Tom Yulsman: The Gadfly and the Dim-Witted Horse

I had a pleasant interview yesterday afternoon with Tom Yulsman of the Center for Environmental Journalism in Colorado. He also posted an article yesterday reporting on an interview with Roger Pielke Jr in which Yulsman described me as a “gadfly”. I don’t know whether this was posted before or after our interview; he didn’t mention it.

My first reaction was that this was a “pejorative” term, but, with a little research”, it turned out that Wikipedia cites Socrates as a “gadfly”, who was a goad to “slow and dimwitted horse”.

Gadfly” is a term for people who upset the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions, or just being an irritant.

The term “gadfly” (Gk. muopa)[1] was used by Plato in the Apology[2] to describe Socrates’ relationship of uncomfortable goad to the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse … During his defense when on trial for his life, Socrates, according to Plato’s writings, pointed out that dissent, like the tiny (relative to the size of a horse) gadfly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. “If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me,” because his role was that of a gadfly, “to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth.”

In modern and local politics, gadfly is a term used to describe someone who persistently challenges people in positions of power, the status quo or a popular position.[3] The word may be uttered in a pejorative sense, while at the same time be accepted as a description of honorable work or civic duty.[4]

In the article itself, Yulsman quotes Pielke Jr making points about the limitations of peer review that are very familiar to Climate Audit readers, and, in the process, praising the blogs for peer review services:

Q: Have we put too much faith in the peer review system? And should we seek sources outside the usual scientific circles?

A: Peer review is simply a cursory check on the plausibility of a study. It is not a rigorous replication and it is certainly not a stamp of correctness of results.  Many studies get far more rigorous peer review on blogs after publication than in journals.  I use our own
blog for the purpose of getting good review before publication for some of my work now, because the review on blogs is often far better and more rigorous than from journals. This is not an indictment of peer review or journals, just an open-eyed recognition of the realities.
It is hard to say who is outside and who is inside scientific circles anymore.  McIntyre now publishes regularly in the peer reviewed literature.  [Pielke is speaking of Steve McIntyre, whom I would describe as a climate change gadfly; he publishes a blog called “Climate Audit”] Gavin Schmidt blogs and participates in political debates.  [Schmidt is a NASA earth scientist who conducts climate research.] Lucia Liljegren works at Argonne National Lab as an expert in fluid dynamics and blogs quite well on climate predictions for fun. She is preparing a paper for publication based on her work, but she has never done climate work before.  I am a political scientist who publishes in the Journal of Climate and Nature Geoscience and blogs. Who is to say who is ‘outside’ and who is ‘inside’?  Is participation in IPCC the union card?  How about having a PhD?  Publishing in the literature?  Testifying before Congress? 

The Wikipedia article refers to a BBC piece on gadflies:

The term ‘gadfly’ is usually pejorative and is often bestowed by organizations or persons who are on the receiving end of the gadfly’s attentions. It implies that the gadfly is an intellectual lightweight whose only intent is to annoy, thereby gaining attention for himself…Being a gadfly is generally a thankless task. People with something to hide will go to almost any length to discredit one who brings their behaviour to light.

Back to the “slow and dim witted horse”. I’m a little surprised that Yulsman likens the climate science community to a “slow and dim witted horse”, but who are we mere gadflies to argue? If so, I think that we can safely say that certain body parts are already spoken for.

105 Comments

  1. Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

    If so, I think that we can safely say that certain body parts are already spoken for.

    Damn dude…

  2. Joel
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 12:53 PM | Permalink

    snip – if I wanted to say something like that, I would have.

  3. Pat Frank
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 1:08 PM | Permalink

    Having read the interview, it’s clear that Mr. Yulsman meant “gadfly” in its diminutive, not complimentary, sense. He, like most other science journalists, shows no proper understanding or appreciation of what you have done, Steve. Along with Ross, you have shown the complete scientific poverty of mainstream proxy-thermometry. The field has absolutely nothing credible to say about past temperatures, and we know that from your work only. Deciding whether the persistence of the practitioners in the field represents willful malignance, innocent foolishness, or mere commitment to a career path, is getting into the motives of others and so not worth the speculative bandwidth. Regardless of motivations, however, it’s very clear that proxy-thermometry — as opposed to proxy-climatology itself — has no more use than as analyticalized propaganda. It has fooled most of the people all of the time, so far. That, even though your transparently obvious and fully available work has completely exposed its scientific vacuity (and in so-doing, also exposed the disintegrated integrity among its practitioners).

    I posted a comment on Yulsman’s blog, for all the good it will do.

    • tty
      Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 3:03 PM | Permalink

      Re: Pat Frank (#3),

      “Along with Ross, you have shown the complete scientific poverty of mainstream proxy-thermometry. The field has absolutely nothing credible to say about past temperatures, and we know that from your work only.”

      That is an exaggeration. I agree as far as using tree-rings as temperature proxies, but there are a large number of other temperature proxies which are more reliable. Examples are alkenones, TEX-86, foraminifera, pollen, beetles or even voles and pond turtles. Of course they are all approximate, require knowledge of the local ecological and/or biogeographic circumstances, and will only yield averages for fairly long periods, and often for a particular season rather than annual averages, which I suppose is the reason they have not found favor with “climate scientists”. Attaching the hockey-stick handle to the blade simply isn’t practical for those proxies. Ice cores from large icecaps also seem to yield reliable paleotemperature estimates, but are of course very restricted geographically (Greenland and Antarctica).

      Steve: I don’t want to get into generalized debates over every proxy in the world other than in threads devoted to analyzing specifics. I’ve deleted a response to this comment by Pat Frank, not because I disagree with the response, but just that I don’t want to debate such generalities on this thread. I was just having a little fun with Tom Yulsman.

      • Pat Frank
        Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 3:19 PM | Permalink

        Re: tty (#11), Point me to the paper describing the physical theory that produces a true temperature from an alkanone level. That’s physical theory, not statistical renormalization.

        I’d contend that there isn’t a single proxy that will produce a physically credible paleo-temperature. Even the temperature dependence of O-18 fractionation, which has an excellent thermodynamic theory behind it, is confounded by the vagueries of unpredictable climate shifts.

        Steve: AS in another comment, I don’t want to debate every proxy in the world on this thread.

  4. Michael H. Anderson
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 1:23 PM | Permalink

    I’m a bit of a gadfly myself as well as a professional writer, so I do appreciate the distinction between the popular notion and the true definition.

    On that subject, I just hied myself over to RealClimate to see what was shakin’, and had two consecutive posts fail the audit. I posted again simply to point out that not allowing alternative viewpoints to be posted was one possible reason there is a backlash; that one didn’t make it either.

    I am a teeny bit distressed I will never recover those ten minutes of wasted time. :)

  5. UK John
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 1:31 PM | Permalink

    Steve,

    You are a fully formed insect. Yulsman, as a journalist, is an invertebrate!

    In Jan 06 I had a “letter of the month” published in an construction industry journal, cautioning against accepting the AGW consensus without question.

    Colleagues reactions in the journal the next month varied from “well done” to “idiot”.

    snip

  6. Robert in Calgary
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 1:34 PM | Permalink

    Re:#3

    I did a quick search and came across the definition – “: a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism”.

    I chuckled when I saw Yulsman reference the same definition in answering your post on his site.

    It matches my estimate of what he meant.

  7. darwin
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 1:54 PM | Permalink

    Steve, you are in the company not only of Socrates but of H.L. Mencken, who has been referred to as American journalism’s greatest potical, social and cultural gadfly, and one that only the greatest of commentators can hope to emulate in their wit and perspicacity. Yulsman, as a journalist, would have to know calling a critic a gadfly is a compliment, unless, of course, Yulsman is ignorant of journalism’s history.

    • Pat Frank
      Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 2:12 PM | Permalink

      Re: darwin (#7), darwin, Steve is a fully fledged climate scientist. His work is arguably the most important in the proxy-studies field. Under those circumstances, calling him a “gadfly” is a clear trivialization of his work and of the stature, often unacknowledged though it may be, he has attained by his own sweat. Eventually, this truth will be widely recognized, ignored for partisan ends as it might be presently.

      • Kazinski
        Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

        Re: Pat Frank (#8),
        Lets not go overboard here. Steve does great work, and it has been invaluable both in explaining the process of deriving temperatures from proxies, and shining a spotlight on the uses and misuses of such proxies in the climate change debate. But saying that his work is “arguably the most important in the proxy-studies field” is just hyperbole, because Steve, you know, doesn’t actually do proxy work, he analyzes existing work and uses their work product for his own statistical analysis. There is a difference.

        Steve: Quite so. I make no grandiose claims on my own behalf.

  8. Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 2:46 PM | Permalink

    So Steve, how are you not a person “who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions”? Am I missing something?

    And UK John, you might be surprised to learn that I am not an invertebrate (as I think Steve would confirm). I am simply a journalist doing his best to get at the truth, including speaking with people like Steve McIntyre, and taking the time to read these posts.

    As I just said on my own site, I did not choose the word “gadfly” pejoratively at all. As Steve said, we had a pleasant conversation yesterday, and I took what he said very seriously. When I was posting the Q&A with Roger Pielke, Jr., I checked the word’s definition in the dictionary, and then considered its use very carefully. I stand by it.

    As for whether the climate science community is a “slow and dim-witted horse,” you are all free to conclude that. It is not my job to reach such conclusions, and I did not intend to signal that with my use of the word “gadfly.” My job as a journalist is to get as close as I can to the truth by keeping an open mind, being journalistically skeptical of claims, asking tough questions, and being fair. That’s what I’m trying to do. If you think I am an invertebrate for doing so, then I will will wear the label proudly. (What kind of invertebrate do you think? I rather fancy myself a a poriferans — a sponge — since I enjoy sponging up information.)

    • Pat Frank
      Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 3:11 PM | Permalink

      Re: Tom Yulsman (#9), “So Steve, how are you not a person “who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions”? Am I missing something?

      So, I guess we could have called Einstein a “gadfly” for upsetting the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions about the luminiferous aether and the absolutism of space and time.

      The same for Max Planck, of course, for posing upsetting questions about the 70-year dominant paradigm represented by the enormously successful electromagnetic field theory of James Clerk Maxwell.

      Any scientist who upsets a generally held view in some field of science does so by posing unsettling questions. No one calls such scientists a “gadfly.” To do so is almost dismissive.

      Own your studied prose, Tom. You meant “gadfly” as a diminutive.

    • MartinGAtkins
      Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 3:15 PM | Permalink

      Re: Tom Yulsman (#9),

      Any of various flies, especially of the family Tabanidae, that bite or annoy livestock and other animals.

      Yea, well I suppose to some he’s a pain in the Bullocks.

    • UK John
      Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 5:51 PM | Permalink

      Re: Tom Yulsman (#9),
      Tom,

      Apologies, I wrote without reading your blog.

  9. MarkB
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 3:33 PM | Permalink

    I’ve never thought of the word gadfly in a perjorative sense. A pattern of criticism over time, an outsider’s standing… works for me. If Steve was a climate scientist disagreeing with the majority consensus, gadfly would be less appropriate. We need gadflys to challange convention. The financial investigation expert who has been challenging Bernie Madoff to the SEC for years – and a local Boston area resident for me – was a gadfly. He was ingnored for years, and he was right. Now, writers are throwing money at him for his story.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 3:37 PM | Permalink

      Re: MarkB (#15), I’m a gadfly! Throw money at me!

  10. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 3:36 PM | Permalink

    OK, folks, while I appreciate the support, I make no grandiose claims on my own behalf.

    From a writing point of view, there’s no doubt that one sense (and perhaps even the predominant sense) of the word “gadfly” is pejorative, though, as noted above, the term can be used for someone “who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions”.

    Given the potential for misunderstanding between the two senses, it seems to me that a professional journalist would be wise to choose his words with sufficient precision so that there is no potential for misinterpretation. I’d be inclined to choose some other way of describing someone as person “who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions”.

    Tom Yulsman has stated that he consulted the dictionary prior to using the term, that the usage was considered and it is the non-pejorative sense that he meant. So I would like readers to take this at face value, as I will do with slightly arched eyebrows. Let’s leave it at that.

    • Mike B
      Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 4:08 PM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#16),

      I just want to know, is “Gadfly” a promotion from “Jester”? You may be in for a pay grade bump. :-)

      • Craig Loehle
        Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 4:36 PM | Permalink

        Re: Mike B (#20), Oh, I think this is for sure a promotion. Add some more quatloos to the pile…

  11. pete m
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 3:38 PM | Permalink

    Tom – #9

    Why label him at all? You could use plain English to describe his work, and let the reader decide for themselves what, if any, label to apply.

    snip

  12. Brian M. Flynn
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 3:51 PM | Permalink

    I would just focus on the facts that you were the first to come to Dr. Pielke’s mind, making it difficult for him to determine who’s “in” or “out” of the climate science circle, and that he often relies on bloggers to supply critique in advance on views intended to be published.
    “Gadfly” is in the eye of the beholder – holding it too long would serve only to give the declarant undue approbation.

  13. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 4:12 PM | Permalink

    BTW The photo shown above is courtesy of Anthony Watts who saw this road sign in Oklahoma.

  14. Fred
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 4:30 PM | Permalink

    It could have been worse . . . he could have mixed up the gadfly reference with the “slow and dimwitted horse” phrase and simply reduced his kindergarten insult to calling you a Horsefly.

    Now that’s fighting talk . . those buggers are really mean when the zoom in and remove a pound or two of flesh.

  15. Mike Lorrey
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

    Well if gadflys are known to bite sheep or lemmings, I’d take it as a fitting title, Steve. The AGW flock of sheep are exceeding their tolerable population limits and need some predation.

  16. Mark T
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 4:41 PM | Permalink

    I think criticism of Mr. Yulsman is undue as he meant no ill will toward Steve and has stated so explicitly. I interpreted his intention exactly as he said in (#9), and it seems Steve did as well. I also did not think he was using the part of the term gadfly to refer to the climate community so much as he was referring to Steve’s contributions to it, i.e., that Steve annoys them. He does, as this blog has evidenced. Sometimes we can be a little too quick to jump to Steve’s defense when it is otherwise unnecessary, we including me. ;)

    Mark

  17. Pat Frank
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 4:45 PM | Permalink

    I was just having a little fun with Tom Yulsman. No you weren’t. :-) Tom Yulsman was behaving as a journalistic gadfly, and you felt stung.

  18. Pat Frank
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

    … just a little bit.

  19. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 4:56 PM | Permalink

    #26, 27. Only for a few seconds. As soon as I realized that Tom was using this expression as a subtle code to convey his views about the parts of anatomy of “dim witted horses”, while retaining plausible deniability, my mind was set completely at ease. I wasn’t sure that all readers would appreciate the subtlety of his reference and hence I felt obliged to explain it in the present post. :)

  20. Pat Frank
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 5:05 PM | Permalink

    #28 — That implies an irony so subtly delicate as to feather improbably into the femtosphere. The eye of the beholder, I guess.

  21. Jack Wedel
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 5:21 PM | Permalink

    I’ve followed this blog (and WUWT) with a great deal of interest for many months now, and fervently hope that all you guys are wrong about the global warming non-event because this morning’s temperature (from my non-standard thermometer)here was -32C. That said, I was totally intrigued by today’s discussion of the term ‘gadfly’. To me, it describes Steve’s papers and blogs perfectly when taken in conjunction with Mann’s discredited ‘hockey stick’ and the irrational statements by Hansen and Gore. I sat in on a presentation by Hansen at a snow conference in Colorado in 1986, and he was totally off the wall then.

    OT a bit, I have an interesting proxy for long-term temperature – data for the day the ice went out on Hay River (southern tributary to Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories)from 1895 to the present. I’d like to present it as an Excel graphic, but my ignorance of these new means of communication is too great. I’d be happy to list the data though if there’s an interest.

    • John M
      Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 6:26 PM | Permalink

      Re: Jack Wedel (#30),

      OT a bit, I have an interesting proxy for long-term temperature – data for the day the ice went out on Hay River (southern tributary to Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories)from 1895 to the present. I’d like to present it as an Excel graphic, but my ignorance of these new means of communication is too great. I’d be happy to list the data though if there’s an interest.

      Try starting a thread on the CA Forum (link at upper left hand corner of this page). You can either save your Excel chart as a .jpg image (copy and paste it into Paint) and upload it onto http://www.imageshack.us or http://www.flickr.com, or save the whole file on a file hosting site (just google the phrase “free file hosting”.

      Then you can link to your image or data on your thread in the forum for others to look at them. You can even display the image directly, though it might take you a few tries to get it right.

  22. Ian
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 6:03 PM | Permalink

    Steve,

    You Canadians may think the Bliar Brown Corporation has some authority. Those of us on the receiving end of this Socialist/Fabian field study feel differently. If the BBC think Gladfy demeaning then you can be sure your alternative definition is correct. To think we have to pay a TV tax for them

  23. Mike Davis
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 7:36 PM | Permalink

    Steve:
    When I saw the picture I thought that you were being honered by Colorado naming a town after you or that you had decided to move south and build your own town. ;-)

  24. Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 9:00 PM | Permalink

    I disagree with Yulsman – Steve McIntyre is certainly not a gadfly. Gadflies don’t inspire fear in the animal, where the animal in some cases refuses to even mention the name of the gadfly or acknowledge its existence.

    In the matter of multiproxy reconstructions of climate, on the matter of tree-rings, on statistical matters pertaining to time series, Steve McIntyre is very much a big beast in those areas – like it or not (and there are quite a few climate scientists who don’t).

    In many cases, the refusal to cooperate with Steve in helping replicate key studies is prompted by real fear that their inadequacies may be exposed.

    • John Norris
      Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 9:40 PM | Permalink

      Re: John A (#37),

      Sure, Steve could be the lion circling the herd of prey. The herd of prey stays close together to minimize the loss, and does whatever they can to deflect the predator. Oops, one weak member of the herd put out a hockey stick paper that didn’t stand up to scrutiny of data and statistical methodology. Dinner for the carnivore.

      Reminds me of a small herd and some medium sized cats I saw on TV earlier this week. Honest, I’m not kidding here, they ran for the ice.

    • BarryW
      Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 10:07 PM | Permalink

      Re: John A (#37),

      I understand that flies can drive moose (meese?) mad. In this case one gadfly is driving the whole herd over the edge.

  25. J.Hansford.
    Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 10:04 PM | Permalink

    Keep biting and buzzing annoyingly Steve…. It does seem they are now galloping for the safety of the stables.

  26. Posted Jan 9, 2009 at 10:55 PM | Permalink

    Folks, Steve is irritating because he’s right on the subject of multiproxy reconstructions, not simply because he’s annoying. The behaviour of the Hockey Team is not one of annoyance (although that’s the meme they’re trying to create) but fear, especially fear of exposure of their shoddy methodology.

    I think Yulsman trivializes the contribution made by Steve, and I think that when the history of the Hockey Stick fiasco is finally written, Steve won’t be a minor player.

  27. Kazinski
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 12:03 AM | Permalink

    I think “gadfly” is fair usage. After all to the “slow and dimwitted horse[s]” Steve is not the one who shall not be named because they welcome his critisisms. He is an irritant to them. Were his critiques devoid of substance he’d be more like a gnat, and a lot easier to brush off.

  28. Erik
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 12:10 AM | Permalink

    The student newspaper at my college was entitled “The Gadfly.”

  29. Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 12:56 AM | Permalink

    Professional philosophers would automatically think of “gadfly” as a complement. Socrates also compared himself to a “torpedo-fish” (which stings) and to a midwife (who helps others give birth to ideas).

  30. DaleC
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 3:03 AM | Permalink

    As a sometime classicist, I’m with Paul #44 – within the broad sweep of Western culture, ‘gadfly’ is not a pejorative.

  31. joletaxi
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 4:25 AM | Permalink

    en français:un “emmerdeur”
    Avec toute mon admiration pour ce que vous faites.

  32. Peter Pond
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 4:44 AM | Permalink

    Better a “gadfly” than a “gadabout”. It is Steve’s work that is important, not the terms used to describe him.

  33. Jester
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 5:59 AM | Permalink

    When yow gad the Deil, ye need a lang stake.

  34. Dodgy Geezer
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 6:27 AM | Permalink

    “Professional philosophers would automatically think of “gadfly” as a complement.”
    Paul

    Indeed. My degree is in Philosophy, and the first impression I had was that a compliment was being paid. Being compared to the ‘Father’ of all philosophers, and ‘accused’ of stimulating thought are both epithets to be proud of.

    I don’t recognise the BBC article at all, and suspect that it was written, not to put too fine a point on it, by someone who was uneducated and ignorant. Alas, 50 years ago the BBC would have had no such people working for them at all. Socrates’ gadfly can hardly be an ‘intellectual lightweight’ – in another of Socrates famous quotes he is the wisest man in Athens (because he knows that he does not know, as opposed to all the ignorant who have not found this out yet). In aporia, to use the Greek…

    Anyone using the term ‘gadfly’ to ‘accuse someone of ‘just wanting to make trouble’ would be automatically comparing themselves to the establishment of Athens, who eventually had Socrates killed because he kept uncovering their ignorance. Mr Yulsman has used the term accurately, paying Steve a compliment and taking a back-handed swipe at the ignorant establishment, who think that they know and don’t want to be educated further.

    The comparison can be taken further – look up ‘elenchai’ and compare it to the Steve method of gaining knowledge. In fact, Mr Yulsman’s comments are apposite, well-intentioned and wholly accurate. Steve should note that any interpretation of the word as pejorative automatically smears that interpreter as the one who is in the wrong.

    The ‘gadfly’ aside opens up a vast field of possible interpretation, all of it complimentary to Steve. This is a feature of literary and artistic work which is a bit alien to scientists, who expect one defined meaning. I would compliment Mr Yulsman on a well-chosen phrase, and make more of the comparison, if it were not, in biologist Lewis Thomas’s phrase, ‘a bit too much like boasting’…

  35. Roger Pielke, Jr.
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 6:54 AM | Permalink

    I left this over at Tom’s blog . . .

    I do think that the term “gadfly” is value-laden, but perhaps not in the sense that some commenters here take it to be. Some journalists wear the gadfly label with pride, such as I. F. Stone — “I have gone from pariah to gadfly and, if I live long enough, I will become an institution” — whose book, “The Trial of Socrates” chronicles the experiences of the first gadfly.

    So if Steve McIntyre is in the gadfly stage of evolution from pariah to institution, that would not be such a bad thing ;-)

    So if John F[leck] or Tom or anyone else wan’t to call me a gadfly, I would mind the label at all; there are worse role models than I. F. Stone and Socrates in the body politic.

  36. kim
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 7:54 AM | Permalink

    Float like a butterfly
    Sting like a gadfly
    McIntyre.
    ======

  37. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 8:19 AM | Permalink

    I am a gadfly
    biting horses on the rear
    Steven MacIntyre

    This Haiku gets addictive.

  38. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 9:11 AM | Permalink

    Tom Yulsman said:

    As for whether the climate science community is a “slow and dim-witted horse,” you are all free to conclude that.

    I think that Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann would correct you and say that it would be more accurate to say that they are a “team” of horses.

  39. Sean Wise
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

    After reading many of the comments I think gadfly is an appropriate term and the highest compliment.

    In a world where people gloss over the details and just want to get the bottom line its easy for someone with an agenda to manipulate data to obtain a graphic that supports a conclusion. That’s what happened with the hockystick. I know when I first saw it, it was the single most compelling data set that showed we are changing the climate. That was until someone said … “wait a second”. Steve put the data through rigorous evaluation and tried to find what the data said as opposed to force the data say what you wanted it to say. And in the end he has done more for truth, in other words putting the data in the correct perspective of the historical record. Suprisingly, if you really scan for all of Steve’s comments regarding AGW, he says there really has been some warming over the last 30 years and is certainly open to the possiblity that it is man made. I think he just wants the world to look at an accurate a data set as possible (the best “truth” you can gather from the information you have) and deal with it appropriately.

    In some way Steve reminds me of someone whose been to war, has come back scarred from wounds and stumbles upon a hippie and a neocon (neither of whom fought in any war) having an argument about the war he did just fight. You’d think he might get riled up about one position or the other but what really gets his blood to boil is when they don’t get their facts straight.

  40. DaveM
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 9:33 AM | Permalink

    Add Exxon to the “slow and dim-witted Horse” category…

    http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/calgarybusiness/story.html?id=e8aecbbb-16c6-412d-8054-7e64e2b176ef

    “Gad” -zooks!

    • GP
      Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 9:21 AM | Permalink

      Re: DaveM (#55),

      You know I’m not sure about your classification here DaveM.

      I suspect the political die is cast and for the immediate future that particular horse will indeed seek some form of carbon usage related Ubertax in addition to the existiing item by item versions. They need some form of figurehead. It’s what politicans are all about.

      What the Exxon chap was saying seems to accept that a head on offensive will simpl raise the horse’s enthusiasm for the pointless ‘treatment’. That being the case he is seeking to at least reduce complexity and costs from a business perspective.

      He also knows that once such hidden methods as Cap and Trade are implemented they are difficult to remove and can be manipulated for other purposes than those for which they were originally intended. No matter what they were for they will always be there to be used for ‘something’. A direct and clearly reported tax should resonate, one way or the other, much more specifically with the payer and make them think more abioyut why it exists. Whether this results in sound ‘planet saving’ personal decisions or simple keeps niggle as a tax to be attacked and removed from the statute will depend on the observer – but at least it is observable. The costs can be directly attributed to ‘government’ rather than the product’s supplier.

      Finally Tillerson opines that the charge should be tax neutral. So it is really just shuffling the existing takings and identifying the pot to which they belong. No net change for society, though there may be differences at the individual level. No net change is only affordable (if we wish to keep everything else ‘the same’) if the system of collection, whatever it may be, does not inflict an additional institutional cost.

      The Policy decisions that will be made, despite Steve M’s work (along with others) identifying the poverty of the information available to the decision makers, by the political horses seem bent on introducing costs and, whether internionally or not, opening up opportunities for ‘creative’ trading that could make the Enrons, Worldcoms and Madoffs of the world unremarkable and put the recent banking and insurance troubles well down the list of ‘Great Disasters of Modern Times.’

      It might seem strange to say it but in some ways Tillerson’s comments, as they might come to be used by an astute and questioning journalist interviewing policy makers, have a certain gadfly like feel about them. It’s strange to think of Exxon as a gadfly. However seeing the body of lawmakers and policy planners collectively as a dim-witted horse is, to me, no challenge at all.

  41. Craig Loehle
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

    The evolution of a blog:

    “cricket sound”
    He’s a liar and his claims are without merit
    He’s a jester
    He’s a canadian
    Best Science Blog
    Referred to as “Dr.” Steve in press
    Gadfly

    I’d say the the CA memes in the blogosphere are trending in the proper direction (99% significant…).

  42. Bernie
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 9:46 AM | Permalink

    Sean:
    Well said.
    I think Roger’s original comments are also important. The internet and the posting of data has enabled smart, interested and skillful “laypeople” to examine the data for themselves. As the title of the late Aaron Wildavsky’s great book on Science and Public Policy puts it, our ability to access data on the internet allows more of us to ask, “But is it True?” It certainly increases the noise level, but it will also increase the rigor with which research is conducted and findings are disseminated in public policy-related fields.

  43. Andrew
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 9:58 AM | Permalink

    Notice how you’re a “gadfly” but Gavin is a “NASA Earth Scientist”. Not saying Tom was intentionally sending the “who are you going to believe” message, but It can have that effect on people who don’t realize that Gavin, scientist or no, is a human being with biases and an agenda, and you, while also a human being with biases and agendas, are at least not obviously letting them interfere with your work, which, regardless of the fact that you are not a “NASA Earth Scientist” deserves to be taken just as seriously and given as much consideration as if you were.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

      Re: Andrew (#58), I absolutely agree that we all have biases and agendas, but what is so great about CA is that R code and data are POSTED and checked by multiple eyes and debated.

  44. MC
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 10:13 AM | Permalink

    Well Steve at least there’s a decent bit of music by Shostakovich for the Russian film ‘The Gadfly’ to console yourself if you think the term was used perjoratively. Re: Craig Loehle (#59), Absolutely, the nuts and bolts are there to see.

  45. anna v
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 10:20 AM | Permalink

    OK, There exists another gadfly in Greek mythology:

    From Wikipedia:

    In Greek mythology, Io (pronounced /ˈaɪoʊ/ or /ˈiːoʊ/, World Book «EYE oh», in Ancient Greek Ἰώ [iː.ɔɔ̗]) was a priestess of Hera in Argos[1] who was seduced by Zeus, who changed her into a heifer to escape detection. Her mistress Hera set ever-watchful Argus Panoptes to guard her, but Hermes was sent to distract the guardian and slay him. Heifer Io was loosed to roam the world, stung by a maddening gadfly sent by Hera, and wandered to Egypt, thus placing her descendant Belus in Egypt; his sons Cadmus and Danaus would thus “return” to mainland Greece.

    Here the gadfly is the vengeance of the goddess ( Gaia getting mad with the violations in her name? :)..

  46. rafa
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

    We use in spanish the equivalent of gadfly and it is difficult to distinguish if it’s pejorative or not. It is more frequent to use the term in a pejorative way. Of course Steve has good companions, his findings and the usual reaction of the Team reminds me when Henry II, the King of England, knows reports of Thomas Becket’s activities. He considers Beckett also a gadfly saying

    Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?

    I’m sure some people consider Steve’s findings and criticism “troublesome”.

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 2:54 AM | Permalink

      Re: rafa (#62),

      We have odd myths for “Spanish” and “fly” used together, but I’ll have to think like Socrates about “Spanish gadfly”.

  47. darwin
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 11:38 AM | Permalink

    Tom Re: Pat Frank (#8),
    One can be called a gadfly and still be an expert. Implying motives can lead to an awful lot of circular arguments leading nowhere. Yulsman says he didn’t mean it pejoratively and I’d take his word for it.

  48. Pat Frank
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 2:57 PM | Permalink

    As many have pointed out, “gadfly” in different contexts has different connotations (obviously). Some connotations, if one is philosophically minded, might be complimentary. And yet, to typify Socrates as a gadfly when speaking in a philosophical context would be to pay him no compliment. Socrates was a powerful philosopher, whose investigations into knowing made him gadfly with respect to the political powers of Athens. “Gadfly” was fallout from his work. “Gadfly” was not what he was.

    Tom Yulsman was speaking in the context of climate science, enough so as to typify others as climate scientists. In that context, he said that he viewed Steve McIntyre as a gadfly. Not as a scientist, nor as a powerful researcher into proxy-thermometry whose work has made him a gadfly to the powers-that-be in that benighted arena. “Gadfly” exhausted Tom’s descriptive powers

    This label, gadfly, in that context, climate science, diminishes Steve’s standing. Yulsman added that comment as a parenthetical aside, showing that he added it later. In the ensuing conversation, he even mentioned looking up the word to be sure of its meaning. And yet, doing so, one finds that it typifies one who is annoying, and clearly so in a polemical sense. As Tom had time and space to properly qualify his characterization of Steve, one can only conclude that the amputated description of Steve M. as “gadfly” was a complete description for Tom Yulsman. He could have qualified it, and consciously chose to not do. He could have described Steve M. as a scientist, which he is, and used “gadfly” to qualify the effect of Steve’s work. But he didn’t.

    In the context of his post, Tom could not have meant “gadfly” as a compliment. It clearly stands in place of ‘scientist’ and implies Steve M. is not a serious worker, and that his productions do not merit the level of science. None of that is a true reflection of Steve’s work.

    Tom himself is not a scientist. I’d bet he has not read the primary climate science literature, nor has gone into any depth of the 4Ar (or the 3AR, or the 2AR). Nevertheless, he is shown by his work as an AGW believer. His journalistic choice of words as regards Steve, therefore, clearly services his belief. I.e., Steve’s “gadfly” work annoys but does not impinge any scientific conclusion. Hence, no serious re-evaluation of hockey-stick proxy thermometry is necessary. AGW survives.

    As a paleontologist I know wrote, in the context of cre*tion*sm, ‘You can’t use rationality to disprove a position that was arrived at irrationally.’ AGW is like that and the choice of “gadfly” to exhaustively characterize Steve — so obviously trivializing — demonstrates its power.

  49. Pompous Git
    Posted Jan 10, 2009 at 4:48 PM | Permalink

    Thanks Dodgy Geezer.

    My understanding is that the Oracle at Delphi told Socrates’ friends that he was the wisest man in Greece. Socrates was bewildered that since he was so dissatisfied with his own thinking he could be considered wisest of all. It was then that Socrates set about finding someone wiser than himself.

    And completely OT:

    “The Gadfly” by E. L. Voynich is a highly romantic yet realistic treatment of risorgimento period in Italy concerning the activities of the international republican agent Arthur Burton who successfully eludes the Austro-Hungarian policy and contributes to the revolutionary cause culminating in the Italian uprising of 1848. Voynich, who was the daughter of George Boole, of Boolean mathematics fame, and Mary Everest Boole, a feminist writer, based this story of conspiracy in the Italian Risorgimento on the early life experiences of her boyfriend, Sidney Rosenblum (also known in Britain as Reilly Ace of Spies). The Gadfly remains as Voynich’s greatest literary achievement.

  50. William S
    Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 12:27 AM | Permalink

    It strikes me that Climate Audit has few enough (if any) friends in the mainstream media. Why antagonize Tom Yulsman for his description of Steve M when it is reasonably arguable to me (a global warming sceptic) that his description was not intended to be uncomplimentary. And, the man specifically states “I did not choose the word ‘gadfly’ pejoratively . . . ” and “I took what he (Steve M) said very seriously.”

    Seems like a good start to me. Let’s see what Yulsman writes in future articles.

  51. brent_ns
    Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 1:47 AM | Permalink

    When I think of the word Gadfly specifically in relation to this board, what immediately springs to mind is TCO.

    He was frequently amusing in an impish way, and I guess that’s that’s how Steve predominantly looked at it.
    However he was also an expert at returning repeatedly to certain of his favored topics, no matter how many times they had been aired (one would have hoped) to exhaustion before.

    I confess I found myself distracted by certain antics , and thinking.. oh no not again. He wanted to be a pest, and he was good at it.

    Still, he did it for the most part in a amusing way, that one found oneself laughing all the same.

    cheers
    brent

  52. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 2:11 PM | Permalink

    I sometimes think that there are some posters at CA who are too quick to come to Steve M’s defense when none was necessary. We have had a discussion detailing the minutia of meanings of the term gadfly and how it was used in the Tom Yulsman’s context. I defer from entering these discussions, since I much prefer participation in the analysis of papers and methodologies here at CA.

    We can, however, all form are own views on the underlying meaning and intent of these less serious discussions – so here goes mine.

    I found the exchange one of hyperbole and ones-up-manship. Tom Y starts with a rather indirect and less recognizable hyperbole of Steve M’s activities in climate science as those of a gadfly and Steve M counters with I’ll see your gadfly and raise you a couple with his reference to the dimwitted horse. I could be wrong in my surmise, but as practitioner of this art, and particularly when it involves the modern day journalist, I think I recognize it when I see it. I suspect that Steve M was angling for a reply and that is what he was able to provoke.

    A poster took the hyperbole a step further in his reference to Tom Y as an invertebrate and Tom Y chose to reply with a simple denial. (We all know that good journalists can use dictionaries while invertebrates cannot or at least not for what is considered their primary function, even though we may be surprised that a good journalist would require a trip to the dictionary for the descriptor playing such a prominent role in his piece).

    What was missed in this exchange by the posters was the reference to Pielke Jr’s comments in the Tom Y interview and Pielke’s comments on the role that blogs can play on a science, such as climate science, that has found (allowed) its science to become popularized with its potential impact on critical policy and political considerations. The layperson with some background in science or associated fields can with concerted efforts analyze the scientific works of climate scientists, make judgments and expose and discuss them in the public forum that blogging provides. That some climate scientists, without the legal or contractual impediments for participation in their fields (no union card or lawyers’ or medical doctors’ certification required) would regard these interlopers as gadflies or worse comes really as no surprise.

    • UK John
      Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 6:10 PM | Permalink

      Re: Kenneth Fritsch (#69),

      Kenneth,

      I am guilty of using a Hyperbole, as Tom Y had done, and exaggerated what I really thought of Tom Y.

      I have offended when I thought I would not!, in hindsight it was a mistake, not helpful to anyone, so I will retire to the lurker room for good! and not post again.

      I posted this in Dec 2007 and it still fits about the relevance of the AGW debate to humanity, if we want to find real important things to write about, then we do not have to look very hard.

      “As a lurker and very occasional poster, it really doesn’t matter. Just the biggest distraction of all time.

      Half the world has not enough to eat every day, and us and the UN just sit and watch. No! it doesn’t really matter.

      I have been to Sierra Leone and watched parents carry their dead children up the street in sacks, I felt hopeless, angry, ashamed.

      We offer them nothing, we have so much we could give. What do we debate, something that probably doesn’t even exist!

      As far as I am concerned the environmentalists, IPCC, etc can go to Hell, I have already been there!”

  53. Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 2:23 PM | Permalink

    That some climate scientists, without the legal or contractual impediments for participation in their fields (no union card or lawyers’ or medical doctors’ certification required) would regard these interlopers as gadflies or worse comes really as no surprise.

    It is equally unsurprising that many of the bloggers don’t care one way or the other how they are regarded by climate scientists is also not surprising. To the extent that everyone must make decisions about carbon taxes, public investments in technology, etc. people outside climate science are going to want to ask questions and seek answers. To the extent that climate scientists provide information that answers individuals questions ,that’s great. To the extent that questions people actually ask are not forthcoming or appear evasive, people will ask them elsewhere and seek answers on their own.

    Since the internet exists, and permit the creation of blogs and forums, these conversations are going to be public. People are reading SteveM’s blog. So, what he posts enters the conversation.

    • BarryW
      Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 3:07 PM | Permalink

      Re: lucia (#70),

      When you have spent a career learning an area of expertise only to find yourself surrounded by laymen acting as “sidewalk superintendents”, it must feel as if you are surrounded by gadflies. From the climate scientists point of view they are dealing with a level of scrutiny they have had no experience with. They could write their papers and give their symposia and only have to deal with their peers. Even then, how could someone (especially outside of their fraternity) gain access to the raw data to attempt to replicate their results? Those that were able to criticize could easily be ignored because they had no standing and no forum. Look at how M&M have been treated.

      The web has certainly had a major effect on at least this area, but there is as much if not more “chaff than wheat” on the internet. The question in the future will be is if the bad will overwhelm the good and if compartmentalization will cause people to read only that information which conforms to their own prejudices.

      I wonder what will be the next major area to have the level of discourse that climate change has?

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 6:18 PM | Permalink

      Re: lucia (#70),

      It is equally unsurprising that many of the bloggers don’t care one way or the other how they are regarded by climate scientists is also not surprising..

      Lucia, I used the limiter, some climate scientists, and I think the same applies to some bloggers. I am not sure of the point you are attempting to make here but I would interject that I do not appreciate those blog participants who would muddy the waters with claims against scientists’ specific conclusions by way of motivation. That does not mean that we could not discuss the motivations and agendas that could get in the way of their scientific judgments or opinions that they give on climate outside their area of expertise – but not necessarily here at CA.

      To the extent that everyone must make decisions about carbon taxes, public investments in technology, etc. people outside climate science are going to want to ask questions and seek answers. To the extent that climate scientists provide information that answers individuals questions ,that’s great

      Here I would interject my long standing view on the matter of going from science to policy and at the same time attempt to avoid a direct policy statement that is a no, no here at CA – and I think for good reason.

      The level of certainty required for accepting the evidence for AGW and its extent (the extent being more important than the mere existence of AGW and unfortunately too infrequently broached in the denialist/skeptics and alarmists/warmists arguments), and the extent of the potential detrimental effects of AGW (which in my mind is where the discussion should really focus) depends on where one stands with regards to the potential success/failure of the most likely to be instituted mitigation policies. If one sees the mitigations as something that are very likely to succeed and/or something that they would like to see occur even without a threat of the potential detrimental effects of AGW than one is likely not to require the level of certainty than someone who is skeptical of the likely mitigation results and sees much potential for unintended consequences. I personally think that the opinions/judgments of climate scientists outside their areas of expertise, and even to some extent within their expertise, are subject to these same influences.

      I personally suspect that policy will be made without a lot of direct scientific input. Note that Jim Hansen and Roger Pielke Jr. both see current policies, such as Kyoto and cap and trade failing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by meaningful amounts. While my own personal views of mitigation policies would no doubt differ significantly from those of yours, Lucia, Steve M’s and Roger Pielke Jr’s, the internet and blogging certainly afford me the important inputs from these named bloggers and the opportunity to learn more of the truth about climate science, regardless of my views of policy.

      Re: BarryW (#71),

      The web has certainly had a major effect on at least this area, but there is as much if not more “chaff than wheat” on the internet. The question in the future will be is if the bad will overwhelm the good and if compartmentalization will cause people to read only that information which conforms to their own prejudices.

      I think the potential of the internet to inform those looking for truth and viewing all the sides of an issue are definitely a net positive. Those who are looking for confirmation of their past views are probably able to drill down successive links on the internet without interference of conflicting views, but probably not, with the possible exception of the true believers, without realizing that they made a conscious effort to avoid those views.

      • Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 8:48 PM | Permalink

        Re: Kenneth Fritsch (#78),
        Hi Ken.

        Hmmm…I suspect what I said might not have come across the way I meant?

        You said that it’s not surprising that some climate scientists “would regard these interlopers as gadflies or worse comes really as no surprise.” My impression is “the interlopers” would refer to back to the layperson in previous sentence “The layperson with some background in science or associated fields can with concerted efforts analyze the scientific works of climate scientists, make judgments and expose and discuss them in the public forum that blogging provides”.

        I guess I didn’t make a distinction between the interlopers and those non-climate scientists who blog and/or discuss climate science issues in blog. So, my “bloggers” refers to the those who might be viewed as interlopers by climate scientists.

        I agree with you that it’s not surprising that climate scientists might view the laypersons (particularly those who blog) as interlopers. I just meant to observed that also no surprise that quite a few “iinterlopers/bloggers” may not be particularly concerned that climate scientists might regard them. (Maybe I should say ‘us’ because I suspect I would fall in the category some climate scientists might consider interlopers. Possibly 90% of commeters at CA would fall in that group.)

        Whether or not some consider us interlopers, the internet affords us the opportunity to talk, and so we do.

        I agree entirely with what you say about the benefits of blogging in comment Re: Kenneth Fritsch (#78), ( Or at least I think I do! ) So… in short: It’s not surprising some climate scientists might regard us collectively interlopers. It’s not surprising if a sizable fraction of us are not particulary concerned with how they regard us. The internet exists. We each judge what we want to do , and do it. I think the fact that the conversation continues is on the balance a very good thing.

  54. trevor
    Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 3:28 PM | Permalink

    Re #70:

    To the extent that questions people actually ask are not forthcoming or appear evasive, people will ask them elsewhere and seek answers on their own.

    Lucia, I think that you mean “To the extent that ANSWERS TO questions people actually ask are not forthcoming, or appear evasive, people will ask them elsewhere, and seek answers of their own.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but I am sure that you would want your meaning to be clear.

  55. trevor
    Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 3:28 PM | Permalink

    Ooops. Already fixed! Sorry bout that.

  56. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 4:08 PM | Permalink

    When you have spent a career learning an area of expertise only to find yourself surrounded by laymen acting as “sidewalk superintendents”, it must feel as if you are surrounded by gadflies.

    I think that there’s more to the issue than this. One of the odd things about the paleoclimate debate is that article after article is primarily statistical analysis, but the scientists involved have not spent a “career” learning statistics. Quite the opposite. In many cases, their statistical knowledge is rudimentary and consists of nothing more than the application of recipes that they don’t really understand. As a result, they aren’t really able to appraise whether someone like Mann, who uses a lot of big words, knows what he’s doing but they assume that he does.

    The statistical knowledge of quite a few CA regulars is considerably superior to that of a typical paleoclimate scientist; we have quite a few statistics/econometrics PhDs. Hardly “sidewalk superintendents”

    • BarryW
      Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 7:44 PM | Permalink

      Re: Steve McIntyre (#74),

      The statistical knowledge of quite a few CA regulars is considerably superior to that of a typical paleoclimate scientist; we have quite a few statistics/econometrics PhDs. Hardly “sidewalk superintendents”

      As you have shown numerous times, I was only trying to point out why they react the way they do. To them they are outsiders regardless of the expertise they might have.

      The paleoclimate field obviously qualifies as an “expert culture”. Having worked in one, I know that that sense of expertise tends to bleed into areas which the experts are not experts. For example, I don’t know how many engineers I’ve known who thought they knew more about programming than degreed and experienced programmers (they didn’t) when it also involved their engineering specialty. For them to admit that there are areas related to their field in which they are not experts is extremely difficult, and especially when they are being shown as wrong who is not part of the fraternity, regardless of qualifications.

      • Craig Loehle
        Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 8:00 PM | Permalink

        Re: BarryW (#79), The great danger of becoming a big shot expert in something is that you start thinking you are expert in everything. Which is why Nobel laureates (not just recent peace prize variety) start mouthing off about world peace and everything else.

        • BarryW
          Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 8:16 PM | Permalink

          Re: Craig Loehle (#80),

          If you haven’t read Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer I highly recommend it. One of his points is that when you reach the maximum level of accomplishment in your own field that need for adulation drives many to go into other areas where they are not anywhere near as compentent: my examples are Bertran Russel and Carl Sagan who I’m sure some would disagree with but I think were sad cases at the end of their lives because of that need.

          There’s an old saying that an expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

  57. harold
    Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

    I think gadfly is very apt name for Steve McIntyre regarding his long and very persistent correspondences with the scientific bureaucracy. You will have to admire his stamina, this man will not give up!
    I would like to add Adrian Wenner to the honorary gadfly list. In the world of bee research the consensus hypothesis is anthropomorphic (the honeybee dance “language”), which is in sharp contrast with the physical (odor) hypothesis of which Wenner is a staunch defender.
    Lord of the Gadflies

    http://www.beesource.com/pov/wenner/latimes.htm

    “And last year (1990), Scientific American magazine called Wenner a “maverick” and a “gadfly” – curse words in the lexicon of that publication.”

    The following article by Wenner mentions Craig Loehle, someone I have always considered a maverick. ;)
    The Role of Controversy in Animal Research

    http://www.beesource.com/pov/wenner/cpi1997.htm

  58. Posted Jan 11, 2009 at 6:05 PM | Permalink

    trevor–
    Yes, Somehow, I lost a word there!

  59. Ulises
    Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 3:44 AM | Permalink

    #5 :

    You are a fully formed insect. Yulsman, as a journalist, is an invertebrate!

    Insects are invertebrates too.

  60. Ulises
    Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 3:47 AM | Permalink

    # 46 joletaxi : “emMERDEur” ?

  61. Gerry Morrow
    Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 4:39 AM | Permalink

    Re: No 79:

    Steve Mc: “The statistical knowledge of quite a few CA regulars is considerably superior to that of a typical paleoclimate scientist; we have quite a few statistics/econometrics PhDs. Hardly “sidewalk superintendents”

    BarryW: “As you have shown numerous times, I was only trying to point out why they react the way they do. To them they are outsiders regardless of the expertise they might have.”

    The Team refer to anyone outside climate science who doesn’t agree with them as “Citizen scientists”. there are a lot of things worse than being a citizen scientist and one of them is being a “Citizen Statistician” and putting half right/half wrong information out causing chaos and fear.

    • Neil Fisher
      Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 8:38 PM | Permalink

      Re: Gerry Morrow (#85),

      The Team refer to anyone outside climate science who doesn’t agree with them as “Citizen scientists”. there are a lot of things worse than being a citizen scientist and one of them is being a “Citizen Statistician” and putting half right/half wrong information out causing chaos and fear.

      They may be right that people who don’t understand climate science can put out “half right / half wrong” information. What they seemingly fail to notice is that because they do not understand statistics as well as statiticians, their own conclusions could just as easily be “half right / half wrong”.

      If they expect me to listen to them on climate issues because they are expert in the area, then I expect them to listen to experts in non-climate fields when such fields directly impact their data, reasoning and conclusions – and statistics certainly appears to be one such area. There are undoubtedly others of which I am not aware, but when they finally realise that people such as Steve Mc are not the enemy and embrace the need to use “outside” experts to make sure they’re not making “beginners” mistakes, I will feel much more confident that they have it right.

      That climate scientists are, beyond question, better versed in stats than me is beside the point – as Steve points out, there are enough posters here with the experience and qualifications in stats to make them look more than a little silly when they decide to pick a fight on that issue.

  62. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 9:44 AM | Permalink

    #86. I don’t want to debate things like cap-and-trade here. It’s not that I don’t have views on such things (I do) or that I think that the issues are unimportant (they aren’t). It’s just that editorially they will eat up the blog and therefore no more discussion of this please.

  63. Louis Hissink
    Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 9:37 PM | Permalink

    Gadfly?

    Hmmm, in Australia we have an insect repellant labelled Mortein and for decades it was advertised by a little jingle involving Louie da fly, straight from rubbish tip to you.

    I have often been called “fly”, (the most heartfelt by an old toolpusher on a drilling rig in 1977, who in his Candadian drawl called me “Flaah”), but today I would not mind at all being called “Louie da gadflaah”.

    But I’ll have to find a suitable avatar after writing this I just realised.
    :-)

  64. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 10:47 PM | Permalink

    Some lists of the last millennium put the invention of the printing press at the top of the achievements of people. Communication is seen as vital. Communication is changing so fast with the Internet that no wise person would try to predict its influence. In one view, the most important future global developments will be in communication, so those who write can expect to be examined more closely.

    Useful examination can be done by a superior, or a peer, or by a person with specialism in an overlapping field or simply by an older and wiser person – and by many increments between these.

    BarryW at #81 contends that

    “There’s an old saying that an expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.”

    If you study CA hard, you will find that contributors seldom call themselves or each other expert. Overall CA people would, I think, reject the philosophy of that quote. As one grows older, one tends to gain a greater humility, plus more respect for achievers, but at the same time, a greater utility. The phrase “older and wiser” did not happen by accident.

    Some of the “older and wiser” CA writers are offering insight that is not possible for younger people to have acquired yet. Specialist science has to be put in an overall context of importance and the wider the scope of the reader, the better she or he is placed to do this. That is why I heartly endorse Steve’s frequent reminders that people on the rise (especially the younger ones with potential) should be of a mind to benefit from sharing and discussing their science; and that heavy criticism should be directed to those who want to hoard.

    It is hard to envisage an increase in hoarding going hand in hand with expansion of communication. It is apt to criticise the hoarders and those who bend the rules.

    • jae
      Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 10:59 PM | Permalink

      Re: Geoff Sherrington (#90),

      Brilliant post, IMHO. You must be an old fart like me.

    • James Lane
      Posted Jan 13, 2009 at 12:36 AM | Permalink

      Re: Geoff Sherrington (#90),

      That’s a nice, thoughtful post, Geoff.

    • BarryW
      Posted Jan 13, 2009 at 8:44 AM | Permalink

      Re: Geoff Sherrington (#90),

      1.) The saying was meant in jest.

      2.) I certainly wasn’t referring to the vast majority of those whose posts I read on this blog.

      3.) Both youth and age can have the problem of hubris, believing that they are all knowledgeable about their area or expertise (which can bleed into a belief they are knowledgeable about things well outside their area of study) . With youth it derives from ignorance, with age from parochialism. Becoming immune to new ideas or information, regardless of age, is a tragedy. Blindly ignoring the wisdom of your elders or automatically rejecting the imagination of youthful colleges is as unproductive as their inverse.

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted Jan 13, 2009 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

        Re: BarryW (#98),

        Yes, I read your post #81 in the manner you have explained and have no difficulty with it. I hope you will forgive me for borrowing the quote from it – I did not seek to misrepresent your views, merely to comment on the quote.

  65. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 12, 2009 at 11:12 PM | Permalink

    #89. Louis says:

    I have often been called “fly”,

    Uh, huh: http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=f7-E1qTVJgE

  66. Tony Oliver
    Posted Jan 13, 2009 at 7:10 AM | Permalink

    What I find most telling is that the act looking up an article on Wikipedia is described as a doing a “little research”. It speaks volumes for nature and value of this web-site.

    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted Jan 13, 2009 at 7:18 AM | Permalink

      Re: Tony Oliver (#94),

      What I find most telling is that the act looking up an article on Wikipedia is described as a doing a “little research”. It speaks volumes for nature and value of this web-site.

      And what I find interesting is that people stop by here and throw out insults without even so much as giving an example or two. That speaks volumes about their purpose in coming here.

      And, of course, even if you give examples of commenters doing that, it has nothing to do with the host of this blog.

    • RomanM
      Posted Jan 13, 2009 at 8:02 AM | Permalink

      Re: Tony Oliver (#94),

      Oh my… is that the best criticism you can come up with? The use of figurative language (you did notice the quotes) to describe the act of looking up the various possible meanings of “gadfly”! And he didn’t use Google Scholar! Shocking! Your “volumes” must be very small books – and I’ll bet that some of the pages haven’t even been coloured yet.

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted Jan 13, 2009 at 8:51 AM | Permalink

      Re: Tony Oliver (#94),

      Research is defined as human activity based on intellectual application in the investigation of matter.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research

  67. Craig Loehle
    Posted Jan 13, 2009 at 7:54 AM | Permalink

    In 1980s slang, “fly” means super cool. I’m not sure what adding “gad” does to this slang…

    • Mark T.
      Posted Jan 13, 2009 at 9:48 AM | Permalink

      Re: Craig Loehle (#96),

      In 1980s slang, “fly” means super cool. I’m not sure what adding “gad” does to this slang…

      Yes, like “those parachute pants are totally fly, man!”

      Mark

      • Craig Loehle
        Posted Jan 13, 2009 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

        Re: Mark T. (#100), perhaps an Englishman trying to be hip in the 80’s would say “Gad, those pants are totally fly, my good fellow!” gadfly

  68. Keith W.
    Posted Jan 14, 2009 at 2:18 PM | Permalink

    Slightly off topic, but the context in which this was found made me suffer deja vu all over again. This is from a website for a Memphis radio station, http://www.rock103.com . They have a random joke page where, more often than not, the jokes are a little off color but rather humorous. I read this right after visiting here, thought of the Team, and realized I wasn’t laughing.

    Rules of the lab
    1) If an experiment works, something has gone wrong.
    2) When you don’t know what you’re doing, do it neatly.
    3) Experiments must be reproduceable, they should fail the same way each time.
    4) First draw your curves, then plot your data.
    5) Experience is directly proportional to equipment ruined.
    6) Always keep a record of your data. It indicates that you have been working.
    7) To do a lab really well, have your report done well in advance.
    8) If you can’t get the answer in the usual manner, start at the answer and derive the question.
    9) In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.
    10) Do not believe in miracles–rely on them.
    11) Team work is essential, it allows you to blame someone else.
    12) All unmarked beakers contain fast-acting, extremely toxic poisons.
    13) No experiment is a complete failure. At least it can serve as a negative example.
    14) Any delicate and expensive piece of glassware will break before any use can be made of it.

    • BarryW
      Posted Jan 16, 2009 at 9:10 AM | Permalink

      Re: Keith W. (#104),

      One from an earlier time before electronic displays:

      If the meter doesn’t show the value you expect, tap it until it does. Otherwise, just record the reading.

  69. Jonathan
    Posted Jan 16, 2009 at 5:13 AM | Permalink

    Steve, you might be interested in the discussion at Nature of Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience. Some key points:

    A study attacking some of the most prominent research in the burgeoning field of social neuroscience is flawed and unfair, according to top scientists who have been accused of overselling their results.

    a no-holds-barred paper, accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science and already circulating widely on the Internet, claims that many studies in the field are worthless because brain imaging data have been poorly analysed.

    Vul and his co-authors say they wrote the paper because they were concerned by what they considered to be the “implausibly high correlations” reported between brain activation and particular forms of behaviour, and the lack of methodological details provided. So they selected 54 papers in social neuroscience and sent a brief questionnaire to the authors requesting details of their analyses.

    They concluded that in a ‘red list’ of 31 cases — often in high-profile journals, including Nature and Science — the authors made fundamental errors in data handling and statistics.

    The swift rebuttal was prompted by scientists’ alarm at the speed with which the accusations have spread through the community. The provocative title — ‘Voodoo correlations in social neuroscience’ — and iconoclastic tone have attracted coverage on many blogs, including that of Newsweek. Those attacked say they have not had the chance to argue their case in the normal academic channels.

    “On the other hand, we all agree that there is a kernel of truth in what Vul and his colleagues write about some of the literature being shaky,” adds Christian Keysers of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, whose 2007 paper in NeuroImage on empathy was highlighted. “We can never be reminded often enough of the importance of good statistical practice.”

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] with Roger Pielke Jr in which Yulsman described me as a “gadfly”. Tom Yulsman: The Gadfly and the Dim-Witted Horse by Steve McIntyre    “Being a gadfly is generally a thankless task. People with something […]

  2. By Gadfly | English Language Reference on Jan 29, 2012 at 1:08 AM

    […] Some of the larger ‘gadfly or horse fly’ grow up to 1 inch long!! Figures of Speech: gadfly =  an annoying, irritating and harassing person; a person who continuously points out faults of others and annoys other in an effort to improve them or their work For an article about why Socrates was called, please click here. […]

  3. […] Jonathan brings to our attention an interesting new study entitled “Voodoo Correlations in Social […]

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