AGW (third line of defense).

    The fourth line of defense could be considered that put forth by MM and the resulting criticism (finally) that their critiques brought forth from others. Unfortunately, the climate science jury is apparently still out on that fourth line and for evidently many different reasons. I think that puts MM in the role of continuing to point to problems and a scenario that can allow bad science/statistics an important place in making critical climate policy.

  158. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 6:41 PM | Permalink

    #153. Julien, you’re a good guy. As a bit of advice, I think that you’d be better off being a little more light hearted in this sort of exchange. Gore or Clinton or Bush are self-satirical on Letterman or the Press dinner and that works better in dealing with satire.

    For example, here’s something that might be fun for you to try. Suppose that Michael Mann were Bush’s spokesman on climate change. Then provide the top 5 Bush excuses or something like that in Mann-speak – use the rhetoric: rigorous, specious, spurious, conservative, skillful, robust, … But not heavy-handed. Fun.

  159. bernie
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 7:00 PM | Permalink

    See Julien, I was right. In tennis terms that was a drop shot with you on the base-line!

  160. Barclay E. MacDonald
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 7:53 PM | Permalink

    #158

    Or suppose that Jim Hansen isush’s spokesman on climate change. Then…….

  161. Jud Partin
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 8:44 PM | Permalink

    I think that Julien (aka. JEG) may feel a little exasperated when so many at this site trivialize climate science… hence his lack of humor.

    I can say from personal experience that when we published in Nature, it was no walk in the park – submit and BAM it was in print. The editor paid close attention, and we went through 2 rounds of detailed comments from 3 reviewers. It took quite a bit of effort by all, but in the end, the paper was improved by the peer-review process. After talking with many other scientists (chemistry, biology, climate, engineering), this situation appears to be the norm.

    That’s not to say that we may have gotten something wrong in the Nature Letter. Someone (including me) could measure a new paleoclimate record that disproves a conclusion we made. But that is science. No one told Einstein that the cosmological constant he published was bogus. It took a lot of dedicated scientists years of careful observations to demonstrate that the universe is expanding. …does that mean that we should call Einstein a “physicist” or a “mathematician”???

    As for humor, I hope you like country. I am reminded of this song when I read “anonymous” comments on the internet. (in case the link doesn’t work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GcVnhNjWV0)

  162. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 10:51 PM | Permalink

    Jud, getting published in Nature is a good thing and a badge of honor. But you didn;t limit yourself to the 3 pages of print. You promptly archived your data on the nose and without being nagged.

    As to videos, here’s a video tribute to a young French singer that might even touch the hard-hearted Julien
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXYpIEU9JjY . There’s a reason why I encountered this video that some people know.

  163. James
    Posted Jul 8, 2008 at 11:26 PM | Permalink

    #161 Jud,

    I submit that very few here (or elsewhere) trivialize climate science. Quite the opposite. I sense high regard here for the climate scientists who rigorously and openly apply the scientific method, regardless where the data (and the error bars) lead. Most here understand that climate study is extremely challenging because of the tangled feedbacks and the limited opportunities to conduct well-controlled experiments or observe them in the paleo records. (If only we had a spare Earth or a time machine…)

    The animosity you perceive is towards pseudo-science and those who practice it, tolerate it, defend it, or breathlessly propagate its results.

    IMO, Steve and others have amply demonstrated that MBH98 is pseudo-science. Much more disturbing, however, his saga has also revealed that many climate scientists are enablers (or worse) of pseudo-science. Sins range from turning a blind eye, to vituperative attacks on all who dare to question, to the deceitful “publication” of additional pseudo-science in a misguided attempt to defend the indefensible.

    I’m baffled that some are unable or unwilling to grasp the simple point illustrated by juxtaposing Li vs. Mann, and arxiv vs. Nature: Mathematicians achieve rigor by being transparent. Some climate scientists assert rigor while being opaque. The former is more compelling.

    Congratulations on your Nature paper. I hope you archived your data and were clear in your methods description. With luck, others can replicate and build on your good work.

  164. kim
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 3:36 AM | Permalink

    162 (Steve)

    Where have I been all these years?
    A little while, tell me now,
    How long has this been going on?
    ===================

  165. Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 5:39 AM | Permalink

    Lucia at #155:

    It is true that these documents are treated as grey literature by university tenure and promotion committees. However, they are essential for recording details one can’t include in brief journal articles. With respect to something like climate change, which is now a question that matters to the public, these sorts of reports should be written.

    My experience has been that the internal reviews of these types of reports, by peers working on the same, or closely-related, parts of a problem, were significantly more complete and effective than any review of papers submitted to journals for publication. Additionally, the internal memo-level and ‘white papers’ that provided the basis for the final released reports received the same level of review. I recall that I never had a submitted paper returned from a journal for revision of the technical parts of the papers. In contrast, the internal peer-reviews sent me back to the drawing board many times. I’m certain that the work required to satisfy the internal peer reviews was responsible for the acceptance by the outside reviews.

    The importance of open availability of the details cannot be over-stated. I have received requests for some of these reports up to 25 years and more after they have been published.

  166. MarkW
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 5:46 AM | Permalink

    The solution to papers that are ridiculously abreviated due to space requirements of the “journal” is to maintain the full length paper, along with all supporting data in a publicly accesable place.

  167. MarkW
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 5:49 AM | Permalink

    Jud,

    For the most part, we don’t ridicule climate science, just many of the practitioners there of.

  168. Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 7:44 AM | Permalink

    Dan Hughes:

    My experience has been that the internal reviews of these types of reports, by peers working on the same, or closely-related, parts of a problem, were significantly more complete and effective than any review of papers submitted to journals for publication.

    Absolutely! There is a reason these documents are more complete. When teams of people work on problems collectively, with new personnel rotating in and out, people want these documents to make it easy for people to quite complete understanding of what was done.

    Plus, the fact that the review process is not anonymous, and permits verbal discussion helps. Since there are no page limits, when something is unclear to any reviewer, authors routinely add paragraphs. And… also, sometimes the reviewer specifically knows that they will need to use the information in a document as a next step.

    So, for example, with some frequency, a modeler acted as one of the reviewers for a document describing and experiment. The experimentalists might act as a reviewer for papers by modelers. That ensured that the sort of information both need ends up in documents!

    Of course, these are all very aggravating to write. . .

  169. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 10:04 AM | Permalink

    Re: #161

    I think that Julien (aka. JEG) may feel a little exasperated when so many at this site trivialize climate science… hence his lack of humor.

    I can say from personal experience that when we published in Nature, it was no walk in the park – submit and BAM it was in print. The editor paid close attention, and we went through 2 rounds of detailed comments from 3 reviewers. It took quite a bit of effort by all, but in the end, the paper was improved by the peer-review process. After talking with many other scientists (chemistry, biology, climate, engineering), this situation appears to be the norm.

    Jud Partin, you seem sincere about your experience with Nature, but that anecdotal evidence only adds to my wonderment of the scenario that allowed a flawed paper like MBH98 to be subsequently embraced by the climate science community and used to further a particular aspect of climate policy. Few climate scientists that come this way endorse the paper, but almost none admit that it is flawed and instead plead ignorance and unfamiliarity with it or plead outright career implications.

    Notwithstanding Brad Paisley’s online observations, these climate scientists when asked to judge MBH98 here, in my view, do not lose 30 pounds, trade the Honda for a Maserati or gain six packs, but instead seem to remain rather asthmatic.

  170. Jud Partin
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 11:04 AM | Permalink

    Re: #169

    Kenneth – how many hours do you think Steve McIntyre has spent reviewing/auditing MBH98? 5? 10? 50? 100? Steve has the best estimate, but I would hazard a guess that it is over 20 hours. That’s quite a chunk of time to spend reviewing one paper. I doubt many folks would spend so much time recalculating everything in a paper when reviewing it. Maybe that is the beef you have with the peer-review process???

    Also, MBH98 came out 10 years ago. I think that those authors, as well as others, have updated and revised aspects of that paper. My point is that shouldn’t the revised ideas then be the topic of discussion as science progresses?

  171. jeez
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 11:57 AM | Permalink

    1. The time would have been a lot less had it not needed to be reverse engineered, in other words had the data or methods been disclosed.

    2. The authors have not revised their ideas since. They just keep rotating the tires and calling it a new car.

    ~jeez, pimply, underachieving, sexually frustrated, sci fi reading, anonymous Internet poster

  172. Barney Frank
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 12:00 PM | Permalink

    Jud, Jud, Jud; you are hopelssly uninformed.
    A good portion of the archives of this blog are taken up by Steve explaining just exactly how many hours he was forced to waste replicating MBH98 from scratch because of Mann’s and company stonewalling. A good portion of the remaining archives detail subsequent attempts by Mann and associates to rehabilitate MBH98 using variations of the same or similar discredited data and methods.

  173. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 1:21 PM | Permalink

    In fairness to Jud, I should probably have titled this post “Mann and Ammann Prove the Riemann Hyothesis”, as Jud gets annoyed when all climate scientists get tarred by the same brush and I did promise to avoid it. This post was fun, but maybe a little editing could keep the fun without spreading the tar as widely.

    As to JEG’s moving on point, I haven’t noticed any response from him or the climate science community to the many problems and defects in Wahl and Ammann 2007, Ammann and Wahl 2007 or Juckes et al 2007, the most recent entries to the multiproxy debate.

    Julien, help me here – is that because the “community” finds these papers unconvincing and there’s no need to comment or because they find them convincing and there’s no need to comment? Are these be considered state of the art in Team-world? IF I didn’t bother replying to them, would they stand as truth in Team-world?

  174. Jud Partin
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 1:50 PM | Permalink

    Barney Frank – I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Please reserve any personal comments until after you meet me… after which you are free to call me whatever you like. You are welcome to drop by my office anytime and talk man to man about myself or climate.

    Jeez and Barney – fair enough about the time spent before. How about this:

    Steve, if someone dropped the MBH98 manuscript on your desk (or one like it), and you had no prior knowledge about it – but have the training you have now on climate and reconstructions – how long would it take you to replicate your audit? This assumes that you have complete access to all data and code.

  175. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 1:58 PM | Permalink

    #172. Blog policy prohibits personal comments.

    Plus, Barney, Jud happens to be pretty well-informed. So I’m going to snip the personal exchanges in an hour or so.

  176. MrPete
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

    Jud, I think I see where you are going, and I like it.

    Is it ok if I add a tiny stipulation to your “reasonable audit” test (my interpretation, I know). The tiny stipulation: not only data and code are provided, but also methods. I.e., is it reasonable for editors and peer reviewers to expect that authors will reveal the methods used in analyzing their data.

    And thus, if a reviewer finds that methods do not match code+data, they will quickly respond (nicely, in this fantasy world ;) ) that the author needs to clean up their act, because somehow there’s an obvious mismatch between described methods and actual methods.

    In my far-out fantasy world, in a peer-review publication, I would require a publication pre-condition of:
    * if code is involved, a ‘formal’ code review by software professionals
    * if statistical methods are involved, a ‘formal’ statistical review by statisticians

  177. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    #174. Dunno. If the question is headed towards this – which is the germane process question IMHO: suppose that we stipulate that there are defects in MBH and that these have now been identified and are material (and I realize that JEG or Kim Cobb would probably not concede that there is much more than a comma out of place), but for the sake of argument let’s stipulate these conditions. Could peer reviewers have reasonably been expected to identify the problems? If not, how can the system for problem identification be improved?

    Let me digress to Bre-X because those sorts of things interest me. The salient point for analysts was – what could they have done to identify the problems earlier? The original frauds were – shame on the promoters. But at some point, there was shame on the analysts as well. In mining projects, it is standard practice to have core racks on site, which display splits of the drill core so that visiting analysts can examine alteration patterns and things that geologists like to look at. Bre-X didn’t have any core. They said that their assaying method required them to use all the core, since the gold was so finely disseminated. When an independent core was eventually drilled, the alteration patterns were all wrong – something any geologist would have been concerned about. When the brokerage house reps learned that there was no core to audit, they should have booked the next flight home and told their office to dump the stock. They were too anxious for the business and too inexperienced with crooks and so they got conned. You could make Ocean’s 14 on the story.

    Simply because of my own experience, I tend to be very suspicious of missing data and excuses. I realize that much of this in climate science is merely because the guys are prima donnas, but at some point, scientists need to understand that, if they act like crooks (and the excuses are unfortunately similar), people will start to treat them like crooks. This is the cultural divide that climate scientists visiting here have a hard time understanding. I’m careful to recognize that mostly the scientists in question are just being jerks. But it gives a very bad impression. Barton and Whitfield snickered at Mann’s lawyer’s letter refusing to appear and contesting their jurisdiction and their remarks were very apt: “usually we get letters like this from people who scientists don’t wish to be compared to.”

    What could MBH reviewers have done better? Were there any warning signs? The one that jumped out at me (and is discssed in early 2005) was his failure to report the verification r2 scores having mentioned them, and their conspicuous absence in the SI. A thorough review would at least have ensured that this statistic – which is displayed for the AD1820 step and said to have been used, was reported in the SI. If it were, they would have seen that it was ~0 and the hand plays a lot differently. A reviewer like Zorita would have taken a very attitude towards it. Mann might have argued that the value of 0 didn’t “matter”, as Wahl and Ammann are now doing on his behalf, but it would have been very uphill for him in 1998-99. Now people are locked into salvaging things and making foolish arguments, which themselves accumulate. There’s a very strong possibility that the article would never have been published in its present form had this information been disclosed.

    Aside from reviewers, readers were entitled to this information about the failed verification r2 statistic. I doubt that it would have become so popular or widely cited or used in TAR if this information had been published in the article.

    Identifying this problem doesn’t require hours or days of research. Indeed, Wahl and Ammann 2007 tried to pull the same stunt, but were unlucky enough to have me as a reviewer. I asked them to produce this statistic, which was very obviously on the table if they were claiming that our article was “unfounded”. It didn’t take hours of reviewing. They refused. I don’t know how an editor could honestly allow their article to continue under review after such a shameless refusal of a reasonable reviewer request; so the editor terminated me as a reviewer and closed his eyes to the problem.

    When you do a prospectus offering securities to the public, you have to sign an affidavit under oath that you have not withheld any material adverse information. Most people take these declarations seriously. Would Mann or Ammann have been willing to sign such an affidavit? Hard to say. Authors submitting to Nature are required to sign an declaration of financial interest. Given my own background, I was surprised that there wasn’t a declaration that there was no material adverse information that the authors had failed to disclose.

    Another thing that reviewers and editors could do is simply insure that the SI exists and is in order. The SI to Ammann and Wahl 2007 is not available despite references to it as part of the argument. Climatic Change doesn’t have it and Ammann refused to provide it. This is pretty elementary due diligence on the part of reviewers, which they didn’t bother doing.

    In terms of JEG’s jibes about MBH98, well, aren’t Wahl and Ammann 2007 and Ammann and Wahl 2007 “current”? Or have people “moved on” once again?

    • Skiphil
      Posted Jan 5, 2013 at 2:06 PM | Permalink

      Michael Mann continues to celebrate and promote his Hockey Stick even now, in 2013:

      https://mobile.twitter.com/MichaelEMann/status/287259576921894914

      What did Talleyrand say of the Bourbons of the Ancien Regime,

      “they have learned nothing and have forgotten nothing”

      In Mann’s case one may wonder what if anything he has learned in the past decade.

  178. Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 5:08 PM | Permalink

    Steve,

    I realize that much of this in climate science is merely because the guys are prima donnas, but at some point, scientists need to understand that, if they act like crooks (and the excuses are unfortunately similar), people will start to treat them like crooks.

    It gets annoying that you get to make these sorts of comments that others are blocked from doing so. Scientist after scientist are telling you that most scientists are NOT like this, that the “prima donna” behaviour is a false front and an attempt to hide an unfavourable result that they’d like to remain hidden.

    Steve: snip – John A, you know better than to insert any religious comparisons. Normally it’s an automatic delete.

    You say that “scientist after scientist are telling you that most scientists are NOT like this, that the “prima donna” behaviour is a false front and an attempt to hide an unfavourable result that they’d like to remain hidden.” I don’t think that this is the case. I’m not interested in debating why scientists are not more forthcoming and am not prepared to discuss this topic on the blog (and I don’t want it on the Bulletin Board either.) Let’s agree to disagree on this. For most purposes, it doesn’t matter why certain scientists aren’t forthcoming; all that matters is that they aren’t. But you’re right – I snip people who make more sinister accusations and will continue to do so.

    What I was communicating to Jud and I don’t want the comment to be misconstrued is that behavior, which may only be primadonna-ish, is easily construed in a very unfavorable light by readers like you and many others, who view it as far more sinister than I do. Scientists, like Jud, who have an impeccable record of archiving, should be the ones to condemn non-compliant scientists. Now Jud is young and couldn’t really say much even if he wanted. It would be nice if senior climate scientists took more responsibility for talking to the bad apples – Gerry North could.

  179. Dishman
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 5:40 PM | Permalink

    To me it seems more characteristic of insecurity and a quest for the acknowledgement (and accolades) of others than “prima donna”. I don’t understand why someone who actually believed in what they were doing would insist on hiding their work.

    It seems to me that the concealers lack confidence in their workmanship.

    I don’t respect that.

  180. Barney Frank
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 6:02 PM | Permalink

    #174. 175,
    Steve and Jud,

    Poor phrasing. I didn’t mean Jud is generally uninformed. I was only referring to the history here of Steve’s go rounds with Mann etal both over MBH98 and over later patch jobs, revisions and replacements, of which he seemed to be wholly unaware.
    Apologies if it was taken otherwise.

  181. Sam Urbinto
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 6:19 PM | Permalink

    Shurgles. Enron? I’m sure only a few were responsible, but hey.

    If folks that have worked for me were not cooperating with me, well. They get to take out the trash when it’s needed, but they don’t get to repair the engines. That sort of non cooperative behavior doesn’t last long in the real world, does it.

    Can we talk about the few bad apples without thinking we’re applying it to the whole bunch, girl?

  182. Mike B
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 6:51 PM | Permalink

    (and I realize that JEG or Kim Cobb would probably not concede that there is much more than a comma out of place),

    Steve, you’ve posted some very funny stuff here lately, but this one takes the cake. I think perhaps you’ve let your sarcasm get the best of you.;-)

    With regard to Amman and Wahl 2007, have you attempted to publish a rebuttal? Or have you moved on, too?


    Steve:
    I guess we’ll have to, since nobody in the field seems to have done so. I sort of hoped that we wouldn’t have to keep babysitting such dreck, but it seems otherwise. It’s funny how they say they’ve “moved on”, but seem insistent on getting the last word no matter how mendacious. I’d rather hopes to be able to consult Ammann’s Supplementary Information, which he cites as providing key evidence, in order to compose a reply, but Ammann has refused to disclose his Supplementary Information. None of the reviewers bothered to ensure that the SI was available and the journal has never seen it. Team reviewing at its best.

  183. Dishman
    Posted Jul 9, 2008 at 8:39 PM | Permalink

    If it’s not possible to duplicate their work, then all they’ve got is Cold Fusion.

  184. Posted Jul 10, 2008 at 3:11 AM | Permalink

    Steve Mc:

    It would be nice if senior climate scientists took more responsibility for talking to the bad apples – Gerry North could.

    Gerry North could if he wasn’t rolling gently downhill to retirement. Its obvious by now that the North Committee had the most brains available in one place to consider specific questions about the scientific probity of Hockey-Stick reconstructions and resolutely failed to apply anything other than the bare minimum. “Just sitting around a table … and winging it” makes a really poor coda on a distinguished scientific career.

    I’m afraid Gerry North has taken Sir Humphrey Appleby’s advice to government ministers and applied it to climate science:

    “It is axiomatic in government that hornets’ nests should be left unstirred, cans of worms should remain unopened, and cats should be left firmly in bags and not set among the pigeons. Ministers should also leave boats unrocked, nettles ungrasped, refrain from taking bulls by the horns, and resolutely turn their backs to the music.”

    Have you seen anyone take responsibility in climate science? Me neither.

  185. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Jul 10, 2008 at 9:22 AM | Permalink

    Re: #170

    Kenneth – how many hours do you think Steve McIntyre has spent reviewing/auditing MBH98? 5? 10? 50? 100? Steve has the best estimate, but I would hazard a guess that it is over 20 hours. That’s quite a chunk of time to spend reviewing one paper. I doubt many folks would spend so much time recalculating everything in a paper when reviewing it. Maybe that is the beef you have with the peer-review process???

    Also, MBH98 came out 10 years ago. I think that those authors, as well as others, have updated and revised aspects of that paper. My point is that shouldn’t the revised ideas then be the topic of discussion as science progresses?

    Jud Partin, judging from your comments I think you continue missing some finer points in this discussion, or at least my points. Steve M as part of that MM fourth line of defense has spent additional time in reviewing and auditing because the first three lines of defense have conceded very little over a long time (why have they continued a strong defense and not moved on?) and never been very forthcoming in their responses to the MM’s published critiques.

    I will answer my own parenthetical question and at the same time reply to your excerpted question above. In my view that part of climate science that remains involved in reconstructions has not moved-on significantly from what MBH98 initiated 10 years ago and that is why I judge many of these scientists feel compelled to defend MBH98 at this late date and others just seem not to want to talk about it.

    MBH98 in a number of ways, including its reception in the climate science community, in effect, appeared to “soften” a science that while never considered a “hard” science had some precautionary aspects to it. What has followed in temperature reconstructions in my estimation continues in the “soften” mode. The only excuse for that mode appears in reading between the lines is that some climate scientists feel they cannot wait for the “hard” evidence in attempts to ward off any potential tipping points in climate and the predicted adversities resulting from these tipped points.

  186. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 10, 2008 at 10:21 AM | Permalink

    Also, MBH98 came out 10 years ago. I think that those authors, as well as others, have updated and revised aspects of that paper. My point is that shouldn’t the revised ideas then be the topic of discussion as science progresses?

    Sure. I’ve kept up with the multiproxy literature and have blogged at length about Juckes, Wahl and Ammann, Hegerl, Osborn and Briffa; and discussed many indvidual proxy series. Why would you say that I’m not discussing the up-to-date ideas? Indeed, despite what people say, I haven’t written all that much on MBH in the past 18 months, except in passing.

    We discussed the RegEM of Rutherford et al 2005 on the blog here. They subsequently withdrew the code. Someone else published a journal criticism, which Mann said was unfounded. There wasn’t anything wrong in the criticisms, but because MAnn said that they had fixed things with another method , just hot off the presses (Mann et al 2007).

    The new data (Mann et al 2007) use the MBH98 data set to the comma – bristlecones and Mannian PCS and everything. Even the rain in Maine. It’s pretty hard to move on when the Team is stuck in the same place. Every criticism of MBH carries over pari passu to Mann et al 2007. RegEM is a change to an aspect of the method that wasn’t under criticism in our articles – not that it was immune from criticism, just that we didn’t get into it in our 2005 articles.

    In the Mann et al 2007 network, if Graybill bristlecone chronologies are unable to magically decode world temperature, then it really doesn’t matter whether you use RegEM or the back-end regression module of MBH98-99. GIGO.

    In a professionally managed operation, there would have been some effort to determine whether Graybill’s chronologies could be replicated. Linah Ababneh did NOT replicate Graybill’s results. Her samples were taken in 2002, but the results have been totally ignored, other than at CA.

    Most of the recent studies revert back to cherry-picking small networks, without any attempt to reconcile inconsistent results between local proxies. Bristlecone chronologies continue to abound. Even as to Mann’s PC1, it’s as though the field has decided to snub its nose at the rest of the world – it’s been used more by 3rd party Team reconstructions in the past year than ever before. It’s used in Hegerl, Juckes, Osborn and Briffa and even is illustrated as a proxy in AR4.

    The “progress” of the field has been negligible. Yeah, I know that I should write things up and put it in a journal article, but why should the practitioners themselves be so incapable of confronting their problems?

  187. Pat Frank
    Posted Jul 10, 2008 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    #186 — Steve wrote, “but why should the practitioners themselves be so incapable of confronting their problems?

    Maybe they are confronting their problem. To recognize that, all we need do is realize that their problem is *you*, Steve. Every time Mannian proxies get re-used to update the hockey stick after your criticisms, or those of anyone else, it serves to re-install the claim that ‘peer-reviewed science’ has re-confirmed Mann’s 1998 result. This allows the team to continue giving seminars about the surety of human influences, and allows extremist NGOs to continue their drumbeat of guilt, juices the sentimental convictions of rank-and-file believers, and finally provides cover to the IPCC and to politicians desirous of legislating cap-and-trade.

    The struggle is about politics, not about science. Science is just a veneer that provides political validity to an objectively false result; the falsehood now repeatedly demonstrated. Their tactics make perfect sense when seen in this light.

    Politics is about getting one’s way and nothing else. In HS-land, the politics have been dirty from the start. It’s long past time to put aside expectations of common scientific altruism in that arena. Don’t expect anyone there to do the right thing. It won’t get done unless you yourself do it, Steve.

    snip

  188. Posted Jul 10, 2008 at 6:29 PM | Permalink

    Part 2:

    I think Bender’s proposal for a “Journal of Statistical Climatology” is excellent. I’d subscribe.

  189. Ian McLeod
    Posted Jul 10, 2008 at 8:06 PM | Permalink

    Steve,

    I felt the quote below was apropos considering the apoplexy by some and hilarity by others.

    Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood – H.L. Mencken

  190. Posted Jul 10, 2008 at 8:28 PM | Permalink

    Does applauding other people’s comments get snipped as well? I must add it to my list…

    Steve:
    I ask people to refrain from angry posts. Instead of praising angriness, I’d appreciate it if you asked people to tone it down.

  191. es58
    Posted Feb 2, 2010 at 1:09 PM | Permalink

    fascinating to stumble on this post 1.5 yrs later during climategate to get insight into how much of this stuff was already common knowledge in the community (eg: jones suggesting you want the data to refute his arguments – which for that part of the analogy alone would be worth it)

  192. es58
    Posted Feb 2, 2010 at 1:12 PM | Permalink

    By the way, I got here by googling the combination of:

    “climate science” “soft science”

  193. hotandcoldEV
    Posted Feb 2, 2010 at 3:36 PM | Permalink

    Interesting thread – obviously went somewhere other than the original ironic comparison about halfway through, but for the first half let me just echo what Lubos said about maths blogs and the status of Tao and Connes – they are absolutely, undeniably the creme de la creme.

  194. collin237
    Posted May 26, 2013 at 9:33 PM | Permalink

    Thank you for showing me that ClimateAudit has absolutely no regard for truth, and instead promotes bigotry against anyone who studies the climate. You don’t even bother with denial; you just skip straight to hatred.

    • MrPete
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

      Re: collin237 (May 26 21:33),
      Your comment proves you’ve not taken the time to read the context. There was and is no hatred. And the concerns are built on top of extensive/documented history.

  195. MarkB
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Permalink

    This thread just popped up in the sidebar. My only comment: if you have to tell people how rigorous your work is, it’s probably not rigorous at all.

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